Read His Bundle of Love / the Color of Courage Online

Authors: Patricia Davids

Tags: #Fiction, #Religious, #Romance, #General

His Bundle of Love / the Color of Courage (15 page)

BOOK: His Bundle of Love / the Color of Courage
4.67Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

She didn’t know how to respond. She longed to tell him of her love, but she knew she wasn’t worthy of him. Once he discovered her secret he would be as ashamed of her as Vinnie had been. She’d never be able to go out to eat with him and his friends because she couldn’t read a menu. She wouldn’t be able to read bedtime stories to Beth, or write a birthday card to his mother. Mick deserved better.

He loved Beth. He was willing to marry Beth’s mother to keep her safe. He was so noble. It was almost more than Caitlin could bear.

“Thank you, but no. Taking care of people is what you do. I understand that. But this isn’t the way. I won’t pretend that your offer isn’t tempting. It is. Only, not for the right reasons.”

“You’d never have to worry about food or a place to sleep ever again. Beth would have a mother and a father to look after her. What better reason is there?”

“Love for a child isn’t enough. I wish it were.”

He looked so bewildered. She opened her car door and turned away to keep her face hidden from him. She knew there was little hope that she didn’t look like a woman whose heart had just been broken.

Chapter Fourteen

E
arly the next morning, Caitlin stood at the curb and waited for the bus with her duffel bag slung over one shoulder. After tossing and turning for much of the night, she didn’t see that she had any choice. She had to get out of Mick’s life. She couldn’t face him day after day loving him the way she did.

Both Mick and Elizabeth had still been asleep when Caitlin let herself out of the house. She hated sneaking away, but she knew she couldn’t face them and not break down. She’d call as soon as she got settled. She could handle a phone conversation, but looking Mick in the face when she said goodbye was more than she could take.

At last, the bus pulled up in front of her. When the tall door slid open, she hesitated. No one got off and there wasn’t anyone else waiting to get on.

The stout woman driving asked, “Well? Are you coming?”

Caitlin chewed the corner of her lip for a second. “Is this the bus to Grand?”

“If that’s what it says on the front, honey, then it must be. Are you getting on, or not?”

Struggling to hide the shame that burned like acid in the pit of her stomach, Caitlin climbed the steps and dropped her fare in the slot. She found a seat and gazed out the window, taking note of the houses and landscape along the route. Once she got to Grand Avenue, she’d be able to find her way around. She knew that area. Finding her way back would be the tricky part. Street names didn’t mean anything unless they were numbers. Numbers she knew.

When the bus reached an area she was familiar with, Caitlin got off and walked the remaining blocks to the Mercy House. Relief flooded her when she spied Eddy working in the front yard. She walked over to where he was weeding a small flower bed.

“Hi, Eddy.”

The old man looked up, peering over the rim of a pair of glasses missing an earpiece. “Caitlin, is that you? How’s that baby doin’?”

“She’s getting better.”

“I’m glad to hear it. I pray for her every day. What are you doin’ here?”

“I’m here to stay for a while.”

“I’m sorry, Caitlin. We don’t have a room for you.”

“What? Are you sure?”

“I’m real sure. Pastor Frank thought you was gonna be stayin’ with Mick for a while. Last night a lady with four little kids came and Pastor Frank gave them the last room. I’m sure sorry about that. You want to check with Pastor Frank?”

“No.” Her hopes fell. So much for her great plan. “I guess I can stay with Mick a while longer. I was just hoping to get out from under his feet, that’s all. Maybe you can help me with something else.”

“What kinda help can an old, crazy fella like me give you?”

“I need a job.”

His brow wrinkled even more. “I don’t know of any work.”

“I do. I’ve got the want ads with me.” Caitlin handed him the paper.

Looking puzzled, he said, “I still don’t understand.”

Caitlin glanced around to make sure no one could overhear her, then leaned closer. “I need your help because...because I can’t read.”

“That ain’t a crime.”

“I never said it was.”

“You’re actin’ like it is what with this whisperin’ an’ all.”

Straightening, Caitlin regretted sharing her secret. “I don’t like other people knowing how stupid I am.”

“You ain’t stupid.”

“It’ll look that way when I can’t fill out a job application. I need to find work before Beth comes home. I have to be able to support us.”

“Pastor Frank can help. You’re not the only woman who has trouble reading.”

“Pastor Frank might tell Mick. I don’t want him to know. He’ll think I can’t take care of Beth. But I can. I just need to get a job.”

“Okay, calm down. What can I do?”

Caitlin led Eddy to a small bench in the yard. She sat down and handed him the paper. “Read these ads and help me find a job that I can do. I’ll do anything if it means being able to keep Beth.”

“Okay, sure, but what are you gonna do when you have to fill out their forms and such?”

