The Girl on the Beach Ch. 02byamicus©
I made a few thumps and bumps with the boxed bed and high chair, but I tried to be as quiet as I unloaded and brought everything inside to the mostly vacant room just off the dining area.
I cleaned out the Blazer and sipped at the now cold coffee, considered fixing something stronger then made a cup of instant instead. I removed the high chair and the baby bed from their boxes and took them out the back sliding door to the large deck. Might have use for the cardboard later. Okay, so I am a compulsive pack-rat, I keep just about everything.
I stayed out on the deck in the afternoon sunshine long enough for another cigarette and thought I needed to curtail smoking around the baby. It was a 'no smoking' rental anyway and we only smoked out on the deck or down in the garage area, so it wasn't much of a problem.
I decided to unpack the baby food and other small items to make more room to put the bed together. I moved things around in the cupboards and cleared one completely that held all the baby things. Made sense to me.
I had taken my shoes off and pattered quietly back and peered through the slightly open door to my bedroom. Both we sleeping. Good.
The chair was easy. Just remove the plastic and the tags, unwrap the tray and that was done. The bed was a little more difficult. I was reading the instructions when the telephone on the wall chirped. I quickly took it off the hook and answered.
It was my oldest son. He told me they had decided to go camping for a few days and that he would be coming by in a while to pick up some things and asked if I could spare twenty dollars. I smiled and told him I could.
Then I wished I hadn't said that. I logged into my bank account on the computer and double checked the balance. It was going to be a tight squeeze for the final week of the month but do-able, even with the extra twenty going out. I always kept a little cash on me...just in case.
I left the baby bed and opened the changing table and plastic bath tub, wishing I had maybe just decided to use the sink to bathe the baby, save a few bucks...but...what the hell; what was done, was done.
I looked at the time and decided Grace might be hungry again when she woke and went looking through the cupboards and the refrigerator for easy things that she might like.
I decided on tuna-fish sandwiches, soup and a salad with cottage cheese and some store bought puddings for a dessert. I like to chop pickles and olives into the tuna salad, but I held off on the onions and used mayonnaise but not the spicy mustard I usually added. The bread was fresh; I made four complete two slice sandwiches, cut them diagonally and arranged them on plates, made a quick salad of lettuce, tomato and cucumber with a dollop of cottage cheese in the center then covered both plates and put them back in the frig.
I had the bed figured out. It was constructed so it could be put together and then folded into a smaller unit. I unwrapped the mattresses and blankets and was looking for a place to put the refuse when I heard a faint noise down the hall.
I smiled as a sleepy-eyed grace was struggling to tape a new diaper in place. I gently nudged her aside and completed the task and put the clothes back on the passive child.
"You are so easy with the baby, and gentle, I just can't get that into my head!"
I smiled. "Comes with much practice, Grace, you'll get it all figured out; it's really not that difficult."
"She was just a little wet and made a little mess. Should she have another bottle now?"
"Ah, I think some food and juice this time and maybe a little preventive medicine. She was cold and wet and babies get colds and temperatures at the drop of a hat. I think I will put some cold and fever medicine in her food, she will never taste it."
Grace just blinked at me as I handed her the baby and went back to the kitchen. I warmed up three different jars, hoping the baby would find them to her taste, as Grace watched and walked around the unfamiliar kitchen.
"I put all the baby food up here, including the formula and the extra bottle stuff."
I scooted a chair next to the dining table and pulled the high chair close and pointed. Grace fitted the baby into the chair and fumbled to figure how to open and close the clamps of the tray.
I arranged the baby food jars, napkins and small plastic spoon on the table top. "Ah, almost forgot!" I got up rummaged around and found the unopened three pack of bibs and took one out. "Saves changing a top shirt, this can get to be a messy process sometimes..."
She was one hungry little girl and didn't seem to mind which jar I spooned into her mouth. I glanced at Grace and then stood up and handed her the spoon. She smiled and took over.
Each jar was less than half full when the little girl put a hand up and pushed the spoon away. Grace giggled and I smiled. I fixed a bottle of juice and decided to warm it to mask the teaspoon of medicine I added.
"Let's see how smart she is..." I placed the bottle on the tray in front of her and she immediately reached out with both hands and put the nipple in her mouth.
"Smart kid!" Smiled Grace.
I nodded. "Yup." Then I went to the refrigerator and brought the light meal to the table and placed it before Grace. Milk or a soda?"
