Chapter One

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The Preparation

Changes were being made in the lives of these soon to be parents. Annie had officially left the bottom of the barrel at her retail job and was promoted to receiving manager. She worked less stressful hours, made more money and was finally treated with respect. Just below an Assistant manager position she was now admired among her co-workers. She treated the employees she managed with care and respect, she showed them that with hard work and determination they too could get promoted. Marshall was doing just as well. He enrolled at the community college, started taking classes to further his education and get his associate’s degree. Long hours were spent writing papers, completing homework assignments as well as working a full time job. Marshall knew he was to be the provider and ensure Annie and their unborn baby would be taken care of. The couple ended the engagement ring search, Annie decided on a 1.5 caret marquise cut diamond, complete with a wrap that included 3 diamonds all marquise cut that sat on each side of the larger stone. The ring was set in yellow gold. It was a beautiful engagement ring that glimmered and sparkled even without the sun light reflecting from it. Marshall had not yet proposed, but Annie was sure he would when he was ready. Her cravings started to get the best of her, her favorite food of choice grape Jell-O. Annie could eat an entire bowl of grape flavored Jell-O at one sitting. She wouldn’t be surprised if her baby wasn’t born purple.

The couple teamed up with a realtor who would soon sell them their first home. Introduced to them by Annie’s father, a scrawny older man named Allen, worked hard for the young couple. They had limited income and savings, but determined to move into a new home before bringing their first born child into the world. House hunting was stressful for Annie, she didn’t want to live too far from away from her parents, she wanted a newly built home, and was completely against renting. She thought the process would be easy, but it was all new to her. The only other big purchase she’d ever made was for chrome rims for her car. Buying a house, was a life changing event.

In the spring time, the search was over. They found it. Tucked away in a new and developing subdivision, was a moderate 3 bedroom home, with vaulted ceilings, walk in closets and kitchen cabinets that Annie swore she’d never fill up.

“I think this is the one Marshall!” Annie cried. “Look at these bedrooms, these closets are huge. I love the high ceilings! Oh my goodness this kitchen is so nice!” Annie couldn’t help but think of how much bigger this house was than the one she grew up in. Which was the only house she remembers ever living in. Her parents had built her childhood home when she was just a baby. She held one hand underneath her growing belly, as she looked around at what was going to be her new home. The feeling was unreal. Buying a house and having a baby with the man she had adored since her Middle School days, was exhilarating, the new chapter of her life would be filled with excitement, love and countless firsts.

“I think we should have a basement”. Marshall told her.

Annie of course had to have things her way. She was done searching for a house, her due date would be here soon, and she wanted to be settled before that day.

“Well. I think it’s a perfect first home, we can always sell later”. Annie convinced Marshall. She took him by the hand as they walked around then yard. The builder had covered the ground with straw to help the newly planted grass seed grow. The yard was mostly flat except for one side, it was steep and led down to a patch of woods, past that was a cow field. The house was set on concrete, no steps leading up to the home, no deck or porch with banisters. Annie thought this to be strange, but she didn’t care, she wanted to move into this house and kept in the back of her mind that they could buy another one later. The house was missing the shudders for the windows, this option was left up to the buyers, along with the type of flooring and any other changes they wanted to make. The smell of new wood and fresh paint filled the air. After the tour was finished, Marshall and Annie went their separate ways, Annie to her parents and Marshall to his. It had been a long day, they both were tired, and Annie’s feet and legs were swollen.

When she arrived home, Annie was excited to tell her mom and dad about the potential buy, but also glad they were asleep, she needed a nap herself. Changing out of her maternity outfit, a white button up blouse and jean capris that had a cotton elastic waist band to accommodate her baby bump, was soothing. She slipped into a faded green night gown, let her long brown hair down and lay on top of her bed. It felt nice to lie down. Her mind was busy with thoughts of a down payment, monthly bills, and furniture. Will the loose ends be tied up before she gave birth? Even with everything on her mind she was able to slip off to sleep. Hours passed, while Annie slept, the bright sun went down, so the night stars could shine.

RIINNGGG…….RIINNGGGG the sound of the blue and black phone startled her from her sleep the flashing light from the base blinded her. Her heart pounded as she rubbed her eyes and wiped the drool from her lip. As she started to become more alert, the dream Annie had been woken up from, was about a baby girl, she was swaddled in a pink blanket and had a head full of black hair. Her dream was so real that she wasn’t sure if she’d been dreaming or not. With her eyes wide open, she looked around her bedroom, she was still at her parent’s house, placed her hand on her stomach, and she was still pregnant. “Baby girl?” She thought. It was just a dream, she knew now for sure. Annie picked up the phone mid ring.

