Dr. Wincott: “They are old friends of my grandfather. Please… I’ll pay you, and … there’s a young boy – he may need medical attention. They haven’t seen a real doctor in over a year.”
Dr. Gerhardt: “This pregnant girl – has she had any prenatal care?”
Dr. Wincott: “Very little. Please, Doctor, you have to help. It isn’t that far.”
Dr. Gerhardt: “Only because I like the idea of you owing me. You will make it worth my while, Cassandra. I had better get my due.”
Dr. Wincott: “I promise you will.”
Trying to keep still as Tommy pushed inside her, Amarie shivered with pleasure. Her palms and knees were still burned sore from doing this like dogs so much. He never seemed to care if it hurt his knees.
“Careful,” she whispered, “the stairs are rough.”
Now and then he would forget and she had to keep reminding him. They weren’t supposed to do this on the staircase or in other public spots but Amarie had discovered that fretting about someone watching only made it hotter. As usual, Tommy didn’t care about that either and didn’t seem to understand why it distressed their proper Southern mother.
When the front screen door slammed, she flinched, worried it could be Momma coming in from her evening smoke on the porch. Then boots clomped across the house and she smirked under the curtain of her moving hair.
“Nice,” their uncle complimented as he came right up along the railing to watch. “Bit o’ a tough spot for that, ain’t it, honey?”
Amarie blushed despite her added excitement but she couldn’t look at him as he leered up at them. “The stair cradles the baby real nice. Oh, Tommy, careful, go easy…”
Awash in pleasure and warmed by a delicious feeling of being bad, she felt her legs start to tremble. Tommy was close. He drew back, breath huffing, and then pushed in harder. Pain erupted inside her the moment he came. It stole her breath and she clenched her teeth against a scream. When he snapped his hips back and shoved again, she couldn’t hold it back.
He was terrified and she began to cry more for frightening him than for herself. Gritting her teeth when he yanked back out of her, she managed not to scream again. His back hit the wall as he slumped down and moaned. In the moment that their uncle spoke, she cried harder, relieved he was there to help.
“She told you to go easy!” The sheriff didn’t hesitate, coming up to his nephew and gripping his shoulder hard to get his attention. “Sit right there ‘til I tell you to move.” Stepping past him, he laid his hand on her back. “Are you okay, honey – or do we got us a problem?”
Gasping, she whispered, “I … I think I’m okay. It never hurt before, Uncle Hoyt… I’m sorry…”
“Ain’t no need to be. Here, grab my hand and we’ll get you up to your bed.”
He lifted her weight and steadied her on shaking legs easily – he was far stronger than he looked. As he supported her to climb the stairs, her bunched dress fell to cover her again.
“Tommy didn’t mean it.”
“He never does – but he don’t listen so good, neither, sometimes.” Calling behind him, he ordered, “Get your ass up here, son. Put that thing away and come on up – gonna need help.”
Amarie winced but managed to walk with his assistance. He helped her settle onto her back on the bed in her dim room and smoothed the dress back down to her knees with a few tugs on the hem. Reaching over to the nightstand, he clicked on the small pale pink lamp he’d found for her in the basement.
“C’mere,” he told Tommy. “Sit on the bed and keep your sister comp’ny. I’ll fetch Momma for you. Now you leave her be for a while, y’hear? Ain’t boxed your ears in quite a bit but that don’t mean I won’t.”
Amarie reached for her brother’s hand the moment he sat down next to her. As she laced their fingers together, his were trembling. Fresh tears slipped down her cheeks as she felt the pain slowly begin to fade into a dull ache inside.
“Thank you, Uncle Hoyt,” she whispered.
“Hang on, honey, I’ll send Momma up to you. Don’t you let him paw at you none, just rest.”
“Yes, sir.” When his boots clomped rapidly down the stairs, she turned her head to give her brother a gentle smile. “It’ll be okay, Tommy, Momma will know what to do. You didn’t mean to, I know that, it’s gonna be fine, you’ll see.”
~ ~ ~
“Drink that tea now, every drop.”
“Yes, ma’am. It’s good.”
Uncle Hoyt chuckled from the doorway where he was leaning at a slumping slant with his arms crossed over his uniform shirt. “Hard to tell which o’ these young’ns is tha patient, ain’t it?”
Momma clicked her tongue. “My poor babies.” She took the empty tea cup when Amarie handed it to her.
Looking over at her brother, Amarie smiled. He had lain on his side and curled up against her as close as he could. One thick arm was pillowing his head as the mop of lengthening dark hair covered the mask on his face. His other hand was on her hip. The fingers still trembled.
“I’m better now,” she told him. “Try not to worry, okay?”
“Child,” her mother began, and then huffed out a breath. “You are too far along for all o’ that messin’ ‘bout. That baby needs to get born before y’all rough him up like that.”
“Yes, ma’am, I’m sorry. It’s been fine all along, though. It’s hard to tell him to stop and I … don’t want him to. It never hurt ‘til just then.”
“The boy got rough, Momma. Never did know his own strength.”
“Well, he don’t and that’s the thing – we gotta teach him better’n that.”
Amarie stifled a sigh but stared down at her brother. After a moment, she realized one of his dark brown eyes was staring up at her. He was worried and afraid and it broke her heart. Without calling attention to him, she gave him a sweet reassuring smile.
Momma rose from her seat on the other side of the bed from Tommy. “Maybe it’s time for that Cass Mason to bring us a doctor for our girl.” Leaning down, she kissed Amarie’s forehead and patted the hand her brother kept clamped to her hip. “You rest, y’hear? No more foolin’ ‘bout, Tommy, ‘til we know what’s what.”
“Already asked her. She said she’s workin’ on gettin’ one we can keep and she’ll be out herself in ‘bout a week.” When Momma wasn’t looking, their uncle winked at Amarie. “You sleep tight, honey. Holler if you need somethin’ or if he don’t behave.”
“He’ll be good, Uncle Hoyt. I love you both, so much…”
They both turned just outside the doorway and smiled in at her. Her mother answered, “We love you, child. Get some sleep.”
Uncle Hoyt paused as Momma turned away. They all waited for the door to her room to shut.
“Do we have to stop, sir? He won’t understand why. If I tell him he cain’t or it could hurt me, he might think that means never again, ever.”
His charmingly crafty smile flashed at her. “Let’s just let your mother think you’re behavin’ and then you can do what you want for a bit longer, but you gotta make him mind, now. He needs to go easy whether it’s hurtin’ or not. You’re probly gettin’ too far in for takin’ chances. Gonna have to quit soon ‘nuff – least ‘til after the birth and you heal up.”
