13 September 2019
Well, we’re here. The month of our baby’s due date has finally arrived. I am so terrified and excited all at once. I plan to not use an epidural during childbirth, and I hope and pray that the delivery process goes as smoothly and as quickly as possible. We are as ready as we possibly can be, and the nursery has been thoroughly decorated. The only two beings in my life I have yet to surprise are my two cats, Lefty & Felix. I can only pray that the adjustment for them will go smoothly and really well – I’m even hoping that maybe they’ll “help out” or want to be best buddies with the baby.
For all you moms out there, do you have any interesting and unique childbirth stories? I’d love to read them! Please comment below 🙂
Until then, please enjoy the first chapter of “Time & Tide”:
Two months later
“I can’t believe he actually asked you out!” twenty-two year old Madison Brooks squealed with delight, glancing at her light blue-colored cell phone sitting between the driver’s and middle seat of her bright yellow VW Bug. She shook her dark, honey blond, long hair as she hit the left turn signal to pass the motorcyclist in front of her.
Madison’s best friend since second grade, Nicole Donovan’s happy laugh came over the speakerphone. “Ha! I know. But what else can I say? I guess those looks we’d cast each other in the college library finally paid off.”
“Bravo.” Madison shook her head as she turned back into the right lane of the four-lane highway. Hills and hills of countryside passed her by. She was just leaving Seattle, at the very edge of Washington State after shopping for a present for her cousin’s bridal shower coming up in a week. “You are one brave girl. But be careful, Nicole. You know as well as I do how co-worker relationships can turn from a blossoming to a dud relationship in mere weeks.”
“That was different. When you worked at the computer store last year, that was different, Maddie. He was a dud, while Jake is so cool! So awesome, I just want to spend forever with him. You know what he told me? He told me that he’d liked me for six months! He didn’t even get hired at the library until seven months ago!”
“You were so lucky to find that job.” Madison laughed, and then smiled at the small town approaching, just sixty miles out of Seattle. “Okay, hon, you know what? I’m finally at Lincoln. I’d better go, but I promise I’ll call you tonight.”
“I have that family reunion thing tonight, sweetie,” Nicole added, and laughed again. She was obviously just so excited about her upcoming date with her co-worker. “But how about I call you ASAP, and then we’ll go have a whipped cream mocha together?”
“Sounds great. Have a great date tomorrow, if I don’t hear from you, then,” Madison called, and sped down her car, reaching the town just yards ahead of her.
“Oh, I will! Bye!” There was a clicking of the phone.
But not a minute after Nicole had hung up, there was a loud bang from behind her, along with a sharp jerk of Madison’s car.
She gasped in time to see, through her rearview mirror, the motorcyclist she’d just passed sprawled in the ditch.
Thankful no other cars were surrounding her to go into town, Madison slowed down immediately, and parked her car on the side of the road a few yards from the man. After calling for an ambulance, she hurried out of her sedan, and ran to the man lying in the ditch. The legs were crossed in a non-normal way, and he was very still. His mortocycle looked crushed from nearby, but she didn’t care about that.
“Oh, my goodness!” Madison madly prayed that the good Lord would help this poor guy. She reached the man’s side, and then felt for a pulse. She silently cheered when she felt a very steady one. “Sir, are you all right?” she called loudly, wondering how he could’ve barely hit the back of her car, yet look so still. “Sir, please. Can you hear me?”
She reached up, and unsnapped the fasten from under the man’s helmet. Then, she gently tugged the helmet off strongly with one hand, keeping her other hand at the back of the guy’s neck.
She gasped the moment the helmet was off, at the small gash at his head, and immediately understood that he must have hit it. He groaned, and she let her gaze caress his strong jaw, lean appearance, and short, blond-streaked, light brown hair. He wore a white dress shirt and black slacks, as if he’d just come from somewhere formally, and she frowned. Who was he?
“Sir,” she called again, and then patted his cheek. “Sir, are you okay?”
He groaned again, and then opened his eyes. The deep, tormented-looking, hazel-green eyes met hers glassily, and she swallowed hard at the appeal there. But she shouldered that off. Her ex-computer store boyfriend from last year had taught her to trust only some men, like her father and brother, and various uncles and male cousins in her family, or her very few guy friends.
