Natalya eagerly searched the face of her newborn daughter for traces of Michael's features. She glanced back and forth between her husband and the baby, comparing their noses, their chins, their earlobes.
"What on earth are you doing?" Michael chuckled.
"Let me see your hand," Natalya asked him, carefully inspecting one of Michaela's.
"Mine's just a tad bigger," Michael joked.
"I think she has your fingers," Natalya said.
"So she does," Michael replied cheerfully. "And she has your eyes and mouth."
Natalya smiled, relieved.
"What, are you afraid she might look more like me than you?" Michael asked in jest.
Natalya shook her head. "You know what I'm afraid of," she said softly.
"And there's no reason for you to be afraid at all, as I've already told you that we will love her just the same regardless." Michael's voice was full of tenderness as he embraced his wife and kissed her cheek.
"I love you so much, Misha." Natalya sighed with contentment and happiness as she rested her head on her husband's shoulder.
"I love you too, Tasha. Both of you," Michael said. Just then Michaela yawned. "Isn't that sweet!" Michael exclaimed.
"You're sweet." Natalya laughed softly and kissed her husband's lips.
On the day Natalya and Michaela were to leave the hospital, Natalya wrapped the newborn up snugly.
"Do you think she'll be warm enough?" she asked Michael.
"She'll be fine," he said with a smile. He had been by her side almost constantly since the baby had been born, returning home only for meals and at night.
"What's wrong, Misha?" Natalya asked a few minutes later, disturbed by the sour look on her husband's face.
"It wouldn't have killed them to visit just once, even if only for a few minutes." Natalya heard the hurt in Michael's voice and felt very sad.
"I wasn't really expecting them to," she said softly. "I know how they feel about me, and in a way, it's understandable. I'm not royalty, and I wasn't even a virgin." She knew that there was no need for her to repeat what was uppermost in her mind.
"But it isn't fair!" Michael insisted. "Michaela's an innocent baby. She shouldn't have to pay for...for..."
"You shouldn't have to pay either, Misha." Natalya laid a comforting hand on his arm.
"Neither should you." Michael sighed. "If only they could see you as I do."
"They'll come around some day, Misha. I know they will."
Suddenly in a good mood again, Michael smiled and embraced his wife, then walked with her to the car.
Michaela slept for most of the first day and woke up crying several times during the night. Natalya's breasts became very sore and painful, so much so that she winced every time the baby latched on. Even after repeated feedings, Michaela was difficult to settle, and Michael spent many hours walking the floor trying to shush her so that his exhausted wife could get some rest.
Several days after the family had come back home, Michael checked the mail and found a card from Anastasia. On the front was a picture of a sleeping baby, and on the inside Anastasia had written a message. 'For my new cousin, Michaela. From Anastasia with all my love.'
"It's beautiful!" Natalya was deeply touched. "She's such a sweet girl."
"Yes, she is," Michael agreed. "I'm so happy that at least one member of my family accepts you and Michaela."