Actions

Work Header

He Can Only Hold Her

Chapter Text

I could use a Texas man
But one who can feel at home
Yeah, here in the California sand
Who holds me like he'll never let go
It's been way too long
Since somebody's body was tangled with mine

-The Chicks, Texas Man

 

MAY 2019

 

It was a beautiful, warm spring day in sunny Southern California and Jessica Rodham was taking her four year old daughter, Shiloh, to the park for a few hours on a Saturday afternoon so that the little girl could burn off some of her restless four year old energy. They were walking from the car towards the playground together, holding hands, when Jessica's phone suddenly started to ring.
"Hold on, one sec, baby girl," Jessica said to Shiloh as she dug her phone out of her purse. "Hello?" She answered.
"Hi, honey!" Hillary, her mom's, voice rang out on the other end. 
"Oh, hey, Mom!" Jessica smiled to herself, happy to hear from her mother. They usually talked to each other on the phone at least every couple of days and texted each other constantly. "What are you up to today? Are you in New York this weekend?"
"Yep, I'm in Chappaqua this weekend to spend some quality time with Bill and your sisters," Hillary replied.
Jessica smiled to herself again. She knew her mom really missed her family while she was away in Washington DC, hard at work during the week due to her position as a Senator from New York. 
"I'm just catching up on some reading while your dad went into town with the girls for a couple of hours," Hillary added. "Chelsea and Marc are coming over for dinner later. They said they have some news to share."
"Ohhh, intriguing," Jessica said. She smirked to herself and tried not to spill the beans, having learned of her younger sister's first pregnancy a few days prior. Chelsea had sworn her to secrecy until she had told the rest of the family.
"What are you up to?" Hillary asked her eldest daughter.
"Well, it's just me and Shiloh this weekend," Jessica explained. "Sophia is away on a school camping trip and Lucas went to a friend's house for a sleepover. So it's just us girls." She smiled down at her curly haired four year old daughter who was tugging on her mother’s arm, anxious to go play in the playground. “We just got to the park. Someone is very impatient to go play.” Jessica chuckled to herself. 
Hillary chuckled in return. “I won’t keep you. I’ll let you girls go then. Have fun. Love you, honey.”
“Love you, too, Mom,” Jessica replied before she held the phone to Shiloh’s ear. “Say goodbye to Grandma, sweetie.”
“Bye, bye, Grandma,” Shiloh said sweetly. “Love you!”
“Aww, I love you, too, Shi,” Hillary said. “I miss you. I’ll see you very soon on Facetime, okay?”
“Okay!” Shiloh said, now practically dragging her mother towards the playground.
Jessica chuckled again and held the phone back up to her own ear. “I gotta go, Mom. Talk to you later.”
She quickly hung up and let Shiloh lead her over to the playground. Shiloh immediately ran towards the jungle gym while Jessica stood off to the side, so she could keep an eye on her daughter. She smiled to herself when she recognized that one of Shiloh’s friends from school was also at the park that afternoon and the two girls were happily playing together. Out of the corner of her eye, she noticed the other girl’s father sitting at a picnic table, also keeping an eye on his own little girl. She had seen the man around the school when he was picking up or dropping off his daughter, and while she knew that their daughters were very close friends, she had never actually properly introduced herself to the mystery man. She was feeling confident that day and decided there was no time like the present.
She walked over to where he was sitting and awkwardly waved. “Hey, you’re Mariah’s father, right?”
The man looked up and locked his deep brown eyes with Jessica’s own. He smiled a charming smile, causing Jessica to nearly swoon on the spot. “That’s me. And you’re Shiloh’s mom, right?”
Jessica nodded and took a seat at the picnic table across from him. “I’m Jessica. But everyone calls me Jess.”
“Jeff.” The two shook hands. “It’s nice to properly meet you, Jessica. I know our daughters are good friends. Mariah is always talking about how much fun she has playing with Shiloh.”
“And Shiloh is always talking about Mariah.” Jessica chuckled. “I’ve been meaning to set up a play date between them but ya know...life.” She shrugged.
Jeff nodded. “I feel you. It’s okay. They’re making up for it now.”
The two of them stared over and watched as their daughters ran around the park and happily played together. Meanwhile, Jessica started admiring Jeff. She had to admit...he was handsome. He was probably around her age if she had to guess, and he had dark brown hair, dark brown eyes, and just a hint of stubble on his chin. His voice had a bit of a southern drawl to it, which reminded her of her stepfather. Plus, he had a gorgeous smile and the most adorable dimples ever.
“Is that a southern accent, I detect?” Jessica asked him, making conversation and giving him a flirty smile.
Jeff nodded and smiled tenderly. “I’m originally from Houston, Texas.”
Jessica nodded and wondered what had brought him to Los Angeles. He wasn’t like most of the other men who she had encountered in this town. He seemed way too humble and down to earth to be living in Los Angeles.
“How about you?” He asked her. “You look like a California girl.” He teased playfully.
Jessica chuckled in return and blushed. She guessed with her long flowing blonde hair, tan skin, and black yoga pants, she did look like a stereotypical Californian. “I’ve lived all over,” she admitted, with another chuckle. “I was born in New York City but spent my childhood in Chicago and Arkansas. I moved to L.A almost thirteen years ago when my ex-husband got a job opportunity here. As much as I miss the East Coast and want to be closer to my parents, I couldn’t uproot my kids after my ex and I split up.”
She missed New York terribly and longed for the East Coast but Los Angeles had become home for the past thirteen years and her kids dearly oved their schools and their friends so she would never take those things away from them.
Jeff nodded understandably and perked up slightly at Jessica’s mention of  an ex-husband.
At the same time, Jessica then realized that she had never seen Mariah’s mother around or heard Shiloh talk about Mariah’s parents. She thought that was unusual and wondered where the girl’s mother was…
“I’m going to go get Mariah and I some lunch,” Jeff said, gesturing towards some nearby food trucks. “Do you and Shiloh want anything?”
As he was pulling his wallet out of his pocket, Jessica suddenly noticed the gold wedding band on his left finger as it glinted in the sun.
”You’re married?” Jessica said, in disbelief. Ugh. Men. Of course. She could tell he had been flirting with her and checking her out during their brief conversation but he was married. She shivered slightly, feeling disgusted with both herself and Jeff. He had probably just wanted sex all along. Jessica was an attractive woman after all and was used to men admiring her beauty, but that didn’t mean that she was going to be somebody’s mistress. After watching her stepdad cheat on her mother many times during her childhood and teenage years, cheating was something she was vehemently opposed to. That was her number one deal breaker. She shook her head to herself. Well, at least the connection had been nice while it lasted...
“It’s not what you think!” Jeff immediately said, noticing the look of disgust on Jessica’s face. “Let me explain.” He gave her a pleading look.
“Don’t give me that crap,” Jessica retorted, trying her best not to roll her eyes. She was about to get up and storm away when something stopped her. Jeff did have a faraway, distant look in his eyes.
“Lauren. My wife. She...um...passed away,” he said quietly, in a tone that was barely above a whisper. “Last year. Ovarian cancer.” He looked down. “I can’t bring myself to take the ring off yet.” He shrugged slightly and let out a heavy, shaky grief filled sigh.
Jessica immediately softened and stared tenderly into Jeff’s eyes. “Oh my God. I’m so sorry. I had no idea.” She bit her lip and looked down, feeling guilty about the way she had immediately jumped to conclusions. She quickly swept away at the tears that had pooled in her eyes, before Shiloh could notice her crying.
“Hey, it’s okay. Don’t cry,” Jeff drawled, reaching out to comfortingly pat her on the arm. “You didn’t know.”
Jessica just nodded as things started making sense as to why she had never seen Mariah’s mother around the school.Of course.  And her heart ached for the little girl, too. She couldn’t imagine what would happen if something ever happened to her and she had to leave her children without their mother…
“I’m so sorry for your loss,” Jessica said again, staring at him softly.
“Thank you.” Jeff nodded and sighed harshly again. “She was diagnosed when Mariah was two and passed away last year, a few weeks after Mariah’s third birthday. It’s been rough for the both of us but every day, things get a little bit easier.”
Jessica nodded again. Going through a divorce wasn’t the same thing as losing a loved one the way Jeff had lost Lauren, but she felt the same way with regards to her divorce from James.
“She’s the reason I moved to LA,” Jeff admitted, with a slight chuckle. “She was a makeup artist and wanted to make it big in Hollywood." He smiled nostalgically. "And she was so talented and really good at what she did. She actually worked on some pretty major productions before she got sick.”
“How about you? What do you do for work?” Jessica asked curiously, wondering why he had stayed in LA after his wife's death. 
“Right now I work in construction but back in Houston before Mariah was born, I was an oil rig worker,” Jeff explained."Like you, I didn't want to uproot Mariah after Lauren's death. Houston is my home but LA is Mariah's. I didn't want to make things harder on her, after her mother's death." 
Jessica nodded understandingly. "Of course," she said.
After being married to an academic type for nearly ten years, a guy like Jeff could be a nice change of pace, she thought. She was definitely attracted to him already and thought she sensed some romantic chemistry going on between them.
They were suddenly  interrupted when Shiloh and Mariah ran over to their parents.
“Daddy, we’re hungry!” Mariah announced.
“Yeah, I’m starving!” Shiloh piped in. 
“Okay, we’ll get you princesses some lunch.” Jeff chuckled, seeing that Shiloh had a similar flair for the dramatic as Mariah did. He turned towards Jessica. “Do you and Shiloh like tacos?”
Jessica smiled. “We love tacos.”
Jeff grinned. “Tacos it is then. My treat.”
“Thank you,” Jessica said, giving Jeff another flirty smile in return.
“No problem,” Jeff said,  giving Jessica a charming smile of his own as he got up from the table so he could go get everybody some food.

He returned a few minutes later with tacos, french fries, and bottled water for everyone.
“Eat up,” he said as he sat back down and passed everybody their meals. 
But Shiloh and Mariah did that thing kids did where they only ate a couple of french fries each before they ran off to play again. 
“I thought you girls were hungry!” Jessica called after them.
“We’re busy playing mermaids!” Shiloh called over her shoulder as the two girls ran away together.
Jeff and Jessica both chuckled. Kids, right?
“They’ll come finish their lunch soon enough,” Jeff said.
Jessica nodded, knowing he was right and that they would get hungry again in a few minutes. All that playing and running around would wear them down eventually.
“We were interrupted earlier,” Jeff said in between bites of his chicken taco. “What do you do for work?”
Jessica took a sip of water before she answered. “Well, I’m currently a freelance entertainment writer. I mostly cover reality television,” she admitted, blushing slightly. “But I also teach writing courses part-time at Santa Monica College.”
“Ohh, very cool.” Jeff nodded.
Jessica’s cheeks flushed a light shade of pink again and she nervously chuckled as her and Jeff continued chatting and getting to know each other.
“And does Shiloh have any siblings?” Jeff asked curiously. He thought he had noticed Jessica dropping off and picking up other children from school besides Shiloh.
Jessica nodded and wiped some taco residue off of her lips with her napkin. “Mmm hmm. My son Lucas is eight and my daughter Sophia is almost thirteen.”
Jeff gave her a look of surprise at the mention of having an almost thirteen year old.
Jessica chuckled. She was used to people being surprised that she was the mother of a twelve year old because she didn’t look old enough to have a preteen aged daughter. 
“I had her when I was very young,” She explained. “I was a few weeks shy of my twenty-second birthday when she was born.” She smiled nostalgically at the memories. “We basically grew up together and raised each other.” She chuckled again and acknowledged to herself how proud she was of how far she had come. Three kids and a divorce later, She wasn’t the young, immature, single mother she used to be. She had come a long way in the past thirteen years. 

