We arrived at the hospital hand in hand, "I know you don't like photos, but if some photos happen to be taken, do you mind taking them with me?" I asked Shayla.
"No, of course not."
"Thanks. Hi, Molly!" I smiled at the receptionist.
"Hi, Michael. How are you today?" She smiled back.
"I'm great. How about yourself?"
"I'm alright. Are you here to see Tabitha again? She really misses you."
"Of course I'm here to see her. I haven't seen her in a while."
"Do you remember what room she is in?"
"303. You almost had it," she laughed.
"Thanks. Oh, how rude of me. Molly, this is my girlfriend, Shayla-Elizabeth."
"Hi, Shayla-Elizabeth," Molly smiled and reached over her desk to shake Shayla's hand.
"Hi, Molly," Shayla smiled. Shayla and I took the elevator to the third floor and made our way to Tabitha's room.
"Hi, Tabby," I smiled and went over to her bed.
"Michael!" She smiled and reached her arms out to hug me.
I hugged her, "how is my favorite girl doing?"
"Great! Michael, I missed you so much," she smiled a toothless grin.
"I missed you too! Where are your parents?"
"Daddy's at work and Mommy is in the cafeteria."
"I hope your mother comes up soon, so I can say hello."
"She's doing fine. Who is that?" She pointed to Shayla.
"She is my girlfriend, Shayla."
"Hi, Tabitha! How old are you?" Shayla smiled and shook her hand.
"I'm six..." Tabby said a little uneasy. "Mikey?"
"Come're," she motioned for me to come to her.
"What is it?"
"I thought I was your favorite girl," she whispered.
"Of course, you are," I laughed.
"Oh. Good," she smiled.
"You'll always be my favorite girl."
"Are you going to marry her?"
"Um," I looked at Shayla. "We haven't really thought about that, Tabby. I hope so though."
"Are you going to have kids?"
"Tabby, that's enough questions," her mother walked in.
"Good afternoon, Mrs. Barnette," I hugged her. "I just came by to see my favorite girl."
"She sure did miss you."
"I missed her too. Oh, Mrs. Barnette, this is my girlfriend, Shayla."
"Hi, Shayla," she smiled and shook her hand.
"Hi," Shayla smiled.
"Mikey!" Tabby interrupted. "Let's take a photo!"
"Of course! Mrs. Barnette, do you have your camera?"
"All the time," she said and got her purse.
"Shayla, do you want to take it with us?" I asked her.
"Mikey!" Tabby whispered loudly.
"I don't want her in it..."
"Because..." she looked down.
"Um, Shayla? Tabby doesn't-"
"It's okay," Shayla smiled and sat down. I feel bad. Shayla and I can definitely take pictures later.
"On three, say cheese!" Mrs. Barnette positioned the camera in front of her eye. "One, two..." Tabby placed her lips on my cheek just as her mother said three and took the photo.
"Yay!" Tabby smiled and hugged me tightly.
"Alright, that's enough," I laughed and tried to pry her off of me. "I'll see you soon, Tabby." She smiled and let go of me. "See you later, Mrs. Barnette," I nodded as Shayla and I walked out.
"Tabby really likes you," Shayla laughed.
"Yeah, she's jealous of you too."
"I could tell... It's okay. I can take pictures with you any time. Just me and you. No one else."
"I can't wait!"
"What's wrong with Tabitha?"
"She has leukemia. The doctors say she doesn't have long. I don't believe them though. I know she'll pull through."
"I'm sorry to hear that. Why is she your favorite?"
"Because she's strong. The doctors said she wouldn't make it last year, but she did. They said she wouldn't make it two weeks ago, but she did. She's strong. That's why she's my favorite."
"Wow! She's a miracle!"
"Now we're about to visit Timothy. He's eight and he has whooping cough," I told her as we walked into his room. "Guess who's here!" I smiled as we made our way to the side of his bed.
"Michael!" He smiled, sitting up.
"How are you, little buddy?"
"Great! M-mama knew y-you would c-come and see me this week," he stuttered.
"She was right!" I smiled.
"W-who is she?" He nodded toward Shayla.
"This is my girlfriend, Shayla." She smiled and shook his hand.
"M-Michael, she is hot!" We laughed. "M-Michael, guess what?"
"What?" I asked excitedly.
"M-mama got me b-batman cards."
"She did? Can I see?"
"Yeah!" He smiled and reached in the drawer behind me. I looked over at Shayla and smiled. She smiled back, pushing her hair behind her ear. "See?" Timothy said and sprawled the cards out in front of him.
"Woah! These are cool!" I said and picked one up.
"Did your mother tell you what year they were?" Shayla asked and picked up a card.
"No," Timothy shook his head.
"They're 1966 cards. My brother Robert has some of these. He got them for his birthday. You have the very first set!"
"Really?" he gasped. She nodded. "I am lucky!"
