Chapter Fifteen

I couldn't remember when the sun came up, but as I walked out into the main lobby, I noticed that out the bay window the sun was shining brightly, filling the lobby with natural light and outside the window the world was waking up. Gavin was sitting on a chair, his legs stretched out, and he was asleep with a couple magazines on his lap. Presley, however, was not sleeping and instead was sitting there, staring in the direction of the doors that I had just walked through; she looked like she had been sitting there for hours, waiting for me to step out of the delivery room, without even a magazine to distract herself. Twelve hours later and there was a new life in the world, after much crying, and screaming, and Devon telling me that she couldn't do this, and that she just wanted to give up. I stepped into the lobby, exhaled tiredly, and then stepped over in the direction of my friends. "Hey guys," I yawned, stretching my arms over my head. My entire body felt stiff as a bored, and I had long ago kicked off my shoes.

"Is she okay?" Presley said jumping up and walking towards me.

I nodded, smiling, and threw the scrubs I had been wearing on one of the chairs. "She's excellent, and so is little her little girl." I could see Presley smiling, and suddenly she seemed like the Presley I had once known. "They moved her into ICU, since she's premature, but ten fingers and ten toes, but the doctor said that everything seems okay, and she probably won't stay there long" Presley nodded; there was a gift bag sitting on the other edge of the room, beside where she was sitting, with a huge teddy bear sticking out from the wrappers.

"I was so worried." And she looked it, actually looked it, instead of the coldness she usually she gave off when she around everyone. She seemed, happy – well, worried, but still happy now that she knew Devon and baby were okay – and I was so excited to see her like this. It was a continuous pattern of shifting, from the person I had known growing up, to someone I couldn't recognize, to finally, this person. Maybe it was only temporary, and she would be someone new in the morning, someone that wasn't in shock for a situation; she would be cold, and calculating, and move away from me when I tried to step closer. As long as she was acting like this, then I wanted to hold onto that person as long as I possibly could.

I sighed, "She'll be fine." I found it suspicious that she was worried about her, after everything that she had done with Trent. At least she had helped us bring her here, and now she was buying her presents. "You guys didn't have to stay." I told her, glancing over at Gavin who was still sleeping in the chair, and I laughed, "But I'm glad you did." The whole hospital was alive with business, people coming in and leave, babies being born. I had never really liked hospitals, even going as far as to be afraid of them, but now something was different, something was more alive. I walked over beside Gavin, flopping down on the chair and kissing him on the check; slowly, his eyes opened, looking over in my direction and smiling. "Hey babe." I told him, leaning on his shoulder, and then kissed his cheek. The entire time I was in that delivery room, I wanted him there holding my hand, helping me. He had been the one that was there holding me when things got rough, when things were spinning out of control, and he hadn't been there. He hadn't been holding me tightly, or telling me everything was okay. That was me.

"How's Devon?" He asked, yawning, and sitting up in the chair.

I smiled, "She's a mom." He picked up a small t-shirt, which I imagined he had picked up from the gift shop in the hospital, and showed it to me. The shirt, which was infant sized, read PINCH THE CHEEKS, LOSE A FINGER, and was green with pink writing. I laughed, "You can't be serious, that is horrible!" He pulled back, tossing the shirt in the bag, and picked up some small teddy bears, which I smiled at. All of it was amazing, even that T-shirt which I'm sure that Devon would love.

"You have no idea how bored we got last night," he said, "We raided the 24-hour gift shop. That place is pretty lame." I laughed at this, shaking my head, and he leaned in and kissed me on the forehead, dropping the bag at his side. "Was it scary?" I thought back to standing in the hospital room, holding Devon's hand and whispering over and over that everything was going to be okay. She was crying, and the doctor's were telling her to push, and I was trying to figure out how it was me standing in this hospital room, instead of Trent, witnessing the birth of his child. Gavin leaned in, and kissed me again, as Presley walked back into the room – I hadn't noticed she had left – handing each of us a cup of coffee. "Thanks," he said, as we both took sips of our burning hot, gasoline tasting liquid.

I cringed, pulling the cup from my mouth, "I guess hospital coffee really hasn't improved."

Presley nodded in agreement, "This is disgusting," She sighed, dropping the cup in the trash.

Over in the corner, I could see a payphone; Presley had left her cell phone out in the car, "I'll be right back," I told him, kissing him on the cheek and fishing a quarter out of his jeans. I didn't have a purse on me, or a coat, and I was still dressed in my clothing from the night before. Stepping up to the payphone, I picked up the receiver, dropping the quarter into the slot and dialing my phone number. I wasn't sure if my mother was awake yet, and if she was, she was going to be extremely hung over. The phone rang for a couple seconds, and then finally Brody picked up, sounding exhausted. They probably had all crawled into bed around dawn.

