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After Forever Ends
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Текст книги "After Forever Ends "


Автор книги: Melodie Ramone






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Текущая страница: 28 (всего у книги 39 страниц)

“Where is my skirt?” I fumbled with my knickers and finally just dropped them on to the floor and picked up a shirt.

Oliver looked about and then pulled it out from under his legs, “Here. Your shirt’s buttoned crooked, Love. Actually, that’s my shirt.”

“I don’t care,” I pulled up my skirt and gave up almost immediately on zipping it.

Oliver yawned and rubbed his head, “It’s a good thing I didn’t drive. I think I was a bit more juiced up than I realised. Lord, I have to pee!”

“Well, go do it!”

“I will!” He pulled on his undershirt and got out of the car.

“My neck is killing me.” I whimpered as he got into the front seat.

“When we get home I’ll rub it for you.”

“I think I’m going to puke.”

“You probably are.”

“Oh, I feel wretched, Oliver.”

“You’ll be all right.”

I decided it was better for me to stay in the back instead of joining him in front. We drove on in silence until he pulled up at the end of our path and stopped the car, “We’re home, Love. You all right?”

“My head hurts.”

“Sorry,” He said sincerely.

“Don’t be. I did this to myself.” I lay down on the seat.

We were both quiet. Oliver dozed off in the front for about an hour while I suffered in the back. Finally, I shoved the door open and vomited all over the grass. I felt much better when I was through.

“That was commanding,” Oliver observed, putting a hand on the small of my back, “Are you through, Love?”

“I think so.”

“You ready to go in then?”

“Oh, yes,” I got out of the car on the other side as to avoid my mess and began to make my way across the garden. I was about half way when my skirt, which I had not zipped, fell down and I tripped over it, sprawling in the grass. It seemed like too much of an effort to get up, so I didn’t.

Oliver sat beside me, “Bare arsed, face down on the lawn. God, I’m proud I’m married to you,” He waved a piece of gum before my eye, “Here, Love, chew that. It’ll help the taste in your mouth. At least you had your hair back, eh?”

“Aye,” I took the gum and put it in my mouth, turning on to my back with my eyes closed. Oliver collapsed beside me flat on his face with his arms to his sides.

Both of us slept for a little while. When I woke, I rolled on to my knees. I spat out my gum and focused my eyes on the cabin. I was gauging the distance, considering whether or not I wanted to make a crawl for it.

“You know, Silvia,” Oliver rubbed my thigh, “You’re beautiful when you’re recovering from a night of debauchery. Want to give it another go?”

“Oh, yes. Right here, Sweetheart. It’s just too far to the house.”

Funny how it all happened. All in one day, Alexander married Lucy, Oliver and I saw a bunch of old friends, got drunk, almost had sex in public, wound up making love twice in our car, then did it again later in our front garden, passed out and woke up freezing in the November chill, oddly with sunburns on our bottoms and backs.

Best of all, six weeks later I discovered that I was pregnant.

Who would have guessed Lucy would be, too?

CHAPTER TWENTY-THREE

Antonia Rose and Elizabeth Elena Dickinson were born eight and a quarter months later at ten sixteen and ten twenty six am respectively. After a rough pregnancy that included going into full blown labour at only five months followed by three months of taking drugs and lying flat on her back with her feet up to avoid it happening again, Lucy had gone into labour early once again the night before.

The whole thing was very scary. Oliver called to tell me that the water had ruptured on one of the amniotic sacks while he’d been at the house. He’d gone with Alexander to take Lucy to the hospital and there was no stopping it now, early or not, the babies were coming. Lucy took this quite calmly. She was, as any other first time mother, completely clueless. Oliver came home after an hour or so, saying that her labour was progressing very slowly and we didn’t need to rush out. Alex would call when it got serious.

And so we spent an evening with all four children in the cabin and we went to bed without much concern. Alexander called us at about nine in the morning to tell us that she was in full blown labour. After hours of only mild contractions, she had completely dilated within twenty minutes, was in horrible pain, and by the time she was to begin pushing she had become hysterical.

