Thursday, November 24th
Michaela had anticipated nothing, calculated nothing. She had been so certain Dr. Bernard would tell her to monitor her cycle closely, or any other advice she had given herself to her patients more times than she could count in those very circumstances, that the news that she was indeed pregnant, and furthermore, three months along already, had taken a few minutes to register, and then she was hit by sheer terror and utter bliss at the same time.
Terror because she was overcome by all the things she still ignored about caring for an infant, one she would have to feed at her breast, bathe, keep from harm... Most importantly, one who would be her own flesh and blood…The enormity of the responsibly to raise a little one from scratch. This time there would be no Charlotte to give the child a solid foundation… Terror because of all the things that could go wrong, a miscarriage, death in utero, a hard labor in the middle of nowhere with no doctor in sight should she need a cesarean section… But then, she remembered that she had climbed a mountain, had taken quite a rough tumble down a crevasse, had galloped all over Colorado Springs on Flash, had lost sleep countless times... but through it all, the miracle of a little human being growing inside her was still unfolding. And blissful were her tears as she cried openly and shamelessly in front of the obstetrician, who was smiling benevolently as he confirmed her pregnancy.
Dr. Bernard had been efficient and thorough. They had discussed plainly about her cycle, her diet, her sleep schedule, her fall, the mild bleedings she had mistaken for monthlies, the precautions she should take, and what to look for… And yet, he had spoken to her as a physician as much as an expectant mother, never dismissing her concerns or treating her as a child, which had immensely put her at ease. They had worked out the day of conception and her due date… She could not wait to tell it all to her husband.
Upon arriving to the reservation, the second she spotted Sully, she felt herself literally flying into his arms, carried by the wings of her delirious happiness. She only had eyes for the father of her child. Their child. They might as well have been the only two people on earth as she blurted out excitedly:
"I – We are going to have a baby!"
Sully was as incredulous as she had been, obviously prepared for anything but this.
"How – how d-do you know?" was all he could managed.
"Dr. Bernard examined me."
"You sure?" It was unbelievable that, after all their worries, their disappointments, all their failed attempts at finding moments of privacy, and all the misgivings thrown in the midst, it all did not matter in the end.
Beaming, Michaela assured him: "It's true! I can't believe I didn't know it myself."
It was true. She was saying it was true… So his intuition of the past few weeks, ever since he had returned from Nevada and started noticing some subtle changes in Michaela's appearance and behavior, had pointed in the right direction, and her present elation was only confirming it.
"A baby?! We're gonna have a baby?" he repeated, the joy so tremendous his voice cracked.
"Yes!" She squealed, falling on her husband's neck. In triumph he picked her up and spun her around, momentarily forgetting there were people about as he kissed her passionately.
Before long, the Cooper children, their friends, the whole town surrounded them, and it was a cacophony of congratulations and good wishes. There was so many questions he needed to ask, there was so many answers she wanted to give, but with this new reason for giving thanks, their private discussion would have to wait till the end of the festivities.
They only came home long after nightfall. Brian, Colleen and Matthew were still talking animatedly about all their hopes and plans for their future sibling, so enthused with the prospects that their adoptive parents could barely get a word in edgewise.
It was Matthew who had the last word, though: "Reckon we still got plenty o'time to get ready to welcome our baby brother or sister. We betta let Dr Mike an' Sully get some sleep while they can, huh?"
They all laughed, and after exchanging hugs and good nights, they all went to their respective rooms, while Sully returned to the barn to unhitch the wagon and rub down Bear. Matthew had offered to take over the chore but, as much as Sully wanted to know everything the doctor had told Michaela, he also needed a few minutes of solitude to digest the implications of this second chance at being a father.
Michaela did not worry. She knew him well enough to understand this momentary withdrawal. After lighting her bedside lamp and setting fire to the kindling in the chimney, she took the opportunity of his momentary absence to undress and examine herself.
She smiled as she now regarded from a whole new perspective the strain on the buttons of her bodice and how the strings holding her skirt and underclothes were shorter. She also shed her bloomers and camisole and then studied her blossoming figure, standing au naturel in front of her mirror. How could she have missed the signs? Her hips looked wider, the curve of her waist much less pronounced, her breasts were heavier and more sensitive, though the areolas had not yet enlarged – but they certainly looked darker. Veins were starting to draw their bluish web across her bosom. But the most puzzling aspect of her reflection was the light bump just below her navel that had definitively not been there that very morning… how could it be?...
She swiveled on her feet when she heard Sully coming in. His eyes feasting upon her nude form, he closed the distance in two fast strides and took her in his arms to spin her around. Their euphoria had not abated in the least, and they just had to kiss, still revolving on the spot, laughing against each other's lips.
