Well, that's one way to get out of going to a wedding, but I wouldn't recommend it. Giving birth, I mean. Poor Mike, it's going to take him a while to adjust. He's tickled pink of course, or maybe I should say tickled blue, as we had a boy. A son. Even now, I can't quite believe it. I'm someone's mother. God, I hope they come with a handbook. Babies for Dummies. Or is that Dummies for Babies? It's only now occurring to me that this is a rest-of-my-life-responsibility thing. It won't just be until he's sixteen, or twenty-one, or even fifty. Assuming I'm still around then. My parents, grandparents and great grandparents are still with us, thank goodness, so I shan't be short of advice.
My mind rattles on. I'm tired and I think I'm low on glucose, I could really do with something to eat.
I turn my head back to the other side of my bed where my darling Mike is breaking the rules by sitting on the bed.
"Mmm, I guess. Bit hungry. How you holding up, Dad?"
Mike grins; like me he's tired but elated. He squeezes the hand he is holding and I squeeze back.
"I'm holding up, just. But then you did all the hard work."
I nearly said 'oh, but you did your bit nine months ago' but managed to stop myself. Mike and I have discussed the ramifications of the baby's biological father and are both in solid agreement that Mike is the father, end of story. We can't think of any reason that the truth will need to come out, barring, God forbid, any medical reason. I don't mind that my friends and co-workers and family all think that Mike and I were a secret couple for ages; now that I know him better, I wished we had been, even if a tiny corner of my heart hankers after Chris.
The midwife entered the room to check that the monitors were doing their job and that I was still breathing. In the meantime I smirked at Mike.
"True. But you were there when you were needed, that's all that matters."
Mike grinned, even when he was shooed off the bed by the midwife.
"If you can spare me a minute, I'll let your family know what's going on. The waiting area is a little busy..."
"Can I tell them his name?"
"Sure. I think it will suit him."
That was another thing we had agreed on. No daft male flower names and we were not going to call him Christopher, even if it was the name of both of his dads.
Jonathan Michael O'Neill. After Mike and his father. Although the baby's grandfather is always called Jack, so we won't confuse the two.
Christmas Day 1947
Sam surveyed the dining table with a critical eye and finally nodded to herself. She was determined to make their first Christmas meal as a married couple a good one; the very best she could manage with rationing at least. She returned to the kitchen, which was warm and humid, redolent with the smell of cooking food. Sam breathed deep; she did so love her food.
"In the kitchen, darling!"
Sam grinned to herself. She still occasionally had to pinch herself when she referred to the man she used to call 'sir' or DCS Foyle as Darling.
"Shall I open the wine?"
"Ooh, yes please."
A sudden thought struck her.
"It's not that bottle we got from Uncle Aubrey, is it?"
Christopher Foyle smiled, well aware of her concerns. He entered the kitchen.
"No, this is a rather nice, full bodied red that Andrew gave us for Christmas. I know it should be a white, but I also know your preferences."
And, no, I won't be asking my son where he got it.
Sam whipped around, her dismay obvious.
"Oh, you haven't already opened the presents, have you?"
Her husband's forehead crinkled as both eyebrows rose at her anxious expression.
"No, just the bottle-shaped one from Andrew. Bit of a give-away really; thought you might like a drink with dinner."
"Well, yes I would, but that spoils the surprise."
Christopher's lips twitched as he used the corkscrew.
"You know what I mean."
Foyle looked up as he withdrew the cork from the bottle with a satisfyingly discreet 'pop'.
"Yes, I do. Christmas is indeed a time for miracles."
Sam turned back to the cooker, leaving him to sniff the wine bottle's cork appreciatively. Andrew did know his wine, thank goodness.
And thinking of the miracle of Christmas, I wonder if Sam has had any news for me yet...
It was inevitable, he supposed, that they would start a family at some point. He had been as careful as he could, simply because he didn't want to tie Sam down too soon, but on the other hand, he wasn't getting any younger. She, bless her, was content to leave it in the hands of fate. Her favourite expression after 'tickety-boo' seemed to be 'what will be, will be'.
"I see the snow is still falling heavily. It looked just like a Christmas card out there a little while ago. I'm glad we're having the day to ourselves, I would have worried about everyone travelling to get here."
Foyle was of the same mind. The snow was much deeper than yesterday.
"We can speak to everyone on the telephone later, after this delicious feast has been tucked away."
