It was the best Christmas present Cassie could ever get, a baby sister. But it was the worst Christmas morning ever. Santa didn’t come, and she didn’t get to open her presents; the tree lights weren’t even lit. Instead she had cold eggs and burnt toast while Mrs. Dudek read the paper. Cassie took a bath and put on her plaid taffeta Christmas dress. She hated that dress; it was frilly, and Cassie was not a frilly girly-girl. Plus, it was itchy.
It was exciting, Cassie had to admit, to have a real live baby for Christmas, even though they wouldn’t let her hold it or change its clothes. She got to look at it through a window to the hospital nursery where there were half a dozen other babies. Heath – Daddy – held her so she could see better.
Their baby was swaddled in a pink blanket which meant it was a girl. Cassie was happy she had a sister. She didn’t think she would like having a brother; they peed on everything. Donna had told Cassie this, and Donna had two little brothers so she knew.
Heath lowered Cassie back to her feet and she tipped her head. “What’s her name gonna be?”
“Contessa Rose. We’ll call her Connie.”
“Connie.” Cassie practiced the name. “Contessa. Cons, Contie, Connie. Tessa.”
She played the variations as they walked back to Marni’s private room.
“Give your mother a kiss and I’ll take you home.”
“But I wanna hold the baby,” Cassie whimpered.
“You can hold her when we come home.”
Cassie was sure that meant she wouldn’t be coming back to the hospital, and that the next time she saw the baby would be at home.
Cassie folded her arms across her chest and pouted.
“Cass, put your coat on so we can go.” Heath was fatigued from pacing the waiting room for five hours. Marni slept off the effect of her epidural; he had yet to be afforded the luxury.
But Cassie flopped in the chair by the window.
“Santa didn’t even come. I don’t want to go home.”
“But Santa did come. He brought your sister.”
Cassie huffed. “I wanted a Barbie Dream House.”
Marni mumbled, her eyes fluttered.
“Cassie, don’t argue.” She fumbled for her plastic cup of water, and Heath held the straw to her lips. “Be a good girl.”
Cassie slid her arms into her red pleated coat with the faux fur collar and pulled on her black Cossack hat and mittens. She started for the door, and turned to kiss her mother on the cheek.
“Did you see your sister?” Marni tried, she really did, to engage with her elder daughter.
“Yeah, I saw her. She’s cute.” She waved at Mommie as she turned toward the door, her gaze on the floor.
Marni sighed. “Cassie,” she called weakly. Cassie paused, looked back at her mother. “Happy Birthday.”
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