Mob’s Cardinal by Phyllis Chapter 34

Republisher’s Note: I apologize for the long interruption in republishing this story. These are long chapters and the formatting changes require a careful reading of the entire thing. I got to the point where I was so behind with the informational posts I didn’t have time to get these edited or would only have time to get these edited leaving me with precious little time for additional work on the blog. I hope to be able to finish through the rest of this fanfic and continue, but if you see me miss a day, I just ran out of time again.

Mob’s Cardinal by Phyllis – Chapter 34

     Making his final decision, Father Ray gave the computer the command to dial the familiar number to Michelle. The soft voice of his old friend answered the call. “Good morning, doctor.”

“Did you have another one of your sleepless nights?”

“You know me so well without asking a question.”

“Fifty years of friendship will explain my telepathy. What is causing the restless nights?”

“I have been struggling with the past for at least a week.”

“I didn’t know a Cardinal struggled.”

“I still have human qualities.”

“When I saw you last Thursday, you withheld your struggle from me.”

“I did for a valid reason.  Did you know Fletcher Reade’s son is back in Springfield?”

“No, I heard a rumor that work was being done on the home in preparation for the house to be sold. The house is still in an ideal location. A very marketable piece of property.”

“My dear friend, Benjamin discovered Fletcher’s manuscript of our family’s story. Benjamin stumbled on the outline or some floppy disc with my title in the name.”

“I had no idea that Fletcher was still working on the book.”

“Michelle, I am asking your permission to tell Benjamin the best love story in the western hemisphere, but the final decision is totally yours.”

“Ray, I have to think about the consequences. Today, there are more children, grandchildren and great- grandchildren involved. Even as we speak, I don’t think Danny ever knew of the trilogy friendship. It would break his heart. I’ll get back to you soon. Ray, what is the benefit of giving the story to Benjamin? Benjamin may have problems understanding the deal with Danny and Fletcher. There has been a lot of water to pass over the dam. If Danny was dead, I wouldn’t have a problem. Our five children know their legacy to the mob. I worked so hard to rid them of the dark side of the Santos family. The shadow of the dark raven is still with me after all these years.”

“Michelle, you have to look and see how far the family has come. The truth is a powerful tool. Do you remember the day when the FBI questioned you in the hospital about Mick’s death?”

“I wasn’t completely truthful with them and you know it, Ray.”

“You did answer their questions truthfully.”

“It is amazing to me how this still bothers me.”

“You have trusted God for fifty years with the secret. Are you willing to extend the trust to Fletcher’s son? This is my opinion, Benjamin is searching for a closure himself. The longer the agony of not knowing what was behind the driving force in his father’s story will drive him to investigate the family that you have protected. Any good reporter worth his salt would do the same and you know it, too.”

“Ray, how do we go about this. I want no part of this and will never collaborate the story. Ray, Benjamin has sought you out for his answers. I trust you to tell what part of the story that you see fit.”

Smiling into the receiver, “You have always had wisdom beyond your years.”

“Ray, I am in my seventies so watch how you speak about my years.”

******

 “Benjamin Reade is the last appointment for the day.”

“Please invite him in and will you call the cook and tell her to set an extra place at the dining room table tonight. Mr. Reade will be joining me for dinner at the usual time.” Adjusting his cross after he kissed the visual remembrance of the one he served. Greeting the visitor, “You are a punctual person.”

“It is not everyday that I get to shake hands with a man that was the first choice of the Cardinal College to be Pope. I’m betting the story behind your decision to withdraw is tied to my father’s story.”

The twinkle in Ray’s eyes beamed back at Benjamin, “I had a better offer.”

“Benjamin, I have spent the past week recalling the details of the story. The tapes, I sent you told of Danny and Michelle’s story up to the Fall Ball. I attended the ball and the picture of the three of us was taken by your father for the paper. Michelle was five months pregnant at the time of the ball.” Closing his eyes, Ray traveled back to the event. “Michelle was radiant at the Ball. It was the first time in their marriage that Danny and Michelle floated above the Springfield society without the fear of rejection. The country club had been decorated with the last fall leaves and mums. At each table a pumpkin had been carved by the children from the pediatric unit. Michelle’s black strapless velvet gown with the matching wrap doubled as the witch of the Ball. Her mask had spiders hanging down from the sides. They were happy and content in their marriage.”