“Hello.”

“Hey sweetie, I was just calling to check on you. You doing okay?” Marshall’s deep voice came through from the other end.

“Oh hey, yeah, I just had the most vivid dream. I could see her, she has black hair, and she is so beautiful!” Annie whispered.

“What are you talking about?” Marshall asked her.

“I just had a dream about the baby, she’s a girl! I could see her!” Annie was very excited about this, she was wide awake now and sitting straight up in her bed, she ran her fingers through her hair, and straightened her night gown. A feeling of joy and excitement filled her body from head to toe, she felt the top of her stomach trying to visualize how her baby was positioned.

“Gosh, what time is it?” She asked, realizing that it had turned dark outside.

“Nine forty-two”. Marshall answered. “A girl huh, do you think your dream is right?”

“I don’t know, we will find out for sure this week”. I can’t wait for this appointment, I know my weight is out of control and I can’t wait to find out if it’s a girl or not. I bet it is a girl, I like the name Alyssa. Don’t you?” She asked him.

“It’s ok.” He replied.

“Well I like it, it sounds pretty”! I’m going to go okay, I need to pee.” I’ll talk to you in the morning.” They said their goodbyes and a quick I love you.

The next couple of weeks were exciting and stressful at the same time. Both families had a huge baby shower for the three of them at Annie’s parents’ house, inside her dad’s new standalone garage he’d just built. The party had an overwhelming turnout of family and friends. Annie and Marshall were given numerous baby gifts, it was almost like they were having two babies. Annie was starting to feel like it too. Her growing belly, swollen legs and boobs were getting the best of her. Her hormones were going crazy, she was sad one minute and laughing the next or both at the same time. Customers at the retail store she worked at, began to question and lecture her about not being married. The busy bodies thought it was up to them to tell her about damnation and sinful babies born out of wedlock. Shaking their heads at her and looking at her with pathetic eyes. She began to take it all to heart. Maybe I do look like a tramp to these people, we don’t even live together, he hasn’t even proposed. Thinking about how she appeared in others eyes bothered her more and more. That evening at Marshall’s house, the two were spending time in front of the television, when it turned senseless as Annie started to cry. As usual Marshall being the sensitive guy that he was, rubbed her back and kissed her tears. He didn’t quite understand her mood swings, but was calm and patient with her.

“Stop she said, don’t touch me. Get away from me.” She inched away from him, while still laying on the bed. “Why haven’t you given me my ring?” Annie whimpered through her tears. She had enough of the impolite comments and whispers that she encountered almost every day. The diamond engagement ring would solve that problem. Then she could tell those ill-mannered people who continued to judge her and her way of life to go screw themselves.

“I know you have it, what’s wrong with me, too ugly and fat for you to propose now.” She cried into the pillow, with her back to him.

With his tender hand on her shoulder, he tried to gently turn her toward him so that they would be facing each other. “Annie look at me.” He begged. After minutes of this passed, Annie gave in. She wiped her face and rolled over, but with her enlarged belly, this was easier said than done.

“What?” She said through her teeth. Focusing her eyes on him, he was now bent on one knee, leaning toward her, smiling his best smile. Cupped in his hands he held a ring box open with the ring she had picked out months ago. She had forgotten just how magnificent it was, how beautiful the stones were. The black ring box was covered in a felt material that made the ring look even more stunning. Annie covered her mouth with one hand while tears flowed from her eyes, only these were tears of happiness and delight. Marshall spoke with a calm sureness in his voice.

“Annie, will you Marry Me?”

At that moment Annie threw her arms around his neck as he leaned in to help his pregnant fiancé sit up.

“Yes, Yes.” She said, her eyes still flooded with tears. “Yes, I will.” Even though she knew this moment would come, it was still surprising to her. Annie had picked the ring out herself, but still it was if she had never seen it before. Marshall slipped the diamond rings on her finger, kissed her forehead then her pregnant tummy. They embraced in a long loving hug, he smoothed her hair down her back, and gently squeezed her. Annie couldn’t help but take a step back from him, hold out her left arm, spread out her fingers and admire her elegant new ring.

Later Marshall admitted to her that this was not of course, how he’d planned on asking the biggest question of his life. He hoped and thought of a more romantic approach, a dinner out, a late night movie, then he’d ask her. He fell short on his original proposal plan, still, the two were happily engaged.

