The Final Goodbye By: J.L. Jacobs © 2015 (Full Length Book)

Out of sheer desperation, Sophia Lancaster flees her small town of Wellington, Ohio in order to become a mail-order-bride. Naive and full of hope, her world is shattered once again as she is quickly wed to Travis Ewing who seems to despise her from the moment they meet.

Over time, they fall madly in love with each other but Fate has other plans in store for them. This is a suspenseful and very emotional love story that is set in the 1890's where history comes alive. You will laugh and cry over Sophia's journey through hell and back as she fights for the only thing she truly believes in: Love.

*I love to hear your comments and feedback but please DO NOT POST ANY SPOILER ALERTS OR GIVE AWAY STORY INFO. This ruins the reading experience for others.* This is a rough draft version. This book is for mature readers over the age of 17 only. It does contain some profanity and a few graphic love scenes. The synopsis will be re-written, and I will be updating the book with edits.

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26. Chapter Twenty-Six: Desperation

Chapter Twenty-Six: Desperation

 

 

January 14, 1891

Travis has left me two days ago! Without even so much as allowing me to explain. He just... up and left with the children without so much as an explanation or any goodbye's. Mother told me that they had left on a train heading South to Kentucky. I am so upset right now! We were all supposed to be leaving together as a family today on an express train to head back to Dallas but he hasn't come back for me. I have been in tears since I found out what he had done from Mother. I cannot seem to stop crying. The hurt I am feeling right now feels so much worse than it did when Jeremy left me at the altar. I keep expecting Travis and the children to walk through those doors but they haven't. This has to be some terrible nightmare. We are lawfully wedded! Surely he wouldn't return to Texas without me no matter how angry he is? Especially since I am pregnant with his child! I wanted to board the train today, which was one that is heading south to Texas and one of the stops is at Dallas, in order to go after them but missed it because I was making myself believe he would actually come back here for me by the time it was to leave. I did purchase a ticket for the next express train which leaves in one week from today. I will not be missing that one! Hopefully before then he will arrive himself. 

 

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January 19, 1891

I just got released from the hospital in Oberlin and I am back home resting now. It has been a long few days. Once again, I will be missing the train that was going to take me down to Dallas to my family. That train is going to be leaving here in two days but I will not be on it. I started to bleed again yesterday and almost lost the baby again. Now I am on very strict bed rest. There will be no trip to Dallas until after the baby is finally born. This is all Travis's fault for putting me under so much stress to begin with! I am giving in to more and more fits of tears as I am coming to the realization that he's not coming for me. But I shall try to remain hopeful, as Nellie keeps telling me "That losing hope is giving up." She's right. I cannot give up just as I cannot stop the ache in my heart or the tears from continuously falling down my cheeks. Somehow I know there will be better days. Once Travis comes to his senses I know he will come back to me.

 

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March 27, 1891

Today is Mikey's birthday and I am sad that I am unable to spend it with him. We all mailed him a large package in the post a couple weeks ago full of presents, just like we did for Hope back in January when it was her birthday. I hope that it has arrived in time for him to open his presents today. I am trying really, really hard to keep it together. Ever since Travis left during the second week of January I have been such a mess! I have posted several letters and even sent a few telegraphs in order to reach through to him but there has been no responses. Nothing. How can he just leave me like this without even allowing me to explain? I am his wife and pregnant with his baby, surely that has to mean something to him? Apparently not! If he would have just allowed me to explain what he had overheard that day, then I am sure this whole dreadful mess wouldn't have been blown so far out of proportion. I miss Travis and the children so much that my heart aches. Literally aches. I thought after Jeremy left me at the altar that I couldn't possibly hurt more badly but I was sorely mistaken. The love I feel for my husband, and him abandoning me like this, is so much more worse! For well over the first month I was only capable of crying. Then when Maybelle and Hank had their new baby boy and brought him to see me, I looked down at that precious baby and couldn't help but weep with joy. Little Tyler Quentin Shaw is such a beautiful baby boy that I am literally beyond eagerly anticipating the arrival of my own son or daughter. Since then, I have been crying less and less but I am still an emotional mess. It doesn't help that I am stuck in bed all day, every day, and that I am only allowed to get up in order to use the commode or to bathe. I have to eat all my meals in bed too. I wish I could at least eat them with Mother and Father in the dining room but I don't for fear that I will cause undue harm to my baby.

