Authors: Judy Christenberry
“Well, I’d better go tell Anna to put on a dress for our trip to the café.” She stood up and moved to the doorway.
“Wait, Sarah,” he called out, stopping her. He lowered his eyes, and after a moment he said, “I’m—I’m glad we’re talking again.”
Finally he looked at her and she smiled into his dark eyes. “Me, too.”
was the only eatery in town. Downtown, it boasted good home-style cooking and a casual atmosphere. All the locals gathered there for oversize portions and neighborly chatter. That night was no exception.
The place was crowded when the Logan family and Sarah and the kids arrived. Brad insisted he and Sarah sit on one side of a big red booth with all three kids on the other. That left the other four adults to share a booth behind them.
Sarah leaned over to Brad and whispered, “Can Abby get in the booth? Maybe we should wait for a table.”
“No problem. Nick’s letting her sit on the outside so she can manage.”
Sarah turned her attention to the three kids. “Behave yourselves. If you do, maybe you can have ice cream for dessert.” The boys especially paid attention, as throughout the ride over they’d been giggling and shoving each other in the seat. Anna, sitting on the outside, just gave her sister a smile, but she frowned at the boys.
“Sorry, Anna, that you have to sit with the boys,” Brad said.
“It’s okay,” Anna said with a shy smile.
“Good girl. What are you going to order?”
Anna stared at him, her eyes wide.
Sarah hurriedly said, “They haven’t been to a restaurant before.”
“You’re kidding?” Brad asked.
Anna interrupted. “I get to choose what I want to eat?”
“Absolutely, sweetheart. Whatever you want,” Brad assured her.
“I—I don’t know. There are so many things.”
“True. Take a little time and decide.”
Anna read the menu to the boys and Sarah couldn’t help but feel so happy. She was giving her siblings a taste of a normal life. From the looks on their faces, they were thrilled, if not confused by the many choices. The more they changed their minds, the more Sarah smiled.
“And what are you going to have?” Brad asked her.
She shook her head. “I haven’t even looked yet.”
“I’ve noticed,” he said, reflecting back her smile. “Why don’t you let me make a suggestion?” At her nod, he offered, “The Green Enchilada Casserole. It’s Abby’s specialty.”
“Yeah. Before she and Nick were married, she worked here as a waitress and helped George come up with some new recipes. It’s her best yet.”
Everyone ordered the dish, except Brad.
Sarah looked at him quizzically. “You tell me to get it, then you don’t?”
“What can I say? I’m a slave to a good steak.”
“Maybe you should sit at someone else’s table, then,” Sarah suggested.
“Nope, I’m staying here.”
Anna suddenly giggled.
“What’s so funny, sweetheart?” Brad asked.
“You two argue all the time, but you don’t get angry.”
Sarah ducked her head, saying nothing.
“Why would we get mad?” Brad asked.
Suddenly Anna looked sad. “I don’t know, but Mommy and Daddy always got angry.”
Sarah reached across the table to take Anna’s hand.
“I can’t get angry at Sarah. She’s too sweet,” Brad said, grinning at the child. “Kind of like you.”
Even though he didn’t smile at Sarah, she felt the impact of it all the way to her toes. Brad Logan was truly a nice man, sensitive and thoughtful. The real man she’d come to know was nothing like the bear of a man she’d first met.
Sarah was so wrapped up in her assessment of Brad that she didn’t hear the conversation between him and Anna till the end.
“I want to be just like Mommy.” Anna looked at Sarah, love in her gaze.
“Thank you, sweetheart,” Sarah said softly.
She promised herself then that she’d never do anything to diminish the admiration in the little girl’s eyes.
After they placed their orders, the boys began wrestling with each other and Brad had to reprimand them. “That’s not proper behavior at the dinner table, boys. When you get outside, you can do that kind of thing.”
Robbie immediately thought to challenge his uncle by calling to his father. “Daddy, Uncle Brad told me I couldn’t wrestle at the table!”
“He’s right, son, and if you don’t obey him, I’ll take you outside.”
Robbie pouted and Davy got very still. Then he whispered to Robbie. “What did that mean?”
“It means I get a spanking,” Robbie explained.
Davy looked frozen with fear. “Sarah—”
“It’s okay, baby,” she said, reaching out for his hand. She knew he was sensitive to what had happened in his home, despite his cavalier attitude. Though she’d never seen Ellis hit the children, she knew he’d often threatened.
