In the third (and final week) of the hero swap, Gavin and Christopher will get a chance to live a scene in Dave’s shoes.
Today, I’m posting the scene as it appears in Eye of the Beholder. During this week, we will get to see how Gavin and Christopher respond in this scene…
Three days later after supper, Susannah was ready to foal. Dave had set the other animals in the pasture so he could concentrate on the mare. He inspected her in the stall with a strange feeling of apprehension. Her water broke as she laid down on the clean straw, but the birth slowed once a hoof poked through. Twenty agonizing minutes passed without further progress. He shook his head and examined the irritated mare that grunted and snorted while she struggled to push her foal from her belly. He took off his shirt so he could wash his arms up to his elbows with the soap and clean water in a bucket waiting for him by the stall.
Mary ran into the barn, her expression controlled in the midst of the stressful situation. “I brought the clean towels for you.”
“Hold onto them until I ask for them.”
She nodded and stayed back while he rushed to the mare and knelt before her. His attempt to walk Susannah around so the foal would slide back into the womb and reposition itself failed, so he needed to intervene. Thankfully, he went through this with his father’s mares, so he knew what to do.
“Easy, Susannah,” he softly said as he stroked her belly. “I’m going to help you.”
The horse snorted her reply.
His hand followed the foal’s hoof up into the birth canal, making his arm slippery as he kept his other hand on the mare’s belly and braced his knees on the ground so he stayed in place. At least the hoof out of the womb was a front hoof. He sought out the other front hoof which was bent to its chest. He grabbed it, the muscles in his arm and back straining as he pulled the hoof towards the mare’s hind hooves so he could rotate the foal’s head to the birth canal.
Susannah neighed and jerked her head to look at him.
“Your babe will be out soon,” he assured her.
Turning to Mary, who silently watched them, he asked for one of the towels which she handed to him. The two slippery hooves were safely out of the birth canal, so he took the towel and grabbed them. He pulled them towards Susannah’s hind hooves, straining against the weight of the animal that struggled to get out of the womb. When the shoulders and head appeared, he decided to see if the foal would progress without further help. He backed up and stood next to Mary so he could give the two animals space.
To his relief, the foal’s upper body emerged on its own. It stopped when its hips were at the threshold of entering the world.
“Do you need to pull it out again?” Mary whispered.
He glanced at her. “I don’t know yet. The foal could be resting for a moment. Birthing can be a lengthy process.”
She nodded and waited expectantly beside him, her hands clenching the second clean towel as she stared at the mare and foal.
Before long, the foal’s hind hooves left the womb and the animal rested against its mother’s belly. Satisfied, he returned to the bucket of water and dipped the soap into it.
“They’ll lay like that for about fifteen minutes,” he said as he rubbed the soap in his hands.
“I must admit that it was thrilling to watch the birth.” She smiled at the two horses.
“Would you like to name the foal?”
“Really?” Her eyes turned in his direction.
“I’d have to think of a good name. How did you decide on Susannah?”
“Jenny named her. I’m no good with picking out names.” After working up a good lather, he spread it on his arms and chest.
“I’ll have to think of one.” Shooting another look at the stall, she smiled. “It’s not all that different from a human giving birth. Every birth I’ve been to has been like this.”
“You have to stick your arm up the woman’s birth canal?”
She shook her head, seeming amused at his joke. “You know, I have seen the midwife stick her hand up there to help rotate the baby so it comes out easier.”
He cringed, not wishing to imagine an entire hand in that area of a woman’s body. He quickly rinsed his upper body. “I’m sorry I jested.”
She laughed and rubbed a towel over his arms and chest to dry him off. “What I meant was that Susannah is already bonding with her foal. It’s the same way with human mothers. Despite all the pain and length of the labor, they can’t wait to hold their babies.”
Smiling, he enjoyed the way she fussed over him, making sure she wiped all of the water off of him before she put his shirt on. “You’ll have your turn,” he promised.
She paused, her fingers on his buttons.
By the pretty shade of pink that rose in her cheeks, he realized he caught her off guard. His hand cupped the side of her face, his thumb caressing her cheek. “You’ll make a wonderful mother, Mary.”
Her eyes met his and he detected the unshed tears there.
“Did I say something wrong?”
She blinked and shook her head. “It’s just that I never thought I’d be a mother. I mean, I hoped but…” She shrugged. “It’s hard to explain.” When she looked at him, the tears were gone. “I’m happy here, Dave.”
Glad to hear that, he wrapped his arms around her and pressed his lips firmly against hers. He could feel her heart beating with his. He now fully understood the meaning of two lives becoming one when a couple married.
The mare neighed, and they turned their attention back to the animals. Susannah stood up. The foal stumbled but followed suit. The umbilical cord broke easily under the mare’s hoof.
“They got it from here,” he announced, touched that Mary buttoned his shirt for him.
“I’m glad I was here to watch it.”
His arms felt empty when she went to pick up the bucket and dumped the dirty water in the grass outside the barn.
He retrieved the used towels from the ground and gave them to her. She plopped both into the bucket and picked up the bar of soap
“I would like to wash these in the river.”
“Alright,” he said. “I’ll finish cleaning up in here.”
She paused in the entryway of the barn. “I left you a cup of fresh water and some cut up apples and oranges on the kitchen table. I thought you might want a snack after all the work you did.”
An unexpected emotion that he didn’t understand tugged at his heart. “Thank you, Mary.”
She nodded before turning back to the river.