Book: Open Heart (Choices)
Pairing: Dr. Ethan Ramsey x MC (Dr. Zyra Lewis)
Summary: Ethan and Zyra are first time parents with a newborn.
Rating: Teen+ (brief language, adult themes, fluff)
Word Count: 3102
Ethan returned home carrying a couple of bags of groceries. He placed them on the kitchen counter before he headed upstairs towards the bedroom area. The house was quiet, but he could hear a light humming coming from one of the bedrooms. The melody from the humming became more distinct the closer he approached.
He stopped in the doorway and leaned against the doorframe, crossing his arms against his chest as a large smile stretched across his face. His eyes lingered on the view in front of him. The sight had become one of the most beautiful images he had ever seen. It was as he were seeing it for the first time, still in disbelief that what he saw before him was even real.
The image was something he had never imagined, especially not an image that was now a part of his life—no—was his entire life. He had always thought he would follow in Naveen’s footsteps. He would always put his career first, be full of prestigious accomplishments before even turning 40, become one of the top diagnosticians in the world, and lead Naveen’s renowned diagnostics team. He had already accomplished all of that, and because of it, he believed his life would never involve this—what was now right in front of him. He had seen himself as a lifelong bachelor while allowing his work to continue to consume every aspect of him and his life. He would be like Naveen: fully dedicated to his craft but, in the process, losing the opportunity to have a family or form any lasting, intimate relationships. It was something Ethan didn’t even consider because he knew his job would always come first. He couldn’t be there for anyone. He wouldn’t have the time nor the energy.
But that all changed once she entered Edenbrook. She captured his heart, and he fell deeply in love with her. And he fell hard. Then he could see it clearly, and that’s what scared him. Dammit, Rookie.
There were serious challenges and rough patches along the way. He was afraid. He was uncertain. He didn’t want to ruin her career. He felt utterly alone. He didn’t know how to fully open up to her even though he had the urge to. He just didn’t know how to communicate his feelings. He was at the lowest point in his entire life, but she was there. She never gave up on him. She fought for him. At that time, he didn’t believe he was worth fighting for. But she proved him wrong. Thankfully.
Now he couldn’t even think about a time when she wasn’t in his life. They weren’t in his life. It’s as if he thought she had completely filled his heart until their little one came into the picture. He never knew such feelings. Such unconditional love for someone he barely even knew, but was every much a part of him. She was his and would always be his, and he shared this precious gift with a woman he couldn’t even have ever dreamt up. She was made for him. They were made for each other, and now the two of them made someone who was the very essence of them both. He hoped his little one would have the best of both of them: her mother’s compassion, strong will, and genius, and his—well—he was still figuring that one out. But his wife would always remind him of his warm-heartedness.
He didn’t even have to try to smile while looking at them together. It had become a natural response to his family. Even Naveen had started teasing him about finally loosening up his serious lines. But who could blame him for the happiness he finally felt, a happiness that he never thought would have been possible? But now he knew, and the sight of his wife with his daughter brought a newfound sense of meaning to him. It’s as if he had taken his first breath and came to life to finally start living.
He watched them silently. Zyra was sitting in a chair, breastfeeding their child. She held her protectively against her bosom, while she hummed Alessandra’s aria from the first opera Ethan had taken her to. She hadn’t noticed Ethan in the doorway admiring them. Her focus was on suckling her child. With her child against her breast, Zyra’s dark complexion was an obvious contrast to her own child’s, which was a few shades lighter than her mother’s own espresso brown skin. But as Zyra fell deep into her child’s eyes that latched onto her own dark brown ones, they were a reminder of someone. They were a similarly brilliant shade of blue, shining brightly like her father’s. Now they were slowly starting to glaze over, a sign of fatigue from the long feeding session.
“How are the two loves of my life?”
Zyra looked up in the direction of her husband’s voice. She had dark circles under her eyes. Her lips were slightly dry. Her hair was brushed up in one curly puff. A green silk scarf was wrapped around her head, protecting the edges of her hair. Having a newborn was wearing her out, but she was still the most beautiful woman in his eyes. When she met his gaze, her smile grew.
“Hi,” she whispered.
Ethan walked toward them and leaned down kissing Zyra on the forehead.
“She’s looking sleepy.”
“Yeah. She’s about done with lunch.”
Ethan sat on the arm of the chair. He wrapped his arm around Zyra’s shoulder, gently rubbing it. They both peered down at their child whose sucking was slowing down until Zyra’s nipple fell from her small mouth. Her mouth remained opened in a large “O” shape, but her eyes were fully shut.
Zyra let out a sigh, almost relieved.
“Here. I’ll take her, love.”
Ethan held his child against his shoulder, gently patting her on her tiny back until she let out a few burps. He paced around the room as he hummed the same melody. They had found that humming soothed their daughter to sleep, especially after feeding time.
