Slowly I pulled myself up, but trying to string two thoughts together just didn’t seem like a thing I could do. My first real good thought I could hang onto was Kerry.
No answer. I pushed myself up more and realized just how wet I was when the cold air hits my clothes. Then some other memories slid in and I started to get scared.
“Kerry? Squirt?! Riss didn’t mean to scare you Honey. I’m just … just over set … but not at you. I swear, it’s not at you Sugar. Come out please.”
No answer. Oh God.
I felt a tug down deep and it was just plain weird. But then I started feeling colder. I knew I couldn’t sit there. I told myself, “Wake up you silly creature. What is wrong with you? You have to find Kerry. Get up, you ain’t that fat.”
I was pulling and clawing my way up trying to get feet under me that didn’t want to do what I told ‘em to. My head felt full of cotton. “Kerry!!” I called again. “Honey, where are you? I’m sorry. Please don’t be scared! Come on Squirt, I know I’m a mess but … but …”
I’d made it up by the skin of my teeth but the world didn’t want to stay level and I was really, really cold. Stupid cold from the inside out instead of the other way around like you expect after getting soaked in winter.
I called again, “Ker …” but it ended in a squawk as someone grabbed me from behind. When I realized who it was I broke down crying.
“Oh God Dino. I can’t find Kerry. I … I think I scared him or something. I’ve called and called. We’ve got to find him. He can’t be out in this cold. I don’t even know if he has his jacket on. We …”
“Shhhh,” he says trying to calm me. “Alec has him.”
Now I was feeling stupid but not so stupid that I knew that made no sense. “Alec? How … how does Alec have him? Wha …?”
All the while he’s leading me into the house but I feel like all my bones are gone, like a piece of wet noodle that just wants to slide every which a way. “Dino … Dino …”
“It’s all right. I’m here. Did the guy … touch you? Hurt you?”
I was in my old bedroom all of a sudden. “What are we … I … why …”
“This room is off the kitchen and warmer. The upstairs is probably like ice right now. Look at me love. Did the man … hurt you?”
“Man?” I asked confused. It finally registered who he might be talking about. “Oh … wait … that wasn’t a man … it was Sol. How … how did you know he was here?”
I felt Dino stiffen up. “I’ll castrate that …”
Alec came in the room and grabbed Dino by the shoulder and shook his head. I was trying to wonder why when he said, “Calm and quiet,” he said in a voice like he was forcing himself to do the same thing. “Get her out of those wet things and in the bed, raise her feet about a foot higher than her head, and get her warm but don’t let her overheat. I’ve sent Ajax to get Cheryl and Mother. Chester is stoking the stove and he’ll lay a fire upstairs as soon as he’s through in case they think she should be moved up there.”
I don’t exactly remember fighting him about being stripped down in the daytime but he kept saying, “Now let me do this Riss.” I must have not been cooperating but I really don’t remember much of anything. It was the oddest feeling, like my head was just not connected to the rest of me. The only thing that made a real impression on me was the cold and how it seemed to be making it hard for me to breathe. Then I was in the bed and under the covers; that was better but not much.
I could feel myself wanting to slide off into the black again and then Alec was there and in my face. “Damaris!” He sounded so much like my father catching me doing something I wasn’t supposed to that he startled me. “There you are,” he said when my eyes finally found his. “Don’t go to sleep. I know you might feel like it but I need you to stay awake. OK? Tell me what I said.”
He had to ask twice but I finally said, “Don’t go to sleep.”
“That’s good, real good. Now remember that.” He must have turned to Dino because that seemed to be who he was talking to. “She’s had a shock. It might have brought on labor. We’ll know more when Cheryl gets here and looks her over.”
I heard some papers rustling and for some reason that really disturbed me. A moment later a soft curse followed by a pretty violent description of what he would do to Sol when he caught up with him was even more distressing though for the life of me I can’t quite remember what it was he said. I do remember Alec saying, “None of that, at least not right now. We’ll deal with it later, as a family. Right now she needs you to hold on to. Try and talk to her and get her to respond in a way that makes sense.”
I started shaking again. I knew there was something I was going to remember and I didn’t want to. I knew it was going to hurt. Then I caught the look on Dino’s face. He was white as a sheet and all his feelings were in his eyes.
“Kerry?” I croaked around breath that didn’t seem to want to stay in my lungs very long.
“Slow down. Come one Honey. Try and slow your breathing a bit, take deeper breaths.”
I found doing that made me feel warmer so I concentrated on it and when the shaking wasn’t so bad I asked for Kerry again.
“He’s just fine. Chester’s sons have him outside.”
I shook my head trying to get upset. “He doesn’t have a coat on. It’s too cold. He’ll …”
“It’s OK Momma Riss, your boy had his coat, hat and gloves, and everything else he needs. I can see from the window they’ve even started a fire in the burn barrel and have a jug of cider from the looks of it, warming it up.”