    “In a month, Michelle came down to the church mission and helped with the Thanksgiving dinner. We watched the Thanksgiving parade on TV while she cut up the ingredients for the cornbread stuffing. Danny was furious with her when she didn’t appear back at their house at 1pm. Instead she went to the hospital to help relieve her fellow students so that they could go home to share their Thanksgiving meal with family or friends. Michelle returned home in time for the couple to eat their first Thanksgiving dinner at the Bauer home.”

“Two weeks later, Dr. Sedgwick summoned Danny to her office.”

*******

“Michelle had been admitted to the hospital. The toxemia had come on with serious symptoms. This time, the treatment was admission to a dark quiet room with sedation given to prevent seizures. Danny, Michelle is in serious danger. I am considering taking the twins early if Michelle’s BP and blood level doesn’t improve. The remaining trimester will be spent in bed. When you see Michelle, I want your support in keeping her here for several days.”

“Dr. Sedgwick, Michelle will have to be knocked out to keep her here.”

“My assessment agrees with you Danny. When you see her, she has been sedated on the heavy side. I wanted to warn you ahead of what to expect when you visit.”

 “Hey Missy!” Gathering Michelle’s hand in his hand, “Dr. Sedgwick has you sedated and it looks like you are going to have to stay here for several days. What a bummer, you are missing the first snow storm of the season. I didn’t realize how bad you hated driving in snow to go and get yourself admitted to the hospital today. Aunt Meta sends her love.”

“Meta and Abby are planning a baby shower which was going to be a surprise shower at the Bauer house.”

“The big deal is for you to concentrate on resting and getting better.”

“How can there be a baby shower if the honoree is absent?”

 Turning to lay on her left side, Michelle pulled Danny’s hand up to the side of her face. “Stay with me.”

Whispering in Spanish to his wife, “I will stay.”

 Danny stood at the window watching the cars entering the staff parking lot after spending the long night at the hospital. The morning light hit against the fresh clean snow piled up in snowdrifts made by the snowplows. He watched the women and men carrying in their babies and children to the Child Care Center. How different the modern working mothers handled their children than when he and Michelle had been born. The struggle to get everyone up and out of the house and report to the unit for work had to be a challenge. This was one topic that Danny and Michelle hadn’t approached. First, the twins had to get here; then the decision of having childcare in the house or out would be discussed. She had been the parent to hunt for support groups and he was sure the childcare had been decided in her mind.

    Michelle had methodically prepared for the twins arrival. She had pulled Danny to the local chapter of Parents Of Twins for the weekly meetings. Faithfully, she recorded every word or fact of being the mother of twins. At the hospital, she met with the women from the La Leche League and made the commitment to feed the twins the natural way.

“Danny, are you still here?”

“Yes, Michelle.”

“I want to go to the bathroom but you may need to call a nurse to help.” Danny pushed the call bell and the voice over the intercom confirmed a nurse was on her way. With the aid of Danny and the nurse, Michelle walked slowly to the bathroom.

“Should Michelle be this sedated?”

“Yes, it is the treatment to prevent Michelle from having seizures. During seizures the heart can be affected and the flow of the blood interrupted to the placenta causing damage to the babies. After Michelle has her breakfast, she will receive another dose of medication.”

“How long will Michelle be taking the medication?”

“It varies with each patient but it depends on how her body responds to the bed rest and medication. The goal is to keep the babies in utero as long as possible for the babies to reach maturation. Have you seen the last sonogram of the babies? I saw one on Michelle’s chart. It is so cute. When you see the picture, it will lift your spirits.” Returning with Michele’s chart, the nurse showed Danny and Michelle the picture. “This shows how your babies are preparing for life outside the uterus. Look one of the twins is sucking the thumb and has his eyes closed and the other twin is blowing bubbles and has their eyes open. Believe it or not but the babies are more active, alternating between sleep and wake cycles. They begin to respond to light and sound, and cry. By the end of the seventh month, they are usually 15 in. long and weigh about 3 pounds. These babies are close to reaching the weight. Your babies are going to be here sooner than you think.”