“We can help you with him. Gettin’ that doctor here, we could even say ‘not while he’s here’. There’s ways to get through that thick head – just gotta find the right one.”
Amarie smiled back at him. “Thank you, sir.”
He nodded. “Get some rest, now.”
The door was drawn nearly closed and she could hear him heading downstairs.
“Tommy?” she whispered, smiling again when she saw him watching her in the dim light of the little lamp. “Don’t be scared, please? Listen, here…” She took his wrist gently and moved his large hand from her hip to her swollen belly. “You can rub it; that feels good. I’m sorry you cain’t squeeze these for now,” she gingerly touched her swollen and aching breasts. “Rub the belly, that is nice. That’s our baby in there – that’s your baby. We gotta be careful, can you understand?”
There was no way to know if he did. Helping him learn how to rub her belly, she started to fall asleep.
“Stay with me, okay? Sleep here? I don’t wanna be alone.”
Amarie left the lamp on and slowly fell asleep listening to Tommy’s breathing and the soft vague sounds of her uncles talking downstairs. She’d never felt so safe in her life.
~ ~ ~
Boredom was a problem as she was asked to remain upstairs most of the time. After a few days of having meals brought to her, she fussed about not doing her part and got her mother to relent on a few things. If she did the few chores she could do while sitting and resting, like folding laundry, she could have Tommy carry her up and down the stairs for meals or to sit with the family.
One rare morning was spent drying dishes and darning socks while watching cartoons with Uncle Monty. He never said much, but she loved to hear him laugh when the animals on the television were acting silly. The day after that, Uncle Hoyt found a tall stool with a back like a regular chair so that she could sit at the kitchen counters to help with washing dishes or cooking. Her favorite chore was repairing Tommy’s clothes.
Taking her Uncle Hoyt’s advice, she stuck to having Tommy lie down when they wanted to play and she would climb on him. It would tire her out faster, she didn’t have his seemingly limitless strength, but it stopped him from getting carried away. To avoid letting their mother know about it at all, she would get him to play before everyone was awake and after they all went to sleep.
Looking down at him while they did it was fun; she liked seeing his eyes when it felt good for him. He would still lick her anytime she asked, sometimes for so long that she would feel too sensitive and had to ask him to stop. While he had chores, she would sit downstairs with one of the others.
Henrietta brought Jedidiah over often so that Amarie could read to him or teach him more letters. She had hoped to see Tommy interact with him but her brother didn’t seem to notice him at all. If the boy got in his way, he wouldn’t hurt him, which was a mercy. He just moved around him or absently pushed him out of his path. Once or twice when she read to the boy, she would notice Tommy settling somewhere to listen, as long as he was far from the child.
After the boy ran outside to play, Amarie found the women in the kitchen. She sat at the table with them, nodding when Wilma offered her tea, and waited for a lull in the talk.
“Did y’all teach Tommy not to be ‘round Jedidiah?”
Henrietta set her cup down and gave her one of her melting doe-eyed smiles. “We taught him not to hurt the boy. They don’t seem to fuss ‘bout each other much.”
“Don’t you fret,” Momma reassured her. “We can help him understand the new baby is his if you wanna see him with the child – just have to be careful, is all.”
~ ~ ~
Amarie padded down the hall before sunrise to use the bathroom after playing with her brother. She tried to keep washed, with their mother doing the laundry. Closing the door, she pulled her panties down to use the toilet and cursed under her breath at the messy stuff on the cotton. She wrinkled her nose at the unusual fishy smell – and then froze as she stared down at red spots dotting the white cloth. Stuffing her fingers inside, they were slicked and came out bloody. Fear chilled her.
Oh no… Is somethin’ wrong with the baby? It didn’t hurt, though. Why…? Footsteps heading her way nearly made her panic. It wasn’t the heavy tread of her brother. If that’s Momma, I’m in trouble… She grabbed a bunch of toilet paper and wiped the weird goop off of the cotton and dropped it in the toilet. A second wad was stuffed between her legs as she pulled the red-spotted panties back up. The steps had quit. Listening at the door, she jumped when it was rapped on by a knuckle. Uncle Hoyt, thank goodness. Momma knocks like a lady.
“Honey, that you in there? Up pretty early – are you feelin’ poorly?”
Hauling her nightgown down, she flushed the toilet and opened the door. “I’m … worried, Uncle Hoyt. There’s… I’m bleedin’ a bit. Dunno why, nothin’ bad happened?”
“He get rough?”
“No, sir, he’s been an angel. Momma’s been doin’ the washin’, she’ll know and she’ll be mad.”
“Now you gotta think ‘bout what’s important, here. Is frettin’ ‘bout that more’n whether or not the baby is okay? Or you?”
Amarie lowered her head to avoid his piercing gaze. “No, sir.”
“That’s right. Now that bein’ said, let’s see if we cain’t get fancy Miss Mason out here to tell us what’s what. No need to wake your momma just yet, is there?”
Amarie was startled into a smile by his saucy wink. “Not just yet, no. It’s just a few little spots.”
~ ~ ~
In the dark, long after midnight, she felt her brother’s large hands slide her nightgown up. She was lying on her side with him at her back and she could feel him, hard and ready, against her thigh.
“Tommy, remember – we have to be careful, gentle,” she whispered.
She thought about trying to tell him no, but she didn’t have the heart to. The moment he had touched her and exposed her, she had started to get wet for him. He barely seemed to know how to be slow and easy, yet she always loved to feel him push himself inside her. That he wanted it and knew it was his, made her heart swell with love. He never needed words to show her that this was comfort for him, not just sex.
He buried his masked face in her curls and worked his hips to thrust, one hand on the side of her neck and the other, hand and wrist, covering her swollen breasts. It felt good – until it started to hurt.
Amarie bit her lip and hoped he could finish fast. She was done with explaining and not being understood, done with confusing and scaring him. By the time he came, she was gritting her teeth. The thrusts he often liked after that were difficult to bear at all and she bit back a cry. She couldn’t help trembling or the tensing of her muscles.
All at once, he stopped and went still. His breath huffed in her ear. She expected him to do it more, as he usually did, but then he pulled out. To her surprise, he began to turn away as if to leave the bed.
“Tommy, don’t … don’t go. Are you scared? I’m sorry.” Something in his hesitation made her start to cry. “I’m so sorry… You’re so sweet. Don’t go. Let me hold you.”
