Part 7.4 – A Miracle Awaits
Perry drove as fast as he dared toward Carmel and the house where Della, his very own miracle, awaited. He had spoken to her a little over four hours ago, after everyone had left his office, but didn't have much opportunity to tell her about what had happened because Della had news: her sister-in-law Rachel had given birth prematurely to a baby boy, Alice's first male grandchild, and the taxi taking her to the airport had just pulled away from the house. Mae was there, as was a doting Martin, who announced he wouldn't leave until Perry arrived in case Mae should require help caring for Della. Perry could almost hear Della roll her eyes as she reported that bit of the story. Martin had fallen instantly in love with Della once they finally met, and Perry was amused at all the time the two of them spent talking about furniture and fabrics and inexplicably, lamps.
Although he was overly anxious to return to the house and hold Della in his arms, he stopped at the Driftwood Florist shop for a dozen red and white roses, the colors of unity. He would tell her the two of them could do anything and get through anything as long as they were together, and that it didn't matter she hadn't told him about Gregg, because really, it didn't. She was entitled to hold something that tragic and traumatic to herself. He had to trust in her, had to trust in himself, had to trust in them.
He turned onto East Carmelo Avenue and drove down the winding road. At the 'magic spot', where the house presented itself, a huge grin spread across his face. Della was standing at the rail of the second story porch, waving. He guided the car through the opening in the stone wall and brought it to a lurching stop at the base of the front steps. Grabbing the roses and his briefcase from the seat next to him, he ran up the steps and with shaking hands keyed open the door. He took three steps into the house and stopped as the sight before him stole his breath.
Della was flying down the stairs, exactly like she had described the night she became so ill, barely touching the steps. She launched herself at him so that he had to drop his briefcase in order to catch her. Her kiss was effusive, ardent, and wantonly passionate. He lost himself in the kiss, having needed it and more these last three days away from her, his lips possessive, his tongue plundering. Mae's cough brought him back to the fact that there were other people in the house, and he sheepishly set Della on her feet. She continued to lean against him, as he placed a kiss on Mae's cheek and quickly shook Martin's hand before heading into the den to deposit his briefcase. Della remained so close to him she nearly tripped him, clutching the roses to her chest.
Away from her aunt and Martin in the den, Della set the flowers on the desk and again pulled his head down to hers, leaving no doubt about her pleasure at seeing him. The palpable tension between them even after her deliberate seduction had given away to an almost frantic need to hold him and be held by him. Her lips clung to his for several long moments, and then she broke away.
"Welcome home," she said softly.
Perry smiled and brushed his fingers across her cheek. "Maybe I should go out and come back in. I think someone missed me."
"You have no idea."
"Oh, I have a very good idea, precious girl." He pulled her down on the big, soft leather couch and cuddled her to his side. "I don't do well without you, Della. I needed you so much during that ordeal."
She rubbed her hand over his chest. "I know, darling. Feel like talking now?"
Della lay in his arms on the couch and let him talk it all out, let him tell her every heart-wrenching detail of the short meeting between Ted Balfour and Barbara Ann Becker, his deep voice rumbling in his chest beneath her ear. She knew he had been confident in his ability to convince Edgar and Theodore Balfour that exposing the adoption and removing Barbara Becker from her home, even if only for visitation would not be the best thing for her, but never had he suspected what lay at the base of the sudden interest in the child. He had uncovered an elaborate trail of bribery and forged documents, which were now in the possession of Hamilton Burger with a full recounting of the meeting between Ted Balfour and Barbara Becker, as well as her parents. He apologized for not returning to Carmel immediately after the meeting concluded, but he needed time to tie up loose ends with Tragg and Burger, as well as with Jackson and Gertie, time to have the summons vacated and the adoption records to be re-sealed and stored in a safer place than the Brent Building's storage room, time to immerse himself in tasks that would take his mind off of Ted Balfour.
"We're the same age," she said quietly, sadly. "Is he married?"
Perry smoothed errant curls from her forehead. "No. He spent all his time working on his inventions. He's really quite brilliant and driven. He made his money in aeronautics but has recently shifted his attention to the medical field. It's a crying shame that the world will be robbed of his genius."
"How is Paul? Did he make friends in jail?"
Perry grinned. "I don't know if he made any friends among his fellow inmates, but believe me he didn't endear himself to any of the guards or officers."
"We should invite him and Linda to spend next weekend if we're still here."
"We'll still be here," he affirmed. "Two more weeks, then we'll go home and you'll work half days for a week and see how you feel…"
"Perry, you can't ignore your practice for that long," she protested. "There are a lot of important matters you need to attend to."
"And I will attend to them when I'm satisfied that the most important matter is fully recovered."
"You drive me nuts, you know," she said petulantly.
Perry burst out laughing, pulled her to him and kissed her with unbridled enthusiasm. "I love you, too, darling."
"Go ahead and laugh, Mr. Mason. You have no idea what it's like to have your every move watched, your every cough critiqued for how much phlegm it brings up, your every bite of food cheered like the home team's fourth quarter touchdown." She tried to sit up, but he held her against his chest tightly.
"Precious girl, we do all of that because we want to you to get well," he admonished gently. "You lost a lot of weight and your lungs aren't completely clear yet. Kathy said it would be two or three months before you felt like your old self again."
She sighed hugely. "I'm not an invalid. I'd like to do a few things by myself."
"You can wash your hair by yourself now that your mother is gone," he teased.
"Actually, I was hoping you might…why are you giving me that look? I think I proved how well I feel the night before you left."
He hugged her. "About that night," he began.
