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Authors: Holly Chamberlin

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Chapter 16

It was almost two in the morning, and Cindy was wide-awake. Joe was in a characteristically deep sleep; the man always slept soundly, no matter the worries of the day gone or ahead. Still, this time might prove an exception, so as not to disturb him with her tossing and turning and sighing, Cindy had gone down to the living room and was sitting there now in the dark, alone with her troubled thoughts. She didn't know how Sarah was sleeping and half expected to see her daughter glide into the room, wrapped in her warmest robe, a fuzzy orange thing she had found at Goodwill a few years back.

It seemed like a century since Sarah had told them she was pregnant, though in reality it was only a matter of hours. But in those few hours everything had changed radically. Assumptions had been proved faulty, assurances had been shown to be empty, and certainties had turned out to be uncertainties.

Cindy felt another wave of guilt overcome her. She had talked to Sarah about protection, but she hadn't forced her to go to the doctor to get a prescription for the birth control pill. She should have. She simply had never considered the possibility of Sarah's having sex without being completely prepared.

She had been stupid, Cindy thought now. And ignorant. She had put too much faith in her daughter; she had assumed Sarah was more mature than she had proved. Sarah was a teenager. No matter how smart and responsible she was she was still a child. Children weren't equipped to make the best decisions for themselves. That's why they were legally dependent until the age of eighteen. And even then they could act wildly and irrationally, take dangerous risks and shrug off the possibility of disaster. The sense of being fully human—flawed and mortal—didn't come until later in life. It just didn't.

“Oh, Sarah,” Cindy whispered into the dark. “How could you have done this?”

The purchase of new kitchen appliances she and Joe had planned would have to be postponed, maybe for quite some time.
It was odd, wasn't it?
Cindy thought, staring into the dark. Only a day or two earlier she had been thinking about how she would hate to live far away from her grandchildren. And now, her first grandchild would be growing up just down the hall.

She was sure that for as long as she lived she would never forget the moment in the kitchen when Sarah had told them her news. Cindy had watched her husband's face carefully. He was the mildest of men, but neither of his children had ever been in such a situation before. She had felt suddenly afraid, as if for the first time in their marriage she had no idea of what her husband might do or say.

And Justin! He had told Sarah that he would be there for her. It probably meant nothing. Of
course
it meant nothing. Cindy felt a flare of anger so intense she thought for a moment that she would pass out.
Thank God Joe is retaining his composure,
she thought.
Because I'm not sure that I can.

Cindy rubbed her eyes. She supposed that she should tell Adelaide the news very soon. Adelaide was her friend, she would support her through any trial, but still, telling her was going to be difficult. She didn't really believe that Adelaide would judge Sarah. It was just that . . . just that Cindy had never, ever expected the words “my sixteen-year-old daughter is pregnant” would be coming out of her mouth.

But they would be. And Cindy was sure that nothing would ever feel halfway normal again.

Chapter 17

“Could I have the carrots, please?” Cordelia asked.

“You can and you may,” her father said, passing the bowl to her.

“How's Sarah?” her mother asked.

“She's fine,” Cordelia said, spooning the carrots onto her plate, but she wasn't really sure that Sarah
was
fine. She was still being strangely quiet, not that she was ever boisterous, and Cordelia was now a wee bit annoyed. She had thought she was Sarah's closest friend, so why wasn't Sarah telling her what was wrong instead of making her guess and worry?

“It's just that I haven't seen her much in the past week.”

Cordelia shrugged. “You know how she is. She gets—quiet—sometimes.”

“I've been thinking,” her father said now. “This family deserves some time off together, an entire week someplace this summer. That is, Adelaide, if you think you can leave the store in Cindy's hands.”

“What a wonderful idea,” Adelaide exclaimed. “And I think Cindy's totally capable of running the shop on her own. She might even enjoy the opportunity.”

Cordelia restrained herself from clapping. Her mother had asked her not to clap at the table as she supposedly did it quite loudly. “Dad,” she said, “that would be awesome! Maybe we could rent a house on the beach somewhere. But with a cool town right nearby, with great shops.”

“Or we might rent a house on a lake,” her mother suggested. “After all, we have a gorgeous beach right here. A change of scenery might be nice.”

“As long as it's a lake with no bugs and a cool town nearby with great shops.”

Jack grinned. “I'll do some research, get some ideas that work within our budget, and then we'll take a vote. I wouldn't mind a lake with a cool town nearby with a good sports bar. You guys can shop while I watch baseball. And sorry, Cordelia, but I don't think there's a lake on this planet without its share of bugs.”

“Or there's Montreal,” her mother said. “I've always wanted to go there.”

“I might be able to use my French,” Cordelia added. “But maybe not. Canadian French isn't the same as what we learn in school, is it?”

“No. But you'll still know more than I will, with only my half forgotten high school Spanish.”

“And, of course,” Jack said, “we'll have to be sure Cindy agrees to our little scheme.”

“I'm sure she'd appreciate the extra money. Because, of course, I'd pay her for the extra duties.”

