It had been a long seven months, and though it should have been longer, it wasn’t. Time was up. It was much too early for her come, for them to come. But locked away deep within a mansion’s maze of ornate hallways and elaborately carved doors was a man prestigiously seated at the end of a long polished table. Jordan Granger had always been a busy man. From early childhood he could recall of his father’s many travels, his adventures, “for business” he would always say. Just business.
Just business… the words drifted in and out of his thoughts filtering through the sounds of the men and women that lined either side of the table. Many twiddled their thumbs over folded hands above crossed legs. Others whirled the potent beverages before them, some on the rocks, some straight up, all of them at least half consumed. One woman had, very slyly, slipped out of her heels; another played with a loose strand of dark curls that had fallen from a tight bun. With the equivalent of a front row view, Jordan watched eyes flick about the room following the conversation as it bounced from speaker to speaker. Periodically, some heads would bob and nod in agreement, while others remained frozen in scowls of detest and disagreement. No one ever seemed to hear the occasional whine of his chair as he swiveled it back and forth at irregular intervals. Though he sat amongst some of the world’s most important leaders, captive together behind a set of heavy wooden doors dwelling upon important decisions, his mind couldn’t have been further away.
Only God knows why he was thinking about his father, that ass, at this very moment. There was serious work to be done. Perhaps, in some ways, he knew that better than most of the men and women childishly squabbling before him. Slowly, he swiveled his chair to the left. And then again, perhaps not. It’s just business. But what did that even mean? He sighed and took a quick swig of his scotch tainted soda. His fingertips impatiently plucked at the rim of the glass, craving to caress another filtered cigarette.
Much to his chagrin, Jordan Anthony Granger Jr. knew that he’d taken over both his father’s name as well as the place that he’d left off. This was always to be his burden, and, truthfully, he’d always known it. There was no feasible way in hell that the old man would ever have left his previously inherited empire to either of his eldest children. Robert had always been a lazy-ass skirt chaser, and Alyssa, who always seemed to be a computer program ahead of her time, found little interest in anything she couldn’t control with a joystick. Unlike Jordan, adulthood hadn’t yet much inspired either of the twins. Robert remained rooted just outside Sydney in a small single apartment not far from their childhood home. Alyssa’s sedimentary lifestyle varied little than it had before with the exception of her husband and the fact that she was now plugged into the North American servers in Miami, Florida. Like most things in his life, the twins never did make it easy. Alyssa married a man straight from a pool of the worst possible kind: his brother-in-law’s.
Though admittedly the lesser of four evils, Nathan was still the third biggest bastard Jordan had ever met. Beaten only by his own father’s arrogance, William, Caren’s eldest brother, led his merry band of brothers to irritate and outnumber any moron stupid enough to cross their path. Unfortunately, Jordan had always been such a moron. Nathan, though never directly behind the foot or fist imposing on a young Jordan’s face, had never offered aid in any of his beatings.
Jordan scowled; the baby was due in just under two months. Though elated at the thought of his small family unfolding, it only meant the arrival of about ten very unwanted guests, made of both his family and the in-laws. He’d worked a hard many years expanding his father’s empire, shaping it, forming an industrial dynasty all his own. But he’d also restored the mansion, an archaic family legacy left to decay in time, a place once long abandoned. But now, newly refurbished, he knew that they would come. All of them. A sharp pain grew deeper at the base of his skull as each imagined guest found their place in his home.
“Well?” A voice asked breaking apart his boggled thoughts. He looked up and saw two long rows of exhausted ambassadors, each more aggravating and pigheaded than the person beside them. Not one of them was speaking; they only stared at him with tired eyes wide and waiting expectedly.
“Jordan!” The same voice barked. Jason Lynch, the Irish ambassador, suppressed a chuckle a few chairs to the right.
“What?” He replied perhaps too quickly. He scanned the table again mentally noting that his new bad habit only seemed to be getting worse. He needed to focus.
“Well, what do you think?”
“Of what, in particular? Don’t you think I would have chimed in otherwise?” He sipped from his glass.
“What do you think of the budget for—”
“Mr. Granger?” A low voice interrupted the balding man in navy blue. Jordan looked to the doorway fairly grateful for the intrusion.
“Yes, Ned? What is it? We’re very busy after all.” Jordan tried to resist the urge of rolling his eyes out of his own boredom, but he failed.
As if on cue, a chorus of angry shouts and protests from the crowded table bombarded the young man at the doorway. He ignored the loud complaints and indignant shouts about nosey bell-boys by cupping his hands around his mouth to amplify his message. But still, his words were lost in the noisy undertow.
“Quiet down,” Jordan said trying to regain control of the room. “It’s alright just-quiet down. Just quiet…SHUT UP!” he bellowed leaning back in his chair. The room fell silent.
“Mr. Granger,” he continued with a deep, reassuring breath, “Mr. Granger it’s… Mrs. Granger, it’s Caren. She’s uhh, in the hospital. She—her brother—Nathanial? He said that she’s been there for a few hours now. “The glass slipped from his fingers sending shards of glass and ice across the tabletop as most of the color drained from his usually smug, tan face. He stood.
“Jordan? You can’t… you can’t just leave. We’re in the middle of an international crisis! Why else would we all be here on a holiday. Do you think that we all wanted to spend New Year’s Eve locked up in this place? It’s almost one in the morn— what the— where the hell are you going?” A distant man’s voice shouted. Jordan ripped his jacket from the back of his chair, jogged for the door past the dwindling fireplace, and closed with an extra strong slam harshly behind him.
“Mr. Granger there’s a car waiting for you. Should I…uhh reschedule?” Ned asked with a grin.
“Yes. Sure. Yes. That’s good. Do that.”