“That’s why I need you to come with me. If they want me to fill out an application, I’ll ask if I can take it home. If they say yes, I’ll bring it outside, and you can fill it out for me. If they say no, I’ll find some way to sneak one out to you. I’ve got to have a job. Will you help me?”

He patted her arm. “Sure, I’ll help. You was always nice to me.”

“Thanks, Eddy. You don’t know what this means to me.”

* * *

Two weeks later, Caitlin looked up from her sketching to smile at Beth sleeping soundly inside her incubator. It was wonderful to see her making progress after all that had happened. Each day, Caitlin discovered something new about her daughter. Beth liked to sleep on her left side. She woke up hollering, but she calmed down as soon as someone spoke to her. She even seemed to like her mother’s off-key singing.

Studying her baby’s sweet face, Caitlin wondered if her own mother had ever watched her sleep this way. Had Dotty seen anything beautiful in her, or had she only seen a burden?

Pity for the woman who would never know her granddaughter welled up in Caitlin, and some of the anger she harbored toward her mother crumbled away.

Maybe this is what Mick means when he talks about forgiving those that have sinned against us.

Shaking off her somber thoughts, Caitlin concentrated on Beth once more. She needed only a small amount of oxygen and she was tolerating tube feedings of milk and sucking on a pacifier. Twice a day, Caitlin gave her small amounts of milk from a bottle. Beth slurped it down. If nothing else went wrong, she would be big enough to be discharged in a few weeks. But to where?

Caitlin was still staying at Mick’s, but things were tense between them. She’d been avoiding him because, sooner or later, her guard was bound to slip, and he’d see that she was in love with him.

In spite of Eddy’s help, Caitlin hadn’t been able to find work. The money from the sales of her sketches was adding up, but it wouldn’t be enough to last more than a few weeks even if she found a cheap place to live.

Beth’s monitor beeped loudly. Caitlin looked up expecting the usual false alarm. Beth had become a whiz at getting her toes or fingers tangled in her lead wires and pulling them loose. This time it wasn’t a false alarm; Beth’s heart rate had slowed to less than eighty.

Caitlin sprang to her feet. “Sandra, something’s wrong!”

The nurse came quickly. She opened one of the round portholes, stuck her hand in and began to rub the baby’s back, but her gaze stayed focused on the monitor. When Beth’s heart rate began climbing, Sandra looked in at Beth and asked, “Are you trying to scare your mother?”

“If she is, she’s doing a fine job. What’s wrong?”

“It looks like she had an apnea spell. It means she forgot to breathe. It’s common in premature babies, but it can also be a sign of a seizure. Did you notice her yawning or twitching or doing anything unusual?”

“No.”

“Then it may have been simple apnea. Preemies have nervous systems that are immature and sometimes, especially when they’re sleeping, they simply stop breathing. If it lasts long enough, their heart rate slows down, too.”

“Babies die from that, don’t they?”

“You’re thinking about SIDS—sudden infant death syndrome. It isn’t the same thing, but premature babies are more at risk for developing SIDS. I’ll let the doctors know about this. They may want to do a few more tests.”

“Like what?”

“Like checking her blood to see if the level of her seizure medication is right. It has to be adjusted as she gets bigger otherwise she’ll outgrow her dose.”

“If it’s this apnea stuff, what will they do?”

“We usually start them on a drug called caffeine. It’s the same thing you get in coffee or soda. Coffee keeps you awake and gives you a lift. This does the same thing for Beth. It will help keep her breathing when she does fall asleep. Most babies grow out of these spells before they go home.”

“What if they don’t?”

“In that case, they stay on the caffeine and they go home on a monitor that will alarm if their heart rate or their breathing gets too slow.”

“I’d feel better having a monitor. How do I get one?”

Sandra patted Caitlin’s arm. “You’re getting ahead of yourself. If Beth needs one, the doctors will arrange for it. If she doesn’t, you’ll have to treat her like a regular baby.”

“I’m not sure I can.”

“I know, but it’ll get easier. How would you like to try nursing her this time?”

“Really? That would be fantastic! Only, I don’t know what to do. I mean...I’ve never actually...well...she’s never...you know, nursed from me.”

Sandra smiled. “I think together we can find a way to manage. But I don’t want you to expect too much this first time. It will be new for Beth, too. Lots of premature babies don’t know what to do right off the bat. They can learn, we have ways to help, but don’t be too disappointed if she doesn’t latch on right away. I’ll get a pillow for you, and I’ll show you how to get ready for her.”

Sandra pulled the curtain around the cubicle to give them some privacy.

A few minutes later, Mick entered the nursery and made his way toward Beth’s spot hoping that he wasn’t too late for the afternoon feeding. Beth was still being limited to only short times out of her incubator, and he didn’t want to miss a chance to hold her. He saw that the curtain was drawn around her bed and wondered why. The sound of a giggle reached him and he listened intently.

