Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman
A Cherished Reminder
by Debby K
Michaela sat at the kitchen table writing and rewriting on a piece of paper.
"What ya doin?" Sully came down the steps.
"Working on a list for Brian and Matthew," she replied.
"List?" he lifted the lid on the cooking pan. "Why d' they need a list?"
"Sully," she reminded him. "When I'm at the Clinic awaiting the birth of the baby, I want to be certain that they know what to do."
He grinned, "They've been by themselves before, Michaela. They know what t' do."
She changed the subject, "Is Katie sleeping?"
"Yep," he nodded and sat down beside her.
She looked at her list again, "I've packed a bag for my stay."
"Michaela," he placed his hand atop hers. "The baby ain't due for two weeks."
"Katie was early, remember?" she returned to her list. "I don't want to take any chances this time."
He lifted the paper from her hands, "I think ya need a break from lists."
"But...." she tried to protest.
"But, ya got no good reason t' not take one," he helped her stand. "Come on in here, an' let me take care o' ya."
Sully guided her to a more comfortable chair in the living room. Then he lifted her swollen feet onto a stool.
"Oh, my," she saw her feet. Then she felt something, "Sully! Feel this!" She placed his hand on her abdomen.
He grinned, "Feels like hiccups."
She sighed in fatigue, "I wish I could sleep."
"Why don't ya?" he began to massage her feet.
"It's so difficult to get comfortable," she shook her head.
Suddenly a strange expression crossed her face and she pulled the shawl around her.
"Ya cold?" Sully noticed.
"No," she spoke uncomfortably.
Then a tear trickled down her cheek.
"Michaela," he was concerned. "What's wrong?"
"I don't have the energy to go upstairs and change my dress," she was embarrassed.
"Change your dress?" he wondered. "Why?"
She opened up the shawl and revealed the spotting on her chest.
"Here," he rose up. "I'll go get ya another dress an' help ya change down here."
"Thank you," she was feeling more and more helpless.
He bounded up the steps and quickly returned. Helping his wife stand up, he gently unbuttoned her dress, aided her in cleaning up, and replaced it with a clean garment.
"Better?" he wrapped his arms around her.
"I'm so embarrassed," she looked down.
"Why?" he kissed her. "No one's here t' see, an' it's perfectly natural. Just means you're body's ready for the baby."
"I know, but..." she was interrupted by a sweet kiss from her husband.
"Now," he grinned. "Ya warm enough? I was gonna bring in some more logs for t'night."
"Go ahead," she nodded. "I'm fine."
He put on his buckskin coat and headed out for the woodshed. Michaela went to the frosty window and watched. How she adored him, she thought as she rubbed her abdomen. She could tell from the baby's position that there was not much time left. Perhaps less than the two weeks they anticipated.
Winter had come on with a vengeance, and the temperatures had dropped significantly since morning. With Brian at school, and Matthew in town meeting with a client, she worried that they might get frostbite on the ride home. Seeing Sully make his way up the steps with an armful of logs, she opened the door. A blast of cold air burst in.
Quickly, she closed the door behind him. Sully dropped the logs at the hearth, and stood by the fire for a few moments to warm himself. Michaela returned to the chair.
"Sully," she broached the subject. "I think we should talk about something very important."
"What?" he rubbed his arms.
"A name for the baby," she smiled.
"Got any ideas?" he walked toward her and sat down at her feet.
"A few, but I want to hear yours first," she said.
"Well," he massaged her legs. "I think if it's a girl, I'd like us t' name her Charlotte."
"That's a wonderful idea," she caressed her belly. "Matthew, Colleen and Brian would be thrilled to have their mother remembered in that way."
"She was a strong an' remarkable woman," Sully recalled fondly. "An' she took care o' ya when ya first came t' Colorado Springs."
"I think I may have a middle name for Charlotte," Michaela added. "Ingrid."
"Charlotte Ingrid Sully," he let the name roll off his tongue. "That's a mouthful for a little girl."
She chuckled, "No more than Katherine Elizabeth Sully."
"Maybe our girls could win a contest at school for the longest names," he joked.
"I have a feeling we won't be needing a girl's name," she rested her hands on her large abdomen. "It's going to be a boy."
He smiled. "How d' ya know?"
"From the moment I found out I was pregnant, I've just known it," Michaela replied.
"So, what d' ya wanna call him?" he played along.
"Well," she hesitated. "I know how you feel about names like Byron."
He raised his finger, "An' Ezra."
She laughed, "But I want him to have at least a part of your name."
"He will," he answered. "He'll be a Sully."
"I suppose Ulysses is out," she made a face.
"After the president?" he recognized.
"He gave you back your freedom so that you could return to us," she reasoned.
He cleared his throat, "I'd like our son t' be named Josef."
"Josef?" she smiled. "After my father?"
"He never did get that little boy he wanted," Sully reached out for her hand. "His loss was my gain."
"Thank you, Sully," she linked her fingers in his. "He would have been honored."
"How 'bout Josef Grant Sully?" he incorporated her choice.
"Perfect," she felt a twinge. "Boy or girl, either name would be a cherished reminder of people who have meant a great deal to us."
"Ya all right?" he sensed her discomfort.
She tried to shift her weight, "I think it's the way I'm sitting." Looking toward the window, she asked, "What's it doing out there?"
Sully rose to his feet and peered out, "Snowin'. Startin' t' come down real hard."
"The boys aren't due back for several hours," she was worried.
"They can take care o' themselves," he assured her. "If it gets too bad, they'll just stay at the Clinic."
"With our luck, this little one will decide to make his appearance during a blizzard," she teased.
"Michaela!" Sully gulped. "Don't even joke about it!"
Teresa Slicker looked out the window of the schoolhouse. The sky was dark and the air filled with snow as fine as flour. A howling wind created sounds as it passed through chinks around the window.
"Brian," she called to her favorite student. "Please go out and bring in as many logs as you can. And be sure to bundle up."
One of the smaller children spoke up, "I'm scared, Mrs. Slicker."
"Do not be frightened," the teacher forced a smile. "We are safe inside." Then she addressed the class, "Students, as you can see, the weather has become very bad. I am not going to dismiss you to go home on your own. If your parents come to get you, then you may leave. However, the way the snow is coming down, I am afraid you might not make it if I were to let you go on your own."
"Some o' the kids live pretty far, Miss Teresa," Brian observed.
"I know, Brian," she smiled. "We shall be safe here."
Michaela had finally fallen asleep in the chair when a strange sensation awakened her. It was Katie rubbing her belly.
Seeing her mother's eyes open, the little girl grinned, "Mama big!"
"Thank you for reminding me, Sweetheart," Michaela shifted her position.
Suddenly a tingling sensation ran down her legs, "Sully!"
He ran in from the kitchen, "What's wrong?"
"I need to get to the privy," she reached up.
He helped her stand and walked her to the door.
"Mama okay?" a worried look crossed Katie's face.
"Sure," Sully was not certain.
He knew by the expression on his wife's face when she came out of the privy that things were not okay.
"Michaela?" his eyes reflected his concern.
"Please help me upstairs," she spoke urgently.
He quickly scooped her into his arms, calling over his shoulder as he carried Michaela up the steps, "Kates, stay right here 'til I come get ya."
Gently placing his wife in their bed, he took her hand, "What can I do, Michaela?"
"First take care of Katie," she felt another sensation.
He ran down the stairs and lifted the frightened little girl.
Kissing her cheek, he spoke softly, "Kates, Mama's gonna have the baby pretty soon, an' I need ya t' wait in your bedroom while I take care o' her."
"Baby comin'?" she was excited.
He started up the steps, "I don't know how long it's gonna take, sweet girl, but I gotta tell ya what t' expect."
"What I spect?" she wondered.
"Mama's gonna be screamin'," he tried to explain. "It's gonna be real loud, but I need ya t' not be scared. Just stay in your room."
"Mama gonna huwt?" her voice quivered.
"She is," he did not want to lie. "But she's gonna be okay. Just stay in here an' look at your books, play with your doll, an' don't worry. All right?"
"All wight," she nodded shyly.
He closed Katie's door behind him, dashed back into their bedroom and sat down beside his wife.
"Is she all right?" Michaela reached for his hand.
"Yep," he was out of breath. "How 'bout you?"
"My water broke downstairs," she told him. "It's happening again, Sully."
"I know," he grasped her hand. "Seems like our babies don't wanna be delivered by a real doctor."
