The First Hello © 2015 (Rough Draft Version) By: J.L. Jacobs *Sequel to: "The Final Goodbye"*

Fate has given Sophia Lancaster a second chance. As she wakes up from what seems to be an overly vivid dream, Sophia soon realizes that it was no dream at all, rather, she had been brought back from death's embrace to the very day she is set to marry Dr. Jeremy Thompson.

From the knowledge and perspective she had gained in her former life, she decides to make better decisions and choices that could potentially alter her life, the lives of her loved ones, and history as she once knew it. In this exciting sequel to: "The Final Goodbye," follow Sophia's new journey as she takes the chance in which Fate has bestowed upon her to find out who her soulmate really is and what the consequences of her actions will be.

*Please be sure to read The Final Goodbye first! This is a only a rough draft and may contain grammatical errors. It is formatted just as a hard-copy full-length book should be. I love to hear your feedback, and your votes and shares are greatly appreciated!

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20. Chapter Twenty: Surprises

Chapter Twenty: Surprises

 

 

     Jeremy looked down at his sleeping wife. God was she so beautiful!  He wished that he could just stand there and stare at her all day like this but he had patients to see at the clinic. Today was her twenty-third birthday and he had special plans for her later that evening which would hopefully make her happy. He leaned down to kiss her softly on the top of her head before he walked downstairs to leave their house. He found himself to be in an exceptionally good humors this morning after being able to hold Sophia in his arms as they slept in the same bed together for the first time since they had been married. He had that nightmare of hers last night to thank for it too. Not that he actually wanted her to have had the nightmare; it was just that it provided him with the chance to comfort and soothe her which then led to him being able to fall asleep with her in his arms like he had been longing to do for so long now. He knew that she still longed to be with Travis Ewing. He was no fool and could see it in her eyes no matter how hard she tried to mask those feelings. He also was aware that if her father, Louis Lancaster, hadn't threatened Sophia to stay away from Travis that she would be with that man right now. Part of him felt so conflicted; he truly loved Sophia so much that he only wanted her happiness even if it meant she were to live her life with another man. However, Louis's underhanded scheming didn't leave Sophia any choice in the matter but to be married to himself. Even if he hadn't agreed with how Louis had forced their marriage upon Sophia by signing the license as her proxy after she had fled Wellington with Rachel, part of him felt lucky that she was his wife. He had loved her for so long now. He still didn't quite understand what had happened to cause her to wake up the day of their wedding, back on June first of last year, only to realize she wasn't in love with him after all. Just the night before that they had spent time together and she had been so excited about the wedding and starting their lives together. Then the very next morning, only hours before the wedding was scheduled to begin, she had come to tell him she no longer wanted to marry him because she was no longer in love. What had made her change her mind like that overnight? It was also baffling to him why Sophia and Rachel had fled town not long after she had called off the wedding to go down to Texas of all places. It just didn't make any sense to him. He understood the reason why she fled town, which was to prevent her father from forcing her to marry him against her will, but going down to Texas? What a seemingly strange choice that was. Sophia had never been outside of Ohio in all of her life and it wasn't like she had any relatives who lived there.

