Afternoon visiting at the clinic would have been chaotic, had Mark not laid down the rules that only four people were allowed into the maternity section at a time. Each group had ten minutes to see Vicki, and view the babies through the nursery window. Even a few of teachers from the primary school had visited, and Luke, who had sometimes considered himself a disliked loner, was rather taken aback by their genuine affability towards him.
Carrie had fallen asleep on a couch in the lounge after tea, so rather than disturb her, Brad had decided that they would not go back to the clinic that afternoon. He allowed Sarah to go with Ian and the twins, and set up one of the laptops in the lounge while Carrie slept. But after sitting in front of it for fifteen minutes he had still not typed one meaningful word.
What the hell was wrong with him, he asked himself. It wasn’t as if he was short of ideas! Yet every time he placed his fingers on the keyboard they would shake uncontrollably. He stared at his hands, gulping hard. He did not have this problem at the piano, or anywhere else. Only when he was trying to write!
His eyes rested for a moment on the wheelchair next to the couch, and memories came flooding back. He glanced again at the trembling hands, and then looked back at the wheelchair. His hands used to shake like this from the effort of lifting himself from that wheelchair, in the early days when he was determined not to fail! His hands were strong, they always had been. This wasn’t anything to do with his writing. The fact that he was too stressed to finish his book was mostly due to fear of failure! He felt the hot tears now as they trickled slowly down his face, and he cried out silently, “I can’t, Lord! I just can’t! I’m so scared!”
Something hit him like a lightning bolt! He jerked his head up suddenly, and watched as the shaking hands slowly stilled. Shocked, he quickly brushed his tears away, and placed his fingers back on the keyboard, his heart thudding. Two thousand, one hundred and fifty-two words later he was breathing hard, as if he had run a marathon! A few hundred more or less for a brief edit! He closed his eyes, a feeling of relief washing over him. He was done! A quick email to his agent, manuscript copied, saved and sent, and he turned to see his beloved wife sitting upright on the couch, staring at him in wonder!
“How long have you been awake?” he asked, moving to sit beside her.
Carrie smiled. “Ages. You were so engrossed in typing that you didn’t even hear everybody come back from the clinic. Ian sent them all away. What happened Brad? You were in a - a daze, another world!”
He kissed her. “All I know for sure is that my book is finished. Even edited - as much as I can do!” He swallowed, gazing at her for a few seconds as if choosing his words, then he muttered, “I heard - God’s voice - for the second time in my life!”
Her eyes widened. “You heard Him speak to you? What did He say? Or shouldn’t I ask?”
He took a deep breath. “Almost the same thing that He said to me all those years ago, when I told Him I couldn’t do it. He said - ”You can’t, but I can!’” Tears filled his eyes. “It was amazing, Carrie. It’s not about my book. I think getting it finished was just a bonus! I - I’m sure He’s trying to tell me to trust Him again.” He let the tears fall and buried his face in her shoulder. “I didn’t know how much I’d let my faith go! I’m so - so ashamed!”
Carrie said nothing. She just held him until his shoulders had stopped shaking with his sobbing.
He was full of apologies for his emotionalism when he finally lifted his head, but her smile was gentle, and she leaned forward to kiss him on the lips. “Better now?”
“I should have realised how low my faith had sunk!” he whispered. “I was so scared that you were going to die, and even when He gave you back to me, my relationship with my heavenly Father wasn’t the same. Edmund said I would never turn my back on God, - but I think I did! I’ve just become so - complacent - with the fact that I’m living a miracle life!” He gulped. “It’s almost as if I’m taking it for granted now. I - I used to thank the Lord for the pain, - the reminder that I’m walking because of God’s grace and love. But lately, all I seem to do when those spasms come, is worry that I’m going to lose it all. When I cried to Him that I can’t do it anymore, He knew that I wasn’t talking about my writing. It - it’s all about me losing control of - of all this, of being stuck in a wheelchair, of being a - a - a …”
“A cripple,” Carrie finished for him. “Darling, there’s no shame in that word. I was crippled emotionally for years! Most of us are crippled in some aspects of our life! It was Barbara who used it to be mean and cruel! What will be the difference if you can’t walk? Do you think we’ll love you any the less? Will God stop loving you? Will I?”
A few more tears ran down his face and she took the clean handkerchief from him and mopped at them gently. “God knows your fears, even though you try so hard to pretend that you don’t have any!” She smiled. “You once told me that perfect love casts out fear, And God has that perfect love. He knows what is best for you. He won’t let you endure anything you can’t handle!”
He was leaning against Carrie when little Sarah peeped into the lounge a few minutes later.
“I come in now, Mommy?” She didn’t wait for an answer, bouncing in, with a laughing Ian in her wake.
“Hey, little miss,” Ian chided. “I told you to wait! Daddy was busy!”
But Sarah was standing in front of her parents, a little frown replacing the quiet enthusiasm on her face. “You cry. Daddy?” she asked innocently.
Brad leaned forward and took her onto his lap. “No, sweetie. I had something in my eye,” he lied. “Mommy fixed it! What have you been doing?”
“Uncle Ian push me on swing.” She giggled as he hugged her tightly.
