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.


22. Chapter Twenty-Two: Hormones

Chapter Twenty-Two: Hormones


     Stevens drove the carriage around the small town of Wellington as the sun set itself into a darkening cloud-filled sky. Without the sun's already sparse warmth, the temperature outside took a considerable dip into the low digits. Careful to avoid the snow packed side streets, he steered the two horses around aimlessly. Thinking to himself that Mrs. Ewing needed to hurry up so he could stable and feed the freezing horses, he sipped some rum from a small flask hidden inside the deep pocket of his long coat in an attempt to keep his insides warm. Even through his thick leather gloves, the job was made even more difficult due to his numbed fingers and hands. Inside the carriage itself, Sophia was sitting on a seat across from Jeremy deep in conversation. Well over an hour later, she finally called out of window for the Stevens to head back to the medical clinic. It didn't take very long for Stevens to direct the two horses to the destination, and after he stopped in front of the building for the second time in well over an hour, he watched impatiently as Dr. Jeremy Thompson exited through one of the side doors of the Lancaster's carriage and walked into the building alone. If he hadn't been so damned cold, Stevens would have been more intrigued as to what Sophia was up to. But as it was, the chilly winter temperatures had long past seeped deep within his bones. "Where to now Mrs. Ewing?" Stevens called out. Hell, even his lips were numb making him sound like an imbecile. "You can take me back to my parents' home now." came a weak reply from Sophia. Snow began to fall down upon his overly cold body as he pulled the carriage away towards their final destination. "Finally." he muttered bitterly to himself. There were times like this when he absolutely despised his job! If he wasn't paid such a handsome wage then he would have quit the post long before now in order to find more desirable work for himself. After thinking that to himself, he started to feel slightly guilty for having those thoughts. The Lancaster family had really been so good to him over the years and he surmised that he was only feeling grumpy right now because he was in need of food and shelter. 


     Once the carriage was pulled in front of the Lancaster residence, he hopped down from his bench in order to open the door for Sophia. Out of politeness and duty, he offered his arm to assist the Missus as they walked silently together up to the front door. Sophia turned around just after she stepped up from the last stair onto the porch and said, "Stevens, I cannot thank you enough for your patience with me tonight. I know it must have been utterly dreadful for you to be out there in the cold all this time." Her teeth chattered through purplish colored lips as she opened up her small reticule to reach for her change purse so she could pull out two golden one dollar pieces. Handing them to him, she watched a rare smile light up his lax face. "Thank you Ma'am! That was most kind of you and more than generous!" he said excitedly once he espied the gold. That generous tip from her was a very considerable amount. Yes, he thought happily to himself, this post was most certainly everything he could ever hope for. "Stevens," she said tiredly, "I know that it was a long few hours for you. I want you to know that everything you have done for my family over the years is more than appreciated even if we don't tell you that enough. You are very good at attending your post. I just wanted you to know that. I also hope that you will keep what I did tonight to yourself. Not that you would go out around town and gossip about it, but just, well, just forget it happened. What you saw back there I mean. With Dr. Thompson." Stevens looked back over at Sophia and could see that her face looked drawn and tired. Whatever that conversation was that she had with that doctor fella had obviously been intense enough to stress her out. "Mrs. Ewing, you have my word that I will never speak of this night again. I vow that to you." Sophia smiled, "Thank you. I appreciate that. Now go get warmed up and a hot meal in your belly! I know you have to be even worse off than I feel right now." Feeling very happy once again, Stevens tipped his hat to her in gratitude then watched carefully as she opened the door and went inside. With a bounce in his step, he would get the horses stabled and taken care of and then head over to the tavern for a warm meal and some much desired ale.



