I originally wrote a different scene for Loving Eliza than I decided to go with. In the original, I let Eliza and John have a baby, but because of someone I knew, I decided to drop that idea and go with the scene where they go to Charity’s Christmas party instead. Looking back, I’m glad they didn’t have a biological child. Bid for a Bride wouldn’t have been as powerful if Brian hadn’t been their only (and adopted) child.
I’ll explain why I didn’t go with this ending tomorrow. 😀
One year later
Eliza pulled the picture of her son off the shelf of the fireplace mantle and bit her lower lip. How many times had she wished she could have held him just one time? As soon as he was born, the prostitute who delivered him quietly took him to the couple who waited outside the door. Eliza never even got to look at him. She heard him cry and that was it.
She only had this picture to know what he looked like. She often imagined what it would have been like to hold him just one time. Her hands shook as she put the picture next to the one of her and John. Taking a deep breath, she took a step back. Dare she hope after all these years that old wounds might be fully healed—that what was once taken from her might be given back?
The front door opened and she glanced at John who stood in the doorway. He brought his hands up to ask if she was ready.
She absentmindedly rested her hand on her flat stomach. There was no way she was going to tell him just in case she was wrong. She could very well be wrong. Her cycle had been irregular before. Just because she missed a couple of months, it didn’t mean anything. The feeling of nausea could easily be due to her swirling emotions. The fatigue could be due to the heat. Slowly exhaling, she cleared her throat and walked over to him.
He pointed to her and then used his hands to ask if she was alright.
She decided to hedge her answer. What good would it be to tell him anything if she was wrong? “I miss Addy. She did return from visiting her daughter, right?”
She didn’t know if he believed her or not but decided it didn’t matter. She was much too nervous to care. If she was right…if it was really happening for her… She didn’t dare hope!
After John helped her into the wagon, she watched him as he climbed into his side. Once he picked up the reins, she leaned against him, taking comfort in his silent strength. She took his free hand into hers and caressed his skin. For the most part it was smooth. He didn’t work in the fields. She liked that though. When she needed him to help her around the house, he could stop whatever he was doing and assist her. Usually, his assistance involved in him retrieving anything that was too high for her to reach. But sometimes she just wanted to be with him.
She liked knowing she was no longer alone in the world, and she knew that no matter what happened, he’d love her. He looked at her but she avoided the question in his eyes. He knew her well enough to understand when something was troubling her. But to his credit, he squeezed her hand and returned his attention to the path before them.
When they arrived in town, he parked on the outskirts, like he did when she first met him. He still liked to be there, even though he no longer had to. She’d asked him about it one time, and he wrote that it was easier to leave when he wanted. She figured that some habits never went away. But she didn’t mind.
The walk through town was nice. It helped settle her nerves because she could focus on saying hello to the people that greeted them on their way to Addy’s. John seemed happier as well. His shoulders no longer slouched and he made eye contact with people as they passed by. She was glad for him.
Once they reached Addy’s house, she asked, “Will you be working on Willy and Daphne’s roof?”
He nodded. Then he held up two fingers.
“You’ll be back for me in two hours.”
He nodded again and kissed her.
She forced a smile. Now that she was about to make the trip to the doctor’s, her stomach was twisting back into its crazy knots. Or was it morning sickness? No. She wouldn’t think about it until she was at the doctor’s office. She waited for John to disappear around the corner of the next street before she knocked on Addy’s door.
After a few seconds, Addy threw the door open and hugged her. “Eliza! Oh, how I missed you. It’s been a long two months, hasn’t it?”
“It sure has.” A feeling of warmth washed over her. She didn’t realize how much Addy meant to her until that moment. “How is your daughter doing?”
“Wonderfully. She had a boy.” She pulled back, held onto Eliza’s hands, and scanned her from head to toe. “Why, there’s something different about you. You look like you’re glowing.”
“Oh, I don’t know about glowing.” She cleared her throat, unsure if she even wanted to say it aloud. For some reason, it seemed safer not to say anything.
“Marriage certainly agrees with you.” She turned to the house. “Will you come in?”
Eliza knew that it was now or never. “Addy, can I ask a favor of you?”
Addy’s face grew serious. “Of course, you can. Is something wrong?”
“No. Nothing’s wrong. I’m just nervous.” She wiped her hands on her skirt but they remained sweaty. It was hot for September. Either that or her anxiety was getting the best of her. “I need to see the doctor.”
“What? Why?” Addy touched her shoulder and looked at her with caring eyes. “You can tell me. I can handle it.”
