Author’s Note: Hankie warning!!! You’re going to need them.
Lincoln gazed at me for a long time, as if I were an angel descended from Heaven. I loved when he looked at me in his special way. Sure, we voiced our love for each other every day, but there were times when words weren’t needed. Just a touch or a loving look spoke volumes.
“We should celebrate,” Lincoln said as a breeze lifted our hair. “I feel like taking my beautiful, sexy, pregnant wife out on the town. How does dinner and dancing sound?”
I smiled into his eyes. “Would you be terribly upset if we just celebrated at home? I’d rather have you all to myself.”
“Your wish is my command,” he said, giving me a little courtly bow.
I finished making the dinner I’d started. Then, I set up a romantic table with fresh flowers and candles. I grinned as Lincoln made appreciative noises after almost every bite. “You sure know how to schmooze a lady, don’t you?” I teased.
Lincoln put down his fork and sipped the glass of red wine I’d poured for him. “I always make it a habit never to offend the lady who owns the hands that feed me.”
I laughed and leaned back in my chair, feeling completely full. I patted my still flat stomach and met Lincoln’s blue gaze with my own. “Who would have thought that a locked room would lead to this?”
He cleared his throat and set down his wine glass. “Uh, Lenora, darling, about that locked room. I…well, that is…”
“Yes?” I asked, cocking an eyebrow.
“Well, you see, I sort of orchestrated that whole thing. The thing is, I didn’t think there would be any other way that you’d sit still long enough for me to say what I needed to say. When I was bringing your bag back to you, I got Doug to follow me, and when I was inside, he tampered with the lock so we’d be stuck.”
I looked at him, eyes wide. “You mean to tell me you got Doug to lock us in together so you could…” I leaned foreword and continued looking Lincoln straight in the eye. Doug was Lincoln’s long-time friend since grade school. They were still best buddies, and Doug was married to my best friend, Christie, who was now pregnant with their first child.
“Yep,” Lincoln said simply. He tried to look sheepish, but the Cheshire Cat smirk on his face gave him away. He then went on to explain that he’d broken that bobby pin inside the lock on purpose, assuring me he could easily have picked that lock if he’d wanted to. He was awfully sure of himself and one thing I knew about Linc was that he was resourceful. He could do just about anything he set his mind to.
I’d often wondered if Lincoln had something to do with that locked door but never asked him. I tried and failed miserably at arranging a haughty, pissed off look on my face. I felt the corners of my mouth tug upwards and ended up howling with laughter. “Lincoln Atherton, you should be ashamed of yourself,” I spluttered. “You’re such a jerk.”
Lincoln grinned and lazily picked up his wine glass. “I know, but it worked. Even Christie thought it was a bril-“
“Christie knew about this?” I asked. This time, I really was surprised.
“Yeah. Doug and I swore her to secrecy. She knew you liked me and said you were being a stubborn old mule.”
“You all are insane! Completely, undeniably, irrevocably certifiable,” I said, shaking my head.
“Aww, don’t get upset, Lenora. It was for our own good, after all,” Lincoln said.
I chuckled and shook my head aain. “I’m not upset, although I probably would have been if I’d found out years earlier. I’m just amazed you all pulled it off and that Christie kept it a secret. You know how she loves to gossip.”
Lincoln grinned wickedly. “We made it worth her while. We got Christie seasonal ringside seats to the WWE wrestling matches that year.” Christie was an animal when it came to wrestling. Many times over the years, I’d seen her yelling and screaming at the TV screen while she watched every week. What she saw in all that I’ll never know. To each her own, I supposed.
“It figures,” I said, shrugging. “I guess it’s my burden in life to be so sorely mistreated and abused. What ever shall become of me?”
“I’ll make it up to you later tonight. I’ll make it all go away,” Lincoln purred, giving me a seductive wink.
“You’d better,” I said, batting my eyes flirtatiously at him, “or you’ll never hear the end of it.”
Lincoln and I always loved dancing together. Tonight was meant for romance, soft music, and slow dancing.
Then, Lincoln serenaded me. He played so effortlessly, and his voice always made my toes curl.
We totally rocked our karaoke system. Lincoln and I were a well-oiled machine when we played and sang together.
And finally, Lincoln more than made up for the “mistreatment” of me. It was one of the most beautiful nights of my life.
