“Westwood Memorial?” Tina stops the Lexus in front of the gate of the cemetery before turning her speculative eyes towards me. “You wanted to bring me to a cemetery?”
I laugh softly as I take her hand. “No, I didn’t want to bring you to a cemetery. There’s something I needed to do, for our family, for us, and unfortunately a cemetery was the best place to do it.”
She raises an incredulous eyebrow at me before facing forward and driving ahead. “Bette, you didn’t buy us family plots did you? I mean, that’s very practical and even kind, but a little… foreboding…”
I laugh again and this time she joins me. I point to a small path and say, “Turn here.” She does and I answer her. “No, T, I didn’t buy a family plot. We’re almost there. You’ll understand when we arrive.”
She releases a heavy sigh and takes my hand, settling it on her thigh as we move up the narrow, winding path. I know that this is a sad occasion, but it’s a joyous one as well. It’s the mix of emotions that is so exhausting. There is row after row of grave markers over the flat, green expanse. And as we drive further, I notice the end of one side of the cemetery. There, towards the wooded area beyond, is a large tree and a newly plotted statue resting in its shade. My heart rate picks up as I say, “T, pull over here.” She maneuvers the car to the side of the path and follows my lead as I step out of the car.
I meet her at the front of the car and again take her hand. The sun is beginning its final descent on the horizon and it seems a fitting backdrop to what I wish to share with her. The horizon is both closure and new beginnings in endless repetition, just like what I wish to show her in this hallowed and grief-filled place. She follows along with me as we make our way on the gravel path carefully, walking about one hundred feet from the main path towards the memorial. It’s perfect, just what our son deserves as we commemorate him in life, not just mourn him in death.
The memorial is simple, but poignant to the story it tells. A victorian sculpture of a baby lies peacefully dreaming, wrapped in the ornate wings that sprout from his back. The way his wings cradle him and the way he’s curled up looks so much like a child in the womb, and it’s so very close to the image of his ultrasound that it feels as though we are actually gazing at him, the real him, meeting him for the first time. He is about two feet high from the ground, resting atop a simple marker that identifies him.
We step up in front of the memorial and Tina’s voice is choked as she reads, “Baby Porter-Kennard, Beloved son, brother, and nephew, still loving, still living, still ours…” I feel the heavy sting of tears prick my eyes and take my wife in my arms as we gaze on him together, remembering him, honoring him. “God, Bette, we never even got to name him…”
I smile through my tears and kiss the crown of her head. “We never had the chance, T. He never had a chance…” She tucks her head further under my chin and squeezes me. “How would you feel about naming our second son Chance?”
There’s a long moment of silence as she continues to hold me before she pulls back and locks her watery eyes on mine. Her face is radiant despite the hurt and this is what I wanted. We honor what is lost by keeping it close to our hearts, feeling both the grief and the joy that comes with loving someone we’ve lost and others we’re soon to keep.
She raises an eyebrow at me and reaches up to stroke my face. Her voice is soft and awestruck as she whispers, “Chance… it’s perfect…” She smiles adoringly and I dip down to kiss her reverently. Her lips are warm, soft, and full, and I find tremendous comfort in them. I pull back reluctantly and she grins as she places her hands on my swollen stomach, leans down, and leaves a lingering, heartfelt kiss. “Rory, Chance, this is your brother. He’s part of our family, and like any good big brother, he’ll watch over you.”
I put my arm around her shoulders and she rests her head against me. We gaze at him from the shade of his resting place as the sun continues to dip behind the horizon. “Once a year, T, no more and no less. We will keep him alive, but we will put the pain of his passing to rest once and for all. Instead, we will remember him and honor him by living fully.”
