Will fastened each snap on Stella’s pink jumper and cradled her against his chest. He closed his eyes, breathing in the powdery scent of her warm, bald head as it wobbled against his cheek, and wondered how a mother could withhold love from such a perfect child. After nestling Stella into her car seat carrier, Will smiled as she worked her gums against a fistful of her “I Love Daddy” bib.
The doorbell rang just as Will carried Stella and her diaper bag into the foyer. Glimpsing Ms. Gina’s floral housecoat through the window, he cursed under his breath and opened the door.
“No doctors appointments today,” Ms. Gina beamed, extending both of her frail, palsied fists in victory. “So get yourself to work, neighbor, and leave that precious lamb chop with me. I’ll keep an eye on her and Lindsay.”
“Ah, now, Ms. G. You know Stella’s got her own sitter across town.” As sweet as Ms. Gina was, Will had seen all the prescribed medicine in the woman’s pill sorter. There’s no way he’d ever allow someone as old and fragile as Gina to watch his child. “Besides, I’m taking today off to be with Lindsay. Stella and I are only going to be gone a few hours to get her fourth month check-up.”
Gina tilted her kind face, held to Will’s elbow, and whispered, “How’s our Lindsay?”
“Less and less like the woman I married,” Will shook his head, trying to hide his disgust. “Specialists say it’s a chemical imbalance. Women can’t just snap out of postpartum depression. It’ll take a while for the anti-depressant and therapy to work. But lately she’s not even getting out of bed. Not eating, not talking. It’s like she has a death wish.”
“I miss the healthy Lindsay too. Hearing that angel voice of hers next to me in the choir.” Tears fell freely from Gina’s temples as she pressed her Bible against her. “Let me sit and pray with Lindsay while your gone. I feel the Lord wants me to pray.” Her gaze lingered on Stella.
Will sighed, exchanging places with her across the threshold.
As he clicked Stella’s carrier into the car seat’s base and drove toward the interstate, Will wondered why he couldn’t ever seem to say no to old Gina. She’d even talked him into attending church. But he was a practical man and knew better than to get fanatical and delusional about God’s power.
Will glanced at Stella’s sweet, slumbering reflection in the rear view mirror before refocusing on the traffic in front of him. Something wasn’t right.
Perched on Lindsay’s bed and holding the sad young woman’s hand, Gina adjusted her bifocals and read, “Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death . . . ”
Will veered toward the guard rail, away from automobiles colliding like toy match cars only yards in front of him.
Suddenly Lindsay rose straight up in bed. “Oh, no! Oh, no! Oh God, no! Oh God, please!” Lindsay covered her mouth and fled to the garage. Seeing it empty, she turned to Gina with the quick, perceptive eyes Gina had come to miss. “Something’s wrong. I can sense it. There’s a sick feeling in the pit of my stomach. Stella’s not secure.”
“Shh, Darlin’! Stella’s safe with her Daddy.”
Lindsay sunk to her knees and buried her wet, red face in the open Bible on Gina’s lap as her body quaked with remorse and grief. “Lord, you’ve delivered me from my selfish fear only to place me in the middle of one far worse. Please Father, don’t take my precious baby.”
Gina rocked Lindsay in her arms and prayed fervently.
“You’re banged up, Bud. But, in a few days you’ll be okay. Your airbag saved you.” The ambulance medic swabbed the bloody gash on the side of Will’s head. “But, I tell you, that little one back there,” he gestured toward Stella, “she was cradled by God Himself.”
Fading in and out of consciousness, Will fought to keep his hand on Stella’s flailing foot as she wailed her fear. What had the medic meant? He’d purchased a top-of-the-line car seat. Will looked at Stella in the rear view mirror and noticed, for the first time, that the front buckle under the seat’s safety bar was dangling loose against her thigh. How could he have neglected to snap it into place?
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