Tidings Part 1
created my inmost being; You knit me together in my
I praise You because I am
fearfully and wonderfully made.” ~ Ps. 139
“So what did they say?”
Kemara looked up from her phone and gave her husband a teary
smile. “They’re thrilled. Dad was going to look for plane
tickets as soon as we hung up, and Mom’s already planning a
huge shopping trip.”
He sat down beside her on the porch steps. “Did you tell
them it's twins?”
“No. They’d want to know where I got that notion, and
saying, ‘Jesus told me so’ wouldn’t go over very well.” She
sighed. “I wish I could though. If Mom comes up and wants to
shop I’ll only be able to buy one of everything.”
“Well, maybe you won’t need two of some things,” he
suggested. Suddenly, he began to laugh.
“I just thought….you’re the first of the Friends to get
pregnant - well, not counting Diana, but they already had
three kids before Manny.” He grinned. “So that means you get
to pick out the baby clothes that get handed down, and the
Kemara smiled. “And the maternity clothes, too!”
“Yup!” He nudged her, playfully. “You get to be the one to
set fashion trends for the next twenty years!”
“Oh, Lord!” She giggled. “I guess I’d better take Rose, Emma
and Kylie with me when we go shopping so we can all agree on
an overall style or something. But even so, I’m sure Diana
would be glad to contribute some of her and Manny’s things.”
Sean nodded. “You know, it wouldn’t hurt to suggest at Bible
study that we set aside one of the empty rooms in Willowveil
as a kinda swap shop. Anything Diana doesn’t want can go in
there - clothes, toys, car seat, high chair. Same with
JenniAnn and Belle’s stuff. If we need it, we’ll know where
“And add our own things when we’re done with them; and so on
down the line.” Kemara said warming to the idea. “Families
will be able to save money by checking there first before
buying anything new.”
“And if we get diapers, wipes or formula in bulk, we can be
store them, too. With twins we’ll need a lot of all those
Kemara hugged him excitedly. “I can’t wait until Wednesday!
I’m going to go post it on the forum and see what everyone
says.” She jumped up and ran inside, nearly tripping over
Warren in her haste.
“Be careful!” he called. Shaking his head, he followed her.
“Got anything planned for the day, or are you just going
back to bed?” he teased once they had finished breakfast.
She smiled. “Ha-ha. You try being pregnant and see how much
energy you have, Mister! For your information, I’m going to
work on the flyer for your financial class at the Phoenix.
“Oh, thanks!” he said, leaning down to kiss her. “Lemme give
you my notes, then.”
He set his briefcase on the table and opened it. Rummaging
inside, he came out with a folder which he handed to her.
“OK. I’m off.” He fiddled with his tie. “Glad this is the
last day I have to wear this choker.”
Kemara laughed. “You men and your ties. Even Joshua has
trouble with them. I think you look very nice.” She cocked
her head, studying him. “But I like your jeans and T-shirt
“Me too! Don’t know how long I’ll be - it could be most of
the day. We need to go over all of my accounts and do a
final check that I’ll be able to handle them from here. And
there’ll be a couple of meetings….”
She gave him a tiny shove. “I’ll be fine! Go on now, or
you’ll be late.”
After she cleaned up from breakfast, Kemara sat down at the
computer. As she did so, her lower back twinged. She shifted
and rubbed the spot, but the ache persisted. She was pretty
sure she hadn’t pulled it. Maybe it was pregnancy related?
Curious, she did a web search.
The answer - it could be - led to more questions. When she
finally glanced at the clock she was startled to see it was
nearly 1 p.m.
“Goodness! That’s half a day gone and I didn’t even
realize!” she said to Warren who was napping on the
windowsill. “Why didn’t you say something?” The cat opened
one eye a fraction and closed it again.
Kemara set about making herself some lunch. “I wonder if
there’s some stuff I shouldn’t be eating? I ought to look
that up, too.”
She refilled Warren’s bowl and carried her sandwich back to
the computer. While she ate, she printed off a list of
forbidden foods, carefully watching the time.
“Now, I’ll just lie down for a little bit, and I can start
on Sean’s flyer when I get up.” She stretched out on the
couch and pulled a light blanket over her legs. Warren
curled himself into a ball by her feet.
Sean’s kiss woke her.
“Hey, sleeping beauty.”
She stared at him blearily. “You’re home.” Confused, she
realized that the sky outside the windows was the deepening
blue of late afternoon. “What time is it?”
“Almost six.” He helped her sit up.
“What? I can’t believe I slept so long!” Her mind was slowly
beginning to function again.
Sean shrugged. “No biggie. I got dinner.” He motioned to the
coffee table where an array of food was spread out. “Two
veggie wraps for you and a sub for me. And diet Cokes. This
“Thanks.” She took the cup he handed her. “So how did your
“Pretty good. We sorted out the accounts, and I had them
give me a laptop to use since you need the computer.”
“Your flyer! I didn’t get to it...I’m sorry.”
“There’s still time; I’m not done with my syllabus yet. Did
you call your doctor to make an appointment?”
“Umm….” Kemara blushed. “No.”
He looked at her curiously. “Just what did you do today?”
She concentrated on keeping the filling inside her wrap. “No
much,” she mumbled.
“How did that happen?”
“Well….my back was hurting so I looked it up on the
internet, and then some other stuff….and by the time I knew
it it was lunch time…..”
Sean was grinning. “And after lunch you took a nap.”
“Sounds like it’s a good thing I’ll be home from now on to
keep you in line!” He slung an arm around her shoulders.
“That goes both ways, you know.” She frowned. “I just feel
He chuckled. “Maybe motherhood messes with your head.”
“Maybe it does. We should research it.” She kissed him.
“Thank you for picking up dinner. I’ll try to do better.”
“Hey, you’re going through a lot, and these guys -” he put a
hand on her stomach.
“Or girls,” she shot back.
“Or one of each,” he added. “Whatever they are, they’re
really stressing your body. It’s no wonder you’re out of
She rolled her eyes. “Did Diana tell you to be patient with
He grinned, unrepentant. “Uh-huh.”
“Just don’t overdo it.” She reached for the second wrap.
“You don’t want to run out before the nine months are up.”
The next morning, Kemara called her gynecologist as soon as
his office opened. She took the phone out onto the porch so
she wouldn’t disturb Sean who was working at the kitchen
“Everything set?" He asked anxiously when she came back
Kemara shook her head, confused. "The nurse said the soonest
the doctor would see me is when I'm at nine weeks. She asked
some questions and said it sounds like I'm almost five weeks
now. So they made the appointment for May 5. That's almost a
"Really? That can't be right. Is that all she said?"
"Pretty much. And I should start taking folic acid and a
Sean shook his head. "I can't believe they don't want to see
you any earlier. I mean, aren't these first weeks important?
Maybe you should call Portia and check with her."
"I'll email. I'm sure she's busy, and I don't want to
interrupt her at work." Kemara sat down at the computer and
typed out a quick note.
Sean pulled over another chair. "Google 'first prenatal
visit'" he suggested.
"Believe in the power of Google, huh?" She teased.
"More like let's see what everyone else's experience has
To their surprise, they found the date of the first doctor's
visit varied from six weeks to 19 or even 21.
"I guess we should be lucky I only have to wait a little
while," Kemara said.
"We'll get a book," Sean suggested. "We can go now. You need
vitamins anyway, right?"
She nodded. "Yes and probably a hundred things I don't know
"Those will do for the time being."
Halfway to Queens, Kemara's phone beeped. "It's from
Portia," she said opening the email. "She says,
'Congratulations! Sorry I didn’t get the chance to say so in
person yesterday. Yes, nine weeks is perfectly fine since an
ultrasound won't show much before then.' She's given me a
link to a website for one of the hospitals she's affiliated
with that should have more information."
Sean snorted. "I guess it's all right then. Still sounds
weird to me."
Kemara put a hand over her still-flat stomach. "I just want
to make sure they're OK." She smiled. "It's so strange
saying that, and thinking that I’ve got two people growing
“Freaky,” he agreed. “Think you’ll be up for dance
She nodded. “I’ll try. I usually feel better in the
afternoons. I’m glad Elaine moved class to Tuesday evenings.
That works so much better, especially since Emma and I are
at Lily’s Loot on Saturdays.”
“I keep remembering her running across the water to Joshua.
“And what he said to your dad - about her not needing to be
Sean frowned. “I couldn’t believe he asked that. I mean, I
know it’s a logical question, but still! I’m glad Basil and
Azalea didn’t get offended. If it was my kid, I probably
“Papa Bear, huh?” Kemara teased. “Well, Lily’s answer was
“Yeah. She’s pretty awesome. I hope ours turn out half as
“Me too. I know you say I worry too much, but I do wonder
what kind of parent I’ll be.”
“I guess everyone does. You start out with all these plans
and theories; but I think most people rely on how they
themselves were raised and make the rest up as they go
Kemara sighed. “That’s just it. My own parents spanked. And
I can say that I’m not going to do that. But what if one of
them makes me so mad, I forget and do it anyway?”
“Then you think of something you can do to calm yourself
down before you get that mad. Personally,” he mused. “I
don’t have a problem with a quick smack if you’ve caught
them just as they were about to run into traffic….”
“But my folks didn’t spank so, it’s not something I have any
experience with.” He glanced over at her. “Hey, you’re not
perfect and neither am I. Joshua doesn’t expect us to
He grinned. “I’ll keep reminding you.”
“Thanks. Oh, I printed off a list of ‘bad foods’. I’d better
look at it before we get to the store.” Kemara rummaged in
her purse for the paper. “Okay….most fish is out...no deli
meat unless it’s been heated - What? No more sandwiches? -
no soft cheeses like feta, no more than 12 ounces of coffee
a day - I’m doomed - no fresh-squeezed juice and nothing
with raw eggs.”
“Wow. I think it would’ve been easier to just list what you
can eat, instead,” Sean joked.
Kemara stared down at the list, her vision blurred by tears.
One broke free and splashed on the paper.
Sean glanced at her, startled. “Kemara, what?”
“I- I just can’t -....”
He took her hand and scanned the road for a place to pull
over. A shopping center was just ahead. Relieved, he turned
into the parking lot.
As soon as the truck was still, he jumped out and went
around to her side. He barely had her seat belt unfastened
before she threw her arms around his neck, sobbing.
“It’s okay...shhhh….” He rubbed her back. “What brought this
She shook her head, too upset to reply. When she was calmer
he took one of Maryam’s handkerchiefs from her purse, and
wiped her face with it.
“Do I need to tell you to blow your nose?”
Kemara smiled and took it from him.
“That’s better. Now, can you tell me what that was all
“I don’t know. All of a sudden everything was just totally
overwhelming: twins and shopping, Mom and Dad visiting, and
then that stupid list with all the stuff I can’t have.” A
few more tears leaked out.
Sean smiled. “Ah, but you forgot we’re a team. Together we
can deal with anything - even twins and mothers-in-law! As
for this -”. He picked up the paper from the floorboard and
scanned it. “Most of this is stuff everyone should do -
washing raw produce, not eating raw eggs, not letting food
sit out - common sense stuff.”
“But no deli meat,” Kemara sniffed, unwilling to be so
easily swayed. “No sandwiches for nine months?”
“Hardly! There’s peanut butter and jelly, grilled cheese,
tuna, homemade chicken salad, a BLT. And we can cook a ham
or turkey. Or we’ll just get a panini press and make hot
sandwiches. No more risk!”
She did laugh then. “Okay, you’ve convinced me!”
He kissed her forehead. “Good. Now lets go look at baby
To her surprise, Kemara enjoyed herself immensely. At
Fairway, they stocked up on groceries including more veggies
and a rotisserie chicken.
“Think that’ll make enough sandwiches for you?” Sean asked,
putting it into the cart.
She pretended to consider. ‘I guess so….”
They found a Babies R Us, and spent two hours roaming the
“Your first?” a saleswoman whose name tag read Tonya, asked
as they tried to pick one guide book from among dozens.
“Yes,” Kemara said, smiling proudly. “Twins actually. We
just found out yesterday.”
“Congratulations!” Tonya broke into a huge smile. “That’s
wonderful. My sister has twin boys, so I know a little bit
about that. Let me see…” She scanned over the books. “You
can pretty much avoid the “what-to-expect” books since they
just cover one kid. Try this one.” She handed Kemara a book.
“How to Survive and Thrive With Twins, Triplets and
Multiples,” Sean read. “Huh. That does sound better
than, ‘Babies; The Missing Manual.’
Tonya laughed. “The thing to remember is that everything is
more. You gain more weight, start showing sooner, and just
need more stuff in general.”
“That’s what we’re trying to figure out,” Kemara said. “We
don’t know what we’ll need or what we should get right now.”
“We have a little twin section,” Tonya said. “Double
strollers and matching outfits, that kinda thing. Let me
The saleswoman led them all over the store pointing out
useful items that they would’ve missed by themselves. Kemara
took pictures with her phone of items to buy later -
especially a pair of onesies that read “Thing 1” and “Thing
“You said you just found out yesterday,” Tonya said as she
checked them out. “One thing my sister is so glad she did
was have someone take a picture every month of her standing
turned to the side so you could see how her belly was
growing. She had a little chalkboard and she wrote stuff
like how big the babies were and where they were in their
growing. Her boys are six now, and they love to look at
those pictures!” She chuckled. “They say, ‘Is that us?
How did we fit in there, Mama?’”
“That’s a great idea!” Kemara took the bag containing the
book and her prenatal vitamins. “We’ll have to try it.” .
“You mean you’d trust me with your camera?” Sean joked. “I’m
Tonya smiled. “Good luck to you both.”
“Thank you! I’m sure we’ll be back in here,” Kemara said.
“She was nice, wasn’t she?’ Sean said as they drove back to
“Yeah, I probably wouldn’t have picked this one,” Kemara
said flipping through the multiples book.
Kemara scanned a few pages. “Pretty much what she said. You
get bigger - obviously - start to show sooner. They've got a
drawing of what a woman pregnant with one baby looks like at
16 weeks compared to someone carrying twins, triplets or
quads.” She shuddered. “I just can’t imagine! How do you
feed that many?”
“And when would you sleep?” Sean added. “You’d need a team
of people helping.”
“Well, we’re going to have that anyway,” Kemara smiled.
”Plenty of grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins.”
He nodded. “And we’ll have to learn not to be ashamed of
asking them,” he warned.
“I know….I know…” Kemara made a face.
“So what does it say if you’re five weeks along?”
She found the correct page. “Let’s see….they’re the size of
orange seeds, their hearts start beating this week, and they
look like tadpoles - just a head and a tail.”
“Cool! I never thought about how they grow and when. I
really like Tonya’s idea of keeping track of all that
“I think you just want to play with my camera,” she teased.
He leered. “It’s more taking pictures of you that interests
“Fully clothed!” She shot back.
He pouted. “What? No bare belly shots?”
“Okay. But that’s all.”
“Of course.” But his little grin told her he would keep
Once the groceries had been put up, Sean set about making a
corner of the living room into a photo studio. Using a
whiteboard and Kemara’s stash of markers he wrote “McCallum
Twins” across the top. And below that “5 Weeks”, “We’re the
size of orange seeds” and “Our hearts start beating
this week”. He added two oranges and hearts for
“I wish we could put Joy and Ian for the names,” Kemara
said. “But I don’t want to get too attached in case they’re
two boys or two girls.”
Sean grinned. “Yeah, that would be awkward later trying to
explain how Joy became John.”
“Imagine being told it’s a boy and planning and decorating
for a boy only to find out it’s a girl when she’s born.” She
took her Nikon out of its bag. “Go stand where you want me
to stand so I can get the settings right.”
He ambled over next to the whiteboard and, turning to the
side, stuck his stomach out as far as it would go - which
wasn’t very far.
Kemara giggled. “My mom told me once that if men could get
pregnant we’d hear nothing but complaints for nine months.”
“I never complain!” He scowled, and she snapped a photo.
“Perfect! Okay, my turn.”
Sean took a few pictures of Kemara alone and holding Warren
with the cat lounging contentedly in her arms. “I think he
wants his own photoshoot.”
“Wait a minute.” At the bottom of the whiteboard Kemara
added, “Mom and Dad are getting me two little humans!” She
set the board on the floor where Warren wandered over to
sniff at it.
Rolling his eyes, Sean tried to kneel, but ended up lying
flat on the floor to get the shot. Kemara laughed so hard
she had to run to the bathroom.
When she returned, he was heating up the leftover minestrone
soup. “Do you want a salad?”
“Yeah, that’d be good. I’ll make it.” As she worked she
asked. “Did you have more office work left?”
He nodded. “A little bit.”
“Then I’ll start on your flyer. That way you can make sure I
stay on task,” She smirked.
“Sounds like a plan.”
As the afternoon went on, both found they enjoyed working
together - Kemara on the computer and Sean with his laptop
at the table.
“You know, we should make this part of our daily routine
like jogging and coffee on the porch,” he commented as he
printed out his final spreadsheet to check over.
Kemara smiled at him. “Yeah, it’s funny….except for college
I always lived by myself and enjoyed it. But in just the
past few weeks, I’ve kinda gotten used to having you
around,” she teased.
“Aww…” He came over and kissed her. “I like having you
around, too.” He caught sight of the screen. “Oh, hey, that
looks really good!”
“If there’s anything you or Catherine want to add…”
“I think it’s great.”
“OK. I’ll email her a copy and then I think I’d better lie
down a bit or I’ll be useless at class tonight. Oh, I almost
forgot about the forum!”
She pulled up the webpage and they read the posts from
Andrew and Eliot.
“I’m so glad Andrew and JenniAnn are okay with it. And Eliot
and Brittony could give us some good advice.”
Kemara typed up a reply.
“Why don’t you just tell them we’ll have them over for
dinner next week, so we can ask all our questions then?”
She raised her eyebrows. “You mean you have questions Google
He shrugged. “Well...yeah...I’m new to this dad thing and
Eliot’s right in the middle of it.”
“I’m so used to seeing you with all your nieces and nephews,
I guess I figured being a father wouldn’t be that different
from being an uncle.”
He sat down in the other chair. “I used to think that, but
now I dunno. I mean, these are my kids - not someone else’s
- for starters. It’s like what we were talking about
earlier. When Brad smacks one of the boys, as their uncle
it’s really not my place to say anything. If I thought he
was really hurting them, sure I’d speak up, but I know they
love and respect him. But with my kids,” He smiled and
amended, “With our kids, we can say no smacking or let them
go to bed whenever they want.”
“Within reason,” Kemara giggled. “I think Vincent and the
other Tunnel teachers would have a problem with grumpy kids
who hadn’t gotten to bed until 2 a.m.!”
He chuckled. “Yeah, I bet they would. But that’s what I
mean. We can make that decision for our family. And that’s
the big difference.”
“I just get so excited when I think of all the other kids
they’ll have to play with! Belle, Manny, Liam, Jacob,
Ciara’s five, Edison and Eleanor, the other Tunnel kids, and
all those the Friends will have.”
Sean pulled her close. “Yup. I think the next generation’s
just getting started.”
“Kemara and Sean are here!”
“How was Ireland?”
Their friends crowded around as soon as they stepped into
“Wow!” Sean joked. “If I didn’t know better, I’d think you
“Of course we did,” Elaine said hugging him. “I hope you
Kemara laughed. “Yes, I have them all on my iPad.”
“And we need to have story time, too,” JoAnne said. “With
Sean along I know you must’ve done something crazy.”
Sean looked offended. “Me?” He pointed to Kemara. “She’s the
one who insisted we look for some stone circle. ‘I know it’s
around here somewhere. The webpage said so’.”
“But who said, ‘The car’s that way. Let’s just take a
shortcut across this field’?” Kemara asked. “The same field
where a bull decided we were invading his territory, I might
Their listeners were cracking up.
“So, who ran fastest?” Ryan wanted to know.
“I think it was a tie,” Sean said
Elaine shook her head. “Well, it sounds like you had a great
time. But we’ll save pictures and stories for later. Let’s
get warmed up!”
After class - which Kemara was pleased to find she could
keep up with - they waited until the others had gone to
speak to Elaine.
“So how’s married life treating you two?” she said as they
helped her tidy up the studio.
Sean grinned. “Very well, thank you.”
“And that’s why we wanted to talk to you,” Kemara said. “We
found out Sunday that I’m pregnant.”
Elaine dropped the pages of notes she was holding. Papers
scattered all over the floor as she threw her arms around
Kemara. “Oh, that’s wonderful!”
Sean laughed and tried to pick of some of the pages.
“Oh leave those and come here!” Elaine hugged him too and
led them over to a bench. “I’m so happy for you.”
Kemara blushed. “Thanks. The thing is I don’t know how long
I should keep dancing? Sean and I have been jogging on the
beach every morning, and I generally feel better in the
afternoons, so class is at a good time….”
Elaine nodded. “Yes. Check with your doctor, but I’d keep it
up as long as it feels comfortable for you. It’s something
your body is used to; if you were just starting, I’d say no.
I danced through my pregnancy with Alissa until two weeks
before she was born. At the end it was more walking than
dancing, but at least I was staying active.”
“That’s what I keep saying every morning: This must be good
“It’s getting her out of bed that’s the problem,” Sean said
picking up his bag and Kemara’s. “Once she’s up, she’s
“Usually needing to run to the bathroom is the only thing
that will get me up these days,” Kemara agreed.
“Oh, I remember that!” Elaine took one last look around the
room before turning off the lights. “So do we get to give
you a baby shower? I know you didn’t want anything for your
Kemara’s expression turned dreamy. “Tiny gillies? Yes,
“Hey! What if it’s a boy?” Sean asked as the trio started
toward the subway station.