“And she'll have Sarah to help her,” Cordelia pointed out. “She's the most responsible person I know. Next to you guys, of course.”

“Nice save, kiddo.”

“Thanks, Dad. But really, this is going to be so much fun. When was the last time we all went away somewhere? I can't even remember!”

“Well, we did have that weekend in Boston last spring,” her mother pointed out.

“Oh, right! The aquarium, the MFA, that seafood place. And the shopping!”

“Does having fun necessarily involve shopping?” Her father shrugged. “I'm just asking.”

“Yes,” Cordelia said firmly. “It most certainly does!”

Chapter 18

Sarah knocked on the open door to her sister's bedroom. Stevie, seated at her sewing machine, turned her head.

“Can we talk?” Sarah asked.

Stevie nodded and turned fully around. Sarah went in and sat on the edge of her sister's bed.

“Mom told me,” Stevie blurted.

“Okay.” Sarah felt relieved. Breaking the news to Stevie was not something she had been looking forward to. Still, it would have been nice if her mother had let her know that she had already talked to Stevie. Was the pregnancy her mother's news to tell? Maybe it was. Sarah wasn't at all sure how much say she had in this situation. By being so careless, she might in effect have relinquished all control over her own life. It was a disturbing thought.

“I'm sorry,” Stevie said now. She patted her leg, and Clarissa, who had been sitting at her feet, jumped onto her lap.

“Thanks. I mean, don't be sorry for me.”

“Why not?”

Sarah struggled to find an answer that made some sense. “It's not all bad,” she said finally. “I'll have a baby. I mean, I always knew I was going to have kids someday. Just not so soon.”

Sarah became very aware of Clarissa staring at her, round green eyes steady and boring into her own eyes.

“Is he going to be around?” Stevie asked.

“Justin?” Sarah looked away from the unnerving gaze of her sister's cat. “No. I don't think so, anyway. Why?”

Stevie shrugged. “Just curious.”

Sarah wasn't really sure what to say next. “You're going to be an aunt,” she said finally.

“Yeah.”

Stevie's tone was neutral. At least, Sarah couldn't tell if the idea of being an aunt appealed to her sister or not. Did being an aunt—a quasi figure of authority—mean anything to a thirteen-year-old? Should it?

The silence dragged on. Sarah realized that she felt embarrassed. Clarissa was still staring fixedly at her and that didn't help.

“I like your bracelet,” she blurted. “Is it new?”

Stevie glanced down at her wrist. “Sort of. I made it a few weeks ago. They're amethyst beads. Mrs. Kane got them for me wholesale.”

“That was nice of her. I wish I were creative like you.”

“It's no big deal. Anyway, I guess a lot of stuff around here is going to change.”

“I guess,” Sarah admitted. “I'm sorry for that. A lot of babies keep everyone up all night. But I'll try to figure all that out before anyone goes crazy.”

“I can wear earplugs.”

Sarah smiled. “I'll buy you a whole box of them. And I'll never ask you to change a diaper.”

“What about school?” Stevie asked. “What are you going to do about school?”

Sarah flinched. She suspected that an awful lot of people were going to be asking her that question. “I don't know yet,” she said. “I want to finish high school. I have to. But college . . .”

“A lot of people go to college when they're adults. There are those places like Kaplan University. And you can get a degree online, too. Even a PhD I think.”

All of that was true, and Sarah was thankful for Stevie's support, but it wasn't what she had planned; it wasn't what she had wanted. “Yeah,” she said with an obvious lack of enthusiasm. “We'll see what happens.”

Clarissa suddenly took it into her mind to leap off her perch on Stevie's leg and bound out of the room. Sarah startled.

“She always surprises me when she does that.”

Stevie smiled. “Cats change their minds very quickly. They give no notice of it. None that humans can see, anyway. But I'm used to it.”

I'll never be used to change,
Sarah thought.
Not now. It will always be something I'll fear.

“How do you think Clarissa will feel about the baby?” she asked. “I don't think cats and babies mix very well. And animals can get jealous of a new baby in the house. That's what I've read anyway.”

“Oh, she won't sit on his face and suffocate him, if that's what you're thinking. But when he's able to crawl around, I think Clarissa will stay way off the ground.”

“And it's you she loves, anyway,” Sarah added. “Not me. She won't be jealous of the baby with you there to pay attention to her.”

Stevie nodded. “She pays as much attention to me as I do to her. We take care of each other. Some people might not understand that.”

Sarah thought about it. A baby was not the same as a cat or a dog; the relationship between a human and her pet was not the same as that between a human and her child. Still, like Stevie and Clarissa, Sarah and her baby would be in a relationship all their own, utterly unique, necessarily intimate, and even to some extent, mutual. She couldn't deny that it was a pretty exciting—and terrifying—prospect.

“I'd better get back to my homework,” Sarah said, rising.

“Me too. Sarah?”

Sarah, at the door, turned back.

“It'll be okay,” Stevie said.

Sarah felt tears prick her eyes. “Thanks,” she said, and went back to her own room.