She forced a smile, "I guess they want their Papa to bring them into the world."
He stood up, "I'll go get your medical bag. Anythin' else?"
"Clean towels and cloths," she felt a contraction.
Seeing her pain, he sat down again and clasped her hand. Michaela tried to contain her scream, but it was impossible.
When it passed, she panted, "Oh, Sully!"
"I'm here," he rubbed her arm.
"Katie must be wondering," she looked toward the door.
"I tried t' prepare her," he stood up. "I'll go get your bag and the towels."
"Thank you," she closed her eyes to rest before the next wave hit.
The snow had drifted two to three feet high, and many parents had already come to retrieve their children. A handful of youngsters remained as dusk descended on the town, and still, the storm relentlessly pounded the town. Robert E and Jake made their way to the school with dinner for the children who remained.
"Don't know when this is gonna let up," Brian looked out the window. "Or when I'll get home."
"Matthew's at the Clinic, Brian," Robert E put his hand on his shoulder. "He told me t' tell ya t' stay here."
"Ya oughta see the creek," Jake stood next to the stove. "It's startin' t' freeze."
"I sure hope Ma's okay in this," Brian worried. "Now would be a terrible time t' have the baby."
"SULLY!!!" Michaela cried out as another labor pain gripped her.
"What can I do?" he wanted to help.
"Make the pain stop!" she shouted. "I feel like I'm tearing in half! The pressure is so...."
The pain passed and she closed her eyes to rest.
"Is there somethin' I could give ya for the pain?" he felt his heart break at her ordeal.
"No," she was calmer. "My back aches so."
He slipped up to the headboard and began to massage her, "Does that help?"
"Some," she nodded. "I think you're going to have to get some water up here. I'll need some hot and some cold."
"Is it okay for me t' leave ya for a few minutes?" he rested his hands on her shoulders.
"I... I think so," she was not sure.
He wrapped his arms around her, "I love you, Michaela."
"I love you, too," she wanted to rest.
"I'll be right back," he rose from the bed.
As he left, Michaela had an urge to stand and walk around. She thought it might relieve the pressure that she was feeling. Rising from the bed, she moved around gingerly. It did feel somewhat better, but.... Another contraction began. She found herself unable to reach the bed, so she got down on the floor on her hands and knees to try to weather the pain. To her surprise, this position gave her some relief, but only briefly.
When Sully returned, he nearly dropped the water, "What are ya doin' on the floor?"
She could not reply as she attempted to breath through the pain. Sully got down on the floor with her.
"Michaela?" he put his hand on her back.
"Don't touch me!" she shouted.
He immediately withdrew his hand.
"How could you do this to me!" she began to rant as the contraction intensified. "I don't want you to ever come near me again, Byron Sully!"
He knew she did not mean it, but he did begin to feel guilty as the instrument of his wife's torment.
"I'm sorry, Michaela," he rested his hands on his thighs as he knelt before her.
Finally, the pain passed and she breathed more normally.
"Sully," she reached out for him.
He pulled her into his arms and stroked her moist temple, "I'm sorry, Michaela."
"Don't be," she relaxed. "It's all going well."
"Goin' well?" he was surprised. "Ya feel like you're tearin' in half, ya never want me t' come near ya again, an' it's all goin' well?"
A smile crossed her lips, "Don't pay any attention to what I yell when a contraction comes on."
"Do ya wanna stay on the floor?" he looked around.
"Perhaps it would be better if I were back in bed," she nodded.
He helped her up and returned her to the bed. Then he put the kettle of water on the roaring fire.
"Sully," she extended her hand. "Could you check on Katie?"
"You okay?" he took her hand.
"For now," she said. "Katie must be terribly frightened."
"I'll go look in on her," he agreed.
When Sully opened the door of the darkening nursery, he did not immediately see his daughter.
"Kates?" he spoke low.
Then he heard sniffling. He followed the sound to a corner, and there, huddled with her doll and stuffed bunny was Katie. He quickly went to her and pulled her into his arms. Her cries intensified.
"It's okay, sweet girl," he felt his heart break. "Mama's okay."
"Mama huwt bad, Papa," she was distraught.
"The baby's gonna be here real soon," he stroked her hair. "Then it won't hurt anymore."
"Ya sure?" she looked up at him with her mother's brown eyes.
"I'm sure," he kissed her forehead. Standing up with her, he went to a lamp, "Let's get some light in here for ya. Are ya hungry?"
She nodded yes.
"Okay," he set her down on the bed. "Let me check again on your Ma, an' then I'll get ya somethin'."
"Okay," she was beginning to feel better.
"SULLY!!!!" It was Michaela again.
Katie's eyes grew wide, "Mama huwt again."
"I'll be right back, Kates," he rushed to the door. "Stay here."
"Sully," she was breathing heavily. "Bring me the basin!"
He swiftly retrieved it just in time for his wife to vomit into it. Sully dampened a cloth and wiped her forehead and mouth.
"That feels so much better," she sighed. "Is... is Katie all right?"
"She's scared.... an' hungry," he continued to relieve her with the cool cloth.
"Could you bring her in here?" she requested.
"Ya sure?" he was hesitant. "What if ya have a contraction?"
"I think it might help her to see that I'm all right," she reasoned. "Could you get her, then bring me something cold. I crave something cold to put in my mouth."
He teased, "In this weather, there's lots o' cold. How 'bout some snow?"
"Good," she nodded.
Sully left the room and returned momentarily with Katie, clutching her bunny rabbit.
"Hello, Sweetheart," Michaela reached for her.
Katie did not reply, but with her finger in her mouth, shyly turned away.
"Katie?" Michaela spoke again. "Could you stand here beside me while Papa gets you something to eat?"
The child nodded yes, and stood at her mother's bedside.
"It must be very frightening to hear me," Michaela touched her hand.
"Not want ya t' huwt, Mama," Katie fought back her tears.
Michaela mustered a smile, "Sweetheart, do you know how it hurts when you fall down and scrape your knee or elbow?"
"Yep," Katie tilted her head.
"And you cry because you feel so bad, but then after a while, the pain goes away, and you're fine again?" the mother tried to explain.
"Mama fix me," the toddler answered.
"Mama's pain will go away soon," she caressed her daughter's hand. "And then, do you know who will be here?"
"Who?" Katie's eyes got bigger.
"Your baby brother," Michaela barely got the words out as she started to feel a sensation. Quickly she instructed the child, "Now, Katie, I need you to go into your room again. Hurry, now, Sweetheart. Hurry!"
As Katie left the room, Michaela let forth a bloodcurdling yell. Sully heard it from the kitchen, and was up the steps in a flash. By the time he reached Michaela, the contraction had subsided.
"Bad one," he sat down beside her.
She agreed, "Yes, and they're getting closer together, Sully. Any time now."
"I'll get Katie her food, an' bring up a cup o' snow for ya," he left her alone.
Sully had cleaned the basin, set a plate of food in Katie's room and returned to his wife with the cup of snow before her next contraction.
"Ya okay?" he sat down on the bed.
"Yes," her voice was weaker.
Michaela reached up to brush back the hair around her husband's ears. Then another pain gripped her. She latched onto his ears and cried out. Sully felt as if his ears were being ripped out of his head.
"Michaela!" he was in pain. He put his hands on hers to try to remove them, but she had an iron grasp. "Michaela! My ears!"
As her distress abated, she realized what she had done, and gently smoothed down his hair, "I'm sorry."
"Huh?" he pretended to not hear.
She attempted a laugh, "May I have some of that snow?"
Sully lifted the cup and brought a spoonful of the ice to her lips. For several minutes, she was able to enjoy the relief it brought her.
"That feels wonderful," she was relieved. Suddenly she let forth a loud belch.
"Excuse me!" she turned red.
Sully laughed, "I never heard ya burp before."
She reached up to look at his ears, "They're still attached, I see."
"I think I liked it better when ya grabbed my cheeks," his ears were still tender.
She closed her eyes. "Where are the towels?"
"Over on the rockin' chair," he pointed.
"We need to get several under me," she indicated. "My contractions are...." Her face contorted and she let forth another shout, "SULLY!!!"
She tried to breathe through it, she tried to think of anything else, but she shook her head and writhed in pain.
Sully's talked her through it, "You're fine, Michaela. You're fine."
"I AM NOT FINE!!!" she yelled.
Then it passed. He rubbed the cold cloth on her forehead and kissed her hand.
