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Dani knew what forceps were, and worry tightened her chest. “Forceps? Is there something in his ear?”

“Yes, but I don’t know what. At first, I thought it was a hard ball of wax, but I noticed something metal in it.”

Metal? Oh God.

The nurse came back in, and the doctor said, “All right, Noah, I am going to remove something from your ear, and it might be a little uncomfortable, but your mom is going to sing your favorite song while I remove whatever is in your ear.”

Dani took her son’s small hands and started humming the Mickey Mouse Clubhouse theme song as the doctor pulled the forceps out of the sterile pack. Noah hummed along for a minute and then whimpered as the doctor started the extraction.

“Hey, it’s okay, buddy, just look at Mama. It will only be a second, and then Mapa and I will take you out for ice cream.”

“I got it, Noah,” the doctor said, holding up a small black object. He squinted at it for a moment or two, hmm-ing under his breath. “I think it’s a battery.”

Dani was floored. She’d never seen anything like it, and when she told him so, he shrugged. “It could have come out of a toy or something. It doesn’t seem to have been in there very long. No corrosion. At least he didn’t swallow it.”

Guilt twisted up Dani’s gut. Was the doctor blaming her? Thinking that she wasn’t watching her son closely enough?

“How long is not very long?” she asked.

“Maybe a week? It’s hard to know for sure.”

God, obviously he was right. She’d been distracted, or maybe she would have noticed a broken toy or that his ear was sore. She turned to her mom and spoke more sharply than she’d intended. “Do you have anything that battery might have come out of?”

Her mom immediately went on the defensive. “Are you blaming me for this? Because I haven’t had Noah all week; you have.”

“This is no one’s fault,” the doctor said loudly. “Accidents happen. I would just make sure to search for any broken toys or electronics that might have a battery like this and be careful what you allow Noah to play with in the future.”

Ashamed for starting a fight in the doctor’s office, Dani asked, “Is there . . . is there anything else he needs? Medicine or something?”

“Nope, he should be fine. Like I said, it probably wasn’t in there very long.” Giving Noah a stern look, the doctor added, “Now, young man, no more putting things in your ears or up your nose. If you find something and you don’t know what it is, I want you to show your mom or dad or your grandparents. Understood?”

Dani’s cheeks warmed at the mention of a dad, but Noah just nodded for the doctor, his mouth wrapped around his thumb.

“Thank you for getting us in and for all of your help,” Dani said.

“It’s not a problem; these things happen.” The doctor’s tone was reassuring and comforting, and Dani realized that she’d probably just been projecting her own guilt. She should have insisted on keeping Noah with her this weekend. It was why she’d taken a vacation, not to go gallivanting around with a bunch of strangers.

“You can just head on up front, and they’ll take care of you,” the doctor said.

“Thank you.” Dani helped Noah down from the table and took his hand, her mom following behind them as they went up to pay. As Dani searched through her purse for her medical card, her mom started talking.

“Accidents happen, honey. There’s no use beating yourself up about it. Or me, for that matter.”

“I don’t blame you, Mom, but I do blame myself.” Handing the card over to the receptionist, Dani lowered her voice and said, “How could I not know that my son had a battery in his ear?”

“As closely as we watch him, we’re only human. We miss things. And like the doctor said, Noah is fine.”

Dani’s eyes swam as she took back the medical card and handed over her debit card. She didn’t want to have this discussion in front of the receptionist, who handed her back her ATM card with several tissues. God, how embarrassing to get all weepy in front of strangers.

Once they were outside, Dani said, “Noah might be fine now, but it could have been worse. And that’s on me.”

“Please, do you think that you never took years off my life with your shenanigans? I’ll never forget the time you thought you could fly. You were playing in the backyard and decided that you were going to jump off your play structure. You could have tangled yourself up in the swing or worse, but you didn’t. You hit the ground and broke your arm. So, if you think I don’t know how you’re feeling right now, I do. I felt so guilty taking you into that ER, glancing around at all of the nurses, imagining what they must be thinking, but you know what? It was all in my head. The only thing they thought was that you were just being a kid.”

“Mom, I was six when I did that, not under two.” Reaching for her mom’s back car door, she said, “I’m just going to take Noah home.”

“No, you are not. Your dad is making corn bread and beef stew for dinner, and you are more than welcome to join us, but my grandson is going to come back to my house so he doesn’t associate it with any of this negativity.”

Her mom took Noah’s hand from her, and although Dani wanted to protest, she also didn’t want to make a scene and upset Noah.

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