Both Safaree and Nicki turned to look at the doctor.
"We have Noah in a stabilised condition at the moment. However there are a few things we need to go through with you both and a Mr....Graham." He said as he flipped through Noah's notes looking for the father's name. Safaree cringed remembering that he still had to have that talk with Nicki, and soon.
"Well, can we see him?" She sniffed and wiped her tears as she asked hopefully.
"Not right now, he's being prepped for the operating room-" He couldn't finish before Nicki started crying again, Safaree just held on to her tighter, letting her know that he was there. "Why don't we move this conversation to somewhere a little more private and I can fully explain everything, we've already contacted Mr. Graham. He should be here soon." As they walked behind the doctor towards what looked like an office Safaree felt Nicki squeezing his hand making him look down at her worried face.
"It'll be okay. I promise, Noah is strong. Just like his Mom." He touched the side of her cheek as she just nodded tearfully. Once they entered the office and each took a seat the doctor proceeded to inform them about the situation, he kept it simple, not wanting to repeat himself when Drake arrived. As he mentioned that the door opened and a nurse ushered Drake and Mama Carol inside, they took the two seats to the side of the room. Drake looked at Nicki, trying to read her face but she kept her gaze fixed on the doctor.
"Right, now, with you all here I'll just go through what is going to happen." He looked between all of their worried faces. "Noah's aortic valve isn't working as effectively as it should, therefore an insufficient amount of blood is making it through the chambers of his heart. "He paused letting them process what he had just said, they remained silent and Nicki's tears were quite obviously rolling down her face. "We'll have to perform something called an AVR, which is an Aortic Valve Replacement. It is an open heart surgery so we will have to re-open his chest again. If Noah wasn't strong enough for this procedure we honestly wouldn't be performing it but we believe it's definitely the best option, all we need to do now is gain your permission and sort through the paperwork and we can get the surgery underway. Do you consent to you son receiving this treatment Miss Maraj?"
"If you think he'll be strong to recover and it's the absolute best thing to do for him...Then, yes I agree." She and Safaree never released one another from their hand hold as Mama Carol nodded reassuringly at them both.
"And Mr. Graham?" Drake snapped out of his thoughts and nodded at the doctor.
"Anything to help him get better." Nicki smiled small at him.
Once all the paperwork was out of the way the waiting began. They had been told that because Noah was so small, more risks were involved and it might take longer but they were looking at a seven or eight hour surgery. Now it was just Drake Nicki and Safaree. Mama Carol was sad to leave but she had to go get Macaiah. They had been waiting for about three hours already and Nicki was asleep on Safaree, leaving an awkward silence between the two guys.
"I can't believe he's gon' be on medication for the rest of his life." Drake sighed as Safaree looked up from his phone. He was texting Lauren and Candi about what was going on.
"I know. He's just so damn small. It ain't right." Safaree added, he felt kind of bad for Drake. The fact that Noah might not even be his son. He had to tell Nicki as soon as she woke up. He looked down at her asleep with her head resting gently on his arm and wondered how she would react. Another two hours passed, slowly and now Nicki was awake. Here was his chance.
"Nic?" She didn't answer him and just turned to look at him tiredly. "I need to talk to you. It's, really important."
"Faree, what is it?" She looked more concerned than before and shuffled closer to him. Drake felt Safaree's eyes burning him and guessed it was private to he took that as his cue to go and get a drink. As soon as he left Safaree took a deep breath and prepared to tell her.
"It's 'bout Noah. I think...." He went quiet for a minute.
"You think what? Safaree, just tell me?" She cupped the side of his face in her hand and turned his face so that he was looking at her.
"I think you should have a DNA test done." She looked at him blankly.
"What are you talkin' about? I already know Drake is his dad. He's the only person I've ever had sex with." She was right, she and Safaree hadn't even had sex yet, well, apart from that drunken night at his birthday party. She didn't want to rush into anything after Noah was born so they were taking it extremely slow. But Safaree didn't mind one bit, he loved her.
"No, Drake might not be his father." He whispered it so quietly she had to lean in just to catch what he had said. She just laughed.
"Safaree, what the hell is wrong with you? Of course he's Noah's dad."
"Think, Nicki. You honestly can't remember? Anything?" She just shook her head, getting impatient with his weird questions. "The night of my 18th?"
"What about it?"
"You woke up, in my bed with-"
"No clothes on. Yeah I know, it was humiliating! But you told me I didn't sleep with anyone so it's fine. Right?" She waited for a response but he just looked down. "Right Safaree?" He sighed and stood up.
