Brad left Carrie in Jamie’s room, and went to his study. He sat at his desk and opened his laptop. He stared for almost fifteen minutes at the last chapter he had written, but there was no inspiration or even inclination to continue the story. That worried him. This writer’s block he seemed to have was going on too long now and he knew that his agent was patiently waiting for the final draft. He knew exactly what was going to happen in his novel, to tie up the penultimate chapter with the final one. He just didn’t have the affinity to get the words down at present!
He wandered into the music room and sat at the piano, but he stared at the sheet music that he had left there earlier, without even seeing it. When he finally did place his fingers on the keys, he found himself playing a completely different piece, while his mind drifted aimlessly. He wasn’t aware of his little daughter coming into the room, until she came to his side, and he immediately stopped playing.
“Did you have a nap, sweetie?” he said, smiling down at her.
Sarah grinned. “I not sleepy. Nanny give me apple.” She held up the fruit in her hand. “Daddy, where Mommy is?”
Brad took the half-eaten apple from her, throwing it into the waste basket beside the piano, ignoring the child's jumbled vocabulary. "Mommy is talking to Jamie,” he said.
He fumbled in his pocket for a clean handkerchief, and wiped her hands, then lifted her onto his lap. “Want to play the piano with Daddy?”
She allowed him to guide her little hands in a simple melody, but wriggled down after a few minutes, saying, “I go find Erin!”
“I think Erin’s still having her nap. Don’t go near the stairs! Shall we go play on the swings for a little while?”
“You push me, Daddy?”
He grinned and nodded, and her eyes lit up as he took her little hand in his and walked with her onto the patio and down into the garden where the swings were.
Sarah chattered all the time, although Brad found it difficult to concentrate on anything she was saying, and a number of times had to suppress his wandering thoughts. He had to admit that he was grateful when Nanny came out onto the patio, and took Sarah away to get her washed and ready for dinner.
He went upstairs and knocked on the door of Jamie’s room, pushing it open hesitantly. Carrie smiled at him from the wheelchair, and Jamie also gave a very quick, rather sheepish smile. Brad eyed them questioningly.
“Hi. Am I disturbing you?”
Carrie chuckled. “We’ve just finished. I was about to ask Jamie to push me to the lift, so you’re just in time.”
“Is - is everything ok?” He looked at Jamie. “Feeling better?”
The boy nodded, and smiled. “Much! Carrie’s a marvel! Thanks for suggesting I speak to her.” He gave Carrie a huge grin. “Thanks Carrie. You’re wonderful! But you already know that, don’t you?”
“Hey!” Brad put in quickly. “Stop flirting with my wife!” He grinned, winking at Jamie. “I’m taking her away now, before you get any older!”
Before he took her downstairs, they went to their room at Carrie’s request and he helped her freshen up in the bathroom. While they were there, he changed his t-shirt for a smarter, long-sleeved shirt, leaving the top button open.
“Do I need to change for dinner?” Carrie asked, looking at her reflection in the full-length mirror.
“No, my love. It’s only Tom who’s joining us. You look absolutely delectable as usual.”
She smiled at him. “Trust you to say something like that! I think if I looked hideous, you’d still say I was beautiful!”
He grinned, and went to kiss her. “You’ll always be beautiful to me. I’m obsessive, remember? Even Jamie told me that! I have no control over my feelings for you, my love. Obsessions are really not good, but I can’t help myself. Maybe I need to speak to a psychologist?”
She laughed. “Oh Brad! I do love you! This psychologist would never want to change this particular obsession of yours! But we can talk about it, if you like!”
Love shone from her eyes as she grinned. “Maybe while you make love to me later?”
He drew in his breath, and groaned, his eyes twinkling. “I’m going to take you up on that invitation,” he whispered against her mouth as he kissed her passionately. “Well, maybe not the talking, but definitely the love-making!”
The nurses came in from the clinic as he was taking her downstairs, and June arrived a few minutes later. Brad watched as they removed the bandages. He was concerned when he saw Carrie flinch when the nurse cleaned the area where the lacerations to the scalp had seeped slightly.
“Careful! Does - does it hurt, darling?“”
The nurse apologised immediately. But Carrie smiled.
“The surgical spirits just sting a bit. It’s fine now.”
June inspected the wounds, but she was pleased that they were mostly clean and healing well. “It will be tender for a while,” she said, “but I can prescribe stronger painkillers if you need them. Don’t suffer in silence, Carrie!”
“No, it’s really fine.”
“So, you have no pain? And your hip and your side?” the other nurse asked as she finished taking Carrie’s blood pressure.
“My side always aches if I sit too long.” Carrie replied. “I need to walk, but - but I’m still too weak to manage on my own.”