She cleans her face with a heavy sigh and takes my hand, gazing at him once more before pulling me away with her. She keeps her head high and forward as we walk and says, “He just moves forward with us.” She turns her head and smiles at me. “Thank you, Bette. I feel… at peace…”
I return her smile and put my arm around her shoulders, catching my breath and leaning on her as we make our way ahead. “Me too, T. Me too…”
Tina and I step into the gallery to see that the other guests are still trickling in. “There you are!” Malcolm meets us at the door and hugs us both robustly. His boyish smile seems strange against his elegant, charcoal gray Italian suit and perfectly cropped haircut. “So, what do you think?” He gestures around him at his work and the people enjoying it. “Only half the guests are here and already I’ve sold most of the pieces.” He grins widely at me, his soulful eyes twinkling. “I think I owe you a dinner, or vacation, or something, maybe everything.” His face becomes serious as he gazes at me. “None of this would have happened if it weren’t for you. Thank you, sis.”
I tuck my arm around his back and lean heavily against him, smiling as I say, “You don’t owe me anything, Malcolm. I knew you’d be a success.”
He pulls away and takes one of mine and Tina’s hands, walking backwards as he says, “Come with me. I want to show you something.”
He turns and we follow him to the back of the gallery, greeting people as we go. We arrive at the piece that is a depiction of me, Tina, and Angie. It’s beyond beautiful and probably my favorite of his collection, biases aside. “I’ve turned down offers on this piece all night.”
I furrow my brows at him. “Malcolm, why? You should start a bidding war.”
He and Tina both laugh as the art mogul in me rears its head. “It’s not for sale, Bette. I think the owner would be cross with me if I sold it.”
His smile is warm and knowing and I feel tears gather in my eyes. “Malcolm, are you sure?”
“I’ve never been more certain. I know how fond you are of it and honestly, I couldn’t sell it if I wanted to. It’s too personal.”
He reaches over and squeezes my shoulder as James approaches. “Malcolm, we have another offer on the Ming piece.” James turns to me and Tina, his demeanor anxious and hurried as ever. “Hey boss… Tina.”
We smile at him and Malcolm rolls his eyes as he looks to me with a dashing smile. “Excuse me.”
I push him on his arm and he laughs as he walks away with James. Tina puts her arm around my back and we gaze at our painting. There’s a long moment of silence before she says, “We’ll have to get him to do a full family portrait once the babies are here.”
I put my arm around her shoulder and we gaze at it a moment longer. My back is killing me and the babies feel heavier, lower in my hips. I feel the need to walk a little bit so we start to amble together gazing at all the expertly displayed art. Malcolm has certainly come into his own.
I feel my stomach tighten painfully and try to catch my breath. Tina takes my hand and brushes the curls from my forehead. “Babe, are you okay?” The pain lessens and I finally feel the air fill my lungs. I look at her and can’t even answer the question because she’s already beat me to it. “Let’s go home so you can get some rest. You’ve had a stressful day today.”
I nod my head with relief. “That sounds wonderful. I need to use the restroom first, and then we’ll leave.”
She puts her arm around my back and helps me through the showroom, down the hall, and to the bathroom. I head straight for the handicapped stall and cry out as another terrible pain shoots across my abdomen. Tina runs to my side as I cling to the stall door. I pant as the pain starts to lessen and feel a rush of warmth soak my legs and feet. I gaze down at the small lake beneath me with incredulity. Did I really just piss myself…? Tina’s already at my side gazing at the puddle as well and we hear a shouted, “What the fuck?” come from the stall.
Tina pulls me away as the door opens, revealing a disheveled Shane and Carmen trying to slosh out of the pool I just dropped beneath them. Their clothes are disheveled and Shane’s chest is barely covered. They freeze and stare at us like deer caught in headlights as another sharp pain shoots through my stomach and I squeeze Tina’s hand painfully hard. I feel sweat beading up on my forehead and I can’t catch my breath even as the pain releases. Tina swipes the curls from my face and hands Shane her purse. “Pull the Lexus up…” Shane doesn’t move and Tina turns a hard gaze on her. “Now!”
Carmen grabs Shane’s hand and pulls her from the stall, they slip and Carmen lands hard in the puddle. “Fucking gross…” Shane helps her up and they grab as many paper towels as they can before running from the room to meet Tina’s demands.
