Glad Tidings Part 2

Friday, 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

Saturday, June 6

Sean stared at the unfamiliar number on his cellphone. Probably a telemarketer. But…it could be one of Kemara’s - or the twins’ - doctors even on a Saturday. To his surprise, it was.

“Portia! Hey, I didn’t recognize the number.”

“Sorry. I’m not at the office right now. I forgot I haven’t given you my cell.”

“That’s okay. Uh, not that I’m not glad to hear from you, but is something wrong?”

Sean peeked into the living room. Kemara was lying on the couch with her eyes closed. He thought she was asleep, but just in case he lowered his voice.

“Did the results show anything else?”

He almost couldn’t get the words out. No, please...not after what they had learned yesterday. True, they had already been 99 percent sure, but reading the truth in black and white had stripped away any tiny bit of hope they had clung to.

“Oh! No, no, everything with Kemara and the babies is fine. But yes, there’s something wrong.”

She stopped and took a shuddering breath. Was she crying?

“It’s JenniAnn. She was shot this afternoon.”

“What?” It was too loud. He knew it. But when he looked again, she hadn’t stirred. “Just a minute, Portia.”

He went into the bedroom and pulled the door nearly closed. “Sorry. Kemara’s taking a nap. Did you say JenniAnn has been shot?”

Portia sighed. “She and Catherine had gone out to lunch. When they got back to the Phoenix a man with a gun was there demanding to see his wife. He grabbed JenniAnn - as a hostage, I guess. Someone tried to intervene, and the gun went off. JenniAnn was shot in the chest.”

Sean’s own heart skipped. “But…she’s not…”

“She’s in surgery right now. But they just don’t know yet. Eli is texting everyone else, but Andrew wanted me to call you so you can tell Kemara. He didn’t think she should find out that way...especially after the past few weeks - and yesterday.”

“Tell...tell him thank you. Do we need to come to the hospital?”

“Not right now. There’s nothing you could do but wait. And those chairs would only make Kemara uncomfortable.”

Sean gave a watery laugh. “And she gets grumpy when she’s uncomfortable.”

“So pretty much all the time?” Portia asked. He could hear a smile in her voice.

“I don’t mind….much.”

She did laugh then. “We’ll keep you updated.”

“Thanks. Tell Andrew, Max, Rose and Violeta that we’re praying for them all.”

“Will do.”

Sean ended the call, and, taking a deep breath walked into the living room.

Kemara was struggling to sit up. He smiled as he always did at the sight of her. This was the first day of her second trimester, but already strangers were asking when she was due. Overnight her abdomen had expanded, dwarfing the rest of her petite frame. He teased her, singing “Drunken Sailor” whenever she lurched more than usual trying to balance the load.

“Was that Portia?”

Damn. He hadn’t meant for her to hear anything.

“Yeah.” He sat beside her on the couch, and lifted her legs across his lap. Resigned, she lay back against the pillows again.

“What did she want? I’m so tired of appointments….”

“It - it wasn’t about you or the babies, actually.” Automatically, he rested a hand on her bulge and patted it reassuringly.

She was watching him closely. He could never get anything past her. “What then?”

“She said....” How was he supposed to tell her? Just say it straight out. “She said JenniAnn was shot this afternoon.”

The neutral mask dropped over her expression. Before their marriage he’d never seen it; lately, he’d seen it a lot. He imagined it was the one she’d worn while reporting on a horrible traffic accident or a murder trial. It said, “I can’t deal with this right now. I’ll lock it all away and go to pieces later when I have time and a private place to scream.” 


He knew she cared - cared terribly for JenniAnn, loved her like a sister. But there was something cold and…distant about that look. It wasn’t healthy. He wanted the real her back: passionate, quick to take offense, with a dry wit that matched his own.

“What did Portia say?” she asked quietly.

“JenniAnn was shot in the chest by someone guy who showed up at the Phoenix. She’s in surgery now.”

“So she’s still alive….”

For now. But he didn’t say it.

“Yes. Portia said we don’t need to come to the hospital, but Andrew wanted to let everyone know.”

She nodded. “OK.”

She tried to sit up again and he helped her, reaching for more pillows to put behind her back. But to his surprise, she heaved herself to her feet instead.

She went over to the window and stood looking out.

“You know, when JenniAnn first showed me Dyeland I thought, ‘This can’t be real. It’s like a fairy tale.’ And the funny thing was the longer I lived here, the bigger the fairy tale grew. I had friends and work and then I met you and we got married and then the babies….And I told myself, ‘Nothing bad can happen here.’ It’s a safe place...protected.”

She turned around, and he saw the mask beginning to crack.

“But it’s not. And I was so stupid to think it was. This last month and now JenniAnn…”

The tears were coming, now streaming over her cheeks. “It’s like you said at the wedding. She and Andrew are the center of Dyeland. And if there’s no center, then what happens?”

Sean went to her and held her close. “You weren’t stupid to think that way. This place gave you hope - hope for friends, love, a future. And whatever happens to JenniAnn, we still have that.” He smiled. “Actually, we have more than hope.”

“Joshua….” Kemara murmured. “Do you think He’s with JenniAnn?”

“I know he is,” Sean said. He stepped back. “Now, dry your eyes, and we’ll have a little talk with Him about His intentions.”

Tuesday, June 9

When Kemara woke, she lay still for a while thinking over the events of the past few days: The potluck supper at Willowveil, planning the benefit concert, hearing the news of JenniAnn’s seizure and then, last night, of Violeta’s encounter with the two demons.

“You look awfully serious,” Sean said.

She hadn’t realized he was awake. “Just thinking.”

“About JenniAnn?”

“And everything.” She gave a wry laugh. “I just realized: I’m either gonna learn how to wait patiently over the next six months or go mad. So much waiting…”

“We’ll just have to keep looking forward and making plans. And you know what? I bet JenniAnn will wake up today.”

She smiled in spite of herself. “That would be great.”

“Yeah. I figure something has to give soon, or poor Andrew will break. If JenniAnn’s with Joshua they probably know everything that’s going on back here.”

“That’s true.” Kemara stretched and glanced at the window. “Do we have time to go for a walk before we need to be at the theater? i think I could use some fresh air.”

Sean glanced at the bedside clock. “Sure. Breakfast isn’t until 7.”

As she got dressed, Kemara prayed that he was right, and JenniAnn would return to them soon.
“Look at all this food,” Kemara said as those who had come from Dyeland arrived at St. Genesius for the breakfast their friend Moishe had offered to cater.

“Yeah, it might be enough to satisfy even your appetite,” Sean teased.

She rolled her eyes, but felt cheered. She spotted Moishe behind the long tables. He’d been dour, and grumpy when she and Joshua had gone to pick up dinner for the JCS production. Now, he was chatting and laughing with Emma and Peter, a changed man.


Sean was looking at her with concern, and she realized she’d been staring into space.

“I’m all right,” she assured him. “I was just thinking about how Joshua comes into your life, turns it upside down and changes it for the better.”

Eric, who was standing nearby, heard her.

“That’s so true!” He gestured at himself. “I mean, look at exhibit A, here!”

They all chuckled.

“Well, some of us did need to do more changing than others,” Kemara said. “Myself incl-....”

“She’s awake!”

Everyone froze for an instant, looking at Max who was on his cellphone. Then, a cheer went up,

Max waved his free hand for silence, and they quieted

“Yeah, that’s great news….She is?.....Have they said when she can come home?....Well, giver her our love. Rose, Violeta and I will be over as soon as we’ve eaten something….Love you, too.”

Max turned to them and ended the call.

“Maja woke up while Vincent and Catherine were visiting her. Dad said she’s talking and she seems fine….She...she was with Joshua the whole time. The doctors are checking her over now, so he doesn’t know yet when she’ll be able to come home.”

“But she’s awake,’ Diana said, hugging a weeping Violeta. “That’s the important part.”

“And now this is a real celebration,” Kylie added.

“Would someone like to bless the food?” Peter asked. “The sooner we eat, the sooner some of us can go see her.”

“I - I will,” Max choked out, wiping away happy tears.

“Joshua, thank you so much for sending Maja back to us. I know it must’ve been hard for you to let her go, but we’re all really glad to….to get more time with her. Thank you for showing us again that ‘weeping endures for a night, but joy comes in the morning’. Bless this food that Moishe has prepared for the nourishment of our bodies. We ask this in Your name. Amen.”

“Amen,” the others murmured and got in line to begin filling their plates.

“So I was right,” Sean said happily as he and Kemara found seats.

“Right about what?” Kylie and Clay sat down beside them.

“Sean predicted that JenniAnn would wake up today,” Kemara said.

Clay looked at him.

“So who’s going to win - the Yankees or the Nationals?”

“Haven’t a clue!” Sean said holding up both hands. “But they way they’ve been playing this season, I’d say the Yankees.”

Kylie and Kemara exchanged smiles.

“One mention of baseball….” Kemara said.

“I know!”

“I suppose it’s better than the football mania you get down South,  but maybe not by much.” She sighed.

“Missing your parents?” Kylie asked, sympathetically.

“Yes. Mom tries to be encouraging every time we talk, but I can tell it’s wearing on her, too. I’ll call them as soon as I’m done eating. They’ll be glad to hear about JenniAnn.”

“That’s a change from how they used to be!”

Kemara nodded. “Their last visit Mom was actually ordering Andrew around - nicely - and having conversations with JenniAnn.”

“Your mom ordered Andrew around?” Sean asked, wide-eyed. “When was this?”

“While you guys were off fishing. And it wasn’t like she was bossy. She just told Andrew to put down the video camera and go play with JenniAnn and Belle in the ocean.”

“I’m so glad they’ll be able to have more times like that,” Kylie sniffed.

Clay hugged her. “While I was in the rehab hospital, I did a lot of reading…I picked up the “Lord of the Rings” because it was a huge book, and I wanted something that would make me forget everything else. I remember one quote particularly. Frodo’s wishing that the Ring had never come his way, and Gandalf says, “All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given to us’.”

“Meaning that Joshua never promises any of us a long life,” Kemara murmured.

“Thank you for that succinct analysis, Miss English Major,” Sean said with his usual lack of solemnity.

“You’re welcome,” Kemara said. “That’s about all it’s good for these days.”

“When you two start snarking at each other, I know you’re in a good mood,” Max joked, coming over to them.

“It’s a defensive mechanism,” Kemara explained. “I had to learn fast.” She smiled at him. “Are you going to see JenniAnn, now?”

He nodded. “We’re going to pick up Shelby on the way. I was just wondering if you all have any messages for Maja?”
“Just what I’m sure everyone else had said: that we love her and hope she can come home soon,” Kylie said. The others nodded in agreement.

“You got it!”

Kyle and Clay excused themselves to call the Romanos and tell them the good news since Edward and Caleb had been manning their booth at the farmer’s market in Albany and unable to attend.

“OK. Spill it,” Sean said as soon as they were out of earshot. “I can tell something’s bothering you.”

Kemara blushed. “I was just….wondering what we’d do if something happened with either of us. Something medical, I mean.”

Sean put down his plate and gave her his full attention. “You mean something where one of us had to make a decision for the other?”

“Yeah…like what happened with JenniAnn but if the coma lasted for months or years.” She shuddered. “Or if one of us was in an accident and badly injured.”

“I’ve been thinking about that too, lately,” he admitted. “We should’ve talked about it before now.”

“But we were so focused on our honeymoon and then on the babies,” Kemara said.

“Well, I’ve had a living will for several years. I think that as long as there’s a chance for me to come back to my friends and family, I want to take it. But if I’m so badly hurt that I have no brain activity, then let me go. Simple as that.”

Kemara nodded slowly. “That’s how I feel, too. I should get something in writing. It’s just….until I got pregnant I didn’t really think about stuff like that. When I was a teen I considered suicide a couple of times when things were really bad. But when you’re in that state of mind, you’re not thinking about how your family will deal with your death. It’s all about you.”

She wiped at a tear. “But now….knowing that I’ll have to give birth, and with what happened to JenniAnn, I...can’t stop worrying about it. What if I left you and the twins? Or what if you lost all three of us?” She bit back a sob.

Sean wrapped his arms around her, swaying back and forth. “Shh….if either of those things happened it would tear me apart. Plus, I’d be upset that you got go live with Joshua and I still had to wait.”

Kemara giggled in spite of herself.

“That’s better. We’ll pray that it doesn’t happen, but we can make plans, in case it does,” Sean went on. “We can sit down with Mom and Dad’s lawyer whenever you want. He and I grew up together - he’s about three years older - and a great guy. We’ll talk about all of this and about Joy, too. How does that sound?”

“Okay,” Kemara rested her head on his shoulder. “Good thing you’re the brains in this family,” she joked weakly.

He pulled away and looked at her. “What’ve I told you about putting yourself down? I won’t stand for it. Beside I need your help with an idea I just had.”

She laughed. “Two ideas in three days. It must be a record! So what is it?”

“I think we should set up a Skype chat with JenniAnn tonight if she’s up to it.”

“Oh, I know she’d love that, and so would everyone else!”

“So let’s go tell them about it.”

Hand in hand, Kemara and Sean began making the rounds of their friends, to put his plan into action.

Wednesday, June 10

After a noisy, but very happy lunch, Kemara took up her Nikon and Sean grabbed Andrew’s video camera. They wandered around the castle and outside making photos and video of their friends: Jacob and Liam tossing a ball near the gazebo, small groups of people chatting in the ballroom, and - very discreetly - Andrew and JenniAnn deep in conversation with Max and Rose.

“I almost feel like we weren’t meant to see that,” Sean said as they went back downstairs.

Kemara clutched the banister with one hand and steadied her camera with the other. Her ever-increasing bulk meant her center of balance was constantly changing, making her unsteady on her feet.

“I think it was okay. We didn’t interrupt them, and it’s not like they have to show anyone the pictures or video.” She sighed in relief as they reached the bottom of the steps.

He smiled at her. “Tired?”

“A little. I’m definitely looking forward to a good, long sleep tonight. I’m tired of lying awake worrying or waking up every hour once I do manage to doze off”

“Me too. Let me take that.”

She handed over the camera gratefully. He set it and the camcorder on a hall chair and led the way into the ballroom.

“Did you get some good shots?” Emma asked handing them each a glass of tea from an assortment of drinks on the table.

“Thanks!” Kemara took a long sip. “I think so. We made sure we included everyone.”

“Has anyone mentioned what we’re doing for dinner, yet?”

Kemara rolled her eyes at Sean. “We just ate lunch!”

He shrugged, unapologetic. “With this crowd we need to start cooking now.”

“Eric suggested grilling some burgers,” Emma said.

“Oohh...grilled veggies,” Kemara moaned.

Sean laughed. “And here you are getting upset at me!”

She grabbed his hand. “Let’s go see what’s in the fridge! Like you said, it’ll take a while to get everything ready.”

Resigned, Sean let himself be pulled toward the kitchen.

A few minutes later, Andrew, Max and Belle joined them.

“Hey guys! How’s it going?”

“We’re having burgers for dinner, and Kemara suggested” Sean held up his knife.

Max chuckled. “I’m surprised she’s trusting you with sharp instruments!”

“Actually, it’s the other way around!” Kemara said. “He’s better at cooking than I am. But he’s a pretty good teacher, so I’m learning slowly.”

She turned to Andrew and Belle. “Want me to take her for a while?”

Andrew smiled. “If you don’t mind. We’re just going to mix up a batch of butterbeer.”

“Come here, honey.” Kemara settled the toddler on her hip. “Ooof. You’re getting heavy, you know that?”

The little girl reached out toward the pile of carrots Kemara had been slicing. “Pitty!”

“I don’t think your teeth could handle those yet,” Kemara told her. “But we can go feed some to Harvey.”

Belle nodded vigorously. “Eeed Har-ee.”

Kemara put a few carrot pieces into a sandwich bag, and tucked the bag into her pocket.

“You sure you can handle the stairs with her?” Sean looked doubtful.

“Yeah,” Kemara shifted Belle to a more secure position. “We’ll take the elevator. You want to ride the up-up, Belle?”


“Sounds like a ‘yes’ to me!” Kemara laughed. “Okay, we’ll be back in a bit.”
The three men worked in silence for a few minutes before Sean asked, “So how’s it going?”

“Really great,” Andrew said. “I’m just so glad to have her home. And thank you again for doing all this, you and Kemara.”

Sean grinned. “You’re welcome. We didn’t really have to do much, honestly. It’s not like places to sleep are hard to find here.” He paused and thought a minute. “Actually, keeping the laundry done has been the hardest part.”

Andrew smiled, but quickly sobered. “I….I told the Chandlers about the twins,” he said quietly. “I hope you don’t mind.”

“No, that’s fine. It’s not like it’s a secret.”

Max looked up from his stirring. “Why? What happened?”

“When we visited JenniAnn on Sunday, Allison got upset when she saw Kemara’s pregnant.”

“She walked out of the room,” Andrew added. “It had to have hurt Kemara’s feelings - and yours too,” he said to Sean.

“We understood.” Sean began making up foil packets for the vegetables. “We’re stressed out and scared for our kids. Of course, they’d feel the same about JenniAnn.”

Andrew nodded. “Still, I think Allison and Robert will want to apologize to you and Kemara sometime today.”

“We’ll be glad to talk to them,” Sean said. “Now, these are done. I’m gonna go take a poll and see what other stuff people want with their burgers.” He raised his eyebrows at Max and Andrew. “Suggestions?”

“Potato salad?” Max said, hopefully.

“Sure. Andrew?”

“I know JenniAnn would want something red velvet for dessert,” the angel said, taking down mugs for the butterbeer.

“And you wouldn’t mind that yourself,” Sean joked. “I think that can be arranged.”
As they walked home in the growing dusk, Kemara groaned.

“I think even I ate too much!”

Sean looked shocked. “I do believe that’s the first time you’ve been full since you got pregnant.”

She laughed. “It was all so good, I couldn’t resist - especially the red velvet shakes.”

“Yeah, they were pretty awesome,” Sean agreed “And now…”

“Now, a long bath and some sleep,” Kemara said dreamily. “I just want at least seven hours of deep, dreamless sleep.”

Sean ran a hand through his hair. “Me too. At least we should have no more sleepless nights until the kids get here.”

Neither could have guessed how wrong he was.

Thursday, June 11

“Kemara’s in labor. You need to come now.”

Racing for his truck. Skidding out of the driveway. To hell with the speed limit. He put on his flashers and floored the gas pedal. The road stretched out ahead, a narrow ribbon of treacherous switchback curves. Trees loomed on either side, blocking out the sun, making the road darker, more dangerous.

He told himself he should slow down, be more careful, but instead he pushed the truck to greater speed. Still the road wound in front of him, never ending, with no sign of the hospital, or the city for that matter. At last, after what felt like hours, he saw something up ahead - New York City. Not far now.

But the city proved worse than the open road. He advanced a block or three only to be turned aside by construction barricades or police tape.

“Come on, damnit!” he shouted, beating his fist against the steering wheel. How long since the call? Too long. He fought down the panic. He must get to the hospital. His family needed him.

From the corner of his eye he caught sight of the hospital only one street away. He tried to get to it, but every street was blocked. Fed up, he put his head down and drove straight at one set of barrels. They scattered in all directions, and the truck sped through, up the undamaged street to the front doors of the building.

Sean threw the truck into park and jumped out, leaving the door hanging open. Inside, he ran to the stairs, taking them as quickly as he could to the third floor. At the nurse’s station he gasped out, “My wife...Kemara McCallum….”

The nurse shuffled through a stack of papers. “Let me see if I can find her chart, sir.”

He waited, shifting from foot to foot.

“Please, can you hurry? Whoever called said she’s -.”

A sound interrupted him. A scream? A woman shouting?

He sprinted down the corridor, ignoring the nurse calling after him.

The sign beside the door read “Labor and Delivery 3” Just as he was about to push it open, a nurse came out.

“Sir, you need to stay out here….”

He tried to swerve around her, reaching for the door handle. How dare they try to keep him away?

Strong hands gripped his arms from behind.

“Sir, we can’t let you…”

With all his strength, Sean pulled away and yanked the door open.

So much blood. On the bed, the floor and the scrubs of the doctor and nurses. His horrified eyes took it all in, and then he was hurrying forward to grab Kemara’s hand.

She tried to smile at him, but he could see she was at the end of her strength.

“Her pressure’s dropping.”

“She’s hemorrhaging!”

He squeezed her hand, alarmed at how cold it was.

“Hold on.”

She tried to say something, and he leaned close.

“The babies….”

He looked at the serious faces of the nurses and the grim expression of the obstetrician working frantically at the end of the bed. Where was Portia? She should be here.

“I’m sure they’re fine,” he assured Kemara.

“Let’s get them out,” the doctor said. He glanced at Sean and quickly away.

Sean was pushed aside as nurses swarmed around Kemara, prepping her for emergency surgery. He leaned against the wall and tried to pray, but only one word came.

“Please.” He repeated it over and over under his breath, like a mantra or a spell.

From where he stood, he could only see Kemara’s face, covered by an oxygen mask. Her lower half, including her huge belly was blocked off with a drape. He tried to figure out what was going on, but the few words he could hear were just meaningless babble.

Suddenly, there was a flurry of movement and the doctor handed off a tiny infant to a nurse. She carried it over to a table and more nurses crowded around. Sean strained to hear even the slightest cry. Nothing.

A second baby, smaller even than the first was passed to a team of nurses.

He pushed close, determined to see his child. Over someone’s shoulder he caught a glimpse of a small face, a tiny button nose, a rosebud mouth. The almost translucent eyelids were tightly closed. It - no, she - didn’t stir.

Panicked now, Sean moved to the other bassinet. This child too - a boy, he saw - was still.

“We’re losing her!’ someone shouted.

He whirled back to the bed where Kemara lay. Her face, previously red with the effort of labor, was white. He took her hand again in his larger ones, rubbing it to give her some of his warmth. Beside him, the steady beat of the heart monitor was slowing

“Don’t leave me,” he whispered close to her ear, hoping she could still hear him.

The monitor’s beep was replaced by a high whine, and he knew she was gone.

“I’m sorry.”

The doctor put a hand on his shoulder and then left the room. The nurses followed, leaving Sean alone with his family.

