Thursday, August 19, 2010

Chapter Ninety-Five

Chapter 95

Jun 4th – Things have been real quiet. We were supposed to go to church today but the weather has looked so scary that Rand doesn’t want to leave Sparkleberry Ranch. I can’t blame him. I hate when the sky has that nasty green tinge to it. Still no rain but I’m thinking we might see something soon; there has been some really odd, cold breezes come out of nowhere.

June 5th – I’d no sooner written those words last night than we had a brief hail storm followed by a heavy down pour that lasted almost an hour. It was scary the way the wind whipped and shook things. Rand went out this morning and two huge limbs were in our road. He used the mules to pull them to the side and then he and Austin went to check on folks.

It wasn’t good. Not many people saw the hail but the heavy down pour caught a lot by surprise. Momma O’s family was okay and so was most everyone else on our side of the county but word at the Shack was that down in Mayo and further south outside the county in Bell and Trenton, the damage was pretty extensive. Lots of downed trees. Both the rivers were able to hold the water and keep any flooding at bay. Maybe that was the reason for the drought, so that the rivers and streams and ponds would be low enough to hold the rain to keep something worse from happening.

I’m just beat all to pieces. Scared myself for one. I thought I really was in labor but with both Rand and Austin away I didn’t have any choice but to let things be whatever it was going to be. But it stopped. It must have been that false labor, those Braxton-Hicks contractions, that the books and the other women have spoken to me about. The worry did more harm than the scare did.

I never realized, not really ever given myself a chance to realize, that I’m scared. I’ve hurt before and I know you survive it, especially since I know that it will be over with at some point, but I’m scared all the same. To think that some little person is going to come out of me, possibly ripping me to up in the process … I can’t tell you the dreams I’m starting to have about it. If I write the dreams down it means that I’m going to have to admit to being scared.

I haven’t told Rand about it because I already know he is scared and worried. He hasn’t said as much in so many words … well, maybe a little … but he’s been trying really hard not to show it. He still thinks about LauraBeth and what she went through. And I think he thinks about the other stories we’ve heard about how the birth is going OK one minute and then suddenly there is some major emergency and no one to help with it. Sometimes the stories still come out all right but a lot of the time they don’t. I guess that is why the old cemeteries are so full of babies and women who have died giving birth to them.

Gak … morbid. I just have to have faith. But at the same time I can’t be blind to what might happen … not what will but what might.

I’ve been making a notebook. I haven’t told Rand about it, nor Austin. It is a book about a lot of stuff that if something happens to me, the last of my family, I would want someone to remember. Most of the stuff in the notebook is good. And it has been good for me … therapeutic … to remember it and write it down. But some of the stuff hasn’t been good. But, it has still been good to write it out. It is the kind of stuff that teaches life lessons, about my mistakes that I don’t want my kid to repeat.

If something does happen, that notebook will be for whoever is left … the baby … or Rand. Gosh, I’m making myself cry. Better stop before Rand asks why.

June 7th – I’ve finally got everything for the baby finished. All the stuff for the cradle and the baby bed. All the little clothes. I’ve gotten the diapers sewn and the little covers to go over the diapers. I decided to do everything in yellow and green. Actually I didn’t have much choice to do everything in yellow and green, it is the only yarn and embroidery floss that I had in any quantity.

I finished the edging on the last spit up rag as Rand and Austin were sitting down to a late lunch. And get this … Rand asks, “Why are you bothering to put a lace edge on a rag the kid is going to puke on?”

“Because I can. I want the baby to have … stuff to use that doesn’t look like it comes out of a rag bag.”

“But it did come out of a rag bag. Right? You didn’t use trade goods to buy something like that … did you?”

So what if I did. I contribute plenty to the stuff that goes to the Shack. I don’t know why Rand had to get so bent out of shape about it. He’s never acted that way before. I don’t know why he had to act that way today. He got all snippy and started lecturing me … me of all people … about being more frugal and being responsible.

I was so surprised that I just sat there and took it. Then he got up and stomped outside and went back to work. I sure as heck don’t know what burr he sat on.

June 8th – Rand is still foul and now I’m foul. We got in this really big … well it was big but we had to whisper so that Austin couldn’t hear us … argument. It was after we went to bed last night. He wanted to cuddle and I have to tell you I was just too tired and hot to cuddle and well, one thing led to another and he started acting all weird and saying stuff that totally isn’t true. Like I only think of the baby. Or, I never pay him that particular kind of attention anymore and don’t want to either.

Personally I think he’s lost his marbles or something. I’m fat. I’ve got stretch marks that are competing with my scars, neither of which will ever go away. I’m hot. No matter what I do I can’t get away from it. I can’t even enjoy a cool bath anymore because Ken says that it might not be such a good idea. I’m so big and so far along I can’t get in and out without a lot of help and I could get hurt. None of my shoes fit so I’m barefooted or in tired sandals all the time which shows my legs and only a couple of pieces of my clothes fit … and that’s if I don’t mind that they’re so tight you can see my stomach ripple with the baby moves. And I feel like I have an alien inside me. Yeah, I’m going to feel like doing that sort of stuff when I feel like this. Right. Sure I will.