June smiled. “I’m glad you don’t try to manage on your own. Even when you progress to a walking frame, I don’t want you to walk unless there is someone else close by.”
“Unless I’m close by!” Brad stated emphatically.
Watching the nurse renew the bandages, June said, “By Sunday I think those bandages can come off permanently.”
Carrie grimaced. “I’ll need a wig! I don’t want people seeing those scars!”
“When your hair grows, no one will see any scars!” Brad said, adding, “But I’ll arrange for someone to bring in some wigs for you to try, if you like.”
“It’s - it’s embarrassing!” she muttered. “I look terrible!”
Brad laughed. “Vanity! You look gorgeous!”
She glared at him. “That is a downright lie! You’re my husband! You have to be nice about it! The accident did nothing to my eyes! I can see how awful I look!”
June smiled at her. “My dear girl, it’s only your scalp that has scars! Your face is as lovely as your husband says it is!”
“Thank you.” Carrie said. She lowered her eyes. “I’m not vain, am I? I’ve always been aware of my scarred body! I - I just don’t want the family - Sarah - to see me without hair and - and those awful scabs!”
“Your hair is already growing!” June told her. “And you can even try different style wigs - different colours without having to dye your own hair. And believe me, your little daughter is just happy that you’re alive! She isn’t going to notice that you look a little different! Now, relax Carrie, or your blood pressure is going to spike!”
When the nurses had gone, Brad pushed Carrie into the lounge where the rest of the family were congregating. Sarah, now clad in pyjamas, was playing on the floor with Erin, and she looked up at her mother and grinned.
“Look Mommy. Erin’s spots gone!”
Julie laughed. “And she hasn’t even been ill!”
“She was immunised.” Mark said. “It was very mild. But Rubella isn’t really dangerous anyway!”
Vicki scowled. “Except for pregnant women! I’m still nervous!”
Mark grinned at her. “You are paranoid! Your babies are perfectly safe!”
“I told her that!” Brad put in. “So did Max. So did God, but she won’t believe HIM either!” He winked at his sister, and gave a reticent smile.
“Oh, she believes Him,” Luke said, laughing. “She’s actually having trouble believing that God told you, and not her directly!”
Carrie smiled at Vicki. “It’s only dangerous in the first trimester. Your babies will be ok. You look a little pale today though!”
Vicki gave a little sigh. “I’m glad that the term ends on Friday. And I only go back to work next year! I have to admit that I’m really tired lately!”
“You’re marvelous,” Julie told her. “I spent the last two months of pregnancy absolutely exhausted, and I only carried one child! You still have the energy to teach a class of ten-year-olds, with three babies inside you!”
“I love my class,” Vicki said. “But I’m feeling fat and frumpy right now, and I’ll be glad when it’s all over. My back aches like mad today.”
“Won’t be long now, my darling.” Luke’s arm tightened around her shoulders. “And you are still as beautiful as ever! In fact, one of my class told me yesterday that she knows our babies are going to be just as stunning as their mother!”
Brad grinned at him. “Yes, they are. As a matter of fact, one of the ladies in church on Sunday told me that pregnancy definitely suits my sister, as she’s even more gorgeous than she was before! Not quite as exquisite as Carrie, of course, but gorgeous nevertheless!”
Carrie burst into laughter. “Oh, please. Stop it with the flattery now. Vicki knows how lovely she is, and I’m sure all men believe that their wife is the most perfect woman in the world!”
“Or they should!” Max said, turning from the window. “Anyway, Tom has just arrived. Does that mean we’ll be eating soon? I’m starving!”
His wife gave him a good-natured smirk. “I very much doubt that you’re starving! But yes, we’ll be eating soon. I’ll just go and check that the table is in order.” She glanced around the lounge. “Is Jamie coming down for dinner?”
Kyle looked up from the game of chess he and Jessica were playing. “He said he was. Shall I go and call him?”
Brad stood to go and greet Tom, glancing at the chessboard. “No need. I think I heard him coming downstairs.” He frowned. “If you don’t move that bishop, you’re going to lose it!”
“Oh, Brad!” Jessica scowled. “Don’t help him! Just let me beat him for once!”
Kyle grinned wickedly, moving his queen forward in front of the bishop. “I don’t need to move it! And you’re not going to beat me! Check-mate!”
Jessica stared at the chessboard, squealing, “Nooo! Oh gosh! I walked straight into that, didn’t I? It’s not fair! Why can’t I ever beat you?”
Brad was laughing as he went into the hallway to meet his estate manager. As he shook Tom’s hand, he said, “My little brothers play a much better game of chess than any of us! Jess just walked into 'fool's mate' that I didn't even see! How are you, Tom?”
The manager smiled. “I’m good, thanks. Never could get the hang of chess myself, so if you have any thoughts on challenging me to a game, I’ll politely decline!”
