Never walk alone - 14. Chapter 14
And here they were, approaching the end of the years first charter. Andrew roused himself from his memories of the past, and realised just how lucky he was, notwithstanding the loss of his parents, and Ryan's close call.
Hell, no, they were successful businessmen, who owned a lodge that had not only grown in size, but had grown as a business as well, with a reputation to be proud of, and operated a very successful luxury yacht charter operation, that was also slowly making a name for itself.
He was married to the most loving, adorable, kindhearted and understanding man in the world - in his opinion - and in mid August they would become parents to two beautiful babies. His thoughts were interrupted by Ryan calling him.
"Drew, we're about an hour out".
Knowing what that meant, Andrew looked at their guests, lying prone on the trampolines and sitting on the seats on the bows, watching the dolphins gambol just ahead of the bows.
"Folks, I hate to break this up, but we will be arriving in the marina within the hour. I suggest you all go below and get your packing done, so that Ryan and I can move your luggage to the saloon in preparation for disembarkation. Please be careful as you move from here to the stern".
It was also a message that Ryan needed the bow area cleared to lower the huge spinnaker into its locker. The final part of the trip would be completed under engine power.
The guests stood up and moved down the side decks, with Andrew and Ryan carefully observing them until they were safely in the aft cockpit. Andrew followed them, taking over the helm position while Ryan went onto the bow to lower the spinnaker. Rascal lay curled up on the seat next to him. As the sail was being lowered, Andrew started the port engine, and engaged the throttle to take some of the wind pressure off the sail, to assist Ryan with the lowering. When that was in its locker, Ryan came back to the helm station.
"Perfect timing with the engine power there babe! Made getting it down much easier".
Andrew grinned at him.
"You showed me how to do it, so I thought I might as well practice it. It was easier than I thought. I just wasn't too sure how much power to give the engine, so I just went with my gut". Ryan put an arm around his shoulders and hugged him.
"Couldn't have done it better myself".
The timing was spot on, and an hour later they were motoring past the bascule bridge into the marina and fifteen minutes after that, the guests were disembarked and being driven away in the lodge van.
The charter season proved to be a busy one, with a three, four or five day trip every week. The gaps were
covered by day and overnight charters. They were very much the niche boat in the charter community, the other boats being larger, but they were all essentially party boats, all the available space being dedicated to open area with basic seating for large groups. There was no, or very little, accommodation space on board. There were one or two boats that had sleeping accommodation, but none of them came close to the level of comfort that 'Belle Catherine' provided, so they were very much at the luxury end of themarket. Crews from the other boats would often request to come aboard to have a look around, and would always leave very impressed by 'Belle Catherine'. Andrew and Ryan observed the visitors very closely, often comparing notes afterward. They were hoping to find their relief skipper and crew among those that visited the boat.
They had decided to look for a 1st Mate/Deckhand and one crew to take over if either of them were not around, and they had also taken the decision to have the babies on board with them as soon as it was practical. They still had time to find the ideal crew members, as they would only really be needed at the beginning of the new summer season in October.
After the final charter at the end of April, 'Belle Catherine' was due to be hauled out and given a thorough check by her builders and to finally get her repaint to repair the damage caused by the vandals. The yard they were using had been approved by Steve, who had one of his senior team in place to oversee the haulout. The insurance company were no longer a factor as the claim had been paid out into the charters bank account. Andrew had also arranged for Steve to fly down to give them advice on how to baby-proof the yacht.
In preparation for the hauling out, Andrew and Ryan spent two days, stripping her of every movable item for storage in the spare bedroom of the apartment. When they were done, she was just the bare boat. No utensils or soft furnishings remained. Even the mattresses were stored.
Beth's pregnancy was going well, her morning sickness over and the babies were growing well. An exciting moment came at the end of March when Andrew received a call from Beth asking if they could meet for lunch. He was immediately paranoid.
"Why? Is there something wrong? Are the babies okay?" he queried anxiously, making Ryan's head jerk up in alarm as well.The mobile was on speaker.
"Andrew, calm down! The babies are fine. I just have some more news. So can we meet for lunch?"
"Yes sure. Can we pick you up?" Beth giggled.
"At the rate my tummy has been growing, I doubt that would be possible. You could fetch me though! 12.30 okay?
Ryan collapsed onto the couch laughing. Andrew glared at him.