Elaine and Kemara looked at each other. “A kilt!” they said
Sean rolled his eyes. “Lord, help me…..”
When Kemara remembered the rest of that month - which Sean
dubbed "The Month That Will Never End - three events stood
out. One was exciting; one was interesting; and one was
For the second time in twenty minutes, Kemara looked down
the road leading from Willowveil, but there was no sign of
For the tenth time that morning, she cursed the nausea which
had refused to let up before they needed to leave for the
airport. In the end, Sean had gone alone to meet her parents
and bring them back to Dyeland until Thursday.
Resigned, she ducked back inside and grabbed one of Sean’s
legal pads and a pencil. If she had to wait she might as
well get some work done. After talking with Monica, they had
settled on next Friday for Kemara to spend a day with her at
the food truck. Thinking up questions to ask would be just
the thing to keep her mind off well, everything - her
parents’ visit, the upcoming doctor’s appointment and the
twins' eventual arrival.
“Are you sure they’re really in there?” she had asked Sean a
few days ago when he caught her in front of the mirror with
her shirt pulled up studying her still-flat stomach.
He laughed. “Of course they are! Joshua wouldn’t tease us
like that. And the pregnancy test was pretty clear.”
She sighed and let the shirt drop. “I know. And I feel huge,
but I don’t look any different yet. I figured I would with
twins and being so short.” She patted the spot where she
knew the babies were.
He came up behind her and put his hands over hers. “Oh, I
think you do. These for instance….” He started to raise his
“I won’t. But that’s a umm...big change. Trust me, I can
“True.” She turned sideways. “And I guess the morning
sickness is why I haven’t gained any weight yet.”
He nodded. “Ciara didn’t show with any of hers until she was
a few months along. You should give her a call - or ask
Brittony how it was for her. But I bet by this time next
month you’ll have a nice little bump.”
“Wouldn’t it be funny if there were two bumps?” she giggled.
“It would be weird!” He rested his chin of the top of her
head. “Don’t take this the wrong way, but I think pregnancy
hormones are good for you. You’ve been laughing a lot, and
you’re just more cheerful in general.” He tensed, waiting
for her to explode.
She didn’t. “I was thinking the same thing. Since we got
back from Ireland, I haven’t feel depressed at all. I mean,
I don’t like being nauseous all the time or so tired and all
the other stuff. But before, I used to get really down, and
it would last for days.”
She smiled up at him. “So I think you’re right. But,” she
added. “I’m not willing to stay pregnant for the rest of my
life just for that!”
He laughed again. “No, but we’ll enjoy it while it lasts.”
Kemara took another sip of her ginger ale and forced herself
to focus. Arthur has told her that the higher ups with True
Life were counting on this article to draw more attention to
the plight of the city’s homeless. So the more people who
learned about the group’s outreach services - like Bread of
Life - the better.
She had jotted down two questions and was trying to think of
a third when she heard Sean’s truck.
Joyce had the door open almost before it stopped.
“Mama!” Kemara hurried down the steps and met her in the
yard where they shared a huge hug.
“Oh, it’s so good to see you,” Joyce said. “Let me look at
you!” She stepped back and studied her daughter. “You’re
pale. And much too thin.”
”Just a little extra queasy today; and I’ll be six weeks
tomorrow. That’s not very far along.”
Joyce smiled. “True. It’s been so long since I was pregnant,
I forget what it was like. Well, some things.”
“Aren’t you going to let me have a turn?” David joked. “I
need a hug, too.” He wrapped Kemara in his arms, and she
started to cry.
He looked alarmed. “What’s the matter?”
“Nothing…” Kemara sniffed and wiped at her eyes. “I
Sean chuckled. “She gets like this - tears for no reason.”
“Uh-huh, I get….really emotional,” Kemara said. “And then
the waterworks just don’t stop.”
“We picked up lunch,” Joyce said. “So maybe you’ll feel
better if you eat something.”
Kemara nodded. “Thanks. I am kinda hungry.”
Over cartons of Chinese, the couple regaled David and Joyce
with stories and photos from their two-week honeymoon in
When the discussion turned to pregnancy symptoms, David and
Sean exchanged long-suffering looks.
“I’m afraid it’s going to all-baby, all the time,” David
Sean grimaced. “Yup. I plan to make myself scarce. Actually,
my brother-in-law, Brad - you remember him? Well, he’s off
this week. If you want, I thought you and I might drive over
and go fishing with him and my dad. We could even pack a bag
and spend the night. Give the ladies a chance for some
David smiled. “Sounds like a good idea to me!”
“What does?” Joyce narrowed her eyes. “What are you boys
“Oh, just a little fishing trip. Don’t mind us!”
Kemara frowned. “You can come with us….”
“If they want to do their own thing, that’s fine,” Joyce
said briskly. “You and Sean don’t have to stay joined at the
hip all the time.”
Only a month earlier, Kemara might have taken this as an
insult, but now she just smiled sweetly. “Like you and Daddy
Caught, Joyce could do nothing but join in the others’
After seeing Sean and David off to Brewster the next
morning, Kemara and Joyce took the alley portal to
“I’m not really sure what to look for,” Kemara admitted once
they were on the train to Tribecca. She had remembered
seeing a baby boutique while shopping for her wedding dress,
so they would start there. Diana had given her two for
suggestions, and Ciara had mentioned a few consignment shops
that she liked.
Joyce thought for a minute. “I don’t really know either,”
she said with a wry smile. “I never got to wear maternity
clothes with you.”
“And you’ve never forgiven me for it...I know,” Kemara
“I just wanted to, so badly” Joyce sighed. “And I supposed
it would be hard to buy right now when you don't’ know how
big you’ll get.”
Kemara hesitated, unsure if she should mention it, but
knowing she needed to raise the possibility. “Plus...Well, I
dreamed that it’s twins.” That was perfectly true. “And I
read that early morning sickness can mean twins, too.”
“I doubt it’s twins,” Joyce said. “There aren’t any in my
family or your dad’s. What about Sean’s?”
“I don’t know...he hasn’t said.” She made a mental note to
Joyce squeezed her hand. “Then I think there’s very little
chance you’re having twins.”
“It would be nice, though.” Kemara sighed. Well, she’d
mentioned it, and that was all she could do for now.
During the morning, Kemara made notes and took pictures of
stores to revisit later with her friends - especially a tiny
shop specializing in unusual, imported toys and children’s
“Oh, look!” Joyce held up a yellow onesie with a lion on the
front. A green one sported a lioness. “You did say you want
a safari theme for the nursery.”
Kemara ran a finger over the lion’s fuzzy mane and imagined
a baby boy - her baby - wearing it. “Let’s get both,” she
Her mother shot her a look but only tucked the small bag in
among their other purchases and said nothing.
They got lunch at a Greek restaurant Emma had recommended.
Kemara sighed as they settled into chairs at a patio table.
Kemara smiled. “A little. I think jogging with Sean every
morning has really helped. He drags me out of bed - unless
I’m feeling sick - and makes me go.”
“So everything’s good?” Joyce asked pointedly.
“I’m so glad for you, honey,” Joyce said “When you were
growing up, you used to say - even as a little girl! - that
you weren’t going to get married, and you never wanted to
Kemara laughed. “And now I’m married to a great guy with a
baby - or two - on the way.”
“Or two,” Joyce repeated. “I just don’t want you to be
The arrival of their salads saved Kemara from having to
reply. They ate in silence for a while, enjoying the warm
“I wish we could get up here more often,” Joyce said at
last, laying down her fork. “But the business has really
picked up lately and the cost of plane tickets! I was amazed
how expensive it was after all the extra fees.”
“I know! I wish you could too.” Kemara took a sip of
Maryam’s tea, glad she had remembered to stash a few bags of
it in her purse. “Diana’s answered a lot of my questions,
and Brittony, too, but….”
Joyce smiled. “It’s not the same as having Mom around, is
Kemara shook her head.
“Actually….” Joyce took a deep breath. “Your Dad and I have
“Oh? About what?”
“Well, about moving up here. Permanently.”
Kemara nearly dropped her cup. “What?”
“Megan and Keith said there’s a house in their neighborhood
for sale. They sent us pictures of the outside, but we want
to meet with the real estate agent and go through it before
“Wow….” Kemara shook her head. “How long have you guys been
Joyce was watching her closely. “Since January or so. And
when you called and said you were pregnant...it just seemed
like we really should go ahead so we can be near our
grandchild. If you don’t want -.”
“No! No, no I do want you here. Very much.” Kemara blinked
back tears. She hadn’t realized until today how much she
wanted her parents around while she and Sean became parents
themselves. “But what you were just saying about the
“It won’t be any time soon,” Joyce warned. “We’d have to
sell the business and the house, decide what to ship up here
and what to get rid of.”
Kemara nodded. “We figure I’m due around the beginning of
December - if I go 40 weeks.”
“I don’t know if we’d be completely moved by then. But
regardless, we’ll be here for Thanksgiving and stay until
the baby is born. Then, we’ll go back and tidy up any loose
ends. Your dad thinks we can be settled by the first of the
“That would be so wonderful…” Kemara blinked back tears.
“And to be so close to Megan and Keith, too. It would be
perfect.” She frowned. “But that’s a lot of flying back and
forth. And what about the business?”
“Your dad’s had a couple of offers already,” Joyce said.
“They’re asking enough that he could get reestablished up
here if he wants. As for the flying….” She shrugged. “We’ll
manage. I want to be here when my first grandchild makes an
“I want you here, too.”
Her phone vibrated and Kemara checked it. “Well, it looks
like somebody had a good day.” She turned the screen so her
mother could see the picture of Sean, Keith, Brad and David
each holding a large string of fish.
“I just hope they clean them before they bring them back
Kemara shuddered. “I’d probably run screaming if they
Joyce reached the menu. “I know I don’t have to ask if you
“I’m always up for dessert. I just like veggies now, too.”
“That’s another thing I never thought I’d see,” Joyce said,
and both women laughed.
“So what do you want to do with the rest of our day?” Kemara
asked as they rode the subway back to Manhattan. “Is there
anywhere you want to go? I know Keith and Megan gave you a
pretty good tour last time.”
Joyce nodded. “You know what I really want to do? I want to
go back to -,” she started to say Dyeland and stopped
herself. “Your house, put on some shorts and sit on the
beach for a while.”
“That’s a great idea!” She hesitated. “Would you mind if I
checked with JenniAnn to see if she wants to bring Belle?
It’s usually warmer - at home - than it is here. But Belle
was too little last year to enjoy the beach much.” She
hurried to explain. “It’s not that I don’t want us to just
hang out together….”
Joyce put a hand on her arm. “I understand. Really, I do.
They’re your family as much as your father and I are,” she
smiled ruefully. “And right now you see them far more
“But that’s going to change soon,” Kemara said happily. “Let
me text JenniAnn and ask her.”
At Willowveil, JenniAnn was waiting for them. “Raquel and
Nico sent Belle the cutest little swimsuit and hat for
Easter. I just need to get her changed, and we’ll be right
back. Kemara, can you grab a couple of towels from the linen
closet down here?”
“Sure thing! We haven’t hooked up the outside shower yet,
but you’re welcome to rinse off at our place.”
JenniAnn grinned. “I’ll probably sluice Belle off at least.
I’m not sure how long the swimsuit will stay on.”
“I’ll go change, too,” Joyce said and hurried up the stairs
Ten minutes later, loaded down with towels, sunscreen, a
plastic cup and spoon for Belle to play with and a few
snacks, the quartet started for Sol Mate.
“So did you have a good shopping trip?” JenniAnn shifted
Belle to her other hip. “No, you can’t get down yet,
sweetie. Just wait a bit.”
Kemara smiled at the two of them. Belle’s swimsuit - which
had a big-eyed frog on the front - was the same pink as
JenniAnn’s T-shirt. “We didn’t really buy that much, but I
made a note of the good places to go back later. There are a
couple of consignment shops you’re gonna love.”
“I like Sean’s idea of a community Goodwill so to speak,”
Joyce said. “I’ll have to see if I can find your baby
things, Kemara. When she was born she was so tiny that doll
clothes didn’t fit,” she explained to JenniAnn. “This was
before they made clothes for preemies. The diapers were
Kemara nodded. “They have a picture of me in my first
Christmas dress that was way too big.”
“How long were you in NICU?” JenniAnn asked. “Just those few
days Belle spent there were awful.” She kissed her
“About three months,” Joyce said. “Until she was full-term
age. It was hard because they had to transfer her from the
hospital where she was born to another one.” She laughed.
“And the ambulance broke down on the interstate so they had
to stop traffic while they wheeled her incubator from there
to a new one. It was nerve-wracking.”
Kemara patted her stomach. “I hope I don’t have any problems
like that with these two.”
Joyce looked curiously at JenniAnn to see what she thought
about this statement. But the other woman only smiled.
“I’m sure everything will be fine. You’re eating good,
“Not eating what I shouldn’t, smoking, or drinking
excessively,” Kemara continued, rolling her eyes. “That
reminds me - we’ve got some margarita mix in the freezer if
anybody wants one.”
Joyce started to say something and stopped herself.
“I’ll just have one, Mom,” Kemara reassured her. “And you
know I probably won’t finish it anyway.”
In her bag, JenniAnn’s phone trilled. “Darn! Kemara can you
take her for a sec?”
“Come here, honey.” Kemara hoisted Belle into her arms. Used
to being held by all the Dyeland adults, the toddler didn’t
JenniAnn found the phone. “It’s Andrew….Hey! How’d it
go?....Oh, I’m so glad…..Yeah, you just missed us. Kemara,
Joyce and I are taking Belle to the beach.” She raised her
eyebrows at Kemara who nodded. “Why don’t you and Violeta
She listened a minute, then asked Kemara, “He said if we
want he’ll put some hamburgers in the cooler and bring it
down so we can grill out. If that’s OK with you.”
Kemara glanced at Joyce. “Sure! We might as well make a
party out of it. People will start getting home from work
soon. We can text Arthur, Monica, Rose and Max so they can
“They said that’s fine, and we’ll let the others know, too
and just have a beach party tonight,” JenniAnn told Andrew.
“Okay. See you soon.” She ended the call. “Want me to take
“No, we’re almost there. I’m trying to think what we’ve got
for burgers….I know we have lettuce and tomato, ketchup and
“Andrew’s going to check if we have buns, but any bread
would work in a pinch,” JenniAnn said. “I’ll see what Arthur
and Monica might have…” She tapped in a quick text message.
Joyce shook her head. “I’ve seen it before, but It still
amazes me how all of you can throw a party together in ten
JenniAnn laughed. “I guess we’ve gotten so used to it we
forget how it looks to other people.”
“Pitty!” Belle had caught sight of the ocean and was
struggling to get down from Kemara’s grasp.
“Let me take her.” JenniAnn gave her bag to Joyce and ran
with the little girl down to the water’s edge. They splashed
through the breakers while Belle shrieked with delight.
In the house, Kemara set down their bags with a sigh,
rubbing her back. “I’m gonna change too. Might as well wear
my suit while I can still fit into it.”
“What can I do to help?” Joyce offered.
“Umm....there’s sunscreen and a couple of beach towels in
the bathroom. And could you see how much of the margaritas
we’ve got left? I know there’s another bucket or two of mix
in the pantry if we need more.”
“Okay. And I’ll let you get your own snacks,” Joyce kidded.
Kemara grinned. “I eat some weird stuff these days.”
When Kemara went back out, she found Andrew and Violeta had
arrived, bringing Shelby with them. The older girl was
showing Belle how to build a sandcastle while Violeta took
“I don’t want to hover,” JenniAnn said as Kemara sat down
beside Joyce on one of the towels. “But I’m afraid she might
get bored and take off. And Shelby couldn’t catch her if she
Joyce chuckled. “Kemara used to! Put her down and she ran
straight for the water - yanking off her clothes on the
“Mom!” Kemara blushed. “Luckily, that’s a habit I’ve
Joyce was unapologetic. “Just wait. You’ll have embarrassing
stories to tell soon enough!”
“Like Belle’s smelly contribution to our wedding,” Kemara
said, wrinkling her nose.
Andrew, who was videoing Shelby and Belle, laughed. “You
know, I even went over and got a picture of you three right
“David and I think it’s one of the best ones,” Joyce said.
“Now, let us have the camera and you two go play.”
Andrew gave Kemara the camera, and held out a hand to
JenniAnn. “Do you wanna build a sandcastle?”
“Sure!” She let him pull her to her feet. “Let’s see if our
little elf is really a water sprite.”
While Kemara filmed, the trio romped. They looked for
shells, chased gulls, and built a sand fortress which Belle
was more interested in knocking down. In the toddler’s
favorite game, JenniAnn and Andrew each took one of her
hands and swung her high in the air when a wave rolled in.
A little after five, Max and Rose arrived with several
bottles of soda and some brownies they’d picked up at a
Manhattan bakery. They were closely followed by Monica,
Arthur and Liam bearing more burger toppings and chips.
“Kemara, can we have music?” Shelby asked, running over to
where Kemara was helping Monica and Joyce set up a couple of
tables for the food.
“Let me think….Sean’s stereo is too big to bring out. Oh,
there’s a battery-operated radio in the kitchen. I’ll go get
“Thanks!” Shelby raced off to join Liam and Belle in digging
a moat around their latest “castle”.
Monica smiled. “This is turning out to be quite a party.”
“I can’t believe it’s so warm to be the middle of April,”
Joyce said looking up at the cloudless sky.
“The weather’s usually a little warmer here than in New
York,” Kemara said. “And not so extreme as there either.”
Max overheard and began to sing, “The rain must never fall
‘til after sundown; by eight the morning fog must
Joyce laughed. “I’m beginning to wonder if this really isn’t
Camelot in disguise.”
“It is; but without all the romantic and political
intrigue,” Rose assured her.
Kemara found the radio and set it on the porch tuned to
“On that note….” Joyce handed her a glass of the drink in
“Thanks. I hate that Sean and Dad are missing all the fun.”
Kemara pointed to where Andrew was crouched next to Belle
showing her a tiny crab, while Arthur and Monica taught Liam
how to swim in the shallows.
“Want me to take a picture of you to send to them?” Violeta
suggested from where she sat beside JenniAnn.
Kemara grinned. “OK!”
The angel took several photos of Kemara and her mother,
along with the entire happy scene on the beach. Kemara sent
one of her alone to Sean with the caption, “See what you’re
His reply made her blink back tears. “Missing you more than
For several more hours, the group swam, played and ate. At
last, as the sun began to set, they scattered to their homes
carrying leftover food and sleepy children.
“This has been a wonderful day,” Joyce said while she and
Kemara sipped Maryam’s tea on the porch once everything had
been put away.
“Yeah. And the guys will be back tomorrow with their catch.”
“I’m sure they enjoyed themselves,” Joyce said. “I wish your
dad and I could stay longer this visit.”
“Me too. But I can’t wait to see the house you’re looking
at! And I know Megan and Keith will enjoy having you so
close.” She laughed. “I should probably be worried that my
parents and my in-laws are friends. But I guess it means
plenty of babysitters.”
Joyce smiled. “Definitely! Grandma’s looking forward to
spoiling - them - rotten and sending them home again.”
Kemara hugged her. “Thank you. I can’t wait.”
Sean and David returned Wednesday morning with a cooler full
of bass - fully cleaned, much to Kemara’s relief.
After lunch, they returned to Brewster where they met with a
real estate agent. The white Cape Cod had three bedrooms and
baths, a huge kitchen and an above-ground pool off of an
“There’s even a swingset already,” Joyce said happily as
they stood on the second-floor balcony in the master suite.
“And a nice level yard,” Kemara agreed. “Plenty of room for
games and Easter egg hunts.”
David nodded. “I don’t relish cutting all that grass,
though!” he joked.
“Get a riding mower, and it would be easy,” Keith said. He
and Megan had come along to give them a tour of the
“Or hire a local kid to do it. I’m sure Parker would be
willing in a few years,” Megan said of her seven-year-old
Joyce was studying the pool. “If ac child fell in there and
drowned I would never forgive myself,” she said.
“Oh, there’s only one gate to the pool and it can be
padlocked shut,” said the real estate agent cheerfully.
Sean shrugged. “We live right on the beach. I don’t think
there’s much you can do except teach the kids to swim as
soon as possible and to be smart around water.”
“Don’t think I haven’t wondered the same thing,” Kemara said
ruefully. “But I wouldn't’ let that stop you from getting
the house if you really want it.”
David and Joyce looked at each other.
“Do we?” he asked.
Joyce tore her gaze away from the pool and looked back
inside at the master bedroom with its vaulted ceilings and
baseboard heat. “There are some things I’d change, and it
needs a complete paint job….”
David smiled. “When she starts planning, that means, ‘yes’.”
“So what do you think about them moving up here?” Sean asked
that night after they were in bed.
“I’m really excited about it.” Kemara put her hand over his
where it rested on her abdomen as he lay spooned behind her.
“Before we got married, I probably would’ve hated it.”
He chuckled. “And I would’ve agreed with you! But your mom’s
mellowed so much lately.”
“I know. You should’ve seen her at the party. She had a
great time. And she didn’t hesitate to order Andrew about,
either - in a nice way.”
She was quiet for a minute.
“What?” Sean asked. “I can hear you thinking.”
“Can not! It’s stupid….”
“I doubt that. Tell me or I’ll tickle you.” He slid his hand
up to her ribs.
“Don’t you dare! Well, guess I’m just waiting for the other
shoe to drop. Everything’s been so...magical….for the past
couple of months. I keep thinking surely something bad will
He burst out laughing. “Magical? I think you got sprinkled
with fairy dust while we were in Ireland! So you think
throwing up at least twice a day is ‘magical’? And what
about your back hurting, and probably a dozen other things
you don’t tell me about?”