     Then she married herself to that Travis Ewing man so quickly after being in his employ for only a short amount of time. Things just didn't add up. When he learned of that, he had been truly crushed. So much so that at first, he had allowed Louis Lancaster to talk him into bringing Sophia back to Wellington by any means possible. What was also bewildering was how Louis Lancaster's personality had changed so drastically this past year or so. Jeremy never would have guessed that the seemingly upstanding family man would stoop so low as to forge legal documents in order to make a marriage between him and Sophia binding. It also surprised him that Louis would be so heartless towards her by doing so, then making threats against Travis Ewing and his children's lives in order to make sure Sophia complied? He had tried to protest and talk some sense into Louis on a few occasions but the man then began making threats against him. That's when he began drinking heavily in order to give himself the courage to go through with what Louis had demanded of him. He learned the hard way that when he drank, he became an asshole to other people, including Sophia. He hadn't liked that ugly side of himself one bit after he saw how awful he could be towards the people he loved and cared about. The last straw came when he had pulled a gun on Sophia and Lucinda in order to make them go back to Wellington and he had seen the look of fear and hate in Sophia's eyes towards him. After the three of them were on the train, along with Louis's hired men, he had sobered up and made the decision to tell the women the whole truth and he vowed to never drink like that again. Now, a few months later, he still felt remorse over his own actions. He didn't want Sophia to be forced into being married to himself,  just as he didn't want to be in a marriage with someone who didn't want to be with him. If Sophia loved Travis Ewing, which he knew she did, then she had the right to be with that man. There was now a baby growing inside of Sophia that was more than likely Travis Ewing's child. The last thing he wanted was to see that baby grow up never knowing it's real father, nor was it fair that Travis would never get to see his own child. Louis Lancaster was nothing but a selfish monster who had hurt so many people this past year all because of his own greedy desires. That wasn't the man that he had come to know and respect all these years now. Sophia even commented on more than one occasion now how it seemed like her father's soul had been ripped out and replaced with another. Even though that wasn't at all possible, it did seem like that to him as well. Something had made Louis change.

     "Jeremy!" a familiar sounding female voice called out to him. He had just tethered his horse and was about to walk into the clinic when his train of thought has been interrupted. Looking over to see who had called out to him, he saw Angelique Milton approaching. Instantly, his hatred for the woman washed over him and he glared at her through his narrowed brown eyes. "I haven't had the chance to personally congratulate you on your marriage to Sophia. It didn't take long for you two to conceive either." she said in a sickly sweet voice. "Thank you." he forced himself to reply. He truly despised this woman for the harm she had caused Sophia last summer and because she had tried to trap him into a marriage with her by falsely claiming she was pregnant with his child. "I cannot help but wonder how that marriage of yours is working out. Sophia doesn't act like a happily married woman. I'm not the only person in town who has taken notice of that you know." she commented with a sly smile on her face. Jeremy's dislike of her caused him to snap back, "Is there something that you want Angelique other than to annoy me? I have patients to see. Why don't you go find something better to do with your time other than to make polite conversation with me." She let out a caustic little laugh, "No, I was just on my way into the postal office when I saw you. Have yourself a good day and be sure to tell Sophia I said hello." With that, she gave a little wave of her hand as if to dismiss him and headed inside the post office that was located in a strip of buildings next to the medical clinic he was a newer partner of. He shook his head and went inside. The quicker he got his work done today the sooner he could get back to his lovely wife and celebrate her birthday.

#

     Later that morning Sophia had just finished eating and washing the breakfast dishes when there was a knock at the front door. Opening it less than a minute later, she saw a man and a steamer trunk sitting on the front porch. "Are you Mrs. Sophia Lancaster-Ewing?" the man inquired. "Um, yes but my name is actually Sophia Thompson." she replied hesitantly. "I have a delivery for you Ma'am. It was actually addressed to your Mother's home but she said I could find you here. Would you like me to bring this trunk in for you?" he asked politely, noticing that she was with child. She nodded her head and moved aside as he lugged it in and set it down in the foyer. "Thank you." she said as he tipped his hat at her and walked away. Her heart began to beat frantically as she closed the front door. The man had asked if she was Sophia Ewing. That could only mean that this trunk had come from Travis. She was unable to move it as they were much too heavy for her being with child and all, so she bent over and opened the first one. Inside was the clothing and other miscellaneous items that she had been forced to leave behind when Jeremy had abruptly taken her away from Travis's house months ago. The trunk was a visible reminder of the life she almost had with the man she was hopelessly in love with. There was a smaller compartment located on the underside of the lid which she opened. Inside were her personal belongings such as her scented bars of soaps, her scented essence oils, and her journal. She pulled out the journal and began to skim through it in hopes that Travis had slipped in a note for her but there was not one to be found. Then she searched the rest of the trunk thinking that perhaps there would be a note somewhere else but, again, there was nothing. A veritable pang of disappointment washed over her. There was a slight chance that her Father had already searched the trunk, so perhaps Travis did send a missive and it had been taken away. Or it was entirely possible that Travis sent nothing other than her belongings. 

