Terry hadn't wanted him in the delivery room with her, and he was thankful. Not that he was afraid he would throw up or faint or something, but all the gorey details he had heard from friends who had been there, all the blood and slime and - and all that woman stuff. He was perfectly content to sit in a corner among the other visitors, read his magazines - PHOTOGRAPHER'S NEWS, DIGITAL EYE or MODERN MANAGEMENT, for his job. Sometimes he would go downstairs, get some coffee at the cafeteria or smoke outside the hospital. There would always be a small crowd, standing closely together, huddling in on themselves against the rain and the wind and the cold. They were like the freemasons, kind of. Well, only less secrete and less exclusive. Everyone could join them, as long as they had the money for cigarettes. Modern incense.
From time to time, while he was sitting outside the delivery room, a nurse or a doctor would come out to assure him that everything was alright and that his lovely wife and child would be with him soon. When they opened the double doors for a moment, he could hear Terry swearing. Boy, he hadn't known she knew so many - uhm, words. And where had she learnt them anyway? He looked at his watch, decided his next smoke could wait for another hour or something and tried to concentrate on this article about the latest developments in apertures. At least all those difficult words and long rows and columns of numbers halped him not to worry. It felt like shoe-shopping... he was sitting here and wondering what the hell Terry was up to. Ha, probably she would come out without a child, because she didn't find what she liked...
He looked up from his magazine. "Yes?"
"They are ready. If you want, you can come and see them. Room 231."
He put the magazine in his bagpack, stood up and went down the corridor.
"Hey, honey. How are you doing?"
Terry looked exhausted, pale and beautiful. She was wearing one of these ugly hospital gowns, her long blond hair was tousled and looked more like a bird's nest than something you should wear on your head. The smile, however, made up for all this. She seemed to glow, as if she had just heard a choir of saints singing. He bend over her and kissed her lightly on the forehead.
"You want to hold her?"
"Sure." He was not really sure, but if he didn't hold her, Terry would never let him forget this. So he waited and she handed him the child and he took her in his arms expertly. He had had much time to practice when his nephews were born two and three years back.
"Isn't she beautiful?" Terry said. "Let's call her Emma."
And right this moment, he didn't have the heart to go against her wishes. Their daughter really looked like an Emma.
They went home and survived the first weeks as newborn parents, and Emma was a really quiet baby and grew and smiled a lot.
But something was wrong.
He could not put his finger on it, but he felt that something was completely wrong. Sometimes he would look at Emma and she would look right back at him. And he knew it couldn't be true, because children this young could not focus. Terry always laughed at him. "You are such an evil man, and yet you are scared of your own daughter?"
"Well, I should be", he teased her back and tried to smile, "she's got my genes. That's like learning from the best."
Later, he would be convinced that Emma laughed at him. She had this smile, this way of looking at him, and he felt as if she was making fun of him. She let him hold her, let him feed her. At least when Terry was not around. As soon as Terry entered the room, Emma would struggle to get back to her mother. Terry would laugh and take her and make her wave at him, and Emma would wave and smile her twisted, toothless little smile.
And a few months later Emma began to move on her own. When he was sitting at his desk, working or reading or going through their paperwork, she would sometimes come crawling towards him, determined. He started closing his office door, but Terry laughed at him. "At first you say she doesn't like you, and now you are worried because she wants to play with you? That's ridiculous!"
And Emma smiled.
He started feeling uneasy. This place was not safe any longer.