He held her hand tightly.
“Nick is just trying to make sure that Robbie behaves properly so he can grow up happy and successful.” Not like your father, Sarah said to herself.
“Okay, Sarah. I will behave.”
“I know you will, sweetheart, and Anna, too.”
The little girl beamed at Sarah.
“I’m very proud of both of you,” she said as she smiled back at them, her eyes glistening with tears.
“I think I’m going to pay for the Green Enchilada Casserole,” Abby moaned.
The adults had all gathered around the table back at the Logan ranch for coffee. Abby had been uncomfortable by the time they’d returned from dinner, and Sarah had offered to put the kids to bed.
“But you said it wasn’t hot, Abby.”
“I know, but the twins don’t seem happy.”
“Will you be able to sleep?”
“I hope so. If not, I’ll keep Nick awake all night, too.”
Nick groaned, but he quickly put on a smile. “We’ll make it, honey.”
Brad said, “I can work without you tomorrow.”
“We’ll see. She may sleep better than she expects.” He hugged his wife. “You know what might help you sleep? A big piece of cake.”
The rest of them finished up the cake left over from last night.
As Sarah cleaned up the dishes, she heard Davy calling out to her.
“I’ll go to him.” Brad didn’t even wait
for her to reply; he simply walked out of the kitchen.
Sarah loaded the dishwasher as the rest of the adults said good night. Brad hadn’t returned from Davy’s room, and because she assumed he’d gone on to bed himself, she shut the light in the kitchen. On the way to her room she stopped by Davy’s to check on him.
And there she found Brad. Curled up in a chair beside the boy’s bed, a children’s book open across his chest as he slept.
He’d never looked more handsome.
The weeks flew by. Abby was now three weeks away from her due date. The doctor had told her that the babies would be good and healthy now that she had carried them more than thirty-two weeks. Abby relaxed a little, and Sarah encouraged her to rest most of the time.
Today was a different story. A storm had dumped snow and ice on the area overnight and made the roads treacherous.
Abby got up and began worrying. “I was always afraid I’d go into labor when there was a snowstorm like today.”
“Are you feeling bad? Do you want me to call Nick?”
“No. I’m just worrying. Just ignore me.”
“How about a cup of hot chocolate?”
“That would be great, Sarah.”
Sarah fixed a cup of hot chocolate for Abby. “Do you want it in here, or do you want to drink it in bed?”
“Oh, in here, definitely. I’m so tired of being in bed.”
“It’s not for much longer. You’ve done a great job protecting the babies.”
“Thanks. It’s going to cut down on your work when you don’t have to wait on me.”
“I’ve enjoyed it, Abby. It’s so nice to be around a normal family. Good for the kids, too.”
“I don’t know about normal, but I know we’re happy. Nick is a wonderful husband.”
“Brad will be just as wonderful as Nick.”
Sarah felt herself stiffen. “What do you mean?”
“Aren’t you interested in Brad?”
She tried to keep her cheeks from flushing. “No! I mean—Brad said he’s not interested.”
“Then why is he always helping you do things?”
“Because he’s a nice man, that’s all.”
“Do you believe that?”
“Yes.” She averted her eyes and got up to find some chore to do. Anything so she wouldn’t have to sit here and talk about her feelings for Brad.
Truth be told—which she would never tell Abby or anyone else, for that matter—she was afraid she was falling in love with the cowboy.
When Abby pressed her, she turned back. “Frankly, Abby, when you don’t need me anymore, I’ll be moving on, looking for another job.”
“But I don’t want you to go!”
“Oh, Abby, you are so sweet. But you can’t continue to support us just because
you don’t want to say goodbye. Maybe I’ll be able to find something in the neighborhood. Then we could see each other again.”
“I hope so.”
“Smile, Abby. It’s not the end of the world.”
Abby dredged up a smile. “I guess. Are you sure Brad—”
As much as it pained her to admit it, she said, “No, Abby. Brad isn’t interested.”
“Then why did he sit with you and the kids when we went to the café?”
“Because he wanted to make it nice for you and Nick. It was a natural division.”
“Why did he go with you to Denver?”
“Because Mike asked him to.” She lowered her eyes so Abby couldn’t see the disappoint ment there. “You see, Abby, I’m right.”
“There are no buts.” She turned and left the room. There was laundry to be folded, lunch to be fixed. After all, she was here to do a job.