She rolled with a wince and he stopped and let her draw him in, shifting to allow it until his head was against her breasts. She held him gently, careful of his damaged face. To help her stop crying, she began to whisper the mockingbird song to him.
Somethin’s wrong… Please let it be okay. She ducked her head to kiss his tangled hair. Not sure if she was giving comfort to the baby or the father, she whispered, “It’ll be okay, baby, you’ll see. Everything will be okay…”
They began to fall asleep with his head still in her arms, and by the time she drifted off, he had stopped trembling.
~ ~ ~
Tommy had moved before she woke but he was the first person she saw, crouched on his boots in the shadowy corner by the bed on the opposite side from the lamp light. He looked like a hulking fairytale troll hiding from the morning sun. The whimsical thought made her smile. She hoped he wasn’t in the corner over what had happened last night.
Sounds intruded from downstairs, and then she realized why her brother looked wary and afraid – Dr. Wincott’s voice was speaking to their mother in the hall.
Amarie got up carefully and went to the slightly open door to listen. She heard her brother move but didn’t look behind her. Soon enough, his rough shirt touched her elbow. Over her head, one of his big hands curled into a fist and thumped on the wall as he leaned on it.
Their mother’s voice floated up to them. “Let’s go in the kitchen and talk first. My boy is up there with her, and we don’t need to startle him.”
“I came out here to check on Amarie. Sheriff Hoyt said there was a problem?”
The kitchen door creaked when it swung open and was held there. “You wanna go on up and make him think you’re a threat to that girl, you go on ahead. I’m gonna have some tea. Amarie’ll be down soon ‘nuff.”
“Those stairs are rather steep –”
“Thomas carries her up and down ‘em – keepin’ that girl safe is his new hobby.”
“She would be safer if he hadn’t gotten her pregnant.”
“Perhaps so, but children are a gift gladly received here, Miss Mason.”
The kitchen door swung back with a light thump as it closed, and Amarie grinned. “That woman don’t know when she’s been told off, Momma does it so polite-like.”
Turning, she reached up and caressed her brother’s lightly furry stomach and heavy chest. For a moment, she let him hold her in thick arms before she made him let go. Stepping back, she tugged at the open shirt to straighten it across his shoulders and fastened the buttons up to his collar again.
“You don’t gotta be afraid o’ her, Tommy. Uncle Hoyt wants her, so don’t hurt her, y’hear? That don’t mean you have to be afraid. She cain’t do nothin’ bad to you, or any o’ us, and you know why?” Under the shirt, her fingers stroked over a nipple. She smiled as she watched his eyes close in pleasure. “It’s you that folks gotta worry ‘bout, you and Uncle Hoyt. If she scares you, just remember that – you make me feel safe all on your own. I’ll tell you a secret, though.”
When he looked down at her crooking finger, she smiled as he bent down to let her whisper in his ear. She moved the hair, his and the stuff that was a part of the mask, and let her fingertips caress his neck. His shiver pleased her.
“If you needed it, I’d protect you, too. I’d kill for you, Thomas Brown Hewitt, make no mistake. I want you to feel safe, cuz with me, you’ll be safe. You are mine, y’hear me?” The hair rubbed over her hand and cheek as he nodded. “We can get me new rings later, somebody likely comes along, but you’re mine and I’m as proud o’ you as I can be. That’s why I’m happy to be havin’ your baby, too.” She straightened up with him and sighed as she pulled her door open wide. “I guess the nightgown is good ‘nuff for this. Carry me down to the kitchen?”
Luda Mae set her teacup down properly but her genteel-for-guests voice had an edge to it. “Sit and wait, he’ll bring her in.”
“I could help.”
“He don’t need it.”
When her children came in, Amarie was walking unassisted and Thomas stayed wedged in the doorway, leaning on the kitchen door. He didn’t look quite as down in the ears as he usually did around Mason.
“Mornin’ Momma, Miss Mason,” Amarie said. She kissed Luda Mae’s cheek and then pulled out a chair to join them.
“Child, would you mind if Tommy went and got some work done? This is gonna be lady talk.”
“No, ma’am, that’s okay. Tommy, c’mere, please?”
Luda Mae didn’t miss how Mason watched him or the fact that asking him to come closer to them all was just Amarie proving to the woman that she had him in her pocket. He clasped hands with her over her chest while glaring down at Mason.
“You can go on and work downstairs, okay? Why not make a few little toys for our baby? Gonna need ‘em and ain’t got none.”
When he shuffled off, he gave Luda Mae a little half-hug as he passed her chair. She smiled and murmured softly to him, “That’s my good boy.”
The kitchen was quiet after the door swung shut until they heard the metal basement door open and slam closed in the hall. Mason was still staring at the door he had gone through. They were silent as the distant sound of the chainsaw started up below them.
“Tea?” she asked her daughter, giving her a quick wink.
“Yes, please, Momma.” Amarie’s smile was sweet, but mischief danced in her eyes.
Pushing up her glasses with a smirk, Luda Mae got another teacup and poured for her daughter.
~ ~ ~
“You’re far enough into your third trimester now, too far in to engage in risky sexual behavior.”
Luda Mae sighed. “I thought I told you that stoppin’ was best?”
Her daughter stared at her fingers as they twisted a fold of her nightgown in her quickly disappearing lap. “I’m sorry, ma’am. Tommy don’t understand and it makes him feel close. I only get up on him now so he cain’t forget to be gentle.”
“At this point, you should stop. Entirely,” Mason told her. “There is a doctor I’m working on to bring out here, for the birth.”
“Is it one we can keep, ma’am?” Amarie asked with a gleam in her eye.
Mason’s smile almost looked like a Hewitt one. “He’s a gift, yes – but don’t tell him that until after he helps you through the birth.” The woman sipped her tea and nodded when Luda Mae offered to pour her more. “I’ve brought you some pills and wrote down the instructions. You need to take them, following those instructions, and don’t skip.”
Luda Mae frowned. “What pills? What for?”
“An antibiotic called Clindamycin, first made in 1967, and proving to be very safe for a pregnancy. Judging by what you’ve told me, this is most likely a bacterial infection. It should clear up the spotting blood and fishy-smelling discharge. May I ask a personal question?”
“Um … sure – yes, ma’am.”
“How often does … well… Does Thomas bathe?”
Luda Mae and Amarie looked at each other. When they were quiet too long for Mason’s satisfaction, the woman sighed.
“That was easier when he was a boy,” Luda Mae replied, lifting her chin. “I’d offer to let you take a crack at pointin’ a hose at him now yourself, but it probly wouldn’t go so well for you.”
