Glad Tidings Part 1

“For You created my inmost being; You knit me together in my mother’s womb.
I praise You because I am fearfully and wonderfully made.” ~ Ps. 139

April 6

“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 toys….”

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 it is.”

“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 things!”

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. So there!”

“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 look better.”

“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 one’s caffeine-free.”

“Thanks.” She took the cup he handed her. “So how did your day go?”

“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 so scatterbrained.”

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 sorts.”

She rolled her eyes. “Did Diana tell you to be patient with me?”

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.”

April 7

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 table.

“Everything set?" He asked anxiously when she came back inside.

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 month away!"

"Really? That can't be right. Is that all she said?"

"Pretty much. And I should start taking folic acid and a prenatal vitamin."

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 been."

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 about yet."

"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 inside me.”

 “Freaky,” he agreed. “Think you’ll be up for dance class tonight?”

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. Amazing.”

“And what he said to your dad - about her not needing to be healed.”

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 would.”

“Papa Bear, huh?” Kemara teased. “Well, Lily’s answer was perfect.”

“Yeah. She’s pretty awesome. I hope ours turn out half as well.”

“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 along.”

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….”

Kemara groaned.

“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 be.” 

“That’s true.”

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 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 on, huh?”

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 about?”

“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 stuff.”

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 aisles.

“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 show you.”

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 2”.

“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 flattered.”

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 Manhattan.

“Yeah, I probably wouldn’t have picked this one,” Kemara said flipping through the multiples book.

“Anything interesting?”

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 stuff.”

“I think you just want to play with my camera,” she teased.

He leered. “It’s more taking pictures of you that interests me.”

“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 trying.

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 illustration.

“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. “Hey!”

“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?” Sean suggested.
She raised her eyebrows. “You mean you have questions Google can’t answer?”

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.”


“Hey, guys!”
“Kemara and Sean are here!”
“How was Ireland?”
Their friends crowded around as soon as they stepped into the studio.

“Wow!” Sean joked. “If I didn’t know better, I’d think you missed us.”

“Of course we did,” Elaine said hugging him. “I hope you brought pictures.”

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 add.”

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 for me!”

“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 pretty motivated.”

“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 wedding….”

Kemara’s expression turned dreamy. “Tiny gillies? Yes, please!”

“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 in unison.

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 terrifying.

April 13

For the second time in twenty minutes, Kemara looked down the road leading from Willowveil, but there was no sign of Sean’s truck.

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 hands.

“Don’t touch!”

“I won’t. But that’s a umm...big change. Trust me, I can tell.”

“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 just….just….”

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 Ireland.

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 said.

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 private time.”

David smiled. “Sounds like a good idea to me!”

“What does?” Joyce narrowed her eyes. “What are you boys planning?”

“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 are?”

Caught, Joyce could do nothing but join in the others’ laughter.

April 14

After seeing Sean and David off to Brewster the next morning, Kemara and Joyce took the alley portal to Manhattan.

“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 laughed.

“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 ask.

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 clothes.

“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 said.

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.

“Very good.”

“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 have kids.”

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 disappointed.”

The arrival of their salads saved Kemara from having to reply. They ate in silence for a while, enjoying the warm spring afternoon.

“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 it?”

Kemara shook her head.

“Actually….” Joyce took a deep breath. “Your Dad and I have been talking…..”

“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 we leave.”

“Wow….” Kemara shook her head. “How long have you guys been planning this?”

Joyce was watching her closely. “Since January or so. And when you called and said you were 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 business….”

“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 year.”

“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 appearance!”

“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 tomorrow.”

Kemara shuddered. “I’d probably run screaming if they didn’t!”

Joyce reached the menu. “I know I don’t have to ask if you want dessert?”

“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 often.”

“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 after JenniAnn.

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 huge.”

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 daughter’s cheek.

“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, exercising….”

“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 protest.

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 come, too?”

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 come too.”

“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 her back?”

“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 mustard.”

“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 minutes.”

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 pictures.

“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 did.”

Joyce chuckled. “Kemara used to! Put her down and she ran straight for the water - yanking off her clothes on the way.”

“Mom!” Kemara blushed. “Luckily, that’s a habit I’ve outgrown.”

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 before that.”

“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 it.”

“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 disappear…”

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 Radio Margaritaville.

“On that note….” Joyce handed her a glass of the drink in question.

“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 missing?”

His reply made her blink back tears. “Missing you more than the party.”

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.” Kemara sighed.

“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 expansive deck.

“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 neighborhood.

“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 grandson.

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 happen.”

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.