The pregnancy wasn’t easy. The morning sickness didn’t always occur in the morning and lasted longer than expected. Lincoln grew increasingly worried and insisted that we make a trip to the ER. Stubbornly, I said it wasn’t necessary and that it would pass. I’d been very faithful about going to my doctor’s appointments, and he’d said there was no reason to push the panic button yet. However, Lincoln wasn’t taking any chances. He said I either agree to ask Mathilda for a potion or he’d make me go to the ER. I’d not wanted to bother Mathilda with this, but after I told her what was going on, she wasted no time in coming to see me. Given the choice between her and an emergency room, I’d pick Mathilda any day. As always, she came through. I drank her potion every morning, took time to just relax and read, and soon, the morning sickness was a thing of the past. Lincoln and I were both relieved when I actually felt human again.
As my body grew in size from the baby I was carrying, I worried Lincoln would turn to a thinner, sexier woman due to my being so hideously overgrown. I needn’t have worried. He was ever the attentive, loving husband who lavished even more love on me. He brought me flowers often, and just the simplest, little things he did meant so much. One day, I was looking at myself in the mirror, and Lincoln came up behind me. He wrapped his arms around me, gently put his hands on my bump, and smiled at my reflection in the mirror. I leaned back against him and grinned. “What are you smirking at?” I asked him.
“I’m just smiling at my beautiful wife,” he said, leaning his cheek atop my head. “You’re so beautiful, my Lenora, and you’re even more so pregnant.”
I chuckled but felt a rush all the same at Lincoln’s loving words. “Lies. Just what I want to hear.” In my option, I was too fat and ungainly to be beautiful.
“Always the truth, Lenora,” he said softly while continuing to run his hand over my belly. “I mean it. You’re the most beautiful woman in the world, especially now that you’re carrying our baby. I love you, Lenora. Nothing will ever change that.”
I turned and wrapped my arms around Lincoln. “Sometimes I’m afraid,” I confessed. “I’m afraid as I grow bigger, you won’t find me attractive anymore, and you’ll look…elsewhere.” A tear rolled down my cheek, and I buried my face against his chest.
Lincoln held me tight and rubbed my lower back where it often ached. “Don’t you know by now there could never be anyone else for me? Nobody will ever be as beautiful and sexy as you, pregnant or not. You’re it for me. Like it or not, you’re stuck with me, kid.”
I laughed and cried at the same time and gave Lincoln a tremulous smile. “Good because I wouldn’t have it any other way.”
Lincoln continued to show his love for me not only with his poetic words, but with back massages, foot rubs, piling pillows behind me as we relaxed on the couch or on the bed, and by being a good sport at running to the store at 3 AM for something I was craving. Lincoln was always fascinated with feeling or rubbing my tummy and would constantly chatter about nonsense to our growing bundle. We found out we were having a boy, so Mathilda and I planned the nursery. Lincoln and I spared no expense. Everything had to be perfect for our blessed new arrival.
There was only one thing that caused a shadow to cross our existence, but it was a major one. Grandda hadn’t been well for a while now. He’d gotten pneumonia and just wasn’t recovering from it. Even Mathilda, with her vast knowledge of healing magic, wasn’t able to do much. I was well into the last trimester of my pregnancy when what I dreaded was about to happen. Lincoln and I got the call that Grandda didn’t have long and that we should get over there. He’d not wanted to die in a hospital, so Mathilda was caring for him at home. It gave me such a bad turn to see him lying there so still and pale. He was breathing in shallow sips of air, and when he called my name, his voice was so weak. Gone was the jolly, booming voice I loved so well. All his life, he’d been a tall, strong man, but now, he looked shrunken and shriveled. His large, calloused hands had always been so capable and steady, but now, they shook almost violently as he raised one to beckon me nearer.
Lincoln left to speak to Mathilda so I could spend some alone time with Grandda. I tried to put on a cheerful smile, but it broke my heart to see him this way. I could never hide my feelings from Grandda, and this was no exception. My cheeks were soon bathed with tears, and he held me as I cried against his chest. Under my ear was the irregular beat of the big heart that had no limits on love for me.
“Ye must not carry on so,” Grandda’s weak voice whispered in my ear while his trembling hand stroked my hair. “It’s not good for the wee one. Remember your empathic senses. What ye feel, the wee bairn will feel.”
“I know, Grandda, but–” I choked on a sob and tried to stop crying. I knew it always troubled Grandda when I cried, but it broke my heart to see him like this and to know I wouldn’t have him much longer.