Sean laid his head next to Kemara’s on the thin pillow and sobbed.
The pain came in waves, the way she had so often watched the surf roll in and retreat on the beach. At least it was steady, and she could relax or brace herself by turns. Dimly, she realized Sean was holding her right hand. She tried to smile at him, but a cresting wave turned the smile into a grimace.

Portia was there too, along with her mother and several nurses. They were all watching her. I never did like being in front of a crowd, she thought once she had relaxed back against the pillows.

“Not much longer now,” Portia said.

And it wasn’t. Ten minutes later, Portia was holding up a red faced, screaming infant.  She cleaned it quickly and checked it’s over before placing it in Sean’s arms.

“Meet Miriam Joy,”

Kemara knew she would never forget the look of wonder on her husband’s face as he stared at their daughter. He leaned over so she could see the tiny face, with a button nose topped by the faintest suggest of red hair.

“She’s beautiful,” she managed to say before another contraction hit. “I think Ian’s already jealous at the attentions she’s getting.”

Tears running down his own cheeks, Sean laughed. “Well, tell him to get out here then.”

She tried to laugh too, but another contraction stole her breath.

Neither of them noticed as one of the nurses put down Kemara’s chart and quietly left the room.

As expected, Ian followed quickly, making a quieter entrance than his sister.

“He sounds like a kitten,” Kemara said as Portia settled him against her.

The doctor smiled. “Just don’t expect him to purr,” she cautioned.

Sean looked back and forth from one small bundle to the other. “They’re definitely not identical. I think he's going to look like you.”

“And she’s going to look like you,” Kemara said. “Let’s swap.”

With Portia’s help, they exchanged babies.

“You know, you can’t tell that she has Downs,” Kemara said. She looked hopefully at the doctor.

Portia shook her head. “No, she does, but some of the physical -.”

She broke off as the door opened, letting in two uniformed men and the nurse.

The older of the men took in the room with a sweep of his eyes, zeroing in on the two infants Kemara and Sean were holding.

“Is one of those defective?” he barked out.

There was a shocked silence before Portia spoke.

“No. They’re both perfectly healthy.”

“The girl,” the nurse said flatly. “I have a copy of the test results here.” She held up Kemara’s chart.

“Get it,” the officer ordered.

The nurse moved forward, but Portia blocked her.

“What do you think you’re doing? Who gave you permission to be in here?”

The younger man sneered. “We don’t need permission. All defectives are to be automatically placed in government custody.”

“No!” Kemara bent over Joy, cuddling her close as the nurse tried again to get around Portia.

Sean laid Ian gently on the bed beside Kemara and slowly got to his feet.

“If you want her, you’ll have to go through me.”

“No problem.” The younger man pulled a device from his belt. Kemara barely had time to realize it was a taser - larger and more powerful looking than the pink one she sometimes carried in her purse.

Sean stepped forward, and there was a crackling buzz. He cried out and collapsed back into the chair.

“Sean!” Kemara struggled to get out of bed and keep hold of both infants, but she was too weak.

The officer darted forward, shoved Portia into the wall and pulled Joy, shrieking, from Kemara’s grasp. The pink blanket she had been wrapped in fluttered to the floor.

“You can visit her once a month,” the second officer over his shoulder as the group left the room. “Facility 583 just outside of Albany. We’ll be in touch.”
The bus let them off in front of a vast cinderblock building with no windows. Guards stood on either side of the metal door.

“Place is like a damned army base,” Sean muttered as they followed the other visitors. The guards checked their identities and keyed the door open.

Inside, clerks sat behind a row of what looked like bank teller windows. Beside each window was another metal door. 

Kemara and Sean stepped up to one.


“Sean and Kemara McCallum,” Sean said.

“And who are you here to see?”

Kemara gulped. “Miriam Joy McCallum - our daughter.”

The clerk typed for a minute. “For your own safety you are not to speak or interact with any of the residents. Is that clear?”

Sean gritted his teeth. “Yes.”

The door in front of them opened. They stepped through to be met by a middle-aged man wearing stained scrubs and carrying a nightstick.

“This way.”

He led them down a short hall and unlocked yet another door. The smell and the noise hit them at the same time. Voices, screaming, crying, laughing overlaid with the stench of urine and rotting food.

“Go through quickly!” The orderly practically shoved them into the room beyond and slammed the door shut. “Now, stay close, and don’t speak to any of them.”

“Them” were dozens of people who filled the large, whitewashed space. As she huddled close beside Sean, Kemara saw some were drawing on the walls with crayons, wandering in aimless circles, or fighting.

One such pair stumbled in front of them, and the orderly struck them aside with his truncheon.


Horrified, Kemara put her head down and clung tighter to Sean’s arm. Surely their baby girl wasn’t in the middle of this insanity?

But the orderly led them through several more rooms and corridors finally coming to a quiet, seemingly empty room.

Still in shock from the noise and the chaos outside, it took Kemara a moment before she saw that one wall of the room was made entirely of glass. And behind the glass were rows of cribs.

She rushed to the wall where Sean was already standing. He grabbed her hand and squeezed so tightly it hurt.

“That one.” The orderly pointed to a crib in the closest row. “Number 33. You have ten minutes.”

Kemara and Sean stared eagerly at the baby they had not seen since her birth three months before. Her small head was dusted with red hair and her eyes, when they slowly opened, were still blue. As if she felt their gaze, Joy turned her head slowly and looked at them.

Life seemed to come back to her, as if she recognized them. Her round face crumpled, and she began to cry weakly. Tiny, stick-thin arms reached out.

“Can we hold her?” Kemara choked out through her tears. She had one hand pressed against the glass as if she could reach through it. Sean wrapped an arm around her and she could feel his body shake as he sobbed.

“That is not allowed,” the orderly said. He was leaning against the door looking bored.

“Please! She needs us!” Kemara tore herself from the window and turned on the orderly, taking a few steps toward him. “She needs to be held and fed and loved….”

In reply, the orderly unclipped a radio from his belt. “Request armed backup in Room 8 for unruly visitors.”

“I’ll show you unruly,” Sean growled. He gently pushed Kemara back towards the viewing wall and moved in front of her as two guards with tasers arrived.

Overwhelmed, Kemara slid down the cool glass to huddle on the floor.

Sean jolted awake. For a few seconds, he lay, face half buried in the damp pillow, the horror still gripping him. A dream…no, a nightmare...a horrible nightmare. He was in bed and Kemara was….

He pushed himself up and looked over at her. She lay turned away from him, and he could see her shoulders shaking. Gently, he put a hand on her arm so as not to startle her in case she wasn’t awake. 

She turned faster than he would’ve thought possible and threw her arms around him, sobbing.

“Shh….it’s okay.” He clutched her to him, the reassuring bulge of her stomach cradled between them. “Bad dream?”

She nodded. “So awful…” She shuddered at the memory.

“I wonder if -,” Sean broke off as his cell phone rang. He kissed Kemara’s forehead and released her, reaching for it. “It’s Portia.”

“Hey, Portia. Yes, we both did - yeah, pretty horrible. Really? But everyone’s all right? Good. Thanks for letting us know.” He ended the call.

“She said everyone at Willowveil woke up from nightmares at the same time.”

Kemara was sitting up now, both arms wrapped around her belly. “So what does that mean?”

“Nothing good.”

The phone vibrated and Sean looked at it. “It’s Ivy. She says she and some of the others are coming to get us so we can all spend the rest of the night at Willowveil.”

“Okay.” Kemara was staring into space, obviously still reliving her dream.

Sean went around the bed to her. “Come on, honey. We need to get dressed. They’ll be here in a few minutes.”

She let him pull her to her feet. Her grief stricken expression broke his heart, but he had no time to comfort her. Maybe later they could find some time alone.
They dressed quickly, pulling on jeans and T-shirts in numb silence. Kemara pulled her hair back into a ponytail and they both splashed cold water on their faces.

When Ivy, Sy and the others arrived, Sean knew that their own nightmares had been as bad or worse than his own.

“Are you okay?” Ivy asked Kemara, giving her a hug.

Kemara nodded. “Just really shaken.”

“We need to move,” Sy reminded them.

“Wait! What about Warren?” Kemara looked around for the Siamese. He sat on the coffee table watching them in fascination.

Sean picked him up. “I’ll carry him.” He pulled the door shut behind them with his free hand.
For Kemara, the walk to the castle and reuniting with their friends felt unreal, as though she was still trapped in her dream.

“How are you doing?” Sean asked when they had stretched out on one of the couches so that he lay behind her. He reached his free arm around and rested his hand on her belly.

She laced her fingers with his. “A little better after talking about it.”

“I’m sorry.”

She tried to look back at him. “Whatever for?”

“Because you probably wouldn’t have had that dream if I hadn’t told you about my grandma taking me to visit my uncle.”

“Sean! Now you’re sounding like me! I had that dream because two demons decided to use the things they overheard. Plus, we did just discuss what we would do if something happened to either of us. So like Zeke said, it’s kinda not surprising.”

He sighed. “I guess you’re right.” He patted her bulge.

“I think you need to start reading to them, too,” Kemara said, deliberately changing the subject. “So they can get used to daddy’s voice.”

“Yeah? So what should I read: accounting spreadsheets or Fishing Today?

Kemara chuckled. “Well, the accounting stuff might not be a bad idea. Joshua help us if one of them has my horrible math skills. But you could read Dr. Seuss or the Pooh books, or even poetry.”

Now it was Sean’s turn to laugh. “Poetry?”

“Oh, if you’re a bird, be an early bird
And catch the worm for your breakfast plate.
If you’re a bird, be an early bird
But if you’re a worm, sleep late,” Kemara quoted

“Now that kind of poetry I can get behind. Who wrote that?”

“Shel Silverstein. He wrote a bunch of poetry books for kids. I think my copies are in the swap shop. We should…” a yawn interrupted her “...go get them.”

“Later. Right now, we should try to get some more sleep.”

She nodded, reluctantly. “I guess. I’m kinda afraid to try, though.”

“We’ve got a bunch of angels watching over us,” Sean pointed out. “I don’t think those demons will dare try to bother us again.”

“Not us….”

Sean scoffed. “Andrew will be fine. He’ll go...wherever they are, kick some demon butt and be back here ASAP.”

“That’s why I love you, “Kemara said, weariness overtaking her. “You’re always so positive.”

“Not always,” Sean whispered to himself when he was sure she was asleep.

He looked at Reuel who was closest. The Principality came over and crouched beside them.


“No. All is still. Sleep, my friend. I think tomorrow - today - will be very long for us all.”

Even with Reuel’s advice, Sean didn’t close his eyes until he could see the first streaks of dawn in the sky beyond the ballroom windows.

He woke sometime later when he felt Kemara struggling to sit up.

“You okay?” he whispered, helping her to her feet.


As he looked around, Sean realized that several of their friends were missing. Monica and Arthur - who holding a still half asleep Liam -  were talking to Adam. After a moment, the trio left the room.

Sean went over to him. “Where is everybody?”

“Going home to pack or get food together,” Adam said.

“Good idea. I’d like to take Kemara home to get some real sleep, but if I know her -.”

“What about me?” Kemara asked, joining them.

Adam smiled at her. “We were just discussing the plan for today.”

“And I said I wish you would go back to Sol Mate and sleep some more,” Sean added.

Kemara put her hands on her lower back and stretched. “That would be wonderful! But I’m just too anxious. I need to be doing something, not just sitting around. What time is it?’

Adam looked at his pocket watch. “About 6:30.”

“Why don’t we go home, get showers and pack?” Kemara suggested. “By then, more people should be up and we can see about getting breakfast together.”

Sean nodded. “Sounds good to me.”

While Kemara went to get her bag, Sean asked, “Any news about when…?”

Adam shook his head. “Not yet, as far as I know. Just keep praying.”

When they returned about three hours later - Sean had made Kemara lie down while he showered, and to her surprise she had gotten in a two-hour nap - they found their friends all awake and busy.

Sean joined the group heading to the grocery store, and Kemara made her way to the kitchen.

“I don’t think I’m ready to help with the cooking just yet. But I’ll do anything else.”

Emma smiled and gestured at a pile of oranges. “Can you cut those up? We don’t have enough to juice for so many people, but wedges will be fine.”

“Sure!” Kemara found a knife in one of the drawers. “So what’s the plan for today?”

“People who have to work are going,” Emma said. “But the Tunnel classes have been cancelled. Catherine said everyone’s on edge.”

“I don’t blame them,” Tiva said, cracking eggs into a large bowl. “Yakov and I didn’t have any nightmares, but we’re both as jumpy as cats.” She looked down at Warren who was weaving in and out of their legs, obviously hoping for a tidbit. “Well, some cats.”

Kemara laughed. “Warren’s one of the most laid back cats I’ve ever seen. Nothing bothers him!” She thought for a minute. “So with classes cancelled, the kids will all be free.”

“And bored,” Shelby announced from where she and Violeta were setting out plates and glasses. “I’m glad I’m here instead.”

“That’s an idea....” Emma said, slowly. “We could bring the kids - and any of the adults who want to come - to the Fields when we go.”

Kemara nodded. “We still have the kites Ciara and Brad’s kids brought over Mother’s Day weekend. They don’t really have room for stuff like that at home, so Sean suggested we keep them.”

“But what about the lake and the ocean?” Allison asked. “That’s a lot of children to keep track of.”

“Most of the older kids can swim,” Shelby assured her. “Vincent makes sure everyone has lessons. And Violeta, Ivy and I can watch the littles.”

“They’ll have plenty of people watching them,” Tiva said. “You girls just try to enjoy yourselves.”

“It’ll be like a summer camp,” Shelby said, eagerly. “I’ve read about those. With fishing and swimming and staying in cabins and riding horses.”

“We can ride Yonah,” Violeta said.

Emma and Kemara looked at each other.

“You know…” Emma mused. “That’s not a bad idea - to have a camp, I mean, for the Tunnel kids.”

“Like scouts,” Kemara agreed. “Survival skills are always good to know.” 

Emma sighed. “Maybe after…after all this is over we can think about it. But for now, I’m going to ask Vincent what he thinks about bringing the kids with us this afternoon.”

She returned in a few minutes with Vincent’s enthusiastic approval.

“Yay!” Shelby cheered, making them all laugh, and they finished the breakfast preparations in a much happier frame of mind.
“What’re you laughing at?” Sean asked Kemara as they walked with the others to the Fields that afternoon.

She shook her head. “I was just remembering the final episode of ‘Little House on the Prairie.’ A banker wants to buy the town - including everyone’s houses. The townspeople can’t keep him from doing it, but they decide he won’t get their homes. So they pack up, rig their houses with dynamite and blow them up.”

“Really?” Sean looked interested. “Ciara used to watch that show, but I never did. Might have if I’d know it had stuff like that.”

“Yeah, and once everyone is gathered on main street, they march out of town singing ‘Onward Christian Soldiers,’ before blowing up all the store buildings.”

Owen, who was walking beside them, chuckled. “I promise I wasn’t thinking about us blowing up Dyeland!”

“Hopefully, it won’t come to that,” Sean said. “But if it does, I bet we’ll go out in a blaze of glory.”

The group met Sam in the Fields and began to put up tents and tables for food.

When he had set up their own small tent, Sean looked at it doubtfully. “Are you sure you don’t want to stay in one of the cabins on an air mattress?”

Kemara kissed his cheek. “I’ll be fine. It’s only for a couple of days.”

April came over to them followed by two other girls from Kemara’s Tunnel dance classes. “Miss Kemara, Mr. Sean, can you help us with our tent, please?”

“Of course!”

Sean looked around. “Let me guess - it’s the purple one over there?”

Misty nodded. “There was a pink one, but we like purple better.”

“I don’t blame you,” Kemara smiled.

Ten minutes later they had the small tent standing. Inside, there was just enough room for the three little girls to lie side by side.

“I think we can zip two sleeping bags together, and you’ll be as snug as pigs in blankets,” Sean said, making them giggle.

After making sure they were settled, Kemara and Sean passed out blankets to those who wanted them. Before long the clearing was dotted with multi-colored tents. Some of the boys decided to sleep in the open - the better to use the telescope brought from Willowveil.

As she listened to Sam’s speech, Kemara’s fears receded. With the love of God, Joshua and and all his friends supporting him, how could Andrew possibly fail?

When the angel suggested a game of hide-and-seek, Sean grabbed her hand.

“Where’re we going?” she asked, gasping slightly as they ran.

He slowed to a walk. “Sorry…..There’s a little….boat house, I guess, beyond those trees.” He pointed to the lake. “It’s easy to miss if you’ve never noticed it before.”

A thought struck her. “Sean?”


“If we’re all hiding, who’s doing the seeking?”

They stared at each other and then burst out laughing.

“Where’s Harry Potter when you need him?” Sean managed when they had calmed some. That set them off again.

“Oh, stop!” Kemara was bent over, hands on her knees as she tried to get her breath.

He steadied her as she straightened up again.

“Maybe it’s like we used to play when I was little,” he said as they resumed their walk toward the lake. “All the neighborhood kids would get together, and we started out with one seeker, but the person they found had to find someone else and so on. That way everyone got a turn.”

The boathouse was a small building right on the shore. Inside were a fishing boat and two canoes.

“You and Brad should take this out sometime,” Kemara said, as they examined the boat.

“Or you could,” Sean pointed out. “Didn’t you tell me you took sailing and canoeing in college?”

She wrinkled her nose. “For what amounted to a one-hour lesson. It was just because I had extra credits to use. I did enjoy canoeing though.”

“Maybe we can,” he said. “Later, I mean.” He opened the door, letting in a flood of hot sunshine.

“Oh, don’t,” Kemara pleaded. “It’s nice and cool in here.”

He smiled and pulled it shut again. “And private.”

“It is….”

The kiss was just getting interesting when someone knocked. After a moment, the door inched open and Kylie poked her head in.

“Found you! We saw you heading this way. Clay was all for rushing in, but I said we’d better knock.”

Sean gave Clay a mock dirty look. “Just wait until you get married,” he told his friend. “Then you’ll understand.”

Clay grinned. “You were only in here for a minute,” he retorted.

“Like I said….just wait.”

“So Sean and I have to find someone else now,” Kemara asked when they were all outside again.

Kylie nodded. “Yeah, Jacob and Liam found us. Those who have found someone are helping get lunch ready.”

“Let go then,” Sean said. “I’m starving.”

Kemara stifled a sigh, and Kylie gave her a sympathetic look.

“If you want a hint, I think a lot of the kids might be hiding in their tents,” she offered.

“Thanks, I am getting a bit tired.”

They found five of the smallest Tunnel boys crammed into one tent meant for two adults at most.

“It’s like a clown car,” Sean chuckled, as he and Kemara watched them scramble out and run off laughing.

“I’m glad everyone’s having fun,” Kemara said.

Sean led her over to one of the tables. “Let me get you something to drink,” he offered.

“Lemonade, please.”

He poured her a cup. “How’re you feeling?”

“Thanks.” She took a grateful sip. “Just tired and hot.”

Portia came over, looking at Kemara with concern. “I’m glad you’re sitting down,” she said, “It looks like you overdid it just a bit.”

“But I’ve hardly done anything!” Kemara protested. “Just a little bit of walking.”

“And some kissing,” Sean added slyly.

She blushed. “Well, that too.”

Portia smiled. “Just remember: If you’re red-faced and wheezing you might want to take a rest.”

“I’m fine….” Kemara turned the cup around between her hands. “Just tired and worried on top of already being tired and worried.”

“May we join you?”

They looked up to see Allison and Robert holding plates and cups.

“Of course!” Kemara slid her chair over. “I didn’t realize lunch was ready yet.”

“Peter’s grilling burgers for anyone who wants one,” Allison said taking the chair beside her. “And I think some of the Tunnel children have made a fire to roast hot dogs, but we decided sandwiches are cooler.”

“We’re not interrupting anything, are we?” Robert asked, looking back and forth from Portia to the couple.

“No,” Sean assured him. “Portia was just warning Kemara to take it easy.” He turned to Kemara. “What do you want to eat?”

Kemara thought for a minute. “A burger sounds really good….well-done, ketchup, mustard, cheese and pickles.”

He nodded and stood up. “Got it.”

Kemara watched him join the group around Peter. “He spoils me rotten,” she said, blinking back tears.

Portia smiled. “He’ll be a wonderful daddy.”

“When are you due?” Allison asked hesitantly as if she was unsure how Kemara would react. “Andrew….didn’t say when he talked to us.”

“December 10, but everyone tells me twins like to show up early, so I guess we’ll see.”

“And….what’s next for you?” This question was even more tentative.

Robert frowned. “Allison, maybe….”

“Oh, no, it’s fine!” Kemara said. “We haven’t - haven’t had a chance to talk about anything beyond all the tests and finding out for sure.” She looked at Portia questioningly.

“We’ll do an anatomy scan sometime next month - to see how they’re growing, and you’ll start seeing a fetal cardiologist about that time, too. Heart problems are common in babies with Down syndrome,” she explained to Allison and Robert. “So we’ll want to keep an eye on any developments.”

Sean returned with their plates. He set them down and poured some lemonade for himself.

“And if something does show up, what then?” he asked, taking a seat across from Kemara.

Portia shrugged. “Before birth all we can do is monitor how things progress. Sometimes the problem - like a hole in the heart - closes on its own. Once the child is born, it really depends on how they’re affected. It might be something they can live with just fine.”

Kemara nodded. “I had a classmate who was born with a hole in her heart that wasn’t found until she was in high school. She was really into sports and very active, but it didn’t bother her until then. She had surgery over the summer and was back playing sports the next year.”

“Exactly!” Portia patted Kemara’s hand. “So don’t go borrowing more trouble than you need to.”

"Now,” she said, smiling. “Owen tells me you’ve got him painting the nursery. But he refused to show me his sketches. He’s being very secretive. Even Persephone couldn't get it out of him.”

Sean laughed. “It’s no secret,” he said. “We want an African safari mural with two lion cubs, and a bunch of other animals too. That's all we’ve told him so far.”

"That's a lovely idea,” Allison said.

“I knew I didn’t want pink for Joy and blue for Ian.” Kemara wrinkled her nose in distaste. “This way, it works for boys and girls.”

Sean looked alarmed. “I just realized there are probably hundreds of viewings of ‘The Lion King’ in our future.”

