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FAMILY

FOREVER


BETRAYAL AND BLESSINGS


Tamara Miller



This book is a work of fiction. Referenced to real people, events, establishments, organizations, or locales are intended only to provide a sense of authenticity, and are used fictitiously. All characters and all incidents and dialogue are drawn from the author’s imagination and are not to be construed as real.


Copyright © 2015 Tamara Miller

All rights reserved.


Smashwords edition


ISBN: 9780463969199

Cover design by CreateSpace



License agreement


This eBook is intended for your personal enjoyment. It may not be resold or given to other people. Please respect the rights of the author.







FAMILY FOREVER



Book 1 – In The Beginning

Book 2 – Young Lovers

Book 3 – Betrayal Blessings

Book 4 – Tragedy, Tears, and Trust

Book 5 – Decisions



DEDICATION


In the memory of my grandmother, Isla Whiteford.

Until I had grandchildren of my own, did I realize the depth of her love for me.

PROLOGUE

It was three o’clock in the afternoon, and Isla had just finished with her last customer for the day. She went to the kitchen to heat up some water for a cup of tea. Staring out the window, she thought about all that had happened to her family the past few years.

It broke my heart when I found out that Jani was pregnant and had to marry Nate. I’m sure she was scared to tell her parents, just like I was when I had to marry Jonathan.

The double wedding ceremony for my granddaughters was beautiful, and I enjoyed making the girls’ wedding dresses. And now, one is divorced.

I never thought Nate was right for Jani. I certainly didn’t think he would cause so much havoc. At least he blessed us with sweet Angie. Too bad he showed up at her birthday party. He seems to constantly cause problems for the family. I hope he doesn’t continue to fight Jani for custody of Angie.

I hope Brad settles down. I know Emma wants to have a baby, but I’m not sure Brad is ready for all the responsibilities that come with having children. I’ll keep my thoughts to myself. Emma isn’t aware that I know about Brad being in jail and wrecking their car. He is making some reckless decisions. I had a husband like that in my own day.

I was so worried for Franny and Harry when he found out he had cancer. Thank goodness the surgery was a success! And then Nate caused Harry to have a heart attack. What will happen next?

Harry and Franny’s marriage seems to be stronger than ever. Now that Jani and Angie are living with them, I hope they can deal with all the family issues ahead.




BETRAYAL AND BLESSINGS

CHAPTER 1


Jani heard the phone ringing as she unlocked the back door. “Don’t hang up. Don’t hang up!” she kept saying as she put down her daughter Angie and rushed to the phone.

She had been anxious all week, ever since her mother had told her they’d seen Eric, her long-lost love, at a friend’s wedding and that he was going to call her. Every time the phone rang she hoped it was Eric. “Hello, hello?” she said grabbing the phone. It was too late, the caller had hung up. “Shoot!” she said, returning the phone to the cradle.

“Shoot! Shoot!” repeated two-year-old Angie.

It’s a good thing I said “shoot,” thought Jani. Angie is picking up words too fast. She hoped that when the time came to talk to Eric she would sound composed and not like a giddy teenage girl. After all, she was a mother now and also labeled a divorcée.

She had not admitted to anyone, not even her twin, Emma, with whom she shared everything that she’d had deep thoughts about Eric during her marriage to Nate. She had also had explicit dreams at night about the two of them together.

Four years ago, when Jani was only sixteen and was seeing Eric, Harry, Jani’s father, had put a stop to their relationship because of their six-year age difference. He told Eric that when Jani was eighteen if he still wanted to date her, he would give his permission. But Jani married Nate and had a baby, Angie. Nate was a jealous person and dangerously abusive. After the last time he beat her up, she took Angie, moved back to her parents’ house, and filed for divorce.

Eric was a licensed veterinarian. His main practice was at horse racetracks, and he also had full responsibility for the care for his father’s thoroughbred stables. He also owned his own home in Chino, a mile from his parents’ horse ranch.

Hoping it was Eric who had called she proceeded to take Angie to her room to change her diaper. They returned to the kitchen, and she sat Angie in her highchair for a snack as they waited for Franny, Jani’s mother, to come home from work. Then the phone rang again….

“Hello?” said Jani, not waiting for it to ring a second time.

“Hi… Jani?” said the caller.

“Yes,” she responded, recognizing Eric’s voice immediately.

“Jani, it’s Eric.”

“Oh hi, Eric.” Jani could feel her heart beat in her throat. “Mom said she had seen you at Cindy’s wedding.”

They were making small talk when Franny came home. Covering the receiver with her hand, Jani mouthed to her mother, It’s Eric. Franny smiled back as she stopped to give Angie a kiss. Jani and Eric continued to talk for almost an hour updating each other on their lives while Franny tended to her granddaughter.

“How would you like to go riding on Saturday?” asked Eric after telling her he owned four horses: two racehorses and two for pleasure riding. “I have a beautiful black mare named Midnight.” He heard her gasp with excitement. “I bought her hoping you would have a chance to ride her someday.”

“Oh, Eric!” she said as her heart beat faster. She never imagined she would ever ride again or have the opportunity to love another black horse. “I’d be honored. I’ll check with Mom to see if she can watch Angie for me. Call me back in the middle of the week to confirm the time.”

“Okay, I’ll talk to you then.”

“Bye.” Jani hung up and fell back in her chair in a swoon. Is it possible to have the love again, that we used to have? she wondered. I’m a woman with a child. Can he love me for who I am today? Can he love my daughter? Jani was in no hurry to bring Eric into Angie’s life. She had decided long ago that when she started dating again, she wasn’t going to parade her daughter in front of her suitors until she felt like there would be a future together.

Giggling, she told her mother about their conversation, and then she immediately called Emma to give her the exciting news.


***


Eric picked up Jani on Saturday; they talked about their love for horseback riding on the way to the ranch. Midnight was everything she imagined, and riding her was a heavenly experience. During the ride, Jani glanced at Eric, flashing a big grin of enjoyment. It was hard to believe that so much time had passed since they’d last been together.