Amarie didn’t manage to hide her sassy smirk very well, but she wiped it off fast as she faced the woman. “Is it a big worry, ma’am? Do I have to tell him to stop?”
Mason looked grim. “Yes, Amarie, you do. It becomes dangerous for the baby when you’re too close and with the infection, you’re at risk for having the baby too early, or having an under-weight baby. Your family is not equipped to deal with these problems. Also, for after the birth when you feel well enough to have sex again, you should find a way to get him to bathe first – at least the parts that go inside you.”
~ ~ ~
Luda Mae sat on the porch swing and smoked between chores. She was spending less time at the store in order to be close by for Amarie, who was ready to pop soon. The sound of a car coming down the road turned into two cars and when she looked up, she saw Mason coming back from Austin with a strange vehicle following her.
Rising to her feet, she dropped the cigarette butt and crushed it under her shoe. Pocketing the lighter, she walked to the edge of the porch as the cars parked. Mason had pulled off to one side, giving the other car access to pull up closer on the circular drive that went around the house. Luda Mae smiled. When her brother got there, he would pull into his customary spot – and block the other car from backing up. She would have to move Uncle Monty’s old tow truck between the back sheds to really fence it in, just in case.
Cass Mason waited outside her car while an older man in a white doctor’s coat climbed out of his fancy gray town car and grabbed a black leather bag from the backseat. Luda Mae moved to the porch stairs as they approached.
“Luda Mae Hewitt, this is Dr. Gerhardt.”
It had gotten easier to shake their hands as time and necessity marched on. “So pleased you could come and help us, Doctor,” she told him. “Welcome to our home. My girl is upstairs in her room; we followed Dr. Wincott’s suggestion and had her stay in bed as much as she can.”
“Where is the father? You said he was here,” he asked Mason.
Luda Mae nodded. “He’s out workin’, he’ll be in by dark. He’s the local sheriff,” she added proudly. The lies came easier than touching them.
“Hardly seems to be enough people left out here for that.”
“We do what we have to. Remainin’ in our family home is very important to us. Won’t you please come in?”
As they went through the house and up the stairs with Mason leading the way, Luda Mae saw the lens in the basement door move. Staring at it, she held her hand up, palm out, to tell the real father to stay hidden – for now.
She didn’t worry about Amarie, the girl knew what had to be said and done and she was as eager to play the game as Charlie. Her show of relief to have a doctor there could have been genuine, of course – but the girl was doing her best to hide her fears.
After the initial introductions and discussions of the girl’s general health, Dr. Gerhardt looked around the largely bare room with a thinly disguised air of distaste. “This may be the cleanest place for the birth,” he announced with a sniff.
Luda Mae smiled and held her tongue; there would be plenty of time to teach him better manners later.
~ ~ ~
“I don’t mind taking on nurse duties,” Cass Mason assured Dr. Gerhardt. “I’ve helped a midwife before. We have everything ready and her labor could begin anytime.”
Dr. Fancy didn’t like that midwife crack – Miss Mason did, though. Baitin’ the hook – no wonder Charlie likes this one.
Smiling as she poured them all more tea in the dining room, Luda Mae felt relieved when she heard the patrol car pull up. Mason had moved the tow truck herself, and the doctor’s car was now conveniently blocked in.
The creaking slam of the old back kitchen door made their guest twitch in his chair before he rose to meet her brother once he arrived. His surprise at Charlie’s age didn’t carry with it the disapproval one might expect for the father of such a young girl’s baby, but she didn’t need to wonder why. Henrietta had already been told to keep Jedidiah at the trailer.
“Sheriff, good to meet you,” the doctor greeted him, as they shook hands. He had barely given Uncle Monty so much as a grunt and nod.
“Thanks for comin’ out, Doctor – we appreciate the assist.” Tossing a wink at Luda Mae, he excused himself. “I’ll be back shortly – wanna check on my girl.”
Out in the hall, his boots moved to the basement door instead. By the time she heard him clomping up the stairs to see Amarie, she stifled a sigh.
My poor boy – shame he cain’t be there for the birth. I hope Charlie wasn’t too harsh with him on stayin’ put. I hope he will, though, if our girl starts up a caterwaul. My, my my…
Luda Mae had started feeding everyone stew once Charlie had rejoined them and said grace. She had taken some to Amarie and Tommy before eating hers, just to avoid Mason trying to volunteer to do it. That woman had no business down in the basement.
She was far too old to make a fuss over it, but she couldn’t deny the feeling of smug satisfaction when the doctor, who had kept his nose upturned over the house and the family, had complimented her cooking.
After Charlie said he liked to hunt for the meat he provided for his family, she had needed to rise to fetch the tea pitcher from the sideboard to avoid chuckling. Her brother was in his element – reeling them in seemed to entertain him almost as much as teaching them a lesson.
~ ~ ~
They had gotten a guest room cleaned up for the doctor at the end of the upstairs hall – Uncle Monty’s old room before the wheelchair became necessary. He went in and shut the door as if relieved to part company with the family for the night.
Luda Mae and Mason left Amarie’s room together. Down the hall, Charlie watched the fancy woman as he leaned in his open doorway.
“Do you have an opinion about me with him?” she asked in an undertone.
“Luda Mae, please call me Cass.”
Clicking her tongue at the woman, she shook her head no. “If you really wanna be safe here, there are harder ways to earn it than takin’ up with Charlie. I will say ‘hands off’ on my boy. It wouldn’t go good for you. Makin’ Charlie happy, well – Tommy would leave you be if you belong to his uncle. He’s all the father the boy’s ever known.”
“I won’t be compromising on ‘belong’.”
Luda Mae raised her chin. “Before he left for Korea, he always had women – some o’ ‘em even preferred him to a husband or two. I imagine he won’t have forgotten how he kept ‘em comin’ back for more. If you stop puttin’ on airs and quit puttin’ his back up, you might could find he’s a good man – better’n you thought. He sure won’t judge you for the things you do.”
Mason – Cass – didn’t answer. She turned to stare back at him and Charlie was smart enough to keep the smarmy stupid grin off of his face as she made up her mind. There was no guest room made up for her; she had a home to go to not so far away.
Glancing at the closed door the doctor had gone through, as if discretion mattered around a man they all planned to add to the soup pot, she finally moved and approached Charlie.
On the one hand, Luda Mae disapproved of the display when she let him embrace and kiss her in the hall, and her brother pulled the woman roughly against him – but on the other hand, she couldn’t help but feel happy for him.
