Holding the Dream

Chapter Seventeen

She was grateful that it was Byron behind the wheel. No matter how she ordered herself to be calm, she knew her hands would have trembled. Flashes of Margo ran through her head.

There were images of them as children, sitting on the cliffs, tossing flowers out to the sea and Seraphina. Margo parading around the bedroom in her first bra, smug and curvy while Kate and Laura looked on in flat-chested envy. Margo curling Kate's hair for the junior prom, then slipping a condom into Kate's bag - just in case.

Margo on her first visit home after running off to Hollywood to become a star. So polished and beautiful. Margo in Paris after she'd nagged Kate to come over and see the world as it was meant to be.

Margo at Templeton House - always back to Templeton House.

In despair after her world had crumbled, in fury when one of her friends was hurt. The determination and glassy bravado as she'd fought to rebuild her life.

As a bride walking down the aisle to Josh, so outrageously lovely in miles of white satin and French lace. Weeping as she rushed into the shop to announce she didn't have the flu but was pregnant. Weeping again when she felt the baby quicken. And cooing over the tiny clothes her mother was already sewing. Showing off her bulging belly, beaming when it rippled with a kick.

Margo, always so passionate, so impulsive, and so thrilled with the idea of having a baby.

The baby. Kate squeezed her eyes tight. Oh, God, the baby.

"She doesn't want to know if it's a girl or a boy," Kate murmured. "She said they want to be surprised. They have names picked out. Suzanna if it's a girl, for Aunt Susie and Annie, and John Thomas if it's a boy, for Margo's father and Uncle Tommy. Oh, Byron, what if - "

"Don't think about 'what ifs.' Just hold on." He took his hand off the gearshift long enough to squeeze hers.

"I'm trying." Just as she tried to block the shudder when he pulled into the parking lot in front of the tall white building. "Let's hurry."

She was quaking when they reached the door. Byron pulled her back, studied her face. "I can go and find out what's going on. You don't have to go in."

"Yes, I do. I can handle it."

"I know you can." He linked his fingers with hers.

Margo was in the maternity wing. As she hurried down the corridor, Kate blocked out the sounds and smells of hospital. At least this wing had familiar and good memories. Laura's babies. The rush and thrill of being a part of those births soothed away the worst edge of panic, urged Kate to remember what it was like to watch life fight its way into existence.

And to tell herself that this place was one of birth, not death.

The first face she saw was Laura's.

"I've been watching for you." Laura wrapped her arms around Kate in relief. "Everybody's here, in the waiting room. Josh is with Margo."

"What's going on? Is she all right? The baby?"

"Everything's all right as far as we know." Laura led her toward the waiting area and struggled to maintain the pretense of calm. "Apparently she went into premature labor, and she was hemorrhaging."

"Oh, my God."

"They've stopped the bleeding. They've stopped it." Laura took a slow breath to steady herself, but her eyes mirrored her inner fears. "Annie was just in to see her. She says Margo's holding her own. They're trying to stabilize her, stop the labor."

"It's too early, isn't it? She's only in her seventh month." Kate stepped into the waiting area, saw worried faces, and ruthlessly smothered her own fears. "Annie." Kate caught both the woman's hands in hers. "She'll be all right. You know how strong and stubborn she is."

"She looked so small in the bed in there." Ann's voice broke. "Like a little girl. She's too pale. They should do something for her. She's too pale."

"Annie, we need coffee." Susan slid an arm around her shoulders. "Why don't you help me get some?" After stroking a hand down Kate's arm, she led Annie away.

"Susie will take care of her," Thomas murmured. He often thought there was too little for a man to do at such a time, and too much for him to imagine. "Now sit down, Katie girl. You're too pale yourself."

"I want to see her." The walls were closing in already, thick with the scent of fear that meant hospital to her. "Uncle Tommy, you'll make them let me see her."

"Of course I will." He kissed her cheek, then shook his head at his daughter. "No, you stay here. I'll check on the girls while I'm at it. Though you should know they'll be fine down in day care."

"They're worried. Ali especially. She adores Margo."

"I'll tend to them. I'm leaving all my women in your hands, Byron."

"I'll take care of them. Sit down," he murmured and nudged both of them to a couch. "I'll help your mother and

Ann with the coffee." He saw their hands link before he turned away.

"Can you tell me what happened?" Kate asked.

"Josh called from his car phone. He didn't want to take time to call an ambulance. He was trying to sound calm, but I could tell he was panicked. He said she'd been feeling tired and a little achy after last night. When they got up this morning, she wasn't feeling well, complained of back pain."