“Can you come?” He sounded desperate, “Right now, Silvia?”

“I can,” I said uncertainly, “I have to collect the children…”

“I need you now! Lucy needs you now!”

“We’ll be there straight away,” I assured him. There was something in his tone that made the hair on the back of my neck stand up. I hung up with Alex and told Ollie what was happening. We were out of the cabin and on the road to Newtown in a flash.

When we got to hospital, I could hear Lucy screaming all the way down the hall. “I told her she needed to take the drugs,” I covered my ears with my hands. I felt like I was going to vomit, “A natural childbirth, she said! Oh, my poor, stupid little sister! Listen to her!”

Oliver wrapped me in his arms, closing my one ear with his chest and the other with his hand, “It’s OK, Love. There are doctors with her.”

“Is that Mummy carryin’ on?” Nigel, obviously concerned, turned and looked at Oliver. Ollie reached out and put his hand on the boy’s head, but said nothing.

Edmond and Ana had been there when we’d arrived. Ana was sitting in a chair to my right, clutching her purse in her hands. She looked pale. “Eddie,” She made a motion with her eyes, “Take the children and go down the hall, please,” Edmond nodded and gathered up the children. With promises of crisps from the vending machine, they happily followed him out of the waiting room. Ana stared straight ahead, but her chin quivered.

“Mum?” Oliver said gently, taking a step toward her, “Don’t cry! It’ll be fine! Oh, come here! I’ve got arms for both of you!”

She stood and fell against her son. Oliver was holding us both under each arm whispering consolation when Alexander came sprinting down the hall. He skidded to a stop, “Silvia! You’re here! Thank God! Can you please come? She’s completely mental!”

I nodded. Alexander took my hand. I waddled as fast as I could along behind him, being eight months along myself. I looked over my shoulder and watched Oliver draw his mother in with both arms. “Be strong for her, Love!” He called after me. “She’ll get through it!”

“They gave her something to calm her down, but she’s asking for you. She’s lost it completely!” Alexander was stressed. I could see the vein pulsing in the side of his neck as it only did when he was very upset, “I’ve never seen anyone like this!”

Lucy was lying in her bed moaning when I entered the room. When she saw me, her eyes widened. She looked crazed, not at all like sweet little Lucy, “Oh, Silvia!” She held her hand out for me, “I’m dying, Silvia! I’m dying just like Mummy…”

“Lucy!” I went to her side, “You are not dying!” She went into a contraction and screamed bloody murder. “Lucy!” I got right in her face, “Look at me! I said look at me!” I knew I only had seconds before she contracted again.

My sister looked into my eyes, but she was completely dazed, “I killed her, Sil! She died having me!” She screamed again, “Make it stop! Make it stop!”

“Lucia Dianna Cotton!” I grabbed her chin and forced her to look into my face, “Mummy didn’t die having babies! Mummy died because she fell! She fell, Lucy! She fell off of a ladder hanging curtains in a shop at her job!” Lucy contracted again. She screamed wildly, “Lucy! Come back to me!” I put my hand on her sweaty cheek and made her look into my eyes again, “She hit her head, Sweetheart! She died from too much blood inside her head, not because she was having babies!”

“I always thought…I thought I killed her…” She screamed again, pounding her head back against her pillow. “Please! Please! Stop!”

“Oh, God, Lucy! No! It was an accident! A stupid, silly accident!”

“I didn’t do it? She didn’t die because of me?”

She tilted her head back and screamed again, but not with as much force. I could see the strength draining out of her.

“No, Lucy, you were four months old when mummy died! It was completely cruel of Dad to never have told you! To let you think that all your life! Damn him!” I truly hated him at that moment. I watched my baby sister contract again, watched her suffer, and I wished our father was there so he could see how he’d made it worse for her. “Come on now,” I knew I had to keep her going, “Remember these little babies inside you! You want them so badly! You fought to keep them inside you! Remember that?”