"Yeah, sure Beth, no problem. Just you or will Nicky be joining us?"
"She'll be there. Day off today"
"Great, see you at 12.30"
The girls were waiting when they arrived and they drove to Camps Bay, and settled into comfortable chairs in one of the many bistros across the road from the beach, sitting indoors due to the cool weather. Ryan and Nicky ordered pasta while Andrew and Beth chose lightly curried butternut soup finished with cream and crispy bacon. The soup was served in bread bowls , the soft centre on a side plate for dipping. Once they had ordered, Ryan asked
"So what's the news you have for us?"
Beth looked at them.
"I went for another scan yesterday", handing them copies of the scan. "We know what the babies sexes are. Do you want to know?"
"Hell yes, of course we do! Can we see it on the scans?"
"Yes, you can. Nicky will explain them"
Nicky leaned over and took the scan from Andrew, who leaned over to share with Ryan as she described what they were looking at.
"They are upside down right now, facing one another, but slightly on their backs." indicating with her finger. "Now, here and here is where the genitalia are. The one on the right, has a small bump. The other doesn't", glancing up at them to see if either of them had figured it out. Ryan was the first to react, a smile lighting up his face, his eyes wide.
"A boy and a girl. We're having a boy and a girl! Am I right?"
Nicky nodded, beaming.
"Yup, got it in one."
Andrew was grinning at her, his eyes shining.
"Oh my god, a boy and a girl. A pigeon pair".
Beth broke in.
"At this stage, the little boy is the bigger one. He weighs a few grams more than his sister, but they are both doing really well. My gynae is estimating round about the second week in August, with a week either way".
Andrew and Ryan were staring intently at the scan.
"It suddenly seems so real, seeing them, knowing what they will be, and when their birth can be expected", breathed Andrew, slightly awed.
"And we still have stuff to do before that happens. It's good that we know the sexes. Now we can start shopping for clothes, and finish the nursery. And decide on names! Thanks Beth. Thanks Nicky. You've both been absolute stars. We cannot thank you enough. Just something my mom mentioned during on of her calls. Once they are born, what do you want to do about feeding? Do you want to breastfeed for a while, then put them onto formula? Also, when do you want to stop working?"
A waiter arrived with their meals, and they waited until she left before continuing the discussion, eating
in between. Nicky jumped back in.
"That's all a little up in the air at the moment. I have applied for a position at a private hospital, not far from your house. If I get the job, which I should know quite soon, we want to sell our place and move closer to the hospital. Beth is going to be on maternity leave for six months, I would guess, from the beginning of July. I know my timing for changing jobs sucks, but it's a nice step up for me"
Andrew glanced at Ryan and took his hand.
"I want to make a suggestion. And I'm sure Ry will back me up. If you get the job, which I'm sure you will, put your place on the market. Then move into the house with us. It will take the pressure off finding a new home and give you some time to look at what is available. When Beth stops working, you won't have to worry about only having one income and one or both of us will be around to help her, while you are at the hospital, and when the babies are born, Beth is close for the breastfeeding or if she doesn't want to breastfeed, she can just pump milk and Ryan and I can feed them. Stay for as long as you wish. The house-keeper will be around as well, by then"
Beth put her hand on Andrew's.
"We appreciate the offer, but we will have to talk about it and get back to you. There's a lot to think about" They finished lunch, dropped the girls at their home and drove back to Blouberg, both very thoughtful.
They opened the door to find a tail wagging Rascal on the step, somehow still having a look in his sad brown eyes that reproached them for leaving him alone for so long. Ryan opened the patio door to let him run in the garden and he took off, running in mad circles around the pool then leaping onto the patio to come to a sliding halt against Ryan's boots. Ryan picked him up and cuddled him.
"Hey, my little soldier, you glad your daddys are home". Rascal squirmed in this arms, nuzzling and licking his face. The little puppy was indeed very happy! .
Later that night, after Andrew had made cheese, ham and tomato omelettes for supper, they sat on the couch facing the window, with Rascal snuggled between them, as usual. Only the table lamps were on and the couch and immediate surroundings were bathed in subdued light. The rest of the room was dark. They had the laptop out and were scrolling through websites with lists of names for boys and girls. Andrew had a notepad and pen at the ready. And it already had a short list of potential names in two columns. Ryan frowned at the screen and without looking up he asked,
"Babe, do we give them second names as well?"