“Can we keep this picture?”

“Sure, I can get a copy made for the chart.”

“Danny, why are you still here?”

“Michelle, you asked me to stay last night. I am going home to get a shower then I’ll be back with my laptop computer.”

“With the medical technology, we can see their faces. Our son is sucking his thumb, while his brother or sister is awake blowing bubbles.”

“Michelle, we have to decide on names for our children.”

“Danny, I agree but I can’t right think now. I want each child to have a distinct name- nothing cutesy.”

“Since you are going to be the mother, how do you like Daniel Miguel Santos, Jr.?”

“Boring, something more heavenly.”

“Why heavenly?”

“It just popped in my mind.”

“John, Peter, Moses, Adam, Noah, Matthew or Mark?”

“Danny, please be quiet, I’m sleepy.”

“Baby, I’m leaving and you can sleep and dream of heavenly names until I get back.”

***********

    Two weeks later, Danny bought Michelle home from the hospital to await the birth of the babies. Following Dr. Sedgwick’s strict regime, Danny arranged for Michelle’s baby shower to be a luncheon at their lake home. With the decorations hung about, Danny excused himself from the house before all the women started to arrive. Aunt Meta followed Danny to the stoop outside the door. “Danny, in the back seat of my car, I have several boxes of Michelle’s favorite Christmas tree ornaments. It may pick up her spirits if you purchased a tree to decorate.”

“Thanks Meta, I’ll stop by and pick up a tree at the downtown lot.”

    Dragging the fresh cut tree through the French door, Danny laid the tree on the oak floor. Reaching back outside the door to pick up the new tree stand and lights for the tree. Michelle called Danny’s name when she heard the noise and activity in the living room. “Hey baby, come here for a second.”

Standing at the door of their bedroom, Michelle’s facial expression told Danny that the tree was a perfect idea to distract Michelle from the dreaded bed rest. “When did you decide to put up a fresh tree?”

“This morning and the suggestion came from Meta. Meta had packed two boxes of your favorite Christmas ornaments for you to have this year. I bought some lights today.”

“What color did you buy?”

“What do you mean by what color? Honey, I bought colored lights.”

“Danny, I prefer the dainty white lights.”

“This year, the tree is having the lights that I bought today.”

“I know that I am being picky but can we add some clear lights tomorrow?”

    “Michelle, I’m putting up the tree tonight and stringing the lights. If you have some magical wand to make the clear lights appear; then go ahead and do it.”

Picking up the phone, Michelle called the Bauer home. “Aunt Meta, is it possible that I can borrow a couple of strings of clear Christmas lights?….Oh I see.” Smiling the I got you grin, “She put two strings of lights in one of the boxes.”

    When Danny had set the tree in the stand, the shape was perfect from all sides and the stringing of the lights began with the clear lights; then a set of colored lights followed until the tree, which stood in front of the French door radiated the room with the twinkling clear lights adding to the glow of the red, green, blue and yellow lights. “Danny, I like the tree with just the lights.”

Kissing Michelle’s forehead, “It is nice. It will be easy to take down this way. What do you want for Christmas?”

“Danny, I had Christmas today. My friends were overly generous. Abbey and Rick gave us a twin size stroller that goes through normal doors. Dad and Aunt Meta gave the babies infant car seat and carriers plus a year supply of disposable diapers. The funniest gift came from Blake Marler; it was a breast pump with a yoga video.”

“What did my mother give the babies?”

“I forgot to tell you but during the shower; a delivery truck shows up with two dressers and two changing tables for the nursery. We have everything ready for the babies.”

“Abuellá is coming tomorrow to wash all the baby clothes.”

