“Where is she?” He asked, running his hands through his hair. He looked distraught and disheveled, like he hadn’t slept in days.
Dustin looked up at the man speaking to him, from the table outside the cafe where he sat with baby Emylin in his lap. “Do I know you?” He asked the young man standing there dressed in fatigues and a black beret on his head.
“Lucy,” The military man responded, barely able to speak. “Where’s Lucy? What happened to her?”
“You’re Noah, aren’t you?” Dustin said, with a sudden realization.
“Yes, how did you know?” Noah looked at him surprised that he knew his name.
“She told me about you, just before….just before this,” Dustin replied, waving somewhere unknown. “Lucy is my daughter.”
Emylin pulled on Dustin’s hand and he bounced her softly on his knee. “This is Emylin.” Dustin said, introducing the baby girl to Noah.
“Hello, Emylin.” Noah looked at Emylin and was shocked by how much she looked so much like Lucy. Before he could ask who Emylin’s mother was, another man walked up to them and saw Noah standing there. He looked at Noah with a quizzical expression.
“Who are you?”
“This is Noah.” Dustin told him.
Joshua eyed him warily and looked him up and down and nodded, “Noah, huh?”
“And who are you?” Noah asked as he put his hand out to shake Joshua’s.
“I’m Joshua,” He replied without offering his hand back.
Emylin dove for Joshua’s arms. He picked her up and held her protectively as she played with his face and smiled in his arms.
“Where’s Lu?” Noah asked, still waiting for his question to be answered. He had been gone for six months since the last time he had seen her, though she had not seen him. He knew where she had been staying and had started to search the town for her upon his return. He recognized Dustin from seeing him outside the auto shop.
“I’m sorry. I’ll take you to her right away. Joshua, will you take care of Emylin?” Dustin asked Joshua.
“Of course. Come on Emmie, let’s go bug Miss Maggie.” Joshua looked at his father before he left. “Let me know she needs anything. I have my phone.”
Dustin nodded. Emylin smiled as Joshua carried her down the sidewalk.
“Emylin looks so much like Lucy. But she looks nothing like her father.” Noah noted.
Dustin looked at him confused. “Joshua is not her father, he’s her uncle. Joshua is my older son and Lucy’s half-brother. He’s very protective of Lucy and Emylin, ergo the reserved greeting.”
“I know Joshua is not. I just….I know the man…who was…” Noah could not explain more, for it angered him greatly each time he thought about it.
Noah noticed they were crossing the street from the cafe to a giant red brick building with the words EMERGENCY ROOM in red letters over the top.
“Is Lucy in there?” Noah asked as they got closer to the hospital becoming agitated with worry.
Dustin stopped walking. “She’s in the ICU. She took a turn for the worse.”
“Turn for the worse, what are you talking about?”
“Lucy has cancer, Noah.”
Noah couldn’t believe what he was hearing. He didn’t want to believe it.
“Come on,” Dustin continued walking and led him inside to get a visitor’s badge. When he was ready they took the elevator up to the second floor.
“They only allow family and well, you are family. More than you realize. She told me everything, how you took care of her…” Dustin stopped, unable to continue.
“You didn’t know all these years did you?” Noah asked.
“Not really. I had tried to find her, but her mother pretty much dropped off the grid. My brother brought Lucy to me. She was out looking for me, alone and pregnant.”
Noah felt guilt and shame wash over him. “Sir, I had no idea she had come here until recently. I only found out a little over six months ago. I thought I had lost Lucy forever. I know….I know Emylin is not actually mine, but I want to be her father all the same.”
“I know you didn’t know she came here. I’m glad you found out somehow though.”
“Lucy wrote my mother and told her where she was. When I got back from Afghanistan, my mother told me everything.” Noah felt in a state of shock as they walked out of the elevator and towards the ICU. The nurses buzzed them in and they walked down the hall to a room at the end.
A nurse in green scrubs waved to Dustin. “Where’s Emylin?” She asked.
“And who’s this?” She asked, nodding at Noah.
“This is Lucy’s husband.”
“Oh really?” The nurse said surprised.
“He’s been deployed.” Dustin explained, nodding towards Noah’s clothes. “He just got into town.”
“Noah, this is Cindy, Lucy’s primary care nurse during the day.”
“You should prepare yourself,” Cindy said, putting her hand on Noah’s arm.
Noah barely heard her as he walked towards the room with Dustin. He pulled his beret off of his head as he crossed through the doors.
“I’ll give you two some time,” Dustin said, putting his hand on Noah’s shoulder. “I don’t know how awake she will be. They’ve had her heavily sedated because of the pain she has been in. We are hoping she will be moved out of the ICU soon. She’s been improving over the last twenty-four hours.”