     Sophia stood inside the foyer of her parents' home and listened to the sounds of yelling and distress coming from the dining room. Her father's voice boomed so loudly that it had genuinely startled her, and she wasn't even in that particular room. "Oh no." she lamented silently in her head along with a sinking feeling in her gut, "What in the world was happening in there?" Frozen from the inside out, she sat down on the second to last step of the large wooden staircase in order to take off her snow covered boots. She knew in her heart that it would be most difficult returning here under the new circumstances, especially after her long discussion with Jeremy. The one that she would now have to face her family and Travis about. She knew full well that coming back here would be hard for her once she told them all where she had been and with whom, but all of a sudden she felt a moment of sheer terror over the prospect of how she would even begin to explain it to them. She heard her mother's shout next which sounded like it was directed towards her father. Her heart began to race and even though she was still so cold, sweat started to bead up along her hairline just above her forehead. She took off her hat, the one that Mrs. Cox had knitted for her with her own hands just for this trip, and tucked it inside the pocket of her thick coat. Next, she peeled off her gloves and placed them in the opposite pocket. Needing a few more blessed minutes in order to compose herself, she placed her frigid hands under her buttocks in order to help warm them up quicker as she listened intently to all the racket going on from within the dining room. If the children were in there, and the adults were heated over something and yelling like that, she would be angry. The children should not be subjected to such an obviously intense screaming match. Unable to make out what anyone was saying, she was able to comprehend that whatever it was, it was causing quite a bit of distress among her family members. Being an intelligent person, and knowing her family the way she did, she had a gut feeling that her little disappearance was the cause of all the commotion currently taking place. The baby gave a swift kick from inside her swollen abdomen which reminded her of how hungry she was which meant her poor baby must be just as hungry too. She hadn't nary a bite to eat since the family, along with herself, had broken their fast earlier that morning. In fact, her empty stomach now took over her train of thought as it noisily rumbled and begged for nourishment.


     Finally, after about five more minutes, she stood up as she compensated for the bulk of her stomach. One by one she unlatched each of the large buttons from her coat and when that task was finished, she picked up her boots and placed them on the rug where many other boots of varying sizes were sitting in a tidy row. Hanging her coat from an empty peg on the back portion of the coat rack, Sophia gingerly made her way towards the dining room doors located down the long narrow hallway on her very swollen feet. Because they had begun to thaw out, the feeling of pins and needles attacking her feet from within caused some noticeable discomfort. She stopped just outside the closed door only long enough to hear Travis as he was talking about her cancer with the family. "Oh God!" she thought suddenly, "No! He couldn't be! He wouldn't dare! especially if the children were in there. They both made a pact that the children were to never find out about it!" But surely enough, he was. She was seized by a swift wave of betrayal that hit her hard as she bent over the wall with her arms splayed out in front of her against it to keep her upright. Her cheeks flamed in anger and disappointment. Her body took over in that moment as she tightly gripped the round door knob. Twisting it, she threw open the door with such a force that it downright made every person in the room jump in fright. In the back of her mind she heard Hope's loud squeak. Without thinking, Sophia walked over towards where Travis was at, making quick work of it. He was standing up while partially bent over the table with both hands gripping the edge as he stood there in mid-sentence, rooted to the spot as if paralyzed with the shock of Sophia's sudden entrance. Her hormones and lack of sustenance made her lash out at him as instantaneous tears pricked her eyes which were overly wide and bright, causing the blue-green color of them to turn into an almost electric shade of aqua. "How dare you!" she screamed at him from the top of her lungs, "I trusted you Travis Ewing!" The loud sound of Sophia's hand smacking hard across Travis's face echoed throughout the room to the utter horror of everyone in there, herself included. As angry as she was at him, she was even more upset with herself over losing control of her emotions like that. She collapsed to the floor in a fit of hysterical crying over what she had just done to her husband, especially in front of her family and the children who cried out in alarm over her vicious action. Never in her life had she ever acted so crazed before and she was immediately overwhelmed with shame intermixed with a myriad of other emotions.