They cooled their horses down and secured them in their stalls after their ride. Jani hugged Midnight around her neck before she left, saying, “I hope to ride you again soon.”

When Eric took Jani home, he wanted to grab her and kiss her, but he restrained himself from making a move. He recognized that she was a woman now, and he was not sure if she still had feelings for him.

Jani couldn’t help but compare Eric to Nate. Eric was a man; he owned his own home, had his own business, and ran chills up her spine when he touched her. The chemistry with Eric was still there.

They went riding together the next two weekends. Jani was beginning to question where their relationship was leading. I wonder if he can tell I’m crazy about him. Is he ever going to try to kiss me? Should I make the first move? Maybe too much time has passed between us, she thought. Maybe he doesn’t want a girlfriend with a baby.

Emma was eager to hear about Jani’s dates with Eric. She wanted Jani to be happy, and she had always liked Eric. Franny and Harry were planning a cruise and would be leaving in a few weeks. Emma decided to invite Jani and Eric over for a barbecue and thought she better ask her soon while Franny was still in town to watch Angie.

“I think it’s time for Brad to meet Eric. Don’t you?” Emma asked Jani during a phone conversation.

“Yes, I guess so,” Jani replied. “What do you have in mind?”

“Why don’t the two of you come over for a barbecue on Saturday? I get the feeling you and Eric might be the real thing.”

“I think so, too. He told me he had been waiting for me these past three years because of what he had heard through the grapevine about Nate. He didn’t think we were a good match.”

“I guess he’s loved you all this time.”

“That’s what he said,” Jani said with a slight giggle.

“He must be the one. How do you feel?”

“I’m crazy about him. I can’t stop thinking about how our life could be together. Mom told me to take it slow, but I don’t like slow.”

“How about Saturday at one o’clock for the barbecue?”

“All right. I’ll check with Eric and make sure that works for him.”

“I hope he can make it. I might have a surprise for you.”

“What?”

“I can’t tell you until Saturday,” said Emma in a teasing tone.

“Oh, that’s not fair. You can tell me now.”

No, I can’t. You’ll have to wait.”

“I hate it when you do that to me. It must be good news, so I’ll be patient.”

The girls hung up as Jani guessed what the good news might be, but didn’t want to spoil the moment for Emma.

Jani called Eric, and he said Saturday was fine with him. Jani confirmed it with Emma.


***


On Saturday, Eric and Jani arrived for the barbecue a little before 1:00.

“Yoo-hoo! Where are you?” hollered Jani opening Emma’s front door.

“Come on in,” Emma yelled back. “We’re in the kitchen.” Jani motioned for Eric to follow her.

“Hi, Eric!” said Emma as she kissed her sister on the cheek. “It’s nice to see you again.”

“You have no idea how good it is to see you again, too,” Eric replied handing Emma a bouquet of flowers. “For the hostess.”

“Wow! Thanks,” said Emma, taking the flowers. “Eric this is my husband Brad. I don’t think you’ve met.”

Eric extended his hand to Brad. “Nice to meet you Brad, and here’s something for the host,” said Eric handing Brad a six-pack of beer.

“You’re my kind of guy. Thanks,” said Brad. “Let’s go out to the backyard. I’m just about ready to put the ribs on.” Eric followed Brad to the patio.

“Nothing like starting off on the right foot,” Emma said to Jani as she took a vase from the top shelf of her cupboard and filled it with water for the flowers. “I’ll put these on the table in the patio. We’re going to eat outside.” Jani followed Emma to the backyard.

“Are you ready for a beer?” Brad asked Jani.

“No thanks. Iced tea will be fine.”

“Just like your sister,” said Brad rolling his eyes.

“So what’s the surprise?” asked Jani, turning to look to Emma.

“Oh, it can wait until after dinner,” said Emma.

No, it can’t. You have to tell me now,” said Jani with persistence.

Emma looked at Brad. “Go ahead and tell her,” he said.

“I’m pregnant!” she yelled, throwing her arms in the air.

“Yay!” squealed Jani, taking her sister’s hands as they jumped around in a circle.

“Careful, Mommy,” said Brad. “I don’t want that baby falling out too soon.” That made everyone laugh.

“When are you due?” asked Jani.

“Sometime in early January.”

“Have you picked out any names?”

“No. The thought of being pregnant is still too new.”

“Have you told Mom?”

“No, I wanted you to be the first to know. I just confirmed it yesterday with the doctor. We haven’t even told Brad’s parents.”

“Let’s call Mom and Dad now,” said Jani with excitement. “I’m sure they are both at home.”

Holding hands like six-year-olds, the girls went inside to call their parents. Jani dialed the phone, and Franny answered.

“Mom, Emma has something to tell you,” said Jani handing Emma the phone.

“Mom?”

“Yes, Emma?”

“I’m pregnant!” Both the girls squealed again.

“Harry!” Franny yelled over her shoulder, “Emma’s pregnant.”

“It’s about time,” Emma heard her dad yell back to her mother.

“Congratulations honey,” said Franny. “I know this is something you have wanted for a long time. How’s Brad feel about it?”

“Believe it or not, he’s excited,” said Emma. “Gotta go now. We’re about ready to eat, and Brad’s giving me the hang-up signal.”

“Well honey, I’m happy for you and Brad. We’ll talk more later.” Franny hung up the phone with a smile.

“Just think, Angie will have a cousin,” said Jani. “I’m so excited for you. This is going to be so much fun.”

Emma, with a serious look, asked, “Talking about Angie, has Eric met her yet?”

“No, but it’s time. I think Eric and I have a future together. I need to see how he is around her. Having a loving father for her is just as important to me as having a good husband.”

“I’m sure they will get along fine.”

