Clara sat on the edge of the chair, arms wrapping herself for warmth. Little Bridie watched her like a small bird contemplating breakfast. Natalie looked from one to the other, waiting for a reply to her question.
“What sort of pains are you having, Clara? Have you timed them, or can you judge how far apart they are?”
The wind scattered rain and hail across the closed windows. The fire in the grate flared briefly. Clara shuddered before she answered.
“I don’t really know, Nattie. They aren’t properly pains at all, more like cramps.” She clenched forward with a gasp, and slowly straightened. “But sometimes they are quite sore, like that time. I haven’t timed them – they don’t last long but they seem to be coming more often.”
Natalie frowned. “And your due date?”
“The twenty-seventh – that’s about three weeks off.”
Bridie giggled. “Just like the men to all go gallivanting and leave us alone at a time like this!”
“Not gallivanting,” Natalie was abstracted. “At least they left us all together, not all separated. I’ll try the phone again but failing that the best we can do is try to get to town. It will mean getting the twins up, too, and packing overnight bags for each of us. Bridie, you can see to that.”
Clara looked frightened. Natalie was relieved when Bridie went out without another word. The telephone was dead. Probably a line was down as a result of the storm. Natalie busied herself with Thermos flasks and sandwiches before waking her twins and dressing them warmly. Fortunately the car garage was part of the house complex and her big station wagon was ready to roll.
Before herding them into the car Natalie pushed the fire apart and damped the coals down. No point in leaving a potential fire hazard.
Thankful for the extra car shelter Robert had added to the garage Natalie slammed the door shut before reversing into the rain. The night was very dark. She bent her head briefly over the steering wheel, praying for guidance and for safety.
“I do wish Ben was here.” Bridie’s voice quivered.
Clara crouched down in the seat with a soft intake of breath.
“All ready?” Natalie pulled away. The twins shuffled in their beds among the baggage as the car surged forward, and for some time the only sounds were the hiss and patter of the wind-driven rain and the dirge of the engine.
Natalie thought of the road ahead, planned and prayed. The rain had started early in the day but if it was only local rain the bridge might still be safe. It was a low-lying bridge, and if there had been heavy rain upriver it could now be under water. Unfortunately it was the quickest way through to the main road and was several miles from the farm house. The alternate route was a great deal longer and Natalie was less sure of the condition of the road.
Bridie came to life again. “What about the river, Natalie? What if the water is over the bridge? What will you do?”
Natalie clenched her teeth. If only Bridie would just keep quiet. Where was the sense in getting them all uptight and afraid? Affecting nonchalance she replied, “No guesses, Bridie. We’ll just have to wait and see.”
The water covered the bridge but not deeply. The posts on the sides indicated a depth of perhaps two or three inches. Natalie changed to a low gear, and inched forward. It took little more than a minute to cross but every second stretched to an hour’s length. As she pulled out of the water on the far side a surge of water pulled the rear wheels across, but they were through. Natalie breathed her thanksgivings and put her foot down. Only a short mile to the main road. Only a little more than fifty miles to town.
There was no let-up from the wind and rain. Bridie suffered in silence after being warned to “Leave it and be quiet!” and Clara uttered no word but gasped a little now and then. The hospital emergency offered a bright light of welcome and relief to the little mother to be, and Natalie was glad to settle for a motel room and a telephone to call Robert.
“You’re where? Thank God for journeying mercies! That bridge will always be a risk. I’ll let Daddy Doug know and we’ll join you tomorrow, God willing. Thanks, Nattie. Sweet dreams.”
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