A cry pierced the muggy night air, and Jason let out the breath he'd been holding. He hurried into the room he'd grown up in and froze, stunned at the sight of a brand new human being in his old bed.
"He's beautiful," Joni whispered, and handed the newborn over to Cami, his mother. "I'm going to call that ambulance again." She clucked her tongue. "First babies just never come this fast."
Jason watched his sister go before turning back to Cami, the new mom. "She's right," he said, "he's perfect." With her hair matted to her face, and her skin pale and shining, Cami looked beautiful to him as well. He knelt by her side and lifted her hand, holding the clammy palm to his cheek. "Marry me."
Long moments passed, with only the baby's whimpers and the ticking of Jason's old clock radio for noise. Humidity hovered in the air, and he tried to brush it away with his hand.
"You know I can't." Cami sighed, adjusting the baby on her chest. She pulled the blanket higher, as if she'd suddenly remembered her modesty. "I'm sorry."
He shouldn't have asked again, especially right now. She looked exhausted.
But he had. "Why not? Little guy here needs a father, a family."
Her lips softened to a smile. "And you'd be wonderful. You're my best friend, Jason. I couldn't take over your life like that." She tilted her head toward the infant. "We couldn't take over your life that way. Besides, you're my boss."
He knew that wasn't the real reason she kept refusing him.
Joni sailed into the room, and set a can of cola on the night stand beside Cami. "Bet you're ready for this."
"You're so right." Cami wasted no time taking a swig from the can.
Jason looked at his sister, who smiled knowingly.
"Relax, it's caffeine-free."
"Too bad, I could use the energy." Cami spoke clearly, but her eyelids drooped.
"Okay, big brother, time for you to get lost so I can help Cami freshen up. I called again, and the ambulance will be here soon." She held up a hand in perfect timing with Cami's mouth opening to protest. "No arguments."
His sister had good sense. Jason nodded and asked, "Can I just have a minute first?"
Joni studied him before returning the nod. "Sure. Let me take the baby for a wipe-up." She took the infant with a practiced ease, and tucked the lilac blanket around Cami. Like the student nurse she was, Joni warned Jason, "Five minutes."
"I need you to do something for me," Cami said, once they were alone, and then let out a quiet, feminine burp.
"You got it."
"Good. I need you to be my son's godfather."
Jason's pulse quickened. He leaned toward her, reached out and pushed the damp strands of hair from her forehead. "I could be his father."
A tear, just one, leaked out, and Cami brushed it away. But not before he noticed.
"Hey, don't sweat it." He mimicked her motion and gently brushed her cheek. "I'll do whatever job you want me to."
She took his hand, and kissed the back of his knuckles. "Thank you. You know it's not that you wouldn't be a great dad. I've seen you with your little cousins."
"Yeah." He looked toward the window, wondering briefly when his sister had hung those girly curtains. Years ago he'd had Spiderman on everything.
"It's just ... he may come back and want to be a father."
"Just change his mind after all these months and come running back?" Jason leveled his voice, breathing deep to control his temper. "And that would make him a good father? A last minute pang of conscience? And what would you do then, Cami?" He looked into her eyes. "You won't even tell us who it is. Would you marry him? Take him back after he deserted you?"
She said nothing, but let her eyes close.
To avoid his gaze? Or his question?
He felt like a creep, bothering her after she'd just worked so hard to give birth. But he couldn't stop himself. "Do you love him? Have you talked to God about him?"
Her head rolled to the side, supported by a white pillow, her eyes still tightly shut. Pretending sleep? In the distance, he heard the wail of the approaching siren, punctuating the discussion. For now.