“Hi, I’m Madison Brooks,” she greeted him. “An ambulance is on the way. What’s your name?”
Resting his head against the soft grass, the man closed his eyes briefly, but she didn’t miss the flash of pain. “C-Cole,” he stammered, and then winced.
“Okay, Cole, just sit tight.” She braced herself for his resistance. “And try to stay awake. You hit my car, sir, but I’m sure it was a grave mistake, so I won’t call anyone on you. I’ll just have it repaired myself. Okay?”
Cole nodded jerkily, although he closed his eyes again.
Madison bit her lip, praying that he’d stay with her.
The sound of the ambulance sirens, though, answered her prayers, but she couldn’t just leave him.
He’d hit her car. Maybe it was a sign from God that he needed help.
The next morning, Madison carried two Styrofoam, small cups of coffee in the Billings, Montana hospital, twenty miles from Lincoln, Montana. She’d waited all day yesterday for this Cole guy to wake up so she could come to the hospital and apologize for being in his way. Since he had a mild concussion, the doctor told her that he wasn’t going to be released until tomorrow. That meant that today she was going to see if he was awake. By her request, the doctor had called her last night, telling her he’d awaken then, but stated that Cole had said he had no family to contact, so his insurance was strictly his own. So far, he seemed to be a bit of a grump, but Madison was determined, with her usual sunny attitude, to cheer him up. She figured it had to be really difficult to sit in bed and feel so hopeless. The doctor had also said he hadn’t been very hungry, so she also hoped to change that. In her opinion, he looked a little weak with how plumb skinny he was. He was tall and broad-shouldered, but still skinny, and that unnerved her.
As for the family thing, she couldn’t possibly see how one could have absolutely no family, but if he didn’t have any visitors, she’d visit him. It was as simple as that, the good Samaritan she tried to be anyways.
As she reached the private hospital door, she asked the Lord to give her courage, strength, and the guidance to act any way according to His will.
She knocked, and she recognized the doctor’s voice saying, “Come in.” She walked inside, noting that Cole was asleep, and then smiled brightly at Dr. Lewis.
“How’s he doing today?” she asked, placing her cup of coffee on a table by the window.
The forty-something-year old doctor shrugged. “I was just going to see if I should wake him up. His breathing and heartbeat are both normal, though, and when I changed his bandage, the gash looked better and a bit more healed over than it had yesterday.”
Madison swallowed hard, now wishing she hadn’t had that second doughnut for breakfast this morning. “Thank you for that,” she said wryly, feeling disgusted.
She walked right over to the window, and drew open the blinds with one big sweep.
As soon as the morning sunlight beamed on Cole, he flinched awake, and then squinted up at the window, then briefly at her as if annoyed.
“Morning,” she called happily, and then walked over to his side to mostly shade him from the sun beams. “You look better this morning, Cole.” She glanced at the doctor. “Dr. Lewis was just going to wake you up, but I thought of a better way.”
“Hello, Cole,” Dr. Lewis greeted the man, who cast an annoyed glance at the wall past him. “Like I said last night, you have a small concussion.”
“Yes, you do,” Madison added brightly. “But it’ll get better very soon. You’re even being let out tomorrow.” She glanced at the doctor, who was frowning. “What?”
Dr. Lewis cleared his throat. “Anyway, as I was saying before I was interrupted…”
Madison shrugged, and then shined a big smile on Cole, who quirked an eyebrow as if only a tiny bit amused.
“You will be discharged tomorrow, but I suggest you eat a good lot today,” Dr. Lewis added. “You look a bit thin, and it’ll just be less on this lady’s nerves anyway.” He cleared his throat. “Again, I have to ask your last name, Cole.”
“My full name is Cole Douglas Whitworth,” Cole said softly, and again, Madison didn’t miss the brief flash of pain in his eyes at saying his name. “Does that answer your question?”
“Yes,” Dr. Lewis answered calmly, one to not be trifled with. “And, again, may I ask, should I contact any family?”
Madison swallowed hard, bracing herself for whatever annoyed remark Cole might say next.
Cole gazed down at his bed sheets for a long moment, until Madison thought he wasn’t going to answer, and then he closed his eyes briefly. “Even if you did contact my family,” he said softly, “instead of being concerned, they’d just…” He swallowed hard. “Laugh at me.”
