Chapter 76

Emily sent Brian and Leighanne on their way that evening with the promise that she would not let AJ corrupt Baylee too much. Little Baylee was definitely cranky and soon Uncle AJ learned what it was like to be on his bad side when he suggested that Baylee eat his dinner with a fork instead of his hands. Before Emily had the chance to intervene, AJ was wearing Baylee’s dinner and Emily was hauling a screaming child off to the naughty stool. Emily could tell that Baylee’s tantrum had taken its toll on AJ, who had not been witness to it before. As Emily carted him off to his naughty stool, AJ could hear him screaming, “Uncle AJ, help me!”

Emily came back to the table, took one look at AJ’s face and said, “Don’t even think about it! He’s just trying to play you so you’ll get him out of trouble. Just remind yourself that you’re covered in food and that you’re doing what’s best for him!”

“But he’s just tired! He didn’t mean to. Do you really think it’s necessary to punish him like that?” AJ said, falling right into Baylee’s trap.

“Uncle AJ! Please!” Baylee wailed.

“That’s it. I can’t take it anymore.” AJ said, standing up to go save Baylee.

Emily was quicker. She shot out of her seat and blocked AJ.

“Don’t you dare go in there, or else you’ll give him all the control not to mention you’ll have to deal with me and I really think you don’t want to mess with that. I don’t tell you how to sing, don’t tell me how to handle a toddler.” Emily said with so much authority that for a moment AJ thought she might force him into a time-out of his own if he didn’t comply.

AJ swallowed hard and sat down. By now, Baylee’s three minutes was up and Emily took AJ with her to go get him.

“Baylee, I had to put you on the naughty stool because you weren’t using your big boy table manners and because you threw your dinner at Uncle AJ. I would like you to please apologize to him.” Emily said.

Baylee launched himself at AJ and said, “Uncle AJ, I’m really sorry!”

AJ relaxed, realizing Baylee was ok and didn’t seem too traumatized and hugged him back. “That’s ok, Little Dude. Come on; let’s go finish our dinner so we can have dessert.”

“Ok!” Baylee said, always perking at the mention of dessert.

Baylee was a perfect angel the rest of the evening and Emily sent AJ to put him to bed.

“Just to warn you, he’s not going to be happy about it. He gets one story, then its lights out. Understand?” Emily ordered.

AJ grinned. “You really are all business with this nanny stuff, aren’t you?”

“I just want to make sure you understand what you’ll be up against.”

“Emily, I think I can handle it. How hard can it be?” he said. Famous last words.

Emily realized as she was doing the dishes and heard Baylee starting to scream again that she would need to step in. When she got to his room she could hear AJ pleading with him.

“I read you a story, buddy. It’s time to go to sleep now!”

Baylee just continued to scream.

“Baylee, its bed time. Goodnight.” Emily said, pulling AJ out of the room and shutting the door behind her.

“Emily, he’s not going to go to sleep, listen to him!” AJ said.

“Yes he will. As soon as he figures out that he has no choice, he’ll fall asleep. I give him about one more minute.”

As predicted, Baylee stopped screaming and gave in to sleeping.

“Do you always have to be right?” AJ asked.

“Believe me; I didn’t start out that way. I learned the hard way how to keep myself from being controlled by little kids. You’ll catch on.” She reassured him.

“I don’t know, I’m too much of a softie. It breaks my heart to make him mad!”

“AJ, there comes a point in childcare when you get over that. You’ll get to a point where their tantrum just makes you mad and then you’ll be able to handle it easier. That doesn’t mean it’s easy to listen to his screaming, it just means you learn how to handle it.”

Emily and AJ were watching TV when Brian and Leighanne came home, looking energized and refreshed from their night out.

“Hey guys! How was your night?” Emily asked.

“It was great. How about you?” Leighanne said.

Emily laughed. “AJ got a lesson in dealing with a cranky Baylee.”

Brian took a look at AJ’s face. “I recognize that face. You had to punish him, didn’t you?”

“Emily made me do it.” AJ muttered.

“What’d he do?” Leighanne whispered to Emily.

“Threw his dinner at AJ.”

Leighanne laughed.

The four adults sat around together for awhile longer before Brian pulled his wife up and announced that they were going to bed.

“And I suggest you two do the same, if you know what’s good for you.” Brian said, smirking.

“He never quits, does he?” Emily said, shaking her head.

“Nope.” AJ said. “But he is right. We should go to bed!”