Tina puts my arm around her shoulders and supports me as we start a crawling, painful walk from the bathroom. My stomach feels hard and a twisting twinge of pain has settled in to never go away. It takes several minutes but we finally get out to the showroom just in time for Dylan to clink loudly on her champagne glass. “Can I have your attention please?!”
Helena stares at Dylan disbelievingly as Dylan hands her champagne glass to the man next to her. The room falls silent, except for my pained breathing, as we try to make our way to the front door. Dylan takes Helena’s hands. “Helena, when I first met you, I was in awe of your beauty. You were so graceful and elegant, everything I could ever want in a partner, but it was your warmth that made me fall in love you. It was in this very gallery that you first told me that you love me, and it was here that I knew that I’d never want anyone but you. Since that night, I have grown so much. I’ve learned what it means to love someone more than yourself, and I’ve learned the true meaning of joy.”
Dylan gets down on one knee. There are tears in her eyes and Helena gazes at her shocked, frozen where she stands. Dylan beams a smile as she pulls a small metal cylinder from her pocket and opens it, holding it up to for her. Inside the box is a beautiful, diamond encrusted ring. “You make me want to be a better person, and it would be an honor and a privilege if you would be my wife.” She removes the ring from the box, placing it back in her pocket and again taking Helena’s hand. Her eyes are wide and honest as she asks, “Helena, will you marry me?”
Helena’s mouth tries to form words for a moment before she finally stutters out, “Dylan, I… um… N–” I grip Tina’s hand, shrieking out in pain, this one far more guttural and intense. Tina joins me as I nearly break her appendage. The entire auditorium looks to us, Dylan and Helena included. A hush again falls over the room as a still half-naked Shane and a soaked Carmen come running through the doors. Shane’s breasts are on full display as her shirt billows out around her and Carmen is still frantically dabbing at the wet spot covering her ass. Tina strokes my face again. “It’s okay, babe. We’re going.” She turns to Shane. “You drive; I want to sit with Bette.”
Shane comes up to my other side, and together she and Tina start to help me from the gallery. The pain is increasing and I’m starting to feel like I could collapse. “Tina?! Bette?! Wait!” We don’t stop or even slow down as the hurried footsteps behind us approach. Tina helps me into the back seat and takes off for the other side of the Lexus at a run. I clutch at my stomach and lean sideways in the seat, gasping for breath. “Holy fuck, it’s about time…”
I scowl at Alice as I say, “Alice, shut the fucking do– AH! FUCK!” I turn to look at Shane, my breath coming out hard and fast as I gaze at her with all the frustrated pain rolling through me. “Get us the fuck out of here!” I look down at her breasts. “And shut your fucking shirt.” Tina climbs in and shuts her door, leaning over me to try and strap me in. I push her hands away and throw the strap back to my side of the door, gripping my stomach and glaring at her. Just try it again, T.
She’s not fazed in the least as she looks to Alice. “Alice, let everyone know and meet us at Sinai… and shut that damn door.” It takes Alice a moment to realize that something is required of her but she finally shuts the door. As soon as it clicks shut, Shane hits the gas and we squeal away from the front of the curb.
The Lexus screeches to a halt outside of Cedars Sinai and Tina doesn’t even wait for the car to stop moving before she’s leapt from her door and racing around to the other side. A team of three meets me at the door and I barely have to move at all as I’m placed in a wheelchair. I look at all the strangers around me and start to feel very frightened as we start to move. “T… Tina…?!”
“I’m here, babe. I’m right here.” I feel a warm hand settle in mine as another contraction hits and I squeeze, baring my teeth and bellowing out unintelligible sounds.
We enter the emergency area and people start clearing a path as I’m immediately pushed to the back. The man pushing my chair behind me speaks to Tina, “Doctor Wilson will be here shortly. The OR’s already prepped. We need to get you scrubbed in.”
