She was wounded. She had never felt so alone, so empty, so unsure. Over and over she could feel her heart breaking, all the love inside her spilling out. Everything she had felt so confident about now was so uncertain. How could she ever believe anything he told her, would she ever trust him…ever love him with the same passion that had filled their years together? Ever after now seemed like such a long, long time. Her dream to grow old together surrounded by their children and grandchildren had turned into a nightmare.
And yet in the midst of her inner turmoil she loved him...she still loved him! His touch would still cause goose bumps and his gaze from across a room still made her heart beat faster. Her love and undying admiration for him made her angry! Her own heart was betraying her and this only added to her hurt. She wanted to hate him, but her heart wouldn't allow it!
At first, she was sure she wanted him gone! Out of her life, out of her bedroom, out of their home, away from her children. However, after many late nights of debating with herself she had changed her mind. Her children deserved and needed their father so she would do what she had to do…forgive him! Forgive him, God was that possible?
"I didn't want to see it!" In a soft whisper she scolded herself as she held her child more snugly. Her arms wrapped warmly around her youngest son rocking him gently, back and forth. The motion of the old rocking chair soothed both mother and child.
She knew when Tom had returned from Strawberry that something was different. He was a little too attentive, a little too affectionate…even in public. Too willing to sit and talk about her day with the children, asking if she was happy and then there had been a host of little gifts scattered throughout the next several months following his return. He had asked if she needed a vacation, suggesting a few weeks with Minnie, but she had declined. Now, five years later she wondered what he might have done with his time alone if she and the boys had gone away. Would he have gone back to Leah? Would he have chosen not to return to his family? Had he treasured Leah the way he cherished her or was it just a lustful whim?
Love is a peculiar emotion, so fragile and yet so strong. His body from his eyes to his lips to his heart told her that today he loved her more than he ever had. Their bond was real and everlasting. Battered trust was once again earned and their passion for each other burned deeply, as they would long to be in each others arms at the end of each day.
Now she sat holding his child. His innocent child, who was tainted by the way he was brought into this world. She dreaded Heath's coming to an age of understanding. Would his father's love, would her love make a difference? Indeed…they both had been wounded, an injury to their hearts which were now intertwined.
Their little four year old with golden hair and his father's blue eyes clung to her and she to him. His face buried deeply into her chest as she rocked him slowly in the wee hours of the morning.
Heath had been with them four weeks now and every night his nightmares would become hers. She would hear him calling for his deceased mother in his sleep. He would wake up in tears, trembling. How she wanted to take away his fears, to comfort him, to assure him that he was loved. That she, Victoria Barkley wanted to be his Mother. Once successful in getting Heath's tears to stop she would woo him back to sleep and then her own tears would begin.
The tears she shed were for a myriad of reasons. For trust lost, for the tormented hearts of everyone involved not just her own. For her sons, for the child she now carried inside her and for this little one who straddled her lap. She prayed for hearts to mend and for love to flourish anew. She cried tears of forgiveness with a longing for tenderness and understanding to abound in their lives.
And the amazing miracle…hearts do mend and forgiveness, like a balm can make lives new. They and their family would never be the same, but they would start over again. Before every morning, there is an evening. Before each sunrise there is a sunset. Before each rainbow there is a storm. His secret had been their evening before the dawn…their shadow in the sunlight…their darkening, before a new day.
She smiled remembering last Tuesday night, when Tom came courting. He actually came to their bedroom with a soft knock on the door, holding flowers. She could still hear his words,
"Hello Victoria, I'm Thomas Barkley. I've noticed you for quite some time now and without you even being aware I've fallen in love with you. I'd like you to become my wife, have my children and share your life with me. I'm an imperfect man! I will need your constant love and forgiveness throughout our lives together, but I have learned from my mistakes. I will never take our marriage for granted. I will be faithful; I promise you…I will be faithful." His voice was tender and his blue eyes were filled with hopeful tears.
"If you choose to accept my proposal then I do have to ask if you'll be willing to raise my son as our own. Will you be willing to be his Mother; he has already grown so attached to you?" She remembered the way he gripped her hand, as he had asked his questions. It had been a night for the mending of hearts. He had come to her asking once again to be a part of her life. He wanted to be her husband in more than just name, and truth be told she wanted more too. Being asked by Tom to be Heath's mother was important; he didn't just expect her to fall into the job. They had held each other long into the night, talking, finding new passion and looking forward to a future.
Her lips brushed softly against Heath's forehead. Instinctively his little head tilted upward for more tender kisses. She stroked his cheek as she once again gave quiet kisses across his face as he slept. She watched as a crooked little grin tugged on his lips making her also smile. Heath felt safe in her arms and now when he called out for Mama he wanted her. How she would miss this nightly closeness with her new son when he would no longer wake fearful in the night, but she longed for his fears to be no more.
The soft glow of the lamp cast enough light for Victoria to see a shadow in the hallway.
She smiled when she saw her oldest standing in the doorway. Twelve year old Jarrod was an amazing young man, so mature, so smart and so caring. He entered the room and knelt down beside her.
"More bad dreams?" Jarrod whispered as he rubbed his little brother's back gently.
"I'm afraid so, but he has been resting nicely for over an hour now." Victoria smiled.
"Do you want me to help you put him back into bed?" Jarrod asked, always watchful of his Mother's pregnancy.
Victoria nodded as she shifted the child that filled her lap.
Jarrod smiled as sleepy blue eyes lazily opened.
"Hello there, Brother Heath."
Heath squirmed a bit so that he could see his brother's face.
"Oh Sweetheart, Mother woke you." Victoria spoke softly wanting to keep him from totally waking.
Heath snuggled shyly into Victoria's neck.
"Little Brother, would you like to sleep in my bed with me?" Jarrod asked, knowing that his Mother was tired.
Heath looked up into Victoria's face, wanting her approval.
"Its okay, Sweetheart, you can go with Jarrod if you'd like." Squeezing him tightly for reassurance and then planting a kiss on his cheek.
Jarrod scooped Heath up from his Mother's lap as the little blond reached up for him. Heath immediately laid his head on Jarrod's shoulder, making himself comfortable in his brothers arms. Jarrod bid his Mother a soft good night and left cuddling his little brother tightly in his arms.
Victoria folded the light weight blanket she had used to keep Heath warm and laid it on his bed. She stretched the muscles in her arms and shoulders that had stayed in one position too long before blowing out the lamp on the dresser.
Quietly she made her way down the hall, stopping to check on her rowdy eight year old, Nick. His blanket now covered more of the floor than his bed. She eased the handmade quilt over him, as he continued snoozing oblivious to the caring ministrations of his mother.
She then moved quietly to Jarrod's room to make sure that Heath was going to go back to sleep easily for his big brother. The sight before her made her smile. Jarrod had Heath wrapped protectively in his arms and they both were already fast asleep.
She made her way to her bedroom where she found Tom slipping into his robe.
"I was just coming to check on you and Heath. Did he go back to sleep?" He asked softly.
"He's fine; all of our angels are fast asleep." She answered as she sat next to her husband on their bed.
"Good…good. I've missed you." He smiled as he wrapped her in his arms.