“I know…”

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 kinda scary.”

He pulled her close. “Well, I promise we’re not going anywhere.”

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.

“Morning, Kemara!”

“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 starts college.”

“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 carnival rides.”

“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 Wednesday.”

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 these.”

“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” pay-what-you-want principles.

“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 much.”

“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 okay.”

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 up.”

“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 here.”

“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 the conversation.

“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 portal.

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 happily.

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 first season.”

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 trailed off.

“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 lunch.”

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!”

April 24

“Are you sure you want to do this? You could always go later.”

“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 her.”

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 some coffee?”

“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 stomach.

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 started.

“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 you like?”

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 Kemara.

“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 day?”

“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.”

“Hey, Monica!”

Kemara heard a familiar voice and looked out to see Matthew and Tyron.

“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. “But…”

“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, blah.” 

He noticed Kemara’s puzzled look. “Have you had one of Monica’s sandwiches?”

“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, ‘it’s heavenly’.”

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 surprise me!”
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 amazing.

“ 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 windows.

“Aunt Kemara?”

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 hate that.”

“Uh-huh. It wasn’t bad though. Grandpa Vincent won’t let anyone laugh.”

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 come?”

“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 gone.

“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.

“What’s up?”

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 lasagna.”

“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 bread.

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 substance.”

“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 wondered.

Adam and Monica exchanged glances. “It’s a secret,” they chorused.

Kemara shook her head. “Like Monica’s ‘heavenly’ sauce. Pair that with Adam’s non-meat, and she had folks lining up down the block.”

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.

April 28

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 it.”

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 laughing about.”

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 count Warren.”

“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 up.

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 felt.

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 suppressed laughter.

“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 them. “Congratulations!”

“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 over.

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 choice.”

“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 Children’s.”

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 minutes.”

When she had left, shutting the door, Sean asked, “Want some help?”

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 table, shivering.

“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 nurse.

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 blushed.

“Well, it feels like you’re further along than those dates would say.”

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 families?”

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 ultrasound today?”

“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 information.”

“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 manner.”

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 repeated.

“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 wants.” 

Sean sighed and ran a hand through his hair. “Okay. I’m sorry to’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 of you.”

“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.

May 2

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 over.

“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 door.

“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 hands.

“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 you on?”

“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 fun.”

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 after that.”

“Not that we pay any attention,” Ciara added, smirking at her older brother.

Sean looked hurt. “Everyday is a day to celebrate me,” he informed them.

“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 do?”

“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 is.”

“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 JenniAnn.”

“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 good.”

“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.

May 10

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 Adrian’s.

“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 myself.”

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 side.”

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 some?”

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 read it.”

Dear Mama,
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 better? 
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 kite.”

“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 red.”

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 sleep.”

She laughed. “If you can do something like that while sleep deprived, more power to you! I plan to listen to audiobooks myself.”

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!”

May 15

“Oh, no!”

“What’s wrong?” Sean came hurrying into the living room at Kemara’s cry.

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 another thing.”

“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.”

“Me too….”


When they did meet the doctor, he put them at ease at once. He was an older gentleman with iron gray hair and a compassionate expression.

“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 him.

“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 look?”

Kemara did so, and he pressed in various places on her abdomen.

“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 her arm.

“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 today.”

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 again.

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 picture appeared.

“Oh my….”


Deborah moved the wand over Kemara’s abdomen and the picture grew clearer.

“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 the arms.”

“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 washing machine!”

“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 up.”

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 okay.”

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 all day.”

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 done.”

“What kinds of tests?” Kemara and Sean exchanged a worried glance.

“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 said.

“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 birth.”

“Sounds like a good idea," Sean said. Kemara nodded her agreement.

“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 weeks."

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, but...."

"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 regular-size mug.”

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 appreciate it."

"My pleasure. You four take care." With a wave, he left the room.

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 animals.

“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!”

May 16

“So what was college like for you?” Sean asked as he and Kemara walked along the beach the evening of Ivy’s graduation.

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 each other.”

“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 come.”

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.”


May 21

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 of days?”

“That’s fine; there’s no rush. Are you heading back to Dyeland?” Catherine asked as Kemara repacked everything in her bag.

“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 at noon.”

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 tapped answer.


“Mrs. McCallum?”

“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 I can.”

“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 minute.”

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 with you.”

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 room.

“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 again?”

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 smaller.

“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 your relationship.”

She took the card automatically, and he started for the door.

“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 information desk.


She raced across the lobby and threw herself into his arms, weeping hysterically.

“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 her shoulders.

“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 relationship.”