"What would I do without you?" her eyes spoke of love.
"Prob'ly not be in this predicament," he joked.
"I'm exactly where I want to be," she raised his hand to her lips. "Although, I do wish it were after the event." She shifted slightly, "Sully, I need to get into a nightgown."
"Is there time?" he wondered.
"I think so," she nodded.
"Okay," he went to the cupboard and picked up one of her white shifts.
He was able to undo the buttons on her dress and remove her undergarments before another contraction overwhelmed her. Her modesty was set aside as she attempted to deal with the labor pain. When, at last it passed, Sully got the loose-fitting garment over her head and down to her midsection. Then he placed the towels where she indicated.
"I need you to check something for me," she leaned back.
"What?" he was becoming more nervous.
"I need to know how much I'm dilated," the physician in her took over. "Please look and then show me with your fingers how wide."
Sully did as she requested, then held up his fingers.
"Any time now," she nodded. "Any time."
He repositioned himself beside her, "Can I do anythin' t' help ya?"
"We're going to do this together," her voice suddenly sounded so strong to him.
"Miss Teresa," Brian looked out the schoolhouse window, "The snow's driftin' up t' the window sill."
"I see Brian," she noticed.
Robert E and Jake warmed themselves by the stove.
"It's really bad out there," Jake shook his head. "I got a crew o' men ready t' dig out the town when it lets up."
Brian overheard, "But when will it let up? I'm worried about my Ma."
"PUSH!" Sully coached his wife.
"I am pushing!" she shouted. "I can't anymore! I can't!"
"The head, Michaela!" he looked up at her. "I can see the head!"
"Quickly, Sully," she panted. "The little mirror... on the vanity... to see the baby."
He hurriedly grabbed it and held it at an angle for her to view the baby.
"He's got a thick crop of dark hair!" she could see the crown of the baby's head.
"Almost there!" he told her excitedly.
When another contraction engulfed her, the baby quickly slid out and into its father's arms. As Sully began to wipe it off, he fought back his tears.
"A boy, Michaela," his eyes were moist. "It's a boy!"
"I knew it," she sighed.
He placed the baby onto his mother's tummy.
"Oh, Sully!" she lifted the infant into her arms. "He's beautiful."
They both began to cry, but then the doctor in Michaela took over. With tears of joy streaming down her face, she cleared the mucus from the baby's nose and mouth.
"Clamps, please," she indicated for her husband to retrieve them from her medical bag.
Sully lifted two clamps, and Michaela placed them along the umbilical cord. Then he removed the scissors from her bag and offered them to her.
"You do it," she encouraged.
He cut the cord. Michaela secured it and wrapped the infant in a towel. Sully brought a basin of warm water to the bed. As he began to wash the baby, the newborn expressed his discontent over his first bath with loud screams. Sully felt a momentary fear that he was doing something wrong, but Michaela smiled and nodded her encouragement. Finally, after Sully dried him off, Michaela completed an examination, concluding to their great relief, that the baby was healthy.
"Blue," she smiled as the infant calmed.
Sully sat down beside her, "Blue?"
"He has your eyes," she told him.
"I thought all newborns have blue eyes," he chuckled.
"I was right that we would have a little boy," she informed him. "And I'm certain that he will have blue eyes."
"If you say so," he agreed.
"Here, Papa," she offered the baby to her husband.
Sully was overcome with emotion as he took the child into his strong arms, "He's so beautiful, Michaela. An' look at all his dark hair."
"More than Katie had," she stroked the baby's head.
Suddenly, Michaela felt a contraction, and soon delivered the placenta.
"Let's see if he's hungry," she lowered the strap of her nightgown.
Sully placed the baby to her breast and after two tries, the baby latched on and began to nurse. The proud father caressed the tiny head, then covered his wife's shoulder with a cloth. Sully stood up and removed the soiled towels from the bed, replacing them with clean.
When he again sat down beside her, a lump came to her throat, "Thank you, Sully."
"For what?" he teased. "You did all the work."
"For our little boy," she felt a tear. "For being here, for helping me."
"Thank you for all ya went through t' have him," he touched her moist cheek.
"Sully," she smiled. "I think there's a little girl who would like to meet this young man."
He grinned, "I'll go get her."
Sully entered the nursery and noticed that Katie had not eaten very much of her dinner.
"Hey there, sweet girl," he spoke softly.
"Papa," Katie walked to him. "Mama stop yellin'."
"Yep," he knelt down. "Know what that means?"
Her face lit up, "I got baby bwother?"
"Ya sure do," he lifted her into his arms.
Sully carried the little girl into their bedroom to meet the newest member of the family. Michaela looked lovingly at her daughter.
"Did Papa tell you that you have a little brother?" she smiled.
"Yep," Katie stood on tiptoes. "Where is?"
"Right here," Michaela pulled the now-sleeping infant out from beneath the cloth.
Sully sat on the edge of the bed and pulled Katie into his lap.
"He in you?" the child could not believe it. "No wonder ya yellin'!"
"Yes, he certainly was," Michaela replied.
"Oh, Mama, he pwetty," Katie touched his little nose.
"I agree," Michaela nodded.
"I hold?" the little girl requested.
"Certainly," Michaela held the baby out for Sully.
He supported the newborn on his daughter's lap.
"I wish I could have a photograph of you three," Michaela smiled.
"I think your Ma needs t' rest now, Kates," Sully kissed the top of his daughter's head.
He picked up the baby and carried him to the cradle. Katie watched his every move as he tenderly placed the infant in the bed which he had crafted for her before her birth.
"Sully," Michaela whispered and gestured with her finger for him to come to her. "I need you to help me with something... alone."
"Kates," he called to his daughter. "I think ya need t' go tell Swirl and bunny about the new baby."
"Good thinkin', Papa," she ran to him.
He picked her up.
"I west with Mama?" Katie requested.
"Of course, Sweetheart," Michaela smiled faintly. "We'll rest in a few minutes, all right?"
"All wight," she agreed.
When Sully returned, he sat down and placed his hand on Michaela's shoulder, "What d' ya need me t' do?"
She blushed, "I need you to help me get into a clean gown."
His touch was reassuring, "Sure." He lifted her nightgown. "The towels are bloody."
Sully put some clean water in the basin, and gently washed her. After helping her into a clean nightgown and replacing the towels under her, he lifted the covers up, "Are ya warm enough?"
"I'm fine," she caressed his cheek. "I didn't mean it, you know."
"Didn't mean what?" he wondered.
"I didn't mean that I never wanted you to come near me again," her heart was full of love.
"I know," he leaned forward to kiss her.
"This labor was much easier than Katie's," she informed him.
"I'm glad," he smiled. "I love ya, Michaela."
"I love you, too," she squeezed his hand. "Could you get a diaper and shift from the cupboard?"
He walked over to retrieve them and, holding up the little top, said, "I can't believe Katie once wore this."
"I know," she chuckled. "Shall we put these on him?"
Sully lifted his son from the cradle, "I think he's growin' already."
"Not quite that fast," she smiled.
He set the baby on the bed, and Michaela tenderly diapered and dressed him. Then Sully handed her the blanket which her mother had made for Katie. When Michaela was finished, Sully returned the infant to the cradle.
"Are you too disappointed?" she watched him rock the cradle.
"That we didn't have another little girl?" he touched his son's chin. "Nope. He's perfect."
"Good," she yawned. "I think I can rest now," she sighed.
"Okay," he stood up. "Want me t' go get Katie?"
"Please," she closed her eyes.
When he returned to their bedroom with Katie, Michaela was still.
"Your Ma's asleep now, Kates," he spoke low. "Maybe we oughta leave her alone."
Michaela opened her eyes, "No, please. I want you two here with me."
Sully placed Katie to the left of her mother and fluffed the pillows so that Michaela could have her head and back elevated. She wrapped an arm around her daughter. Then Sully walked around to his side of the bed and slid in beside them. Resting on his side, he closed his eyes and started to relax.
A sudden cry from the cradle shook them from their rest.
"Uh oh," Katie sat up. "What we do now?"
Sully went to the baby and lifted him. He immediately stopped crying. The father carried the baby to the bed and set the squirming little one on Michaela's belly. Then he draped the blanket atop him. The infant was quieted by the warmth of his mother's body.
"I guess he just didn't wanna be left out," Sully touched Katie's nose.
"Papa," she watched intently. "What we name baby?"
