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
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,
“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
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
“Tell...tell him thank you. Do we need to come to the
“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
“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.”
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
“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
“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
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
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
“I know he is,” Sean said. He stepped back. “Now, dry your
eyes, and we’ll have a little talk with Him about His
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.”
“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
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,”
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-....”
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
“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
“So I was right,” Sean said happily as he and Kemara found
“Right about what?” Kylie and Clay sat down beside them.
“Sean predicted that JenniAnn would wake up today,” Kemara
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 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
“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,”
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,”
“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
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
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
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
“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
veggies...so.” Sean held up his knife.
Max chuckled. “I’m surprised she’s trusting you with sharp
“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
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
“Yeah,” Kemara shifted Belle to a more secure position.
“We’ll take the elevator. You want to ride the up-up,
“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
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.
“I know JenniAnn would want something red velvet for
dessert,” the angel said, taking down mugs for the
“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
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
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
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
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
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.”
He squeezed her hand, alarmed at how cold it was.
She tried to say something, and he leaned close.
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.
The doctor put a hand on his shoulder and then left the
room. The nurses followed, leaving Sean alone with his
Sean laid his head next to Kemara’s on the thin pillow and
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
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
The doctor smiled. “Just don’t expect him to purr,” she
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
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
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
“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
“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
“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
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
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
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
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
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
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.
“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?”
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
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
“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.”
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
“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
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
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
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,
“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
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
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
He woke sometime later when he felt Kemara struggling to sit
“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
“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
Adam shook his head. “Not yet, as far as I know. Just keep
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
“And bored,” Shelby announced from where she and Violeta
were setting out plates and glasses. “I’m glad I’m here
“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
“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
“Yay!” Shelby cheered, making them all laugh, and they
finished the breakfast preparations in a much happier frame
“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
“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?”
Sean looked around. “Let me guess - it’s the purple one over
Misty nodded. “There was a pink one, but we like purple
“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
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
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.”
The kiss was just getting interesting when someone knocked.
After a moment, the door inched open and Kylie poked her
“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
“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
“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.
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
“May we join you?”
They looked up to see Allison and Robert holding plates and
“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
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
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
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.
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
“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
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
“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,
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
Kemara went around the table and hugged him. “Thank you so
“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
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.”
Chuckling, Adam got to his feet. “Would anyone like
“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
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
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
“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
“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
“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
“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
“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
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
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
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
“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
“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
“An angel on a honeymoon,” Sean chuckled. “I’m sure that’s a
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
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
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
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
“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?”
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
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
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
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
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
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
“What’s all this?” Sean asked as he set down their bags.
Most of their classmates were gathered behind the table,
“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
“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
“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
“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
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
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
“If you can’t, we’ll understand,” someone said. The others
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
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
“I’m sure she will. She’s living at home, so she’s in the
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
“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,”
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
“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
“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
She marked an A on the right baby and a B on the left.
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
“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
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
“He’s a fighter!” Dr. Anpujor chuckled.
At last, a clear picture of his heart came up on the
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
“Shh...Just...let her finish,” Sean soothed, but his own
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
“Hush. Honey you need to stay still.”
But her body was shaking with sobs that she could not
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.
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
On the other side of the bed a light suddenly came on,
“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
“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
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
“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
“Thanks.” She smoothed back the hair off his forehead. “I’m
“Not your fault.” On impulse, he slid down so his cheek
rested against her belly, warm under the cotton nightgown
She chuckled. “That doesn’t look very comfortable.”
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
him...at her stomach.
“Did you feel that?”
Uncomprehending, Sean felt the motion again, a slight,
He shot bolt upright. “Was that-?”
He pushed up her nightgown and spread his hands across her
“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
“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.”
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
“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
“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
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
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
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
Sunday, August 23
Kemara came into the living room drying her hair with a
“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
He shook his head. “Anyway, they’re still coming, but the
girl can’t dance. Elaine wondered if Shelby might want to
“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
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
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
“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
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
“When Joy needs her first solo dress, we know where to go,”
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
“Good answer!” A beep interrupted them. “Oh, that’s my
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
“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
“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
“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 that...it’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
“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
“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
“But this is different. If I mess up I’ll let the other
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.
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
“Okay.” Unconsciously, Shelby began twisting a strand of her
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.
“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.