"You did all this? I never knew men could do half the things you do. Gosh...do I have a lot to learn!"
"Hope you like the tuna, most people do. Tomato soup okay?"
"Fine. And maybe a healthy milk, I guess...have to stay healthy now."
I heated the soup and got crackers out and we had just taken a few sips and bits when there was a sound from the front room and a voice sounded. "Hey, Pa, you here?"
Grace appeared startled. "Sorry. My son called, said he was coming by, I forgot."
I stood and reached out a hand to shake his but he remained wide-eyed, staring at Grace and the baby and forgot to lift his hand. I lowered mine.
Grace smiled. "I'm Gabby, Gabrielle; your dad found me on the beach. This is Abby, Abigail, and she is mine. You are John's son?"
My son, Johnathan, Nathan for short, just blinked and worked his mouth. "Ah, yeah, his son, ah...he found you on the beach?"
"Long story, kid. Got some extra sandwiches, tuna, and soup, if you want?"
"Hey, you know me; always hungry pa!"
I handed him the plate with the extra sandwiches, he took one, glanced from Grace back to me and back again, took a sandwich and headed for the bedroom. "Gonna get some things, got people waiting, gotta go. Nice to meet you Gabby, thanks dad, see ya later!"
Grace and I went back to eating, the baby happily gurgling. I got up and opened a packet of sweet baby cookies and broke up two of them on the tray; she immediately put the bottle down and reached for them with both hands.
Nathan took all of three or four minutes before he came through with his arms loaded. "See ya later, Pa! Uh, oh, dad?"
I remembered and pulled the twenty out of my pocket and stuffed it between his fingers.
"Thanks! I'll get it back to you in a few days. You guys be good!"
There was a mildly disapproving look on Grace's face, but to her credit, she said nothing.
Graces eyes were full. "I can see him in you, or you in him...you as his age, oh, my, how I wish..."
I handed her a napkin. "Hey, what's this all about?"
She dabbed her eyes. "Nothing. Just being a silly girl, but, it was so strange seeing your son as you might have looked like as a young man, really, really strange."
The baby made a mess on her hands and arms and face and the tray as she ate a little and mooshed most of the cookies. "Gabby and Abby, eh? Thas cute!"
She smiled and blushed. "It just came to me when I woke up to her crying. I never liked my name and I really don't like 'Mary', do you mind?"
"You want me to call you Gabby?"
Her eyes were glistening. "I think I do, John. I want to start all over with a new life, a new me, a new future and the name Gabrielle, makes me feel special."
I smiled. "I will try, but I think you will always be 'Grace', to me and it does kind of fit you; you have been very graceful in handling all of this."
She blushed and turned her attention to the baby. "You were right, she made a big mess. Should I give her a bath? Her hair doesn't smell clean like it should."
I thought for a moment. "Yeah, I think so; I just gave her a quick wipe before, but make it as quick as you can, I don't want her to get cold. I'll get everything set up here on the counter, you can find a change of clothes for her and stuff?"
I had to smile as Grace, ah, Gabby, placed her hand behind the baby's neck and lowered her into the warm water of the tub and coo'ed to her as she splashed water and seemed to enjoy the attention.
I went into the living room and the fireplace and decided to light a fire even though it was warm in the house. I liked sitting before a fireplace, a real one, and watching the flames dance in their many colors.
Gabby didn't call for help and I didn't poke my nose in the kitchen and she soon came into the front room with the baby wrapped in a furry blanket with a bottle in her mouth.
"Oh! The fireplace really works? And it is real? Not gas fired or something? I never saw a real one, but I can smell the wood-smoke!"
"Do you like it?"
She chose the rocking recliner I purposely left for her and had turned toward the fireplace, settled into it, rocked and gazed with me into the fire as it crackled and burned. It was a very pleasant feeling.
There wasn't much daylight left and it darkened quickly as neither of us spoke but seemed content to watch the fire and sort through our separate thoughts.
"She's asleep again. Is she supposed to sleep so much?" Gabby said quietly.
"Full belly, happy baby; yeah, they sleep a lot at that age, but not always for long periods of time. She may wake up every few hours."
Gabby continued to rock gently, her eyes closed, a strange expression crossed her face. "John...I want to put her in her bed, I want to take a bath and soak, but I don't want to leave her alone for a minute. I know that is wrong...."