"Hello." There was a yawn, and then some shifting as she moved the phone to the other ear.

I paused, and then spoke. "Brody, it's me." There was a pause, I heard her wake up more, "Brody, I just need you to put mom on the phone." She was taking too long, and I figured that Devon needed her family around here, especially because no one knew that Trent was gone, missing, or passed out in the basement with no idea that his daughter was now born. My sister didn't say anything to me, instead there was some clicking, something that sounded like waking up, and then I heard heavy breathing? "Hello?" I asked, hoping there was someone there.

"Hayden," It was mom talking, and she sounded like she had been hit by a train, "Do you know what time it is?" There was a second of thinking and then: "Why are you calling me from the house." I gulped, realizing no one had noticed when Gavin and I had left. I sighed, waiting for her anger. "Where are you?" She asked and her voice sounded louder now; I could only imagine dad sitting on the couch, nursing his hangover with an extra large mug of coffee, and groaning as mom spoke loudly.

"Mom I'm at the hospital," I announced quickly, "Devon went into labor." From the other end of the line, could hear her beginning to freak out, nearly screaming. "Mom," I yelled; people in the hospital were already staring at me, watching me as I attempted to have a conversation, "She's okay mom. She delivered this morning and they have the baby in the ICU to watch her and make sure everything is okay until they bring it to the normal nursery." Mom was remaining quiet, but I could hear the sound of pen to paper, scribbling down the details as I spoke. From the corner of my eye I could see the doctor walking into the waiting area, and I wanted to talk to him about what was going on, and how both Devon and baby were doing. "Mom, the doctor's here, I have to go." There was a pause, wondering if I should tell her to tell Trent the baby was born; she probably thought that Trent was here, knowing everything that happened, I sighed, "Come soon." And then I hung up, probably worrying my mother more, and rushed off to see the doctor.

"Miss Brent?" He asked, "Your sister is doing fine."

"She's not my-" I paused, and then corrected myself. He was more right than I was, "I'm glad, and the baby?"

The doctor smiled, "She's doing fine," he answered, "but we're going to keep her where she is for the time being, just to make sure that there are no complications." That word, complications, seemed to define my life right now, but I nodded, and smiled, "you can see Devon if you would like?" I nodded, Presley and Gavin walking up behind me, "she's just through there." The three of us walked directly in there, and Devon was sitting on the pillows, looking as tired as the rest of us. There was, however, a smile on her face as she noticed us walking over and sitting around her. There was a slight hurt in her face as she noticed Presley standing there, and I wondered if maybe she should have waited outside. But her face softened as Gavin and Presley started showing them the gifts they had bought for her.

"Wow." She said, pulling out the PINCH THE CHEEKS, LOSE A FINGER shirt, "she is going to look adorable in this." Thinking back to that tiny baby, I could tell she was going to look adorable in it, even though she was going to be a bit small for it when first took her home. Devon looked up form the shirt, staring at me, "Do you get a hold of your mom and dad?" I nodded, pausing because I knew what was coming next, "And Trent?"

I sighed, "She didn't say anything about him. I don't know if she thinks he's here or not."

Devon nodded, and I could see the hurt and confusion in her eyes as she felt the empty space on her ring fingers, where the ring he had given her had once been. "Well good then," she looked up, swallowing, and then let her shoulders heave, "We don't need him anyways." I nodded, patting her hand, and looking back at Presley who was shifting her feet nervously, and looking around trying to distract herself. Being the other woman in the hospital room of the girlfriend/fiancé who has just given birth couldn't have been the easiest thing in the world. But Devon was handling it well, could have been the pain medication they had given her, which made me glad because we didn't need another confrontation, there had been enough of those for a life time. "Do you think she's okay?" Devon asked, a worried face, and I squeezed her hand in assurance.

"She's strong, like you." I reminded her, "I'm sure she's just waiting for her mom to come get her." Of course, I would have liked to sneak in and hold her, to remind her that this world wasn't as scary as she would probably think it was. I wanted to promise her that I would help her make it through the rough times; that she would survive.

I heard the clanking of shoes against linoleum, and the nurse walked into the room, "Does mommy want to go visit her baby," the nurse asked, "Not all of you can come, you'll have to leave," she was shooing us out of the room now, but that was okay, because I could see how excited Devon was to visit baby again. I squeezed her hand once again, whispered I'd be just around the corner; the nurse wheeled in the chair for her, helping her in, and then walked past us, Devon smiling that she would see the baby, again. Obviously, she hadn't been named, and I wasn't even sure what to call her; the baby naming book was still sitting on the bedside table at home – I had forgot to ask mom if she could bring it, not realizing my niece was yet to be names – so for now I guess she would just be "baby".