“Don’t laugh at me...Not that, maybe. And it’s not that I
want something bad to happen, but…”
His arms relaxed and she rolled over to face him.
“Sweetheart, you need to quit thinking that you’re not
allowed to be happy, and that if you are it’s a mistake,”
Sean said gently.
He tucked a lock of hair behind her ear. “Will ‘bad’ things
happen to us? Of course. And you’re right - life’s been
really great lately. But I refuse to walk around looking
over my shoulder all the time. When - and that’s when, not
if - things stop being good, we’ll deal with it.”
“I don’t know if I could be strong enough.” Kemara
whispered. “I feel so vulnerable. And I know they are.” She
patted her stomach.
Sean kissed her. “I think it’s a very good thing that you
feel that way.”
“Yup. If you feel vulnerable that means you’re learning to
open up and rely on other people instead of just yourself.
And you’ve got a lot of people to lean on: Joshua for one,
me, our parents, all the Friends….”
She nodded slowly. “I didn’t think about it like that. It’s
He pulled her close. “Well, I promise we’re not going
Saturday, April 18
To keep from missing her parents after their brief visit,
Kemara threw herself into her work. She finished the list of
questions for Monica’s article and made changes to True
Light’s brochures to mention the food truck’s contribution
to the ministry.
On Saturday morning, she headed for Manhattan early so she
could discuss both items with Arthur.
“Hey, Zeke! Is Arthur here yet?”
“He just called and said he’s running a little bit late. Can
I get you something? Coffee?”
Kemara thought for a minute. “I think I can handle that.”
Zeke chuckled as he led the way to the little staff kitchen.
“Diana was like that with Sy - sometimes coffee was okay,
sometimes it was the worst thing on earth.”
“I’m slowly learning what works and what doesn’t. Sean’s
keeping a list.”
“Good idea! So did you have a good visit with your folks?”
He poured her a cup of coffee. “Milk and sugar?”
“Sugar, please and a tiny bit of milk,” Kemara said sitting
down at the break room table. “Yes, we had a really great
time. I hate you guys missed the beach party on Tuesday, but
it was kinda a spur of the moment thing.”
He smiled. “That’s all right. We’ll have time. The kids have
been talking about doing all kinds of stuff this summer -
Coney Island, concerts, festivals - fun stuff before Hailey
“One last summer, huh?” Kemara sipped her coffee gratefully.
She’d drunk two bottles of water after their early morning
jog, but she was still thirsty.
“Yup. I can’t say I mind even if I’m not a big fan of
“I always loved Six Flags even if I couldn’t go on most of
the rides.” Kemara smiled. “It was just exciting to be
there. Plus, I play a pretty good Skee-Ball game.”
Zeke laughed. “Kendra likes the arcade stuff too. So when
will your parents be back up here? Diana and I were talking
about how nice it was having them at Bible study on
Kemara drank the last of her coffee. “Actually, they’re
thinking about moving up here for good. They looked at a
house in Megan and Keith’s neighborhood, and they’d like to
be settled by the first of the year.”
“That’s great! I know you’re -.”
“Good morning!” Arthur came in. “Hey Kemara. Sorry I’m late
but I had to help Liam finish up a project before school.”
“That’s fine. Zeke and I were just chatting.”
Arthur poured himself a cup of coffee. “Want a refill?”
“I’d better not. Maybe just some water?”
“You got it.” He took a bottle of water from the fridge and
handed it to her. “Why don’t we got to my office? The chairs
are a bit more comfortable than these. You can have my desk
chair - it’s had lumbar support.”
Kemara laughed as she followed him down the hall. “You’ve
been talking to Sean, I see.”
“Actually, Monica noticed you seemed uncomfortable at Bible
study and thought that might have been why.”
“It’s usually that or needing to run to the bathroom,”
Kemara agreed. She sank into the proffered desk chair and
sighed in relief. “Oh, that’s nice! I”ll have to get one of
“Yeah, it makes paperwork at least a little more bearable.
So what have you got for me?”
They discussed the tone of the article and how much, if
anything, should be revealed about “Bread of Life’s”
“It’s hard because we want to help people, but at the same
time, we need money to continue helping people,” Arthur
said. “I know Panera has tried the same model, but they’re a
much bigger for-profit company so they can afford to take in
less in the long term.”
Kemara nodded. “It’s the same doing freelance. I need to
make money, but if I set my fees too high I won’t have any
customers - especially if I’m doing work for small business
or editing for would-be authors who can’t afford to pay
“Exactly. It’s a delicate balance so we get by on donations
and grants mostly.” He read back over the list of interview
questions. “I think these are fine.”
“I know we’ll cover more than that,” Kemara said. “But
obviously, you can read the final article and decide what
should stay in.” She took another drink of water and noticed
with surprise that the bottle was less than half full.
Arthur nodded. “I trust you to be discreet.” He looked at
his watch. “I don’t want to keep you. I know you and Emma
have class at Lily’s Loot on Saturday’s, right?”
“Yes, at 10,” Kemara said swallowing hard. She was starting
to feel the familiar twisting of nausea.
A knock on the door interrupted them. “Arthur, Tim says he
needs you over at the store for a while,” Zeke said,
apologetically. He came in the office and closed the door
behind him so they wouldn’t be overheard. “He wouldn’t say
why over the phone, but he sent a text and said it’s about
that new hire.”
Arthur rolled his eyes. “Okay, tell him I’ll be there as
soon as I can.”
He turned back to Kemara just as she stood up. “Looks like I
need to -.” He broke off as her face went white.
Zeke, who was closest, caught Kemara as she fell and managed
to get her to the nearby couch.
Arthur grabbed an extra cushion and put it under her feet.
“Should we call 911?”
“Wait a minute.” Zeke shook his head. “She’s coming around.
Text Sean and tell him what’s going on.”
Arthur nodded and took out his cell phone.
“What happened?” Kemara looked around in confusion.
Zeke took her hand and patted it. “You fainted. I think you
stood up too fast.”
Kemara rubbed her forehead and tried to remember. “I felt
really dizzy and then hot.”
Arthur frowned. “I think we need to call an ambulance.”
“No! Please don’t!” Kemara pleaded. “I fainted during
rehearsals that time and I was fine.”
“You weren’t pregnant then,” Arthur said. “And Joshua was
right there. If you won’t go to the hospital, then I think
we should have Portia check you out.”
Zeke nodded. “I agree. I’ll give her a call. Arthur already
let Sean know, so he’s on his way.”
“Wonderful....” Kemara sighed and let her head fall back
onto the cushion.
“Hey, you know he’d want to be here,” Arthur said as
Zeke looked up Portia’s number. “I certainly would.”
She nodded reluctantly. “I know….it’s just he’ll hover and
not let me do anything.”
“He’s a husband and a father,” Arthur pointed out. “It’s
just how we’re wired.”
“So I’ve noticed.” She smiled at him. “I’m sorry for causing
such a fuss.”
“Don’t worry about it! We just want to make sure you’re
Portia and Sean arrived at the same time.
“I thought stories about Southern women swooning were
exaggerated,” Sean joked taking the hand Kemara held out to
him. “But you had to go and prove me wrong.”
She smiled. “Yep. A delicate damsel, that’s me. And I’m not
even wearing a corset - thank God.”
Portia took a stethoscope and blood pressure cuff from the
bag she carried.
“Let’s sit you up.” Carefully, she and Sean got Kemara
upright. She wrapped the cuff around Kemara’s arm and
waited. “A little bit low….” she said. “Did you hit anything
when you fell?”
Kemara shook her head. “No, I think Zeke caught me?” She
smiled at him.
“I did, yeah. She stood up, went white and then her eyes
just rolled back.”
“And before that, how were you feeling?” Portia asked.
“Ummm….I’ve been pretty thirsty. I had a cup of coffee when
I got here and then some water.” She gestured to the bottle
sitting on the desk.
Sean handed it to her.
“Thanks.” She took took a long swallow. “And right before it
happened I felt queasy, but that’s normal these days.”
Portia nodded. “It sounds like you got dehydrated and with
your blood pressure low, that made you faint when you stood
“But I’ve been drinking all day long,” Kemara said,
frowning. She gave Sean back the now-empty bottle.
“You’ve got two babies in there, though,” Portia reminded
her. “So you need more liquids than you might usually;
that’s why you were thirsty.”
“Should we let her doctor know?” Sean asked. “She has an
appointment for the first week in May.”
Portia nodded. “I would, just to see what they say. They
might not think it’s anything or they might want to see you
sooner. Who do you use?” she asked Kemara.
“Dr. John Holleran,” Kemara took the glass of water Arthur
brought her and sipped it. “I’ve seen him since I moved up
“I know him. He’s with Presbyterian like I am. He’s a little
old school, but I think you’ll be in good hands.”
Sean sighed in relief. “I’ll call them right now.”
“But….Emma and I have dance class at Lily’s Loot,” Kemara
protested. “I’m probably late already.”
“I’ll let Emma know. If your doctor doesn’t want to see you,
then go home. Rest, eat and drink. Don’t get up except to
pee. When you do, sit for a minute first and then stand
slowly to give your blood pressure time to level out,”
Portia said firmly. “I’m serious. You’re lucky Zeke caught
you so you didn’t hit anything. Next time you might not be.”
Kemara nodded reluctantly as they listened to Sean’s side of
“They’ve moved your appointment up to April 28,” he said,
ending the call. “They said if you faint again and injure
yourself to head to the nearest emergency room.”
Portia stood up. “I’ll go back to the portal with you since
I’m off today.”
They said goodbye to Arthur and Zeke and headed to the alley
Back at Sol Mate Sean installed Kemara on the couch with
water and snacks.
“Not even seven weeks and I’m already on bed rest,” she
griped as Warren curled himself into her lap, purring
Sean sat beside them. “It’s not so bad. Rest for today, and
you’ll be up and doing again tomorrow. I’ll keep you company
- we can watch movies or binge on Downton Abbey -
whatever you want.”
“Whatever I want, huh?” She rested her head on his shoulder.
“What about The Walking Dead? I’ve only seen the
He shuddered. “You actually want to watch blood and gore
with your puke reflex in overdrive?”
“Hmm….yeah, might not be a good idea….” Kemara’s voice
“I think you need a nap first. Sleep for a bit, and when you
wake up we’ll pick something we can watch while eating
She laughed and let him help her lie down. Warren stretched
out too, and she wrapped an arm around him.
“Never thought I’d be jealous of a cat,” Sean joked leaning
down to kiss her. “Sleep well.”
To her surprise, Kemara enjoyed her day of forced idleness.
Sean made grilled cheese for lunch, and they watched
episodes of Futurama for most of the afternoon.
After an early dinner, Kemara read “What to Expect When
You’re Expecting,” which her mother had insisted on buying
for her, while Sean worked on his laptop. Every now and
then, she shared interesting tidbits with him.
“That’s what it says: ‘Some fathers-to-be may experience
morning sickness, weight gain and cramps in the lower
abdomen. The condition is known as a sympathetic pregnancy
or the Couvade Syndrome, which comes from the french word
couvee meaning to hatch’.”
Sean’s eyes twinkled. “So that means I can sit around and
eat as much as I want and sleep all the time?”
“You forgot about throwing up that food and having constant
nausea all day long,” Kemara pointed out. “Not to
mention heartburn, gas and backaches. I think one of us
going through that is enough.” She grinned at him. “Besides,
once they’re born you get to join the Sleep-Deprived Club
and the Diaper Changers of America.”
He grinned. “But I hear the membership fees are worth it!”
“Are you sure you want to do this? You could always go
“Yes! I’ve told you!” Kemara rolled her eyes. “Monica gets
the truck ready at four so she can be at the park by five.
The whole point of this is for me to spend the day with
Sean sighed. “All right. I’ll walk over with you, then.”
Monica answered their light knock and stepped outside,
shutting the door behind her. “Good morning! Can I get you
“No thanks,” Sean smiled at her. “I just wanted to escort
Miss Stubborn here safely.” He leaned down to kiss Kemara.
“Have fun. Love you.”
“Love you too.”
Monica gestured to the brown truck parked in the driveway.
“Come on. You can help me get ready. So why did he say
you’re being stubborn?”
Kemara shrugged. “I was really sick when I got up, so he
thinks I should’ve gone back to bed. But I feel fine. And,”
she hefted the canvas bag she carried. “He packed me all
kinds of snacks and drinks for the day. I don’t know if what
you’ve got will agree with these two.” She patted her
Monica held open the truck’s side door for her. “We shopped
yesterday, so all I need to do right now, is just a final
check to make sure I have everything - especially for things
not on the regular menu.”
As she had been the first time she and Sean visited Bread of
Life she was amazed at how cleverly everything fit - tightly
- inside the truck. “I don’t want to get in your way…..”
“Why don’t you sit in the driver’s seat - it swivels around
and it’s much more comfortable than the dinette,” Monica
suggested flipping on the lights.
“Thanks,” Kemara turned the chair around so it faced the
kitchen area. “You start this early every day?”
The angel nodded. “We do some prep the night before, but of
course the food has to stay refrigerated, and I can’t keep
the generator going that long. Arthur helped me load it
right before you got here.” She opened the big refrigerator
to reveal shelves piled with sandwich ingredients.
“What do you do about water?”
“There’s a tank, but it’s like the generator - I have to be
careful how much I use. I keep plenty of hand sanitizer.”
Kemara took a notebook from her bag and jotted down some
notes. As she watched, Monica checked every cabinet, wiped
down every surface and readied the ten-cup coffee machine.
“I have to get this going as soon as we stop,” she said
making sure the appliance was secured. “Now, I think we’re
ready to roll!”
Kemara moved over to the passenger seat and Monica drove
through the alley portal, through the already busy streets
to Central Park West.
“Are you always here?” Kemara asked as Monica got the coffee
“Most of the time. I’ve tried other places around the park,
but this is a good spot.” She beckoned and Kemara followed
her outside. Not far away, two men watched as Monica raised
the truck’s canopy and hung out the menu.
“Are they regulars?” The men’s clothes were shabby but
clean, as far as Kemara could tell.
“One is. I haven’t seen the other man before.”
They were no sooner back inside the truck than the two men
approached the counter.
“Good morning, Carlos. What can I get you?” Monica smiled at
the older man.
“Morning, Monica.” The man pulled a battered leather wallet
from his back pocket and took out a bill. “Lemme get a cup
of coffee, two cream and sugars. Keep the change”
“Sure thing.” Monica tucked the bill into the cash box, but
not before Kemara saw that it was a $50.
When she had given him his coffee, the man turned to his
companion. “This is Tommy. Just met him yesterday.”
Monica smiled at them both. “Good morning, Tommy. What would
The other man was younger, tall and thin. His eyes darted
over the truck, never resting in one place. He glanced at
the menu. “Some fruit would be nice. And coffee. Black.”
Carlos raised his eyebrows at Monica who nodded. “It’ll just
be a minute.” She went to the refrigerator and put a variety
of fruit in a shallow plastic cup with fork. “Here you go."
She set the fruit and coffee on the counter.
The younger man took them and wandered off down the sidewalk
without another word.
“I’ll go after him,” Carlos sighed. “If I could have a
couple of brochures, too?” he asked Monica. “I’ll try to get
him there tonight.”
Monica reached into a box and gave him some brochures that
Kemara recognized as those she had created for Arthur about
True Light and other resources. “God bless. I’ll pray for
him,” Monica promised.
Carlos grinned. “Then he’s in good hands 'cause your prayers
are something special. You ladies have a good day.” He
hurried off after his young friend.
“Who is he?” Kemara asked as Monica made up another fruit
cup. “Is he an angel, too or a Helper?”
Monica smiled. “No. Just a man who knows what’s it’s like to
be on the streets. He approached Arthur last year about
doing some intervention for the shelter. He’s out from
midnight to about 7 just getting to know people and letting
them know they can trust him.” She offered the fruit bowl to
“Thanks! This looks great!” Kemara popped a strawberry into
her mouth. “Do you get these from the Romanos?”
“Yes. It’s not all their fruit - some is from other farmers
in their co-op, but it’s all home-grown.” She unhooked the
small sign beside the window and showed it to Kemara:
Special Today - Fresh Fruit Cups and Yogurt Parfaits from
Romano Family Farm in Albany.
“So you buy the fruit from them and resell it. Do they get
part of the profits?”
Monica shook her head. “I offered, but they said the
advertising is enough for right now.”
She served several more people while Kemara updated her
notes. “So that man - he gave you $50. Does he do that every
“Oh no, just every once in a while. A third of what I make
goes to True Light. The rest gets split between restocking
and maintaining the truck and into our bank account.”
Kemara smiled. “It’s nice to contribute something, isn’t it?
Sean makes so much more than I’ve ever dreamed of bringing
in. But with these two on the way, I know we’re going to
need every penny.”
“It really is. It’s hard work, but I enjoy meeting so many
different people. And knowing that I’m helping them when….”
she trailed off, looking a little wistful.
“When you can’t do your ‘usual’ job?” Kemara made air quotes
around the word.
“Oh, I’m sure I could, but I treasure being with Arthur and
Liam while he’s a wee lad. Maybe when he’s older….” Monica
glanced at her watch and started getting out sandwich
fixings. “Sometimes people don't want to wait for
lunchtime,” she explained.
“I do the same thing,” Kemara assured her. “Sometimes I want
soup in the mornings.”
“From what Sean says, it’s not just soup,” Monica teased.
Kemara blushed. “Hey, don’t blame me! I can’t help it if
they like weird food.”
Kemara heard a familiar voice and looked out to see Matthew
“Morning, Kemara! What’re you doing in there?” Matthew
smiled up at them.
“Hi, guys. I’m working on an article.”
Matthew’s smile faded quickly. “Monica, can we have a word?”
“Sure. Go around to the other side.” Monica pulled down the
partition that closed the customer window. “You can come,”
she told Kemara. “I think I know what this is about.”
“Sorry to bother you,” Tyron said, once they were outside.
“Who is it this time?” Kemara was surprised to hear a slight
edge in the angels’ voice.
“Someone who thinks their Good Humor bars would sell better
here than your sandwiches,” Matthew said. “Like there aren’t
five thousand ice cream carts in the city already and half
of them around the park.”
“We asked if they’ve ever tried one of your sandwiches,”
Tyron added. “And of course, they hadn’t. Just kept going on
about permits and what works best for the city….blah, blah,
He noticed Kemara’s puzzled look. “Have you had one of
“Yeah. I had a BLT, and Sean got chicken salad. It was
good.” Kemara said.
Matthew laughed. “Oh gosh, no! Get her to make you one with
lots of meat and cheese.”
“And her secret sauce,” Tyron put in. “Like the menu says,
Kemara laughed. “I’ll do that.”
“And now I’m hungry,” Matthew said. “We’ll swing by later,
once we’ve finished our patrol. Don’t worry about it,” he
told Monica. “When they see how popular Bread of Life is,
they always shut up.”
“So what was all that about you having really, really good
sandwiches?” Kemara asked when they were back inside.
Monica smiled. “Well, I have a few special ingredients -
besides the sauce. She opened the refrigerator and took out
a plastic container. “Adam makes it for me.”
The woman laughed as she read the label, “Adams Artisanal
Real-meat Product - ‘Tastes Like Chicken’. AARP? That’s
hilarious! Wait...I’m not supposed to have deli meat, but I
could eat this...”
“Sure. You know Adam and his anti-meat campaign. And this
doesn’t spoil either.”
“Thank you, Joshua!” Kemara cheered. “I was so upset when I
found out I couldn’t have sandwiches. Can I buy a couple of
packages at the end of the day?”
“Of course! Here, I’ll make you a sandwich, and you can try
it out.” Monica swiftly took out bread and cheese. “Do you
want anything particular on it?”
Kemara shook her head. “Thanks! Nah, just go ahead and
With the first bite, Kemara understood. The chicken tasted
more like chicken than any she’d ever had. But the sauce - a
surprising mix of sweet, spicy and tart - made the sandwich
“Wow...you could sell just the sauce,” Kemara said as she
resisted the urge to lick her fingers.
Monica smiled. “Thanks. I’ve had fun experimenting with it,
and it does change every now and then.”
For the next few hours, the angel answered Kemara’s many
questions between serving customers. Not many people
stopped, and those who did were obviously locals heading to
and from the subway. As the morning wore on, the tourist
traffic picked up.
“I’ll be pretty busy for a while,” Monica warned. “Liam
should be here soon - someone will bring him over.”
“Why don’t I step out and wait for him?” Kemara suggested.
“That will give you more room in here.”
Monica smiled gratefully. “Thank you. He has lunch in the
Tunnels, but he sometimes gets an ice cream on Saturdays
with his allowance.” A family of four stepped up to the
window and she broke off.
“Don’t worry. We’ll get something sweet and just hang out
until the rush is over,” Kemara assured her.
She grabbed a bottle of water from her bag and found a bench
just inside the park in view of the truck. She’d been
drinking more water and other liquids since her fainting
episode the week before, and thankfully it had not recurred.
Despite her reassurances to Sean, it had frightened her more
than she wanted to admit.
She looked out over the trees and paths. It still amazed her
that something as huge as Central Park could be found in the
middle of New York City. Turning, she could see the
apartment buildings across Eighth Avenue. Hadn’t Catherine
lived in one of them? Imagine having that view out your
Kemara turned to find Liam and Isaac.
“Hey, guys! How was school?”
Liam shrugged. “Pretty good. We had a report to give.”
“Did you have to get up in front of everybody? I used to
“Uh-huh. It wasn’t bad though. Grandpa Vincent won’t let
Kemara smiled. “That’s good. Isaac, are you taking Sean’s
personal finance course next week?”