* * * * *

Eventually, a few hours had passed and as it got late into the afternoon, Shiloh and Mariah were getting tired and cranky. Jeff and Jessica realized it was time to get their girls home for dinner.
“I had a really nice time with you today, Jessica,” Jeff said as he scooped a sleepy Mariah up and let his daughter rest her tired head against his shoulder.
“Likewise.” Jessica nodded. She had gone on a few dates since her divorce had been finalized but she hadn’t connected with anybody the way she had connected with Jeff that afternoon. 
“We should do it again,” Jeff said. “I’ll text you to set up a play date between the girls some time.”
“Sounds great,” Jessica said, also scooping up a tired Shiloh and propping the girl up against her right hip.
Shiloh yawned and also rested her head against her mother’s shoulder.
“And Jess?” Jeff said, smiling at her.
“Yes?” Jessica asked, intrigued.
God she couldn't resist that charming smile of his...
She wasn't sure what was coming next but she could already feel butterflies fluttering around in her stomach.
“Can I give you a call and ask you out on a real date, some time?”

To Be Continued… 



Chapter Text

JULY 2021 

 

Jessica nervously got into bed beside Jeff, her now fiance, and  gently snuggled up to him. He turned off the baseball game that he had been watching while Jessica had been getting ready for bed and he stared down at her softly. 
“Are you ready for tomorrow?” he asked, leaning down and lightly pecking the top of his fiancee’s head.
“As ready as I’ll ever be, I guess,” Jessica answered, sighing nervously. Truth be told, she was terrified. Petrified even.

 

Cancer.  That dreaded word. 

 

Uterine cancer to be exact. 

 

It had been the last thing Jessica had been expecting when she had gone to the doctor for some abnormal vaginal bleeding a few weeks prior. She still remembered her cancer scare from when she was in her early twenties but never in a million years had she expected to ever actually get cancer since then.
Now her and Jeff were staying at a hotel in New York City the night before she was scheduled to have a hysterectomy. Her kids and Jeff’s daughter had stayed behind in Chappaqua with her younger sisters and parents. Hillary was planning to come to the city the following day to be there for Jessica’s procedure.

Oddly, the fact that Jeff, Jessica, their kids, and their pets had left Los Angeles, taken a road trip, and come to New York to quarantine with her parents at the beginning of the pandemic, had been a strange blessing in disguise.  Of course no one had expected that they would still be in New York a year and a half later and right before she got the diagnosis, Jeff and Jessica had been considering going back to LA as things seemed to be slowly getting better with the pandemic. But Jessica was extremely relieved that they hadn’t made up their minds yet before she went to the doctor and that she could be surrounded by her entire family during all of this. She couldn't imagine going through this journey without having her parents and her sisters by her side. 

She sighed heavily to herself again as she thought about her surgery which was only a few hours away.
“Everything’s going to be okay,” Jeff encouraged, lightly pecking the top of Jessica’s head again. “You’re the strongest woman I know.”
Jessica just nodded. She felt terrible that he had to go through this all over again after losing his first wife to ovarian cancer. He had been a trooper through the whole thing and was being her rock, but she knew it must be hard on him considering everything that he had gone through with Lauren in the past. Luckily they had caught it early and her chances of a full recovery without a reccurence were good, but she was still terrified that something could go wrong during surgery. She had had surgery before for various reasons but this time felt different for some reason. Anything could happen when anesthesia was involved…
“Hey, honey?” Jessica said, tenderly resting her head against Jeff’s shoulder.
“Yeah?” Jeff asked, staring at her curiously.
“If anything were to happen to me tomorrow, in surgery…” her voice caught and she looked down, not even wanting to imagine the possibility. She cleared her throat and collected her thoughts. “If something happens to me, the life insurance paperwork is in my desk drawer in my home office, in LA. Bottom drawer. My parents can help you get the rest of my affairs in order.”
“Nothing’s going to happen and I’m not going to need it,” Jeff said, smiling at her encouragingly. “You’re going to be just fine, okay?”
Considering everything he had gone through in the past with his first wife, he had been surprisingly optimistic about everything ever since Jessica told him of her diagnosis. Whether that was for Jessica’s sake or his own, she wasn’t sure.
“And if you ever want to visit the kids, just talk to James. He’s a very nice man, and he’d be understanding. He’ll let you and Mariah see them, whenever you guys want to. I’m sure of it,” Jessica added, ignoring him.
Over the two years that they had been dating, and over the course of their engagement for the past year, Jeff and Mariah had gotten very attached to Jessica’s kids, and vice versa. Shiloh, Lucas, and Sophia saw Jeff as a second Dad and considered Mariah to be their sister. Bill and Hillary even treated and loved Mariah like she was their own biological grandchild.
“Honey, listen to me.” Jeff took Jessica’s cheeks in his hands and slightly tilted her chin upwards so that she was staring up at him. “Stop talking about this stuff. I’m not going to need the life insurance paperwork and I’m not going to have to discuss a custody arrangement with James because you’re going to be fine . Nothing bad’s going to happen to you tomorrow, I promise. You have some of the best doctors in the world treating you and operating on you tomorrow. I have faith that you’re going to come through this with flying colors. Okay?” He stared deeply into her eyes as he silently conveyed his strength and support.
Jessica just nodded and shook her head to herself as tears pooled in her eyes. She quickly swept them away with the tips of her fingers. Now was not the time for crying. She had to stay strong and think positive thoughts. Jeff was right. She had some of the best gynecological surgeons and oncologists in the world treating her and nothing was going to happen to her. She had to have faith that everything was going to be okay.
“Let’s get some rest. Tomorrow’s going to be a long day,” Jeff said, quietly, gently stroking her cheeks with his thumbs.
Jessica nodded and yawned. She lay down since they had to wake up early to get to the hospital on time the following morning.
Jeff followed suit and lay down beside his fiancee. He wrapped his arms around her tiny waist and squeezed her tightly.
“I am so sorry,” Jessica said quietly as she gently lay her head against the hotel’s soft pillow.
“What are you apologizing for?” Jeff asked while he flicked off the bedside lamp.
“That you have to go through this all over again,” Jessica replied quietly with a sniffle as she started to quietly cry once again, not being able to keep her tears at bay this time. 
“Sweetheart, we’ve talked about this,” Jeff soothed. “None of this is your fault.” Jessica had been apologizing to Jeff constantly ever since she had gotten her diagnosis a few weeks earlier. “What happened to Lauren was horrible and tragic, yes. But you’re not her. This is an entirely different situation. They caught your cancer a lot earlier than they caught hers.” He leaned over and lightly pecked Jessica’s cheek.
Yes, it was horrible that he had to watch a woman he loved go through this all over again, but it had nothing to do with Jessica. She couldn’t have helped that this had happened. “There was no way we could have predicted or prevented this, sweetheart.” He softly whispered in his fiancee's ear.
Jessica just nodded as suddenly her body was wracked with nervous and worried sobs.
“Please don’t cry,” Jeff soothed. “It’s okay. You’re okay.” He held her tightly while she cried, letting her get it all out of her system, knowing that she had been holding everything inside for way too long as she had tried to be strong for everyone. “Shh, it’s okay. Don’t cry, darling.” He gently ran his strong hands across Jessica’s biceps. “And just think. When you’re all better and this stupid pandemic is behind us, we’re going to have the wedding of our dreams, okay?”
Jessica managed to smile slightly in the dark at that thought as she continued quietly weeping.
“Shhh, it’s okay. Everything’s going to be okay.”
Jeff continued whispering soothing sweet nothings into Jessica’s ear as his fiancee quietly cried herself to sleep. 

* * * * *

Meanwhile, about an hour outside of the city, another couple was also getting ready for bed. After checking in on their teenage daughters and the grandchildren, and saying goodnight to everybody, Hillary was changing into her nightgown while Bill was crawling into bed.

“Are you all ready for tomorrow?” Bill asked Hillary, putting on his reading glasses so that he could read a few chapters of his book before going to sleep.
“Mmmm hmmm,” Hillary said, nodding as she rubbed hand cream into her hands. Even though things were much better in their state with regards to the pandemic than they had been a year and a  half earlier and most of the family was fully vaccinated by now, due to ongoing COVID restrictions at the hospital, only Hillary and Jeff were allowed to be at the hospital with Jessica (and they had even had to pull some strings to make that possible) so Bill was staying behind in Chappaqua with Chelsea and the kids.
“She’s going to be fine, darlin’,” Bill drawled, as Hillary crawled into bed beside her husband.
“I know,” Hillary said, cuddling up next to Bill as she pulled the blankets up and around them.

Bill sighed quietly. Since Jessica had told them of her diagnosis, his wife hadn’t wanted to talk about it much. She had gone into command mode, and thrown herself into making all of the arrangements for Jessica’s various doctor’s appointments and upcoming surgery. He knew from their many years together that that was his wife’s way of coping with things. And he also knew that she had had a lot on her plate for the past year and a half between going back and forth between New York and Washington, DC as she tried to help her constituents, the people of New York, through the pandemic and get them the resources they needed while balancing her duties as a Senator during a pandemic with being a wife, mother, and grandmother. And now she had to deal with her beloved eldest daughter having cancer on top of everything else that was going on.
She was staying strong for her children and grandchildren’s sake but after thirty years,  Bill knew his wife well. She was bound to break down eventually and he wished that she would open up to him about her feelings. They usually shared everything with each other. The good and the bad.
But admittedly, they were both still reeling from the news that Jessica was sick and needed surgery and possibly radiation or even chemo after that. They would know more after the hysterectomy.
After making it through the worst of the pandemic, cancer had been the last thing they had expected for any immediate family member to have to deal with. Ever.

Bill’s heart was breaking for his daughter and he couldn’t imagine what she was going through. Selfishly, he was relieved that Hillary wasn’t the sick one but he hated that it had to be Jessica who was sick instead. He would take her place in a heartbeat if he could. He hated that she and Jeff, and their children had to go through this, especially considering Jeff’s past. He shook his head to himself, thinking about how life wasn’t fair.
Why did terrible things always happen to good and undeserving people? And why did this horrible thing have to happen to his baby girl of all the people in the world?

