Lucas’ ears perked up at the sound of the opening double doors across the small waiting room. He looked up hopefully, only to see a man in green scrubs step out and begin chatting with another nurse.
Another false alarm… The young man sighed heavily.
“Baby, calm down.” Hazel smiled at him. “We’ll get in there soon.”
He returned the gesture gratefully. “I know. I just hate being kept in suspense.” Lucas laughed.
Mari, Jonas, and Florian’s parents and sister had all disappeared into the delivery room over an hour ago. “We’ll let you in when it’s all over.” Lucas’ grandmother had promised. “As soon as they’re ready for visitors.”
But what could be taking so long? Clara had already been in labor for more than twelve hours, and when Mari and Jonas had rushed into the delivery room, they’d said it would be any minute…
“I’m sure everything’s fine.” Colette said softly, sensing some of her son’s tension. “Trust me, it just takes some time to recover afterwards… But I’m sure they’ll be out here soon.” She smiled.
As though on cue, the double doors swung open yet again – and this time, it was a familiar face who emerged from the other side.
“Florian!” Lucas practically leapt from his seat, pulling his friend into a hug. “Or should I say ‘Papa’?” He teased.
Florian grinned at his friend as he pulled away from him. The look on his face chased all of Lucas’ worries away – Florian’s smile was enough confirmation that everything was fine.
“How’s Clara?” Tobi asked. “And the babies?”
“Why don’t you come see for yourself?” Florian suggested kindly. “My parents and Fiona left for a coffee run… They promised to bring back plenty for everyone.” He assured the Rosebrooks with a smile. “But while they’re gone, there should be enough room for everyone to come in and say hello.”
Their excitement was palpable as the rest of the family rose to their feet, eagerly following Florian back to the nursery.
“They’re beautiful, Clara.” Hazel gushed as she cooed over the tiny bassinets.
“Thanks!” The purple-haired girl smiled. “Good genes, right babe?” She gave her fiancé a wink.
Florian pressed his lips against her temple. “The best.” He agreed.
“How are you feeling?” Colette asked her sister-in-law.
Clara appeared thoughtful for a moment. “Physically, or emotionally?” She asked at last. “Because you’d be getting two completely different answers to that one.”
Colette laughed softly. “Oh trust me, I understand… I’m just glad it all went so well.”
“So are we.” Florian said seriously, crossing over to where his son and daughter lay. “God, they’re really perfect, aren’t they?” He lifted his daughter from the bassinet and planted a soft kiss against her forehead. “Papa loves you.” He cooed at her.
Clara giggled. “Honey, you’ve gotta let them sleep, okay? I pushed these little suckers out less than two hours ago. They deserve a little rest, don’t you think?” Her voice was teasing.
“Florian hasn’t been able to keep his hands off them.” Mari smiled, stepping closer toward her future son-in-law. “It’s so sweet.”
Florian’s cheeks reddened slightly. “I just… I just wanna make sure they’re okay.” He muttered, embarrassed.
Lucas just smiled. His friend had been so nervous and uncertain about becoming a father, but it was obvious he was already head-over-heels for his children. Maybe it’s true what they say. Lucas thought. Maybe all it takes is holding them once, and you’re hooked for life. The thought of experiencing that for himself one day both excited and terrified him.
“Okay, I’ve gotta ask.” Auggy’s voice broke the silence. “Who picked out the onesies? They’ve gotta be the greatest thing I’ve ever seen.” He laughed.
It was Jonas who replied. “Three guesses.” He said with a wink. “My girl’s got impeccable taste, just like her Papa.”
Clara laughed brightly. “Yes, you’ve successfully raised a diehard Whovian.” Her eyes flicked toward Florian’s for a moment. “Though you can thank him for coming up with the name River…”
“Oh, like that woman with the curly hair, right?” Tobi nodded in understanding as he peered down at his baby niece. “Now the onesie with the… blue thingy… on it makes more sense.”
“It’s a TARDIS, Tobi.” His sister rolled her eyes. “I wish we could have found a good Harry Potter onesie for Remus…”
Lucas glanced down at his new little cousin. “Nah, the bowtie suits him!” He assured her. “Man, they really are pretty damn adorable.”
Auggy nodded. “I can’t wait for Jocelyne to see them!”
And just like that, the entire mood of the room darkened.