    “Danny, I don’t want anything but to enjoy the spirit of Christmas. To walk around the mall and drive in the neighborhoods to see how the homes are decorated. Maybe go Ice skating and come home to wrap presents with you.”

    Embracing his pregnant wife, “I want you to make a shopping list of gifts for the family. I can ask Pilar to shop for us in Chicago. Or better yet, we can use the Internet and do one day delivery service.”

Pleading with her big brown eyes, “I want to pick the gifts out at the stores.”

“Michelle, you know Dr. Sedgwick isn’t going to let you go shopping in a mall.”

Kissing Danny on the lips with her tongue searching inside his mouth, “If you promise to take good care of me and ask her nicely, Dr. Sedgwick might let me go for a few hours.”

“Michelle, you are a little seductress.”

Nesting in his arms on the sofa, Michelle and Danny cuddled together and listened to the Christmas Carols on the radio station. “The tree is bare without an angel at the top. I bet Aunt Meta sent the angel that my mother Maureen had when she was a young child. I can remember repairing the angels wings when I was a little girl.”

“You sit here, Michelle, and we can unwrap each individual ornament and you can tell me why it is so special to you.”

An hour later, the ornaments had been unwrapped and Danny placed each one on the tree after its history had been fully explained in great detail. The last small box held the angel with the white flowing gown and gold trim. The angel body consisted of the paper shaped cone and white wings made of felt glued to white cardboard. Michelle held the angel in her hands and gentle touched the old fabric of the dress. “I can see my mother’s hands holding this angel and placing it in my hands before Daddy picked me up to place the angel on top of the tree when I was a little girl. I wish Maureen was here to see the birth of her grandchildren.”

 “We aren’t going to break the Bauer tradition. You are going to put the angel on the tree top.” Climbing up the small ladder with Danny holding onto her body, Michelle slipped the angel on the upright limb of the spruce tree.

*********

The clock’s chiming in Ray’s office broke the spell of the time Ray had been retelling the first Christmas of Danny and Michelle’s marriage. “The clock reminds me that it is time to refurbish our physical bodies. Will you do me the pleasure of having dinner in a pleasant setting tonight? After dinner, I can pick up with the birth of their first children.”

“Father Ray, did Danny take Michelle shopping?”

“What do you think, Benjamin? I will tell you this before we leave to eat dinner. The next morning, Danny woke up with the worst sore throat and early symptoms of a bad cold. It was looking pretty doubtful of the Christmas shopping happening. As I recall, Danny was miserable with flu like symptoms and Michelle had an appointment with her doctor on the twenty-third of December. Danny went with Michelle on the visit to the hospital. Dr. Sedgwick ended up treating Danny. So the story goes, Danny and Michelle went to a mall drugstore to fill Danny’s prescription. Michelle had her shopping list and they spent four hours among the mass crowds doing their last minute shopping. The next day, Michelle and Olga wrapped the presents in time to get them under the tree for Christmas Eve.”

 “I’m amazed at the detailed events, which you are able to recall.”

“Benjamin, Michelle kept a detailed journal of her life with Danny. From the beginning, she had an uncanny ability to record and write down their intimate thoughts and real life happenings. I never asked Michelle but Michelle’s friendship with your father had to influence her to work so diligently with expressing her inner thoughts on paper. Michelle did the work, which your late father benefited from in a strange way. Michelle gave Fletcher the story if it had been published could possibly have given him millions of dollars. Your father seemed content to know the story.”

 “My father lived a simple but comfortable life here in Springfield. I’ve been thinking about his traits and characteristics lately. The one that comes to my mind first was his gentleness and loyalty to his friends. Living in a small city like Springfield fosters that bonding to old friends.”

“I agree, Benjamin, and it was definitely an influencing factor in my choice when I removed my name from the balloting to become Pope.”

After dinner, Ray picked up where he had left off with the Christmas Eve day activities. “The weather man had been predicting a snow storm for the Chicago and Springfield area beginning late in the afternoon on Christmas Eve. The sky started spitting the first flakes after lunch that day during the time when Michelle usually rested. Michelle worried if I would get out to refill the bird feeders before the storm hit full force. While Danny was resting, Michelle dressed in her storm gear and went outside to fill the feeders and that is where I found her in the yard pushing the wheel barrel.

