“What’s the baby’s name?”
I smiled at Leah who was watching me with wide eyes as she perched on the chair next to me. She was eating a cookie and having hot chocolate. I was going through the registry on my laptop, weeding out items, most of which Dawn and Spike had over- or inappropriately registered for. “The baby doesn’t have a name,” I told the little girl. “Not yet.”
“I keep thinking that you do and just don’t want to tell anyone,” Willow said across from me, a small smirk on her lips over the rim of her cup. She’d totally gotten Leah to ask me because I’d been less than forthcoming.
“Hey, Crystal!” I called across the coffee shop. Willow and I were spending the morning dead time with Crystal and Leah. “Did you already have names picked out for your kids at this point?”
Crystal poked her head around the doorframe to the back room. She looked a little winded from moving boxes of supplies around. “Do you have your feet up, missy?”
“What?” I nodded at my feet propped in the chair next to Willow. “Oh. Uh huh! But that’s not what I asked.” My left ankle had been swelling with much greater frequency as the heat in New Orleans increased and as the pregnancy progressed. My OB didn’t seem too worried. My blood pressure and labs were good.
She pulled her long dreads back into a loose ponytail. “What’d you ask?”
Leah bounced in her seat. “She asked how you picked my name.” That wasn’t exactly it but close enough.
Crystal softened. “As soon as I saw your sweet face, I knew you were my Leah.”
I sat up straighter and pointed my finger at her. “Ah ha! So, you didn’t have a name picked before she was born?”
Willow rolled her eyes but was still smiling, and Crystal laughed. Leah was watching her mother with expectation on her little face.
Crystal addressed her daughter again. “I didn’t have your name picked until I met you. You had to show me who you were first.”
“Oh!” Leah said in awe, her lips quirking up in a smile and her cheeks tinging pink as she ducked her head. I could tell she’d heard this story before and that what her mother said made her feel special.
“See!” I gave Willow a pointed look.
“Fine. I’ll leave you alone.” She finished her mocha and stood. “I need a refill anyway.”
Crystal accepted the empty mug and began making Willow a new coffee. “So, when and where are you getting married?” We’d already all oohed over Willow’s sparkly ring, and she’d let us all try it on, casting a little spell, so it briefly fit each one of us. I’d been happy to find that my jealous feelings had abated since my talk with Spike.
“Well.” Willow looked at me with expectation on her face. “Oz and I have been doing a lot of talking since he proposed, and we decided to get married here. In New Orleans!”
“What?!” I jumped up, the baby making the motion awkward. “Oh, my god!”
Willow stood and gave me a big hug. Then, she pulled back with a grin. “We knew you were about to have the baby, and well, we want to get married sooner rather than later. And you can’t travel with a newborn, so. . .”
I honestly hadn’t considered the inability to travel for Willow’s wedding. “Thank you.”
“I couldn’t get married without both of my best friends present.” She let go of me and gestured for me to sit back down. As I followed her instructions, she added, “And there’s more.”
I arranged my feet in the chair, and Leah leaned over and gave my arm a little hug. “What?”
“You and Xander have to be our witnesses. And Oz and I talked about something else.”
“You guys are all with the talking.”
“You know it!” Willow grinned and plopped back down in her chair, her hands grasping the edges of the wood in her joy. “We’re going to move here for at least the foreseeable future. Oz wants to play music in New Orleans since he’s never been part of the music scene here. He actually has a couple of connections, and you know my work can be done from home anywhere.”
My mouth dropped open in surprise. “You’re moving here? To New Orleans? Why? I thought you were loving Falls Church.”
She shrugged. “We do. But how often does your bestie have a baby? Falls Church is too far away to help, and I want all the baby snuggles. I mean, when you and Spike need a break and are ready to pull your hair out.”
“I want snuggles with the baby, too!” Leah announced, sticking her chin in the air. “I’m good with babies. Mommy said so. I help with my brother a lot.”
I laughed. “Snuggles all around, and I’m sure we’ll need a break every now and again. Oh, my god, Wil! I’m so happy that you’ll be here!”
“You don’t have your mom here, and I know she’d want to be with you if she could,” Willow added softly. “That’s what moms do or so I read in books.”
My eyes misted over, and I realized that I’d purposefully avoiding thinking about Mom. She’d have wanted to do all the grandma things with her grandchild, and I liked to think she’d have been amused to no end that Spike was the father. I made a mental note to talk with Spike about that later before a mix of emotions covered the thought up. “Yeah.” I caught the falling tear before it was too noticeable. “She would have loved it.”