“I hope so. He’s never dated anyone with a child. He doesn’t even have any brothers or sisters. My time with Angie comes first, and he will have to be second. I’m not sure how he’ll deal with that.”

“I guess you won’t know until you move forward with their meeting.”

“That might not be the only problem.” Emma gave Jani a questionable look. “His parents. I don’t think they’re happy about him getting involved with a ready-made family.”

“Have they said anything?”

“No, but his mother is so uppity. I’m sure she won’t like telling their friends that their son is dating a divorcée with a two-year-old child.”

“I suggest you concentrate on you, Angie, and Eric. Let him deal with his parents. Are there any other issues?” asked Emma. Jani shook her head.

“Hey! Em,” yelled Brad from the backyard. “Bring out the salad. We’re ready to eat. And grab two more beers while you’re at it.”

It turned out to be a wonderful day. Brad and Eric got along fine. Brad told Eric about his work, and Eric told him about the horse ranch and his veterinarian practice. And of course, the sisters talked about babies and being pregnant.

Brad took Eric out to the garage and showed him his boat. “We’ll have to get together some weekend and go skiing,” said Brad.

“That sounds like fun,” said Eric. “With my schooling and the business, I’ve never had any time for recreational sports, but I’d like to learn how to ski.”

“I’ll have Emma get together with Jani, and we’ll set up a trip.”

“Let me know what I need to bring,” said Eric.

“Oh, I have everything we need, but you can always bring some beer.”

“I see you are showing your baby to Eric,” said Emma to Brad as the girls joined them in the garage. “We’re going to have a real baby now, so he’ll have to find a new name for the boat.”

“I thought about that,” said Brad. “I think I’ll name it Wet Dream.”

“Yuck!” said the girls, which made the boys laugh.

“Brad’s invited us to go skiing,” Eric told Jani. “I’ll make some time from work so we can go with them.”

“Emma said, you haven’t water skied before,” Brad said to Jani.

“No, I just know how to ride horses,” she said winking at Eric.

“Pick a Saturday, and I’ll clear my calendar,” said Eric.

“I’ll get with you,” Emma said to Jani.

The boys shook hands. “I’m looking forward to that ski lesson,” said Eric, thanking them for dinner as they left.


***


“I like him,” said Brad. “It’s too bad she ever hooked up with Nate.”

“I agree, and I hope we never see him again. But there was one good thing that came out of their relationship - Jani had Angie, and I think she would go through it again if that was the outcome.”

“You know you won’t be able to ski if we go. I don’t want anything to happen to him,” said Brad, patting Emma’s stomach.

“Him? What makes you think it’s a boy?”

“Wishful thinking, Mrs. Mills,” Brad said taking Emma’s two hands in his and, looking her square in her eyes. “Would you please give me a boy?”

“I’ll do my best, Mr. Mills.”

They laughed and hugged, and together they cleaned up the dishes from the barbecue.

This is going to be a big adjustment for Brad, thought Emma. Doing things on the spur of the moment may be more difficult with a baby around. I’m sure he’ll be a good dad. I just hope he finds that staying home is more fun than partying with the guys.

CHAPTER 2

Monday, on the way home from work, Emma stopped by Isla’s to tell her the good news. Emma was a little disappointed at the lack of excitement from her grandmother. She expected her to be elated given how long she had wanted to get pregnant. “Please be happy for us,” said Emma.

Every time Isla heard someone was pregnant, she couldn’t help feel sad remembering the hard time she’d had with her first baby.

“I’m happy if it makes you happy,” said Isla giving Emma a hug. “Just stay healthy. Guess I better start making you some maternity smocks,” she said with a smile.

“That would be wonderful.” Emma hugged Isla one more time. “I better get home and cook dinner for my husband. I want to keep him happy.”

After dinner, Emma called her mother to tell her about her grandmother’s reaction.

“I know,” said Franny. “Mother tried to act excited when I told her I was pregnant with you girls, and that’s when I found out that she had had a baby before me, and it was stillborn.”

“Oh, no,” gasped Emma.

“I don’t know the circumstances, but I do know that whenever she hears that someone is pregnant, it makes her sad.”

“Mother, that’s terrible!”

“Don’t forget my real father left us when I was six months old. Add that to the equation and try to understand her lack of excitement. Mother had a hard life, and there is a lot I still don’t know. She is very closed-mouthed about her past. I hope someday she will share it all with us.”

When Franny hung up the phone, she returned to the kitchen where Jani was doing the dinner dishes. She wanted to have a talk with Jani about her dating Eric and this seemed like a good time.

“How was the barbecue Saturday?” asked Franny.

“It was great. Eric and Brad had a chance to get to know each other. Brad even asked us to go skiing with them some weekend.”

“Remember Jani, take it slow.”

Jani rolled her eyes. “I know. We need to get to know each other all over again. He might be a different person now. It’s for sure I am.”

“Yes, and now you’re a mother.”

“And an independent woman. He might not like that.”

“Just be careful. Don’t mistake lust for love.”

“Oh, Mom!”

The conversation ended, and Franny went to the den to pay some bills for Harry’s company. Harry had his contractor’s license now and was in business for himself, and Franny no longer worked at Buffums. She was putting her bookkeeping skills to work by doing the accounting for Harry’s flooring business. They had set up an office in the corner of the den. Franny worked from home which gave her a flexible schedule, and more time for her Ebell Club functions.


***


Jani and Eric had been dating for two months. Besides horseback riding, their dates consisted of going to the movies or out to dinner with some of Eric’s friends, who were either veterinarians or friends whose parents owned horses. A few were horse trainers.

He took Jani to a few horse shows where she met a few of his associates. Due to her love for horses, she fit right in with the group.

One afternoon on the way home from riding, Eric said, “I would like to get to know Angie.”

“You would?” Jani was taken off guard by his request.

“Is there some reason you are keeping her away from me?”

“No…”

“Then what’s the hesitation?”

“I just didn’t want her to get close to you and then have you go away.”

