What’s in a Name

Stephanie rocked back and forth, back and forth in the chair her grandfather had carved, her eyes never leaving the baby’s in her arms. So sweet and little. So full of possibilities. He was only two days old and she already loved him so fiercely when she thought about it she wanted to break something.

The birth had been hard, but if she had to choose, she’d pick the sixteen hours of labor over the fifty-ish weeks of actually being pregnant any day of the week. And now they were home and they were safe. This was the moment she had wished for the most. This small moment, rocking her new son in his new nursery. The beginning.

The second moment she had wished for would be coming very, very soon.

Dull, calm tones washed up the stairs, occasionally spiking into high laughs. Rob, in the kitchen, calling the people closest to them. They would put a birth announcement up on Facebook later in the week, once Stephanie thought she had the energy for accepting phone calls or even just looking at a social media page. For now, Rob would call the immediate family, and she would get to sit with her little angel.

He was supposed to be the first in his generation, and the fact that he wasn’t wouldn’t have bothered her under normal circumstances. Except with Jilly, there were no normal circumstances. Rob’s younger sister was the baby of the family, and while Steph usually got along with her in-laws, good Lord, it was like they had followed the ‘How to Raise Stereotypes’ playbook. Tess, the oldest, an overachieving heart surgeon still trying to reach her parents’ ever-increasing goals. Rob, the middle child, mellow and mostly ignored. And Jilly. Stupid, spoiled Princess Jilly.

No one even knew Jilly was pregnant until she was six months in. Stephanie guessed not even Jilly knew, but Steph had the brains to keep that guess to herself and Rob. Saying anything even remotely suggestive that Jilly didn’t have her shit together was anathema in front of the in-laws. Their Jilly was their perfect baby and could do no wrong!

It wasn’t her fault she dropped out of college, the professors couldn’t make it interesting enough.

It wasn’t her fault she couldn’t keep a job, all of her bosses – literally every single one of her bosses – had been out to get her.

It wasn’t her fault she couldn’t keep a relationship, she just hadn’t found Mr. Right yet.

Stephanie just kept her mouth shut. Jilly and her parents tanking Jilly’s life from the jump didn’t really change Stephanie’s life any. Oh, sure, there had been…incidents. Like the Last Slice of Pizza incident, which Jilly still brought up at family gatherings with non-jokes about Stephanie stealing Jilly’s food (it hadn’t even been on her plate yet and Jilly had already had three slices while Stephanie had only had one). Or the time, against her better judgment, she had gotten Jilly a job at her office. It was a front desk job, the sort of job Jilly had had three of already, so it should have been fine. In a way, it had been interesting to finally see the sort of shit Jilly pulled to lose every job she had ever had. The fact that her bosses probably still saw the screaming meltdown Jilly had had on her last day every time they looked at Stephanie was the unfortunate price she had to pay.

Little, annoying things. Things that came with any family. Things she could ignore. Until this.

Jilly had announced her pregnancy at Stephanie’s baby shower, and then gleefully reported that she was due a full two weeks sooner than Stephanie. To their credit, most everyone there had looked like they’d been slapped in the face with a fish. Her parents and brother, their friends, Rob and Tess all wore identical looks that said the same thing.

You’ve got to be shitting me.

But from that moment on, as far as Jilly and the in-laws had been concerned, it was Jilly’s party. The three of them had taken a corner of the living room and cooed over Jilly’s stomach, ignoring the party games and the gifts. In fact, suddenly, there was no gift from her in-laws at all!

Jilly went home that day with a brand-new stroller.

Stress wasn’t good for the baby, or for Stephanie (especially because she still couldn’t drink or smoke for three months) so she let it go. What did she care, anyway? It wasn’t like they lived together. She saw Jilly three or four times a year. It was clear the in-laws would be putting all of their attention on Jilly’s baby, but that was okay, too. Better than okay, in fact, as both of her in-laws had already been showing hints of attitudes Stephanie hadn’t been looking forward to (the ‘Gee-Maw’s my favorite’ onesie had gone straight into the trash).

Two weeks ago, shortly after she had heard Jilly had gone into labor, Rob had come to her holding his phone to his chest. She had been watching Netflix, and Rob gently picked up the remote control to pause it. Something he only did when he had bad news.

“Baby,” he said, still clutching the phone. “You trust me, right?”

“Yes,” she said carefully. It was a stupid question, and she didn’t like the where it was going.

“And you know I put us first, before the rest of family?”

“I would have bailed years ago if you didn’t.”

He took a deep breath. “Okay, so please believe me when I say I had no idea she was going to do this.”

Rob held out his phone, and Stephanie was eye to eye with Jilly’s birth announcement. A picture of Jilly and the new baby, her parents right behind her, of course. And the baby’s name.

The name Stephanie and Rob had chosen.

The name they had announced on Facebook, weeks before Jilly’s little ‘surprise.’

The whole fucking thing.

Patrick Liam. Patrick for her grandfather. Liam for his grandfather.

“Mother FU-”

Honey, the baby!” Rob said, holding his hands up. She was two weeks away from her due date, ready to pop, and they’d been careful about stress the whole time but in the past week Rob had suddenly begun to believe if she made a middle finger the baby would impale itself on it.

Still, he was sort of right. She shouldn’t let her get to her. She took a long slow breath, letting it out through her nose. It made her feel like a dragon.

“We never should have announced the name,” Rob said. Waves of guilt were coming off him and she patted his arm.

“It’s not your fault. We didn’t know she was pregnant. If we did…”

Yeah, no way in fucking hell.

“Well, what do we do?” Rob asked.

“What do you mean what do we do?”

“We can’t name our baby the same thing…wait, can we just name the baby the same thing?”

Stephanie smiled as Patrick yawned in her arms and finally closed his eyes. It was at this same beautiful moment Rob once more came into the room, clutching a phone to his chest. His eyes fell on his wife and his son, but she knew the light in his eyes came from a more devilish place. Without a word, Rob handed her the phone.

“Hello, Jilly.”

“Hello, mama!” Jilly yelled, making Stephanie wince. “I can’t believe we’ll be mothers together! How exciting!”

“Uh-huh, very exciting.”

“So, Rob said it was a boy, what did you name him?”

Stephanie smiled, locking eyes with her husband. His face was already a bright red. “Why, you know what I named him. We announced it as soon as we learned the gender.”

A pause. A delicious, soul-filling pause.

“What do you mean?” Jilly asked. Feigning ignorance.

“Patrick Liam, of course. Patrick after my grandfather, and-”

“No. No no no. That’s what I named my baby.”

“Yes. It is. After you saw the announcement on our Facebook, right?”

“I mean… They can’t have the same name! It’ll be confusing!”

“Maybe,” Stephanie said softly, brushing her thumb against Patrick’s arm. So smooth! “But I’m sure we can figure something out.”

“You have to change it! You can change it, you know, in the first few days.”

“No, I don’t think we will.”

You can’t steal my baby’s name! I’m calling Mom and-

Stephanie hung up. There was no talking to her when she got like that. Also, there were tears in Rob’s eyes from holding in the laughter. As soon as the call cut Rob made ugly whale noises into the pillow he had picked up, still trying to quietly laugh to keep from waking the baby.

Rob had gotten to give the good news to close family and friends, people who would absolutely understand when they heard the baby’s name.

In turn, Stephanie got to tell the Princess.


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