“Probably thousands. Owen!” Kemara called as she caught sight of the young man looking for a place to sit down.

He came over and took the empty chair. “Looks like you all got caught quicker than I did.”

“Clay and Kylie found us, but I think I was ready to be found. I was wondering if you have the sketches for the nursery with you?”

Owen nodded. “Yeah, let me get them.”

“No, you can finish eating first!” Kemara protested, but he was already standing up.

“Nah, they’re with my stuff cause I hoped I could work on them some more. Be right back.”

He went to one of the closer tents and came out with a sketchbook and pencil box. Returning to the table he handed the book to Kemara. “The stuff in the front is sketches for Belle’s nursery when we painted that. With so many folks getting hitched, I figured I’d better keep a separate book for nursery stuff.”

Kemara laid the book between the plates so everyone could see, and began flipping through the pages. As promised, the first few pages were of clouds and other celestial designs.

“Oh, Owen….”

Kemara had turned to a double page spread done in pencil. It showed an African plain with a few wind-twisted trees. In the distance, giraffes gathered at a waterhole while a herd of zebras grazed nearby. Closer, a group of four lions was stretched out in the shade of a tree. Two cubs - one slightly larger than the other - played together while their parents looked on indulgently.

Sean grinned. “Hey, I get to lie around and look regal after all,” he joked, reminding Kemara of their earlier conversation.

“I guess so. At least mama doesn’t look too worn out,” Kemara said. “Owen, this is perfect.”

“Glad you like it. I can have the cubs doing whatever you want, climbing on mom and dad or whatever. I figure the bigger one can be Ian. You can’t really tell them apart at that age.”

Kemara shook her head. “I think it’s fine the way it is.”

Sean had been studying the rest of the picture. “We need a warthog and a meerkat,” he said. “Maybe over to one side.”

“And who’re they supposed to be?” Portia laughed.

“That’s a hard one,” Sean chuckled. “There are so many possibilities among future aunts and uncles.”

Kemara giggled. “Maybe just add them, and then we can wait and see,” she said..

Owen took out a pencil and made a note. “Done. Do you want a quote or something? Maybe ‘hakuna matata’?”

“Not that,” Kemara said. “But I think we do want quotes.”

Sean nodded. “Something Biblical for sure. Did you bring a Bible - on your Kindle, maybe?” he asked Kemara.

“Just ask an angel,” Robert suggested as he and Alison gathered up their empty plates. “They’d know for certain.”

Allison scanned the crowd. “It looks like Adam’s done eating. Would you like us to send him your way?”

“Yes, thank you.”

Owen had taken out some colored pencils and was lightly shading in the picture. “Once we finalize the design, I’ll do a painting so we can get pretty close to the actual wall colors. It won’t be full size, but it should be pretty large - for your bedroom maybe.” 

Kemara and Sean exchanged smiles. “That would be wonderful.”

“And how are you fine people this afternoon?” Adam asked, taking Robert’s vacated chair.

“Very well,” Kemara smiled at him. “Can you help us? We’re trying to think of Biblical quotes for the twins’ nursery. We want something related to their names, I think.”

“And that’s Joy and Ian, right?” Adam checked.

“Actually, we decided on Miriam Joy and Gabriel Ian, for their full names,” Sean said. “But yeah, we’ll call them Ian and Joy.”

“Well…there’s ‘Fear not, for behold I bring you glad tidings of great joy’,” Adam said. “Or Maryam’s line, ‘My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God, my Savior’.”

“I think Joy will be easy - there are probably hundreds of options including those two. But it’s Ian, I’m not sure about,” Sean said.

“Hmm….I don’t know that any of Gabe’s quotes would really fit,” the angel of death mused. “Ian a variant of John, though.”

Sean nodded. ‘Scottish, like my name is the Irish variant.”

“And John means God is gracious.” Adam thought for a minute. “What about this from psalm 145: ‘The Lord is gracious and merciful; slow to anger and great in loving kindness’?”

“That sounds like Joshua,” Portia said.

“I like that,” Kemara said. “And for Joy I really like the ‘glad tidings’ one. When - when we visited the Thorntons, Lily was thrilled about the babies, just like she was at Easter. She told me and Sean not to be afraid. And then Andrew quoted that line.”

“Hearing it did help,” Sean agreed. “Especially right then when we’d just found out.”

Owen lightly penciled both quotes into the drawing. “There! I’ll just color this in a bit more and add some extra animals.”

Kemara went around the table and hugged him. “Thank you so much!”

“You’re very welcome.” Owen looked down at her belly. “Have you felt them move yet?”

“Not yet. We can ask my obstetrician.” She grinned at Portia.

The doctor smiled. “I’d say sometime in August, probably. Since this is your first pregnancy, you might not realize at first that it’s not gas you’re feeling.”

Sean grinned wickedly. “And she has plenty of that. She’s quite musical some days.”

“Sean!” Kemara’s face went red again.

He pulled her down gently to sit on his lap. “Hey, you are musical….just in a lot of different ways.”

‘Ha, ha.”

Chuckling, Adam got to his feet. “Would anyone like dessert?”

“One of your cakes?” Owen asked. “What kind?”

Now, it was Adam’s turn to blush slightly. “Angel food….”

The others snickered.

“With strawberries.” Adam concluded. “I thought something light would be good on such a hot day.”

“I’d love a piece,” Owen said. When Portia, Sean and Kemara nodded, he got up. “I’ll help you get it.”


After lunch, the rest of the day passed quietly. Kemara read to some of the youngest children while Sean organized a game of softball with the older ones and some of the adults.

“The stars are different here,” she said as they sat beside one of many campfires that night. “I don’t know why I never noticed before.”

Sean tilted his head back to look up. “That constellation does look like the Big Dipper though.”

“Why is it called that?” April and her friends were sharing their fire.

Kemara pointed. “See how it looks like a ladle - a really big spoon? Years ago, when kids were at school they drank from the same water bucket. They used a ladle, called a dipper, to take a drink. So people thought that’s what that group of stars looked like.”

Sean had stretched out on the grass. “That one looks like a cat maybe”

“Where?” Kemara leaned back on her hands as far as she could and craned her head.

“To the right of the dipper,” Sean said. “See? That line is the tail, and the curve is the back…”

“I see it!” Kemara cried. “And two ears.”

“I don’t see it,” April whined.

“Lie down,” Sean instructed.

The little girl lay down on the other side of him with the other two girls beside her.

Sean pointed out the constellation until all of them noticed it.

“Is it a cat or a lion?” April asked. “It looks like it has a mane….those tiny stars.”

Kemara studied the pattern. “I think you’re right, April! We’ll call it The Lion - for Joshua.”


For a few more minutes, Kemara and Sean helped the children pick out star pictures, until the little ones started to yawn.

“Let’s get you girls to bed,” Sean said standing up and lifting April. She wrapped her arms around his neck and rested her head on his shoulder. Kemara took the hands of the other two girls and followed him over to the tents.

When the three children were snuggled into their one giant sleeping bag, Kemara and Sean found their own tent. As they stretched out, Kemara sighed.

“I’m glad we chose this spot where we can hear the waves. I missed them last night - after we got to Willowveil, I mean. I kept waking up thinking I heard something, but it was what I wasn’t hearing.”

Sean chuckled. “Me too. I think we’ll be able to sleep in our own bed tomorrow.”

“I hope Andrew….”

“He will.” Sean said. He wrapped an arm around Kemara and kissed the back of her neck. “I love you. Sweet dreams.”

“Love you too.”

And they slept.

Saturday, June 27

Kemara set down her tea cup and smiled at Maryam and Yosef.

“And of course Andrew did come back Saturday morning like he promised. He was so glad to be home, but these past two weeks he’s seemed….” She trailed off, searching for an appropriate word.

“Sad,” Sean offered. “Or pensive.”

Kemara nodded. “I’m sorry he had to see all our nightmares.” She shuddered. “Mine still bothers me. I can’t imagine…”

“I am sure that while he would not have chosen to see them, he cherishes the closeness that it brings to all of you,” Yosef said. “He is very like Yeshu in that.”

“Chip off the old block,” Sean joked, and the others chuckled.

“And yourselves? You are more relaxed than the last time we spoke,” Maryam asked. She refilled Kemara’s cup from the pot that sat between them on the coffee table, and handed it to her.


Kemara glanced at Sean, and he took her hand. “To be honest, I don’t know if I am any calmer. Sometimes I wake up in the middle of the night in a panic wondering how we’re going to handle everything.”

Sean nodded. “It’s just been a whirlwind. We dated for a little more than a year, and then as soon as we got married it’s like everything snowballed. Not that we’d wish any of it away,” he hastened to add.

Maryam smiled. “You do not need to apologize. Yeshu and the Father understand that this has been very stressful. They are proud of the decisions you have made. And so are Yosef and I.”

Kemara blushed. “Thank you,” she said again. “I just…” She dropped her gaze to their clasped hands.

“It’s okay,” Sean prompted. “You can say what you’re feeling.”

“I wish we’d had more time just for us. That sounds selfish, but everything is about the babies and their health right now. I love them so much, but I miss it being just the two of us like it was in Ireland.”

Maryam and Yosef looked at each other and laughed.

“We understand that feeling all too well,” Yosef said.

Kemara smiled. “That’s right. You two had it really stressful yourselves.”

“After we returned to Nazareth, we realized that if we wanted to keep our marriage strong, time to ourselves was important,” Maryam said. “We sent Yeshu to stay with his grandparents for a day or two at a time while he was growing up. You have many friends and family who would be glad to take the children for you, I am sure.”

Sean nodded. “Definitely! Kemara’s parents are moving to a house just down the street from my parents. And my sister and brother-in-law are close, too.”

“And we have heard mention of a vacation?” Yosef asked.

“Yes,” Kemara said. “We’re all taking two weeks or so for a road trip when Clay, Kylie and Adam get back from their honeymoon.”

“An angel on a honeymoon,” Sean chuckled. “I’m sure that’s a first.”

Maryam smiled. “I believe so.” She looked at the clock on the mantlepiece. “Now, I think it is nearly time for us to head to Albany. Perhaps we could meet the others at the gazebo?”

As the two couples left Sol Mate and started up the path to Willowveil, Kemara took Sean’s hand again.

“I hope Clay and Kylie will be as happy as we’ve been so far,” she said.

Sunday, July 26

“Oh, there’s my boy!”

Kemara dropped the bag she had been carrying, and scooped Warren up into her arms. Behind her in the doorway, Sean rolled his eyes.

“Would you two mind playing out your ecstatic greetings somewhere else?” he asked. “These suitcases are heavy.”

“Sorry.” Kemara pushed the bag out of his way with her foot and stood aside, still holding the overjoyed Siamese.

“That’s one very loud purr,” Sean chuckled, scratching the cat under the chin once he had set the suitcases down.

“I think he missed us. Poor thing had to go two weeks without seeing his people.” Kemara kissed the top of Warren’s head and put him on the sofa. “I guess we’d better start a load of laundry.”

Sean frowned. “Sure you don’t want to wait until tomorrow? It was a long drive.”

“Nope. Let’s do that and then go for a walk. I’m all cramped from sitting for so long.”

Ten minutes later they stepped off the porch into the warm sand.

Kemara took a deep breath. “That’s nice….as gorgeous as the mountains are, I missed the sea breeze.”

“Yeah,” Sean agreed. “Nice to get away from all the stress of these past few months.”

She squeezed his hand. “And now back to it.”

“Your appointment’s Wednesday, right?”

“Yes. I’m glad Portia went ahead and made it. And it’s good that Children’s has all the specialists right there so we can have the anatomy scan and the echocardiogram at the same time.”

He nodded. “I’m sure everything will be fine. But even if it isn’t, remember what Portia said about how it might not cause problems for a while - if ever.”

“I’m trying to stay positive, but I’m just so tired of it already. I want them here so we can start dealing with things and loving them.”

“We’re already doing that, I think,” he reminded her gently.

She smiled. “True. I’m glad we were able to finish listening to ‘The Magician’s Nephew’ on the way home. I hope they liked it. It would be neat if they somehow remember it when they’re older.”

“I’ve never listened to audiobooks before now, but it did make the drive go faster.”

They walked in silence for a while, enjoying the salt smell and the sound of the the waves rolling in.

“What was your favorite thing; the museum in Harrisonburg?” she teased.

The small Virginia town where they’d overnighted halfway to North Carolina boasted a surprisingly elaborate museum detailing the history of its fire department. Sean had insisted on reading every display.

He chuckled. “That was cool, but no, believe it or not. I think I liked Sliding Rock the best. Natural entertainment that's been popular for decades - can’t beat that.”

“The water was so cold!” Kemara said pretending to shiver. “Once was enough for me.”

The waterfall at the top of a huge, gently sloping boulder led to an 8-foot-deep pool.

“Yeah, the video should be great. Owen’s yell when he came up that first time was pretty epic. So what was your favorite thing?”

She blushed. “Honestly? I’d have to say watching “Dirty Dancing” with all the other couples. Well, that and visiting Chimney Rock. It’s so amazing.”

“Don’t think I didn’t catch that!” Sean teased. “Come on...admit it! You enjoyed watching Patrick Swayze seduce a girl half his age.”

Kemara gave him a mock shove. “Did not! And the age thing is stupid anyway….Andrew and JenniAnn were about that when they first met and it worked out for them.” 

“True. But you were looking…..”

“So tell me you weren’t looking at Jennifer Grey,” Kemara shot back.

He shrugged. “A man can appreciate Joshua’s creations without lusting after them.”

Kemara took his hand again. “Just as long as you understand I’m no Jennifer Grey.”

“Nope. You’re better. You’re real….she’s...a creation...who Hollywood has made her.”

She stretched up and kissed his cheek. “I love you. You know how to make a girl feel good, you know that?”

“That’s my job -.”

A rumble of thunder startled them. Turning, they saw a dark cloud rolling swiftly over the ocean, heading for shore. A gray wall beneath heralded heavy rain.

“We might be able to beat it if we run,” Sean said, frowning as lightning flashed in the approaching storm.

“I’ll be completely winded by the time we get there, but I’m game,” Kemara said.

He took her hand tightly. “Let’s go.”

The rain caught them halfway and soaked them to the skin in seconds. Kemara slipped, but Sean kept her upright while they continued to run.

Laughing, they pounded up the steps and into the cottage followed by another huge clap of thunder.

“I don’t know why we even bothered to run,” Kemara said looking down at her soaked T-shirt. “I’ll go grab a towel.”

The living room was dark, and Sean reached automatically for a lamp before he reconsidered. Instead, he walked over to the stereo and the shelves of CDs. Selecting one, he slid it in and chose a song.

“It ticks just like a Timex, never lets up on you. Who said life is easy? The job is never through.”

Kemara stepped back into the living room, squeezing water from her hair. When she caught the words, she let the towel drop and came over to him.

“It’ll run us ‘til we’re ragged. It’ll harden our hearts. And love could use a day of rest before we both start fallin’ apart.”

She twined her arms around his neck. In turn, he wrapped his arms around her waist - as far as he could.

“Pray that it’s rainin’ on Sunday, stormin’ like crazy. We’ll hide under the covers all afternoon. Baby whatever comes Monday can take care of itself ‘cause we’ve got better things that we can do….when it’s rainin’ on Sunday.”

“So is this our official makeout song?” She asked as they swayed together, too tired from the long day to actually dance.

He chuckled. “Can we have more than one?”

“Mmm...that would be a fun CD to put together….”

“Your love is like religion, a cross in Mexico.” He sang along, looking down at her. “Your kiss is like the innocence of a prayer nailed to a door.”

Tears came to her eyes. He brushed them away as they spilled. “Let the water wash our bodies clean, and love wash our souls.”

Taking her hand, he led her into the bedroom and shut the door, leaving a disappointed Warren outside.

Tuesday, July 28

When they entered the dance studio, Kemara and Sean were surprised to see a table set up covered with brightly wrapped gifts.

“What’s all this?” Sean asked as he set down their bags.

Most of their classmates were gathered behind the table, smiling.

“Well, we know it’s early,” said Elaine coming over to them, “but we thought we’d go ahead and throw you two a baby shower. We know you’re going through a lot right now so we wanted to do something to cheer you up.”

Kemara once again found herself blinking back tears. “Thank you all so much!” She laughed, shakily. “Don’t mind me….I think I’ve cried every day for one reason or another since we found out I was pregnant.”

“We really appreciate it,” Sean said. “But is this the cue for us guys to go down the street to the bar for an hour or so?”

“No way,” Mark said, grinning. “There’s stuff here for you, too, Dad. You’re not getting out of it.”

Sean snapped his fingers. “Darn!”

Kemara went over to the table. “I don’t even know where to start.”

“You sit down, and we’ll bring them to you,” Jo-Anne gestured them to two folding chairs. “We’ve got gifts for Mom, Dad and babies, so no one gets left out.”

“And don’t worry....we didn’t go too overboard on Irish things,” Elaine said handing each of them a bag.

Kemara looked over at Sean. “You go first.”

He untied the ribbons holding the bag closed with exaggerated care, as though he expected the contents to explode in his face. Removing the tissue paper, he pulled out a what looked like at first glance looked like a gray messenger bag.

“It’s a dad’s diaper bag,” Brent explained. “My brother’s wife got him one when their first kid showed up. He still uses it as a carryon now that the boys are older.”

Sean examined the bag from all sides. “This is great! I know we’ll get a lot of use out of it.”

“You can carry Ian’s things in your bag, and I’ll carry Joy’s in mine,” Kemara suggested. “You guys can stick together.”

She opened the gift bag she had and began to laugh. “Mama gets one, too!” She admired the delicate ivory print with black faux-leather trim. “Very nice. I wouldn’t mind using this as a purse when they’re bigger.”

“That’s what we were going for,” Jo-Anne explained. “Stuff that doesn’t scream ‘baby’ that you can use for years.”

“Thank you!” Kemara got up and hugged her. “They’re both perfect.”

Elaine passed them two more gift bags. “Those were the big presents. But of course we had to get these.”

“You first this time,” Sean said.

Kemara grinned as she took out a white onesie with “Future Irish Dancer” on the the front and a pair of tiny socks made to look like soft shoes.

“How adorable! I can’t wait to see Joy wearing them.”

From his bag Sean took out a matching onesie and a small kilt in blue and green tartan plaid.

“Awesome! Now my son can wear a kilt instead of me.”

“Aww...And what if I want pictures of you two in matching outfits?” Kemara pretended to pout.

Sean smirked. “Never gonna happen.”

“Thank you all so much!” Kemara rose and exchanged hugs with their classmates. Sean graciously accepted hugs from the women and handshakes or back slaps from the men.

“Now, let’s get warmed up,” Elaine said briskly. “Just because you’ve been on vacation for the past two weeks doesn’t mean I’m going to go easy on you.”

While Kemara participated as much as she could, she found herself tiring more quickly than she had even a month before. Her expanded belly also threw off her center of balance, making her stumble frequently.

“You okay?” Sean asked as the class sat on the floor to cool down with some light stretches.

She nodded. “Yeah. Just a little out of breath.” She took a deep drink from her water bottle.

Sean frowned, but said nothing.

“Before we leave, we need to talk about the Atlantic City Feis on the 23rd,” Elaine said. “All of you are registered, but I want to get a final count.”

Kemara leaned over to Sean. “I totally forgot about it.”

“Me too.” He looked over at her. “What’d you think?”

Elaine was asking that same question. “Kemara, you’re signed up for the eight-hand and solos, but….” She let the sentence trail off.

“If you can’t, we’ll understand,” someone said. The others nodded.

Kemara shook her head. “But we don’t have a replacement; the team would have to withdraw.”

“And that’s fine,” Elaine said, soothingly. “We’ll have plenty more opportunities.”

“I think….” Kemara hesitated, thinking. “If I drop solos and just do the eight-hand - and our two-hand, of course,” she added, smiling over at Sean, “I could handle that much.”

She sighed and looked down at her stomach. “I think I’ll have to slow down after that until they get here.”

“Sounds like a plan,” Sean said. “One last hurrah. It’s only a couple of hours away...Maybe some of our friends might want to come. Violeta and Shelby for certain, and maybe Ivy.”

Elaine nodded. “That would be wonderful! I’ve missed having Violeta in class.”

“She’s been working and getting ready to start college in September,” Kemara explained.

“Good for her! I hope she’ll come visit us when she has time.”

“I’m sure she will. She’s living at home, so she’s in the area.”

After some more discussion, the class broke up and gathered their things to leave. Elaine approached Kemara and Sean.

“Your appointment is tomorrow?” she asked quietly. “I hope you’ll let me know how it goes?”

Kemara hugged her. “We will. I’ve got an email list a mile long of people who want updates.”

The other woman chuckled. “I’d probably find that annoying!”

“I usually let Sean handle it,” Kemara joked.

“I am concise and to the point,” he agreed. “She can go on for pages of emotion-soaked prose.”

Kemara snorted. “Ha! Who got all teary eyed reading ‘The Velveteen Rabbit’ last night? We’re reading out loud to them as much as we can,” she explained.

“Well, it was sad!” Sean protested, blushing a little. “Anyone with a heart would cry.”

Elaine smiled and patted his back. “And you have a good one,” she said. “I’ll be praying for all of you.”

They thanked her and left the studio.

“I’m glad we came tonight even if I couldn’t do much,” Kemara said as they waited for the subway. “It’s something from before that still feels the same.”

Sean guided her into the nearly empty car. “Before we were married you mean,” he said as they found seats.

“Or before we started dating even. Not that I don’t love things how they are now, but sometimes I wish….” she broke off.

“That we’d had more time with just us?” he suggested. “We started to talk about this on vacation….”

“But I think we both fell asleep before we got very far,” she finished.

Sean nodded. “In our defense we had just spent the whole day hiking around on a mountain,” he pointed out.

“I don’t know how I did it!” Kemara shook her head. “Tonight was about all I could take.”

“In any case….”

“You’re right. I do wish we’d had more time as a couple,” Kemara said with a touch of defiance. “I’m thrilled the twins are here - will be here - but I just feel like it’s all been so rushed. I wanted more of…” she lowered her voice so the other riders couldn’t overhear. “More lazy mornings - or all day - in bed, romantic dinners and -.”