Just last week Rachel came to see me. I knew from the look on her face that she was going to tell me some bad news. At first I had imagined the worse. I thought that perhaps she was going to deliver court papers from Travis to divorce me but the news was much more different than I had thought. She told me that Jeremy had been found hanging from the ceiling in his office at the clinic the day before last. He had killed himself. Strangely, I had no emotions over hearing that bit of news. I was actually rather numb. Perhaps I am lying a little bit in writing that; I suppose I do feel a tiny bit of sadness. Not because I miss or love him but because he had felt so tortured within his soul that he would even contemplate such a drastic thing like ending his own life like that. Out of respect, Rachel and Joseph both attended the funeral and burial. Rachel said that Angelique nor Dr. Milton was in attendance. That witch... after all she has done to ruin his life, she couldn't even attend his service? I was shocked to hear that to be completely honest. Rachel did say that his parents came into town and that Josephine was there along with her newer husband and they were all quite broken up. So now Jeremy is dead and buried and I feel next to nothing about it. I do feel sad that his life had been such a living hell all thanks to Angelique, but other than that, there is no feelings of unrequited love or anything like that. I do believe he's at peace now. Looking back at this time last year, we were excitedly planning our wedding. My how much time has changed both of our lives. It feels as if it has been so much longer than that... as if it all happened more than a lifetime ago.

Martha, the midwife here in Wellington, has been coming here to examine me every week. She thinks I only have a few more weeks to go before my baby is born. I wish Travis was here or that I were there with him. I am scared for so many reasons. Since I haven't been back to Dallas, I have been unable to have my weekly visits with both Dr. May and Dr. Halsted. I had Rachel send a wire to my friend Elsie Prescott in Dallas to inform her of where I was and why so that she could let both of the doctors know what was going on with me. Then I followed up my telegraphs with written letters to both of those doctors explaining what was happening with me and why I have not been back to Dallas yet. I did mention that after the baby is born, and just as soon as I can travel, that I would be back there come hell or high water! A couple weeks ago I had received letters in the post from both of them expressing their concern over my health. Dr. Halsted informed me that he had no other choice than to return back to Baltimore. He did say that once my baby has been delivered and I am healed, he can come back to either Dallas or here depending on what is going on so that I can have my next surgery. Dr. May wrote to tell me that he was praying for me and would hopefully see me again in the near future. I have had some pains on and off but they aren't the same ones I was having from before. It's like my stomach tightens up so badly that it hurts, and there's this horrible cramping feeling that is there while that is happening. Then after a couple of minutes it stops and I feel fine. It's weird though. Mother thinks it's early signs of labor. I sure hope not because I am not expecting the baby until next month. But only time will tell I suppose. In the meantime, I will continue to pray on my own behalf. That's the best I can do right now. As I am finishing up this journal entry, the baby inside of me is kicking me furiously. Sometimes, when I am bathing, I can actually see a little hand or foot push out from my belly. It's the best feeling in the world when I have moments like that. On another note though, I feel like I look like a beached whale. My belly is absolutely enormous and I still have a few more weeks to go. I cannot possibly get any bigger than I am already!

 

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April 1, 1891

My depression over Travis is getting slightly better. It's been a very slow process as far as that is concerned. The closer I get to the arrival of my baby, the more upset I get with him.I have so much anger towards him now over what he has done and is putting me through. Just this morning I threw my teacup across the room in anger and frustration when Rachel had asked me if I had heard anything from him. I haven't of course. I just don't understand why he hasn't posted any letters or wires to reply to my own, or why he hasn't come back for me by now. Surely he cannot be that upset still! I cannot even fathom him missing out on the birth of his child! Everyone has been so angry at Travis over how he has left me here. Now I am angry with him myself. What a stubborn jackass he is being! I am so tempted to leave here to get on the next train to Dallas just so I can kick him in his bollocks over what he has done and put me through! I've about had it! I've decided that enough is enough!

