”Whaaattt?” he turned hearing the same scream from his daughter’s bedroom. ”That’s not a normal scream…I’ll go get her…” Bruno said in a sleepy voice stumbling as he got up to get his oldest daughter. He peeked in her bedroom seeing her sitting up gasping for air. ”Rosie? Baby…what’s wrong?” He sat down next to her running his fingers through her hair trying to calm her down.
”Dad….are you sick like momma was? Are you going to leave? You can’t leave.” Rosie said starting to cry. ”I dreamed you were gone. And momma was crying and the babies were just asleep…I tried to save you…but daddy…you weren’t there…”
”Where was I?” he asked her still holding onto her cheek wiping away her tears.
”I ran to find you…I knew where you were….but then I woke up. I didn’t get you. Nana and Abuelo said you went to the doctor…and you only go to the doctor when you’re sick daddy. It’s not like momma and me when we’re okay….” she said in tired voice.
”Baby…everything will be okay. I did go to the doctor. And I’m gonna go again…but it’s to make sure I don’t have to go back like you and momma….”he kissed her on the forehead seeing the concern in her eyes.
”But….you’re sick?” she asked him. ”Like you’ll have to take medicine like me?”
”I might…” he told her starting to stand up. ”But I’ll always be here for you, mamma. I’ll always be here.”
”Daddy….please…don’t go….” she pulled his hand back to the bed. ”Daddy…sing me our song.”
Bruno lifted his 5 year old daughter up laying in the small bed with her. ”Close your eyes…” he said sweetly singing a soft song into her ear. Bruno heard Marla’s light footsteps walking near the door. She held onto both of the babies rocking them both quietly looking into the room seeing Bruno singing to Rosie.
”Bru?” she asked quietly standing at the door.
”She had a nightmare.” he told her. ”She asked me to sing to her.”
”Daddddyyy….” she half whined while slipping back into her sleep.
In what seemed to be just a few minutes Bruno opened his eyes to see the sun streaming through the big open window in Rosie’s room. He carefully placed her in the bed getting up to see Marla dressing the twins. He walked up behind her wrapping his arms around her now skinny waist. ”Let me finish…” he said sweetly.
”I’m going to take a shower.” she wiggled out of his arms turning toward the bathroom.
”Mar?”he asked her as she turned the corner.
”Yeah?” she turned around seeing his expression change from his normal morning smile to a look of concern.
”At some point you’re going to run out of tears, Marley. And that’s when it gets better.” he told her not losing a step in changing the babies.
”Me promotes?” she asked him.
”Te promteto, Marla.” he told her. ”Now go take a shower. You stink.”
”Hey!” she laughed running toward the bathroom running into Rosie who had heard them in the baby’s room.
”Oww….” Rosie exclaimed feeling her mother fall into her.
”Oh…sorry mija….let’s get you breakfast….” Marla responded taking her daughter’s hand leading to the kitchen forgetting about her shower.
”Momma…” Rosie sat on the counter waiting for her mother to give her medicine.
”What baby doll?” Marla replied handing her daughter pills.
”Is dad going to take medicine like us?” she asked.
”What do you mean, Rosalia?” she responded pulling her daughter off the counter.
”Nana said dad was going to the doctor…and we only go to get more pills.” Rosie said very frankly.
”He might have to take some pills. But not yet, mama. When did you talk to Nana about this?” Marla inquired.
”Yesterday” she answered.
”Oh.” Marla answered not sure how to react turning to get her daughter cereal watching Bruno walk into the room holding the babies.
”Good morning, my loves. ” he said kissing them both on the cheeks. Marla gave Rosie her cereal and placed the twins on the floor sitting next to Bruno away from the kids.
”She asked me about you being sick, Bruno. I didn’t even want to tell her…what do we do?” she asked him quietly.
”I was kind of hoping you knew what to do….” he replied.
”Well…I know what we should do…but it just doesn’t seem right..it’s like I’m being my daughter’s social worker…that’s weird…she’s my daughter. I just want her to know that we’re always here for her…and that we’re going to be okay.” Marla told him.
”Mar…she had nightmares when you were in the hospital too.” Bruno told her.
”She did? Why didn’t you tell me?” she asked him.
”Because I knew you would get worried like you are now. And you would want to fix it.” he told her. ”And sometimes you can’t fix it.”
”No, Mar…just let everything happen. You can’t change it. All you can do is be there for her. Will you just be there for your daughter and not try to fix it like you try to fix everyone else? Please?” he pleaded with her.
”Okay..I’ll try my best.” she said standing up to clean up.
“Mommaaaa…..” Marla heard a five year old whisper to her in the middle of the night.