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
“I’ll take her,” Andrew offered. “Why don’t you go with
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
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
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
“They’ll be fine,” Elaine assured JenniAnn. “The kids run
around together all day long; everyone watches out for each
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
“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
“Uh-huh. All the time. And the more I hear, the more scared
“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
“Have you seen the girls?” JenniAnn asked, scanning the
“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
“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
“They’re really bouncing around. I guess they want to dance
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
“Are you and JenniAnn her…” Elaine lowered her voice. “Her
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
“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
“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
“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
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.”
Shelby and Kayla ran up to them, each clutching multiple
“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
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
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
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
Kemara smiled as Violeta and Ivy sat down on either side of
“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
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
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
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
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
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
“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
“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
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
“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.
“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
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
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
“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,
“True. You were quite the social butterfly, actually. What
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
“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
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
“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
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
“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
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
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
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,
“Okay...if you’re 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
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
When the awards were presented Inishfree took first and
“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
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
“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
The judge laughed. “Really? Well, congratulations! I hope we
see your little ones here in a few years.” He shook their
“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
“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
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
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
“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
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
“Could be a hurricane,” Owen said. He stroked Warren
absently and jumped as a spark leaped from the cat’s fur.
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
Even as they watched, a funnel - Kemara couldn’t tell if it
was air or water - formed for a moment, shrank and
“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,
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
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
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
“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
Quickly, he walked along the trunk until he found the lowest
“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
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
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
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.
“Shh....it’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,
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
“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
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
“I’ve never -,” she stopped, wincing.
“It felt like a cramp.” Kemara put a hand on her stomach.
It was Sean’s turn to frown. “Do you think it was a
“I….don’t know...I’m not sure what they’re supposed to feel
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.
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
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.”
“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
“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
“Probably because whichever team you were on always won,”
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
Kemara rinsed out the rag she was using to wipe off the
“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
“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.
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
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
“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.”
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
Sean shook his head, amazed. “I didn’t expect….I figured it
would just be her internal muscles, but that was
“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
“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
“I’ll remember,” Kemara nodded. “How long does it take,
usually?” She took a small bite of pasta and then a bigger
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
“I’d rather be here or at home,” Kemara said, continuing to
“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
Diana stood up. “You two try to relax. And just remember:
They’re almost here!” She hugged them both and followed
When she had gone, Kemara gave Sean back the half-empty
“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
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
“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
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
“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
Laughing, the four went out to join their friends.
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
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”
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
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
“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
“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
“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
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
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
She looked doubtful. “Really?”
“No.” She managed a smile. “Every time I bet against you, I
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,
“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
“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
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
“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
When she raised her head, her face was red and wet with
“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?”
“Good luck to you all.” With that, he left the room.
“So what can we do?” Sean wiped Kemara’s face with a wet
“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
“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
Kemara tugged on his hand. “I wish you could get up here
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
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
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
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
“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
“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
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,
“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
“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
Barbara deftly inserted the needle and taped it down. “Very
“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
“Can’t you give her something just to blunt the pain a
He tried to keep his tone level, but his patience was
wearing thin. Didn’t they care that Kemara was hurting so
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. “Here...here is fine.
“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
“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
“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
“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
“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
She rolled her eyes. “Liar. Will you brush and rebraid my
hair for me at least?”
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
“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
“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
“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
As he passed Portia, he said quietly, “I thought we needed
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 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
“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
“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
“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
“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
“Wouldn’t want that,” she whispered. “Tired though.”
“I know. But you need to give this everything you have left,
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
“I think I’m kinda attached,” Sean choked out and everyone
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
“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
“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
“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
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
“I lift up my eyes to the mountains—where does my help come
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
indeed, he who watches over Israel will neither slumber nor
The Lord watches over you—the Lord is your shade at your
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
the Lord will watch over your coming and going both now and
“That was beautiful. Thank you,” Kemara said blinking back
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
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
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
“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
Such knowledge is too wonderful for me, far too lofty for me
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
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
“Early Bird” - Poem in “Where the Sidewalk Ends” by Shel
“Little House on the Prairie” - TV show based on the book
series by Laura Ingalls Wilder. Episode mentioned is “The
“Onward Christian Soldiers” - traditional hymn.
“The Magician’s Nephew” - first book in the Narnia series by
“Dirty Dancing” - Movie filmed partly at Lake Lure in North
“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
“The Lion King” - Movie by Disney
“Gone With the Wind - novel by Margaret Mitchell
“Camelot” - Musical by Lerner & Lowe
to the Author's Cut