The teenager nodded. “Yep! I’m glad he’s doing it. Some of
the kids, once they get a part-time job Above, they go
overboard buying stuff. And then they want the rest of us to
loan them money.”
“Hopefully, this will help then,” Kemara laughed. “How about
I buy you guys an ice cream? Liam, your mom’s pretty busy
with the lunchtime rush right now so I told her we’d just
walk around a bit.”
He nodded. “It’s always busy on Saturdays. Can we go over to
the boat playground?”
“Mariner’s playground? Sure! We’ll get ice creams and let
your mom know where we’re headed. Isaac do you want to
“I can’t stay, but an ice cream would be good.”
Kemara was shocked to see the line of customers in front of
Bread of Life had swelled in just the short time she’d been
“I wish I could help you,” she told Monica while Liam put
his books in the bedroom. “You can’t handle this alone.”
Monica shook her head. “You don’t have a food-handling
license,” she said swiftly wrapping a sandwich. “Freya is on
her way over. We’ll be fine.”
Kemara and the two boys bought waffle cones from a cart and
headed for the nautical-themed playground not far away. When
Liam begged, Isaac agreed to push him on the swings for a
while. When the older boy left, Liam played by himself for a
while before coming over to sit with Kemara.
Liam was quick to laugh these days, but now his expression
reminded her of the solemn-faced child he’d been when she
first met him.
He shrugged like it didn’t matter, but after a minute he
said, “There’s a new kid in my class, Nathan.”
“Oh really? How old is he?”
“Seven, I think. But he’s never been to school before now.
He doesn’t like it.”
Kemara smiled. “It does take some getting used to….”
Liam shook his head. “No. He doesn’t like being in the
Tunnels. I heard Grandpa Vincent tell Aunt JenniAnn that
Father had to give Nathan medicine so he could sleep. He
doesn’t like being underground.”
“Well, he can go above and play in the Park sometime.”
“I don’t think so. He said bad people are looking for him.”
The little boy looked up at the overcast sky. “He said he
misses being outside.”
While Kemara loved the Tunnels, she wasn’t sure if she could
do without frequent sunshine and access to nature.
“Maybe he can come visit you in Dyeland if Grandpa Vincent
and Father say it’s okay,” she suggested.
Liam looked much more cheerful. “Yeah! Will you push me on
the swings again?”
They were climbing on the pirate ship play structure when
Monica found them.
“Monny!” Liam swung down a rope to the ground and threw
himself into her arms.
She hugged him. “Hey, sweetheart! Are you two having fun?”
“Uh-huh. Aunt Kemara’s a good pirate.”
From her perch above them in the crow’s nest Kemara laughed.
“I’ve read Treasure Island many times!” She climbed
down and joined them. “He just about wore me out. Are you
taking a break?”
“Freya’s watching the truck,” Monica said with a tired
smile. “But the lunch crowd pretty much cleaned us out.”
“Can we go home now?” Liam asked.
She nodded. “I think so. I’ll bring what’s left to
Willowveil tonight when we go over for dinner.”
“We’ll be there, too,” Kemara said. “Sean’s making his dad’s
“Yum! Let’s go!” Liam jumped up, and the women laughed.
“Didn’t you just have ice cream?” Monica teased as he
skipped ahead of them back toward the truck.
“That was hours ago!”
As promised, Kemara and Sean arrived at Willowveil for
dinner bearing a huge pan of lasagna and another of garlic
The others were already gathered in the dining room and
kitchen helping to set the table and make salad.
“Sorry we’re late,” Sean said, setting down the pasta on the
counter. “I’m not used to making so much and I forgot it
would need to cook longer.”
Rose smiled. “It smells wonderful.”
Kemara set down the bread and looked around at the assembly.
“Adam!” She ran over to the angel of death and flung her
arms around him, planting a noisy kiss on his cheek. “Thank
you! Thank you!”
He hugged her back, looking completely baffled. “Hey….You’re
welcome, but what did I do?”
Sean was grinning. “She’s a big fan of your meat-like
“Yes!” Kemara said. “I can eat it!”
Adam looked even more confused. “Well, I certainly hope so.”
“No. I’m not supposed to have deli meat,” Kemara explained.
“She had a meltdown when she found out,” Sean added.
Kemara blushed. “No I didn’t! Okay...maybe a little one. But
I can eat your AARP stuff.”
Max laughed. “Say what?”
“Adam’s Artisanal Real-meat Product,” The angel said
loftily. He hugged Kemara again. “I’m glad it works for you,
honey. You can have as much as you want.”
The others had been watching this byplay in amusement.
“I’ve never asked, but how do you make it, anyway?” Max
Adam and Monica exchanged glances. “It’s a secret,” they
Kemara shook her head. “Like Monica’s ‘heavenly’ sauce. Pair
that with Adam’s non-meat, and she had folks lining up down
Arthur beamed with pride as they took their places around
the table. “I knew you’d be a success.”
“So did I!” Liam declared making them all laugh.
Sean woke early the morning of Kemara’s first prenatal
appointment. He slipped out of bed, careful not disturb her
and took his coffee to the porch.
He stared out at the constantly rolling waves and tried to
gather his thoughts. He’d laid awake most of the night
unable to sleep. Fear? Anticipation? Probably both. What
would the babies look like? Were they healthy?
He chuckled as he remembered Kemara’s question: “Are they
really in there?” He thought she was starting to show just a
little bit, and imagined what she would look like when she
delivered. The idea made him laugh out loud.
“I’m almost afraid to ask what’s so funny.”
Startled, Sean looked around. “Hey. What’re you doing up?”
“Guess.” She sank into the other rocker and closed her eyes.
“Poor love. I hope the doctor can give you something for
She sighed. “Me too. It’s just tiring, you know? On top of
already being tired.”
“Yup. Gotta put on those pounds! Actually, that’s what I was
She opened her eyes. “Oh?”
“Yeah.” He smirked. “Thinking of you out to here -.” He held
out an arm in front of his stomach.
“You do realize when I get out to there, you’ll probably be
sleeping on the couch don’t you?” she asked sweetly. “I
don’t think there’s room in our bed for four. Or five if you
“There’s room now.” He hadn’t considered that. Maybe it
wouldn’t happen, though. “I’ll just enjoy it while I can.”
She smiled, but it faded quickly. “I’m a little nervous,”
she admitted. “About today.”
“Me too. I couldn’t sleep. It’s like it won’t be real until
we see them, you know?”
“Yeah.” She sighed. “I’d better start getting ready. I’m so
tired it’s going to take a while.” Reluctantly, she stood
So did he. “The appointment isn't until 8:30. I’ll make us
some eggs and toast, okay?”
“Sounds good.” She stood on tiptoe and kissed him. “What
would I do without you?”
He grinned. “Probably starve!”
To Sean’s surprise, the gynecologist’s waiting room was half
full when they arrived at 8 o’clock.
“They always overschedule,” Kemara muttered as they
maneuvered between rows of chairs filled with women reading
Glamour and Good Housekeeping.
Sean saw a couple of men who looked as uncomfortable as he
Kemara checked in, and they found two chairs together. Sean
picked up a copy of Golf magazine. He hated golf - too
boring, but no way was he going to read Self.
As he flipped through a recap of the Master’s Tournament,
Sean became aware of something odd. As women came in, they
would look at Kemara, then Sean and smile knowingly.
The third time it happened, Sean had had enough. He nudged
Kemara and mimed writing. She found a notebook and pen in
her purse and gave them to him.
“Why is everyone smiling at me?” he wrote.
Kemara smiled too, and took the pen. “Because the only time
you see men here is if they’re going to be daddies.” She
hesitated and added, “Most of the time.”
Sean frowned at that sentence, but before he could consider
its implications, Kemara nudged him in turn.
She showed him the article she’d been reading in Parenting
magazine: “Twenty Products That No Parent Needs.” He leaned
over and together they read about the Baby Mop, the Grillz
Pacifier, the iPotty - a potty with an iPad stand attached
and the Baby Butt Fan. This last made Sean shake with
“Kemara McCallum!” the nurse called.
Kemara started a little. “I’m still getting used to that,”
she whispered to Sean as they followed the nurse back.
“Me too,” he admitted. He held her purse as she stepped onto
a scale in the hallway.
“106,” the nurse said. Her tag had the name Rebecca. “That’s
down four pounds from last year.”
“Well, I’ve been having pretty bad morning sickness, so I
guess that’s why.”
Rebecca flipped back through her chart. “Oh, yes. It says
this is your first prenatal appointment.” She smiled at
“Thanks,” Kemara said, blushing. “We’re pretty excited.”
“We’re always glad to have the dads come along,” the nurse
led them to a room and pointed Sean to one of the two
chairs. Kemara hopped up onto the exam bed.
“OK. Let me get your blood pressure and then we can update
your chart.” Rebecca attached the cuff, chatting all the
while. “So I noticed that you had a name change. When did
you two get married?”
“March 17,” Kemara said. “We’re pretty sure I conceived
during our honeymoon. I brought my chart if you need it.”
Rebecca removed the cuff. “Yes, that would be a great help.”
Sean took the pages from Kemara’s purse and handed them
The nurse studied them. “It looks like you’re probably
right. So you should be eight weeks along right now if this
is accurate.” She made some notes on Kemara’s files. “So how
have you been feeling?”
“I’ve been throwing up a lot and just really tired. I’m
craving fruit and veggies, so I guess that’s good?”
“It is!” Rebecca laughed. “All I wanted when I was pregnant
with my little girl was Big Macs. Not the healthiest
“And I’ve had a few dizzy spells,” Kemara continued.
“She fainted a couple of weeks ago,” Sean put in. “That’s
when we called to have the appointment moved up.”
The nurse nodded. “That’s not uncommon, but you were right
to call.” She asked several more questions which Kemara
answered as best she could.
“OK. I think that’s all for now. Dr. Holleran will do a
pelvic exam and a pap smear.”
“What about an ultrasound?” Kemara asked.
Rebecca held up a hand. “I’m not going to promise. We can do
it here, or Dr. Holleran might want you to go to
She handed Kemara a gown. “You know the drill. Put this on
with the opening in the front, and he’ll be in in a few
When she had left, shutting the door, Sean asked, “Want some
Kemara shot him a dirty look. “No, thank you.”
She got undressed, folding her clothes neatly on the extra
chair. When she had the gown on, she got back onto the
“They always keep it too cold back here.”
Sean frowned. “Do you have to do this every time?” He
understood the doctor needed access, but couldn’t they at
least give her a blanket?
She nodded unhappily. “Yeah, it’s not fun.”
They tried to chat without much success until the door
opened and Dr. Holleran came in followed by a different
Sean was appalled at the man’s brusque bedside manner. He
asked several questions about how Kemara had been feeling
and any changes she had noticed in her body, but offered
little beyond that.
During the internal exam, Sean noticed his wife wince
several times. At one point, she even gave a little cry that
tore at his heart.
Holleran scoffed. “If you think this hurts, just wait until
you give birth.”
Sean took a deep breath, ready to tell the man where he
could get off, but Kemara shook her head. He turned to the
nurse, but she was busy copying Kemara’s chart into the file
and didn’t look up.
“Hmm…” The doctor had one hand on Kemara’s abdomen. “Are you
sure about the date of your last period?”
“Yes. I’ve been keeping my chart for almost eight months
now,” Kemara said.
Dr. Holleran nodded. “And you’re sure the date of conception
was on or after March 17?”
“Positive. I-...we didn’t do anything before then.” Kemara
“Well, it feels like you’re further along than those dates
Sean gulped. “So what does that mean?”
The doctor glanced up at him. “It could mean one very large
baby - or twins. Is there a history of twins in your
They glanced at each other. How could they answer without
revealing what they already knew from Joshua? Kemara shook
her head no; but Sean said, “My mom’s family had some twins
- my great-great aunts, I think - I never knew them.”
“I didn’t know that!” Kemara said, accusingly.
“Sorry.” He shrugged. “I forgot about them until just now.”
“That could it be then.” Holleran consulted Kemara file. “It
says you’re 34.” He frowned. “That’s what we consider an
advanced maternal age. You really should’ve been in sooner.”
Kemara looked taken aback. “I called as soon as I had a
positive pregnancy test at five weeks. Your receptionist
couldn’t get me in sooner.”
“When she fainted they could only move the date up a week,”
Sean added. “We did everything we could.” He felt his anger
rise. What other choice had they had?
“Well, I’d like to send you to Children’s Hospital for all
future exams and tests,” the doctor said stripping off his
gloves and helping Kemara sit up. “They have the equipment
and specialists for cases like yours.”
Kemara held her gown closed. Sean noticed she had gone pale
at the phrase, ‘cases like yours.’ “So you won’t do an
“No. I don’t usually do them in any case, but they can do
one much more in-depth.” He smiled at them for the first
time since entering the room. “You’ll be able to get a nice,
clear picture of your little passenger - or passengers. And
I do think it’s twins.”
He took out a prescription pad and wrote something. “I’m
going to give you something for the nausea. If that tea you
mentioned helps, keep taking it, but you can try this as
well.” He tore off the paper and gave it to Kemara. “You’re
underweight for someone who’s not pregnant, and you need to
start putting on the pounds.”
“Stop by the front desk, and Holly will get you an
appointment set up with Children’s and give you some more
“Thank you,” Kemara managed a smile of her own. “When should
I see you again?”
“Children’s will assign you an obstetrician, so I won’t need
to see you until after you deliver...about six weeks,” Dr.
Holleran said. “Good luck to you.” He left with the nurse,
closing the door behind them.
Kemara’s shoulders slumped. “I was hoping we’d get to see
them today,” she said. She slid off the table and reached
for her clothes.
“Me too,” Sean said. “I don’t like this Holleran. I’m glad
you’ll be going to someone else.”
“He’s alright. Elaine recommended him, and some of the other
women at class use him, too.”
“Still. I’d rather have someone with a better bedside
Kemara shrugged and slid her feet into her sandals. “Maybe
we can even get in at Children’s today.”
But to their dismay, they learned that it would be more than
two weeks before an appointment was available at the
hospital’s maternity center.
“So much for doing things early,” Sean grumbled as they
walked back out to the car.
Kemara fought back tears. “I really wanted to see them…” she
“So did I.” Sean hugged her. “We’ll call Portia when we get
home and see what she says about this hospital and the
doctors there. She might say we should go somewhere else.”
“You call her,” Kemara pulled her door shut and looked out
the window. “I just want to lie down.”
Sean frowned at her downcast mood, but wisely said nothing.
They drove back to the beach house in silence. Kemara went
inside and straight to the bedroom where she shut the door.
Clenching his jaw in frustration, Sean took his cell phone
outside and dialed Portia.
“He treated her like she was a thing, not a person! He
didn’t care that he was hurting her.”
Portia sighed. “Well, it’s not a pleasant experience for
anyone, but there are ways to make it less painful.”
“I just don’t understand why she keeps going to to him,”
Sean said, pacing back and forth across the sand. “I mean,
she could have you as her doctor, couldn’t she? You’re a
woman and her friend. That has to be better.”
“Not necessarily.” She thought for a minute. “Okay, have you
ever considered how difficult it must be for someone as
private as Kemara is to go to Father Mike for confession
every month or whenever? He’s a man and also a friend.”
Sean stopped walking. “No....I hadn’t thought about it. I
know it really stresses her out to go, but I never thought
about why it would beyond the usual guilt.”
“She has to reveal an intimate, private part of herself.
It’s scary. It’s the same with her yearly doctor’s visits,”
Portia explained. “Before you and she were married, he was
the only man who saw her that way. Obviously, it’s all
clinical and detached, but it’s still very intimate.”
“Yeah, it was.” Sean ran a hand through his hair. “So you’re
saying she’d have trouble going to you because you would
know too much about her?”
“It depends. I think we could work well together, but it
would be up to her,” Portia said. “My advice is to go ahead
to the appointment at Children’s and see how it goes. It’s a
very good facility with some great doctors. If it doesn’t
work out, I’d be happy to be Kemara’s obstetrician, if she
Sean sighed and ran a hand through his hair. “Okay. I’m
sorry to push...it’s just….”
“I know. Believe me, I do. Both of you need to just relax
and try not to worry. Take time to do fun things and just
hang out together.”
“Yeah, that’s a good idea. Kemara’s really down right now. I
am too, a little.”
“And that’s perfectly normal. So find things that you can
both look forward to - besides the ultrasound.”
He nodded. “Mother’s Day is coming up….”
“There you go! Get her out and doing. It’ll be good for both
“Thanks, Portia. You’ve been a big help.”
“You’re very welcome. And don’t hesitate to call me if you
have any more questions.”
“We’ll do that. See you tomorrow night.”
Sean ended the call and headed back to the cottage feeling
reassured. They’d gotten through two months already. Another
two weeks would be easy.
Kemara smiled as she watched her husband hold Erin up so the
little girl could look inside the cab of the fire engine.
Brad was doing the same with Kelly on the other side. The
other three children were climbing on the sides and back
under the watchful eye of the firefighters.
“This was such a good idea!” Ciara took a picture of James
as he sat behind the wheel, the donated helmet he wore
nearly covering his eyes.
“I know. Sean’s told me so many stories about your grandpa.
It’s really neat to see where he worked.”
While looking for things to keep the two of them occupied
until the appointment at Children’s, Sean had discovered
that on May 2 every firehouse in the city would be open to
the public to celebrate the department’s 150th anniversary.
He had called his sister and brother-in-law suggesting that
they visit the firehouse their grandfather had been part of:
Hook and Ladder 10.
Ciara nodded. “I’m glad we warned them that we were coming.
I know it’s an open house, but we’re still quite a crowd.”
“Aunt Kemara will you lift me up?” Natalie asked running
“Sure!” Kemara hoisted the little girl up to the cab’s
window. “Oof! You’re getting heavy, you know that?”
“I wanna sit inside!”
James stuck his nose in the air just like his uncle
sometimes did. “You’re a girl. Girls can’t be firefighters.”
“Can too!” Natalie glared at her older brother.
Kemara stepped back holding the child as Brad opened the
“Come on out son. There’s someone I think you need to meet.”
He swung the boy down and pointed to where several
firefighters - including one woman - were answering visitors
questions. “See? Women can be firefighters, too.”
The boy gulped. “But how? It’s dangerous, and you have to
carry people out of fires and stuff.”
Ciara rolled her eyes, but Brad only laughed. “Let’s go talk
to her and find out.”
“Dangerous!” Ciara snorted as she helped Kemara settle
Natalie into the driver’s seat. “Just walking down the
sidewalk can be dangerous. Raising kids is dangerous - to
your sanity and your pocketbook.”
Kemara grinned. “So everyone keeps telling me. And then
there’s giving birth to them....and I’m trying not to think
too much about that.”
“Don’t let it worry you. I had it all planned with Erin.
After four others I knew exactly how I wanted everything to
be. But she came so fast there was barely time for us to get
to the hospital. So there went all my ideas about soft music
playing and a peaceful water birth.” Ciara laughed,
remembering. “You just have to relax and go with it.”
“I don’t do relaxed very well, but maybe I’ll be in a good
place when the time comes.” Kemara nodded to where Sean had
donned a helmet of his own while Brad took a picture of him
with an older firefighter.
“He’s having a blast.”
“Yeah....I remember when that was all he talked about,”
Ciara said. “He and mom had a terrible fight when she
wouldn’t let him take it further.” She glanced at Kemara. “I
sometimes wondered if he might not volunteer once he got
older. guess that will never happen now.”
“No. Probably not.” Kemara heard the questioning tone in her
voice and tried to ignore it.
Sean looked around and beckoned her over.
“Milton, this is my wife, Kemara.”
“He worked with my grandpa,” Sean explained as they shook
“I’ve heard a lot of stories,” Kemara said.
Milton snorted. “And they’re all true. Virgil was a legend
around here, that’s for sure.” He turned to Sean. “Used to
think you’d join him as soon as you got out of high school.”
“Yeah, I did too, but I found a good job, and now I’ve got a
two kids on the way.” He put an arm around Kemara.
“Really!” Milton laughed in surprise. “Well,
congratulations! You’ll have to bring them by once they're
born so we can see them. A few of the other guys who worked
with Virgil would like that.”
“We will,” Kemara promised.
They helped Ciara and Brad round up the children and herded
them down the street to a diner for lunch.
Over pizza, Brad asked, “So Sean mentioned that you two are
trying to stay busy. Got any more adventures we could join
“Yeah!” Parker cheered through a mouthful of cheese. “Let’s
go to Coney Island!”
Kemara laughed. “Zeke said his kids want to go there this
summer, so even if we don’t I’m sure you all would be
welcome to join them.”
“I think we’ll wait and see how you feel,” Sean told her. “I
can’t imagine being pregnant in the summer will be much
Ciara shuddered. “It wasn’t for me, but you’re from the
South, so maybe it won’t be so hard.”
“I hope not. Brad, we really hadn’t thought of anything
beyond today. But if you’ve got ideas,” she smiled at
Parker. “Like Coney Island, we’d be glad to hear them.”
“Hmmm….you said your appointment is May 15?” Brad mused.
“Mother’s Day is the 10th and Sean’s birthday is the day
“Not that we pay any attention,” Ciara added, smirking at
her older brother.
Sean looked hurt. “Everyday is a day to celebrate me,” he
“And he’s so modest!” Kemara said.
Brad thought for a minute. “I know the kids will want to do
something for Mother’s Day and that’s on a Sunday. Why don’t
we get together that afternoon? We can celebrate you two -
and Sean’s birthday at the same time.”