She snorted when he winked at her over the woman’s shoulder, but she didn’t stay to watch as they retired to his room and shut the door. Heading for the top of the stairs, she was about to go see Thomas when he opened the sliding basement door and froze, staring up at her. Smiling to reassure him, she motioned to him to come up and led him back into Amarie’s room.
“I’m stayin’, just in case,” she told them, moving a wooden chair near the door she’d left open a crack. “I don’t think that doctor will come out tonight unless we fetch him for the baby comin’, but you’ll need to get back to the basement in a hurry if we gotta get him.”
“I wish he could be with me when…” Amarie whispered, as Tommy sat and then settled down to lie at her side. He began to rub her belly as he’d been taught.
“We cain’t allow it. If it makes you holler, we may not be able to control him. Let your uncle play father for now – it’s for the best.”
“I know, Momma. I just wish…”
“Me, too, child. Try to sleep now, you need your rest.”
~ ~ ~
When it started, she got Charlie and Cass first and Charlie handled herding Tommy out. Amarie had struggled to not show worry or distress until he left. For all of their sakes, Luda Mae hoped the labor and birth wouldn’t last too long or be too painful. Amarie had said she didn’t want pain medication, but the doctor had assured the family the option was available if she changed her mind.
Charlie had dressed in his old denim coveralls and boots and as he came back upstairs, he went to wake the doctor.
Luda Mae had washed and hung to dry every extra sheet and towel they had that week and gathered extra pillows. The doctor had brought a plastic sheet to spread over the bed. Since that had worried the girl, Luda Mae was sitting beside her to help her remain calm and focus on what she would need to do.
“Work on relaxing, deep breaths,” Cass told the girl. They had the big bowl ready for filling with warm water.
They had left the door open and Charlie was pacing in the hall. His tense concern was real in two ways – worry for their girl, and needing to be ready to catch Thomas if he tried to come barreling up the stairs.
“Should I be doin’ anythin’ besides breathin’? Those cramps’re startin’ to hurt.”
“We are going to wash you to make things as clean as possible, before the baby comes. Remember what I told you?” Cass asked. “Your water will break, there will be a blood-tinged discharge of mucous, and your cervix will need to be dilated enough for the baby to come out before you start to push.”
“Don’t push until we tell you,” the doctor added as he dug around in his leather bag. He kept pulling out items and laying them on a tray he had brought and put on top of the dresser.
Cass continued, ignoring the man’s brusque tone. “Your contractions should last thirty to ninety seconds and you’ll be dilated a little more than three inches before we begin the second phase of labor. The contractions will become more frequent and intense. You may start to feel pressure or pain in your lower back or abdomen when that happens. It’s normal, and you’ll be fine. You may find it easier to be up on your hands and feet when the time comes, in a squat – let gravity help you.”
“Deep breaths, child,” Luda Mae reminded her and held her close. Watching Charlie pace, she frowned. Cass had told them they needed to wait until the doctor had checked over the baby and the mother and everything was fine. If the pain becomes a problem… They were not a family that approved of drugs or such, but maybe for this, it could be the wiser choice. “You said you had medication to help with pain?” she asked the doctor. One glance at her daughter and she knew the girl understood her concerns.
“I do have that option, ma’am, and we can still fix her up if she wants that,” he answered, finally turning to face them.
Amarie looked up and stared as her uncle paced as if on guard. “I do want it, Momma.”
“Okay, my sweet girl. Don’t you fret – just breathe now, deep breaths.”
~ ~ ~
Luda Mae’s heart ached for her poor girl, but Cass insisted it was going well. Amarie had started to cry when Cass washed her clean after her water broke and what the woman called ‘the mucous plug’ was gone. The girl had to be still as she was examined here and there for checking her progress, but thankfully, that progress wasn’t being checked by the doctor.
“Honey,” Charlie called from the doorway, “If you need me in there, you lemme know. Momma’s got you, though. Uncle Monty says ‘good luck’, but you don’t need that, gonna be just fine.”
Amarie nodded and Luda Mae endured her hands nearly being crushed in the girl’s grip. The pain medicine seemed to help a lot, at least. Amarie had confessed to squirreling away one of Tommy’s two leather belts under the mattress and since no one protested, they were prepared to let her bite the leather if she needed to, to avoid crying out.
“There we are,” Cass announced to the doctor. “She’s dilated to 3.9 inches.”
Dr. Gerhardt nodded. “Get up on your hands and feet, if that’s the most comfortable for you. Help her, Dr. Wincott,” he added needlessly.
Hiding her frown from him, Cass helped and Luda Mae pitched in.
“There you go,” Luda Mae soothed her. “Rest on your pile o’ pillows when you need to.”
The doctor’s voice cut in, “Begin pushing, Amarie. I’m going to tell you when to push, when to rest, when to do your breathing we taught you. Try to follow the instructions as best as you can and tell me if anything changes for you in how you feel now.”
“Yes, sir.” Sweat was pouring from her in short order, but she was a solid little thing, and so brave.
Luda Mae smoothed the thin cotton nightgown around her shoulders with her free hand. “Remember, child, if pushin’ makes you feel like you’re gonna go to the bathroom, don’t you fuss ‘bout it, it’s normal.”
Cass nodded when the girl looked at her. “Concentrate on pushing the baby out, and listening to instructions, nothing else.”
A little over two hours of pushing, breathing, and resting later, the doctor spoke calmly, “The baby is crowning, Dr. Wincott. Now comes the big push, Amarie.”
Luda Mae felt that she was nearly suffering with her daughter. They were in this together in many ways, and since she hadn’t given birth to Thomas, it was a way for her to be a part of that too, more than ever.
Before long, Amarie was unable to be as quiet as she had managed up to that point, and without hesitation when she looked at it in fear, Luda Mae grabbed the leather belt and let her bite down on it. She wished she could make it all easier on the girl, but she did all that she could.
“The baby’s head is nearly out, keep it up, push hard,” the doctor instructed.
When Cass moved down to help him instead of assisting Amarie with focusing on what she had to do, Luda Mae hoped it could be over soon.
“There we go,” the doctor announced. “Clear the nose and mouth of amniotic fluid, and let’s get this done so she can rest.” The cord was clamped and cut when the baby’s body was pushed out.
That sweet first cry was like music, and Luda Mae’s heart thumped at the memory of the cries her poor little Thomas had made. Left in a dumpster behind the slaughterhouse like refuse, wrapped in brown butcher paper, his strident cries were what had made her lift the lid to find him. The decision to take him home and care for him had taken barely a heartbeat.
