"Are you sure your eyes are closed?" Carlee lays her surprise on the empty plate.
"Yes, yes. How long are you gonna make me wear this? I look like a..."
"Fool in love, willing to do anything for his lovely wife?" Carlee flutters her lashes and lifts the scarf just over his mouth. She glances at the face of Big Ben across the street from the cafe where they sit. "It's 11:56. Maybe I'll wait four more minutes." She giggles at Michael's dropped jaw.
"No way! I'm peeking now."
"Okay. I won't torture you any longer. One...two...three...look!"
Michael unties the scarf. His eyes fill with held back tears. "What? I mean...really? Are you sure?"
She nods and a tear trickles down her cheek. His face beams as he holds up a miniature football jersey with matching booties.
"We're having a baby," she says, exhaling after holding her breath. Carlee felt like a balloon waiting to pop those words out.
A peaceful silence envelops the couple as they hug. They have been trying for five disappointing years. How many prayers have they whispered in this very spot? How many times have they dreamed of hearing this news?
Big Ben chimes and sounds like angels celebrating to Carlee and Michael. Carlee stares at the date on her red sports watch, the one Michael bought her at a jewelry shop in Notting Hill a month before they were married. He said it was the color of a rose and it told the date so she could count down the days to their wedding. She doesn't wear red clothes, but fastens this crimson watch around her wrist everyday. Now she'll use it to count down again.
"Seven months to go." They kiss with new warmth between them. A new life.
After each doctor's appointment, they stroll by the Thames River and sip tea at Chella Cafe, their favorite spot with a view of London tourists travel to see. Outside the blue and yellow gingham curtains, the steady rhythm of Big Ben's hands reminds Carlee of the baby's heartbeat.
"Can you see the tiny hand near his face?" Carlee holds the sonogram picture up for Michael to see.
He squints. "I think I see a foot too. This little fella's growing so fast. Wasn't he the size of a pea just last month? I bet you're gonna have a huge baby - a future rugby star."
She laughs and rests her hand on her belly where she feels a butterfly kick. "Maybe...if he takes after you."
Standing by the river, they wrap their arms around each other to shield an early spring chill. The fog has lifted and lets the water shimmer golden reflections of the Parliament building. Big Ben rings, and people walk by quickening their pace at the reminder of time passing, rushing them.
Two months later...
Carlee wants to go anywhere but the cafe. The pleasant smell of tea and warm pastries will only magnify their loss. But Michael needs Carlee to talk again to lift her veil of sorrow where she hides. He orders her favorite: chamomile tea and a buttered croissant with strawberry jam on the side.
She stares at the sure hands on Big Ben and watches the minutes pass. Finally, she opens up. "I want to hear his heartbeat again. Why? Why did God bless us with a hope only to take it away?" She doesn't cry. Delivering a baby with a failing heart drained every tear from her body.
"I don't know." He kisses her hand. "But I won't give up hoping."
Suddenly, she feels a peace rush through her pores, a tingling sensation. Carlee stands up and looks out at Big Ben standing tall and confident even with a herd of elephant gray clouds hovering over its bell tower.
This clock has survived war and bombs and even the constant rain since it was built in the Victorian Era...and still it points toward heaven. Its time doesn't fail. God's quiet voice speaks to her and she repeats the words to Michael.
"We will get through this. Time is in God's loving hands, and His love never fails.
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