Sully eventually set her back down before the mirror and moved to stand behind her. Lovingly, he cupped the soft bulge that was their baby, while pressing more kisses to her shoulder.
Still caressing her belly, he murmured: "This wasn't there this mornin', or are my eyes playin' tricks?"
Michaela chuckled: "I was wondering about that when you came in. But now I remember it has happened to some of my patients. It seems that sometimes, when a woman is too anxious, or believes herself to be infertile… well it's not until she finds out she's expecting that she starts showing. Remember how fast Myra grew bigger after I told her? And she was nearly five months along already!"
"Now that you mention it… yeah, she did…. That happens often?"
"No, not that often… but I certainly felt silly for ignoring the signs that were already there, and if Dr Bernard hadn't reminded me that doctors are seldom rational about themselves, I would have been mortified by such a display of incompetence."
"I dunno about that. Seems to me it ain't about bein' a good doc or a bad one, but that you was sorta confused…Anxious, you said… ya know, something was tellin me you were already pregnant, but I couldn't find a way to ask ya. I should've tried harder, I guess…"
Michaela turned to look him in the eyes.
"Oh Sully… Don't you go blaming yourself for this. You did tell me, remember? You kept giving me hints, and *I* ignored them all. Or more accurately I chose the wrong interpretation every time – as I told Dr Bernard…"
"Tell me everything he said," he asked eagerly.
She chuckled, imagining Sully sitting at her desk, eyes unfocused, looking bored out of his mind with all the medical terminology.
"I don't think you want to know everything I discussed with Dr. Bernard, Sully." She laughed again, and her eyes twinkled mysteriously. "However, I think the likely date of conception, and when our baby's due, might be of interest to you."
"Sure. When's the baby gonna be here?" He sounded almost like a little boy eagerly asking about Christmas
"First things first. We highly likely conceived our little one on a certain September afternoon… remember that day when you came with me to gather willow bark?"
"Oh yeah… wait – d'you mean?... We made our baby under our tree?"
She beamed as she nodded and rose to her tiptoes to give him a short yet fervent kiss. She sobered however, and said:
"Well, at least that's the most probable time, but it's not always exact, you know… and –"
"And it's nice to think we did," he interrupted her, "but wherever we made our baby, most important thing is when it is comin'…?" he pressed impatiently.
"Based on Dr. Bernard's calculations, our son or our daughter should make their appearance on the first of June."
The mere mention of the date rendered Sully speechless with trepidation and awe. He could only enfold his wife in his arms and hold her ever so gently, as if afraid she might break.
Michaela was not surprised by Sully's demeanor. She knew his history, she knew all the fears he still harbored, fears that had brutally resurfaced when Clayton lost his baby daughter, and Ginny barely escaped the same tragic fate. And it was her role, both as wife and doctor, to reassure him, now.
"I'm fine, Sully. I'm healthy, I'm strong, and our baby is, too," she asserted with growing confidence.
"You're the strongest person I know," he answered, pressing his brow to hers, his hands going again to her belly. There, under the small mound, a tiny human being was growing, its mother not just anyone, but Michaela. His Heartsong, he thought, overcome with yet another wave of rapture that brought tears to his eyes. He could not remember feeling so many conflicting emotions years before, when Abagail had told him she was pregnant. Of course, back then he had no idea what was at stake… The fear of losing Michaela was once again rearing its ugly head, but he would have to find a way to harness it, or he would make himself crazy with worry. He would make her promise not to take any risks…
Risks. Oh my god… His eyes snapped open in alarm.
"But… what about… you climbin' Pike's Peak?... your fall up there? 'Chaela, you could have –"
"I know, Sully. I understand how worried you are. But don't you see? The baby is still there, and my body is definitively changing. Dr Bernard agrees with me that the risk of a miscarriage is unlikely now. If I take good care of myself, there's no reason I won't have a smooth pregnancy and a normal delivery. He simply advised against riding a horse, and I am to get plenty of rest and nutritious food…"
"I'll see to that!" Sully vowed fervently.
"You may have to take out a loan for the sole purpose of feeding me… I'm hungry again!" she joshed, grinning, referring to her ravenous appetite during the Thanksgiving feast that had everyone around her smile knowingly.
Sully laughed indulgently, relieved and gladdened by her light-hearted mood.
"Get into a nightgown and under the covers while I'm gettin' ya somethin' to eat," he said, giving her forehead a loving kiss.
But Michaela had other ideas. She was fiercely determined to show her husband that she was the epitome of health, and that he would not be needing to breathe down her neck for the next six months.
Dropping her voice to the sultry contralto that never failed to stir him, she intoned: "Forget the snack," and aimed for his lips again, her kiss clearly indicating that it was not really food that was foremost on her mind.
