Diminished Faith #Conway Saga 4

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Chapter 4

He had not wanted to leave his wife in the clinic. She had clung to him weakly and cried bitterly and, in the end, Max had given her a mild sedative to calm her, promising that she would not lapse back into the comatose state she had been in for days. Even when she was asleep again, it had taken a huge effort for Brad to be persuaded to leave, but finally he had realised that he had to heed the warnings that his little daughter needed his attention too!

Ian was standing with his sister Jessica at the railings of a merry-go-round, watching Sarah, who was being conveyed on the back of a small painted pony. The little girl was laughing, and as Brad approached, she caught sight of him and waved excitedly.

Ian drew in his breath sharply and called out, “Hold the reins, Sarah!” To Brad he uttered, “Her mother will kill me if she falls off! Even if it’s a model one.”

Jessica gave Brad a hug. “Hi. How’s Carrie? Ian said she woke up.”

“She’s asleep again, but the medical staff are pleased with her progress," Brad muttered. “Are you enjoying the fete? Where’s everyone”

Jessica smiled. “In the tea tent. Julie wanted to get Erin out of the sun and Vicki needed to sit down. They’re all there. We said we’d join them for a cold drink when Sarah’s ride is finished. Are you okay, Brad?”

“I’m fine, princess, thank you.” He looked back at the carousel as the ride was ending, watching his daughter slide down off the horse’s back. She pushed a little boy out of her way as she ran towards him.

“Sarah, it’s rude to push, and that wasn’t nice. Say you’re sorry!” he said sternly.

Sarah hesitated, but she slowly turned and looked at the boy as he took his mother’s hand. “Sorry,” she muttered.

His mother smiled at her, then at Brad. “What a sweet child. How old is she?”

Brad lifted Sarah into his arms. “She’s three. I hope she didn’t hurt your little boy?”

The woman shook her head quickly. “Not at all. Callan is tougher than he looks and he’s four already. You - you’re Brad Conway, aren’t you?”

“I am,” he replied quietly.

“I’m Sheila Evans. You signed a contract for my husband to supply security equipment at one of the stores in the village. We moved into a cottage on your estate last week.”

Brad smiled, holding out his hand. “Pleased to meet you. I do hope you’ll be very happy here. I apologise for not inviting you to our home yet. This hasn’t been a good week I’m afraid.”

“I understand that your wife had a serious accident! The lady in the cottage next door to mine was a witness. News travels fast here, especially if it concerns the Conway family! I hope your wife is going to be all right?”

He hesitated. Sarah had her arms around his neck and her head on his shoulder, but he knew she was listening.

So, he said, “Carrie will be fine, thank you. As soon as she’s well enough, you and your husband and son must join us for dinner. It’s become a practice for me to get to know the people on my estate, and for them to meet my family.” He grinned. “We’re a decent bunch, really!”

“I’m sure you are,” she replied, returning the grin. “In fact, everyone I’ve met so far sings your praises loud and clear! My husband has read your books. He also writes, not as well as you do apparently, as he’s only had one book published so far, but it’s an enjoyable hobby for him.”

Brad raised his eyebrows. “In that case we must definitely arrange a dinner as soon as possible. Perhaps we can exchange ideas!”

After another few obligatory words, Brad followed Ian and Jessica to the huge marquee tent, holding Sarah by the hand. Several people from the estate approached him to ask about Carrie, but they were well aware of his dislike of being singled out in a crowd, and didn’t detain him.

He joined his family at a long table inside the tent, and before any of them could ask, he told them, “Carrie is going to be fine.” He glanced at Sarah who was already engrossed in her cousin Erin, Mark and Julie’s eight -month-old baby girl who was lying in her pram, and he added, “She was awake and we spoke, but she’s rather emotional and Max has sedated her again. She just wants to come home, but she’s so weak and they have more tests to do.”

“Mommy come home?” Sarah asked, lifting her eyes away from Erin and looking up into her father’s face expectantly.

Brad heaved a sigh. He had hoped she wasn’t listening! “No Sweetie,” he said. “Not yet. Mommy is very sick. But she loves your picture.”