Despite the situation, Eliza laughed. “There’s nothing to be concerned about. I mean it. I…” Here it came. She took a deep breath. “I think I’m expecting. But I can’t be sure. I mean, not really. You know at the saloon, the doctor wanted to make sure I never had another child and for all those years, I didn’t and I’ve only been married to John for one year and suddenly I think I might have a chance to be a mother. Not that I’m not one. I mean, I do have a son, but I’ve never seen him. And now I wonder if I might get a second chance at this whole thing. But I won’t know until I see the doctor and I can’t go alone but I don’t want to go with John either. I don’t want him to be disappointed. You see, I’m afraid the doctor will tell me I’m wrong and it’s just my cycle acting up again because I never was quite right after I gave birth and…” She stopped when she realized she was rambling on like an idiot and gave a shaky laugh. “So, I was wondering if you’d come with me.”
Addy smiled. “Of course.” She grabbed her shawl off the hook in the entryway and shut the door.
Eliza’s legs felt wobbly as she joined Addy in walking down the road. “I knew it was cool outside.” She wiped the sweat off her brow. Maybe she was sick. She pressed her hand to her forehead. She didn’t think she was feverish, but she wasn’t thinking straight, so who knew?
“You mind if I ask how far along you think you might be?”
She shrugged. “I have no idea. The last time I had my monthly flow was three months ago. But that doesn’t mean anything. I’ve gone that long without it before.”
“So what makes you think this time might be different?”
“I’m not sure. I just have a suspicion.”
“Maybe God’s telling you something.”
“I thought of that. But I told Him I didn’t have the courage to see for sure unless I went with you.”
She chuckled. “Well, that’s what friends are for, to help each other through the valleys of life.”
As they got closer to the doctor’s, Eliza realized her steps were slowing.
Addy wrapped an arm around her shoulders. “My mother always told me that a woman knows when she’s expecting a child.”
“Really?” Eliza tried to recall if she knew when she was carrying her son. It had happened so long ago that she couldn’t remember. All she remembered was being scared. “Sometimes a woman can be wrong, can’t she?”
“I suppose it’s possible. But I have yet to meet one.”
The words gave her hope and she managed the last block to the office.
Addy opened the door and called for the doctor who came out of the backroom.
“How may I help you ladies?” he asked as he placed his ledger on the table by the door.
“Eliza thinks she might be expecting, but her cycles aren’t regular so she came here to be sure.”
Eliza was glad she spoke on her behalf. Her tongue didn’t seem to want to cooperate with her. She could only manage a nod. Being there was surreal. Though the doctor asked her questions and she answered him, the pounding in her chest dominated her attention. What if he confirmed her worst fear? She went through the process of giving him her urine to test. The waiting was hard. She never thought she’d be seeing a doctor for this reason, but here she was and no matter what she did, she couldn’t relax. Addy talked to her, but she couldn’t focus on anything she said.
When the doctor returned, she tried to guess the answer before he spoke. His face was pleasant, but that was no indicator. It was just her luck that she ended up with a doctor who could mask his emotions.
“Well, Mrs. Evans, I’d say that by the beginning of March, you’ll be holding a baby girl or boy,” he said.
It wasn’t until Addy cheered that his meaning dawned on Eliza. Tears fell down her cheeks before she was able to speak. “I-I’m going to have a baby?” She never thought she’d say those words.
He broke into a wide grin. “Yes. And be sure to tell John that he needs to go easy on you. Let him cook some meals while you relax for a change. This is the only time a woman gets an excuse to rest. Once that child comes, you won’t have a moment to yourself until he’s out of the house.”
“Oh, shoo,” Addy told him in a playful tone. “You’re a proud father. You have how many in your house?”
“Six and one on the way.” He glanced at Eliza. “There’s no quiet unless they’re all asleep. Poor John doesn’t know what he’s getting.”
Addy rolled her eyes. “You just wait until I tell your wife what you said.”
His eyes grew wide in feigned horror. “You wouldn’t dare!”
“Give your wife an extra kiss tonight and I may relent.”
“You drive a hard bargain, ma’am. Alright. You win. But I warn you that it was the extra kiss that got her into this mess.”
“You need to watch yourself, doctor. There are ladies in the room.”
He chuckled. “Go on and tell John the good news.”
Despite the fact that tears continued to fall down her cheeks, Eliza laughed. Now she couldn’t wait to see her husband! “Addy, let’s go to Willy and Daphne’s place. He’s over there and I can’t wait.”
Addy nodded and Eliza followed her out the door.
Eliza practically ran the whole way there and eagerly knocked on the door.
Gasping, Addy caught up to her. “When you get excited, there’s no stopping you.”