Noah nodded, his eyes never leaving the form on the bed. His Lucy lay there, thin strands of bright red hair spread out on the pillow, an IV hooked up to her arm, the heart monitor slowly beeping with every beat of her heart. He looked at her frail form. He hadn’t been this close to her in over two years and yet she still looked like the girl he fell in love with all those years ago. He walked slowly over to the bed to stand by her side. Machines beeped and whirred. Someone had brushed her hair, though much thinner than it had been before, her locks still glistened with glowy brightness it always had.
“Hello, Lu,” He said, his voice cracking. “I told you I’d come back, My Love.”
Noah pulled the seat up next to the bed and sat down. He looked at Lucy’s hand laying there, the IV hooked up to it, giving her fluids and God knew what else. He looked up and saw so many bags of medicines hanging from the pole above her bed.
“I”m sorry, Lu. I”m sorry. I should have never left.” Noah felt emotions he had learned to bury down for so long, come flooding back up to him. “I’m here, Lu, I’m here….I saw Emylin. She is absolutely beautiful. She is…so lucky to have you for a momma. You….” Noah felt all the words catch in his throat. He felt her fingers under his, cold from the air conditioned room. He slowly and gently picked up her right hand and kissed her fingers.
He sat there looking at her, her body ravaged by the endless rounds of radiation. He held her hand and began to tell her about Afghanistan, how much he had thought about her. How much he had wondered how she was doing, worried when he had begun to hear no word from her. He told her how his memories of her, how her love had brought him through his darkest days over there and everyday he had prayed he could come home to her. He finally got himself to say what had been on his heart for so long now.
“I’m sorry I wasn’t here for you. I should have been here for you, Lu. My mother told me everything. I shouldn’t have left you….shouldn’t have left you to deal with what those monsters had done to you. I had no idea. I know you didn’t tell me about Emylin, because you were scared and I know you’ve had to carry this for so long now. I want to raise Emylin with you. I want to be her father. I know she’s not mine biologically, but that does not matter. I want to be the only father she knows and I will love her as my very own. I promise you that. Please, My Love, don’t leave us. Come back to me, My Love. Please come back to me.”
“I’m…right here.” He heard her softly say.
He looked up and tears were falling from his eyes as he saw her eyelids fluttering open.
“Lu! Oh my love, My Lucy,” He stood up and leaned over the bed and kissed her gently.
“You came, Noah, you’re here.” Lucy looked at him her green eyes filled with tears.
“I’m here. I’m here, My love.” Noah gently took her in his arms not wanting to let her go.
“You’ve met Emylin?” She asked quietly.
“I did. Oh, Lu, she is you. She is all you. Just you,” Noah said, putting his hand on Lucy’s face. She reached up and covered his hand with hers, the tears in her eyes falling freely.
“She is isn’t she?” It made her happy to hear that.
“I want to be her father.”
“Oh, Noah, I would like that very much.” Lucy replied.
Noah looked at Lucy’s left hand and realized that she had not taken her wedding rings off.
He picked her hand up and kissed her fingers. “Will you let me be your husband once more?”
“There’s not a lot left of me to have, Noah.” She said, pained that her body was filled with an illness she couldn’t get rid of.
“That does not matter to me. I want every part of you. I love every part of you. Like I promised on our wedding day. In sickness and in health, my love. I will have you and I pray you will you have me, again?”
“With all my heart, now and forever.” Lucy replied, pulling him towards her to kiss him.
“Well, hello love birds,” Dustin said as he and Joshua walked in carrying Emylin. “Visiting hours are almost up, so we were going to take Emylin back home, but I spoke to the nurses and they are going to make a cot up for you here in the room, Noah. And I spoke to the doctor, Lucy. You are going to be transferred out of the ICU tomorrow.”
Lucy smiled at her father and reached her hands out to Emylin who smiled as soon as she saw her mother.
“Come here, Baby Girl, Momma wants to say good night to you.”
Jacob brought Emylin over and held her gently so Lucy could kiss her daughter and hold her hands. “I love you so much, Sweet Emmie. Momma has missed you.” Emmie clapped her hands on Lucy’s face and Lucy smiled at her daughter.
“Emmie, I want you to meet someone.” Lucy took Noah’s hand. “This is your daddy, Emylin. He’s the one I have been telling you all about.”
Emylin was too young to understand everything, but she said “Da-Da,” quietly.
Noah smiled, “Yes, Emmie, I’m your daddy.”
He reached out and Joshua let him take her in his arms. Noah sat down on the bed next to Lucy and held Emylin in his lap. Dustin smiled looking at his daughter’s little family, finally complete.
Drawing Sources Unknown
Song: Jeremy Jordan performing “She Used to Be Mine” from Waitress the Musical