tagRomanceFrom Dusk to Dawn

From Dusk to Dawn

byDesdmona©

This story is
told backwards.
From Dusk to Dawn
By Desdmona

"He's coming home today," Matt said in hushed, almost reverent tones. He looked stronger than he sounded. His Henley shirt, tucked neatly into his jeans, hugged his chest. His square jaw-line looked like chiseled stone, but softer. He opened his arms in invitation, and I ran into them.

"I still can't believe it," I whispered, My eyes growing misty. I thought I had exhausted all my tears.

"He's fine, Maggie. Perfect even, all the docs said so."

"Maybe that's why I'm crying. Everything we've been through. Everything he's been through. We're so lucky. Our son is finally coming home."

He squeezed me tighter, and I breathed in Matt's familiar scent. It was as comforting as the smell of chocolate chip cookies or fresh cut flowers. The last three months had been a roller coaster ride – ups and downs at neck-breaking speeds. We were stuck on it, and I thought it would never end. Matt was like a rock: solid and steadfast, bolstering me when I felt like crumbling. We were closer because of it.

I eased from his embrace but held tight to his hand. "Well, how does it look?" I asked.

Matt glanced around the room, ignoring the fact that he'd seen it dozens of times. He pulled me with him to the crib. With his other hand, he punched bumper pads as if he were checking the tires on a new car. He patted the edges of the homemade quilt, tracing along a letter "J" that I'd cross-stitched on the front. He released my hand and wound up the mechanism on the baby-soft mobile.

"It looks ready," he said.

We watched yellow, puffy suns revolve to an achingly familiar tune. Matt grabbed me and swung me close. He guided us in a slow dance, my bare toes sinking into the plush carpet, while the tinkling sound of the mobile filled the room.

The song dwindled down to its end, but we continued to dance. Our beating hearts and rhythmic breathing all the music we needed. Matt's warm body, pressing into mine, fertilized my thoughts. Twinges of long-missed arousal stirred between my legs. The doctor had given his okay for sex weeks ago, and I had obliged Matt, but this was the first time I felt a real awakening.

I whispered in his ear. "Take off your clothes." My voice sounded breathy, like it might evaporate before being heard.

"Oh god, Mag! Are you sure?"

"Yes," I croaked, my throat thick and dry.

A thrumming worked its way through my muscles to my heart as Matt removed his clothes. I'd seen his body a thousand times before, every dip of it recognizable. I knew when I touched his chest, his skin would flinch and the underlying muscle would bunch. When I inched my way to his groin, I'd find velvety flesh, surrounded by downy hair. And when I circled around his navel, his penis would bob up in appreciation. The familiarity of him fueled my excitement.

He helped me with my clothes - slipping my shirt over my head, unzipping my pants, kneeling in front of me, and easing the heavy denim over my hips. My panties followed. He put his warm hands on my belly and traced my Cesarean scar with the pads of his thumbs. And then he wrapped his arms around my waist, pressing his face against my skin and hugging me tightly.

"I love you, Maggie."

"I know." It was soul-saving knowledge. "I love you, too."

He didn't say another word. He didn't have to. He let me nudge him to the floor, flat on his back, his penis upright and proud. It was easy and oh, so familiar as I lowered myself on top of him. Together, we guided his cock into my slit. So sleek. So moist. Settling only for impalement. I rode him in slow motion, up and down, mashing against him on the down, squeezing him on the up. He kept his eyes open, smiling, until his orgasm glossed over his features. And then his eyes closed, and his mouth froze – mute in climax. The surge of his semen gilded me like liquid gold – hot, elemental caresses that sent me to spasm. To say, "it felt complete" seemed like such an understatement.

My body shivered against Matt's. He hugged me closer. "Damn, Maggie," he said.

"That felt good, didn't it?"

His smile was back. His voice was mellow, pouring from him like maple syrup. "Maybe a little."

I couldn't imagine ever being so close to another human being, save one.

"Matt? I whispered.

"Hmm?"

"Let's go get our son."

"I was just thinking the same thing," he said.

That night, three-month old Joey McKnight slept in his own house for the first time.

* * *

Matthew Joseph McKnight lay flat on his back, his tiny little arms flaccid at his sides. An IV tube, secured with clear tape and suture thread, extended out from his severed umbilical cord. His right foot, no bigger than the first joint of one of my fingers, was wrapped in beige tape. A red glow illuminated his entire foot, making it transparent. "This was how they measured the oxygen in his blood," the nurse had said. As she spoke, she'd pointed to a machine somewhere on the counter, but I didn't see what she'd referred to. I was too busy looking at my son.

