Updated: Nov 14, 2020
Two years later
The sound of his wife’s screams pierced Cade’s ears and made him wish he could do more than just squeeze her hand. But last he checked, he wasn’t a midwife or doctor. The hand intertwined with his own gripped his tighter as another wave of pain overtook his wife, the sweat coating her palm mixing with his own.
The door banged open, causing Kerri-Leigh to hop up from her position at Arielle’s beside and run through the house, yelling a continual “hurry” as she related the past hour. Along with his sister’s rushed footsteps was the calm yet firm voice of the local midwife, assuring Kerri everything would be alright. Though he had no idea why, Kerri was even more worried than he was, constantly mentioning all the dangers of birthing and pain Arielle was in, almost as though she’d experienced it herself.
“Mr. Darren, if could lead your sister outdoors, I would be forever grateful,” the midwife, Mrs. Gallagher told him, casting him a pleading glace while walking through the doorway of the room and situating herself beside Arielle, then beginning to whisper words of assurance to her.
Even in the midst of the serious moment, Cade found it hard to suppress a chuckle at Mrs. Gallagher’s words. He leaned over Arielle, pressing a kiss to her forehead, then took his sister by the elbow and dragged her from the room. “Come along, now. You’ve done your part. Now we must let the professionals do their work,” he said, somehow managing to push the statue-still woman through his house and out into the fresh air.
Yet once away from the pressure, she wouldn’t cease her distressing prattle. “Oh, Cade, I can’t stand it! What happens if the umbilical cord is wrapped around the baby’s neck and cuts off its breathing? What if its―”
Cade placed a hand over her mouth, interrupting that last assumption, but then immediately folding her into his arms at the recognition of tears flowing from her eyes. A sob released itself from her throat as she fell into his embrace and wrapped her arms around his neck, her tears soaking his shirt. “Shh. It’s all gonna be okay. Arielle’s in God’s hands, so is the baby,” he reminded her, though he realized even he needed to know that. He knew from when Kerri was born that everything happening was normal, the pain, the screaming, but knowing Arielle was the one enduring that, well, it broke his heart.
After what seemed to be an endless hour of praying and holding his sister, the door swung open, causing him to pivot around and face the midwife. Much to his relief, Mrs. Gallagher wore a smile on her lips―if the slight upward tilt of her mouth could be called such. She clasped her hands in front of her stomach before declaring, “It’s a boy!” Though the statement was spoken with no enthusiasm, a sparkle in her eyes gave way to her pleasure.
Kerri spun around and launched herself at Cade, her tears becoming ones of joy. “Oh, a son! Cade, that’s absolutely wonderful!” Her last word broke as another sob escaped her throat.
But he didn’t have time to comfort his sister, he wanted to see his wife and child.
“Yes, but only because you asked so nicely.”
Oh, it seemed like only yesterday when she’d spoken those words to him, and now here she was, wrapped in his arms, holding their child. Arielle couldn’t be more blessed.
Not even a month had passed before yes became I do and Cade and Arielle were wed. The day was the greatest of them all. During that month of engagement, Arielle put aside her childish wishes of solitude and reestablished her relationship with the townsfolk, finally getting rid of the “Emily’s ghost” rumors once and for all. Now, everything had changed, almost as if the fire had never existed. An elderly couple from town, Mr. and Mrs. Tanner had taken her under their wing, becoming nearly like godparents to her. And the men and women she once knew as a child welcomed her back with as much shock as one could ever possess at the fact she still lived.
Adding to the change was her inheritance of a large estate in Germany that once belonged to a baron, as well as her opa’s wealth. Fortunately, as Opa had said, she had no need to concern herself over her finances or such with the lawyer he’d put in charge of everything before he had died. Yes, she was just as rich as some dandy from Boston, but she kept her economic condition a secret from society, meaning she lived happily in her lighthouse. Though she couldn’t help but use some of her money to update the lighthouse itself, not to mention the house. A living room was added, which included a fireplace, and the attic was turned into a bedroom for future children.
One of her eyelids slid closed, though she forced it back open and searched for the gaze of her husband. Sweet cinnamon brown eyes met hers as Cade smiled at their baby, Alexander Hosea Darren, the most adorable little thing she’d ever laid eyes on. Alex let out a cry, and Cade shifted him into her arms, allowing her to feed the little munchkin. Once he was suckling, she let her eyes close and yawned. Giving birth was such work, but it was worth it, that was for sure.