She looked at me. Her face was odd. She looked like somebody had drained all the blood from her veins, like her skin was some sort of living plastic. I knew she wasn’t really with me, only just drifting in and out. I remembered lying on the lawn while my baby died inside me and hearing the Lord and the Lady telling each other that I looked in a bad way. I thought that I must have looked something like Lucy did at that very second. “Lucy, stay with me now! You have to be strong for those babies! You have to fight just as hard now to get them out as you did to keep them in!”

“She needs to start pushing,” The nurse told me, “She needs to push with every contraction.”

“Be strong…” She muttered, “For my babies…where is Alex?”

“I’m right here, Honey,” He went around to her other side.

“Alex! I need you! I’m so scared!”

“I’m right here.”

“Hold my hand!”

“I will. I won’t let go of you, I promise. Come on now, Lucy, our children need you.”

“Ours. Yours and mine.” Her eyes were fogged. “Two girls.”

“Yes, Lucy, we’re having twins. Come on now, help them be born.”

“On the next contraction, push,” I said, “Just push as hard as you can like you’re on the toilet. Make them come out.”

The medication was taking her over. She wasn’t screaming anymore, but she couldn’t push either. “I’m so tired…” She did her best, but she was exhausted. She pushed with all her might for as long as she could, but fifteen minutes later it was not enough.

The doctor finally told her to stop, “I’m going to help you now, Lucy. I’m going to help bring the first baby out.”

“Oh, God!” She sobbed, “Oh, God, thank you!”

I had never seen forceps before. They looked like giant salad tongs, like a utensil you’d uncover in the cupboard of a monster. “You’re going to put those where?” I thought in horror, but I said nothing. I was sure that I would faint.

I looked at Alexander. He went white and swallowed, but he turned to his wife. “It’s OK, Lucy. Lie back.” He smoothed her hair away from her face and spoke gently to her while the doctor took those enormous pincers and inserted them inside her body.

She wailed in hurt.

I closed my eyes. I was dizzy. When I opened them a moment later, the doctor was drawing out a tiny, bloody…and completely silent baby.

I held my breath.

The doctor turned his back and did something I could not see. “Come on!” He muttered and continued to move his arms. “Come on now!” He lifted the baby and did something else, “Come on, Baby! Let us hear your voice! Come on, Darling, cry for us!”

I watched a tear roll down Alexander’s cheek.

“Come on, Baby!” The doctor said once more.

I closed my eyes again.

“Please,” I begged silently, “Please, if there is a God out there, please, please, please…make this baby all right! Please…please…please…not like Cara…please, don‘t do that to Alex and Lucy…please, not like Cara…please…”

It seemed like forever for it to happen, but the room was suddenly filled with the magical sound of a screaming child. It was faint at first, but the doctor did another something and the sound became louder and louder until it was obvious we had a very upset baby in the room.

“Great work!” I gasped.

I heard Alex release his breath. I glanced at him as he hurriedly wiped more tears from his cheek.

Lucy lie back against the pillows with her eyes closed. “Is she all right?” She asked softly, “Is my baby all right?”

“3/5,” The nurse called.

“We’re looking her over,” The doctor said gently, “Now we’ve got another to deliver, Lucy. How are you?”

My sister opened her eyes and blinked a few times, “I think I’m all right. I’m all right as long as she’s all right.”

The nurse called out, “Here she comes now! She’s a fighter! 8/9!”

The doctor smiled, “Yes, she got off to a slow start, but she’s fine. Can you push?”

“You’ve got the first one!” Alexander kissed the side of her head. “Just the one to go now! You can do it!”

Lucy seemed to have renewed strength. She gritted her teeth and pushed until she had nothing left to push with and with one final grunt, out came the second baby, who fell into the doctor’s hands screaming like she hated the whole world.

I had to sit down and collect myself.

I watched Alexander take my sister into his arms, “They’re here!” He told her, “You did it! Two girls, Honey! Two little girls!”

“Oh!” She looked across the room, “Can I see them?”

“In just a moment,” The doctor said kindly, “You’ve suffered an awful tear. Let me stitch you up and get the bleeding stopped.”