Taken aback by her ardor, Sully momentarily let himself respond with equal passion. It was still so rare that she took the initiative that he was aroused within seconds. And how could he resist the feel of her skin, softer than ever under his hands? Yet, with tremendous effort, he wrenched himself from her embrace.
"Better… better not start somethin' we can't finish, 'Chaela," he panted.
Earlier in their marriage, Michaela would have taken such a rebuff of her advances as a personal affront, and her fragile self-confidence would have plummeted. But tonight, she understood what could be going through her husband's mind to make him suddenly so reluctant to be with her.
"We can finish. It's perfectly safe," she said, taking one of his hand and lifting it to cup her breast. He gulped then sighed as he ever so gently caressed it, his enjoyment of her blossoming figure undisguised, but still he remained hesitant to go any further.
"I promise it won't hurt me, or the baby," she tried again.
"You sure?" he repeated anxiously.
"Positive." With that she led him to their bed and proceeded to undress him. She could not remember ever feeling this empowered when about to make love. Was it because, now that she no longer had to worry about whether she might conceive or not, she could focus on her true wants and dedicate herself entirely to their mutual pleasure? Possibly. Or was it because, for once she was the one with the knowledge, the one in charge? Whatever it was, she relished in the onrush of excitement that washed over her, and the heightened sensitivity of her body when he finally relented and began caressing her all over.
Despite her repeated assurances that there was no risk whatsoever for the baby, Sully tried his best to remain cautious and gentle, letting her set the pace, but it soon proved unsustainable with how enthusiastic and uncharacteristically adventurous she was. She was staring at him so intently, so greedily, as she pushed him to sit up against the headboard, that his heart was beating completely out of any kind of rhythm, making him dazed and quite helpless. Yet, when she boldly knelt across his thighs and moved to take him in, he stalled her.
"Huh-huh, no more ridin' ya said!"
Michaela froze for a second, reddening at his double entendre, but she would not be deterred:
"This kind's allowed," she let out with a sultry purr, though she turned even redder. She had never uttered anything that risqué in her life!
Despite one last tiny shred of misgiving that kept nagging at his conscience, Sully was however too aroused to back down and stop it all at this point.
"I got a better idea. Turn around," he muttered, groaning softly when she so willingly complied. Where had his proper Boston-bred wife gone? Not that he minded that much this rarely seen facet of her personality! Even after six months of marriage, she still usually waited for him to make the first move, and any verbal teasing would remain quite innocent. Her unprecedented boldness tonight was almost too much to take at once, but he still enjoyed it immensely.
When she was settled across his lap, he pulled her close, her back flush against his chest. He grinned to himself. This was perfect, he had unrestricted access to her most sensitive areas, and the position would allow for her growing belly when she would get further along. And she could set the tempo at her leisure…
Sully's alternative turned out incredibly sensual, and much more tender and intimate than she anticipated. He plied her neck and shoulders with kisses and touched her everywhere she loved most as they moved together unhurriedly. All the voluptuous sensations she usually derived from their lovemaking were suddenly magnified, so that when she reached her first peak of pleasure, she stayed there for some time, each powerful pulsation blurring into the next. She was no longer in control of anything, but as she was long past being afraid of that, at least when it came to intimacy, she completely and joyfully surrendered.
Overwhelmed by her incredible response, Sully could no longer contain his own. Every cell of his body, of his brain were set ablaze until they exploded, leaving nothing but a blissful numbness.
Later, they were lying down, snuggled spoon fashion under the covers, Sully's hand instinctively cradling the slight swell of her belly. Michaela was already dozing, exhausted by the emotional day, and of course by the pregnancy itself. Sully felt drained as well, but he could not close his eyes right away for all the feelings assailing him, oscillating between shock, wonder, concern, felicity. The reality of his Heartsong carrying a precious, new little life in the safety of her womb was finally sinking in, taking hold of his heart.
He still clearly remembered the moment when he had first dreamed of Michaela holding a newborn child – a child who just might be his one day. It was the night Red McCall had sung that lullaby while she was rocking the drifter's baby son to sleep. She had such a natural, strong nurturing side, she had so much love to give, he had already known what a wonderful mother she would be, and he had fallen in love with her all over again – like he had needed more reasons…
Michaela started with a pained groan, jostling Sully. He instantly felt a stab of panic, belatedly berating himself for letting his desire for her get the best of him. How weak is the flesh…
"'Chaela', you hurt?"
She blinked wearily as she craned her neck to look at him.
"No… but I'm still hungry," she bemoaned.
The next second, they were roaring with laughter.
 See Missing words
 See short story "The Loving tree"