Renewable

Chapter 15

Mid-September, 1938


“I look ridiculous. Do I really have to do this?” Sybbie was dressed in the outfit that her father had given her and she was less than thrilled. It was an old set of coveralls that the garage staff wore when they were working on the many cars of Downton Abbey and O'Malley was not helping the situation with his barely concealed enjoyment of her discomfort. She knew he was teasing, she tried not to encourage him.

“If you want to drive the car, you must understand how it works. And that starts with knowing the basic maintenance required.” Tom spoke to his daughter and attempted to ignore O'Malley. “It's for your own safety Sybbie. I've told you this.”

“I know. But am I ever going to need this? If anything is wrong with the car, I'll just have O'Malley fix it.” She glared at the chauffeur who winked at her in response.

“What if you are trapped miles from home and you have no way to ask him?” Tom crossed his arms and looked questioningly at his daughter.

“Seriously Dad. This is ridiculous.” Sybbie was being stubborn. She crossed her arms as well and O'Malley couldn't help but be further amused by the Branson's stubbornness showdown. He wasn't sure who was winning, but he knew who would win in the end. Tom.

“I have the keys, and if you ever want to drive this car you must show me that you know how it operates. And then you must show me that you can deal with any problems that may arise in it's operation. Safety first. Then you may learn how to drive it.” Tom leaned against the car, his arms still crossed. He was adamant in his decision that his daughter would learn the mechanics and was not allowing her to play the 'I'm a girl, I'll never need to know how to do this card'.

They stared at each other, both pressing each other to their limit of patience. O'Malley stood silently, wishing he could disappear.

“Fine. But if I break a nail, I'm never forgiving you.” Sybbie went to the creeper that was in front of the car and laid down on it, facing upwards.

“It'll grow back. Now, remember what I told you...” Tom shot a small smile at O'Malley.

“I know Dad!” Sybbie pushed herself under the car and the men standing there heard her tinkering with some tools and then they heard a splash and her scream.

She shot out from under the car sputtering and wiping the oil from her face. Tom ran to her side with a rag in his hand and helped her wipe the gooey fluid from her eyes and mouth.

O'Malley doubled over in laughter and the look that Sybbie shot at him could have frozen the water in the tropics.

“Did you drain the oil before you took the pan off?” Tom clearly knew she had not, but proving he was right would win him a point.

“I hate you so much right now.” Sybbie wiped her face further and stood up. She continued to glare at O'Malley who was attempting to contain his laughter. “You are not helping.”

She pointed her finger at the chauffeur who lost it again, and Tom started to laugh as well. Sybbie tried to stay mad, but she caught the reflection of herself in the car's window and she started to giggle too. She looked ridiculous. The three of them all laughed so hard that Tom had to sit down on the wooden stool that was near them and O'Malley slumped to the ground against the wall.

They tried to compose themselves but the laughter dominated them. It wasn't until they all noticed the presence of the Butler standing there that they managed to contain themselves.

“I'm sorry to interrupt... whatever is going on here... but Mr. Branson, your wife telephoned and requested your immediate presence at Crawley house.” Barrow looked at all three of them and shook his head slightly.

Tom shot up and his expression changed quickly to one of panic.

“Is it the baby? Is she alright?” He asked Barrow quickly and started to pull off his own coveralls.

“She didn't say Sir, she just asked that you come quickly.” Barrow stood waiting for any instruction that may be required of him.

O'Malley threw Tom a set of keys from the pegboard behind him and pointed at one of the cars that was pulled out into the drive.

“Take that one. It's fuelled up.”

“I'm coming too!” Sybbie started to pull off her over clothes but her father stopped her.

“You're in no state. O'Malley, help her get cleaned up and get the car put back together. I'm sure it's nothing to worry about.” He stopped quickly to give Sybbie a reassuring hug and flew to the car and sped off before anything else was said. He hadn't wanted Sybbie to come with him because he knew he would drive like a madman to get to the village and it would be a very bad example for his daughter.

Barrow watched the youngsters for a minute as O'Malley helped the young woman with some of the oil spilled in her hair. He left them, wondering how she had come to be covered in oil in the first place but not asking, and went back into the house to continue tormenting, nay training, the new footman wondering what could have been the matter at the Crawley house. He knew he would find out in time. He hoped all was well.