 

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     Rachel heard the door knocker at her front door being pounded several times really hard. From the sounds of it, she suspected that it was someone coming to tell her that Sophia had finally gone into labor. She had been sitting in her drawing room knitting a new dress for Jocelyn when the furious sounding knocks had started. Rachel gathered the sides of her calico dress into her hands and stood up to rush over to the door. Opening it, she saw her mother standing before her. She seemed a bit out of breath. "Rachel!" Lucinda cried out, "Please tell me Sophia is here!" Rachel looked at her mother in confusion, "No, she is not. Isn't she at your house? She is on bed rest after all." Lucinda's face crumpled, "No. She is nowhere to be found there! I have searched all over my house. Nellie too. She's gone! Then we discovered that her reticule and her suitcase is missing. I prayed that she had come here for some reason." "Oh no!" Rachel proclaimed, "Where could she have gone? Perhaps she is at Maybelle's?" But the second Rachel even suggested the idea, she knew in her gut that Rachel was not there. Something told her that Sophia had gone to Texas in search of Travis. From the look on Lucinda's face, Rachel could see that her mother had come to the same conclusion as well. "She wouldn't!" Rachel said with panic edging her voice. She knew how critical it was that Sophia was to obey her doctor's orders and remain on bed rest. She also knew her older sister well enough to know that Sophia could be obstinate and impulsive enough to have made such a terrible decision like going after her husband. "Mother," Rachel said nervously, "What do we do now? I think we both know where Sophia is headed. This could be disastrous!" The front door was still wide open allowing the cold April wind's to encapsulate them but neither of the women noticed. They both stood in the foyer with worry and concern written all over their faces. Lucinda broke the silence by saying, "All's we can do at this point is pray that nothing bad happens to her or that baby."

 

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     Like every other morning since he had returned back to the ranch in January, Travis walked down into his kitchen to find Mrs. Cox there standing over the cook top range as she was making the breakfast meal for him and the children. It was now the second week of April and not a day went by that he woke up half expecting to see Sophia laying by his side in bed. Each time he had realized she wasn't there he became mad all over again. He walked over and poured himself a mug of hot coffee, then went to sit down at the table to drink it. As usual since his return, his mood was quite sour. "Good morning Mr. Ewing." Mrs. Cox said dutifully. Ever since he and the children had returned almost three months ago without Sophia with them, she had been upset with Travis over him leaving her behind. She did her job and tried to remain as respectful as she possibly could but it was difficult for her on some days to hold her tongue. Mikey and Hope had even seemed to lose some of the sparkle in their eyes. They were still very upset with their Pa for what he had done. Everyone missed Sophia. It was that simple. Not even sparing a glance in her direction Travis grumbled, "Good morning to you as well Mrs. Cox." She glared at him giving him the stink eye but he was oblivious to her silent animosity. Mrs. Cox put some fried eggs and ham on a plate and walked over to set it down on the table in front of him. She placed a fork alongside it rather roughly, but still Travis said nothing. He began to break his fast and made quick work of the job. Just as he was about to eat the last bite, a knock sounded at the back door. The screened door was opened so when Travis looked up, he saw a scrawny-looking young man standing there. Travis got up from his chair and walked over to the door opening it. "I have an urgent telegraph for Mr. Travis Ewing." the young man said formally. Travis grabbed the envelope out of his hand. "I'm Travis Ewing." With that, he closed the door without so much as another word and walked back over towards the table. He tossed the envelope down and proceeded to eat the last bite of his breakfast. "The man said the telegraph was urgent. Aren't you going to open it?" Mrs. Cox said impatiently with her hands placed on her ample hips. "Nope." Travis replied bitterly. "Travis Lee Ewing!" Mrs. Cox yelled out, "This has gone on long enough already! Either you open up that telegraph or I will so help me God!" He stood back up from the table with his plate and fork in hand, then stormed past Mrs. Cox to throw his dirty dishes into the sink. The plate broke on impact. Mrs. Cox stood there in astonishment and anger while watching Travis as he grabbed a light coat from the coat rack. In seconds, he had it on then bolted out the door so that he could get started on all the work he had to do that day. "I'm going to open it!" she hollered out to him but her words fell on deaf ears. "What a thick-headed mule!" she said out loud as she walked over to the table. She briefly contemplated not opening up the message inside the envelope but decided to ignore that thought just as quickly as it had popped into her mind. She ripped open the brown envelope and pulled out the telegraph tucked inside.

