One morning, after a particularly bad night, Robby suggested that we go pay our friends a visit and see how they were holding up. I thought this was a good idea.
We crept quietly across the room and climbed cautiously up to the curio to check on them.
They were all asleep, finally. Poor Eugene and Rapunzel! How exhausted they looked!
Robby leaned over and whispered, "Let's come back later. I think we should let them sleep."
I wholeheartedly agreed. Robby dropped soundlessly to the bed below, and I carefully turned to do the same. But as I did, I suddenly lost my balance and grabbed onto Beast'sbelle's husband's alarm clock in my panic.
Instantly, a jarring conversation between two radio talk show hosts blared into the silence.
I was so startled, I lost my grip and tumbled head first to the bed below.
And of course, Eugene and Rapunzel (and both babies) woke up with a start!
Thankfully, Robby was there to catch me, so I didn't end up landing on my head. I was so mortified, though. I couldn't believe that I'd messed things up when my friends had finally gotten some much needed sleep!
Once Robby made sure I was okay, he went back up and turned off the alarm. I followed slowly after him, feeling quite ashamed of myself.
I apologized over and over again, almost crying in my embarrassment. Eugene was a bit grouchy, but Rapunzel assured me that all was forgiven.
Eugene fell back asleep almost instantly, as did both babies. Robby decided to leave so that Rapunzel and I could have some time to talk.
I carefully took the sleeping Emmaline from Rapunzel to give her a little break.
"So, how are you holding up?" I asked Rapunzel timidly.
My friend promptly burst into tears. "Oh, Belle, I don't know why I ever thought I could be a good mother. I'm a wreck!!" She looked away and wiped her eyes. "I'm so tired I feel like I could sleep for 3 weeks straight without waking up. Emmaline is completely beyond me. I don't know what to do! I know I should probably just let her cry, but I'm so desperate for sleep, it's just easier to hold her. Abigail's now completely off her schedule, Eugene is snappish because he's tired too, and I'm just...I don't think I can do this!"
I had never seen my friend so worked up like this. Normally I was the one doing this to her!
I didn't really know what I could say that would help, so I just put my arm around her and let her cry. It was probably good for her to get it all out of her system, anyway. My poor friend! I'd never seen her cry before in all the time we'd known each other...at least not like this. I didn't blame her one bit, though. I would have been in doll therapy by now if I were in her shoes!!! I mean, I've heard it said that sleep deprivation is used as a form of torture in some countries. It's amazing that mothers everywhere aren't completely insane!!!
"Pretty crazy, huh?" I asked Robby, taking care to whisper so I wouldn't wake the babies. "I wonder if they're regretting their decision to become parents."
"I'm sure there are times when the thought has crossed their minds," Robby agreed. "But they'll be fine. It's just going to take some time. Parenting isn't as easy as it looks."
I raised an eyebrow. "And what makes you the parenting expert all of a sudden?"
He smiled. "Well, I do know everything," he said teasingly.
I let a giggle escape, then froze. Emmaline stirred in my arms. "Oh no!" I said under my breath.
Emmaline looked up at me with sleepy eyes. I waited for the screaming to begin.
But to my amazement, she didn't cry! She just looked up at me curiously.
"Would you look at that," Robby said in amazement, letting out the breath he'd been holding in.
I couldn't believe it. "I guess I must just have a way with babies," I joked.
"Maybe she's just getting a little more used to her surroundings, too," Robby suggested.
"Oh, thanks! I'm glad you're so confident in my abilities," I said, pretending to be offended.
Robby chuckled at this.
At that moment, Ben appeared in front of me. "How are the babysitters surviving over here?" he asked with a little smile.
I suddenly lost all capability of speaking.
"Fine," Robby answered for me, rather stiffly.
"I'm astonished that you managed to end her crying!" Ben said, looking down at me. "I was sure she would cry forever, and we'd be doomed to a new life of sleepless nights."
Recovering my voice, I said, "She just needed some time to adjust. And I'm not expecting her to stay this way. She's bound to cry again in her life," I said teasingly.
Ben didn't smile in return. "I must confess, I've never understood the fascination babies hold for others. They're so helpless and noisy."
My heart sunk a little at this. I mean, sure, I wasn't planning on becoming a parent any time soon, but it was something I hoped for in the future. A future that I secretly hoped would include Ben. Hearing him talk that way about babies was a bit discouraging. But maybe he just hadn't been around them that much. And if Emmaline had been his only exposure to them, maybe he'd just gotten a bad first impression.