"What do you think would be a good name, Kates?" he winked at Michaela.
"Humm," she pondered the question. "How 'bout Wolf?"
Sully and Michaela laughed.
Then Michaela asked her daughter, "What would you think if we call him Josef?"
"Josef Michael Sully," Sully expanded.
Michaela glanced at him quizzically, "But I thought...."
"Michael's what your Pa wanted," he rested his hand on the baby's back. "He finally got that little boy."
"I call him Joey," Katie bent down to sweetly kiss her new brother.
"That's a good name for him," Michaela felt such pride.
She lifted her family Bible from the night stand and handed it to her husband. Opening to the family tree page, he wrote beneath their daughter's name, "Josef Michael Sully, born December 9, 1874."
Michaela and Sully closed their eyes to offer prayers of thanks. The howling wind and frigid air outside could not diminish the warmth of this room on this night. And with the dawn would come the first daylight in the life of Josef Michael Sully, a new life who was yet to meet his extended family, thanks to the forceful reminder of Mother Nature's power.
The wood stove at the school was running low on logs, and the chilled air made it difficult for the children to sleep.
"I'll go get ya some more logs," Brian offered.
"I'll help ya, Brian," Jake offered.
The two had to shovel their way to the log pile, where they had to chip away at the ice to break them apart. Brian had not worn gloves and by the time they returned to the school, his hands were frostbitten.
Teresa instructed her husband, "Take this bowl and bring me some snow."
When he returned, she melted it and placed Brian's hands in the cold water.
"Feels like my fingernails are comin' off," the young man agonized.
"You should not have gone out without gloves," Teresa gently scolded him.
"Do ya think my hands will be okay?" he saw their red appearance.
"I hope so, Brian," she could not conceal her concern.
Soon after they had fallen asleep, the baby began to fuss. Michaela lowered the strap of her gown and began to nurse him. Sully awakened soon after.
"Ya okay?" he rubbed Katie's back.
"Yes," she whispered. "Josef was hungry."
"So I see," he yawned. Then he sat up, "Let me put Katie in her own bed to make some room in here."
"No, please," she urged. "Let's keep her in here with us tonight. She's been through quite a lot, and I want her to be assured that I'm all right."
"If ya think that's best," he repositioned himself to stroke the baby's head. "Sure is hungry."
"Yes," she agreed. Then her mind turned to their other sons, "Sully, do you think the boys will be able to make their way home by tomorrow?"
"I'll go fetch 'em," he told her.
"It might be too dangerous," she worried.
"We'll see how things look later," he kissed her cheek. Then he thought about all that had happened, "Don't seem possible, does it?"
"What?" she gazed into his eyes.
"Yesterday at this time, we were sleepin' in here by ourselves," he glanced lovingly at their newborn. "Now we got two little ones in here with us."
"It is quite amazing," she smiled. "When I think of how close we came to losing Josef back in Washington, D.C...."
"Hey," he did not want to think about that. "He turned out perfect, just like this sweet little girl. Ten fingers, ten toes...."
"And a voracious appetite," she observed.
"Gotta work up his strength t' handle what his big sister will put him through," he teased.
"He looks like you, Sully," she noticed the infant had fallen asleep.
Sully pulled up the strap of her gown as she settled the baby in her arms, "Don't ya think it's too soon t' tell who he looks like?"
"No," she insisted. "I see your chin, right here. And a little dimple over here when he smiles."
"He's smilin'?" Sully looked over. "Looks more like he's droolin'."
"Of course, he's smiling," she noted. "He's also doing something else that babies do, I'm afraid."
"Need a clean diaper?" he perceived.
"Please," she requested.
He rose from the bed and found the clean stack. Then he returned to the bed and took his son.
"I'll do it," he settled the child on the bed.
Within a few seconds, Sully had the infant cleaned and changed.
"Still haven't lost your touch," she complimented.
When Sully returned to his side of the bed, Katie had sprawled out and taken over most of the space. He went to the rocking chair and lifted it. Carrying it to the bedside, he set it down and plopped himself into it.
"Sully," Michaela spoke low. "You shouldn't have to do that. You need your rest, too. We can move Katie over."
"I can rest in the chair," he reached up his hand to her. "Now, close your eyes."
Katie was up at dawn, "Joey, time t' get up!"
Both Sully and Michaela simultaneously said, "Shhh!"
"Gotta eat," Katie insisted.
"Okay, Kates," Sully's back was stiff. "I'll fix ya breakfast. Your Ma needs t' eat, too."
"An' Joey," she pointed to the little figure resting on his mother's stomach.
Sully stood up, "I'll be back shortly."
"Mama," Katie noticed the soiled diaper. "Lookie."
"Can you bring me a clean diaper from the stack over there?" Michaela pointed.
"Yep," Katie slid down from the bed.
She ran back with a fresh one, "Here ya go."
"Thank you," Michaela placed the baby on the bed.
As Michaela removed the dirty diaper, Katie quickly noticed an anatomical difference in her brother.
"Uh-oh," the little girl pointed. "He got somethin' there."
"That's his umbilical cord, Sweetheart," Michaela replied. She started to explain to her daughter, "It will eventually fall off."
"What this, Mama?" Katie pointed lower.
"Oh, my," Michaela cleaned the infant. "I was hoping to not have this chat with you until much later."
"What is, Mama?" Katie insisted on knowing.
"Well, Sweetheart," the mother quickly diapered her son. "That's what little boys have."
"Giwls not have," she surmised.
"Right," Michaela nodded.
"What it for?" Katie persisted.
"Uh, well," Michaela was becoming flustered. "It's... where little boys relieve themselves."
Katie was not sure, "Make diaper dawty?"
"Yes," she quickly latched onto the answer.
"Oh," Katie nodded.
Michaela thought the topic was closed.
Then Katie spoke again, "It fall off, too?"
Sully appeared at the doorway with a tray, "Breakfast's here."
"Papa!" Katie ran to him. "Joey got somethin' I don't."
"What's that, Kates?" he set the tray down unaware of what had transpired.
"Somethin' right here," the toddler pointed to her brother.
"Sure," Sully nodded. "He's got a diaper."
"That's not what she means," Michaela raised an eyebrow.
"Then what does she...." he suddenly realized. "Oh, that."
"Papa," Katie sat down to eat her cereal. "It fall off?"
"Michaela?" he looked for an answer.
She took a deep breath, "No, Katie, he'll always have that."
"Why?" the child struggled to understand.
Sully decided to take the direct approach and knelt down beside her. "It's like this, Kates. Little boys have... that, and little girls don't. As they grow up, boys an' girls change shape a little bit, but they still keep what they started out with. Understand?"
"Yep," she nodded her head.
"Good," he smiled in relief.
"You got that, too, Papa?" she caught him off guard.
Michaela stifled a laugh.
"Ah, yes, Kates," he told her.
"I see?" she was quickly finishing her meal.
"No," he blushed. "Ya ain't supposed t' look at that on a grownup man."
"Mama look?" Katie stood up.
"Uh, that's different," he was clearly uncomfortable. "We're married. Married folks can look."
"Okay," she finally let it drop.
"Well done," Michaela winked.
"I got a feelin' I ain't off the hook yet," he lifted the baby so his wife could eat.
Sully stood on the front porch of the homestead with snow shoes attached to his boots. The blizzard had finally ended, and the sun shone bright over the beautifully blanketed landscape. He began to clear a path to the barn to check on the animals, noticing the icicles dripping from the structure's roof. Finally, after much effort, he was able to open the barn doors. The horses and cow had weathered the storm well, but a few chickens had not.
Michaela watched him from the bedroom window. What would she have done without him last night? His support and encouragement had sustained her through the labor. And now they had a little boy. She turned her gaze to the infant in the cradle.
Katie was playing in her room, having decided that Josef was not much fun when he was asleep. Michaela began to move slowly around the room, trying to tidy up the effects of the past evening. But always she came back to look in the cradle, to assure herself that he was real. After Katie's birth, she had never before felt so fulfilled and wrapped in love, and now it was happening again.
As she was gazing at the little one, his eyes opened. His jerking arm movements and alert expression brought a smile to her face.
"Welcome to your first morning, Josef," she lifted him up. Her lips softly brushed against his forehead. She spoke low, "What do you think about all of this?" Then she held him closer, "Do you know how much your Mama and Papa love you? And your big sister Katie? She's going to want to take care of you along with your brothers."
