October 27, 1868
Colonel Fleming's estate
The late October moon streamed through the large windows as Katherine walked slowly and carefully through the ballroom, her lips pursed as she stepped softly from one square misshapen pool of light to another. It was going to be full within the week from the strength of the light, large and clear. Even now, it cast almost crisp shadows through the panes of glass, drawing dark lines on the parquet floor and shining colorlessly through the crystals of the chandeliers and reflecting in the mirrors on the walls. Absently, she stopped and then stepped with gravid grace through the footwork of a waltz, the hem held high so she didn’t fall.
A smile slipped on her face as she moved and giving into the whim, she changed her movements and began to spin and step with fey grace. Her feet were slowed, her body not as light as it once was, and she took care with each move, but the little girl inside gleefully abandoned the formal steps of the waltz and guided her through the random movements of joy across the darkened floor. Like a fiery cape, the curls and waves of her hair flowed around her, the folds of her dressing gown rippling gently in the wind of her movements. She was tired in just a few moments and she stopped to go lean against one doors to the garden, panting softly as she regained her breath, her mind wandering. At least, she thought, breathing had become easier in the past week, but the children had taken to stomping on her bladder as they had shifted position.
She had been restless for most of the evening and yet had gone to sleep easily only to wake again after only a few hours sleep. Knowing she would wake her husband, she had slid carefully from their bed, easing her way to the floor and her slippers, and had held her breath as he had stirred. But after a moment, Ezekiel relaxed, slipping deeper into sleep and she crept quietly from their room to pace the house. The great house was silent, everyone asleep, and she made her way down the wide staircase to the first floor and the quiet solitude found in the rooms downstairs.
The babies were not due for another month. After the trauma of the attack onthe house, she had secretly fretted that the twins would come too soon and thepains in her stomach the past few days had not helped that. Had Hanny not been there. . .had Selene not been there. She refused to think about it for more than a moment. But the babies had settled down as her body had healed, stayed put, just jostled for space as they continued to grow. She had had some cramping in the past few days, but the pains had relented. Until tonight.
Her husband’s faith in the Lord was comforting; he had no doubt that He would watch over his wife and their children. And she knew in her heart of hearts that he was right. Half conscious, her head in the old feline sorceress’ lap, her body fighting itself to cast out and yet hold onto the twins, she had almost thought that she felt the hand of God on her belly, a gentle reassurance that everything would be okay. But still she found herself fretting and tonight, unable to sleep and too restless to stay in bed, her feet had led her the ballroom and the music in her head had made her dance. A familiar spasm in her middle made her grimace. They were coming closer, not stopping. Walking had been a bad idea.
With a wry smile, she found herself remembering abruptly that walking kept a horse from going into labor, but that in humans it did the opposite. “Well, my little inner librarian,” she muttered softly to herself, “you might have found that fact sooner.” With a soft groan, she began to make her way back to the stairs, her fingers lightly on the walls for support.
Her water broke as she climbed awkwardly back into bed and she gasped, alarmed, giving out a soft cry.
He woke to her voice immediately and her eyes went to his, fearful and worried as he helped her get in beside him. “Get Selene and Hanny and your mother,” she announced before he could voice the scolding that was in his eyes. “They’re coming, love.” She lay back in the pillows as he left he room and tried not to cry. She had not managed to keep the babies inside as long as they needed and had more than like caused them to come early with her childish need to dance in the moonlight.
When Ezekiel returned with the women, she reached for his hand, her eyes seeking his. “I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have danced. But I couldn’t help it. Please pray for the children that they are strong enough to make it. I’m so sorry.” Tears began to stream from her eyes as the room began to light up as servants lit the gas lamps and the house began to awaken with the news.
"There is no need to cry, love," Ezekiel said calmly, although his heart pounded through his chest like the beating of horse's hooves on the road. He had no need or desire to pass his fear onward to his wife. "I will talk to God, but he would not have given us this gift to have taken it away so cruelly now."
He grasped his wife's hand firmly, wanted to try and impart his love to her. When she looked away briefly, Ezekiel looked over at his mother, looking for personal reassurance. His mother was the only person who he would ever let seethe doubt that sometimes resided within him.
Lady Miriam reached over to stroke a lock of unruly hair from Katherine’s forehead as she smiled at him. “Katherine, may I borrow my son?”
Her eyes were wide but the red-headed Eldren nodded as one of the maids gathered her hair to tie it back with a ribbon and put more pillows behind her to prop her up. Around them, the women were moving efficiently, bringing bowls of hot water as Hanny and Selene directed them in laying out clean towels and folding back the linens of the bed.
With a wink to Katherine, his mother drew him away from the bed, patting his arm tenderly. “She will be fine, Ezekiel,” Lady Miriam reassured him as she led him to the door. “So will the twins. You, go wait in the study with the Colonel and we will send for you when the babies are here.”
Ezekiel was startled, a look that he was sure shown on his face like a lantern in the dark. He had known that birthing was the domain of the women. But he had, for whatever the reason, expected that he would be by her side the entire time. Perhaps because he had a hard time imagining her struggling with the pain and not being there to comfort her.
"They'll be fine?" Despite knowing...hoping that they would be, he found the words just came out anyway. He found himself no longer the master of his own self, an experience that he should be experienced with, yet still left him out of sorts.
His mother laughed gently at his dubious look/words. “I had three boys, you among them. She’s carried them long enough for them to be fine and healthy. You could see that she had started carrying them lower in the past fortnight. I knew that my grandchildren would be coming soon. Go wait my son and we’ll send someone soon enough.” Looking back, she followed him out into the hall, watching him as he cast glances back into the room. "Ezekiel, let the women do what the women do."