He sighed harshly to himself once again and took his reading glasses off, gingerly placing them next to him on the nightstand. He couldn’t focus and he was too worried about Jessica and Hillary to concentrate. Plus, Hillary was already laying down in bed and closing her eyes. He knew she must be exhausted from everything that was going on and she had to be up very early in the morning, to be driven into the city for Jessica’s surgery.
He  quietly sighed again and turned off the bedside lamp before he lay down and wrapped his arms around his wife’s waist. He gently squeezed her as he heard her breathing start to even out while she was beginning to drift off to sleep. He closed his eyes and decided to try to get some sleep himself. Tomorrow was going to be a long and exhausting day full of worry and waiting.
Jessica is going to be okay, he thought to himself as he continued holding his wife close to him. She has to be.
Right?

To Be Continued... 

 

Chapter Text

Hillary anxiously stared at the clock on the waiting room wall across from her as the minutes slowly ticked by. Jessica had been taken to the Operating Room a little while ago and the doctor had said that the hysterectomy procedure was expected to take an hour or two. Time was passing too slowly for Hillary’s liking.
She sighed  to herself and quickly glanced at her phone to make sure she didn’t have any urgent emails or text messages to answer. She had told her staff that she would be unavailable for the next several days so that she could assist Jessica with her recovery but she would still be answering emails occasionally.
There was nothing urgent she needed to attend to at that moment so she dropped her phone back into her purse and grabbed a briefing book from her tote bag.
She suddenly glanced up as Jeff, her daughter’s fiance, got up from his chair on the other side of the room and started to pace the length of the small private waiting room they were sitting in. She tried to refrain from rolling her eyes at her future son-in-law. Gritting her teeth behind her black face mask, she opened her briefing book and tried to read, but Jeff’s pacing and the jiggling sound of his car keys in his pocket, was getting under her skin. She couldn’t concentrate or focus which wasn't like her but she had a lot on her mind and Jeff's pacing wasn't helping. He had been pacing on and off ever since Jessica had been taken into surgery a few minutes prior.
Hillary really liked the guy. She did. He was perfect for Jess and he had been a much better partner to her in the two years they had been together, than James had been in the almost thirteen years that he and Jessica had been married. And she was also glad that she had gotten another grandchild because of him. She dearly loved Mariah, too, and had come to consider her just as much a grandchild as Sophia, Lucas, Shiloh, and Charlotte were.
She had enjoyed her talks with Jeff as she had gotten to know him better over the course of the pandemic, ever since him and Jessica had moved back home with their children, at the beginning of the pandemic.  She enjoyed having a beer and chatting with him on the occasional Saturday night after everyone else had gone to bed, and getting to know his story. Her heart went out to him after everything he had gone through with his first wife and his young daughter. He had told her the whole story of Lauren’s illness and death, one night during one of their late night chats. The story had touched her and stayed with her and she could still remember weeping in Bill’s arms later that night as she had recounted the story to her husband.
She was glad that even though Lauren had been the love of his life and his soul mate, that he had gotten a second chance at true love with her daughter and that little Mariah was going to have an amazing stepmother in Jessica once Jeff and Jessica officially married in a few months.
And her heart was breaking that he had to go through a cancer diagnosis all over again with a woman that he loved. Hillary absolutely hated that history was repeating itself for him.
However, the pacing was getting on her nerves. If anyone had the right to be nervous, it was Hillary. That was her baby. Her baby girl who was sick. Who had cancer. Who was lying on an operating table, getting cut open and having her uterus and the cancerous tumor inside of it removed. Losing her ability to have more biological children in the future.
Hillary had been holding it together pretty well since she had gotten the shocking news a few weeks prior but now. Today. The surgery. It was getting to be too much and Hillary felt suffocated. She felt caged in and like she couldn’t breathe.
She needed her husband. She needed Bill. He was the one person in the entire world who would know exactly what she was feeling and be able to make her feel better in that moment. She really wanted nothing more than a comforting hug from her husband. But unfortunately due to the hospital’s COVID restrictions, Bill couldn’t be there that day. Hillary, Bill and Jessica had decided that it was better he stay in Chappaqua with their other children and grandchildren just in case their other daughters or Jessica’s children needed his support that day.

“I’m going to get a coffee. Would you like one?” Jeff suddenly asked, piercing the eerie silence of the waiting area.
He didn’t really need the coffee, he just needed an excuse to get out of the small, windowless family waiting room they were in. It was making him feel restless and anxious.
Hillary shook her head. Caffeine was the last thing she needed at that moment. She needed air. She needed to breathe. She just needed a few minutes to take off her face mask, collect herself, and get her breathing and racing thoughts back under control. She had a strange panic-filled sensation inside of her. A sensation she had never felt before. 
“I’m okay, thanks,” Hillary answered. She tried to convey a sympathetic smile to her future son-in-law with her eyes, due to her face mask covering her mouth. “You go on ahead and get a coffee for yourself. I just need some air.”
Jeff nodded and quickly left the room.
As Hillary was putting her heavy briefing book back into her tote bag, she suddenly heard her phone beep in her purse.
As she dug her iPhone out from the depths of the bag, she quickly skimmed the incoming text message and immediately felt a sense of lightness and relief. She weakly smiled to herself behind her face mask as she quickly composed a reply.
Oh, Thank God she thought to herself as she typed. 

* * * * * 

Chelsea grabbed the last of the empty lunch plates from the kitchen table and placed them into the kitchen sink to soak in lukewarm water. She would wash them later before her parents got home from the hospital. Once the kids dishes had been cleared, she opened a tin of cat food and placed some into a bowl for Jessica’s two cats, Lily and Shadow. After a brief scuffle near the animal’s food bowls as her parents' dogs— Maisie and Tally— came over to see what was going on, the  two dogs, who had already been fed earlier that afternoon, realized there was nothing for them and walked away, leaving the two cats to eat lunch in peace.
Chelsea had just finished putting her one and a half year old daughter, Charlotte, down for a nap, and Jessica and Jeff’s children, Lucas, Shiloh, and Mariah had just finished eating lunch. Chelsea’s husband Marc had gone into town with Sophia, Hayley and Cassandra for ice cream and some shopping, as a distraction for Sophia.
Lucas had immediately gone back to the family room to play video games as soon as he had finished eating. Chelsea sighed to herself. He was probably getting way too much screen time that day but given the circumstances of the day, Chelsea figured that her older sister would be understanding.
As things with the pandemic were slowly getting better in New York City and the city was returning to a new normal, Chelsea, Marc and their daughter had tentatively returned to their New York City apartment a few weeks prior, after quarantining with Chelsea’s sisters, nieces, nephew, and parents for the past year and a bit. However, once learning of Jessica’s diagnosis, they had immediately moved back into her parents' guest house, at least for the next few weeks, in order to be there for her precious older sister and nieces and nephew, as Jessica recovered. Chelsea didn’t want everything to land on her parents and Jeff’s shoulders and wanted to help out where she could. Which was why her and Marc had offered to watch the kids and teenagers while Jessica was in surgery.
Other than everybody being a bit down considering the circumstances of the day, it had been a pretty good morning so far and Chelsea and Marc were doing their best to distract themselves and everyone else from worrying too much about Jessica by keeping the kids occupied. 
Her father had been catching up on work in his home office earlier that morning as his distraction but since Chelsea had everything with the kids under control, he had decided to venture into the city and join her mother at the hospital.
Chelsea smiled to herself, knowing that her mother would probably be incredibly relieved to see him and that she would be happy to have someone besides Jeff to talk to and wait with.
“Can I go back to playing now, Chelsea?” Jeff’s daughter Mariah sweetly asked, as she slowly climbed off of her chair at the kitchen table.
“Of course, sweetheart.” Chelsea ruffled the girl's curly hair and smiled to herself as the adorable little girl ran off to play.
She had fallen in love with the girl, just as the rest of the family had, and thought it was absolutely wonderful that Shiloh and Mariah were going to become sisters for real, once Jeff and Jessica got married. Their tight sisterly bond and friendship with each other was very sweet and it reminded Chelsea of her own close relationship with her older sister.
She figured her youngest niece was going to follow suit and was going to go run after Mariah to play with her, but Shiloh just glumly sat at the kitchen table with a faraway look in her eyes. It was jarring for Chelsea. She wasn’t used to seeing her usual spunky and vibrant niece looking so down.
“Hey, Shi. Don’t you want to go play with Mariah while I clean the kitchen?” Chelsea asked, giving the girl an encouraging smile.
Shiloh just shook her head and pursed her lips together like she was about to burst into tears.
Chelsea sighed sadly and took a seat at the kitchen table, next to where Shiloh was sitting. “Do you want to talk, sweetheart?”
She couldn't imagine what her nieces and nephew were going through right now. Even though Shiloh was still too young to fully understand and comprehend what was going on with her mother, she knew that mommy was sick and needed an operation to get better. And Chelsea knew that something like this was hard for a child at any age, let alone a child as young as Shiloh.
“I want mommy!” Shiloh suddenly cried out as she did indeed burst into tears and started sobbing. “I’m scared, Auntie Chelsea! I want my mommy!”
Chelsea frowned and opened her arms up, letting her niece crawl into her lap. She wrapped her arms around the little girl and squeezed her tightly. It wasn’t the same thing as being held by mommy, Chelsea knew this, but she hoped that she could at least provide some comfort to Shiloh right now in her time of need.
At six years old, Shiloh was past the crying stage but given what was going on, Chelsea couldn't blame her little niece for having an emotional outburst. 
“Shh, its okay, baby girl. Mommy’s going to be just fine,” Chelsea soothingly murmured as she traced soothing circles into the girl’s back while trying to keep her own tears at bay.
Now that she was a mother herself, she couldn’t even imagine what Jessica and her children were going through. It hurt her heart to imagine what would happen to Charlotte and Marc if something like this ever happened to her.
As Shiloh sobbed into her aunt’s shoulder and buried her head into the crook of Chelsea’s neck, Chelsea subconsciously placed her hand on her still flat stomach and gently rubbed it. She was pregnant with her second child but given everything that was going on with Jessica, her and Marc hadn’t been able to break the news to her family just yet.
She sighed to herself again and gently stroked Shiloh’s dark brown curls with her other hand. She was scared too and didn't want to giver her neice false hope or make promises she couldn't keep but she had faith that her older sister would pull through and get through this just like Jessica had overcome every other obstacle that life had thrown her way over the past couple of years. 
“I want my mommy!” Shiloh cried out once more.
“It’s okay, Shiloh,” Chelsea murmured, choking up slightly, no longer being able to hold her own tears in.  She gently kissed the top of her sweet niece’s head. “Everything’s going to be okay. Mommy’s going to be fine.  I know you miss her but you’ll get to see Mommy very soon. Don’t worry. Please don’t cry, sweet girl. Everything is going to be just fine.”
Chelsea quietly sighed to herself once more as tears silently rolled down her cheeks and landed in Shiloh's curls. Was everything going to be okay? Chelsea didn't know but she had to say it out loud to make herself, and her sweet niece, believe that everything would work out in the end. It always did. Right? 