"Shit Ion even know what happened! I woke up with you laying next to me, we were both naked and when I got up I found the used condom on my floor. I thought it was ours so I didn't tell you. You seemed so relieved when I said nothing had happened so I just kept it to myself." He was now pacing with his hands on his head.
"I can't believe this! I can't believe you! Why the fuck didn't you tell me?!" She stood up too and he could tell this was going to escalate into a heated argument.
"Because you were so upset thinkin' that you had it off with some random nigga!" He took a deep breath and grabbed her hands making her sit down with him before he started talking again, more softly. In order for the situation to stay calm he needed to keep his cool too. "I was gonna explain as soon as I showered but when I got back to my room you looked like you were 'bout to start cryin' so I figured we used a condom and it would do no harm to just forget about it. We were both pretty smashed, I can hardly remember either." To his surprise Nicki started talking again but she wasn't yelling.
"I'm angry that you didn't tell me this whole time. You've had so many chances to tell me. But I still don't understand how he could be yours? We used a condom, that's what you said right?"
"I thought we had but a couple weeks ago I went to Rex's and we played some stupid drinking game where we confess shit. He told me he fucked some girl in my room at my party and left the condom in there. It wasn't ours."
"So you've only known 'bout this for two weeks?"
"Yeah." He sighed and looked down. "I'm sorry I didn't tell you, I mean what the fuck was I s'posed to say?"
"I can't stay mad with you forever, but I am upset that you didn't tell me sooner. There are more important things to be worrying 'bout right now, like Noah. We could ask for a DNA test whilst we're here though?" She couldn't look at him and even under all the hurt and anger she was feeling right now she was secretly hoping that Safaree was Noah's real father. Everything would be so much easier. He would probably feel less like an outcast with them and she wouldn't have to send her baby away to stay at his dad's house every so often. In fact she was quite happy about all of this, not that she would let him know that though. He made a mistake not telling her sooner and she would be sure to let him know that. Safaree felt a huge weight lifted off of his shoulders but he knew the next couple of weeks were going to be difficult, already the atmosphere had turned icy and she moved away from him to sit at the other end of the couch in the visitor's lounge. He decided to give her some space.
"I'm 'bouta go get some food, you want something?"
"No, thanks." She didn't look at him and kept her attention focused on her lap. He sighed and made his way out to the hospital canteen.
It had been almost eight hours and Nicki was starting to get restless with all the waiting and her level of anger was rising as nobody would tell them anything about Noah.
"Nic, they'll come tell us when they're done, please just sit down? You're makin' me nervous." Before she could snap back at Drake a nurse entered the visitor's lounge.
"Noah's out of the operating room now, he's just being transferred to the Intensive Care Unit. That's where he'll be staying and if everything looks well he'll be discharged in around four days. Would you like to see him?" None of them hesitated to follow the nurse up to the ICU. Nothing could have prepared them for what they saw though. He looked so small especially with the amount of bandaging wrapped around his chest. Nicki brought her hand immediately to her mouth in shock, as always though, Safaree was close by to reassure her. They sat by him for hours until Drake broke the silence.
"As much as a really want to stay, for you and Noah, I have to get goin'. You gon' be okay?" He made sure to let Nicki know that he was planning on being their for both her and Noah, much to Safaree's annoyance.
"It's fine, we've been here for hours. Go." She smiled as he left and turned her gaze back to Noah and all the wires and machines around him.
"Told you he'd be okay."
"You didn't know that for sure though, anything could've happened." The way she said it let him know she was still pissed off.
"Nicki. How many times do I have to say I'm sorry? I fucked up, I should've told you and I get that but I don't know what else to say." He got up to leave but her small hand stopped him.
"No, I'm sorry. Please don't go?"
"I wasn't. I was gonna grab a drink." He pointed to the water dispenser by the door making her let go and blush slightly.
"I'm not leaving. Ever. I already told you that." He bent down to kiss her on her head but she moved so that he caught her lips.
"I promise. On my life." He kissed her again before going to get two cups of water, handing one to her when he took his seat again.
"Did you let Candi and Lauren know?"
"Yeah, I texted 'em when you were out-cold." He laughed at her as she forced her mouth into a pout.
"Shut up! I was tired!" She smiled and quickly turned serious again. "I missed you last night."
"I missed you too....And I'm sorry, 'bout what I said. I was way outta line."
"No, I understand I am - or should I say was, asking a lot of you. Raising somebody else's kid, it's gotta be hard. But now there's the possibility he could be yours." She moved to sit on his knee and ran her hand over his cheek.
