Authors: Beverly LaHaye
To Stephen, Beverly’s dear grandson, who has taught the family that Down’s Syndrome can be a blessing rather than a curse
And to all those mothers and fathers of handicapped children who thought it would be a sacrifice to care for their handicapped child…then discovered it produced some of life’s special blessings
I will bless them and the places surrounding my hill. I will send down showers in season; there will be showers of blessings.
As crises went, Tory Sullivan usually put nausea at the bottom of the scale. When it was her children who were sick, she dealt with it just fine. She washed their faces and rinsed out their mouths, and laid them down on the bed with towels in case another wave assaulted them. Then she would matter-of-factly clean up the mess while she thought about the lantana plants that needed watering, or how badly she needed to paint the living room.
But she didn’t handle it as well when she was the patient. Queasiness seemed like an insult to her, as if her body were taking away her control and running rampant like a rebellious child. She wouldn’t have it. If she stopped thinking about it, it would go away.
Tory stopped rocking and tried to concentrate on the leaves whispering in the breeze. Her friend Brenda Dodd kept moving in the matching chair on her porch, but the sound and motion made Tory close her eyes. She didn’t have time to be sick, she thought. She simply didn’t have room for it on her schedule.
The sound of Brenda’s voice, as sweet as it usually sounded, droned on as she read the words of the article that Tory had written. Tory would have thought it was the terror of having her words read aloud that had turned her stomach, but the truth was that she was exceptionally proud of them. She had deliberately brought the article here so that Cathy and Brenda could be amazed. Cathy Flaherty, in her light blue veterinarian’s lab coat, responded with dutiful admiration as she chomped on the Fritos she was having for lunch.
Tory wondered if the smell of Fritos made others want to gag.
“Cool, you got a zipper on your front!”
Tory looked down at her four-year-old son, Spencer, who sat with Joseph on the steps. Joseph, Brenda’s nine-year-old, had his shirt pulled up and was showing four-year-old Spencer the scars healing on his chest. The fact that he’d gotten a heart transplant just a few weeks ago fascinated Spencer.
“It’s not a zipper, Spence,” Joseph said. “It’s where the doctor cut—”
“No, Joseph!” Tory cut in. “Don’t…please don’t…” But she couldn’t get the words out. It took too much concentration not to let her body have its way.
Brenda shot Tory a puzzled look and leaned down to her startled son. “Your surgery may be a little too graphic for Spencer,” she explained softly.
“Just give him the broad picture,” Cathy suggested with a wink.
“No.” Tory didn’t want them to think she was angry at Joseph for going too far. Spencer had seen much worse on television. Just the other day, she had caught him watching a face-lift on cable. “It’s me.” She touched her stomach and tried to turn back the wave of nausea.
Brenda and Cathy gaped at her as if waiting for the rest of a sentence. After a few seconds, Spencer lost interest in Joseph’s chest and began turning cartwheels in the grass. “Look, Mommy!”
Tory couldn’t look.
“Tory, are you okay?” Cathy asked. “You look as white as a couch potato.”
Brenda laughed. “A couch potato?”
“Well, yeah. They never get any sun. Tory?”
Tory couldn’t manage a smile. She opened her eyes and got slowly to her feet. “I don’t feel so good.”
Brenda looked up at her, alarmed. “Tory, you really don’t look good. What’s wrong?”
“Just a little…sick.” She stood there for a second, then bolted for Brenda’s front door. “Bathroom…”
Brenda launched out of her chair and threw open her front door, and Tory dashed into the house and made a beeline for the bathroom.
When she came out several minutes later, Cathy, Brenda, Joseph, and Spencer were all lined up in the hall, looking at her as if she’d just performed an amazing stunt.
“Tory, did you eat breakfast this morning?” Brenda asked her.
“Of course,” she said, still feeling wobbly. “Wheaties. Breakfast of Champions, huh, Spence?”
“Maybe the milk was bad,” Spencer suggested. “Bad milk makes me hurl.”
“The milk was not bad,” she said. “I’ve been feeling a little sick off and on for a while, but it hasn’t gotten me like that before. Maybe it’s a bug. Guess I’d better get out of here so Joseph doesn’t get it.” She realized how serious it could be for Joseph to contract a virus. Because of the high-dose steroids he was taking to keep from rejecting his heart, his immune system couldn’t protect him at all. “Oh, Brenda, I’m so sorry.”