* * * * *

Hillary ventured outside, into the hospital’s ambulance bay, just outside of the Emergency Room’s main entrance, in search of her husband with her security detail in tow. Due to some death threats she had gotten early into her career as a Senator, they were now a near constant presence in her and her family’s life. A begrudging necessity to keep herself and her family safe. Luckily, they were respectful of her privacy and tried to keep as much distance as they possibly could while still doing their jobs.
Upon spotting Bill standing just off to the side of the ambulance day, Hillary nearly teared up in relief as all of the tension and stress that she had been holding in all day immediately left her body.
Seeing his wife coming towards him, Bill softly smiled and gently waved at her.
Pulling off her face mask since she was outside the hospital now and putting it in her pocket for now, she ran over to her husband, wanting nothing more in that moment than to be held in his big strong arms.
Bill wrapped his arms around her waist and kissed the top of her blonde hair as she nuzzled her head into the crook of his shoulder.
“Hi,” he whispered into her hair. 
Hi,” Hillary whispered in return as she choked up, feeling overwhelmed with emotions all of a sudden. At the same time she was at once relieved to finally be in her husband’s arms but also feeling inundated with an intense wave of emotion as all of the events of the last couple of weeks, heck even months, finally caught up to her.
Tired of holding everything in and trying to be strong for everyone else, now that she was alone with Bill (aside from her security detail) and being held in his comforting embrace, she finally let her tears freely fall down her cheeks. She could finally let herself fall apart and break down.
“Hey, it’s okay,” Bill whispered, realizing that his wife was silently crying. He leaned down and placed a gentle kiss on Hillary’s forehead, letting his lips linger there for a moment. “I’m here now, darling. Everything’s okay.”
“I just can’t believe that my baby girl has... cancer,” Hillary said, as if she was comprehending this fact for the very first time.
Jessica may have been in her late thirties by now, but she would always be Hillary’s baby girl.
“She’s going to be okay, Bill. Right?” Hillary asked in an uncharastically vulnerable tone of voice as she softly stared up at her husband for confirmation, desperately needing him to be her rock right now. 
Bill nodded, feeling tears prickling at his own eyelids. But now it was his turn to be strong. For his wife, his daughter, and the rest of his family.
He nodded again and forced a smile. “Of course Jessie is going to pull through this, darlin’,” he answered, his voice thick with emotion as he tried not to start crying.
He squeezed his wife and gently ran his large hands up and down her back in a soothing motion.
“She’s going to be just fine, sweetheart. Okay?” He placed another gentle kiss on the top of his wife's head as Hillary's shoulders shook with quiet sobs. “Let it out. It’s okay. I’m here now. Just let it all out, sweetheart.” 

* * * * *

A few hours later, Jessica tried to open her eyes but they felt heavy, like they were cemented shut. Her whole body felt heavy and her head was pounding. As she swallowed, she felt a lump in her throat and she realized her mouth felt incredibly dry. She desperately needed a drink of water.
She could hear voices in the distance and the sounds of sneakers scuffling on the linoleum floor as someone was bustling around her bed, checking Jessica's vital signs. 
But wait… I’m alive, she realized. I’m alive ... Thank You, God.
If she hadn’t felt so weak, she would have let out a sigh of relief.
“Thank you,” she heard a man’s voice (Jeff?) murmur before she heard the door to her hospital room open and then close.
Wanting to see Jeff’s comforting face in that moment, she managed to pry one eye open, and then the other. Her vision was blurry as she noticed a man sitting at her bedside. She suddenly realized that she could feel her cold and clammy right hand holding his larger, warm and soft one in hers. It felt too soft and smooth to be Jeff’s hand…
Slowly her vision came into focus and objects started to appear sharper. With a bit of effort she managed to turn her head slightly to the left, expecting to see Jeff sitting at her bedside and instead she saw…
“Bill?” She asked in a scratchy voice.  She managed to weakly smile up at her beloved stepfather, not expecting to see  him upon waking up from surgery. She thought he had stayed in Chappaqua with the kids so this was a pleasant surprise.  “What are you doing here?” 

 

To Be Continued…

Chapter Text

As Jeff sat in the surgical waiting area with his future in-laws, waiting for his fiancee to get out of surgery, he couldn’t help but think back to where he and Jessica had been a year prior. Even though the pandemic had been raging on and they had been quarantining together with their children and Jessica’s family for months by that point, the two of them had been happy and extremely hopeful about their future. 

* * * * *

JULY 2020

After an extremely long and draining week, Jessica and her boyfriend of about a year, Jeff, were finally able to kick back and relax on a Friday night. The two of them along with their respective children had been staying with Jessica’s parents and siblings in Chappaqua, New York for the past five months, ever since the start of the pandemic in March 2020. Since she had been living in Los Angeles, California for the past several years, Jessica hadn’t wanted to be away from her parents, siblings, and her brand new niece Charlotte back in New York, for god knows how long since no one knew when the pandemic would end.
With Jeff laid off from his job in construction, Jessica being able to work remotely, and the kids schooling being virtual, Jeff was incredibly supportive of road tripping and moving everyone across the country to New York at least temporarily.
While the reason they had moved to New York was bittersweet, Jessica was definitely enjoying the extra quality time she was getting to spend with her children, boyfriend, parents, siblings, and niece and she knew that the rest of her family was enjoying spending the extra quality time together as well.
Even though they had been in quarantine in Chappaqua for much longer than they had ever expected, Jessica wouldn’t have wanted things any other way. 

“I love you.” Jessica leaned over in bed and lightly pecked Jeff’s lips.
“I love you, too.” Jeff grinned in return and pecked her lips back as his girlfriend cuddled up to him.
The kids had gone next door to the guest house to watch a movie with Chelsea and her family so Jeff and Jessica were finally getting some alone time together.
Jeff had gotten a new job working in a warehouse for UPS and Jessica knew he was exhausted and sore so she was relieved they were getting some quality time to relax and unwind together. While her boyfriend didn’t necessarily have to find a job⸺Jessica had been fine with being the main breadwinner temporarily and her parents weren’t charging them rent or anything ⸺ she knew he had been going stir crazy at home in lockdown so she was glad that he had found something to keep him occupied and she was incredibly proud of him for how hard he had been working to provide for his family the last several weeks. 
She lightly pecked his right cheek before she grabbed the television remote from the nightstand and turned on Netflix.
“Can we just relax tonight and watch a horror movie?” Jessica asked, staring up at her boyfriend with her beautiful deep brown eyes.
Jeff was a horror movie nut and he had turned her on to the genre.
“Sure, babe.” Jeff nodded and smiled slightly. “That sounds great.”
Jessica nodded and smiled conspiratorially in return. “Perfect. I’ll go get us some snacks.”
Jeff smirked in return, knowing what Jessica was getting at.
Hillary didn’t want food upstairs in the bedrooms and it especially was not to be eaten in bed. And even though Jessica was turning thirty-six in a month and a bit, she still had to follow her parents house rules. But her mother was going to be staying in Washington DC that weekend instead of coming home to Chappaqua so what Hillary didn’t know, wouldn’t hurt anybody as long as Jeff and Jessica cleaned up after themselves. 
“Be right back,” Jessica said before she pecked Jeff’s lips one last time and crawled out of bed. 

* * * * *

As she wandered into the kitchen downstairs, Jessica was surprised to find her mother standing over the kitchen sink, washing her hands, having just returned home from the airport a few minutes prior. Jessica hadn’t heard her come in.
“Hey,” Jessica greeted, walking over and standing next to her mother.
Oh, hi, sweetheart!” Hillary chirped in return, looking just as surprised to see Jessica.
“What are you doing here?” Jessica asked curiously. “I thought you wanted to get some work done in DC this weekend.”
“Oh, change of plans,” Hillary said, looking like a deer caught in headlights. She forced a smile. “I missed you guys and decided to come home for the weekend and work from here instead.”
“Oh, okay.” Jessica shrugged slightly feeling like something was off. Her mother wasn’t acting her like herself but Jessica couldn’t quite place her finger on what was different. Plus, her mother had been in Washington DC for the past two weeks straight and had been working very hard to get her constituents all of the resources and assistance they needed during the pandemic since New York had been one of the hardest hit states. It was understandable that she would want to come home and spend a weekend with her husband, children, and grandchildren.
“What are you up to?” Hillary asked her eldest daughter.
“Well the kids went next door to Chelsea’s to watch a movie so Jeff and I are just going to relax upstairs and watch a movie of our own,” Jessica explained. She grabbed two diet cokes out of the fridge since she knew Hillary would freak if she saw Jessica bringing snacks upstairs.
“That sounds nice,” Hillary replied while drying her hands off with a dish towel. “I better go find your sisters and your dad and say hi.”
Jessica nodded. “See you later, Mama.”
Hillary nodded and left the kitchen, gently rubbing her eldest daughter’s lower back on her way out of the room.

* * * * *

Jeff was lounging on the bed, scrolling through the horror movie selection on Netflix when Jessica came back to her bedroom.
“So, change of plans,” Jessica said, putting the cokes down on the nightstand. “My mom came home for the weekend so no snacks I guess.”
She pouted playfully but in reality she was starving. She hadn’t eaten dinner since she had been waiting for Jeff to get home from work.
“Okay, well…” Jeff thought for a second, since he was also hungry after a long day of working hard and a long drive back to Chappaqua from the city. “How about I order us a pizza and maybe I can convince your mom to let us eat it in the living room while we watch our movie?” He gave his girlfriend a curious look, waiting for her approval.
Jessica nodded. “That sounds good.” She chuckled to herself. “God, it's like I’m a teenager again.”
She loved being around her parents and siblings 24/7 again but at times, it did make her feel like a teenager again and not the thirty-five year old woman she was.
Jeff chuckled in return. “Don’t worry your mom loves me. And you’re her favorite child.” He smirked, knowing that Jessica could get away with things that her younger siblings couldn’t.
“My mom does not have favorites!” Jessica playfully admonished, rolling her eyes at her boyfriend even though she knew that her and her mom did have a particularly special bond compared to her sisters.
Jeff chuckled again and just shook his head to himself. Jessica was totally the favorite.
“I’ll go order the pizza and talk to your mom,” he said, standing up from the bed and leaving the room. He smirked to himself because his girlfriend had no idea at all what was really up his sleeve… 

* * * * *

Jeff entered the backyard to see how the progress on his surprise was coming along.
Bill and Marc had just returned from picking up takeout from an Italian restaurant in town where Jeff had ordered dinner for a surprise romantic dinner with Jessica. They had left it in the oven to keep it warm and went to assist everybody else in the backyard with setting up the surprise.
Hillary was placing white candles along a makeshift pathway leading from the backdoor to a dinner table set for two that Chelsea and Hayley were currently setting up.
“Jess doesn’t suspect a thing,” Jeff announced before he turned to his girlfriend’s oldest daughter. “Sophia, can you go inside and distract your mother?”
“Sure thing.” The teenager nodded with a smirk before she jogged inside the house.
“Can I light the candles, Grandma?” Shiloh, Jessica’s youngest daughter, sweetly asked Hillary. She and Jeff’s daughter, Mariah, were bored and didn’t really know what was going on.
Hillary just guffawed in her trademark way. “I don’t think that’s the best idea, sweetie.” She chuckled again and shook her head to herself. Shiloh was always cracking her up. “I’ll take care of that. But how about you and Mariah help Cassandra scatter the rose petals?” Hillary suggested with a warm smile.
“Okay!” The girls happily ran over to Hillary’s youngest daughter, their aunt Cassandra, happy to have been assigned a job to do.
Cassandra smiled at the two girls before she showed them how to delicately and elegantly scatter the dark red rose petals along the candle lit pathway and around the dinner table.
Hillary and Bill managed to suppress their laughter as the younger girls were more dumping the rose petals on the ground in big clumps rather than elegantly scattering them like Cassandra was, but it was the thought that counted.