Lady Miriam shut the door behind her son and turned with a sigh. She could not let him stay. In case there was trouble. The girl was having twins for her first birth. Although she had faith, Miriam was far too practical to be foolishly optimistic. Better that Ezekiel be away at least until the pains of labor consumed the attention of her daughter-in-law, made her stop worrying herself into a tizzy that she had harmed the children. Better that Katherine concentrate on breathing and birthing than her husband. Besides, the Colonel would be fretting knowing his only child was upstairs doing that which had taken the life of his own wife. Even if the two men didn't talk, there would be comfort found in being in the same room.
With a calming smile, she slid into the bed with Katherine and began to pat her hand as Selene accessed the progress of the birth. "Katherine, please hush. You didn't hurt them. My grandchildren will be fine. They're coming and I need you to concentrate and help them. Can you do that?" Her voice was even and her blue eyes sought the green onesas she gave Katherine a gentle smile. "Can you?"
The red-headed Eldren nodded, sniffing back her tears, and Lady Miriam smiled brightly. "That's my good girl." She looked at Selene and Hanny who had finished their inspection. Hanny had commanded a chair and Selene leaned against the bedpost. The catwoman merely shrugged and looked to her godmother. Hanny grinned.
"We're on their schedule ladies" Hanny observed wryly. "Now we wait." She yawned. "Hope they come quickly."
The sun was breaking through the branches of the trees when a maid knocked timidly on the study door. “Sirs,” she announced, barely hiding her grin, giving them a shallow curtsey. “Lady Drake requests that you both follow me.”
Ezekiel had spent the long hours conversing with God. The conversation, in this case, had perhaps been one sided, but Ezekiel couldn't really blame Him. Nothing but the sight of his wife and newborn babies would quiet the questions in his heart and mind. So when the maid came in and announced the news, Ezekiel leapt to his feet and quickly followed by the maid, possibly too close for societal convention. But societal convention could take a flying leap for all he was concerned. His wife and children awaited him.
There were shadows under her emerald eyes, but she had been dressed in a new gown and dressing gown and the babies were swaddled and cradled in her arms. “Ohl ove, look at them,” she stated with wonder, clearly worn out, but beaming, her eyes shining.
Ezekiel came up to his wife and his new babies, a look of pure amazement on his face."They are beautiful, love. *You* are beautiful and a wonderous creature indeed." He looked in closely at the babies and smiled a bit befuddledly."Would you be angry if I said I am not sure which one is which yet? They are still new to me and I did not have them close to me in the same way you did.”
Katherine laughed tiredly and nodded to each in turn as she lifted them a little to show them off. “This is Samuel and this is Rachel. Would you like to hold your son and daughter?” She smiled at Lady Miriam who sat serenely by the bed, her lovely face full of happiness. “It might be your only chance. I had to almost wrestle your mother to hold them now.”
“In my defense, Ezekiel, she’s had them for almost eleven months. I just nowgot to hold them.”
“They were inside,” Katherine countered with a soft giggle and a fond smile for her mother-in-law.
His mother winked at her son over the bed and rose to her feet. “Let me go to see if I can coax the Colonel through the door from the hallway. Unles she’s has much better sight than I, I don’t know how he plans to see the children.” She came to Ezekiel and hugged him tightly. “Here dear,” she stated once she released him, “let me hand them to you one at the time.” Reaching out, she took Samuel and gave him to his father and thenpicked up Rachel. “Tell me when you’re ready.”
“I knew you would find another reason to hold them,” Katherine teased gently. But her eyelids were heavy and she looked beyond them to the doorway where her father hovered and barely stifled a yawn. "Father, do come in."
Ezekiel held his children close to him, so fragile and yet so very strong, having survived so much on their way to join him and their mother. It must be a very strange new world for the two of you, he thought as he looked first at Rachel then at Samuel. But God will watch over you...overall of us. He kissed each baby on the forehead and then turned to showthem to his father-in-law. "Colonel, they are healthy, fine representatives of your family line. Katherine has done well...and is well."
The Colonel nodded proudly from the doorway, relief showing in his eyes as he studied his daughter. "Nicely done Katherine. I look forward to meeting them at breakfast later." He turned and clapped Ezekiel's man on the back, making no room to enter inside. "Come with me sir and celebrate with cigars and brandy. Gather the senior staff. You come too, young man!" he offered to Ezekiel jovially.
"When I get a chance, sir." Ezekiel didn't particularly feel excited about that prospect, but it was important to spend time with his father-in-law too. He turned back to his wife. "You should sleep, love." The babies were a warm bundle in his arms and he felt as complete as he could remember feeling.
She nodded sleepily, her face full of drowsy contentment. "They've fed my love. If you want to take them to get to know them, then I'm certain they will let you know when they are ready to come back. I have no doubt that your mother will help if you want."
"I would like that very much." He looked over at his mother, who nodded at Ezekiel before checking on Katherine to make sure she was fine. Then they both quietly backed out of the room, with Miriam softly shutting the door behind her. When the door was shut, Ezekiel turned to his mother and said, "Would you mind taking Rachel? I think I would like to be able to hold each one by themselves briefly." He found that it had not taken long for him to be able to see the differences between the two babies.
Miriam took Rachel from his arms and rocked her gently. "They are beautiful babies, my son. You and your lovely wife have done well. Of course, your work is really just beginning."
Ezekiel nodded as he looked into his son's eyes as he ran a hand across his soft cheek."I know. A whole new set of challenges await. But Katherine and I are thankfully not alone." He looked at his mother and smiled and then briefly raised his eyes to the heavens. Thank you, Lord. I promise I can find time both for you and for them. And he looked over at Rachel and then down at Samuel and smiled at God's miracle.