“I couldn’t find him Dino. I’m sorry,” I said starting to cry a bit. “I don’t know how I lost him. I think I scared him and …”
“Shhhh,” he said petting me and trying to calm me down. “You didn’t lose him. The boy tried to do the work of a man and ran to get help.”
“Oh my Lord Dino,” I breathed. “Across all those fields? By himself?! He’s just a little boy!”
“Now if you don’t calm down,” he threatened. “I’m not going to talk about this anymore.”
“Just tell me he didn’t get lost, wet, or anything else.”
“No. As a matter of fact he was on a beeline to us when we spotted him running down one of the rows. He said he used the turbine as a landmark to go towards. I ran out to meet him thinking he’d run off from you but he was crying and not making any sense except to say there’d been a man at the house and you’d fallen down and wasn’t answering him when he called. It turned my blood cold.”
It was turning my blood cold to think of Kerry running all that way by himself. He wasn’t even tall enough to see over the vine rows. They could have so easily missed him or he them.
“I was running back to the house before any of the others could even turn the wagons or unhitch the horses. Met one of Chester’s boys half way here and grabbed his horse. They’d been sent home early because they couldn’t get the boiler working at the school. He said they’d seen a car flying down the highway from the direction of our house. They separated and the older boy – Jeremy – was going straight towards the house and the younger one was coming to get us just to be safe. I was only two horse lengths ahead of Jeremy.”
I shook my head. “Dino … oh Dino …” It was coming back to me. I wasn’t crying but I was holding onto him as if my life depended on it.
He kept talking to me and making me answer silly questions that I had to think about and slowly my heart didn’t feel like it was going to flutter right out of my chest and I could take a breath without feeling like I was stuck in a girdle. I started feeling nauseous but as long as I didn’t move too much it wasn’t too bad.
We both heard a noise out in the kitchen and then Cheryl came in. I didn’t know it before then but Cheryl had been some kind of nurse until she lost the taste for it and decided that her own family had to come first. She gave her license up only a couple of months before the government instituted a medical draft.
“OK Dino, go on out for just a minute.” Dino must have gotten a mulish look on his face because she said quite calmly and with a lot of authority in her voice, “Willingly or unwillingly, doesn’t matter to me and you know it. Don’t make me have you carted out and upset her even more. Give me a few minutes then you can come back in.”
I started shaking again when he left the room and she shut the door. “Cheryl? I … I think my water broke.”
“It appears so,” she said as she examined my clothes where Dino had tossed them. “Are you in any pain?”
“I’m just cold.”
“Not as cold as I was but … but I can’t stop shaking.”
She stuck a thermometer in my mouth and was feeling my hands and my bare feet then took my pulse. When she’d read the thermometer she started writing stuff down on a little pad she pulled out of this bag I finally noticed. “Your temperature is normal and you don’t feel clammy. Alec said you were when you were first brought in so that means you’re coming out of it. Have you had any labor pains?
I thought, “I … I don’t think so. I mean, doesn’t labor hurt?”
She chuckled and said, “It might not at this stage, especially if a woman has a high pain tolerance. I know for a fact that you do. Sometimes first time mothers with a high pain tolerance don’t even recognize when they are in labor. Has your back been aching? Anything like that?”
Again I thought about it, “Not really, not any more than normal.”
She sighed. “Riss, if this was a hospital you’d probably either be put on forced bed rest with a baby monitor or they would start you on pitocin to induce labor.”
“What … what does that mean?”
“Normally your water breaks after you’ve been in labor a bit, even if it is just mild labor. You’ve … you’ve had a shock and it was enough to cause your body to spontaneously rupture your membranes.”
“And that pitocin stuff?”
“It’s a synthetic hormone used to stimulate labor. It can have adverse side effects like harder and faster labor but can be necessary to avoid other adverse situations in labor.”
Trying to think my way through it and avoid getting side tracked about why I had had the shock I finally said, “Well, we aren’t in a hospital. And there are no baby monitors. And that pitocin, even if we had some, doesn’t sound like something I’d appreciate. So … so what am I supposed to do?”
“Well, first I want you to relax as much as you can. I know it is asking a lot but just try … if not for your own sake then the baby’s and Dino’s. Second, I know it is going to be uncomfortable but I need to check and see if you are dilated at all. That will give us some idea of where to go from here.”
Saying it was uncomfortable didn’t even being to cover it. I didn’t know whether to die of embarrassment or grit until my teeth were breaking. “OK, all over. Try and relax.” She started washing her hands again as well as she had beforehand.
“Cheryl, no offense but that just ain’t working.”
She smiled, “I know but it is part of the bedside speech that all nurses learn. We know it doesn’t work but figure if we say it often enough the patient will give in just to shut us up.”
Believe it or not I tried to laugh. Bad idea. “Ow. What …? Why … why does it feel …? Ow.”
“No more water, No more cushion Riss. And believe it or not you are lucky. I doubt you would have gone another week as dilated as you are - over seventy-five percent effaced - and this is your first baby.”
A little overwhelmed with the medical jargon I asked, “OK, but what exactly does that mean?”
“It means, my dear, that it is time to walk.”