This is the prologue for First of Many ... a little lead into the lives of Charlie and Rowan. I hope you enjoy!
This is unedited and uncorrected. I apologize for any errors in advance, but didn't want to wait to post this for those of you who are standing by me during my hectic, crazy, sometimes wacky life. I appreciate and love each of you!
(c) 2017, Ashley Suzanne Books - First of Many
The First Step
Unlike other hospital offices, Dr. Braum’s office isn’t cold or uninviting. It’s the exact opposite. Pictures of his large, beautiful family surround the small area—a space with just enough room for a large oak desk, floor to ceiling bookshelves loaded with medical text and certificates of achievement, and even a sitting area near the windows. Probably would look larger with smaller scale furniture, but it’s the perfect combination of overdone and just right. It feels… safe. Before finally finding Dr. Braum, we’d searched high and low, looking for the person who could help us with our needs. It took a while—seven specialists to be exact—and it took another three months to get an appointment, but we’re here. He’ll be able to help. Amidst dozens of other physicians, Dr. Braum is our only shot. Doesn’t hurt that in his reviews, he’s listed as Dr. Bruce J. Braum, MP (Miracle Performer).
As I sit nervously, my knee bouncing—probably out of socket—in the oversized plush chair, I have to redirect my attention outside, using the people milling about the courtyard to keep me from having a breakdown. It’s not enough looking at the images of his wife and children, but seeing every single picture of smiling faces—spitting images of the man before me—realizing there are multiple generations of Braums. It’s a happiness I’ll never achieve. Back when we got married—started a life—it wasn’t a secret I’d never be able to conceive. It’s been one of the toughest obstacles I’ve ever faced. It’s my only regret, as stareg down the barrel of nearly thirty-five that I’ll never be a mother, not that it was of my own doing, or Rowan’s for that matter. It still stings. Every time I watch a mother pick up her child to kiss a boo-boo, or see a father tossing a ball in the front yard with his son, I long desperately for that type of love. A love that can stand the test of time. An unconditional, unadulterated kind of love that only a child—your child—can provide. A legacy.
Before long, Dr. Braum, the short, stout man with an impeccable reputation, comes through the door, looking back and forth between Rowan and I, before taking a seat behind his desk. My stomach aches with anxiety, waiting to hear our fate. Two words; ‘I can’ or ‘I can’t’ determine how the rest of my life will play out. Two words seal the deal.
“How are you today, Charlotte?” he asks in a timbre so soothing it can ease even the most frazzled of nerves.
“Not too bad, Dr. B. Just hoping you’ve got some good news for us,” I respond then grab onto Rowan’s hand under the edge of the desk away from the doc’s eyesight, silently praying he’s the answer to my prayers. There aren’t words to describe how crushing it’ll be if the result isn’t in our favor.
“You know there are other options, right?” he offers and my heart plummets. The truth is, there aren’t other options. We’ve exhausted them all. He knows that. This is our only shot—my only shot at peace.
“Dr. Braum, you know that’s not correct,” Rowan chimes in, squeezing my hand back, without words telling me he’ll take it from here. Forever, my protector and mouthpiece when I can’t put one foot in front of the other… or keep said foot out of my mouth—he’s there. “This is what we want. What we need. We’ve researched you, done our due diligence. We know if there’s anyone to help, it’s you. All we need is a yes from you,” Rowan pleads and I smile over at the man I fell in love with when I was just a child. I’d gladly challenge anyone who thinks teenagers don’t know this kind of love. Because I have the market cornered.
Over the years, not much has changed. Other than physical appearances, he’s still the same person to his very core. The man that’ll give me the world if he can. Even when he can’t offer me the one thing I want more than anything else, he stands at my side and does what he can to guard my heart from any unnecessary heartbreak.
Since the day we met, Rowan has been everything I needed him to be at the exact moment I needed it, even when I didn’t know what it was I needed. He’s my rock, my support system, my biggest fan. Rowan’s my everything. Even through his fear of the unknown, he puts on a brave face, never stopping the fight for ... me. And even here, in this doctor’s office, he’s my voice.
“What I mean is this isn’t the only option. I can show you other ways…”
Rowan cuts off the doctor with a quipped, “For us, it is the only way.”
“Alright then,” Dr. Braum says, hiding a smile behind his hand, obviously impressed with my husband’s insistence. “You know the risks. You know everything,” Dr. Braum looks over at me with sympathetic eyes, searching my soul for the answers he had to know before he agreed to take on such a momentous case. It isn’t going to be easy, but in the end, it’ll be worth it.
“Yes, sir. The only thing we still don’t know is when we can get started. We’re ready,” I confirm, my voice coming out stronger than I imagined it would. Probably Rowan again—lending me his strength.
