Andrew’s mother would be thrilled. Her own, too, of course, but her parents had plenty of grandchildren, while Shirley Lundberg impatiently waited for her first.
Leah had had names picked out for years. If they had a girl her name would be either Sarah, Hannah, or Elizabeth. A son would be named Isaac, Samuel, or John. Few understood the significance or what had prompted her decision.
The names were Biblical. Leah shared a good deal in common with the three women. Sarah, Hannah, and Elizabeth had been barren too, but God had heard their prayers and answered them with the birth of their firstborn child. As it happened, all three were boys, and those were the names she’d chosen for her own child, should she bear a son.
Deep in her heart, Leah felt this child was a miracle. He was a testament to faith. Over the years her hope had grown weak and faltered, but God had listened. He’d heard her cries. Even when it seemed all that was returned to her was the echo of her own sobs, God had been faithful.
Unable to leave the infant department without purchasing one small item, Leah opted for a beautiful sterling silver Christmas tree ornament for Andrew with Baby’s First Christmas beautifully inscribed in the silver. Technically she was a year early, but she was eager for Andrew’s reaction when he opened this gift. By then he’d know for certain she was pregnant.
As she suspected, her husband was waiting for her when she arrived home from her Christmas shopping spree. He trailed behind her from the garage all the way into the guest bedroom, where she stored the unwrapped gifts.
“How’d the shopping go?” he asked, following close on her heels.
Leah set her purchases on the bed and tossed him a saucy smile over her shoulder. “Very well, thank you.”
“Did you buy me anything?” One thing she’d always loved about Andrew was his childlike attitude toward Christmas. He was like a little kid about presents. He played silly guessing games with her, checked out the packages under the tree as often as he dared, and shook his gifts until they were in danger of being broken.
“I might have found you something,” she answered cryptically, “and then again I might not.”
“But you did,” he said, sounding confident. He leaned against the doorway and cupped his hands behind his head, as if he had it all figured out. His pose suggested that she needn’t wrap the gifts since he knew everything she’d bought anyway.
“You were gone a long time,” he commented.
“Hmmm,” she said, bringing the Christmas wrap out from the closet.
“Where’d you go?”
“Did you know the golf store was having a sale?”
“That does it,” Leah said, throwing her arms in the air. “Scoot. I’m going to wrap these and I can’t do it with you standing over my shoulder watching every move I make.”
“Yes, but you have some great moves.”
“Andrew, please, I’m serious. Scoot.”
“Aha. So you did buy me something!”
“Good-bye, darling.” She walked over to the door and closed it. The latch clicked softly into place.
Andrew stood stubbornly on the other side, refusing to leave. “You’ll call me if you need anything, right?” he asked, sounding downright cordial.
“In a heartbeat.”
A minute passed, perhaps two, but no longer. “Do you want something to drink?”
“No, thank you. Andrew, why don’t you go in and watch television for a while?”
“Nothing good’s on.”
“What about football?”
“The game’s over. How long is it going to take you to finish?”
“I can’t rightly say.” Was it any wonder family and friends made fun of her gift-wrapping efforts? She used more tape than any three people. She couldn’t wrap a single gift without being hounded by her husband, who behaved more like a six-year-old than a mature adult.
A long, slow release of breath followed her announcement. “I’m going to make a cup of hot chocolate,” he said, sounding as if he’d lost his last friend.
“Make two,” she called out. She’d finish up later. By some miracle she’d managed to wrap everything she’d purchased for him, including a box of golf balls. The man had a sixth sense when it came to ferreting out his gifts.
Andrew was carrying steaming mugs of hot chocolate into the living room by the time she’d put everything away. They kicked off their shoes and snuggled up together on the sofa.
“When’s your doctor’s appointment?” Andrew asked, rubbing his chin along the side of her head. Leah was convinced she’d told him no less than three times. “The twenty-third.”
He didn’t say anything for a couple of moments. “How are you feeling?”
“Wonderful.” Leah smiled to herself. He was becoming a believer. Bit by bit, little by little, as each day passed. Like her, he was afraid to believe. Like her, he couldn’t make himself not do so.
“You know what I was thinking this afternoon?” she said, tilting back her head so their eyes could meet. “I’d like to start attending church services again.”
“What brought this on?”
“I don’t know. I realized it’s been months since we last went to church. Far too long, and you know what? I miss it.”
“I’ve always loved singing Christmas carols,” Andrew said wistfully.
Leah nearly choked on her hot chocolate. “You can’t sing.”
“I know,” he admitted readily, his eyes bright with silent laughter, “but that never stopped me.”