Just a few minutes’ drive felt like hours. Finally, after Frank pulled the car up to hospital front and released the security locks Jordan so greatly detested, he sprinted through the doors and up to the quite nurse’s station.
“Can I help—” a short brown haired nurse began.
“My wife’s here… and I—I’m not sure why…” He stammered quickly.
“What the hell do you mean you’re not sure why? Your wife’s in the hospital, it’s New Year’s Eve, and you don’t even know why?” The young woman snapped at him.
“I. I mean—I know why she’s here, but I don’t understand. It’s only been seven months. It’s not time. She shouldn’t be here…yet. But got a call saying she’s here. But she shouldn’t be. Not yet. Where is she? What’s wrong? What happened?”
The nurse scoffed. “You were called? And you didn’t bother to ask what happened?”
“I— I didn’t get the call. I was in a meeting. An assistant did and all he said was that—”
“The damn call came late!”
“Sir, there is absolutely no need for you to shout at me like that.”
“WHERE THE HELL IS MY WIFE?”
“Mr. Granger! So you are here. Glad to see you’ve made it in.” A familiar looked nurse smiled. “Sir? Please, take a deep breath, your wife is fine. Her brother said that he and the other boys had Caren nearly home to you when she went into labor. She’s been resting for about an hour now.” His heart sank. That bastard had intentionally waited this long to call him. He’d missed it. He’d missed birth of his first child. One of the very things he swore to himself that he’d never do. “Would you like to see them?”
He followed the women up several floors. Through the curtains he found that his wife was in fact resting peacefully. He smiled.
“Jordan? Jordan Granger?” A new voice asked him. He nodded. “Hello, I’m Doctor Jonathan Evans. Everything went just fine; would you like to see your girls?”
“Girls?” He asked, “Girls? Plural girls? As in there’s more than one of them?”
“Yes, twins actually. The very last of last year, and the very first of the new year. It was quite remarkable.”
“Fantastic.” He bitterly thought of how he’d now missed the birth of two children.
“Unfortunately, I do have some bad news. One of the girls was …well she is much smaller than the other.” The doctor put down his clipboard. He sighed, “There’s an extremely low chance that she’ll survive the night. The odds just aren’t in her favor.”
“How low?” Jordan winced as his voice quivered.
“I’m very sorry, sir. Would you like to see them?” He gestured to the large window behind them. Though his chest grew tight, it also fluttered. Your wife passed out before we could get a second name from her. She had told a nurse that her daughter’s name was Amanda Marie. But as you can imagine, she was quite exhausted… do you have another name in mind?”
He looked at the tiny blanketed bundle surrounded by nurses. Several machines blinked and beeped rapidly around her. His fingers twitched as if to flick ash from a cigarette. He felt sick. “Annie. Annie Elizabeth.”
The full moon had cast a sea of glitter and shadows across the snowy New Year’s landscape outside. His back and neck were sore and his feet ached from the hours of pacing the hospital’s empty halls while his small family slept peacefully on the other side of the curtain. He pulled a small silver flask from his suit pocket, and took a swig. What I wouldn’t do for a pack of smokes, he thought. Suddenly, his focus was drawn to the other side of the room where the babies in their respective carts, recently nourished by their dozing mother, waited.
Hesitantly he scooped a padded bundle into his arms. The child in his arms was so small that he didn’t need a nametag to distinguish his daughter from her sister. He eased his way across the room to the other side of the curtain; near the large window, he gently settled into a stiff battered rocking chair. “Hello, beautiful,” he quietly cooed, “Hello, Annie.”
For a moment he drew a breath and let it all sink in. Cautiously, he further drew open the curtains allowing the rest of the new year’s first full moon to flood throughout the room. “You deserve to see this…at least once,” he breathed. “It’s okay Annie. Daddy’s here. I’m always gonna be right here.” One of the two small hands wrapped itself securely around his index finger. With another deep breath he leaned back and sat unmoving as he admired the bundle nestled between his arms. Her nose wrinkled as her free arm slightly shifted back and forth. “Come on,” he whispered. “You can do it. Let me see those big beautiful eyes Annie. Come—” Before he could finish Annie’s eyes opened reveling two very large, and very wide violet eyes. Together they sat in the warm silence of moonlight as Jordan fought back hot tears welling in his eyes. No little girl should see their Daddy cry.
The next morning Jordan awoke cold, sore, blinded by sunlight, and alone. No, he thought, oh God, no. Please just. No. Leaping up, he ran. He sprinted to the hallway and found his wife in a wheelchair leaning against a large window staring doe-eyed into the nursery.
“Caren! He said, “Oh God, Caren! I’m sorry. I’m so… so sorry!” His voice cracked and he could barely form words. A few of last night’s tears re-threatened to slip from behind the corners of his eyes. He pushed them back.
“What? Jordan? What’s wrong?”
“She’s gone. I didn’t mean to... I didn’t think that I would have…Annie. She’s just … she’s gone.” His voice faded to nothing.
“Jordan! Jordan calm down, Annie’s fine. She’s sleeping. A nurse found the two of you asleep in the rocker about an hour after I fed the girls last night. They put her to bed last night, and this morning they took her for a check-up, that’s all. She’s right in there, look. God you scared the hell out of me. I thought something had happened.” She swatted him.
But Jordan had heard little of what she said. In the corner of the room, surrounded by a gaggle of swooning nurses, was a blue-eyed baby girl, wide awake. Next to her, however, was a nearly identical little girl, fast asleep, and exhausted from last night’s activity. He took a deep breath and smiled. His wobbly legs gave way as his stiff body slid against the wall and down to the floor at his wife’s feet. Before dropping his face into his knees, a place where he would finally let the hot tears fall from his eyes, he took out a small silver flask from his coat pocket and took a swig in relief.