Andrew thought for a moment, the said,
"You know what? I don't think so. Our surname is already double barrelled. The poor kids will need a whole line on a page to write their names if we give them a second name as well"
"Hmmm, true. Devlin-Major is already a bit of a mouthful. Maybe you're right, although I did have something in mind for the girl., but the boy is a totally different problem. Can you imagine something like William David Devlin-Major? The child would hate us for life."
"With the initials WDDM, he sounds like a weapon of mass destruction. Yours were already bad enough. RPM. I should start calling you 'Rev' instead of Ry", falling sideways as Ryan took a swipe at him and making Rascal sit up wondering what the hell was going on.
"I was called that at school you know. At least now it's RPDM, so it's not so obvious. But I agree, it does sound terribly pompous", putting on an English accent.
He was interrupted by his mobile ringing. Picking it up from the side table, he looked at the screen. 'MOM'. He put it on speaker.
"Hi mom, how things in the far north?"
"Hello, my darling. Everything is good up here. How is Drew?" He held the phone towards Andrew.
"I'm very well mom, how are you and dad?"
"We are all well. But also one of the reasons I phoned. Your dad and I were wondering if we could come down this weekend. We haven't seen you since new year and we have something to discuss with you".
Ryan glanced quickly at Andrew.
"I don't think I like the sound of that. Something good or something bad?."
"No, it's nothing to get worried about. Oh okay, I'll tell you. Your father has decided to retire at the end of June. We wants to sell up here and move to Cape Town and we want to look at property. Just take a look at what's available and the prices, and we want to downsize".
"Oh wow mom, that's great news. Yes, of course you can come. You shouldn't even ask. Just let us know you are coming. How long will you be staying?"
"No more than four days. It's a long weekend "
"Oh, yes, I had forgotten. No problem. Give us some info, and I will get Ivan, the agent who sold us this house to start looking around for you as well"
Ryan asked her all the pertinent questions, with Andrew writing furiously next to him.
"Okay ma, got it all. We got some news of our own. We found out today, the babies will be born around the middle of August. A boy and a girl", holding the phone away from his ear.
The shriek that emanated from the phone made Rascal sit up and growl, and would probably have damaged Ryan's eardrum.
"A boy and a girl. Oh god, Ry I am so happy for you and Drew. Have you thought of names yet?"
"Busy with it as we speak".
"Okay, well I will let you get on with it then. I'm so thrilled and so is your father. Will you be able to pick us up at the airport?"
"No probs ma, just send me your flight details. And we well get hold of Ivan first thing tomorrow".
"Thanks darling, loves to you both", and she was gone. Ryan looked at Andrew sideways.
"Methinks my mother has decided we need help, but don't quote me on that".
"I think she just wants to be close to her grandchildren. They are not getting any younger and I don't think your dad will just retire on a whim. He would have thought about it very carefully before he took the decision. Before your mom phoned you said you had an idea for the girl's name?"
"Oh, yes! I was thinking Elizabeth Janice. Beth's full name, your mom's second name, and my moms name. It covers all the bases. What do you think?"
Andrew stared out the window for a moment before answering.
"Sounds perfect to me. It would mean she would have two first names, but I think it's a good solid name and honours all the women in her life. Elizabeth Janice Devlin-Major. It does sound good! One thing though, can we keep the names secret until they are born? Once we decide on a name for the boy."
"Yeah, I don't see why not. I think we have been quite generous in revealing their genders, so a secret ortwo is perfectly in order, in my opinion. Keep them guessing!"
Ivan had just arrived at his office when Andrew and Ryan pushed through the door the next morning.
"Hi guys, what brings you here so early. Can I get you something to drink?"
"I think we're both fine, thanks Ivan. We just had coffee before we left home" replied Andrew
"Then what can I do for you?" Ivan asked.
"Well, my dad has decided to retire, and they want to move down here. And they need to find some- whe
re to live ", Ryan told him.
"How soon will they be coming down?"
"My dad retires at the end of June. So I would guess shortly after that. But they are coming down for the long weekend, hoping to look at what's available."