“I noticed.” She loved to tease him. It felt good to be together like this. “You wouldn’t mind then if we went back to church?”
His eyes met hers. “Why should I? I think it’s a good idea.”
Leah nestled back into the warm security of his arms.
“It seems we have a good deal to be grateful for lately.”
“Yes, it does,” she agreed.
The moment was peaceful and serene and Leah happily traipsed along the meandering path of her thoughts. They led her on the same well-traveled road she’d traversed so often, trying to picture what Andrew’s and her child would be like. She hoped, boy or girl, that their baby would inherit her husband’s love of life, his excitement and joy for the little things.
“Leah,” he said after a moment, “do you still believe you’re pregnant?”
“I know I am. It’s there—that confident feeling inside me. We’re going to have a child, Andrew.”
“You realize you’ve got me believing it now too, don’t you?”
“Yes, and that’s even better.”
“This could be dangerous thinking for us both. We might be setting ourselves up for another major disappointment, and I don’t think either one of us can take many more.”
“We aren’t,” she assured him, not doubting, not even for an instant. “Here, feel,” she said, taking the hot chocolate and setting it aside. Then, reaching for his hand, she pressed his palm against her stomach, holding it there, her fingers pressed over his. “Now tell me what you believe.”
He was silent for what seemed like an eternity before he wrapped his arms around her and brought her tight against him, holding her as if he were suddenly afraid and needed someone to cling to.
“I love you,” she whispered.
“I know,” he whispered, and when they kissed she realized he was trembling.
“Monica,” her father said, walking into the living room, his look contemplative. “Michael called again.”
The needle was poised in her fingers, ready to pierce the linen fabric. “I don’t feel much like talking, Dad. Would you make my excuses?”
“I explained you were a little under the weather.”
She pulled the thread through the material. “Thank you.” The needlepoint was a means of occupying her mind, but she doubted that she’d ever finish this project. The Ten Commandments were filled with Thou Shalt Not and that was the way she’d viewed life. Her views had subtly changed, thanks to knowing Chet.
Her father claimed his favorite chair across from her and reached for his Bible. He opened it and silently read for several moments before he gently closed the yellowed pages and set the leather-bound book aside.
“I’ve waited now for three days for you to tell me why you’re so low. I don’t know that I have the patience to hold out much longer.”
Monica set aside the needlepoint, not knowing where to begin or how. The pain was too fresh yet, too raw. She lowered her gaze to her lap and clenched her hands together. Her father was a patient man, and she prayed he’d understand her hesitation.
He gave her a few moments, then leaned toward her and gently patted her knee. “It’s at times like these that I wish your mother were alive. She’d be much better at understanding what’s wrong than I am. Funny, isn’t it,” he said with a sad sort of laugh, “I counsel people from all walks of life and I can’t help my own daughter.”
“Dad, it’s not that.”
“I know, love. If it will make it easier, you don’t need to tell me there’s a man involved in all this. I have eyes in my head. In the beginning I believed it was Michael, but it’s obvious he’s not the one.” He reached for his handkerchief and methodically cleaned his glasses. “I apologize for playing the role of the matchmaker with you two. I should have known better. I’m an old man who would like grandchildren someday.”
Monica closed her eyes to a fresh wave of pain. Now there would be no children, because there was no Chet. It was melodramatic to think she would never fall in love again, never marry. But right then that was exactly how she felt.
“Whoever this young man is I’d like to thank him,” her father continued after a lengthy silence.
“You don’t know him, Dad.”
“It doesn’t matter.”
She was forever grateful he didn’t play a game of cat and mouse, attempting to guess Chet’s identity.
“For the first time since you entered your twenties you’ve taken your eyes off yourself. You’ve worked so hard to do the right thing, to be the perfect example of God’s love to others. Soon you focused all your efforts on yourself and how good you were. It was then that you started to notice the flaws in others. It became a vicious circle and I couldn’t seem to reach you with the truth.”
Monica raised her gaze to his. “I don’t understand.”
“Forgive me for sounding like the preacher I am. You’re my only child and I love you more than words can say, but there’ve been times I wanted to take you by the shoulders and shake you good and hard.”
“For what?” Although she asked the question, Monica was well aware of the answer.
“For standing in judgment of others instead of trying to look at them through God’s eyes,” her father continued.
“The man, his . . . his name is Chet,” she whispered, feeling she owed her father some explanation. “I met him downtown, the first time the ensemble sang. He was going into a tavern and I tried to stop him by telling him how wrong it was for him to drink.”