"When do you wanna ask for the DNA test?"
"As soon as I've spoken to Drake about everything, Ion wanna do any of this behind his back. We tell him and my Mom first. Then we'll figure everything else out." He was about to respond when the doctor walked in. They both turned to look at him expectantly.
"So, as you can see everything went well. Noah should be discharged in the next four or five days. We just have some more tests to run before we let you guys settle for the night."
"What kind of tests?" Nicki stood up as she asked.
"We just want to make sure that the replacement valve is working effectively. Also we'll send a nurse up to talk to you about his post-operative care." Without saying anything else he smiled at them both and left them alone. Their small talk was soon interrupted by a nurse walking through the door to Noah's private room.
"Onika?" Nicki turned at the use of her real name before gasping.
"Klara? You're his nurse?" She immediately hugged her before moving to let Safaree greet her too.
"Well I wasn't supposed to be but the other nurse was called in for an OR emergency. I read through his notes on the way up, he's a strong little guy huh?" She stood to the side of him and started sorting out some wires and other things as they both took their seats again. Klara soon grabbed a chair and joined them. "So, lets get you two all caught up on what needs to be done." She flicked through some papers and found the page she needed. "Okay, as you've probably been told Noah is going to need medication for the rest of his life?" They both nodded. "It's basically an anti-coagulent which thins the blood to prevent clotting, which is essential with his new valve. The only down side is that if he were to ever have an extremely bad fall or whatever, it'll be hard to control the bleeding, you understand?" They both nodded solemnly again. "Also because it was open-heart surgery he will have scarring on his chest area, the surgeon tried to keep it as small as possible but it's about eight inches long and you'll need to return soon to get the stitches or staples removed." She smiled as she finished up what she was saying, they both looked overwhelmed. "Everything will be fine, and you know you can always call me if you need to?"
"Thank you." Nicki smiled weakly and resumed watching her baby sleeping.
"Okay, well I'll finish up the rest of these tests and leave you to it."
The next day they both woke up groggily after sleeping in the hospital chairs, after gulping down some coffee they were sat waiting for Mama Carol and Drake to arrive. They were finding out whether or not Noah's new valve was working properly. He was still in an induced sleep because they didn't want him moving around and dislodging any vital equipment during the night. To think he was only one year old and all of this was happening was so scary to Nicki.
"Good morning." They knew that voice anywhere, it was Carol peeping through the door. "How is my little grandbaby?"
"He's doing good, well that's what they're saying. We're finding out today, y'know, if it's actually worked." She pulled away from hugging her Mom and sat back on Safaree's lap so that her mother had somewhere to sit. He watched her roll her eyes as Drake walked in, with Caitlin in tow.
"Ugh, the fuck is she doin' here?" She mumbled in Safaree's ear as they walked in further.
"I hope you don't mind, Caitlin came along. She was worried 'bout Noah." Nicki just listened to Drake's explanation and ignored her presence whilst continuing to admire her son.
"Oh wow, everybody is here." Klara chirped as she came in rubbing sanitizer into her palms. "Looks like little Noah's gon' make a full recovery. Everything worked out well and the valve is functioning fine. He's a little fighter this one! We'll wake him up soon, the doctor has to assess him first and he should be up any min-" Just as she was about to finish her sentence the doctor walked in sporting a very serious facial expression.
"Well, as the nurse has already told you, Noah's operation was a success. However some other things cropped up when we checked his x-rays. Could I please speak to his primary caregivers, alone?" A worried Nicki, Safaree and Drake all remained seated whilst Carol and Caitlin left.
"Is something wrong?" Her voice was cracking and she was quite obviously on the verge of tears as she asked, Safaree tightened his grip on her and she rubbed his hand as a gesture to say 'thank you'.
"Noah has a number of small fractures, all situated around the ribcage. Do you have any idea how that might have happened? Or maybe who or what could have caused it?" Nicki immediately got defensive, knowing he was directing the question at her.
"What are tryin' to imply? That I'd purposely hurt my own child?"
"Ms. Maraj, we're just trying to get to the bottom of this." He paused for a second. "So you can honestly say you've never become frustrated with him? Maybe he wouldn't stop crying, did you ever get upset with that? Even shake him, to try and make him be quiet?" Nobody could believe what they were hearing.
"Nicki would never do that!" The person that came from shocked her, she thought Safaree would be the one to jump to her defence. But it was Drake.
"Please, just remain calm Mr. Graham. Unfortunately the bruising Noah has sustained is consistent with that of a pair of hands and I'm left with no choice but to call social services." Klara's head turned quickly in the doctor's direction.
