I started from my sleep and looked around me. Beatrice looked at me, surprised.
„Are you alright?", she asked.
I looked at her, confused for a second, then I remembered where I was and why.
„Yes, yes. Was just dreaming."
„Yes, I know. Bad dream?"
„Yes. Any news? How's she?"
„No, no news yet. Poor thing."
I sighed and got up from the armchair I had fallen asleep in. I didn't want to sleep but after the nurse had sent us down to the drawing room, I hadn't been able to fight my tiredness any longer and so I fell into a restless, nightmare filled sleep. I couldn't remember what I had dreamt about, luckily. It was something terrible anyway.
I looked at the clock on top of the mantlepiece. Quarter to 5 in the afternoon. I couldn't have slept long, When I checked the clock the last time it was around 3.
„How long did I sleep?", I asked her.
„Not long. 20 minutes perhaps.", she replied, looking at me worriedly, „But you had really needed it."
„I don't need sleep more than she does now. I swore I wouldn't sleep before she would. You know, she didn't sleep the night before last night either. She was up all night, tossing and turning. How exhausted she must be!"
Beatrice stood up from her armchair and came over to me. She placed her hand on my shoulder and smiled reassuring.
„She's gonna be fine, don't worry. She's young, strong and healthy, you know."
I nodded. I knew she was right. Bigger sisters were always right. But still, I couldn't get rid of this strange feeling inside me that something was going seriously wrong. It was the same feeling I had on our way home from London after the interview with the doctor. And back then my feeling hadn't tricked me. We found Manderley up in flames.
No, something was wrong, I knew it. It was all too perfect for us. I couldn't trust this happy ending. Not after all that had happened to us.
It had started with that inquest 3 years ago. I had been under suspect of murdering my first wife, Rebecca. Her boat had been found on the ground of our bay, holes punched into it. But after her doctor gave evidence of suicide, the inquest had been dropped and I was a free man again.
Although it had ended well, it was a hard time for us. For me and even more so for my new wife. I wished I could have spared her all of that. But when I confessed her that I indeed had killed Rebecca, I felt free and for the first time since I had met her, I could enjoy being with her. I hadn't needed to pretend to be happy anymore for her sake, I had actually been happy.
From the day the inquest was dropped on I had sworn to her that we would start all over and live happily at Manderley. But then fate striked again. Our precious Manderley had gone up in flames, leaving a place of destruction.
We had stayed there, holding each other in our arms, and watched our home falling to ashes. Until the afternoon they had tried to extiguish the fire. We had known by then already that it wouldn't have saved the building though.
The following night we had spent at Beatrice's and Giles' house. We hadn't got much sleep, although we would have needed it so badly. I remember she fell asleep at some stage, but was woken up by an aweful nightmare of the fire. She had screamed and then woken up, shaking. I had pulled her into my arms and held her.
The next day we had left for Italy. We had needed some time abroad. To flee, to forget, to start all over again. When we felt the past coming back to us, we had left and hidden in a new place, at another end of Italy. And so we had spent 2 years away, living in small hotels, living the life of normal, unfamous people, enjoying being together.
It had probably been the letter from Beatrice that changed our life once more. The letter itself was not so important in the path of our lives but if it hadn't been for it, we would probably still hide out in Italy somewhere.
The letter said, Roger, Beatrice's and Giles' son, was getting married and were of course invited. First I didn't want to go. But my wife had persuaded me to accept the invitation. After all, he was my nephew. So we had come back to England and had planned to stay a couple of weeks. My wife thought, as a return favour, we should help with the wedding. Beatrice and Giles had helped us with everything while we were away. We had arrived 6 weeks prior the weeding and stayed another 2 and a half months afterwards. To keep an eye on Roger's and his bride's new house during their honeymoon and travel around the country a little.
The day we wanted to return to Italy my wife felt sick that morning. First I thought she just didn't want to leave and so I played her little game along for one more day. But when she had fainted the next day, I had started to worry a little. She had never fainted just like that before. Well except for during the inquest. But I'm still sure she had done that on purpose back then, to save me from losing my temper and confess things I shouldn't. Oh how thankful I still am today for this. I love her. I probably have never told her so but I do. I really do.