"She's been working too hard. All that prep for the auction. We should have postponed it this year." I should have pulled more weight, Kate thought.

"Everything was fine at her last checkup," Laura put in, rubbing her brow. "But you may be right. She said she was going to take a shower, then she started shouting for him. She was bleeding and having contractions. By the time we got here, they'd admitted her. I haven't seen her yet."

"They'll let us see her."

"Damn right they will." Laura took the coffee Byron offered, remembering to thank him.

"The waiting's hell." He sat beside Kate. "It always is. My sister Meg had a bad time with her first. Thirty-hour labor, which translates to the rest of your life when you're pacing."

Just talk, he ordered himself. Just talk and give them something else to focus on. "Abigail was a hefty nine pounds, and Meg swore she'd never have another. Went on to have two more."

"It was so easy for me," Laura murmured. "Nine hours for Ali, only five for Kayla. They just sort of slid out."

"Selective memory," Kate corrected. "I distinctly remember you breaking all the bones in my hand while we were in the birthing room. That was Ali. And with Kayla, you - "

She sprang to her feet when a nurse stopped in the doorway. She stepped over the coffee table, prepped for battle. "We want to see Margo Templeton. Now."

"So I've been informed," the nurse said dryly. "Mrs. Templeton would like to see you. You'll have to keep it short. This way, please."

She led the way down a wide corridor. Kate blocked out the hospital sound of crepe-soled shoes slapping on linoleum. There were so many doors, she thought, White doors, all closed. So many people inside them. Beds with curtains around them. Machines beeped and hissed inside. Tubes and needles. Doctors with sad, tired eyes who came to tell you your parents had died, gone away. Left you alone.

"Kate." Laura soothed the hand that gripped hers.

"I'm okay." She ordered herself to stay in the now and relaxed her grip. "Don't worry."

The nurse opened the door, and there was the room. It was designed to be comforting, cheerful. A room to welcome new life. A rocking chair, warm ivory walls with dark trim, thriving plants and the quiet strains of a Chopin sonata were all pieces of the serene whole.

But the machine was there, beeping, and the rolling stool that doctors used, and the bed with its guarded sides and stiff white sheets.

Margo lay in it, glassily pale, her glorious hair pulled back. A few loose tendrils curled damply around her face. The bag hanging from the IV stand beside the bed dripped clear liquid down a tube and into her. She had one hand pressed protectively to her belly, the other in Josh's.

"There you are." Margo's lips curved as she gave her husband's hand a reassuring squeeze. "Take a break, Josh. Go ahead." She rubbed their joined hands over her cheek. "This is girl talk."

He hesitated, obviously torn between doing what she wanted and being more than a step away from her. "I'll be right outside." He lowered his head to kiss her, and his hand brushed over the bulge of her belly. "Don't forget your breathing."

"I've been breathing for years. I've almost got it down pat now. Go on out and pace like an expectant father."

"We'll make her behave," Laura assured him. She sat on the edge of the bed and patted his thigh.

"I'll be right outside," he repeated, and waited until he was in the hall to rub unsteady hands over his face.

"He's scared," Margo murmured. "You hardly ever see Josh scared. But it's going to be all right."

"Of course it is," Laura agreed and glanced at the fetal monitor that beeped away the baby's heartbeats.

"No, I mean it. I'm not messing this up. My timing's off, that's all." She looked at Kate. "I guess this is the first time in my life I've been early for anything."

"Oh, I don't know." Striving for the same light tone, Kate eased down on the side of the bed opposite from Laura. "You developed early."

Margo snorted. "True. Oh, here comes one," she said in a shaky voice and began to breathe slowly through the contraction. Instinctively Kate took her hand and breathed through it with her.

"They're very mild," Margo managed. "There's something in there that's supposed to be slowing them down." She flicked a glance toward the IV. "They'd hoped to stop them altogether, but it looks like the kid wants out. Seven weeks too early. Oh, God." She squeezed her eyes shut. Fear circled back no matter how hard she focused on willing it away. "I should have taken more naps. I should have stayed off my feet more. I - "

"Stop that," Kate snapped. "This is no time to feel sorry for yourself."

"Actually, labor's the perfect time for self-pity." Remembering her own, Laura stroked Margo's belly to bring comfort. "But not for blame. You've taken good care of yourself and the baby."

"Milked it for all it was worth." Kate arched a brow. "How many times did I have to run up and down the stairs at the shop because you were pregnant and I wasn't?" She wanted to weep, promised herself a nice long crying jag later. "And those cravings in the afternoons so I had to go over to Fisherman's Wharf and get you frozen strawberry yogurt with chocolate sauce? Do you think I bought that?"