The couple finally moved into their new home. It took most of the day, but with the help of family they were able to get it done. Annie had picked out the cutest nursery décor, her theme was the Baby Looney Tunes Characters. The crib was made of wood, light tan in color. It had been handed down from when Brittainy was a baby. A matching comforter and bumper pads lay perfectly inside the crib awaiting its new owner. An ultra sound had confirmed Annie’s dream was correct. She was carrying a baby girl inside her womb. The nursery walls were decorated with the tiny baby looney tune characters. A stuffed, soft gray baby bugs bunny sat inside the crib at one corner and Baby Daffy in the other. Baby Lola sported her pink ribbon nestled between her rabbit ears. Baby Tweety bird and a baby Taz sat on the dresser that complimented the crib. Atop the dresser was even a themed lamp that completed the look. Pampers, diaper wipes and a diaper genie was only a few of the items that filled the nursery. In the corner of the room sat an old wooden rocking chair. Dark walnut with gold swirls on the head rest. Annie hoped she would spend a large amount of time in that rocking chair. She wanted to meet her baby girl and hold her in her arms. She remembered how vivid her dream had been, the little baby wrapped in a pink blanket with black hair. Excitement and anticipation of how it would feel to be called “mom”, to have someone entirely dependent on her. Annie had decided to breast feed her daughter, she knew it would be healthier as well as cost efficient.

Days passed, her due date of June 11, came and went. Annie stopped working at the retail store, she took her leave of absence for maternity time. She sat alone in her new home that she shared with her love, most days, while he worked days and attended the community college at night. Marshall worked very hard to provide for his developing family. He was so committed. Annie attempted to cook meals and be supportive at home. She was just learning the art of cooking, and didn’t know many recipes if she knew any. The dinners she had waiting for her hard working man usually consisted of chicken patties or a box of hamburger helper. Although Marshall was used to home cooked meals by his mother, he never once complained about Annie’s sad, yet heart felt attempts to satisfy his taste buds. His mother Mary was an experienced cook that’s for sure. She cooked meals fit for an entire kingdom. Anything from fried chicken, to corn pudding, macaroni and cheese, Bar-B-Q ribs. There wasn’t anything his 5’2” mother couldn’t cook. Even with limited ingredients she could serve miracles at the dinner table. Annie thought highly of Mary, after all she did raise Marshall. A Christian woman who put all of her faith in God, trusted the Lord in everything, put her life in God’s hands. She would sometimes preach at the Church she attended. Marshall and Annie visited one of Mary’s Church services that she would lead that morning. They sat in the middle of the congregation in hopes to have a good view of everything that would transpire. Christians themselves, although it had been a long time since either one had attended a Sunday service. This particular church service was held inside of a house that had been transformed into a holy sanctuary. Inside were folding chairs placed perfectly in rows to serve as church Pugh’s, a wooden music stand aided as the pastors’ podium. The walls were decorated with fake plastic flowers of all colors. After everyone was seated, the chorus sang Hymnals, a beautiful sound from beautiful people. The congregation was made up of all different nationalities, people young and old, male and female, sat with bowed heads. Annie and Marshall listened to a prayer spoken by an elderly man wearing a dark blue suit, a white button up shirt and a maroon colored tie that sat a little too far to one side. His black coiled hair was thin on top almost as if he were starting to go bald. He wore large plastic bifocal glasses that would slip down his nose. Every so often he would use his pointer finger to push them back up into place.

“Amen.” The congregation announced.

Silence came over every one, with hands folded in some laps, Bibles or hymnal books in others. Marshall’s mother arose from her chair that was seated in the front of the worshipers. Dressed in a light blue dress, that hung close to her ankles she walked to the podium. Her head held high with confidence, this was a side of Mary that Annie had never witnessed before. Mary’s day to day life as Annie knew, consisted of cooking and taking care of children. The children were her eight grand kids. Five girls and three boys, aging from 2 to 11 years old. To see this woman in such a light, made her realize there was much she didn’t know about her. Annie felt a feeling of awe and pride as she watched Mary take her place at the podium. She began to speak, and at that moment, she spoke with such power and might that Annie thrust her neck backwards in disbelief. Control and authority came from her voice as she preached the word of God. Looking around at the others, Annie could see the respect and love they had for Mary. Many were nodding their heads in agreement to the words she spoke or raising a hand followed by an Amen. A Sunday morning service full of love and warmth that Annie would always remember, she left the Church knowing that she had felt the presence of God almighty.

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