"Okay, cool, no problem. Give me some details"
"Nothing too big. My mom did say they want to downsize. So small freehold property, house or townhouse, I would guess, 2 or 3 bedrooms, definitely 2 bathrooms, garage, garden not too big. And I would suggest single level, no duplexes. Fairly close to our place, but not imperative. In the 1.5 to 2 million mark. Anything else?"
"Will the purchase be subject to the sale of their property in Johannesburg?"
"To be honest, I don't know, but I would think not. I would think what dad has put away for his retirement would more then cover it. The sale of the house would just be an added bonus on top".
"And", Andrew added, "if they need some help, and the house doesn't sell, we can help them out"
"I get the picture. I have a number of properties that would suit them. It is all just a matter of location. Are they flying down on Friday or will they be here on Thursday already?
"According to the flight details my mom sent, arriving mid afternoon Thursday, back late afternoon Monday"
"Okay, great! I will set up appointments for Friday morning and Saturday morning, say from 10am. If they want to, they can drive around on Sunday afternoon, when most of the agents have showhouses. It will all be in the property section of the Saturday and Sunday newspapers"
"Thanks Ivan. See you Friday". Ryan said, turning to Andrew. "I think it's time fore some decent breakfast. Coffee and rusks doesn't cut it for me", taking his hand.
"I'd like to go to the lodge. We need to tell Paul and Marie about the babies. If Marie finds out via the grapevine, we won't be very popular", suggested Andrew.
"The lodge it is. And they have a great breakfast. Yes!" Ryan rubbed his hands together.
On the way to the lodge, Andrew called Marie and asked her to meet them at the lodge. They went straight to Paul's office when they arrived, and she was already there, with Jonathan sleeping in his stroller. They greeted her and Paul, and Marie asked,
"So what's going on? Why did you want to me to come to the lodge? You could have just come to the house".
Andrew grinned at her and replied,
"Yeah, we could have. But we wanted to see you and Paul together. We have some news on the babies".
Marie sat up a bit straighter.
"There isn't a problem is there?. Are they okay? ".
Andrew put his hand on her shoulder.
"Relax Marie, they are fine. We found out yesterday afternoon that they are due sometime around mid August. A boy and a girl. We just wanted you both to know ".
Marie squealed and jumped up, hugging them both.
"Guys, I am so happy for you. Have you thought of names yet?". Paul walked around his desk and shook their hands.
Ryan held Marie's shoulders and said,
"You women are all the same. When we told my mother, the first question she asked was if we had chosen names. We think we have a name for our daughter, we haven't come up with one for our son yet."
"And?" Marie asked, her eyebrows raised.
"Oh no, no way. It's a secret until they are born" said Andrew.
She sat down again, pouting.
"Spoilsports, you're no fun".
"Do you want to join us for something to eat. We are going to have breakfast?, asked Ryan.
"I'll join you"Paul replied, "it is almost my breakfast time anyway. You want to join us, doll?"
"Maybe just for coffee. I've had breakfast already", standing and pushing the stroller out of the office to the restaurant. Paul had cereal and toast with coffee, while Andrew and Ryan both had full English breakfasts. Marie just had coffee and a danish.
"So we have some more news. My parents are retiring and moving down. They are coming for the weekend to look at property" said Ryan.
"That's great Ryan, you must be very happy" said Paul.
"Yeah, I think I am. I just don't want my mom interfering in how we raise the kids. Help, I will accept. Interference, a big no no".
"You'll be glad when she's here", Marie said, "She probably just wants to be closer to her grandchildren".
"Andrew actually said the same thing last night. I just don't want any drama."
Andrew and Ryan picked up David and Janice from the airport on Thursday afternoon, and drove straight home. On the Friday and Saturday mornings, Ivan collected them from the house and took them to see the properties he had lined up for them and on Sunday, after lunch at the lodge, they all took a short drive around the immediate area to see what the other agents had on show, stopping at a few that looked interesting.
On the Monday, Janice insisted the boys go shopping with her to get some things for the babies and they returned to the house with all manner of clothing, soft toys, receiving blankets, diapers and waterproof pants, wet wipes, baby toiletries, and a stroller. All of which went straight into the nursery. They got back to the house in time for a late lunch, before Andrew and Ryan took them back to the airport for the flight to Johannesburg.
No decision had been taken on the purchase of a property, although they had managed to narrow it down from twelve to four. By the end of the week, that advised Ivan to put in an offer on a very neat 3 bedroom, 2 bathroom , double garage townhouse with a small garden, situated approximately two kilometres from Andrew and Ryan's home. It was accepted and they would take occupation in mid June.