"You bought the yogurt," Margo pointed out. "Actually, I wouldn't mind having some now."

"Forget it. You can chew your chipped ice."

"I'm going to do this right." Margo took a deep breath. "I know the doctor's worried. Josh is worried. And Mum. But I'm going to do this right. You know I can."

"Of course you can," Laura murmured. "This hospital has one of the best birthing wings in the country. They take marvelous care of preemies. I was on the committee that helped raise funds for new equipment, remember?"

"Who can remember all the committees you were on?" Kate commented. "You'll do fine, Margo. Nobody focuses on what they want and how to get it better than you."

"I want this baby. I thought I could will the labor away, but well, apparently the kid takes after me already. It's going to be today." Her lips trembled again. "It's so small."

"And tough," Kate added.

"Yeah." Margo managed a genuine smile. "Tough. The doctor's still hoping they can stop the labor, but it's not going to happen. I know it's today. You understand?" she asked Laura.


"And he's being snotty about delivery. Just Josh. I wanted you to be there. Both of you. I just had this image of a big, noisy, bawdy event."

"We'll have one after." Kate leaned down to kiss her cheek. "That's a promise."

"Okay. Okay." Margo closed her eyes and dealt with the next contraction.

"She's strong," Laura said to Kate as they walked back down the corridor.

"I know. But I don't like to see her scared."

"If the drip doesn't stop labor, she'll be too busy to be scared much longer. All we can do is wait."

Wait they did, as one hour passed into two. Restless, Kate paced the room, walked out to badger the nurses, drank too much coffee.

"Eat," Byron ordered and handed her a sandwich.

"What is it?"

"Any time a sandwich comes out of a vending machine, you don't ask what it is, you just eat it."

"Okay." She took a bite, thought it might have something to do with chicken salad. "It's taking so long."

"Barely three hours," he corrected. "Miracles take time."

"I guess." Considering it necessary fuel, she took another bite of the sandwich. "We should be in there with her. It would be better if we were with her."

"It's hard to wait. Harder for some." He combed his fingers through her hair. "We could take a walk outside, get you out of here for a while."

"No, I'm okay." She damn well would be. "It's easier concentrating on Margo than thinking about where I am. Phobias are so..."


"Dumb," she decided. "It was a horrible night in my life. The worst I'll ever have to go through, I imagine. But it was twenty years ago." It was yesterday if she let her mind drift. "Anyway, I handled the hospital both times Laura had kids. Maybe that was easier because I was in on it, and labor really keeps you busy. But this is the same thing. I want to be here."

Linking his fingers with hers, he tugged her into the moment. "You pulling for a boy or a girl?"

"I hadn't thought of it. How - how big does a baby have to be to have a good shot?"

"It'll be beautiful," he said, sliding over her question. "Think of the gene pool it's coming from. A lot of times you think a baby could get lucky and get the best features of his parents. You know, his mother's eyes, his father's chin. Whatever. This one strikes gold anywhere he turns. Going to end up being spoiled rotten."

"Are you kidding? You should see the nursery Margo and Josh put together. I'd like to live there." She laughed and barely noticed he'd handed her tea rather than coffee. "They bought this incredible antique cradle, and this old-fashioned

English pram they found in Bath. We were going to have the baby shower next week at Templeton House. All that loot..." She trailed off.

"You'll have to make it an after-the-birth shower. What did you get?"

"It's silly." She turned the cup around and around in her hands, trying not to cry or scream or simply bolt up and break into the birthing room. "Margo's got this thing for Italian designers. Especially Armani. They have this junior line. It's ridiculous."

"You bought the baby an Armani?" He burst out laughing, roaring all the harder when she flushed.

"It's a joke," she insisted. "Just a joke." But she found herself smiling. "I guess the first time the kid spits up on it, the joke's on me."

"You're incredibly sweet." He cupped her face in his hands and kissed her. "Incredibly."

"It's only money."

Comforted, she leaned her head against his shoulder and watched her family. Laura had come back from checking on the girls and was sitting with Ann. Her aunt and uncle were standing at the window. Uncle Tommy's arm was around her aunt's shoulders. There was a television bolted to the wall. The Sunday news on CNN rolled by, reporting on a world that had nothing to do with the room where people waited.

Others came and went, bringing with them frissons of worry, anticipation, excitement. She heard the hollow echoes of the PA system, the brisk, efficient footsteps of nurses, and occasional laughter.

She saw a young man leading his enormously pregnant wife down the hall, rubbing her back with intense concentration as she took slow, measured steps.

"Laura always liked to walk during labor," Kate murmured.