“You’re becoming a natural, Ethan.” Ethan tenderly smiled at her as he continued humming.
Zyra was adjusting her breast in her nursing bra. It was a bit sore, and it was a feeling she had not yet gotten used to. She wondered if she ever would. She rubbed her breast to try to rid of the ache. A part of her feared that she’d end up having a blocked milk duct, something that wasn’t all too uncommon, but she was taking preventative measures, such as making sure of having regularly scheduled feedings and her breast being fully drained. Their little one was one hungry little girl, so that had not become an issue.
It was Zyra’s turn to admire her family. She knew Ethan would be a great father: loving, gentle, and a true softy. For the first week, his eyes would swell up in tears whenever he saw their daughter. Zyra would be the one to wipe away his tears and kiss him comfortingly on the cheek. She loved the way that he would sometimes turn to look at her, his eyes trying to convey how much he loved his wife.
Zyra observed Ethan kissing his daughter’s head before placing her in her crib. He stood over her, watching her little chest rise and fall. He was memorizing every little subtlety about her, such as how her head leaned toward the right when she slept. Or how her little hands were curled up into almost fists. Or how her lips would kind of twitch a few times as if trying to talk in her sleep.
He felt Zyra loop her arm around his waist and lean against his side.
“Our Dolores is the most beautiful thing in the whole world.” Ethan said with a sense of awe in his voice.
“We did pretty good.” Zyra leaned her head against his arm.
They stood there taking mental pictures, not realizing how much time was passing. But the only thing that could turn Ethan’s focus from Dolores was his wife, the woman who was his everything. He felt her grip on him weaken. That alerted him with concern. He turned to her and wrapped his arm around her waist.
“Are you okay, love?”
“Yeah. It’s just raising a child is a lot of work.”
He entwined his hand with hers, and brought her hand to his lips, kissing each finger individually. “Why don’t you go rest. I’ll watch her.”
Zyra trailed her fingers along the beard that had grown along his jaw. “What about you? You haven’t shaved in a while. You’re doing a lot too, you know?”
“Are you saying I need to shave?”
Zyra smirked. “Absolutely not. This is also a great look on you.” As she ran her fingers through his short beard, he leaned into her touch.
“Zyra, my love, let’s get you to bed.”
“I’m not ready to leave her yet, Ethan.” Her eyes turned sorrowful as if just thinking about the idea pained her.
“Your body has been through a lot. It hasn’t even been two weeks.”
“True. She was a stubborn one. I can’t believe it took 36 hours for her to come out.”
“She’s stubborn like her mother.”
“And she’s got a temper like her father. She was not happy when she came out.”
The memory made them both smile. Ethan held her more tightly, more protectively against him, as they both beamed while looking down at their sleeping little one.
Ethan tilted his head down to nuzzle against Zyra’s neck. “Come, my love. Let’s get you to bed.”
“Just one more minute, please.”
“She could wake up any second. You should take advantage of this time.”
Zyra reluctantly nodded and held onto Ethan’s hand as he led her out of the bedroom. She peeked over her shoulder one last time before the sight of her daughter vanished. She felt herself stumble a bit as she walked down the hallway. Ethan immediately grasped her shoulders, staring at her worryingly.
“I’m okay. You’re right. I just need to rest.”
Ethan led her to the bedroom, never once letting go of her until they reached the bed. The bed was still freshly made. They hadn’t slept in it since they brought Dolores home. They were usually sleeping in Dolores’ room in the chairs, or downstairs on the couch with her in her bassinet.
He pulled the blankets back and fluffed a couple of pillows. He helped Zyra from her robe, laying it on the foot of the bed. His wife was so weak. She felt so weak as he helped her into bed. Zyra’s body still ached, especially in the most sensitive areas. But once she reached the bed and let her head fall and sink into the pillow, she immediately savored the comfort it brought, a feeling she had long forgotten. A luxury she once took for granted.
She looked up at Ethan who was now sitting next to her on the bed.
“Remind me to get Sienna and Danny something really nice for taking care of Jenner for us while we are adjusting.”
Ethan smiled and nodded. “Right. We definitely owe them one. And Naveen said he’s going to stop by tomorrow. He’s already missing his granddaughter.”
“It would be great to see him. We haven’t seen him since the hospital.”
They chatted for a little bit longer, until Zyra was finally beginning to doze off.
Ethan was tempted to lie next to her and hold her in his arms until she fell asleep. But he knew he would knock out the moment he laid down. He also was feeling the tiredness, for they both hadn’t gotten much sleep. But he didn’t want to risk not being awake in case Dolores needed him. He had to be there for the both of them. After all, he wasn’t the one who carried Dolores for nine months, went through an excruciating labor, and birthed an above average-sized baby. Dolores came out long. Ethan predicted she would be tall like him.