“Come on, mija…come sleep with us….” Marla grabbed her daughter hugging her tightly placing her in the bed in between the two of them. I thought this would stop when she was 3…she thought to herself. But remember, she’s stressed out. She needs this…Marla kissed her daughter on the forehead humming one of her songs to her.
Marla awoke to babies crying a few hours later. “Uggghhh…” she moaned struggling to free herself from Rosie’s grasp.
“Baby…I’ll get them…” Bruno said quietly kissing her on the head.
She nodded her head going back to sleep waking up to her alarm even later in the morning. Marla looked at Rosie, sound asleep holding onto a pillow. She let her sleep knowing that if she woke her she would only be subjected to more nightmares. Marla walked back to the babies’ room seeing Bruno sitting in a big cushy chair with his head laying on a pillow holding both of their infants. Oh my god. Don’t cry. Don’t cry. Don’t do it. Don’t. She forced herself to walk toward them running her fingers through Bruno’s hair gently waking him. “Wake up, Brunz…” she whispered seeing his eyes open looking at her. She sat on the edge of the chair looking at the sleeping faces. “They’re so perfect.”
“They are. Just like you.” He said sweetly laying them in their cribs.
“They have to get up soon, Bruno…” Marla responded.
“I know…but do I wake you up when you can sleep an extra five minutes?” he smiled hugging her tightly.
“Point, Bruno.” She said taking his hand leading him to the kitchen. They talked about Rosie and what they were going to do to stop her impending child PTSD from her father’s surgery.
“I’m going to talk to her before, Mar. And I have the cd for tonight. And we have the videos if we need them….” He said pointing to a pile of DVDs.
“I don’t know how those are going to work anymore, Bru….they hardly worked during the tour.” She admitted.
“Dad?” they heard Rosie come up behind them.
“Hi baby doll….come sit with me. I want to talk to you…” he said putting her in the chair next to him. “Just you and me….”
Marla jumped up going to get the babies. “I’ll be right back, your brother and sister need me, mama…”
“Okay….” She responded. “Daddy….are you going to come home tonight?”
“Not tonight. But you’ve spent the night without me before….” He said picking her up to sit her on his lap. Oh my god. This just gets harder the older she gets.
“But dadddd…mom always comes home after the doctor…” she whined.
“I know. But they have to make sure I’m okay before I can leave. Remember when mama was in the hospital when you were a baby? And how we played at home and you went to aunt Kiki’s?”
“But that wasn’t fun. I just wanted mommy back.” She told him.
“I believe in you, Rosalia. You can do it. I’ll be home after tonight. You’re going to come and get me.” He watched Rosie run to her bedroom bringing out her stuffed frog.
“I want you to have this.” She said handing it to him. “He’ll protect you.”
“I’ll hold onto it tight.” He responded trying not to get emotional in front of her. “Now give me a kiss.” He smiled watching her face light up like her mother’s. She leaned in percing her lips against his.
“I love you, Bruno Mars.” She said jumping up.
“I love you, baby Mars.” He said to her walking toward the cabinets to help her with her medicine.
“Daddy…where’s your medicine?” she asked him popping a pill in her mouth.
“That’s what we’re gonna find out today. If I need medicine.” He told her.
“Oh…” she was still confused about everything, but there really wasn’t much they could do about that anymore.
Bruno held onto Marla’s hand tightly as they walked into the waiting room at the hospital they drove by the day of his first doctor’s appointment. “No creia que estaramos aqui…” he told her.
“I didn’t either.” She answered him. They had come to speaking in Spanish at times when the kids were around them but they didn’t want them to hear the conversation. It was a fruitless fight as Rosie was picking up the language quicker than they had thought.
“Momma..you were here before?” Rosie asked.
“No, baby girl. This is the first time.” Marla answered watching Bruno talk to a doctor about what he needed to do next. He motioned for them to follow them taking both of their hands squeezing them tightly.Marla watched him slowly walk in front of them. She could feel how scared he was but that he was holding onto them to make sure they were okay. She squeezed his hand letting him know that she was there for him. About 30 minutes later he was ready for the surgery. He picked Rosie up kissing her on the head.
“You’re going to see me in a few hours, okay? And he’s here protecting me….” He held up the frog letting her know that everything would be okay.
“Okay. I love you dad…” she said laying down to hug him.
“I love you too, mi Corazon.” He answered feeling a tear fall down his cheek looking up at Marla. Marla leaned down on top of her daughter whispering in his ear.
“I’ll be right here when you wake up.” she kissed him on the cheek lifting Rosie off of him. “I love you.”
“Wait….” He took her hand bringing her back to him.
“What?” she asked. Before she could get anything else out he pulled her right into his face kissing her. Oh shit. She felt her legs get weak pulling away.