“Go away?” Eric looked at Jani, not quite understanding.

“Angie’s father left her before she was one. If she gets attached to you, and if we stop dating she might begin to feel rejected. “

Eric still looked confused. “Do you think I’m going to go away?”

“I’m not sure about our future. Having a little one around might change our relationship.”

“Well, we’ll never know if you don’t give me a chance. I love you, Jani.”

Tears slowly formed in her eyes. Hearing him say he loved her was what she had been wishing for. She finally spoke, “That’s the problem. I love you, too, and I’m afraid to lose you.”

Sensing her insecurities he parked his truck on the side of the road so they could have a serious conversation. “Jani, I want us to be a family. I want to marry you.” He reached over and pulled her close for a long hug. Still holding her, he said, “Until you let me in your heart with Angie that will never happen.”

“I’m afraid.”

He pulled away. “Afraid of what?”

“Once you find out you have to share your time with Angie that might not be what you want.”

“Like I said, until you let me in, we will never know. I want to learn to love her too and, for her to love me. Please, let’s give it a try.”

“How should we start?”

“Let’s take her to the ranch. We’ll visit all the animals and have a picnic lunch. Let us get to know each other and see what happens.”

“Okay. Let’s plan it for Sunday.”

“I’ll pack a lunch,” said Eric.


***


Jani and Angie were ready on Sunday when Eric came to pick them up. Angie was dressed in a pink sundress with an eyelet bonnet. Franny was at the door to see them off.

“You be careful with her around the horses, Eric,” warned Franny.

“Mother,” Jani scowled at her.

Well, you know how I am.”

“Yes, Mother. I do.”

“And don’t let her step in any horse poop,” said Franny. “She has on her new white shoes.”

“All right, Mrs. Mills. We’ll take good care of her,” said Eric.

“Bye, Mother,” said Jani. “Go to church, and don’t worry about us.”

She handed Eric Angie’s diaper bag and pointed for him to get the car seat which was waiting by the back door. Without hesitation, Eric did as he was directed. He put the car seat in place, and returned to the house in case there was more; there was.

“Can you get the playpen?” asked Jani picking up a blanket. “You can put it in the back of the truck.”

So much stuff, he thought. Well, I asked for it, so I better get used to it.

Eric kept glancing at Angie as they drove to the ranch. “She certainly is a cutie,” he said giving Jani a smile. Being an only child, he hadn’t had much interaction with children. Of course, he didn’t any nieces or nephews; it was not common to find little ones around areas where he worked. The truth was, he felt a little awkward.

When they arrived at the ranch they found a nice shade tree for their picnic. Jani showed Eric how to put up the playpen and then laid out the blanket.

“I brought a bottle of milk and one of juice. I need to put them in a refrigerator,” said Jani.

“Okay. Let’s go to the house and put them in the fridge and then we can go to the stables,” said Eric as they walked to the house. “Let me take her,” he said, reaching out his arms.

Jani handed Angie to him, and she immediately put her little arms around his neck to hold on. “I'm eager to see Angie with the animals,” said Jani.

He opened the back door of the house, and they went inside.

“Is that you Eric?” his mother yelled from her bedroom.

“Yes, Mom. I’m just putting something in the refrigerator. Jani’s here and we’re going out to the stables.”

“Okay, dear. Hello, Jani!” his mother hollered.

“Hello, Mrs. Ross,” Jani hollered back. Then she wondered, Why didn’t he say, Jani and her baby? Why didn’t he ask her to come and meet Angie?

After she heard the back screen door close, Eric’s mother went to the kitchen window. “Charles, come here,” she called to her husband. After a few minutes, he entered the kitchen.

“What is it?” he asked, seeing her standing at the window.

“Look out there,” she pointed toward the stable area. “Jani’s here with her baby.”

“So?”

“Has Eric talked to you about how he feels about her?”

“Who? Jani or the baby?”

“Jani,” she said annoyed that he even had to ask.

“No, he doesn’t talk to me about personal things.”

“He doesn’t talk to me either.” They stood there watching Jani hold Angie, as she pets the horse’s nose.

“I was hoping our son would fall in love with some young college girl. Not one who is divorced with a baby.” He could tell by her tone that she disapproved.

“Jani seems like a nice girl, and I like her family,” said Charles. “She just made a youthful mistake. It can happen to anyone, you know. If she had been your daughter, I’m sure you would have handled it differently.”

“Oh, Charles,” she said giving him a little push. “Get out of here, and go back to whatever you were doing.” He patted her on her rear and left her staring out the window.


***


“Let’s go to the back acre,” said Eric. “I think there are some newborn calves. I’ll carry her,” he offered.

“All right, but don’t let her shoes touch the ground. She might get poop on them,” said Jani handing Angie to him as they laughed about Franny’s comment.

“Poop, poop,” repeated Angie.

“You have to watch what you say around her. She’s at the age where she is repeating everything,” Jani told Eric.

After checking out the newborn calves and still carrying Angie, Eric said, “Let’s go over to the haystacks. I think we might find a litter of kittens hiding.”

They walked around a few stacks. “You’re right. Over here,” said Jani, motioning for Eric to bring Angie. She held up one of the kittens while showing Angie how to pet the kitten by stroking its back.

Angie pulled back her hand as she touched it and it meowed. Laying her head on Eric’s shoulder, she yawned.

“I think she’s ready for a nap,” said Jani.

“Let’s go back to the tree, and I’ll go get her bottle.”

“That would be perfect.”

Returning to the tree, Eric handed Angie back to Jani. “Okay, I’ll be right back.”

Why didn’t he ask me to go into the house with him? she wondered. Does he not want his mother to see Angie? It’s probably my imagination; I’m overreacting.

When Eric returned, he was carrying a basket with a few apples, some grapes, two chicken salad sandwiches, and two sodas, plus Angie’s bottle. He also had a portable radio, playing the song, Stuck On You.

