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Summary: Tatum and Pacey try to prove that they’re responsible enough to take care of Noelle on their own.
“So when did the doctor say you can bring her home?” Andie asked
“As soon as her weight is up to five pounds.” Tatum replied, bending over the incubator “Aw, will you look at that? It almost looks like she’s waving at us.”
“She’s only three weeks old.” Jack said “She doesn’t have any control over her arms yet.”
“Thank you, Mr. Wizard.” Tatum muttered sarcastically
Jack ignored her “So what are the chances of her having any permanent damage?”
“Slim to none.” Dr. Hawthorn interrupted “You’re lucky, Tatum. Noelle already responds quite well to light and sound. That’s unusual for premature babies.”
“So she doesn’t have any birth defects?” Pacey asked.
Tatum gasped “Really? That’s so great!” she tapped the incubator lightly “You hear that, sweetie? You’re coming home in a week!”
“Would you like to hold her?” Dr. Hawthorn asked.
“Could I?” Tatum asked “Sure.”
“Ok, just sit down over there.” Dr. Hawthorn said as she opened the incubator and lifted out the baby. Carefully, she handed the newborn to her excited, although nervous young mother.
Tatum smiled at her daughter “She’s so little. And perfect.”
“She’s got your eyes.” Pacey observed.
“And your brain.” Tatum added as Noelle waved her teeny hand around and smacked herself in the face. She started to cry loudly “Whoa! And she’s got my lungs.” Tatum laughed “Shh. It’s ok, Noelle. Aw, it’s ok.” the baby almost immediately calmed down “Wow. It’s like she already knows my voice.”
“Oh my God!” Tatum moaned as she carried the baby carrier into the house a week later. “I don’t think a ten minute car ride has ever seemed so long. All those nut cases speeding around. We need to get one of those little signs that says ‘Baby On Board’ for the car.”
“You’ve had her home for less than a minute and already you’re sounding like one of those moms who always insists on holding her kid’s hand and checking all of their Halloween candy twice, even when they’re 13 years old.” Joey told her
“Just wait until you have kids.” Tatum shot back as she lifted Noelle out of the baby carrier and kissed the tip of her nose “You’ll understand.”
“Hey, speaking of which,” Joey added “are contractions really as painful as everyone says?”
“Oh yeah.” Tatum replied “You won’t be able to take it.”
Alex toddled into the room “Bay-be!” he yelled
“That’s right, sweetheart.” Tatum said as she sat down on the couch
“Bay-be!” Alex repeated as he toddled over. He scrambled up onto the couch “Bay-be!”
“That’s so cute! He likes her already.” Joey said
Tatum tried to ignore the looks she was getting from her classmates as she walked down the hall two weeks later. She couldn’t really blame them, though. She wasn’t the only student in the school with a baby, but she seemed to be the first to actually bring the baby to school with her.
“Oh my God!” Vanessa shrieked “Is this your baby?”
“No.” Tatum replied, rolling her eyes “It’s veteran character actor Charles Durning.”
“Huh?” Vanessa asked “Oh never mind. See you in class!”
“Hey.” Andie said “Looks like Vanessa got even dumber over the past two months. I never would have thought it possible.”
Tatum nodded “New grade, new schedule, new classes, new teachers, same brain dead, vapid classmates. What have you got first period?"
“Science.” Andie replied
“Me too.” Tatum said “Perfect. I could use a nap.”
Andie laughed “Is Noelle keeping you awake?”
“I haven’t slept more than four hours a night since we brought her home.” Tatum sighed
“How is that different from how much sleep you got before she was born?” Andie asked “Hey, where’s Pacey?”
“He didn’t get any sleep at all last night. When I left he wasn’t even dressed yet. He’ll be here. Come on, let’s get to class.”
Outside the Science classroom, Ms. Amos pulled Tatum aside “Tatum, is this your child?”
Tatum nodded “I was hoping it wouldn’t be a problem if I brought her in just for today. My older sister was supposed to babysit, but she had to cancel at the last minute.”
“Are you a single mother?” Ms. Amos asked
“Not quite.” Tatum replied “The father is-”
“Right here.” Pacey interrupted. He kissed Tatum on her cheek “Sorry I’m late. Is there a problem?”
Tatum shrugged “Is there, Ms. Amos?”
Ms. Amos shook her head “No, not at all. But there is something I’d like to show you. She led them to a room down the hall. “This used to be an English classroom, but it was changed into a nursery for teachers who were single parents, and for a few students who have children.”
Six small children were playing on the floor. The oldest one looked about 2 years old, the smallest one looked a few months older than Noelle. Two women were watching the children
“If you’d like,” Ms. Amos continued “You can leave...uh, what is her name?”
“Noelle.” Tatum replied
“What a pretty name.” Ms. Amos said “If you’d like, you can leave her here for today. Mrs. Samson and Ms. Tyler are in charge and they do a wonderful job.”
Tatum shook her head “I appreciate the offer, but I think for today we’d rather keep Noelle with us, if that’s ok. She’s only six weeks old.”
“Well, it’s up to you.” Ms. Amos told her “But if you change your mind, you can leave her here any time.”
Noelle gurgled and cooed as Tatum carried her into the library that afternoon.
“Shhh.” Tatum whispered, tickling the baby under her chin “this is a library, sweetie. This is where mommy and her friends go to pretend to study.”
“What a cutie pie!” one of the freshman girls sitting at a nearby table gasped. Almost instantly, just about every student in the library was crowded around Tatum and Noelle.