Her touch caused his tiny arms to move. The sucking movement of his lips clued her that he was again hungry, so she sat down in bed and began to nurse him. Just as the baby was finishing, Katie came running in with a piece of paper in her hand.
"Look, Mama," she held up the drawing. "I dwaw Joey."
"That's wonderful, Katie," Michaela could not make out the image no matter which way she turned it.
The child noticed the cloth draped over her brother as he nursed, "Playin' hide n' seek?"
"No," Michaela chuckled. "I'm feeding Josef," Michaela stroked the tiny fingers wrapped around her thumb.
Katie reached up to lift the cloth away from his head, "He chewin' ya, Mama!"
"No," she smiled. "He's drinking milk."
"Not in cup?" she knew how she consumed the liquid.
"Not for a while yet," she lifted the newborn from his feeding.
"He got little toes," Katie touched them.
"Yes, he's very little, and we must be very gentle to protect him," the mother instructed.
"I pwotect him," the big sister nodded. "Gotta go dwaw more."
"All right," Michaela smiled.
She heard Sully come back into the house and the door close. She listened to him climb the steps and speak to Katie. Then he joined her in the bedroom.
Standing next to the fire, he shivered, "We lost some chickens."
"The other animals are all right?" she was concerned.
"Yep," he rubbed his hands together. "I see ya been up walkin' around. Ya feel up t' that?"
She slowly rose with the infant, "Yes."
Michaela kissed Josef's head and placed him in the cradle. Walking to her, Sully pulled her into his arms and kissed her sweetly.
"Seems like ya lost some weight," he teased.
"With some more to go," she looked at her waistline.
He rubbed her back, "I reckon ya oughta get rest while ya can."
"Did Katie show you her drawing?" she was relaxing at his touch.
He chuckled, "Yep. She's some artist."
"I'm afraid I couldn't make out what it was," she shook her head.
Sully released her and bent down to look in the cradle, "How's this fella doin'?"
"He's so sweet, Sully," she touched her husband's back. "Not fussy at all."
"Looks like he's wide awake," Sully lifted the infant.
Michaela watched as her husband began to make faces at him. The baby latched on to his finger, and Sully raised it to his lips.
He turned to his wife, "Can't make it int' town yet, Michaela, but the temperature's risin', and it's thawin' quick. Soon as I can, I'll go get the boys."
"I hope there were no sick or injured from the blizzard," she went to the bed and sat.
Katie's voice called, "Mama!"
"If you gentlemen will excuse me," she slowly made her way to the door. "I'll be right back."
Sully looked at the little bundle in his arms, "First time we been alone, Josef." Eying him more carefully, the proud father concluded, "I gotta confess to ya, I was hopin' for a girl... but now that I see ya, I can't imagine life without ya."
Sully gently began to sway back and forth, "Got any idea how loved ya are? Ya got the best Ma in the world an' two older brothers who'll teach ya all kinds o' things. Ya got two big sisters. I gotta tell ya 'bout one of 'em. Your sister Katie's gonna be a handful for ya, but she loves ya already. Just like me... son." He was moved by saying the word for the first time to this little life in his arms.
The baby's arms jerked, and Sully could have sworn a slight grin appeared. Then he realized why. Not only had the newborn soiled his diaper, but it ran onto Sully's sleeve.
"Okay," he set the baby on the bed. "Time for both of us t' change."
Sully unbuttoned his shirt and lifted it over his head. Then he made quick work of changing the baby. He did not bother to put on a clean shirt, preferring to feel the warmth of his son against his chest. He lay down on the bed with the little boy resting against his skin.
Sully stifled a yawn as he ran his hand lightly up and down the baby's back. Clearing a path to the barn this morning, and getting little sleep in the rocking chair last night had taken its toll on him. Soon they were both asleep.
When Michaela reappeared, she stopped at the doorway to watch her husband and baby sleeping. She reached down to lift a lock of Sully's hair from his eye, then leaned over to kiss his forehead. He did not stir. She knew he was exhausted.
Brian's hands were feeling much better, and several more parents had made their way to the school to take their tired children home. Matthew was able to come to the school for his brother by midday.
"Temperature's risin' fast," the older brother informed Jake Slicker.
"I been watchin'," Jake answered. "If this continues, we're gonna have floodin'."
"Should we try t' get home?" Brian wondered.
"Not until the snow melts more," Matthew shook his head. "There's a path cleared on the streets in town, but I don't think our horses can make it out t' the homestead yet."
"Maybe Pa will come for us," Brian hoped.
Matthew advised, "He'd want us t' stay here 'til it's safer."
Robert E suddenly appeared at the door, "Jake! The creek's risin' fast! Lot o' businesses are gonna be flooded."
"Come on, Brian," Matthew asserted. "We better get Dr. Mike's medicines an' instruments moved upstairs at the Clinic."
The two young men set off for town.
"Hank!" Jake shouted from the second floor of his barbershop. "Get the hell outa the street!"
"Why?" he puffed on his cigar.
"Look around, ya fool!" Jake pointed. "The creek's comin' up fast."
"Ain't no skin off my teeth," the barkeeper shook his head. "Everyone's actin' like a bunch o' old women, if ya ask me."
"I ain't askin' ya!" the mayor replied. "I'm tellin' ya. MOVE!"
Hank slowly turned. Jake suspected that his friend had had too much to drink, but could not concern himself with it anymore. The entire town was preparing for the worst. And soon it would come.
Sully awakened when Michaela lifted the baby from his chest, "What...?"
"Mind if I hold him for a while?" she sat down gingerly.
"It's good t' take turns," he ran his hand through his long locks. "What's Katie up to?"
"I just got her down for a nap," she caressed the baby. "Sully, I'm worried. Look outside. The snow is melting at a dangerous rate."
He rose from the bed and saw the massive melting that had occurred in such a brief time, "There's gonna be floodin' in town."
"Do you think..." she stopped when he spoke.
"The boys'll be fine," he went to her. "They're prob'ly at the Clinic takin' your medical supplies upstairs."
"This weather is unbelievable," she shook her head.
"What's important now is that you get some rest," he nodded for her to lie down. "This little fella's gonna have ya up an' down a lot, an' ya need all the rest ya can get."
Sully lifted the baby neatly into one arm, as he helped settle her into the bed. For the first time in many weeks, Michaela was able to lie comfortably on the bed. As she positioned herself, her husband lay the baby down in his cradle. Then Sully went to her and sat down. He began to stroke his wife's long flowing hair.
"I love ya, Michaela," his voice was soothing.
"I love you, too," she murmured.
Just as sleep began to claim her, the baby cried. Sully brought him to her, and she pulled herself up to nurse him.
"Sorry," Sully stroked her forehead.
"Don't be," her eyes shone with love. "Being the mother of a newborn does make sleep more challenging."
Sully sat down beside them and rested against the headboard. Sliding his arm around behind Michaela's shoulders, he kissed her hair.
"Sully?" she continued to feed the baby. "Do you think we'll ever become an old, boring couple?"
He chuckled, "What makes ya ask a question like that?"
"I don't know," a smile crossed her face.
"Well," he sighed. "We'll become old, an' we'll still be a couple, but borin'?" He rubbed her arm, "Never."
"You think not?" her smile broadened.
"We got our children t' keep us from bein' borin'," he imitated an old man's voice.
Michaela shook slightly from laughing, causing the baby to fuss at her movement.
"Now, look," she held up Josef. "Do you see what your Papa made me do?"
The infant immediately ceased his crying. The doting mother handed their son over to his father. Sully caressed his tiny head and kissed his little fingers.
"How do ya do it, Michaela?" his voice was a tender whisper.
"Do what?" she leaned against his shoulder.
"Make such perfect babies," he gently rocked the newborn.
"I think their Papa had a hand in it," she looked up at him.
"It's hard for me t' think I had a hand in somethin' so perfect," he said.
"Why?" she acted surprised. "You are the perfect husband."
Sully chuckled, and their son opened his eyes, "Sorry, Josef. Sometimes your Ma makes me laugh."
She tapped her husband's arm, "I'm being quite serious. You are perfect in my eyes, Sully."
"Would ya like me t' name a few times when I wasn't so perfect?" he joked.
"No need," she retorted.
"I ain't sophisticated, I don't...." he was interrupted by her fingertips on his lips.
"You're more sophisticated than any man I've ever met," she smiled.
"I never wanna embarrass ya, Michaela," he was becoming serious.