     Hope scrambled out of Lucinda's arms and ran over to Sophia as she smacked her tiny little hand against Sophia's hunched over back out of her own protectiveness and loyalty towards her father, "You leave my Pa alone!" she cried out. This action proved to finally elicit a response from Travis who quickly bent over his wife to grab her into his arms as he sat himself down on the plush Oriental rug. While looking up at Hope, he sternly said, "I never, ever, want to see you hit Sophia, or anyone, like that ever again!" Tears streamed down Hope's face but she stood there defiantly with her palms planted on each of her tiny hips, "She hit you!" she cried out at him defensively. "That still doesn't give you the right to hit her. Ever. Am I understood?" he shot back with emphasis on the last part of his sentence. Her eyes glared first at Sophia, who was uncontrollably crying at this point, then back to her Pa. Reluctantly, she nodded her head yes to acknowledge that she understood him. Without moving so much as an inch, Travis called out, "Can everyone please give Sophia and me some privacy?" 


     He waited until everyone had hastily cleared the room and the door was closed before he started hugging his wife tighter as he rocked her back and forth in his lap in order to help calm her down. "Shhhhh......" he whispered against her hair, "everything's going to be just fine. Take some deep breaths." His lips kissed the top of her head several times as she continued to cry in his arms, unable to stop the wave of emotions that had built up from inside her. "Darlin'" he whispered, "I know you didn't mean that and I know Hope didn't mean what she did either." With those words, ones that she knew she didn't deserve, Sophia felt as if she were about to burst into another bout of hysteria once more. She felt incredibly full of remorse and shame. As Travis continued to hold her in his arms ever-so-patiently, she forced herself to finally look up into his eyes which were full of genuine concern for her well-being. "I am so, so sorry I did that to you Travis!" she wept brokenly, "I-I just don't know what came over me. I feel like I had been possessed by the devil or something. I never meant to hurt you like that and I f-feel truly awful about it." He leaned his head in to kiss her softly on her lips. "I know what came over came you." he responded truthfully, "You overheard me talking about your cancer with your family. Sophia, you have to know that I wouldn't have done that on purpose." She could feel both their heartbeats; hers within her own chest and his as she was held tightly against his own. She all of a sudden felt so defeated and ravenously hungry! Sophia knew that it was imperative for her to eat something right away for the sake of their baby. "Travis, I really, really need to eat something. I haven't had anything to eat since we broke our fast this morning and I am needing sustenance now. Let me up and we can finish this discussion while I do so." she said weakly. Reluctantly, he unwrapped his arms around his wife and stood up in order to help her up. Carefully, he eased her into one of the closest chairs. She sat there silently while he scooped up the plates of half-eaten food from before her. "I'm going to take these to the kitchen and will grab you a plate of warm food for you. I am more than certain that Nellie has one waiting for you. I will be right back. Are you okay?" he asked out of genuine concern. She woodenly nodded her head yes in confirmation. She could hear the sound of Travis opening the door and his heavy steps as he walked down the hallway towards the kitchen. 