The nurse dug away at her belly. Lucy didn’t seem to even notice. She was too lost in kissing her husband, too lost in the ecstasy of being a new mother. She had forgotten I was there.

It didn’t matter. It was not my place to be there. Not anymore.

I got to my feet and made my way down the hall. “She did it!” I said as brightly as I could, “Two girls, they have!”

“You look a little peaky, Dear,” Ana reached out for me.

“No, I’m just very pregnant,” I replied. Oliver helped me into a chair. “It was stressful. Lucy was so frightened and then just so tired. The first baby struggled a bit at first. I’m not sure she was breathing, but she’s fine now. She won’t shut up! She’s angry at us all, I reckon.”

“That’s wonderful!” Edmond pulled Ana close, “Two more girls for Grandmum!”

Oliver sat beside me, “It was bad, yeah?” He whispered.

“It was awful,” I admitted, laying my head against his shoulder, “I want to go home.”

“OK, Sweetie.”

Nigel came running in from the hall, “Auntie Sil!” He put a hand on each of my knees, “Did Mummy have our babies?”

I tried my best to seem chipper, “Yes, Nigel. Everybody’s fine.”

“Boys or girls?” He asked, “They had a picture and said it was girls, but I couldn’t tell.”

“Girls. Definitely girls.”

“Well, that’s OK,” He said as if he’d been considering it for a while.

Carolena was suddenly beside him. She removed her lolly from her mouth and looked me right in the eye, “I saw you go in there.” She said this as if no one else knew, “Tell me, Mummy, was it grotty?”

There was something in the way she said it that made her Dad and I both laugh. “Actually, Muffin,” I told her, “It was really quite grotty!”

“It’s always grotty, you!” Oliver gave her a poke. “Grotty babies!”

About that same time Natalie came running into the room, “Gran!” She shouted, “I got you a pee-an-nut butter cup!” She turned the corner too sharply, however, and slammed into a potted plant, which fell over and spilled Spanish moss everywhere. Ana let out a surprised scream and Gryffin, who was toddling in with his Granddad, immediately toppled over.

“Blimey,” Nigel slapped his little hand against his chest, “Everything all at once and you lot will give me a stroke!”

Oliver and I decided to make sure that Lucy was resting comfortably in her recovery room before we went home. We wanted to make sure Alexander was doing all right as well. Alex never said much about how he felt, but he was easily upset when someone he loved was hurt. And when Alexander got upset, it wasn’t always a simple thing for him to calm down. We’d seen him go on for days in misery.

When we entered the room, Ana was leaned over Alexander in his chair. Her chin was on his shoulder and her arms were around his chest. She held him for a long time, rocking him like he was a child, even though he was probably twice her size. He patted her arm gently in return.

“Are you all right, Dear?” She whispered, “Is there anything you need?”

“No, Mum. Thank you.”

“Supper?”

“No, they said they’d bring me something to eat from downstairs.”

She kissed the top of his head and stood.

Edmond stroked a piece of hair away from Lucy’s forehead, “She’s white as a ghost.”

“She lost a lot of blood, so she’s pale. They gave her something after,” Alexander whispered, “Something to bring down her blood pressure. They said she’d rest for a good while.” He glanced at his brother and then at me, “That was bloody terrifying. I don’t think we ought to do that again.”

“Maybe not,” I said honestly, “But it’s over now.”

He nodded.

“Well, we’re taking the children home with us,” Ana announced, “So Silvia can get some sleep. She doesn’t need any more excitement in her condition,” Everyone was worried that I’d go into labour and being ridiculously pregnant, I did not pass up the chance to agree to some quiet time. Ana smiled suddenly, “Two girls, Alexander! I’m so happy!”

“Yes,” Edmond mussed Alex’s hair, “We both are!”

We hugged and kissed the parents and children goodbye and left Alexander alone with his wife, but Oliver and I didn’t leave the hospital for a while. Instead we stood in front of the nursery window and stared in at our new nieces.

“I thought twins skipped generations,” I rested my cheek against the rough wool of Oliver’s sweater.