Madison and Dr. Lewis exchanged confused glances.
“May I suggest,” Dr. Lewis added stiffly, “that even though no family will be contacted, someone will need to drive you home. That’s the hospital’s orders. Besides that, the mechanic shop in Lincoln, Montana called, and they said that your motorcycle won’t be finished being repaired until a week from now…at least.” He held up a hand at Cole’s sharp look. “Also, Miss Brooks tells me here that you barely hit the back of her car.”
Cole glanced at Madison for confirmation. “I thought you said you wouldn’t make me pay for anything.”
“I did,” Madison said with a nod.
“Which brings me to also point out,” Dr. Lewis concluded, “that I doubt very much that gash came from the accident. It was obviously caused by something else. Would you like to discuss that?”
“No,” Cole said softly, playing with the sheets. “I’ll be perfectly fine, Doc. Thanks.”
“You’re welcome.” Dr. Lewis nodded at Madison, and then picked up his clipboard from the little movable table over Cole’s bed. “A nurse will be in here to check on you every hour or so.” He raised his eyebrows at Cole, as if warning him to keep from getting out of bed, and he left the room.
The only sound that followed was the ticking of the room clock.
Madison slowly gazed over at Cole, and then sent him a bright smile.
Cole frowned, and then sat up straighter in his bed. “What are you really doing here, Miss…?”
“I’m Madison Brooks. Remember?” She smiled sweetly at him. “I’m the one who rescued you?”
Cole’s eyebrows shot up. “Well, I don’t need rescuing any more.” He nodded at her. “Thanks. But I’m fine now.”
There was a long moment of silence.
Here was Madison’s cue to leave Cole’s room and never look back, to completely forget about ever looking after him. But she was determined to do God’s will, so since it didn’t seem done yet, she walked to his side, and handed him the extra Styrofoam cup of coffee.
“I don’t know how you like your coffee,” she said gently, and set the cup on the movable table. She slid it over to him so he could reach it, and then broadened her smile. “Of course,” she added, ignoring Cole’s quizzical look at her. “If you don’t like coffee, I can get you anything else to drink. Or eat. Orange juice, apple juice. Or if you like hot drinks…maybe some tea? I like tea. Or water? Or how about a mocha? Cappuccino?”
“This is fine,” Cole whispered, and took the coffee from the table.
“It’s black,” Madison warned, “although I brought some cream and—”
“I like it this way,” Cole whispered again, and then took a slow, cautious sip of it. He paused, and then looked at the cup as if it was his salvation. “I thought coffee like this was not allowed in hospitals.”
“It’ll be our little secret,” Madison said, and then sat in the chair next to his bed. She studied him for a long moment as he took another sip.
Then, Cole looked at her. “If you want to know where the door is…” He nodded his head at where it was. “It’s over there.”
“I know.” Madison kept a smile on, as if she was determined to stay. “But I just wanted to make sure you’re okay.”
“I’m fine,” Cole persisted. He couldn’t believe this woman. She didn’t look much older than he was, but her sunny attitude was beginning to bother him. What did she want? Money? Why was she even here? It couldn’t be to just help him. No one he knew ever did that.
“You have a bandage on your head, Cole, and the doctor said you have a slight concussion.” She shook her golden blond head. “You’re far from fine, silly.” She shook her index finger at him. “Besides, it’s Saturday. I don’t have to work today, so let me enjoy my day off.”
“Good for you,” he quipped, and then decided that he’d better talk to her. She obviously was determined to stay, and he wasn’t like any other person in his family to just leave or else. Half the time, the “or else” meant a yet another murder he was forbidden to tell outside the business, lest he be their next victim.
He took a ragged breath, and then swallowed hard. The coffee turned to sand in his mouth, yet he continued drinking. He needed to ease the constant grief he felt every day of his life in the past two months over the loss of his mother, a grief no one else would ever have. After all these years, he still couldn’t believe how cruel the rest of his family was.
Yesterday, by opening his stupid mouth, he’d paid for his smart remarks. For an instant, his father had yelled at Addison for hitting him, but Cole knew that everybody thought, even his father, that he deserved it. Even if he had tried to defend his mother’s late reputation, the only one who ever had or who ever would.
“Where do you work?” he sighed out, deciding to do something besides sit in the room and feel sorry for himself.