I searched my mind for the answers, the right words, the right tone of voice. "I don't really know what to say Gr...ah, Gabrielle...I know it is important for you to bond with her, become her mother, important for both of you. But she is also a person in her own right...she needs the space and the time to be alone and become aware that she is a separate person..."
"I understand...but I just don't want her to feel alone, ever again...is that silly?"
"Not silly, Gabby...ah, but maybe a little selfish...ah, you need her too, but...I think you have to back off a little, for both of you. Let me get her bed in my room and get it ready and you can run a bath. I will stay with her until you come out. Okay?"
I glanced at her but she did not take my eyes. "You're right, I know you are, but why does it hurt so much to think of her being alone? Don't answer, sorry, I will work it out."
I rolled the baby bed down the hall and into the room, made a few adjustments in the furniture and then opened it. Close fit in the small room, but it would work. I got the bottom and top mattress and the pad and the fitted sheet and made the bed. Gabby didn't appear as I finished the bed and looked up. I went into my sons bathroom and fond the girls bath oil, took it into my bathroom and started to draw a bath.
When I came out of the bathroom Gabby was in the doorway to the bedroom, looking back. "The baby-bed really looks nice. You did a good job; the little pillow and everything. Thank you."
"Hey, she's my baby too, ah, kinda?" I smiled a crooked smile.
The attempt at humor didn't register on her face. "I didn't think to buy pajama's or a robe and stuff..."
"Ah, I have a robe you can use, gonna be a bit big I think, but pajama's, ah, I have a triple X large T shirt my son bought me that I never wear, would that work?"
She finally smiled. "Beggars can't be choosers now, can they? Sounds fine to me. You will sit with her until I come out?"
I smiled. "Sure. But I'm gonna stir the fire and add some wood first."
Stubborn girl, I thought as I tended the fire. I looked up. "Gonna get a beer and a smoke. You can wait if you want."
She gave me a puzzled look and then a wan smile and nodded.
I paced the back deck until she joined me, apologized, asked for a cigarette and sipped from my beer. "I am being a brat. Please forgive me?"
I smiled. "Been a big day."
We smoked and sipped and paced until the chill brought a shiver to her. "I'll be in, in just a moment."
She was standing in the bathroom doorway. "You found all the things you need? Fresh towels here in the closet, washrag, soap, ah you have shampoo?"
"Yeah, I got everything, thank you, John, thank you so much."
I lay back on my bed and closed my eyes and thought of the day's events and the future. The baby stirred occasionally but lightly and continued to sleep. I could hear a splash now and then from the bathroom. I think I dozed off because the sound of a hair dryer made my eyes blink awake and I sat up and looked at the baby in her bed.
I heard the door open. She stood in the door way to the bedroom. "I feel ever so much better and clean! That was so nice. The bubble bath?"
"I snitched it from my son's bathroom."
"I didn't think you used it."
The baby stirred, at the sound of her voice I think. She blushed and put her hand over her mouth and backed out of the doorway.
I returned the bubble bath and joined her back in the front room before the fireplace.
It wasn't cold but I found an extra blanket and draped it over her.
"I have never had anyone look after me the way you do. Do you treat all of your women like this?"
I had to chuckle at that. 'All my women', had been few and far between as the years drifted by. "Yeah, all of them, they seem to like it."
She looked amused and tossed an askance glance my way. I stood up and went to the computer and brought up a play list of music and adjusted the volume and then returned to the recliner next to hers.
"Hope you like the music."
"It's nice...quiet, but...well more than that...ahm, romantic, kinda?"
"Latin Jazz...yeah, sexy and sad...is how I describe it. I like it."
"I'm gonna smoke again and get another beer, you?"
"No, a coke maybe?"
I brought her the soft drink and went back out to smoke. This time I put a jacket on as the evening still had a chill to it. The Oregon coast almost always has a sea breeze that cooled things off quickly, me included.
I took my time, finished the smoke and almost the entire sixteen ounces before I went back in. I immediately heard the baby crying and noticed that Gabby was not before the fire. I put the empty can in a recycle bag and wandered back to the bedroom.
"She won't stop crying! She doesn't want the bottle! What is wrong with her, why is she crying?"
Gabby looked a little panicked. I touched my hand to my cheek. "Put your hand on her forehead, see if she is hot, my hands are too cold."
