It had been after 12 when she'd finally left Connors, he wouldn't let her leave until she'd stopped crying and her breathing had returned to normal, and even then he'd walked her home and made sure she was settled before he left. When Claire had finally answered the phone, Bessie had been frantic, "Claire! Oh thank God your okay! We were just putting our coats on to come over and check on you". Claire had started crying at the kindness and genuine worry she heard in Bessie's voice and then laughing at Buster in the background asking who he needed to kill, eventually the laughter stopped and all that remained where the tears. "Oh sweetheart" Bessie had said as Claire began to cry again, "Oo, I could just strangle that boy, but you know what, you don't need him, and I know right now this may seem completely inconceivable, raising a baby alone, but you wont be, because what ever you need, Buster and I are here for you, don't you worry about that okay? No, no more tears, your stronger than this, you'll be fine". Claire put her dishes on the rack to dry and went upstairs to take a shower, she stood under the warm water, smiling as she remembered the rest of their conversation.
She could hear Buster in the background, presumably making them a hot drink, banging pots and pans around the kitchen, and muttering to himself, "If I see him, Oh I'll give him a piece of my mind alright, why that little toe rag needs a good right hook in the-" "Buster!" Bessie interrupted him "Behave, that won't solve anything", "No dear, you're right. But it would make me feel a hell of a lot better", Claire began laughing, and then Bessie started, and then so did Buster. Claire didn't know what she'd do if they weren't in her life. She had no close friends, but the people here had been so kind to her, her doctor, Geoffrey Landgraab, had made extra house calls to check on her, his wife Nancy, who was also pregnant, had gone out of her way to bring her food and invite her to the spa, paying for her to get her feet massaged every two weeks. It was like they knew she had no one, but she suspected Bessie had something to do with that. She had a way of asking people to do things in a way that wasn't really a request but a statement. Claire smiled to herself, and had filled them both in on Connor and what he had said. "You see, you're not alone, people know a kind soul when they see one, everything will work out sweet, you just trust me on that one" Bessie mused. Eventually they'd hung up and Claire had gone to bed feeling completely drained, but less alone. She stepped out of the shower and dried off, not wanting to spend the day inside, it was a beautiful day, so she headed to the park to clear her head and get some fresh air. Sitting on a bench, she took in the beauty of the flowers and a couple enjoying a picnic near by. Her smile was bittersweet, "I'm sorry kiddo, looks like its just us" she said whispering to her tummy.The baby squirmed and then settled. "Your not thrilled about that either huh?" Claire laughed. Suddenly a sharp pain left her bent over gasping for breath but it was gone as quickly as it came.
"I get the picture little one" she said, half laughing half gasping, "Now if you could just take your feet off my bladder I'd be most appreciative, why thank you" she chuckled. A few people walked by and asked her how she and the baby were doing and offered her help in anyway she needed. She detected a hint of pity from them and she thought she knew why it was there, Buster had probably told every person he knew by now about Jared's flat our refusal, she smiled to herself and shook her head. Buster was a character but she wouldn't change him at all. Feeling the baby beginning to grow restless, she decided it was time to eat and stopped by the diner to grab a bite.
"Hi! Welcome to Hogan's Deep Fried Diner, My name is Molly and I'll be your waitress today, can I take your order?" She spoke so fast Claire almost missed what she said, "Molly, its a good job I know you" she giggled, Molly grinned and sank into the other side of booth, "Oh Claire you have no idea, not now you work at that fancy french restaurant anyway" she said rolling her eyes but smiling. "I'll be right back", she walked up to hatch and screamed through Claire's order. "1 Double cheese burger, Hold the cheese, extra pickle, extra lettuce, drop of ketchup, no mayo, no mustard, large fries and a strawberry shake", she turned to face Claire, "Be right back hun" and rushed off to take an order to a very harrassed looking woman with a newborn and three children who were all climbing the walls. Claire stared out of the window remembering when she'd first started, Molly had shown her the ropes and Claire had taken to her right away, they were the same age, except Molly had a been pregnant at the time and had heap of bills to pay where as Claire had no commitments and was as free as a bird, oh how things change, she smiled to herself. Molly came back with Claires order and flopped down opposite her, stealing a fry she asked how the baby was, "I still can't believe you don't know what it is yet, I just had to know when I had Sandi, it was killing me". Claire just smiled, truth was, in her heart she knew. She'd already brought a lot of the babies things, all of them pink. Everyone said it must be a boy because it never sat still but deep down Claire just knew it was girl. "How is Sandi?" she asked, "A nightmare" Molly sighed, "I caught her in my make up bag this morning, lipstick everywhere, and you know, I start to tell her off and she just looks at me as if to say, 'Erm, can I help you?', like i'm disturbing her or something she's eight months old! Definitely gonna be a handful" she said stealing another one of Claire's fries. "Just like her mother" Claire laughed. "Hey!" Molly exclaimed throwing a fry at Claire and missing, hitting the man in the next booth. She ducked down and slid out before he turned around "See ya!" she whispered to Claire, Claire feigned mock surprise and shook her head, stifling her giggle by sipping her shake. Claire remembered her appointment at the Spa, so she left the money for the bill and a tip and called Bye to Molly who was holding one of the woman's screaming children at arms length and saying, "Arlo honey, if your mommy says you can't have a shake, then you can't have a shake". Molly looked at Claire and crossed her eyes and stuck out her tongue. Claire laughed as she let the door close behind her.