“Let’s go fetch the milkshakes, Sarah,” Ian said quickly. “You want a chocolate one?”

The child smiled brightly. “No, a pink one!”

“Please,” Brad reminded her, and she repeated the word before she took Ian’s hand and skipped alongside him to the kiosk at the opposite side of the tent.

Vicki moved closer to Luke, her husband, making space on the bench next to her, for her eldest brother to sit down. “She misses Carrie. We all do. And you’ve been gone for days too!”

“Sarah knows why she had to stay with her grandfather,” Brad said defensively. “How are you doing, Vicki? Still having morning sickness?”

She grimaced. “Yes. It’s not fair! Julie’s was finished after a few weeks, but mine is going on forever! And heartburn too!”

Julie laughed. “They say your baby is going to have a lot of hair if you get heartburn. Erin was practically bald! But boy, did I suffer!”

“Well, a very kind lady here told me that she could see that I was having a girl because I was carrying all in the front,” Vicki giggled.

Luke raised his eyebrows. “Oh really? Did you tell her you’re having triplets and only one of them is a girl - as far as we know?”

“No, I just smiled and thanked her for her expertise. I am having a girl!” She giggled again. “Okay, I’m having two others too, one of which is definitely a boy! But she was right - in a way!”

Brad gave her a quick hug. “This family is growing quicker than ever! Twins I could have expected, - but triplets!!! That was really a surprise! I think I’m still in shock!”

“Me too!” Luke said with a short laugh. “But my mom is over the moon with excitement! Knitting baby things like crazy!”

“That’s good,” Vicki said. “Because my brother never taught me to knit!”

That made Brad laugh. “That was Nanny’s job! I didn’t teach you how to make babies either!”

“No, that was my job!” Luke stated, grinning. “She learns well!”

They were still laughing at Vicki’s suddenly crimson face when Ian came back, carrying a carton of different coloured milk-shakes in paper cups which he placed carefully on the table.

“Okay, you lot. Take your pick! But Sarah wants a pink one.”

Sarah climbed up on the bench opposite her father, smiling as Ian put the cup in front of her.

“Thank you,” she muttered, looking to Brad for approval.

He winked at her, proud that she was learning the good manners for which the Conway clan were all renowned. Glancing around the table at his siblings as they each chose their favourite flavoured milk-shake, his mind automatically went back to his beloved wife. He had been cautioned many times about the infatuation he had for her, the fixation that had not diminished from the time he first met her. She was his life! Maybe his obsession was wrong, as some people said it was, but he could not help himself, and he was convinced that his love for Carrie was part of God’s plan.

His family were growing up. Vicki and Luke had been married for almost a year now and the babies were going to be born by Caesarean section in the middle of July, all being well. They still lived in the mansion, as did Mark and Julie, and Brad wouldn’t have wanted it any other way. He was so used to being the head of the family that he was happier when he had them all around him, though he tried not to interfere in their lives. He knew that he had set a good example, and his household was run as efficiently and satisfyingly as ever.

But, without Carrie by his side, he felt lost and alone. He blamed himself that he had been busy with his writing when she had gone to drop Sarah off with her grandfather for what was supposed to have been a few hours. His eighteenth novel was almost finished and he had shut himself up in his study to complete his penultimate chapter. It was still not written, and he didn’t even care! Carrie was all that mattered!

When Mark had phoned from the clinic to let him know about the accident, he had rushed over there in a frenzy of shock and terror. He had been there when Dr Langley had operated, and had sat at his wife’s side the whole night afterwards, waiting, praying for her to wake. But she was comatose and he could tell that the surgeon was more than a little worried. And he had not been back at home until he had been ordered out of Mark’s clinic earlier. Even little Sarah had taken a back seat in his life!

He looked at her now, leaning up on the table, swirling the straw around in her milk-shake. Pretty little Sarah, who didn’t even have Conway blood, yet was the apple of his eye. In fact, the apple of everyone’s eye!

She looked up at him suddenly, and dimpled. “Daddy want some?”

“I have my own, my darling,” he said, reaching for the cup in the carton. “Mine’s chocolate!”