AJ hauled Emily off the sofa before he scooped her up in his arms and carried her upstairs.

Having established some ground rules the night before, the two of them were more content just to enjoy kissing each other in a hot and heavy make-out session. Having promised to save the grand event for her birthday, their kisses and touches only excited their anticipation even more. Emily couldn’t even imagine how great making love to AJ would be if just kissing him could be so damn enjoyable. AJ felt exactly the same way. He couldn’t seem to get enough of her. In a society like today where sex had become so casual to so many people, it seemed like the art of kissing and touching and cuddling had been forgotten, even to AJ. Being with Emily was as exciting as his first kiss had been. Totally new and uncharted and he’d never wanted someone quite this way before.

When they finally came up for air, Emily laughed.

“What?” he asked.

“This kind of reminds me of my college days.” She said.

“How’s that?”

“You know, you’d have those nights where you and your roommate would end up going off with your respective boyfriend and even though you weren’t in the same room, it was always a little strange that you both went off to do the same thing. Then it was all over the sorority house the next morning.”

“Oooooh, so you’re a sorority girl, huh?” AJ asked, intrigued. “Is it true that you have naked pillow fights?”

“Even if we did, I wouldn’t be able to tell you now, would I?” Emily said, taunting him.

“Damn.” He muttered.

Chapter 77

Emily had AJ and Baylee up, dressed and fed before Brian and Leighanne had even woken up.

“I just wanted to make sure everyone was ready to go, that’s all!” Emily said when Brian and Leighanne laughed at her.

Emily managed to rush them through breakfast and sent them to get dressed while she packed a cooler with some sandwiches and drinks as well as got the video camera and digital cameras ready to go.

“Let me guess.” Brian said when he came downstairs. “You want to take your car?”

“Yes. But I don’t feel like driving so that’s between you and AJ.” She said.

“I don’t know where we’re going, you drive.” AJ said.

Emily handed Brian the keys after making him promise to take perfect care of her new baby. She buckled Baylee into his car seat and insisted that she didn’t want to sit up front.

“I want to know what it’s like to ride in the back!”

The trip took about thirty minutes and they only had to turn around once when Brian missed the giant sign that said, “PUMPKINS TURN LEFT”. For some reason, he turned right.

Thankfully, it was a weekday and that meant they got to avoid the crowds and got a better pick of the crop. They jumped onto the hay wagon to take them out into the pumpkin patch. Emily declared war on AJ when he stuffed a handful of hay down the back of her shirt. Emily promised revenge when he was least expecting it.

Out in the pumpkin patch, Brian wasn’t sure who the kid was. There was Baylee, who wanted to take home every pumpkin he saw. Then there was Emily, who felt badly for all the pumpkins she didn’t chose but insisted on finding the perfect one. And finally, there was AJ who was trying to walk around balancing a pumpkin on his head.

“It’s the proper way to test for a good pumpkin, you see.” AJ explained. “If it stays on your head, that means it’s just right.”

Baylee giggled and tried to imitate his Uncle AJ. Brian faithfully recorded this all on video.

After about half an hour of searching the fields, they got back onto the hay ride with a whopping 15 pumpkins. AJ and Emily were making plans to carve a few of theirs while Baylee was convinced he was going to turn his into pie.

“Daddy! Mommy says we can make punkin pie!” he beamed.

They loaded their pumpkins into the back of Emily’s car and headed for the apple orchard.

“What kind of apples do you want to pick?” Emily asked.

“Fuji.” AJ answered.

“Granny Smith.” Leighanne answered.

“Red delicious.” Brian answered.

“Green ones!” Baylee answered.

“All of the above it is!” Emily concluded.

AJ was helping Baylee get the good apples by lifting him up high so he could reach the ones at the top of the tree. It was here that Emily chose to get her revenge on AJ for the hay down her shirt. AJ felt something smack against his chest and looked down to see that Emily had pelted him with a rotted apple she picked up off the ground. Baylee thought this was enormously funny and laughed his little blonde head off.

AJ set Baylee down on the ground, looked at Emily for a second before bolting after her.

After much shrieking and much rotten apple throwing, AJ managed to catch her.

“I told you I’d get you back.” She said, catching her breath as AJ held onto her.

“You most certainly did.” He said.

“So, what’s my punishment?” she asked in a husky voice.

“I think you’ll find out later. Maybe tonight. Maybe tomorrow night. We’ll see.”

With that promise, AJ picked her up and threw her over his shoulder and carried her back to the others.