     She felt so damned weak as she stared at the table. Her focus drifted towards one of the plates of food sitting on the table and her stomach growled profusely. The baby did not stir within her womb. She quickly prayed that he or she was just sleeping. Her mind was full of worries over what had happened within the course of the day. She came home knowing that what had transpired between her and Jeremy from earlier needed to be discussed. First with Travis, then secondly with the rest of her family. Guilt, sadness, and her unrequited need to be rid of the memory of her awful behavior was at the foremost part of her musings. She instinctively knew that the latter would never come to pass. She would live with what she had done for the rest of her days. Oh hells fire! Why did she lose control like that and hit poor Travis? She spared a glance over her shoulder as she once again heard Travis's footsteps come back toward her from down the hallway. Seconds later he appeared in the doorway and set a  hot plate of food in front of her that he carried on top of a drying cloth in order to prevent his hands and fingers from getting burnt. Instantly, the delicious aromas engulfed her sense of smell and she grabbed the fork and knife that Travis soon handed her in order to dig into her first bite. She began eating like someone who had been starved for a long time. It might not have been a long time in actuality but it sure as heck felt that way to her! Travis sat down in the next chair to the right of her and couldn't help but laugh softly at her, "Whoa there my love! Careful now, that there food is hot!" He watched her eat like a crazy woman for a few minutes before he decided that he was still pretty hungry himself. His appetite had been ruined a while ago when dinner had been served, so he went over to where his plate of food was still sitting on the table, picked it up, and carried it back to his new spot next to where Sophia was sitting. He didn't really care if the breaded pork chops were cold or not, he began to eat with relish right along with his wife. "Mmmm." Sophia mumbled through a mouthful of food, "Isn't this divine? Nellie is the best!" Travis smiled at seeing how content his wife seemed and nodded his head in agreement. He could honestly agree that Nellie's skills in the kitchen were even better than Mrs. Cox's were, but hell if he actually confessed that to Mrs. Cox for fear she would box his ears. "Did Nellie happen to include this recipe in that book she made you?" Travis questioned. Sophia's eyes lit up, "As a matter of fact, I do believe I recall having seen it now that you've mentioned it." she answered. Before long, every last bit of food was gone from her plate. Travis laughed out loud with delight when Sophia took her fork and speared it into his cauliflower, then popped it into her mouth with lightning speed. When he looked at her, the only response she gave was, "The baby is still hungry." He couldn't help but chuckle at that. For dessert, which no one but the two of them got to have by that time, Nellie brought them each a slice of the chocolate cake she had made earlier. "Oh my goodness!" Sophia proclaimed, "I cannot believe I forgot how good here cake is!" Once again, her plate was cleared in record time. She even had the nerve to steal Travis's last bite of cake off of his plate. "Hey now woman!" he mockingly protested, "Now that there is where I draw the line. How dare you steal a man's very last bite of cake from him?  For shame!" She giggled and gave him a look of mirth that twinkled in her eyes, "It wasn't for me. Honest. The baby made me do it." 


     Travis shot up from his chair and picked up Sophia out of her own, then he  carried her up the stairs to their room. Once inside, he shut and locked the door, then proceeded to transport her to the bed where he gently laid her down. She knew from the hungry look of desire in his eyes what was coming next, and she gave a seductive look at him to match his own. He growled softly as his shaft grew thick and hard within his jeans. In order to allow his growing manhood the ample room to reach its maximum potential, he teasingly unzipped his jeans just a slight notch at a time as he watched Sophia's eyes burn with passion. "I want you inside of me right now." she begged. Travis supposed that he could do her that one little favor seeing as how her appetite on all levels this evening have been abnormally high. Just as quick as his jeans were down around his ankles, he hurriedly helped her rid of her dress and undergarments. With her clothing well disposed of, he took his hand and cupped the apex of her thighs just under her soft mound of curls. Travis teased her by using his thumb to rub along her already moist entrance and upwards against her swollen bud and back, over and over repeatedly as she arched her back against the bed. He could feel that she was more than ready for him but he decided that she deserved some punishment for her behavior from earlier. His paybacks would be in the form of driving her into a lustful frenzy before he would fulfill her need. Their need


