When I awoke some time later, Keith was at my side. He was now clean shaven and changed into a white shirt and jeans. He greeted me good-morning with a soft, sweet kiss on my lips.
"I see you haven't named the baby yet," he said when we finally separated from each other.
"Well, I can't name her without her father around," I replied.
"I thought we agreed on Rosalynn Judith?"
"We did," I said, slowly. "But I think we should weigh out our options a little more."
"You don't like the name, do you?" His face fell.
I covered his hand with mine. "Of course I like it. It's a beautiful name. But I've always dreamed of naming my daughter Meredith."
"Meredith?" he repeated. "Why didn't you tell me before?"
"Because I thought the name was taken," I admitted.
"Taken? By who?"
"Kim," I said lowly, hoping he wouldn't hear.
He did. "Ah, I see. And now?"
"Now, it's free, in the air. I need to talk with her before it's decided. Oh, Keith, you're not upset with me are you?" I cried.
"Upset? Why would I be upset?"
"Because I know how dead set you were on naming her Rosalynn Judith and now I've gone and mucked it all up."
"Gwen, I don't care. As long as the baby is happy and healthy, and as long as you don't want to name it something utterly crazy, where I have to put my foot down, then you've got nothing to worry about."
"Are you sure?"
He kissed me again, softly. "Of course I'm sure."
I smiled up at him. "Good."
Pulling back from me, he said, "Your mother's here. Along with my mother, Kyle, Caitlin, Sammy, and Kim."
"Kim's here?" I asked, alarmed.
"Yes, and she hasn't seen me yet. I'm assuming you haven't told her?"
"No," I admitted guiltily.
"That's alright. I won't show up until you do."
"Wait," I said, thinking back to wait he just told me. "Isn't your dad or Jason here?"
He shook his head, "I don't think they wanted to come. But that's alright. They don't deserve seeing this baby."
"Of course they do, Keith. They're family."
"Doesn't matter. Jason's said such nasty things about you, I don't know why you still defend him. Since I left Yale, my father is definitely disinheriting me. He wants nothing to do with us."
"I'm sure that's not true. Just give him time," I reassured him.
He opened his mouth to say something more, but a doctor came into the room then. He was of average height, probably in his late thirties, with a head of black hair. A folder rested under his arm and a clip board was in his hand.
"Good morning Miss Marks," he greeted. "You had quite an adventurous night last night."
"That's an understatement," Keith commented, sitting next to me on the bed.
"Are you the father?"
"Then I've got some forms for the two of you to fill out." He handed me the folder that I had been under his arm. "A nurse will be here shortly with your baby."
Keith opened the folder and skimmed through the contents. "If you want me too, I can fill it out for you?"
"Let me see," I took up the folder. In it were papers that needed us to fill in our names, social security numbers, and the like. I seized the pen and filled in what was asked of me and then handed it to Keith. As he signed all he had to, a nurse came in, pushing the little bed the baby was lying in. She placed the bed next to mine and then lifted the baby, now wrapped up in a soft pink blanket, and placed her in my arms.
I smiled down at the little one. She slowly opened her dark blue eyes. I greeted her with a soft hi.
Keith's eyes were on her, and only her for the moment.
"Keith, she needs a name. Do you think you could bring everyone in? I need to talk to Kim about calling her Meredith," I said, softly.
He nodded and backed away to the door, his eyes locked on the baby in my arms. Not that I could blame him much. This little bundle in my arms was so mesmerizing. To think, Keith and I created her.
"Gwen!" Someone from the door cried.
Mom, Kyle, Sammy, Kim, and Caitlin were all at the door, standing tentatively, as though they weren't sure they should come in.. I smiled at them and raised the baby's fist to wave at them, whispering that this was her family.
That must have been a signal to them, for they all came rushing to my side, cooing at the little baby.
"She's beautiful, Gwen," my mother breathed.
"Yes," Kim agreed. "What's her name?"
"Well, there's some debate on that. See, originally, I thought Rosalynn Judith would be a lovely name, but now, now I want to name her Meredith." I told her. Her face neither fell nor lightened up. She just stood there, so I continued, "It would be in tribute to the daughter you lost. Besides, you know how much I love that name."
She nodded. "Yes, yes, I know."
