"You're almost there! Give me one more big push!" said the midwife. Sarah took a deep breath and pushed with all her might. Groaning with effort, she at last felt the infant slide from her body. Everything was perfectly silent for just a moment, and then the air was filled with the lusty wails of the newborn.
"Congratulations, Your Majesty! You have a beautiful baby girl!" the midwife exclaimed. Sarah, sweat streaming down her face, laughed with pure joy. She knew that her husband, King Edward VI, would be proud of her and thrilled with their new daughter.
"Darling!" Suddenly Edward was there, all smiles, stroking his wife's damp hair. Sarah smiled and looked lovingly into his eyes.
"She's beautiful." Edward tenderly kissed Sarah's cheek. "Her name shall be Elizabeth, for my dear sister." Baby Elizabeth was wrapped in a blanket and placed in her mother's arms, where she settled down happily to nurse.
Robin and Elizabeth Dudley were still happily married, and now had two darling little girls of their own. Edward had given them an estate near the palace. Guilford and Jane Dudley also lived in an estate near the palace, and were the parents of a small girl. Jane was with child again, and was due to give birth in several months.
"Andrew will be pleased. He's been so excited about becoming an uncle," Sarah said. Andrew was the four-year-old son of George and Mabel Howard. He had blond hair and blue eyes like his father, and he and his parents still lived at court.
"I shall call for both he and your mother to visit you as soon as you feel up to it," Edward promised her. "Rest now. You've done well."
Sarah closed her eyes and smiled contentedly, cuddling her new daughter close. All her dreams had come true. She couldn't imagine life being any better than this.
Later in the day Mabel did indeed come to visit her daughter, bringing her small son with her. Mabel's eyes shone with joy as she held her new granddaughter and gazed into the infant's smoky blue eyes. She couldn't help but contrast Elizabeth's birth with that of Sarah all those years ago. One birth had been secret and shrouded in shame, a frightened young woman delivering the product of an act of violence all alone. The other had taken place in the utmost luxury and glory England afforded, and would be celebrated by many.
"Look at your little niece, Andrew," Mabel said to her young son. Andrew's eyes grew big and round as he looked at the baby.
"She's so tiny!" His voice was almost a whisper.
"You were as well, right after you were born," his mother told him. He shook his head in disbelief.
"Indeed you were." His mother tickled him, and he giggled.
Thomas came to visit shortly afterward. Sarah gasped in surprise, as she hadn't seen him since the age of twelve. He looked exactly the same as he always had.
"I won't stay for long," he said apologetically. "I just wanted to see my new granddaughter."
He looked at baby Elizabeth sleeping in her mother's arms and smiled proudly. Sarah realized that if it hadn't been for him, she never would have have met Edward, and her mother would have never met George. They would both still be living in poverty, with no hope of any better kind of life.
"My granddaughter, and also that of the man who sentenced me to die," Thomas observed. Sarah nodded, not knowing what to say.
"I must depart," Thomas said.
"Will I ever see you again?" asked Sarah.
"Not in this life," Thomas told her. "I've completed my penance and am no longer condemned to roam the earth. My heavenly reward shall at last be mine."
Sarah felt a bit sad without realizing why.
"I'm sorry I was never able to be a proper father to you," Thomas continued. "I hope that your future life will in some way compensate for that loss."
"I'm very happy with the life I have now and feel in no way deprived," Sarah assured him.
"I'm glad to hear it," Thomas replied. "Take good care."
"You do the same," Sarah said. She blinked, and he was gone.