“Wow. You know, from this angle, your butt looks even better!” Emily said, giving him a nice little smack on the rear.

“Must be all the blood rushing to your head.” Brian said. AJ swatted at him as he set Emily down.

“My turn, Uncle AJ!” Baylee said. AJ grabbed him and threw him over his shoulder, carrying him around.

“Where’s Baylee?” he joked. “I can’t find him!”

Baylee giggled. “I’m right here, Uncle AJ!”

“Oh! There you are! I forgot I put you there! Come help me get some more apples.”

Emily smiled as she watched AJ with Baylee. He certainly had a soft spot for the little guy to say the least. While it was still incredibly early in the beginning of their relationship, Emily slipped and allowed her to do what every woman does at the beginning of a relationship: imagine what it would be like to have AJ’s children.

She quickly shoved the thought aside and shook her head as if to rid her mind of the thoughts.

“He’s really good with him, isn’t he?” Leighanne said.

Emily smiled. “Yeah. Although you should see him when he has to do the disciplining. Then he turns into a real softie.”

“All men do that. It took Brian a long time to learn to be the bad guy. He was always afraid Baylee would never forgive him.”

“Just wait until he gets older and the insults get worse.” Emily laughed.

Leighanne cringed. “I dread even thinking it.”

After the apples, they headed over to the main area, purchasing a few galloons of fresh cider and some gourds. Brian took Baylee into the small petting zoo while Emily and AJ headed off into the corn maze, getting lost several times on their way out.

As they drove home, Baylee fell asleep in the car leaving the others to talk softly.

“Are you guys going out tonight?” Brian asked.

Emily looked at AJ. He was their social planner.

“I’m taking this little lady out to dinner.”

“Where are you going?” Leighanne asked.

“What are you in the mood for, Emily?” AJ asked.

“Mexican, I think.”

“That sounds really good!” AJ agreed.

“Oh I know the best little restaurant!” Leighanne said. “I’ll give you directions when we get home! They make the best enchiladas!”

“Why don’t you guys join us?” AJ offered, looking at Emily for approval.

“Yeah! We can double date!” Emily said.

“Are you up for it Brian?” Leighanne asked.

“Sure. I’m assuming we’ll be taking Baylee, since our sitter is otherwise occupied?” he teased.

“Of course!” AJ said. “I’ll watch him while we’re there. He does eat Mexican, doesn’t he?”

“He eats anything these days.”

As they got home, they all went their separate ways before dinner. Brian carried Baylee up to his bed so he could finish his nap. Leighanne had some work to do in the office while Brian and AJ went out to shoot some hoops. Emily decided to relax on the deck and enjoy a good romance novel.

She was so engrossed in the smuttiest part of the novel that she didn’t even hear AJ come up behind her.

“What on earth are you reading?!?” he asked, peering over her shoulder.

Emily blushed as she quickly shut her book.

“Just a romance novel.” She said.

“Let me see!” AJ said, grabbing the book from her hands before she could get it away.

AJ flipped through the pages for a minute, finding what he was looking for.

“So,” he began after reading the first sex scene he could find. “Is this the way you like it?”

Emily blushed even more. “That’s not why I read them! I just like the romance! The great sex is just a bonus, even if it is unrealistic!”

“What’s so unrealistic about it? The cowboy part? Because I kind of liked that part myself.”

“No, not that! And I liked the cowboy too, but that wasn’t it. These romance novels, they always depict the first time a couple has sex as this phenomenal thing, with pleasure so intense that neither one can stand it and it’s always perfect between them.”

AJ cocked his head. “What’s unrealistic about that?”

Emily looked at him like he was an alien straight off the space ship.

“What’s unrealistic is that first of all, sex isn’t that great to begin with. Secondly, it’s never that good when it’s your first time with someone! It takes awhile to get used to each other!”

AJ’s jaw dropped and he was speechless for a moment. “Wait a minute…did you just say sex isn’t that great?!?”

“Well, it’s not bad, but it’s certainly not what it’s hyped up to be.” Emily mumbled.

“Maybe that’s just because you’ve never had great sex!” AJ said.

“Let me guess, you have?”

“Hell yeah I have!” AJ answered. “It’s fucking great…pardon the pun.”

“Well, I think maybe it’s different for guys. Easier to enjoy it.”

“Emily, I just want you to know that I feel very badly that you’ve been deprived of great sex and I intend to show you exactly what great sex is all about tomorrow night.”

