I awoke to noises coming from the kitchen. Startled, I jumped out of bed and headed down the hall. I quickly peeked in on the twins as I went by their room. They were still sound asleep, so I made my way to the kitchen to find that my mother had let herself in and was preparing the turkey for the oven.
“Good morning, sweetie!” she whispered to me, so as not to wake the babies. “You look tired…didn’t you sleep well last night?” I just gave her a look. Didn’t she remember how scarce sleep is for a new mom? And I wasn’t even about to go into the night terrors I’d been having.
As if in reply to the look I was giving her, she said “Why don’t you go back to bed and catch a few more Z’s? I can get things started in here until the kids get up.” I was just about to give in and thank her when I heard one of the babies start crying from their room. “Right on cue as usual!” I sighed, smiling.
After I got the twins up and fed, I dressed them in their cute little matching ‘Baby’s 1st Thanksgiving’ onesies. We had gotten Hadley the cutest little tutu and coordinating headband with a bow on it to go with hers. This would be the first time the great-grandparents would be meeting them, so they had to look their best!
I got Bryce up around 9:30 to help me with multitasking between getting dinner ready and taking care of the kids. Five hours, 2 naps, 2 feedings, and 2 diaper changes later, we were just about ready for guests. We set the table and had about a half hour of relaxing until my dad, brothers and grandma showed up at our front door. After hugs and greetings all around, my grandma quickly made her way to the babies in their bouncy seats and cooed over them for several minutes. We all just smiled as we watched her interacting with them. Then came another knock on the door. This time, it was my Nana. And just a few minutes after her, came Bryce’s sister, parents and his grandparents.
Everyone immediately went to the babies and were hugging and kissing on them and telling us how cute they were. It became a little chaotic; and I didn’t realized just how small our house was until that moment when we had all of our family in it! After what seemed like an eternity (but was probably only about 20 minutes), my mom came out of the kitchen and said that everything was ready to be served. I told everyone to go ahead and take their seats as I excused myself to the nursery to feed and lay the babies down. I brought the monitor out to the table so I could hear them if they needed anything.
I took my place at the dinner table next to Bryce, who was at one of the ends. We all joined hands and Bryce’s grandmother, Claudia, began to say grace. “Dear Heavenly Father, we thank you for all the blessings you’ve bestowed upon us. We thank you for this food, this family, and especially our two new precious additions; Hadley and Hayden. Please keep them safe and help them to grow up to be shining examples of your love and to know that they are loved so much by all of us. Bless this food we are about to eat and let it nourish our bodies. In your name we pray, Amen.”
We were all muttering our ‘Amens’ in response, when a huge crash from down the hall made everyone gasp. Bryce and I jumped up and looked at each other. “I’ll go. You stay here and go ahead and start passing around the food.” Bryce said to me.
“I’ll go with him”, said Claudia, who was already standing. I sat back down and looked nervously around the table, trying to smile. I started to ask who wanted bread when my voice caught in my throat. I hadn’t really looked around the table yet. But now that I had…I realized everyone was sitting in the EXACT same seat as they had been in my nightmare from the night before. What were the odds of that happening? How was that even possible?! My sudden change of expression must have caught the others off guard because my mom quietly said, “Quinn? Honey, what’s the matter?” I was trying to come up with what to say when I heard Bryce from down the hall, “HELP! COME QUICK!”
We all rushed from the table and raced down the hall. I’m panicking remembering the rest of my dream and hoping the babies are ok. But when I got into the hall, I see Bryce kneeling down in the doorway over the nursery; he was over top of Claudia who was slumped over in the floor!
Bryce’s dad knelt down on the other side of her as Bryce stood up and looked around helplessly at all of us. “What happened?!” I choked out to him.
“I don’t know. As soon as I opened the nursery door, she started breathing heavily. She muttered something like, ‘No this doesn’t feel right…I don’t feel right.’ Then she grabbed her chest and collapsed before I could even catch her!” He was visibly shaken up as he recounted what had happened; while in the background, his dad was shouting “Mom!” over and over again trying unsuccessfully to get Claudia to come to.
Both babies were crying at the top of their lungs, so my mom and I stepped gently into the nursery to try and soothe them. Bryce and his dad were able to move Claudia to the couch. Lucy had already called the paramedics and they were there within 10 minutes. They immediately began CPR and rushed Claudia out on a stretcher and into the ambulance to the nearest hospital. Bryce followed it along with his parents and sister.