Ethan caressed Zyra’s forehead, his fingers gently giving her the signal to finally let go and fall asleep. But Zyra couldn’t break her gaze from Ethan’s. They stared tenderly at each other. They were full of happiness and love even though they were both exhausted being new parents. First-time parents. But Ethan looked at her knowing that he wouldn’t change a thing. He would do it again with her. He’d do anything with and for her because her happiness was his happiness. The life they now created was something he cherished more than his own.
“It’s okay. Close your eyes. When you get up, I got you your favorite ice cream. And I got those sandwiches from the store deli that you were craving.”
They didn’t have time to cook. Their diet consisted on the premade dinners from the grocery store deli. He could easily pop a premade pasta into the microwave or just fill a bowl with a premade salad. He was in charge of their meals, while Zyra, of course, had to be responsible for Dolores’.
“Thank you, Ethan.” She gave him a weary smile. “What would I do without you?” Zyra placed her hand on his own, hinting at him to come closer to her. He leaned down and softly kissed her on the lips. The kiss slightly lingered until he finally pulled away.
Zyra giggled. “Your kisses feel different with that beard.”
“Well, I for one can’t wait until we have energy and time to catch up with each other.”
“Me too, Ethan. Me too.” Suddenly her expression changed, and she began biting her lip.
“What is it?” Ethan had noticed.
“You’re going back to work next week.”
Ethan had forgotten. Was it already that close? He thought for a moment before he responded. “Thankfully, your mother is coming. That will be a big help.”
“We don’t have to think about that now. We still have lots of time, just the three of us.” He tried to give her a reassuring smile.
He kissed her softly one more time before she finally let herself close her eyes, dozing off to her husband’s gentle caresses along her forehead.
Ethan pulled the covers over her and kissed her on the cheek. He closed the door behind him and made his way back to the baby’s room. He checked on her again, she was still asleep. Her sleeping form made his heart melt. If he had listened to his past fears, he wouldn’t have his daughter who now filled a new part of his heart.
He took one last glance at his sleeping daughter before he headed downstairs into the kitchen to put away the groceries. The ice cream he had promised Zyra was starting to melt. Thankfully, it was still salvageable. He quickly put it into the freezer. He didn’t want to disappoint his wife by ruining something he had promised for her.
Once he had finished, he began washing the dishes that had piled up in the sink. It’s only been a week, but neither of them had the chance to wash anything. Even for someone like himself who kept his place in order, he couldn’t keep up with the chores. He was always doing laundry, going out getting baby supplies and food for them, taking turns helping Zyra with Dolores.
As he finished clearing up in the kitchen, he heard Dolores’ cries from upstairs. He dropped the sponge into the sink, grabbed a dish towel, and ran towards the room while drying his hands. He flung the dish towel over his shoulder. Dolores was red in the face from the crying. Her little arms and legs were flailing.
“Oh, my little one. What’s wrong?”
He picked her up cradling her in his arms.
“We have to be quiet. Mama is trying to sleep.”
Dolores didn’t listen. She continued wailing. His checklist of ways to soothe a baby ran through his head.
First. Rocking her. Her rocked her in his arms. That didn’t work.
Second. Humming. He tried a variety of tunes, even her favorite aria. That also didn’t work.
Third. Sucking. He tried offering her his finger to suck on. She kept turning her head away from him. Fail.
Fourth. The colic carry. He placed Dolores tummy down on his forearm, stabilizing her head with his hand. With his other hand, he gently rubbed her back. He tried this for five minutes. She continued to cry. Another failure.
He returned holding her against his chest, pacing around the room as other ideas ran through his head like the end credits of a TV show.
“Oh my little one, what do you want?” He was starting to feel frustrated. How much he wished Zyra was there with him. Together, they would know what to do. He had read every parenting book and scientific research article he could get his hands on ever since Zyra surprised him with the announcement. He was a researcher after all. But even so, he still did not feel prepared for the real thing.
He stopped pacing as realization set in. He rolled his eyes at his own stupidity. He held her bottom up close to his nose, and sure enough.
“Please forgive your dad. He’s still learning how to do all this. And here I thought my medical genius would give me some advantage. Your mom was right, but don’t tell her I said that.”
He placed her on the changing table, humming to her as he changed her diaper.
“Your old man is getting pretty good at this part.” He winked at her. She had stopped crying, and she stared up at him with the same blue eyes that were a reflection of his own. She now had a smile on her face. “That’s all that you needed, wasn’t it? Can you forgive me?” She continued to smile. “I’ll take that as a yes.” He leaned over, giving a kiss to each of her tiny feet that were slightly raised up in the air.
He picked her back up and sat down in the chair, cradling her in his arms. He held her against his chest. She was so tiny and delicate against his larger, muscular frame. But that was a comfort for her. She began to doze off again with a full belly and now a clean diaper. Ethan propped his feet up on the matching ottoman and relaxed with his daughter.
“I’ve got you, my little one. Always.”