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 brother-in-law’s shoulder.

“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 now.”

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 time….”

“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 hospital.”

“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 respond.

“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 here."


No one spoke as Brad drove through the alley portal.

At Sol Mate, Megan asked, "Are you sure you don't want us to stay?"

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 other out."

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 eyes.

“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 insensitive comments.

“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 him?

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 genetic?".


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 were hereditary.

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 his shoulder.

"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 notion.


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 speak.

“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 go on.

“There’s a 70 percent chance the girl has Down syndrome,” Sean finished.

“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 at all.

“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 blue mug.

Kemara shook her head. “I don’t know. It’s 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 contradictory.”

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 came here.”

She knew they needed to, but right now it was just too big,

“I wouldn’t even know where to start…” she trailed off helplessly.

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 everything.”

“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 thing.” 


“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 least.

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 like?”

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 angel’s point.

“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 word.”

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.

“Sure thing.”

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 uncomfortable.”

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 hopeful now.”

“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 right.”

“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 right now.”

“Agreed,” Arthur said. “Even so, it’s a fair question, Violeta.”

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 families.”

“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 out.

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 back'?"

“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 dealing with.”

“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 altar.

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 handkerchief.

“Thanks.” Kemara mopped at her aching eyes. “It’s been a really horrible day.” She blushed. “I’m sorry. I shouldn’t say that.”

“Why not?”

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 acted.”

“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 our son.”

“But you knew he was the Son of God, the Messiah.” Kemara said, confused.

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 is.”

Kemara clenched her jaw. “Not if Sean has anything to say about it.”

“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 right now.

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 comfort her.”

“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 before that.”

“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 world.”

“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, betrayed.”


“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 son, remembering.


“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 him?

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 are.”

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.

“Yes, please!”

“You will talk with many people over the next day or so. I would suggest that on Sunday and Monday - that is a holiday, I believe?”

Kemara nodded.

“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. 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 very shortly.”

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.”

“We will.”

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 good present?”

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 excuse.”

“But I know there’s a reason,” Kemara said, quietly. “I can tell when you’re holding something back. You’ve been distant all afternoon.”

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 was....horrible."

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 finished sadly.

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 furious.”

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."

“You’re sure?”

“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 ourselves.”

“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.”

May 23

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 it.

“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 Sean.

“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 friendlier.”

Kemara frowned. “Are there many people with Downs in New York?’

“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 city.”

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 bird.”

“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 said.

“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 anyone else.”

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 so…”

“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 Andrew’s shoulder.

“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 office.

“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 the beginning.”

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 training.”

Basil returned holding a shopping bag. “Here you go! Keep them as long as you want and then pass them on to someone else.”

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 her.”

With laughter and more thanks, the group left the shop.

May 26

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 on Saturday?"

"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 reading."

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 is she?"

​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 pointed out.

"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 years ago."

"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 who nodded.

“Good. So, where we go from here is up to you.” Portia shuffled through Kemara’s records and removed a sheet of paper.

“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 along.”

“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 of times.”

“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 doctor said.

“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 it.”

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 suggestion.”

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."

May 27

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 now?"

"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 right."

"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 praying."

"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 planned.

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 Kemara.

“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 72 hours.”


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 bleeding.”

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 shopping trip.”

“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 suits?”

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 shopping trip.

“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 Saturday!”

That done, Kemara turned her attention to the closet and dresser drawers.

When Sean checked on her, he found the bedroom strewn with clothing. Kemara sat on the floor, looking hot and disheveled.

“Aren’t you supposed to be resting?” he asked from the doorway.

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 shaking.

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…”

“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 said.

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!”

May 30

“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 asked.

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 lunchtime.”

Andrew grinned. “I’ll go easy on you.”

“Thanks. I’m more used to fooling around with my truck,” Sean said.

“Well, the Jolly Green could use a tune up,” Andrew admitted.

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,” Sean said.

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 down here.”

“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 that.

“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, too.”

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 said.

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 torture device!”

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 had feared.

“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 breath.

“But enough about me! How’re the wedding plans going, Kylie?”

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 with bags.

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 Emma.
“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 returned.
“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 reason and...”
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 us.”
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 questioned.
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... yes.”
Kemara squeezed her hand.  “Emma, you must have been so stressed back then. And stress and conception don’t go very well together.”
“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 ones.
“That’s the best any of us can do.”

June 5

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.

Much love,
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: “Welcome to Holland” is copyright 1987 by Emily Pearl Kingsley and can be found here:

Works cited:
Psalm 139
"Camelot" from Camelot
Downton Abbey
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

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