When they left, the house was oddly quiet. No one spoke for several minutes. I guess we were still trying to process what was happening and had no idea what to say that would make any of it better. My mom joined me and the twins on the couch; wrapping her arm around my shoulders. She was the first to finally speak.
“Well there’s nothing we can do now but pray and wait for someone to call. If anyone is hungry, go ahead you help yourself to the food before it gets cold and goes to waste.” My brothers didn’t need to be told twice. They quietly hurried into the dining room and began shoveling food onto their plates. My dad came over and laid his hand on my arm and said, “Sweetie, you need to eat something too. You have to keep your strength up for those babies,” before heading into the dining room with my grandma. My Nana stood up solemnly from the recliner and escorted Bryce’s grandpa, Garrett, to the dining room. And my mom and I followed shortly with both babies in tow. “I can’t believe this happened,” I said under my breath as I took my place again at the table.
I had absolutely no appetite, but I forced myself to take a few bites anyway. We tried to make small talk, but it was obvious that everyone’s mind wasn’t really on the weather or current sports’ scores. When everyone had eaten what they could, my mom and I cleared the table while my brothers took Hadley and Hayden into the living room.
By around 6pm, everyone had left and I was, once again, in an eerily quiet house. The events of the day were swirling through my head a million miles a minute and I was hoping Bryce would call soon with an update. I was so distracted with my thoughts, I almost didn’t hear my phone when it rang. I quickly picked it up and heard Bryce’s voice on the other end. By his tone, I could tell he didn’t have good news.
“Well, from what the doctor says, he believes it was a heart attack brought on by an ongoing condition with her heart. She still isn’t conscious, but they are trying to get her stable enough for more tests and possibly surgery in the morning.”
“Oh, honey…I am SO sorry!” I said; knowing it wouldn’t help. “Is there anything that I can do? Do you want the kids and me to come to the hospital?”
“No. There’s nothing any of us can do right now. I’ll be home in a little bit. Love you.” And then I heard the dial tone on the other end. I sank down on the couch and began sobbing and praying silently, “Please Lord, be with our family right now…especially Claudia. Please heal her. We love her so very much and aren’t ready to lose her!”
After Bryce got home and the twins were asleep, we just laid in bed and stared at each other for the longest time. I stroked his hair and face and I could tell he was holding back tears. When he finally closed his eyes, I watched him toss and turn for quite a while. I knew he wouldn’t be getting much sleep tonight…which would be especially rough for him starting his new position the following day.
He was already gone for work when the babies woke me up around 8:30 the next morning. I kept my phone close to me because he had told me before falling asleep that he’d call when he knew anything more about his grandma. So I tried to occupy my time with busy work. I vacuumed the dining room from the ‘worst Thanksgiving ever’ yesterday. I watched a little daytime television. I checked my phone at least 10 times an hour; just in case. When I hadn’t heard anything by noon, I was hoping that no news was good news at this point. I didn’t want to bother him at work, so I decided to try his dad’s phone and get an update from him. Before I could even dial, I heard the knob on the front door turn, Bryce burst into the room. His face was white and it was obvious that he’d been crying from how red and irritated his eyes were.
Before he could even say anything, I knew…Claudia hadn’t made it. "Oh no!" I said, rushing to embrace him as he broke down in tears. “I wasn’t even there to say goodbye,” he whispered between sobs. I held him for several minutes before he calmed down enough for me to ask what happened.
He said that she had done ok through the night, but when they took her down for testing, she had another heart attack. They tried to revive her, but weren’t able to this time. Both his parents had been there with her when it happened. He got the call from his mom while he was at work, and knew he couldn’t make it the rest of the day, so he left and headed straight home. Watching Bryce trying unsuccessfully to regain his composure, all I could do was cry with him and tell him how sorry I was. I couldn’t imagine the grief his father must be feeling right now after losing his mother so suddenly. Just yesterday, she had been here with us. Smiling. Saying grace. If only we had known she wasn’t well. Maybe we could have helped her. She should have told us about her heart condition. Heart Condition. HEART CONDITION?! I gasped loudly; startling both Bryce and the babies in their bouncy seats. “What’s wrong?” he said, seeing the expression on my face. I wiped the tears from my eyes and quickly replied, “Nothing…I’ll be right back.” I grabbed my phone off the coffee table and headed toward our bedroom at the end of the hall.
I was shaking as I dialed my mom’s work number. “Hey honey! What’s up?” came the answer on the other end.
“Mom! I have some really bad news…” I began. But she interrupted before I could finish.