Presley sighed, wrapping her arms around her shoulders, "I think I'm going to go home, and get some sleep."

I nodded, "If you're sure."

She nodded, before shrugging her shoulders and lowering her head. "This is a family thing, you know, and once everyone finds out what happened last night, I don't think I'll exactly be welcome." She seemed sad now, not cold, and I wondered if this was why she was acting out the whole time.

Before she turned to leave, I grabbed her hand; I had to say something before I lost the chance, "Presley, you have always been part of my family. No matter what happens, you have always been part of my family and you're always going to be part of my family. That is never going to change." There was still something in her eyes that told me that she was scared of being around, especially when the announcement would be made that Trent and Devon might not get married after all. I leaned in, hugging her tightly, trying to forget everything that has happened in the last couple months and… no, I wouldn't think of it, instead, hugging her, "Call later, okay?" There was a pause, where I didn't know what to say or not and then added, "don't do anything stupid, please." I was almost waiting for her to get angry with me, to tell me to butt out like before, but she didn't. She just nodded, hugged me back, and then walked out of the hospital.

"I guess we're waiting for your parents to get here," Gavin walked up behind me, wrapping his arms around my waist and leaning in close to me. "Are you okay?"

Turning around, I thought about this for a second – was I okay? I was the kind of person who seriously tried to have a plan, or at least some form of control. But now things were pretty out of control, at least I thought so, and I was fine. The night before had been the epitome of things slipping away, but yet I had held on. I had been the one in the delivery room, I had been the one holding her hand and keeping her breathing, without even knowing what I should do. "You know," I leaned in closer to him, taking in everything about this situation, wanting to remember it, "I'm wonderful." And I was, I truly was. I kissed him again, in the middle of the lobby, remembering it all; the taste of his lips, the feel of his body, and the sounds of those around us. The world went on, slipping through my fingers, and for that second, that moment, I was okay with it.

Hospitals were my greatest fear growing up, mostly because they reminded me of death, and every time I walked into one, that hospital smell would hit me, fear would over come me, and I would have to go sit outside until my parents were done running their errands. But for four days, I was in and out of the hospital, going with the rest of my family and visiting Devon and baby Emmerson Audrey Delaney, who after two days, finally had her name and was no longer in close supervision, but was able to stay in the normal nursery, and be visited by the entire family, holding her over and over. She was the most beautiful baby I had even seen, small and tiny, with curly brown hair like her father, and the biggest blue eyes that were almost shocking they were so blue. She was bigger than the doctors had imagined she would be, considering she was two weeks early, but even still she was the tiniest baby in the whole wide world, with little fingers and little toes. Emmerson loved Gavin, clinging to him every time he help her, wrapping her little baby fingers around his thumb, giggling and smiling as he made faces. She even loved Presley, who had come to visit Devon and her twice; Devon hadn't forgiven her, not even close, but she was willing to try by just letting her come into the hospital room.

Trent still hadn't come to visit Devon, or Emmerson, or even come home for that matter. We had no idea where he was, what he was doing, or if he was still alive. But mom wouldn't think like that believing that it was cold feet and any day he would arrive, flowers in hand, and apologize.

But, now four days later and we had heard nothing, not even a peep, and Devon was preparing to bring little Emmerson home, wrapping her up in the car seat – mom had to rush out a buy it, because it was one of the things that they forgot to buying, thinking there were still a couple days left – and taking her out to the van where everyone was waiting. Gavin, Presley, Brody and Dad and I sat out in the new mini van, which he had traded in the car for, and smiling as mom helped Devon out to it. "Hey," She said, securing Emmerson into the middle seat, securing the babysat and checking it twice, before taking her seat beside me; Brody, Presley and Gavin were in the middle, watching the little television screen which had come with it. "You ready?" I asked her, lightly grazing my fingers over Emmerson's head, and smiling as she looked up at me. She was the most beautiful baby in the whole wide world, no doubt about it.

"As ready as I'm ever going to be." The tone of her voice screamed how scared she was, but could I blame her. I never, in a million years, would be ready for something like she was going to embark on. Trent was gone, at least for now, and she had no idea how to do this. Had mom not taken her in; well, I didn't even want to think what would have happened. "God," She sighed, as dad started the car and took off in the direction of the highway, and our house, "I would kill for a milkshake right now."

I laughed, "Oh god, me too."

From the back seat, their voices in unison, I heard Brody, Presley and Gavin speak up, "Wow, a milkshake would be great." I giggling, looking up in my dad's direction. He was driving not saying anything, and mom was staring at him.

"Charles," she started, in her I want something voice, which I recognized from the days when the family would go shopping together. "Do you think you could stop for milkshakes…" her voice trailed off, with a pause from my dad, who seemed to be concentrating a lot on the road. "Charles," she said again, giggling, "I've been craving a chocolate milkshake for the last…"

Finally, dad cracked, "Fine, we can get milkshakes."