The month of June proved to be a fairly busy and momentous one.
One the first day of the month, Andrew received an email from Ben and Emma. They had applied for and been granted permanent residence visas in Australia with their son sponsoring them, and the ten million rand from the sale of the lodge aiding in expiditing the process. A removal company would be packing up the contents of their home and the house was going to be sold. They requested Andrew and Ryan to ask Ivan to put the house on the market for them. Heavy hearted, Andrew replied that they would do as requested and wishing them well, but that the couple would be missed.
They also started attending lamars classes with Beth to prepare for the big day.
'Belle Catherine' was almost ready to be put back into the water, resplendent in the new coat of paint and they had also taken the opportunity to redo the anti-fouling and replace the sacrificial anodes. A team from Steve's yard had checked her from bow to stern and mast top to keel and proclaimed her completely defect free. Steve had advised against retrofitting bulwarks to replace the rails due to the added weight, and had devised a solution whereby mesh netting similar, but far stronger, to the mesh in the dropdowns in the aft cockpit, could be attached to the inside of the existing rails. This would close all the gaps on the side decks, better protecting anyone from being swept overboard. To overcome the problem in the bows, where the mesh would be impractical, he designed removable gates that fitted between the saloon superstructure and a railing stanchion that would prevent the babies, once they were more mobile, from going onto the bow area. Gates were also designed for the two side entrances on the transom to the stern, and the stairs going down to the cabins.
Inside the yacht, special points were fitted in the master cabin, saloon and aft cockpit, where a crib could be attached safely. He advised using the midships cabin space for extra storage, instead of for the babies, preferring to keep them lower down in the hull. So storage space in the hallway of the master cabin was changed to accommodate the babies and two cribs were specially made, one for the master cabin and one for the saloon and aft cockpit. 'Belle Catherine' was now ready to receive her two newest, smallest and most precious passengers although it would a while before all of the modifications would be needed.
David and Janice arrived in the middle of July, one day ahead of the furniture they had retained and the boys were waiting with them at their new home when the pantechnicon pulled up mid morning. Andrew had arranged for the company that cleaned their house, to come in and clean the Major's new place the day before. So it was just a matter of placing furniture and unpacking and a bit of a tidy up after, and David and Janice were settled. A few boxes still had to be unpacked, but Janice wanted to do those herself, so that she knew where everything was.
Andrew went home in the late afternoon to prepare a simple supper for all of them and he returned at 6.30pm with Beef Stroganoff , noodles, roasted vegetables and a milk tart. He also brought a bottle of sparkling wine and the Majors were suitably welcomed to the Cape.
At the beginning of August, they approached a young couple as the additional crew for the yacht.
Darren and Kerry were engaged and he held a skippers licence, while they both had experience working on yachts in the Mediterranean and Caribbean. They accepted the offer, especially when Andrew revealed that part of their package would include on shore accommodation in the apartment, which made the offer far more attractive than they had expected. They would only take up their positions at the beginning of October, although the charter season only officially opened at the beginning of November. In the meantime , they would get acquainted with 'Belle Catherine', and re-equip her for the season by moving everything that was stored in the apartment back to the yacht.
Nicky had been advised in May that she had got the appointment for the position that she had applied for and took up the position at the beginning of July, with Beth going on maternity leave in the middle of July. Their house had been sold, but transfer had not yet taken place, and they had not yet really looked for a new home, due to the pregnancy, so they moved in with Andrew and Ryan at the beginning of August. A permanent housekeeper, Yvonne, had been appointed by that stage, coming in every morning, Monday to Friday., and she would watch over Beth who was by now, heavily pregnant. Between Janice and the boys, the nursery was complete and everything was in readiness for the babies arrival.
Beth was waited on hand and foot after she moved in. She couldn't move without either Andrew or Ryan immediately at her side, and if they were not around, Janice and Yvonne filled in. In the last weeks, Beth was very tired. The babies were exceptionally active and seemed to take turns sleeping, so that there was always at least one that let their mother know they were around, by kicking constantly. As a result, Beth was not getting a great amount of solid sleep, only napping during the rare times when the twins were at rest. The one good thing, was that when the time finally arrived, it was during the day and not zero dark hundred.