     A knock at the front door sounded which startled her. Sophia stood up and straightened out her dress, then walked over to open the door. She looked shocked to see that Angelique Milton of all people was standing there before her. Glaring at her nemesis Sophia said through gritted teeth, "What are you doing here?" Angelique tried to push her way past Sophia to walk inside but Sophia blocked her way by stretching her arms out against each side of the doorway. "I think it's time you and I have a discussion." Angelique replied in a sickly-sweet tone of voice. "We have nothing to talk about." Sophia spat out. "Oh but I think we do. Please, invite me inside. It's cold out here." Angelique smiled. "I don't think so. Whatever you have to say to me can be done so right here." Sophia argued stubbornly. Angelique shook her head, "If you don't have decent enough manners to invite me inside, then I shall just turn around and leave. However, I have some information you might want to know about so I highly suggest you invite me in for some tea." Sophia pursed her lips with annoyance, "Fine. Come in." Sophia moved backwards to allow the woman to walk inside, then she slammed shut the large wooden door behind her. Sophia ushered Angelique into the kitchen. "You can have a seat there at the table while I heat the kettle. Angelique daintily took a seat and watched as Sophia took the tea kettle from the stove and walked over to the sink to fill it with water. Then she placed the kettle back on the cook top range and lit the burner. Opening a cabinet door, she took down two small tea cups with their matching saucers. Neither of the women said a word while Sophia waited for the water to come to a boil. She then prepared two cups of tea and placed them onto a silver tray with a small bowl of sugar cubes and two small spoons. Walking back over to the table, Sophia placed the tray down and handed Angelique her cup, then poured the steaming tea inside. "Thank you for your kindness Mrs. Thompson." Angelique coyly smiled. Sophia glared at her as she took her own seat which was the furthest one from where the crazy woman sat. "Now," Sophia said bitterly, "what is the reason for your visit?" Angelique placed three cubes of sugar into her cup and used the spoon to mix it up. Looking over at Sophia she said, "I ran into your husband a short while ago as he was going into the new clinic he works at. I have to admit that when my Father bought out Jeremy's share of his clinic, he wasn't too happy about it. Business has been slower than usual with Jeremy gone. He's really a great doctor you know." Sophia gave a caustic laugh, "Yes, I do know. That clinic was his life. He worked hard to earn that partnership. Your Father has no one to blame but himself for forcing Jeremy to sell his half, and if it wasn't for your shameful behavior towards me, none of this would have happened!" Angelique's brown eyes narrowed as she stared hard into Sophia's own light blue-green eyes, "Yes, I suppose my behavior was, as you put it, shameful. However, when I want something I usually get it. I wanted Jeremy and you were in my way. As a matter of fact, you're still in my way. I have been in love with Jeremy Thompson ever since he joined my Father's practice. I've always imagined a life with him. Having children with him. Growing old with him. He's the only man I have ever loved." Sophia seemed taken aback when she heard Angelique's candor on the subject. "I had no control over what happened. The morning I was supposed to marry Jeremy last June, I was actually here telling him that I wanted to call off the wedding. I was not in love with him anymore. That's when you showed up falsely claiming that you were carrying Jeremy's child and all hell broke loose over the following weeks. I still do not wish to be married to him. My own heart belongs to someone else if you must know. My father demanded the marriage between Jeremy and myself. Of the both of us. I had finally gotten Jeremy to realize that I was no longer in love with him. This marriage isn't exactly what he wanted either after I told him that. He doesn't want to be with someone who isn't in love with him. So if you want to place blame, you have my father to look at." 