Cheers filled the van, and dad took a turn, pulling onto Main Street and heading towards the Addison Family Restaurant, instead of the Ice Cream Shack; all of us were avoiding it, scared to see Trent sitting there smoking cigarettes and serving children ice cream cones. He wasn't of course, and eight phone calls form the manager proved that he hadn't shown up in work since the night of the street party, and that – also – there was money missing from the cash, and he was the only one who had access to it. Dad refused to talk about it, mom couldn't talk about it without bursting into tears, and Devon was too concerned with baby Emmerson to even think about him. The only people that seemed to be that worried were me, because I couldn't not worry, and Presley who, even though she readily denied it, was still very much infatuated with my brother. I couldn't call it "love" because I couldn't believe that kind of relationship, one that could destroy families, could have anything to do with love. She didn't see it that way, and a number of times I had caught her sitting on my front steps, smoking, and looking out over the road, "I wish he would come back," she would tell me, sighing, "if only for Emmerson. She deserves to have both parents." There was some different about Presley, lately, something that told me that like that shift when we were fourteen, something had changed in her again, and that it wasn't temporary, that when the sun rose the next morning, the morning after that, next week, she would be the friend I knew. The friend that stayed by my side.

The restaurant was just starting to get busy, and the seven of us – baby included – walked towards the take-out counter; the waitresses were already fawning over Emmerson, oooohing and ahhhhing, "She's adorable," one said, making funny faces. That was what everyone did when they saw her, turning into clowns, in awe of her adorableness.

Dad stood at the counter, his wallet in hand, and then let out a sigh, "Can I get six milkshakes?" He asked, then turning around to look at us. Unlike Gavin, dad had no idea what everyone enjoyed, which meant that we had to walk up to the counter and gave our orders; mom wanted chocolate caramel, obviously because the diet hadn't started, Brody wanted raspberry, Gavin wanted orange-peach, Dad got bumble-berry, Presley got just a plain chocolate and of course Devon got peanut butter, because her cravings still hadn't diminished since giving birth. Finally, I stepped up to the counter, looking at the thousand different favor combinations I could chose from; I had made so many choices over the summer, between the girl I had once been with long flowing hair, and the girl I had become with cropped hair, dyed darker than it was naturally. Was it possible that everything had to change, that I had to become someone knew; to shift from the girl I was to someone knew; a girlfriend, an aunt, a high school senior. The world was shifting around me, but it didn't mean that everything had to change completely.

"Strawberry milkshake please," I asked, smiling, feeling a sense of accomplishment that no one else would really understand.

In that summer, I learned a lot of things about life, about changing, and about how you had to hold on instead of fighting the changes. The most important lesson I learned however was that life wasn't a short trip form destination A to destination B. It was a long road, stretched out, with plenty of bumps a long the way. I could try to fight those changes, try to prevent the world around me from changing, but it only made it worse, pushing back against me and leaving me the only one the same in the world. Even though I wanted to believe that the past was a great place to live, that everyone should have stayed the same as they were in the places I remembered, life was would be boring if we didn't shift. Everything happened for a reason, even if you couldn't see it then. I wanted to make things better; I wanted to know what would happen two months, six months, or even a year from now. But then, maybe, life wouldn't teach me enough or it wouldn't be interesting enough.

Standing outside the restaurant, we were all sipping our milkshakes, and I wondered what we looked like to the outside world. Jumping up, I rummaged through my bag before pulling out my camera and staring at everyone. "Let's take a picture."

I could hear the groans coming from my family, but I didn't care, stopping someone outside the restaurant and gathering everyone into a crowd. There was an old picture on the mantel, from the days I was trying to bring back, but those days were gone and this was the future. I curled up in Gavin's arms, with Presley on the other side of me. Brody was standing in between my parents, once again, and Devon was in the middle with little Emmerson resting in her arms, her tiny wrinkled face posing for what was probably the thousandth picture in a week. "Smile!" I called, and then there was a flash, capturing us forever; the future. I would probably always try to be the big sister; I would probably always want to help people when they were sad, or hurt, or doing things I couldn't understand.

"How are you?" Gavin whispered, leaning in.

I smiled, "I'm fabulous."

I used to think that summer would be the ending before school started in the summer and the more and more that things changed, I feared what was to come. But, standing there, surrounded with new and old family, I realized that this was the beginning of a new chapter, a beginning of something amazing. We were all discovering new things about us, all fighting to survive growing up and changing, but together, I knew, we could make it together. I smiled once more, the cameras fading at the world open for us to explore. It really wasn't all that scary after all.