“Do you think Lily is alright?” O'Malley asked Sybbie as she continued to clean up.

“I'm sure it's nothing.” She echoed her father's words and sounded as unconvincing as he had minutes earlier. “Now, can you please help me put the oil back in the car?”

“Of course.” He laid down on the board and explained to her what she had done wrong. She was a very eager pupil when O'Malley spoke and the two of them had the car whole again in no time. They worked very well together.

Tom set a new speed record as he raced into town. His years of being the chauffeur came in handy sometimes as he was an incredibly skilled driver. He hoped and prayed the entire way that everything was fine with Lily and their baby. It wasn't like her to call for help unless something was seriously wrong. He pulled up outside the house where Cousin Isobel had lived for so many years and he ran up to the front door. He knocked loudly, unsure whether or not he should just barge in and he heard the wailing coming from inside and made his decision. He flung the door open and scared Lily as she was reaching out to open the door for him. He ran into her arms and put his hand on her stomach.

“What's the matter? I came as fast as I could!” He looked her over and she seemed fine. Just a little shocked to see her husband so frazzled looking.

“Oh Tom. I'm sorry to have called you, but Cousin Isobel is having an episode as bad as I've ever seen and I don't know what to do. I called the doctor and he's upstairs with her right now, but she's terribly upset that she hasn't seen George in a few days. She's crying for Matthew and demanding to see him.” Lily had tears in her eyes.

Tom was attempting to get his heart rate back under control. He held his wife by the shoulders.

“But you're fine?” He stared her in the eyes to believe it. She seemed upset, but fine otherwise.

“I'm fine. Why? What did Barrow say?” She narrowed her eyes.

“He said you needed me here right away. I thought something was wrong with the baby.” Tom set his hand on her stomach again, just to be sure.

“I'm afraid he must have misunderstood me. I just was worried about Cousin Isobel and wanted you here with me. I'm so sorry. I didn't mean to worry you.” She kissed him quickly on the cheek in apology.

Tom set his hand over his heart and took a deep breath.

“I will admit, I was worried. But now that I know you're fine, show me Cousin Isobel.” He looked up the stairs and noticed then that the wailing had stopped. He took Lily's hand and they both went up the stairs together.

The Doctor was closing the door to Isobel's room as they approached it. He closed the latch that locked the door from the outside and gestured for them both to follow him. They went back downstairs and assured the pacing housekeeper that all would fine for the next little while and the woman looked greatly relieved. She had been petrified of the behaviour of her Mistress and excused herself back to the kitchen to calm herself down fully. She promised them all some tea shortly and that sounded just lovely to everyone.

Tom, Lily and the Doctor sat in the main room of the house and the older man explained that he had sedated Mrs. Crawley for the time being. It was the only way he could get her to calm down. He expressed his concern at Isobel's decline lately, and she had become especially detached from reality since George had gone back to school and wasn't able to be there regularly.

Lily agreed that her decline had been rapid in the past few weeks and she wasn't sure what to do. George couldn't be there and the nurse felt that constantly sedating the old woman was not an option. It wasn't fair to her though it made it easier for everyone else.

Tom took Lily's hand as she spoke to the Doctor and stroked her fingers with his thumb. He wasn't sure what could be done either and he was still relieved that Lily was fine. He loved her for being so concerned about George's Grandmother but he didn't want her to stress too badly about the situation. There had to be another option.

“I know you're a very skilled nurse Mrs. Branson, but I highly recommend that you not be alone with her in her current state. I've seen this before, and there can be violent, unexpected outbursts that may occur. In your condition, it would not be wise to put yourself in the position to be harmed. You must care for yourself too.” The Doctor noticed Tom nodding at his words.

Lily unconsciously rubbed her belly. She was thinking hard about what they could do.

“Can we hire another nurse?” It was Tom's suggestion. “One who can stay with her full time?”

“I would recommend it. But I'm sure it will take a few days to locate an appropriate hire.” The Doctor looked back and forth between them.

“Could we stay with her until then?” Tom asked.