Sam had insisted on Christopher remaining seated at the table while she brought the warmed and filled dishes through from the kitchen. She left the small but plump turkey until last, placing the golden brown bacon-covered bird in front of him for carving after they said Grace. His mouth was watering with anticipation as they both gave thanks to God for their bounty.
Foyle stood and poured them both a glass of wine, handing one to Sam.
"A toast, to my charming wife, not only for all her hard work today, but for rescuing me and making me the happiest of men."
Sam smiled and blushed as they both gently clinked their glasses and took a sip of wine.
"Thank you. I should like to offer a toast of my own. To my utterly charming husband, the delight of my life, who makes me feel every day as if I'm still on our honeymoon."
Foyle's eyes crinkled with appreciation as they took another drink.
"Thank you, my dear."
Placing the glass on the table, Foyle rubbed his hands together before taking up the carving knife and fork. He looked at Sam, one eyebrow raised with suspicious innocence.
"Breast, leg or a bit of both?"
Sam grinned widely, the gleam in her eye quite wicked.
"Ooh, both please. My father always asked if we wanted white meat or dark. I've only just worked out why."
Christopher's bark of laughter pleased her enormously.
Six week old Jonathan Michael O'Neill can get by on three hours of sleep. Unfortunately, I can't. I'm utterly exhausted. My body is not my own any more, it's an on call twenty four seven feeding and cuddling station. Mike does what he can, but I don't like to wake him in the night as he does have to work and he can't afford to make mistakes, other people's lives depend on him getting it right.
The baby is finally asleep and I'm trying to decide between eating, showering or bed. I sit down on the bed to try to make a decision. It seems a lot more difficult than usual.
The next thing I know is that there is someone at the front door. I'm face down on a drool covered pillow but terrified the knocking will wake the baby. Barefoot, I trot downstairs as quickly as I can and yank open the door.
Still as impossibly glamorous, Grammas took one look at me and took charge. She's the original force of nature everyone talks about.
I nodded blearily.
I nodded again as she swept past and I closed the door behind her, before following her to the kitchen.
Five minutes later I had a hot drink and breakfast in front of me. I wolfed it down, suddenly starving.
I looked at Grammas, but my mouth was full.
"Mike called me this morning."
Oh. I've been grassed up.
Grammas held her teacup with both hands as she looked at me. She tutted.
"Dear child, you don't have to cope on your own. There is so much family here to help you, all you had to do was ask."
Now I felt full but weepy.
Grammas took away the empty plate.
"Now, take me to Jonathan."
It didn't occur to me not to obey, which is quite unlike me.
An hour later, Grammas left with Jonathan, all his travelling paraphernalia and several bottles of breast milk. I don't think my breasts will ever forgive me.
I had a shower as soon as I could; I'd fall asleep and probably drown if I had a bath. When I returned to the bedroom, the bedding was fresh and clean and smelt like heaven when I fell into it.
Thanks Grammas, I owe you.
It was my last conscious thought for quite a while.
I came to gradually, pleasantly rested, and stretched out some kinks. I startled, suddenly remembering.
No. No, it was all right. He was with Grammas. I relaxed back, feeling much better.
I could see that it was early evening, I just had no clue what day it was. The other side of the bed had not been slept in, so I assumed that it was still...
I frowned. I couldn't think what day it was before I'd slept.
Part of me wanted to remain in bed, but another part of me didn't want to waste this time to myself.
I suddenly remembered the letters. I went and got them and climbed back into bed.
Christmas Day 1947
Sam and Christopher Foyle listened to King George VI Christmas speech on the radio after they had finished their meal. When he spoke of the Commonwealth as a family, Sam felt a gentle hug from her husband and a kiss to the top of her head as they lounged together comfortably on the settee. Sam wished she could freeze the moment in time because it was simply perfect.
When the speech had concluded, Christopher went to switch the radio off, but she asked him to leave it on down low so they could have the carol service playing while they opened their gifts before church.
Sam was delighted with her baby-soft kid gloves, a very smart beige colour that would go very well with her coat. Christopher was touched that Sam had found an obscure book about fly-fishing that he had been trying to find for ages. He recalled seeing a copy in the bookshop window back in October, but by the time he could go back for it, it had been sold. It didn't take a detective to work out where it had gone. They opened the remaining presents that were under the tree while sitting on the floor in front of the fire. Sam was delighted with her tangerine and sniffed it with pleasure.