"Sully," her voice shook. "Please don't feel that way. I adore you, everything about you."
"Flaws an' all?" he turned his head to gaze into her eyes.
"Isn't that what marriage is supposed to be?" she warmed at the nearness of him. "Loving one another in spite of our shortcomings? You had to make many adjustments and compromises to live with me, after all. I know it wasn't easy, but now, I can't imagine how I ever lived without you."
"Me either," he leaned his head against hers. "Since we got married, ya make me feel like I could do anythin', accomplish anythin'."
"This little one is a marvelous accomplishment," she touched Josef's cheek.
"I see the future when I look int' the eyes of our children," he ran his hand gently around Josef's head. Then Sully kissed her and sighed, "I reckon he'll give us a lot o' challenges. 'Fore we know it, he'll be chasin' after his sister...."
"Pulling her pigtails," Michaela added. "Sully," she became serious. "Thank you for his name."
"I never met your Pa," he felt a lump in his throat. "But, he's the reason ya became a doctor, an' that's what brought ya int' my life. This little fella's got the name of a great man, in my book."
She felt her eyes moisten, "He was a great man, and I'm certain that right now, he's looking down on his grandson with a smile on his face. With our little ones beside us, I feel so blessed, so hopeful for the future."
Sully nodded and said tenderly:
"He spake of love, such love as spirits feel
In worlds whose courage is equable and pure;
No fears to beat away, no strife to heal,
The past unsighed for, and the future sure."
Michaela kissed his cheek, "A lovely verse. Byron?"
"Wordsworth," he lifted her chin for a kiss.
Josef picked this tender moment to let forth a cry. Sully tried to settle him by swaying back and forth. Then Michaela took him and attempted to feed him, but nothing worked. Soon Katie entered her parents' room, rubbing her eyes from her nap.
"Joey sad?" she tapped Sully's leg.
"Don't know, Kates," he lifted his daughter.
Michaela began to examine the baby to determine what was making him so distraught.
"Brian!" Matthew shouted from the second floor of the Clinic. "Get up here right now!"
The younger brother toted up the last of his mother's medical supplies as water began to pour under the front door.
"Did ya get the things from Ma's desk?" Brian asked.
"Got 'em," Matthew replied.
The brothers went out onto the balcony of one of the recovery rooms to view the sight. The streets had become a lake with debris floating everywhere.
"Think we'll be safe here?" Brian looked at his sibling.
"For now," Matthew nodded. "But if the water keeps risin', I don't know."
Josef's cries were becoming louder as his tiny face contorted. He pulled his little legs up against his abdomen.
"Michaela!" Sully tried to read his wife's expression. "What's wrong with him?"
She did not reply, but continued to examine the newborn.
Katie buried her head in her father's shoulder, "Mama! Make him better!"
Finally, Michaela lifted her son against her chest. With him in an upright position, she began to gently pat his back. Soon his cries abated, and he settled down.
"He swallowed some air when he was nursing," Michaela spoke softly as she kissed the infant's crop of dark hair.
"Is he gonna be all right?" Sully rubbed Katie's back.
"Yes," she smiled. "He'll be fine. He certainly has healthy lungs."
The sound of rain hitting the window panes of the bedroom reminded them that Nature was again throwing its full force at their community. Sully carried Katie to the window and looked out.
"Michaela," he knew this meant certain flooding. "Will you be okay alone with the children if I head int' town t' fetch the boys?"
"Certainly," she nodded. "I'll feel much better when we get them home."
He carried his daughter to their bed and stood her so she was nearly eye level to him, "Kates, I need ya t' do somethin'."
"What?" she began to bounce up and down.
Sully gently took her hands and stilled her movement, "I'm goin' t' get Matthew an' Brian. I need ya t' take care o' your Ma, an' help her with the baby. Okay?"
"When ya be back?" she reached out for him to hold her.
"I'll be back when I make sure they're safe," he assured her. "So will ya be my good girl?"
"Yep," she hugged him.
"Good," he kissed her forehead. Turning to Michaela, Sully pulled her and the baby into his arms, "I'll be home soon as I can."
"Please be careful," she cautioned.
"I will," he smiled.
After bringing up some food for his family, he leaned in to tenderly kiss Michaela, then caressed Josef's head. With one last look, he turned and departed.
"Matthew," Brian looked down the stairs. "Water's up t' the second step!"
"The rain's makin' it worse," the older brother observed. "The streets look like a big lake."
"What'll we do?" Brian was growing more alarmed.
"Nothin' we can do," he replied.
They were shocked to hear the alarm bell from outside. Peering out the window, they saw Hank, thigh high in water, ringing it.
Jake looked out from the upstairs window of his barbershop and yelled, "What's wrong?"
Hank called out to anyone within earshot, "My piano! It's gonna be ruined."
Loren joined in the chorus of those cautioning Hank, "Get inside an' upstairs. It's too late t' worry about your infernal piano!"
"Easy for you t' say, Loren," Hank shot back. "All ya got downstairs is a bunch o' old cans an' cloth. My piano cost...."
"Hank!" Jake yelled. "Get inside the saloon now! Ya can worry 'bout your piano tomorrow.
The barber was becoming increasingly concerned about his friend since Alice Ivers left town. It was quite obvious to all that Hank had been smitten with the widow, and her departure set him on a drinking binge.
It was upon this scene that Sully arrived in town. He had taken high ground all the way from the homestead, but now he would have to ford across a current that was increasing in its intensity and depth. Leaving his horse near the church, he was able to reach the Clinic on foot.
Opening the door, he called, "Matthew! Brian!"
"Pa!" Brian dashed to the steps. "Up here!"
Sully swiftly ascended the stairs by twos, and arrived in the recovery room where his sons had been hold up. Brian ran to his arms, and Matthew patted him on the back.
"You boys okay?" the mountain man looked around the room at his wife's medical supplies.
"We're fine," Matthew answered.
"We got most o' Ma's things upstairs," Brian added.
"So I see," Sully observed.
"How's Ma doin'?" Brian quickly asked.
"She's doin' great," Sully grinned.
"What's that smile?" Matthew noticed.
"I come for ya so you can meet your new brother," Sully told them.
"Ma had the baby!" Brian was excited.
"A brother!" Matthew shook his father's hand. "When?"
"Last night," Sully stated. "Durin' the blizzard."
"I can't wait t' see him," Brian was excited.
Sully patted his son's back, "An' your Ma's real anxious t' see ya."
"What'd ya name him?" Matthew wondered.
"Josef," Sully proudly said the name.
"After Ma's father," Brian recognized.
"Yep," the mountain man nodded. "Josef Michael."
"What does Katie think about havin' a little brother?" Brian grinned.
"She calls him Joey," Sully informed them. "She's helpin' your Ma with him already." Sully looked out the window, "We best be gettin' home. Your horses at Robert E's?"
Brian responded, "He moved 'em around t' the other side of the Depot when the water started risin'."
"Okay," Sully instructed. "I'll take ya there. When ya get your horses, I want ya t' follow the Old Fork Road back t' the homestead."
"What about you, Sully?" Matthew was concerned.
"I left my horse on the other side o' town," he replied. "I'll meet ya back home. Remember, don't try t' cross any streams. Just stay on high ground."
"We will," Brian agreed. "See ya back home."
Sully made certain that his sons were safely on their way, then headed back for his horse. When he neared the Clinic, he heard a strange sound. It almost sounded like a piano, but something was distorting the sound. He followed the noise toward the Gold Nugget and through the window saw Hank sitting at the piano, pounding out notes.
"Hank?" Sully opened the door. "What are ya doin'?"
"What's it look like I'm doin'?" the barkeeper snapped back.
"Looks like you're tryin' t' drown," Sully noticed the bottle of whiskey nearby.
"What's it t' you, Mr. Mountain Man?" Hank slurred his words slightly.
"Why don't I help ya upstairs?" Sully started for him.
Hank pulled his pistol, "Why don't ya mind your own business? I'm sure Michaela's waitin' at home for ya. Now, get out!"
"Hank," Sully held his hands out to his sides, "Put the gun down. I'll leave, but not until I help ya upstairs."
Hank turned to say something, but his awkward balance caused him to fall off his chair and into the foot of water that had crept into his establishment. Sully was able to disarm him and help him up. Reluctantly, the barkeeper allowed the mountain man to assist him upstairs. One of Hank's girls assumed the task of leading her employer safely to a room to sleep off his bender.