“No, I’m still embarrassed about my last game with Max,” Brad chuckled. “He beat me hollow!”
Tom patted his briefcase. “I brought your list of tenants. And I have a few papers for you to sign too. Other than that, everything seems to be in order. I - I believe you met Doug Peterson yesterday?”
“I did, yes. Nice chap. Our meeting was mainly to explain about how we can help them financially, medical expenses for his son and the like! Is his cottage adequate for them? Not too small?”
“It’s a two-bedroom, with a decent garden,” Tom replied, following Brad into the lounge. “I took the liberty of offering the cottage as a kind of incentive to him taking the job. He’s a brilliant electrician! Highly qualified, and does other maintenance work too. He seemed extremely keen when I offered him the job. Usually does contract work, but I think he needed a permanent position to convince the welfare authorities that he could provide a stable home for the kid they want to adopt.”
Tom greeted the family, and Brad introduced him to Neil and June. He smiled as he bent to give Carrie a quick peck on her cheek.
“You’re certainly looking better than I expected. How are you feeling? You gave us all such a big fright, and your husband was frantic of course!”
She chuckled. “My husband can’t get rid of me that easily! How are you, Tom? Still haven’t found that special person yet?”
He grinned. “I stopped looking years ago! My employer married the most beautiful woman in the world, and he’d kill me if I made a play for her!”
Brad guffawed. “You don’t stand a chance! I have it on good authority that she only has eyes for me! And, in any case, no other man dare try to take her from me!” He winked at Carrie, and her eyes twinkled as she gave him a brilliant smile.
He kissed her lips, whispering something that made her blush. Then, he and the manager disappeared into the study for a short while, until the bell rang to announce dinner.
It was Brad who was the first to notice that his sister Vicki was not eating the meal and seemed rather uncomfortable. Her husband, Luke, also seemed a bit pre-occupied with his own thoughts, and Brad wondered whether the two of them had perhaps had an argument. But Vicki suddenly grasped Luke’s arm and gave a small cry of obvious pain, and immediately all eyes were on her.
She gasped, as Luke scraped his chair back and helped her to her feet, and both Mark and Max hurried to her side.
“I told her she should relax,” Luke told them. “She’s been having pain on and off, most of the afternoon, and she’s terrified that something’s wrong with the babies!”
“More likely she’s in the beginnings of labour!” Max said calmly. He smiled at Vicki. “We need to get you to the clinic pronto.”
“No!” Vicki squealed. “It’s too soon! They can’t come now!”
Nanny spoke up. “My dear girl, those babies won’t wait until you’re ready! Let Mark and Max take you there now!”
“It’s not time!” She turned to Luke, bursting into tears. “Our babies are only due next month!”
Mark patted her back soothingly as Luke held her close. “Let’s get you to the clinic and see what’s going on.” He looked at Max. “If we need to deliver now, can you do the Caesar? Her gynae is only back from Belgium next week.”
Max nodded, just as Vicki squealed again. “Nooo. I’m fine. My babies are too small to be born now. It’s not time yet.”
“Vicki, relax!” Carrie said sharply. “If you are in labour, panicking is not going to help one little bit! Twins and triplets usually come early anyway!”
“Might be a false alarm,” Max put in. “But I need to prep anyway, so the sooner we get you to the clinic, the better. Don’t worry, Vicki! I’ve delivered all you lot and I still know how to do it!” He grinned. “Your mother also went into early labour with the twins, and they popped out before we had time to get her to the hospital for the Caesarean! At least your babies are not going to be born in an ambulance."
Vicki appealed to her eldest brother, as Luke tried to soothe her. “Please, Brad. Tell God it’s too soon!”
Brad had said nothing so far. Now he gave a short laugh. “Vicki, I’m not God’s boss! I can’t tell Him anything! Calm down. Your babies will be fine, whether or not they’re born tonight! Go to the clinic with Max and Mark!”
June stood, smiling at Max. “Could I assist, too? It’s not my field, but I’ve assisted at a few Caesars before.”
“Your help would be much appreciated,” he replied. “We have to first find out if it is a false alarm of course! Come Vicki. Stop panicking. I know how to perform a C-section - and your babies will be fine!”
Mark looked around at the family. “I don’t want you all traipsing over to the clinic! Stay here. We’ll let you know as soon as we can.” He smiled at Carrie. “Sorry Nurse! I know you wanted to be there for Vicki, but her babies might not be going to wait until you’re well enough.”
A little giggle from a big-eyed Sarah at that moment, plus a sudden gasp from Vicki, made him grin as everyone looked down at the pool of water at her feet.
“Oops. It’s definitely not a false alarm! Her water just broke! So we need to get her over to the clinic right away! No more protesting Vicki! You’re going to be a mother tonight, whether you like it or not!”