“Sounds good!” Sean said. “What would you ladies like to
“Well, a friend told me the botanical gardens are having a
whole bunch of stuff: vendors, food, entertainment,” Ciara
said. “Let me see how much it costs.”
She pulled the website up on her phone, and Kemara leaned
over to look.
“Thirty dollars for adults and $15 for kids?” Kemara shook
her head. “That’s way too much. I don’t care how nice it
“And then you’ve got to pay for food once you’re there,”
Ciara agreed. “We see that a lot - it’s just too
expensive to do most festivals and things like that.”
“You know…we could have our own picnic in Dyeland and still
enjoy the outdoors,” Kemara mused. “Remember the Fields of
Gold? It’s warmer now than it was at Easter so the kids
could play on the beach, fly kites, whatever. Even if we
ordered food from Adrian’s it would still be cheaper.” She
smiled at Sean and Brad. “And you guys could fish in the
lake since that’s your favorite thing these days.”
James looked interested. “We could go on Saturday and sleep
out overnight. Liam said there’s a telescope at Willowveil.”
Brad ruffled his hair. “I think we’ll wait until school’s
out, sport. But that’s a good idea.”
“I’m all for it,” Ciara smiled. “I keep forgetting that you
have all that in your own backyard, so to speak.”
“So do we. I think there are a lot of places I haven’t
really seen yet,” Sean said. “Has anyone ever made a map?”
he asked Kemara.
She shrugged. “I think so. I’ll have to ask Andrew and
“Sounds like we’ve got a plan then!” Brad said. “How about
we drive down late Sunday morning? What should we bring?”
Kemara and Sean looked at each other. “We’ll take care of
the food and everything that goes with it,” he said.
“You just bring stuff for the kids,” Kemara suggested. “And
maybe dessert? That icebox cake you had at Easter was really
“And very easy to make!” Ciara agreed. “That’s no trouble.
And we’ll bring kites for everyone.”
The children cheered, and the group spent the rest of the
meal arguing over what activities should be included.
Sunday dawned sunny and warm in Dyeland. By 10 o’clock the
entire group was in the Fields of Gold. Kemara and Sean
picked up an assortment of sandwiches and sides from
“But how will we keep it all cold?” Ciara asked as they
unloaded the food while the kids raced down to the beach.
“The cabins have electricity - don’t ask me how - and
refrigerators,” Sean said picking up two platters of
sandwiches and making his way to the closest little house.
Ciara shook her head and followed him. “Amazing!”
As she and Kemara put everything away, the two women chatted
about the children and Kemara’s pregnancy.
“And I’m finally starting to show,” Kemara said. “The doctor
could tell I was probably carrying twins, and Sean says he
could tell, but today was the first time I’ve seen it
Ciara smiled. “How far along are you?”
“About ten weeks? I’m not really sure. I guess the people at
the hospital will be able to tell us for certain on Friday.”
“Are you nervous?”
Kemara rested a hand on her abdomen in a gesture that
already had become second nature. “Kinda. My gyno said I was
at an ‘advanced maternal age’.”
Her sister-in-law scoffed. “Women are having babies in their
fifties these days. I wouldn’t worry about that at all. I
bet the most you’ll have to contend with is them coming
early and spending some time in NICU.”
“Yeah, and having been there myself, I’m somewhat familiar,”
Kemara laughed. She found a place for the fruit platter and
shut the refrigerator.
They walked out onto the porch and Ciara looked around.
“Where are the guys? Fishing?” She turned back and yelled.
“Erin, stay in the shallows, please!”
Kemara shaded her eyes. “Yep. They’re over on the other
The two women spread a quilt on the grass and Kemara took a
small container of mixed nuts from her tote bag.
“Part of my neverending consumption,” she joked. “Want
Ciara accepted a handful.
“So what did Sean give you for Mother’s Day?”
“A silver necklace with birthstone charms for each one of
us. And a letter from the twins.” Kemara blinked back tears
as she remembered how Sean had read it to her that morning.
Ciara raised her eyebrows. “Really?”
“Yeah, I brought it with me…” Kemara took an envelope from
her bag. “You can read it. I cried for ten minutes after he
Hello from the inside! Daddy said he can give you a message
from us. He must be really smart.
We know we’ve only been here a couple of months, but we like
it so far. Daddy said that when we get bigger it might be
pretty crowded. But now it’s nice and warm. We’re sorry we
make you sick...we don’t mean to. Maybe it will get
We like the bouncy sounds we hear all the time. Daddy said
it’s called music, and when we grow legs we can dance to it.
What is dancing? Our favorite thing is when you read to us.
Daddy was surprised when we told him you do that.
He says you think we’re a boy and a girl. We don’t know
either. How can you tell?
Time to do some more growing! We love you, and we’re so glad
you’re our Mama!
“Ian” and “Joy”
Ciara laughed and wiped away a tear of her own. “That Sean!
‘He must be pretty smart.’ How did he know you read to
them?” She handed back the paper.
“I guess it was one those days I was feeling too sick to go
jogging with him,” Kemara said, tucking the letter away
again. “He probably came in and heard me. My parents brought
some of my books when they were here - Dr. Seuss and Winnie
the Pooh….the old favorites.”
Natalie ran up to them. “Mama, help me with my kite!”
“Alright,” Ciara got to her feet. “Why don’t you go drag
your daddy away from his fishing so he can help, too, huh?”
“Okay!” The little girl raced around the lake to where the
two men were already putting down their rods.
Ciara held out a hand to Kemara. “Come on, let’s go fly a
“Gladly!” Kemara pulled herself to her feet and followed.
They spent the rest of the afternoon flying kites - and
tying Sean’s cellphone very carefully to the largest to
create very blurry aerial video - eating, and playing
kickball in the Fields once the children tired of the beach.
The girls team beat the boys team by three points with
little Erin as the official cheerleader for both sides.
Over a birthday Oreo icebox cake with 36 candles, Kemara
presented Sean with a die cast model kit for an
old-fashioned fire engine.
“I’ll let you pick out the paint colors,” she said as he
examined the box. “In case you want it lime green instead of
Sean looked outraged. “What? Red all the way! This is
great!” He kissed her. “Maybe I’ll save it until after the
babies are born for those nights when they won’t let us
She laughed. “If you can do something like that while sleep
deprived, more power to you! I plan to listen to audiobooks
Brad shook his head in mock dismay. “You two have no idea….”
Ciara shushed him. “Let them have their pretty dreams while
they can,” she said.
Sean slung an arm over his brother-in-law’s shoulders. “And
we’re so lucky to have you guys to help babysit, aren’t we?”
he asked Kemara.
“Very much so! And my parents will be up here by then, too.”
She grinned as Sean. “We could live a life of leisure just
letting everybody else raise the kids for us.”
“Now that’s a good idea!”
“What’s wrong?” Sean came hurrying into the living room at
She pointed to the TV. “FAO Schwartz is closing their Fifth
Avenue store! They said the rent’s too high.”
“That’s too bad!” He thought for a minute. “Why don’t we go
by there after your appointment?”
“Sure. We had already planned to get some stuff. Let’s have
a shopping spree.”
Kemara smiled for the first time that morning. “Okay. It’ll
be good to have that to look forward to.”
“Are you nervous?” He put his arms around her.
She laughed shakily. “You have to ask? I knew there’d be a
lot of poking and prodding, but actually going through it is
“Yeah….” He rubbed her back. “I can’t imagine, but I don’t
think I’d like it either. I just hope you get a better
doctor than that Holleran.”
When they did meet the doctor, he put them at ease at once.
He was an older gentleman with iron gray hair and a
“Charles Faulkner,” he said shaking hands with both of them.
“You must be Kemara and Sean.”
Kemara smiled. “That’s right.”
“You know my name!” Sean joked. “I’m flattered.”
Dr. Faulkner chuckled. “Well, we try to consider the entire
family. We’ve learned that the more support momma and baby
have, the better they’ll do.”
“We have a lot of family and friends who are really
thrilled, so I think we’ve got that covered,” Kemara assured
“Wonderful!” Faulkner pulled up a stool and opened Kemara’s
chart that her gynecologist had sent over. “Bear with me
while I ask a bunch of questions you’ve already answered so
I can get up to speed.”
After ten minutes of discussion, he stood up and laid the
chart aside. “Why don’t you lie down and let me have a
Kemara did so, and he pressed in various places on her
“Hmm...I’m thinking a trans-vaginal ultrasound might work
best this early to give us a clearer picture.”
He caught sight of Kemara’s alarmed expression and patted
“But we’ll try the usual way first. The sonographer who will
be doing the scan is very experienced, and she’s had both
methods during her own pregnancy so she knows what it feels
like. I’ll send her in, and then I’ll be back to go over the
results with you.”
When he had gone, the door opened again almost immediately.
“Good morning!” The woman who entered was in her late
twenties with red hair and snub nose that reminded Kemara of
Ivy. “I’m Deborah, and I’ll be your baby’s photographer
Kemara and Sean laughed and introduced themselves.
“We’ve already been taking pictures of them from the outside
every week,” Kemara said and Deborah helped her lie down
The technician chuckled. “Well hopefully we’ll get a nice
clear inside shot, too. Dr. Faulkner thinks it’s twins?”
“My gynecologist does,” Kemara said as her abdomen was
exposed. “He said I was large for eight weeks.”
Deborah looked at her chart. “So you’d be about ten weeks
and three days if the dates here are correct. You do have
quite a bump if that’s true.”
“She just kind of exploded once she stopped throwing up all
the time,” Sean joked.
“Ha ha.” Kemara said dryly.
“Well, we should be able to confirm a few things today,”
Deborah said reaching for a tube. “This might be a little
cold - sorry.” She spread the gel over Kemara’s abdomen, and
the woman gasped. “We’ll be able to see if you are carrying
twins and determine how old they are.”
As she readied the equipment, the technician explained how
the machine used sound waves to produce a video image.
“So let’s see what you’ve got in there.” She dimmed the
lights and angled the video screen so Kemara and Sean could
see it too. Both would-be parents were shocked when the
Deborah moved the wand over Kemara’s abdomen and the picture
“Well, it’s definitely twins! You can see the two separate
sacs - one here and one here. She marked an “A” and “B” on
the image. “The heads are here. And you can see the legs and
“What are those white areas?” Sean asked.
“Those are the facial bones,” Deborah’s voice trailed off as
she studied the picture and made a note on Kemara’s chart.
“So they’re fraternal, then?” Kemara was enraptured. She
could’ve stared at the screen for hours memorizing every
detail of her babies’ features.
Deborah nodded. “Basically, you have two separate
pregnancies - each baby has a sac and a placenta. And I
can’t be certain this early, but it looks like they might be
different sexes as well. We’ll be able to see more in
another month or so.”
Kemara and Sean grinned at each other.
The technician spent a few more minutes taking measurements
from several angles. Then she said, “I’m going to turn up
the sound. We should be able to hear both heartbeats.”
Sean listened for a minute and laughed. “It sounds like a
“Two washing machines,” Kemara said wiping away tears.
Deborah grinned. “Some people think it sounds like a train.”
She wiped the gel off Kemara’s belly. “Lights coming back
She helped Kemara down from the table. “It will take Dr.
Faulkner a little while to look over the scans. You’re
welcome to go down to the cafeteria and come back in about
half an hour.”
“Thanks, I’m always hungry these days,” Kemara said.
“Oh, I remember!” Deborah laughed. “My little boy is three
now, and we’re trying for another. I craved pasta the entire
time I was pregnant, and then as soon as he was born I
couldn’t stand to get near the stuff.”
They went down the elevator and found the cafeteria on the
ground floor. Kemara looked longingly at a cappuccino kiosk
as they passed.
Sean tugged at her hand. “Come on. A nice big glass of water
awaits,” he teased.
“I think I’ll have a cup of Maryam’s tea, actually,” Kemara
said. “I got chilly in there.”
Over vegetable soup and grilled cheese sandwiches, Sean
asked, “So now do you believe they’re in there?”
Kemara laughed. “It’s kinda hard not to with the evidence
right there!” She sighed. “That was so cool….”
“Yeah, I’m amazed and how much growing they’ve got to do.”
“Me too. I guess I’d better go shopping for maternity
clothes pretty soon. The style is loose and flowy right now,
so I should be okay for shirts, but pants are another
matter.” Kemara shifted uncomfortably. “These jeans are
already getting tight.”
“So what are you wearing to Ivy’s graduation tomorrow?”
She shrugged. “I might see if that navy dress I wore on our
first date still fits. It’s pretty loose, so it might do
Sean smiled. “It was May 17 when I asked you out.”
“Really? I knew it was sometime in May, but I wasn’t sure of
the exact day.” Kemara shook her head, marveling. “Look how
much has changed in a year.”
He reached over the table and took her hand. “And I thank
Joshua every day for those changes.”
She blinked back the tears that were so close to the surface
today. “Me too.”
When they returned from lunch, a nurse led them right back
to an exam room where Dr. Faulkner soon joined them.
“So did you enjoy your first look? Wasn’t that amazing?” He
pulled over a stool and sat. “It’s such simple technology,
but it still blows my mind.”
“It was wonderful,” Kemara said. “I could’ve watched them
The doctor smiled. “When they get a little bigger we might
be able to catch them moving around. That’s always fun.” He
opened Kemara’s file. “Now, let’s see….speaking of
technology...we’re in the process of digitizing all our
patient records, but it will take a while. Here we go.”
He found the scans that the sonographer had printed out.
"Everything looks good.” He held up a print out and, using a
red pen, marked the head, arms and legs on each baby.
“Deborah did note that she was unable to see the nasal bone
for one twin," Faulkner said, consulting the papers. "But
I'm not worried about that. When you're about 19 weeks along
we'll do a full anatomy scan to count fingers and toes. I'm
sure it will turn up then."
He shuffled through the photographs. “So, after looking at
all the scans, I’d put your due date around December 10.
But,” he cautioned. “It’s rare for twins to go full-term, so
I would estimate sometime in late November.”
“Thanksgiving babies,” Kemara said. “That’s appropriate.”
Dr. Faulkner’s expression turned serious. “Now, because of
your age I’d really like to suggest you have some tests
“What kinds of tests?” Kemara and Sean exchanged a worried
“First, we’ll do something called Verifi. It uses a blood
sample and can tell us a great deal - if there’s a chance
the babies might have any chromosomal abnormalities, like
Down syndrome, for example. If that shows a high risk, there
are more in-depth tests we can try.”
“That’s right - I’ll be 35 by the time I deliver,” Kemara
“Believe it or not, most babies with Down syndrome are born
to women younger than you,” Faulkner said. “But the chance
does go up as you get older. And Verifi can alert us to
other problems that can be treated, either before or after
“Sounds like a good idea," Sean said. Kemara nodded her
“All right.” The doctor picked up Kemara’s chart and made a
few notes. “I’ll send Julie in to take the sample. You
should have the results in five to seven days. Also, your
weight isn't quite what I'd like to see at ten weeks. I
really want you to gain 24 pounds by the time you hit 24
Sean looked startled. "So that means she needs to gain about
50 pounds by the time they're born."
"Fifty?" Kemara blanched. "I knew I would gain weight,
"As long as you eat healthy and stay active, you'll have no
trouble losing it after you give birth," Faulkner reassured
her. "I'll have Julie give you some information about that
as well. Are you consuming any caffeine at all?"
“Just one cup of coffee in the mornings,” Kemara said. “In a
Faulkner looked apologetic. “I’m probably old fashioned, but
I’d like you to cut out all caffeine from here on out.
There's increasing evidence that it can cause premature
labor, and we want to keep both your little ones safe inside
for as long as possible.”
"Other than that, everything's good?" Sean asked as Kemara
made a face.
Faulkner nodded. "Unless the Verify test gives us a red
flag, I don't need to see you until it's time for that
anatomy scan. Oh," He pulled one printout from the stack and
gave it to Kemara. "This one is for you to keep."
"Thank you!" Kemara gazed down at the picture which clearly
showed each baby snug in its own pouch.
"Yes, thank you." Sean shook the doctor's hand. "We
"My pleasure. You four take care." With a wave, he left the
When the nurse had taken the blood sample and given Kemara a
folder of nutrition information, the couple found their way
out of the hospital.
"Are you still okay with making a toy run?" Sean checked as
they waited for the subway.
"Sure. I'm glad we went ahead and got something to eat. I
didn't think we'd be so long."
As they had expected, FAO Schwartz was crowded with shoppers
hoping to score deals before the store closed.
“Not that they’ve reduced things much,” Kemara muttered
staying close behind Sean to avoid being separated in the
mass of people.
“Don’t worry about that,” he told her. “If you see something
you want, just think of it as an investment in the
Willowveil Baby Mart.”
Kemara smiled. “That’s true. But some things I’m not passing
down.” She scanned the stuffed animals for one in
particular. “Like this.” She took down the lion they had
discovered on their first visit.
“Nope. We’ve got to keep him,” Sean agreed putting the toy
in their shopping bag. “He can be like Joshua’s stand in.”
“Good idea!” Kemara giggled. “When the kids are older they
can fight over who gets to keep him in their room.”
“We’ll make it a reward for good behavior,” Sean promised as
they headed for the baby things.
While Kemara tried to use restraint, they ended up with
several toys, a play mat, two mobiles with giraffes, zebras
and elephants, and a set of bottles also decorated with
“I’ll post on the forum tonight and let everyone know in
case they want to stop by themselves,” She said as they
unpacked their purchases back at Sol Mate.
“But right now you’re going to scan that picture and email
it to everybody, right?” Sean teased, grinning.
She kissed his cheek. “Of course!”
“So what was college like for you?” Sean asked as he and
Kemara walked along the beach the evening of Ivy’s
Kemara smiled, remembering the day’s events - watching her
Maid of Honor receive her diploma, dance with Sy and rejoice
with Violeta over the adventures to come.
“It really was great,” she said. “I don’t really remember
any classes in particular, more the social aspect. For the
first time I had more than one good friend, and I knew a lot
of people just as acquaintances. No one thought I was
different because for one, nobody cared, and two, everyone
was doing their own thing.”
“Unless you join a sorority or fraternity,” Sean joked.
Kemara shuddered. “I had enough of that kind of thing in
high school! I think Ivy and Violeta both will really
blossom at college. I’m kinda sorry they’re not living in
the dorms because that’s a great way to make friends, but
it’s probably more intense than either of them need right
now. Maybe in a couple of years.”
“You know, relationships and all that.” She waved a hand.
“Oooh, I smell a story!”
She rolled her eyes. “Nothing big. My assigned roommate for
junior year had a boyfriend. I had 8 a.m. classes all
through college, so I was already gone before she would get
up the morning. One day, I came back from my first class to
change my books and discovered she and her boyfriend in bed
together. She claimed he had driven for several hours to
visit and was just napping.”
Sean snorted. “Yeah, right!”
“Well, I couldn't get in the room, and my professor wanted
to know where my books were. The story came out, and she got
in trouble for having a guy in the room. It was a Methodist
college with strict visiting hours.” Kemara shrugged. “So I
had to find a new roommate.”
“Makes me glad Ciara and I didn’t share rooms after we were
about four or so,” he said. “We probably would’ve killed
“I guess that’s something we need to think about - if Ian
and Joy will need separate rooms.” She lingered over the
names, enjoying the sound of them.
He smiled at her, understanding. “Eventually, I guess, but
maybe they’ll be okay together since they’re twins.”
“What you said about college funds….” she frowned. “I know
living in Dyeland we don’t have a lot of the expenses that
some families do, and the kids will go to school in the
Tunnels for a while...But that still leaves food, clothes,
toys, trips to the zoo, and college eventually,” she glanced
at Sean. “If they want to do that.”
They turned and started back.
“True. We’re doing pretty well right now for disposable
income,” Sean said. “I still need to sit down and take a
look at our mutual funds and things like that, but barring
any emergencies, I think we’ll be fine for several years to
Kemara sighed happily. “I’m so glad they’ll grow up here
with our family and friends around and go to school with
kids they’ve known since they were born.”
“Yeah. We really are very blessed.”
Thursday morning found Kemara in Manhattan at The Phoenix
Inn. Catherine had asked to meet with her about rebranding
the shelter’s image. Over coffee and herbal tea they
discussed and sketched out various ideas.
“Well, it’s a start,’ Catherine said at last, sitting back
in her chair and rubbing her eyes.
Kemara nodded. “I’ll play with these on the computer and see
what I can do with them. I’ll email you samples in….a couple
“That’s fine; there’s no rush. Are you heading back to
Dyeland?” Catherine asked as Kemara repacked everything in
“No, actually. I’m on my own for the day, so I thought I’d
stop by Lily’s Loot and get my mom a birthday present.”
“Oh really? What’s Sean up to?”
“His dad called last night and asked if Sean could help him
set up for a wedding. Apparently, it’s a really fancy
affair, and Keith needed help with all the extra sound
equipment. He’ll be back tonight since the reception starts
Catherine smiled. “Well, I hope you enjoy yourself!”
As the two women walked back into the shelter’s living room,
Kemara’s phone rang. She looked inquiringly at Catherine.
“You can use my office.”
Kemara stepped into the other room and pulled her phone from
her bag. The number wasn’t one she recognized. Curious, she
“Yes, this is she.”
“This is Paula at Children’s Hospital. We have the results
of your Verifi test of the 15th, and we’d like you to come
in so we can discuss them with you.”
A sliver of ice went down Kemara’s backbone. “My husband is
out of town today, but I’m sure we could come tomorrow.”
“Mrs. McCallum, we need to see you as soon as possible. Your
bloodwork came back positive for Down syndrome. We’ve had a
cancellation so we can get you in for Level II ultrasound
which will tell the doctor more. But to do that you need to
be here in the next hour.”
