Author's note: This last chapter is dedicated to Heidi. She's the one who gave me the idea for it.
May 31, 2006 – a tiny village in Northern Italy
Everyone at the table laughed in delight as Miranda slurped her noodles. Lena shook her head. "I swear that Miranda has a hollow leg sometimes. I don't know where she puts it all."
Bianca laughed. "And other times I can barely get her to eat two bites. Well, I'm glad she has a good appetite now. I'd have hated it if we came all the way here for her to have pasta, and she turned her nose up at it."
Zach smiled triumphantly. "I knew she wouldn't refuse it. I told her when she was still inside of you that this was the best pasta in the world."
Kendall pushed away her plate. "As usual, Zach is right. This food is fantastic. I would love to eat more, but I know if I do I'll regret it."
Zach gestured towards her plate. "Go ahead and eat, we have a bottle of antacids back in the room."
She groaned and rubbed her swollen abdomen. "No, I really can't eat another bite. My stomach seems to have the capacity of a thimble, along with my bladder. Miss Thing has made sure that there's no room in there for pesky organs. It's all about her." Kendall's smile faded, her eyes growing wide in alarm.
Zach grabbed her hand. "What is it, honey; did she kick you in the ribs again?"
Kendall shook her head, her cheeks turning red. "No, no, I just..I just think I need to head off to the ladies room. Quickly."
Zach stood and helped Kendall to her feet. She grimaced and then looked over at Bianca. Her sister leapt to her feet. "I think I should go too, while Miranda's preoccupied with her noodles."
When they got to the bathroom, Kendall clutched Bianca's arm. "Binks, I don't know what's happening. When we were sitting at the table, it seemed like I had an accident, but I didn't feel the urge to go. When I stood up, more came out."
Bianca frowned. "More what came out? Kendall, what's wrong?"
Kendall gasped as more liquid trickled down her leg. "Oh God, this is awful. Why can't I stop it? This can't be what I think it is…it just can't be. It's my bladder, that's all it is. It didn't like the thimble comment."
Bianca's eyes widened. "Wait a minute, you're leaking and you say you can't stop the flow? Oh my God. Your water's breaking!"
Kendall shook her head, her expression defiant. "No, I'm not due for another two weeks. When the doctor examined me two days ago, she predicted that I would either be on time or late. That's why I wanted to come to Italy now, before it was too late and I wouldn't be able to take the trip." Another dribble of water came out, and she realized that she couldn't deny it to herself anymore. She wasn't losing control of her bladder. "Oh God, oh God! My water's breaking. That means that the baby has to be out in 24 hours. Oh God!"
There was a knock at the door. "Kendall, are you alright?" It was Zach. Bianca went to the door and opened it. Zach saw his wife standing there clutching at her belly. Then he saw the growing wet spot at her feet. "Kendall, please tell me you didn't make it to the bathroom on time…"
She attempted a smile. "It's funny when you think about it. All the baby books say to be prepared. I made sure to pack a suitcase like they recommended. It's all ready to go, sitting in the trunk of the Jag...at home in Pine Valley."
Zach came into the bathroom and scooped Kendall up into his arms. "I don't believe this. I knew we shouldn't have taken this trip. We're hours away from the nearest hospital. I don't even know if this village has a doctor."
Bianca clasped her hands together. "I'm sure they have a midwife. I'll go ask someone." She left to go find the manager.
Zach carried Kendall to the inn right next door to the tiny restaurant. He took her upstairs to their room and laid her on the bed. He pulled out his cell and called Kendall's obstetrician in Pine Valley. Her answering service promised to page her.
Bianca came in. "Lena's talking to the manager." She sat on the bed next to Kendall. "Are you having contractions?"
Kendall frowned. "No…not really. I have been having more back pain than usual, but I figured it was from last night."
Bianca raised her eyebrows. "Last night?"
Kendall glanced at Zach. "Well, we hadn't seen each other in a week, so…we got carried away." Zach flew in directly from Zurich, where he had been on Cambias business.
Zach caressed Kendall's face. "What my wife is trying to say is that it's my fault she's having our baby early. My enthusiasm must have triggered the process."
Bianca held up her hands. "I think I get the idea. Okay, well, there is such a thing as contractions manifesting themselves as back pain. I think you are officially in labor, Kendall."
Lena came in, holding Miranda's hand. "The manager has gone to find the midwife. If you need me, I'll be with Miranda in our room." Bianca went over and kissed Miranda goodbye.
Kendall looked pale. Zach took her hand. "How are you doing, honey?"
She shook her head. "The back pain is getting worse, and it seems to be spreading." She winced.