“Where’s your mom?” Leah asked, her eyes round as saucers as she glanced from me to Willow and back again.
Uh oh. Leah’s goldfish had died last week, and she’d just stopped having nightmares about it. I didn’t want to add to her trauma by talking about my mom’s death.
Crystal swept up then, delivering a new mocha for Willow. Then, she gathered empty cups and plates, trying to deflect the direction of the conversation. I’d told her long ago that my mother had died because of complications related to a brain tumor. “Buffy’s mom can’t be with her. That’s all.” Her tone was firm, and Leah got quiet, her head dropping a little.
“I’m sorry,” she whispered to me, taking my hand in her little one. “I wish your mom could be here with you. I know I’d miss Mommy if she couldn’t be with me.”
I rearranged our hands so that mine safely cradled hers. Then, I kissed her forehead. “It’s okay. I have all of you here with me.”
“And now Willow!” Leah said with renewed brightness.
“Right!” Willow echoed with cheer in her voice, her green eyes searching mine with concern.
I shook my head to let her know I was okay and changed the subject while toggling my asleep computer back to life. “So, Crystal, what are your baby must haves?”
Crystal deposited the dishes in the sink with a clink. “That’s easy. Swaddles, pacifiers, breastfeeding pillow, white noise machine, those bottles I told you about, and a partner who will take turns with you, so you can sleep.”
“Mommy called it Operation: Keep Baby Alive when Ryan was born,” Leah said, forgetting her questions about my mom.
Willow giggled. “Sounds like boot camp.”
“It is like boot camp. Baby boot camp,” Crystal confirmed as she flipped on the faucet. She peered over her shoulder to make sure I wasn’t panicking. I wasn’t – not yet. “But it gets easier. I promise. And you can always text me. You know that, right?”
“Don’t worry. I’m going to take you up on that!” I picked up my phone and waved it at her. “You better be ready. Middle of the night when the baby won’t stop crying.”
“It’s all worth it. I promise,” Crystal teased.
“It is!” Leah agreed, leaning her head on my upper arm. “Ryan stopped crying as much, and now, he plays with me. Except. . .”
I gave her a curious look. “Except?”
She put her hand on one side of her mouth and whispered, “Sometimes he trims my horse’s mane and tail, and he tears my books.”
“Ohhh. That must be upsetting.” I knew how important her toy horses still were to her.
“Yeah. He doesn’t mean to though.” She took a bite of her cookie. “And I still love him anyway.”
I smiled at Leah. “That’s good. Forgiveness is important for you and him.” I glanced at the registry. “So, we don’t need fifteen teethers?”
Crystal set the dishes on the front counter to dry them. “Um, no. And you won’t need those for a while anyway.”
“Got it.” I started deleting most of them, but I kept the waffle-shaped one. That one amused me to no end.
For the next half an hour, I went through the entire registry, and Crystal, Willow, and even little Leah gave me input on what to keep and what to delete. Leah made me save the bib with the cute grey horse on it. Soon, the baby registry was streamlined with needs, must-haves, and a few fun extras. I was sure that Dawn would go back through and add some of her picks back; I just had to talk to her about some of them. Leah left us to go home with her dad, Crystal returned to straightening up the inventory in the back, which left me and Willow to catch up.
“So,” Willow clapped her hands and drew her own laptop out of her messenger bag, “theme. The baby shower needs a theme.”
“What? A theme? Really?” I hadn’t even really thought about baby shower stuff.
Willow pushed some buttons, obviously pulling up a program to take notes. “That and I need to know if you want there to be games.” Her mouth was set. She was serious as only she could be.
I considered the possibilities, and all I could think of were baby bottles, rattles, onesies, and excessively sweet cake. Stereotypical movie baby shower material. “Oh, god. Nothing too cutesy.”
Willow frowned. “Define ‘cutesy.’”
I pushed my mouth sideways as I thought. “Not all blue? With the snips and snails and puppy dog tails.”
“Do huh?” said as she typed.
I fingered the edge of my laptop keyboard. “That’s the only poem I know about boys. Spike recited it the other night when he was talking to my belly. I don’t even know where it comes from.”
Willow snickered. “Spike is talking to your belly?”
I smiled at the image of him speaking with such love and earnestness to our son. “Yeah. It’s really sweet actually. He wants the baby to know his voice. He started doing it every night before we go to sleep. And the baby started responding to him. He kicks or elbows me. It’s all very comfy.”
“As in not?” Willow teased.
