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Authors: Lori Copeland

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BOOK: A Perfect Love
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And in that lay the problem. Lately Russell had been insisting it was time they started a family and found a place of their own. Barbara had been stalling, hoping that the announcement of a baby would ease her way out of her family home, but there'd been no baby thus far.

She supposed she was at fault. She wasn't in any hurry to leave home, even though she'd been a married woman for three years. Mom and Dad were . . . well, Mom and Dad, and she loved them with all of her heart. But lately she felt uncomfortable here, even smothered, and she couldn't explain this feeling to anyone.

What was wrong with her?

She tried to be enthusiastic about the prospect of having a baby and leaving home. Each month built to a climax of hopeful suspense—was she or wasn't she pregnant? There were breathless days when her monthly cycle failed to begin on time, and sometimes, when she was late, she spent days in a kind of hopeful bemusement, refusing to take even a simple aspirin in case the miracle had happened.

But those days were inevitably followed by the awful waking up to a low abdominal ache and the sure knowl- edge she wasn't carrying a child. Russell always stirred when he heard her crying, and rolled over to take her into his arms, whispering that he loved her and they would be parents when the time was right. They had to be patient and wait on God's timing.

Cleta and Floyd only looked at each other with “what's wrong now?” expressions on their faces when Barbara came into the kitchen with dark circles ringing her eyes. Disappointment, thick as sea smoke, hung in the air for a few days before life settled back to normal and the cycle began again.

“Is something bothering you, Barbara?” Micah's concern pulled her from her thoughts.

Sighing, she gripped the banister behind her. Outside the window, bright sunshine streamed through the lace curtains—deceptively misleading for January. Just as her young body was deceptively misleading, offering the promise of babies and a home when there was none.

“It's personal, Micah.”

“I don't mean to pry.”

“No, it's not that I don't want to tell you. You're like family, after all. It's just that I don't want to embarrass you.”

The gardener smiled softly. “I don't think you could embarrass me, dear girl. I have seen more things on earth than you could imagine and—”

“I don't know why I can't have babies,” Barbara blurted out. “Russell and I try . . . but it doesn't happen. Russell wants a son so badly.”

Micah tilted his head slightly. “Babies come when the Father sends them. When the time is right, you will conceive.”

Barbara had heard that same assurance stated in a hundred different ways:

Be patient.

In God's perfect timing, it will come.

Don't be in such a hurry; enjoy your carefree days. Children are a lot of responsibility.

Have you thought about adoption?

Cleta had been less than encouraging. Oh, Mom wanted a grandchild, but she made it clear there was no hurry. Children were a lot of responsibility, she said, and once babies started coming Russell would want a place of
his own and that was the silliest idea this side of heaven. Barbara and Russell were just twenty-three and twenty-eight. “Goodness,” Mom would shake her head, “You have your whole life ahead of you—what's the rush?”

Barbara was beginning to think Cleta wanted them to stay at the B&B forever. She sighed, her eyes roaming the hallway. She loved this old house. She especially loved the bedroom she and Russell had made their own. Together they had picked out the drapes and bedspread. One Saturday afternoon they had laughed and kissed as they hung the masculine blue and green plaid fabric, vowing they would keep it forever. Later they had laid in bed holding each other, secure in their love.

They'd always had a good relationship, but lately Barbara sensed a strain. Though Russell loved Floyd and Cleta—as much as one could love one's in-laws—he made it clear he didn't want to live in their home forever. He'd compromised with Barbara by agreeing to remain at the B&B until she got pregnant, but what would happen if she didn't conceive a baby before Russell lost all patience?

And she couldn't blame him for being impatient. She'd really let herself go in the past year, and why not? Russell was gone all the time on the boat, while she was left here with nothing to do but sleep, eat, and watch television. She didn't have her own house to care for, and her mother and Micah took care of most of the work at the B&B. When she tried to help around the house, Mom warned that her delicate constitution wasn't up to hard labor.