* * * * *

 

Jessica looked over at the alarm clock on the nightstand in annoyance as her stomach audibly growled. Where the hell had Jeff gone? She was starving. It was taking him way longer to order the pizza then it should have.
Actually, now that she thought of it, the house was unusually quiet. Where had everyone gone…?
She picked up her phone from the nightstand and was aimlessly scrolling through Instagram when her oldest daughter, Sophia, poked her head into her mother’s bedroom.
“Hi, Mom.” The girl walked towards her mother’s bedside.
“Oh, hey, sweetheart,” Jessica quietly said, patting the empty space on the bed next to her as she gently smiled at the teenager. “How was your day?”
Sophia shrugged as she crawled into bed with her mom and pulled the comforter up and around the two of them. “It was fine, I guess.”
Jessica just nodded and ran her fingers through her daughter’s long golden blonde tresses that looked so similar to Jessica’s own. She knew that Sophia had been struggling in quarantine and that she missed James, she missed living in California and she missed seeing her friends in person.
“Have you seen Jeff anywhere?” Jessica asked her daughter, frowning. “I thought he was ordering a pizza but he’s been gone for a while…”
“Oh, I think he’s talking to Grandpa about something in the backyard.” The little white lie easily rolled off of Sophia’s tongue and she answered as cool as a cucumber.
Jessica rolled her eyes. Great… Once her stepfather got going and got involved in a deep conversation, he could be engrossed in it for hours. She really hoped that Jeff and her stepfather wouldn’t be talking for long because she was hungry.
However, she was pleasantly surprised when Sophia suddenly snuggled up to her mother and rested her head against Jessica’s shoulder, cuddling with her. Sophia wasn’t usually the touchy-feely cuddling type and was a sullen teenager most of the time who barely wanted anything to do with her mother.
Jessica often wondered what had happened to her sweet, innocent, cuddly, baby girl. She had grown up way too quickly and Jessica couldn’t believe that her little girl was already turning fourteen in only a couple of days. Where had the time gone??
So on the rare occasions that Sophia wanted to cuddle, Jessica was going to take advantage. She missed Jeff and was looking forward to spending some quality time with him that night, but she also enjoyed spending time with her oldest girl, one on one. It reminded her of what life was like when Sophia was a baby. Before James or Jeff or Sophia's siblings came along. When it was just her and Sophia against the world.
She often marvelled over how much her life had changed in the past fourteen years between getting married, having miscarriages and then eventually having more children, getting divorced, and eventually finding love again…
She was broken out of her daydreaming and reminiscing when Sophia suddenly spoke.
“You love Jeff, right, Mom?”
“Hmm, what was that?” Jessica asked, her mind not quite registering what her daughter had just said.
“You love Jeff, right?” Sophia asked again. “And he loves you?”
“What?” Jessica gave her daughter a quizzical look. “Of course we love each other, honey.” She gave Sophia a reassuring smile. “Don’t worry about any of that, honey. You leave all that grown up stuff to Jeff and I, okay? You just be a teenager.”
Sophia nodded and gave her mother a satisfied smile in return as she cuddled up closer to her mother. “Do you love Jeff as much as you once loved Daddy?” She asked curiously.
James was the closest thing Sophia had to a father and she was very close to her stepdad.
Jessica chuckled nervously, having not been prepared for this conversation. “What I have with Jeff is very different from what I had with your stepfather. It’s a ...different kind of love. I loved your stepfather deeply at one point in time, yes. But I also love Jeff very much.” She stared down at Sophia softly, her brown eyes searching her daughter’s face for answers. “What is all this about anyway?” She raised her eyebrows in confusion.
But before Sophia could answer, Jeff poked his head into the bedroom with Cassandra in tow.
“Finally,” Jessica exclaimed. “Where have you been?”
Jeff entered the bedroom carrying a black cocktail dress that would show off Jessica’s curves in all the right places,  while Cassandra followed him, carrying a curling iron in her hands.
“What’s all this?” Jessica asked, her eyebrows furrowing. This night was getting stranger and stranger by the minute. “Are we going out?” She frowned, worried. Restaurants had slowly started to reopen but her family hadn’t wanted to risk anything so they had still been quarantining and staying home as much as possible for the most part.
“No we’re not going out,” Jeff admitted. “I brought date night to us so I need you to come out to the backyard. I have something special planned. But first,” He handed his girlfriend the cocktail dress. “You’re going to put this on. And Cassandra and Sophie are going to help you with your hair and makeup.” He slyly smiled over at his girlfriend, with that charming smile of his that always left Jessica weak at the knees.
“Jeff.” Jessica sighed. She was hungry and exhausted and just wanted to cuddle in bed with a movie and some snacks. The last thing she wanted to do was to get all dressed up, even if it was just to have dinner in the backyard. “I’m exhausted. Can we do this another night? Let’s just watch a movie like we were planning. Pretty please?” She jokingly batted her eyelashes at her boyfriend.
“Jess.” Now it was Jeff’s turn to sigh. “We haven’t been able to go out on a real date in months. We deserve to relax and have some alone time.”
As much as he loved his girlfriend’s family and he was grateful that he and his daughter had been welcomed into the family with open arms, he sometimes missed pre-pandemic life, when he and Jessica had more quality alone time together. Plus, he had put a lot of thought and planning into this night in particular. “Just because we can’t go out, doesn’t mean we can’t have a nice date night at home.”
Jessica noticed the pleading look in her boyfriend’s eyes. Even Sophia and Cassandra were staring at her strangely, especially Cassandra. Her youngest sister’s big blue eyes were also staring deeply into Jessica's brown ones. 
And as charming as her boyfriend’s yearning expression was, it was Cassandra’s face which won her over.
Jessica just shook her head to herself and chuckled at her boyfriend and her baby sister as she grabbed the curling iron out of her sister’s hands. “Fine. A date night sounds lovely.” 

* * * * *

A little while later, after she had changed into the black cocktail dress, paired it with a pair of simple plain black stiletto pumps, applied her makeup, and Cassandra and Sophia had assisted her with curling her hair, Jessica stepped into the backyard, her daughter and her younger sister in tow.
As she closed the sliding glass door behind her, something seemed...different. This was no ordinary date night, Jessica realized.
There was a pathway lined with candles leading from the backdoor towards a dinner table in the middle of the backyard, which was set for a romantic candlelight dinner for two, with rose petals scattered around the backyard, and across the top of the table. There was instrumental romantic music playing softly in the background and two glasses of red wine were already poured.
But what Jessica found most unusual was that besides Jeff, her entire family, including her sisters and children, were waiting for her in the backyard. Shiloh and Mariah seemed lost in their own world as they played together off to the side, but everybody else seemed to have been waiting for Jessica. And Jeff looked uncharacteristically nervous as he paced back and forth in front of the dinner table.
Jessica’s Brother-In-Law, Marc, gently nudged him to get his attention, upon noticing that Jessica had entered the backyard.
Jeff stopped pacing and turned around. His breath immediately caught in his throat. His girlfriend’s beauty always took his breath away, whether she was walking around without makeup and in sweats, or if she was all dolled up like she was right now.
“Hey, honey.” Jessica gave him a nervous but reassuring smile. “What’s going on? Why is everybody out here with us?”
She had thought that Jeff wanted a romantic date night in, with just the two of them and the table was only set for two people…
So what the hell was going on?
Jessica walked over to her boyfriend and the two of them were standing in front of the dinner table together.
Jeff took a deep breath to settle his nerves before he reached down and clasped his girlfriend’s hands. Jessica smiled curiously up at him. “What’s going on, honey?”
“Jessica Dorothy Rodham, my life was forever changed for the better when I met you, just over a year ago. I never thought I would find love again after Lauren passed away and then...you came along.” His voice caught slightly at the mention of his first wife and his first love but he cleared his throat and pulled himself together.  He nervously smiled down at Jessica before he continued. “And if Lauren’s death and this pandemic has taught me anything, it’s that life is short. Too short to waste another minute. We’re not promised tomorrow. So Jessica Dorothy Rodham…” he dropped down on one knee and pulled a velvet ring box out of his pocket, presenting Jessica with a gorgeous princess cut diamond ring, “Will you make me the happiest man on earth and do me the honor of becoming my wife?” He gave his girlfriend a nervous but hopeful smile.
Jessica gasped as tears pooled in her eyes. They had discussed marriage of course, especially over the last couple of weeks, but this was completely unexpected. He had definitely surprised her.
“Yes…” she gasped out, as she brought her right hand up to her mouth in shock while Jeff slipped the engagement ring onto her ring finger on her left hand. “Yes, yes, yes!” She squealed, grinning excitedly as the weight of what had just happened started to sink in. “Of course I want to marry you!”
She continued smiling widely at her now fiance as he wrapped Jessica up in a tight hug and pulled her in for a passionate kiss while everyone cheered excitedly for the newly engaged couple.
“Get a room, you guys!” Jessica’s son, Lucas, jokingly yelled out, causing all of the adults to chuckle.
Shiloh and Mariah didn’t really understand what was going on but they came over and gave their parents excited hugs, realizing that everybody was celebrating something.
Chelsea poured the happy couple some celebratory champagne while Hillary was the first to officially congratulate her daughter and future son-in-law.
“Congratulations, honey,” Hillary said, with a big smile as she pulled Jessica in for a hug.
“Thanks, mama,” Jessica said in return as her mother lightly pecked her cheek. Jessica smiled to herself, realizing that this must be why her mother came home from DC unexpectedly.
“Congratulations, you guys,” Bill said, patting Jeff’s back, extremely happy for the two of them. He was glad that the proposal had gone according to plan. It reminded him of when he had proposed to Hillary the first time, all those years ago.
As Hayley showed Jessica the pictures she had taken to capture the moment, Jessica was relieved that by coincidence, she had gotten her hair and nails done a few days prior, once salons had been allowed to reopen in New York.
“Congratulations, you guys,” Hayley said as she took a few more pictures of the newly engaged couple.
“Thanks, Hayls,” Jessica replied, smiling warmly at her younger sister, glad that the teenager had helped to capture this special moment.
As Cassandra brought Jeff and Jessica’s dinner out to the backyard for the happy couple to celebrate with, Jessica’s stomach growled. She had gotten caught up in the moment and had forgotten how hungry she was. As Cassandra and Chelsea were making Jeff and Jessica’s plates, she realized Jeff had ordered chicken fettuccine alfredo, Jessica’s favorite meal from her favorite Italian restaurant in town. Her mouth started watering and she took a sip of champagne.
Jeff chuckled as he noticed the expression on his now fiancee’s face.
“We’ll leave you two lovebirds alone now,” Bill said, so that the happy couple could enjoy this moment and have some time to celebrate it in private. He wrapped his arm around Hillary’s waist and started leading his wife inside.
“Yes, let’s eat.” Jeff chuckled as he pulled Jessica’s chair out for her.
“Finally!” Jessica teased lovingly, staring down at her engagement ring in awe as she sat down to finally eat dinner.