He had three small patches, "electrodes," the nurse had said, stuck to his body. Only centimeters in diameter, they still managed to almost cover his entire chest. These connected to another machine that monitored his heart rate and his breathing. Some how the IV in his belly monitored his blood pressure as it also gave him a steady diet of glucose. A thicker tube came out of his mouth and connected him to a breathing machine. The machine was breathing for him because his own lungs were too immature. One more tube had been inserted in his left nostril. His small face was covered in tape. A stocking cap, like an elf's, covered his head.

I stared at him through the plastic box they called an isolette. According to the doctor, it would be his home for several weeks. I couldn't make out his features, not really. I kind of thought his nose looked like Matt's. But his long, delicate fingers were surely from my side of the family. Piano playing fingers, my mom would say. I stared at every inch that wasn't covered in some sort of wrap or tube, looking for identifiable characteristics. Occasionally, his little body would jerk. All I wanted to do was hold him. But the rules didn't permit it. He was too fragile, too sick, and too little. But soon, they promised.

Even now wasn't soon enough. No one understood how much Matthew meant. No one understood how hard the decision was to have a baby. I'd fought getting pregnant for a long time, afraid we'd lose our freedom. And now...

Matt understood, but he had collapsed from exhaustion. I'd sent him home to get some sleep. I glanced around the room. Thirty more isolettes, just like Matthew's, lined the room. Other moms stared into their own plastic boxes. Maybe someone else did understand. Maybe I wasn't alone. We were like a secret club – mothers with sick babies - membership not recommended.

I wanted to breastfeed, but he was too little. The nurse gave me a breast pump, showed me how to use it, and instructed me to save my breast milk in the freezer. It had to be labeled – name, date and time. They would feed it to Matthew through the tube that was going into his nose. It led to his stomach.

Alarms sounded constantly from one machine or another, from one baby or another. It was like an arcade, only instead of winning stuffed animals, the prize was an infant. I tried not to cry. Crying blurred my vision and all I wanted to do was look at my precious baby. I wanted him to know how much his daddy and I loved him. He was our precious gift. I opened a porthole on the isolette, and reached in with a finger. I leaned in close to the opening and, trying to keep my voice very soft so as not to over-stimulate him (as the nurse had warned), I softly sang:

You are my sunshine, my only sunshine.
You make me happy, when skies are gray.
You'll never know dear, how much I love you.
Please don't take my sunshine away.

* * *

"Maggie? Maggie-honey, can you hear me?"

I was in a winter wonderland. Everything was white, not dull like old snow, but fresh and clean like crystals. Evergreens, with snow-heavy branches, dotted the landscape. Under the sun's rays, everything sparkled - a wall of twinkling glitter, a fortress of ice, a man made of snow.

"Maggie?"

A voice. It said my name. Why? What did it want? I didn't want to open my eyes. My eyes were heavy, heavy like the snow on the branches of the evergreens. I wanted to sleep in my winter wonderland. Let me sleep! Ouch! My stomach hurt. Why did my stomach hurt?

"Maggie-sunshine. It's Matt."

Oh! Matt. Shhh, honey, can't you see I'm in a wonderland? See how everything glitters? But my stomach hurts. Why does it hurt? It shouldn't hurt; the baby is there ...

Instinctively, I grabbed my stomach. Ouch! The baby, Oh! Wait! Of course, the baby, that's right. The placenta had torn away from my uterus, an emergency C-section. I'd already had the baby.

My eyes popped open.

"The baby?" My voice was raspy.

"He's alive Maggie. He's a boy!" Matt answered.

I tried to focus on Matt. He held my hand. He wore blue paper clothes and a paper hat over his head. I might have laughed except for his face. His eyes were swollen, and his perfect skin was blotchy. He sniffed as he brought his hand up to my cheek.

"It's a boy?"

Matt's eyes were wet, and his voice trembled as he spoke. "Oh Mag, you should see him. He's so little, but he's got a ton of blonde hair. He's even got down-like hair on his shoulders and arms. It's so blonde, it's almost white. He's beautiful, Maggie."

"Is he okay?"

"The doctor, he's a neonatologist, he said he's critical, but there's a good chance he'll make it. He said lots of babies born this early make it these days."

I only heard one word. "He's critical?"

"But the doctor said he would be okay."