Ian eyed his brother solemnly, but winked at Carrie. “Is it safe?”
She grinned. “Perfectly. Thanks for taking everyone away while Brad was busy. It’s all sorted now.”
“We saw the new additions to the family!” Ian said. “Tiny! Vicki looks tired though. Dr. Max says she needs to get some sleep, and only Luke is allowed to go back this evening.” He met Brad’s eyes. “You ok?”
“I am now! Thanks Ian.”
“You were definitely not with us for a while. Book finished?”
“Yeah. I even changed my last chapter a bit. And now I’ve decided that I’m taking a break - a long one - before I start the next book!”
Ian stuck his tongue in his cheek and his eyes twinkled with laughter. “Ha! You say that every time you finish a book. Bet it lasts only a couple of days, - if that!”
Brad grinned. “Well, at least for the weekend!”
Luke had dinner at the mansion, and then disappeared back to the clinic. When he came back, his mother had already retired to her room, and he found himself feeling guilty that he hadn’t spent much time with her. He knew that their relationship was damaged, probably beyond repair. He had tried hard to develop a love for her, as strong as the love he had for Vicki’s family. But he knew in his heart that it would never be more than a tolerance. He didn’t trust her, and it worried him.
He joined the older members of the family in the lounge for a nightcap, surprised to see Carrie still awake. She was sitting on the couch with Brad by her side, her eyes shining as she listened intently to something he was whispering in her ear. Probably more words of absolute adoration, Luke thought, and that lightened his own heart. He smiled as his sister-in-law gave a titter of laughter, turning her bandaged head to kiss Brad full on the lips. Those numerous kisses between the two of them were so regular that they had become somewhat of a joke. Yet expressions of love in this family had taught him so much!
“Here, Daddy,” Ian said, handing him a mug of cold beer. “Everything still great at the clinic? You look tired!”
“Thanks Ian. Vicki was already sleeping when I left. She’s hoping to come home tomorrow.”
Mark lifted his head. “The triplets will stay in the clinic until they’re much bigger,” he said. He grinned. “I’m sure you and Vicki will want to be over there as much as you can, but I suggest that you both catch up on your sleep too - while you can!”
“Don’t scare the new daddy, Mark,” Nanny admonished. “There are enough people in this house to watch over the babies, as well you know! And both Sarah and little Erin were absolute angels. Slept right through the night from when they were tiny.”
Luke smiled. “Not to say our three will! But we’re not the first couple to have triplets! We’ll cope! It’s just a bonus having so many helpers!”
“Is your nursery sorted?” Brad asked quietly. “You have everything you need?”
“We do. Vicki had it all arranged when we first found out that the one baby we expected was going to be three!” He laughed. “She’s more practical than I am, so I’m not packing away all the gifts we were bombarded with this afternoon. She knows exactly what goes where! You should see how neat and tidy her classroom is at school!”
“Must be Nanny’s influence,” Brad said, grinning. “I’m not the tidiest of people. Ask my wife! She’s always picking up my clothes, or tidying my desk in the study.”
“Your desk is never messy!” Carrie contested. “But yes, you do leave your clothes lying wherever you take them off. The laundry basket is only there for decoration it seems!”
Ian chuckled. “Spoilt!”
“Oh yes, I don’t deny that! Have I ever?”
“You deserve to be spoilt,” Nanny put in, gazing fondly at him.
Ian gave a guffaw of laughter. “Oh boy! Here she goes again! Nanny’s pet boy! It’s a wonder you had time for any of the rest of us!”
“I did not neglect any of you!” she growled, then she also laughed when she saw her husband’s raised eyebrows. “No, Max! I’m not trying to pretend I was their mom! I always knew my place here!”
“Your place here is a valuable member of the family!” Brad spoke up quickly. “Even when my parents were alive, you were essential. And I didn’t raise this lot on my own when they died! If I’d spent the rest of my life in a wheelchair, I knew we’d be ok, because you were always there.” He grinned. “Haven’t we had this conversation before?”
Nanny smiled at him. “Something like it. Thanks for reminding me. And my job here isn’t over! I still have plenty of recipes to teach Sarah and Erin.”
“And now another three tots.” Luke chortled. “I doubt that my lovely wife could make as many scrumptious desserts as you do.”
Brad gave a contented sigh. “Fortunately, she doesn’t have to show you her prowess, or lack of it, in the kitchen! Our chef is not leaving us after all! He’s just getting married!”
Carrie squeezed his hand. “And you worried for nothing! You have a habit of doing that!” She looked up into his eyes. “And, I don’t want to worry you further, my darling, but I think I’d like to go up to bed, if you don’t mind?”
“I’m also going up soon,” Luke said. “I’m bushed! Tomorrow school finishes at eleven, so I’ll go straight to the clinic.”
Max looked at him. “I need to check Vicki’s sutures and vitals before she can be discharged, and I’m meeting with Jim Dennison at ten-thirty as he wants to have a look at Brad, so Vicki will probably only be released just before lunch.”
He saw the sudden change of facial expression and heard the groan as Brad helped Carrie to the wheelchair, and he chuckled. “Yes, Brad. Something else for you to worry about! Something else for you to draw your own conclusions about before you know the full story."