She threw up her hands. “I don’t know! I guess I wanted what a honeymoon’s supposed to be - and we had that in Ireland. But it’s like when we got back real life just slammed us. I know we can have those things now, but it’s not the same.” She trailed off frustrated and embarrassed. “Sorry….”

Sean didn’t laugh or make a snarky comment like she’d half expected. “I know. As happy as I am to be a dad, I’m not sure I know enough about being a husband yet. I’m learning as fast I as I can, but I feel like I’m playing catch up every day.”

“And if we’re wishing, I wish we’d had more time to get to know each other, too - find out how this couple business works.”

“I guess Joshua figured we could handle it all,” Kemara murmured. “But some days I’m just not sure.” She leaned her head on his shoulder.

Sean hugged her. “Me either,” he admitted. “ We’ll just have to make sure we have couple time. I know the kids will be a handful, but I don’t think we can be good parents unless our relationship with each other is strong first.”

“I guess we should put date night on the calendar.” She grinned. “Maybe starting Friday?”

He did laugh then. “Sounds good to me!”

Wednesday, July 29

Kemara watched the fetal cardiologist - a young woman who said she was from India - move the transducer across her stomach, and tried very hard to concentrate on the promise of a romantic evening with Sean.

“So you already know what you’re having?” Dr. Anpujor asked. Her quiet voice reminded Kemara a little of Maryam.

“Yes. The girl is Joy, and the boy is Ian,” Sean said. He was watching the screen, fascinated as the twins moved sleepily in their individual bubbles.

Dr. Anpujor looked over at Kemara’s chart which was open on the table beside her. “And you have a positive diagnosis of Down syndrome for Joy….”

Kemara nodded and forced herself to take a deep breath and let it out slowly. Sean glanced at her and squeezed her hand reassuringly before turning back to the screen.

‘Well, let’s see how everything looks. I’m going to do a quick scan and then a more detailed examination of each twin.”

She marked an A on the right baby and a B on the left. “Ladies first….”

The view zoomed in on Joy, and Kemara smiled as she saw their daughter sucking her thumb and kicking slightly.

Closer in and the baby’s heart became visible.

Dr. Anpujor moved the transducer, trying to get as clear a view as possible. After a few minutes she said, “I’m not seeing anything that alarms me just on a general overview….”

She made some adjustments to the controls and the view increased so much that Kemara had no idea what they were seeing. Instead, she listened to the doctor’s voice as she dictated her findings. The words didn’t make any sense either, but the other woman’s calm tone eased Kemara’s fears.

“This is amazing,” Sean said. “I didn’t realize you could see so much.”

Kemara managed a smirk. “Glad you’re having fun.”

He shrugged apologetically. “How’re you doing?”

“Okay. It’s just hard to lie still for so long.”

The doctor smiled at them. “I think Miss Joy’s heart is just fine. So now we’ll look at Mr. Ian, and you’ll soon be done.”

Kemara and Sean grinned at each other.

“Thank God!” Kemara said. And Joshua, she added silently.

The transducer was moved to Kemara’s left side, and the viewers chuckled as Ian appeared to push back against the intrusion.

“He’s a fighter!” Dr. Anpujor chuckled.

At last, a clear picture of his heart came up on the monitor.

Kemara saw Sean frown.

“What’s that white area? Joy’s heart didn’t look like that.”

The doctor did not reply at once, instead she zeroed in on the white patch and recorded it from several angles.

“I’m seeing an opening in the left atria measuring…..”

Kemara clutched Sean’s hand. “No! Ian’s supposed to be fine!” Her voice rose at the end as panic gripped her throat.

“Shh...Just...let her finish,” Sean soothed, but his own voice shook.

She tried to calm down, but her breath came in hitching gasps. Even in that horrible, demon-induced nightmare, Ian had stayed perfect, untouched.  She squeezed her eyes shut to block out the sight of the monitor.

Sean leaned over and put his hands on either side of her face.

“Hush. Honey you need to stay still.”

But her body was shaking with sobs that she could not control.

Dr. Anpujor put down the transducer and patted the woman’s hand. She said something to the technician who wiped the gel from Kemara’s belly and smoothed down her shirt.

“We’re done for today. Take your time….I will be in my office.” She left with the technician, closing the door softly behind them.

Crying himself, Sean helped Kemara sit up and pulled her into his arms. They clutched each other like two people on the edge of a cliff.

His heart ached. How much harder this must be for her. He remembered the first time they’d felt the babies move.


July 14th

Blood dripped from the table onto the floor. The air was heavy with several nasty scents Sean didn’t want to identify. But worst of all was the silence: No babies crying, family and friends celebrating or even the beep of machines. Just silence, broken only by his heartbroken sobs.

He came awake with a panicked gasp. His rasping breath the only sound in the dark bedroom. He fumbled for the bedside lamp, but it wasn’t where he remembered. He flailed desperately,  knocking something to the floor with a thump.


On the other side of the bed a light suddenly came on, blinding him.

“What’s wrong?” Kemara had been lying on her side, and now she struggled to turn over and face him. She squeaked as he pulled her into his arms.

“Nightmare…” He concentrated on the sound of her heartbeat in his ear and the reassuring bulk of her stomach between them.

“Oh.” She kissed him. “We’re here. We’re safe.”

He nodded, relaxing a little. “Here” was a cabin in North Carolina where they would spend the next two weeks with their friends on a vacation Joshua himself had told them to take.

As he thought of the Carpenter, Sean calmed even more. The horrible nightmares the demons had sent were just that, not memories or omens of things to come.

“Want to talk about it?” Kemara asked. She sounded half asleep, and Sean felt a stab of guilt. The five-and-a-half-hour drive from Virginia yesterday had worn her out.

“No.” Reluctantly, he pulled away. He would read something on the iPad - maybe the new Patricia Cornwell book - and let her get some rest.

But to his surprise, she struggled to sit up.


She grimaced. “My back’s hurting.”

He helped her lean against the headboard and stuffed several of the extra pillows they’d found in a linen closet behind her. The body pillow she used at home had been too big to bring.

“Thanks.” She smoothed back the hair off his forehead. “I’m sorry.”

“Not your fault.” On impulse, he slid down so his cheek rested against her belly, warm under the cotton nightgown she wore.

She chuckled. “That doesn’t look very comfortable.”

“Is though…”

He focused on the rise and fall of her chest and the feel of her hand stroking his hair over and over. Just a dream….a horrible dream, but that was all.

He thought she had dozed off, and was just wondering if he could too, when she spoke again.

“I dreamed about them.”

He stiffened remembering her own nightmare: their newborn daughter ripped from their arms by uncaring officials and imprisoned in a cruel institution.

“No, not….that.” She shuddered. “A good dream. They were older - maybe 3. It was Christmastime, and we were all in the ballroom at Willowveil. Lily was holding Ian on her lap, and Belle was holding Joy - or trying to. Anyway, there were a bunch of kids - some younger, but I couldn’t see them clearly. And all our family and friends were there too listening to Joshua and his parents telling the real story.”

Sean smiled as he pictured the scene. Slowly, the images replaced those of horror and death. “Did one of the ours have red hair?” 

“I don’t remember. It was all kinda hazy and indistinct. But I know we were happy.”

He sighed, content. “That’s okay then.” 

Again, they were quiet, watching through the window as the sky outside began to lighten.

Sean was just letting himself fall into sleep, when Kemara’s stomach moved under him. Blearily, he raised his head, thinking that she needed his help to stretch out.

Her brown eyes were huge staring down at him. No. Not at her stomach.

“Did you feel that?”

Uncomprehending, Sean felt the motion again, a slight, invisible undulation.

He shot bolt upright. “Was that-?”

He pushed up her nightgown and spread his hands across her belly.

“I think so!” Kemara concentrated, waiting to see if the motion would reoccur.

It did - from the opposite side.

Kemara began to laugh and cry at the same time. She wished she had a camera to capture Sean’s goggle-eyed amazement.

“Did you feel it that time?” she asked putting her hands over his.

“Maybe. It was so light…” He slid down again and pressed tiny kisses over her belly. “Daddy loves you,” he whispered.

“Mommy loves you, too,” Kemara choked out. She giggled as Sean’s lips tickled her skin. “No fair you getting to kiss them! I can’t reach.”

He grinned up at her. “I’ll do it for you.”

Kemara sighed happily as he rested his head against her again. “I really don’t think I can go back to sleep now.”

“Me either.” Reluctantly, Sean sat up. “How about we go down and start breakfast? We could make the coffee and get bread and cereal out.”

“Sounds good to me!”

They shared a long kiss and got ready for the day.

“Wow, you two are up early!”

Kemara looked over from buttering stacks of bread to see Emma and Peter in the doorway.

“Hi. We, umm….we felt the babies kick this morning.”

Emma’s eyes popped open. “That’s great!”

Sean grinned. “After that excitement we couldn’t get back to sleep. So we figured we’d start breakfast.”

“I don’t blame you!” Peter said. “Congratulations!”

Emma reached into the cabinet for a mug. “We’ll give you a hand. But coffee first!”

“What’s going on?” Shane asked coming into the kitchen.

Edward and Caleb were right behind him followed shortly by Adam, Violeta and Ivy.

Soon, everyone was up and helping prepare the meal. They showered Sean and Kemara with good wishes.

“What did it feel like?” Zoe asked, fascinated.

Kemara thought for a minute. “Like bubbles popping. I realize now that I’ve felt it before but I didn’t realize what it was. But Sean felt it too, this time.”

“I sure did!” He beamed at his wife. “I guess they really are in there.”

She laughed. “Yep! They really are.”


Present Day

Sean smiled through his tears as he recalled that wonderful day. Since they’d found out about Kemara’s pregnancy, it seemed their life together had become a roller coaster - exhilarating highs and devastating lows. He wasn’t sure how much longer they could hold on.

He hugged his wife closer and began to pray.

As Kemara calmed, the words Sean was whispering began to make sense. She realized he was talking to Joshua. She groped for words of her own, but they were drowned in grief. So she rested her head on Sean’s shoulder and let him speak for both of them.

“...and I just don’t know how we can stand this, Joshua. It’s too much….” His voice broke. “Both of them...And it’s not us that worries me the most.” He took a shuddering breath. “The last thing I want is to think of them hurting.”

They gasped as they felt strong arms enfolding them.

“I’m here, and I love you all so much.”

Joshua’s voice was all around them, the very sound of it drowning out their fear and pain.

“You haven’t done anything wrong, and neither have Joy or Ian. I can’t promise that the months and years ahead won’t be hard. But my Father and I can use this for good if you’ll trust us.”

“They were yours first,” Sean said. “We just get to take care of them for a while.”

Kemara nodded. “And we’re so proud of that. I’m sorry that we keep worrying and complaining.”

“You’re mine, too,” Joshua assured them. “If you weren’t worried and hurting it would be because you don’t care. Just don’t forget that I’m holding all four of you close - no matter what happens.”

“We won’t,” they whispered.

Gradually, the feeling of his embrace faded, but the sense of his presence remained.

“That was nice,” Kemara said, sitting back and wiping her eyes. “I feel a little better now.”

Sean nodded. “Me too. Let’s go hear what the doc has to say.”


“It’s called an atrial septal defect. In plain language it is a hole in the wall that divides the upper chambers - or atria - of the heart,” Dr. Anpujor explained. “Developing babies usually have several.”

She went over to a large diagram of a heart on the office wall and pointed out the area. “Here….The hole increases the amount of blood that flows through the lungs, and it can damage the blood vessels over time. But, as I said - it’s quite common.”

Sean frowned. “So why is it an issue in Ian’s case?”

“It might not be. Ian’s is slightly larger for his developmental age, but chances are good it will close before he and Joy are born or shortly afterward.”

“And if it doesn’t?” Kemara forced herself to ask the question. 

Dr. Anpujor sat back down and smiled at her. “We will continue to monitor him and Joy as well. He might do fine, or he might not need it corrected until he is older. These days that doesn’t mean open-heart surgery. For most cases we can insert a catheter and patch the hole with much less trauma for the child - and the parents.”

“But there’s nothing we can do right now?” Sean was studying the diagram, and Kemara knew he would research everything he could find on the subject.

“No. We will watch of course, and the good news is that the hole will not get any larger. But until he’s born that is all we can do. And pray that Christ will hold them both close.”

At their looks of surprise, she smiled. “Yes, I am a Christian, much to my family’s dismay. I have only been with this hospital for less than a year, but already I have seen many miracles. You must have hope and continue to trust.”

Sean smiled back. “Yeah, a good friend just told us the same thing.”

Sunday, August 23

Kemara came into the living room drying her hair with a towel.

“Did I hear the phone ring, or am I still asleep?”

Sean set the cordless on its charger. “No. That was Elaine. One of the girls on the under 13 ceili team sprained an ankle playing soccer yesterday. But the kid’s mom waited until now to let Elaine know. Guess they thought it might get better.”

He shook his head. “Anyway, they’re still coming, but the girl can’t dance. Elaine wondered if Shelby might want to fill in.”

“Shelby?” Kemara blinked. “But she’s not registered, and she doesn’t have a dress!”

“Elaine said the girl’s family will bring her dress, and not to worry about the entry fees. Apparently, this feis has day-of registration.”

Kemara looked at the clock. “It’s almost six now. I guess we’d better go talk to Shelby. Can you give JenniAnn and Andrew a heads up while I finish getting ready?”


Half an hour later, those making the trip to New Jersey gathered outside Willowveil.

“Do we have everyone?” Kemara double-checked her dance bag a final time.

Sean counted: “Me, you, Andrew, JenniAnn, Belle, Shelby, Violeta and Ivy. Yep. That’s it.” He swung their bags into the back of the Jolly Green and shut the door.

“We’re good,” he told Andrew as they climbed in.

During the ride, Violeta and Ivy talked about the classes they would be taking at Fordham while Shelby - wildly excited to have the opportunity to dance at a real competition - plied Kemara with a seemingly endless stream of questions.

“How many people will be there?”

“The website said about six hundred. That’s pretty average.”

Shelby gulped. “Wow! Do you dance on a stage in front of everybody?”

Kemara gave the girl a reassuring smile. “Oh no! They take a big ballroom room in the hotel and put down a wooden floor. They mark that off into separate areas - five or six maybe. In front of the stages is a table where the judges sit. And your family and friends sit in chairs behind them. So you’re not above everyone like in a theater.”

‘That’s good. And then what?”

“When it’s time to dance your reel, say, you find what stage it’s on and check in with the adult there. Then you stand in a row across the back of the stage. The music starts, and the first two kids dance their two steps. They bow and walk back to the line while the next two start. The music doesn’t stop. They keep going like that until everybody’s done.”

“And all the stages are going at once,” Sean put in. “So you have to listen to the music just at your stage and not at the one next to you or you’ll get mixed up.” He grinned. “I’ve seen it happen!”

Shelby giggled. “It doesn’t sound too hard. Do you get anything if you win?”

“There are medals or ribbons for the first three places. And some special competitions might give out trophies.”

“Soo….do the teams dance two at a time?”

Sean shook his head. “Nope. Each team dances alone. Otherwise you’d be running into each other.”

When a restless Belle distracted the older girl, Kemara breathed a sigh of relief.

“I love her, but I didn’t think she’d ever run out of things to ask,” she whispered to Sean.

“Maybe you should make up a little booklet to hand out to first-time parents and kids,” he suggested. “It really is another world with it’s own language and culture.”

Kemara laughed. “Maybe I should!”

“Are you excited? We haven’t done this in a while.”

“And never as husband and wife. Excited and a little sad to be hanging up my shoes for the duration, but it’s time. I didn’t even think that my dress wouldn’t fit. Thank goodness Monica was able to come up with something at such short notice.”

“When Joy needs her first solo dress, we know where to go,” Sean joked.

Kemara smiled, a little sadly. “The kids might not even like dancing,” she pointed out.

“I know they will...even if they just hop around the living room. If Joy wants a sparkly dress, then she’ll have one.”

“And if Ian wants a sparkly dress, too?”

Sean hesitated, thinking. Then inspiration struck.  “He can wear a kilt, and you and Monica can bling the heck out of it.”

“Good answer!” A beep interrupted them. “Oh, that’s my phone.”

She checked the notifications and laughed.


“You know I put that photo of us in Times Square up on Facebook? Someone replied and said, “Hey, isn’t the kiss supposed to happen before the baby?”

Sean snorted. “Not always - even back when the original was taken.”

“I still think it’s funny you guys did that for Halloween, and then months later someone decides, oh, let’s recreate The Kiss in Times Square with hundreds of people!” JenniAnn laughed.

“Shoot! We missed our chance to copyright it and make tons of money,” Kemara joked.

“Yup." Sean nodded sadly. “We could’ve charged them 30 bucks a couple for the privilege.”

As the drive progressed, Shelby grew quiet.

JenniAnn turned to look back at her and saw the girl was twining a strand of hair repeatedly around one finger.

“Shel? Are you nervous?” she asked gently.

The pre-teen shrugged. “A little, I guess.”

“Well, I am a lot!” Kemara said.

Shelby looked amazed. “Why? You’ve done this bunches of times before!”

“Yes, but I hate getting up in front of people; I just love dancing more,” Kemara explained. “So every time I perform or compete I have to deal with’s not really fear…more like tension. I think it makes me dance better when the time comes, but until then….”

Sean chuckled. “Until then she’s a basket case. Just watch her - she can’t stay still. And she crashes afterward.”

“Yup! I use up all my energy. So it’ll be an early night for me.” She stroked her stomach. “Well, earlier than it usually is with these guys. They like to start playing just when I’m trying to doze off.”

Shelby leaned forward over the seat. “Can you see them move yet?”

“Nothing like a hand or a foot,” Sean said. “But sometimes I guess a knee or an elbow will poke out.” He grinned. “Sometimes I poke back.”

Shelby giggled, forgetting her nerves for the moment.

Kemara nodded. “And sometimes the whole shape of my stomach changes if they move around a lot.”

“Cool! I can’t wait until they’re here! I wonder what they’ll look like?”

“Blue skin and purple hair,” Sean quipped.

Andrew chuckled from the driver’s seat. “I don’t think Joshua can do that color combination. At least, not for humans.”

“I’d like one of them to have red hair,” Kemara mused. “My cousins do, and I always liked it.” She smiled at Sean.

“Will you make them dance, too?” Shelby asked.

“We were just talking about that,” Sean said. “We wouldn’t force them to, but I’m sure they will since we have no plans to give it up ourselves.”

“You’ll see some really little kids today,” Kemara told the girl. “The beginner competition has an under-5 age group.”

“Wow….I can’t imagine toddlers having that much coordination!” Ivy said. She looked over at Belle who had fallen asleep in her car seat. “I mean, they’ve really just learned how to walk really.”

Violeta smiled at her “sisters.” “Belle will be an awesome dancer. And so will you, Shelby!” 

Reminded, Shelby sighed. “I hope so.”

“You will! Look at how good you danced last St. Patrick’s Day.”

“But this is different. If I mess up I’ll let the other girls down.”

Kemara reached back and patted her hand. “You know what? The other girls haven’t been dancing as long as you have.”

“Really?” Shelby’s eyes widened.

“Uh-huh. They’re all beginners. Elaine’s hoping they’ll stay together and be really good when they get older. But for now, they’re just learning. This will be the second feis for most of them, so I think you’ll fit right in.”

The girl sagged with relief. “Thanks. That helps.”

When they arrived at the hotel, Elaine was waiting for them in the lobby.

“Hi, guys!”

Kemara and Sean quickly made introductions.

“Shelby, thank you so much for helping us out today,” Elaine said. “Heather just got here so we can see if her dress will fit you. The team dances aren’t until after lunch, so you’ll have plenty of time to look around and watch some of the competitions.”

“Okay.” Unconsciously, Shelby began twisting a strand of her hair again.

Seeing this, Sean whispered to Violeta, “Can you girls take Shelby to check out the vendors for a few minutes?” He nodded across the lobby to several tables filled with Celtic jewelry, dance shoes and accessories.

“Oooh, it looks like they have some dresses for sale!” the angel said. “Come on, Shelby; let’s go see!” She and Ivy hurried over, with Shelby following a little more slowly.

When the three girls were out of earshot, Elaine smiled. “Neatly done!”

“Well, I just had an idea,” Sean admitted.

Kemara rolled her eyes. “Of course you did. What is it?”

“Why can’t Shelby dance solos, too?” He held up a copy of the schedule. “The Under-11 advanced beginners are from 9:30 to 10:30. It’s 8 now. She could practice a bit, do all those dances and still have time to run through the ceili with the other girls before lunch.”

“And she’d be too busy to be nervous,” JenniAnn grinned. “That’s perfect!”

Andrew nodded. “Sounds good to me.” He took out his wallet. “How much are the entry fees?” he asked Elaine.

“Let us take care of that,” Sean said firmly and Kemara nodded in agreement. “Our treat.”

Elaine held up a hand. “We’d better make sure Miss Shelby is okay with this plan first,” she cautioned. “Your first feis can be a little overwhelming.”

JenniAnn looked around at increasing crowd of children and parents streaming into the hotel. “I bet!”

“I’ll go talk to her.” Andrew made his way across the lobby and led Shelby over to a quiet corner. Ivy and Violeta continued to browse the used dress racks.

“There’s Heather’s mom,” Elaine said. She waved to a woman with girl about Shelby’s age. The child sat dejectedly on a chair, an ice pack on her ankle.

Andrew, Shelby, Violet and Ivy rejoined them.

“So do you want to try it?” Elaine asked Shelby.

The girl nodded. “Sure.”

“That’s the spirit! Why don’t we go get you ready?” She turned to Ivy and Violeta. “You girls can come too. Someone can fix her hair while the other ties her shoes.”

Ivy giggled. “Like dressing a doll,” she teased gently.

“Hey!” Shelby blushed.

In JenniAnn’s arms, Belle began to squirm. “Down!”

“I think someone needs a change. We’re going to find a restroom.”

“I’ll take her,” Andrew offered. “Why don’t you go with Shel?”

JenniAnn frowned. “Sure, but I doubt there are changing tables in the men’s room.”

He shrugged. “We’ll go out to the van. And then maybe we’ll walk around for a bit. I thought I saw a little courtyard with some flowers she might like.”  He ruffled Shelby’s hair. “We’ll be back in plenty of time to watch you dance.”


