Chapter 9: Another Goodbye
Michaela, Sully, and the children walked into the Quinn house after Josef's funeral. Everything was different now. Everyone wore black to mourn the loss of Josef Quinn, and to add to the frustration, Silas had presented the family with Josef's will on the carriage ride back from the cemetery.
Josef had left the children, and any future children, more than half of his money. The rest of the money was split between Michaela and her four sisters, though he left out some money for Harrison and Martha. Everyone had come to the decision that Josef had been fair in his dealings, and it wasn't right to argue over any minor details.
The funeral had been a short service and a quick burial. Josef clearly stated that he didn't want people to cry over him, but that hadn't been possible. The children and Josef's daughters all wept for the passing of the beloved patriarch of the remaining Quinn family.
Josef had sold the house and everything inside. He had left enough money for Harrison and Martha to find their own homes to live in. It seemed as if he'd taken care of everything. Now the only thing left of Josef Quinn was his memory. His wing of the hospital had been left in Michaela's care, but of course she wouldn't be around to manage it. She wanted to keep her father's practice alive, but it just wasn't the best thing to do. She had five children and a husband to worry about, along with her own medical practice.
While reading Josef's will, Michaela signed over the Josef's patients, transferring them to the few doctors at the hospital whom she thought deserved more patients. For a few solid minutes, Michaela had had the power of over half of the hospital in her hands. Now it was gone, and she was left feeling unsure of her decision.
When the children retired to their rooms to rest up for the journey back to Colorado Springs, Michaela sat down on the edge of her old bed and stared at herself in the floor-length mirror.
Sully came in after having dropped the boys off in Colleen's room, and he noticed the blank look across Michaela's face.
"It's been a big day. You ought to get some sleep."
"I can't sleep, Sully. Not at a time like this." Sully took a seat beside his wife and took her hand in his. Her emotions broke through again, and the tears began to fall. "Oh Sully, why now? Why did it have to happen now?"
"C'mere," he whispered, pulling his arms around her. She wrapped her arms around his neck and rested her head on his shoulder. Her tears lightly dampened his shirt as he rocked her back and forth. "I ain't gonna tell ya not to cry, and I ain't gonna tell ya to cheer up. Both of us know how tough this is, and it's gonna get better someday."
"How do you get over something like this? I feel like I haven't fully gotten over what's happened to father, mother . . . Charlotte . . ."
"Ya never get over it, but it gets easier to live with as time goes on," he whispered, stroking her tear-soaked cheek. Michaela bit her trembling lip, and Sully began rubbing her back soothingly.
"I remember my father taking me for a walk when I was no more that five years old," Michaela whispered. "I had been quarrelling with my mother, because she wouldn't let me wear the party dress that I wanted to wear." She smiled a little in remembrance. "We took a walk through the common, and I asked him if he was angry with me. He said, 'Mike, I'll never be angry with you for fighting for what you want.'" Michaela looked up into Sully's eyes. He couldn't smile and tell her it was going to be okay, because that rarely ever helped anyone who was grieving. What he could do was be there for her; let her know that he would always support her.
"Sounds like you've got lots of good memories with your pa." Michaela nodded.
"Yes," she replied with a nod. "He also told me that one day he'd bring his grandchildren through the common. He never got that chance. I think that's the only promise he's ever made me that he's broken."
"I'm sure he didn't intend on it," Sully replied. Michaela nodded.
"I know I'm acting childish."
"You ain't actin' childish at all, Michaela. You're missin' your pa, and you've got a right to."
"I just feel like I'm letting him down. He didn't want us to cry for him."
"Don't go frettin' 'bout that," Sully whispered. He kissed her hand. "Everybody's gotta cry sometime." Michaela yawned a bit, and Sully kissed her forehead. "Please try to sleep. For me?" Michaela merely nodded and leaned back on the bed, resting her head against the pillows. He waited until she fell asleep before slipping out of the bedroom and walking downstairs.
He stood before the large window in the front of the house, looking out over the busy Boston streets. He smiled as he thought of the first time he and Michaela danced together. She had looked so brilliantly beautiful, and he could remember her eyes lighting up at the sound of the music coming from the park. An idea struck him, and he grabbed his coat, leaving the Quinn house, and starting toward the park.
Business was slow for Grace today, seeing as a rainstorm had completely flooded several roads. The townsfolk who regularly ate at the café had already come and gone twice. Now Grace was sitting at one of her tables, staring into a cup of cider. Robert E. was working at the livery, and Grace was thankful that he didn't have to be there to witness her in one of her moods. While she would like him to be there to hold her, she felt it was best if she didn't bring him down with her. He was still grieving over the loss of their daughter, but in a different way. Grace and Robert E. rarely spoke anymore, except to greet each other in the morning and say their goodnights when they went to bed.
