The morning sunlight streamed in through the window, and the birds were chirping outside. A gentle summer breeze played with the curtains, airing out the small room. The date was June fifteenth, 1786. It had been almost exactly two years since they had married, three since she went to France, and nearly four and a half since he came home from war. Ben now looked down at the baby in his arms. She was so tiny, so small and defenseless, yet she filled his heart with more love and joy than he could have possibly fathomed. Next to him on the bed lay his wife, who looked tired but contented. He looked down at her and smiled a little. "She's beautiful, Lissie," he said softly. She smiled back. "She is, isn't she?" she agreed. "And so little yet."
"She will grow up before our very eyes," he said. "Or so they say."
"Aye," she said. He brushed their newborn daughter's tiny cheek with his finger and thought back over the past few years. Shortly after they had been married, Elizabeth gave birth to a beautiful little girl she and Caleb had named Juliet. Naturally, Felicity wanted to go to Williamsburg as soon as she got the news. Not too long after that, Daniel and Diana were married. Ben and Felicity were present at the wedding, which was the first time he had seen Diana since the day they had…gone their separate ways. He had been slightly nervous beforehand, seeing her again, but he was relieved to find that old tensions were gone, and no old feelings were reintroduced. He didn't associate much with her, just a "hello" and "congratulations". Both Felicity and Daniel couldn't help but snicker at their coolness towards each other. Both sets of parents hadn't changed; they were all getting older, but all in good health. Around Ben and Felicity's first wedding anniversary, John and Faith had another child, a boy this time that they named William after his deceased uncle. The first year without William (brother, not nephew) was trying at times, especially around important dates such as his birthday and Christmas and of course, the anniversary of his death. Yet at the same time, it was Ben and Felicity's first year together, which took away any sadness that could have come up. She truly was Ben's light in the darkness, bringing him joy whenever he was stressed or upset or just sad. The funny thing was that he never mentioned what he was feeling, yet she could always tell. She accredited it to the fact that he had an expressive face. He was and always had been shy with his affection for her, even now that they were married, at least around others. He figured that if he really wanted to hug her or kiss her or even just hold her hand, he could do so when it was just the two of them. That didn't mean he loved her any less. Quite the contrary; he loved her with every bit of his heart and soul, even if he didn't say it or show it very much. He just figured that he could save the most private, intimate moments for themselves. He thought back several months to the day she first told him she was expecting. He remembered how surprised he had been, so much so that he could barely speak for a second. In retrospect, he didn't know how he hadn't seen it before. She had had all the normal symptoms of pregnancy, including sudden mood swings, fatigue, and morning sickness. Oh well, it didn't matter anymore. He remembered how happy he had been when he found out, how he had hugged her tightly and kissed her, and then the realization dawning that he was really going to be a father. Everyone who knew them was happy for them, and he figured they would be again once they heard about the birth itself. He thought back to the duration of the pregnancy, watching his wife slowly but surely grow bigger and bigger as the months rolled by and turned into weeks, which soon turned into days, which soon turned into hours. She had gone into labor the previous afternoon, and when he found out, he had panicked and wanted her to get in bed right away. She had just shaken her head and laughed, telling him that there was no need to worry; they still had quite a while until delivery. Finally, he took her word for it. For a while, she tried to pace back and forth as he got the old midwife Mrs. Henderson as well as his mother, who he figured would help provide Felicity with some comfort. She was lying on the sofa when he returned, obviously in some pain. After it had passed, he helped her upstairs and change into a clean nightgown, then uncovered the bed in the spare room so she would be comfortable. All that evening and night he stayed with her along with the midwife and his mother, trying to make her feel less miserable. He rubbed her back, held her hand, let her lean against him when she tried to stand, and whispered words of encouragement in her ear. Contractions came more and more frequently as the night wore on, yet Felicity never complained. Ben had wished he could take all the pain from her, and if he could have taken over the whole thing for her he would have, but childbirth was obviously not his department. All he could do was stay by her side and try to make her as comfortable as possible, and to not let his worry show. After all, childbirth was dangerous, both for the mother and the child. He went back and forth between upstairs and downstairs, for there were still other matters that needed to be tended to, and after a while his father joined him in the anxious wait. Early that morning, his mother asked him to leave the room as delivery drew closer and closer. Together, Ben and his father waited downstairs, listening to the soft moans from above, then a few that were louder than usual. He felt his heart start to race faster and faster until finally Mrs. Henderson came downstairs and beckoned to him. And now here he was, sitting next to his beautiful wife and holding his beautiful newborn baby. His baby. Their baby. He looked back at Felicity and gingerly brushed a strand of hair out of her face. "How are you feeling?" he asked.
