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February 20th, 1944 - 6:50 AM, Pittsburgh General Hospital
Scott Sherwood paced nervously in the waiting room of the maternity ward. He had a lot on his mind. His wife Betty woke him up in the middle of the night with the news that she was in labor. He hadn't gotten out of bed so fast since the night he abandoned his schooner in a raging storm.
Chief of the thoughts that plagued him was the lingering worries about Betty's health and the health of their child. Betty frequently reassured him that she and the child were fine, especially toward the end of her pregnancy. He couldn't help his worries. He didn't want their kid to endure a childhood like his.
He never knew his own mother. Fiona O'Rourke Sherwood passed away a few hours after she gave birth to her son. His father, Mitchell Sherwood, was heartbroken when she died. Aunt Agatha claimed that Fiona was the only woman Mitch ever truly loved. Considering that he married twice more, Scott found this hard to believe.
The few good memories that Scott had of any family were of his grandparents and of Aunt Agatha and Uncle Oliver. His father did his best to disregard the fact that he even had a son, unless it suited his purposes. The O'Rourke clan disowned Fiona the day she married a worthless American con-artist and refused to acknowledge her husband or her child. Scott spent much of his childhood devising clever plans to run away from his father and go live with Aunt Aggie and Uncle Ollie, and later, by himself. When he wasn't running away, he hung out at the beach with friends, worked in the "legitimate" front half of Dad's butcher shop, or listened to the stories his aunt and uncle and grandparents, all of them retired cons, spun about their days scamming the unsuspecting citizens of Massachusetts.
He never had much in the way of supervision. His two stepmothers were conniving gold-diggers who cared more about fancy houses and fur coats than watching over a growing boy. Dad was constantly in and out of money (and women - Mitch Sherwood was a notorious womanizer, even when married), so the only servant they ever hired on a permanent basis was gruff, grumpy old Mrs. Teabottom, who had no desire to raise a child that wasn't her own. She kept the house clean and Mitch and Scott fed and that was it. Dad's second and third wives threatened Scott with boarding school whenever Dad had the dough, but Aunt Aggie and Uncle Ollie convinced them that he was better off with his family and friends in Nantucket.
According to Aunt Aggie, Fiona Sherwood's greatest wish for her son was for him to have some semblance of a normal, honest life and a normal, honest education. Aunt Aggie and Uncle Ollie tried to give him the latter. They paid for him to go to high school and college, though most of his friends quit long before eighth grade. His uncle and his grandparents wanted him to go into law, and the idea of defending justice did appeal to him, but he really didn't want to stay in school that long. He hated school, textbooks, teachers, desks, chalk, blackboards...the whole bit. Aunt Aggie was the one who suggested taking business courses. They were easier, cheaper, and took less time.
He tried to be good, to stay in school and not cause trouble...but while his brain studied complicated algebra problems, his heart was out on the ocean, braving fierce storms and visiting exotic lands. He grew up by the ocean and loved it, loved playing in the sand and imagining he was fighting sharks and squid like in the few books he read. He didn't have the heart to tell Aunt Aggie that he no longer wanted to be a businessman, especially after Uncle Ollie died of a heart attack in late 1921 and Grandma Maude and Grandpa Pete joined him in Nantucket Cemetery a year later. Scott lied to her about why he quit school. He told her that he managed to get a good job working as an assistant manager in a small Boston bank. What he really did was join the Merchant Marines.
Murmurs and whispers from the hallway brought Scott back to the present and reminded him of another problem. He feared that the Nazis would decide that third time was the charm - and the chance that they were waiting for. He didn't want Betty and himself to be in danger again, as they were last year - and now, there was a new Sherwood to think of. Putting his wife in danger was upsetting enough. Their child could be placed in the same situation - and it was even more vulnerable and completely helpless.
He plopped down on the couch in the waiting room. His bad leg felt sore from pacing and he was tired, but he was too keyed up to sleep. He was the only person in the waiting room at this hour. There wasn't even a nurse on duty yet.
He stared angrily at his leg, almost as if he blamed it for its infirmity. He kept reminding himself that if Betty hadn't tripped Trina Gordon, the latter's bullet would have hit an even more critical place - like his head. He cursed the idiot who allowed Perrey Dawson to smuggle that kind of firepower into the States. Everyone told him that it was a war wound, like the wounds on all the soldiers who came back hurt or missing body parts. Betty always insisted that what he did in defense of her, the WENN staff, and the stations was just as important as what the men in the Armed Services did in defense of far-off places such as Indochina and Italy.
Scott knew about the muted whispering that probably went on behind his back and the back of every man who was the right age for combat, yet remained on American shores. People wondered what a strong, brave man like him was doing running a radio station in Pittsburgh. Most of the men he knew who remained were either working for the government, like him, or 4-F, like Mr. Foley, or too young or old for the Services, like Mackie and Mr. Eldridge. Jeff and Victor were both 4-F but managed to get jobs as Army correspondents in the Pacific. Up until recently, he wished that he was there with them. He still remembered the words of that loony who thought he was Captain Amazon and accused Scott of "hiding behind women's skirts". Even though the man was eventually declared insane, the words stung his ego and his pride.
He suddenly heard a wail from the room where Betty was giving birth. The wail of a baby. A doctor raced out to the waiting room. He took his hand. "Mr. Sherwood?" Scott nodded nervously. "Congratulations, you have a fine, healthy daughter. Your wife is sound as well. It was one of the smoothest pregnancies we've had in a long time." He gave Scott the details and the new father joyfully bounded around the corner as best he could to the nearest phone, all thoughts of his past and his status on the home front temporarily put aside.