Sully shook his head as he started out the door. He made his way to the bridge near the Church, but just as he was crossing, the waters raged and loosened the structure from the shores. The bridge collapsed and fell into the current. Struggling to keep his head above the water, Sully grasped a large tree root. Barely able to breathe, he held on for his life. He shouted for help, but no one heard. How long could he maintain his grip? And dusk was falling.
Between the baby's nursings and napping, Michaela was able to feed Katie and herself. She placed her daughter beside her in bed, and attempted to rest her aching body, but her thoughts kept returning to Sully and the boys. When would they be home? The storm was growing worse. Suddenly an overwhelming fear gripped her. Something was terribly wrong. She bolted up in bed.
"Not sleepy, Mama?" Katie patted her back.
"No," she tried to keep her voice calm for her daughter. "You go ahead and rest, Sweetheart."
"Papa gonna be home," the little girl became the assuring one.
"Yes," Michaela could not shake her trepidation. "He'll be home soon."
The water raged. Sully clung to the tree, but his grip was weakening. He tried to pull his legs up to gain better footing, but his strength was waning. Closing his eyes, he tried to focus. As the water engulfed him, he could see Michaela, the little girl who was the light of his life, and the little boy whom he would never know. Sully knew what it was like to grow up without a Pa. And he remembered vividly how it broke his mother. He couldn't do that to Michaela or to his children. He had to live!
"Ma!" Brian burst into the house.
"Upstairs!" Michaela sat up in bed and wakened Katie.
"Papa home?" the child rubbed her eyes.
Brian immediately rushed to his mother.
"Pa told us," his grin was wide. "Can I see him?"
"Certainly," she pointed to the cradle. "He's asleep."
"Bran!" Katie exclaimed. "Look at Joey."
Brian smiled as he went to the cradle. Matthew reached the doorway just as his brother lifted the newborn.
Brian grinned, "He's so tiny."
"About the same size as Katie," she informed him.
Matthew cleared his throat, "Looks like ya ain't the youngest boy anymore, Brian."
"That's okay," Brian smiled.
Michaela looked toward the door, "Where's Sully?"
"He'll be here soon," Matthew told her. "He had his horse on the other side o' town. We got most o' your things upstairs at the Clinic. The floodin's pretty bad."
"Thank God you're safe," she felt relieved. "You must be starving."
"I'll go fix us somethin'," Matthew volunteered.
"Are you certain that Sully left right after you, Brian?" Michaela felt uneasy.
The young man kissed the fuzzy hair atop his little brother, "Yep. Don't worry, Ma. He'll be home 'fore ya know it."
Sully was trying to keep from ingesting the rushing water, but his arms ached and his head was beginning to throb. The water was numbing his legs, and he knew his time was running out. He began to yell at the top of his lungs. How could anyone hear him? How could he be saved? "Michaela!" his voice finally called out. With that, his weakened arms let loose.
"Sully!" Michaela felt a chill. "Matthew!" she called to her older son.
He bounded up the steps quickly, "What's wrong, Ma?"
The baby began to cry at the sudden noise. Brian swayed with him, but there was no calming the infant until he handed Josef to Michaela.
Michaela trembled as she spoke, "Something's happened to Sully."
"What?" he was surprised. "How do ya know?"
"I just do," her panic was growing. "Do you think it's safe enough for you to ride back into town to search for him?"
"I'll take the Old Fork Road," he nodded. "I'll find him!"
"I'm comin', too," Brian rushed to the door.
"Please be careful!" Michaela called after them.
Katie stood up on the bed, reaching out for her mother. With Josef in one arm, Michaela wrapped the other around her daughter.
She kissed the top of Katie's head, "Let's say a prayer, Sweetheart."
"We goin' t' church?" the child innocently asked.
"No," Michaela told her. "We'll pray right here."
Katie began to recite her evening prayers, as tears streamed down Michaela's face.
Sully's body had wedged between several boards sticking up out of the water. The current swept over him like a swiftly moving blanket. Blackness. He fought from being surrounded by the unforgiving darkness of this night. He tried to fill his lungs with air, but it was so hard. He attempted to shout for help again. Then the darkness began to claim him. It was too strong, too overpowering.
Matthew and Brian approached the Clinic, urging their reluctant horses onward. They each took ropes from their saddles and attached them to their waists. Then, they made their way to the alarm bell.
Several townsfolk came out onto their balconies to see why the bell was ringing.
"It's Sully!" Matthew shouted. "He's missin'."
Hank opened his window, more sober than earlier in the day.
"I saw him right before dusk," the barkeeper yelled.
Brian spoke up, "He had his horse over in the meadow by the church."
"We can't do much 'til mornin'!" Jake shouted. "Too hard t' see anythin'!"
"Tomorrow could be too late," Matthew raised his voice.
"Ma's had the baby!" Brian announced. "Please help us find our Pa."
None of the men in Colorado Springs could resist the young man's plea, and within minutes, a rescue team had formed. Loren worked his way over to Brian.
"What'd your Ma have, Brian?" the shopkeeper put his arm around the frightened young man.
"A boy," Brian smiled nervously.
Loren's voice cracked slightly, "That's real fine. I'm happy for Dr. Mike an' Sully."
"Come on, Brian!" Matthew called to his sibling.
With lit torches and ropes for support, the troop headed for the overflowing creek.
As an exhausted Michaela nursed Josef, her thoughts were with her husband. She held the little one in her arms and closed her eyes to send her thoughts to Sully, "Please, come home to us. Hold on. Be strong. We need you and love you."
Katie walked over to her mother, "Mama, know what?"
"What, Sweetheart?" Michaela attempted a smile.
"I gotta take care o' ya," the little girl remembered her father's words.
"You're doing a marvelous job," the mother touched her hand.
"Feedin' Joey?" Katie was catching on to her mother's behavior.
"Yes," Michaela responded.
"He eats lots," the little girl commented.
"So he can grow strong and healthy like his big brothers and sisters," she answered.
"I not big," Katie thought about it. "Everyone bigger'n me."
"For now," Michaela told her.
"Joey got lotsa fuzzy hair," the toddler inspected her brother.
"He certainly does," she answered. "More that you did when you were born."
"I not have hair?" the child was surprised.
"Not for some time," Michaela chuckled. "No one could believe that a child of ours could have so little hair."
"Got lots now," Katie pointed to her curly blonde hair.
"Beautiful hair," Michaela completed the feeding.
Then she held up the baby and gently patted his back.
"When Papa comin' home?" Katie asked.
"Brian and Matthew went to find him, Sweetheart," Michaela tried not to cry for her daughter's sake.
She knew in her soul that Sully was in danger, that his life hung in the balance, and she could not be there with him. Holding her newborn son in her arms, she kissed his soft skin and willed Sully to feel the power of her love.
Sully struggled to hold his head above the water. Deep within his soul, something gave him the courage to survive. He recognized it was the love of Michaela. She was holding him, caressing his tired arms, kissing his aching head. It swept over him more powerfully than any force of Nature. He would hold on, no matter how long it took to be rescued.
"Sully!" Jake shouted as he and Horace headed upstream of the creek.
They had seen Sully's horse near the church. Visibility was extremely poor, but they went on. Brian, Matthew and Hank headed downstream.
"Pa!" Brian squinted to see what lay ahead in a cluster of shattered boards from the bridge. "PA!"
Hank ran to the site, "Sully! We'll get ya outa this. Hang on!"
As the long-haired bartender began to lift the wood away, Brian attempted to keep his father's head above the water. Matthew pulled Sully's left leg to dislodge it from the boards.
"He's stuck!" Matthew cried out.
Hank tied one end of his rope around his waist and secured the other to a tree. Then he jumped into the raging water and was quickly submerged.
"Hank!" Matthew exclaimed.
He had disappeared.
"Brian," Matthew shouted. "Help me pull his rope!"
"I can't let go o' Pa," Brian replied. "He'll drown!"
"Hank's already under," Matthew reasoned. "Sully will be okay for a few seconds."
The brothers tightly grasped the rope, and garnering as much strength as they could muster, they pulled. Hank burst up like a geyser.
"What the hell are ya doin'?" he yelled at them.
"Savin' your life," Matthew wiped his face.
"I was tryin' t get Sully's leg loose," Hank shot back. "Now hold his head up, an' let me try again."