Beth had been complaining about back pain since the day before, but put it down to the weight she was carrying. Janice and Yvonne were watching over her, as Andrew and Ryan were at the monthly financial meeting with Paul and the accountant at the lodge, and Nicky was out with Ivan looking at houses. She was sitting was in a recliner resting with Janice sitting on the couch watching TV.
"Jan, I really need the loo. Will you help me up?"
Janice stood to help her and the housekeeper was immediately there to assist. Together they raised the recliner and helped her to stand, then slowly shuffled to the bathroom. They had left Beth and shortly after there was the sound of a soft squeal and Beth's yell.
"Janice, help. I need help"
Janice rushed back into the bathroom to find Beth standing in a pool of fluid.
"My water just broke", breathed Beth, grimacing as she felt the first contraction.
Janice grabbed some towels and covered the fluid with them, then she helped Beth to the bedroom. Yvonne, the housekeeper came hurrying in, after hearing the commotion from the master suite where she was busy.
"Miss Janice, what can I do to help?"
"Yvonne, phone Andrew or Ryan and tell them the babies are coming. Use my phone next to the couch. Then phone Nicky and tell her. Then, get Beth's bag out of the cupboard that we packed last week. Put it at the top of the stairs. Then, could you please clean up the bathroom. Her water broke", Janice rattled off instuctions, which Yvonne hastened to comply with.
Janice helped Beth get cleaned up, and minutes later, there came the sound of a car screeching around the corner and coming to a stop with gravel spraying everywhere. The door banged open and feet could be heard thumping up the stairs. Ryan voice asked,
"Vonnie, where is she?"
"In the bedroom Mr Ryan. Miss Janice is with her."
Seconds later, they burst into the bedroom, wild - eyed and frantic.
"Beth, are you okay? What's happening?"
Janice turned and glared at both of them.
"Now, you two calm down! Right now! Beth doesn't need the two of you getting anxious and panicking. Her water has broken and she has had a small contraction. If my experience with you," looking at Ryan, "is anything to go by, it will probably still be a while before she is ready to give birth. So just cool your jets!"
They heard another car arrive and Andrew walked to the window.
"Thank god, it's Nicky".
Nicky walked into the room, the total professional. Concern evident in the eyes, but smiling, cool, calm and collected.
"Hi guys, Beth, how you feeling love?"
"Okay, I think. I had a small contraction about forty minutes ago. But they are suddenly very quiet. No movement at all".
"Okay, that's not a problem. Lie down and I'll examine you". She looked over her shoulder at Andrew and Ryan.
"Guys, don't look so worried. What is happening here has happened millions of times in the past. Now can we get some privacy".
They both gaped at her like deer caught in headlights, before blushing furiously and hurrying out, followed by giggles from Janice, Nicky and Beth, and Janice saying softly,
"I'm more worried about those two, than I am about Beth, if you know what I mean".
They all giggled again, then stopped when Beth grimaced as another pain gripped her. Nick looked at her watch to start timing the intervals.
"Looks like about an hour since your first one". Let's see what happens with the next one and we can decide on what to do".
Janice left the room and found her sons sitting in the lounge staring at the bedroom door.
"Darlings, watching the door is not going to make things happen any quicker. Why don't one of you organise some tea and coffee, and maybe something cool for Beth, and the other one can get her things into the car so that we can leave as soon as we have to".
Andrew hurried into the kitchen, while Ryan took Beth's bag to the car. Exactly forty five minutes later, Beth had her next contraction, this one quite intense. Nicky looked thoughtful, then said,
"I get the feeling these two are in a hurry. I think we must get you to the hospital. I'll contact the gynae"
She and Janice helped Beth off the bed and got her shoes on. Janice went to the door.
"Boys, it's time. Hospital! Please help Beth to the car".
They hurried to Beth's side and slowly and gently assisted her down the stairs to the car and helped her to get comfortable. Ryan and Andrew drove her to the hospital, Nicky and Janice followed. The hospital the same one where Nicky was now a resident.
David was already in reception waiting for them, and Beth was placed on a gurney and wheeled away with Nicky in attendance, talking to the gynae on the phone, who was en route. Andrew and Ryan completed all the admission procedures and were told to wait in the waiting room. Thirty minutes later, Nicky walked into the room. They all jumped up and waited as she approached them.