 

Sophia is missing. STOP. We believe she's on her way there. STOP. Please contact us the moment she arrives. STOP. Her health has not been good. STOP. Rachel McCord.

 

The message had come from Sophia's sister. Mrs. Cox's heart started pounding furiously within her chest. She was well aware that there had been other telegraphs and letters that had been delivered to the ranch over the last several weeks, all of them from Sophia. Mrs. Cox was also fully aware that Travis hadn't opened nary a one. From the sound of this particular missive that she did take the liberty to open, Sophia could be arriving at any time and her health was not well. Mrs. Cox stood there and began to worry. Was it the baby? Or could they have meant her cancer? Perhaps it was both? There really was no way to know for sure unless she sent a telegraph back to them to find out. Mrs. Cox could hear the sound of footsteps walking down the steps. The children were awake and they would need to be fed. She gave them both their breakfast plates as they sat down at the table. She quickly decided that while the children were occupied by doing their chores, Mrs. Cox would go and talk to her own husband about this situation. Perhaps he could sneak away for a while in order to take a ride into Dallas so that he could reply to this telegraph asking for more details. Mrs. Cox smiled down at Hope as the little girl came running into the kitchen and wrapped her arms around Mrs. Cox's over-sized girth for a big hug. Mikey sat down at the table sullenly and stared down at his leather cowboy boots saying nothing. "Get to eatin' straight away. You have chores to do after that and while you are getting them done, I will be going to go see Mr. Cox over at the cookhouse because I have an urgent matter to discuss with him." "Is the urgent matter about Sophia?" Hope said looking at her with her big blue eyes widened and full of hope. Mrs. Cox didn't want to say much, especially given the circumstances. "Just you go on now at get some food in your belly. Perhaps later today you can help me plant some of the seeds I got for our garden this year." Mrs. Cox said as she set the plates of breakfast down in front of the children. "Did ya get some strawberry seeds?" Hope asked with a mouthful of food. "Yes I did." Mrs. Cox answered. Hope smiled, "Thanks Mrs. Cox. Maybe Sophia will be back here in time to plant some with us." Mikey looked up from his plate glaring daggers at his younger sister, "She ain't comin' back!" he cried out. He threw down his fork and stormed out the back door of the kitchen. Mrs. Cox walked to the back door to see him heading for the barn. "You had better be working on your chores Michael Ewing!" she called out to him. "Gee Mrs. Cox, everyone around here is always in a rotten mood." Hope said somberly. "I know sweetie." Mrs. Cox said planting a kiss on the top of the little girl's head, "I'm sorry. I think we've all just been missing Sophia. Your Papa most of all." "He sure doesn't act like it!" Hope proclaimed, "He's always so mad all the time." "That's because he's trying real hard to not show it but I promise you he misses her just like you and Mikey do. Just like we all do." Mrs. Cox took a seat in the chair and watched as Hope ate her food. "Is Sophia ever coming back?" Hope asked. Mrs. Cox's eyes began to water, "I sure hope so." Mrs. Cox sighed, "I sure hope so."

 

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     Later that night, well past sunset, Travis was in the barn mucking out stalls when he heard a horse being ridden towards the back of the house. He set the pitchfork he had been holding against the wall and proceeded to walk outside to see who it was that had come calling at that late hour. The rider of the horse jumped down and waited until Travis had reached him before saying, "Urgent telegraph for a Mrs. Cox." "She's in her cabin but you can give it to me and I will see that she gets it." Travis said as he grabbed the envelope from the messenger's outstretched hand. He took the short walk to the cabin and pounded his fist against the door hoping he wasn't waking either of them up. Seconds later the door opened and Mrs. Cox stood there with an outstretched hand. Apparently she was expecting this telegraph. He plopped it in her hand and started to walk away. "You can just wait right here Mister Ewing!" she yelled out as she tore open the envelope. Her eyes widened as tears appeared. "Travis." she said brokenly while handing him the missive. He rarely heard her call him by his given name, even after knowing her for almost two decades.