* * * * *

Jeff was broken out of his reverie when a nurse came by to update them about Jessica. After learning that she was out of surgery and everything had gone well, Jeff and Hillary went to call the kids and the rest of the family to update them, while Bill offered to sit with Jessica until she woke up from the anesthesia.
As he took a seat by his daughter’s bedside, he thanked the nurse who was getting Jessica settled and taking her vital signs.
The nurse finished up and left the room to give her patient some privacy.
Bill took Jessica’s hand in his and gently squeezed it, smiling down at her. He took his face mask off and placed it in his pocket as he stared down at his sleeping daughter. She looked peaceful. He started to gently stroke her long blonde hair which was splayed out against her pillow, when suddenly her eyelids started fluttering and she slowly opened one eye, and then the other.
“Hey!” Bill smiled down at her, happy to see that the effects of the anesthesia were wearing off and that she was awake.
“Bill?” Jessica croaked out in a scratchy voice, surprised to see her stepfather there. “What are you doing here?”
Not that she wasn’t happy to see Bill, she was just confused.
“Chelsea had everything under control at home so I decided to keep your mom company,” Bill explained, softly smiling down at her.
Jessica just nodded slightly, her head feeling heavy as she did so. She was confused because they had been told that the hospital had strict rules about the number of visitors due to COVID but she was just happy and relieved to see her stepfather at her bedside and she was glad that her mother had had Bill by her side after all on this difficult day. 
“Are Mom and Jeff here?” Jessica asked, squinting up at Bill groggily.
“Mmm hmmm.” Bill nodded. “They just went to make some phone calls but they’ll be back in a few minutes.”
Jessica nodded and as if right on queue, Hillary and Jeff entered the room a few moments later. 
“Oh, you’re awake!” Hillary said, a mixture of relief and exhaustion displayed across her face as she took her face mask off and joined Bill at Jessica’s bedside.
Jeff stood on the other side of Jessica’s bed, across from his future in-laws and lightly pecked his fiancee’s forehead after taking his own face mask off.
“How are you feeling, baby?” he asked, giving her a gentle hug, relieved to see that she seemed to be doing okay, all things considered.
“I’m fine...I think,” Jessica answered, still feeling kind of out of it from the effects of the anesthesia but she wasn't in as much pain as she had expected to be in. “How are the kids?”
She missed her babies. She had to stay overnight at the hospital for at least a day or two and it had been a long time since she had last spent a night away from her children.
“They’re good. They send their love,” Jeff answered, gently squeezing his fiancee’s hand. “Chelsea was just about to start cooking dinner when we called. Everything’s fine. Don’t worry.”
Jessica nodded, knowing that her sister had everything under control. “Maybe we can call them before they go to bed?" 
“Of course we’ll call them, sweetheart,” Jeff replied, softly kissing the top of Jessica’s head again.
Hillary softly smiled to herself and reached for Bill’s hand. She was glad that her daughter had found somebody who loved her and treated her well.
“God, Sophia is going to have the worst birthday ever,” Jessica realized, with a guilt stricken look on her face. She felt guilty enough that her oldest daughter’s fourteenth birthday had been spent in quarantine and now her fifteenth birthday which was only a couple of days away wasn’t going to be celebrated under the best of circumstances either. She let out a harsh sigh, feeling like a terrible mother.
“Hey, none of this is your fault, honey,” Jeff said soothingly, gently stroking Jessica’s back. “Sophia understands.”
Hillary nodded in agreement and stared softly at her daughter. “Yeah, sweetheart. We can still make the day special for Sophia somehow.” They still had a few days to think of ways to give Sophia a fun fifteenth birthday party despite the ongoing pandemic and her mother's circumstances.
Jessica just nodded, too exhausted to argue.
“We’ll let you get some rest,” Bill suddenly said, giving his daughter’s hand one last gentle squeeze, noticing that Jessica was struggling to keep her eyes open, still not one hundred percent over the effects of the anesthesia yet.
Jessica nodded as she cleared her throat which was incredibly dry from the breathing tube that had been placed during the surgery.
Hillary nodded, agreeing with Bill as she quickly poured Jessica some water from the pitcher that was on the nightstand next to Jessica’s bed.
“Thanks,” Jessica said gratefully, smiling weakly up at her mother as she grabbed the plastic cup from Hillary. 
“No problem, sweetie,” Hillary replied, gently running a hand through Jessica’s long tresses one last time. She pecked Jessica’s forehead as her daughter yawned.
Hillary slung her purse over her right shoulder. She didn’t want to leave Jessica’s side but she knew she was in good hands with Jeff and the wonderful doctors, nurses, and hospital staff. Plus she wanted to get home to Hayley, Cassandra, and the grandkids.
She gave Jessica a gentle hug goodbye and pecked her cheek one last time before she put her face mask back on in anticipation of leaving the hospital.
“Goodnight, you guys. Get some rest,” Bill said to his daughter and future son-in-law, giving Jessica’s hand one last squeeze.
“Night,” Jeff said, smiling weakly at his fiancee’s parents, grateful for all of their love and support, especially over the last couple of weeks. 
“Love you,” Jessica weakly called out to them as Bill was putting his face mask on.
“Love you, too, baby girl,” Hillary replied, smiling at Jessica with her eyes.
Her parents waved goodbye to Jeff and Jessica just as Jeff was crawling into the tiny hospital bed with Jessica and snuggling up to her as Jessica's eyes were drifting shut. 
Bill reached for his wife’s hand as he closed the door to Jessica’s room behind them on their way out. “Come on, honey. Let’s go home.” 

 

To Be Continued...

 

Chapter Text

Bill put his phone to sleep and slipped it back into his pocket after reading his latest text from Jeff saying that Jessica was sleeping soundly. He sighed to himself, knowing that his daughter had a long road to recovery ahead but he was relieved that everything with the surgery had gone well at least. He stared down at Hillary, who was dozing with her head resting against her husband’s shoulder. They were being driven back to their Chappaqua home and were stuck in a bit of traffic. Bill gently ran his fingers through Hillary’s blond strands, figuring that she must be exhausted. It had been a long day for everybody but especially for his wife.
He quietly sighed to himself again and stared out the window when Hillary suddenly started stirring.
“Hey, go back to sleep, honey,” Bill whispered, squeezing his wife’s hand. “We still have a ways to go before we’re home.”
“That’s okay. I’m awake now,” Hillary said as she sleepily lifted her head off of Bill’s shoulder and stared into her husband’s eyes.
Bill stared at her softly in return, his eyes crinkling with a gentle concern for her.
Hillary stared out the window and looked lost in thought before she suddenly spoke a moment later. “You know what I’ve been thinking about a lot lately?” she asked quietly.
“What?” Bill gently prodded, reassuringly rubbing her right thigh with his long, elegant fingers.
“Do you ever wonder what would have happened if our paths had crossed at Yale?” She asked him, staring into her husband’s eyes once more.
They had both gone to Yale law school but at different times, graduating in different years and had not met until many years later, when they were both working at the same law firm.
Bill shrugged slightly. “Yeah, I guess so.” It was a natural thing to wonder about but Bill didn’t dwell on it. He knew everything in their lives, even the challenges and obstacles that life had thrown their way, had happened exactly the way it was meant to happen. For some reason, the universe hadn’t intended for them to meet in law school even though they very well could have been in each other’s orbit back then, and just not known it.
“Things would have been so different if we had met at Yale,” Hillary dryly remarked.
Bill nodded in agreement. “But everything happens for a reason.” He gently squeezed Hillary’s hand.
“Maybe I would have never met Nick,” Hillary pointed out. Then she never would have dated him or ended up at the New Year’s Eve party where a bit too much alcohol had led to Jessica’s conception.
“Yes, but then Jessica wouldn’t exist,” Bill pointed out, very matter of factly, not being able to imagine his life without his eldest daughter in it.
Hillary nodded, knowing her husband was right about that, also not being able to imagine what her life would have been like without her precious and amazing oldest daughter in it.
“Well, I probably wouldn’t have met Scott if we had been together back then,” Hillary pointed out in a quiet voice, hating to even speak her ex-husband’s name. She nearly shuddered at the thought of him. And if she had never met and befriended that man in law school in the first place, she would have never re-connected with him after going through a rough patch with Bill and gone through the terrible events that had happened in her life, nearly fifteen years earlier.
“Well, that’s true,” Bill conceded, also tensing up at the mention of his wife’s ex-husband, not liking to remember or think about that man either. “But you wouldn’t have gotten Cassandra out of that relationship either,” Bill pointed out, always the optimist. And he couldn’t picture their family without their youngest daughter either. Her arrival had completed their family. 
Hillary nodded and smiled slightly at the thought of her youngest, her sweet, sweet Cassandra. She was a daily reminder that beautiful things could come out of difficult times and she also couldn’t imagine what their family and her life would have been like, without Cassandra in it. 
She smiled to herself and laid her back down across Bill’s shoulder, wondering if she would have still run for and become a Senator had it not been for the things she had faced in her marriage to Scott.  After his death and after her and Bill had fallen in love all over again, She had finally gotten to share her story and  she had inspired thousands of women all around the world. Maybe her husband was right and everything in their lives had happened for a reason.
“Thank you for loving Cassandra,” Hillary suddenly said, lovingly staring up into her husband’s eyes. Every day she was in awe of how much her husband loved and adored Jessica and Cassandra, even though they weren’t related to him by flesh and blood.
“Of course,” Bill said, smiling lovingly down at his wife in return. “You don’t have to thank me.” He reassuringly squeezed his wife’s hand again, wondering where all of this was coming from all of a sudden, knowing that Jessica’s surgery must have brought up a lot of emotions and sentiments for Hillary that day.
“I love Cassandra so much. Just as much as I love Jess, and Chelsea, and Hayley,” Bill reassured her, leaning down to lightly peck the top of her head. "She's my daughter, too. Okay?" 
Hillary nodded and closed her eyes again, feeling absolutely exhausted.
Bill sighed, knowing that his wife’s exhaustion and stress was probably playing a role in all of the emotions and feelings that were suddenly bubbling up to the surface for her.
“Go to sleep, darlin’, and we’ll be home before you know it,” Bill whispered into Hillary’s hair, gently pecking her temple once more, eager to get her home so that she could get some proper sleep in her actual bed.
Hillary nodded, too exhausted to argue, as she let sleep finally overtake her. 

