Los Angeles – May 22nd, 2015
Getting Caleb home from the hospital was easy. It was after, when the ‘oh shit, what the hell are we doing’ feeling set in – that’s when Joe and Audrey realized how hard it was going to be. He was no longer perched perfectly inside of Audrey’s belly. They had this tiny little human to take care of – a tiny little human with a lot of big needs.
To be perfectly honest, Joe hadn’t changed a diaper since Frankie was a baby and even then, he maybe changed a handful of diapers in his whole infancy. He never actually realized just how many diapers Caleb would go through on a daily basis. And how many bottles and burping and barfing there would be.
Audrey did a lot of sleeping for the first few weeks, which Joe thought was pretty normal. She just went through something considerably exhausting. She had major surgery with the c-section, she needed her rest. It wasn’t until the second week when he started really seeing signs of the post-partum. She was withdrawing from not only him, but also the baby. Joe was so focused on the baby that he hadn’t even realized that she quit breast feeding altogether and was only pumping the milk for Caleb. The little things were beginning to become big things – things Joe couldn’t ignore anymore.
“Audrey?” Joe called out after he walked in the door carrying several bags of groceries.
As he walked deeper into the house toward the kitchen, he could hear Caleb crying from the upper level.
“Aud?” Joe called out again, cocking his ear toward the staircase to get some sort of hint that their son was being attended to.
When Caleb’s cries kept on, Joe set the bags of groceries on the kitchen counter and headed for the stairs. His cries got louder and louder the closer Joe got to his and Audrey’s bedroom. And when Joe turned the corner into the bedroom, she saw Caleb lying in the bassinet by the rocking chair, bright red, screaming his little lungs hoarse.
“Audrey?” Joe called out, moving quickly toward Caleb, picking him up immediately.
“You’re okay, buddy. You’re okay. Daddy’s here,” Joe cooed to his son as he grabbed the pacifier from the bassinet and coaxed it into his mouth.
Almost immediately he calmed down, relaxing in his arms. Joe scanned the room, noticing Audrey lying in their bed, her back to them.
“Audrey? Are you okay?” Joe called to her, moving slowly toward her with Caleb in his arms.
A sense of panic washed over him, thinking the worst as he walked up to his wife. Was she sleeping? Did she just not hear him? Was she alright? He was so fearful of finding out the answers to his questions.
Joe placed his hand on her arms and immediately her body shifted, only slightly, to give him a small look before she turned away from him again.
“Aud…” Joe breathed, noticing the red tint in her eyes as and the tears streamed down her face.
“Audrey, are you alright?” Joe asked, feeling a lump in his throat.
She didn’t answer. Quickly, Joe walked around the bed to be able to face her. But she dug her face into the covers.
“Audrey, please,” Joe breathed, placing Caleb on their bed between them before he crawled up into it as well.
“I’m fine, Joe,” Audrey breathed when he put her hand on her arm.
“Obviously you’re not, Audrey,” Joe pointed out.
“I’m fine,” she huffed, looking up at him.
“Audrey…” Joe breathed, giving her a look of sympathy.
Her face crumpled up with emotion and it broke his heart.
“Audrey, tell me what’s wrong. Please,” Joe begged of her.
“I-I just can’t… I can’t do it,” she cried.
“You can’t do what?” Joe asked, rubbing his hand up and down her arm lightly.
“This. I can’t. I can’t be a mother. I can’t do it,” she cried.
“Oh, baby,” Joe breathed, cutting her eyes away to their perfect little boy laying between them.
“You’re an amazing mother,” Joe assured her.
“I’m not. I’m not, Joe,” she cried.
“But you are, babe. You really are,” he told her.
“He just cries and… and… and I just… I don’t… I can’t… I just… I don’t feel anything. I don’t have the natural instincts. I don’t know what to do. I-I just… I can’t do it, Joe,” Audrey cried.
“Sweetie— ah, Audrey,” Joe said, bringing his hand up to her face, wiping away her tears with his thumb.
“I know it’s hard, but you are doing just fine, honey. I promise you. It’s hard. But we’re learning,” he told her.
“I don’t feel anything, Joe. I don’t… I don’t look at him and… and think of how happy I am. I just feel empty. What kind of person am I to not feel anything for their child, Joe? What kind of person does that make me?” She said, breaking down further. And it literally tore at his insides
In their birthing class, they briefly talked about what might happen after having the baby. On some occasions, a mother could experience something known as post-partum depression. In most cases, it is just a form of mild depression. But in other cases, it can actually become severe. And from the looks of it, nothing about Audrey’s case looked mild. The worst part about it was Joe didn’t know how to help her. He had no idea what to do or what to say that would make any kind of difference.
“You won’t always feel like this, Audrey. Just… just give it some time. Just…” Joe told her, letting his words trail off because he had no idea what words would actually help her believe what he was saying.
She looked so broken and sad. And there was nothing Joe could do to help her.
“Just… just get some rest. I’ll take Caleb. Get some rest and maybe you’ll feel better when you wake up,” he told her, trying to sound optimistic.
She nodded her head, burying it deeper into the pillow. Joe leaned in, kissing her forehead before he pulled himself off of the bed, grabbing up Caleb in his arms. His heart was sitting heavy in his chest as he brought their son down to the main floor of the house. Joe put him in his swing as he put away the groceries, thinking only of what he just came home to. He couldn’t get it out of his head and he was more than a little distressed about it.
“Nick,” Joe breathed, once he got him on the phone.
“Hey man, what’s going on?” He asked, sounding quite chipper.