The sound of Kerri’s light snores were the only noise in the room, her breathing drifting all the way from her chair in the corner to Arielle’s ears. Bless her heart, the sweetie was so tired from all she had done to assist with the birthing, not to mention her unending fretting. She seemed to know quite the bit about pregnancy and delivering the child, which was odd, but Arielle was grateful for her help and advice. Because no matter how absolutely darling her husband was, he wasn’t a baby genius, so to speak.
A door opened from the front of the house, startling Kerri awake. She jumped up, frantically jerking her head back and forth. “What happened? I’m here, I’m here,” she said before she realized everything was fine and released a sigh. She lifted a finger, walking towards the door. “I’ll see who’s there.”
A moment later, she returned, wearing a tired expression. “Ari, you up for visitors? The whole town’s here.” At Arielle’s nod, she cracked the bedroom door open, revealing Mr. and Mrs. Tanner, their son Logan, the midwife’s daughter Comfort, Mrs. Halstead and her three children, and James and Betsy Barnes, including their daughter, two-year-old Essie.
Arielle sat up as best she could in her bed, situated Alex in her arms, and pasted on a smile. Though her sore muscles protested to each movement. The townsfolk crowded around her bed, oohing and awing over the baby. Through the crowd, she barely noticed Kerri-Leigh exiting the room, sending her a wink.
She peeked down at Alex, who’s eyes slid closed and expelled a yawn. Yes, it was worth it.
The dining room chair creaked as Kerri sat with a half-yawn half-sigh. Oh, was helping one’s sister-in-law have a baby hard work or what? It definitely was for her. But the work wasn’t the hardest part. It was the memories that were the most difficult. She was beyond happy for Arielle and Cade, and for herself as well. Why, she had a nephew, and an adorable one at that. Alex even had little dimples, just like Steele. No, no, no. She couldn’t think of Steele, not at a joyful time like this. He was gone, and there was no going back, but she could love her nephew and any others that came along. They would fill her heart, and that was enough for her.
The seat beside her scraped across the floor, and she turned her gaze to find Cade plopping down wit her. He laid a hand one her shoulder. “You okay?” Good grief, how many times had he asked her that today? Plenty, and it was because she wasn’t okay.
She gave her brother a crooked smile. “M-hmm, I’m fine. Congratulations, ole buddy. You’re a daddy now.” And she would’ve been a mommy. Adding to her declaration, she slapped him on the back, though the enthusiasm was as fake as the pearl necklace around her neck.
His eyes lit up like the light in the tower outside, and he returned her smile with a toothy grin that declared his joy enough. “I never woulda thought it felt so good.” He wasn’t the only one.
Small paws pattered up to them and a wet nose jutted towards Kerri. Even Blessing’s eyes showed sympathy. Could the dog sense her heartache? No, that sounded like something out of a fairy-tale. Just like all that talk about love and happiness. It didn’t exist, not in her life anyway. Just someone’s false hope for naive people who couldn’t quite look and see reality. A reality that was staring her in the face. Love wasn’t promised, and for her it didn’t come. Not in her marriage, not through her father, not in her grandparents. It was like she was doomed for heartache for the rest of her life.
She reached down and rubbed Blessing behind the ears. “And you get a new best friend, don’t you, girl?” she mumbled to the dog, giving her a wink.
As she lifted her body upright, Cade got out of his chair and walked from the dinning room and into the kitchen, then returned a moment later with a black book in his hand. Sitting back down beside her, he laid the book down and slid it to her, and only then did she realize it was none other than her mother’s Bible.
She gasped as she gently picked it up, opening it to the first page where her family’s names were written. She trailed her finger down, caressing the letters that made up Mom’s name. Maria Leanne Johnson Darren. “I wish I could’ve known her better,” she whispered to her brother, who she found staring at her, love in his eyes.
“Now you can, sis,” he stated with a half smile. “I want you to have it. She scribbled notes in there you can read, feel like she’s talkin’ to you. I’ve had it this long, time to pass it on.” Cade jammed a hand trough his hair. “And don’t worry, I can get another Bible.”
Kerri felt like crying, though instead she smiled. “Thanks,” she mumbled, flipping through the pages. She had only been two years old when her mother died, so she’d never had the chance to get to know her. Sometimes she could remember the sweet smell of lavender, the feel of wavy hair in between her fingers, the glistening of love-filled blue eyes looking down at her, or the sound of a beautiful voice singing lullabies to her. But the memories were few and far between. And as soon as the happy thoughts occupied her mind, reality tugged her back. The reality of the mess she lived in with her drunk father, forceful grandparents, or horrid husband.
But one day everything would change, hopefully. At least that’s what she prayed. Though one could never know the will of God.