 

She almost lost the baby again back in January after Travis left here. STOP. Her health has gone into a slow decline since. STOP. We fear for them both and are very worried. STOP. Please inform us right away if she shows up there. STOP. Rachel McCord.

 

Travis felt his heart lurch inside his chest and it took a few moments for him to catch his breath. "What is the meaning of this?" he managed to say to Mrs. Cox. "That there is a reply I got back finally. That first telegraph that showed up for you this morning was from Sophia's sister. Sophia's gone missing and they suspect she's on her way down here even though she was on strict orders from a doctor to stay in bed until that baby is born! If I hadn't taken the liberty to open that message for you from this morning then we'd have no idea what was going on right now!" she snapped at him. Travis stared at her blankly while trying to comprehend what he was just told. Sophia was on her way here? After almost losing the baby a second time? This was all his fault! If something happened to her or the baby, or even to them both, it would be all on him and he'd never be able to forgive himself. "I also took the liberty of having Mr. Cox go into Dallas earlier this morning to respond to the first telegraph. You should have known with it being marked urgent and all that something had happened!" Mrs. Cox said, using one of her chubby fingers to poke him hard in the chest several times. "I ain't ever been so downright ashamed of you in all my life! What you have put her through since the day you married her! I ain't holding my tongue no more! She has done nothing but love you unconditionally and time after time you have acted like a thick headed mule!" All of her hollering had woken up Mr. Cox who ambled over to the doorway to see what all the fuss was about. He wasn't one bit surprised to see that Travis had been the cause of his Missus' ire. "Well, you gone and done it now, ain't ya?" Mr. Cox said yawning sleepily, "She's been a holdin' back that tongue of 'ers for a good long while now but you done gone and pissed 'er off real good this time boss! Can't say I blame 'er none either!" Mrs. Cox grabbed the telegraph out of Travis's hand and threw it at her husband. "I knew it!" she screeched, "Didn't I predict this would happen?" Mr. Cox narrowed his eyes at Travis once he finished reading the message. He was already aware of the one from earlier after his wife came to him all hot and bothered over it. "What in tarnations is yer problem?" Mr. Cox asked. His normally placid demeanor had taken on an angry tone, "That there is yer wife and youngin' inside that belly of 'ers. I ain't ever thought I'd live to see the day where you acted like this dern a fool!" With that, Mr. Cox slammed the door right in Travis's shocked face.

 

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     Over another week had gone by without not so much as one word from Sophia. Travis had been frantic with worry ever since he learned of her disappearance making it hard for him to concentrate on getting his cattle loaded onto the freight train going north for this somewhat new and unconventional cattle drive. Every day her family would send a telegraph asking if Sophia had shown up yet, and each day he would send one back informing them that she had not. He wouldn't doubt it for one second if her entire family showed up here at the ranch within the next couple of weeks. He could feel their worry and frustrations, especially after a passenger train that had come from up north to Dallas didn't have Sophia aboard it. He thought for certain she would have been on that train. That was, if it were here she was going to. Now he began to worry that she had gone someplace else instead which didn't make much sense to him. If she wasn't coming down here then where could she be going? Surely she should have been on that train otherwise!  Mrs. Cox surmised that perhaps Sophia had gone into labor while on the train and was at some hospital somewhere. But surely if that had been the case then Sophia would have instructed one of the nurses there send a telegraph to her family up in Wellington to inform them that she had given birth and to let them know she was okay? Unless she had gone into labor and things weren't okay and she wasn't able to get word out. These thoughts plagued Travis and made him downright miserable with worry over her.  