“I’m sorry. Did I wear you out?”
Addy giggled. “A little. I’m not as young as I used to be. But it’s for a good reason.”
Daphne opened the door. “Hello there, Eliza and Addy. Come on in.”
“Where’s John?” Eliza was too impatient to engage in pleasantries. She wanted to tell John right away.
As if to answer her question, there was a pounding on the roof.
Daphne pointed to the ceiling. “Up there. Do you want me to get him?”
“No. I can find him.”
“Eliza,” Addy quickly admonished, “are you sure that’s wise in your condition?”
“I won’t get on the roof. I’ll just call him down.” Before Addy could stop her, she rushed out of the kitchen and found Willy weeding the garden in the backyard. She peered up, squinting in the sun, and called out to John.
“Is something wrong?” Willy asked, turning to her from where he knelt in the middle of the garden.
“No. I’m fine. Don’t bother getting up.” She sighed. What was taking John so long? She found the ladder on the side of the house and started to climb up it when John looked at her from the edge of the roof. “I have something to tell you. Can you come down?”
He nodded and obeyed.
The time it took for him to set his feet on the ground seemed to take forever. When he was finally in front of her, she blurted out, “I’m expecting!”
His eyebrows furrowed as he looked around.
“Not that kind of expecting, silly. I mean, I’m with child.”
His knowing grin and the twinkle in his eyes told her that he’d been joking with her. She playfully slapped his arm. “You have a real mean streak in you, John.” Then she studied his amused expression. “You suspected, didn’t you?”
He nodded. He pointed to her and put his hand over his stomach and pretended to be sick. Then he gave her the sign for ‘my mother’.
“You remember your mother being the same way when she was expecting Shawn?” she guessed.
He nodded again.
“So, what do you think about being a father?”
He yawned and shrugged.
Just as she gasped, his smile widened and he swung her around in his arms and kissed her. Laughing, she said, “I ought to make you go without supper for teasing me that way.”
He set her down, knelt in front of her and kissed her hand. Then he beseeched her with his repentant eyes to forgive him.
“Oh, get up. I’ll feed you.”
Appearing content, he did as she bid and gave her another kiss. He patted her stomach and squeezed her hand.
He really was happy. She hoped he’d be, though she didn’t realize she was transparent enough for him to suspect that she was pregnant. But what did it matter? The point was, he was hers and, together, they would have a child.
January came and with it the wind howled and snow covered the ground. Eliza found that she loved winters in the southern Dakota territory. There was something magical about watching snowflakes fall down, so when she woke up early that morning because her baby insisted on kicking like crazy, she decided to add more wood to the fireplace in the small parlor.
Dawn had passed a good hour ago, so she could see the snow whirling in the wind. Wrapping the blanket around her shoulders, she stood in front of the window and smiled. The world contained simple joys that she’d long ago forgotten to savor. The movement in her womb reminded her that miracles still happened. First there was John and now his child. She rubbed her belly, recalling her first child. She vowed she would tell this one about him someday, when the time was right. It would be painful to explain the past to her son or daughter, but it was her life and she had come to accept the good with the bad and appreciate how both had brought her to this place—in this moment in time. She wouldn’t be where she was now had it not been for where she’d been.
She heard John come into the room before she saw him. “It’s a beautiful morning, don’t you think?”
He walked over to her and kissed her. Then he pointed to the bedroom.
She laughed. “Don’t you ever think of anything else?”
He crossed his arms and pretended he was shivering.
“Oh. You got cold without me next to you.”
“We should get up anyway. It’s morning. Farmers have been up for hours by now.”
Grimacing, he shook his head and motioned to the bedroom. Then, before she could say anything else, he picked her up and carried her back to bed.
“You are the most persistent man I’ve ever met. You do know that you’re persistent, don’t you?”
He shrugged as he slipped under the covers, snuggled up to her, and closed his eyes.
She seriously doubted that he wanted to go back to sleep, and when she felt his hand lightly stroke her breast, a wry grin crossed her face. “So you had an ulterior motive for bringing me in here. I should be cooking breakfast instead. Aren’t you hungry? You used up a lot of energy last night.”
His response was to kiss her.
She wondered if he did that to shut her up, but if that was his intent, she didn’t mind. It was a wonderful way to be told to quit talking. She closed her eyes and melted in his arms. He proceeded to make love to her, taking his time in bringing them both pleasure. And when they were satisfied, he drifted off to sleep.
She was too excited to doze off with him, even if she woke up earlier than she usually did. She knew that once the baby was born, she wouldn’t get much sleep, but she was eager to know what it was like to cradle her child in her arms. Two more months and she would find out. As she imagined that day, she remained in John’s arms and watched the snow as it fell softly outside the bedroom window.