Emily felt her insides grow warm at the mention of their special plans for her birthday. She was looking forward to it enough, great sex or not, she knew it would still be good enough. Just kissing him made her feel better than she had with any other guy. She couldn’t wait to see what the rest was like. She just didn’t expect it to be great on the first try.

“Don’t look so skeptical. Sex can be great on the first time as long as you’re with the right person.” AJ said.

“I’m certainly up for the experiment.” She said, winking at him.

“Me too.” AJ mumbled. “Again, pun not intended.”

Chapter 78

After a lively dinner at the Mexican restaurant, Leighanne put Baylee to bed before going downstairs to the theater room to watch a movie with Brian. AJ took Emily onto the deck, inviting her to sit with him on the porch swing.

“It’s been really nice having you here.” She said as he put his arm around her.

“I’m glad. I’ve really enjoyed being here, spending time with you and everyone else.”

“It’s almost my birthday.” She said, softly.

“I’m so glad you reminded me, I think I would have forgotten!” AJ teased.

“I know I was a wreck when you got here, but having you around to distract me has really helped. I can’t tell you how much it means.” Emily admitted softly.

“Emily,” AJ started awkwardly, “I want you to tell me more about Payton. That is, if you don’t mind.”

Emily smiled wistfully. “I don’t mind. What do you want to know?”

AJ thought a moment. “What was it like?” he finally asked.

“What was what like?”

“To have a child. How did it feel?” he asked.

Emily sighed. “It was the most incredible thing I’ve ever felt. It was the proudest moment of my life when he was born, seeing his little face for the first time. There really is nothing like it. There’s pure happiness, and then there’s having a child. It’s way more than pure happiness.”

“He sure was a gorgeous baby.” AJ said.

Emily laughed. “He would have broken a lot of hearts, that’s for sure.”

“You know, I don’t know if I should have or not, but I talked to my mom about it.” AJ said. “I know you didn’t want anyone to know, but honestly, I felt like I had to tell someone just to get it off of my chest and I knew you didn’t want Brian or Leighanne to know.”

Emily nodded. “Believe me, I understand that feeling. Like you have to tell someone but you know you’re not supposed to and that makes it even worse. It’s ok.” She assured him.

“She cried when I was telling her everything you had said. I called her because I just needed to know what I should do, you know. Mom’s always got good advice. And she started crying. I asked her how she could cry when she’d never even met you before and do you know what she said? She said that it didn’t matter if she knew you or not, it’s just something that only a mother could feel. Imagining losing your own child is painful enough. And I guess in a way, before I went into rehab, she must have felt like she was about to lose me an awful lot. Then she told me that there wasn’t anything I could say or do, no magic cures, that all I could do was to be there and be strong.”

Emily smiled. “She’s right. People never know what to say and they always end up saying the wrong thing. You know, things like, at least you can have more kids someday. They don’t mean it that way but they don’t know what else to say and then they give you that look of pure pity. I hate that look! It’s why I don’t tell people about it. Watching them squirm is harder than telling them.”

“Would you mind…I mean….you don’t have to but…..could you tell me about the day he died?” AJ was obviously uncomfortable asking about it, yet Emily was touched that he was. Few people had the courage to ask her questions about it, fearing they would only upset her. While it was true, it was upsetting to talk about; it was also comforting on some level just to talk about it.

Emily nodded and immediately she looked a thousand miles away.

He’s not responding, Emily. The bleed in his brain is too extensive to repair. He’s brain dead. I’m sorry; we need to let him go now.” The doctor explained gently.

No!” Emily sobbed. “You have to try and save him! Look at him! He’s still alive! He’s breathing!”

It’s just the machines, Emily. He’s already gone. Let him go in peace.” The doctor urged.

Emily’s whole body began to tremble. “You have to save him.” She whispered.

Please. You have to save him. It’s all my fault! I made you give him the new drugs. Please don’t punish him for that! It’s my fault!” Emily begged.

The doctor grabbed onto Emily’s arm, trying to sit her down. Emily shook him off.

Emily, this isn’t anyone’s fault. Things like this just happen sometimes.”

You have to save him.” Emily whispered.

The doctor managed to get her into a chair. “I’ll give you a few minutes.” He said gently.

He walked over to the nurse. “Page social services for me, have them come up here right away. Have a sedative standing by in case it gets to be too much for her.”

The nurse nodded. This was definitely the worst part of her job. Letting go of the babies she cared for. Unfortunately, in the neo-natal unit, it happened far too often for her liking.