"I wanted to ask your permission before I named her that. Is it alright?"
"I don't know. I wanted to name my daughter that," she sniffed.
"But, since you lost her, I could name her in tribute to your lost baby girl."
"I think Meredith is a lovely name," Mom interrupted, touching Kim's shoulder. "Of course, I would love for her name to be Jacqueline, but we can't all get what we want. And Kim, I remember when you were younger, Gwen always said she's name her daughter Meredith and you'd name yours Audrey, remember? You've always been set on the name Audrey."
"Yes, I suppose your right," Kim agreed, gazing down at my baby girl. "Meredith is a lovely name for you daughter. She shouldn't feel like you need to ask me for permission for her name."
"Well, I'd thought it was best."
"So, what's her full name?" Sammy asked, moving closer to my bed.
I scooted over to make room for him. After he climbed up next to me, I answered, "Well, I've got to talk to her daddy about that."
"I thought you said he left?" Kim asked.
Everyone started glancing at one another. Kyle cleared his throat and asked Caitlin if she was thirsty or hungry. She agreed and they quickly moved out of the room. Mom glanced at me, but I just brushed it off. When she reached for the baby, I calmly handed her gently. My mother smiled and started walking around the room with her.
"He did. But he's back now. He hasn't been able to do anything productive since he left us and he came back just in time for the birth. We're going to get married."
"That's wonderful, Gwen," Kim congratulated. "Is he here? I want to meet him."
"Well, Kim, he is here, but before you meet him, well, there's something you should know. You already know him."
"Kim, the baby's father is Keith," I said in a rush, hoping to escape any blows that might come with Kim's words.
"Keith? Keith who?"
"Me," Keith's voice announced from the doorway. He casually walked into the room, next to my bed, and smiled at Kim. His smile was not like the ones he gave me or the baby or anyone else. It was fake. "Hello, Kim. How are you?"
"Keith," her back went ramrod straight and fire burned in her eyes. "What are you doing here?"
"I want to see my girls. There's no law against it is there?" Keith asked, turning to my mother. She handed the baby to him and left the room quietly. It was strange to me, how she hadn't said anything while I explained to Kim. Maybe she just didn't want to be in this situation. Not that I blamed her.
"He can't be the father," Kim stared at me.
"But he is."
She forced a laugh. Looking at me, she said, "You think you can trust him? You think he'll stick around long enough? Please, Gwen. He's left you once, he'll probably leave you again, only this time it will be for another woman rather than state."
"What do you know Kim? You move from guy to guy every day. You don't care about them, but whenever they start eyeing another girl, you do whatever you can to keep them, only to drop them a couple days later. You even go as far as to claim you're pregnant to keep them, even when you don't care about them."
"What, Keith, are you upset I dropped you?" Kim asked, bringing her lips into a pout.
Keith handed the baby to me. The tension in the room was clearly starting to get to her, for she started kicking her legs and throwing her arms around in the air. Softly, I murmured words of reassurance to her, and hummed one of Keith's songs.
"I never wanted you in the first place. It was always Gwen, always will be," Keith said, moving over to me.
"Well, I hope you two are happy together," Kim snapped, turning around on her heel.
"Wait, Kim, please. Don't leave like this," I pleaded.
"I've got to go anyway. I've still got work," she said, heading for the door.
"Will you visit later?"
She stopped and looked at me for a long moment. Finally, sighed and nodded her head.
After she left, Keith let out a breath and kissed the top of my head. "I'm sorry about that Gwen."
The baby let out a cry. I lifted her close to me and murmured soft words to her, trying to comfort her. After a couple of minutes she calmed down. I kissed the top of her little button nose as she closed her eyes.
"Gwen?" He whispered.
"Keith, I don't know what to say. What do you want me to say? That I want Kim out of my life because she claimed she was pregnant to 'keep' you?"
"I never said I wanted you to have Kim out of your life. I never once said that."
"But it's what you want, isn't it? You don't have to be a genius to see that you two can't stand each other!"
"That's true, I won't deny it, I can't stand her. But, Gwen, I would never tell not to be friends with her. You've known her for years. I would never ever do something like that to you. Never. I'm not Craig. Just because I don't like your best friend does not mean I won't let you be friends with her anymore. I love you, Gwen."