We’ve only been talking to each other because we don’t want to upset Austin. I suppose that is something to work with but still … first the lecture on money like I’m some kind of spendaholic bimbo and now he acts like I don’t have any consideration at all for his feelings.

Oh no … more thunder. That’s all we need.

Jun 9th – Rain. And rain. And some more rain. Either Rand is going to go out of this house for a while or I am. I’m so mad I could just about spit. You know, if he is scared that is one thing but he’s making me feel like I’m disgusting or something and I’m … I’m …

I think I’m gonna cry. What did I ever do to wind up in this kind of situation?

June 10th – Wash day … in the rain. It was either wash or watch all the dirty clothes mildew and ruin. Rand acted like I was out of my mind and then complained that I had laundry strung all through the house like a hillbilly housewife … and threw in the barefoot and pregnant remark just to get a little dig in.

We aren’t speaking to each other at all now. He made me so mad I threw a pair of his wet underwear at him and they caught him in the face and the look of surprise caught me off guard and I started to laugh.

Then he really went off how I didn’t appreciate anything. That he was stressed out and it was shaving years off his life and had I seen that he’d actually started having gray hair and … and then I lost it and left the room and went upstairs to the hidden bonus room and locked the door and had a long cry.

He did try to come up a couple of times but I was still pretty wasted and I screamed at him to stay away and leave me alone since I didn’t seem to suit him anymore. He stopped after a while and I guess I fell asleep on the pallet up here. I got up because I had to use the outhouse but it was too dark and the house was all locked up so I used the bathroom that Austin uses at night.

He just went to bed, left me up in that hot attic space. I guess I can’t blame him. I don’t know what is wrong or what we are coming to. I thought having a baby would be joyous and happy, make us even more of a family but it is so scary and it seems to be doing just the opposite.

I’m so tired I just don’t know what to do anymore.

June 11th – Church day. Doesn’t seem any day is restful any more. I couldn’t sleep hardly at all last night. My back was killing me and I doubt I’ll sleep much tonight after what I heard at the services.

Bandits are getting really bad. You can't go anywhere anymore unless you are armed and most people won't travel alone anymore either ... and won't leave their homes unattended. The cause is supposedly the drought that has ruined a lot of peoples’ gardens. People have reverted to taking what they need whether anyone else wants to give it to them or not just like after the collapse.

The heat, the humidity, the drought followed by these intense rains we’ve been having, the bandits … the news is sobering. I didn’t like the news but at least it took my mind off of my own troubles.

Then the service. Talk about guilt tripping. I swear I wonder how Ken knows just what to preach to make me squirm. It was all about family and how husbands and wives are supposed to treat each other, how men and women are supposed to act. It made me feel worse because it didn’t look like Rand was feeling anywhere near as guilty as I was feeling.

I was so uncomfortable on those old metal chairs. Rand snipped at me to stop squirming and distracting him. I felt the tears welling up and he looked like he was so satisfied by that. I escaped to help with the dinner on the grounds as soon as I saw some of the other women leaving. As soon as I got to the tarp that had been set up all I heard from several ladies was, “Aw Honey, we didn’t expect you to help. We didn’t put you down for anything. Why don’t you just go back inside.”

Well, going back was the last thing I wanted to do so I wandered off behind the building to find a little shade even if I did have to fight the mosquitoes for a share of it.

“Child, come out from them bushes. You’re gonna get chiggers if nothing else.” Nothing like Mrs. Withrow’s commonsense to put me in my place. “Now, you walk with me over to that fountain and you tell me what’s wrong.”

“I didn’t say anything was wrong,” I protested.

“You’re mouth didn’t but I can tell it all the same. And that husband of yours doesn’t appear to be acting himself either.”

I was going to lie to her. I really was. Then it all just came pouring out. All of it … how I was feeling, how Rand was making me feel, how only thinking of how I felt made me feel selfish and therefore worse, how I didn’t understand why Rand was acting like he was acting, just all of it. I kept waiting for her to laugh or tell me I was overreacting, that it was nothing but hormones.

“Come here child. Let’s go sit on that bench over there.” When we were settled, neither of us particularly comfortable on the hard stone, she said, “Now, I can’t tell you why Rand is acting like he is acting. It does sound out of character. Could be for several reasons or he might not have a good reason at all. He might be tired. Or he could just be worried about all the new responsibility that will be coming his way with this baby … and he could be scared that he might be facing those responsibilities on his own if the Good Lord decides to call you Home. Do you want someone … maybe Ken … to speak to him for you?”

“No!” I told her. “Definitely not. I can only imagine that would make it worse, embarrass him … and me. I just don’t know what I’m doing wrong. And If I’m not doing something wrong, what the problem is all of a sudden. I mean the world might be going crazy but Sparkleberry Ranch was a place that … that separated us from all of that. It was out there but it didn’t come home with us. Do you understand what I mean?”

She nodded her head like some kind of wise Buddah, “Sure do. Your house is your home and your home is your haven from the world.”

“Exactly,” I told her.