I burst into tears. Matt tried to "shhhhsh" me, as he cried too. I had gone from being unsure about wanting a baby to being heartbroken at the thought of losing one.

* * *

"C'mon, Maggie. You're not in labor. It's too soon. You can't be. It must be gas or something," Matt quipped.

"Oh, and when did you become the expert on what labor felt like?" I asked, holding my side as if that would make the pain subside.

"Maggie, you're only six and a half months."

"Matt, I'm telling you it's not gas. It feels like severe menstrual cramps, and it's happening every ten minutes or so."

"Every ten minutes or so? For how long?" Now Matt looked worried. Apparently, when you use a sentence with numbers in it, for a CPA, it all starts to make sense. Every ten minutes must have been the eye-opener.

"About two hours, I think."

"Two hours?" Matt exploded. "Why the hell did you wait so long to tell me?"

"Because I thought the same thing you did, it's too early, it can't be labor, it must be gas." I started to feel teary-eyed now. I knew it was hormones, but why did men do that? Why did they think when they suggested something rational that you hadn't thought it up as well? Did he honestly think I was stupid?

"Matt, I didn't want to jump the gun, but now I'm scared."

"I'm calling the doctor."

"I was going to, but the last time I was in the office, he told me from here on out if anything was wrong to go straight to the hospital."

"Did he suspect something was wrong?"

"He said it was what he told all his pregnant patients after six months."

"Well then, let's go. _NOW!_"

Matt's brisk tone made my eyes burn again. Pregnancy hormones screamed through my body and straight to my tear ducts like water through a broken dam. Matt must have realized, because his features softened and his tone lightened.

"Ah, Maggie-honey, you know I'm just worried." He kissed my forehead and ran his fingers through my hair. The intimate gesture calmed my nerves and made me want to forgive him.

I hadn't packed anything for the hospital yet. Our childbirth classes were supposed to start next week so I hadn't even thought about it. I grabbed an overnight bag and threw in a clean pair of panties, a hairbrush, and bathing necessities. And we were off.

In the car, Matt was silent. He kept looking over at me like he was waiting for me pop.

"Keep your eyes on the road, mister, or we'll never get there," I teased.

"I'm watching, I'm watching," he said, his hand's ashen from the grip he had on the steering wheel.

And then it dawned on me. "OH NO!" I cried.

"Oh god, what, Maggie, what?"

"I didn't shave my legs or anything."

"Shave? That's what you're thinking about?"

I didn't want to think about anything else. I wanted this to be the normal drive to the hospital, the one that resulted in a healthy, bouncing baby. Not the one where a baby is born prematurely. Too many stories about premature babies and women who died in childbirth flashed through my head like a Dateline episode. Shaving was an easier issue.

"Well heck Matt, you know how the hair on my legs get. It's like cactus needles poking through dry skin."

"I'm sure they've seen worse Maggie. Besides I like your hair all cactus-y and your legs all dry. It makes me think of your pussy as an oasis."

Matt was trying to make me laugh. He always did that – react first and then think. Sometimes it got to me, even when I wasn't hormonal. But most of the time it just gave me something to tease him about.

The contraction caught me while I was trying to answer. I put my head back, trying to concentrate on how to get through the pain. We rode the rest of the way like that: me with my head back, and Matt stealing glances at me every few seconds.

Luckily, the hospital was only twelve minutes away. Matt pulled up at the emergency door, and an orderly helped me into a wheelchair. I told Matt I didn't need it, but he and the orderly insisted.

I was quickly wheeled me up to a room. The orderly had me strip and put on a hospital gown. She attached a fetal heart tone monitor around my waist and fiddled with a machine at my bedside. Within minutes, a nurse had her invading fingers up inside me, checking how far along I was. It was all happening so fast. Shouldn't I at least know her name before we became so intimate?

She pulled out her bloody fingers, whipped off her latex gloves and washed her hands before saying anything. Her name was Polly.

"Maggie, I'm calling Dr. Rothman to tell him what's going on. I'd say you're already dilated six centimeters. Which means you're going to have this baby tonight, and there's no way we can stop it."

"How? I haven't been laboring that long. It wasn't that long." I could hear the pleading in my voice. "It didn't even hurt that much, really."

"Sometimes these things happen, Maggie," she said. "It's nobody's fault. It's just nature making its own way." Polly scribbled something on my chart and left the room.

Matt and I looked at each other. Fear rose between us like burning incense.

"Matt, I really didn't wait too long. I followed Dr. Rothman's instructions." I was anxious to hear him agree with Polly that it wasn't my fault.