For a moment, she was worried until she got a good look at the baby’s face – there was no disease or deformity. Sending up a few prayers for that, she could breathe normally again.
Cass took over the job of wiping down with clean towels, and then wrapping the baby up in a warm blanket – one of the blankets she had left in the Mason hayloft with the other supplies for a newborn.
Luda Mae helped her daughter move to lie down on her back and when she was settled, Cass brought her the bundle.
“We should get her started on breast feeding. You still need to pass the placenta, but have a rest for now and meet your daughter.”
“A girl?” Amarie asked, exhausted and sounding awed.
“Yes – a beautiful and perfect little girl.”
“Why is she all pasty white-lookin’?” the girl asked as Cass showed her how to hold and feed the baby after Luda Mae freed the ties at the neck of her nightgown.
Dr. Gerhardt answered, “That is a covering to help protect her, and it will be washed off when she is bathed, but for now, it is thought to help shield from bacterial infections and moisturize the skin.”
The smile that spread over the girl’s face when the baby latched on to nurse from a breast made the gathered tears in Luda Mae’s eyes slip down her cheeks.
“Aw now, that’s a beauty, honey,” Charlie spoke from the doorway. “What you wanna name her, have you picked yet?”
Amarie was watching her baby suckle and her voice floated to them as if the girl was in a dream. “I wanted it to be somethin’ real pretty. Momma helped me. I wanna call her Clementine, Clementine Rose Hewitt.”
“Well, that is pretty – just right for our new little country girl. You did good, Amarie. I’m real proud.”
Amarie beamed a smile at them with tears running down her cheeks.
~ ~ ~
Cass moved away to speak quietly to the doctor, but Luda Mae could still hear her in the quiet room.
“She seems to be losing more blood than she maybe should be,” she told him. “Shouldn’t the placenta have evacuated by now?”
“Typically, in these situations, it can take as much as two hours, but the level of bleeding is a concern. The uterus should contract more and close off blood vessels after the placenta is delivered, but if the placenta is not detaching… Would you be ready to take the baby, if needed?” the doctor asked Luda Mae.
“Of course – is somethin’ wrong?”
“What is it?” Amarie asked.
“The bleeding hasn’t stopped and it is heavier than it should be. It is a concern. If the placenta has not detached from the wall of the uterus, I may have to detach it manually. If that is the case, we will need to sedate her. If we wait longer, she may end up needing a blood transfusion, and it is downright unethical to do so in these conditions or outside of a hospital at all.” He frowned at Cass. “This is why she should have been brought to me, Dr. Wincott.”
“We’re here,” she replied, a little sharply. “You have IVs and sodium lactate solution. Tell me how to help.”
They began doing and saying things none of them understood, and Cass took the baby and handed her to Luda Mae. She stayed where she was, sitting beside her daughter as she held her granddaughter.
“The bleeding is getting worse,” Cass said.
“We have to sedate her.” The doctor returned to his bag.
Luda Mae clucked and hushed her, shifting the baby in one arm to pet her hair and then held her hand.
“What the hell’s the matter, Doc?” Charlie asked, an edge to his voice.
“In a moment please,” the doctor answered and Amarie shrank down when he came near.
“Is this … okay? Is it safe?” Luda Mae asked Cass, trusting her far more than some stranger, doctor or not.
“Amarie, you’ll be fine,” Cass said, answering all of them. “I know what he has to do and you’ll be fine, I promise.”
“I’ve done a manual removal and evacuation before, more than once. More deep breaths – let the sedative work; your family will be right here.”
Luda Mae held her frightened daughter’s gaze and her hand until the girl fell under the drug and seemed to fall asleep. The fingers went lax in her grip. As if sensing her upset, the baby began to cry.
“Give us room, please,” the doctor instructed, and Cass guided her to stand in front of the closet door.
“It’ll be okay,” Cass told her.
Charlie glared at her. “He said blood transfusion – now I know that’s dicey.”
“What the doctor is going to do should make that unnecessary. Even if she did need a blood transfusion, we would handle it. I already know who is a match, but we would need all of your help to make that happen.”
“Oh my Lord in Heaven,” Luda Mae whispered. “Tommy?”
Cass looked from her to Charlie. “I’m afraid so. We typed her in the hospital in Austin – his was in his files.”
“Motherfucker…” Charlie muttered. “That ain’t a picnic.”
“It shouldn’t be necessary at all. Once he gets the placenta out, the uterus will contract more and the bleeding should stop. Then an IV fluid bag can fix the blood loss problem.”
“I need you, Dr. Wincott. Who is Tommy?”
Cass moved to his side. “Tommy is Amarie’s brother, and if she did need a transfusion, he’s a match.”
“Where is he?”
Charlie cursed again. “He’s in the basement. He gets … upset … if our girl is in trouble.”
“Well, Sheriff, she may be.” Turning back to Cass, he asked, “Do you know how to do a transfusion if it comes to that? I have everything we would need.”
“I do, but it won’t be an issue, doctor. You’ve done this procedure before.”
Dr. Gerhardt turned to Amarie and Cass moved to assist him. He was muttering as they got her in position. “Damn backward-ass fool redneck idiots…”
Luda Mae gasped when the man put his hand right up Amarie. Unable to watch, she stared at the baby and hummed to her, working on getting the crying stopped, which gave her the luxury of not looking at what the medical people were doing.
Downstairs, they all heard the basement door slide open fast and strike hard on its track without being closed again.
He heard the baby. Oh, Lord … please get us through this. She wanted to take her granddaughter out of there to her bedroom, but Charlie might need her to help with Thomas.
Cass spoke, forcing her tone to be calm, but Luda Mae could hear the fear in her voice. “Doctor, Tommy is coming. Please finish the procedure before he gets here. It’s … for the best.”
“If he cares about her, he will wait quietly like the rest of you.”
Cass glanced at the doorway and nodded grimly to Charlie. He stalked off down the stairs and Luda Mae moved to the window, as far as she could get from both the door and the bed.
“Hurry, doctor,” Luda Mae urged.
“I can’t rush this,” the doctor said, his voice sounding strained. “Dr. Wincott, give me that bag to put it in,” the doctor ordered. “Some of these country people want to bury them, for some damn Voodoo reason or other.”
Frowning, Luda Mae looked up to watch the rude man as he began to draw his arm back from inside of Amarie. Far too much blood came with it. Sickened, she looked out the window. Staring through her reflection at the inky night, she heard the heavy tread of two pairs of boots approaching and slowly closed her eyes.
Cass opened up a plastic bag and left it where the doctor could reach it before moving to the door. “Let the Sheriff and I handle Thomas.”