She had told me a couple of times that day that was was fine and that she didn't need a doctor but when she still didn't feel better, Beatrice called Dr O'Callaigh over to check up on her. Beatrice had always smiled at me that day but back then I hadn't known how to read it. Only when the doctor was finished I had learned what it meant.
My wife was right. She was fine, perfectly fine. More than fine to be exact. The doctor had left her resting in her bed and when I came in to her, she smiled at me.
„You know, I told you I was fine.", she had said. „But something wonderful has happened."
I think that was the moment when I had realised what she was trying to tell me. My eyes had widened and I had sat down and taken her hand.
„We're having a baby, Maxim.", she had said, smiling.
I had hugged her, kissed her and smiled at her. I knew then that things would turn out wonderfully for us and that we would finally be able to live happily together.
That night we had sat together, myself, my wife, Beatrice, Giles and also dear old Frank Crawley, and had decided to rebuild Manderley. Not like in the old days, a new, better, brighter, more precious Manderley. Something great for our son to inherit. What better reason to do it now than a child could there be?
Frank and I had made all the plans and then gone back to Italy to get all our things we had left there. We had lived at Beatrice's and Giles' house while Manderley was being rebuilt. That way, my wife had been well looked after by Beatrice and Frank and I had gone to the building site every day and watched the house raise brick by brick.
My wife had requested the house to look very different from before and I can't describe how much I approved of this. We didn't want anything to remember of the past. We wanted a new Manderley. For us, for our children.
We still lived in the east wing of the house but simply because it was 'our' side and always had been. The west wing was turned into the guest rooms and in the middle between the two ends, the nursery room was located. Our little one sould have the best of both, the view to the sea and to the rose gardens. The subtle rush of the sea would sooth him to sleep, how it had done with me and Beatrice and all our ancestors before.
Two weeks ago the house was finally ready to move in. I had promised my wife to have it ready for her on time to have a crib placed under the chestnut tree. And at least I had held this promise. Soon we would sit outside under the tree, our son in our arms and finally be able to enjoy our lives how they had been planned in the first place, back then in Monte Carlo.
A knock on the door brought me back to reality. The nurse came in.
„Mr de Winter, you should come up now.", she said.
I looked at Beatrice who nooded and then we both followed the nurse upstairs.
„Poor thing, this has been taking so long. How long has it been?"
„Since around 10 last night.", I replied briefly. I didn't want to talk now, I was too nervous, too worried. Although I would now soon see my wife and our son, I still had this feeling that something was wrong.
„Oh dear. That would be 19 hours. I hope your child will appriciate all that later."
„I'm sure he will."
„Maxim dear, I don't wanna spoil your excitement now but how do you know it's a boy?"
„I know. She kept saying we're having a boy."
„Yes because she knows you want a son. But have you told her that she shouldn't put herself under pressure?"
„I have. I told her that a girl will be perfectly fine, too. There is no reason why a woman couldn't run Manderley just as good. But she still kept saying it is a boy. She said she felt it."
„Well, I really hope then her feelings are not as messed up as her hormones these days.", she laughed.
I smiled weakly and sighed. Yes, her hormones were really messed up. She had been sick almost the entire pregnancy. Had fainted a lot at the beginning and her mood swings were even worse than mine. And I better don't start on her eating behaviour lately.
We were arriving in front of our bedroom. The nurse went in and when she opened the door, I could hear a scream. Not the scream I was hoping for. It was not the baby's wining. It was her, my wife, crying out in pain. Again, this strange feeling of horror overcame me and all colour must have run out of my face.
We stood there, silently, waiting for the door to open again. Then it did. The doctor come out. When I saw him, I almost fainted myself. His white coat was stained in blood and his face looked serious.
„Mr de Winter...", he said and closed the door behind him. He came over to us. And there was this feeling again. Please, God, let everything be all right.