Kemara swayed. Dimly, she was aware of Catherine hurrying
over to put an arm around her. The nurse’s words filled her
mind. Down syndrome, ultrasound, cancellation…..It all ran
together making no sense.
The part of her that had been honed by years as a reporter
to stay calm in a crisis, took control.
“Alright. I’m in Manhattan now, so I’ll be there as soon as
“Good. Check with the receptionist when you arrive, and
they’ll take you straight back.”
When she ended the call, Catherine tried to lead her over to
a chair. “What’s wrong? I think you need to sit down for a
Kemara shook her head and pulled away. “No, I need to go.”
“Go where?” Catherine looked bewildered.
“To the hospital. The test they did showed something’s wrong
with one of the babies. The nurse said if I can get there
soon, they have time to do another scan.”
Catherine reached for her own phone. “Just let me call
someone to take over for me, and I’ll go with you.”
Kemara started for the door. “There’s no time! Can you call
Sean and let him know what’s going on?”
Reluctantly, the other woman nodded. “Yes, of course.”
The subway ride passed in a haze. Kemara tried to call and
text Sean, but no one answered, and she wasn’t sure they had
gone through in the first place
At the hospital, she hurried out of the elevator and down
the hall, arriving at the Mother’s Center completely out of
breath and wheezing.
She fumbled in her bag for her inhaler as she told the
receptionist her name.
“Oh, yes, they said you were an emergency. Come on back.”
Kemara’s breathing speeded up even more at the word
‘emergency’. A nurse met her in the hallway and left her in
an ultrasound room, saying only, “The doctor will be right
Between puffs on the inhaler, Kemara tried again to call
Sean. She couldn’t remember where he said the wedding was
taking place. Maybe there was no cell service or he didn’t
have his phone with him.
A technician bustled in and prepped Kemara for the scan.
While she was pleasant enough, she didn’t have Deborah’s
easy, chatty attitude.
When she was ready, a young man in a white coat entered the
“Dr. Russell Alexander,” he said, shaking Kemara’s hand.
“Thank you for getting here so quickly.”
She tried to smile. “I thought I’d be seeing Dr. Faulkner
He waved a hand dismissively. “He’s off today. I’m doing my
residency in maternal fetal medicine under his supervision.”
He reached for the transducer. “Now, this is what we call a
Level II ultrasound meaning it’s more accurate than the one
you had last week.”
Kemara watched as her babies appeared on the monitor. The
doctor consulted his notes and zoomed the view in to focus
on the twin on the left.
“As you can see, there’s fluid behind the neck, here.” He
pointed out the area, measuring it with a pair of calipers.
Then, he moved to the other baby and did the same. Even
Kemara’s untrained eye could see that the space space was
“That’s what we call a soft marker for Down syndrome, and so
is this,” he focused again on the head of the first twin.
“The sonographer’s notes from last week mention that she was
unable to locate the nasal bone, and today you can see that
is clearly missing.”
Kemara felt a sob well up in her chest and fought it down.
“So what does that mean exactly?” she asked as the doctor
wiped off the gel and turned on the lights.
“What we’ve just seen here, combined with your age and the
Verifi results, I’d say that fetus - noted here as Baby A -
has a 70 percent chance of having Down syndrome.”
She bristled at the term ‘fetus.’ “Could the test be wrong?”
“I seriously doubt it. These days they are about 99 percent
accurate. Now, you’ll want to schedule a reduction as soon
as possible....What about this coming Tuesday?”
“A...a reduction?” Kemara was still trying to comprehend the
words ‘Down syndrome.’ “You mean, an abortion?”
Dr. Alexander smiled. “Oh, I wouldn’t call it that….just a
little injection. It won’t feel a thing. And you don’t want
it to suffer, do you?”
Kemara tried to get her scattered thoughts together. “I’m
not going to kill my child!”
“You’ll still have the other one.” Dr. Alexander handed her
the appointment card. “Think about it over the weekend if
you want, but I would highly recommend the reduction. Your
chart says you haven’t been married long. Twins - and one of
them probably severely disabled - would be a huge strain on
She took the card automatically, and he started for the
“Wait! Can you tell me if they’re boys or girls?”
He looked surprised and opened the file. “One of each. The
female fetus is the defective one.”
Numbly, Kemara rode the elevator down to the lobby. As the
doors opened, she caught sight of a familiar figure at the
She raced across the lobby and threw herself into his arms,
“Kemara, what’s wrong?”
She had never heard him so rattled. He held her close, but
she could feel the tension in his body.
She tried to speak, but sobs choked her. She heard someone -
Megan? - say, “Let’s get her over here.”
Sean guided her to a group of chairs in a quiet corner. He
pushed her gently into one and crouched down in front of
her, hands resting on her knees.
“Calm down, sweetheart. Take deep breaths….that’s right.”
Megan gave Kemara a tissue and put a comforting arm around
“Can you tell us what happened?” she asked quietly.
Kemara mopped at her eyes. “They called and said that my
blood work showed one of the babies - the girl - has Down
syndrome. So they wanted me to come right in to do another
scan. The doctor...he showed me the fluid behind her neck
and how she has no nasal bone. He...he…”
“Which doctor was this?” Sean asked. “Faulkner?”
“No, he’s off today. This was a younger man, a resident, I
think. He said that I should….”
Kemara swallowed hard and forced herself to get it out,
fast. “He said that I should abort the girl because she’s
‘defective’ and since we’re just married taking care of
twins and one of them disabled would be a strain our
Sean’s hands tightened painfully as he got to his feet.
“Oh did, did he?” He voice was low and dangerous.
For the first time, Kemara realized that Brad was there,
too. Now, he came forward and put a hand on his
“I agree those were terrible things for him to say. But
let’s get Kemara home, and then you can call his office and
speak to someone higher up.”
“He had no right!” Sean’s voice rose and several people
looked over at them.
Megan stood and laid a her own hand on his arm. “Please,
son. Kemara needs you right now.”
He glanced at her, and his expression softened a little.
“I’m not leaving here until I talk to someone.”
“Then let’s go do that,” Brad suggested. Sean made a beeline
for the desk, and he followed.
Megan sat down beside Kemara again. “I’m so sorry you had to
hear all that, my dear. We came as soon as we could. Sean
had left his phone out in the truck. When they heard your
message, Keith called me and Brad to go along. Brad drove.”
Kemara nodded. “Thank you. I just….I can’t take it in right
She fumbled in her bag for her phone. “I need to call
JenniAnn and let her know what’s going on.”
Megan frowned. “I really think you and Sean need some
“No...I need to let everyone know. They’re family.”
JenniAnn answered on the first ring.
“Hey! Catherine called me and said you had to run to the
“Yes, Sean and I are still here. It’s a long story, but can
you do something for me?”
“Can you get everyone - whoever’s in Dyeland now - together
tonight so we can tell them? I’d rather they all know.”
“Of course, honey. Is 5:30 okay?”
“That’s fine. We’ll see you soon.”
As Kemara ended the call, Megan said, “Why don’t the two of
us get something to eat in the cafeteria until the boys are
ready to leave?”
“I’m not hungry….” Kemara mumbled.
She didn’t want to eat - or talk for that matter. Calling
JenniAnn had been automatic. She shivered as she thought
about telling her parents the awful news.
“You need to keep up your strength so your babies can grow,”
the older woman persisted.
Kemara pressed her lips tight against the reply she wanted
to make. Why, if they’d be better off dead? Instead, she let
Megan lead her into the cafeteria and ate the bland
salisbury steak and vegetables set before her.
Megan kept up a running commentary about the people around
them, but thankfully she didn’t seem to expect Kemara to
“Oh, good. Here they are.”
Kemara looked up to see Sean and Brad in the doorway,
scanning the room for them. She rose and went to Sean,
wrapping her arms around his waist.
“Can we go home? Please?”
He kissed the top of her head, and sighed. “Yeah. We're done
No one spoke as Brad drove through the alley portal.
At Sol Mate, Megan asked, "Are you sure you don't want us to
Kemara forced a smile. "Thank you. We'll be fine." She
walked slowly into the house.
"Thanks," Sean kissed his mother's cheek and slapped Brad on
the back. "I'll give you a call tomorrow."
Megan's green eyes were troubled. "Sean, don't shut each
He grimaced. "I'll try not, but she's stubborn."
"Do more than try. We love you both."
"Love you, too."
As he had expected, Sean found Kemara in the bedroom. She
lay clutching the stuffed lion tight.
“Kemara, talk to me. Please?”
“What’s there to say?” Her voice was choked with tears.
He lay down facing her and and brushed the hair out of her
“Well, can you start from when you got the phone call?”
She told him all of it with more tears. He forced himself
not to interrupt, even when she repeated the doctor’s
“So, he’s not completely sure?” he asked when she was done.
“He could be wrong.”
“I don’t see how. He showed me the fluid behind her neck and
how there’s no nose bone.”
He sighed. “I’m going to get online and see what I can find
out. We’re not being given all the facts right now.”
“Okay. I told JenniAnn we’d be over there at 5:30. To let
everyone know.” She turned onto her side again.
He stared at her back, feeling completely helpless. So she
would share her feelings with their friends, but not with
The internet did nothing to reassure him. For every story
about a highly-functioning teenager who had a job and was in
regular school classes, he found three more where the child
was still in diapers at age 9 and completely non-verbal.
When he researched the screening blood tests, he discovered
that a high percentage of parents who were told their child
might have Down syndrome chose abortion.
He took a deep breath and typed, "Is Down syndrome
The very first entry read: "Down syndrome - also known as DS
- is a genetic disorder..."
He scrolled down, looking for something more official. After
ten minutes of searching, he found a list of frequently
asked questions. Apparently, only 1% of Down syndrome cases
Sean sat back and rubbed his eyes. Was his baby girl cursed
because of him? Had his genes been the cause?
He heard the bedroom door open and closed the browser before
Kemara could see it.
"Any luck?" She took the other chair and leaned her head on
"Not really. Everything's contradictory." He wrapped an arm
around her. "Did you sleep?"
"A little bit. Can we walk on over?"
"I really wish you'd wait a couple of days," he said
carefully. "This is all so new, and...."
Kemara sighed. "They know something bad happened. Catherine
was right there when I left. And JenniAnn will have told
everyone by now. We have to go."
No, we don't, he thought as he followed her out. We don't
have to share every little thing. But this wasn't little -
this was huge, life altering, like a meteor smashing into
their happy life. The end of the world as we know it.
He snorted at his own folly, but couldn't dismiss the
JenniAnn had been watching for them and held the door open
“Liam and Jacob are here having a slumber party, but they’re
watching a movie and Belle’s with them,” she said leading
the way to the living room.
Kemara halted on the threshold as their friends turned to
look at them. For a minute she wanted to turn and run, but
Sean guided her gently into the room.
“We saved the loveseat for you,” Rose said, smiling at them.
When they were settled, it was a moment before Kemara could
“Ummm...Thank you all for coming. We have some news about
the babies, and we wanted you to know.”
“Good news, or bad news?” Max asked.
Sean and Kemara exchanged glances. “We’re...not really
sure,” he admitted.
“When I had the ultrasound last week, they wanted me to have
some tests because of my age.” Kemara said. “There’s a blood
test that can show a lot of different things like the sex of
the babies and other stuff.”
“So what are they?” Violeta asked eagerly.
“Violeta….” Andrew warned.
Kemara managed a smile. “No, it’s OK. They’re a boy and a
girl. And the doctor...he said…” She choked up and couldn’t
“There’s a 70 percent chance the girl has Down syndrome,”
“Oh dear…” Monica murmured.
“The doctor…” Kemara took the tissue Rose handed her and
wiped her eyes. “He thinks I should have selective reduction
done as soon as possible.”
Violeta frowned. “What does that mean?”
Beside her, JenniAnn saw Andrew’s jaw clench. When no one
else spoke he said, “They...they inject something into the
baby’s heart so that it...dies.”
“What?” Violeta looked stunned. “But why?”
Kemara was crying so hard she could barely get the words
out. “Dr. Alexander said that we’d ‘still have ‘the other
one’ and did I want ‘the fetus’ - that’s what he called her
- to suffer? But I can’t do it! I can’t!”
Rose, who was closest, went over and pulled Kemara into her
embrace. Monica, too got up. As JenniAnn was rising to join
them, she leaned over and whispered to Andrew.
“Look at Sean.”
The man was making no effort to comfort his sobbing wife. He
only sat, elbows on his knees staring at the floor. As if
feeling Andrew’s gaze, he raised his head and their eyes
met. The angel shivered. There was no emotion on Sean’s face
“Come on, let’s go sit on the porch for a while,” Monica
suggested after Kemara had calmed down some. “I think you
need a wee bit of fresh air just now.”
“Violeta, can you go make Kemara a big cup of hot chocolate,
please?” JenniAnn asked.
The angel nodded eagerly and hurried to the kitchen.
Kemara let the other women help her to her feet.
As they left, JenniAnn hung back.
“Will you guys talk to him?” she whispered. Sean had dropped
his gaze to the floor again, shoulders slumped.
Andrew looked at Arthur and Max who nodded.
“Yeah, we’ll see what we can do.”
“Are you okay?” Rose asked when they had Kemara in one of
the rocking chairs with both hands wrapped around a bright
Kemara shook her head. “I don’t know. It’s just...so
overwhelming right now. We were making plans this morning to
start decorating the nursery - getting Owen to sketch out a
design - but now....What’s the point?”
“You can’t give up hope,” Monica said. “There’s still a
thirty percent chance that she doesn’t have Downs. And even
if she does….well, you’ve met Miss Lily.”
Rose nodded. “That’s true! Do you think Lily’s suffering?
Joshua didn’t seem to think so at Easter, remember? He said
she didn’t need to be healed.”
“And she didn’t want to be,” JenniAnn added. “I know Azalea
and Basil would be more than happy to answer any questions
you and Sean have.”
“Yeah,” Kemara managed a smile thinking of the spirited
little girl. “Lily is a sweetheart.”
Violeta had been listening to the others. Now, she said
hesitantly, “Maybe you could talk to Portia? I know she
wouldn’t say horrible things like that doctor did.”
“That’s a good idea,” Monica said. “And Father Mike, too.”
“If you want I can post on the forum or send an email to let
the others know,” JenniAnn suggested.
“Email, please,” Kemara said. “And Sean wanted me to call
Portia after that first visit with my gynecologist, so I
guess I’ll do that tomorrow.”
“What does Sean think about this?” Rose asked gently.
Kemara took a sip of her drink. “He was furious at the
doctor. Brad calmed him down, and they were going to speak
to someone, but I don’t know how that turned out. When we
got home, he did some research, but he said it was all
The other women glanced at one another.
“So the two of you haven’t talked about it?” JenniAnn said.
“Not yet. I napped while he was on the computer, and then we
She knew they needed to, but right now it was just too big,
“I wouldn’t even know where to start…” she trailed off
Monica squeezed her hand. “I understand. When Liam showed
up, I didn’t want to talk to Arthur, didn’t want to hear
what he had to say, but another part of me wanted to know
“Yeah, it’s terrifying, but at the same time, I want to
learn as much as I can. I guess knowledge really is power,”
Kemara chuckled weakly.
JenniAnn smiled. “I think so. And Portia can help with that,
Azalea and Basil, too. Why don’t I call them and see if
they’ll have time on Saturday afternoon? Andrew and I can
take Lily and Belle out to lunch while you four talk.”
“That sounds great.” Kemara frowned. “I really should run
all this by Sean, first…..”
“I’m sure the guys are telling him pretty much the same
“Do you want to talk about it?”
Sean considered. He couldn’t tell his friends what he
feared. Not yet. He needed time to accept it first. So what
could he answer?
“I’m just overwhelmed right now,” he said at last.
Andrew nodded. “I remember,” he said ruefully. “That night I
found Belle it felt like JenniAnn and I would never have a
chance to stop and breathe.”
“Exactly,” Arthur said. “When Liam showed up at my door he
changed our lives completely. Monica and I wouldn't have it
any other way, now, but those first days were really tough.”
Sean was surprised, although he realized he shouldn’t have
been. Of course both of them would understand….that part, at
Max shifted uncomfortably. “I don’t have any kids,
obviously,” he began. Andrew and Arthur chuckled, and Sean
managed a smile. “But in a way, I’m the kid. I’m not the son
Maja dreamed of and Dad never thought he’d have kids at all.
But they got me - fully-grown, PTSD and all.” He grinned.
“And I’m really glad they did.”
“I guess that’s part of it,” Sean admitted. “It’s not what I
thought normal would be.”
“Let me ask you something,” Andrew said. “When you and
Kemara got married, what did you think your life would be
Sean shrugged. “I figured the honeymoon stuff would go on
for a while, and then things would settle into a routine:
work, friends, church, travel. And kids would happen
sometime down the road….” He trailed off as he realized the
“And then all of a sudden sometime was two weeks later,”
Andrew said. “So you had to get change your definition of a
normal life, right?”
“Yeah, and now I have to change it again.”
Arthur frowned. “Sean, have you and Kemara had a chance to
talk about all this?”
“Not really. She told me what happened at the hospital, but
beyond that….nothing. She insisted on coming here and
letting all of you know.”
He knew he sounded bitter, but he couldn’t help it.
“And we’re very glad you did,” Andrew said. “And if there’s
anything else we can do - anything at all - just say the
Sean nodded. “Thanks. I do appreciate it.”
He stood up. “I think I’ll take Kemara home and maybe we can
have that talk.” He held out his hand to Andrew.
The angel looked slightly surprised, but shook it.
“You’ll keep us updated?” he asked as Sean traded handshakes
with Arthur and Max.
After they heard the front door close, Max said, “Why do I
have the feeling we weren’t very helpful?”
“I agree,” Andrew said. “But I think the best thing we can
do right now is pray for them - all four.”
“We should’ve done that when they were both here,” Arthur
said. “But that probably would’ve made Kemara
Andrew smiled. “We still can though.” He held out his hands
to the others, and they bowed their heads.
Kemara looked around when Sean came out onto the porch.
“Hey, are you ready to go?”
She nodded. “Yeah, I’m pretty wiped out.” She stood and
hugged each of her friends in turn. “Thank you. I feel more
“Good!” JenniAnn stepped forward and hugged Sean, too.
“We’ll be praying for all four of you.”
Sean smiled thinly. “Thank you.”
He put his arm around Kemara and helped her down the steps.
As she watched them go, Rose said. “Something’s still not
“That’s what we think too,” Max said, as he, Andrew and
Arthur joined them. “But I have no idea what.”
“You don’t think….” Monica hesitated. “You don’t think Sean
actually wants Kemara to terminate, do you?” She shivered,
and Arthur hugged her.
“But why would he?” Violeta asked. “What’s so bad about the
baby possibly having Down syndrome?”
Andrew sighed. “There are a lot of reasons. But first,” he
looked around at all of them. “I really don’t want to
speculate about what Kemara and Sean are thinking or feeling
“Agreed,” Arthur said. “Even so, it’s a fair question,
JenniAnn nodded. “Personally, I don’t think it’s a bad thing
if one of the babies has Down syndrome, and I don’t think
abortion is the right choice in this situation. But we need
to be there for our friends no matter what they decide.”
Violeta nodded. “So what’s the big deal?”
“Sometimes, the parents are worried about what will happen
to the child when they’re gone. Where will he live and who
can they trust to take care of him if he can’t live
independently?” Monica said. “Or they might worry that they
can’t afford special schools and therapists.”
Violeta looked confused. “But Kemara and Sean don’t have to
worry about either of those things,” she protested.
“We’re not talking about Kemara and Sean right now, just how
things are in general,” Andrew reminded her.
“Sometimes there are cultural reasons. In some countries,
disabled people are seen as evil and a shame to their
“All the beggars and cripples in the Bible,” Max said. “Like
the lepers and the man born blind.”
“Exactly,” Andrew said. “You can still find that attitude
today in many places.”
“Another reason is probably that it’s awful to think of your
child suffering. I mean, Belle won’t remember going through
withdrawal those first days in the hospital, but Andrew and
I will never forget it.” JenniAnn reached for Andrew’s hand.
Violeta sighed. ‘I didn’t realize it was so complicated. I
wish there was something we could do.”
“We can pray,” Max said. “The three of us already did, but I
doubt Joshua would mind hearing from you ladies, too.”
Smiling, they all clasped hands and prayed that their
friends would make the right decision.
“I don’t think we should rule out the reduction,” Sean said
once they were out of sight of the castle.
Kemara stopped walking and stared at him. "Please tell me I
heard you wrong."
"I just don't think we should dismiss it out of hand. We
need to explore all the options."
"You want to - to get rid of her? Of Joy?" Kemara choked
He blanched. "I didn't say that! I said -."
"It sounded like it me! So we just tell Joshua, 'Thanks, but
no thanks'? 'This one's not perfect, so you can have her
“Kemara….No, that’s not what I’m saying at all.”
“What about me?”
“What do you mean?”
“Do you think my parents should have aborted me if they’d
known ahead of time I’d have cerebral palsy?”
“Kemara, that’s not the same! You have CP because you were
born so early. Nothing was wrong with you until then. Not
that anything’s wrong now, but….”
She looked surprised. “You read about it. Why?”
“Because I love you, and I wanted to know what you were
“Then why can’t you love her?”
Sean threw up his hands. “I do love her! It’s because I love
her that I think we need to consider all our options!”
She didn’t reply, only started walking again, stumbling on
the uneven path.
He caught up and took her arm.
When they reached the house, she didn’t climb the steps.
“Are you coming in?” He asked quietly.
She shook her head. “Later. I think I need to walk a bit.”