The social worker came up and sat with Emily beside Payton’s isolette. The doctor stood back as they talked softly until the social worker, Meg, motioned for him to come over.

We’re ready.” She told him.

Emily, are you sure?”

Emily could only manage to nod.

Would you like us to call anyone for you?” Meg asked.

Emily shook her head.

Take a few minutes to say your goodbyes.” Meg urged her before stepping back with the doctor.

Emily stood there, stroking his soft hair.

I’m so sorry, baby. I never meant to put you through all this. Mommy just wanted to keep you here with her. It’ll all be over soon. I love you. Never forget that, ok?”

She stood there a few more minutes before looking up. “I’m ready.” She said.

The doctor nodded.

How long will it take?” Emily asked.

Hard to say. It could be seconds, it could be minutes.”

Emily grabbed on to Payton’s tiny little infant hand as she heard the respirator shut off. The doctor took the tube out of his mouth.

Would you like to hold him?” he asked.

Emily nodded. The nurse quickly sat her in a chair as the doctor handed the little baby over to her.

He took a few more breaths in her arms before he went still. Emily clung to him, weeping silently. She had no idea how long she had been there when the nurse interrupted her.

I’m so sorry. We have to take him now.” She said.

Emily nodded and allowed the nurse to take her baby boy away from her.

Thank you for all that you’ve done for him.” Emily said, getting out of her chair.

She made it as far as the door to the nursery before it hit her. Her little boy was gone forever. Her throat closed off and she couldn’t breathe. Her knees gave out and she sank to the floor, trying to scream out but finding herself completely unable to. She vaguely remembered being surrounded by people and feeling the small prick of a needle before she completely blacked out.

Emily broke from her trance. She hadn’t even realized that she’d started crying as she told the story and had her eyes not been so misty, she wouldn’t have missed the few tears AJ was trying to keep hidden from her of his own.

“They sedated you?” he asked, softly.

Emily bit her lip and nodded. “I don’t remember much after that. I sort of remember waking up in a hospital room, at some point my mom came to take me home. It’s all so foggy now.”

AJ tightened his hold on her and kissed the top of her head.

“Thank you for sharing that with me.” He said.

“I’m actually glad that you asked. Sometimes, it feels good to talk about it but it’s not something I like to bring up, you know?”

“I think I do. I know it isn’t quite the same, but I feel the same way talking about my drug problems. It’s not something you bring up, but it’s helpful to talk about it. If you ever want to ask me about it, please don’t be afraid to.”

“I won’t.” she promised.

“So, I know I keep asking hard questions so you can stop whenever you want. What was it like being pregnant?”

Emily chuckled. “Heaven and Hell all in one. The morning sickness, the fatigue, hemorrhoids, back pain, acne, then there’s the whole peeing every time I sneezed thing. But then there was the first morning I woke up and realized I was showing. It was so exciting. And the first time I felt him kick. And even when he kept me up all night playing soccer inside my stomach, I tried to think of it in terms of that being my baby inside and how miraculous it was. Of course, it didn’t always work. I felt fat and ugly and never got any sleep. I should have hated it, yet somehow when I look back on it, I see a lot of joy. It’s totally worth it.”

AJ smiled. “Even the delivery?”

Emily nodded. “Especially the delivery. Don’t get me wrong. It hurts like nothing you’ll ever feel in your lifetime, but in the end you get a baby! From the moment they lay that slimy, squirmy little thing on your chest, you forget all about how horrible the 33 hours of labor was and all you see is your baby.”

“Do you want to have another baby someday?” he asked, cautiously.

Emily thought for a moment. “I think so. A part of me will always be terrified to go through it all again yet a part of me can’t imagine not. It’s scary but I think that someday when things have healed a little more, I’d like to.”

“Man, this is some deep shit!” AJ said, trying to lighten up the mood.

Emily giggled. “You started it.” She said, as she rubbed the last of her tears from her face.

“It’s almost midnight.” AJ noticed, looking down at his watch.

“So it is.” Emily replied, leaning into him.

As soon as his watch ticked midnight, AJ leaned down and kissed her.

“Happy birthday, Em.” He whispered.

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"Never Gone" is a work of fiction.
The characters and events portrayed are fictitious.
Any resemblance to real people or events is purely coincidental.

Copyright 2006
All Rights Reserved
No part of this text may be copied or reprinted
without the author's permission.


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