"Okay, Beth and the babies are doing well. The gynae is with her now. They are in a bit of a hurry, but she estimates another two hours at least. But by the looks of things, it won't be a marathon either. Come with me and you can see her. We'll get you into gowns later."
They followed Nicky out and down the corridor to Beth's room. She lay propped up by pillows, looking slightly pale, but smiled when she saw them.
"Ah, there's our daddys-to-be".
They moved to either side of the bed and kissed her cheeks. Ryan took her hand.
"We're hanging in there. But what about you?"
He looked up as the gynae spoke.
"Rule number one guys. Never ask a woman in labour how she feels. She may not be responsible for her answer or her actions".
Ryan blushed, stammering.
"Oh, uh, sorry! It just seems the most natural thing to ask?"
"There is nothing more natural than giving birth. But by its sheer naturalness, it is a very violent and traumatic process, both for the mother and the baby. And in Beth's case, she has to do it twice", added the gynae.
"Now you making us feel bad by putting her through this".
"No, that's not my intention. It is just the natural order of things. Just hold her hand, and when the contractions come, do what you learned at your classes. Easy. And encourage her. Fortunately, I can confidently say, we will not be here long". She bent down to look under the covers again.
Ninety minutes later, things suddenly started happening rapidly. Beth had a prolonged contraction, that had her digging her nails into their hands. They breathed her through it and the gynae, studied the monitors and peered under the covers again.
"I think it's time to move her to the delivery room. You guys better get into some gowns".
Andrew ran down the hallway to tell Janice and David what was happening. Paul and Marie were there as well. Then he dashed back to change into the gowns the hospital had provided.
Their beautiful little boy was born at 20h35 on 16 August. He weighed 3.3kg. His sister was born just eight minutes later, a healthy 3.1kg. Both were perfect. Beth, Andrew and Ryan cried when they heard their babies cry for the first time. The first thing Beth asked after both had been checked was "Names, what are their names"
They bent down and whispered in her ear, each one giving her a name. Then she really cried.
They stayed for a while until they took the babies away for a thorough examination, and were then asked to leave so that the nurses could get Beth freshened up and back to her room. Andrew and Ryan walked down the hall, filled with love and awe. They entered the waiting room with shiteating grins on their faces.
"Ladies and gentlemen, we take pleasure in announcing the birth of our twins. A boy, 3.3kg Cameron Devlin-Major, said Ryan.
"And", added Andrew, "a girl, 3.1kg, Elizabeth Janice Devlin-Major. Mother and children all doing well"
Pandemonium! Janice shrieked and burst out crying before throwing herself into Ryan's arms. David was grinning like a Cheshire cat, his eyes swimming with tears. And Paul and Marie were hugging one another, also teary, before enfolding Andrew in a bone crushing hug. Andrew looked over Marie's shoulder, seeing Nicky standing at the door, smiling but looking slightly wistful. Andrew extricated himself from Paul and Marie and ran to Nicky, sweeping her into his arms and spinning around.
'Nicky, I cannot thank you enough. Ry and I will be eternally in your debt. Now it's your turn",
Nicky smiled at him.
"It was my pleasure. You and Ryan are two very special human beings. When I saw your reaction, the night they wheeled Ryan into my emergency room, I knew that what you had was something most couples only aspire to".She turned her face as Ryan came and stood next to Andrew.
"Complete and utter devition. And I have no doubt, that it will be carried over to those two beautiful babies I just witnessed come into the world. They are very lucky to have dad's like you. Congratulations. You told Beth their names but I didn't hear. What names have you given them?"
Ryan answered, smiling broadly,
"Cameron and Elizabeth Janice".
Her eyes widened as she heard the names and she teared up as well.
"Oh my word. No wonder Beth cried. I rest my case. You two are very special".
When all the initial excitement had died down, and Beth was comfortably ensconced in her room, they were allowed to see her, small groups at a time. Andrew and Ryan went first. She looked exhausted, but very happy.
"Their names are just perfect. Thank you. I was really not expecting that"
Ryan held her hand.
"Even though they are Andrew and my children, no matter what happens, you will always be their mother. And we don't want either of them to forget that".
"And, they will have half brothers and or sisters as well, remember. So you are family, no matter what".