"I'm all right," she said with a sigh. "Just tired."
"I imagine," he said. "Are you still in pain?"
"A little," she admitted. "I'll be all right, though." Then she said, "I suppose we should probably think of a name for her."
"Aye," he agreed. "Do you have any ideas?" She looked at their daughter in his arms. "Rachel," she said after a moment. "I like Rachel."
"Rachel," he repeated. "Rachel Davidson."
"What do you think?" she asked. "We can pick something else if you want." He shook his head. "No, I like it," he said. "I think it's perfect."
"Rachel, then," she confirmed. He smiled and looked down again. "Little Rachel Davidson," he said. The baby's eyes fluttered open and looked up at her father sleepily. He knew she didn't know who he was yet, but he didn't care; he figured that she was too young to care yet either. He took her tiny hand, and she wrapped her fingers around his thumb. He felt his heart swell. He remembered what Faith had said when Alexandra was born, about how she had wanted to keep her in her arms forever and not let her see the cold, cruel world and about the immense responsibility towards her she felt as a parent. He now knew how she felt as he held his own daughter. He felt an overwhelming sense of responsibility towards her now, one out a type of love and protection he never imagined he would feel. A few years ago, he never would have imagined he would live long enough to have a child, much less be blessed enough to. He still didn't completely believe he deserved Felicity, and now he really didn't believe he deserved to have the gift of a baby. "How did this happen?" he murmured to himself. Felicity gave him a funny look. "I think you know," she said slowly. "You were there when it did, you know." He looked back up at her. "I didn't mean literally," he said. "I just mean…well, everything, I suppose." As vague as he could be, she could somehow always read his mind. "Because of a pair of Sunday breeches," she said simply. "A…spirited, shall we say, little girl, a mistreated horse, and a pair of Sunday breeches." He thought a second, then understood and smiled. "I suppose I should probably thank good old Penny one of these days," he said.
"Mm-hm," she agreed, settling back into the pillows. Then she remarked, "You look exhausted."
"Well, my dear, so do you," he said. She narrowed her eyes. "Exactly how much did you sleep last night?" she questioned.
"Half an hour, perhaps," he answered. "An hour at best." Her eyes widened. "Tis no wonder you have dark circles under your eyes!" she said. "Oh Benjamin, you could have slept the duration of the night! I don't want you losing sleep over me, especially since I suspect neither one of us are going to get much for a while." She nodded to baby Rachel. "Wasn't the first time I've lost sleep over you," he muttered. Then he added, "And you were in here, in labor with our first child. Of course I was going to stay by your side as much as I could. I would have the whole time, if they would have let me." She smiled and extended her hand. "Well, thank you," she said. "It made me feel better to have you with me." He took her hand and gently squeezed it. "Think nothing of it," he said. "I would have stayed with you even if I were dying myself."
"Don't even say that, Benjamin," she warned. "You know I don't like to think about that."