     The two women sat there in silence as they sipped their tea. Angelique's demeanor seemed to soften as she contemplated what she would say next. "So Louis Lancaster forced this marriage between you and Jeremy? Why?" Sophia took a deep breath and sighed. The baby inside of her kicked furiously. Dare she confess the whole truth to her nemesis? If her father found out that she did, he would be livid with rage. But maybe... just maybe Angelique could do something to help. Sophia studied the woman carefully to see if there was some calculated reason in those eyes of hers. She only saw hope. Angelique did seem as if she loved Jeremy. Sophia could see it written all over her face. "My Father has some political aspirations. In order to preserve our family's good name, he has gone to great lengths to secure this marriage between Jeremy and I. Against our will need I remind you." Sophia said honestly. "Perhaps there is something I can do to help." Angelique said softly. Sophia shook her head and set down her cup on the table. "Angelique, my Father will stop at nothing to keep this marriage intact. I have tried to get out of it, even going to extreme measures in order to do so. He's threatened many people in order to get his own way. I don't think there is anything any of us can do to stop him. After he becomes Mayor of this town, he plans to run for state congress or Governor or something along those lines. He's beyond irrational. Besides, Jeremy despises you after everything you've done." Sophia declared with tears in her eyes. Angelique sat there looking quite happy which confused Sophia. "What if I could manage to change your Father's mind?" she asked. Sophia looked at her feeling appalled, "Change my Father's mind? How would you even begin to do such a thing? According to my Father this marriage is legally binding even though I did not sign the marriage certificate. He did that on my behalf as a proxy." "As your proxy?" Angelique spat out with wide eyes, "Are you not of legal age?" Sophia nodded her head, "Yes I am. I am twenty-three years of age as of today in fact." "Did you and Jeremy actually have a wedding ceremony?" she asked. "No," Sophia replied, "As I said, my Father signed the certificate himself. As my proxy." Once again, the room remained silent for many minutes. 

     Angelique drank her tea, then took it upon herself to pour more into her cup. Sophia sat there feeling a moderate degree of apprehension as she studied the other woman carefully, wondering what Angelique's crazy mind was thinking. "Something doesn't sound right about that. If he signed as a proxy on your behalf, without your consent, then I am thinking it could be voided. You are of a legal age and of sound mind and body. Perhaps I can help after all. My Father has many connections in this town. If your Father is running for Mayor then there might be a way to prevent that from happening. I want to be with Jeremy and you've already expressed to me that you don't. If we could get you before a judge I am sure that your marriage to Jeremy could be voided." Sophia shook her head feeling defeated, "Angelique, you are forgetting a couple important things. First, Jeremy despises you. Next, my Father is beyond ruthless. Last, I am with child. I don't see how this marriage could possibly be voided. My Father has made threats against me, Jeremy, my Mother, and some other people in our lives. It would be too risky. I have resolved myself to this marriage." Angelique gave Sophia a genuine smile, "It might take some time, but I am sure that I can get Jeremy to fall in love with me. I know I have acted horribly, but I only did so because of how I feel about him. If you aren't in the picture that would give me the chance to pursue him in order to win him over. If your Father wasn't in the picture, then all of this could go away." Sophia became alarmed, "What do you mean if my Father isn't in the picture? You cannot harm him! As much as I hate the man right now, he's still my Father. This is a very dangerous situation Angelique. I think it's best that you forgot the whole thing and let it be. Like I said before, there are many lives at stake here. You have no idea how bad things would be if you tried to do anything to change my Father's plans and desires! He would go after you, that I am most certain of! He's a very unstable minded man right now and has been for many months now. Do not get yourself mixed up in this." Angelique gave a small chuckle, "He wouldn't have no know that I am involved. I will have my Father's lawyer look into this situation. He can find out if your marriage is actually legal or not considering the circumstances. If it's not, then wouldn't you love to be out of it? Didn't you admit that your heart belongs to another?" Hesitantly, Sophia nodded her head yesIt was true that she would love nothing more than to be with Travis, but that could only happen if her and Jeremy were not married. No, whatever Angelique had planned would backfire and it would cause her Father, Louis Lancaster, to retaliate. His vengeance would be against Travis and his children. Sophia could not risk anything happening to them!  "You can't say or do anything Angelique! He's threatened to kill the man I love and his children, not to mention what he would do to me, Jeremy, and my Mother. He's irrational and will stop at nothing to get what he wants, no matter what harm he causes others. He'd take you out in a heartbeat if you did anything to stand in his way. You have to believe me on this." For the first time ever, Sophia saw a look of sadness in Angelique's eyes. The woman looked as if she would cry. Sophia almost felt sorry for her. Almost but not quite. There had just been too much bad blood between them. Angelique abruptly stood up from the table, "I shall think on this. I promise to say nothing on the matter. I cannot help but feel as if there is a way we can all get what we want. Perhaps even your Father. Thank you for seeing me. I will show myself out." Sophia mutely continued to sit there at the table as Angelique quickly left the kitchen. Seconds later, the front door opened and closed. What in the world just happened? Never in her life had Sophia thought that Angelique would show up like that, and to offer her help? How strange. Part of it made some sense when the woman declared her love for Jeremy. Sophia almost felt a glimmer of hope when Angelique said she could help, but that glimmer of hope disappeared knowing her Father. He would end up doing horrible things if anyone tried to rock the boat. No, Angelique needs to mind her own business regardless of how she felt. She did not know Louis Lancaster well enough to know that he would never allow his dictates to be questioned. She would remain trapped in this marriage with Jeremy and that was that!