Grandda wiped my tears with the sheet and reached for my hand. I held his hand between mine, much as he’d done for me when I was ill. “I’ve lived a good life. Ye were my pride and joy, Lenora. There was never a grandda who was prouder than I have always been of you.”
I leaned my cheek against the back of his hand and then placed his hand over my protruding abdomen. “Oh, Grandda! You’ll never know your great grandson, and that breaks my heart.”
“I’ll know him and watch over him from Heaven,” Grandda said. “As long as ye think of me and tell him stories of the old times, ye will always keep me alive. Have ye thought of names?”
“His name will be Landon Liam,” I said. Lincoln and I had talked about it a lot, and we wanted an L name like ours. I’d thought of Landon because I loved watching old “Highway to Heaven” reruns when I was younger. I always referred to our baby as a little angel sent from Heaven to be with us. Liam, of course, would be for Grandda.
A fine, strong name,” Grandda said, then went into a fit of hacking coughs. I arranged him more comfortably against the pillows, nearly gasping in horror at how wasted he felt. When he got his breath back, he spoke again in barely a whisper. “Will ye bring Lincoln here? I’ve something to say to ye both.”
I kissed his weathered cheek, then asked for Lincoln to join me. He put his arm around me as I reached for Grandda’s hand. “I’m right here, Grandda.” Grandda had insisted that Lincoln call him Grandda, which took a bit of time for Lincoln to get used to. In time, he did and was so appreciative of being welcomed so warmly once Lincoln and I became a couple.
Grandda’s wise blue eyes studied me then Lincoln intently. As they met mine, I could see they were filled with pain and suffering. “Ye were always a good lad,” Grandda whispered. “Ye promised on your wedding day to take care of my Lenora so there is no need to ask ye again.”
“The promise remains as stated before,” Lincoln said, nodding his head emphatically. “There is no need for you to worry about her.”
“Such a good lad,” Grandda repeated, his voice growing weaker. “Lenora…”
“Oh, Grandda, don’t talk anymore,” I begged, squeezing his hand. “You need to rest.”
“What I need to do is get this out, so hush now, girl,” he said, calling on some reserve of strength to recapture some of the authority his voice had once possessed. He smiled to soften the words, but it wasn’t necessary. I squeezed his hand again and leaned in so I could hear better. “Before I go, I need to tell ye again just what ye meant in my life. Ye didn’t know your grandmother, rest her soul, but she would have loved ye so much.”
I nodded knowing all this before. My grandmother had died of a long illness before I was born so I never knew her. Grandda made her come alive for me when he told me about her and what a kindhearted woman she’d been.
“Your mother was like her in many ways, but you, Lenora, were the image and likeness of her. Beautiful and feisty she was, as ye are. Ye have strength that many of us can only dream of having. Ye have courage, darling Lenora, such courage.”
“Because of you, Grandda,” I said, tears filling my eyes again.
“I may have helped it along, but ye had it inside from your very first breath. I want ye to call upon it after I’m gone. I’m happy where I’m going, and I want ye to celebrate my life, not mourn the loss of it.” His eyes never left my face as he spoke what would be his dying request.
“I’ll try, Grandda…but I’ll miss you so. If there was a way I could keep you here with me–“
“We’ve been through that before,” Grandda whispered. “Remember what is written. To everything there is a season–“
“–And a time to every purpose under the heaven,” I said through a tight hroat. “A time to be born.”
“And a time to die,” Grandda said. Another tear rolled down my cheek, and ever so softly, he wiped it away as he’d done so many times during my lifetime. “It’s my time to go and time for new life to begin.” I knew the wisdom in this, but my heart was breaking. Yes, we were joyful about the baby, but I wanted to keep Grandda too. I was selfish, I know, but I couldn’t imagine my life without him in it.
“I don’t want you to go,” I said, finally voicing everything I felt in those six words.
“I know, but none of us has a choice,” Grandda replied. “Listen to me now. Ye’ve given me so much when I thought I’d lost it all. Ye were my star, my heart, and my life. Ye always made me laugh with your funny stories, and ye made me so proud when ye got published or played your music. Ye gave me more joy than an old grandda ever had the right to feel.”
I couldn’t stifle the sob this time. “It was you who gave me so much. You gave me more than you’ll ever know.” I held him close and whispered in his ear. “I wanted to give you so much more, Grandda. I never got to give you that mansion I once promised you.”