     As he continued to stroke her, he stared down at what a captivating sight she portrayed. Her eyes were tightly closed but his own couldn't help but to be wide open. Her much larger breasts jiggled slightly from the movements of his fingers which started to quicken their pace. The faster he moved them against her, the more those delectable twin mounds moved around which caused his erection to pulsate even more with need. He delved two of his fingers inside her while his thumb continued its pace and felt such a delicious warmth that called out to his throbbing shaft. He knew it would be welcomed there, but he wasn't quite ready to pay it a visit. He leaned in closer to her so that her breasts were squished up against his chest. His lips sought her own with a playful little nip on her bottom lip. She purred like a cat in heat beneath him and it was taking every semblance of his self-control to not give in. Not yet. He softly kissed the sensitive side of her neck that he had previously found to be a weak spot as his tongue gently licked that area in small circles, followed once again by the sensual kissing of her sultry lips. Her hands that had been digging into the bed covers left the position of their own accord and made their way to the back of his head where Sophia began to kiss the under-lobe of his ear. The sensation it evoked within him was insanely pleasurable. Travis was about to go mad if he didn't find release soon but his patience allowed him to keep toying with her as if he were a child and she was his play-thing. Her lips begged attention of their own once more, and that he was willing to accommodate. He brought his lips down hard against hers as his mouth opened it up to seek more. Their tongues entwined and played with each other and he just could not get enough of her. Her hands now made their way down to his bare buttocks and squeezed each firm cheek while at the same time pushing him closer towards her entrance. He rubbed the bony part of his groin up against her nub as his tight prick propelled itself against her swollen belly, leaving tiny traces of his juices that were coming forth from the top of his engorged staff. Her moaning became louder and louder. He flipped her over the bed and positioned her so that she was bent over on her knees in front of him while her arms created support for her body. He cupped one of her full breasts in his one hand, flicking and teasing her taut nipple, while his other hand wrapped around his manhood tightly. He eased the tip of his penis inside her then began rocking back and forth slightly until he was fully encased inside of her. His hips and legs directed his movements back and forth, then in circles. She was moaning so loudly that he was afraid she would draw attention to their lovemaking. "Ssshhhh...." he whispered in warning. "Deeper!" came her anguished cry. He didn't hesitate one second as he drive himself so deeply into her that he was literally buried inside her. "Oh God!" she cried out in pleasure. He was then rewarded for his efforts with a cry of pure ecstasy that came forth from her mouth. He increased the speed of his lovemaking as he pumped himself back and forth inside of her, over and over, so that his balls smacked up against her bottom which created a sound much like muffled beating drums. She reached her peak almost immediately after that, and seconds later his shaft was rewarded with even more moisture that covered his manhood like a slick glove. Her arms gave out as the intensity of her orgasm made them feel like twin sticks made of jelly. The top half of her body collapsed on the bed without her arms there to support her. He could see a faint smile curving her lips as he continued to pound himself in and out. He soon became delirious as wave after wave of bliss took over his entire being. As he spilled his seed deep within her sheath, his orgasm spread like a wildfire within him. Never in all his years had he felt such a divine rapture. If he died right now, in this moment, he would be doing so with a smile on his face. Lovemaking had never felt so good. His face laid down upon her back as the stubble along his cheeks and jawline gently scratched her sweaty skin. He felt his arousal begin to dwindle and as it did, it slipped out of her, dripping what was left of his semen onto the floor. He was frozen in place; literally unable to move because his body was still recovering from the veritable orchestra of elation that his orgasm left him to deal with. Sophia slowly rolled herself over onto her back and once again, she purred in delight over her own pleasures that her body was still feeling. There was no mistaking that she had just enjoyed their sport as much as himself. Then it hit her! That moment on the train when she thought the woman in the compartment next to hers was being abused and tortured. Sophia instantly recalled the woman's screams of Oh God. The sounds of what she thought was her husband slapping her. Only minutes ago she was crying out the very same thing as Travis was slapping himself against her. Sophia recalled the woman on the train that Sophia had confided in about her suspicions of abuse who then told her she would understand the situation better once she was married. Well, she knew exactly what that woman was talking about now! A blush of embarrassment glowed on both of her cheeks. How naive she had been back then! Out of sheer exhaustion, Sophia eventually managed to climb under the covers on her side of the bed and the second her head hit the pillow, her eyes were closed in sleep. Travis, following suit, climbed in next to her as he wrapped his arm around her waist so that his hand rested against her rounded stomach in order to cradle it. Just as he closed his eyes, he felt the baby move under his touch. "Goodnight little one." he whispered softly.