Andrew took the diaper bag from JenniAnn and led Belle back out to the parking lot.

“We’ll get you signed in, Shelby,” Kemara said.

She turned to Sean who was frowning.“What’s wrong?”

“Oh, I was just wondering about the whole baby changing thing.” He guided Kemara around a group of older girls who were practicing their ceili dance blindfolded. “I mean, if we’re shopping and they both need to be changed at the same time, there’s no way you could handle it by yourself.”

“I guess we’ll just have to figure something out when the time comes.” She nudged him. “It’s not like you to worry about stuff.”

He smiled down at her. “Oh, I do, but I try not to show it; I let you do that.”
They registered Shelby and picked up her number card. After a little searching, they found the Inishfree group in a hotel meeting room that had been set aside for practicing.

“Wow, Shel! Look at you!” Sean cheered.

“Thanks!” Shelby smoothed down the skirt of the dark green dress with gold embroidery.

Violeta stood behind her, using a curling iron on the girl’s blond hair, while Ivy gave her a light application of blush and lip gloss.

“How does the dress fit?” Kemara asked as the two older girls stepped back.

“Pretty good!” JenniAnn said. “A little long in the sleeves, but otherwise fine.”

“And here’s your number,” Sean said, handing piece of cardstock to Kemara with two safety pins.

Ivy looked at it, and began to laugh. “Number 333. How appropriate!”

Shelby giggled and stood still so Kemara could fasten the card at her waist.

Elaine nodded approvingly. “Very nice. Now, I know you’ve done performances, but this is a little different. The girl who will be dancing with you will be doing different steps, so you’ll need to make sure you don’t run into each other.”

Shelby nodded solemnly. “Can I practice with someone else?”

“Of course!” Elaine looked around the crowded room. “Kayla!” She beckoned another child over. “This is Shelby; she’s in your group. Let me see you girls do your reel.” 

When they finished, the adults all clapped enthusiastically.

“That was great, Shel!” Violeta said.

“Very nice!” Elaine looked at her watch. “Oh, it’s almost 8. The beginners will be starting soon.”

‘Let’s go watch the babies!” Kayla grabbed Shelby’s hand and tugged her through the crowd toward the hallway. Violeta and Ivy hurried after them.

The adults followed more slowly, gathering up bags and clothing.

“They’ll be fine,” Elaine assured JenniAnn. “The kids run around together all day long; everyone watches out for each other.”

JenniAnn smiled. “I’m not worried. Just glad she’s found a someone her age. It’ll be hard for Shel when Violeta leaves for college. Her closest friend has already discovered boys so….”

“It’s the awkward age,” Elaine agreed. “They want to be grown up, but they want to be kids, too.”

Sean nudged Kemara. “Are you taking notes?” he asked, only half joking.

“Uh-huh. All the time. And the more I hear, the more scared I get.”

“You’ll manage when the time comes,” the older woman said as they pushed into another crowded ballroom.

Andrew met them carrying Belle. “I can’t believe how many people are here. There’s no way we could get her stroller through this crush.” The toddler was looking around with wide eyes at the other children in their brightly colored costumes

“Have you seen the girls?” JenniAnn asked, scanning the room.

“Over here. They’re saving us some seats.”

The four girls had staked out a row of seats with a good view of the dance floor.

“Oh, look at them!” JenniAnn said.

Onstage, two women were trying to coax a group of tiny girls and one boy to stand in a line - or at least to stand still. One girl spun in circles, arms outstretched; one child ran back to her mother, two girls were crying and the boy just looked terrified.

“It’s like herding cats,” Ivy giggled.

Andrew hoisted Belle higher so she could see. “Guess this is what we’ve got in our future, huh?”

JenniAnn studied the proud mothers and fathers crouching at the edge of the stage taking photo after photo.

“I wouldn’t mind. Well, except for the wigs and fake tans.” She made a face.

Elaine laughed. “No worries with my group! I don’t allow wigs or tans until your kid’s in the top level. And I try to keep the dresses elegant.” She shrugged. “I’ve lost some families who wanted their kid to have all the bling, but I’d rather focus on the dancing.”

As she watched the children stumble through their first reel, Kemara cradled her own babies.

Sean put an arm around her shoulders. “How’re you guys doing?”

“They’re really bouncing around. I guess they want to dance too!”

He chuckled. “I wouldn’t be surprised.”

The beginner competitions moved swiftly, and soon it was time for the advanced beginners. Violeta tied Shelby’s soft shoes while Ivy double-checked that the younger girl’s number was securely fastened to the waist of her dress.

Kayla led the way over to the stage, and Shelby followed, glancing back at her family worriedly.

“Bless her heart,” Kemara said. “She looks a little spooked.”

“Are you and JenniAnn her…” Elaine lowered her voice. “Her guardians?”

Andrew smiled. “That’s as good a word as any. We think of her as our daughter. She and her older brother, Asher - he’s in college now - lived in a group home since Shel was a toddler. By the time Asher left, Shel had made friends, so we didn’t want to move her.”

Elaine nodded. “I figured it was something like that.” She turned her attention back to the stage.

Shelby did very well in all her dances, following Kayla from one stage to the next. By her fifth and last competition her new confidence was obvious.

“You were fantastic!” JenniAnn said when Shelby and Kayla came over to them all.

Andrew tugged one of her curls gently. “That was really impressive, Shel.”

“Ay!” Belle cheered clapping her hands.

Shelby blushed and accepted their hugs. “Thanks. You were good too, Kayla,” she said turning to her new friend.

“It’s fun! Let’s go see if we won anything!”

Elaine held up a hand. “Hang on. We’ll all go. I have to come right back,” she told the adults. “But I try to get up and walk around every hour or so. Otherwise the day feels like it will never end.”

“I can imagine,” JenniAnn said. She fell back to walk beside Elaine as the others followed the two excited girls to the room where awards were being handed out. “Do you watch every competition?”

“Usually. At a feis like this that’s just in one room, that’s easy, but at bigger comps it’s impossible.” She hesitated. “I wanted to ask…”

JenniAnn looked at her curiously. “Go on….”

Elaine stepped over to a quiet corner of the lobby and JenniAnn joined her. Andrew looked back, and noticing they had stopped, he joined them.

“Violeta has Belle,” he explained. “What’s up?”

“I’d like for Shelby to take lessons at the studio,” Elaine said surprising them both. “I know Kemara’s been teaching her, and she has the basics down. But I think Shelby’s got a lot of talent.”

She held up a hand. “I’m not asking you to commit to the wigs and fake tans. Just to let her take classes with other kids her age and ability.”

JenniAnn blinked. “Well, I guess if she wants to, we can find a way.”

Andrew nodded. “Of course. How often and how much would the lessons cost?”

“Just once a week to start. And as for the cost, I think we can work something out. The class I want Shelby in meets Saturdays at 12. The beginner class is right before that. Shelby could be my assistant, and we’ll let that serve as her tuition. I can use the help, believe me!”

Andrew and JenniAnn looked at each other.

“Kemara and Emma have their dance class at Lily’s Loot at noon,” JenniAnn said. “I’m sure either of them would pick Shel up when they’re done. And we’ll find someone to get her there.”

He nodded again. “Sounds good to me. We’ll talk to Shelby and see what she wants to do,” he told Elaine.

“Wonderful!” They resumed walking. “Kayla will be glad to have Shelby in her class.”

“Are Kayla’s parents here today?” JenniAnn asked curiously. “Not to pry or anything but it seems like most of the parents are really involved.”

Elaine shook her head. “No. She came with me. Her home life isn’t the best to put it mildly. I try to get her to all the shows and competitions she wants to do. So she has that to look forward to.”

JenniAnn put a hand on her arm. “That’s wonderful! We try to do the same with Shelby. My cousin runs a women’s shelter, so I see what kind of lives some kids have.”

“Look! Look!”

Shelby and Kayla ran up to them, each clutching multiple medals.

“Wow! You two got quite a haul,” Andrew said.

The others joined them. Belle reached out from Violeta’s arms, attracted to the shiny objects.


Elaine hugged both girls. “Congratulations! Two each!”

“And we got chocolate!” Kayla said displaying two bars with the feis’ logo emblazoned on the wrappers.

Sean grinned. “Hey, that’s the best kinda reward in my opinion. Wonder if the adults will get those, too?”

Kemara rolled her eyes. “Shelby, don’t let him con you out of one,” she warned. “If he wants one he can earn it himself.”

“I won’t!”

Sean pouted. “You’re no fun!”

“So what now?” Violeta asked, hopping from foot to foot.

“Well, if it’s okay with your family, Shelby, I was thinking we could find the rest of the team so you girls could have lunch together. Then, we’ll practice a little bit,” Elaine said.

Shelby looked at JenniAnn and Andrew. “Can I? Please?”

“Sure!” JenniAnn hugged her. “I’m so proud of you, Shel! You go have fun.”

“We’ll be in the front row,” Andrew assured her.

Shelby giggled. “Psy... JenniAnn, Will you keep my medals for me?” She hesitated. “I want the chocolate though.”

“Of course.” She took them carefully. “I’ll put them in my bag so we don’t lose them.”

“Thanks!” With a wave, Shelby followed Elaine and Kayla back toward the lobby.

Kemara noticed Violeta frowning slightly. “What’s wrong?”

“I’m gonna miss Shel. I mean, I know I’ll still see her, but I guess I got used to having her around all the time.”

Andrew put an arm around the young angel. “She’s growing up, and you girls,” he smiled at Ivy, “are moving on to something new. I think it’s exciting, myself.”

Violeta smiled, her sunny nature unable to stay gloomy for long. “Yeah, it is!”

Sean glanced at his watch.

“We hate to leave you guys high and dry, but I need to check in for my comp.”

JenniAnn smiled. “You go ahead. I want to look at the jewelry…..”

Andrew shrugged, resigned, and let JenniAnn lead the way to the vendor tables.

“I’m so glad it went well,” Kemara said as she and Sean found a couple of chairs in the competition ballroom and set down their bags. “And I’ve been so busy watching Shelby I haven’t had a chance to be nervous myself.”

Sean smiled. “That’s good!” He changed his shoes and stood back up. “Are you okay here?”

“Yup! I’ve got a good view. I should’ve made a little sign to hold up.”

He laughed. “Glad you didn’t! I’d probably be laughing too hard to dance.”

They shared a kiss. “Good luck.”

“Thanks.” He hurried through the crowd to the side of the nearest stage.

Kemara smiled as Violeta and Ivy sat down on either side of her.

“We thought we’d keep you company,” Ivy explained.

“So are you ready for school to start?”

Ivy nodded. “Yeah. I’ll miss grandma, but it’s nice to know I can visit whenever I want without having to get on a plane.”

Kemara laughed. “Very true! I’m glad my own parents are moving up here so I can see them more often.”

“How’s that going?” Violeta asked.

“Pretty good so far. You know they closed on the house in June, so now they’re having some work done. Dad said they want to ship the first load of furniture and stuff soon. Then they’ll come up right before Thanksgiving to stay until the babies are born.”

She patted her stomach absently. “They want to be completely moved in by January.” She shook her head. “If the weather will cooperate.”

On stage, the first group of competitors lined up. Kemara gave Sean a little wave, and he smiled. Quickly, she held up her phone and took a picture.

“I thought pictures aren’t allowed?” Ivy said as the first two dancers stepped forward.

“Not while the dancers are in motion.” Kemara slipped the phone back into her bag. “But since no one was moving, it’s allowed. Besides,” She gestured around the now half-empty ballroom. “Nobody pays much attention to the adults.”

“That’s not fair!” Violeta said.

Kemara shrugged. “Ah, we make our own fun. A bunch of us usually go out for drinks or dinner at the end of the day. Even though we’re from different schools, we all support each other.”

As if to prove her point, a woman stopped by their chairs. She was older, with cropped ash blond hair. Despite her age, her navy dress showed off a slender figure.


“Alice!” Kemara stood and gave the other woman a hug.

“I saw Sean up there, so I figured you’d be close by. How was your honeymoon?”

Kemara grinned. “Great. We, uh, brought back a souvenir.” She stepped back so Alice could see her stomach.

“Oh my goodness! Look at you!” She hugged Kemara again. “Congratulations! I hadn’t heard. How far along are you?”

“Almost 25 weeks. This is my last feis for the duration, and I’m skipping solos.”

Alice laughed. “I should think so! But you look a lot further along than that. My Gerald was almost ten pounds when he was born, but I don’t think I was ever as big as you are now.”

Kemara smiled. “It’s twins. A boy and girl.”

“Wow! Now I’m even more impressed that you’re here.”

She glanced over at the stage. “Oh, it looks like Sean’s up.”

Ivy and Violeta moved over so they could sit down. Sean’s competitor was a younger man, but even so, Kemara could tell that Sean’s daily exercise regime had given him an edge. The other man was noticeably winded by the end of the reel.

Alice sniffed. “If you’re tired out after a ninety-second dance, you need to practice more.”

“So are Gerald and Tom here today?” Kemara asked as Sean took his place back in line.

“Gerald had soccer practice.” She sighed. “He’s 16, and he wants to be with his friends, not hanging out with his old Mom and Dad. But Tom’s around somewhere.”

Kemara patted her hand. “Ivy and Violeta here are heading off the college in a few weeks. Be glad you’ve still got a couple of years before that!” She introduced the two teenagers. 

“How long have you been dancing?” Violeta asked curiously.

Alice laughed. “Oh, goodness! I’ve lost count. Tom and I like to stay active. Keeps us feeling young, if not looking that way.”

“I hope I look half as good when I’m your age,” Kemara assured her. “Is anyone else from O’Leary here?”

“Just the usual suspects from our group and about twenty or thirty of the kids. I can’t keep track of them all.”

They applauded as Sean’s competition finished their jig.

“Well, I’d better get checked in,” Alice said, standing up. “Can I tell the others your news?” Her blue eyes twinkled with mischief.

Kemara laughed. “Why do I have a feeling I’m about to get mobbed? Sure! And good luck!”

With a wave, Alice left them.

Ivy waited until the woman was out of earshot. “How old is she?”

“Oh, probably in her mid-fifties - I’ve never asked outright. She and Tom tried for years to get pregnant before they finally had Gerald. She’s my inspiration.”

They watched Sean take part in several more dances one after another. At last, he made his way back over to them and collapsed into a chair.

“I’m beat!”

“Ha! You’re not even sweating!” Kemara scoffed.

“How would you know? You girls were talking the whole time. I don’t think you looked my way once.” He crossed his arms and stuck out his lower lip, the picture of a hurt little boy.

Kemara kissed his cheek. “Didn’t need to. You were the best by a mile.”

“Yup!” Violeta agreed.

“No question!” Ivy chimed in.

Sean’s frown disappeared, and he jumped up. “Okay, lunch time! I’m starving, and I know you guys are, too.” He patted Kemara’s bulge.

She grinned. “Always!”

The four of them splurged for a meal in the hotel’s dining room, but Kemara and Sean were constantly interrupted by fellow dancers congratulating them on their marriage and pregnancy.

“You two sure are popular,” Ivy giggled as Kemara tried yet again to eat her pasta.

“And this one hates it,” Sean teased.

Kemara blushed. “No I don’t! I did just fine at the cabin, didn’t I?”

“True. You were quite the social butterfly, actually. What happened?”

Kemara looked wistful. “Well, it’s different when it’s your friends. A crowd of strangers makes me jumpy. Plus, I could escape to the porch if I needed some space.”

“Or to the hot tub,” Violeta said with a smile. Kemara’s fondness for the jacuzzi had not gone unnoticed among their friends.

“Oh, don’t remind me,” Kemara groaned. She closed her eyes in remembered bliss. “I miss it so much! Baths just aren’t the same. I can’t get all of me under the water these days. I’m glad Portia said it would be okay as long as the water wasn’t too hot."

The other three exchanged secret smiles.

“I miss the cool mornings,” Ivy said. “It was just so peaceful with the trees all around, watching the sun come up over the mountains.”

Violeta nodded. “I miss all of us being together every day. That was fun! Especially playing charades and that storytelling game you brought, Kemara.”

“Remember the story Zeke’s team did with ‘member of the wedding’, ‘person with a devastating secret’ and ‘an email that can’t be unsent’?” Kemara grinned. “That was good.”

“And Adam trying to mime ‘metaphysical’?” Sean grinned. “I thought he was going to pull his hair out before JenniAnn finally got it.”

“And Jocelyn did a good job with ‘carousel’, too,” Ivy said. “I’m glad she and Zoe got to come. She said it was the most fun she’d had in a long time.”

Kemara sobered. “That’s sad. I know Emma and Peter see the girls as much as they can, but we should try to get them to Dyeland and the Tunnels more.”

“Good idea,” Sean checked his watch. “If you ladies are done, we should find the others.”

Violeta took out the schedule. “It looks like Shelby’s team is up first, and the adults are last.”

Kemara got to her feet. “I don’t think there are many teams, so it shouldn’t take long.”

“I think someone’s going to sleep all the way home,” Sean said, putting an arm around her as they left the restaurant.

“Probably! And Shelby might, too. It’s been a big day for her.”

They found Andrew, JenniAnn and Belle in the ballroom watching as Shelby and seven other little girls about her age practiced their dance.

“Hey! Looks like you guys did some shopping,” Kemara said, taking a chair beside JenniAnn. She nodded at the large bag sitting beside Belle’s diaper tote.

Her friend smiled. “Not as much as it looks. I picked up some Irish Breakfast tea for Vincent, some shortbread and candy bars - those Crunchies are good! -  for everyone else. And I got Shelby a T-shirt.” She reached into the bag and held up a blue shirt decorated with the words “Atlantic City Feis” and a picture of the nearby beach.

“I want one!” Kemara turned to Sean. “Please?”

He rolled his eyes. “Don’t you have a hundred shirts already?”

“But I don’t have this one....”

JenniAnn laughed. “Maybe you could ask Monica to make the old ones into a quilt.”

“Then, I’d have room for more!” Kemara grinned. “Good idea!”

Sean sighed. “Thanks a lot.” He turned to his wife. “All right. Since tomorrow’s your birthday. What size do you want: 2X or 3X?”

“Oh….” For a moment Kemara looked crestfallen. Then she brightened. “I guess I could just get the largest size they have and use it as a nightshirt later.” She smoothed down her dress. “Dunno how I’m ever going to lose all this weight though.”

JenniAnn hugged her “I wouldn’t worry about it. I bet running around after your lil ones will do the trick.”

Ivy nudged Kemara. “So what are you guys doing for your big day?”

“I have no idea.” She raised her eyebrows at Sean. “Someone refuses to tell me.”

Her husband pretended not to have heard.

“Here comes Shelby’s team,” Violeta said, excitedly. “Let’s move closer!”

As promised, their group found seats in the front row. Seeing them, Shelby grinned. The children skipped and clapped through the Sweets of May with only a few adorable stumbles here and there. When they finished, Dyelanders and Ivy cheered loudly.

When the last team had taken its turn, the judge called all five groups onstage for the awards.

“Fourth place goes to Inishfree!”

“Look at their faces!” Ivy laughed. All eight girls were open mouthed with astonishment.

Elaine snapped a quick picture as the judge presented each child with a white ribbon decorated with the feis logo and a bar of chocolate.

“Shelby’s racked up quite a chocolate stash, today,” Sean said, enviously.

Their teacher smirked. “Oh, hush….If you’d go check your scores, I bet you have some chocolate coming your way, too.”

He perked up. “Maybe! No time to look now - we need to get ready ourselves.”

With difficulty, Kemara fished her gillies from her bag. She toed off her flats, and stopped.


Sean sighed. “Give ‘em here.”

Blushing, Kemara handed him the shoes. He knelt in front of her chair and, taking each foot in turn, put on the shoes and tied the long laces in their complicated pattern.


Kemara nodded. “Thanks.” She kissed him on the forehead.


Startled, the couple looked up to find themselves surrounded by their friends and teammates, all watching in fascination.

“Can we help you with something?” Sean asked politely.

Andrew’s camera was still raised. He smiled a little sheepishly. “Sorry…couldn’t resist.”

“That was so sweet,” JoAnne sniffed. “I mean, you’ve been doing it at class, but here it was just….”

Kemara blushed even harder. “Didn’t mean to put on a show,” she mumbled as Sean stood up.

He held out a hand and helped her up as well. “Well, that just what we’re about to do anyway, right?”

Kemara hugged Shelby and Kayla who had joined them. “You girls did great! Congratulations!”

“And now it’s our turn,” Sean said. He looked down at her, and she saw the worry he was doing his best to hide.

She smiled at him. “I’ll be fine. Probably exhausted later, but…”

“Okay...if you’re sure.”

“Very sure.”

As they lined up, Kemara saw several people in the audience pointing in her direction.

“They act like you’re gonna pop the kids out in the next 5 minutes,” Sean muttered from the side of his mouth. “Wonder how many of them would stick around if a live birth was included in the entrance fee?”

With a great effort, Kemara stifled the hysterical giggles that wanted to burst out. On her other side, she felt Susan shaking with suppressed laughter.

All things considered, Kemara was glad their dance - The Cross Reel - was one their team was very familiar with. She let her body go through the pattern automatically and concentrated on keeping her energy up. When she began to flag, an extra firm handclasp helped her continue.

They finished to enthusiastic applause from their friends, and the O’Leary team took their place on stage.

“You okay?” Sean asked following Kemara back to the row of chairs set up for competitors. He gave her a bottle of water after making sure no one was watching them. Food and drink weren’t allowed.

She took a few swallows and handed it back. “Thanks. I’m fine.” She grinned at him. “If you hadn’t insisted on dragging me out of bed every morning to walk or jog, I probably would’ve collapsed halfway through.”

He chuckled. “See? I told you you’d thank me one day.” He sat down beside her.

“Hey, are you guys up for drinks - or orange juice - after this?” Brent asked as he joined them.

Sean looked puzzled. “Orange juice?”

“He means me,” Kemara said. “I wish we could but we came with friends, and it’s been a long day for them.”

“Ah, first time feis-goers, huh? Yeah, it’s always a shock.”

Sean chuckled. “They’re actually doing better than I’d hoped.”

When the awards were presented Inishfree took first and O’Leary second.

“Wait until next time!” Tom called as the judge passed out chocolate bars. “We’ll take it back!”