“Michelle, this is the last place that I should have found you.”

“Whenever it snows, I want to be outside; walking and making fresh tracks in the snow. It is peaceful, plus the birds will need the seed to stay warm in the storm. Ray, isn’t this one of your busiest days in the church calendar?”

“It is and the first mass starts at 4pm today. I came by to drop off a gift to the new Santos family.”

“You brought a gift for us!”

“Yes. It didn’t arrive until today but it is the type of gift meant to be appreciated today.”

Finishing the feeders, Ray and Michelle walked through the five inches of snow to the house. “Oh Michelle, you have a tree and it sure looks like Santa Santos came by your house early.”

“Danny and I went shopping yesterday and there is a gift for a certain Catholic Father under the tree. Danny told me that the Santos family gathers at Carmen and Abuellá’s house after midnight mass to have dinner and open presents.”

 “Yes and I hope you and Danny will make the mass tonight. I think it depends how Danny is feeling.”

“Did I hear my name?”

“Cousin, Michelle says that you are sick and your voice sounds as if you have the same bug going around the Parish. Which brings me to ask a favor of Michele. With the storm, I think we will have a smaller turn out of parishioners for the midnight mass. The lay reader for one of the readings is sick and cancelled for the service which the Santos family attends. This is a special Christmas with Michelle being pregnant and I thought it would bring a special meaning if she read one of the lessons. What do you both think of my idea?”

Danny looked at his wife for her answer.

“Ray, I will be honored to do the reading but you will have to tell me what I am going to read. I’d like to practice.”

Writing the scripture reading down on a piece of paper, “You will do it justice. Now open your present.”

Michele unwrapped the box from Bethlehem, Israel. “What an appropriate place for a present to come from for today.”

“It is from the gift shop in the Church of the Nativity at the site of Jesus’ birth.”

“Gee Ray, this is so sweet and thoughtful.”

“It is a nativity set hand carved from olive wood by the local Christian craftsman. The natural finish is simple but the story of the nativity still slows the busy world down for one day.”

“Thank you so much and I will be your substitute reader to night.”

“Thank you for helping me with the feeders and the hot chocolate. I’ll see you before 11pm at the church.”

“Michelle, did I hear that you were outside feeding the birds?”

“Yes, I didn’t think Ray would make it. I needed the exercise.”

“Hum, the present which I am giving you early has to do with going out tonight. I bought tickets to The Nutcracker Ballet tonight but I feel like hell. Do you think your father can escort you to the ballet? I can stop by your home to pick you up after the ballet.”

 “Danny, I wish you could go but I’m sure the other patrons will appreciate you not attending.”

“Olga made homemade chicken noodle soup for your cold. We can have a bowl before I take a shower. Abuellá called while you were outside to thank us for her big screen TV but the DVD player has her totally confused. Carmen was grateful that the TV has a Dolby speaker system to help with the hearing problem.”

“See, I told you honey that I didn’t think that your grandmother could hear very well. Now, Carmen has confirmed what I suspected. I hope daddy enjoys his big screen TV as well.”

By 7:30pm, Michelle was dressed in a burgundy velvet pantsuit sitting in a seat beside her father at the Performing Arts Center.

“We haven’t done this in a long time. I must thank your husband for the night out with my daughter. The TV wasn’t bad either.”

“Danny is generous with the money when it comes to buying gifts and presents but he watches how the money is spent in the household account. We barely had time to purchase Christmas presents this year.”

“The season was here before we knew it but so far it has been a good Christmas.” “The tickets to the ballet is payback for his weekend at Princeton.”

“It has turned out to be a special gift since I can spend a part of Christmas Eve with my Dad.”

“And Meta tells me that Danny and you are having dinner with us on Christmas night.”

“How sick is Danny?”

“He has a horrible case of laryngitis and it is the first time that I’ve seen him stay in bed without having sex on his mind.”