I sighed. “Right? But Spike loves it. He gets so excited, and I’m the one who encouraged him to do it. I can’t tell him that every night – ”
“Is a bit excessive?”
“Well, I guess it won’t be for much longer. I couldn’t tell Oz ‘no’ either.” Then, Willow cleared her throat. “The shower? We need to focus.”
“You sound like Anya with the wedding planning. Cracking the whip. Poor Xander.” I could still hear them arguing about seating arrangements.
Now Willow was tearful. “I miss Anya.”
“Me, too.” I reached over with my foot and nudged her thigh in camaraderie.
Willow shook off the emotion and her resolve-face showed its head. “Shower. Now.”
I rolled my eyes and repositioned myself to sit up straighter. Maybe it would help my brain wake up and think of shower-y things. “Fine.” I chewed my lower lip for a moment. “Can we do a co-ed shower? I want the guys all there.”
“Yay! You decided something.” Willow typed in her document.
“Don’t sound so shocked.”
“I’m not. So, do you have a theme for the nursery?” She said it so casually that my brain almost skipped over it.
Then, it didn’t. “What nursery? Have you seen our house?”
“Oh yeah.” The way she avoided eye contact with me told me that she knew something I didn’t.
I leaned forward. “What?”
“How do you feel about books instead of cards?” she asked, trying to sound innocent as she focused on her computer screen.
Willow hurried to explain, “Guests brings books in lieu of cards that you won’t ever look at again. And baby has a built-in library post-shower.”
“I like that.” Spike would like that. Still. I narrowed my eyes at my friend. “What are you hiding?”
“Nothing. Buffy.” Willow gestured at the computer as she probably typed something about books instead of cards. “We’re all with the planning.”
I glared, my best I’m-a-pregnant-lady-so-you-better-tell-me glare. “You know something related to the nursery.”
Willow sighed. “It’s supposed to be a surprise.”
Willow squirmed. “Spike – he swore Oz and me to secrecy.”
A customer entered the coffee shop, and I lowered my voice but kept the demand simple, so she knew I meant business. “Spill. Now.”
Her eyes shifted to the customer and Crystal, who’d emerged to take the coffee order. With some reluctance, Willow admitted, “He’s been looking for bigger houses for the three of you. He wanted you to have a nursery for the baby.”
“He what?” Oops. That was a little too loud. Crystal widened her eyes at me, and I sat back in my chair. I couldn’t believe it. We’d just gotten back, and Spike was already thinking that many steps ahead?
Willow held up both hands, palms in my direction. “Before you get all mad and huffy at him. He’s looking at more than one. He wanted to let you pick.”
Worry twisted in my stomach. “We can’t afford a house.”
Willow smiled. “Actually. You can now.”
“What do you mean? You didn’t – ?” Did Willow also give us money for a down payment on a house?
Willow shook her head. “Nope. Not me. I’m not rolling in that much dough. Guess again.”
The only other person I knew with money was. . . “Giles.”
“You figured it out. I didn’t tell you. He wanted it to be a gift for you, the baby. . . and Spike.”
“Really?” For me? Tears welled up in my eyes.
Willow gushed on, “He has this big estate in England, Buffy, with fields and horses. He said he wanted you to have a place of your own with a yard for your son to run around in and enough space inside, so you aren’t on top of each other all the time. More than one bathroom.”
I’d never in my life had more than one bathroom. “Oh, my god. Another bathroom!” I thought for a minute. “Wait a minute. So, Giles and Spike have been planning this? Together?” I couldn’t fathom this. Not in a million years. Like, were they on the phone together? Texting? When were these conversations happening?
“Shocking, right?” Willow grinned like the Cheshire cat.
“Mind completely blown.” Love swelled in my heart for Spike and Giles.
“Plus, he said that when he comes to visit, he’d like to stay in a ‘proper’ guest room.”
“Aww. Giles wants to stay with us?” He hadn’t mentioned that before. When he was in town, he always stayed with George.
“Sounds like it to me. He’s taking his Pop Pop job very seriously.”
I laughed. “He is.” Then, I sobered, inspiration striking. “I have an idea.”
“An idea for what?” Willow asked, her eyes full of mirth.
“The shower. I’d like it to be stars and the moon.” That was perfect.
Willow started typing. “Why stars and the moon?”
“Because that’s where I fell in love with his Daddy. At night, under the moon and stars.”
Willow pressed her lips together half in amusement and half with the serious. “I don’t remember it being quite that romantic.”
I ran a hand gently over the curve of the baby bump. “He doesn’t need to know that. All that matters is that it ended up that way.”