After leaving the spa, Claire walked up the street to go to the grocery store and bumped into Dr. Steiner, one of the doctors in the practice where her regular doctor worked. "My, My, haven't we grown" he said excitedly, "Yep" Claire grinned back, "When are you due?" he asked, looking a little concerned, "Oh not for another two days" Claire said, "Why? Is something wrong?". "No, no, nothings wrong smiled the doctor, its just, well, your stomach is very low, and that's usually what I see when a woman is about to give birth, but nothing to worry about, have you been having-" "OOOOOwwwWWWW" Claire interrupted him, "Oh, I'm so sorry I don't know what that waAAAOOOWWWWWW". The doctor laughed and rubbed her back, "How long has this been happening?" he asked her, "Since this morning" she panted, "But not as bad a thIIISSSS". "Ok. Time to get you to the hospital, I thin- nope, I know, baby's coming", he said looking at the puddle slowly forming around Claire's feet. "Stay here, I'll get my car, it will be quicker than an ambulance, hey Gus! stay with this lady will you, I'll literally be a minute" He ran off to get his car, Claire took one look at Gus and was about to object but another contraction hit her and she had to remember to breathe.
"Just remember to breathe through the pain" the doctor said as he put his foot down on the gas and sped off. "I want Bessieeee" Claire cried as they pulled up to the hospital, and the doctor helped her out of the car, "Okay, lets just get you inside and I'll give her a call". "Naaooowww please" she moaned. The doctor laughed and said, "Well that's a first, a woman remembering to say please while giving birth, you don't have to be polite you know, your excused" he chuckled, Claire began to smile but it soon turned into a grimace, as they put her in a wheel chair and whisked her up to the maternity unit.
Six hours later, after a lot of panting, pacing and pushing, Kaci Monroe Ursine was born. "Its a girl!!" Bessie shouted through the door to Buster, "Ahh" he sighed, relieved they were both okay, and turned to wipe a tear from his eye when nobody was looking. Bessie didn't even try to hide hers, "Oh Claire, she's beautiful, look at her little nose and her eyes, those bright blue-green eyes, oh sweetheart you did so well, I am so proud of you". Claire smiled at the bundle in her arms, turquoise eyes half closed underneath long lashes, "Welcome to the world Kaci Monroe". "Monroe?" Buster gasped, he had come in after the baby had been cleaned up. "Yep" Claire beamed up at him. He leaned over and kissed her on the head, "Oh sweetheart" was all he could manage, before the tears streamed down his face and he couldn't speak. Bessie just squeezed her hand, her eyes already wet. Monroe had been their youngest child, she would have been the same age as Claire now. She died at six years old, hit by a drunk driver. From the stories Buster had told her she was full of life, wiser than her years and the two were inseparable. Claire felt like she knew her even though they had never met. She wanted to thank them somehow, and she never wanted Kaci to forget who they were or how they had helped her mother and this seemed like the best way. Buster, Claire and Kaci yawned at the same time and Bessie laughed, "Typical, they do all the hard work and your tired" she said to Buster, he just grinned and shrugged, "We'll leave you two now sweetheart, you get some rest before this little one starts running you ragged" she smiled. Claire smiled back, eyes half closed as Bessie took the sleeping Kaci from her and placed her in the cot next to the bed. Bessie turned to look back at Claire, and saw her drifting off to sleep, a content smile on her face. Yes, she thought to her self, she'll be just fine.