“Michelle, he must be ill.”

Laughing at her father’s reaction, “I’m sure he will recover quickly.”

The lights dimmed in the audience and the music from the popular Christmas ballet played in the orchestra. Michelle smiled as the dancers in their toe shoes told the story, which she remembered from her childhood. At the intermission, Dr. Bauer checked his paging system at the hospital. Danny had left a message warning the two of the snowstorm increasing in intensity and possible blizzard conditions by the time they left the Center. After the performance, the audience scurried to the doors to get to their safe and warm homes. Being one of the stragglers, Dr. Bauer and Michelle allowed the crowd to disperse before finding their way to the coat check.

Standing and waiting for the two, Danny had feared that he had missed Michelle and her father. When Michelle saw Danny in his black dress overcoat and the concern on his face, she went immediately to Danny. “Why are you here?”

“The roads are getting hazardous and I wanted to get you two home. Pilar and Bill barely made it from Chicago because of the high drifts. If we are going to church, we have to leave now to make it by 11pm. Dr. Bauer, would you like to attend the midnight mass with us?”

“Danny, I normally would but living in Africa for so long has thinned my blood. I’m going home for the night. Merry Christmas, Danny.”

“Merry Christmas, Dr. Bauer.”

Outside the wind was blowing the snow into their faces as Danny guided Michelle to his car. The parking lot was still passable but the drifts and frozen pavement made the driving thrilling if you preferred testing your skills with other cars sliding uncontrollable toward you. “This isn’t looking good. I’m glad that I came when I did because I doubt if we can get back to the lake house tonight. The road tends to have drifts and the highway department can’t keep up with the drifts.”

“Did you bring the gifts for your family?”

“I did but we might be staying with Father Ray tonight.”

Slowly the car crept through the streets and turned in the filled church parking lot. “Well, Father Ray has a packed house for the mass.”

“Michelle, Ray knew that this is the best attended service when he asked you to read.”

“I felt sorry for him today. At least I can park close to Carmen’s car next to the parish. We can walk through the cross walk to the church.”

Waiting inside the side entrance, Father Ray breathed a sigh of relief when Danny and Michelle entered the church proper. Danny dipped his finger into the bowl of Holy Water and crossed his body with the sign of the cross. “Sorry, we are late but the raging blizzard had some streets closed.”

“You are here safe and that is what is important. I can take your coats and put them in my dressing room. The hangers are all taken.”

Handing the Christmas program to Michelle, “You and Danny will have to share the program. You are the second reader and go to the lectern on the left side facing the parishioners.” Whispering in Danny’s ear, “Carmen has two seats saved on the front row.”

Danny led Michelle to their seats at the church pew. Danny sat down next to his mother and kissed her on the cheek. “How many poinsettias did the Santos family buy this year for the church?”

“Daniel, what a silly question to ask? You should know that what ever Father Ray requested it was granted. It is for a good cause; besides the flowers are donated to the poorer parishioners after the holidays. They bloom during the dark and bleak days of winter.”

The bells rang in the church tower with the church choir leading the processional singing “Silent Night”. The long procession provided the time for several Christmas carols to be sung with “Away in a Manager” concluding the beginning of the celebrating of Jesus’ birth. The service moved in its orderly routine. Michelle walked to the lectern and read the lesson from the New Testament following the Old Testament reading prophesying the birth of Jesus from Genesis.

“Now in the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a city in Galilee, called Nazareth, to a virgin engaged to a man whose name was Joseph, of the descendants of David; and the virgin’s name was Mary. And coming in, he said to her, “Hail, favored one! The Lord is with you,” Michelle choked back the tears in her voice when she came to the last two verses. “ For nothing will be impossible with God.” And Mary said, “ Behold, the bond slave of the Lord; be it done to me according to your word.” And the angel departed from her.

Father Ray moved to the right side lectern and read the Gospel of Luke account of the birth of the leader of the Catholic Church. Before receiving communion the large baskets were passed to receive the monetary donations. Carmen, Abuellá and Danny placed one-inch packs of thousand dollar bills in the basket. Michelle’s big brown eyes grew larger when she caught the donation of funds. Danny held Michelle’s left hand in his right hand, “Santa Santos had to visit Father Ray’s church on Christmas.”

