I gazed at my wife, propped up in bed, beaming from ear to ear and talking to the two men about their upcoming wedding and the adventure of our daughter’s arrival. Sara stared hungrily at the baby in Max’s arms, and I wondered how desperate she was to be finished with what was clearly her most challenging pregnancy. Will and Hanna crouched on the floor, listening to Annabel tell them an elaborate story about a butterfly who lived in the flowers they brought. Pippa’s phone rang, and she and Jensen walked over to Max and Sara, letting Ruby and Niall meet my baby over FaceTime.
My parents burst into the room, Henry and family in tow, and even the large private suite became nearly too small to hold us all. They moved across the room in a sea of embraces to the new baby, taking turns holding her, smelling her, proclaiming her to be the most beautiful baby they’d ever seen.
My brother’s two children sat on the floor with Max and Sara’s kids, playing in the baskets of flowers. Normally I would have encouraged them to keep the petals from falling onto the floor and getting smashed into the linoleum but . . . oddly, that obsessive tightness was gone. “Tidy” was a minor battle, one not worth my time. The battles worth fighting were the ones that protected my family, the enormous daily battle of working to make our world a better place for everyone. The battles worth fighting were the ones that rested on my shoulders as the father of a daughter—raising her to be confident, and strong, and safe.
“Enough hogging her,” I said, pushing through the crowd and taking my daughter into my arms. She was such an odd paradox of small and substantial, with tiny, tight fists and wide, searching eyes. I sat on the bed next to Chloe, leaning against the pillows and feeling her head come to rest on my shoulder. We stared, in love, at the little girl.
Chloe turned her face to me and shook her head, jaw set. “Maisie.”
What could I do but kiss her?
“To get the best woman in the world,” I whispered, “I had to start with the basics: Love her as she is, not as you want her to be. Become the person she can’t live without. Be her right-hand man. Learn what she needs, and she won’t give you up, not for anything in the world.”
I had become the person she couldn’t live without. I had become her right-hand man . . . and the father of her child. And it just so happened, every single day, I was the luckiest bastard alive.