In the first week of March, John waited outside while the doctor and Addy tended to Eliza during her labor. When he couldn’t take the screaming anymore, he went to work on a highchair. He’d already made the bassinet and crib. He knew it would be months before his child would need a highchair, but he couldn’t handle listening to his wife in all that pain.
He remembered how excited she’d been when she told him she was with child. He’d been happy too, but he’d been happier for her because he knew how much it meant to her. Right now, he wasn’t sure a child was worth the agony of labor. It was hard to concentrate on his work. He’d start chipping into the wood only to get up and open the door, wondering if it was over yet. But Addy said she’d come for him when the time was right.
He rubbed his eyes before he pulled out his pocket watch. It’d been about three hours since the doctor came out, and about twelve hours since Eliza started getting labor pains. How long did this usually last? He knew practically nothing about this, and when he asked Aaron what to expect, Aaron just patted him on the shoulder and said, “When the time comes, stay out of the way. There’s nothing a man can do but wait.”
And so he waited…and waited…and waited… When he finally saw Addy emerge from the house, he dropped his tools and ran to meet her.
“Eliza’s doing fine,” she said, out of breath and smiling. “You have a girl. She’s doing fine too. Are you ready to see them?”
He nodded. Of course, he was! He’d been waiting all day for this moment.
“Well, then come on. I warn you that it’s pretty loud in there. That daughter of yours has a good pair of lungs on her.”
His heart leapt with joy. He hadn’t realized how much it would mean to him that his little girl would be able to speak. He wanted to hear her voice, especially so he could hear her say ‘Pa’. He didn’t know why that was so important to him, but it was.
As soon as he stepped into the house, he heard Eliza talking. The doctor was in the kitchen collecting his things, so he knew Eliza was talking to their baby.
The doctor looked up at him. “Congratulations. Mother and child are both healthy.”
John couldn’t help but grin like a fool. Now that the screaming was over, he could relax, and hearing the momentary cry from his baby in the other room assured him that the ordeal of waiting had been worth it.
“Now, don’t worry about the bill. The furniture you made for my family is enough,” the doctor stated before he shook John’s hand and left.
Addy turned to him. “I’ll make something for you and Eliza to drink and eat. Why don’t you go in there? Eliza’s anxious to see you.”
Without gesturing to her, he rushed to the bedroom. He wanted to see the girl. Did she have her mother’s reddish blond hair? He thought it would be nice if she did. He liked that color. But as he approached the bed where Eliza held her, he saw a bunch of dark brown curls framing her face.
Even though Eliza looked tired, she glanced up at him and gave him the widest smile he’d ever seen on a person. “I can’t believe she’s here. I can’t believe I’m holding her.” She wiped away a tear and laughed. “It’s silly to cry when I’m filled with so much joy I think my heart might burst.”
He knew that feeling. He’d felt it when she finally agreed to marry him. She sure had put up a struggle, but she’d been worth it. He sat next to her at the edge of the bed, trying to be careful not to disturb the sleeping child.
“You want to meet your pa?” she softly asked the child.
The girl squirmed for a moment and yawned.
He chuckled. She was a pretty little thing, and in a lot of ways, she reminded him of Eliza. So she didn’t have her mother’s wild hair color. His hair color worked just as well, though she didn’t get the curls from him. She must have gotten them from his mother. It was nice to see a part of his mother in her.
Eliza handed him the child. “I was thinking of a name for her. What do you think of Miracle?”
He gingerly held the baby. She seemed fragile, as if she might break if he wasn’t careful.
His daughter stared up at him. She was probably trying to figure out who he was. She waved her hand in the air and he caught it. Her hand wrapped around his finger, and he marveled that someone so tiny could steal his heart. He knew he’d love his child, but he hadn’t expected the pride he felt. One look at Eliza’s glowing face told him that all the pain she’d been through was worth this moment. And he agreed, though he was glad it was over.
“I tried thinking of other names for her, but none of the others fit. Not really. I mean, she is a miracle. It’s the only way to explain her birth, don’t you think?”
He thought it was cute that Eliza felt the need to explain why she chose Miracle for their baby’s name. He just smiled at her and nodded his consent. Miracle was a good name, in more ways than one. He considered Eliza his miracle. He’d longed for a wife who could look beyond his handicap and love him. And now as he looked into his daughter’s open eyes, he realized she was as much a miracle as her mother had been.
Yes. Miracle. He couldn’t think of a more perfect name than that.