"Maggie," he started and then stopped. He sat on the edge of the bed, cupped my chin in his hands and then finished, "Baby, you did everything right. You did everything perfect."

He'd read my mind.

* * *

"I'm five-and-a-half months pregnant, we haven't even agreed on a name for the baby and you're going off to play golf?" I was being ridiculous. The fact that I knew I was being ridiculous didn't stop me from forging ahead. "You're the one that wanted this baby," I barked. "And you don't even like golf!"

"No, _you_ don't like golf. I like it okay, but what I'm really doing is schmoozing with potential clients."

"You schmooze you lose, buster!"

Matt turned his back to me and folded his arms across his chest, determined to ignore me, I suspected. I looked at his nice broad shoulders and the way they V'd down to his perfect waist. That was another thing: he had a perfect waist! I was mad at him about that too. It wasn't _his_ waist blooming up until he had to bend over just to see his toes. What did men know about shaving their legs and painting their toenails, let alone doing it with a big-ballooned belly in the way?

His shoulders began to shake, mildly at first, and then an all-over body quaking. He was laughing! I tried to sound indignant.

"You're laughing at me!"

"Uh-uh." He mumbled and then, as if his laughter was volcanic lava, it burst up out of him in full-blown belly laughs.

"I can't believe you're laughing at me."

"Oh, c'mon Maggie, did you hear what you said?" He turned back to look at me, his face red with hilarity. His hand covered his mouth, as if that would hide his laughing.

"We have important decisions to make, Matt. We haven't picked out names or finished the nursery. We don't have a plan of action on how to alert the relatives ..." I paused. That last one sounded lame even to me. But I was in too deep to stop now. "We don't have time to frolic around on golf courses on a perfectly good Saturday."

"First of all, I do not frolic. Secondly, it's business. And jeesh, Mag, we have plenty of time."

He was right of course, but I didn't want to tell him that. I had hoped to spend the day together, that's all it was really about. I'd wagered better arguments. Good thing I kept my toenails and shaving comment to myself.

Just then the baby kicked. Not the little flutter that could easily be mistaken for gas, but a full-fledged kick. I grabbed my stomach.

"Oh my gosh!"

"What, Maggie, what? Are you okay?"

"The baby, it kicked! Here, give me your hand." I grabbed his hand and put it on my belly. I covered his hand with mine. We stood there for a minute, waiting. Finally, the baby kicked again.

"Did you feel it?"

"Whoa, I think we have ourselves a football player in there!" Matt beamed. "Just like his ol' man."

"And my dad!" I added.

"Yep, a little Matthew Joseph."

"Oh Matt, I like that! Matthew Joseph. After you and dad." It was perfect. Matt agreed. Trying to hide my embarrassment, I said, "I guess we've accomplished one of the things on our list. I suppose you can go frolic."

He wrapped his arms around me, snuggled in, and gave me an Eskimo-nose kiss.

"Hmm, okay but first you have to tell me what I lose if I schmooze?"

We broke into laughter.

* * *

A creeping desire hiked its way through my body. It reached a peak and firmly planted itself in my brain. "Sex would be so good right now," it said. I duly listened.

My unsuspecting husband sat slouched on the opposite end of the couch, Monday Night Football hoarding his full attention. I'd have to be sneaky. I wasn't dressed for seduction. Loose clothing, like the sweatpants I had on now, had become my number one fashion statement. My stomach wasn't bulging much, but I'd read that tight clothing wasn't good for a fetus. I'd also taken to going braless. I hadn't read anything about how that affected the fetus. But it did affect Matt.

I burrowed my head against his upper arm and made lazy circles on his thigh. I pinned my hopes on the braless thing to be seductive enough. And if all else failed, I could depend on my ability with my hands to arouse him.

"Okay, what is it?" he asked.

"What do you mean?" I tried to sound innocently unaware.

"You must want something, so out with it."

"Why do you say that?

"Since when do you snuggle up close when football is on? Usually you read or cross-stitch or some other shit girls do."

"Is there something wrong with wanting to be close to my strong, virile, and handsome husband?"

"Now I _know_ you want something. You haven't called me strong, handsome and virile since our second date when you'd drank too many Long Island Ice Teas at that party."

"I don't want anything honey, honest. I just want to be close to you. And smell you. And feel you." I drew out each word as seductively as I could. "And maybe play a little two-hand touch. Wink-wink!" I elbowed him in his ribs.

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