 * * * * *

When they finally arrived home a while later and sleepily walked into the house, they expected that most of the kids and grandkids would have already gone to bed or at least up to their rooms but instead they found Chelsea frantically running around the living room looking for something, while Shiloh was sitting in the middle of the living room floor, hysterically sobbing, in full meltdown mode. Charlotte, Shiloh, and Mariah’s toys were strewn all over the room.
“Oh dear!” Hillary exclaimed, wondering what had happened.
After quickly washing and sanitizing their hands in the kitchen, Bill and Hillary went back to the living room to figure out what the hell was going on.
Chelsea was quickly flipping over the couch cushions as she frantically searched for whatever it was that she was looking for. “It’s okay, Shi,” Chelsea tried reassuring her niece. “We’ll find Chelsea.”
Bill and Hillary realized they were looking for Shiloh’s favorite doll, Chelsea, who she had named after her Auntie. Shiloh wouldn’t be able to fall asleep without that doll. 
“Yeah, sweetheart, she has to be around here somewhere,” Bill said, as he started to help his daughter look while Hillary crouched down to Shiloh’s level and wrapped her arms around her granddaughter, trying to comfort the girl.
“Shh, sweetie, it’s okay,” Hillary soothed, gently running her fingers through Shiloh’s long dark curls. She felt a little bit stressed about the current state of the living room as she saw all of the toys that were strewn about but this is what happened when you had two six year olds and a one and a half year old living with you.
“I….want…Chelsea,” Shiloh sobbed out as big fat tears rolled down her cheeks.
“Where’s the last place you saw her?” Bill asked, trying to be helpful.
“Shiloh and Mariah were playing with her before dinner,” Chelsea said as she got down on her hands and knees to check underneath the couch.
Bill had opened the girls’ toy chest to check there when Chelsea suddenly made a triumphant exclamation.
“Found her!”
Somehow the Barbie doll had ended up under the couch. One of the girls must have flung her under there somehow while they were playing. Chelsea grabbed her and got up from the floor, walking over to her niece and handing the doll to her.
Shiloh’s crying had immediately stopped and her face broke out into a wide grin.
“Thank you!” She squealed excitedly, relieved that (doll) Chelsea hadn’t been lost forever. 
“You’re welcome, sweet girl,” Chelsea said, smiling down at her niece. She leaned down and gave Shiloh's forehead a light peck. 
“Now go get ready for bed with Mariah and grandma will be upstairs in a minute to tuck you girls in,” Hillary said, gently patting her granddaughter on the shoulder.
Shiloh nodded and ran upstairs, her barbie in hand.
Hillary and Bill couldn’t help but chuckle to themselves and shake their heads, happy that the crisis had been averted.
Bill decided to help Chelsea tidy up the toys in the living room while Hillary tucked Mariah and Shiloh into bed, and checked on the rest of their children and grandchildren.
On her way back from tucking Shiloh and Mariah in and reading them a bedtime story, Hillary poked her head into Hayley’s bedroom where Hayley, Cassandra, and Sophia were laying on their stomachs on Hayley’s bed, doing what teenage girls did, scrolling through social media on their phones.
“Hey, girls,” Hillary quietly said, not wanting to disturb them.
“Hi, Mom,” Hayley said, not looking up from her phone.
“Hey, Grandma,” Sophia said as she paused what she was doing and looked up at Hillary. “How’s my mom doing?”
“She’s fine, sweetheart,” Hillary reassured her eldest grandchild, smiling softly at the girl. “The surgery went well and she’s sleeping now. Which you girls should be doing, too.” She softly smirked at them, which elicited a chuckle from them. "It's late." 
“We’ll go to bed soon, Mom,” Cassandra reassured Hillary.
Hillary nodded. “Don’t stay up too late, girls,” Hillary told them. “We can FaceTime Jessie in the morning.”
The girls nodded in agreement, missing their mom and big sister respectively. They wanted to see her, even if they had to do it virtually due to the pandemic. 
“We won’t, Mom,” Hayley reassured her mother. 
Hillary nodded, not so sure about that because they were teenage girls after all but she kept her thoughts to herself.
“Goodnight, Mom. Love you,” Cassandra sweetly said.
“I love you, too,” Hillary said, softly smiling at the girls once more.
“Night, Mom,” Hayley said.
“Goodnight,” Hillary said, closing the bedroom door behind her before she checked on Lucas, said goodnight to him, and eventually made her way back downstairs to Bill and Chelsea.
They were in the kitchen where Chelsea was warming up a plate of leftovers from dinner for her father.
“Do you want something to eat, Mom?” Chelsea asked. “We have plenty of food.”
“Oh, sure, that’d be great,” Hillary answered, realizing how hungry she actually was.  She hadn’t eaten much that day due to the stress and tension of the day but she was starving, she now realized. “I can get it, Chels,” Hillary offered, noticing the dark circles underneath her daughter’s eyes. She knew Chelsea must have had a long and draining day as well, taking care of all of the kids and grandchildren, as well as her own daughter. “You go to bed. I got this.”
“It’s no trouble,” Chelsea reassured her mother, smiling warmly at her, as she started making a plate for her mom.
“Thanks, Chels.” Hillary smiled gratefully over at her daughter, wanting nothing more than to eat a nice dinner, take a relaxing bath, and sink into bed wrapped up in Bill’s arms. It had been an extremely trying day and she was exhausted.
“No problem,” Chelsea repeated, smiling at her mother in return. She had put Bill’s plate in front of him and was popping Hillary’s into the microwave when she suddenly started to look a little green and covered her mouth with her right hand, taking off in the direction of the guest bathroom.
“Chelsea?” Hillary called after her in concern, as they heard Chelsea begin to retch. She walked down the hall to the bathroom and lightly knocked on the door. “You okay, Chels?” She asked, her brows furrowing in concern.
“I’m fine,” Chelsea said as she emerged a few moments later, wiping her mouth with a washcloth. “Must have been something I ate,” she added, sheepishly as Hillary and Chelsea returned to the kitchen.
“I see,” Hillary said, not quite convinced, feeling like her daughter was hiding something from her.
“What’s going on, Chels?” Bill asked, also getting that feeling from the strange look on his daughter’s face.
“Nothing!” Chelsea insisted. “My stomach just didn't agree with something I ate.” She shrugged and lightly chuckled, trying to play it off.
“Chelsea,” Hillary said, giving her daughter a stern “Tell Me Right Now” look.
Chelsea sighed knowing there was no way she could keep it a secret now. She hesitated but figured she might as well tell her parents sooner rather than later. The truth was going to have to come out eventually. She sighed loudly before she just came out with the news. “I’m pregnant.”
“What?” Bill and Hillary’s eyes widened in surprise as the news sunk in before Hillary let out an enthusiastic cheer and happily wrapped her arms around her daughter. “Oh my God, honey! That’s amazing news! Congratulations!”
This news had certainly brightened up what had otherwise been a rough day.
“Yeah, congratulations, honey,” Bill said with an excited grin, also wrapping his arms around his wife and daughter, enveloping his two girls into a bear hug. “That’s wonderful news, sweetheart.”
“How far along are you?” Hillary asked, as she broke apart from their hug.
“Eight weeks,” Chelsea answered. “So Marc and I are still keeping it on the down low obviously but we are so excited for this new addition to our family!” She was positively glowing, sharing this news with her parents, ecstatic that Charlotte was going to have a sibling.
Bill nodded. “We won’t say anything until you’re ready to tell people.”
“Thank you.” Chelsea nodded but she suddenly looked concerned about something.
“What is it, honey?” Hillary asked, being able to read her daughter very well.
“Do you think Jess is going to be upset?” Chelsea asked, frowning slightly. “Considering, you know…”
While she was absolutely overjoyed about her second pregnancy, it had come at a bittersweet time. A part of her felt awful that it had happened at the same time that her older sister couldn’t have any more children and she didn’t want to upset Jessica with everything else her older sister was dealing with at that moment. Which was why her and Marc had held off on telling any family members about the pregnancy so far.
“Oh, honey,” Hillary said, smiling sweetly, thinking it was nice of Chelsea to be thinking of Jess’ needs during this difficult time, but she also felt bad that Chelsea felt like she couldn't properly announce her pregnancy because of Jessica’s situation. “You should tell your sister, Chels. I think she’ll be a little sad at first, yes, but she’ll also be ecstatic over the fact that she’s getting another little niece or nephew. She loves Charlotte so much.” She reassuringly rubbed her daughter’s shoulder and smiled softly at her.
Bill nodded, in agreement with his wife’s words and he stared softly at his daughter. “You have to tell Jessica, sweetheart. And soon.” 

 

To Be Continued… 

Chapter Text

One week had passed since Jessica’s surgery and the Clinton-Rodham-Ewing household had been settling into their new normal while Jessica was recuperating. Hillary had reluctantly traveled to Washington DC for a few days to attend to some urgent business in the Senate and Jeff had also returned to work at his job with UPS. While Jeff was at work and Jessica was resting, the rest of the family had had a nice, relaxing, family day outside by the pool.
They had just finished dinner and everyone had retreated to their separate corners of the house while Bill and Chelsea were cleaning the kitchen. It was Chelsea, Marc, and Charlotte’s last night in Chappaqua before they would be returning to their New York City apartment the following morning.
“Did you talk to your sister about the baby yet, Chels?” Bill asked in a hushed tone, while he loaded the dishwasher.
Chelsea sheepishly shook her head and nervously bit her lip as she carried the last couple of dirty dishes over to the sink. It was a conversation she had put off having all week, but she knew she needed to tell Jessica about her pregnancy sooner rather than later. Especially because she would be returning to the city the next day and it wasn’t a conversation she wanted to have on the phone or over a video chat.
“Why don’t you go on up and talk to her now?” Bill suggested, since Chelsea and Marc had already put Charlotte to bed for the night. “I think she’s watching TV in her room with your sisters. I can finish up here.” He gave his daughter a nod of encouragement.
“You sure?” Chelsea asked, with a small sigh, knowing she needed to get this over with.
“Of course.” Bill smiled supportively at his daughter. “Go.”
Chelsea nodded, knowing that her dad was right and that there was no time like the present to have this difficult conversation. 