“Well, that looks good,” said Jani peeking in the basket. They sat under the tree while Angie took her bottle and fell asleep. Several times Jani came close to asking Eric what his parents thought about them dating, but she stopped herself. Maybe another time, she thought.

At the end of the day, when Eric took Jani and Angie home, Franny was watching from the window, “Harry, come look,” she said. They watched Eric walk to the house carrying the playpen with the diaper bag over his shoulder.

He put down the items by the porch steps. “See you later little one,” said Eric, giving Angie a loving pinch on her cheek. “You too,” he said as he gave Jani a kiss.

“Thanks for a great day,” said Jan. She waved goodbye to Eric as he pulled out of the driveway.

“How was your day?” asked Franny when Jani came into the house.

“It was wonderful, Mom. Eric carried Angie around as we visited all the animals. He even put her on his shoulders when we went through the stables. We also found a litter of newborn kittens, and we let Angie pet one.”

“I hope you washed her hands afterward,” said Franny.

“I did,” replied Jani, disgusted with her mother’s comment. “But I think I’ll give her a bath before I let you or Dad hold her.”

Taking Angie to her room to get her ready for her bath, Jani thought. Mother is so fearful of horses. If Angie takes a liking to horses like I did, at least I’ll be there for her. Mother never understood.

That night, Jani and Emma chatted on the phone. Jani told Emma about taking Angie to the ranch and shared her concerns about Eric’s parents not accepting her.

“If he loves you,” Emma said, “they will just have to accept it. How was he with Angie?”

“He couldn’t have been more perfect. Several times he offered to carry her, and she went straight to him. It was so natural, and I loved seeing him hold her.”

“As they say,” said Emma, “time will tell. How could anyone not love Angie?”


***


The following Sunday, Jani and Angie went back to the ranch. This time Jani took Angie for a short horseback ride. Holding her tightly on the saddle in front of her, they walked Midnight slowly around the corral. Mother would just die if she could see us now, thought Jani to herself.

Eric took pictures of the two on horseback. Jani knew she would have to hide the pictures from Franny to keep her from having a panic attack.

Visits to the ranch on Sundays became a threesome affair. The following month, Eric’s mother asked them to stay for dinner. Jani was anxious and hoped Angie would be in a good mood.

Mr. Ross gave Angie a horsy ride on his leg. She squealed and giggled, and didn’t want to get off. He seemed more comfortable with her than Mrs. Ross did. At the end of the evening, Mrs. Ross brought out a small stuffed horse to give to Angie. Jani thought that was a good sign of acceptance.

“Thank you for dinner, Mrs. Ross,” said Jani. “And for the darling gift for Angie. That was a sweet thing to do.”

“It was my pleasure,” responded Mrs. Ross. “I hope the two of you will join us for dinner again.”

When Eric returned from taking Jani and Angie home, his mother called him. “Angie is a sweet little girl,” she said clearing her throat. “What are your future plans with Jani, or is it too soon to ask?”

“I think I’m going to ask her to marry me.” It was quiet on the other end of the phone. “Mom? Did you hear me?”

“Yes, Eric. I did.”

“There are still a few things to take care of before I pop the question.”

“Just make sure you are making the right decision. Taking on a wife, and a child is a big step.”

“I know, Mom. Thanks again for having us over for dinner. Good-night, I love you.”

“Love you too, Eric,” she said and hung up. She sat by the phone for a long time. She was not sure what to think about his announcement. She didn’t know whether she should try to discourage his marriage to Jani or not. She knew that if he had made up his mind, she would not be able to talk him out of it.


***


Emma was experiencing morning sickness. She was concerned about having to tell her work about the pregnancy. Company policy stated that once you were three months pregnant you would be laid off. Emma had heard that morning sickness usually only lasted three months, and then you felt better. She decided to keep her pregnancy a secret from work as long as possible.

She also knew that once she told her boss she was pregnant, she would have to go see that nasty company doctor. She still remembered how violated she felt after her company physical.

Brad was being wonderful and so attentive. He was proud to tell his friends they were going to have a baby.


***


A few months later, Eric finally found time to go on the skiing trip with Jani, Brad, and Emma. Brad wouldn’t let Emma ride in the boat. He told her he didn’t want her to take any chances. She watched them ski from the shore.

This was Eric and Jani’s first time water-skiing. They were both fairly athletic, so they had no problem getting up. It did take Jani a few attempts because she kept letting go of the rope. Once she was up, she yelled, “Yee-ha! Yee-ha!” like she was riding a horse.

The three came back to shore and ate the lunch that the girls had packed, while the boys cracked open a few beers. After lunch, they went for one more ski ride, and then they loaded up the boat and returned home.

“That was great fun,” said Eric. “Thanks for the ski lesson.”

“I’m glad you liked it. We’ll have to do it again sometime,” replied Brad.

Yeah, Jani. Just wait until I have this baby, and we’ll have to ski double,” said Emma.

“That sounds like real fun,” said Jani. “Maybe someday we can put some skis on Angie. That reminds me, I better get home. Mom has had her all day.”

The twins hugged, and the boys waved as they went their separate ways.

CHAPTER 3

Emma’s pregnancy started to show, and she finally had to tell her boss. Shortly after, she was laid off and placed on disability. She took up crocheting to pass the time while at home. She made potholders… a lot of potholders. She made them for Franny, Jani, and Isla. They didn’t have the heart to tell her to stop because they had enough to last a year.

“Would it be okay if I gave a few to my neighbors?” asked Franny. Emma was proud that her mother thought that her handy work was nice enough to share. It never entered her mind that Franny simply had too many.

Isla thought it was time for Emma to tackle something larger and gave her an afghan pattern. Emma started with one for the baby and soon the baby had five afghans, all in different colors. Then they started to get larger and larger.

“If you ever get cold at Emma’s you can count on her to bring out one of her afghans,” Franny told her mother. “If you’re lucky she might even let you take it home.”