"Oh, come on," I said, carefully getting to my feet and trying to keep my voice light. "Babies aren't all bad. Look how cute she is now." A crazy idea entered my head. "Why don't you hold her?"
Ben looked at me as if I'd asked him to stand on his head. "Surely you're joking."
"Come on, what's the harm?" I persisted. "Just for a minute." And before he could protest, I handed her over.
Ben held her away from his body, as if he were afraid of her. For a moment, Emmaline and Ben just stared at one another. Then, Emmaline cooed for the first time since her arrival. A small smile escaped from Ben's lips before he could hide it.
Then Emmaline sneezed and let out a sudden shriek. The spell was broken. Ben shoved Emmaline back in my direction, a flustered expression on his face.
It took me a while to calm her, but Emmaline did stop crying.
Ben didn't leave, but he kept eyeing Emmaline suspiciously, as if he was waiting for her next outburst.
"That wasn't so terrible, was it?" I asked, when Emmaline had calmed down.
Ben gave me a disbelieving look.
I looked down at my feet.
"You do seem to have a way with her," he admitted grudgingly.
My dreamy reverie was interrupted when Robby cleared his throat.
"Oh, Robby!" I said, startled. "I'd almost forgotten you were there."
He nodded. "Yeah, I kinda noticed that."
I blushed again. "Sorry...I just...well, never mind."
"You know," Robby said slowly, "I really don't understand what you see in that guy. I mean, the way you're acting, you'd think he'd just told you something wonderful. I think he could talk to you about the weather and make you lightheaded."
I avoided his eyes. "He complimented me. There's nothing wrong with being happy about that." I suddenly became engrossed with fixing the Velcro on Emmaline's onesie. "Besides," I said defensively, "someday you'll know how it feels, too!"
At that moment, Emmaline officially decided she'd been good long enough. She began wailing, and nothing I did would soothe her. I focused all of my attention on her and left Robby to his own thoughts.
A few hours later, Eugene and Rapunzel joined us. They still looked tired, but there were smiles on their faces.
Rapunzel nodded and looked up at me. "I'm just a little embarrassed, that's all. I really thought this would be easy. It's what I've always wanted, and I've always loved children. I...I had no idea how hard it would be."
"You're doing a great job," I assured her. "You and Eugene have just had to deal with a lot of changes in a short time. It would be rough on anybody!"
"I know," Rapunzel. "I just feel bad that I was so confident before this. You must think I'm a complete idiot."
"What?" I said incredulously, almost laughing. "I don't think anything of the sort. Don't we all do things like this? I know I've gone through things that ended up being more challenging than I originally thought." I patted her hand. "Cut yourself some slack, okay?"
Rapunzel smiled. "Thank you, Belle. I don't know what I'd do without you."
I grinned back at her. "I'm just glad that I'm finally able to give you some advice. Normally it's the other way around!"
My friend gazed off at something unseen. "I've learned so much through all of this. I feel like I've aged about 10 years."
I pretended to scrutinize her. "Hmm, you don't look any older."
"What?" she asked, coming back to the present.
I gave her a cheeky grin.
"Okay, you've been hanging around Robby too long," she said with teasing disapproval.
I nodded and rolled my eyes. "Tell me about it! I can't believe I'm stooping to his humor!"
Rapunzel eyed me casually. "He's been a good friend."
She didn't fool me. I kept my voice light. "Yes, a very good friend."
"Maybe...more than a friend?" she offered.
"Nope!" I said firmly. "He's my pal and that's all. I don't think I'll ever think of him as anything else."
Rapunzel seemed to sense that this wasn't the best time to pursue the subject. She stroked Abigail's soft head. "I really couldn't have made it without you two stepping in last night." She looked up at me again, and there were tears in her eyes. "Thank you, Belle."
"Anytime," I grinned, relieved that the subject of Robby had dropped.
As if on cue, Emmaline let out another of her bloodcurdling shrieks. We both jumped and then laughed together. Rapunzel took Emmaline back and handed Abigail over to me.
It was wonderful to see a smile on Rapunzel's face again. Emmaline would most likely never be an easy baby, but at least Rapunzel was more relaxed and had a more realistic view of things now. And whenever she needed me, I'd be there for her. That's what friends were for.