Lucy gave him a peevish expression. “If you’d been present the first time, you would have-ohhhhhhh!”

Gregory snapped back to face her. “What is it?”

“I don’t know,” Lucy replied, her eyes filling with panic. “But this is not right.”

“Now, now,” the midwife said, “you’re just-”

“I know what I am supposed to feel,” Lucy snapped. “And this is not it.”

The doctor handed the new baby-a girl, Gregory was pleased to learn-to the midwife and returned to Lucy’s side. He laid his hands upon her belly. “Hmmmm.”

“Hmmmm?” Lucy returned. And not with a great deal of patience.

The doctor lifted the sheet and peered below.

“Gah!” Gregory let out, returning to Lucy’s shoulder. “Didn’t mean to see that.”

“What is going on?” Lucy demanded. “What do you-ohhhhhhh!”

Whoosh!

“Good heavens,” the midwife exclaimed. “There are two.”

No, Gregory thought, feeling decidedly queasy, there were nine.

Nine children.

Nine.

It was only one less than ten.

Which possessed two digits. If he did this again, he would be in the double-digits of fatherhood.

“Oh dear Lord,” he whispered.

“Gregory?” Lucy said.

“I need to sit down.”

Lucy smiled wanly. “Well, your mother will be pleased, at the very least.”

He nodded, barely able to think. Nine children. What did one do with nine children?

Love them, he supposed.

He looked at his wife. Her hair was disheveled, her face was puffy, and the bags under her eyes had bypassed lavender and were well on their way to purplish-gray.

He thought she was beautiful.

Love existed, he thought to himself.

And it was grand.

He smiled.

Nine times grand.

Which was very grand, indeed.

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