“She’s getting it all over her face.” It was Caitlin’s voice, and she was clearly amused.

“Just stroke down on her lips until she opens her mouth wide, then shove it in.” Sandra’s voice followed. She, too, sounded as if she were struggling not to laugh.

“I think she’s got it.”

“I don’t think so, but she’s trying,” Sandra answered.

“Wow! I feel that.”

Sandra laughed. “Okay, that is a positive sign.”

“She’s doing it.” Caitlin’s voice was full of joy.

Mick knew he should leave, but his feet were rooted to the spot. Bands of love, pride and happiness tangled around his heart and squeezed. Caitlin had worked so hard to be a successful nursing mother. The two of them deserved this special time together.

Sandra said, “I’ll be back in a few minutes to check on you. Call if you need anything.”

Mick took his cue and left the room before they knew he was listening in. Fifteen minutes later, he came in again and saw the curtain was open. Caitlin held Beth in the crook of her arm. A soft light shone in her eyes and a happy smile curved her lips. “Mick, I’m glad you’re here.”

He smiled back feeling foolishly proud as he settled into a chair beside her.

During the past weeks, Caitlin had been avoiding him. Using the excuse of job hunting, she had been gone from the house for long hours if he was home. Whenever he tried to bring up how he felt about her, she practically ran out of the room. He tried to remember not to push, but it got harder every day.

Sandra came back to the bedside. “There are some people in the waiting room who would like to see both of you.”

Caitlin looked curious. “Who is it?”

“They said they were friends of yours. One of them is a pastor.”

“It must be Pastor Frank,” Caitlin said. “It’s fine if he comes in.”

A few minutes later, Caitlin looked up and smiled. “Eddy! What a surprise. Come in.”

“Are you sure it’s okay?”

“Of course it is. Come and meet Beth.” She raised the baby higher in the crook of her elbow. “Eddy, meet Elizabeth Anne Williams. Beth, this is the fellow who saved us both by getting the ambulance the day you were born.”

Eddy propped his trembling hands on his thighs as he leaned forward. “Sheesh! I ain’t never seen a baby so small.”

“She’s a lot bigger now than when she was born,” Mick said, hiding his hurt and disappointment. Caitlin had called her Elizabeth Anne Williams, not O’Callaghan. He shouldn’t have expected Caitlin to think of Beth as bearing his name. Legally she did, but not in her mother’s eyes.

“Sheesh,” Eddy said again, clearly in awe.

“Sit down,” Caitlin patted the chair beside her. “Would you like to hold her?”

Eddy straightened and waved his hands. “Oh, no. She’s too little. I might drop her or something. Maybe when she’s bigger—and walkin’. I got a present for her down at Mercy House.”

“You didn’t have to get us anything.”

“I know. It ain’t much, but you’ll be needin’ it.”

“What is it?”

“I ain’t gonna tell ya, but when you take this cutie to yer new home, it’ll be waitin.”

Caitlin sent Mick a questioning look. He shook his head. He had no idea what Eddy was talking about.

“What do you mean, my new home?” she asked.

“Oh, I wasn’t supposed to say nothin’. Pastor Frank was gonna tell ya himself. I guess I’d better go and let him come in. She’s real cute, honey. Thanks for lettin’ me see her.” He gave a short nod, sniffed once, wiped at his eye then fled from the room.

A few minutes later, the pastor joined them. He grinned at Caitlin and the baby. “My, she is a tiny one. Babies never cease to amaze me. What a wonderful way God chose to start people.”

He took the seat beside Caitlin. “I have some good news, but I think Eddy spoiled my surprise. I’ve found an apartment for you. It’s not much, only two rooms over a garage, but it’s sound, and it’s close to the hospital. And the first three months rent will be free.”

“A place of our own, for real? How?” She looked at Mick.

“It wasn’t me.” He listened to Pastor Frank’s news with a sinking heart. It often took the man months to find homes for the women at his shelter. Mick had expected Caitlin would be with him for weeks yet. Certainly until after the baby came home. He didn’t want her leaving. Not now—not ever. He wanted to see her bright and beautiful face every day.

“The Lord moves in mysterious ways,” Pastor Frank continued. “Out of the blue I received a call from one of my parishioners about having a place for someone. It was too small for the women at the shelter who all have several children and the two elderly women with us couldn’t manage the stairs. But it seemed perfect for you. The place is empty now. You can move in right away. It even has some furniture.”

BOOK: His Bundle of Love / the Color of Courage
4.67Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

Other books

El monje by Matthew G. Lewis
Almost Home by Barbara Freethy
Sweet Thing by Renee Carlino
Thieftaker by D. B. Jackson
The Other Guy's Bride by Connie Brockway
On Wings Of The Morning by Marie Bostwick
Fortune by Erica Spindler
Being There by T.K. Rapp