One day at work, Brad’s friend Alex, talked about his boating trip to the Colorado River where the weather was still warm. Emma was seven months pregnant when Brad suggested they go for the weekend. Emma had no problem with the five-hour drive. She never let her pregnancy interfere with fun.

Franny tried to discourage the trip but was unsuccessful. Brad invited two other couples, Phil and Margo, and Jim and Bev, to go along. It was going to be a fun weekend. Alex told Brad they usually stayed at Sports Valley campsites along the Parker Strip.

“Sports Valley also has a restaurant. In case it gets too hot, we can go inside to cool off,” said Alex. “And, the restaurant has four pool tables.”

Friday after work, Brad finished packing the car and hooked up the boat trailer to the back of the car. They didn’t leave their house until 7:00 p.m. and arrived at the campsite at midnight. The boys had been drinking beer all the way and were ready to party. Emma was ready for bed.

Brad unloaded the car and set up cots with their sleeping bags. Margo and Bev were ready for bed, too. Brad kissed Emma goodnight and joined Phil and Jim at the restaurant to shoot pool.

The next morning, Brad was up before the sun broke over the surrounding mountains. Emma could not believe that he had brought a rake from home and had raked their campsite. He had placed a tablecloth on the picnic table and had started to cook breakfast. Although she was well past morning sickness, the smell of bacon still made her nauseous.

Getting out of her sleeping bag, Emma looked to see where they were. It had been dark when they had arrived, and she wasn’t sure how close they were to the river edge. In the darkness, she could hear the rustle of the river current and fresh scent of the water. She was eager to see where they had spent the night. It turned out the campsite was only fifty feet from the water.

The Parker Strip stretched from the town of Parker, Arizona, to Parker Dam. The width of the river was approximately five hundred feet, with Arizona on one side and California on the other. Most of the land on the California side was still owned by Indian tribes.

There were campsites on both sides of the river, and homes on the other side of the road were nestled in the low surrounding mountains. Although it was the middle of the desert, there was an abundance of shade trees along the shoreline. There were coves thick with reeds where the fish settled. The river had a strong current from the dam to Parker. It was common to see people floating on inner tubes, as they moved swiftly along the water.

Brad cooked, and Emma did the dishes, and then he launched the boat. She looked up when she heard Brad call her name. He was waving from the boat, and Phil and Jim were with him. They were off to who knew where. That was fine with Emma and the girls, they wanted to work on their tans.

They set up their lounges in the sun and enjoyed watching everyone ski. Periodically, the boys would drive by in the boat going full speed, waving and yelling the girls’ names. They would wave back, content to be staying on the beach.

Needless to say, by four o’clock, there were five sunburned bodies. The boys’ backs, faces, and the tops of their legs were burned from riding in the boat all day. The girls had forgotten to turn over, and their chests, arms, and legs were bright pink. At least Emma had remembered to use sunscreen and had had sense enough to move to the shade after a few hours.

After dinner, the others started to moan and groan, and Emma’s legs had started to swell. The definition on her ankles had disappeared. Brad was more concerned than she was. He wanted to take her to the hospital, but she insisted that was not necessary.

He set up a lounge for her, with pillows to prop up her feet, and wrapped her ankles with ice packs.

“I don’t want you to get up for anything,” said Brad. “Just let me know what you need and I’ll get it.” She complied willingly.

Even the next day he waited on her. The swelling didn’t go down until they returned home. They decided they wouldn’t take any more trips until the baby was born. Emma saw a worried side of Brad she had never seen before: it makes her love him even more.

Monday morning, Jani called Emma before work, to see how their river trip went.

“I’m about ready to pop,” said Emma. “I feel like a large mother duck waddling around.”

“It won’t be long now before Angie will have a cousin,” said Jani.

“It’s going to be so much fun watching them play together.”

“Do you want a boy or a girl?”

“I’d like a girl, but Brad wants a boy. I’ll be happy either way. Grandmother thinks it’s a girl, she is already making dresses. For someone who showed little excitement when I told her I was pregnant, it’s all she talks about now.”

“If it’s a boy, she can save the dresses for the next one. That is, whichever one of us has a girl next.”

“Have you and Eric talked about having children?”

“No, not really.” Jani hesitated. “But I’m sure he wants to have a family.”

“Do I hear a question in your voice? You know he’s not at all like Nate.”

“Oh, I know that.”

“Eric is older. He has his own business and owns a home. He’s a great catch, and I’m sure he’ll be a wonderful father.”

“You’re right. I was worried about his mother accepting me, but I think she’s okay with us now.”

“He’s lucky to have you and Angie as a family.”

“Talking about Angie, I better go, I hear her fussing, and I need to get to work. You’ll soon know what that’s like. Let’s get together next week, and in the meantime, get lots of sleep because you won’t be getting much the first three months after the baby gets here.”

“I think I’ll take your advice.”


***


About a week later, after Brad had left for work, Emma decided to go back to bed. Napping had become part of her everyday routine. She had been sleeping for about an hour when a stomach cramp woke her up. She rolled over onto her other side. Ten minutes later, she had another cramp. Wow! she thought, rubbing her stomach. That didn’t feel like a cramp. She checked the clock. It was 11:30 in the morning. Sure enough, at 11:40 it happened again. I think I’m in labor, she told herself. Stay calm.

She phoned Brad at work. It would take him an hour to get home. By that time, she would be ready to go to the hospital. The doctor had told her that it takes awhile to dilate, especially with the first child.

She called Brad at work to tell him that she was in labor, he didn’t even bother to tell her goodbye; he just hung up the phone. He shouted to his co-worker, “I’m having a baby!” and ran out of the office. He was home in forty-five minutes.

When Brad arrived, he was a nervous wreck. Emma called her mother and told her to relay the information to Dad, Jani, and Isla. “We’re on our way to the hospital,” said Emma. “Brad will call you as soon as he has something to report.”