And Mom had a fit just before Thanksgiving when Russell broached the subject of he and Barbara renting a house or apartment in Ogunquit. Even Floyd had added his two cents to that brouhaha, saying that renting was only a waste of good money. Cleta would spend all day on the ferry crossing over to see Barbara, so they might as well save the wear and tear on everybody and let Barbara stay where she was—leastways until kiddies started coming. If Russell had money to burn, however, he might give some serious thought to donating a new set of tires for the fire truck. That would be money well spent.

Upon hearing that, Russell had left the house in a snit, slamming the door behind him. Barbara had bolted for her room, and that concluded the subject. Nobody had wanted to bring it up again.

Barbara looked down at the sympathetic gardener. “I'd be happy to wait for the right time, but the right time may be too late,” she confessed, driven to reveal her deepest fear. “I'll be lucky if Russell sticks around that long.”

“That is the silliest thing you've said so far.” Micah rose, shaking his head. “Russell's a patient man, and he isn't in this marriage for babies. He loves you, Barbara, deeply. It seems to me you aren't being sensitive to his needs.”

She stared in honest amazement. What needs? Russell didn't have needs; not like hers. He could walk through the Wal-Mart baby department and not get weepy. He could stand and sincerely rejoice when friends announced pregnancies while Barbara ran for the guest bathroom in tears. It wasn't his makeup that had to be redone, his eyes patted with cold water to reduce the swelling, or him pasting on a bright smile of bravado for the remainder of the evening.

Russell didn't understand a woman's need to cradle an infant, nourish it, give it life. He was willing to let nature take its course while Barbara wanted results now. She didn't fear the weight gain, varicose veins, heartburn, or the stretch marks she heard other women complain about. She would welcome a change in her body. Yet pregnancy never happened, and she was starting to fear that it never would.

“Have you talked to Dr. Marc?”

Micah's gentle inquiry drew Barbara from her thoughts. “Not yet—Mom says there's nothing wrong with me. She tells me to be patient.”

“What does Russell say?”

Shaking her head, Barbara crossed her arms. “He would like to have a place of our own by the time we have a baby, but there's no reason we couldn't get pregnant now. His business is doing well, but the longer we stay here, the better off we'll be financially. That's why we haven't pushed the issue.”

But Russell was ready to seek medical help; she could hear it in his voice when the subject came up. She didn't want to take fertility drugs—she wasn't up to having a passel of babies. Just one would do—one cute little boy or girl with Russell's brown eyes and long lashes. Russell would have to be the one who consulted the doctor, though—she would be too embarrassed to go. Besides that, doctors frightened her.

Other than having her tonsils out, she'd never had anything more than a cursory physical examination. Before Barbara's wedding, Mom had indicated with a strained look and a knowing eye that a gynecological exam involved more than a quick glance down one's throat and a peek into one's ears. Barbara wasn't sure she wanted to discover how much more was involved. She'd heard Barbette Graham talk about the night Georgie was born. Amazing, what some women talked about.

“Are you ready to tackle parenthood?” Micah asked, squeezing her arm in reassurance.

Barbara raked her fingertips through her hair. Was she ready? Or was she feeling pressured into motherhood? She often thought she could handle a baby, then Mom would remind her how hard it was to run a household and raise children. Sometimes Barbara didn't know what she wanted; often she wanted to be left completely alone. No pressure. No monthly anxieties. No talk of icky exams and prying doctors. When the time was right, a baby would happen if it were meant to happen.

She tossed her head and gave Micah a repentant smile. “I'm sorry. I'm talking your head off, and you have work to do. I guess I'm just in a pink stink this morning.”

Squeezing his shoulder in thanks, she moved past him toward her own bedroom. Here she was complaining again. She needed more to fill her time—something to force her to take an interest in life. But Mom cleaned the house and Micah did the gardening. Dad took care of the Fire Station and Russell was out on the boat from sunup to sundown. What was she to do with her time? She'd read every book in town, tried crocheting and hated it, halfheartedly joined the Women's Circle quilting circle but found no real joy in working with a needle and thread. She couldn't think of a single thing that held her interest.

Micah knelt down and returned to the vacuum cleaner. Glancing back at his gentle features, Barbara wished she could be like the soft-spoken gardener, bathed in contentment.