 

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     One evening three days later,  while he and the children were eating their supper, a carriage could be heard pulling into the long driveway through the open door and window in the kitchen. Mikey and Hope had bolted straight out of their chairs and ran outside. Travis just sat there unable to move. It was as if he were rooted to his chair by some invisible force. "Please God, let it be Sophia!" he whispered out loud while looking up at the ceiling. Distantly he could hear the children's cries of pure joy. It was Sophia. He just knew it! He got up so quickly from his chair that it had fallen over to the floor but he didn't care and left it there in his hurry to get outside. His wife had come home to him and nothing else mattered. Sure enough, when he ran outside to the back porch, he saw a hired hackney parked in the driveway not too far from the back door and Sophia stood there as the children were both hugging her. If Travis had been closer he would have seen that her wide smile was tinged with pain. Travis closed the distance and stood before Sophia while drinking in the sight of her. The first thing he noticed was just how big and perfectly round her stomach was even from underneath her bright blue dress. Her face seemed to have lost some weight which made her look slightly older than she was and she had faint, but distinct, dark circles under her eyes. She finally looked up to see that he was standing before her. "Mikey. Hope. Can you two please take my suitcase and reticule and meet me inside?" she said sweetly to them, "Maybe take them up to the bedroom for me please?" "Sure thing Mama Sophia!" Mikey said with the first genuine smile he had shown since before they left Wellington. She watched as Mikey struggled with her heavy suitcase. Hope proudly carried her reticule. Once both children were inside the kitchen Travis attempted to pull Sophia into a welcoming hug but she put an arm out to stop him dead in his tracks. He looked over at her with a confused look on his face. Her own held so much anger that it shook him to the core. "I am so glad you've came. We all have missed you. I have missed you. I am so sorry for leaving you like that. I cannot say sorry enough. I've been an ass to you once again. I am not even sure why I was so angry anymore. I heard you talking about Jeremy and from the way I heard it, well, it sounded like you couldn't wait to be talking with him. It made me feel like you still had feelings for him. But no matter the excuse, I am in the wrong for not allowing you to explain and for up and leaving in a fit of anger the way that I did. And for also not reading any of your posts or telegraphs. Once Rachel sent a wire explaining you had left and how worried they were about you, well, it knocked some much needed sense into me and I finally realized what an ass I had been to you. But you are here now and that's all that matters now Darlin'. Welcome home my love." Sophia stared at him with a look of pure animosity. She was in no mood to deal with this right now. The train ride had been long and uncomfortable as it was. It had broken down a few times which made the express trip become extended by five extra days. She was tired, grumpy, hungry, and in pain. Then all of a sudden she kicked her leg out violently at him which landed smack in the middle of his groin. Travis's face first registered alarm before turning bright red, and in seconds he had dropped down hard to the dirt covered ground like a sack of potatoes, crying out in pain a mere split second later. "When you're done howling like a baby you can get yourself up and help me inside. I've been in labor for over six hours now Travis Ewing! Six hours! I'm in no mood for your sentiments right now!" The curious children had been standing at the back door watching this exchange and laughed out loud when Sophia had kicked Travis in his groin like that. "Did you see that Mikey? Papa got kicked in the niblets by Sophia!" Hope giggled in delight. Mikey couldn't help but laugh at that himself. Not only was he super excited that Sophia had come back home but seeing his Pa get kicked in the nuts was hilarious to him. "I'm glad!" Mikey laughed, "He's done had that comin' to him!"

 