Chapter 19

Adelaide was concerned. Earlier in the day, she had found Cindy crying over her work. This was very unusual behavior; Cindy was probably the most emotionally stable person she knew. When Adelaide had asked her what was wrong, Cindy had just shook her head, wiped her eyes, and gotten back to her stitching.

But the tears began to leak again before long. “Why don't you cancel your afternoon lesson and go on home?” Adelaide, now truly worried, had suggested. “I can reschedule with Mrs. Brown for you.”

“No, no,” Cindy had protested again. “I'm fine. Sorry.” Obviously determined to fulfill her duty, she had soldiered on through the remainder of the day, even instructing Mrs. Brown with a smile and her typical patience.

Adelaide thought it best not to mention Jack's idea of the Kane family taking a vacation that summer. Cindy didn't seem in the right mood to be receptive to the idea of running the shop on her own for an entire week. Besides, there was plenty of time. They hadn't made any definitive plans yet; they hadn't even decided if a house on the water (with nearby shops and a sports bar) was preferable to a week in Montreal.

And boy, by mid-summer she would need a break. She loved running The Busy Bee, but as with any business, there were innumerable stresses that could really add up to one giant pain in the neck. Difficult customers, orders gone missing, random plumbing issues (her landlord wasn't always great about keeping the building in good working order), unexpected overstock, and competition from sometimes surprising places.

No, owning your own business wasn't easy. And owning a retail establishment in a small town, even one that doubled as a destination location, meant that you had the added potential stress of dealing with any unhappy customers face-to-face outside of the shop, like in the grocery store or even in church.

Thank God Adelaide had Cindy as her right-hand woman. Adelaide shot a glance at her friend, wrapping up the lesson with Mrs. Brown. Her eyes were a little red and swollen, but otherwise there was no sign of her earlier distress.

Maybe,
she thought,
Cindy was just having a very bad headache. That would explain it all.

Chapter 20

Mrs. Brown had taken her leave with many thanks and a smile of accomplishment.

“She's so enthusiastic,” Adelaide commented as they prepared to close up the shop for the day. “It must be gratifying to teach someone with such a positive attitude.”

“Yes,” Cindy said. It
was
gratifying, but Mrs. Brown's positive attitude didn't seem to matter much at the moment.

“Back when Jack was still teaching, he used to tell me how frustrated he would get when a student just didn't want to engage with the subject.”

Cindy cleared her throat. “Yes. Adelaide, I have to tell you something.”

Adelaide looked up from a piece of fabric she was folding. “What is it?”

Cindy took a deep breath. It was better to rip off a bandage than to slowly peel it back and prolong the agony.

“Sarah is pregnant,” she said.

Adelaide's face paled. She dropped the bit of fabric and put her hand over her heart. “Oh my God.”

“And she's going to have the baby and live with us.”

“I'm sorry.” Adelaide shook her head. “I'm having trouble taking this in. I never in a million years . . .”

“I know. On some level, I still think it's all a bad dream.”

“The father . . .”

“Justin. Yes.” Cindy managed a lopsided smile. “He offered to marry her. She said no.”

Adelaide reached out and put her hand on Cindy's shoulder sympathetically. “No wonder you were crying earlier. I would be crying, too.”

“It wasn't the first time I've broken down, I'm afraid. And it won't be the last, though I'm trying to be strong around the girls.”

“How is . . . how is Joe handling this? He must be devastated. God, he must want to kill Justin. I know Jack would, if it were Cordelia.”

“You know Joe,” Cindy said, retrieving the fabric Adelaide had dropped. “He doesn't talk about what he's feeling. But I know he's heartbroken. I know he wants desperately to make everything better. I know he's horribly frustrated, too.”

“Have you told anyone else?” Adelaide asked.

“No. Not yet. Well, except for Stevie. And Sarah said she would tell Cordelia soon, as well. Unless you think you should be the one to tell her?”

“No,” Adelaide said promptly. “Let the girls talk about it first. I'm sure Cordelia will come to me afterward.”

“And Jack will need to know, of course. Not only because he's a friend.”

“Right. As principal of Sarah's school, well, she's one of his responsibilities, at least during school hours.” Adelaide paused and shook her head. “My God, I don't think he's ever had a pregnant student before. Not that I know of, anyway.”

Cindy failed to prevent a grimace.
And who,
she thought,
would ever have imagined that my daughter, reasonable, reliable, and straight-A student Sarah Bauer, would be the first?

“I don't think there's a reason she couldn't continue on, at least through the end of the school year,” Adelaide was saying. “And then certainly she would be welcomed back in the fall. Maybe it would be different if she were due during the academic year. She's not, is she?”

“I don't think so. Sarah estimates that she's due sometime in August. But we'll see what the doctor says.”

“Yes, of course. Oh, Cindy, I wish I could . . . I wish I could wave a magic wand and make everything . . . different. Turn back time, something.”

Cindy felt the tears begin to come once again. “But you can't,” she said, “can you? None of us can.”

BOOK: The Beach Quilt
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