“At a bookstore in Lincoln,” she stated happily. “That’s where I was going when you accidentally hit me.” She chimed out the words as if she hadn’t just said anything negative, harshly reminding him about his motorcycle, the only thing his brothers both liked about him. “Were you headed there, too?”
“I attend college at Montana State,” he said curtly, softly.
“Oh, me, too.” She grinned. “I’m now in graduate school for two years, going into art. I want to be an art teacher. Doesn’t that sound like so much fun? My best friend, Nicole was going into art, too, but then she changed her major. She now wants to be a dentist. But I guess colleges are all different anyway. She’s attending Washington State college in Seattle.”
Seattle. The one home Cole had ever known, except for his apartment in Manhattan. The place where his mother had died, for absolutely nothing in the world. His father, Byron had stated too many times that she’d been a pest, that with how her attitude and entire personality had gone, she would have eventually told the FBI about all the murders they’d committed in the past, although Cole had nothing to do with any one of them. He was determined to keep no criminal record in his sight, yet sometimes he worried that he’d go to jail one day just for knowing about all those nameless murders. His mother had wanted a good life, yet by a single mistake of marrying their father, she’d ruined all of their lives. Yet it hadn’t been her fault. Byron had been the one vowing that he was a good man, despite his great wealth. But when they’d married, Byron had taken on his late father’s legacy of the business, yet there had only been one murder before then. Every murder they had was inconsistent, completely innocent, and gravely hidden. Every victim’s family either had no family, or were murdered along with. They were mostly people who Byron or Addison had previously hired, and who later tried to tell someone about all the bad things happening from inside the business.
That was why Cole daily feared for his life. He’d rather live than have to suffer the torment his mother had gone through, being killed by her own family, hiring thugs to take care of her and all the rest of them.
“Have you ever been to the bookstore?” Madison asked him.
“Can’t say I have,” he said stiffly, and took another tried sip of his coffee.
“Well, you should sometime. It’s a fab place to work. My co-workers have become my friends. They’re so nice to be around.” Madison grinned. “I take it you’re in graduate school as well?”
He nodded. “I’m just going into business, math emphasis.”
“Sounds interesting. I guess all majors do in that way.” She thought hard for a long moment, and then her peaches-in-cream complexion looked guarded for several seconds. “If you don’t mind my asking, Cole Whitworth, what job do you have? Or don’t you have one?’
“Not at the moment,” he said carefully. “But my family…they….they have a big business.” If “big” was even the correct term to describe it.
Madison frowned for the first time all morning. Confusion was written all over her face, but the last thing Cole wanted to do was describe a single detail of the business. It would all turn into bad news, and since Madison seemed such a sweet girl, he hated to hurt her by letting gunmen come to her house…
He shook his head, mostly to get rid of that image. “It’s nothing.” He took another sip of his coffee.
“Oh,” was all Madison said.
Just then, the door opened, and a nurse with a big grin walked inside.
“Hello, dear,” she greeted him, carrying a tray of food. “Ready to try some food today?”
Cole was ready to refuse, since his stomach felt too twisted to eat.
“Maybe something light to begin with?” She placed the tray on his table by the coffee.
“Yes, he will eat,” Madison remarked, and Cole looked up with surprise.
Madison was standing next to his bed, looking over the tray of food as if deciding for him on what he should or should not eat. “There’s only toast and orange juice here.” She frowned, and then glanced at the nurse. “Will you please get some soda crackers, Jell-O, and a small bowl of cereal? This can’t be all he eats for breakfast.” She fisted her hands on her hips.
“Right away, hon.” The nurse gave him one last smile, and then left to retrieve the items.
He frowned, and then glanced back at Madison. “What are you—”
“You are going to eat,” she told him, looking at him sternly. “And if you don’t, I might as well feed you.”
Now he was really confused. “All right, why are you helping me so much, Miss Brooks?”
“Madison,” she corrected instantly, and smiled. “I want to be a good Samaritan. You know. For God?”
God. The One Person Cole tried to count on as much as possible, despite all the bad things constantly happening in his life. “O-Oh.” He swallowed hard.
“Besides.” She smiled gently at him. “They’re not going to discharge you until you’ve eaten at least two three-course meals.”