“I love you more.” He answered.
Every few hours a nurse would come by to give Marla, Jamie and Eric updates on his status. They were all good updates. He was fine. Things were going to be okay. The doctor wanted to wait to tell Bruno and Marla all the news together. But she started feeling everything lift off of her shoulders getting slightly nervous when the doctor said he was awake. “I want to go, momma..” Rosie said standing up with her as she got up to go to the recovery area. Marla leaned down to hug her daughter.
“Stay here for a little bit. Remember when you got sick you hurt all over?” Marla asked her trying to make up something she didn’t remember.
“I want to go!” Rosie screamed. “Please! Please mommy….” She started to cry. These weren’t fake temper tantrum tears though. Marla could tell her daughter was genuine and hurting. It was a type of hurt she would never understand. The actual thought that she could have lost either of her parents was completely foreign to Marla. But, for her little five year old daughter, who was a complete surprise, but the love of her life, had faced this reality on so many occasions. Marla looked at the nurse who nodded her head in agreement.
“Come on…” Marla sighed holding her daughter’s hand. “But you have to be careful. Wait until I say it’s okay to touch your dad…okay? Promise me?”
“Te prometo, mama.” Rosie said walking down the hallway with her mother.
“Here he is…” the nurse led them in the room where Bruno was laying helplessly with IVs all over his arms.
“I made it.” He smiled at them seeing Marla’s eyes start to water and Rosie’s hands let go of her mother’s almost running to her father.
“Dad! Where’s froggy?” she asked stopping before jumping on him.
“Right here….” He said moving his hand slowly to the side of the bed. “He stayed there the whole time.” He smiled handing it back to her. “He did his job.”
“Rosie….will you go back with Amber?” Marla asked her daughter looking at the nurse who was standing guard. “I’ll bring you back before we go home…okay?”
“Okay…” Rosie said. “I love you, daddy.” Marla held her up watching Bruno kiss her the same way he had kissed her earlier in the morning. As Rosie took Amber’s hand she turned to him seeing him cringe.
“Stay right there….” She took his hand lightly moving the IV over a little to the left.
“Better?” she asked.
“Better than you could every think.” He smiled at her remembering moving countless IVs in her arm exactly the same way.
Marla sat with Bruno holding his hand while he tried to sleep waiting for Dr. Colins to come into the room to tell them how the surgery had gone. It took him quite some time. Marla sat on her phone checking and responding to e-mails and eager text messages from their friends and family. She wasn’t sure what to say to them except that he was awake and okay. She put the phone down on small table turning to look at him as he slept. Is this how he felt when I was sick? Just sitting here and waiting? Just waiting, and waiting and waiting for some type of answer. Even if he knew it was going to be okay. The waiting is the most horrible thing in the world. She continued to think these things watching her husband sleep suddenly jumping as he started to wake up. “Mar?” he asked.
“I’m right here, Bru.” She said running her fingers through his matted hair.
“Okay. Just don’t leave yet.” He pleaded half awake.
“Me prometo.” She said kissing him lightly hearing footsteps coming through their door.
“Mr. Hernandez?” Dr. Collins asked holding a whole pile of papers. Marla turned around quickly seeing the doctor’s face. She grabbed his arm tightly watching him sit up to listen to the doctor.
“So. We got everything tested and the test results are back….” He told them. “And they’re probably some of the best results we could have gotten.”
“What were they?” Marla asked.
“It is cancerous.” Dr. Collins told them. They both gasped not expecting those words to come out of his mouth. “But, it was contained to that one small area that we examined. Everything is all sewed up and you could be ready to go home in a few days.”
“So it didn’t metastasize?” Bruno asked.
“No. We examined the nodes and found no sign of the cancer spreading. To be quite honest though…” he paused looking at the paperwork. “It was a close call, Mr. Hernandez. It was very close to moving toward the kidneys. I think your wife’s keen eye saved everything.” He said smiling at her.
“She’s pretty amazing.” Bruno said looking back at her. “She has her masters..you know.” He smiled.
“Well. She’s one smart woman.” Dr. Collins stated.
“Then he’ll be okay.” Marla replied.
“Give him three days here just to ensure recovery and everything should be okay.” He told them.
Marla looked down trying to decide if the things she was thinking were appropriate. “He’s still fertile, right?” she blurted out.
“Mar!” Bruno laughed starting to cough. “Owww.”
“I…..” she paused starting to blush.
“Yes, Mrs. Hernandez. That isn’t anything the two of you should have to worry about. You’ll have to wait about 6 weeks to practice though.” He told them with a smirk turning around to leave the room.
After he left Bruno looked over at her. “You want more?”
