When Jackie received the call, her heart started breaking all over again. Lilly had given birth to twins prematurely, and one was a stillborn. She couldn’t imagine the loss that her daughter must have been feeling.
Cole kept her up-to-date on William’s progress, which seemed promising, but he was seriously concerned about Lilly.
“She’s not herself. She’s withdrawn. She doesn’t talk. She refuses to eat. She’s not Lilly,” he confided in Jackie one day.
“Cole, she’s mourning. She lost a baby - two actually -but the last one, Jack, hurt her deeply. We will be there tomorrow, and I’ll see if we can’t help her through this. Just be patient,” Jackie reminded him.
Her heart went out to Cole. He too had lost a baby. He was the one who had to declare him dead. She knew that his heart was breaking too, but he was primarily concerned with Lilly. It was obvious that he loved her.
Jake had told him about their earlier conversation and was shocked that he asked Cole to hold off asking for Lilly’s hand in marriage. Obviously she understood, but it was clear that Cole loved both of her daughters, at different times and in different ways. She was okay with that and she told Jake that, while heading to the airport.
“He’s a good guy, and he loves her. I can hear it in his voice. He’s so concerned about her. She’s going through some major depression.”
“We’ll help her. We won’t let what happened to Sara happen to Lilly,” Jake reassured his wife.
The three-hour flight was ridden with worry about their little girl. She had lost so much in such a short period of time. It had just been a year ago that she was talking to them about moving to Houston and her excitement about working with the livestock show. So much loss at such a young age.
When they arrived, they immediately saw Cole. He was warmly welcomed into their open arms. He cried in his mother-in-law’s embrace. He hugged Jake and then tried to make light of the fact that he was more hormonal than he could have ever imagined.
“Having children will do that to you,” Jake responded and then asked, “How’s our Lilly Pad doing?”
“About the same. She doesn’t want to go to the hospital to see William. She doesn’t leave her room, at least not to my knowledge. She just lies in bed crying. Could she be suffering from postpartum depression?”
“Possibly, but I think it’s more than that,” Jackie said as she walked side-by-side the two men in her life.
“Like what?” Cole asked, searching for answers, clues that would tell him what to do to help Lilly.
“Let’s get in the car and we can discuss this further,” Jake suggested.
Once in the car, Jackie resumed telling Cole and Jake her thoughts. “Lilly is a loving person and would never do anything to hurt anyone. I think she feels responsible for the death of Jack. I believe, knowing my daughter, that she feels that she has let you and Sara down in some way.”
“I don’t understand why she would think that. She did this on her own. I never asked her or even expected her to do it,” Cole said, reassuring his in-laws that he didn’t pressure her into getting pregnant.
“We know that, son, but we also know Lilly. She hates to disappoint people. She’s always been a people-pleaser and she’s hurting because she thinks she has hurt you and let her sister down,” Jake interjected.
“So how do I convince her otherwise?” Cole asked.
“We’ve been talking about that on the flight. Maybe she needs options,” Jake replied.
“We will offer for her to return home to Savannah and see if she accepts.” Jake told Cole that this way he would know if she was able to stay beside him raising William.
“I don’t want her to leave. I love her,” Cole said without reservation.
“We know you do, and we believe she loves you too, but she needs to make the decision to be involved in William’s life as a mother or as his aunt,” Jackie said resting her hand on her son-in- law’s.
“I don’t know what I’d do without her.” Cole sounded so dejected and alone all of a sudden.
“Let’s just see how it goes over the next few days,” Jake chimed in.
What choice did Cole have? He didn’t want to push Lilly away.
He thought back to the birth certificates he received for Jack and William. She had listed Sara as the mother, not herself. It hurt him to think that she wanted nothing to do with the baby. He needed her, not as William’s mother but as his wife. He wanted to marry her. He loved her, like he had never loved before.
The rest of the drive’s conversation was about Cole’s practice and how he closed one location and only had the one in Galveston open. It had been a long week, and he was thankful that he had such a wonderful team there to cover for him, but he should get back to work soon. He had a baby to support, and a very expensive medical bill to pay.
Lilly heard the car enter the garage. She was looking forward to seeing her mother, but at the same was reserved about opening up to her. She kept having nightmares about Sara and her calling Lilly a murderer. She wasn’t sleeping, but she refused to take anything. She felt that she needed the hear Sara out, to take responsibility. Perhaps it was her job or her eating habits, or the fact that she loved Sara’s husband that caused her to lose the baby and to feel worthy of such abuse, but she didn’t want to share those feelings with anyone, not her mother or father, and especially not Cole.
Jackie flew into her bedroom and gathered up her daughter and hugged her tightly.
“You look pale,” she immediately said and turned to Cole. “Is she eating?”
“Not enough but she won’t listen to me,” Cole responded sadly.
“Lillian Marie, you need to eat. You need to get your strength back. Are you sleeping?” her mother quizzed her.
Lilly knew better than lie to her mother; she was always able to tell when she was being untruthful. “Not really.”
Jackie looked back at Cole and asked if he could prescribe her something for pain, and a sleeping aid.
“She has all of that. The prescriptions are on her nightstand but she refuses to take them.”