Brad ran about the house making sure Emma had her overnight bag. He kept asking, “Are you all right?” She assured him she was and reminded him they had plenty of time.

At the hospital, the admitting nurse called Dr. Winco and gave him Emma’s status. The nurse called for a wheelchair to take Emma to her room. Emma looked at Brad and thought he probably needed the wheelchair more than she did.

Once she was settled in her room, Emma noticed her contractions were now five minutes apart. The nurse had Brad put on a gown and gave him a few magazines.

“You can stay with your wife during labor, but when she is ready to deliver you will have to go to the waiting room,” said the nurse. He didn’t respond other than a nod that he understood.

Later, the doctor arrived and the nurse started to prepare Emma for delivery. Brad said he was going out for a cigarette and would be right back.

While he was walking the halls, he saw another man in a hospital gown, standing in front of the nursery window. Brad stood next to him as they watched five newborns screaming at the top of their lungs.

“Are any of these yours?” asked the man.

“No. Mine will be in here soon,” answered Brad with a smile.

“That’s my little girl,” said the man, pointing to the baby right in front of him.

“Congratulations,” said Brad, shaking the man’s hand.

“Good luck,” said the man as Brad started to walk away.

“Thanks,” Brad responded, thinking how close he was to having his baby in the nursery for everyone to admire.

When he returned to Emma’s room, he heard a woman screaming in the labor room next to hers.

He stared at Emma, “Are you going to do that?” he asked.

“I hope not,” she replied, but she really wasn’t sure how she would react when the labor got harder. Brad sat in a chair next to Emma’s bed. Looking at a magazine, he held it open high enough to cover his face so he couldn’t see Emma’s face. It was difficult to see her in pain and not be able to do anything about it. Occasionally he peeked over the top of the magazine.

“I’m still here,” Emma said with a laugh as he took a peek. “I’m not going anywhere.”

Every time the woman in the next room yelled, Brad hid behind the magazine. It reminded Emma of a turtle ducking back in its shell for defense.

Her labor was getting harder. She groaned softly with pain, but she had made up her mind not to scream out. All of a sudden a flood of water spilled out from under her. She sighed with relief.

“What was that?” asked Brad in a panic.

“I think my water just broke.”

Brad was out of his chair as if a hot poker had burned his butt. He ran out of the room in a flash. She could hear him shouting, “Doctor! Doctor! My wife’s water just broke. Hurry! Hurry!”

A nurse came in laughing, and said, “We might have to sedate your husband. I don’t think he’s going to make it through your labor pains.” Checking out Emma, she said, “I think it’s time to have a baby. I’ll get the doctor.”

Walking next to her, Brad held Emma’s hand as the nurse wheeled her down the hall to the delivery room. He kissed her goodbye and then went to the waiting room. He couldn’t take his eyes off the clock on the wall. What’s taking so long? he wondered.

The doctor entered the waiting room. “Congratulations, Mr. Mills. You have a perfect baby boy. Your wife is doing fine, and you can go to her room now.”

He rushed to her room, still wearing the hospital gown. “We did it. It’s a boy!” Brad said with astonishment, bending over to kiss Emma.

“He looks just like you,” Emma proudly said, cuddling her son in her arms.

“Thank you, honey, for giving me a boy.”

“I aim to please,” she said with a smile. “But we haven’t picked out a name. I really don’t want to name him after anyone we know because the others might get their feelings hurt. Do you have any suggestions?”

“I don’t care. You can name him, you did all the work.”

“How about Luke? I think that’s a strong name.”

“Luke? Our son Luke. I like the sound of that.”

Luke Mills was born on January 5, 1961.

Feeling strong after the birth, Emma couldn’t wait to take her son home. She talked her doctor into releasing her the next day. Franny was waiting at Emma’s house, anxious to hold her new grandchild. She offered to spend the night, but Emma said they would be fine.

The fourth day home, Emma’s bleeding seemed excessive. Franny stayed with her that night and continued to change her blood-soaked clothes. She helped tend to Luke during the night and the next morning so that Emma could stay in bed, hoping her bleeding would diminish.

The next morning, Franny called the doctor, who didn’t hesitate to make a house call. Emma was hemorrhaging, and her blood pressure was very low. The doctor gave her a shot to coagulate her blood.

Emma was so weak that she could hardly lift her head off the pillow. Franny stayed with her around the clock.

“I feel so useless,” Brad told Emma. “I don’t know how to make you better, and I don’t know how to care for a baby.”

“It’s all right, honey. Mother has everything under control. I’ll feel better tomorrow.” She was so tired, she couldn’t keep her eyelids from closing as she spoke.

With Franny there, Brad slept on the couch at night and paced the floor during the day. Harry came by the house after work, stayed for a bite to eat, and then went home. The following evening Emma tried to stand up to walk to the bathroom but collapsed just as Harry was coming into the bedroom to check on her. Brad stood in the hallway as he watched Harry catch her. Emma saw a helpless look on Brad’s face.

After returning her to bed, Harry joined Brad in the front room. “Emma’s a very sick girl,” Harry said to Brad, his brow furrowed with worry.

“Is she going to die?” asked Brad, panic in his voice.

“Oh, no!” responded Harry, putting his hand on Brad’s shoulder to assure him. “I think the worst is over, but she needs to take it slow.”

Later that night, Brad sat on the side of the bed next to Emma, “I should be helping you. I wish I knew what to do.”

“I’m sure I’ll feel better soon. I’m just glad mother is here to take care of Luke.”

“Me, too,” agreed Brad. He laid down next to her and soon they were both asleep.

The doctor came to the house twice a day, for three days.

“Do you think we should take her back to the hospital?” Franny asked the doctor.

“No! I have everything under control,” he replied. He was their family doctor; who had delivered Emma and Jani. Franny told Emma she was concerned, but they trusted Dr. Winco to make the right decision.