When the service was over Carmen called the driver of the snowplow to alert him that the cars were ready to leave the church. The cars followed the snowplow down the road to Casa Santos to finally have dinner in the early morning hours of Christmas Day. Olga and the maid had the dinner ready for the Santos family to continue the celebrating. The dinner food was more of breakfast with a variety of fruit and vegetable salads with sweet rolls.

“Mamá, why don’t you let Olga and Rosa leave now to be with their families. Better than staying here and getting snowbound, the men can drive them home in the snowplow.”

“You have always been the soft hearted Santos. Olga and Rosa get your coats. Daniel wants the men in the snowplow to drive you home. Rosa, we will see you after the New Year.”

“Senorá Carmen, Senór Daniel’s bed has been made with fresh sheets and towels in the bathroom.”

“Danny, I think it is safer for you and your wife to stay in your bedroom tonight.”

“Thanks Mother, we will definitely be sleeping here. Matter of fact, I’m going to eat and then go to bed. Do you mind if we change the tradition and open the presents in the morning.”

“I agree, we have had a busy night.”

At the piano, Pilar played her favorite songs of the holiday. Michelle hummed the tune of “O Holy Night” and started to sing the song when Danny in his raspy voice joined in the first verse. Carmen and Ray listened to the song till Abuellá picked up the next verse and sung it in Spanish. The third verse was sung in Spanish and English with the last words ending in a round. Abuellá spoke her thoughts out loud, “You are good at making babies but you sing well together, too.”

****

“Oh Father Ray, I remember the Christmas blizzard. It was a great storm for any children with an imagination. You were sure the old man in the red suit was going to fly over your house with his team of reindeer. It was the last Christmas that I believed in Santa Claus. To my knowledge, it was the only day in which my father’s newspapers were never delivered.”

“Benjamin, the 7am service at the church was cancelled too. The storm changed many plans and the cold weather pushed Danny and Michelle to travel back to Puerto Rico. Danny never liked the cold weather in winter. But when Michelle had the complications, Dr. Sedgwick’s forewarning of an early delivery put the brakes on the trip to the island. At the last minute, Danny convinced Michelle’s doctor to allow her to travel for one week. The day after Christmas, Michelle traveled to San Juan.”

“From the beginning, they ran from one snowstorm to more storms in the Caribbean. The hurricane season went on forever that season. I think they had one good day to spend in the ocean water before the surf was to dangerous to swim. On New Year’s Eve instead of celebrating wildly, the island people and tourist were bedding down to await the onslaught of the hurricane off shore. The last flights had left the island when Michelle noticed the increasing pressure in her lower abdomen.”

“One of Michelle’s faults and strengths has been her determination to do it her way. It almost cost her the life of the twins. Unknown to Michelle, one of the twins in the night had turned with the head pointing down. Her uterus was preparing to eject the babies from her body. The cramping began after 9pm. They had planned on having a small celebration to welcome the New Year in but chaos hit before the first glass of champagne was poured. Michelle had been in and out of the bathroom so many times when Michelle told Danny that she needed to go to the hospital; he assumed Cedars.”

“The return call from Dr. Sedgwick wasn’t the news which they had wanted to hear. It was too late to travel. The fear of the impending birth with an unknown doctor and premature babies sent the long liturgy of prayers upward to a God for divine intervention.”

“Danny drove Michelle to the nearest hospital in the driving rain with Manuel trying his best to follow with Carmen. Parking the car under the covered entrance to the ER, Danny held on to Michelle for dear life as they struggled to stand and walk against the wind and rain. In minutes, Michelle was in a wheel chair and in route to the labor and delivery suite. The anticipation of the birthing process was lost in the fear of being in a strange environment.”

Author’s End Note: The next chapter is guaranteed to make you happy. I want to thank all that have read the past chapters and for your encouragement.

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