“They usually do,” He responded quietly, “Which is which?”

“I have no idea.”

“I asked Mum once how she kept Alex and me separate. She said she kept the tag on our wrists as long as she could. Then she put an O and an A on the bottoms of our feet with magic marker. After that, she made sure she dressed us different, but she lost track when we started switching clothes on her. Eventually, she just knew. Nobody’s identical. There’s always something that tells us apart.”

“I thought I was going to lose my sister in there,” I said softly, “I was so scared for her.”

“I knew she was in trouble. I could hear her. I was worried, but you Cotton girls, you’re fiery.” Oliver put his hand on my swollen belly, “Too bad we didn’t have the twins.”

“What would we have called them?”

“Certainly not Antonia and Elizabeth! Awful names, those are! Now Heloise and Gertrude, I’d have named them!”

“Oh, yes, Antonia and Elizabeth are just terrible! But I like Helga and Euphemia much better than your choices.”

“Oh, can’t we have Euphemia and Heloise, Love? If we have twins?”

“Definitely!”

We laughed quietly.

“I can’t see them well enough,” Oliver said. “I’m too tired.”

“Me, too. This is boring. Let’s go home and have sex. Maybe I’ll go into labour.”

“Excellent! I’m all for that! Sex is what got us into this predicament and it’s what’ll get us out!”

“With any luck! My back is killing me!”

“At least I can’t get you pregnant, yeah?”

“No more than you already have.”

Oliver wrapped his arm around my shoulder for support as we began to walk away. “Maybe we ought to find a linen closet and try it here. We won’t have to come back if you do go into labour.”

Oliver could always make me laugh, even when my back was in knots and I was exhausted.

We went home, but any ideas of fooling about were gone as soon as we saw the bed. Once on it, we were both immediately asleep.

It was one in the morning three weeks later when I shook Oliver awake, “Sweetheart! Sweetheart!” He was never easy to wake up even on his best day. I licked my finger and stuck it in his ear, “Oliver, wake up!”

“W-what?” He sat straight up, “Is it Duncan? Did he win?”

“Oh, wake up!” I popped him on the side of his head, “Your mum’s on her way over. I’m contracting. They’re twenty minutes apart, let’s go.”

I was hot and cranky and not at all in the mood to have a baby.

Oliver shook himself to full consciousness. “I was dreaming about the dog,” He said absently, “He was driving a car in the Grand Prix.”

I was hot and cranky and not at all in the mood for him to make me laugh, either, but I couldn’t help it at that one, “Come on let’s get going then! Get up!”

Ana arrived ten minutes later as if it were noon, hair done and dressed to the nines. “You go on now and have your baby!” She said like she was sending us off for a private supper, “I’ll pop by in the morning to check on you!”

I knew it wouldn’t be long by the time we made it to the hospital, “Take me straight to delivery,” I told the nurse as soon as they put me in a bed, “This is my third child and I’m not playing about this!”

“Let me check your…”

“Now, you listen to me, Miss!” I reached out to grab her by the jacket, but I stopped myself, “I’m telling you, you can check whatever you like, but if I miss my epidural because you want to argue, I’ll do you for it!”

“All right,” She slipped on a glove, “Lie back, please. Well,” She yanked off the glove, “You’re right! It’s off to delivery for you!”

“I want my epidural.”

“That should not be a problem.” She unlocked the bed and gave it a shove.

Oliver was grinning as we hurried down the hall. I tried to glare at him, but it was impossible, “A baby, Sil!” He was dancing around like a kid, “Want to bet a quid it’s another boy?”

“You’re on,” I smiled quickly and looked away as another contraction washed over me.

I remember what I was thinking more during that delivery than the other two. I was thinking about my poor sister believing that she killed our mother and practically killing herself out of guilt during the birth of her own babies. I was thinking about Carolena and Natalie and Antonia and Elizabeth and how they’d all be doing this one day. I was thinking about the Lord and the Lady and wondering how many boon they’d had over the years. And I was thinking how odd it was that I somehow knew without question that this was the last baby Oliver and I would ever have and how that was perfectly fine with me. I had this feeling that this little baby was going to make our family complete. I remembered the Lady’s words when she asked the wind to make me sleep, “By the power of three!” Three was a magical number and I knew in my heart that our number of babies was up.

