Tough Mothers

Part One

Molly: Great Losses


Jarrod Barkley lit a cigar and leaned back in his chair. "I can't believe you're about to rob me of a competent secretary - I spent years finding this one," he complained, grinning nonetheless.

"Now, Big Brother," his brother Heath drawled, dealing out the cards, "there's nothing official yet."

"Why not?" Nick said, picking up his hand and sorting it. "You been courting long enough. I'll take two." He tossed down his discards.

"Not everyone's as quick as you, Nick," Jarrod said. "I'll take two, also. Although, if I remember correctly, you and Samantha didn't exactly rush."

"I would have," Nick said. "She's the one who slowed us up."

"World's shortest engagement, though," Heath observed, dealing himself three cards. He shrugged. "I want to woo Alice proper." He looked over at Jarrod. "Would like to talk to you about adopting Lena, when and if the time comes."

"Hey, no fair," Nick said. "The rest of us have to wait nine months. You're getting a head start." He grinned wickedly.

"Getting impatient, Big Brother?" Heath said. "How much longer is it?"

"Four more months," Nick said, "and I'm not impatient, I'm terrified."

"Now, Nick," Jarrod said, "no need for that. Samantha will be doing all the work."

"Not that, although that's frightening enough," Nick said, "but can you see me with a baby?"

Jarrod smiled. "Yes, Brother Nick, I can. Several, in fact." He slapped Nick on the shoulder. "I think you'll be a fine father."

"Besides," Heath said, "if you really want a head start, you can always follow Big Brother Jarrod's lead and adopt a few as well."

Nick grimaced. "No, thank you. They're great kids and all, but I'll just take what comes."

"Any kid of yours is likely to be a handful, at that," Heath teased.

"While we're on the subject," Jarrod said, "we're having another."

"Why, congratulations!" Nick said. "You've certainly got a full house."

Jarrod put his cards to his chest. "Now, no peeking."

Nick laughed. "You know, we really ought to do this more often. With you in town, we hardly ever see you."

"I'm for that," Heath said.

The door opened and Molly came into the study. "Can I get you gentleman anything?" she smiled, stooping over and kissing her husband.

"No, Feather, we're fine," Jarrod said.

"I understand congratulations are in order," Heath said.

Molly frowned. "You told them?" she asked Jarrod.

"Yes, dearest. Shouldn't I have?" Jarrod asked.

Molly rubbed the small of her back. "It's all right. Thank you, Heath." She sighed. "Well, I'm sure you'll be up late, so I think I'll turn in."

Jarrod looked concerned. "Are you not feeling well, Feather?"

"I'm a bit tired and my back hurts, is all. I'm sure I'll be fine in the morning." She smiled and exited.


Jarrod woke in the middle of the night, knowing something was wrong. He rolled over in bed. "Feather?"

Molly lay with the covers pulled up to her chin, shivering. Jarrod put a hand to her cheek and her skin was cold and clammy. "What's wrong, Molly?" he asked.

"Help me, Jarrod," she said weakly.

Jarrod lit a lamp and gently peeled back the covers - her nightgown was soaked with blood and his heart lurched in his chest. He covered her back up and kissed her cold lips, trying not to show the fear he felt. Molly clutched at him. "Don't leave me."

"I'm just going to send Lucas for the doctor, dearest," he said. "I'll come right back." He propped a pillow under her feet, then went to his son's room.

"Lucas," he said, shaking his son awake. "I need you to go for Dr. Merar. Tell him," he paused, "tell him your mother's lost the baby, and that she's in shock. Hurry now, there's no time to lose.”

Lucas nodded, not wasting time with words, hurriedly pulled his trousers on over his nightshirt and bounded down the stairs and out the front door.

Jarrod returned to the bedroom and sat on the edge of the bed. He stroked Molly's cheek, but she did not respond. "Molly? Feather, dearest, wake up." There was still no response, and he could feel his heart sinking all the way through the floor.

It seemed an eternity before Dr. Merar arrived, but it was only a few minutes. Jarrod was grateful for the move into town - he shuddered to think what might have happened if they had to wait longer. What still might happen. He pushed the thought away, looking down at Molly's pale face, still trying to rouse her, to no avail. Dr. Merar rolled up his shirtsleeves and set to work. "I'll need boiling water, and lots of it," he told Jarrod.

"I'm not leaving her," Jarrod said.

Dr. Merar looked up sympathetically. "I understand your sentiments, Jarrod," he said, "but you can't do anything for her just now. And I really do need that water. Please, just let me do my job."

Jarrod sighed, nodded, and stepped out into the corridor. Lucas was leaning against the wall. "Will she be all right?" he asked.