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     Later that day, Jeremy walked in the door feeling excited about his plans for Sophia's birthday. It only took a few seconds for him to notice the big steamer trunk sitting on the floor of the foyer. It was fairly empty which meant that Sophia must have put many of the contents away already. Jeremy bent over to see what was left inside of it just as Sophia had slowly began to descend the steps leading downstairs after hearing the front door close. "What are you doing home so early?" she asked once she reached the bottom. Slightly startled, Jeremy glanced up at her and quickly stood up. His breath hitched when he saw the vision before him. Sophia was clad in a coral dress with an empire waist trimmed in gold.  He hair was pinned high atop her head in a riot of curls that cascaded down her back. Her pregnancy had caused her hair to grow even longer and more lustrous. A pearl comb with coral pearls secured her hair and it perfectly matched her lovely dress. She wore a delicate pearl necklace around her neck, the same one he recognized from the many times she had worn it in the past. It had been an eighteenth birthday present from her parents. She looked breathtaking. He couldn't help but smile as he closed the distance between them and cupped her face with both of his hands as he leaned in to kiss her luscious lips. At first, she seemed to jerk but once his lips touched hers, she whimpered softly and leaned in as her eyes closed. Jeremy pulled her closer to deepen the kiss, glad that she hadn't pulled away from him. He was certainly making progress with getting her to be more agreeable to affection between them. When the kiss ended and they parted, he stared deep into her eyes, "You are the most beautiful woman in the world Sophia Thompson and I am so lucky to have you as my wife." A small blush appeared on her cheeks and she gave him a small smile in return. "I feel like a beached whale." she commented. "Even so, you are the most beautiful beached whale that I have ever laid eyes on." he retorted playfully. Her eyes twinkled with mirth as she batted him on the arm. The baby gave a huge kick directed at her ribs which caused her to yelp out loud. "Are you alright?" he asked out of concern. "I'm fine. This baby is kicking my ribs is all." she smiled. Jeremy placed a hand on her bulging stomach and waited to feel the baby move under his touch. It didn't take long, and once he felt the swift movements from inside of her he smiled in delight. "That never gets old for me. Every time I feel the baby move it never ceases to amaze me." "I have to agree." Sophia commented, "Even though it can sometimes hurt or keep me up at night, I am still amazed myself. There is no feeling in the world that comes close to having a baby grow inside a womb. It's such a wonderful experience." 