They loved each other dearly, but they both thought they were doing what was best to give each other some room. The night the baby died had been the hardest. Grace had cried herself to sleep, and Robert E. had tried hopelessly to ease her tears. She still cried, but not at night anymore. She bit back the tears so Robert E. wouldn't have to go to sleep hearing his wife's sobs.
As far as most of the townsfolk knew, Grace and Robert E. were doing fine. Sure, they were getting on with their lives, but they were far from fine, especially emotionally. Robert E. hated leaving his wife alone all of the time, but when he would try to talk to her, she would get emotional or would tell him she wasn't feeling up to talking. He kept telling himself that she would come around, but until then he should back off.
It pained Grace to send Robert E. away when she was so upset. She wanted him to hold her in his arms through the night to help her feel better, but she couldn't bring herself to ask for his help. She felt like she had to be strong. For most of her life, she'd been a slave and wasn't allowed to cry. Now she was a free woman, and she wanted to feel like she could take care of herself too. She wanted to feel strong, but truthfully, she wasn't feeling strong at all.
"Grace?" Grace looked up, not having heard Myra's voice the first couple of times. Myra sat down beside her. "Grace, are you feelin' alright?"
"Oh! Myra, 'course I'm feelin' fine," Grace replied quickly.
"Sorry my break took longer than usual. Hank was feelin' poorly, so I took him home and made him some tea."
"That's fine," Grace replied, standing up to put more coffee on the stove. "Business is slow today anyway. You're just lucky your road didn't get washed out."
"Yeah," Myra replied. "We saw several wagons stuck in the mud." Myra realized that Grace wasn't interested in talking. "Grace? If there's somethin' on your mind, you can tell me. I'm your friend."
"I know that," Grace replied. "I just don't have nothin' to talk about."
"You were obviously thinkin' 'bout somethin'. Ya didn't even hear me call for ya the first two times."
"I was just thinkin' 'bout getting started on tomorrow's menu." Grace started walking about, and Myra's eyes followed her. She quickly got up and started over toward her.
"Grace, ya don't gotta work yourself so hard." Grace had had enough of people trying to get her to relax. She spun around and stared Myra in the eyes.
"Why don't ya take the day off, Myra? I'm closin' up."
"Closin' up?" Myra asked with worry.
"That's right. I'm goin' home."
"Do ya want me to bring ya anythin'?"
"No! I just want everyone to leave me alone!" Grace exclaimed. She knocked the coffee pot off of the stove and jumped as it crashed to the ground. Myra stood frozen with worry as Grace started off toward her and Robert E.'s house near the livery. Robert E. saw Myra, and followed her gaze toward Grace. Myra rushed over to him.
"Maybe ya should talk to her. She said she wants people to leave her alone, but I don't think she should be alone right now. She's closin' up for the day." She turned toward the café to clean up and put away the table cloths in case of rain, like Grace usually did at the end of the evening.
Robert E. cautiously opened the front door to his home with Grace. He could hear her upstairs. She was pacing. Pacing. Pacing was what she did when she was thinking, and she did a lot of that lately. He swallowed hard, knowing that she was going to shut him out again. He couldn't let her do it this time. He had to step up and be there for her. He realized now that he shouldn't have let this go on for so long. He should have helped her long before. He only hoped that it wasn't too late.
He slowly ascended the stairs, each footstep causing the stairs to creak. He knew Grace could hear him coming, because he heard the pacing stop and the springs on the bed give way as she sat down on the edge. Once he reached the door to the bedroom, he slowly turned the handle and walked inside.
"Grace? Myra said you're closin' up for the day."
"Sure am," she replied, standing up and walking over to take the pins out of her hair, letting the black locks fall down her shoulders. Robert E. nervously stuck his hands inside of his pockets and cleared his throat.
"Wanna talk to me about it?"
"Ain't nothin' to talk about."
"You know that ain't true."
"Why can't ya just believe me when I tell ya I'm fine?"
"'Cause I know ya ain't fine. I know you're still grievin' over the baby."
"Don't talk about her," Grace snapped.
"I have a right to talk about her. We can't pretend she never existed, Grace. She did, and she was real. She wasn't with us for very long, but when she was growin' inside of you, she was a part of our lives."
"I don't want to talk about this, Robert E.!" Grace exclaimed. "Not now!"
"I just ain't ready yet!"
"You're never gonna be ready, Grace, and neither am I. But we gotta talk about it sooner or later."
"I can't," Grace sobbed, sinking down into the rocking chair she used to rock herself in when the baby kept her up late with her kicking. Her hand moved to her flattened belly, and the tears began to cascade down her cheeks. Robert E. knelt down beside the chair and took Grace's hands in his.
"I love you Grace, more than anyone I've ever loved in my whole life. I ain't never had someone as special as you come into my life. I ain't willin' to lose me."
"You ain't losin' me," Grace replied, blinking away the tears.