Zach stroked her hand. "Breathe, Kendall. Take deep breaths, like you learned in class."
Bianca came back over to the bed. "Let's see what we can do to make Kendall more comfortable." She had Kendall lean forward, and she piled a bunch of pillows behind her. Kendall settled back on the pillows and squeezed her eyes shut, inhaling sharply.
Zach ran his fingers through his hair. "Do you want some water? No, no, I mean ice chips? I don't know if they have ice chips here. Dammit." He saw sweat break out on her brow, and he went to get a washcloth and soaked it with cold water. He pressed the washcloth to her forehead. "Where's the midwife? This village isn't even a quarter of a mile in length. It shouldn't be taking her this long to get here!"
Bianca raised an eyebrow. "The restaurant manager might be able to answer that question. Why don't you go find him?"
Kendall let out a low keening noise. Zach grimaced. "Okay, okay, I'll go do that right now. Get me immediately if anything happens." He kissed Kendall's hand, then went out the door.
Kendall took deep breaths. "He's going to lose his mind before this is all over."
Bianca laughed. "You're taking this calmly. I expected you to start screaming the house down."
"Well, so far it isn't that bad. And I'm too afraid to start ranting. What if something goes wrong, Binks? I was expecting to give birth in a hospital where they're ready for any contingency. So many unexpected things can happen."
Bianca squeezed her hand. "You've been reading too many horror stories in the baby books."
Kendall glared at her. "Excuse me, but I don't need to read about horror stories in baby books. You gave birth in a damn cabin and almost bled to death."
Bianca looked sheepish. "Okay, so my own experience was a bit difficult. But I made it through. And it was isolated where I was. This village may be small, but lots of babies have been born here. I'm sure they'll have what we need."
Kendall continued to breathe deeply. "God, Binks, the baby's coming today. Am I ready for this? Am I ready to be a mother?"
Bianca put her hand on Kendall's shoulder. "Kendall, you've been quite sure for the past nine months that you want to be a mother. Now's not exactly the time for doubts."
Kendall glared at her. "I can have doubts any time I feel like it!"
Bianca smiled. "Now there's the snark I've been expecting. Kendall, you're just having last minute jitters. It's perfectly natural."
Kendall winced. "But Greenlee kept telling me that I only got pregnant because she was going to have one. Maybe subconsciously I did want to compete with her. Oh God, I can't believe this. I'm going to be a horrible mother!"
Zach came back into the room. He looked grim. "The restaurant manager said that the midwife is 50 miles away on a farm delivering another baby. She has no intention of coming until the other baby is born. The manager and the innkeeper are trying to find some experienced mothers who can help you through this."
Kendall looked at him in horror. "What the hell…are you kidding me? What are the odds that another woman would go into labor at the same time as me? And don't spout any casino jargon at me or I'll rip your head off and shove it down your neck."
Zach raised his eyebrows. "Contractions have gotten worse, I see." He came over to her and took her hand. "Breathe, Kendall. Try to concentrate on the positive. Our beautiful little girl is about to be born."
Kendall burst into tears. "I don't want her to be born. What will I do with her then? I was doing just fine as a mother when all I had to do was eat right and visit the doctor and not fall down any flights of stairs. It's going to be a lot more work when she's born. Oh God…" She lowered her face into her hands.
Zach climbed onto the bed and gathered her into his arms. "Kendall, you are going to do just fine. I know it's scary, you think I'm not completely freaked out? But we'll be surrounded by people who love us and will help us, I promise. Fuck!" He pried her nails out of his hand and shifted her grip so that she could hold onto him without drawing blood. The contractions were apparently getting even stronger. "Breathe, Kendall."
Bianca stood up. "I'm going to go get some boiling water and towels."
Zach eased off the bed and came over to her. "I always hear about that in the movies, but what the heck do you use them for?"
Bianca glanced at Kendall. In a low voice, she said, "If you press towels soaked with hot water against the birth canal, it softens the opening and lessens the chance of…tearing."
"Tearing?" Kendall screamed. "Did you just say 'tearing?' That's what happened to you isn't it? I think I'm going to be sick." Bianca gave her an apologetic look and beat a hasty retreat out of the room.
Zach came back to the bed and wiped her forehead with the wet cloth. She really did look nauseous. "I remember in the class we took, they said that women often throw up right before the baby is ready to be born. You can't possibly be at that point, yet. Are you?"
Kendall groaned. "I don't know, Zach. If we were in a hospital, I'd have the doctor sticking his hand up me to see how far I've dilated. Maybe…maybe you should…?"