Everyone fell into an uncomfortable silence, and the smile vanished from the young boy’s face almost as soon as the words passed his lips.
“Sorry.” Auggy mumbled.
Clara’s brow furrowed with irritation. “What are you sorry for?! Are we not even allowed to say her name anymore?” She snapped. “It’s not like she died or something. Jesus!”
“Come on, babe. He didn’t mean it like that.” Florian assured her gently.
Auggy nodded. “It just… sucks, doesn’t it? Why isn’t she here?”
Clara sighed. “You know why.” She said softly.
“But I texted her this morning, and she should be here later tonight.” Florian tried to smile.
“She should be here now…” For a moment, Auggy sounded so much younger than his sixteen years. “With the rest of us.”
Mari shook her head at her grandson. “It’s probably for the best that she isn’t… She’s still hurting, sweetie.”
“Yeah. ‘Hurting’ is putting it mildly.” Lucas scoffed at Mari’s words. “It’s like she’s a whole new person or something. And not in a good way…” He shook his head. “I’ve never seen her like this before. It’s just… crazy! What the hell is wrong with her?!” His voice had grown louder and louder without him even realizing it.
In one of the bassinets behind him, Remus let out a small cry. Florian rushed to lift his son into his arms, shushing him gently.
“Sorry.” Lucas stepped back awkwardly.
“You’d be surprised.” Mari replied at last. Her voice was very small. “Heartbreak can really change a person… Sometimes in terrible ways.”
Beside her, Jonas reached out and squeezed her hand gently. Tobi and Colette exchanged a significant glance.
The others simply looked on in confusion.
Clara’s voice finally broke the strange silence. “Yeah, well… I can’t wait to see her. I’ve been really worried. I hated leaving her on her own.”
“Well, it won’t be for long, will it?” Tobi almost succeeded at sounding cheerful. “She graduates in less than a month, and then she’ll be back home.”
“Yeah, if she can even stand being under the same roof as us…” Colette sniffled slightly as she spoke and wiped a few tears from her eyes.
Her husband sighed, holding his face in his hand for a moment.
Lucas looked on, dumbstruck as he felt a small tug on the edge of his sleeve.“Maybe we should go…” Hazel muttered. The poor girl looked so upset. So guilty.
The sight simply made him angrier.
“Are you for real?!” He snapped at the rest of the family. “Seriously?!” Lucas shook his head. “I love Joce, okay? And I wish she was here too. But she’s not. And you know what? It’s not our fault! It’s Mark’s.” He glanced apologetically at his girlfriend for a moment. “He’s the one who broke her heart. He’s the one to blame. Not us. No matter how much she keeps trying to make us think we are…”
“Bullshit!” Clara cried. “You know exactly why Mark did what he did!”
Hazel looked up at him sadly. “I think Clara has a point… Lucas, you know we –”
“Not you too…” Lucas sighed heavily. “I know my Schwester, okay? Maybe better than anyone. She’s getting really worked up about this. She’s hurt. It’s making her kinda crazy right now. I get that. But this is Joce we’re talking about.” For a moment, he almost smiled. “She’ll be fine. She’ll bounce back from this. And she’ll forgive us. So stop acting like it’s the end of the damn world, okay?”
Lucas couldn’t decide who he was truly trying to convince — his family, or himself.
No one said anything for several long moments, though some of his family members almost looked like they wanted to.
Jonas seemed to be the first to find his voice. “Let’s… Let’s just not talk about it any more right now, okay?” He suggested. “The point is, we all miss Jocelyne. And we wish she was here with us. That’s something we can all agree on, right?”
There were soft murmurs of agreement from the rest of the family.
As the conversation slowly returned to more pleasant topics, Lucas turned away from the others, glancing down at the pair of bassinets behind him. Remus and River… A little boy and a little girl who came into the world at the same time, just like him and Joce. Young. New. Innocent. Together.
Suddenly Lucas found himself overwhelmed by a burst of nostalgia for a time he could barely even remember. Back when things were simple. Back when all that mattered was him and his sister – his twin.
There used to be a time when Lucas felt closer to Jocelyne than anyone else in the world.
“Promise me you won’t mess this up like I did. Okay?” Lucas leaned in close to his tiny cousins as he spoke. “Listen to each other. Be good to each other. Or you’ll end up regretting it…” He whispered sadly. “Trust me.”