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TITLE: Woodhaven Manor (Preface)
By Renea Hamby

This is the preface to a fiction piece titled, "Woodhaven Manor." It lays the foundation for the mystery that twists through the rest of the book.
The frantic wipers are unable to keep pace with the torrential downpour. In front of them was nothing but pitch black night. Out here there were no street lamps to give even the slightest hint of light. Alex strained to keep sight of the winding road in front of him. He just kept thinking this couldn’t possibly be happening. It’s too early! The only reason they had taken this vacation was so that they could have some alone time before the baby came and changed their whole life. Now as Susan lay in the back seat and they raced to the nearest town to find a hospital or even a doctor, all he could think about was getting her there in time. Susan’s contractions were getting more and more frequent with each frantic breath. Was she supposed to be in so much pain? Thoughts of regret were forming in his mind. He wished they had taken her doctors advice and just stayed home. Oh how he wished he had done that. Switching his gaze back and forth from the back seat to the road ahead was becoming more than his driving skills would allow. The voice in his head kept whispering to him that their baby will be alright. He couldn’t help but worry that the voice was wrong.

Racing round the next curve, the tires give way. The deluge was running across the road and there was simply nothing for the tires to hold onto. The back end swung wide. Alex tried to correct the wheel but suddenly everything was out of his control. Panic-stricken he twisted the steering wheel in every direction trying to stop the madness that had seemed to possess the car. Suddenly they weren’t spinning round and round anymore but over and over. His worst nightmare was coming true. They had left the road and were careening uncontrolled down the embankment. One moment he was in the seat, the next on the roof. What was happening to Susan? Seconds passed by like an eternity. He felt something warm running down the sides of his face. That’s funny he hadn’t felt a thing. Just as suddenly as it had all began, the car slammed hard to its final resting place. Alex wasn’t feeling any pain or any regret. He was gone.

Thankfully the car had landed in its upright position. The tumbling seemed to go on forever even though Susan knew better. She couldn’t hear or see Alex and wasn’t sure…just then the pain became unbearable. How was she going to get out of this mess? How was her baby going to survive? The contractions were coming with so much pain. Maybe something was broken in the accident. She wasn’t in this much pain before. Wave after wave crashed over her now taking her beyond her limits. Rain was pouring in the back opening of the car where once the glass had been. Although her body was fighting to deliver this child, she felt cold. Was this the frigid rain or was something else wrong? What was that? She heard voices. Really? Could it be? Had someone come to their rescue? There they were again. Distant but easing closer.

The door groaned as someone pried it open. Why hasn’t Alex checked on her? A thousand thoughts flooded her mind. Susan could faintly hear a man’s voice. He was calling out in a panic to someone above them. The pain was flooding her mind and her body. All she wanted was to deliver a healthy baby and live happily ever after with Alex. Scenes from their life together flashed through her mind. They loved each other. She knew from the moment they met that they would be together forever. Before that moment she didn’t believe in love at first sight either but it didn’t matter, it had happened to her. If only they had stayed home and been content to wait on the baby there. What? Who is that? A woman’s face appeared from just outside the door. It would be too much to pray this woman knew how to deliver a baby. Susan whispered that pray underneath her breath anyway.

“Breathe deep darling. When I say push, you go and don’t stop.” With the next wave of pain Susan took the largest breath that her current condition would allow and began to push with all the force that she could muster from her body. “Shoulders, I see shoulders. Here we go, one more great big push and we’ll have it.” Susan knew deep inside her that God was watching out for her baby. He had given her the will to summon the strength for one last push. She strained with all that was within her and finally…relief. “There! You did it! Oh, what a beautiful baby. A child is a gift from God, you know?” The woman reached into the floor and retrieved from a shopping bag one of the blankets that Susan had bought on a recent outing to a local handmade shop. She carefully wrapped the baby and laid it tenderly on Susan’s chest.

Gazing into her baby’s face was like a weight lifted off her shoulders but where was Alex? Why hadn’t he helped with the delivery? Before she could ask, the baby started crying. Susan comforted their long awaited child holding it tightly to her chest. She kissed her baby’s forehead and said, “I will always love you.” Tears rolled down her already rain soaked cheeks.
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