     After a few minutes Travis was back on his feet and wrapped his arms around Sophia's shoulders to help walk her slowly into the house. When he got her to the staircase, he wondered to himself if was a wise move to have her go up there. But what other choice was there really than to have her deliver the baby at the hospital? That was it! He would get her over to the hospital. There was no way in hell he was going to take any chances with her or the baby. "Let's turn back around." he said soothingly to Sophia, "I think it's safer if you deliver the baby at the hospital." She stopped walking and leaned into him as a contraction took over. "Mikey," Travis said, "Go find Mrs. Cox and tell her to come to the house. Let her know that Sophia is here and the baby is coming. I'm taking her to the hospital. Let her know that I will need Mr. Cox to drive the carriage there for us so I can take care of Sophia on the ride there." "The baby is coming?" Hope screamed with joy as she jumped up and down and ran in circles around the kitchen table. "I'm gonna be a big sister!" she smiled proudly. Then she noticed the painful look on Sophia's face and grew concerned, "Do you need me to get you your landaman medicine?" she asked as she took her little arm and rubbed Sophia's belly softly. "Do you mean laudanum?" Sophia was able to say once the contraction ceased enough for her to talk again. Hope shook her head yes vigorously, "Yes, the landaman. Do you need it? I can get it out of your reticule for you." "That's actually a pretty good idea Hope. Can you do that for me please?" The little girl ran back upstairs to fetch Sophia's reticule from the bedroom she had just put it in less than ten minutes before. "I cannot believe you came all this way Soph! You had me so worried about you. Your whole family up in Wellington is worried sick too. You didn't even tell them you were leaving." Travis chided gently. She looked up at him questioningly, "What do you mean they didn't know? I left them a note on my bed telling them exactly where I had gone." "I don't think they got the note Soph. They have been frantic with worry. I have a sneaking suspicion that they will be coming here soon. In fact, while we are in Dallas tonight, I will have Mr. Cox send them a telegraph making sure they know you are here and in labor." "Yes, please do. I don't want them to worry about me even more. Can we go now though? I am not sure how much longer the baby will want to stay inside of me." Hope came running down with Sophia's reticule and put it on the table in front of her, "Here Mama Sophia, I got it for you. Do you need me to help you with your medicine?" she asked politely. The little girl was out of breath. "I'll do that little darlin', why don't you go look out on the back porch and see if Mr. and Mrs. Cox is coming yet." Travis said patiently even though his heart was racing. "Is Sophia going to have the baby here in our kitchen?" she asked before walking out the door. Sophia laughed, "Maybe if we don't get a move on and get me over to the hospital quick enough. Listen Hope, I want you to know that you and Mikey will be staying here with Mrs. Cox while your Papa and I go to the hospital. Tomorrow you can come visit us and see your new brother or sister. Are you hoping it's a boy or a girl?" "A girl!" Hope laughed enthusiastically, "I already have a brother and he's a meanie sometimes." "Who's a meanie?" Mrs. Cox asked brightly as she walked up the back steps to the porch. She must have been running or walking very quickly to have made it back here that fast. She was obviously winded and out of breath. She could see Hope standing in front of the screened door. Mikey was right behind her and ran past to get inside first, knocking Hope out of his way so he could run over to Sophia. He wrapped his arms around her and kissed her belly, "I am so glad you came home Mama Sophia. I've missed you. Thank you for sending me those birthday presents! I love the train set and play with it a lot!" He had tears in his eyes which made Sophia tear up as well. She hugged Mikey closer to her, then took a hold of his hand and placed it on her large stomach. "Did you feel that?" she smiled as his eyes lit up. "Yep!" he declared in awe, "That's the baby. How long before he comes out of there?" Another contraction seized Sophia and she was unable to answer. That made Travis remember to give her a dose of her laudanum. "From the looks of it real soon." Mrs. Cox observed carefully. She walked over to Sophia herself and waited until after Sophia's contraction had ended and Travis gave her some of the medicine before she hugged Sophia tightly which was made more difficult due to both of their ample stomach's, "Welcome home. We all have missed you. Don't worry about the children. I have things under control here. You just make sure you deliver that there baby safely." "I've missed you all too, Mrs. Cox. It's good to be back home finally. No thanks to my husband though." Sophia said giving a pointed look at Travis. "We've all been giving him hell for what he's done. Hopefully all that can be squashed. We have a new baby coming and what's important now is that you are here finally and safely too. I'm still upset that you left like that since you were on strict bed rest but it's too late to change any of that now." Sophia nodded her head in understanding. "Mama kicked Papa in the niblets!" Hope laughed out loud, "Then Papa fell to the ground groaning like a pig in heat!" "Sounds like he got what he deserved." Mrs. Cox roared with laughter. Travis, blushing from embarrassment, helped Sophia to the waiting carriage. Getting her up inside there proved to be a challenge but luckily Mr. Cox was able to help with that. Five minutes later Mrs. Cox and the children stood out in the darkened back yard waving goodbye as the carriage pulled away.

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