“You’re welcome to try!” Mark said to laughter from the spectators.

The two-hand competition was more popular, with eight couples in all combinations including twin brothers who looked to be in their late teens.

“They’re good,” Kemara whispered as she and Sean watched.

“We’re better.” He squeezed her hand. “So is this our version of ‘Dirty Dancing’?”

She was still laughing as they walked onstage.

When every team had taken a turn, the judge had them line up across the stage.

“First place goes to number 528 from Inishfree.”

Kemara and Sean grinned at each other as he handed them each a medal.

“I have to admit, I almost disqualified you for entering as a two-hand instead of a three-hand,” the judge joked.

“Four-hand, actually,” Sean corrected proudly. The audience members close enough to hear applauded. Kemara went beet red.

The judge laughed. “Really? Well, congratulations! I hope we see your little ones here in a few years.” He shook their hands.

“Thank you,” Kemara choked out. “We hope so too.”

They congratulated the others including Alice and Tom who had taken third place. After promising to keep the couple updated on the babies’ progress, they rejoined their Dyeland friends.

“You did great!” JenniAnn said. “I don’t think I’d have the courage to get up there.”

“What did the judge say?” Ivy asked. “We couldn’t hear.”

As he helped Kemara change back into her flats, Sean repeated the conversation. “It was probably a first:  twins competing at a feis before they’re even born!”

Shelby giggled. “So that means they’ll be really good later!”

Kemara managed a smile and let Sean haul her to her feet.

“Come on, girl. Let’s get you home.”

“We need to check if you won anything, and I wanted to get a T-shirt.”

He sighed. “Shelby and I will run to the awards room, while you get your shirt. We’ll meet you outside.”

“Good idea,” Andrew was carrying a sleeping Belle. “The elf is already out cold.”

“Poor love.” JenniAnn stretched up and kissed her daughter’s cheek. “It’s been a long, exciting day.”

Fifteen minutes later with T-shirt and Sean’s four chocolate bars accounted for, the group loaded up the Jolly Green and headed back to New York City.

Thursday, August 27

“It looks great, Owen!” Kemara said, stepping into the room that would be Ian and Joy’s nursery.

The artist had sketched out scenes of an African savannah on all four walls to create a mural effect. With the basic drawing in place, Owen had come over that afternoon to begin adding some of the larger areas of color.

“Thanks.” He tamped on the last paint can lid. “I’m not sure how long it’ll take me to finish. Maybe a couple of weeks….depends on how detailed I get.”

“I love the cubs. They’re so cute now, I can’t wait to see what they look like painted.” A pair of lion cubs played under a tree while a lion and lioness watched. In the distance more lions were visible.

“So do the other lions represent the Friends?”

Owen chuckled. “I guess so - our pride. I still need to figure out how I’m going to get Joshua in there. Obviously, he’s the head lion, but most prides have just one.”

Kemara considered. “Didn’t Cecil the lion have a brother who ran his pride with him and took over when Cecil was killed? Maybe Joshua could be the biggest lion standing on a rock somewhere.”

“Like Pride Rock? Yeah, that’s an idea!”

A rumble of thunder made them jump.

“Man, it’s getting dark out there,” Sean said, coming in with the cleaned brushes and paint pans. “The wind’s picking up, too. “

Owen moved the curtain aside. “Sure is. Look at the trees. Guess I’d better head back before it starts to pour.”

As if on cue, rain began to come down, obscuring the view.

“Too late,” Kemara said. “We’ll lend you an umbrella or a poncho.”

Sean frowned as thunder boomed again, this time accompanied by lightning. “Let’s go look out front. It might be better if you stayed here until it blows over.”

He clapped the younger man on the back. “I’m sure Warren would let you share the couch if it comes to that.”

“Fine with me. But the big question is when is Kemara making you sleep on the couch?”

Kemara laughed. “It is getting crowded between me, my belly and the body pillow. I think we’ve got at least another month before we run out of room.”

“Well, you did warn me,” Sean grinned. “Not sure co-sleeping would work though.”

“No, probably - .”

Kemara broke off as they entered the living room.


The three of them joined Warren at one of the large windows, staring in awe at a sky full of dark clouds above thrashing waves.

“Could be a hurricane,” Owen said. He stroked Warren absently and jumped as a spark leaped from the cat’s fur. “Ow!”

Warren hissed, and leaping down from the windowsill, ran into the bedroom.

Kemara frowned. “Storms don’t usually bother him.”

“I don’t think this is an ordinary storm.” Sean took out his cellphone. ‘I’m going to call Andrew - see what he thinks.”

Kemara opened the door a crack. Salt spray hit her face. A gust of wind slammed against the cottage, making her stumble backward. With Owen’s help, she got the door shut again.

“Andrew says it probably looks worse here because we’re right on the beach,” Sean said. “So why don’t you stay and have dinner with us, Owen, and maybe it will blow over by the time we’re done?”

“Thanks! Anything I can do to help?”

“It’s mostly leftovers. You mind throwing the salad together? All the veggies are already cut up. I’ve learned Kemara can’t be trusted around knives.”

His wife laughed. “Guilty! After I cut myself the third time, he said all sharp objects are off limits.”

“I think I can handle it,” Owen said.

With their talk interrupted by the rumble of thunder, the friends readied a simple meal of baked chicken, vegetables, rolls and salad.

Sean was just taking the bread from the oven when the noise of the rain stopped.

“That was fast.” Kemara went back to the window. “I guess it just blew itself out.”

She opened the door and stepped onto the porch. Sean and Owen followed her.

“Yup,” Owen said. “No wind at all now. Just feels heavy.”

“And the sky’s kinda green.” Sean looked up at the still cloudy but much lighter sky.

Kemara shivered. “That’s not good.”


For a wild moment, Kemara expected to see Joshua walking toward them across the water, the way he had on Easter. Instead, her eyes followed Owen’s finger to an ominous cloud bearing down on Tir Na Nog which was barely visible in the distance.

Even as they watched, a funnel - Kemara couldn’t tell if it was air or water - formed for a moment, shrank and disappeared.

Sean swore.

“We need go. Now! To Serendipity - they’ve got a basement.” He practically shoved Kemara and Owen back into the house.

“Owen, can you find Warren and put him in his carrier? It’s on the shelf in the laundry room.”

The other man nodded and hurried to obey..

Sean took out his phone again. “I’ll let Andrew know we’re coming. Grab your purse and anything small that you can’t bear to part with…..”

“Our scrapbook!” Kemara snatched it from the coffee table. “And some of the babies’ things.”

Sean nodded. “I’ll take the documents, my laptop and the external hard drive. Oh, and get those two big backpacks in the closet. Hurry!” He pulled up Andrew’s number again.

As she stuffed keepsakes, jewelry, baby clothes and toys into a backpack, Kemara heard the sirens begin to wail.

“Kemara!” Sean shouted. “Let’s go!”

She ran into the living room, lugging the heavy bag. Sean and Owen were already there. Warren’s carrier sat at their feet. From inside came the Siamese’s unhappy yowls.

Sean handed her a raincoat. It was one of his and big enough for her to zip. She pressed a hand to her belly. The babies were restless; could they sense her fear?

“I’ll take this,” Owen said picking up her backpack.

“I can -,” she started to say, but Sean stopped her.

“We’ll get it,” He insisted. “You just keep hold of my hand, all right?”

She nodded. The wind and rain had returned, completely obscuring the view out the windows.

Sean kissed her forehead as he pulled up her hood and tied it. “We’ll be fine. It’s not that far. Just keep your head down and don’t let go of me and Owen. Okay?”

She managed a weak smile. “No problem.”

“Owen, can you take the carrier, too?” Sean asked. He already had the other backpack, and his laptop bag over his shoulders and in one hand he held a flashlight.

“Sure thing.” The artist hoisted the cage and held out his free hand to Kemara.

She took it and the one Sean offered. Their steady grip reassured her.

When Sean opened the door, the wind almost yanked it from his grasp. As they stepped off the porch, blowing sand stung their faces, feeling like a thousand tiny needles.

Gratefully, they turned to the left and the trail to Willowveil. With the ocean at their backs, they could see a little better. The usually tidy path was a strip of mud with a rapidly-growing stream down the middle. Fallen branches and leaves covered it already.

“Stay to the side,” Sean yelled over the noise of the storm.

Had the funnel returned? Kemara listened hard, but heard only the normal sounds of a thunderstorm, not the roaring or sound of an oncoming train that she’d been told heralded a tornado. Maybe it doesn’t always sound like that, her brain reminded her.

Gritting her teeth, she ignored it and concentrated on her footing. The side the trail was a tangle of underbrush that snatched at their clothes and tried to trip them.

As they climbed up from the beach they met the full force of the wind. It came from every direction, making them screw up their eyes. Kemara felt battered before they had gone fifty yards. Deeper in among the trees it wasn’t quite as bad, and Sean increased their pace.


The trio froze as a tree crashed across the path directly in front of them. Kemara screamed as branches scraped at her face and the hands she’d instinctively raised.

They huddled together in shock, hearts pounding.

“Thank you, Joshua,” Sean gasped.

Owen wiped blood and rain from his face. “Amen.”

He raised the carrier to check on Warren. “You okay, buddy?” The cat huddled at the back of the cage looking miserable.

“That was too close,” Kemara said as her heart began to slow. “Can we climb over it?”

“I think so.” Sean said. “It’s not that big around.”

He led them out into the middle of the road. Here, the fast moving water flowed down to the ocean, washing away the road in a deepening trough. Already it was up to their ankles.

Kemara studied the tree - a pine. Its trunk came up to her waist. Or it would have if she still had one, she reminded herself.

“Sean, I can’t get over this,” she said, laying a hand on her husband’s arm. “Why don’t you two go ahead to Willowveil and come back with axes or something?”

He rolled his eyes. “And leave you here? No way. I think we can manage.”

Quickly, he walked along the trunk until he found the lowest point.

“Okay. I’m going to lift you up, and then I’ll climb over. You turn around - Owen you help steady her - and slide down the other side. I’ll catch you.”

She let him turn her so that her back was to the log. Quickly, he hoisted her up and climbed over himself.

“Now turn around….I’ve got you.”

Cautiously, Kemara twisted and pulled her legs up with Owen’s help while Sean kept hold of her. She completed the turn and slid down into his arms.

Owen passed Sean the cat carrier and his backpack before joining them.

As the three caught their breath, hail began to patter through the leaves above them.

“It’s getting worse,” Kemara said wincing as ice bounced off her head.

Sean nodded. “I think we need to run. It’s not much further.” He looked down at Kemara. “Can you do it?”

“Anything as long as we get inside soon!”

The final leg of the journey passed in a blur. Serendipity loomed up in front of them and then they were climbing the steps and JenniAnn was holding the door wide.

“What in the world happened to you?”

“We’re fine,” Sean assured her. “Just wet.”

“Go on downstairs,” JenniAnn said. “I’ll grab some towels.”

In the basement, Violeta and Ivy hurried over to them.

“You’re bleeding!” Ivy said as she helped Kemara out of her raincoat.

Owen grinned. “Just a close encounter with a falling tree.”

“Yeah,” Kemara gave a wry smile. “Would’ve been worse if Joshua hadn’t told us to stop just in time.” 

She bent down and opened the carrier to let Warren out. The Siamese promptly jumped up onto the loveseat and began licking himself dry.

“Here you go!” JenniAnn came down the stairs carrying towels, washcloths and the small first-aid kit.

“Thanks,” Sean took one of the towels gratefully. “It’s a mess out there.”

“Did you really see a funnel cloud?” Rose asked from where she sat beside Max.

Kemara nodded. “I don’t know if it was a waterspout or a tornado - guess they’re the same thing. But we decided not to stick around.”

The lights flickered and Belle began to cry.

“’s okay.” Andrew soothed her. “Look at Harvey. Why don’t we go read him a book so he won’t be scared?”

As always, her beloved pet distracted her, and Belle toddled over to the rabbit’s cage which Andrew had put on a chair so she could see it.

Sean wet one of the washcloths and wiped Kemara’s face. “Not too bad. Think you’re going to have shiner in the morning, though.”

She took the rag from him and dabbed at the bridge of his nose. “You’ve got a bad scratch there.”

His eyes crossed, and she chuckled.

She found the antibiotic ointment and put some gently on the cut, then kissed the end of his nose. “Still handsome.”

“Of course! Scars just lend character.”

Ivy giggled. “I think you’ve got plenty of that already.”

“Owen, a little help here?” Sean asked plaintively.

“Sorry, man. You’re on your own with those two.” The artist had grabbed some of Belle’s crayons and paper, and a stormy sea was emerging under his hand.

A gust of wind shook the house and the lights flickered again.

“Sean, it’s a good thing you hadn’t started building the deck, yet,” Max joked. “You might have to start all over.”

After hearing about them from Kylie, Sean had taken Kemara to the hot springs on Baile for her birthday. There, he revealed that Sol Mate would be getting an addition - a back deck with a hot tub.

“True!” Sean made a face. “I do want to get it finished before the kids show up.”

Kemara frowned. “I just hope the house will still be standing.”

He kissed her. “I’m sure it will be. We might need to add some shutters to the front windows, in case it gets this bad again.”

“I’ve never -,” she stopped, wincing.

“What’s wrong?”

“It felt like a cramp.” Kemara put a hand on her stomach. “But stronger.”

It was Sean’s turn to frown. “Do you think it was a contraction?”

“I….don’t know...I’m not sure what they’re supposed to feel like.”

Sean looked around. “Do any of you know Portia’s schedule? Could she be in the Tunnels right now?”

The others shook their heads.

“No idea…” JenniAnn said.

“Okay….Why don’t you call her cell?” He suggested. “If she thinks you need to go in, we’ll get you there.”

Kemara nodded and took out her phone. Sean wandered into the laundry room to give her some privacy.

He heard footsteps and turned to see Owen.

“You okay?”

Sean shook his head, feeling tears prickle at his eyes.

“It’s just one damn thing after another. We’ll be happy, and then the bottom falls out. By the time we’ve made our peace with that, something else comes up.” He ran a hand through his damp hair. “I’m tired of it. I don’t know what I’m doing half the time.”

Owen raised his eyebrows. “Coulda fooled me. You had us packed and out the door in...what? Less than five minutes?” He chuckled. “If it’d been me, I’d be hiding in a closet somewhere. And you figured out how to get over that tree before we all got washed away."

Sean rolled his eyes. “Anyone can do that.”

“I don’t think so. You keep a cool head….”

“You didn’t see me at the hospital after Kemara found out about Joy. I would’ve killed that doctor, I think.”

"Well, at least we have a lawyer in our group if you had killed him. But I don't think Catherine's ever been a defense lawyer..."

The joke fell flat, and Owen wasn’t surprised when Sean glared - not entirely in jest.

"Sean, I think most people react with anger when those they love are threatened or harmed. Think of Vincent. Or even Joshua. He turned into a one-man wrecking ball in the Temple just because his Father was being dishonored and the poor taken advantage of.”

Sean chuckled at that, and Owen continued.

“Yeah, you and Kemara have been through an awful lot. But every single time, you've picked yourselves up. Every single time you've found a solution or crafted a plan to deal with all those hypotheticals. If Kemara does have to go in today, you'll figure that out, too. I know you will. And on the off chance you don't... let the rest of us help. God knows we all love Kemara and the twins but not with the depth and breadth that you do. A little emotional distance helps sometimes. Like when JenniAnn was in the hospital. You and Kemara stepped up to the plate then because Andrew couldn't. Any of us would do the same for you."

“Thanks. That...I hadn’t thought about it like that.”

Owen smiled. "You’re welcome. You've got a talent for working with people, my friend. And you really should do something with it.”

Sean nodded.

“Now, let’s go see what the verdict is.”

They returned to the living room to find Kemara looking relieved. “Portia said that it sounds like Braxton Hicks, and she’d be surprised if I didn’t have a few contractions after all this.”

“So you don’t need to see her?” Sean joined her on the loveseat and put an arm around her.

“Not unless I have five or more contractions an hour, she said. And so far, that’s been the only one.”

He sighed. “Good.”

“Has anyone heard from Eilish?” Kemara asked. “The storm hit them before it got to us.”

Andrew nodded. “She texted to say that Samuel’s with her, and they’re fine. Monica, Arthur and Liam are okay, too. It’s not as bad over there. Adam’s in Albany, and Henry’s on assignment.”

“So now we just have to wait for it to blow over,” JenniAnn said as Andrew and Belle joined her on the couch.

Max looked around at the bookcases lining the walls. “Hey, what about Trivial Pursuit? I miss our nightly games on vacation.”

“Probably because whichever team you were on always won,” Rose teased.

Her fiance grinned. “Hey, when you got it, use it.”

He set the large box in the middle of the coffee table.

“So four teams: Me, Rose and Owen, Violeta and Ivy, Kemara and Sean, and Maja and Dad. And Lunabelle can get first try any time Disney gets mentioned.”

For the next two hours, the friends took turns answering questions. And, as predicted, Max’s team won yet again.

Sunday, November 1

When Sean awoke around 9, he found Kemara already dressed and cleaning the kitchen of all things.

“Hey, I figured you’d sleep late.” He kissed her, noting the dark circles under her eyes.

After the two Saturday performances of “Camelot” at St. Genesius, the cast and crew had held a Halloween party for their families. While the couple had enjoyed themselves, Kemara and Sean hadn’t gotten home until well after midnight.

Kemara rinsed out the rag she was using to wipe off the counters.

“Just couldn’t. I’m really achy and cramping.” She made a face. “I stayed in the bathroom about half an hour.”

Sean’s drowsy mind cleared a bit. “Cramping? You mean, like contractions?”

“I don’t know…Not painful...more like the Braxton Hicks kind I had during the storm in August.”

“But you haven’t had any since then.”

She shook her head. “I guess it’s just my body getting ready. You know Portia said it could be any day now.”

“She also said she wants them to stay put as long as possible.” He got down a mug and poured some coffee. Even though she couldn't drink it, she still made sure there was a pot ready for him.

“I know….”

As he watched, she went into the laundry room and came back with the Swifter.

“Honey, I’ll get that later. Why don’t you sit down, and I’ll make us some breakfast?”

He could’ve sworn she turned green. “Thanks, but I’m not hungry - well, not for that. What I really want is a huge deli sandwich. Much as I love Adam’s non-meat, I’m really craving ham and salami right now.”

Sean laughed and relaxed. “As soon as the kids are here, I’ll run out and get Adrian to make you a foot-long Italian,” he promised.

“Maybe we could stop on the way to the hospital and get one to put in the fridge if it’s not at night.”

“Done. Did you want to go to church this morning?”

She glanced at the clock on the microwave. “Yeah. But let’s go to the 12:30 service; then we can head straight to the theater afterward.”


When Mass was over, Sean caught Andrew’s eye, and the two slipped into the narthex while Kemara and JenniAnn took Belle to the ladies’ room.

“What’s up?” Andrew asked as they found a quiet corner.

“You, uh...have any experience with women in labor?” Sean asked, blushing slightly.

Andrew’s eyebrows flew up. “Now? Kemara seemed like her usual self.”

“No, but not long, I don’t think. She was up before me this morning cleaning everything in sight. Isn’t it nesting when they do that? And she’s not hungry. I had to force her to eat lunch.” Sean ran a hand through his hair. “Since she got pregnant she’s been starving - well, once the morning sickness stopped. And all of a sudden she isn’t?”

He shook his head when the angel started to speak. “No, I haven’t asked Portia. I know it takes a while with first babies; all the books say so.”

Andrew rested a hand on his shoulder. “And the books will also tell you that every woman’s labor is different. Now, I don’t know nothin’ ‘bout birthin’ no babies….”

Sean chuckled and rolled his eyes.

“But my suggestion is to give Portia a heads up that you guys might be seeing her soon. And then try to relax. It could be tonight or a week from now.”

“Yeah. You’re right. Thanks, I just….”

Andrew grinned. “It’s an exciting time. I do know that. We’re praying for all of you.”


3:00 p.m.

In the middle of the romping “Lusty Month of May,” Sean noticed Kemara wince.

“Contraction?” he whispered, thankful for the dim stage that hid their conversation.

“Maybe.” She continued to sing, smiling brightly.

As soon as they exited, he took her arm. “Let’s find Diana, and see what she says.”

“How’s it going?” the older woman asked when they came up to her backstage. “Kemara, are you feeling alright?”

“Sean thinks I’m going into labor.” She rolled her eyes. “I beg to differ.”

Diana smiled. “Why don’t we go sit in the office for a bit? It’s quiet there.”

She led the way and guided Kemara to the couch, sitting on one side of her while Sean took the other.

“Now,” she took Sean’s hand and placed it on Kemara’s stomach. “Let’s just wait and see if it happens again. Was this the first one?”

“I’ve been having those Braxton Hicks kind since I woke up, but this felt different.” Kemara said. She put a hand beside Sean’s, pressing lightly.

Diana continued to chatter about nothing in particular until Kemara drew in a deep breath.

“Oh, there’s one….Yeah, much more in my back.”

Sean rubbed her lower back gently, and she smiled at him. “Harder….How much can I pay you to keep doing that?”

He kissed her temple. “No charge.”

“Mmm-hmmm…” Diana nodded. “I’d say that was a nice little contraction. Did you feel how your abdomen got hard and kind of pulled up?”

The couple nodded.

“That was little?” Kemara joked.

“That was tiny, actually,” Diana said. “But you’re just starting.”

Sean shook his head, amazed. “I didn’t expect….I figured it would just be her internal muscles, but that was everything.”

“It’s a total body experience,” Diana agreed. “You don’t need to head to the hospital yet. But I do think you should have something to eat. You might not feel like it later.”

“I’m not -,” Kemara started to say. Her stomach rumbled loud enough for them all to hear, and she blushed.

Diana frowned. “That doesn’t sound like ‘not hungry’ to me.”

Kemara hung her head. “I don’t want to….you know,” she mumbled, “….when I start to push.”

Understanding dawned, and Diana hugged her. Sean looked confused.

“Oh, honey. It doesn’t matter. Seriously. With my first four they cleaned me out. It still happened. With Manny, they didn’t. And guess what? Still happened.”

Sean realized what they were talking about and put an arm around Kemara’s shoulders.