Cole told on her, and it burned Lilly’s eyes to see him turn against her, but honestly what choice had she given him? She refused any assistance from him and wouldn’t take any medication.
Jake walked closer and sat on the bed, reaching out for his daughter’s hand. “Lilly Pad, you have to listen to the doctor. If he didn’t think you needed them, he wouldn’t have prescribed them.”
“I don’t want to take them,” she said defiantly.
Cole couldn’t understand why she was punishing herself and him by making him watch her in pain. He sighed and just left the room.
Lilly’s eyes followed him as he left her. He abandoned her again. She wiped away a tear, hoping that her parents didn’t see it, but of course they did.
“Honey, leave us alone. Go talk with Cole and let me have some special time with my baby girl,” Jackie said and shooed her husband out of the bedroom.
“When was the last time you ate?” Lilly heard her father ask Cole but she didn’t hear his answer.
The next thing she heard was the garage door opening again and a car pulling out.
“Good, now that the boys are gone, let’s talk. I am going to fix
you something to eat. Let me go see what you have in the kitchen,” Jackie said as she got off the bed and headed toward the kitchen. “And then we are going to get you in the shower. You need to clean up.”
And as if a windstorm had blown through, her mother started fixing Lilly a grilled cheese sandwich and then ushered her to the shower. She stood in the bathroom just incase her daughter needed assistance.
Lilly had appreciated the cool shower. Jackie was right; she did need to clean up. It felt good to have her hair clean and her body cleansed of the dried blood.
When she got out, her mother handed her some shorts and a tank top, rather than her usual PJs.
Lilly sat at the vanity and brushed her hair and agreed to let her mother French braid it. When she was a child, her mother always put her long hair in braids, and Lilly hadn’t realized how much she needed her mother.
Lilly already felt better, just cleaning up and eating a sandwich.
“Honey, what’s going on in that pretty little head of yours?” Jackie asked as she continued to braid her hair.
“Mom, I don’t want to talk about it,” Lilly said dismissively.
“Ok, then you let me talk and you listen,” Jackie said, and gave her hair a slight pull, to make sure she had her daughter’s attention.
“You have a man that loves you. I mean, he adores you like I never saw him with Sara. Sure, he loved Sara, but he longs for you. I don’t know why you are shutting him out, unless you feel guilty.”
“Guilty?” Lilly said quietly. How did her mother know? Did she know what she felt guilty about?
“Yes, guilty. You did a wonderful, self-sacrificing deed when you went and got inseminated with Sara and Cole’s baby. You feel guilty, not for loving Cole but for losing his and Sara’s child,” Jackie said and then looked at her daughter in the mirror.
“Yes,” was all that Lilly could reply.
“Do you think I blame Cole or you for Sara’s death?” Jackie asked.
“Maybe. I told Sara two days before she killed herself that I wouldn’t become her surrogate. It was my fault she killed herself,” Lilly said crying and finally letting herself grieve with a clean conscience.
“Lilly, look at me,” Jackie ordered, and then resumed her conversation. “You are not to blame, nor is Cole. Sara was ill...mentally ill, and nothing either of you could have done would have made a difference. You need to stop blaming yourself, because you are the only one who does.”
“Sara does,” Lilly said softly.
“What in the world makes you think that?”
“In my dreams, she calls me a murderer,” Lilly said through the tears.
Jackie stopped braiding her daughter’s hair, and wrapped her arms around her, and knelt down and reassured her that she was not a murderer and that Sara would be happy knowing that she had a child for her.
“So the question is: are you going to be William’s mother or his aunt?”
“I don’t know,” Lilly stated honestly.
“That’s fair. Why don’t you come back with us to Savannah and give yourself some distance? William will be in the hospital for several more months, so you don’t have to make a decision right away,” Jackie said, matter-of- factly.
Lilly was repulsed by her mother’s suggestion.
“I can’t just leave Cole and William. What kind of...” But she didn’t finish that statement; instead Jackie did, “Mother would that make you?”
“Yes, I guess so.”
“Lilly, you decided to bring William into this world. It’s only right that you raise him as your own.”
“But he isn’t mine. He’s Sara’s,” Lilly said blinking back the tears.
“No, baby. He’s yours and Cole’s, and it’s about time you let yourself be happy. Poor Cole, he’s worried sick about you...He loves you, Lilly,” Jackie said and resumed braiding her daughter’s hair.
She left her daughter to care for her hygiene and to put on some make-up and told her that they wanted to go see their grandson when the guys came back, and invited Lilly.
“Ok,” she stammered. She didn’t know if she could do this or not, but even her body was aching to hold William.
When Cole and Jake pulled into the drive-way, they went in through the front door. Cole saw Lilly sitting in the living room, with her beautiful long legs cascading out of the shorts she was wearing. She had on a royal blue t-shirt that matched Cole’s eyes. She was breathtaking. He was afraid to approach her but when their eyes met, he realized that he had his Lilly back.
He rushed and grabbed her by the neck and planted a soft kiss on her lips. She met his kiss with an even deeper one until eventually she heard her father cough.
Cole whispered into her ear, “We will continue this later.”
“Promise?” Lilly asked playfully.