“Oliver, I love you,” I gave a great push.

“I love you, too, Sil.”

“This is it,” I grunted, “Muffin Magic, Sweetheart!”

“You’re the best!” He swore.

I put my chin to my chest and pushed with all I had. A few seconds later, a baby cried.

“You owe me a quid!” Oliver jumped up and down in place, “I can see! It’s a boy!”

“A boy!” I lie back and smiled. It was the best bet I ever lost. “A wee little muffin man!” The doctor laid him in my arms. “My goodness, he has the biggest cheeks I’ve ever seen!”

“He’s a chipmunk!” Oliver grinned, “We’ve had a monkey, a James Bond clone and now a chipmunk! We’re so bloody lucky!”

“Oh, he’s very handsome! Look at him!”

“His tongue’s all stuck out!”

“He’s still lovely.”

“Aye, he is.”

Not as many people gathered around us that time. Sandra sent another bear and a note saying that she’d reschedule our get together for the following year. Lance phoned in his congrats and gave us the details on his upcoming wedding. He said he’d be by in a day or two to check on us. Penny sent flowers and best wishes. Merlyn was in Sweden on business, but he promised to call later that evening.

Ana and Edmond came to see us while Alexander and Lucy looked after the children. There were just too many and the twin girls were too small at that point to bring them in. When they left, Alex and Lucy came out and stayed for an hour or so. I was too tired to be very talkative. Lucy asked if she could come to the cabin with Nattie, Annie and Bess during the days while Alexander was at work and Nigel went off to school.

“You’re calling them Annie and Bess? How precious!”

“They are,” My sister’s eyes filled. “I’m so glad they’re healthy. Annie gave us such a scare when she was first born.”

“Don’t be silly about asking if they can come out!” I told her, “I’d like it more if we built on a few more rooms and you all moved back in, but I know you need your family to yourself. Just remember how much I love you all, Sissy. Please know that there will never be a moment that you cannot come to me for anything.”

“Same here, Silvia. I hope I can be half the mother that you are.”

“Trust yourself, Lucy. Have faith and you’ll be just fine.”

“I love you so much!” My sister hugged me, “Thank you for what you did for me when I was having my babies. I don’t know what happened. Something snapped inside me. I was so frightened I just completely lost my head. I don’t remember a lot of it, but I must have been a nightmare.”

“Don’t be sorry about it!” I waved my hand at her, “That crap hurts!”

Alexander sat in a corner with the baby propped in his hands, speaking quietly to him in Welsh about things I couldn’t hear. Oliver was beside him, adding to the conversation here and there. They were both grinning and sniggering like outlaws.

“You better watch what you’re telling that sweet little boy,” Lucy warned, “Both of you! Send him off in the wrong direction and his mother will have your heads on a plate!”

“Lucy!” Alexander protested, “I’m hurt!”

“Yeah!” Oliver added, looking stricken, “Me, too!”

“We were telling him about helping ladies across the road!”

“And holding doors open for old people!”

“Oh, stop your lies!”

“She doesn’t believe us, Oliver!”

“No, Alex, I’m afraid she doesn’t trust us at all!”

I sat there and giggled at the three of them.

The truth was that I was more tired than I’d ever been in my life and I was relieved when they decided it was time to go. Oliver went down to the cafeteria to grab a bite while I took a long, hot shower. When I came back to my room, Ollie was sitting in a chair. “They took the baby down to the nursery,” He told me, standing to help me into the bed, “They had to do a couple of tests, nothing to worry about.”

“Come lay with me,” I pushed to the side, “Hold me. I need to be close to you.”

“Of course, Silvia,” He kicked off his shoes, “My pleasure.”

We lay together for a long time in silence. After an hour or so, the nurse brought our new son, “I suppose you want this little guy?” She was an American girl with large teeth and a wonderful smile, “He’s a cutie patootie!”