     She walked a few steps over towards the steamer trunk and bent down to remove the last few items of clothing that was left inside. The only things that still remained were some of her books and personal hygiene items. "What is that?" Jeremy asked. Sophia turned around to look at him, "It's all my belongings that was left at Travis's house. I am guessing that he had it sent." she replied. The happy look on here face disappeared as she began to walk back up the steps in order to put the rest of her clothing away that she had just taken from the trunk. Jeremy remained silent as he closed the lid of the trunk and picked it up to follow her upstairs. He found her in the guest bedroom that she had made into her own room. She placed the clothing she had been carrying on the bed, then went over to her large wardrobe armoire to open the doors and take out some hangers. Avoiding eye contact with Jeremy, she went to work by hanging up the clothing and putting them away in the armoire. "Where would you like me to put this trunk?" Jeremy asked. "Once I finish emptying it you can put it up in the attic if that's agreeable with you." she replied quietly. Jeremy could tell by her demeanor that she was feeling blue. The trunk had been a reminder of Travis whom he knew she still loved and pined over. He set the trunk down and watched her thoughtfully as she took out the toiletries and left the room. Jeremy decided to be helpful and grabbed the books out of the trunk to put them away in the small bookshelf in her room. She came back a few minutes later and looked inside the trunk to see it was now empty. "Where are the books?" she asked. "I put them on the bookshelf." he replied as he nodded over in it's direction. "Thank you." she smiled lightly. Jeremy returned the smile as he closed the lid of the trunk and picked it up to carry it up to the attic. Once he left the room, Sophia went over to the bookshelf and pulled out her leather bound journal. She briefly wondered if Travis had taken the liberty to read any or all of her entries. Good Lord she hoped not! She tucked the book inside the drawer of her writing desk, then sat down in the chair as a tear escaped her eye. Until today, she had been trying very hard not to think of Travis knowing that she would never see him again. Now, with the arrival of that steamer trunk, she couldn't help but to think of him. Her heart once again ached painfully. The baby was still moving and kicking inside of her which only made her think of him even more. And his children. Mikey and Hope had already been through so much in their short lives. They lost their Ma at such a young age and now they've lost her. Anger towards her Father began to boil within. He was the sole reason why she wasn't with Travis and the children right now! His selfish ambitions and his black heart were to blame for him hurting so many people without any regard for anyone but himself! It was so unfair! She hated him so much! Jeremy walked back into the room and placed a hand gently on her shoulder as he looked down with concern. Sophia briefly pondered telling him about Angelique's visit earlier that day but then decided against it. There was nothing Angelique could do, so what was the point? "I have a surprise for you sweetheart." Jeremy said softly. Sophia stood up from the chair and turned around to face him. He smiled, "Let's grab your wrap. We are going out." "Shall I need to change my clothing?" she asked with a small smile playing on her lips. Jeremy shook his head, "No my dear, you look lovely just as you are but allow me to change and freshen up. I will only be a few moments." He kissed the top of her head and walked out of the room. 

#

     Sophia gasped in surprise when she arrived at Rachel's house with Jeremy. Expecting to only see Rachel, Jocelyn and Joseph, she was even more excited when she saw that her Mother, Maybelle, Hank, and Nellie were there as well. Maybelle's baby boy, Tyler Quentin Shaw, was nestled in Maybelle's arms sleeping peacefully. He had been born last month on February twelfth, just as he had been in her past life. Poor Maybelle and Hank both had dark circles under their eyes from lack of sleep, but they both looked overjoyed to finally have the baby they had been trying to conceive since they were married a couple years ago. Nellie had prepared a wonderful prime rib dinner which she knew to be Sophia's favorite. As they all sat around the table eating, Sophia looked at the people she loved. This night would have been perfect if only Travis and the children were here. Quickly putting that thought aside, she once again focused her attention on the conversations taking place. Her Father had not been invited and she wondered if he would be livid with her Mother once he found out about it. Hopefully not, as Sophia was thankful that he was not there to ruin the festivities. He was most likely at some campaigning fundraiser or another related event. Lately that's what occupied most of his time when he was not at the bank working. 