“Fine,” he sighed, knowing how relentless she was being. “You can help. But don’t feed me.”
“All right.” Madison giggled, a bell-like sound that momentarily filled the room with warmth. Then, she cocked her head at him. “But don’t look so guilty or frustrated, Cole. I’m just trying to be a good helper. You probably need it anyway, right?” She briefly glanced at his shoulders. “To get some skin on those bones?” She shook her head as if she couldn’t believe him, and then gently edged the table closer to him.
Cole couldn’t help feeling a smile start at the corners of his mouth. She was something else. He’d never met anyone as demanding yet so kind, at least not since his mother had passed.
“All right.” He sighed, hoping his stomach accepted the food. ”I’ll eat.”
“Thank you.” Madison beamed at him, and then walked over to the table by the window to take her own coffee and drink it.
The nurse came back inside with another tray, and set the plate of crackers, and two different plastic bowls of cereal and Jell-O on his other tray so it wouldn’t be so cluttered around him. “There. Want anything else?”
“I’m fine, thanks,” he said, and then stared at all the food he had to eat. And he had to eat it, too, or he was sure to get a good scolding from someone, either the nurse or Madison.
“Thank you,” Madison called as the nurse left.
Cole heard a chuckle come out of him for the first time in some months, at least. “I think she’s a bit scared of you.”
“She’d better be.” Still standing by the table, Madison rolled her eyes. “How dare she for feeding you so little to begin with. Your stomach has to be screaming with hunger by now, right?”
“Sure,” he said, and took another sip of his coffee before digging into the food….reluctantly. The hospital food was a little blah, but feeling Madison nearby, as if a new friend, was brightening his spirits a bit. He could hardly explain the feeling, so he kept eating to make himself behave better. She was just a helper, after all, and she’d probably be gone from his life in a mere few hours.
There was the sound of some jolly jingling, and he glanced over to see Madison punch in a button of her cell phone. “Hey, Nicole.” She grinned at him, mouthed, “eat,” and then turned her back on him to answer the call.
But as Cole ate, however, he couldn’t help hearing how delighted and unbelievably happy Madison sounded as she talked on the phone.
He was almost finished when he heard her gasp.
“Oh, Joan,” she groaned on the phone, now on her second call in the thirty whole minutes it’d taken him to force down all that food. He had to admit, though, that he did feel better than he had yesterday. “You’re kidding me.” She turned back, her face looking fallen, and Cole couldn’t explain it, but it felt like someone had punched him in the gut at that look on her face. She sighed heavily. “All right, fine. See you in a bit.” She ended the call, and then glanced at him, apologies deep in her eyes. “I’m so sorry, Cole, I hafta go.” She reached for her stuff. “I was called into work, because my co-worker Joan got food poisoning. She’s okay, of course,” she added as if she thought he might want to know, “but I need to fill in for her.”
“Go ahead.” He waved a hand. “I’ll be fine. I even finished my food, see?” He motioned to his mostly empty tray of food, filled with mostly empty, plastic dishes.
“Great job.” She grinned as if meaning the words. “But hey, I’ll see you in about five or six hours. ‘Kay? Hope you rest until then.”
She was coming back? Cole swallowed hard, appalled by her kindness. “You….You don’t have to.”
Madison stopped fidgeting with her purse to glance up at him.
“I mean…” He swallowed the lump in his throat. “I’m a lot better now. You don’t have to come back. I appreciate your generosity, really. It’s just…”
“Just that I’m not going to leave you alone.” She shrugged. “I already called a church friend, and told them I’ll be into church late tomorrow, since I’m taking you home.” She smiled at him. “I’m not going anywhere. I rescued you, remember?”
That didn’t matter, Cole knew. Because if he became friends with this woman, his family might find out.
“Eat up.” She grinned. “I’ll come back later, and by then you better have eaten two full meals, mister.” She pointed her index finger at him. “Or you’re getting it good.” She waved. “Have a great afternoon!”
In a blur, then, Madison Brooks was gone, and Cole was gaping at the door as it closed behind her. He could not believe how she was acting. It was extremely generous of her. Why would she want to be so kind? Or even try? She didn’t know the kind of man he was.
Cole forced himself to finish his breakfast, although the rest of it just tasted like dust to the ends of the dreaded earth.