“Yes, please,” I reached for him and received him into my arms, “Thank you so much.”

“If you need anything, just buzz!” She told us, “Congratulations, Doctor Dickinson! He really is beautiful.”

“Thank you, Jeanne,” Oliver smiled down at our son, “I think so, too.”

She gave me a wink and hurried out of the room.

“Oliver,” I whispered, “It’s time to do our thing.”

Oliver took our son from me and laid him between us. We sat for a long time and said nothing. We just admired that beautiful little boy.

“He has no name,” I said finally.

“I know. We hadn’t decided on what to call a boy.”

“He doesn’t look like a Simon, does he?”

“No, he does not. I know a Simon anyway and he’s a dick.”

“We could give him a mighty, manly name. Like Spike.”

Oliver laughed. Our little unnamed son squirmed a bit, but decided that sleep was more important than complaining. “No, Spike is a bit Spartan in my book.”

“You think so, Sweetie? I mean, Spike Dickinson would command some respect at school. ‘Oh, look out, Mates! Here comes Spike Dickinson …oooooh, he’s very rough!’”

“Yes, yes, it’s a very intimidating thing to be called Spike, but I am thinking something a bit more subtle as not to frighten the other children,” Oliver stared at his son for a long moment, “I am thinking that I’d like to name him after by grandpaddy if you have no objection.”

“You never told me his name. Everyone calls him W.D.”

“It was Warren.”

“Now that’s a lovely name, isn’t it?” I looked at the baby, “Warren.”

“It’s all right then?”

“It’s better than that! I think it’s a brilliant name! He’ll have loads of friends with a name like Warren. ‘Look, Mates, here comes Warren Dickinson!’ No one will fear him and no one will make fun of him either, not like if we’d called him a sissy name like Patsy Dickinson.”

Oliver laughed and kissed me on the head. We were quiet again for a time. He was thoughtful when he spoke again, “It’s not all up to us this time. Have you thought about that?”

“What do you mean?”

“We’re not on our own anymore. It’s not just us. This one’s got a brother and a sister older than him. And cousins, too. And he’s got his Auntie and his Uncle and his grandparents. It’s not just up to you and me to teach him.”

“But we will.”

“We will. We’ll teach him all we know.”

“There are things about the wood only you can show him. There are secrets there that only you know.”

“Well, you, too, Love! You’ll show him your tree and how to be friends with it.”

“I will. And you can teach him to skip rocks on the pond.”

“And what the difference is between a lake and a pond, too,” He told me and I giggled. “Cause you can’t teach him that since you don’t know.”

“We’ll teach him how to have fun. Oh, Warren, you have no idea how much fun we have and now we have you to chase, too!”

“He has no idea how happy he’s going to be.”

“He has no idea how much we love him.”

“But one day he’ll know.”

“Because we’ll show him.”

“Each and every day, Warren,” Oliver’s hand looked positively huge as he caressed the baby’s head, “We’ll show you how much we love you.”

“And we’ll love you always and forever…”

“To bits…”

“And that’s our promise, Little Muffin Man. That’s our very first and most unbreakable promise to you.”

“It is…”

I wanted to stay up and look at our new son for a while longer, but I was so tired my eyes were closing on their own.

“Sil,” Oliver whispered, “Stop fighting sleep.. We’ll both be here when you wake up.”

“Thank you, Oliver,” I nuzzled my head under his chin.

“No, thank you, Sweetheart.” He kissed my hair.

I closed my eyes and I fell asleep thinking about what a lonely child I had been growing up with a father who didn’t have enough love to pay me attention and then sent me off to boarding school where only my physical needs were met. None of my children would ever know that kind of life. They’d never know it because one happy day I ended up at a place called Bennington and a handsome, good natured, rebellious young man had hit me in the head with a rubber ball. He’d made all my dreams come true, that Oliver Dickinson had. Now I had him and his parents and his brother and my sister and seven fantastic children who had filled every inch of my life and every corner of my heart. My life was worth living because of all of them.


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