His eyes were glazed over at this point and I was thanking God we were in a hospital because I was pretty sure he was going to pass out any minute now.

“I like Popsicles. And puppies. Just think about puppies,” he muttered to himself.

When I realized that my poor man was in a pregnant woman vagina daze-slash-nightmare, I took action. I hustled around to the end of the bed and stood in front of him, blocking his view.

“Breathe, Jim. BREATHE!” I reminded him.

He took a huge breath and finally blinked. “I’m just gonna leave.”

I nodded at him and turned him around, pushing him back towards the door. “That’s a great idea, honey. How about you just go back into the waiting room with Claire’s dad and never, ever step foot in this room again, okay?”

“Never step foot in this room again?” he questioned as I walked him to the door.

“That’s right, never step foot in this room again. Good boy.”

I patted him on the back and shoved him into the hallway, closing the door to the room behind me before going back to Claire’s bedside.

“Your future husband saw my vagina,” Claire stated.

“Better him than me.”

The doctor stood up, pulling his gloves off and tossing them into the trash next to the bed. “Well, you haven’t dilated at all, but it’s still early. We’re going to put a fetal heart monitor on the baby just to make sure he’s handling the contractions okay and I’m going to have one of the nurses give you some Pitocin to try and move things along. I’ll come back to check on you in a little while.”

A few hours later, long after the Pitocin and Claire threatening to kill everyone who came near her, the doctor decided it was time for an emergency C-section. Claire was scared to death. I was scared to death. Everything started happening so fast at that point. Doctors and nurses were running around, making calls and before we knew it, Claire was being wheeled out of her room and down the hall to the operating room.

I jogged next to her bed and never let go of her hand the entire way. I knew she was freaking out and I didn’t know what the hell to do other than make sure she understood that I’d always be here for her.

“You’re not going to leave, right?” Claire asked when we got into the brightly lit OR and they transferred her to another bed.

I squeezed her hand tighter as one of the nurses handed me a pair of scrubs and a hospital mask. “I’m never going to leave you. I’m going to be here the entire time. It’s just you and me, Claire, you and me.”

She nodded her head as the nurses started putting up sheets around her body so we couldn’t see what was going on below her chest.

“You and me,” she agreed.

“You can do this. You’ve totally got this. It’s going to be over soon and Gavin is going to be here and he’s going to be healthy and perfect and we’re going to start teaching him how to swear before he shits his pants for the first time.”

Claire laughed and I quickly threw on the scrubs over my clothes and took my seat next to Claire’s bed.

Right at that moment, I knew that I would do anything for my best friend. I would hold her hand when she was in pain, scream at my catatonic fiancé when he saw her vagina and sit by her side when she became a mom. There was nothing I wouldn’t do for her and I knew that’s how it would always be.

“I HAVE LAURIE running things at the bakery for the next six weeks and you don’t have any weddings or big events coming up, so I think she can handle it. Jenny is going to take over ordering baking supplies and she’s going to help Laurie and your two part-time girls do all the baking,” I explain, going down the list of items I put in my notepad app on my phone. “If any big orders come in, we can always get some more help in, but I think we’ll be fine. We’ll have to put the Friday Freebie cupcake sale on hold for the time being, but I don’t think too many people will mind.”

Claire grabs my cell phone out of my hand and I finally look up at her. I wish I hadn’t. I wish I still had my phone in my hand to give me something else to stare at, something to keep myself occupied so I don’t have to see what is happening to her. I’m a shitty friend and an even shittier person because I can’t bear to look at my best friend and see what the chemo has done to her hair. Every time she runs her fingers through her hair or brushes up against the back of the couch, more strands come out, but she just shrugs her shoulders like it’s no big deal. One round of chemo almost three weeks ago and she’s already losing her hair. She still has five more rounds to go and I’m scared to death she’s just going to keep fading away until there’s nothing left of her.

“I’ve hired some extra help at my store so I’ll be able to pop over to your side as much as I want,” I continue. “We were supposed to do that interview with the local television station next week, but I called them and told them to postpone it. I’ll keep a file with all your invoices and bring them over when you need to sign something so you won’t need to—”

“Will you shut up already?” Claire interrupts. “Stop talking about work when we both know there’s something a little more important we need to discuss.”

I shake my head and grab my phone back from her. “No, it’s fine. We don’t need to talk about it. You don’t need to think about it. We can just talk about fun things like work and how Jenny has decided to start breeding ferrets now that the kids are in college and she’s bored.”

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