“By the time you get to that point, you won’t care about anything,” Diana went on. “You’ll have dozens of people in and out of your room, touching you all over, checking ‘how things are going down there’.” She made air quotes. “You’ll just be concentrating on making sure Ian and Joy get here. And to do that you need to keep up your strength.”

Kemara smiled slightly. “I guess I’ll try, then.”

“I brought some pasta salad just in case you came to your senses.” Sean went to the refrigerator and passed Kemara an insulated lunch bag and a bottle of water.

Diana laughed to herself. “With Kendra? I was so uncomfortable I didn’t want anyone or anything touching me. That included the hospital gown, sheets, Zeke or the doctor. The clothes had to go! Luckily, the doctors don’t mind that ‘cause they need to be able to get to you. It took a little more persuading before I’d let people near, though.”

“So my advice is to go with whatever happens. It’s a messy, noisy, uncomfortable business, and modesty just gets in the way.”

“I’ll remember,” Kemara nodded. “How long does it take, usually?” She took a small bite of pasta and then a bigger one.

She turned to Sean. “I need to call my parents, so they can get here in time.” She looked questioningly at Diana.

The other woman nodded. “Unless things move really fast, you’re going to be at this for hours. So, what I want you to do is -.” She paused as Kemara put down her fork, grimacing. “Don’t hold your breath; breath through it. You took a birthing class, right?”

When Kemara nodded, Diana turned to Sean. “And, Dad, I want you to time the contractions starting with the next one - how long they last and how far apart they are. Give Portia a call, too. She might want Kemara to go on in so they can monitor things.”

“I’d rather be here or at home,” Kemara said, continuing to eat.

“As long as we don’t end up like Doug and Lucy rushing to the emergency room in costume!” Sean teased.

Diana smiled. “I think you have plenty of time before things reach that point. But check with Portia to be sure. One of us will be glad to get you to the hospital.”

A knock on the door interrupted them. Monica opened it and peered in.  “I’m sorry to interrupt, but Diana, we need your help.”

Diana stood up. “You two try to relax. And just remember: They’re almost here!” She hugged them both and followed Monica.

When she had gone, Kemara gave Sean back the half-empty bowl.

“I want to go ahead and get changed - just in case Portia says to go now.”

Sean nodded. ‘Want some help?”

“No, I think I can manage.” She heaved herself off the couch.

He rose, too. “Okay, I’ll call her and then get changed myself. Meet you back here in ten?”

“Uh-huh.” But she didn’t move.

He touched her cheek. “What is it?”

“I’m...excited - I’m ready for them to get here….but I’m scared, too. About having them.”

He pulled her close, and she wrapped her arms around his neck. He could feel her shaking.

“Hey, you’ll do great, and so will the babies. I’ll be there the whole time, and your parents will hop on the next plane. Plus, as soon as the evening show is done, I’m sure some of our friends will be camping out in the waiting room.”

Kemara smiled. “And your parents and Ciara and Brad.”

“Yup! See? You’re gonna be surrounded by prayers and good vibes.” He grinned. “Not to mention angels, and last but definitely not least: the Father and Joshua, Maryam, Yosef, John and all our family there with them."

“That’s a lot of people,” Kemara agreed.

She tensed, and Sean grabbed a piece of paper and a pen from the desk, jotting down the time.

“All the same….sure you don’t want to trade places?”

He kissed her. “If it were biologically possible, I would in a heartbeat.” His smile faded. “Seriously.”

“I know.” She returned the kiss. “Let’s get changed.”


After some discussion, Kemara and Sean decided to stay at St. Genesius. He returned to Dyeland for the bag she had packed the week before, while she called Portia and their families.

“Good thing you think ahead,” Max teased. He and Rose were keeping Kemara company while the rest of the cast and crew prepared for the second show and picked up dinner.

Kemara smiled. “Maybe it was prompting from Joshua, because that was the day I decided I didn’t want to be pregnant a second longer. I guess I figured if I packed a bag maybe things would start moving.”

She grimaced as another contraction came, breathing the way her class had taught.

“Bad one?” Rose asked, sympathetically. She made a note on her phone. She had taken over contraction timing duties from Sean.

Kemara relaxed. “Not really.” She glanced at Max. “It’s like period cramps right now. It’s my back that’s hurting worse.”

The young man shook his head. “I don’t know how you ladies stand that every month. I couldn’t. Joshua sure knew what he was doing when he made women so strong.”

“Awww….” the two women chorused, and Rose kissed his cheek.

“What’s this?” Sean asked stepping into the room. He carried a small suitcase and a tote bag.

His wife giggled. “We were just complimenting Max for being especially tactful.”

“Hey!” Max looked indignant. “I’m always tactful.”

“Of course you are, dear,” Rose said, smirking.

Sean set the bags down. “I grabbed a few baby things too - a couple of onesies. How’s it going?”

Rose consulted her phone. “A little bit closer.” She looked at Kemara “And stronger?”

“Some.” She took Sean’s hand and squeezed it.

He  looked at the clock. “We’ll give it another hour if they keep increasing,” he said, remembering Portia’s instructions. “Then we’ll go.”

They heard voices in the hallway.

“Sounds like they’re back with the food,” Max stood up. “Want us to bring you guys a plate?”

Kemara shook her head. “No, I want to see everyone before….”

“No bad thoughts,” Sean admonished, supporting her as she got to her feet. “I forbid it. If necessary, I’ll have Eric make it a royal decree.”

“Uh-oh,” Max rolled his eyes. “This could set a dangerous precedent.”

Laughing, the four went out to join their friends.

7:30 p.m.

After dinner, Kemara and Sean sought out Zeke and Diana.

“I think it’s time we went to the hospital,” Kemara said, ruefully. “The contractions are closer, and Portia said she doesn’t want us to wait any longer. Would you….?”

“We’d be happy to,” Diana said warmly.

Zeke nodded. “Just let me go talk to Eli and get him to take over for me.”

“I’m sorry!” Kemara cried. “I didn’t even think. Sean can drive us, and you guys can come later if you want.”

He hugged her. “No problem! I’m glad to do it, and Eli will have a blast. Back in a minute!”

Kemara turned to Diana. “I am really sorry. I know you need to be backstage, and -.”

“It’s fine. You just relax, and we’ll handle it.”

“Wait,” Sean said. “You might want to change before we leave.”

Kemara looked at him blankly. “I already did.” She gestured at her leggings and tunic. The comfortable clothes were a far cry from the elaborate gown that was her “Camelot” costume.

He grinned. “I thought you could wear this.”

He reached into the tote bag he had brought and pulled out a shirt. Kemara recognized it as the one he had presented to her as a gag gift at the Halloween party the night before.

“Why would I…?” Realization hit, and she burst out laughing.

“I think it should make a nice impact at the hospital, don’t you?” Sean asked, smugly.

She kissed him. “I love you! I’ll be right back.”

When she returned, Diana and Zeke were waiting with Sean.

Zeke chuckled. “That’s even funnier now than it was last night.”

The black T-Shirt sported two sets of hand prints and the words, “Let us out!” in dripping, red letters.

Kemara patted her stomach. “I think it gave them ideas. Either that or our birds-with-nest-and-eggs costumes. That was Sean’s idea….almost as good as yours with the solar system and Neil deGrasse Tyson.”

“Before we go - Kemara, I know it makes you uncomfortable, but I know everyone would really like to pray for you all before you head out,” Zeke said.

She smiled. “I’d love that, Zeke. Thank you.”

They walked back into the auditorium where the others were clearing up the remains of the meal.

“If we could have everyone’s attention,” Zeke called.

When it grew quiet he continued. “Kemara and Sean are ready to leave for the hospital. I thought we might ask Joshua and his Father for their help.”

With murmurs of agreement, they all clasped hands.

“Dear Lord, we ask that you surround our friends, Kemara and Sean, with Your peace and comfort as they travel to the hospital and during the time they spend there.  Please strengthen and soothe Kemara as she works with You to bring little Ian and Joy into the world.  Lord, please give strength to Sean but help him to remember, too, that you are Strength itself and You are there for him and Kemara and the little ones to lean on.”

“Amen,” the Friends chorused and moved forward to hug Kemara and Sean, all promising to either visit after the show or keep in touch by text.

“Will Portia be waiting for you?” Diana asked as the two couples walked outside. An icy wind buffeted them. “Brr...It feels like snow.”

Sean hurried Kemara into the back seat of the Wilson’s SUV. “No, she’s on call at another hospital. But she’ll be over when her shift’s done. Dr. Faulkner, who we really like, will look in once they get Kemara settled.”

“Guess I...have a...whole team,” Kemara said getting the words out in the middle of a contraction.

“Yup! And that includes all the Friends,” Zeke said as they headed toward the Children’s.

Kemara smiled at her husband. “So Sean reminded me.” Her smiled faded a little. “I hope it doesn’t snow.”

She took out her phone and typed rapidly. “Dad says they’re on standby for a flight leaving at 9. If they can’t make that, they’ll keep trying.”


Kemara and Sean had already filled out the necessary paperwork at Children’s Hospital, so she was taken immediately to a private room on the maternity floor.

“Sir, why don’t you step outside while we take care of things? We’ll help her get changed and check that she and the babies are stable.”

Sean looked doubtful, but Kemara smiled at him and made little shooing motions. “Go on; I’ll be fine.”

“OK, but let me get a picture of the shirt first.” He took out his phone and snapped a quick photo.

The nurse shook her head. “I want a copy of that to put on our bulletin board.”

“And we should give Portia a copy, too,” Kemara added.

Sean kissed her and reluctantly left the room.

Diana and Zeke were waiting in the hall.

“I’m gonna drive Diana to the theater, and then I’m coming right back here,” Zeke told him.

“Thanks, but you don’t need to -,” Sean began.

Diana held up a hand. “We want to. And I know some of the others will come once the show’s over.”

“Have you heard how it’s going?” Sean asked grateful for the brief distraction.

“Good so far,” Zeke said. “Got nearly a full house. Guess we’re getting ourselves a reputation.”

Sean chuckled. “Guess so.” He glanced at the closed door.

The older couple exchanged smiles.

“See you later,” Diana told him and they left.

Sean waited for another ten minutes, pacing, before a nurse stepped out

“All done! That shirt she had on is too cute.”

“Kemara says it gave the babies ideas.”

She smiled. “Well, she said she was having Braxton Hicks contractions this morning. It’s very possible that labor got started last night and she didn’t notice.” She held the door open for him. “Dr. Faulkner should be in soon. If the contractions get very strong or she starts bleeding, buzz the desk.”

“We will,” Sean reassured her.

Kemara was sitting up in bed wearing the oversized T-shirt she’d gotten at the Atlantic City feis in August.

“What, no hospital gown that flaps open in the back?” He sat down in the uncomfortable plastic visitor’s chair and took her hand.

She snorted. “No, thank God. As soon as the doctor comes by they said I can get up and walk - at least for a while. Glad I have another pair of leggings.”

“How’s your back?”

“Worse,” she said quietly.

Sean studied her. “Okay, out with it. Something’s bothering you.” He waved his free hand. “Besides all this.”

“I just….” She fidgeted. “It feels like I’ve been complaining all day.”

“And you think you shouldn’t be?”

“No! All this - “ she copied his gesture. “Has been going on since the beginning of time. I don’t need to gripe about it.”

He chuckled. “My little martyr. I’m 99 percent sure that if we ask Portia or Dr. Faulkner they’ll say they want you to complain.”

She looked doubtful. “Really?”

“Wanna bet?”

“No.” She managed a smile. “Every time I bet against you, I lose.”

A knock on the partly open door interrupted them.

“Come in!” Sean called.

Dr. Faulkner stepped into the room then pretended to stagger back in shock when he caught sight of Kemara.

Caught mid-laugh as a contraction came on, Kemara choked and began to cough.

The doctor hurried over and poured a cup of water which Sean passed to her.

“Sorry.” He smiled. “I know it’s only been a month since I saw you last, but my goodness!” He patted the mound of her stomach and snatched his hand away as one of the babies responded with a solid kick. “Hey, I said I was sorry!”

Kemara sipped the water and made a face. “You’re as bad as he is.” She nodded to Sean who was grinning.

Faulkner shook his hand. “Then I’m in good company. Hanging in there, Son?”

“Yes, sir. So far.”

“Now,” the older man rolled over a stool and joined them at Kemara’s bedside. “Tell me how things are going. The nurse said you haven’t been here long.” 

With occasional prompting by Sean, Kemara went over everything since she had awakened that morning with the urge to clean house.

Dr. Faulkner listened intently, making notes on her chart.

“It sounds like you’ve had a busy day!” he said when she finished. “You mentioned that your back has been hurting. On a scale of 1 to 10 how does it feel now?”

“Be honest,” Sean reminded her.

Kemara sighed. “Probably a six, but it shoots up to an 8 when I have a contraction.”

“Is this what the books call back labor?” Sean asked, concerned.

“I think so. There are two possibilities: either Kemara’s uterus is tipped, or one of the babies is resting in just the wrong place.”

“None of the doctors mentioned anything about my uterus,” Kemara said slowly, trying to remember.

Faulkner nodded. “Then I think it’s a matter of positioning. You can try a few things like walking or getting up onto your hands and knees in hopes that they’ll shift. Counterpressure - courtesy of Sean, here - can help if he or she stays put. You might try holding onto him during the contractions too.”

“Yup! I can take it!” Sean joked.

Kemara smiled. “What about an epidural?”

“Definitely. Hospital policy requires that we administer an epidural for twin births. For the simple reason that if we need to perform a C-section, you’re already numbed. Otherwise, we’d have to knock you out completely which can cause problems for the babies.”

“And when would I have it?”

“Usually once you’re dilated to about 5 centimeters or so, but we also take your pain level into account. Did Dr. Goodwin explain about how the delivery will go?”

Kemara and Sean exchanged looks.

“They’ll take her to the operating room just in case,” Sean said, squeezing his wife’s hand.

“That’s right. We don’t want to take any chances. Because of the number of support people, only one family member is allowed to be with you.”

“And that will be Sean. My parents are on their way, but they haven’t gotten a flight yet.”

Kemara gritted her teeth as a contraction began. She leaned forward, hugging her knees. With a questioning look at the doctor, Sean massaged her lower back.

“That’s right. Kemara, I need you to remember to breathe. Try to talk through them as long as you can.”

“Funny….every thought….just went out of my head,” the woman said, relaxing back against the pillows.

Faulkner patted her hand. “I don’t doubt it. But it really will make things easier. Did Sean putting pressure there help at all?”

Sean refilled the cup and gave it to her.

“Yeah, but I feel like moving around might help too.” She gulped down half the water in two swallows.

“That should be fine. Hold onto Sean or the railing and remember to try leaning against him during the contractions. Above all, listen to you body and do what feels right.”

He stood up. “I’ll call Dr. Goodwin and give her an update. And I’ll swing by again in a couple of hours to check on you before I head home.”

“Thank you so much,” Kemara said.

Sean nodded. “Yes, we really appreciate you taking the time to explain everything.”

“My pleasure. I can’t wait to meet these two!” With another pat for the babies, he left the room.


For the next few hours, Kemara walked up and down the hallway outside her room. Despite every position she tried and Sean’s massage, the pain in her back grew as the contractions quickened and intensified.

After the show ended, various Friends texted or dropped by to check on the couple. Sean’s parents, Keith and Megan, arrived at 10 insisting they would stay for the duration. The Thorntons, who had left Lily with Peter and Emma, showed up soon after bearing snacks and encouraging words.

Kemara’s parents remained in Atlanta, unable to get a flight to New York. The forecast called for snow in New York by morning, and heavy rains down South didn’t help.

About 11:30, Sean caught sight of Portia stepping out of the elevator with Dr. Faulkner and sighed with relief. He had been trying to convince Kemara to lie down so she could rest easier between contractions, but so far she had refused.

“Come on, honey. Portia’s here. Let’s get you back to your room.”

He caught the eye of one of the nurses - Barbara? Yes, that was her name. The woman hurried over and together they got Kemara settled just as the doctors arrived.

“How’s it going, you two?” Portia asked. She took Kemara’s hand and clipped a pulse probe to her index finger.

The older woman forced a smile. “Fine.”

Sean shook his head. “Massage isn’t helping the back pain at all.”

“Sounds like somebody’s being stubborn,” Dr. Faulkner said. “We’ll just take a look and see how things are progressing.”

Kemara blushed. “A friend of ours said there’s no place for modesty when you’re having a baby, it’s still…..”

Portia smiled and pulled on a pair of gloves. “I’ll be quick. I promise.”

She was; afterward helping Kemara sit up against the pillows. “It looks like you’re about 4 centimeters. And -.”

Kemara hunched forward, crying out as a contraction began. Sean put his hands on either side of her spine, and pressed hard.

When she raised her head, her face was red and wet with tears.

“Can I have an epidural now?”

Portia and Dr. Faulkner exchanged glances.

“Not quite yet, honey,” Portia said, gently.

“Why the hell not?” Sean demanded.

Kemara took his hand. “It’s okay. It’s not that bad.”

“No, I want an explanation.” He glared at the two doctors

Portia sighed. “Sean, we’re not being cruel. An epidural can slow labor, so we’d like to wait until Kemara is a little more dilated before we put one in.”

“Everything’s moving right along,” Dr. Faulkner said. He turned to Portia. “You’ll keep me updated?”

“Of course.”

“Good luck to you all.” With that, he left the room.

“So what can we do?” Sean wiped Kemara’s face with a wet cloth.

“Just hang in there a little while longer. I’m going to get things ready and put in an order for that epidural so it will be ready when you need it.” She checked the chart. “It says your water broke an hour ago?”

Kemara chuckled ruefully. “Yeah, I was in the hall and all of a sudden I was standing in a puddle.”

“Two puddles,” Sean put in, smiling a little. “Cleanup on aisle three!”

“Well, I’d say it won’t be too much longer before we’ll be saying hello to Miss Joy and Mr. Ian.” Portia stood up. “I’ll check back in a little bit. Call the nurses if you need anything at all.”

“Except an epidural,” Sean muttered darkly as the door closed.

Kemara tugged on his hand. “I wish you could get up here with me.”

He hesitated. “I don’t know….”

“Please? You could sit behind me.”

“Alright, but there might not be enough room for all four of us,” he warned. “This bed isn’t as big as ours, you know.”

It took a few minutes careful maneuvering, but at last Kemara reclined against him, their hands on her belly.

“They sure are moving around,” Sean commented. He pushed up her T-shirt and watched as something, probably a knee or a foot, bulged out and then disappeared.

“Well, one of them is.” Kemara said. She smiled up at him. “You make a good pillow.”

He kissed her temple. “Thanks. I love you.”

“I love you, too. I’m sorry this is so hard.”

“Why? You’ve got nothing to apologize for!”

She sighed. “I know you hate seeing me in pain, and it’s only going to get worse.” She tensed. “Like right now -.”

Sean wrapped his arms around her more securely. “Hold on to me.” He turned his hands palms up and she clutched them.

“You know,” he said into her ear. “I think I might need to have a few words with Joshua about the wisdom of putting women through this.”

Kemara gave a sob and relaxed again. “Me too.” She tried to wipe at her eyes, but Sean took the washcloth and did it for her. “Thanks.”

For the next half hour Sean helped Kemara through three more contractions, each more painful than the last. Finally, he could stand it no longer.

“I’m going to find Portia and have them give you that epidural, dilated or not.”

Exhausted, Kemara only nodded and let him settle her against the pillows once he had gotten up. He kissed her.

“Back in a minute.”

He stepped out in the hall, leaving the door ajar. The nurse’s station was only a few steps away.

“Please, can my wife have an epidural now? She’s wearing herself out.”

Barbara tapped at her computer. “We’ll need to wait for Dr. Goodwin. Does Kemara have an IV in yet?”


“Well, we’ll need to put that in first to get fluids started.”

Sean turned at a faint sound from Kemara’s room. “Anything. Please, just hurry.”

“I’ll call Dr. Goodwin and get the go ahead for the IV.” Barbara picked up the phone, while Sean hurried back down the hall.

“Kemara!” Sean stepped in the room to find his wife on the floor on her hands and knees.

She looked up, blushing, as he helped her to her feet. “Lost my balance. I was trying to get to the bathroom and…”

“You should’ve waited for me!” Worry made his voice sharper than he meant, and she flinched.

“Sorry...I caught myself so it’s okay. Really…”

He sighed. “No, I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to shout at you. Here, let me help.”

Carefully, Sean got her into the small bathroom and then back into bed just in time for another contraction.

As he massaged Kemara’s lower back with one hand - she had a death grip on the other - he caught sight of his watch. The contractions were about seven minutes apart according to his count.

“Where is that nurse?”

He looked down the hall, but a strange nurse stood at the desk. Had Barbara gotten in touch with Portia? He thought about calling the doctor himself and dismissed the idea. If she didn’t come soon, though….

“Sean, can you hand me my phone? I want to call Mom and Dad.”

He turned back into the room. “Sure.” He found her purple cellphone and gave it to her.

“When did I call them last?” Her eyes were a little glazed, he thought.

“Umm...about half an hour ago,”

She frowned. “Oh, I thought it was longer….it feels longer…I hope they get here soon.”

“I’m sure they’re annoying the crap out of the ticket agents if they aren’t already on a plane.” He watched as she pressed the shortcut and listened.

“No answer. Maybe that’s good.” She set the phone on the table and closed her eyes.

Now, it was Sean’s turn to frown. “I’m sure it is. Why don’t you try to nap, and I’ll go see what’s keeping Portia.”


But before he could move, Barbara knocked lightly and pushed a cart into the room. “Here we are! Dr. Goodwin is on her way, so I’ll start you on some fluids while we wait.”

Kemara opened her eyes and smiled at the nurse. “Sounds good.”

“So have you decided on names yet?” Barbara asked, cleaning a spot on the back of Kemara’s left hand. “You’d be surprised how many parents don’t discuss it before the baby actually gets here.”

“Yes, Gabriel Ian and Miriam Joy,” Kemara said, turning her head away from the sight of the needle. “Ian and Joy for short.”

Barbara deftly inserted the needle and taped it down. “Very nice.”

“I bet you’ve heard some strange ones,” Sean said, speaking lightly for Kemara’s benefit.