“Handle him?” the doctor asked, surprised.
Uncle Monty called out from a distance, “What’s goin’ on? Why’s he got that?”
Charlie’s voice barked out, “Outta the way, Uncle Monty – get! Gimme that, hand it over right the fuck now. Nice and easy… There. If you’re gonna go see her, you head up civil-like or I’ll box your ears, boy!” The stomping slowed, but didn’t stop. A lowing moan floated up to them.
Turning to look at the door, she flinched at the sight of the doctor staring at her with a bloody organ of some sort in his hand. Her daughter lay limp, legs open, with blood all over her and the bed.
“Mrs. Hewitt,” the doctor said, sounding angry and alarmed, “what on earth is wrong with this person?”
“He’s … misunderstood,” she muttered, using Charlie’s favorite answer. He’ll come through that door wearin’ that mask… She glanced at Cass and saw her struggling to be calm.
“Doctor, move away from the patient for a moment, please, and bag the placenta,” Cass told him. “We need to make him think she’s just asleep.” She shifted back away from the door and put her back against a wall.
“Dr. Wincott, what is this?” He turned to look as Charlie blocked the door. “What … is that…?”
Charlie shoved at Tommy’s chest as those big fists curled into clubs. “You might wanna pipe down, Doc. Listen up, Tommy – Amarie’s sleepin’ cuz she’s tired, she just had a baby. See there? Momma has the baby so she can rest.”
“Wincott, what the fuck is that?” the doctor’s voice rose as he pointed.
Luda Mae drew in a deep breath, watching as her son looked to Amarie, silent and bleeding between the legs, still and limp. Then he saw the doctor’s bloody gloves and the thing that he had pulled out of her. She looked frantically for the chainsaw but Charlie must have taken it away and set it down.
The sound Tommy made was half-roar and half-strangled cry and he lurched forward, barely held back by his fear of hurting his uncle.
Charlie’s temper crested in curses. “That’s my nephew, you cocksuckin’ little prick! Mason, you can do this, too, ain’t that right? You can take care o’ our girl?”
“Yes, I can.” She moved to him, as if she thought she had a prayer of helping.
“Aight, that’s good ‘nuff for me.” In one motion, he dodged out of the way, pushing the woman behind him. “Let it rip, boy!”
“Get outta the way!” Luda Mae yelled to Cass. They pressed together between the closet door and the window, and the baby cried as her father rushed the man in white with bloody gloves.
Tommy roared, shoved the screaming man against the wall and gripped the shoulder and head in bare hands. The crack was awful as he nearly tore the head off.
The women flinched and turned to each other, their heads touching as they leaned over the screaming child – but the doctor was silent when he was dropped to the floor.
Blood drove him. The path was clear. She was hurt and the thing that had hurt her was meat.
Thomas stared down at it; his breathing was ragged as he realized it was dead and couldn’t hurt her again.
“Tommy, what the hell, son. Damn!”
He whirled to face his uncle, cringing at the look on his face, the tone of his voice. Afraid he had disobeyed, he slumped where he stood, his fists opening. The fingers twitched.
“Settle down, now. Good work, there. Listen up, boy. Amarie needs our help. She’s lost some blood havin’ that baby, and you can help us by watchin’ over her. She’s gonna be fine, but she needs help. Calm down, son.”
Thomas shifted, wanting to go to his sister. The strange cries in the room were frightening, but her silent stillness was worse.
“What do you need for our girl, Mason?” his uncle asked, his voice low and calm now.
He flinched when the woman spoke. “The doctor’s bag, carry it over to the bed and drag that chair over there, too. We need to hurry.”
“That ain’t a good idea. Urgent is one thing, rattlin’ him is ‘nother. You wanna keep all o’ ‘em parts I like playin’ with? Go easy, slow, and talk calm and gentle.” His uncle approached him. “Tommy, I’m gonna get this chair and bag, and you’re gonna go sit over there on the far side o’ the bed and help watch over your sister. Come on.”
Wanting to go to her, he obeyed. He stepped on the meat on the way, but didn’t care about it. As soon as he sat on the bed beside her face, he reached to stroke his sister’s hair.
The woman and his uncle began doing things on the other side of the bed. He watched her warily as she hung a bag of water from a chair.
“Ain’t she pretty, son?” his uncle asked. Staring down at his sister’s face, he snapped his head back up to watch the woman when she made a noise. Something went from the bag to his sister’s arm. Glaring at her, he balked when his uncle reached out and slapped him on the shoulder. “There we go. That’s medicine and it’ll make her better. Leave it alone ‘til Mason says different.”
“Amarie will be fine, Tommy,” the woman told him, “as long as you let me help her. I’m going to clean her up, now. I won’t hurt her.”
His uncle had said to watch his sister, but she wasn’t waking up or getting better. He twitched when he saw the woman wiping at her between the legs. Was she trying to make her feel good? He growled at her.
“Easy, son. Let him help with that.”
“Don’t be ridiculous, he’s covered in dirt and God-knows-what.”
“Aight, let’s see how far you get.”
Reaching down, Thomas struck her hand away and ignored her when she got angry. He put his fingers inside his sister as gently as he could, as she had taught him.
“She needs to be sterile, stop,” the woman protested.
Pale slender fingers closed on his forearm and tugged. With a hiss, he yanked his arm free, grabbed the thin wrist and snapped it.
The woman shrieked and stumbled back, falling against his uncle, who held her still.
“Not so far, I see.” The low chuckle told him that his uncle wasn’t angry.
Ignoring the woman, he put his fingers back in, but it didn’t seem to help.
“Tommy,” his mother called softly, “why don’t you clean her up? Charlie, move the bowl closer for him.”
“Come on,” his uncle told the woman, “looks like we can handle this.” He moved a bowl of water and put a cloth in it. “You got him, Momma?”
“Yes, I think so. Cass, when is my girl gonna wake up?”
“It shouldn’t … be too long now,” she answered, muttering through gritted teeth.
“That’s just fine, Tommy, ain’t it? Get her on outta here, Charlie.”
“You heard her, Mason. Let’s get you fixed up downstairs.”
~ ~ ~
Thomas waited and watched. His mother had helped him, one-handed with a bundle in her other arm, to clean his sister and then cover her up to keep her warm. She had sat in the chair and neither of them messed with the bag hanging from it. He had wanted to toss it away, but she had told him no.
The thing in his mother’s arms started making noise again. Glancing up, he glared at it.
Thomas twitched when his arm was touched, but then he saw his sister looking back at him.