     Since Sophia and Travis had gone to bed at an earlier than normal hour last night, Sophia was wide awake by the crack of dawn, which she had also been used to doing since her arrival in Texas. She put on her nightgown and tiptoed out of the bedroom in order to make use of the chamber pot and bathe. After her ordeal last night, she was actually afraid to face her family later this morning at the breakfast table. She knew well enough that explanations were in order but wished so badly she could just go back in time long enough to have erased the past twenty-four hours in order to re-do them over again. Perhaps if that were possible, then she would have suggested that she and Rachel eat lunch at the tavern instead and then maybe the outcome of that day would have turned out much differently. Like her family finding out about her cancer. She still did not know how that had happened but assumed she would garner those details one way or another. After relieving her bladder of its contents on the cold commode, she began to draw a hot bath. Her body was feeling out of sorts this morning and she suspected it was due to her being exposed to the cold elements for such a long time last night. That was such a careless mistake but she had also needed to talk to Jeremy face-to-face. "Oh God," she thought to herself. She almost forgot about Jeremy! How could she let what happened between her and Travis last night, well, happen? She should have told him right after they ate supper what she had done.... and decided. All of these complications in her life were becoming so overwhelming and she didn't know how much longer she could handle it! She felt as if she was losing control of her mind and her body, and she wasn't so sure it could all be attributed to her pregnancy hormones either. Once the water was at the desired level she wanted, she eased her aching body into the steamy water with a sigh that escaped her lips. She just needed a little bit more time to herself before all hell broke loose, and she knew that it would. She leaned her head back, closed her eyes, and listened to the blissful sounds of silence. But that didn't last too long before she could hear the insistent wails coming of baby Jocelyn from the room down the hall. Perhaps her own baby had heard the cries of its cousin because at once it began to move around inside of her. She placed a hand over the area where the baby's movements could be felt and basked in the joy of its feel under her touch. How was it even possible to be so in love with a baby that she had never even seen nor met yet? But it was true; love spilled forth from within her heart so strongly that a few tears of joy clouded her vision briefly. Her stomach was big enough that she could no longer easily see the ugly scar from her surgery, the one that was the constant reminder of the fact that she had cancer. Perhaps, somehow, it had miraculously disappeared. After all, she had not experienced any pains since she was fully healed from her surgery. Jocelyn's little wails stopped which must have meant that Rachel was breast feeding her. Sophia looked down at her own engorged breasts and wondered fondly what it felt like to nurse a child. In less than three more months, she surmised, she would be able to find that out for herself and absolutely could not wait for that time to come. Knowing that Rachel (and more than likely Joseph) was now awake she decided to make quick work of washing her long hair and body. She knew that they would be wanting to make use of the bathing room themselves. After she was finished, she got out of the tub and pulled out the stopper that plugged it up to keep the water from escaping. She then toweled herself dry, put her nightgown back on, and crept back towards her bedroom.


     After letting herself inside, Sophia noticed that Travis was still sound asleep. That gave her the opportunity to pick out a warm woolen dress of dark green that she labored to put on. It was a dress that Rachel had given her to use which had a special waist lining in it to allow for her growing belly. The color also suited her well, and as she sat down at the vanity table and looked into the mirror, she saw that it brought out the green portion of her blue-green eyes. She un-tucked her cameo necklace that her mother had sent to her months ago so that it could be seen hanging from outside her dress instead of on the inside. Picking up her porcelain hairbrush, she began to brush out her long strands of wet hair before it dried and left a tangled mess. Travis began to lightly snore which made Sophia smile. Looking behind her, she saw that he was lying on his back with the bed covers tangled between his legs. His face pointed upwards which explained the snoring. He had a thick, dark stubble that covered the lower portion of his nicely tanned face, giving him an even more masculine look that she actually liked. Of course, when he did wake up, she knew full well that he would be shaving that stubble off during his morning routine in the bathing room. Looking at him sleeping so soundly, she couldn't help but tear up. He was going to be so heartbroken and it killed her to have to tell him what she did. But she had no other choice. She had to do the right thing even if it meant what was to come.