“Oh, yes! Let’s see...just in the last few months we’ve had Ruckus, Sadman and Legendary.”

Kemara laughed. “Wow, those are pretty out there. And I was worried about having a boy named Gabriel.”

She drew up as a contraction came on, and to Sean’s surprise the nurse ignored her patient’s cries, continuing to set up the IV.

“Can’t you give her something just to blunt the pain a little?”

He tried to keep his tone level, but his patience was wearing thin. Didn’t they care that Kemara was hurting so badly?

Barbara shook her head matter-of-factly, “No, I’m sorry, but we need to wait for -.”

“I had it up to here with waiting!” Sean exploded, not bothering to keep his voice down. “You could do -.”

“Sean, if you can’t stay calm then get out.”

Portia stepped into the room. Two nurses came behind her with various equipment.

His mouth fell open. “What? You can’t throw me out!”

“I can, and I will,” Portia said firmly. “You’re not helping Kemara like this.”

Keith appeared in the doorway. “Come on, Son. Let’s go sit in the waiting room while they take care of things here.”

Sean cast an anguished look to where Barbara was helping Kemara to sit on the edge of the bed beside some kind of machine that she had rolled over from one corner.

Portia put a hand on his arm. “I’ll come get you when we’re done. It should be about fifteen or twenty minutes. We’ll go ahead and give her a spinal which will take care of the back pain. Once we insert the epidural, we can increase the meds when it’s time for her to start pushing.”

“Alright.” Reluctantly, he let Keith lead him away.


It was actually closer to an hour later before Portia came into the family room where Sean and his parents, JenniAnn, Andrew, Diana, Zeke, Azalea and Basil waited. As soon as he saw her, Sean jumped up and hurried over.

“What’s wrong? Why did it take so long?”

She took his arm. “I need to talk to you. Would you rather we go somewhere private or…?”

He went pale and shook his head. “ is fine. Everyone’s family.”

“Let’s sit down, then.” She pulled up a chair, and Sean resumed his place between Keith and Megan.

“I’ll just give everyone a quick rundown,” Portia began. “Kemara went into labor about ten hours ago. The babies are doing well, but the contractions have slowed, which is why I have time to talk.”

“Is it right for labor to be taking so long?” JenniAnn asked. “I mean, I read that first babies take longer, but is it different with two?”

Portia nodded. “Yes, twins do usually take longer, around twelve hours on average. What concerns me is that the contractions should be increasing at this point, but instead they’ve slowed. And she’s not dilated as much as she should be.”

“You did say that the epidural might slow labor,” Sean reminded her with a touch of anger.

“Yes, it can, but I suspect this is something else. I gave her a spinal which has relieved her back pain completely. The epidural wasn’t as effective as I had hoped, though. Her lower body is mostly numb, but she’s still feeling the contractions to some extent.”

“Figures,” Sean muttered.

Portia smiled. “Yes, that’s what she said.”

Azalea looked confused. “I don’t understand.”

“Kemara’s body reacts to most sedatives as if they were stimulants.” Portia explained. “It’s usually inherited. She said her grandmother was the same way.”

“And what happens if you give a spastic a stimulant?” Sean asked with a grimace.

“She tenses up even more,” Megan guessed. “And that makes the pain worse.”

Portia nodded. “That’s right. I think her fear of the pain - even lessened as it is - has caused labor to stall. If we can get her relaxed, I expect she’ll go through transition and deliver pretty quickly.”

She took one of Sean’s hands. “And that’s why I wanted to talk to you. As I said, the babies are fine now, but Kemara is wearing herself out, and the hardest part is yet to come. I need you to help keep her calm. Can you do that? If not, I’ll ask for volunteers, but you would be the best choice.”

“No, I can do it. I’m sorry about...before. I just…”

Megan rubbed his back soothingly. “We understand…”

Portia nodded. “Yes, It’s fine. You’re not the first new father I’ve had to toss out on his….behind.” She gave his hand a squeeze. “I need to warn you though: Kemara’s exhausted. She might get a little irrational and say things she doesn’t mean.”

“That’s okay. I just want to be there.”

“Go on then. I’ll be right behind you.”

When he had gone, Portia turned back to the others. “Is there something I need to know?”

JenniAnn and Andrew exchanged glances.

“His nightmare - that the demons sent,” JenniAnn said. “He dreamed that Kemara went into labor and he was far away. When he got to the hospital the nurses tried to keep him out of her room. He was just in time to watch the babies delivered by C-section. But they were already dead, and then Kemara bled to death.” She blinked back tears. “And there was nothing he could do.”

Andrew hugged her, his face grave, remembering how he had experienced his friend’s anguish.

Portia shuddered. “My God….no wonder he’s upset. I wish I had known. I might have -.”

“It’s not your fault,” Zeke said. “You’re their friend, but also Kemara’s doctor. That means you have to take her health into account first.”

“And Kemara? What was her nightmare, if you can say? Obviously, this is all in confidence, but if hers was as bad as Sean’s, then I need to know.”

JenniAnn nodded. “She dreamed that right after the twins were born an official came and took Joy away to a horrible institution because she was ‘defective’. And she and Sean could only visit once and month, but not touch or hold Joy or anything.”

“I don’t think we’ll be whisking them away to the NICU immediately unless something drastic happens,” Portia said. “They’re nearly 35 weeks, which is good for twins. I estimate they’re between four and five pounds. So Kemara and Sean will have plenty of time for cuddling first.”

She stood up. “Thank you for telling me all this. Hopefully, I can ease both their fears now.”

“Can we go in and see Kemara?” Azalea asked. “Before she goes to the operating room?”

“Of course. Just let me clear it with her, and I’ll send Barbara to come get you.”


Kemara reached out a hand to Sean, and he hurried to take it.

“I’m sorry,” She whispered. “I didn’t mean to scare you. Everyone must think I’m such a wimp.”

He sank into a chair and clasped her cold hand with both of his. “Sweetheart, no. They understand.” He grinned. “You’re doing better than I would be! I’d be yelling so loud they could hear me in Central Park.”

She started to laugh, but stopped as a contraction hit. Gritting her teeth, she breathed heavily for a minute before relaxing back against the pillows.

Sean was alarmed at the weakness of her grip. Before he’d been ejected from the room, she’d nearly ground his finger bones together.

“There are a lot of folks in the waiting room who’d like to come see you, if you think you’re up to it,” Portia said coming back in.

Kemara flushed. “I must look a fright.”

“Nah, you look great,” Sean told her with complete sincerity.

She rolled her eyes. “Liar. Will you brush and rebraid my hair for me at least?”

“Sure thing.”

He rooted through the suitcase and found her brush. Working carefully around the IV and epidural lines, he smoothed her long brown hair into a neat woven ponytail.

“There.” He flipped the end - fastened with a purple rubber band - over her shoulder and kissed her temple. “Perfect.”

She blinked back tears. “Have I ever said how much I love you?”

“Every day. Ready to meet your fans?”

Kemara rallied as best she could for her visitors, but after fifteen minutes, Portia called a halt.

“That’s enough for now,” she said when Father Mike had left after praying privately with the couple.

“Yeah, I am a little tired.” Kemara smiled at the large bouquet of flowers that now sat on her bedside table, a present from all the Friends.

Sean resumed his place at her side. “You’re a celebrity!”

“I meant to ask Megan if they’ve heard from my parents.” She stroked the huge mound of her belly over and over.

He hesitated and looked over at Portia who was making final preparations with several nurses and technicians. The doctor met his eyes and shook her head.

“Honey, I don’t think they’ll get here in time.”

Kemara turned her face away and tried to stifle a sob. The steady blip of the heart monitor increased its pace. Sean caught his breath, but the lines for the twins remained the same. 

“Hey, it’s OK.” Sean wished he could hold her. “I’m right here, and the waiting room is full of people. You’ve got a bunch of folks praying for you and the babies.”

She nodded, trying to wipe at her tears without pulling the IV in her hand. He took a tissue and did it for her. “I know, and I know it’s selfish, but I just wanted my Mom.” It was almost a wail.

“Sweetheart, you have to calm -.” He broke off as another voice spoke from the doorway.

“Would you accept me in her place?”

The couple stared at the newcomer in shock.

“Maryam….” Kemara held out her free hand, and Joshua’s mother came over to take it.

“You are much bigger than when I last saw you, yes?”

Kemara laughed. “Very much bigger!” She took Maryam’s hand and moved it, pressing it against her side.

Maryam smiled as she felt the baby twist. “They are lively. Yeshu was the same the night he arrived. He was very anxious to meet us.”

“Is he….” Kemara let the question trail off. Sean looked up hopefully.

“He will be here later,” Maryam kissed her forehead. “From him. He is very proud of both of you.”

She kissed Sean as well. “Yosef is in the waiting room with the others. I think he would like to speak with you.”

Sean looked torn. “I don’t know….”

Kemara smiled at him. “Go on! We’ll be fine.” She returned his kiss.

As he passed Portia, he said quietly, “I thought we needed to hurry.”

She nodded, watching the two women who were talking intently. “If Maryam can get her in the right frame of mind, I’m willing to wait a bit. The babies are doing fine.”

“I’m so glad you’re here!” Kemara sniffled and smiled at Maryam.

Maryam settled into the chair. “As am I. Now, tell me what is troubling you.”

Kemara began to shred the tissue she held into tiny pieces. “I’m so scared. I thought I could do this, but when it got really bad earlier…” She shivered and the heart monitor which had begun to slow, picked up again. “it was horrible. They couldn’t give me anything since Portia wasn’t here, and Sean got angry cause….cause he can’t stand to see me hurting...and Portia threw him out and….”

Maryam gently removed the mangled tissue and replaced it with a handkerchief.

Kemara smiled at the K embroidered in one corner. “Thank you. Mine’s in my purse, and I don’t know where Sean put it.” She blushed. “Will you….will you tell me a story? To kinda take my mind off everything?”

“I would be happy to. What would you like to hear?”

“Something about when Joshua was a baby,” Kemara suggested.

Maryam thought for a minute and then laughed softly.

“On the third or fourth day after Yeshu’s birth I left him with Yosef while I bathed. Yosef heated the water and hung a curtain so I would have privacy. It was so nice to be clean.”

“I can imagine!” Kemara said. “I’m looking forward to being able to take long, hot baths again.” She grimaced slightly at a contraction, but said nothing, focusing on Maryam instead.

“I had only begun to wash when I heard Yeshu start to cry. ‘Is everything alright?’ I asked Yosef. ‘Oh, yes,’ he said. ‘The child only spit up a little milk’.”

Kemara grinned, remembering her experience babysitting Manny.

“Yeshu was a fast eater and often did that,” Maryam continued. “So I thought nothing of it. But as I was starting to dress, Yosef shouted.”

“What happened?” Kemara leaned forward into a contraction. “He didn’t drop Joshua, surely!”

Noticing, Portia checked the time. Not long now….

Maryam shook her head, smiling. “No. He had taken off his soiled tunic to change it and was holding Yeshu against himself with one arm. And Yeshu was hungry so….”

Kemara burst out laughing. “Really? I bet that was a shock!”

“Oh yes!” Maryam laughed too. “I hurried and took Yeshu. My poor Yosef was very embarrassed. But he said later that he was glad to know what nursing was like for my sake.”

“Awww...I don’t know if Sean would be so understanding.”

“Hey! What are you ladies saying about me?” Sean stood in the doorway, watching the tableaux.

Portia stopped him from coming any further. “I hate to interrupt, but I think we need to get Kemara to the operating room now.”

The woman paled. “I didn’t realize….” She clasped Maryam’s hand. “Can Maryam and Sean both come, please? I know you said there’s just room for one, but….”

The doctor hesitated, and then nodded. “Alright, I’ll bend the rules just this once.”


Once they were in the operating room things did move quickly as Portia had predicted. Kemara was surrounded by masked and gowned medical staff - including Dr. Faulkner. As they worked, checking the babies’ position and readying instruments, Kemara held tight to Sean and Maryam’s hands and tried to relax.

“Looks like baby A is head down, and B is breech,” someone said.

“Is that a problem?” Sean ventured to ask from his place by Kemara’s head out of the way.

Portia shook her head. “Maybe not. Sometimes they turn after the first one is born. We’ll just have to see.”

Kemara lost track of time as contractions came more quickly. She focused on her breathing and the reassuring sound of Maryam and Sean’s voices.

“How are you doing?” Dr. Faulkner was leaning over her.

“Lots of pressure….doesn’t really hurt though….”she managed.

She saw his eyes above the mask crinkle as he smiled. “That’s good. On the next contraction, I want you to push as hard as you can. From here - “ He held one gloved hand above her abdomen. “Not here -” he gestured to her upper body. “Or you’ll end up with black eyes like a raccoon and a nasty headache.”

“Wouldn’t want that,” she whispered. “Tired though.”

“I know. But you need to give this everything you have left, okay?”

Kemara barely had time to nod before she felt the familiar tightening, this time accompanied by a strong urge to push. Grunting with the effort, she bore down.

When she relaxed, Maryam wiped her face with a damp cloth.

“You are doing very well.”

“That was fantastic,” Portia cheered. “Sean, you might want to get down here.”

Looking at little nervous, Sean kissed Kemara and went to the end of the bed.

“Alright. One more push should do it.”

As she strained, Kemara kept her eyes fixed on Sean. He grinned as the sound of a baby’s cry filled the air.

Dr. Faulkner held up the little bundle who was now screaming and wriggling in outrage.

“He’s a loud one,” Portia said over the din.

Kemara found herself laughing and crying at the same time. She watched as Sean gently touched one of Ian’s small hands. The tiny fingers wrapped around his own.

“Let us get him checked out,” Barbara said, coming to take the baby.

“I think I’m kinda attached,” Sean choked out and everyone chuckled.

Kemara let Maryam wipe away her tears. “Can we see him?”

“Just a minute,” Dr. Faulkner said from where he was examining the still-screaming infant.

Sean joined them still looking amazed. He leaned down and kissed her. “He’s perfect. And strong, too.”

“Guess he takes after his daddy.”

“And his mom.”

Barbara carried over the baby still whining fretfully. “Here we go! All his vitals look good.”

“Oh, can you help me get my gown off?” Kemara asked Maryam.

When she pressed him to her bare chest, Ian quieted at once. Sean wrapped a blanket around them both.

“That’s better, isn’t it?” Kemara whispered, stroking one red cheek. The baby opened blue eyes and stared up at his admirers.

“He is beautiful,” Maryam said.

“Can you take some pictures for us?” Kemara asked her. “I brought my little camera and it’s really easy to use.”

“I would be happy to.”

After a quick lesson, she took several photos of the trio and Ian by himself.

Before they could count fingers and toes, Barbara returned. “Let me put him in the crib to stay warm since you still have some work to do.”

“No!” Kemara clutched Ian. Her exhausted mind registered only that someone wanted to take him away. Not again.

Portia stripped off her gloves and came over.

“Ian’s not going anywhere,” she soothed. “We do need to take him to NICU, but not right now. Dr. Faulkner’s just going to check on his heart while you and Sean say hello to Joy.”

Sean wrapped an arm around Kemara’s shoulders. “It’s alright, sweetheart. I won’t let anyone take him.”

“You couldn’t stop them before,” she said remembering how her husband had rushed the officers who had grabbed Joy. She heard again the crackling sound of the taser as it flung him across the room.

“It was a dream - a horrible nightmare,” he said firmly. “It wasn’t real, and it won’t be.”


He kissed her and then the baby. “I promise.”

Maryam laid her hand over Kemara’s. “I was given some very good advice many years ago: ‘Do not be afraid’.”

Kemara smiled. “You’re right.”

She let Barbara take Ian, surprised at how empty her arms felt. She watched as the nurse settled him in one of the two small beds that stood nearby.

“Now, let’s see how Miss Joy is doing,” Portia said, reaching for the ultrasound transducer.

After a few minutes, the doctor sighed in relief. “It looks like she’s turned herself around. She should be here soon.”

Fifteen minutes later, Sean was cradling his daughter, slightly smaller than her brother, against his own bare chest.

“She has your hair,” Kemara said, brushing a finger over the red fuzz on the baby’s head while Maryam took a photo.

Sean studied the child’s face. “She doesn’t look like she has Downs. I mean, her eyes are the right shape and she has a snub nose like my sister. Actually, she looks a lot like Ciara when she was born.”

“Would you like me to show you?” Dr. Faulkner asked gently.

Kemara and Sean looked at one another and nodded.

The doctor stroked one tiny foot and the toes spread, a large gap between the big toe and the others. He unfolded one of Joy’s hands and showed them the single line across her palm.

“Let me hold her,” Kemara said. She frowned as she took the baby in her arms. “She feels different from Ian. More floppy - like a rag doll.”

“That’s because her muscles have less tone,” Portia explained. “Your cerebral palsy gives you really tight muscles. But Joy’s are the opposite.”

Kemara smiled and kissed her daughter. “It’s okay. Mommy and Daddy love you anyway. Can everyone come in and see them?”

“For five minutes, no more,” Portia said. “Then we’ll let you try nursing before we take them to NICU. After that, you can sleep.”

Kemara smiled. “Actually, there’s a Subway sandwich in the nurse’s refrigerator that has my name on it.”

“You’re sure they’re okay?” Sean knew he was grinning like an idiot, but he didn’t care. He accepted Ian from Barbara again and sat on the bed next to Kemara.

“We’ll have to do a few more tests, but from what we can see everything looks great,” Dr. Faulkner said.

Portia patted Kemara’s shoulder. “I’ll send them in, and we’ll give you all some privacy.” She left, gesturing to the nurses who followed her out.

“Would you like to hold them first?” Kemara asked Maryam who had been watching everything from her place beside the bed.

The woman flushed with pleasure. “I would love to.”

She cradled the small bundles, one in each arm. She kissed their foreheads and spoke, first in Hebrew and then in English:

“I lift up my eyes to the mountains—where does my help come from?
My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth.
He will not let your foot slip—he who watches over you will not slumber;
indeed, he who watches over Israel will neither slumber nor sleep.
The Lord watches over you—the Lord is your shade at your right hand;
the sun will not harm you by day, nor the moon by night.
The Lord will keep you from all harm—he will watch over your life;
the Lord will watch over your coming and going both now and forevermore.”

“That was beautiful. Thank you,” Kemara said blinking back tears.

Sean nodded. “We’ve been practicing your lullaby, too. I’m hoping it’s surefire.”

“Not always!” Maryam laughed.

As if on cue - and maybe it was - the door opened and Joshua himself came in, followed by several of their friends.

When she saw him, Kemara burst into tears.

He crossed the room and hugged her, pulling Sean in, too.

“Well done! Very well done!”

After a minute, Kemara pulled back and wiped her eyes. Then, she began to laugh.

“Sorry,” Sean joked. “I think she’s hysterical.”

“No, I just remembered: You told us last year that even if this Christmas isn’t what we expect, it will be beautiful and filled with joy. And you were right.”

Joshua laughed, too. “Of course I was! Oh, I almost forgot….your parents’ plane is landing at JFK right now, so you’ll see them soon.”

Kemara let out a huge sigh. “That’s wonderful.”

“You need to hold them too,” Azalea said offering Ian to Joshua.

The Carpenter took the boy from her and Joy from Andrew.

“Hello again,” he whispered. “I know it’s scary here, but you’ve got a wonderful Mommy and Daddy and lots of aunts and uncles and cousins who love you. And I’ll drop by every now and then.”

Sean wiped his eyes. “I can’t wait until the day they’re old enough to eat Froot Loops with you.”

Joshua grinned. “I’m looking forward to it myself! Now, I have one more thing to say and we’ll leave you four to get some rest - and food -,” he added, winking at Kemara.

As his Ama had done, he kissed each child on the forehead and spoke:

“Lord, you have probed me, you know me: you know when I sit and stand; you understand my thoughts from afar.
You sift through my travels and my rest; with all my ways you are familiar.
Even before a word is on my tongue, LORD, you know it all.
Behind and before you encircle me and rest your hand upon me.
Such knowledge is too wonderful for me, far too lofty for me to reach.
Where can I go from your spirit? From your presence, where can I flee?
If I ascend to the heavens, you are there; if I lie down in Sheol, there you are.
If I take the wings of dawn and dwell beyond the sea,
Even there your hand guides me, your right hand holds me fast.
If I say, “Surely darkness shall hide me, and night shall be my light” —
Darkness is not dark for you, and night shines as the day. Darkness and light are but one.
You formed my inmost being; you knit me in my mother’s womb.
I praise you, because I am wonderfully made; wonderful are your works! My very self you know.
My bones are not hidden from you, When I was being made in secret, fashioned in the depths of the earth.
Your eyes saw me unformed; in your book all are written down; my days were shaped, before one came to be.”

“Amen! Amen!” the Friends chorused.



“All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given to us”. - Gandalf in “Fellowship of the Rings” by J.R.R. Tolkien

“Early Bird” - Poem in “Where the Sidewalk Ends” by Shel Silverstein

“Little House on the Prairie” - TV show based on the book series by Laura Ingalls Wilder. Episode mentioned is “The Last Farewell”.

“Onward Christian Soldiers” - traditional hymn.

“The Magician’s Nephew” - first book in the Narnia series by C.S. Lewis

“Dirty Dancing” - Movie filmed partly at Lake Lure in North Carolina.

“Raining on Sunday” - Song by Keith Urban

“The Velveteen Rabbit” - Children’s book by Margery Williams

“The Kiss” - Kemara and Sean attended this event on Aug. 14, 2015. The previous Halloween, they dressed as the nurse and sailor for their own photo in Times Square.
From the website: On August 14, 2015, the 70th anniversary of the end of World War II, the Times Square Alliance invites couples from all generations and of all types to celebrate the U.S. Armed Forces and the universal ideals of peace, love and hope at the 2015 Times Square Kiss-In. A special invitation is extended to lovebirds whose kisses bridge boundaries, be they religious, political, racial, or national, as well as veterans of the Armed Forces and couples in costumes commemorating the original 1945 kiss. The first 200 couples to arrive will receive sailor caps and roses.

“The Lion King” - Movie by Disney

“Gone With the Wind - novel by Margaret Mitchell

“Camelot” - Musical by Lerner & Lowe

Psalm 121

Psalm 139

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