"No, not hot, just warm, normal, I think. John?"
"She might have a tummy ache, she ate quite a bit, ah, pull her shirt up and massage her stomach from top to bottom, gentle like..."
Gabrielle rubbed the baby's belly softly for a minute or so until the sobs lessened and then a little later, an obvious sound of relief as she filled her diaper.
Gabby grimaced. "That's disgusting!"
I had to laugh. "Babies can be a bit gross now and then...get used to it, kid!"
I went to smoke again a left her to make the repairs and of course, I had to chuckle and smile as I did.
When I went back in she was rocking the baby with a bottle in its' mouth before the fireplace. "You sure skipped out in a hurry, mister!"
I laughed, stirred the fire and sat down next to her. "It will be another year or so before you can potty train her. Good luck on it."
She glared at me. "Mean old man!"
The baby looked up at the sound of her voice and pushed the bottle away.
"Seems like she is wide awake, ahm, she can walk, remember on the beach?"
Gabrielle looked at me wide eyed. "Gosh, I forgot all about that. Let her walk in here?"
"Well, not near the fireplace, the stone front is dangerous, maybe in the room where the computer is? This house is not baby proof, any sharp object is a threat, you have to watch her close."
As soon as she put the baby on the tile floor, she took off exploring the room. Gabby stared wide-eyed as the little girl found tiny things on the floor and tried to put them in her mouth and then found the wires to the computer and printer.
"My gosh, how do you keep up with her, keep her safe?"
"Hmmm...I didn't think to get a playpen; couldn't afford one anyway, but, we might need one."
I rummaged through the remaining packages and found a few crib toys I had forgotten, unwrapped them and soon Gabby and Abby were playing with toys before the fireplace, both making happy sounds. Another pleasant feeling washed over me.
She looked up into my face a few minutes later. "You are feeling it too, aren't you?"
I nodded and smiled.
The baby soon tired. I fixed a warm bottle and Gabrielle took her off to bed and came back yawning.
I smiled. "It wouldn't hurt you to sleep as well, kid."
She sat on the edge of the recliner and gazed into the dwindling fire. "John, I want to sleep next to her."
"Okay, I can take my sons bed in the small room, no problem."
"I want you right next to me, not in another room, I need you close."
I kept silent for a moment. "Well, I have some sleeping bags in the closet. I can put those on the floor and bunk out there for the night, I guess."
"No. I won't take your bed. I can sleep on the floor."
"If you want, I don't mind the floor."
I dug the sleeping bags out and spread them in the small space left between the baby's bed and my single bed; it was a small room that was suddenly crowded.
I found a small silver/blue night-light I had stowed away and plugged it in, then went to the bathroom and changed into my pajama's. I made the rounds in the house as I usually did, locked the front door and the sliding door and the one from the garage to the kitchen. I turned off all the lights but the night light in the kitchen and bathroom, then went back into my room.
I stepped carefully over her feet and climbed into bed, stretched out and groaned my usual groan as I allowed my muscles to relax after a long day. "You okay down there, girl?"
"Yeah, fine, it's okay. Thank you. I just didn't want to be away from you, not yet, sorry."
"No problem. Goodnight, Grace, goodnight baby girl."
"Goodnight, John, thank you for everything."
I assumed my normal sleeping position, all sprawled out, half on my side, half on my stomach taking up the entire bed. I was near sleep when I heard her stir and then felt her climb into the bed alongside me.
"Grace...not a good idea."
"I'm sorry John, I need to be close to you. I don't want sex or anything but it just seemed so silly lying there, hearing you breathe and, I, well, I need to be near you, it has been a real strange day for me."
I took a deep breath. "I'm old but not dead, girl, I don't trust myself with you, really, I don't"
"Well, I trust you. I know you won't do anything and I just want to sleep next to you, that's all."
I took another deep breath and let forth a long sigh. "I can't stand being trapped next to the wall. I need to sleep on the outside, sorry, been that way my whole life, gotta have a way out if I need one."
"I would have to climb over you if the baby needs me?"
"Yeah, I know."
We made the switch, more than a little awkwardly, but finally with my back to her and hers to mine we tried to find a way to sleep in the tiny bed. After a while I felt her move and turn and her arms slip around my waist. She cuddled close to me and I could feel her warmth and her breasts against my back. I closed my eyes and tried to think of an ice cold beer.