“When’s your baby due?” Jodi heard as she was studying frozen vegetables at Walmart.
As Jodi gazed up she noticed the woman’s belly was as robust as her own. She had a large swollen nose that got lost on her face from the puffiness of her cheeks, and her stringy shoulder length strawberry-blonde hair hung loosely around her face making her name tag hard to read. The Walmart garb she was wearing contained stains that couldn’t be removed if you scrubbed for hours on end.
“Friday! Maybe sooner! And how about your baby? You look like you could have yours at any moment, as well.” Jodi prods.
“I’m due sometime this week, too. I pray this baby gets here sooner than later. I am exhausted and can’t wait to get away from this place for a few weeks. ”
“Melissa,” Jodi read aloud from her name tag, “It was nice meeting you and I wish you the very best on your new bundle of joy. I’m sure I’ll be seeing you around. I come here frequently since my husband is a manager here.”
It was another typical Sunday for Jodi. Get up early with her husband to ship him off to work, meet her mom at church, grab a quick lunch, and rush to get groceries before the stores become overly crowded with screaming children and frazzled parents. This was the final time Jodi would be making these trips by herself. She was nine months pregnant and scheduled to have her labor induced in five long, much anticipated days.
Her husband, Brad, was the store manager at Wal-Mart where Jodi would do her weekly grocery shopping and stroll through the baby department, caressing the frilly dresses and imagining how perfect their little princess, Ava, was going to be. Before checking out, she grabbed a box of diapers and baby wipes to add to the stockpile at home to ensure they are completely prepared for their new arrival.
Later that evening, when her husband returned from work, Jodi told Brad about the employee she spoke to today.
“Honey, take these extra diapers and wipes I bought today and give them to that poor woman who works in the frozen food section. I can go back to get more later this week, if need be. She looks like she is really struggling, and it’s the least we can do.”
“Hell, I don’t even know who you are talking about. Do you know how many damn women in that store are pregnant? Those people reproduce like rabbits.”
“Her name is Melissa,” Jodi huffed. “She isn’t very attractive, but then no one really is when you are swollen like a tick.”
“No, I’m not going to take those to her. If we give those to her, all the other employees will expect a gift too. You worry too much about other people. We have enough going on in our lives right now to worry about her. She’ll be fine.”
“Fine! I’ll just do it myself then. I’ll call her tomorrow at work and find out what time she gets off and take them to her. Then other people won’t have a clue that we helped her out.” Jodi uttered as she placed the diapers, wipes, and any other various baby items she had too many of in a used gift bag from one of her many baby showers.
“No. Just sit them by the front door and I’ll take them to Melissa tomorrow if it’s that important to you. It would be silly for you to drive across town for that. I know you have so much to do in the nursery tomorrow to ensure everything is ready.” He moved across the room to give his beautiful pregnant wife a hug and kiss as he apologized. “I’m sorry, baby. I am just stressed at work trying to get everything wrapped up so I can spend time at home with you and Ava next week. Your compassion for others is what made me fall in love with you in the first place. It’ll be my pleasure to deliver these items to her. Now, please, let’s enjoy the rest of our evening. There won’t be too many more quiet nights around here.”
Over the next few days, Jodi spent all of her time at home getting the house and nursery ready for Ava. She cleaned every room from top to bottom so that a speck of dirt could not be found anywhere. The nursery was rearranged at least half a dozen times, curtains were taken down to be ironed yet again, and baby clothes were washed and rewashed and placed perfectly in the dresser or hung neatly on the hangers. The overnight bags for the hospital stay had been placed beside the door just waiting to make the trip for many weeks now. Jodi was determined to have the day her princess arrived go smoothly and be the best day possible for Brad and her.
Thursday night Jodi didn’t sleep but a few minutes total. She was so excited to head to the hospital early the next morning but the events from earlier in the evening were weighing heavily on her mind. They hosted a family dinner at their house to celebrate the events for the upcoming day. Brad and Jodi’s parents were there, along with siblings and spouses, and a few close friends. There were at least twenty people in attendance. Everyone seemed to have had a great time except for Brad. He kept leaving the table staring at his cell phone screen with beads of sweat forming on his forehead.
“Business,” he would mutter while rushing outside to make a call. Although this seemed out of character for Brad, he had started his paternity leave that day and the assistant managers were probably bombarding him with questions. He had run that store for several years and whenever he would get back from a week’s vacation, the place would be in shambles. Jodi was afraid he wouldn’t get to enjoy his time at home with Ava because of all the nagging phone calls.
Friday morning had finally arrived. As Brad and Jodi walked into the hospital for the birth of their baby girl, they saw Melissa, by herself, checking in to have her baby as well. Jodi tried to make small talk with Melissa, but everyone was anxious and trying to figure out which room number they were to report to.
Jodi went to her room and the nurse gave her the medicine to start her labor. Although she was in pain from the contractions, she loved every minute of it and knew it was getting her closer to meet the love of her life. The several hours of hard labor, being poked and prodded by her doctor and every nurse on the floor was all forgotten when Jodi heard the first cry come from her precious baby girl.
Ava Elizabeth Pinkston had arrived! She was beyond perfect. She had a sweet round face with chubby cheeks that made you want to kiss them without stopping, long dark eyelashes that curled at the ends and big baby blue eyes that could melt your heart.
After the new family had bonding time and Jodi was resting from delivery, Brad had to step outside to return some calls to work. His cellphone had been dinging ever since they entered the hospital room. While he was out, Jodi and her mother decided to walk to the nursery to check on Ava, but first she wanted to make sure Melissa had someone there to support her and see if her baby had been born yet.
Jodi went to the registration desk and found out Melissa was in Room 303 and that the baby had already been born and she was accepting visitors. As Jodi approached the room she grew very excited to have another person to share this wonderful day with. Jodi knocked on the door.
“Come in,” Melissa said.
As Jodi opened the door she saw Melissa lying in her hospital bed, she was smiling and talking to someone on the other side of the room. As Jodi panned her eyes across the room she saw Brad sitting in the chair holding Melissa’s baby boy who looked oddly like Ava.
Jodi walked over to the baby nursery cart and the information on it read:
Parents – Brad Pinkston and Melissa Smith.
Amber Sides is currently a student at Southeast Missouri State University
and will graduate with a degree in Middle School Education with emphasis in
Language arts and Mathematics. She lives in Cape Girardeau, MO with her
sassy four-year old daughter. Amber writes short fiction stories to keep
her sanity after dealing with 5th graders all day.