“Oh hell no. Not now. But….I mean…I don’t know…..” she tried to back track.
“We do make cute babies.” He replied laughing at her.
“That’s all I’m saying.” She kissed his head sitting back in her chair.
Three days later
“Mommmm..mommm…mommmm….” Rosie carried over colored pencils, a coloring book and a bag of change to her mother who was sitting in the waiting room holding a fussy Angelo.
“What, mama?” Marla asked.
“Look at Spongebob. He’s really silly with his glasses. They’re like dad’s glasses…they’re all thick. Mom! Dad should be spnogebob for Halloween! And you can be Sandy Cheeks! Mommmm….that’s what we’re going to do!” she burst out laughing amusing herself.
“Okay….coloring Spongebob and Sandy for me so I have an idea of what we need to buy….” She told her daughter.
“Okay…but momm..I want to buy something with my money.” She held up a bag of change that she insisted on carrying around.
“Baby..you don’t need to buy anything. Hold onto that.” She watched her daughter dump out the bag of money on the floor. Hoping that someone didn’t see the mess she was making Marla moved the chair in front of her daughter watching her play with the mixture of quarters, dimes and nickels.
“I’m going to give Jello and Hope some money too.” Rosie picked up a stack of dimes putting them in Hope’s hand. The five month old immediately put the money toward her mouth. Marla jumped up holding Angelo grabbing the dimes out of Hope’s hand. “Mommm!” she heard Rosie whine and then Hope burst out into tears because she took the money away. “She wants it! MOmmmmmmm…..” she screamed hearing Hope start to cry even more.
Marla looked around seeing that her mother was gone and Bernie was sitting with Bruno filling out forms too far away to hear what was going on. Shit. She thought to herself as she put a quiet Angelo in the little car seat carrier they brought into the hospital picking Hope up soothing her watching Rosie hand her brother the same money. He played with the dimes contemplating putting them in his mouth before one hit his lips making him cough. “Rosie! Go with your dad!” Marla screamed picking up Angelo getting the dime out of his mouth before he could swallow it. “Mama…please…go over there!” Marla exclaimed.
“But, mommyyyy…..” Rosie started to cry. Now all three were crying and others in the waiting room were watching her inability to control two five month olds and a five and half year old. She got several sympathetic glances her way before Rosie started kicking the quarters around singing Billionaire. “So fuckingggggg baaaadddd!” she let out running down the hallway to Bruno singing the chorus quietly until she got to the end. Now everyone, even the nurses and doctors were watching as she got the twins to be quiet and she checked Angelo’s throat to make sure he hadn’t swallowed anything else. She carefully put down the babies waiting to hear Rosie crying next to her father and grandmother. She bent down picking up the money throwing it in the bag hearing soft breathing from the twins realizing they had fallen asleep through the noise.
“Marla?” she heard Bruno’s reassuring voice come up behind her. “Someone wants to tell you she’s sorry.”
“Momma…I’m sorry I sang the bad words. And I gave the babies money to eat.” Rosie said looking down feeling guilty about what she did.
“We’ll talk about it when we get home, Rosalia.” Marla told her sternly picking up both sleeping babies.
“Let me take them…” he said to her taking the babies from her seeing how tired she was. He walked ahead of them catching up with Rosie who was still bouncing off the walls, now singing Billioniare the right way. She looked over at Bruno’s mother who was feeling Marla’s pain.
“I remember one time…” Bernie started. “Tiara had the flu and Pete was performing and it was summer. I had all of them. And Bruno wouldn’t stand still. Pres was like 10 months old and trying to get away from Kiki who was also with us. Tahiti just sat and watched the chaos next to Eric who was playing with something. And then Tahiti grabbed what Eric had and he just went crazy. And Bruno was dancing all over and Pres fell and Tiara was crying and all I could do was wait for it all to blow up and then calm down. It was a mess.” Bernie told her hugging her tightly. “But you are going to make it through this just like you made it through everything else.” She said walking to the car with the rest of them.
The past four days have been hell. I don’t even know what to say. One minute I want to cry out of joy and happiness because you’re okay and the next I just want to cry because of how overwhelmed I’ve been with the babies and Rosie. Your mom has been a great help, though. I don’t know what I would have done had she not come to help. She is amazing. Bruno, she told me a story about how you were misbehaving one time. All I could think of was Rosie and how much like you she is. Today she started to sing Billionaire in the hospital. But she decided that she should say fucking bad instead of freaking bad. I wanted to curl up in a little hole and die. I don’t know what you said to her, but she came back to me and said she was sorry. Thank you. Thank you for being the best person you can be and for always being there for me. I don’t know what I would do without you. I love you more today than yesterday.