     After a short while, she finally finished brushing out her long locks and then went to work pinning her mass of naturally wavy hair into a simple bun at the back of her head. It wasn't the most becoming hairstyle she could have chosen but it did make her eyes look larger and it showed off her creamy complexion quite nicely. Once she was fully made up, she went over to her traveling reticule so that she could pen another journal entry. Except, when she looked inside, the journal was nowhere to be found! Thinking that perhaps she had placed in one of the pieces of luggage by mistake, she searched through them all and came up empty handed. Where in God's name did she put that thing? She began to search all over the room and through the hustle and bustle, Travis must have been woken up. "Hey there darlin' why are you tearing the room a part like that?" She didn't have time to respond to his question because there was a soft knock at their bedroom door. Travis hurried out of bed to quickly get dressed while Sophia opened the door just a smidge to see who was there. It was Hope who was looking up at her with those big eyes of hers. Looking behind her to see that Travis at least has his pants on, Sophia opened the door wide enough to allow her step-daughter to walk inside. Hope did so hesitantly, as if she were now afraid of Sophia. Sophia's heart lurched to the floor, remembering what had happened last night. "Good morning sweetheart." Sophia said kindly. "Let's go over to the bed so I can have a discussion with you. Would that be alright?" she asked. Hope nodded her head yes, so Sophia proceeded to shut the door and walked over to the bed so she could sit down on the edge of it. 