"I am. Every time you turn me away, I'm losin' a little piece of you. Every time I see that pain in your eyes, I'm losin' more of you. I hate seein' you like this. I know ya wanna be strong, but ya can't be strong without lettin' it all out sometimes." Grace sniffled and pulled her hands away from her husband's. She dried the tears from her eyes, and reached out to caress Robert E.'s cheek, catching a falling tear with her thumb.
"I'm sorry, Robert E., I truly am," she whispered. "It's just that I feel like I'm all alone."
"Ya ain't alone. You ain't the only one who lost that little girl. I know what it's like to lose a child. I know I don't speak of 'em, but I lost children when I was a slave. It hurts more than anythin' to know that someone ya love is hurtin' in the same way you are, but ya don't know how to help 'em." Grace took a deep, shaky breath.
"I never thought I'd ever be blessed with a child," she whispered. "When I found out we were expectin', I was happier than I ever imagined I could be. Robert E. what if it never happens again? What if we ain't meant to have a baby?"
"We don't know if that's God's plan," Robert E. explained. "Some folks are blessed with children and others aren't. Even if it never happens, Grace, we can always adopt."
"Robert E. look at us! Nobody is ever gonna give us a child!"
"Just 'cause we ain't white?"
"Exactly 'cause we ain't white!"
"Grace, there are lots of kids out there that need a home. Colored children, Indian children . . ."
"I want a child of my own!" she insisted. "I want our little girl back!"
"She ain't comin' back, Grace, but she wouldn't want her ma to be actin' like this. She'd want her ma to go on and laugh again. She'd want her to be happy."
"I can't just forget her."
"I ain't askin' ya too. I'm askin' ya to try and get through the pain. I'm tryin' to do the same thing, and if we work together, we might be able to help each other." Grace looked into Robert E.'s eyes and saw how much pain he was in. She hadn't focused on him since the baby had died, and she realized now how much he was really hurting. She knew without a doubt now that he was in just as much pain as she was.
"I'm sorry," she cried. Robert E. pulled her into his arms. "I'm so sorry!" She began to sob, and Robert E. held her while she let it all out.
"I'm sorry too," he whispered. "But things are gonna get better. Just you wait. We're gonna have our baby, Grace, I swear to ya. We'll have our baby."
Late that evening, Sully had convinced Michaela to take a walk with him in the park. Matthew was watching the other children, and told his mother that she should get out and have a breath of fresh air. Michaela agreed to go, and Sully was leading her through the common and toward the park.
"Where are we going?" Michaela wondered as Sully's grip on Michaela's hand tightened a bit. He looked at her and smiled.
"Remember where we first danced?"
"Of course I do," she replied.
"Well, there ain't no dances goin' on, or any musicians playin', but we can make our own music."
"Sully," Michaela whispered, hesitating, "I'm not exactly in the mood for dancing." Sully pressed his lips against Michaela's knuckles.
"Your pa would want to see ya happy," he whispered. "He'd want ya to laugh and have fun."
"I know," Michaela replied. "I just feel that we should be getting back to the children."
"The children are fine," Sully insisted. Michaela could see that Sully was determined to have her dance with him. She smiled a little just knowing that he was so adamant about this. She knew he wanted to keep her happy all of her days, and that was something that made Michaela love him more and more with each new day.
Once they reached the spot where the dance was held that fateful night, Sully pulled Michaela into his arms. Michaela looked up into his eyes, and then up at the big, bright full moon.
"Look at all of the stars," Michaela whispered. "The sky is so bright, yet it's getting so late." Sully's eyes sparkled as he looked into Michaela's.
"The only light I see tonight is comin' from you." Michaela chuckled a bit at her husband's sweet words. He pressed his lips upon hers and pulled her even closer to him. They danced in silence for a few minutes longer until Sully finally took a deep breath and spoke again.
"Losin' Josef made me realize somethin'."
"What's that?" Michaela asked.
"It made me realize that we're really blessed." Michaela pulled away from her husband for a moment, not sure of his meaning.
"Blessed? How are we blessed by my father's passing?" Sully took her hand in his and kissed it softly.
"Look at us, Michaela. We've lost so many people we care about in the last couple of years, yet we still have one another and our kids. There are so many people who are much worse off that us, and I think we should be countin' each and every blessin' we've got. I mean, look at Horace and Mary. Horace lost the woman he loves, and Mary lost her ma after just findin' her. Jake loved Holly too, and he lost her. Robert E. and Grace had been wantin' that baby so much, and they lost her. They've still got each other and their friends, but they ain't got the kinda family we got." Michaela nodded slowly in understanding. She wrapped her arms around Sully and kissed his cheek.
"You're right," she replied. "No matter what we've lost, we've gained so much. Our love, our marriage, and our children. We are blessed." Sully and Michaela joined hands and walked off toward the house, counting their blessings in silence.