“Kemara….I love you.”
She nodded. “I know. I love you too.”
As soon as she heard the door close, she let the tears fall.
Normally, she loved walking on the beach, but now, the sight
of the vast ocean made her feel very small.
Giving up, she started back toward the cottage. Halfway
there, she paused. She didn’t want to face Sean, not right
now. But where else could she go?
The chapel. It was behind the castle, so she wouldn’t need
to go back to Willowveil and speak to anyone. She could sit
and look at Owen’s painting of Joshua that hung beside the
Kemara retraced their earlier steps to the small building.
She flipped on the lights and sank into the front pew.
She stared at the painting through her tears and tried to
pray, but no words came. A gentle hand on her shoulder told
her she wasn’t alone. She turned, knowing from the scent of
spices that it was Maryam.
The other woman held Kemara close and said nothing until she
was cried out. When she sat up, Maryam offered her a
“Thanks.” Kemara mopped at her aching eyes. “It’s been a
really horrible day.” She blushed. “I’m sorry. I shouldn’t
Kemara traced the K in one corner of the cloth square. “I
mean, before today we were so happy. To be married and then
pregnant, and not just pregnant but with twins.” She smiled.
“So many blessings all at once…And then today....I just feel
like Joshua must be so disappointed in us for the way we’ve
“Oh no! Yeshu understands that you are afraid and
overwhelmed right now.” Maryam smiled and brushed the damp
hair out of Kemara’s face. “Yosef and I went through many
nights where we lay awake wondering what the future held for
“But you knew he was the Son of God, the Messiah.” Kemara
The other woman nodded. “Yes, but we did not know what that
meant. Would he be born knowing who and what he was? Would
he even need parents to teach him things? The Torah was
silent on such details.”
“And how would people treat him?” Kemara added. “I think
that’s what scares me the most. I think I can handle the
physical stuff - if it takes her longer for her to walk or
to read. But people can be cruel. I mean, I don’t look that
different, but I went through some bad stuff.” She smiled
bitterly. “But, but maybe she won’t even realize…..” She
wiped away more tears.
“Perhaps not,” Maryam agreed gently. “But she will grow up
surrounded by people who love her and accept her just as she
Kemara clenched her jaw. “Not if Sean has anything to say
“I cannot pretend to know what he is thinking, but I do know
that he is just as frightened as you are.”
Sean stood in the living room feeling completely lost. After
a minute, he wandered into the kitchen. He didn’t want to
get drunk necessarily, but a beer would go down very well
Good, there were five bottles. More than enough. He pulled
out two to start with and turned back toward the living
room. It took a moment before his brain registered that he
had a visitor.
“Shalom! Please excuse this sudden intrusion,” Yosef said.
He sat on the couch stroking Warren.
“That….that’s OK.” Sean shook himself out of his paralysis.
“Uh, do you want one?” He held up a bottle.
Yosef smiled. “Thank you. That is an excellent idea.”
Sean opened both bottles for them and sat on the other end
of the couch. “I guess I know why you’re here.”
“You have had a very difficult day, I think.”
“That’s putting it mildly!” Sean laughed bitterly and took a
long drink. “You know what the worst part was?” He looked
over at the other man and hesitated.
Yosef raised an eyebrow, inviting him to continue.
“My own wife wouldn’t talk to me about it, but she was
perfectly OK with telling everyone else and letting them
“I cannot pretend to know her reasons, but she had been here
- in Dyeland - for a while, yes?”
Sean nodded. “Nearly three years. And in New York for a year
“And until you and she began your relationship, they were
her only family, I think?”
“I see what you’re getting at,” Sean sighed. “Yeah, they
were. I guess I still haven’t gotten used to the idea that
these people aren’t just neighbors. I mean, I know I told
her parents they were our family, but I guess I didn’t
really believe it myself.”
Yosef leaned over and patted his arm kindly. “You are not
alone, but at times like this it is hard to remember that, I
know. You feel it is your family against all the evil in the
“How did you deal with it?”
Yosef took a sip from his drink. “After Maryam told me, I
imagine I felt much as you do now - frightened, angry,
“Telling Yosef was very difficult,” Maryam said. “I knew it
would upset him greatly.”
“But you talked about it, right? It’s like Sean’s put up a
wall,” Kemara admitted. “He just feels so distant. I never
dreamed he would consider abortion. I mean, he said he’s the
one who asked Joshua for kids on our wedding day.” She took
a deep breath, fighting not to cry any more.
Maryam hugged her. “Fear is very powerful; and fear for your
child is strongest of all.” She gazed at the portrait of her
“I just - just don’t want to watch my kid suffer.”
As soon as the words were out of his mouth, Sean cursed
himself. How dare he say that to this man whose own son had
suffered so much and who had been unable to be there for
But Yosef only smiled. “Let me ask you something. You have
red hair, yes?”
Sean chuckled. “Definitely!”
“And is your red hair all that you are?”
“Of course not. I know some people see red hair and think,
‘Oh, he must have a temper,’ but I don’t actually.”
Yosef nodded. “You do not let having red hair…” he paused,
searching for the right word. “proclaim - that it is all you
Sean hid a smile. “No.”
“And your beloved? Does she let her palsy be all that she
is? Or JenniAnn her epilepsy?”
The younger man laughed out loud. “I think Kemara would hit
anyone who tried to get her to think that way!” He shook his
head in admiration. “She amazes me. All the things she's….”
He blinked and let the sentence trail off.
“Yes,” Yosef said. “That is what you are doing even if you
do not mean to. You are saying, ‘This is how my child’s life
will be,’ before she is even born.”
“I guess that’s true,” Kemara said. “I’m dealing with the
here and now, and he’s thinking about the future.”
Maryam nodded. “You see issues from both sides which is good
- most of the time.”
The two women laughed, and Kemara felt a little better.
“I didn’t give him a chance to explain,” she said, flushing.
“I just jumped on him. I should’ve asked.”
“If you would like my advice,” Maryam began.
“You will talk with many people over the next day or so. I
would suggest that on Sunday and Monday - that is a holiday,
“On those two days, take time for yourselves. Go to a
private place you both like and tell each other how you feel
- the happy and the sad, your hopes and your fears.”
“Then, I believe you will know the course you need to take,”
Yoself said. He set his empty bottle on the coffee table.
Sean nodded. “You’re right. But I do need to tell Kemara
something as soon as she comes back. Unless...do you…?”
“Yes. You are not to blame.”
Sean started to cry.
“All - all day I’ve thought it was my fault. I didn’t know
how to tell Kemara or the others. I know I acted like an
ass, but…” He fought to get control of himself.
Yosef moved over beside Sean and patted his back. From
somewhere he produced a handkerchief.
Sean mopped at his eyes. “Thanks.”
“I think you needed to do that. Yeshu would tell you that
tears are not a sign of weakness.”
“And he would know,” Sean looked down at the S embroidered
in green on the cloth. “I’ll have to thank Maryam, too.”
Yosef smiled. “I believe she and Kemara will be arriving
Sean took a deep breath. “I- I’m still scared. I’m really
glad we talked,” he added hastily. “And thank you, but….”
“I understand. These next months will be very hard before
you can see and hold your children. You can only imagine
what they will be like. But the Father and Yeshua already
know everything. You must trust them.”
They heard footsteps on the porch and looked up in time to
see the door open. Kemara came in with Maryam behind her.
Sean stood and hurried to Kemara. They met in a tight hug.
“I’m sorry...I’m so sorry…
When they broke apart, Maryam and Yosef were gone.
“I wanted to thank them again,” Kemara said as she curled up
beside Sean on the couch.
“Me too. What’d you think? Would a couple of novenas be a
Kemara laughed. “I think they’d be happy if we just talked.”
“Yes.” Sean pulled her close. “And I think I’m the one who
needs to start. I’ve been horrible today, and I have no
“But I know there’s a reason,” Kemara said, quietly. “I can
tell when you’re holding something back. You’ve been distant
He kissed her hair. “I know…..I had an uncle or a second
cousin twice removed, something like that, who was in an
institution. He'd been there since he was a baby. When I was
about five I lived with my grandparents for a while. I think
my mom was pregnant with Ciara, and it was making her really
sick. Anyway, grandma took me with her to visit this
cousin." He shuddered. "The place he was in
Kemara laced her fingers through his, holding tightly.
“All those stories and movies about insane asylums? It was
like that. Or maybe that’s just how I remember it. But it
was still pretty bad. People wandered all over talking to
themselves, fighting, just doing whatever they wanted.”
“Why was your cousin there?”
“I don’t know. When I was researching this afternoon, I read
that 1% of Downs is genetic. And I thought she - Joy - might
be one of those, and if that’s what he had then….”
“Then she might end up in a place like that,” Kemara
Sean nodded. “When grandma and I visited, he was in a...I
guess it was a sunroom, in front of a window covered with
mesh. He was in a wheelchair just staring out with this
blank look on his face. When grandma spoke to him, he seemed
to wake up some and he smiled at me.
“Grandma and I sat beside him and she told him all about
what was going on with the family. I don’t know how much he
understood. We stayed about an hour. On….the way out there
was a man who was yelling at the top of his voice. He
got right in my face, and he looked so horrible, that I
screamed and started to cry. Grandma picked me up and
carried me out to the car.”
Kemara twisted around to kiss his cheek. “What a horrible
thing to go through at five.”
“Yeah. I had nightmares for a long time after that. Grandma
was really upset. She’d been visiting there for years, I
guess, and it didn’t bother her any more. My parents were
He hesitated, but he knew he needed to to completely honest.
"If that's what's in our little girl's future then yes, I'd
rather see her back with Joshua."
"But it won't be like that!" Kemara protested, leaving his
arms so she could face him. "You know we'd love her. And
look at Lily. She can do so much."
Sean nodded. "I know. But....what about later? After we're
gone, what will happen to her?"
"Our family would never let her go somewhere like that,"
Kemara said. "I know they wouldn't. And we can make plans. I
read where Congress passed a law so families can save more
for their disabled child's future. We'll put more money
away, get Medicare, whatever we have to."
“Very sure. And Sean, we can’t start limiting her before
she’s even born. We can’t say what she’ll be able to do or
not do. I know what that’s like….when people think that, it
makes an already hard road even harder.”
He smiled at her. “You’re so fierce! You really are a
lioness. Yes, I know we can’t. And we need to remember Ian
in all this, too. We can’t let him get pushed aside because
of any special needs Joy might have.”
“JenniAnn offered to email everyone who wasn’t there tonight
and let them know.” Kemara hung her head. “I’m sorry. You’re
right...we should’ve waited until we discussed it
“I think it turned out okay,” Sean said. “We might not have
had visits from Maryam and Yosef if we had.”
“True...I hope their next visit is a happier one, though.
And Violeta suggested we talk to Portia.”
“I’ve been saying that since last week,” he pointed out.
Kemara rolled her eyes. “Don’t rub it in! Maybe we could go
see her tomorrow?”
“Sure.” He studied her. “What else did you ladies decide?”
“Well….JenniAnn suggested she and Andrew take Lily and Belle
to lunch Saturday so we can sit down with Azalea and Basil.”
Sean nodded slowly. “Yeah...I have the feeling we’re going
to be talking to them a lot in the next six months.”
“Thank God for good friends.”
“Yes, thank God.”
After a late breakfast followed by a long walk on the beach,
Kemara and Sean headed to Willowveil Saturday afternoon.
“So how did your visit with Portia go yesterday?” Andrew
asked while they waited for JenniAnn to get Belle ready.
“Really well,” Sean said. “We just talked in general terms
since she hadn’t seen any of the test results, but what she
could tell us was reassuring as far as the kinds of things
Joy will be able to do. We’ll know more when we go to her
office on Tuesday.”
Andrew smiled. “That’s great news!”
“OK. I think we’re ready,” JenniAnn announced coming in with
Belle. “Somebody didn’t want to wear shoes today.”
“Looks like you lost that battle,” Sean said running a
finger along the bottom of the toddler’s bare foot and
making her giggle.
JenniAnn kissed her daughter. “Nah, it wasn’t worth
bothering over, was it, sweetie?”
“Andrew took us up to the new swap shop,” Kemara said as
they walked out to the portal. “I’m amazed at how much stuff
everyone’s brought already. I need to get on the forum. I
did see all the messages, but…”
“Don’t worry about it. Everyone understands that you two
need time. Just reply when you feel ready.”
“I’ll post in the morning. We’ve decided we’re going to
spend the day on Skellig, just relaxing and talking.”
She watched Andrew unfold the stroller and buckle Belle in
“We need to get one of those,” she told Sean. “And a double
will be huge - and heavy.”
He shrugged. “Well since I doubt one of us could handle both
of them, shopping trips will probably be a family affair.”
JenniAnn laughed. “You get used to hauling around a ton of
extra stuff. Those muscles Andrew’s gotten from making
furniture are being put to use.”
“It is a nice side benefit,” Andrew said.
Sean turned to him. “If you need any help, let me know.
Otherwise I’m going to start carrying around two five pound
sacks of flour.”
Kemara giggled. “I’d love to see that!”
“You should do it too,” Sean said.
“I think I already am,” Kemara joked patting the bulge under
her T-shirt and making them all laugh.
“Lily and Azalea are in the back,” Basil said when they
arrived at Lily’s Loot. He lead them through the store to
the large room where they held art and dance classes for
special needs children and teens.
Mother and daughter sat at a table busily coloring. Lily
looked up and caught sight of Kemara. She jumped up and ran
to her, throwing her chubby arms around the woman’s legs.
She rested her head against Kemara’s abdomen for a moment.
“Babies!” she said, grinning.
Kemara knelt down in front of Lily and took her hands.
“That’s right. There’s a little girl and a little boy. And,
you know what?” She choked back a sob, but got the words
out. “The little girl looks like you!” She ran a finger down
Lily’s turned-up nose and tapped the end gently.
“Yay!” Lily crowed planting a big kiss on Kemara’s cheek.
Kemara stood up, settling Lily on her hip, and Sean wrapped
an arm around them both. The child looked back and forth
from one to the other. She put out a hand and wiped away a
tear from Kemara’s face.
“Don’t be ‘fraid.”
“Fear not! For behold, I bring you glad tidings of great
joy,” Andrew quoted softly.
Sean laughed, a little shakily. “Thank you, Joshua.”
Lily sighed and rested her head on Kemara’s shoulder. “Lily
loves Josh,” she mumbled as her eyes closed.
“Come on, honey. You’re going to lunch with Miss Belle.
Won’t that be fun?”
The little girl’s eyes popped open. “Okay!”
Azalea took her from Kemara and led her over to Andrew and
JenniAnn. “So where are you all going?”
“Just down the street, I think.” Andrew smiled at Lily and
took her hand. “Are you hungry?”
JenniAnn smiled. “Me too! We’ll be back in an hour or so.
Will that be enough time do you think?” she asked Kemara and
“For now,” Kemara said. “I’m sure we’ll have dozens more
questions later on though.”
“That’s what email and texting are for,” Azalea assured her.
“Okay, you four have fun!”
“Can we get you something to drink?” Basil asked as they sat
at one of the tables. “Sorry the chairs aren’t the best. We
keep meaning to put a couple of couches back here and never
getting around to it.”
Sean smiled. “They’re fine.”
“Can I get some water, please?” Kemara asked. “Since my
little fainting episode I’ve been forcing myself to drink
more.” She made a face. “It’s not easy even with those
packets that are supposed to taste like tea or lemonade.”
“Sure!” Basil went over to a refrigerator that stood in the
corner and gave Kemara a bottle of water. “I don’t like
those mix-ins either.”
“So,” Azalea said. “Ask away!”
Sean thought for a minute. “Well, for starters, is it Down
syndrome, Down’s syndrome or Downs?”
She laughed. “Oh, you had to start with a hard one! In the
U.S. it’s Down syndrome. We’re not picky about it, but some
of the parents whose kids come here are, and they will
correct you. But Downs is fine with us. It just sounds
Kemara frowned. “Are there many people with Downs in New
“I”m not sure of exact numbers, but just here in Manhattan
we know about seventy families. And we’ve met a lot more at
various workshops and gatherings. You’re not alone, by any
means. There’s a huge wealth of resources right here in the
Sean nodded. “That’s good to know. I think our biggest
question right now is, how far ahead do we need to plan?”
“First, Joy will be entitled to Early Intervention through
the state: speech and physical therapy mostly. That goes
from birth until about age three, and Portia can get you set
up. But really, for the first year, Lily was probably like
any other baby who eats, sleeps and poops. If Joy has any
medical issues at birth those will probably be treated
during that time.”
Basil continued. “Lily was healthy, thank God, but many of
our friends had children with heart defects who needed
surgery soon after birth. It goes along with having Down
syndrome, like the eyes and the nose for some reason.”
“Portia mentioned that,” Kemara said. “And she also said
most children fully recover.”
“That’s right. So don’t worry about that unless and until
the time comes,” Azalea said.
“Do we need to start learning sign language or anything like
that?” Sean asked. “My sister used baby sign with all five
of her kids. It’s kinda wild watching a ten-month-old make
the sign for ‘milk’ because she wants to nurse.”
Basil smiled. “I bet that cut down on a lot of crying! It
wouldn’t be a bad idea for you to learn the basic signs to
use with both twins from birth. With Lily we didn’t even
consider it until a friend told us how much easier it made
things. So we got some videos, and Lily picked it up quicker
than we did. These days, she uses it mostly when she’s angry
and can’t express herself in words.”
“No obscene gestures, though!” Azalea hastened to add.
Sean laughed. “No, I can’t imagine her flipping someone a
“Like you said, you have time. Read as much as you can - we
have plenty of books you can borrow - start learning to
sign. If you want, we can take you to a few places like
Gigi’s Playhouse so you can meet other families,” Azalea
“That was the most encouraging thing,” Basil said.
“Realizing that it wasn't just us, and there’s a lot of
people out there who want to help.”
Sean nodded. “If you don’t mind telling….how has Lily’s
condition and everything that goes with it, affected your
relationship? That first day was rough, and Kemara and I
kinda shut each other out.”
“Yeah, it was like we went into survival mode,” Kemara said.
“We weren’t really thinking about the other person.”
Azalea smiled. “Lily has definitely brought us closer! We've
always believed that laughter is important in a relationship
and she brings us plenty of that! As for our love life...
that takes some skill as with any child. We've taught Lily
to knock before entering our room and, of course, having so
many friends willing to take here for a night here or there
is very nice. I think you’ll have that, too.”
They all laughed.
“Oh, yes!” Kemara said. “Between my parents moving up here
and all the folks who are already begging to babysit, I
think we’ll have plenty of chances for alone time.”
“We have to communicate constantly.” Basil said. “When you
live together and work together... stewing isn't very
helpful. In fact, it can be catastrophic. So we talk.
Always. And, in a roundabout way, Lily gave us that since
she inspired Lily's Loot."
“And how do you handle it when strangers make comments where
Lily can hear them?” Kemara asked. “I think that’s what
worries me the most.”
“As much as we'd like to chew the person out, we also know
that a ‘scene’ is just going to upset and worry Lily. So we
usually stick to the good, ol' evil eye and, when we're in
private, explain to Lily that the person was very wrong to
say what they did, she's wonderful and much loved, and we
wouldn't have her any other way.
“We make sure to ask her how she feels and base what we say
off of that. We don't want to ever turn it into a bigger
deal than Lily took it to be, after all. When we have the
opportunity for one of us to distract Lily, the other will
remain and try to educate the person.” Azalea sighed.
“Whether they're receptive or not is another story.”
“It sounds like a lot of work,” Sean mused.
“I’ve realized that just being a parent is a lot of work,”
Basil said. “And that’s where we are now. Down syndrome
doesn’t rule our lives; it’s part of it - a big part,
obviously. But it’s not the most important thing. In the end
we’re just two people trying to raise our kid the same as
Kemara smiled. “I can’t wait until we can get there, too.
What was Lily like as a baby?”
For the next half hour Azalea and Basil shared stories of
the little girl’s early years. When the others returned, the
two couples were discussing Lily’s first day of preschool.
“When I picked her up at lunch time she was sitting at a
table by herself,” Basil said. “The teacher said she refused
to join the other kids at all. We thought that was strange
because she already knew everyone there.”
“So we asked her, did one of the other children do something
mean? No, that wasn’t it.” Azalea continued. “Was it
something her teacher said? No. We went through this long
list before she finally said, ‘I couldn’t have Bear.’”
“A favorite toy?” Sean guessed.
Azalea nodded. “It was actually one of mine when I was
little. Lily took it everywhere. Turns out the teacher made
Lily put it in her cubby when class started. And little miss
stubborn wasn’t about to do anything without her best friend
“We spoke to the teacher who agreed she could keep it with
her,” Basil finished. “Problem solved!” He mimed wiping his
brow as the Kemara and Sean laughed.
Lily came running in and scrambled onto his lap. Andrew,
JenniAnn and Belle followed a minute later.
“Hey, silly Lily! Did you have fun?”
“She was as good as gold,” JenniAnn said. “She even helped
feed Belle.” She smiled at the toddler who was dozing on
“I think like somebody needs get to home for a nap,” Sean
said standing up.
“Are you talking about me or Belle?” Kemara joked as he
helped her to her feet.
Sean grinned “Both, I think!”
Kemara hugged Azalea. “Thank you so much for putting our
minds at ease. I’m not quite so worried now.”
“You’re very welcome! If there’s anything else, don’t
hesitate to call or stop by.”
“Oh, let me get you those books,” Basil said as he shook
Sean’s hand. “Be right back.” He stepped into the small
“And this is a list of websites you might want to look at,”
Azalea said, giving Kemara a piece of paper. “Try not to let
it all overwhelm you. You don’t need to know everything from
Andrew chuckled. “JenniAnn and I are learning new things
about being parents every day.”
