Alice woke with a start at the sound of Hackett’s alarm, and sat up to stare at the unfamiliar room around her. She vaguely remembered feeding Alicia during the night, and checked to make sure that she hadn’t done anything silly while she had been half-asleep; the baby’s diaper was full, but she was otherwise fine and sleeping peacefully. Alice picked her up and held her against her chest for reassurance anyway.
“I took the day off,” Hackett said, watching her from the edge of the bed where he sat. He had donned a t-shirt and pajama pants after Alice had fallen asleep, and he almost didn’t look like himself. She didn’t know what she should say, so she nodded while feeling stupid. Everything was different, and she was already overwhelmed.
“I figured that you’ll want to go shopping, and get some things for you and the baby,” he continued.
“Just diapers and clothes, I guess,” Alice said slowly. “I suppose I need something other than these white dresses for me, too.”
She didn’t understand what was happening with her emotions. She had been madly in love with Hackett for months, thoroughly giddy after their first kiss, and eager to join him in marriage as quickly as possible. Yet she now felt like she had woken up next to a stranger, and she didn’t know how she was supposed to act with him.
Everything was different.
“I’m afraid I don’t have any breakfast foods in the house right now. There was no point, since I was eating with you at the prison,” Hackett said stiffly, and Alice wondered if he was having a hard time transitioning as well. The awkwardness was becoming too much for her, and she decided that if she didn’t do something to stop it, it would send her into a nervous breakdown.
She shoved away her anxiety and moved to kiss Hackett, touching his face with her free hand and lightly tracing his ear with her fingers. He didn’t respond immediately, and she felt herself growing hot with embarrassment, terrified that she had unknowingly defaulted to using Damon’s training to escape an uncomfortable situation. Would Hackett chastise her about dignity again? After all that time, had she truly learned nothing?
However, weren’t they now married?
She didn’t know how married couples were supposed to act with each other. While she had grown up with stories of love, she had personally witnessed distance and apathy. Surely there had to be more to it than what she had seen happen between her own parents.
Hackett’s hand tentatively rested on the infant’s head, then his arm wrapped around her waist and he kissed her back with heavily restrained passion. It occurred to Alice that he was holding back because he was afraid of accidentally hurting the baby.
“Maybe we should buy a crib,” she murmured against his lips.
“We’ll get that first then.” He touched his forehead to hers and grinned. “It’s your first full day of freedom, so we should make the most of it.”
“Honestly, I don’t know how to do that.” Alice was slipping into Hackett’s eyes again, losing herself in that gorgeous mixture of browns and greens.“I don’t know what people do when they have babies, and aren’t in the habit of riding motorcycles around to visit bars.”
“Boring stuff, really,” Hackett whispered, kissing her cheek. “We could go out for breakfast, then find a department store, and pick up donuts on the way back home. It won’t be remotely exciting.”
“Sounds perfect. I’ve grown tired of exciting things anyway, and I could use a good dose of boring.” She giggled.
Alicia nursed while Hackett showered and dressed, then Alice handed her baby over to him for her to take a turn. He was wearing a regular t-shirt and jeans, and as he carefully cradled the infant, Alice realized how tiny her baby was in contrast to the bulk of his muscles. For some reason, it made her feel completely overcome with emotion.
She excused herself quickly to lock herself in the bathroom, and stared through misty eyes at her reflection in the mirror. Her natural brown hair had grown out considerably, and her face still had the roundness of pregnancy, that – in her opinion – combined awkwardly with the tiredness of motherhood. She didn’t feel desirable anymore, and it made her wonder why Hackett loved her.
In many ways, Alice felt the exact same as her newborn: she was small, fragile, and barely beginning to experience the world, not only as a mother but also as an individual. Realizing just how tiny her newborn was made her terrified of her own helplessness. Did she trust the warden enough to be dependent on him?
She had been completely dependent on Damon, and he had exploited it thoroughly – to the point of punishing her with abandonment after the first time she had stuck up for herself. Her past experience made her afraid.
Yet Hackett had looked good with Alicia. He was strong, steady, and protective, and Alice was certain that he was going to be a good father and husband. Her heart still fluttered when she thought of him, and she also wanted to be safe in his arms.
She had never seen him dressed casually before, and she hadn’t realized that she would find him so attractive in ordinary clothes.
Alice took a quick shower, then hurried to rejoin her family.
Hackett was sitting in an armchair in the living room, absentmindedly patting the baby’s back as he stared out the window. The concerned look on his face made Alice pause quietly just outside the room, uncertain if she would be welcome with interrupting the moment. He roused himself out of his reverie as soon as he noticed her, and gave her a smile. “Sweet little thing, isn’t she?”
“The sweetest ever!” Alice gushed, relieved by the warmth in his eyes. “I think she likes you too; look at how comfy she is.” She giggled as she crossed the room and sat down on the floor next to Hackett’s chair, draping herself over his leg so she could look up at him. “You don’t have any regrets about marrying me, do you?”
“Well … it hasn’t been a full 24 hours yet, so you should ask again this afternoon,” Hackett teased.
“You!” She stuck her tongue out at him. “When I saw you looking out the window, I got kind of scared that you were having second thoughts about everything.”
Hackett burst out laughing, and with his free hand he reached to stroke Alice’s hair. “Not at all! I was thinking that it’s chilly outside, and you don’t have a jacket or a coat yet.”