Micah glanced up, caught her looking at him, and smiled. “I can see you're feeling better already.”

Barbara came forward to drop a kiss on the man's head, then went into the bedroom to get dressed. She wasn't going to spend the whole day moping around the house. It was a beautiful day and she planned to make the most of it.

She picked up the phone and dialed the Clip and Snip salon in Ogunquit and made an appointment with Nadine Lott for Saturday afternoon. After hanging up she looked through the directory, found an ophthalmologist, and made an appointment for the same day. She had always wanted contacts . . . and Saturday might be a good day to take the plunge.

She could always cancel if she chickened out.

Chapter Two

B
arbara grumbled under her breath as she opened the side door of the Heavenly Daze Community Church and began the walk down the steep stairs to the basement fellowship hall. The Women's Circle had been making quilts here on the second Thursday of the month for as long as anyone could remember, for not only was quilting a satisfying activity, but the morning was a prime opportunity for keeping up with everyone and everything on the island. Today, however, Barbara was in no mood for gossip, giggles, or good deeds.

The Circle's major project was a quilt to be raffled off at the annual spring bazaar at the beginning of the tourist season. Every fall the women met to choose materials and patterns; the actual quilting took place in winter. Service in the Women's Circle, the women maintained, was a fine opportunity to show Christian love, for a portion of the raffle money would be donated to a worthy cause, but experience had taught Barbara
that the monthly meetings were also a fine opportunity for the exchange of gossip. She had promised her mother that she'd take part in the quilting again, but her motives had more to do with self-preservation than Christian charity. Any woman who didn't appear ran the risk of being the topic of conversation in the sewing circle.

“Winslow is sprucing up the parsonage bathroom,” Edith was saying as Barbara stepped into the room. “A beautiful new green border—scripture entwined around birdhouses.”

Cleta sent her a puzzled look. “What kind of scripture do you put in a bathroom?”

Edith didn't miss a stitch. “Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds.”

Vernie took her place at the quilting frame. “High time you redecorated. That old paper needed replacing years ago.”

Edith opened her sewing kit. “Oh, it's just a border. I'm not complaining, but it will be nice to have a change. Stanley's offered to help. Those two men should have the project knocked out in no time at all.”

Vernie narrowed her eyes at the mention of her husband's name. “I don't know, Edith—maybe we ought to see if there's enough money in the church budget to have the job professionally done. You know how some men can get things screwed up.”

“Oh, Winslow's real handy with that sort of thing.”

“So is Stan,” Vernie added, but Barbara noticed the endorsement sounded strained. Stanley Bidderman, Vernie's husband, had been living in the mercantile's guest room since Vernie caught the flu in late December. The entire island knew he was trying to woo his wife and earn her forgiveness—if forgiveness for walking out and staying gone for twenty years could ever be earned. Stanley kept venturing into Ogunquit to buy little gifts for Vernie, and Barbara thought his efforts were sweet.

Russell hardly ever brought her gifts anymore.

Bea looked up from behind her spectacles. “Good thing the weather's pretty. That'll be nice for the men— they can open a window if things get stuffy in that little bathroom.”

“Unusual weather,” Cleta added. “Makes me nervous. I say we'd better enjoy it while we can. Barbara, honey!” Spying Barbara, she stood and pulled a folding chair into the empty space beside her. “What took you so long?”

“Nothing.” Barbara nodded at the other women, who were all looking at her.

“Feeling all right today?” Dana Klackenbush asked.

“Fine.”

Barbara slid into the chair next to her mother and plucked a needle from the large white square in the center. The work in progress was a Log Cabin quilt. Most of the women had worked like dervishes at home, piecing together various straddles into dozens of log cabin squares, then Birdie and Bea had stitched the squares together into a queen-sized quilt top. The sisters had added the batting and a nice calico backing, then stretched it into their grandmother's antique quilting frame. Once the actual quilting was finished, Birdie or Bea would apply the edging, then wrap the quilt in butcher paper until spring.

BOOK: A Perfect Love
10.75Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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