“Sometimes every hour,” she added. “It really is on-the-job
Basil returned holding a shopping bag. “Here you go! Keep
them as long as you want and then pass them on to someone
Kemara took the bag and peeked in. “Ooohh...I know what I’m
doing this afternoon…..”
Sean pretended to pout. “Books will always come first with
With laughter and more thanks, the group left the shop.
When Portia entered the exam room on Tuesday, she
immediately hugged both of them.
"How are you doing? I heard you visited with the Thorntons
"We're better now," Kemara said, smiling. "They let us ask
all sorts of questions."
"And gave us a bunch of books," Sean added. "So we've been
Portia pulled over a stool and sat. "Good! I'm not an
expert, but I can probably answer any medical questions, or
if I can't, I'll find out."
Kemara and Sean looked at each other.
"How serious is it?" Kemara asked. "Medically, how at risk
Portia sighed. "We really can't say at this point. All
people with Down syndrome will have some of the same
physical characteristics like almond shaped eyes and a
smaller or absent nasal bone. They also will have some sort
of delay. Other issues such as thyroid or heart problems
are common but not guaranteed."
"Basil and Azalea said Lily is healthy otherwise," Sean
"That's right. And she's able to do a great deal because her
parents refuse to set limits for her."
Kemara nodded. "My parents let me do things I was interested
in - like gymnastics - even though I was the worst kid in
the class. That didn't bother me because I loved it. Same
with Irish dance. When I started I couldn't hop on one foot,
but by then I'd learned not to give up."
"I'm just worried that we might push too hard," Sean
admitted. "Or compare her to Ian and find her lacking."
Portia smiled. "I think all parents do that at one time or
another even if they don't mean to.
“As for medical issues...Kemara, we'll have you start seeing
a fetal cardiologist once you're about twenty weeks along.
You'll have ultrasounds twice a month for now, and those
will increase as your due date gets closer. Twins are
usually premature, so we'll plan on some time in the NICU.
Luckily, Children's has a Level 3 facility which means they
can handle the most serious cases."
Kemara let out a sigh of relief. "That's good. And I'm sure
things have advanced since I was in one thirty-something
"I certainly hope so," Portia chuckled.
“Oh, we were wondering about the doctor Kemara saw last
time?” Sean asked. His expression darkened.
Portia frowned. “I told Dr. Faulkner what happened, and he
was very upset. He says that is not how Dr. Alexander was
trained to talk to patients. John’s going to make sure he
gets reprimanded. He said if you need any more scans he’ll
handle them personally.”
“That’s fine. We liked him a lot,” Kemara glanced at Sean
“Good. So, where we go from here is up to you.” Portia
shuffled through Kemara’s records and removed a sheet of
“This shows the results of the tests you’ve had so far,” she
said, laying it down in front of them. “As you’ve already
been told, there is a seventy percent chance Joy has Down
syndrome. You have two choices: You can wait until she’s
born or we can do a test to learn for certain.”
“You mean amniocentesis,” Kemara said turning a little pale.
Sean took her hand.
“Not necessarily. We can also take a sample from each
placenta. It’s called chorionic villus sampling or CVS. It
can be done between nine and twelve weeks. Since you’re
almost twelve weeks, you’d need to have it as soon as
possible. For an amnio you need to be at least sixteen weeks
“But isn’t there a risk of miscarriage?” Sean asked. “The
books mentioned that.”
Portia nodded. “Yes. I won’t lie to you. There is a danger
with both procedures. That said, we have a very good record
here and experienced technicians who’ve done both hundreds
“So, we have a choice of waiting another six months, four
weeks or…” Kemara raised her eyebrows in question.
“We could do the CVS tomorrow, and you’d have the results in
about seven to ten days,” Portia said.
“Or ten days,” Kemara concluded. She looked at Sean. “I
don’t think I can stand not knowing for sure any longer.
This past week has been awful.”
He sighed. “Yeah. Neither of us has been sleeping very
well,” he told Portia. “I say, we need to get it over with.”
“I think that’s a good decision in your circumstances,” the
“Especially since I can’t take my anti-anxiety meds right
now,” Kemara said, only half joking.
Portia smiled. “Very true. We need you as calm and relaxed
as possible. If finding out will do that, then I’m all for
Kemara nodded. “So how will you do the test?”
“Maybe…it would be better if you didn’t know until they
actually do it,” Sean suggested. “Otherwise you won’t sleep
at all tonight.”
She glared at him. “I’d rather know instead of imagining it
will be worse than it is.”
He held up both hands. “Okay, okay…It was just a
Kemara turned back to Portia expectantly.
“There are two methods depending on how the babies are
positioned,” the doctor said. “One version uses a needle
that’s inserted through the abdomen and the uterus.”
“Sounds like an amnio,” Sean said. “Ciara had that done with
Parker. She said it didn’t really hurt,” he told Kemara who
had gone even paler.
Portia nodded. “The other technique uses a very thin tube
inserted through the vagina into the cervix and the uterus.
I’m told it feels like having a pap smear.”
Kemara snorted. “Sure. Just like when you were little and
the doctor said shots are, “just a little pinch.”
“Well, I can promise you that the whole thing takes about
thirty minutes,” Portia said. “Afterward, we’ll monitor you
and the babies for an hour or so, and then you can go home."
Kemara closed her eyes and sent a brief prayer Joshua's way.
"All right," she said, opening her eyes. "Let's do this."
Sean squeezed her hand. "Are you okay?"
"Yeah." Kemara let out a long breath as the technician drew
a blanket over her and switched off the ultrasound machine.
"Glad it's over." She winced.
"What's wrong?" Sean looked alarmed.
"Just a cramp. It's fine."
"Hello!" Portia said coming in. "How'd it go?"
Kemara gave her a wan smile. "They had to do both ways to
reach both placentas, so that was fun."
Portia patted her shoulder. "I'm sorry. How're you feeling
"A little crampy," Kemara said. "And I really have to pee."
She made a face.
"Yes, I've had several patients say the full bladder is
worse than the procedure itself! You can go ahead and get
dressed. There's a bathroom just down the hall on the
"Do I need to come back in here?"
The doctor nodded. "I'd like you resting for a while yet
before we turn you loose. I'm sure Sean can entertain you."
He shook his head. "I'd rather she took a nap - I think she
stayed up all night reading."
"Guilty!" Kemara said, reaching for her clothes on a nearby
chair. "I kept telling myself 'just five more minutes,' and
before I knew it, it was 2 o'clock."
"A nap sounds like an excellent idea," Portia said. "I'll
look in on you later. If the cramping gets very bad or you
start bleeding, tell a nurse immediately. The technician
will be in and out, but don't wait."
Kemara nodded. "We won't."
Portia left, closing the door behind her.
"Will you text Mom and Dad and your parents? I know they're
waiting to hear."
"Sure." Sean got busy with his phone while Kemara dressed
and walked slowly down the hall.
When she returned and lay down again, Sean said, "They all
asked for you to take it easy and to tell you they're
"I'll give them a call tomorrow," Kemara said. "Read me
something while we wait?"
“You don’t want to try to sleep?”
She shifted fretfully. “No. I can’t get comfortable. I will
when we get home.”
Sean rooted in the tote bag they had brought and pulled out
a book. "I was looking at this one yesterday, and marked
something I liked."
He read about how finding out your child will have special
needs is like planning a vacation to Italy and ending up in
Holland - nice enough in its way, but not what you had
When he finished, Kemara sighed. “I like that. And you might
not stay in Holland always. Maybe you figure out a way to
visit Italy, too.”
“Or at least let one of your kids go and enjoy the postcards
he sends back,” Sean said closing the book.
Kemara patted her bulge, careful of the bandage. “I hope
he’s not feeling neglected.”
Sean laughed. “I doubt it!”
There was a knock at the door and the technician, Darla,
came in. “I guess I don’t have to ask how you’re feeling if
the two of you are laughing,” she said coming over to
“Just cramps, but I’m used to a lot worse during that time
of the month,” Kemara said.
“Let me take one last look, and then you can go home. Rest
today and tomorrow. No heavy lifting, and no intercourse for
It was Kemara’s turn to laugh at Sean’s look of outrage.
“I think we’ll survive.”
They watched as the screen showed both babies moving
slightly in their watery cocoons.
“I don’t think it bothered them at all,” Darla said, wiping
the gel off Kemara’s stomach. “But as I’m sure Dr. Goodwin
told you, call if the cramps get worse or you start
Kemara nodded. “I will. Thank you.”
“Do you want to get something to eat,” Sean asked as they
took the elevator down to the lobby a few minutes later.
“No. All of a sudden I’m just really tired.”
He hugged her. “Okay. we still have some of the soup Diana
gave us in the fridge.”
“That’s sounds good.” She yawned. “Remind me I need to email
Kylie, Emma and Rose after my nap so we can work out our
“You deserve some fun after all this,” he said. “What’re you
going to do? All try on the same outfit to make sure it
She smiled. “I guess! If it was winter we’d have an easier
time - leggings and long sweaters.”
“They’re not due until December at the latest,” Sean pointed
out. “You might get to that point.”
Kemara looked thoughtful. “True. I’ll go through my closet
tonight and see what I’ve got that could work.”
After lunch and a two-hour nap, Kemara emailed her three
friends. They decided that Saturday would be perfect for a
“The stores should have their summer things out since it’s
past Memorial Day,” Kylie wrote. “But the crowds will
probably be huge.”
“We’ll manage,” Rose replied. “I’m looking forward to it.”
“If I get tired, I’ll get one of those motorized scooters,”
Kemara joked. “That will clear a path!”
Emma wrote back. “You’re not that big yet! :) See you all on
That done, Kemara turned her attention to the closet and
When Sean checked on her, he found the bedroom strewn with
clothing. Kemara sat on the floor, looking hot and
“Aren’t you supposed to be resting?” he asked from the
She tossed a pair of jeans on the growing pile. “I feel
fine. And I’m not really moving around that much. The pants
I can tell just by looking at them. It’s the shirts I have
to try on.”
She reached into an open drawer and pulled out a cream Aran
sweater. Unfolding it, she began to laugh. Then, to Sean’s
amazement, she hugged it close and bent over, shoulders
Frightened, Sean hurried to her. “Kemara? What’s wrong? Are
you hurting? Do I need to call Portia?”
Kemara raised her head, and he saw she was laughing and
crying at the same time. “No, I’m fine…”
She held out the sweater. “This...this was Joshua’s. When he
left - that first time - he gave it to me. Then, I couldn’t
wear it, cause it was huge. So, I just put it away. But
“Now it might actually fit,” Sean finished. He helped her to
her feet. “Try it on. And don’t scare me like that again.”
The garment came down to her knees.
“I bet when the babies are born and right after, it will be
perfect with some leggings. And before that with a belt,”
Kemara said looking at the result in the mirror.
She grinned at Sean. “If you don’t mind me wearing another
man’s clothes, that is,” she teased.
“I guess I’ll allow it this once, considering who the Man
is,” he said, looking over her shoulder. He wrapped his arms
around her, their joined hands resting over her belly.
“Joshua knew you wouldn’t be able to wear it before now,” he
She nodded. “I’ve been thinking about what happened with
Lily at Easter. I think what he said then was as much for us
as it was for your dad. About her not needing to be healed.”
“I know. He certainly is sly,” Sean said with admiration.
Kemara laughed. “Sly like a fox!”
“That’s so cool!” Rose said as they finished breakfast at
Willowveil Saturday morning. “I hope you do get the chance
to wear it.”
Kemara made a rueful face. “Well, since my doctor wants me
to gain about fifty pounds, I’m sure I will. I can’t imagine
how long it’ll take to get back to my normal weight.”
Diana chuckled. “Once the babies come you’ll be too busy and
sleep-deprived to worry about it. You’ll just look in the
mirror one day and and think, ‘When did that happen?’”
“So what do the rest of you have planned for today?” Emma
Diana shrugged. “JenniAnn and I haven’t really decided yet.”
“Maybe we could make up a picnic and take them down to the
beach?” the other woman suggested looking over to the
blanket where Manny and Belle were playing together.
“That’s a great idea. It’s never too soon to get them used
to the water.”
“You’re welcome to use the bathroom in Sol Mate or
whatever,” Kemara said. “Sean’s going to be helping Andrew
all day, right?”
Her husband nodded. “Yeah, that’s the plan right now. Of
course, newbie that I am, I doubt I’ll last until
Andrew grinned. “I’ll go easy on you.”
“Thanks. I’m more used to fooling around with my truck,”
“Well, the Jolly Green could use a tune up,” Andrew
JenniAnn smirked, and Andrew pretended to glare.
“Just remembering that time you killed Tess’s car,” JenniAnn
said, beginning to giggle.
Kemara and Rose joined in the laughter, but Sean, Kylie and
Emma looked interested.
“Oh? Tess had a car? I don’t think I’ve heard this story,”
So, with JenniAnn adding details he forgot, Andrew told them
about the assignment where he turned Tess’ beloved Caddy
into a pile of junk.
“I hadn’t heard about that assignment either,” Emma said as
the the four women left the theater in Manhattan about half
an hour later.
“Neither had I,” Kylie giggled again. “I bet Tess is scary
when she’s angry.”
Rose shivered. “She can be pretty fearsome. Okay, where to
first?” she asked Kemara.
“I want to get something nice for Kylie and Clay’s wedding
next month.” Kemara smiled at Kylie. “But since I have no
idea how big I’ll be by then, that will be fun.”
She pulled up a map on her phone. “There’s a boutique just
“It doesn’t need to be too fancy,’ Kylie said as they set
off. “Since we’re having it at the farm and it’ll be hot, a
nice summer dress would do - no satin or lace or anything.”
“Maybe something loose and flowy that you could wear a belt
with,” Emma suggested.
In the small shop they found a deep pink sleeveless dress
made of layers of filmy soft, material. It was slightly
longer in the back and nearly ankle length when Kemara held
it up in front of her.
“It’s kinda long….”
Rose shook her head. “Once you get it on your front will
make it shorter.”
Kemara glanced down at her chest. “Oh, yeah….I need to get
bigger undergarments, too.”
“Go ahead and try it on,” Emma urged her.
When Kemara came out of the dressing room in her bare feet,
Kylie held out a pair of sandals with low heels.
“See how these look.”
Holding onto the door jam, Kemara did so. “I dunno….my
balance is worse than usual these days.” She took a few
careful steps toward the mirror.
“I’m sure Sean won’t mind if you hold onto him for support
all night,” Rose said with a smile.
Kemara stood in front of the mirror turning this way and
“I think it looks great,” Emma said. She took an identical
dress off the rack and held it in front of her. “And I like
the color, too.”
Kylie did the same. “Me too.”
And Rose. “And me.”
Kemara laughed. “Well, I guess it’s unanimous!”
She changed back into her own clothes and bought the dress,
settling it carefully in the large tote bag she carried.
“I don’t think it will wrinkle, so that’s good,” Rose said
as they left.
“That’s okay. I’ll probably wash everything as soon as we
get back anyway.” Kemara consulted her list. “Oh, there’s a
consignment shop two blocks over that Mom and I visited last
time she was here. It’s got some really cute kid stuff,
They picked up two pairs of leggings, several casual shirts
and a belly band which Diana had recommended.
“She said it’s really comfortable and supportive.” Kemara
Emma studied the package doubtfully. “Looks like a girdle to
me, or a giant elastic band.”
“I guess it is, really. But it can’t be much worse than
what’s going to be supporting my upper half.” Kemara held up
a maternity bra in dismay. “It just looks like some kind of
Kylie giggled. “Can you imagine if guys got pregnant and had
to wear something like that?”
“The human race would be doomed,” Rose rolled her eyes.
They had lunch at Adrian’s which wasn’t as crowded as they
“So how are your parents - and Sean’s - handling all this?”
Rose asked Kemara once they had placed their orders.
“Megan and Keith have been really great. I thought they
might be clingy, but they aren’t.” Kemara unfolded her
napkin and placed it in her lap with great care.
Rose was watching her closely. “And Joyce and David?”
Kemara bit her lip. “They’re...devastated,” she said
quietly. “It’s just because they remember everything they
went through with me when I was born. And then all that once
I started school.” She blinked back tears.
“They want to visit, but since they were just here….” She
shrugged. “And they have enough to do getting the house and
business ready to sell. We talk on Skype every couple of
days so they can see how much I’m expanding.”
A spasm of pain crossed Emma’s face, but Kylie was the only
one who noticed.
They were silent for a minute, and then Kemara took a deep
“But enough about me! How’re the wedding plans going,
As they ate, talk turned from Kylie and Clay’s upcoming
nuptials to Rose and Max’s college courses.
While Emma participated, Kylie noticed that she often
appeared deep in thought, a slight frown on her face.
“Emma?” Kemara had seen it, too. “Are you alright?”
“I’m fine!” Emma made an effort to smile.
“So, what’s your favorite class so far?” she asked Rose.
The group returned to Dyeland in late afternoon, laden down
At Sol Mate, they found Diana and JenniAnn already gone and
a note of thanks on the kitchen table.
As Rose helped Kemara sort the new clothes and start a load
of laundry, Kylie at last took the chance to speak with
“Hey there. Are you okay?”
Emma looked up from Kemara’s copy of “What to Expect When
You’re Expecting” that she’d found on the coffee table.
Kylie sat beside Emma on the couch and hugged her.
“I asked if you’re okay. A few times while we were shopping,
I thought you looked upset. And now... just kinda of in your
own little world.”
Emma tried to smile.
“It... it’s Kemara’s day and...”
A tear splashed down Emma’s cheek.
The two women looked up to find that Kemara and Rose had
“Emma,” Kemara repeated, “has something happened?”
Emma swiped at her face and shook her head.
“No... no. Nothing at all. I’m just... emotional for some
Kylie continued to study her friend. She was quite sure Emma
knew exactly why she was feeling so down.
Kemara took a seat to Emma’s other side.
“When Rose and I were coming in from the hall, I thought I
heard you say it’s my day. Well, it is. But it’s your day,
too. And Kylie’s and Rose’s. God made this day for all of
Rose nodded. “And I think if there’s something you
feel like talking about during this day, then we should.”
After slowly inhaling and exhaling a few times as Dr. Sayer
had taught her, Emma smiled at her three friends.
“I... I had a really good time today and you looked adorable
in the clothes you tried on, Kemara. But I... I guess
it made me think about...” She blushed. “Peter and
I... we’d really like to have kids some day but... but what
if... if I can’t?”
“What would make you think you can’t?” Rose gently
Emma stared down at her hands.
“Don’t you think... I mean... all... all those times with
Derek... But I never... never got pregnant.”
The others looked at each other in some alarm.
“Sweetie, didn’t he use protection?” Kylie asked as she
gently stroked Emma’s back.
Emma shook her head. “He... he said he didn’t need to
because... cause he’d only ever been with... with Jodi and
they hadn’t done anything for years and he trusted me
and...” A sob cut her off.
Rose quickly fetched a glass of water for Emma. After she’d
taken a few sips, Kemara spoke.
“And birth control?”
“Yeah... but only after it had gone on for months. My
mom suggested I go on it. It... it’s one reason I
think she knew but just didn’t... didn’t care.”
“Have you talked to your doctor about it?” Kylie queried.
Emma shook her head.
“I think you should, just to give you peace of mind,” Rose
encouraged. “But... without getting too nosy... is
Derek the only reason you’re worried?”
Emma nodded. “I stayed on birth control after that...
I mean I’m not on it now but before... and at some point I
at least got enough sense to insist on protection so...
Kemara squeezed her hand. “Emma, you must have been so
stressed back then. And stress and conception don’t go very
“That’s exactly right,” Kylie averred. “And it’ll be
different with Peter. You know it will.”
Emma truly smiled as she thought of her fiancé.
“Yeah... it will,” she agreed. “And you’re right. I
was really... really stressed.”
“And even if, for some reason, you and Peter couldn’t have
children that way... that’s not the only way to raise a
family, Emma,” Rose counseled. “Look at Andrew and JenniAnn
with their kids. And Monica with Liam. Catherine and
Vincent with Jacob. Father with Vincent. And the example to
end all examples... Yosef and Joshua.”
The women all smiled as she thought of them.
Emma let out a sigh.
“That’s true, too. I guess I just need to trust that...that
Joshua will bring us the children we’re meant to have,
however that happens.”
Kemara rested a hand on her own belly and patted her little
“That’s the best any of us can do.”
To all our
friends and family,
Portia confirmed this morning what we had already
suspected: Our baby girl, Joy, does have Down syndrome.
Even though we were pretty sure, it was still a blow. We
don’t know what the future holds for her or her brother,
Ian, but we’re trusting in the One who does.
Father Mike is on his way over for dinner and a chat, so
I’d better close. Thank you for all your prayers.
Kemara and Sean
To be continued...
Author’s note: I have no personal knowledge of Down
syndrome, and the little I have presented here is the
product of many hours of researching websites, books and
forum posts. For more information, this website is a good
place to start: http://www.ndss.org/Down-Syndrome/What-Is-Down-Syndrome/.
“Welcome to Holland” is copyright 1987 by Emily Pearl
Kingsley and can be found here: http://www.our-kids.org/archives/Holland.html
"Camelot" from Camelot
The Walking Dead
What to Expect When You're Expecting by Heidi Murkoff
and Sharon Mazel
Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson
Winnie the Pooh by A.A. Milne
Cat in the Hat by Dr. Seuss
Luke 2:10- "Fear not... glad tidings"
“Welcome to Holland” by Emily Pearl Kingsley
to the Author's Cut