“It’s Claudia, isn’t it?” she asked. “I’ve had a bad feeling all morning, and when I didn’t hear anything from you, I feared the worst.”
“Yes,” I responded, solemnly. “Her heart gave out this morning as they were trying to do more testing.”
“Oh, Quinn…I’m so sorry! How is Bryce doing? Can I do anything?” she asked.
“He’s taking it pretty rough as expected. And no, there really isn’t anything anyone can do right now. Neil and his siblings will be handling arrangements and they’ll let us know what we can help with. But, mom…that’s not the only reason I called you.” I said.
“Oh?” she said curiously. “Well what else did you need to tell me then?”
“Well…I was sitting here asking myself why Claudia couldn’t have just told us about her ongoing heart condition. And those words stuck in my head. Because we’ve both heard them before…” I trailed off.
Realizing what I was getting at, I heard her gasp loudly just as I had a moment ago, “Oh my God, Quinn! You're right!”
We both sat silently for a few moments; stunned by this revelation. Why hadn’t I thought of this when Tessa had mentioned it? As if she could read my thoughts, my mom broke the silence saying, “But neither of us could have guessed this would happen.”
“Tessa guessed,” I said solemnly. I had made a mental note to give her a call later and tell her she had been right about everything. But first I needed to tend to my grieving husband.
I hung up with my mom and went back out to sit on the couch next to Bryce, who was now holding the twins on his lap and talking baby talk to them. His eyes were still red and teary, but it was nice to see him smiling.
The rest of the day went on as normal as humanly possible. We took the kids for a walk around the block to clear our heads and get some fresh air. I warmed up Thanksgiving leftovers for dinner, but all Bryce could do was push it around on his plate. I couldn’t blame him.
His parents called shortly after dinner to tell him they had an appointment the following day with the funeral home to make arrangements for Claudia. They said they’d call him afterwards. And that was it. We sit and wait. Again. We tried to watch some TV, but I don’t think either of us even knew what was on the screen. There was a haze of grief surrounding our whole house; and it was palpable. Even the babies were fussier than normal.
Luckily, they were both asleep before 9pm, so we picked them up and took them to the nursery. Bryce hesitated at their door; looking down at the carpet. I saw sadness wash over his face again as I’m sure he was replaying what had happened with his grandma in this very spot just one day before. I wasn’t sure if he’d ever be able to set foot in here without thinking about it again. I led the way to the cribs and after we laid the babies down, we turned to leave but both stopped in our tracks.
In the chaos of what had happened yesterday, it never occurred to us to follow up on finding out what had made that awful crashing noise that had caused Bryce and his grandma to rush to the nursery in the first place. I hadn’t paid any attention the night before when I’d laid them down…but now, in the light of their motion projector, we stared down at the carpet behind the nursery door; at the white shelf that had previously been nailed to the wall above the closet. It was now in two pieces on the floor. On top of the shelf, also smashed into little pieces, were some glass figurines my mother had given us depicting the stages of my pregnancy. And that wasn’t even the worst part. As we knelt down to sift through the rubble, we dug out the pink and blue teddy bears given to the twins by Claudia that had been sitting on either end of the shelf before it had fallen. They were dusty, but otherwise unharmed. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw Bryce slump down to the floor; his legs crossed Indian-style. He was staring at the pink bear in his hands and shaking his head. I could barely make out him whispering “I just don’t understand” as he closed his eyes and hugged the bear to his chest.
That night, we lay in bed staring silently at each other again until Bryce finally closed his eyes. I so wished there had been words I could say to ease his grief, but I was hurting too. And no amount of words could take it away.
I closed my eyes and began my silent prayers, “Dear Lord, please be with my family. Please give Bryce the comfort in his time of grief that only you can provide. Please wrap Claudia in your arms and tell her how much we love and miss her. And -” I was cut off by the white noise coming from the baby monitor above my head. It was cutting in and out, almost like a radio trying to seek a station that’s in tune. Every now and then, I’d hear what sounded like muffled syllables. I brought the monitor to my ear and listened closely. There were just little blips of sound in between dead air. Then, to my horror, I began to hear a sentence come through. “KEEP…AWAY…FROM…THOSE…BABIES!” It sounded like a woman’s voice. The hairs on the back of my neck stood up as the last word came through…“DEMON!” and then there was a low growl as it faded back to white noise. I sat straight up in bed on my knees and stared down at the monitor. Where the visual of the nursery should have been, it was pitch black. I shook it, and even tapped the side of it aggressively with my hand, muttering “Come on, you stupid thing!” under my breath. Having no luck, I shook Bryce to wake him up. He hesitantly rolled over to face me, and with his eyes still closed, he says “what is it?”