“It’s fine,” Brenda said, though Tory knew she must be concerned. “Just passing you in the hall isn’t going to make him sick. The kids are bringing home backpacks full of germs every day.”
“Do you have any Lysol? I really should sanitize the toilet so Joseph won’t be hurt by the germs.”
“Don’t worry about it. I’ll do it. You go on home.”
“No, I think she should do it,” Cathy said with that amused look on her face. “Just pull that puppy up and go boil it for a couple of hours. David must have a vat you could use.”
Joseph looked horrified, and Spencer looked fascinated. “They boil toilets?” Joseph asked.
“No.” Brenda playfully shoved Cathy. “She’s kidding, guys. Tory, you don’t have to sanitize my toilet. Just go take care of yourself.”
Tory was too distracted to laugh. She knew that Brenda was too kind to tell her that the more time she spent here apologizing, the more germs she would spread. So she took Spencer’s hand and started out the door.
“Want me to walk with you?” Cathy asked, hurrying out beside her. Thankfully, she had gotten rid of the Fritos while Tory was in the bathroom.
“That’s okay. I’ll be fine. I have to go pick up Brittany.”
“I could do that for you before I go back to the clinic.”
Tory considered that, then decided that it wouldn’t be necessary. “No, I think I’m over it now. Really. Boy, I hate being sick.”
“Unlike the rest of us who enjoy it?” Cathy asked with a smirk. Her blonde ponytail bobbed as she walked along beside them. She wore a white T-shirt under her lab coat, jeans, and Nike tennis shoes. Tory envied Cathy for being so unself-conscious. “Spencer’s probably right,” Cathy said. “You probably ate something that made you sick. What’d you guys have for supper last night, Spencer?”
“Pork chops,” Spencer said with a sour look. “They tasted like Daddy’s shoes.”
Cathy laughed and looked at Tory. “Mmm. Sounds good. He’s tasted his daddy’s shoes, has he?”
Tory couldn’t help grinning now. “The pork chops were dry. Barry said they tasted like shoe leather. They did not make me sick. No one else in my family is nauseous.”
“That’s ‘cause we all spit them out when you weren’t looking,” Spencer announced.
Cathy’s mouth came open in delight. “You see there?”
“Okay, so I’m sick from the pork chops,” Tory conceded. But that didn’t explain the queasiness that had assaulted her for several days.
Giving up, Cathy told Spencer to take care of his mom, then bopped back across the cul-de-sac. “Call me if you need anything,” she said over her shoulder. “I’ll be home around four.”
As they reached their house, Spencer looked up at her with big, serious eyes. “Want me to get you a barf bag?”
She couldn’t imagine where in the house they might have such a thing. “I’m okay, honey. Let’s just get in the car and go get Britty.”
The wave of nausea passed over her again as she drove to Brittany’s school at noon to pick her up. Beside her, Spencer was chattering nonstop about the action figure he wanted for Christmas, even though it was only October.
The nausea ambushed her again as she got into the line of traffic picking up kids at the school. Quickly, she pulled out of the line and parked the car.
Spencer looked up at her, puzzled. She saw in the rearview mirror that Brittany was standing on the curb staring at her with a troubled expression, not knowing whether she should launch out in front of the stream of cars to her mother, or wait patiently as her teacher had told her. To her children, obedience was always a cause for careful consideration. It was one of the few things they thought about before doing it. “Come on, Spence. I need to run in and use the bathroom.”
“Are you gonna barf again?”
The crude question made her situation even more urgent. Without answering, she got out and waited for Spencer, then grabbed his hand and crossed the busy lane of traffic.
“Mommy, what are you doing?” Brittany asked as she approached.
She kissed Brittany’s forehead, then put Spencer’s hand in hers. “Both of you just stand here for a minute. Mommy has to use the bathroom.” She darted into the school just as she heard Spencer explaining, “She’s been puking all over the place.”
Wondering where he’d gotten these expressions, Tory made it to the bathroom, into the stall, and stood with her back to the
door, thinking, perhaps, that the feeling would pass. She took a deep breath and tried to concentrate on something other than her stomach.
She really did not have time for this.
She had promised herself she would write this afternoon while the children were napping. She wanted to tweak her article one more time before sending it off, and she had that deadline looming over her. Nausea was an unexpected factor in this equation.