“We’ll start by running some tests and getting full work up. I’ll send you down to the nurse and I’ll see you two back here in a few weeks. I’d like to give you a final answer now, but until I get a complete look at the picture with my own eyes, I’m not comfortable. But, I will say, if everything that comes back reflects what your GYN sent over, I don’t see a problem getting right to work.”
Nodding his head, he exits the office just as quickly as he entered, leaving only Rowan and I sitting in our seats.
“It’s really going to happen,” I say softly. “No more waiting.” I can’t help the smile my lips curl into. I know it’s not set in stone, but I know no miracle’s taken place inside my body. I’m going to get my peace.
“I love you,” Rowan whispers, squeezing onto my hand still firmly in his grasp one more time. I can feel his nerves through the façade he’s failing to execute. But there’s no reason for that—we’re going to be fine.
Turning my head toward him, I lean over and place a gentle kiss on his cheek. “You’ll never love me more than I love you.” With a wicked grin, he extends a helping hand and escorts me out of the office.
Walking back out to the lobby, Rowan and I take our seats and patiently—or maybe not so patiently—wait for a nurse to call me back to begin the blood work. It’s all fairly routine; I’ve been poked and prodded for as long as I can remember and this time is no different. While we’re here, another couple is ushered back to the doctor’s office, and I wonder to myself if they’re here for the same reason as us. It’s a fairly true assumption if you’re here to see Dr. Braum, you’ve reached the end of the line and he’s the only person that can do anything other than a generic ‘I’m sorry’.
What’s her diagnosis? Were they here because of her or her husband? Did they love each other the way Rowan and I love each other? All of these questions race through my brain at warp speed, and they might have continued longer if the petite, blonde nurse didn’t summon for me from the opened door.
“Charlotte Thorne,” she announces in a sweet voice.
“Right here,” I respond.
Once inside the cramped room with barely enough for Rowan to squeeze in behind us, she directs me to a chair that much resembles one from my school aged days—the kind with the small desk attached to the metal framed chair—only the top is much smaller and has a thin cushion. Resting my arm atop, she quickly gets to work putting the tourniquet just above my elbow and searching for a vein she can access. I chuckle to myself and Rowan catches on—good luck with that, ma’am… if you can find one, use it, because you’re not gonna find another.
I’ve always had an aversion to needles, so out of instinct, I look away as she pulls out the thin butterfly style needle, stopping my laughter. I instantly catch Rowan’s kind, empathetic smile. He sees my anxiety clear as day. With one hand, he takes mine and rubs small strokes over my knuckles. The other he places over my shaking leg, giving it a light squeeze. Through all this, his eyes hold mine, the blue ring around light brown reminding me of the muddy waters of my favorite spot, I calm almost instantly.
“It’ll be fine,” he reassures me and I nod my head and at the same time squinting my eyes as the needle makes contact. Suddenly feeling hot and flushed I grip onto him tighter and in a sweet maneuver, he crouches down to my level and brushes the stray hairs away from my face.
“What was your first happy memory?” he asks, attempting to distract me so I don’t pass out.
“My first happy memory in general, or my first one with you?”
“Always with the questions,” he chuckles. “Both.”
“I was five, I think. My mom had taken me to visit my aunt and she had horses. A few of them. I remember thinking they were magical, like unicorns. My uncle took me for a ride.” My gaze drifts off into space, as if I’m seeing the memory come to life. “It was the greatest experience. It was like my uncle and the horse were in sync and could reach each other’s mind. Since that day, I’ve always been fascinated by them.”
“I remember,” he whispers. “All those horse posters all over your walls. Why’d you never take riding lessons? I bet you would have been amazing.”
“Probably,” I answer, not so modestly. “But after they passed away, it seemed like my love for riding, not the love for the animal, had died with them. It was our special thing. I only wanted that with them. Does that make sense?”
“Perfect sense.” Rowan smiles. “Now how about your first happy memory with me. When was that?”
“It was the moment I fell in love with you. I knew you were it for me.”
“You couldn’t have possibly known that back then, Charlie. There’s no way.”
“Pinky promise. I was seventeen and my world started and stopped with you Rowan Thorne. You were every wish I made on every star, and every dream I’d ever dreamt. You were it.”
“We’re all done here,” the nurse interrupts, placing a cotton ball in the crease of my elbow. “If you’ll have a seat in the waiting room, the doctor needs to speak with you again before you leave.”
“Okay, thank you.” I hold my arm close to my chest and again smile at the woman. Or maybe girl. She can’t be more than twenty-one, twenty-two tops. Oh to be that young... Then again, when I was her age, I was married to the man I love and there wasn’t anything that could have made me happier.
My life to this point has been nothing short of spectacular. I’ve had extreme highs and the lows to match. I’ve experienced extraordinary amounts love. I found my soulmate before I even really knew what one was. I have everything any woman could ever dream of, and after my next appointment, I just know I’ll have the answers to the only thing standing in my way of a perfect life.
Control.But … how the hell did we get to this point?