“If you wish. But like I said, I don't think it would be wise for Mrs. Branson to be here alone with her. Even with the housekeeper. If you could stay as well and there is an incident, you may need to subdue her.” The Doctor nodded his approval at the idea. “And if there is a way that Master Crawley could come visit, it may calm her down. It has worked in the past.”

“I will telephone his mother at once to tell her. I'm sure he could come for such a reason.” Tom stood up quickly, “I forgot, I should telephone the Abbey to tell them what has happened. Everyone was worried about you.”

He looked at Lily and she smiled sheepishly at him. Tom excused himself from their company and went off to the telephone.

“Your husband seems like a very good man.” The Doctor said to Lily after Tom had left the room.

She smiled. “He is.”

Lily spoke to the doctor about what to administer to Isobel should she become distressed again in the night and they discussed her care. They spoke about how unfortunate it was that there was no long term care for patients who were well of body, but of diminished mind. It always fell to the family, unless the patient was put in a sanitarium. Lily argued that was definitely not an option for Isobel. The woman had the love and respect of her family and they would not abandon her in her final years.

As Tom came back into the room, the Doctor explained to the couple that he really must be getting back to the hospital for his rounds. He told them that if they needed anything, they simply had to call and he would come right away. They thanked him greatly for his time, walked him to the door and the man put on his hat and wished them good luck.

After he had left, Tom and Lily sat beside each other on the sofa. They held hands, but were silent for some time. She finally broke it.

“Did you get hold of Mary?” She leaned against her husband, putting her head on his shoulder.

“I spoke with Tony. He will tell her as soon as she arrives home.” Tom put his arm around Lily and held her close. He could sense how concerned she was about the woman sleeping upstairs. “You are an amazing woman.”

She looked at him lovingly.

“I just wish there was something I could do. I hate feeling so helpless. Isobel is the amazing woman. I hate to see this happening to her.”

Tom agreed. It was hard to see the fall of the proud woman who had helped so many in her lifetime. They all wished they could do more for her. Other than sedate her until she passed away.

“Are you sure you don't mind staying here tonight?” Lily looked up at him.

“I really don't mind. As long as I'm with you and I know you're safe.” He kissed the top of her head. She swatted him affectionately.

“You were getting so much better lately. Don't start being scared again now.”

He pulled her even closer and ran his fingertips across her belly.

'I can't help it. I just love you so much.” He kissed her slowly when she looked up at him again. “How are you feeling? Are you tired? Hungry?”

“I'm fine.” She stood up and kissed him quickly. “I want to show you something. Stay here.”

He was intrigued.

She came back in a few minutes with a stethoscope in her hands. He recognized the instrument but had no idea what she intended with it.

“What are you doing with that? He asked her as she sat down next to him again and lifted her blouse enough to expose her expanding stomach.

“Shh.” She told him as she put the earpieces in and put the scope on her stomach. She moved it around a bit and eventually smiled. She passed him the earpieces and watched his face as he put them in and looked at her questioningly. “Do you hear it?”

“I hear a whooshing. That's it. What am I supposed to be hearing?” He concentrated hard.

“That whooshing is our baby's heartbeat.” She reached out to brush his hair back from his forehead.

His face melted into a pool of emotion as he listened.

“You're kidding me!” Tears formed in his eyes.

“Sounds pretty healthy right? Now you have no reason to worry.” She smiled so lovingly at him.

He took the earpieces out and kissed her bare stomach. As he did it, the housekeeper took the most inopportune time to enter with a tray of tea and sandwiches. She gasped, apologized, set the tray down and left the room as quickly as she could.

Tom and Lily laughed hysterically.

“Sometimes I forget we're not at home alone.” Lily managed to get out as Tom wiped a tear from his eye. “Oh the scandal.”

“Don't worry. I'm sure she won't tell anyone.” Tom set his hand gently on her stomach again and she leaned close to him and enjoyed a few minutes of their private intimacy.

“I am hungry now that you mention it.” Lily had almost stopped laughing.

Tom kept chuckling as he stood up to get her some of the food the housekeeper had so graciously delivered. He would go get her the moon if she asked, but sandwiches were closer.

He was in awe at hearing their baby and he hoped the next months went by quickly and easily so they could meet that little heartbeat within her. He couldn't wait.


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