     Baby Jocelyn began wailing from the wooden cradle in the other room so Rachel stood up and excused herself to go check on her. Looking down at her plate of food Sophia realized she was about finished, so she decided to excuse herself as well to go keep Rachel company. She found Rachel perched on the settee in her sitting room. Jocelyn was suckling greedily from one of Rachel's engorged breasts. Sitting down on the other settee Sophia said, "How goes the breastfeeding? Is the salve Nellie made you helping?" Rachel smiled, "Oh it works like a charm! Thank you for having her make it for me. I gave Maybelle a jar of it. She says it's working wonders for her too. You need to make sure you have some on hand for when your little one makes it's appearance." Sophia smiled, "Absolutely. There's no way I won't forget it either." The two sisters laughed. Looking around to make sure Jeremy wasn't coming, Sophia whispered, "You will never guess who came to pay a call on me today!" Rachel's eyes widened, "Travis?" Sophia shook her head, "No. Angelique Milton!" "What?" Rachel proclaimed in a loud whisper, "What did she want?" Sophia was about to speak up to tell her when the sounds of footsteps could be heard coming towards them. "I'll tell you the next time we're alone." Sophia whispered just as Lucinda and Joseph walked in. "I didn't realize you were feeding Jocelyn." Joseph said, "Let me tell the others to hold off coming in here for a few moments until you're finished." He walked back out of the room as Lucinda took a seat next to Rachel to peer down at her granddaughter. "Isn't she the most beautiful baby in the world?" Lucinda gushed. Jocelyn's light blue eyes focused on Lucinda and she gave her Grandmother a big smile. "She just smiled at me! That was her first one!" Rachel gasped proudly. Sophia got up from the settee as quickly as her bulky stomach would allow and she walked over to look down at her little niece. Lucinda was cooing at the baby who smiled again. The three women beamed as Jocelyn seemed to love the attention that they were giving her. Rachel kept trying to get the baby to feed but she wasn't having it. "Mother, can you hand me that cloth so I can burp Jocelyn?" Lucinda handed the soft cotton square of material to Rachel who put it over her shoulder to begin clapping her baby's back. 

     Several minutes had gone by before the rest of the guests returned to the room. Nellie stayed behind in the kitchen in order to clean up. Joseph poured a glasses of whiskey and handed one to Lucinda, Hank, Maybelle, Rachel, and Jeremy. Jeremy declined his offer so Rachel quickly took it from him and sipped the perfectly aged drink. "Now that we have everyone gathered, I would like to make a toast." Jeremy said as he stood up from his seat next to Sophia. He had a mug of coffee in his hand and raised it in the air, "To my beautiful wife who is the light to my darkness. She makes me want to be a better person and be a man worthy of her affections. May she continue to enjoy a life filled with good health, happiness, love, and all the comforts she deserves. Happy birthday Sophia!" Glasses were raised and clinked together. Jeremy sat down next to Sophia and took a small velvet box from the pocket inside his vest. Handing it to her he said lovingly, "I should have given this to you long before now. I love you Sophia." She took the box from him, very much aware that all eyes were on her as she opened it. Inside the box sat a diamond ring. The emerald cut center stone sparkled brilliantly. There was a matching band that had diamonds going all around it. "Wh-what is this?" Sophia asked as a lump began to form in her constricted throat. "That is your wedding ring set from me my love." he answered proudly. "B-but I already have wedding rings." she said woodenly. Jeremy took her left hand in his own as he began to take off the rings she had been wearing ever since her courthouse wedding with Travis. "Those rings were not from me. I wanted you to have ones that I gave you." He then replaced the rings she had been wearing with the new ones that he had purchased. Sophia's eyes began to water, but not out of happiness. The wedding rings Travis had given to her were the only physical and symbolic reminders she had of their love for one another, with the exception of the baby she carried, and now Jeremy had taken them off of her. The new ones that now took their place felt so cold. "Do you like them?" he questioned. Sophia looked up at him and could see how happy he was. She supposed that, to him, he had done something nice for her. However, she fervently wanted to take off those rings and throw them in his face. When she said nothing in return a look of concern played his features, "Sophia? Darling? I did not mean to make you upset." She looked over at Rachel who gave her a small smile of reassurance. Sophia closed her eyes momentarily and forced herself to remain calm. Once she had the strength, she looked over at her husband and pasted a faux smile on her face, "They are quite beautiful Jeremy. Thank you. You just took my by surprise is all." A wave of relief washed over him, "I am glad. You had me worried that you didn't like them." If truth be told, she did not like them. Not one bit!

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(This concludes Chapter Twenty. Please remember to vote and comment.)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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