“Aren’t you just the sweetest little baby in the world!” Valerie gushed
“Actually,” Chuck Dalton, the most annoying know it all in the school told her “I’ve heard it’s better for the baby if you talk to it the way you would talk to anyone else. Watch.” he bent over “Hello there. My name is Chuck. I understand that this must be very confusing for you, so if there’s anything I can do....” he trailed off as Noelle yawned and babbled “Oh, forget it. Who’s a little muffin baby? Huh? Who’s the cutest little baby?”
Again, everyone crowded around the baby, cooing and gushing over her.
Tatum sighed “Ok, that’s enough. The next person to call her ‘pookie’ ‘boopsie’, or any kind of baked good has to answer to me.”
“So, this must be pretty tough, huh?” Chuck said as the rest of the crowd returned to their tables “I mean, raising a baby on your own.”
“It’s not easy.” Tatum admitted “But I’m not alone. I’ve got Pacey to help me. And our families and friends are there for us, too.”
“Could any of the people in our school be more annoying?” Tatum asked Andie and Pacey later that afternoon “I mean, I know it’s not every day that someone brings a newborn baby to school. But the way everyone was offering to help, and the way they kept on saying stuff like ‘How do you do it?’ and ‘This must be so hard for you.’”
“I must have had at least ten people offer to babysit for her.” Pacey added “And that was just before lunch.”
“I know!” Tatum moaned “It’s not like we don’t appreciate it, but she is our child!”
“But you’re pretty much still kids yourselves.” Andie pointed out “You shouldn’t be tied down all the time.”
“She’s our responsibility.” Pacey said “We have to be there to take care of her.”
“I know it’s a very strange concept for the rest of you.” Tatum said “The two biggest screw ups and slackers in the town have a baby to take care of and they’re actually being responsible for a change. Alert the presses!”
“That’s not what I meant.” Andie told her
“Why is this such a shock to everyone?” Tatum asked “We’re a family. All we want is for people to accept that.”
“Where’s Pacey?” Joey asked “I thought he was going to be here tonight.”
“He was.” Tatum replied “But when he put Noelle’s bottle in the dishwasher instead of the microwave to warm it up I decided he needed a night off.”
“Well I was going to go out with Dawson.” Joey said “But if you need some help I could stay in tonight.”
“Thanks, but I’ll be fine.” Tatum said as she picked up Noelle “You go out and have fun.”
“Or Dawson and I could stay in.” Joey offered
“No thanks, I’ll be fine.” Tatum repeated
“Are you sure?” Joey asked “Bessie won’t be home for another couple of hours.”
“I’m sure.” Tatum said “Besides, I’ve got Alex here to help me.” she turned to her nephew “Right, buddy?”
“I’m the baby!” Alex hollered, dumping his juice cup upside down
“Or not.” Tatum sighed
“See? Maybe I should stay home and help you out.” Joey said
“Joey, please!” Tatum moaned “Just go out and have a good time! We’ll manage, really!”
Tatum leaned back on the couch with Noelle in her arms. Normally, she loved nothing better than to relax on a Thursday night and watch ‘Must-See TV’ but tonight she was almost too exhausted to even enjoy ‘ER.’ Noelle had finally fallen asleep after refusing to eat and screaming for more than an hour. Naturally, as soon as she had started crying, Alex, whose jealousy of the new arrival had caused him to revert back to his six month old self, had refused to eat his dinner and started hollering at the top of his lungs. Of course, this had only made Noelle cry louder and harder. Even now, Alex continued to act like an infant, desperate for attention.
“I’m the baby!” Alex insisted, trying to crawl into Tatum’s lap and getting very frustrated with the tiny bundle that was already occupying it.
Tatum sighed “Should’ve known you’d be jealous of all the attention she gets.”
“Me baby!” Alex wailed. Finally, he managed to squirm into his aunt’s lap. He sighed and stuck his thumb in his mouth.
“Whew.” Tatum sighed with relief “At least that’s over.”
No sooner had she said that than Alex opened his eyes, leaned over, and tried to push Noelle off of Tatum’s lap. Immediately, the baby woke up and started screaming. Of course, Alex also began wailing.
“Maybe you kids have the right idea after all.” Tatum moaned. Completely at a loss, she started to cry, too.
“Tatum!” Joey yelled, knocking on the door “Come on, wake up! You’re gonna be late for school.”
“Shh!” Tatum said, opening the door a crack “Wake her up, and we’ll both be so very beyond sorry.”
“God, Tate, you look awful.” Joey said “Rough night?”
“Understatement.” Tatum muttered
“I just wanted to apologize.” Joey told her “I did some thinking, and you were right. Noelle is your child. She’s your responsibility. If you need help, you know how to ask for it. It was wrong of me to be butting in so much and I’m really sorry.”
“Actually, I was wrong, too.” Tatum admitted “Pacey and I are just really desperate to prove to everyone that we’re not just a couple of screw ups, that we can take care of a baby on our own.”
“Tate, you’re not just a couple of screw ups.” Joey insisted “Everyone who knows you knows that.”
“Yeah.” Tatum sighed “I guess we just really wanted to prove that, and in doing so we pushed away people who care about us and were just trying to help.”
“It’s ok.” Joey said “Just as long as you know that your family and friends will always be there to lend a hand when you need it.” she looked at her sister “Wow, you look really tired. Maybe you’d better take today off and get some rest.”
“Good idea.” Tatum said “Oh, and Joey?”
Joey turned around “Yeah?"
“Thanks. Oh, and speaking of lending a hand, do you think you could watch Noelle tonight? Pacey and I really wanted to go to the movies.”
“On a Friday?” Joey giggled “Don’t push your luck. Ask Bessie.”
Tatum laughed “I thought you’d say that.”
Part 27 coming soon!
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