"I know," he said. He looked back down at the baby. He hoped that she would never have to come close to seeing all the horrible things he and her mother had seen in their lifetime. He remembered the day they first met, when she was but a child of nine and he was fourteen. Eleven long years ago. The talk of rebellion had been whispering throughout the colonies, yet still much removed from everyday life. Meanwhile, there was the infamous affair with Penny, the issues with tea, the dance lesson at the governor's palace (how long ago that seemed!), the incident at the Magazine very early on the morning of her tenth birthday. Looking back, he started to think that that had been a precursor to a decade of fear but bravery of her life. He remembered that night, how a new respect had filled his heart for her. She certainly was brave for a little girl. He remembered the following summer, when he tried to run away and she convinced him to come back, and then that winter when her grandfather passed away. He remembered when her father had been arrested, and later that summer when the Declaration of Independence was signed, thus stirring Patriot fervor to its highest, including his own. Everything (save the latter) seemed quite trivial now, compared to what would come. He remembered the weeks before his eighteenth birthday, how Mr. Merriman had let him take a few days to go to Yorktown to say goodbye to his family, possibly for the last time. That had been one of the hardest things he had ever done, especially seeing his mother and sister try very hard not to cry. He remembered the morning after his birthday and having to say goodbye to the Merrimans. That had also been hard. He remembered his private goodbye to Felicity, how she too tried her hardest not to cry but did anyway, and how he held her and promised her that he would return. He remembered giving her his old signal whistle and gently kissing her forehead before he tore himself away from her. That was the first time his lips had made any contact with her, and he always remembered how she had blown her own sisterly kiss out the window. He thought back to his time in the army. Those cold, rainy nights, the blistering heat of a South Carolina summer, the freezing winter in Valley Forge, gunshots and cannons, blood and gore and disease, being miles away from any kind of civilization, homesickness, Felicity's letters. He remembered watching friends dying before his very eyes, seeing Matthew grow sicker and sicker before dying himself, seeing a crippled Luke, being wounded himself and seeing death's door, heartache. He remembered finally coming home and feeling so depressed for the longest time that he often wished he wasn't even alive. He remembered coming back to Williamsburg after so long and having that young woman run into his arms and cry into his shirt, truly glad to have him home once more. He remembered acting so short with her, and then the first time they kissed. It was then that he started to fall in love with her like one falls asleep; slowly at first, then all at once. He could still see the two of them in the stable right before she left for France with Jean Luc, who he had seen take an interest in her and was afraid that she might likewise. He remembered wanting to kiss her so badly and finally indulging himself. He could still feel her body in his arms for the first time as she returned that kiss. He told her he loved her, and he remembered the argument that followed, which made the next six months full of heartache for both of them. He remembered the night he asked her to marry him, and all the wedding planning, and losing his brother so suddenly, and how gentle and loving she had been during that time. He remembered the day they were finally married, how beautiful she had been that day as she quietly but seriously took her wedding vows, and he remembered that night, finally being able to hold her and touch her and kiss her, finally knowing the touch and complete love of a woman. He remembered feeling healed, as if her love had mended all of the hurt and sorrow that had been built up in him over the years. He looked back up at Felicity. "I'm proud of you, you know," he said. She smiled again. "Right now," she said. "I'm proud of both of us."
"I guess I am too," he said. He gently touched Rachel's tiny cheek. Here he was now, holding the product of those years of turmoil, of sadness, of beginnings and endings, of love, and just of the transition from boy to man. Girl to woman, in Felicity's case. It was hard to believe that his life had helped give birth to another, his once seemingly insignificant life. Finally, he had realized what Felicity had been telling him all along; his life was anything but insignificant. And for the first time, he actually felt proud of himself. He hesitated, then leaned over and kissed her. "I love you," he said softly.
"I love you too," she said, responding to his kiss gently but with a very slight amount of fervor. He felt her hand his cheek, the cool metal of her wedding ring against his skin. Then Rachel let out a soft baby noise, not liking being pressed so closely against her father's chest as he leaned over. Her parents pulled away, and he looked down at her. "I'm sorry, little one," he said. He looked back at his wife. "That's going to take some getting used to," he said.
"Mm-hm," she agreed, settling back into the pillows and closing her eyes. He took her hand once more, and the baby squirmed a bit in his arms. He adjusted her so he had a better hold on her. He smiled a little bit. A little baby, sent from Heaven. His baby. He couldn't figure out what he had done to go from living a nightmare to feeling like the luckiest man on earth, but he supposed it didn't really matter. Maybe the good Lord had blessed him with a beautiful wife and child as a sort of reward after all of the pain he had endured over the past few years. He never did believe he deserved it, but he was most grateful for it. He closed his eyes. "Thank you," he prayed silently. As he held little Rachel, he thought of that old hymn; how did it go?
"Amazing grace, how sweet the sound, that saved a wretch like me; I once was lost, but now I'm found; was blind, but now I see."
And how true that was.
Anyone else slightly sad it's over? Thank you a million times for reading, and remember, it never hurts to keep reviewing! Oh, and if anyone has any ideas for another story, I'm all ears! :) Anyway, thx again!