“Amarie, sweetheart, are you okay do you think?”
“I … I think so. Is it over? Did the doctor leave?”
“He ain’t gone too far, child. Tommy took care o’ that.”
“Oh.” She looked up at him and laced their fingers together. “Thank you, Tommy – for keeping me safe, and our baby, too. Momma?” She looked at their mother. “Is she okay?”
“Our sweet girl is just fine, but she may be hungry again. Here, go on and feed her up.”
Thomas leaned back as his sister released his arm to take the bundle. When it made the same piercing cries he had heard from the basement, he winced.
“She’s just hungry, Tommy. There, there, here you go,” she whispered to it. “Isn’t she beautiful? This is our baby – you helped me make her, so she’s ours … she’s yours, too – to keep safe and never hurt, okay?”
Leery, but leaning in again to see, he stared down at it as it sucked on a teat. It was a bit like the boy, but smaller – it looked like a doll.
“You don’t gotta be afraid,” their mother said. “She’s just tiny and she’ll need you to protect her.”
“We all need you to protect us. Tommy … we love you, and little Clementine Rose here is gonna love you, too.”
“You see she’s fine, my sweet boy. Why don’t you help clean up and take that down to the basement? That other bloody thing, too – then I’ll tidy the room for our girls. Go on, now. Don’t bother Cass Mason, neither – she belongs to your uncle, whether she knows it or not, yet.”
He reached out to stroke her hair and his sister kissed his fingers when he touched her lips. She smiled at him, and he began to slowly relax. They wanted him to work, to get the meat put away before it spoiled.
Rising, he leaned down and gripped a leg as he stepped around the corpse. Grunting a little, he hauled it away from the bed. The wall was speckled with blood, but his mother would clean it. In the center of the room, he bent again and hauled it up, laying the meat over one shoulder. Without looking back, he carried it downstairs.
The blonde woman stared at him from the open kitchen door as he passed, but he ignored her. He had work.
~ ~ ~
Thomas watched from the shadow of the porch as his uncle put the woman in her car. Seconds later, wincing in pain, she had rolled the window down. Their voices carried to him easily on the light warm breeze, but little of what they said made sense.
“You have two more IV bags and I’ve taught Luda Mae how to do that. Amarie needs rest and nutrition, and if you can avoid feeding her the doctor, or anyone else, that would be for the best. I’m going to get a cast for my wrist. Maybe after that, I could bring out some good food for the new mother, some salmon, eggs, whole grain breads, and more postnatal vitamins.”
“And when might that be? Tomorrow? Next week?”
“As soon as I can – hopefully by tomorrow. I got a good start on getting Tommy to trust me, at least. I need to reinforce that by continuing to help Amarie.”
“Ain’t no damn reason he should trust you.”
“Trust will likely take much longer – but Tommy does accept me.”
“He broke your wrist.”
“I went too far; he still accepts me. He knows I gave him his wife back.”
“His acceptin’ you don’t mean I should trust you. Tommy’s not the most careful observer in the family. We don’t really know you, Mason.”
“I just asked your family to murder someone for me, someone I brought here myself. How could I turn you in without having to explain that? After what we did at the hospital – not just you and Tommy but me as well – why can’t you trust me? Your ‘niece’ and her baby will live. I gave her the best chance she was going to get by bringing her a doctor and you know it – just like your nephew does.”
His uncle spit tobacco on the ground between his boots and then squinted down at her in the sun. “If she dies, next time you bring us another body to chop, you’ll get chopped with it.”
“Amarie will be fine – and I’ll take my chances.”
“You already are. I can see your potential as a lure, and I don’t care who you want dead, we’ll take all you got. For certain, I got other uses for you, too, and maybe the way to my heart is through my motherfuckin’ cock. Keep this in mind, though – loyalty to this family is proven in actions, in blood – not fancy words.”
The woman sighed. “I’ll see you tomorrow – consider that my first action. Someday you’re going to trust me, Sheriff Hoyt. You might even ask me to call you Charlie.”
“You work on that, Mason. Have a nice day, now.” He slapped the roof of the car and she drove away with her hastily bandaged wrist in her lap.
Thomas turned away and slipped back inside the house as his uncle went to his car. Upstairs, his mother was sitting in the armchair she had asked him to bring in. It would rock, and she was holding the bundle and rocking it.
Warm in the bed, his sister slept. She had talked with him that morning. The strange bag thing was still connected to her arm.
Moving to the corner, he leaned against the wall and slid down it to sit on the floor under the window. He closed his eyes when his mother’s voice began to sing, and the words reached into him like warmth.
“Hush, little baby, don’t say a word
Momma’s gonna buy you a mockingbird
If that mockingbird don’t sing
Momma’s gonna buy you a golden ring
If that golden ring turns brass,
Momma’s gonna buy you a looking glass
If that looking glass gets broke
Momma’s gonna buy you a billy goat
If that billy goat won’t pull,
Momma’s gonna buy you a cart and bull
If that cart and bull turn over,
Momma’s gonna buy you a dog named Rover
If that dog named Rover won’t bark,
Momma’s gonna buy you a horse and cart
If that horse and cart fall down,
You’ll still be the sweetest little baby in town.”
Author’s Note: Personally, I try not to think about the fact that Amarie and Thomas are having sex while at least one of them probably hasn’t bathed in years. Amarie, how you contracted a bacterial infection of the vagina is really not a mystery, honey. What I researched for her to have was Bacterial Vaginosis (BV), the most common vaginal infection in women of childbearing age, caused by an imbalance in the bacteria that live in the vagina. No one knows for sure what causes the bacteria balance to change, but bad hygiene may be a contributing factor.
The next high-risk problem I threw at Amarie is called Placenta Accreta, a complication where the placenta gets too deeply embedded in the uterine wall to detach normally. It can cause severe bleeding and be life-threatening, possibly leading (in a hospital) to multiple blood transfusions and even a hysterectomy to control the bleeding. I’m taking poetic license that it was embedded just a little, and while not easy or fast to detach, it could be and a hysterectomy and transfusions were not needed. Research convinced me that attempting “direct blood transfusion” (person to person) under these conditions would not be plausible for a good outcome for Amarie, so I backed that off and went with “we caught it early, so IVs will do the trick”. I’m not a medical person or a mom, so this is pure research for the birth and the complications – please forgive any medical lapses on my part.
Props go out to DoodleGal626 on AO3 for the suggestion of the baby’s name. Thanks for Reading! – AnonGrimm (@MET_Fic) (anongrimm-blog.tumblr.com)