Throughout lunch, Sarah thought Abby was acting a bit strange. She wondered if she
was feeling all right, or if she’d gotten upset about their earlier conversation. She hoped she hadn’t crossed the line with her remarks.
After eating only bites, Abby went back to lie down. She had a book she’d been reading, and she wanted to read some more. But less than an hour later, Abby staggered to the laundry room.
“Abby? Is everything all right?”
“No! My water broke. Call Nick at once!”
Sarah helped Abby to a seat in the kitchen and then called Nick’s cell phone. “It’s time!”
The men had been working in a nearby pasture and she knew it wouldn’t be long. She went to get Abby’s suitcase, packed weeks ago for her trip to Pinedale, and put it in the truck. Abby was crying when she got back in the kitchen.
“It’s going to be all right, Abby. Nick’s on his way.”
“I’m…having labor pains. Very close together.”
“You won’t make it to the hospital?”
Sarah sat for a minute, thinking. Then she started gathering things.
“Sarah, what are you doing?”
“Getting some things together. I’m going with you to Pinedale.”
“Because while Nick is driving, I may be delivering your babies.”
“Have you delivered babies before?”
“My little brother, Davy.” She remembered the day he’d been born. Ellis had been out cold, drunk again, when she’d come home to find her mother in labor. Davy was delivered right into her hands before the paramedics got there. She was never so happy to get help as that day.
About as happy as Abby looked now. “Thank you! I’ve been so worried!”
The back door burst open. Nick ran to Abby. “Are you all right?”
“No, I’m in labor, Nick. Hard labor.”
“What are we going to do?”
Sarah spoke up. “I’m going with you, in the back seat with Abby. If she starts delivery,
I’ll help her while you drive. Brad? Will you come with us? If we get stuck on the road, it could save us. And can you call your mom to wait for the kids to come home?”
“Do you really know what you’re doing?”
Nick lifted Abby up in his arms. “Let’s get going.”
Brad reached out for Sarah’s hand, holding her while he made the call for his mother. Then he and Sarah followed Nick out to his truck. “Mom’s on her way.”
In the truck, the two men rode silently up front, Brad turning to check on Abby occasionally.
After one particularly long, hard pain, Sarah could see tears sliding down Abby’s cheeks. She reached around Abby and placed a couple of pillows behind her. “Lie down, Abby. You’re going to be fine.”
Brad looked at Sarah. “Is she in a lot of pain?”
She nodded. “She’ll settle down once we’re at the hospital.”
“I’m going to be driving fast, Sarah,” Nick said from behind the wheel. “Keep her safe.”
“I will, Nick.”
Sarah pulled out the book Abby had been reading. “What page did you stop on, Abby?”
“I don’t remember. She—she had gone in the silent house, feeling something was wrong.”
“Ah. Here it is.” She started reading, giving Abby something to think about other than her babies coming.
They had gone almost a half hour when suddenly Abby screamed, “Sarah, I think one of the babies is coming!”
“All right.” Sarah lifted her skirt and checked Abby. “You’re right. One of the babies is pushing its way out. Don’t push just yet. We’ll see if we can talk it into not coming yet.”
“I’m hurrying, sweetheart,” Nick called to his wife.
“I know, Nick. Abby knows, too. She’s fine.”
A couple of minutes later, she said,
“Okay, Abby, I need you to push, on the count of three. One, two, three.”
Abby pushed. Then she drew a deep breath, ready to push again.
“Again. One, two, three!”
The baby slipped out. Sarah caught the baby in a clean cloth diaper, cleaning its airways, and the baby gave a cry, which gave Sarah a sense of relief. She laid the baby on Abby’s stomach, leaving the umbilical cord attached.
Checking Abby again, she thought they had a little bit of time before the next baby came. She checked her watch and noted it was six minutes after three. “Relax, Abby. I think the second baby is going to wait a while.”
“What’s happening back there?” Nick asked.
“Your daughter has been born. She appears to be happy and healthy.”
“Abby?” Nick called.
“Yes?” Abby said weakly.
“I love you.”
“Me, too,” she whispered.
“She’s a little tired right now, Nick,” Sarah
said softly. “Brad, make sure Nick keeps his eyes on the road.”
“Okay. We’re not far from the hospital.”
“Have you called her doctor?” Sarah asked.
“Oh, damn, no. I’ll call right now.”
“Let me call, Nick. You concentrate on driving,” Brad said.