Zach gestured helplessly. "You want me to…to…put my hand in there?"
Kendall glared at him. "It wasn't a problem for you last night!"
Zach burst out laughing. "Uh, yeah, but I didn't have it in there up to my elbow."
She grabbed a handful of his shirt. "And that's the last fucking brood mare joke you're going to make. Now you had plenty of fun making this baby. It's time to pay the piper!"
There was a knock at the door. Gratefully, Zach went to open it. The innkeeper was there with an older gentleman. The innkeeper introduced him as Paulo, and said that he has assisted in many births. Dizzy with relief, Zach escorted him into the room. "Kendall, this is Paulo. He's experienced in helping women give birth."
The innkeeper shook his head. "No, no. Not women. Horses and cows."
Kendall screamed in fury. She grabbed a porcelain figurine on the bedside table and hurled it in their direction. Paulo and the innkeeper fled the room. Zach couldn't help it, he burst out laughing again. When Kendall started to groan as another contraction ripped through her, he sobered up and went to her side. "Kendall, I think maybe you should walk around some. I remember that was one of the things they told us in the class."
She whimpered. "Okay." He helped her off the bed and they walked around the room a little. "Goddamn Greenlee, why didn't she tell me how bad it was? When we went to see them in the hospital she didn't say a peep, just stared adoringly at her little boy."
Zach smiled. "I think it was one of those things where the mother immediately forgets how bad the labor was because she is so in love with her child."
Kendall glared at him. "What a load. No one could forget pain this awful. Didn't Ryan say anything to you at all about his experience in the delivery room?"
Zach cleared his throat. "I think he's too afraid to speak of it, lest it bring on the nightmares again." Actually, Ryan had shared the horrors of Greenlee's labor with him. He said he owed it to Zach to prepare him for what was to come. Zach was the one who had helped him deal with his family demons after Ryan's brother took Greenlee, Kendall and Lily hostage and Ryan had been forced to kill him. Ryan came close to getting a vasectomy because he didn't think he deserved to have children. Zach reminded him that he himself had almost thrown away a lifetime of love and happiness because he had been afraid of what lurked in his DNA. Zach pointed out that, just like Kendall, Greenlee was too strong to let the demons take over.
Kendall grimaced. "I think I better get back in bed. This stuff keeps trickling down my leg and it's gross. I thought when the water breaks it all comes out in one big goosh and that's it. This is like Chinese water torture." She shuffled back to the bed and Zach helped her get comfortable. He brought some towels from the bathroom and helped her clean up.
Kendall moaned loudly when another contraction hit. Tears ran down her face. "God, how long does it take a farmer's wife to give birth, anyway? Don't they shoot them out one after another? She probably already has five kids, why does she even need a midwife?"
Zach fished in his jacket pocket. "I have an idea. Maybe you should talk to your mother. She might be able to help ease some of your fears."
Kendall gave him a startled look. "Did I just hear you right? Did my husband just suggest my mother as a source of comfort?"
Zach grinned as he produced his cell phone and dialed Erica's number. "Your mother may be annoying, but even I can't deny how persuasive she can be." He handed the phone to Kendall.
"Mother? Mother, its Kendall. Well, there's a reason I sound out of breath. I'm in labor. No, it's not a false alarm. My water broke." Kendall held the phone away from her ear and Zach could hear Erica's loud voice. "Uh, we're still in Italy. No…not Rome. Still in Northern Italy. We were in the middle of our pasta dinner when it happened." She held the phone away again. "Mother, it's not Zach's fault. I was the one who insisted we take this trip now." The trip was supposed to have happened in March, after Miranda and Adam's birthday party, but Ethan had a setback and Zach didn't want to leave him.
For almost two months Ethan was in the hospital, fighting for his life after being crushed in an explosion during a fundraising gala. After getting Kendall to safety, Zach had tirelessly searched until he reached his nephew and Simone trapped in the rubble. The doctors said Zach found him just in time - he had been near death. Ethan recovered, but it was a slow and painful process. Simone was so freaked out by almost losing him that she chucked all her fairy princess wedding plans and arranged for them to get married in Ethan's hospital room.
Zach and Kendall quietly celebrated their anniversary and then he jetted off to Zurich to take care of some urgent business that had been delayed because Ryan was on paternity leave and Zach wanted to make sure Ethan was finally out of the woods. Kendall unilaterally decided that Miranda's birthday trip had been put off long enough, and purchased the airline tickets to Italy over Zach's strenuous objections.