"You sure are!" She laughed.
"Timothy are your parents here?" I asked him.
"No. My stepdad is in D-Denver and mom is at h-home sleeping. She said she'll be back tomorrow." I looked down. I hate when his mother lies to him about why she won't visit him often.
"Tim, Shayla and I are going to go, okay?"
"Wait! My stepdad g-gave me a camera!"
"Do you want to take a picture?"
"Yeah. Y-your girlfriend can be in it too!"
"Do you mind, Shayla?"
"No, of course not!" she stood up.
"Here, Michael, you can hold it up and we can all take a p-picture!"
"Alright," I took the camera and put it in front of us. "One, two, three," I said and pressed the button.
"Thanks, M-Michael. Now I can have a memory of us. If I get two copies, y-you can have one."
"You're welcome!" He smiled.
"Shayla and I are going to be on our way now. Bye, Tim!"
"Bye, Timothy," Shayla smiled and held my hand.
"Bye guys!" He waved as we walked out.
"He's a sweet boy and his stutter is cute."
"He is sweet," I laughed and pulled Shayla close to me. "You're amazing with kids, babe," I kissed her forehead.
"Thanks," she blushed and put her arm around my waist. "You're amazing with kids too. They love you!"
"They love you too."
"Yeah, right. Tabitha was gonna rip my head off because I'm dating her man," she laughed.
"She was just jealous. Don't worry about her. She's used to seeing me bring Janet, LaToya or Randy."
"I'm just in love with Timothy. He was adorable. Are we going to see anyone else?"
"Yeah. My good friend, Brandy. She's fourteen and a rape victim. She just gave birth a week or so."
Shayla gasped, "oh my."
"She's a good person, so try not to judge her. She's amazing once you get to know her."
"I wasn't going to judge. I'm just shocked."
"I know, so was I," I sighed and knocked on Brandy's door.
"Come in," she called from behind the door.
I opened it, "hey, Brandy. How are you?"
"Hi, Michael. I'm great. How about you?" She smiled as she held her newborn, Brayden."
"I've been good. How is Brayden? I heard he's doing a lot better," I sat beside her on her bed.
"He's doing well. He's my world," she kissed his forehead.
Shayla and I smiled, "Brandy, this is my girlfriend, Shayla-Elizabeth."
"Hi, Brandy," Shayla reached out her hand.
"Hey," Brandy ignored Shayla's outreached hand. Oh, God. Is she jealous too?
"He's a handsome baby boy," Shayla offered.
"Do you want to hold him?"
"Sure," Shayla smiled and took him from her arms. She sat in the chair in front of Brandy's bed. Brandy and I watched as she held Brayden carefully.
"How'd you two meet?" Brandy asked me.
"She wrote a fan letter and we wrote to one another."
"She's pretty. Is that all of her hair?"
"Yeah," I laughed.
"She's great with kids."
"She is, isn't she?" I smiled as I watched Shayla.
"She doesn't sound like she's from here."
"She's from Ohio."
"Sounds like she's from New York or New Jersey."
"I never thought of that."
Shayla came back over to us, "He's so precious." She handed Brayden back.
"Michael, do you want to hold him?" Brandy asked me. I took him from her. "So, you're his girlfriend?" I overheard Brandy ask Shayla. Shayla nodded. "What do you like about him?"
"He's sweet, funny, romantic. Very down to earth. He's so great with children. He's just amazing."
"Do you think you love him?"
"Um," Shayla cleared her throat. "I think I can grow to love him," her voice lowered a little. "I'm not the type of girl who loves a guy as soon as he asks her to be his girlfriend. You have to grow into it."
"Oh, you're a good one. I was worried you were that type of girl. Do you like climbing trees?"
"Of course! That's the best thing in the world!"
"Good, because Michael loves a girl that likes to climb trees. He thinks it's sexy." Shayla laughed. I blushed. "Do you like kids as much as Michael does?"
"Yeah, I love them," she smiled.
"That's good to hear," Brandy smiled back. "Sorry for all the questions. Mike is like a brother to me at this point."
"I understand," Shayla nodded.
I gave Brayden back to Brandy, "I'll see you soon, Brandy," I kissed her cheek.
"Alright, see you later, Michael," she hugged me with her free arm.
"Bye Braden and Brandy!" Shayla smiled as we walked out.
"You don't seem like one of those girls who just loves random guys at all," I held her close.
"Thanks. Do I look like it or something? No one has ever thought that of me."
"No, you don't, baby. I don't want you to be either. I like you for the girl you are."
"Thanks, Michael," she kissed me. Her lips are so soft.
"You know what we should do?"
"Climb a tree."
"Great! We can go home and change."
"No, I don't want to change. That'll take up too much time. Just don't look up my dress," she winked and skipped down the hall to the elevator. I'll try not to...