* * * * *

“Jess?” Chelsea lightly knocked on Jessica’s bedroom door, not wanting to wake her if she was asleep. “It’s me. Chelsea.”
“Come in,” Jessica weakly called out.
When Chelsea opened the door a crack and poked her head inside the room, she couldn’t help but smile at the sight in front of her. Hayley and Cassandra were cuddled up in bed on either side of their older sister while the three of them were watching The Bachelorette together.  Shiloh was sound asleep, curled up on top of her mother’s chest while Jessica’s two tortoise shell cats, Lily and Shadow, were also curled up at the edge of the bed, snoozing.
While Chelsea was sure that their mother would not approve of Hayley and Cassandra watching The Bachelorette , it sure was one of the sweetest sights she had ever seen and she hated that she had to disturb the four of them.
“Hey,” Chelsea chirped, entering the room. “I brought you a hot chocolate.”
“Oh, thank you, Chels,” Jessica said, softly smiling at the younger woman while she accepted the steaming mug of hot cocoa from her sister.
Even though it was the middle of summer, and a hundred degrees outside, Chelsea thought that Jessica deserved a treat.
“No problem,” Chelsea replied, smiling at her big sister in return. “Um, can I talk to Jessie for a few minutes?” She asked her younger sisters.
Hayley nodded and paused the show. “Sure.”
Cassandra nodded in return and unfurled herself from Jess’s side.
“We can finish watching later,” Jessica told the younger girls, placing the mug of hot cocoa on the nightstand beside her. “Can one of you please bring Shiloh to her bed?”
“Of course,” Cassandra said, scooping her niece up, being careful not to wake the girl.
“See you in a bit, Jess,” Hayley said before the three girls exited the room.
Suddenly waking up from their naps, Lily pounced off the bed and chased the three girls out of the bedroom while Shadow crawled up the bed and made herself comfortable in Jessica’s lap.
“What’s up, Chels?” Jessica asked, patting the empty space on the bed next to her before she started gently stroking her cat’s fur. “Is Jeff home from work yet?”
“No.” Chelsea shook her head. “Not yet.”
Jessica sighed and nodded. Since he had been promoted to being a delivery driver for UPS, he had been working even longer hours than usual. He was usually out of the house before Jessica woke up and he got home around ten or eleven at night. The few days he had been off work to care for Jessica had been really nice but she understood that he needed to return to work in order to provide for their family. Especially with Jessica taking a medical leave of absence from work. 
“How are you feeling?” Chelsea asked as she crawled into bed, next to her sister. She pulled the duvet up around herself. 
Jessica shrugged slightly. “I’m okay, I guess. Just really tired still. I’ll probably go to sleep in a few minutes.”
She had been surprised that the pain after her hysterectomy hadn’t been as bad as she had expected. She had even managed to take a shower a few days prior, which had made her feel more like her normal self. But she had had terrible fatigue for the past week and couldn’t muster up the energy to do anything besides watch television for the past couple of days. So she had just been vegging out, taking it easy, alternating between watching trashy reality TV shows, and napping, for the past week. “So, what’s up, Chels?” She asked again, wondering what could be so important that Chelsea couldn’t say it in front of their younger siblings.
Chelsea decided that the best way to deliver the news would just be to come right out with it and say it. Similar to how she had broken the news to her parents. “Well, Jess. Since Marc and I are heading back to the city tomorrow, I feel like I owe it to you to tell you this news now. Before you hear it from somebody else.”
Jessica’s brows furrowed as she stared at her younger sister, curiously, wondering what the news was. 
“I’m…pregnant.” Chelsea gave Jessica a nervous but excited smile, wondering what her older sister’s reaction to the news would be.
“What?” Jessica stared at Chelsea in shock for a few moments until her face broke out into a wide grin. “Oh my God! Seriously?”
Chelsea’s own smile widened, as she felt relief that her sister seemed to be taking the news well, and she nodded excitedly. “Yup! I’m nine weeks along today.”
“Oh my God! Chelsea, that’s amazing! Congrats, sis. I’m so excited for you, guys,” Jessica replied, feeling genuine happiness and excitement for the younger woman. She leaned over and lightly pecked Chelsea’s cheek.
“So, you’re okay with this?” Chelsea asked, wanting to make sure that her older sister wasn’t upset or disappointed by the news. “Considering…” She couldn’t bring herself to say it so she gestured vaguely towards Jessica’s stomach area and Jessica knew what she meant, causing the older sister to let out a bitter, shaky sigh.
“Well, of course this news is bittersweet, yes,” Jessica admitted, finally letting her guard down, slightly. “But I really am so happy for you, Marc, and Charlotte. And I can’t wait to become an auntie again.” She weakly smiled at her sister and quietly sighed again. “Jeff and I did discuss having children before we got engaged. And we decided that if it was meant to happen for us to have a child together, it would happen. But if not, that we were happy and content with the children we already have. So I guess it just wasn’t in the cards for us.” Jessica looked down, sadly, not being able to meet her sister’s eye as Chelsea had started tearing up.
“Don’t cry, Chels,” Jessica said, trying not to tear up herself. She forced a smile. “This is a good thing. I'm so happy for you. Yes, this horrible, unexpected thing happened to me. And even though it took away my ability to bear more children, I already have three beautiful children, and the most amazing and beautiful stepdaughter. I’ll be fine.” She stared at Chelsea reassuringly and squeezed her younger sister’s hand. “I don’t want you to feel like you can’t celebrate your pregnancy because of me. This is amazing and joyous news. I’m so glad that you and Marc are expanding your family. Really.”
Chelsea nodded, knowing that her sister was right, that she had every right to celebrate her pregnancy, despite her older sister’s current situation. She was relieved that Jessica had taken the news well and that her older sister was excited for her, just as their parents had assured her would happen.
She looked over and noticed that Jessica was struggling to keep her eyes open.
Ever since the hysterectomy, waves of extreme fatigue would overcome Jessica completely out of the blue and one of these waves was starting to hit her now.
“I’ll let you get your rest,” Chelsea said, as she noticed her sister’s eyes drifting shut. She squeezed Jessica’s hand and lightly kissed her forehead.
“Thanks, Chels. Congrats again,” Jessica mumbled sleepily as she started to drift off to sleep. “Love you.”
“I love you, too, sis.”

* * * * *

Later that night, Jeff was finally home from work and Jessica had woken up from her nap. She was sitting at the kitchen table keeping her fiance company while he made a sandwich for himself. It was too late for him to be having a full dinner but he had worked a long shift and wanted something in his stomach before going to bed, so he had settled on having a sandwich.
He looked up from spreading mayonnaise on a piece of bread, when he heard his fiancee let out a sad and shaky sigh to herself. As soon as he had arrived home and greeted her, he had realized that she wasn’t in the greatest of moods. Right now she looked lost in thought as she stared into space.
“I switched shifts with someone so I have tomorrow off work,” Jeff announced. “Should we try to get some wedding planning done?”
Jessica just shrugged nonchalantly, not really paying attention to what her fiance was saying as her mind was racing uncontrollably.
Jeff frowned and bit his lip, wishing that his fiancee would open up to him. He knew that she had the tendency to shut down sometimes, and she had been shutting down more and more ever since her cancer diagnosis. He wanted her to have her space to process everything that was going on, but he also knew that she would feel a lot better if she talked to him about what she was feeling.
“I found a possible wedding venue that’s not too far from here that the owner said we can look at tomorrow, if you want?” Jeff suggested, wanting to get Jessica’s mind off of whatever was bothering her. “If you’re up to it, that is.”
“I don’t want to do any wedding planning!” Jessica suddenly said, a little more bitterly than she intended to.
“Oh.” Jeff was taken aback, not expecting her to have that kind of a reaction. “Okay, then. Well we’ll just relax here then and watch some movies. That’s fine with me.” He finished preparing his turkey sandwich and carried it over to the kitchen table, sitting across from his fiancee.
“I’m sorry, honey.” Jessica sighed, feeling guilty for the way she had reacted. “I didn’t mean it like that. But…what’s the point in planning a wedding? Who knows what’s going to happen with my health or with the pandemic in a month, two months? A year? Let’s just get married in the backyard here and have a big wedding celebration later.” Jessica had already had her dream, fairytale wedding when she married James. She didn’t need another one. She was perfectly content with a small backyard ceremony, if it would mean making Jeff her husband.That's all that mattered to her. 
“We’re going to have the wedding of our dreams because you’re going to kick cancer’s ass and this pandemic will hopefully be over some day. Don’t you want to celebrate our love, and celebrate the fact that we’re healthy and alive, in front of all of our friends and family?” Jeff gave Jessica an encouraging smile, always the optimistic one.
Jessica just shrugged and sighed. “Can we talk about it tomorrow? I’m really tired.”
Jeff sighed in return and nodded, respecting his fiancee’s wishes. He knew she had been battling terrible fatigue ever since the hysterectomy.

 

* * * * *

“What’s really bothering you, sweetheart?” he asked a few minutes later, after he had finished eating his sandwich. Judging from his fiancee’s demeanor, he knew something else was bothering Jessica, besides worrying about her health and the pandemic.
Jessica let out another shaky sigh, not sure if she should say anything since it wasn't her news to share but she had to remember that this was her future husband that she was talking to. She could tell him anything.
“Chelsea’s pregnant.”
“Oh.”
Jessica watched Jeff’s face as he took in this news. His forehead crinkled in concern and his brows furrowed, as he stared at his fiancee softly, worried about her and how she was taking the news.
“Are you okay?”
“She’s my sister and I love being an auntie, so of course I’m over the moon for her, don’t get me wrong,” Jessica started. She tried to force a smile but she still found herself tearing up. “But…it’s hard.” She sniffled and started crying quietly until her cries eventually turned into full on sobs.
“Come here.” Jeff patted his lap, as his heart broke, watching his fiancee fall apart like this.
Jessica nodded before she got up from the table and came around to Jeff’s side. She quickly scurried into his lap and buried her face in his shoulder, as he wrapped his big, strong arms around Jessica’s tiny waist.
“Hey, it’s okay. It’s okay,” Jeff soothed as Jessica sobbed into his shoulder.
“I love my children and Mariah so much and we’re very blessed to have them in our lives already but I guess I wanted to have a baby with you more than I ever realized,” Jessica admitted quietly as tears continued rolling down her cheeks.
“I know, baby. I wanted that, too,” Jeff finally admitted out loud in a sad, weary tone of voice. It had been weighing heavily on his mind for the last few weeks and even though he loved Jessica’s kids like they were his own flesh and blood, and he knew Jessica felt the same way about Mariah, he would always regret that he and Jessica hadn’t been able to have a child of their own.
He soothingly rubbed his fiancee’s back as her sobs started subsiding and her breathing started to even out. Tiredly, Jessica lay her head against Jeff’s shoulder.
“I feel like less of a woman,” Jessica admitted quietly. It was the first time she had admitted it out loud since her surgery. “I can’t even do the one thing that wives are supposed to do.” She let out a frustrated sigh, hating once again that this horrible thing had to have happened to her.
“Hey,” Jeff started. “Shhh. You are not less of a woman just because you don’t have a uterus anymore, okay? You are still the same strong, beautiful, brilliant, kind, witty, and amazing woman that I fell in love with. Your reproductive organs have nothing to do with that. Okay? Second of all, we’ve always said, if it’s meant to be. It’s meant to be. Maybe we weren’t meant to have a biological child together and God has other plans for us.”
Jessica nodded, knowing that Jeff was absolutely right. She smiled weakly to herself, feeling a little bit better after their talk.
“You’re right, honey,” she murmured. “Thank you. If it’s meant to be, it’s meant to be.” 
Neither of them knew what the future had in store. 
Jeff just nodded before he planted a kiss on the crown of Jessica’s head. He heard her yawning.
“Come on, let’s go upstairs. It’s very late,” Jeff whispered. “You need your rest.”
Jessica nodded, not wanting to argue with that. She was exhausted, as usual and she was starting to feel some pain coming on. She winced slightly from the discomfort.
“I love you, Jeff,” She said a moment later, staring softly up at her fiance with her big brown eyes. She weakly smiled again. “You always know how to make me feel better.”
“I love you, too, Jessica Dorothy Rodham,” Jeff replied quietly, smiling down at her in return. Before he carefully picked her up and carried his fiancee up to bed. 



To Be Continued…