“Uh, I… uh, it’s Audrey,” Joe stammered.
“What’s going on? Is something wrong?” Nick asked, automatically going in to worry mode.
“I-I… I’m not sure. But, I think so,” Joe told him, feeling the weight of the situation sting his whole body.
How was he going to be able to help his wife? How was he going to help her feel something, anything for their son?
He couldn’t help but think this was his karma for all the ways he screwed up in the past. He knew a condition like this couldn’t possibly be his fault, but something deep down inside of him held onto the notion that in the end it came back around to him.
New York City – March 24th, 2012
Joe tried to watch them out of the corner of his eye – just to see if there was any kind of touching to hint that things were progressing with them. But as far as he could tell, there was no touching of any kind really. In fact, she was actually sitting closer to him that she was to Nick, which kind of made him wonder if she felt the same connection between them that he felt the second they laid their sights on one another. Or was this just her way of being shy and bashful toward him? Did she like him? Did he like her? It was driving Joe crazy not knowing.
“So, what is it you do, Audrey?” Joe heard Danielle ask her from across the table.
Joe looked up quickly at his sister-in-law and kind of applauded her in his head. Why didn’t he think to ask something like that? He should be asking Audrey those kinds of question. He should be making small talk with her – getting to know her. He wanted to get to know her. Why was it so fucking hard to concentrate right now?
Joe was really regretting doing those few lines before the show. He really hated himself for feeling like he needed something to get him going. Cocaine was definitely not what he needed. He couldn’t even fucking stop bouncing his leg. He pressed his hand to his knee stilling his leg, realizing he should probably try to listen to Audrey’s answer.
“…full-time student,” he barely caught as he turned his head toward her general direction.
“Awesome. What’s your major?” Kevin asked Audrey.
Fuck. He really wished he was asking her these questions. He was such a fucking idiot.
“Business,” Audrey smiled at Kevin.
“Oh, really? Anything in particular? Or is it pretty generalized?” Kevin asked, giving Audrey a smile.
“Oh, I don’t know. Maybe management of some sort. I just want to be able to make a living for myself and my future family,” she explained to Kevin.
“That’s very noble of you,” Joe chimed in, giving her a bob of his eyebrows when she looked over at him.
Wait. Who the fuck says something like that? That’s very noble of you? Noble. What the fuck kind of response was that?
“You gotta have a plan, you know,” she said, giving him a small smile. She probably thought he was the biggest idiot of earth.
“I’m all set,” Joe told her, smiling back.
His life plans were set in stone the second they made their first million. When the millions kept rolling in, he knew his future wife, his kids and possibly their kids would be set for quite a while.
“Unfortunately, some of us don’t have the luxury,” Audrey said, giving him an uneasy look, like she was embarrassed or something.
Joe froze, trying to realize what just happened. Did she take what he said offensively? Like he was better than her because he didn’t have to find a traditional job like she would? He didn’t mean that at all. A sense of dread washed over him as Kevin addressed the issue.
“And that’s okay. Working for what you get is the most rewarding,” he told her.
“That’s not what I was saying,” Joe said, staring at Kevin before he quickly looked over at Audrey to make sure she knew he wasn’t trying to be a pompous ass by saying that.
“I wasn’t being rude. I didn’t mean it to be rude,” Joe told her, quickly trying to redeem himself.
She looked over at him with her big wide, beautiful eyes staring straight into his.
“I didn’t take it that way,” she said, her voice sounding sweet and beautiful and airy.
“Good,” Joe told her, feeling relieved, but also feeling incredibly attracted to this girl – even more so than before.
It wasn’t every day that he got a chance to hang out with a girl that was so down to earth, a girl that wasn’t concerned with them being the Jonas Brothers. They were just regular guys to her. That was proven by her friendship with Nick.
“I’m going to go check my levels,” Nick told the group.
Joe almost didn’t hear him, because his thoughts were so loud inside of his head, but he’d been itching to get Nick alone all night to ask him about Audrey.
“I’ll come with you,” Joe said, jumping up out of the booth, immediately following Nick toward the bathroom.
“Alright,” Nick said, giving him a weird look.
When they got into the bathroom, Nick gave Joe another weird look.
“You alright?” He asked.
“Yeah. What? What do you mean?” Joe asked, knitting his eyebrows in confusion.
“You seem… jumpy,” he said.
Just one of the many side effects of the cocaine, brother.
“Nah, man. I’m cool,” Joe said, turning away from him quickly. Joe turned on the sink and started washing his hands to have something to do as Nick checked his levels.
“So, uh… Audrey…” Joe started, wanting to get down to business.
“What about her?” He asked nonchalantly.
“You two… are you…” Joe started.
“Just friends,” Nick said, looking up at Joe through his eyelashes, looking annoyed.
“Just friends?” Joe asked.
“I don’t know why I can’t just have a friend that’s a girl,” Nick said.
“I mean, you can. But like, I don’t know, you haven’t really had a girl friend since Maya,” Joe shrugged.
“I am capable of having platonic feelings,” he said, looked at Joe like he was a complete idiot.
“I never said you weren’t. She’s just… she’s cute,” Joe said, shrugging again, trying to act blasé about the whole conversation, like he wasn’t aching for the new girl his little brother called a friend.
“Seriously, dude. We’re just friends. I don’t think that it’s going to change. Besides, me and Delta just broke up,” Nick said, washing his hands.
“Alright. I get it,” Joe told him.
That was good news. Good news indeed.
As Joe and Nick were leaving the bathroom, Joe could have done a fucking dance, he was so excited. Audrey was fair game.