He gave a slight smile. Of course, they would leave him a chocolate one! They all knew him so well! Although this chocolate milk-shake was not as full of ice-cream as the ones he enjoyed when Nanny made them!

“Is it okay if Jessie and I stay to help them clear up?” Christopher asked when they were ready to leave. “I’ll bring Jess home myself as soon as we’ve finished.”

Brad frowned, but he nodded. “That’s fine, so long as you’re responsible for your sister. I’d like you to bring her home before it’s dark. Did you bring your car?′

“I did. I was going to bring Kyle and Jamie home too, as they walked down. Can they come with you and Ian? Are you having dinner before you go to visit Carrie?”

“I suppose I have to,” Brad replied with a sigh. “I have two bloody quacks watching me like a hawk.”

Sarah opened her eyes wide and pointed her finger at him “Daddy say bad word!”

He laughed, then sobered and said, “Yes I did. Naughty daddy!”

Aside he muttered, “Better be careful what I say!”

He took her hand on one side and her uncle took her other one as they walked to where Ian had parked his car. The twins followed slowly, silently, and Brad realised that both of them had hardly said a word to him that afternoon. He could hardly blame them, he supposed. After all, he had ignored their very existence for the last three days! Sarah’s too, for that matter! In fact, nobody had mattered to him except Carrie.

He fastened Sarah into her booster seat between the boys and went around to the passenger seat and eased himself into the car.

“Seat belt,” Ian said, and waited until Brad had fastened it before he switched on the engine.

On the short drive back to the mansion, Brad sat in silence, and tried to concentrate on the quiet conversation between Ian and the twins. But his mind was elsewhere, and he didn’t even hear Sarah speak to him until she leant forward and tapped him, none too gently, on the shoulder.

“Daddy!” Her voice was impatient now, and he looked round.

“What is it, Sarah?”

She gave a little frown. After a moment, she said quietly, “Daddy cross!”

He blinked in surprise. “What? No, sweetheart. Why do you think I’m cross?”

She stared back at him dolefully.

Jamie gave a little smile. “You didn’t answer her. She asked you three times if she was going back to her granddad’s house.”

Brad drew in his breath sharply. “Oh gosh!” He smiled at Sarah. “Sorry, sweetheart. I was thinking about something else! No, you’re not going back to Granddad’s yet. You can sleep in your own bed tonight.”

“Mommy come home?” The expression on her little face was serious.

“I told you, not yet. But as soon as she’s better.”

Sarah gazed back at him in silence. Even when he put out his hand and touched her leg, she didn’t blink, and he scrutinised her forlorn little face for a few seconds, expecting the usual sudden twinkle in those blue eyes. But there was none of her normal sparkle now, and he gave a worried frown.

“Sarah?”

“I want Mommy!” she mumbled, as tears filled her eyes. But she didn’t cry, merely swallowed hard and remained silent.

Brad felt a sudden surge of guilt. He had not even thought about how this abrupt separation from her mother was affecting his little daughter! He’d been totally selfish, just expecting that Edmund and Irene would explain to her why she had to stay with them, why she couldn’t come back to the mansion and all things familiar, why even her daddy was too wrapped up in his own misery to care about her!

“Your Mommy is very sick,” Kyle said, putting his arm around her. “But she’ll soon be better. We can make her a present for when she comes home. She’ll like that!”

The child turned her head to look at Kyle, and asked softly, “Pictures?”

“Maybe with beads,” he said, grinning. “I’ll show you how to make a necklace or bracelet for your mommy.”

Brad gave Kyle a weak but grateful smile as he saw Sarah’s face light up again.

“She’ll be okay,” Ian whispered to Brad, glancing at the child through his rear-view mirror. “It must be confusing for her.”

“No thanks to me! With both her mommy and daddy gone!” Brad whispered back. “I have a lot to answer for......” He cringed, correcting himself, “....for which to answer!”

Ian gave a short laugh as he brought the Lexus to a smooth stop outside the mansion. “If you’re even worried about correct English at a time like this, brother dear, there’s hope for you yet!”
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