I know Grandda would have laughed if he could have mustered the strength, but he settled for a peaceful smile. “Now, what would I want with a big mansion? I would have rattled around in that thing, plus, I would have been farther away from my Lenora with all those rooms we’d have to traverse to spend time together. What we had was all I ever needed. We had love and each other, and that was good enough for me. But, ye can give me one last thing.”
“Anything, Grandda,” I said completely touched by his words.
“Give me one more smile. I want that to be the last thing I see on this earth.” I mustered all the strength I had to give him what he wanted. He was right. I had to suck it up and not let his last vision of me be one of desolation. When I managed it, his own smile resembled all the loving ones he’d ever given me. “There now. That’s my girl. I love ye, my beautiful Lenora. I’ll always be with ye.”
Grandda didn’t speak again. He closed his eyes and drifted off. Over the next few minutes his breathing grew shallower and more labored. At 5:15 PM om March 18th, Liam Sean Kelly, my beloved grandfather, took his final breath. There was a tiny, almost imperceptible inhalation,, a long, soft exhale that sounded like a sigh, and then…nothing. I was alone with him when the end came. it was the first time i’d actually seen someone die, but it wouldn’t be the last.
Unspeakable panic gripped me as I leaned over Grandda and listened to his chest for a heartbeat. There was nothing. I lifted my head and took his limp hand, rubbing his fingers vigorously between my own shaking ones. “No…Grandda…come back,” I pleaded, my own breath coming in ragged gasps. Gone was the stoicism I’d so desperately tried to maintain for Grandda’s sake. The only things left were panic, blind desperation, and a lagoon of grief that wanted to suck me down.
I leaned down to slide my arms around him. Maybe if I held him and told him I loved him enough, I could make it right. “I…love you…Grandda. Please…come back…please, Grandda. You said you’d…never leave me.” I was sobbing so hard, I could barely get the words out. It didn’t matter. Grandda stayed dead and my heart broke even more at every passing second.
That was how Lincoln found me. He’d heard me crying from downstairs and hurried to my side. Gently, he pulled me away from Grandda’s body and held me in a tight, fierce embrace. I wailed, pounded on his chest with my fists, then clung to him for dear life. “Do something, Linc! Bring him back. Please bring him back! I need him. Bring him back, Linc. Oh, please…please bring him back!” There wasn’t anything Linc couldn’t do, right? He could get my Grandda from that terrible, dark place and send him back to me where he belonged, right?
His next words tore every shred of happiness away. “I can’t, Lenora. I’d bring him back to you if I could…but I can’t, darling. He’s…gone, Lenora.” Linc”s voice shook with grief and I felt his chest heave as I held onto him.
“He can’t be. Not Grandda,” I protested. Part of me knew I wasn’t thinking rationally, but the grief-ridden part of me didn’t care. it just didn’t seem possible for a world to exist without Grandda in it. I broke away from Linc, sank to the side of the bed, and lay my head on Grandda’s still chest to sob out my sorrow. I barely registered the door closing softly, which left me alone with what remained of my Grandda.
Linc returned a few minutes later and touched my heaving shoulder. “Darling, I brought you something. Lenora, you need to drink this.”
I lifted my head and suspiciously eyed the goblet he held. “I don’t want any,” I croaked.
“It’ll help calm you down, sweetheart. It’s good for both you and the baby. It won’t hurt him, but you being in such a state will. Please, Lenora, drink this…for the baby.”
Those words got through. The thought of my baby being harmed brought me at least a little back from the abyss. I took the goblet and shakily brought it to my lips. It was, no doubt, one of Mathilda’s calming drafts but I didn’t care. I mechanically drank it and handed the empty goblet back to Lincoln It started to work almost immediately and I wordlessly stared off into space.
“Come on, Lenora. There’s nothing more we can do here. We should go home,” Linc whispered to me.
“The…funeral,” I said with some effort. My tongue felt heavy and I just wanted to go to sleep.
“Mathilda and I are taking care of that. Come on now, love. It’s time for us to go,” Linc said gently but firmly.
I hesitated for a moment to look down at Grandda once more. I stroked my fingertips over the face I loved so dearly and would never forget. I whispered a blessing in Gaelic and asked Ariadne, the Goddess of Witchcraft and Magic, to lead my beloved Grandda to paradise, for nobody deserved it more than him. “I…I love you, Grandda. Please don’t ever forget me…wherever you are.” I kissed his brow and let Linc lead me away.
I was so tired.