He asked the operator for radio station WENN. Most of the staff was probably there by now, just beginning today's installment of "Bedside Manor". He got Gertie's usual "Hello, WENN" on the phone.
"Hi, Gertie, it's me, Scott. Betty just had our baby." Gertie squawked so loudly that he had to hold the phone away from his ear. He heard three other voices - the gentle French accent of Giselle Bedeux, the Brooklyn twang of Maple LaMarsh Comstock, and the kindly, confused growl of old Tom Eldridge. They probably stopped to chat with Gertie before studying the script for the next morning show, "The Hands of Time", and joining the servicemen and women who gathered in the green room. All three women and the elderly man showered him with questions.
"Yes, it's healthy...no, I haven't talked to Betty yet. She's still sleeping. It's a girl. She's seven pounds, nine ounces. Black hair, blue eyes...yes, the eyes will probably turn brown in a few weeks. No, we haven't named her. Yes, Betty is all right, as far as I know. Gertie, could you put Maple on?"
He could hear some static, and then Maple's delighted voice came through loud and clear. "I can't believe it, Scotty! You're a father! Who woulda thunk, huh?"
"Certainly not me," Scott said with a grin. "I haven't seen her yet, but the doctor says she's beautiful. Both of them. Betty was still sleeping when the doc talked to me."
He and Maple spoke for a little longer, with Gertie, Mr. Eldridge, and Giselle adding their own comments in the background. Gertie sent Mr. Eldridge to tell Hilary, Mackie, and the servicepeople the good news. He hadn't realized that the waiting room receptionist came on duty and had turned on the small radio that sat on her desk. He smiled when he heard the voices of Hilary and Mackie discussing the days' affairs.
"Did you hear the good news, Miss Hilary and Miss Ophelia?" Mackie said in his rough Calvin the Backwoods Butler voice. "Your good friends Mr. Scott and Mrs. Betty Sherwood just had a bouncing baby girl. They say she's a pretty little thang, too." He could hear Hilary's own daughter Ophelia happily making noises in the background. Hilary insisted that the baby's presence made the show seem more realistic.
"Oh Calvin, Eugie, that's wonderful! Everyone here at WENN and in Bedside Manor congratulate both the new parents and their child." Hilary went on to relay the details that he told Gertie before she, Mackie, and Eugenia switched to plugging the scrap drive that WENN was sponsoring in a few days.
Scott listened impatiently to the rest of "Bedside Manor" and the beginning of "The Hands of Time". Elizabeth Marlowe just received a cryptic message from her supposedly dead husband Brent when a nurse came and told him that Betty and the baby were both awake and Betty wanted to see him.
Betty lay on the bed. She looked exhausted, but there was a trace of a dreamy smile on her lips. The newborn in her arms was the most beautiful tiny creature that Scott ever saw. Her little limbs were perfect. Her blue eyes were bright and her black hair shined. "She has your smile, Scott," Betty whispered.
Scott touched the button nose. "She has your nose," he murmured. "May I hold her?"
Betty nodded and slowly handed her spouse their child. "Little lady, meet your daddy."
She watched as Scott cradled the baby in his arms and let it look him over. "Agatha," he murmured, so softly that Betty almost didn't hear him.
"Her name is Agatha. After Aunt Agatha. She was the last girl born with the Sherwood name." He looked up and smiled at his perplexed wife. "It just seems right."
"How about Agatha Celeste Sherwood?" Betty laughed a little. "My friends and I in Elkheart used to make up names for our future children at slumber parties and during lunch period in high school. We chose some pretty outrageous names. I thought Celeste sounded romantic."
Scott nodded at the baby. "What do you think, little lady? Do you like Agatha Celeste?" The baby was too fascinated by the big, grinning thing that held her to respond, and she didn't really understand the question anyway. He stroked her soft, ebony strands of hair. "Agatha Celeste it is, then." He turned his gaze to his wife. "How are you, Bettybettybetty? The doctor said that you were fine, but you look awful."
"Well, if you carried a miniature human in your stomach for nine months and just pushed it out, you'd look like me, too," Betty reminded her husband. "Scott, I'm going to live, if that's what worrying you. The birth was no problem at all. I just need a few days of rest."
"Oh, no," Scott insisted. "You and Agatha are getting a few weeks' rest, not a few days. You wrote enough scripts last week for us to broadcast for another fifty years, and I can always do some writing."
Betty frowned. "The last time you wrote anything, you invented an island, a country, a hurricane, and a cure for the common cold."
"I promise, I'll stick to penning fiction this time. These days, the news usually writes itself."
She sighed. "It's hard to believe that we once complained about a day when there was no earthshaking news. I'd give a month's worth of sugar and gasoline ration points for one of those days now."
"Aggie," he whispered to the baby, "I know you have no idea of what I'm talking about , but someday, you are going to live in a world where you will never have to worry about things like ration books, shortages, battles, and innocent people dying. Mommy and I will never leave you totally alone, or with strangers. We won't neglect you or ignore you or use you. You'll have a real family, like Mommy did when she grew up in Indiana. You'll know that you're loved."
When Dr. John Drake came in to check on Betty Sherwood, all three members of the family were asleep. Betty rested on the bed, Scott snored in the chair beside it, and baby Agatha slumbered in his arms. Dr. Drake decided to leave them alone for a while. He didn't have the heart to break up the precious scene before him. Besides, if the news from Europe was any indication, the three wouldn't have too many more quiet moments like this one.
This war won't last forever...
How will Scott and Betty react to parenthood? What will little Agatha be like, and how will she get along with Mary and Ophelia? How will the rest of the WENN staff react to having a third child around? What's Scott's involvement with Jeff, Victor, and the US Government, and why does he fear for his and his family's safety?
On the Edge of the Precipice Series
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