"The smell of these always reminds me of Christmas. This was one of the things I missed during the war."
There and then her husband resolved to get her a tangerine every Christmas if he possibly could. Her pleasure in such simple things offset the discomfort of sitting on the rug and worrying about whether or not he could get up again. He reached under the lowest branches and found one last gift, addressed to 'My darling husband with all my love, Sam xxxx'.
Foyle was surprised to see it, because it had not been there last night. He looked up at Sam and noted the tension in her shoulders. It was not reflected in her shy smile, but his heart sped up and his instincts went on alert.
Whatever this is, it's very important to Sam.
Foyle pulled off the wrapping paper and found a small cardboard box labelled 'candles'. It obviously did not contain any because it was not heavy enough, and further investigation revealed folded tissue paper inside. With another glance at Sam, he pulled the flimsy white paper out of the box. He opened the paper and felt a rush of emotion.
"Oh, my dear one."
He was too full to add anything else but Sam could not wait a moment longer and rushed into speech.
"You don't mind, do you? I know that you would have preferred to wait a while, but...well, we did talk about it, and...although...Oh, you're not saying anything. You're not pleased are you? Please say something!"
Foyle carefully put the box aside and rose up on his knees - as best as he could - to gently pull Sam into his arms. He smiled before stilling her lips briefly with his.
"I would have, but I couldn't get a word in."
He got to his feet and helped Sam to hers before guiding her to the settee. He retrieved the tissue package and its small contents and took his place beside his wife.
"This is a wonderful gift and I am delighted."
"Really? You don't mind?"
"Not at all. I know it's what you wished for and I could not be happier. Truly."
Sam flung her arms around his neck.
Foyle smiled. Sam released him far enough to look into his eyes.
"Did you guess?"
"I did wonder."
"I thought you did. It was when we were talking about your clothes getting snug. When I mentioned mine were a bit tight too, you got that funny look on your face that you get when you get the last clue or someone has given the game away about their guilt. It started me thinking, and so, a couple of days ago I went to see the doctor."
"All is well, I hope? You are all right?"
"Oh yes, healthy as a horse. Famished, as usual."
"Well, that's splendid. Splendid that you are quite well and not under the weather, I mean."
Foyle smiled ruefully as Sam grinned. He picked up the soft white knitted booties and ran a finger over the white silk ribbon that was threaded through the ankle for fastening.
"These are beautifully done. Did they take you long?"
"No, not long at all. I've been knitting almost since I could walk; perils of being the vicar's daughter. There's always someone in the parish who needs something making."
Not for the first time, Foyle counted his blessings.
Sam sighed happily.
"At least now I don't have to knit in secret; the baby will need quite a few more things."
"I daresay. I'm sure, however, that he or she will manage very well by the time they arrive."
"Oh, absolutely. Besides, I'm sure mother will drag out some things of mine as soon as we tell her, that and the fact that she will be knitting like mad too."
"I'm afraid I didn't keep many of Andrew's things, just his christening gown. I didn't think..."
Sam took his hand.
"No matter. I'm sure it will be fine."
Reverend Stewart's face came to Foyle's mind.
"When do you want to tell your parents?"
Sam looked a little sheepish.
"Would you mind if we didn't tell them until later in the New Year? You'll think it odd, but I would like it if it could just be the two of us for now. Well, three of us. Something to hug to ourselves for a little while longer?"
Foyle was a little relieved that he didn't have to be concerned about his father-in-law's reaction just yet.
"Yes, I can understand that, it's not odd at all. We'll wait and tell them all later. Andrew has lived this long without being a brother, he can wait a little longer."
"Gosh, yes. At least he won't have to share his toys."
"He will be pleased about that."
The fire popped and crackled as they settled together on the settee, comfortably warm and well fed.
After several minutes of contented contemplation, Sam stirred.
"I wish I knew where Lily has gone. I would love to have told her about the baby, especially considering..."
Foyle managed not to start in surprise. Sam had not mentioned Lily for an age.
Sam was silent for so long that Foyle thought that she wasn't going to answer, but she looked down at their joined hands resting in her lap and sighed.
"Well, without her, I'm not sure that we would have found each other."
Privately Foyle agreed with her, but he said nothing.
Had this outcome been the reason Lily came to Hastings?