Emma was disappointed when the doctor decided to give her pills to dry up her milk; she had been looking forward to nursing Luke. The doctor told her that she was too weak, and the main objective was for her to get well. A few days later, Emma slowly started to get her energy back.

Franny had gone home, and the house was quiet. Brad sat next to Emma as she lay on the couch and held Luke. “Do you want to hold him?” Emma asked Brad, realizing he hadn’t held him yet.

“I want to, but I’m afraid. He’s so little.”

“Here, I’ll put him in your arms. Support his head with your hand, and let him rest on your lap.” Gently, she placed Luke in his arms.

“How am I doing?” he asked as he held Luke for the first time. Luke let out a little sigh. “I think he likes me.”

“I’m sure he does. You’re his daddy.”

Emma and Brad sat for a long time, just staring at their precious baby boy.

CHAPTER 4

Are you ready to go back to work?” Jani asked Emma during a phone conversation.

“No, but I need to. I’m not telling you anything new when I say; that having a baby is an added expense. I have two more weeks to find a babysitter or I’ll lose the opportunity to return to work and keep my seniority. Luke will be six weeks old, and a lot of places won’t take a young baby.”

“I’ll ask my sitter and see if she can recommend anyone. She is up to her licensed capacity or she could take Luke.”

“Okay, let me know. Got to go. I’ve got dinner on the stove.”

“Talk with you later, bye.”

After dinner, the phone rang. It was Isla.

“Hi, Grandmother. How are you?” said Emma.

“I’m fine. I wondered if you could bring Luke by tomorrow? I’ve made a few outfits for him, and I want to make sure they fit.”

“I’ve got a doctor’s appointment for Luke at ten o’clock. We can come by afterward.”

“That would be fine. I’ll see you then.”

The next morning, getting Luke ready to go out was an ordeal. He kept throwing up his milk after she fed him. She hoped it wasn’t anything serious.

When she told the doctor about Luke not being able to keep his milk down, he said, “I’m not too concerned about Luke’s health because he is not losing weight. He might be allergic to the formula, however, I want you to switch to goat’s milk and see if that makes a difference.”

Emma stopped at the store on the way to Isla’s. She was disappointed to discover that the price of goat’s milk was double what she paid for his formula.

Isla was happy to see Luke. “Aren’t you getting to be a big boy,” she said. “Come here and let Grandmother hold you.” Emma handed Luke to Isla. “Let’s go in the kitchen. I just made some fresh lemonade,” said Isla. While they drank their lemonade, Luke sat in Isla’s lap content.

As they visited, Emma told Isla she was going back to work but hated the thought of leaving Luke with a stranger.

“Why don’t you let me take care of him?” asked Isla.

“Really?” said Emma surprised at the offer.

“I get up early, and it wouldn’t be a problem.”

“What about your customers?”

“When Jani had Angie, I wasn’t able to do it because I had a lot of customers at the time. I don’t have a large clientele now. My eyes are getting tired, and I haven’t taken on anyone new. I can schedule my clients during Luke’s naps.”

“Grandmother that would be wonderful! Are you sure?”

“Yes. I have already given it some thought. I would enjoy taking care of Luke. It would give me purpose, and I would love the company.”

She threw her arms around her grandmother and Luke at the same time. “You have answered my prayers. This will give me such peace of mind.”


***


The Saturday before Emma returned to work, Brad, Luke, and Emma went to Isla’s. They bought a playpen for Luke and enough diapers for a week. Isla had already bought a diaper pail, and she told Emma she would wash the diapers and maintain a clean supply at her house. As Emma went over Luke’s routine she realized what a Godsend her grandmother was.

Emma was nervous as she got ready for her first day back to work. As much as she went through the plan in her head, actually getting Luke ready was more time consuming than she had anticipated. As she was taking Luke to the car he spit up on her new dress. Goat’s milk had a stench that couldn’t be wiped out. Emma rushed back into the house. She put Luke down, and he cried for the whole time it took her to change her clothes. Then she was off again - but running late.

Thank goodness Isla was at the door waiting. “Sorry Grandmother, I’m running behind schedule. He spit up on me, and I had to change my clothes,” said Emma handing Luke off to Isla and walking backward to the car. Taking a deep breath she backed her car out the driveway.

How do mothers do this? she wondered. She thought of Jani and how she managed to hold down her job at the bank. Of course, she lived with their parents, and Franny was there to help out. Then she remembered that in the beginning Jani had been married to Nate, who was no help at all. Thinking about all that Jani had to put up with, she had a new admiration for her sister.

As she drove to work, she thought, How lucky Mom was to be able to stay home with Jani and me. I hope someday I can do the same.

By the end of the week, Emma was exhausted, and her house was a mess. There were clothes all over the place as she had to change again after another early morning spit-up incident. Dirty dishes were still in the sink, left from the night before because she had collapsed in bed right after dinner.

Emma had planned to pay Isla for taking care of Luke, but she was so glad it was Friday that she forgot. How could I forget that? she wondered. I’ll give her some money on Monday.

Yeah, the weekend is here, thought Emma. I need to get caught up on my housework. Luke was on an early morning schedule so sleeping in was not an option. I’m so tired. Maybe I can grab a nap with him in the afternoon.

“Let’s take Luke and go visit Jim and Bev,” suggested Brad.

“I can’t go anywhere. I have to wash clothes, clean the house, go grocery shopping, and then get ready to go to work on Monday.”

“We haven’t gone anywhere since you’ve had the baby,” said Brad. “Can’t you let any of those things go for now?”

“I wish I could, but I’m already behind.” She heard Luke crying as he woke up from his morning nap. “You can go if you want but I have to get the baby and start the wash.”

Brad helped with grocery shopping but that was about it. Emma didn’t ask or expect him to help with cleaning the house or the wash. She felt that was all her responsibility. By the end of the third week, life began to settle down. Emma had a daily routine that was working for her, but she had little time for Brad.


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