"Margo and I would take turns walking with her, rubbing her back, breathing with her."

"What about her husband?"

"Right." Kate made a derisive sound, eyed Laura to make certain she was out of earshot. "He didn't have time for the Lamaze route. Didn't consider it necessary. I was her coach for both girls, with Margo pinch-hitting."

"I thought Margo was living in Europe during those years."

"Yeah, but she came back for the births. Kayla was a few days early, and Margo was on assignment. The plan had been for her to spend the last week with Laura at Templeton House, but when she called from the plane, Laura had just gone into labor. Margo ended up coming to the hospital straight from the airport. We were with her," she said fiercely. "Right there with her."

"And Ridgeway?"

"Breezed in after everyone was all cleaned up and tidy. Made what I'm sure he considered a manful attempt to conceal his disappointment that the babies didn't have penises, then gave Laura some elaborate gift and left. Creep."

"I've never met him," Byron mused. "I can't say I'd formed a favorable opinion of him from reports. Normally I prefer to form my own opinion on a firsthand basis." He was silent for a moment. "But I think I can make an exception in this case and just despise him."

"Good call. She's well rid of him. As soon as she stops feeling guilty for being glad she's rid of him, she'll be fine. Oh, God, why is it taking so long? I can't stand it." She sprang to her feet. "They've got to tell us something. We can't just sit here."

A nurse in green scrubs stepped into the doorway. "Then perhaps you'd all like to take a little walk."

"Margo," Ann choked out as she got to her feet.

"Mrs. Templeton is doing just fine. And Mr. Templeton is floating somewhere in the vicinity of Cloud Nine. As for Baby Templeton, I think you'd like to see for yourselves. Come with me, please."

"The baby." Ann reached out, found Susan's hand. "She's had the baby. Do you think it's all right? Do you think it's healthy?"

"Let's go see. Come on, Grandma," Susan murmured as she walked Ann out.

"I'm scared." Trembling as she followed, Kate gripped Byron's hand. "The nurse was smiling, wasn't she? She wouldn't have been smiling if something was really wrong. You can tell by their eyes. You can tell if you look in their eyes. She said Margo was fine. Didn't she say Margo was fine?"

"That's exactly what she said. They'll let you see for yourself soon. And look at this."

They approached a glass door. Behind it, Josh stood, the grin on his face breaking records. In his arms was a small bundle with a golden sprinkle of hair topped with a bright blue bow.

"It's a boy." Thomas's voice broke as he pressed a hand to the glass. "Look at our grandson, Susie."

"Five pounds," Josh mouthed, gingerly tilting his son for his family to view. "Five full pounds. Ten fingers. Ten toes. Five full pounds." He lowered his head to touch his lips to the baby's cheek.

"He's so tiny." With her eyes swimming, Kate wrapped her arms around Laura. "He's so beautiful."

"John Thomas Templeton." Laura let her own tears fall. "Welcome home."

They cooed at him, objecting noisily when a nurse came to take him away. When Josh came through the door they fell on him as villagers might fall on a conquering hero.

"Five pounds," he said again, burrowing his face in his mother's hair. "Did you hear that? He's five pounds even. They said that was really good. He has all the right working parts. They're going to check him out some more because he didn't cook enough, but - "

"He looked done to me," Byron put in. "Have a cigar, Daddy."

"Jesus." Josh stared at the cigar Byron handed him. "Daddy. Oh. I'm supposed to be passing out the cigars."

"Handling details is part of my job description. Grandma."

Byron handed one to Ann, who delighted everyone by popping it into her mouth.

"Margo, Josh." Laura took his hand. "How is she?"

"Amazing. She's the most amazing woman. He came out wailing. Did I tell you?" Laughing, he lifted Laura off her feet, kissed her. He couldn't seem to get the words out fast enough. "Just howling. And the minute he did, Margo started to laugh. She was exhausted, and we were both scared bloodless. Then he just slid out."

Baffled, he clasped his hands together and stared at them. "It's the most incredible thing. You can't imagine. Well, you can, but you had to be there. He's crying and Margo's laughing, and the doctors says, 'Well, it looks like there's nothing wrong with his pipes.' Nothing wrong with his pipes," Josh repeated, his voice hitching. "Nothing wrong with him."

"Of course not." Thomas closed Josh in a bear hug. "He's a Templeton."

"Not that we're not glad to see you." Kate brushed the hair back from Josh's face. "But when are they going to let us in to see Margo?"

"I don't know. In a minute, I guess. She had the nurse get her purse." His grin broke out fresh. "She wanted to fix her makeup."

"Typical." Kate turned and threw her arms around Byron. "That's just typical."

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