"But you two don't like each other. What am I going to do?"
He kissed my cheek. "Don't worry. I promise, I'll do my best to be civil to her. I promise you. I just can't say the same for her."
"The least you can do is try," I said.
"And I will. I promise." Gazing down at the baby, he asked, "What about her name?"
"Meredith," I whispered.
"Meredith," he repeated. "Meredith Marks. Meredith Ridge. It works."
"Actually, I was thinking she could be Meredith Marks-Ridge. You know, with the hyphen in between."
"Wonderful idea," he praised, kissing me softly.
There was a knock at the door. "Can we come in now?"
Mom, Kyle, Caitlin, Sammy, Judy, Jason, and Warren stood at the door. I glanced at Keith before admitting them into the room. Warren and Jason stepped off to the side while everyone else crowded around the bed once again. Mom stood next to me and kissed the top of my head. In my ear, she whispered, "Is everything alright?"
"Yes," I whispered back. "Just some trouble between Keith and Kim."
Keith addressed his father and brother with a simple nod in their direction.
"Does she have a name now?" Sammy asked.
"I thought her name was going to be Rosalynn Judith?" Judy broke in.
"It was," Keith told her. "But we've decided on something else. If we have another girl, then she's sure to be named Rosalynn. I'm sorry, Mom."
"Oh, darling, that's perfectly all right. I told you it was unnecessary to name your baby after me anyways. What's her name?" Judy asked.
"Meredith," Keith said.
"That's a lovely name," my mother said.
"She looks like a Meredith," Caitlin said.
"What about her middle name?" Kyle asked.
Keith and I looked at each other. "How about Judith?" I suggested.
"No," Judy said. "This is your baby, give her an original name."
"No," Judy interrupted Keith again.
"Jacqueline?" My mom suggested. There was something about that name that must have meant something to her or else she wouldn't keep on suggesting it to me.
"That's a pretty name," Caitlin spoke up. Mom only smiled a small smile.
"Why do you keep on insisting on that name?" I asked her.
She licked her lips. "Well, Gwen, there's something I haven't really told you before. Before you were born, your dad and I, we tried to have a baby. I ended up getting pregnant and we found out it was a girl. Her name was to be Jacqueline Amethyst Marks. Matt and I couldn't wait. We planned everything, bought all sorts of dresses and everything.
"She was stillborn. I barely held her in my arms for five minutes before they took her away. It took me three years before I would finally try again to have a baby. I'm glad I did because now I have you, and now I'm a grandmother."
"Oh, Mom, why did you never tell me?" I asked, amazed. I had a big sister. I'd always thought I was an only child, but no. I had a sister.
"I haven't spoken about her in years, Gwen, to anyone, even myself. But there's not a day that goes by I wonder what might have been," she said quietly.
"We would be honored to name her after Gwen's sister," Keith announced.
"Meredith Jacqueline Marks," Mom said, tasting the name out on her lips. "It's nice."
"Ridge," Warren's voice came from the back of the room. "If anything, her name will be Meredith Jacqueline Ridge."
"Actually, she's going to be a Marks-Ridge, with the hyphen," I corrected, stunned at Warren's participation in naming our baby.
"Marks-Ridge?" he echoed. "Why not Ridge-Marks?"
"Because Marks-Ridge sounds better," Judy interrupted. "It's a darling name, Gwen," she kissed me on the forehead, then stood on her tip toes to kiss Keith's forehead. "Keith. Congratulations. She's beautiful."
Warren stepped up, his back stiff, his hands behind him. He opened his mouth to say something, but the tune of Kyle's cell phone interrupted him. After he mumbled a few words to the other person, he hung up and said to my mother, "We've got to go."
"Okay," she turned to me. "Darling, I love you. Congratulations. I'll see you soon," she kissed my forehead.
"I love you too, Mom."
She, Sammy, Kyle, and Caitlin left then. Judy coughed and then suggested she and Jason go find something to eat. Something was up that had to do with Warren because he didn't make any motion to leave.
"I'm surprised you haven't come up with your own excuse to leave yet," Keith commented, lifting Meredith into his arms. She made a little gurgling noise and threw her arms wildly into the air.
Warren ignored that comment. "It's nice to see you Keith. Gwen," he nodded his head in my direction.