Della suddenly pushed herself from his embrace and moved to the side of the desk, picked up the bouquet of roses and inhaled their scent with closed eyes. "They're beautiful. Thank you," she said, her back to him.
He felt her withdrawal, knew that he was treading on ground she had hoped not to cover again, but couldn't stop himself. "The florist said red and white roses symbolize unity. I like that."
"So do I," she replied softly. "Except that I don't feel very unified at the moment. Everyone has an opinion about what I should do and how I should feel and…and you – and you keep taking their side."
Perry quickly got to his feet and slid his arms around her from behind, drawing her back against him. "There are no sides in this, my darling. We all want the same thing: for you to be happy and healthy."
"I know that," she almost wailed, perilously close to tears. "Do you have any idea how overwhelmed I've been? How it felt to wake up in the hospital and see not only my mother, but my brothers as well? And Aunt Mae…and Kathy, and even Martin – they all treat me like a little girl, cautioning me about not overdoing it, chastising me if I don't finish the huge portion of food they think I should be eating, or lecturing me about you." She turned in his arms and buried her face in his shirtfront, hands gripping the lapels of his suit coat. "And you, the one I needed to be there for me, you've been the worst of all."
Perry was stunned. "I've been the worst of all? Della, baby…"
"Don't call me baby! That's what I'm talking about. I'm a grown woman and I love you and I need you like a grown woman needs a man and you…you – you don't want me!"
If he thought he was stunned before, it didn't compare to what he felt at her outburst. "My God, Della, what are you talking about? Of course I want you. I want you so much I let you seduce me the other night when you should have been rest –"
"You let me seduce you?" She exclaimed incredulously, twisting in his arms to face him. "We've been together too long for what I did to be called a seduction. I wanted you and I asked for you. I know it's been hard on you to have my family around, and out of respect for them you kept your distance, but it was getting ridiculous just how distant you were." She looked up at him with angry misery.
"Your mother requested that I…that we not, uh…honey, I've been frustrated too. Your mother and aunt took over running the house and taking care of you and I felt left out. I've never felt so ineffectual in my life."
All of Della's anger drained from her body as she realized exactly what it was that had caused the awkwardness and distance between them. "On my darling man," she whispered. "You experienced a family – what a family does when things go wrong. My family has had more than its share of things gone wrong so we band together because that old adage about strength in numbers is completely true. I spent an hour arguing with my mother and Aunt Mae about going home to help with Rachel and the baby, but I knew it was futile. I knew from the moment Mom hung up the phone that she would go home and Aunt Mae would stay with me until Kathy says I can go back to work, and then she'll fly to Michigan to add another member to the team."
"But you've complained the entire time about your mother and brothers and Mae…"
Della smiled and slid her arms around his waist. "Of course I did. That's what children do when their parents treat them like children. I didn't really mean any of it. I've loved every blessed minute – except for the whole pneumonia thing."
Perry shook his head. "I'm fairly intelligent, but all of this is beyond my comprehension."
She snuggled against him. "Darling, it all boils down to the fact that by being with me you have become a child. Mom and Aunt Mae have been treating you exactly like they would treat me or Jamie or Robbie. Jeez-o-Pete, Kathy is a doctor and they spoke to her sometimes like she was seven."
He hugged her hard. "Promise me you'll never stop saying 'Jeez-o-Pete'," he requested.
"And promise me you'll let Mom mother you. She really wants to."
"She's hardly old enough to be my mother."
"Doesn't matter. She'll appreciate your gallantry, but she'll still treat you like her son."
He was thoughtful for several long seconds. "I sort of like that idea," he said quietly. "We did agree at one time that I was family."
Della beamed at him, inordinately pleased to hear that.
"Do you want to ask Kathy if you can go to Michigan?"
Della shook her head. "I already called her and she said no. Maybe I can go in a couple of weeks if I gain enough weight and don't need an afternoon nap any longer. The baby was transported to Grand Rapids and Kathy has spoken to the chief neonatal physician there. He's doing well and all I can do right now is tell everyone I love them."
"What's his name?"
She cast her eyes downward. "James Greggory."
Perry cupped her chin with his hand and tilted her face up to his. "And you'll tell your nephew all about Gregg when he's old enough to understand." He kissed her.
Della felt tears pool in her eyes. "I don't deserve you," she said.
He pulled her back against him. "Yes you do."
She chuckled. "I have something to show you." She took his hand and led him from the den, through the dining room and up the stairs, pausing at the landing to catch her breath. "Martin added a new piece of furniture to the green room after Mom left and we moved Aunt Mae into the yellow room."
Perry followed her up the remaining steps, fingers still entwined with hers. She smiled at him mysteriously as she pulled him into the doorway of the smallest bedroom.
His heart nearly stopped beating.
There was a crib in the room, the gleaming maple wood a perfect match to the furniture Martin had selected for this bright room.
Perry gulped, unsure of what to say, shocked by the assumption Martin had made about him and Della and their relationship. "Del – Della, I'll have Martin take this thing apart and get it out of the house –"
Della placed two fingers over his lips, her eyes sparkling, her smile now a bit tremulous. "No. I like it."
His stomach flip-flopped and he felt sweat break out on his forehead. Did he dare to ask? Now, while they were standing in the doorway of this room, this perfect little nursery?
"A crib will come in handy," she continued in that low voice he wanted to listen to for the rest of his life. "We'll need it for when Jamie and Rachel come to visit, and Robbie and Helen want at least two more kids. Then there's Suzette and Gene Norris and their brood. We'll have to invite them to spend a couple weekends this summer. And…" she trailed off into silence.
"And what?" He prompted, knowing his world would turn on her answer.
She shrugged and leaned against him. "And who knows," she finished softly.