"Excuse me, doctor, can I please have a word? Outside?" As soon as they were on the other side of the door klara let rip.
"You don't even know these kids!" She practically yelled but he quickly dismissed her.
"Nurse Michaels, I see this all the time. She's a young mother, still a child herself and she's struggling to cope. I admit that it's sad this happens but actions have consequences, what can I say? Maybe they should have attended their sex ed classes instead of jumping in to bed at the age of 15?" He shrugged whilst Klara's eyes widened as she scoffed at what he said.
"Well I know them and I'm the nurse who delivered Noah too, I've never seen a girl as brave as Onika and She would never do anything to harm that child. None of them would. So I suggest, before you start making accusations like that, you really look into matters first! Our job is to save lives and aid the sick. We don't judge patients, or relatives. Ever." He looked down knowing she was right.
"Tell the others they can go back into the room, I'll send a counsellor up and they can talk it out. It could be down to people caring for him outside of his home, Grandparents, friends or even babysitters. Just tell them to think over everything. If nothing adds up, I'll have to call in a social worker. I'll have no choice." He walked off angrily as Klara let Caitlin and Carol back in, explaining to them everything the doctor said.
"I just don't see who else could have done this. Maybe he's right, maybe I'm just not cut out for this." The tears came again as Safaree rubbed her back soothingly.
"Don't you dare say that! You have any idea how lucky Noah is to have you as his mother?" She started crying even more at his sweet words as everyone else chimed in, all except Caitlin.
"Who else takes care of him?" Drake asked cautiously as he took a seat.
"Nobody. Just us, Mom and you. I mean Lauren and Candi sometimes but not very often and I'm always there with them. They're really gentle with him. Everybody is." She carried on sniffling as Safaree kept on calming her.
"I'm not." They all snapped their heads around to look at a guilty looking Caitlin, she was staring intently at the floor.
"Excuse me?!" Safaree kept hold of Nicki's arms to stop her from getting to her feet, he could feel the anger in the way she spoke.
"I said I'm not." Drake looked at her with disgust as he stood and walked over to her.
"What did you do to him?" His voice was low and gravelly making her shift uncomfortably.
"Ugh, can't you see?! he ruined everything! You spent all day preparing us an amazing meal and everything was great until the little brat started screaming! He just wouldn't stop, so I shook him a little. It wasn't even that hard! And I only did it two or three times at the most! Baby, I promise." She tried to rest her hands on his chest but he pushed them away. Safaree could see Nicki wanted to throttle her there and then but that wouldn't have looked good so he held her in place on his knee. Klara decided to stand next to Mama Carol by Noah's crib, she thought she should step in but she had a feeling Drake wouldn't do anything stupid so she left them to it.
"Get out." She tried again to touch him but he slapped her hands away. "GET OUT!" He didn't need say anything else as she stared each and every one of them down and left after spewing out a number of insults directed at Nicki and Drake.
"Nicki, I am so sorry. I had no idea, I swear." He was looking at her remorsefully before she sighed and looked at him.
"It's fine, but I told you she was a hoe." She felt like she couldn't be angry at him, especially with the talk that they had to have later. The pangs of guilt were setting in and Safaree could tell.
"Stop worrying, we don't even know yet." Only she heard because he whispered and everyone else had moved to stand around Noah's little incubated crib.
"Nicki, I'll let the doctor know what happened but a social worker is still going to want to talk to you and assess your living conditions." She could tell Nicki was exhausted, the next few days were going to be long and hard for all of them. "I'll tell you what, why don't you all go home, have some rest and something to eat and then as soon as you come back we'll wake him up?" The smiles all around the room told her that was a good idea.
As soon as they got home Nicki went to shower whilst Safaree decided to cook her favourite. Boneless chicken stew. Although he didn't make it as good as Nicki, he still went through with it. Almost having a near accident himself after tripping over Nicki's book bag. He picked it up and groaned as everything fell out, but what he found was not what he was expecting...
*Omg Im so freaking tired!! I was out late last night so I can't believe I actually managed to do this! Sorry it's quite long-ish for me, and it's very hospitally! I actually learnt all of that AVR stuff from watching fictional hospital shows! Also I REALLY hate to do this but Imma have to ask for a certain number of comments on this one too! I need an indication as to when or if I post again, so I will politely ask for maybe 10 comments before I post again :/ I really like writing these but I need to do Uni work to so I'll have to balance it out :)) Thanku for all of the comments on 'Tough Times' I really appreciate it! Sorry for any typos!! Muuuah*