“I think something’s wrong with this monitor…” were the first words that came out of my mouth. “I swear I just heard voices coming from it!” He opened his eyes long enough to roll them at me and sigh, “Probably just picking up on someone else’s monitor’s frequency around here. We’ll look at it more in the morning. I’m really tired, Quin…can’t this wait?”
I started to tell him what I'd heard but I stopped myself because I knew how drained he was and even I didn’t want to believe what I heard was true. “Sure, honey. Sorry to wake you.” I replied. But there was no way I was rolling over to go back to sleep after that.
I crept out of bed and across the hall to the nursery. I put my ear to the door and listened for a moment. I heard nothing. I debated turning the handle and going in, but I didn’t want to wake the babies when they had just gone down. I knelt down in the hallway beside the door and laid my head back on the wall. I took a few deep breaths. And out of nowhere, silent tears began to flow down my cheeks. I quickly wiped my eyes and realized I was still holding the monitor. As I stood up to take it back to our bedroom, I distinctly heard whispering coming from behind the nursery door. At first, I thought it was wind whistling, but that wasn’t possible. My hand reached for the doorknob and I heard that same low growl I had heard just moments ago from the monitor. The noises stopped abruptly as soon as I flung the door open.
Once my eyes adjusted to the dark, there were two major things I noticed. First, the rocking chair was moving slowly back and forth as if it had just been rocking by itself. It was slowing to a stop before my eyes. Second, the window across the room was open about half way. I know for a fact that this was closed when we put them to bed. I didn’t bother to look around for anything else. I was getting myself and the babies OUT of that room…NOW!
I flicked the light on and carefully lifted the twins onto each shoulder, first Hadley then Hayden. They stirred and began to fuss as I hurried out of their room; not even bothering to turn the light off as I went past. I spent the rest of the night dozing on the couch with them in their bouncy seats beside me.
I was awakened the next morning to a wide-eyed Bryce nudging me. He looked confused as he glanced back and forth between me and the kids. He had the monitor in his hand. I blinked a few times and quickly sat up as the scene from the night before came rushing back to me.
“Why are you all out here?!” Bryce practically screamed in a whisper. “I woke up to find you out of bed and then the light to the nursery was on but the babies were gone. Their window was open and their monitor was on the floor…I didn’t know what to think!”
I heard Hadley squirm behind me as I answered, “I didn’t either after what happened last night!” Giving me an even more puzzled look and not taking his eyes off me, he came around and scooped Hadley up then sat down beside me; waiting for me to elaborate. I took a deep breath and prepared to relive the whole ordeal, when I heard the faint sound of my cell phone ringing from our bedroom. I hurried to get it, but didn’t recognize the number calling. “Hello?” I answered, tentatively.
“Quinn?” came the reply from the woman on the other line.
“Yes, who is this, please?” I said, still puzzled (and a little annoyed, all things considered).
“Quinn, it’s Tessa. Tessa Cohen. I’ve been thinking about you and I’d like to meet with you if you have time. Today, if possible. Can I come to you?”
Before I could even think it over, I heard myself mutter, “Sure…I guess. How about noon?” She agreed and then we said our goodbyes and hung up. That was when I tried to process the fact that she had just called out of the blue needing to speak with me. Her tone sounded urgent. It must have something to do with our reading together months ago. She said she had been “thinking about me”…but what did that mean?
“Quinn?!” Bryce’s voice interrupted my thoughts. “Who was that calling?” he asked as I came down the hallway from our bedroom.
“Well, you’re not going to believe it…but that was the psychic my mom and I did a reading with a few months back.” His signature ‘eye roll’ in response was proof that the rest of this conversation was not going to go over well. “I know you’re not going to want to hear this,” I continued on, “but she’s been right about a lot of things…well, everything she said, actually.”
For the next half hour, I tried to unsuccessfully to recount the strange things that have been happening in the house and to convey the extremely uneasy feeling it was giving me. But because it “conveniently only happens when I’m around” (Bryce’s exact words), he was uninterested in any theories I had where supernatural events were taking place. Maybe he was just being stubborn because he didn’t want to think about the possibility that what I was saying made sense. But I do not believe in coincidences. I knew there was more to this than even I could wrap my head around. But I also knew whatever the reason, it frightened me to find out.