Kendall winced as another contraction hit. "Aaaaugh, Mother! Quit lecturing me! I called you because I needed to hear soothing words, not poisoned barbs directed towards my husband." She breathed deeply several times. "Mother, I'm so scared. The midwife's not here yet, and I keep thinking of when Bianca gave birth. I don't want to bleed." More tears sprang to her eyes.
Zach watched as Kendall listened to Erica for a long time. Eventually, she started to look more relaxed. "Okay…okay, I will. Thank you. Will you do me a favor? When you come…bring the quilt." She groaned again as another contraction hit. "I don't…I don't think I can talk anymore." She gave the phone to Zach.
He pressed the cell to his ear. "Whatever you said to her worked. She's calmer now. Thanks."
"Zach, I need to book a flight to Rome, but it will be a long time before I can get there. Help her through this. Lie to her if you have to. Just keep her calm and don't let her dwell on anything negative. I know you can do it. It was only because she has felt so happy and loved by you that she was confident enough to take this huge step in the first place. She never wanted anything to do with children before you two got married."
Zach was a bit stunned by her words of encouragement. "Thank you, Erica. I'll do what I can."
"I better go book that flight. My daughter needs me." They said their goodbyes and hung up.
Zach tucked the cell phone back in his pocket and climbed onto the bed. "Well, this will be a great belated anniversary present."
Kendall groaned. "I think I preferred how we spent our first anniversary."
Zach smiled. "The grand opening of the casino in Seoul. You were exquisite in that green dress."
Kendall gave a shaky smile. "I had to do justice to those gorgeous jade earrings and necklace you gave me as an anniversary gift."
Zach caressed her cheek with his finger. "No, the jade had to try and do justice to your eyes. It failed." He kissed her forehead. "I hope she has your eyes."
"I hope she has your chin dimple."
He raised his eyebrows. "Now why would you want to saddle her with something this ridiculous?"
Kendall glared at him. "I happen to adore it!"
His eyes gleamed. "So I've noticed when we're making love."
"Okay, don't even talk about sex right now. It was sex that got me pregnant and sex that started the labor. I don't want to be cliché and say that this is all your fault, but well…"
"Mmm hmm. Yes dear and…I'm sorry." She rolled her eyes at his favorite joke.
Zach finally got a call back from Kendall's obstetrician. She walked him through various techniques to make Kendall comfortable and prepare her for birth. Bianca came back with the hot water and towels, and they ministered to Kendall for the next couple of hours. The innkeeper arrived again, this time with an elderly little woman. He explained that she had been the previous midwife until she retired ten years ago due to infirmity.
The midwife only spoke Italian, so the innkeeper reluctantly stayed to translate. The midwife examined Kendall and let loose a torrent of Italian. The innkeeper said, "She is surprised that this is your first pregnancy. You have reached the birthing point very quickly. She said it is time."
Kendall moaned. "Does this mean I can push now? I really want to push."
The innkeeper translated to the midwife. She grinned toothlessly and nodded her head. Zach was holding Kendall's hand and stroking her hair. The midwife gestured to him and indicated that he should come over. The innkeeper, who was staring earnestly at the wall opposite from the bed, said, "She says you do not look like the typical weakling male who would faint at the sight of a birth. She needs your help since her eyesight is dim and her hands are no longer steady."
Bianca stayed by Kendall's side to encourage her in her pushing. The innkeeper fetched and carried when ordered and translated the old midwife's instructions to Zach. After what seemed like an eternity, Zach welcomed his daughter into the world. Gently, he laid her on Kendall's abdomen and Bianca helped to clean her off while Zach cut the cord. At this point, the current midwife finally arrived, and she took over the afterbirth process. Zach moved around to Kendall's side and joined her in gazing at the wailing baby.
The old midwife gestured to Kendall and said something in Italian. The innkeeper, who had accidentally caught a glimpse of the placenta, was in the bathroom throwing up. Zach looked at the midwife in concern. "What do you think she wants?"
Kendall smiled. "She's telling me that I need to feed my baby."
Zach frowned. "How do you know?"
Bianca chuckled. "Because she's a mother, now. She knows."
Kendall guided the baby to her breast and helped her to latch on.
Bianca handed Zach a handkerchief as tears started to run down his cheeks. "So does the newest Kane woman have a name yet?"
Zach touched his daughter's forehead. "Samantha Hart Slater. She's named after my great-grandmother, the one who made the baby quilt."
Kendall gazed down at her daughter. "Bongiorno, Samantha."
The two midwives, having finished their tasks, left with the still green-colored innkeeper. Bianca kissed Kendall, Zach and Samantha, and quietly left the room so that the Slater family could have some time alone together.