“But you know you can’t just run away and hide from what is going on. And Rand is out in it more than you. He’s more than likely bringing the worries home with him and you are sensing it even if you don’t know for sure what you are dealing with.”

“So that means that I’m the one not cutting him enough slack.”

“Not necessarily,” she said. “Like I said, I can’t speak for Rand. I do remember what it felt like to be this far along. And I imagine you are pretty worried about what is shortly to come.”

“It’s … it’s not the pain, not really. I’ve lived with pain off and on for a long time … well, a long time to me. I know that pain comes and pain goes. I think … I think I even have the idea of being a mother down now. Austin helped with that a lot. So did remembering my own Momma and how … how she wasn’t perfect but she loved me with her whole heart. I don’t know what it is exactly … just kind of a feeling of … of impending doom.”

“Why child? Why do you think you feel this way?” a thread of concern in her voice.

“Because the other shoe always drops,” I told her finally putting into words what I’d only been dancing around even when I talked to myself. “Things always happen to take away … to take away … “ I couldn’t finish it. Then I whispered, “I’ve been happier these last months than I think I ever have been my whole life, even with all of the bad stuff that has happened. But nothing lasts forever. Nothing. At least not in my experience.”

There. I’d said it. Nothing lasts forever.

I think she was going to say something but then there was a scream, not of fear but of anger. Mrs. Withrow and I moved at about the same speed these days so we limped our way over to where the ruckus was going on. There was a crowd and I heard a woman’s voice screaming, “I don’t care! Take it away!! Get rid of it. I don’t want it!!! It just about killed me and now it is sucking the life out of me. I can’t take this anymore!! If you don’t get it away from me I’ll do something to it. I swear I will!!”

“Oh dear,” I heard Mrs. Withrow whispered. “It’s that woman from over on River Road. She just had a baby … her man left a few months back and hasn’t come back … her mother has been worried about her, said the birth turned her brain.”

“It” turned out to be her baby. The only time she would calm down is when the baby disappeared from her sight.

Then another woman went and picked up the baby where it had been flung to the ground and drew it to her like it was the most precious thing in the world. I saw her look at the man with her with pleading and pain-filled eyes. Mrs. Withrow whispered to me, “That’s Margaret Timberlake. She had a baby girl but it died the next day and Ken still isn’t sure why. It only just happened. Look at her dress; she wants that baby so bad.”

Mrs. Timberlake's bosom area was drenched and likely not from sweat. I guess the baby crying had made her milk start up and all the emotions and everything with it.

It was two hours before things were settled. We stayed the entire time to continue the dinner on the grounds, people need to eat and this was the only really good meal some of them got between services, but also because Rand had been asked to be a witness to all the papers and everything that the Judge eventually wrote out and had both families sign and the witnesses too to make sure no one was being coerced.

The little girl, called Daisy, was going to go live with the Timberlake family for at least a year with no recourse by the birth mother. This was to ensure that Daisy would be nursed until she could be safely weaned with no danger to her health. At that time the birth mother had one week to make known her intentions to ask for Daisy to come back to her and the request put before the Judge and a group of responsible citizens of the district. If she did not object, or was found to be an unfit mother for some reason, the adoption would become permanent. The birth mother’s parents were heartbroken until Margaret Timberlake said that she would never think of excluding Daisy’s maternal grandparents from her life and hoped, that if their daughter ever did take Daisy back, that she’d be allowed to keep in touch with the little girl.

I don’t see that it was a perfect solution, given all of the unknowns of the future, but it looks like the best one that could have happened with the options that were available. I overheard several women discussing the possibility that the birth mother was suffering some kind of post partum psychosis. There used to be drugs and psychotherapy to help women that suffered from that. I bet there were a lot of women who were locked up in asylums in the old days that could have suffered from something like that. Rotten hormones causing a chemical imbalance in the brain … you didn’t have any say over it happening or not. How horrible to have to protect your baby from yourself.

June 12th – From bad to worse.

I’m sitting here in the orchard trying to catch a breeze after check on the plum trees. That hail storm didn’t help them but the damage doesn’t look catastrophic now that the trees have had a few days to heal. But that isn’t what I was going to write about. It has been a rough morning and it is either sit down and write it out or just fall down.

If it wasn’t bad enough at church services yesterday, news of a major raid at the Henderson Ranch had us scrambling this morning. You know the raiders are bold and arrogant if they did something like that. Rand was called to help first thing this morning. I didn’t want him to go but I couldn’t very well tell him not to, Mr. Henderson and Mitch and the rest of them have done so much for us. And it bothers me that we still haven’t quite made up though we are being carefully polite to one another. I hope that is a good sign. I’ve determined that no matter what Rand and I are going to talk it out tonight.

He and Austin came back for a few minutes to let me know that it was mostly OK. Some injuries but the attack was so odd. Maybe they were desperate but they did more cosmetic damage to the ranch’s wall than real damage to the ranch itself. Rand and Austin went back to help clean up some more and to try and see if they could figure out the weirdness.

That’s odd … they just left and now here they are again. Why would they …………………….

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