They wheel us through a set of double doors and I feel Tina’s hand pull away from mine. “Bette, I’ll be there soon, okay. I love you…”
Her voice is fading as we keep moving and I start to cry. “T, I love you… hurry…”
I look around the fuzzy room, the blue curtains in front of my face blocking most of my view. I reach out to one of the nurses at my side and grab her arm weakly. “My wife… where is –”
Another face enters my murky vision but I can’t tell who she is. She takes my hand and says, “I’m right here, baby. I’m right here…”
“T…?” I start to cry again and she leans in to rest her forehead against mine.
She squeezes my hand. “Yeah, babe, I’m here. Sorry it took so long.”
I feel some pressure in my abdomen before Doctor Wilson’s voice asks, “Bette, can you feel anything?”
It’s strange. I can feel something is happening but it just doesn’t hurt. “I feel fine…”
I can’t see Tina’s smile behind the mask over her mouth, but I can see the smile in her eyes and I return it. I feel tired, supremely tired, but otherwise just fine. “Okay, Bette, Tina, we’re going to start. It’ll just be a few minutes.”
Tina sits up and watches on the other side of the tent for a moment before returning her eyes to mine. I feel a strange sensation slice across my lower abdomen, but it doesn’t hurt at all. There’s some pulling and Tina says, “They’re almost here, babe. I’m so proud of you. You’re doing great.” I smile at her as tears roll down the sides of my face.
I feel immense pressure, as if something has popped and finally hear the first cry fill the room. Tina’s watery eyes come back to my own and her voice is excited as she says, “It’s Rory, Bette. She’s here.” I start to laugh as I cry and the pressure returns. Tina moves aside and we both watch as one of the nurses carries Rory to a table to start cleaning her. I can’t make out much, but I saw a dark head of hair and very pink skin. The pressure is completely released and another cry fills the room. I watch Tina’s face as she stares at our son, her shocked eyes wide. “Oh my God… Bette… you aren’t going to believe this…”
I squeeze her hand and she moves out of the way as I see another pink form taken over to the tables, this one with a shock of dark blond hair. Tina locks her eyes on mine and sniffs as more tears fall. She kisses my forehead and whispers, “Chance is here, babe. They’re both here…”
My tears fall harder and faster as Tina holds me, shedding her own tears. She stands behind my head, staying close as we watch the nursing staff clean and care for our babies. I can feel Doctor Wilson closing me up as we watch, and I feel so calm right now, that if it weren’t for the excitement of meeting my children face-to-face for the first time, I’d easily fall asleep.
Finally, Rory is brought over to us, clean and wearing an adorable little pink hat. The nurse places her in Tina’s arms and Tina holds her close, gazing down on her with love and adoration. She looks down to me with glassy hazel eyes and moves Rory close to me so I can get my first real look at her beautiful face. I reach my tired hand up and stroke her cheek. “She looks so much like you, Bette. She’s perfect.” I look up at my wife, my life, my Tina and it all seems so surreal. I never dreamed that anything could be this good, but it is. She’s here, our children are here, and I have to consciously focus on the fact that this is my life, because it all seems too good to be true.
Tina holds and rocks Rory, cooing at her as she shares her with me the best she can in my immobilized state, and I am filled with so much love, joy, and peace that even with the prospect of meeting my son, it’s a fight to keep my eyes open. The nurse returns with Chance and Tina switches babies. The nurse smiles as she settles him in Tina’s arms and addresses the both of us. “They’re almost done with the sutures. Once they are, we’ll get you to a maternity room where you can rest. You’ll need to be here a couple days, but you can spend as much time as you want with them. If you choose to breastfeed, you can start once the anesthesia wears off. Well done, moms.”
Tina thanks the nurse and turns so I can meet our son. Just when I’m sure this day couldn’t get any better, I gaze down onto his face, my boy, my Chance, and he looks just like his Mama T. I reach up and touch his hand, and just like Angie did that first night at the incubator, he gives me a reassuring grip that pulls at my heart. I feel more tears stream down my face as I say, “He’s beautiful…”
Tina kisses me despite her mask and gazes into my eyes, her expression overflowing with the love and joy that I feel so deeply rooted in my own heart. Her voice is choked with emotion as she says, “You’re beautiful. I’m so proud of you, babe. Thank you… thank you for this amazing life…”