As if in answer to her mental declaration that she didn’t have time, her body proceeded to show her that it could make time for whatever illness had gripped her.
She couldn’t remember feeling this way since the last time she was pregnant.
She rose up slowly, trembling, as the thought seemed to settle on her consciousness like a visitor who liked the view.
No, she couldn’t be pregnant. Not when she had just gotten one child in school and the other in a Mother’s Day Out program three mornings a week. Not when she was finally writing and selling her work. Not when she had gotten her priorities straight and listed them so tightly that there was little room for adjustment.
The wave came over her again, and she leaned over the toilet.
As if in answer, that stranger settling on her consciousness seemed to say,
Of course you can.
She went to the sink and cupped water in her hand, drank some, and splashed the rest on her face. Her makeup wasn’t waterproof, so she set about trying to blot it and repair it, but it was no use. At least her hair still looked decent. The teachers at the school had never seen Tory when she looked less than her best. Beauty and control were both near the top of her priority list, and today she seemed to be losing her grip on both.
The worst part of the nausea was gone, though she still felt the queasiness lurking somewhere in the back of her mind. She forced herself to head back to her kids.
Spencer had engaged the poor, bedraggled teacher in conversation, and was telling her about his mother getting sick all over his friend’s bathroom. She supposed that, in Spencer’s mind, that wasn’t a patent lie, for he’d probably misinterpreted the Lysol exchange. But she found it hard to look the teacher in the eye as she took her kids’ hands.
“Are you all right, Tory?” the teacher asked.
“I don’t know what’s wrong with me,” she said on a laugh. “Just not feeling my best.”
“I’ve thought you were getting too skinny lately,” the teacher said. “You’ve always been thin, but you’re even thinner than usual. My friend started losing weight like that and found out she had stomach cancer.”
Tory tried to plaster a pleasant look on her face, and fought the urge to thank the woman for her cheery optimism. “I watch my weight, that’s all.” She took each child by the hand. “I probably just have a stomach virus. Either that, or I’m pregnant.”
She couldn’t believe she had said the words out loud, and as the teacher’s pointy eyebrows shot up, Tory began to laugh, as if that was the funniest thing she’d ever said. The woman joined in with as much mirth as Sarah and Abraham must have had upon hearing of Sarah’s pregnancy.
Fortunately, her kids were fighting at the time, because Spencer was certain that Brittany had gotten their mother’s good hand, and he wanted to trade. Brittany never did anything Spencer asked without a fight, even when she knew that one hand was as good as the other. Neither of them heard the explosive word that had rolled off her tongue like a prophecy.
She got them both to the car, belted them in, and sat with the car idling as she tried to decide if she needed to run back in for one last round with the toilet. As she did, she tried to count back to her last period. Was it late?
She had it written down, she thought. On the calendar in the kitchen, she always used little dots to indicate her cycle. She could count up the weeks.
But as she drove, she began to feel that loss of control again. Her well-planned life was tipping a little on its axis. She and Barry had planned for both Brittany and Spencer. They hadn’t planned for a surprise. Tory didn’t like surprises, and she didn’t like disruptions to her schedule. She had her days planned down to the moment. Brittany could tie her shoes, and Spencer could make his own peanut butter sandwich. She didn’t have the heart to start over with an infant.
The nausea seemed to subside as she blew the air conditioning into her face, despite the fact that Brittany and Spencer complained about being cold. Usually, she deferred to them, but today she had no choice. By the time they pulled into their driveway, she was feeling better.
She got out of the car and helped her children out, then went straight for that calendar.
She counted the weeks—one, two, three, four, five…
She shook her head. That couldn’t be right. She would have realized it.
…six, seven, eight, nine…
She stood there for a long moment, gaping at the calendar weeks, while Brittany and Spencer began to fight over whether to watch reruns of
Saved by the Bell.
How could this be? How could she have missed an entire period without realizing it?
The answer came to her suddenly.
Her first missed period had been during the worst part of Joseph’s illness, before they had found a heart. He had been dying, and Tory had hung on with Brenda. She and Sylvia and Cathy, her other neighbors, had been steeped in grief and worry, not to mention the stress of trying to raise money to pay the medical bills. As Joseph slipped away, Tory’s period must have slipped her mind.