"Well thank you, both of you"
"No, thank you for our beautiful babies. Now there are still one or two people who want to say hello, and we need to go see Cameron and Elizabeth, and get them ready for their first public appearance"
They kissed her and left for the nursery. When they got there, they were gowned and seated in easy chairs. Then a nurse brought the babies to them asking,
"Whose is whose?"
Ryan beamed up at her.
"Makes absolutely no difference. Those two little angels are both ours. Hand them over"
So focused were they on the twins, that neither of them noticed David recording the scene on his video camera, with Janice, Marie and Paul observing, the former two, with their hands covering their mouths and tears pouring down their faces. Paul knocked on the window, and they looked up, holding Cameron and Elizabeth for the first time. The look of utter joy and wonder on their faces was a sight to behold and David captured it all with Andrew holding Cameron, his hair dark and wispy, and Ryan cradling Elizabeth, whose colouring hinted at her being fair headed.
They moved carefully closer to the window to show off their tiny, precious treasures, their eyes tightly shut and snuffling softly as they slept. Janice placed her hand on the window, crying and laughing at the same time, Marie's arm around her shoulders. Paul pulled out his mobile and started taking pictures. Oneof the flashes disturbed Cameron and he squirmed, made a soft sound of protest and opened his eyes briefly before going back to sleep. And Andrew knew, without a doubt, that he was holding Ryan's son. Tears welled from his eyes as he looked at Ryan.
"He's yours. Those blue eyes can only be yours"
"No my love, he is ours. My sperm might have fertilised the egg, but he is not mine, he is ours, just as much as Elizabeth is ours".
They spent thirty minutes holding the twins, exchanging babies after a while, and taking photographs. Then the nurse arrived to tell them the babies had to go back to their mother to be fed. They asked to go as well, but were turned down by the nurse who told them it was already late and it was time for them to go. With great reluctance, they laid the twins in their crib and left the room. They popped in to see Beth on the way out.
"Beth, they are beautiful. Thank you", whispered Andrew, still somewhat emotional after meeting his son and daughter.
"Yes, they are. We just spent some time with them and they are gorgeous"
"Thanks guys. They say they are bringing them now to be fed. I'm tired, but so excited to see them"
"We wanted to stay a while, but they say it's too late already. I think they just want them to have their first feed in peace and quiet, and for you to get some rest. So we are going to go, and we will see you tomorrow. With a bit of luck they will let us take you all home tomorrow"
They both kissed her good night and left the room, just as the nurse arrived with the babies. They stood at the door watching, as she laid the twins in Beth's arms, her eyes brimming with tears. Ryan took a picture with his mobile and knew without a doubt that he would be asking his mother to do a sketch from it.
Then they walked back to the waiting room, where Paul and Marie were just saying goodbye to David and Janice, to go home.
"Ahha, the new dad's. Just in time. We were just leaving." said Paul as the entered the room. "Congratulations again. They are beautiful"
Ryan, then Andrew hugged him, then hugged and kissed Marie.
"Are they going to let you take them home tomorrow? Marie asked.
"Apparently, if they have a good night, then yes. Nicky is the attending physician tonight, so she will be able to tell us in the morning when she gets home", Andrew replied.
She nodded, "Okay, good, if you need anything, call"
They thanked her and walked Paul and Marie to the door, with David and Janice following.
"We're going home as well, my darlings. We'll see you in the morning", said Janice, kissing them both on the cheek. "Try and get some good sleep tonight. It is probably the last time that you will be able to get a full nights sleep for a while. And get something to eat. You two haven't eaten anything since lunch".
David hugged them both and they walked out to the car park with them and watched them drive away before going to their own vehicle. They drove to a take out chicken franchise and bought something to eat, then drove home.
They were greeted, as usual, by a very excited puppy, who jumped into Ryan's arms the moment he bent down to pick him up.
"Hello, my little soldier. I hope Yvonne remembered to feed you", walking up the stairs to the kitchen.
Rascals bowls sat on the floor, one with water, the other with a few chunks still remaining.
"Good, she did feed you. But just for a treat, you can have some chicken as well", holding his muzzle close to the chicken. His tail wagged enthusiastically. They ate a quick supper at the breakfast counter, feeding Rascal titbits of chicken and scrolling through the photographs that they had taken of the babies,marvelling at the miracle they had witnessed and that life for them had changed irrevocably.
They were dad's!
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