Once more, Hank submerged himself, and almost as quickly, Sully was free. Barely conscious, he was pulled from the raging water. The rain was letting up some, and with the aid of Jake and Horace, they carried the mountain man into the Gold Nugget. After placing him on a table, Hank called to his three girls near the bar.
"Laura, Tammy, Karen!" he shouted. "Come here."
The three beauties encircled him and received instructions. Then they went behind the bar and began to pour drinks. Jake and Horace departed, but Loren joined the group. Assuring his sons that he was fine, Sully looked up to see Laura handing him a glass. She lingered a moment, watching his every move until Hank nodded for her to return to the bar.
"I think she's been around the water too long," Hank chuckled.
"What's this?" Sully looked at the glass.
"Somethin' t' help ya clear your head," Hank grinned.
"Ya know I don't drink," Sully shook his head.
"Yea," Hank chuckled. "It's sarsaparilla."
Sully took a sip and coughed.
"See?" Hank shook his head. "Ya oughta try the hard stuff instead." Then he pulled a cigar from his pocket, "Here, Sully."
"What?" the mountain man did not know what to think.
"Congratulations, Pa," Hank winked.
"Thanks," Sully was able to smile. "For everythin'."
"Don't mention it," the bartender replied.
Hank raised his glass, "T' the newest Sully."
With their drinks consumed, Sully slid from the table and stood in the foot of water still on the floor.
Turning to Brian and Matthew, he asked, "You boys ready t' go home?"
"Ma will be real relieved," Brian said.
"This time, we're stayin' with ya all the way home," Matthew chimed in.
"Thanks," Sully's voice choked.
"Tell Dr. Mike t' take care," Loren spoke up. Then he shook the mountain man's hand, "Congratulations, Sully. I know ya got a fine boy."
Sully put his arms around Matthew and Brian and amended, "Fine boys. Thank ya, Loren."
The children were asleep when Sully and his sons arrived back at the homestead. Michaela rushed to the top of the stairs at the sound of the front door. Sully, drenched from his ordeal, hurried up the steps.
"Michaela!" he embraced her.
She wrapped her arms tightly around him and began to cry.
"Ya knew somethin' was wrong, didn't ya?" he wiped away her tears.
"I felt it so powerfully," she took a deep breath. "Let me look at you." Then she turned to the boys, "Thank you, Matthew, Brian. Are you two all right?"
"We're fine, Ma, but we better change outa these wet clothes," Matthew nudged his brother.
They went to their respective rooms.
"You, too!" she looked at Sully more closely. "Were you hurt?"
"Just twisted my knee," he played down the aches he felt.
She guided him into their bedroom and closed the door.
"Oh, Sully!" she again engulfed him in her arms. "I was so frightened."
"I'm okay," he assured her as he unbuttoned his shirt. "But I'm gettin' ya all wet."
Soon he had shed his soaked clothing. Michaela began to dry him off, massaging his aching muscles as she went. Then she sat him down on the bed and opened her medical bag. Making a quick assessment of his condition, she pronounced him fit, other than a sprain in his knee. He pulled on some dry buckskins, then sat on the bed.
"How're the children?" he leaned toward the cradle.
"Your daughter wanted me to inform you that she took very good care of me," she sat down beside him and brushed back his wet hair from his face. "And your son has been eating and sleeping, oblivious to all around him."
"How 'bout their Ma?" he gazed into her eyes.
"Now that you're home, I'm much better, thank you," she grasped his hand. "Sully, what a terrible ordeal for you."
"Do ya realize what we been through the past 24 hours?" he looked at the clock.
"Bringing our baby into the world, but nearly losing his father," her voice shook.
"I'm okay," he put his arm around her. "But I know ya haven't had much rest."
"That's all right," she was feeling tired.
"No, it ain't. Here," he stood up and lifted her legs up onto the bed. "I want ya t' get some sleep right now."
"But Josef will need to be fed shortly," she resisted. "I promise I'll rest after that."
"Good," he smiled and sat down beside her.
"How was everyone in town?" she leaned against his shoulder.
"They're holdin' up okay," he pulled her more snugly against him.
"Sully," she was calmed by the feel of him next to her. "I love you."
"I love you, too," he smiled.
"I don't know what I would do if...." she stopped.
"Don't go thinkin' about it," he comforted her. "We're all safe."
Suddenly the house began to rumble and shake. All of the knickknacks on the tables rattled.
"What is it?" she sat up with a start.
Sully darted for the cradle and picked up Josef. The infant did not stir. Handing him to Michaela, Sully swiftly ran to Katie's room. Brian and Matthew joined their mother in the hall.
"What's happenin'?" Brian held his mother steady.
"Earthquake!" Sully held a sleeping Katie curled against his chest.
As quickly as it began, it ended. Sully put Katie back to bed.
"Boys," he instructed Matthew and Brian. "Put on some boots, an' let's go check the house an' animals."
"I smell smoke!" Matthew quickly descended the steps. "The kitchen table! It's on fire."
Sully swiftly doused the flames, "Looks like the lamp fell an' started it."
"Pa," Brian observed. "Think about what kinda birthday we can tell Josef he had someday. Blizzard, flood, earthquake an' fire."
Sully headed for the barn while Matthew and Brian swept up the few pieces of broken glass and straightened the tilted picture frames on the walls. Sully inspected the house for structural damage, but the homestead had stood strong and steady.
"Pretty incredible day," Matthew smiled. "I don't know about you, but I'm ready for bed.
"Me, too," Brian agreed.
"Let's turn in, then," Sully patted their backs.
After stopping by to check on his little girl, Sully quietly entered his own bedroom.
"Katie slept through it all," he smiled.
Michaela was lying in bed, with eyes closed. He knelt down beside her and brushed back her hair from her face. Tenderly, he kissed her forehead, then rose to check on Josef. The little boy was awake now, and Sully was certain that the newborn was grinning. It was a crooked upturn of the side of his mouth.
"What ya smilin' about?" Sully whispered as he bent over and placed his hands on the sides of the cradle. "Ya know ya got your Ma's smile?"
Josef moved his tiny feet. Sully could not help but want to hold him at that instant. Should he? What if he started to fuss and wake Michaela? Assuring himself that he could pick up his son without stirring his wife, Sully lifted him into his arms.
Strolling over to the rocking chair by the fireplace, the proud father sat down and placed his baby in his lap. The infant wrapped his fingers around Sully's thumb as he gently began to rock the chair.
"I love ya, Josef," he spoke low, leaning over to kiss his tiny forehead. He continued to confide to the infant.
The baby was being lulled to sleep by Sully's calm and tender voice, "Your Ma went through so much t' have ya, but she knows ya were sure worth it. An' she knew what havin' ya would bring t' us. I once told your sister that we had extra love t' share with another child. You're that child, Josef."
The newborn was now asleep, but Sully continued, "Know what? Your name's a cherished reminder of your grandpa... a cherished reminder for your Ma. An' for me, another precious gift from her."
Michaela's voice startled him, "A gift from you to me, as well."
Though her eyes had been closed, she had heard every word of his soliloquy. He lifted the baby's head to his lips and kissed him, then carried him to the cradle.
Sully undressed and slid into bed beside his wife. Pulling her into his embrace, he sighed.
"Was that a good sigh or a bad?" she wondered.
"Anytime I'm beside ya, it's a good sigh," he stroked her temple. "An' why aren't ya sleepin'?"
"How can I sleep when you're not here?" she smiled.
"Well, I'm here now," he rubbed her arm. "So ya best sleep while ya can."
"Through all the ordeal of this past day, Sully," she leaned closer. "Your love and support meant everything."
"Same here," he confided. "I felt ya out there willin' me t' live."
"I'll always will you to live... and love... and cherish," she gazed into his eyes.
Sully recalled a line from one of his books,
"Let us cherish, while yet the taper glows."
Michaela smiled, "Ever my poet. Is it from Shakespeare?"
"Nope," his heart was full. "Usteri."
She closed her eyes and allowed herself to rest at last. Sully could feel her relax, and her steady breathing assured him that she was finally asleep. He tried to sift through the many feelings and emotions of the day... Josef's first day with them.
He thought about another first day in his own life. The day he first saw Michaela. Much as he had fought the feeling, he knew that she would claim his heart. First with Charlotte Cooper's children and then with their own little ones, she had filled their home and his heart with love. Sully gave thanks to the Spirits for his family, a family he never thought he would have.
Finally, he closed his eyes and joined his wife in blissful repose. His last thought that night was how their lives were forever changed and how bright their future would be.
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