“You know,” Mrs. Connors told her, “I never thought the two of you were a good match.”
Here comes trouble, Julian thought to herself. “Excuse me?” she questioned.
“I’m amazed you even made it to the altar.” Her mother-in-law laughed serendipitously, red curls bouncing.
Julian felt her stomach lurch. At least she thought it was her stomach, until it happened again, and she realized it was coming from somewhere below her bellybutton. What she felt was the new life within her making his presence known. She and Tom were going to break the good news to his parents after dinner.
But first she felt like she needed to clear the air. Julian straightened her shoulders. She was going to say something wonderful, something wise beyond her years, something that would give her mother-in-law an entirely new view of her.
“Yes dear?” Mrs. Connors questioned, staring her down with those piercing green eyes of hers.
“I have to go to the bathroom,” she said.
“My mom seemed happy,” Tom noted, looping his arm affectionately around Julian’s shoulders as they strolled out of his parents’ house.
“Mmmm . . .” Despite the joy of her pregnancy, she felt hollow inside. Sure, his mom was excited, but Julian wanted to know that she was accepted--dare she say loved--by his family for who she was. Maybe she was asking too much. Or maybe her desires were only natural.
“I don’t think she likes me.”
He laughed uneasily. “What? Of course she does.”
Julian pulled away from him. “Really, I don’t think she likes me. She’s . . .” She let it trail off, not wanting to offend her husband by insulting his mother.
“She can be a little stubborn,” he admitted finally.
Julian lifted her brows. “You can say that again.”
“Things haven’t been easy,” he continued, his voice low. “When my sister died-”
“I know,” she held up one hand for him to stop. The last thing she wanted was to dig up old wounds. Tom was seven when his five-year-old sister was killed in a car crash. Tom and his father were in the hospital for a month. They didn’t think Tom would make it.
She nodded. “Yeah. Okay.” Her needs paled by comparison. Tom’s mother had suffered the sort of loss every parent fears from the moment their child enters this world of pain and death.
But it was a world of miracles too. Silently, Julian prayed for a miracle that would bind her and her mother-in-law together.
Julian cradled her new baby in her arms. Twenty hours of labor was no walk in the park, but now it was over, and she was richly rewarded for her efforts.
“Have you decided on a name?” Tom asked, as he sat on the edge of the hospital bed, admiring their firstborn.
Julian caressed the baby’s soft downy head, felt the throbbing pulse of a strong heart through the soft spot. “Yeah, I think so.”
He waited. She looked up at him and smiled at his tired face. “Rachel.”
He straightened, surprised. “After my sister?”
“If you think that will be okay with your mother?”
“I think she’ll love it.”
“Are you sure? I don’t want her to think we’re trying to replace her daughter.”
Tom shook his head. “No,” he managed, sounding a little hoarse. “I think it’s great. And even if she doesn’t, I’ll back you up.”
Julian hardly believed her ears. Did Tom just say he would support her, even in front of his mother? This was the best day of her life.
“And where is my granddaughter?” declared a strong female voice.
Julian looked up to see her mother-in-law waltzing into the room. “Let me hold her,” she said, reaching out for the baby.
Julian relinquished her daughter. The older woman held the newborn gently, as if she were a fragile butterfly. “Did you decide on a name yet?” she asked, gazing into the red, scrunched-up face of her granddaughter.
Julian took a deep breath. Well, here goes nothing, she thought. “Rachel.”
There was a long silence. Finally the woman looked up. “Was this your idea?”
Strengthened by the rush of success after having birthed her first child, she nodded.
Tears formed in her mother-in-law’s eyes, and she held the baby close to her heart. “Thank you,” she whispered. “Thank you.”
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