     "Hey pumpkin!" Travis smiled as he picked up his daughter in his arms to twirl her around in a big hug. Hope giggled in delight. "How did you sleep last night?" he asked after setting her down on the bed. "Okay I suppose." came her quiet reply. Sophia's heart sank even further. This was so unlike Hope to be so quiet that it made her feel downright awful. She exchanged a worried look with Travis, and as if he could read her thoughts he said, "Look Hope. I sure am glad you came here because I think we need to have a little talk." Tears began to well up in her eyes as her lips took on a noticeable tremble. "Okay Papa." came her faint reply. Travis didn't waste any more time, "Look pumpkin, we need to talk about what happened last night." Her head looked down at the ground as she refused to meet his gaze. Sophia placed a hand on Travis's arm as tears of her own began to come forth. "It's all my fault!" Sophia cried out, bursting into a full on cry, "I am so sorry that I hurt your Pa like that sweetie. I don't even know how it happened or what came over me but what I did was very, very wrong. I feel absolutely horrible about it and I know it must have been scary for you that I did that to him." Hope began crying in earnest too and Travis stood there dumbfounded not knowing how to control two crying females at once. One alone was hard enough! Hope finally looked up at Sophia as she tugged at her pink nightgown, "I did something bad!" she cried to Sophia, "and I don't want you to hate me." Sophia bent over to grab Hope in her arms as she hugged her tight, "Oh honey, I know you didn't mean to hurt me. You were just being protective of your Papa. I understand that. Trust me, I do. But I want you to know that what I did to him was terrible and it is something I never should have done no matter how mad I was." Hope pulled herself away from Sophia's embrace. She plopped herself down on the floor as she began to cry even harder. Sophia's heart broke even more as she watched the little girl feeling so helpless.  Travis, seeing the distress on Sophia's face, spoke up. "Hope, please don't be made at Sophia. That baby there inside of her makes her act a little funny sometimes. That happens to all pregnant women. It happened to your Mama when she was pregnant with both you and Mikey believe it or not. One day when you are a lot older and married yourself, you're going to have a baby growing in your tummy and it will make you act funny too. But please little darlin', don't be mad at her. She loves you so much. I promise you when I say that I am just fine and I am not mad at Sophia one bit." Hope looked up at him, then at Sophia. "I know that Papa. I didn't mean to smack Mama Sophia. I feel bad that I did. I didn't mean to hurt her." she said with genuine remorse over her actions. "Well then, it's all settled!" Travis smiled, "Can we all get on with our day then and start over fresh?" Hope looked at him without smiling, then back at the floor. "What is it sweetheart?" he asked her, knowing that something must be still weighing on her mind. "I wanted to tell Sophia that I did something bad." she replied so faintly that he could barely hear her. Travis looked at his daughter with confusion. "Didn't we just talk about that?" he asked. Hope shook her head no. "Can I tell you about it Mama Sophia?" Hope said in a tremulous voice as she hesitantly looked over at her stepmother. Sophia gave Hope an encouraging smile, "Yes sweetie. Of course you can. You can always tell my anything you want, whenever you want, whether it's good or bad and I promise that I will always listen. Come over here first though. I want you to feel something." Hope walked over to the side of the bed and looked up at Sophia. "Give me your hand." Sophia said with a small smile playing on her lips. Hope did as Sophia requested and that's when Sophia placed the small hand on her swollen belly. After a few moments Hope's eyes lit up with delight, "What is that?" she asked curiously, "Do you have gas bubbles?" Sophia and Travis both laughed out loud, "No sweetie that was your little sister or brother moving inside of me." Sophia replied. Hope stood there in shock, "But-- but... I thought the stork would bring the baby to us when it was ready?" the little girl said with some confusion lighting her face. Travis looked at his daughter in question, "Who told you that? Mikey?" "No. Mrs. Cox told me that." Hope answered. Sophia looked over at Travis again. His eyes were full of mirth, much like her own were she supposed. "Um, you see.... well, the baby is growing inside my tummy." Sophia explained, not sure how much Hope would really understand. "But how did it get in there?" Hope asked innocently. Travis had to look away for fear he would give in to a fit of laughter, leaving Sophia to explain the situation further on her own. "Well, you see, your Papa put it inside of me. The baby has to stay inside until it's ready to come out." Hope's hand continued to feel her hard stomach, "Your belly sure is big!" she said with a look of wonderment in her eyes, "I just thought you were getting fat." At that, Travis lost it. He broke out into a loud fit of laughter. Sophia couldn't help but to chuckle at his contagious laughter but wanted to strangle him at the same time. "But how did Papa get that baby inside you? Why can't it just come out now?" Hope questioned, which only caused Travis to laugh even harder. Sophia glared her eyes at him, "Nice help you are." "Well?" Hope demanded to know, "How did Papa get that baby in there? Can he put one in my belly too? I want a baby!" Sophia laid down on the bed, unable to say another word. Her belly heaved up and down as she, too, got caught up in a fit of laughter, so much so that she didn't hear a thing when Hope walked over to open the door since someone was knocking. Hope let them inside while Sophia and Travis were too preoccupied with their fit of hysterical laughter to even notice. "What is going on in here?" Rachel asked out of avid curiosity after over-hearing all the noise coming from within the room. She walked inside the room followed by closely by Mikey, then watched for a few seconds as Travis and Sophia seemed to be possessed by laughter. They both had streams of tears running down their faces. Rachel surmised that it had to be really good reason why because she sure hadn't seen Sophia laugh like that since they were kids. Once again, Rachel directed her attention towards the little girl and said, "Hope, what in the world is making them laugh like that?" Hope planted both of her hands on her hips then looked up Rachel with all seriousness and replied, "I wanted to know how my Papa put the baby inside Sophia's belly but they are too busy laughing to tell me. Auntie Rachel, I want to know how he got it in there and I want him to put a baby in my belly too!" Rachel snorted in shock, then her face turned red as she, too, began to laugh. "Oh lordy, lord, lord, lord!" Rachel cried out after a minute or so. Walking back out of the room just as quickly as she had walked in, she cried out "I am not explaining that one!"


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