"Go on and ask me, Dad. Why am I not at Yale?" Keith said, stroking the baby's cheek with his forefinger.
"I would like to know that, yes."
"Here," Keith brought the baby to him. "Hold your granddaughter."
Warren stared at him for a good long while before bringing his hands from behind him to hold her. After a moment of holding her, he whispered, "She's looking at me, smiling. She's got beautiful eyes."
"This is why I left, Dad. I've got a family here I can't live without. I went through hell trying at Yale, but it didn't work. There's no way I'm going back to go through that again. You can sue me for anything you can come up with, but I don't care. As long as I'm with my family, I don't care."
Warren gave him a hard, long look, as though he was considering all of Keith's words carefully. Finally, he said, "I think we can work something out. I still want you working at the firm. I can pull some strings at the South Texas College of Law. You can go there and earn your degree."
Keith stared at him. "What?"
"Really, Keith, can we talk about this later? I'm trying to spend time with my first grandchild," Warren turned his attention to Meredith. He began making faces at her and started saying things like, "Who's going to be the first lady president? Huh? Huh? Who's going to take over daddies business? That's right. You. Yes, you," with the tone you usually used with a baby. Keith glanced over at me, a look saying "What has he gotten into?" written clearly on his face. All I could do was shrug. I had no idea myself.
Later that night, after everyone had left and Meredith was finally sleeping, Keith and I finally got our chance to talk. He told me all about New Haven, Connecticut and how nice it had been there, but it hadn't been home. I told him some of the events that had taken place after he left. How Mom and I had bonded even closer. How Kim had come home crying, with no place to go.
After some time, Keith took my hand in his. He gazed into my eyes. Gosh, I couldn't believe I'd lived so long without those golden brown eyes of his. Bringing my hands to his lips, he said, "Now, Gwen, our families seem to be getting along, we've got a beautiful baby girl, and are madly, passionately in love. There's just one problem."
"Really?" I smiled. "What's that?"
"You're still not my wife just yet. Please, tell me, after all we've been through, that you will now marry me. We'll have a wonderful life. Picture this, alright? A nice little house in the suburbs somewhere, but no picket fence, with a big backyard. Meredith playing, her laughing. Maybe even another little tyke or two running around the place. You'll be teaching, I'll be an attorney. We'll come home and spend hours together, with the kids, just being happy." He proposed.
"That sounds wonderful," I whispered.
He reached in his pocket and pulled out the engagement ring from his grandmother. Quickly, he explained he asked Jason to get it for him before he came. Slipping it on my finger, he whispered, "Gwendolyn Diamond Marks, I want you to become a Ridge. I want you to share my life, good times and bad, bear a couple more children for me, and live a ridiculously happy woman."
"There's no problem with that." I said.
I leaned my head forward, "I'm already ridiculously happy."
He kissed me softly. "Then that's a yes?"
"Of course. When do you plan on getting married?"
"As soon as possible. When you're out of the hospital."
"How about December? I've always dreamed about a beautiful wedding in December."
"Done," he smiled, kissing me again, igniting that spark that always brought us wanting more.
On December 18, Keith and I were married. By then Kim had forgiven me and even blessed the union. She and Keith still didn't like each other, but they were still civil to each other. That was all I could ask for.
Warren did as he said and Keith started classes at the South Texas College of Law. When he graduated, Warren welcomed him into the firm with open arms. I got my teaching degree and went on to teach at a local elementary school.
My mother started doing work only in Texas which might have made her more sought after than before, since she was so rare, but she didn't care. She wanted to be with family, so she refused all offers. Kyle and Caitlin's relationship grew into an engagement eventually. The wedding date is still unscheduled, but with Kyle, it could be any day.
Keith fulfilled his promise of a beautiful home with no white picket fence. Eventually, we moved into Warren and Judy's home after poor Judy's death almost eight years after Meredith's birth. Warren didn't like living alone and invited us to live with him. Losing his wife was hard on him, but spending every minute with his grandchildren made up for it.
Keith and I had three more children after Meredith. Rosalynn Judith, Klein Matthew, and Emerald Halley. We lived a happy life, with some twists and turns along the way, but in the end, Keith, my knight in shining armor, and I lived our own version of happily ever after.