Jarrod looked down at his son. "I won't lie to you, Lucas. I honestly don't know. I'm sent to boil water." There was a wail from the nursery. "And there's Georgie teething again."

"I'll get him," Lucas said. "Don't worry about us, just take care of Mom."

Jarrod put a hand on his shoulder. "Thank you, Son." He headed down to the kitchen while Lucas went to the nursery. He stoked up the stove and filled the kettle, then settled down to watch it boil, all his thoughts upstairs in the bedroom.

He was immensely surprised to hear the front door open and close. He walked out into the parlor to find his mother and Nick. "What are you doing here?" he asked.

"Nick rousted me out of bed," Victoria said. "He said something was wrong, and I can see by your face he was right." She strode over to him and took his hand. "What is it, Jarrod?"

The tears Jarrod had been holding in check suddenly ran down his cheeks. "It's Molly. She's lost the baby and. . ," he took a deep breath, "there's so much blood, Mother. I couldn't wake her."

Victoria reached up and stroked his cheek. Dr. Merar called quietly from upstairs, "How's that water coming?"

"I'll get it," Nick said, heading toward the kitchen.

"Is that you, Nick?" Dr. Merar asked. "I'm glad you're here - she might need a transfusion."

Jarrod went to the foot of the stairs. "I can do it," he said.

"Nick's donated before, without ill effects," Dr. Merar said. "It's a chancy procedure - I'd rather use someone who's done it before."

Nick came out of the kitchen carrying the kettle. "Be sensible, Jarrod," Victoria said.

Jarrod took the kettle and carried it upstairs, handing it to Dr. Merar. "I want to be with her," he said.

"Not just now, Jarrod," Dr. Merar said. "I'll call you as soon as I can, I promise. Go wait with your family."

Jarrod glowered, but did not argue, and went back downstairs. "How did you know?" he asked Nick. "For you to get here so fast, you must have known something was wrong before I did."

Nick shrugged. "I just knew."

Jarrod began pacing. "Sit down, Jarrod," Victoria said. "No sense in your wearing yourself out."

Jarrod only paced faster. "I want to do something."

"I know, dear," Victoria said. "Waiting is the hardest."

Lucas came in. "Georgie's gone back to sleep. Hello, Grandmother, Uncle Nick. What are you doing here?"

"They came to help, Son," Jarrod said. "You should go back to bed."

Lucas shook his head. "I wouldn't be able to sleep. At least let me wait with you."

"All right, Lucas," Jarrod said, and Lucas's presence seemed to calm him. He was able to sit, and to wait, until Dr. Merar called him.

"I got the bleeding stopped, so she may not need a transfusion after all," Dr. Merar said. "There was no saving the child, though."

Jarrod nodded. "I didn't think there would be. Can I see her now?"

"She's still unconscious, but, yes, you can see her. It might be the best thing."

Jarrod pulled up a chair and sat by the bedside. He took Molly's hand and called to her, but there was no response. Still so cold, still so pale. He kissed her lips, remembering how her kiss had called him back when he lay injured and unconscious, but she did not stir. Jarrod looked up at the doctor. "How long will she be like this?"

Dr. Merar shook his head. "Hard to say. If she hasn't awakened by noon, send for me again. I don't want to have to do the transfusion, but I will if needs must."

"You're not leaving?" Jarrod said.

"I've done all I can, Jarrod," Dr. Merar said.

"All right," Jarrod said. "Thank you, Tom."

Dr. Merar nodded and left. Jarrod held Molly's hand to his cheek and sobbed, quietly, so no one else would hear him.


Molly had not awakened by noon, so Dr. Merar was sent for again. Nick sat by the bed, arm outstretched, as Dr. Merar readied the apparatus. As the blood flowed from Nick's arm to Molly's, the color began to return to her cheeks. Jarrod paced, irked at his helplessness, but knowing he had made the right decision. Hoping he had made the right decision.

As Dr. Merar removed the apparatus, Molly's eyes fluttered and opened. "Ow," she said. "That hurts."

Dr. Merar bandaged her arm, then Nick‘s. Jarrod sat on the bed next to her and took her free hand. "It's all right, dearest," he said.

Molly looked around the room, at Jarrod, at Nick, at Dr. Merar. "I lost the baby, didn't I?" she said.

Jarrod nodded, holding her hand to his cheek. Molly began to weep, and Nick and Dr. Merar stole quietly out. Jarrod lay beside her and took her in his arms. They lay quietly together, mourning the loss of their child, but Jarrod found himself grateful that the loss had not been greater.


Molly drifted off to sleep and awoke to find Victoria by her bedside. "Where's Jarrod?" she asked.

"I sent him off to sleep in the guest room," Victoria replied. "He was up all night with you."

Molly found herself sobbing uncontrollably, and Victoria took her in her arms and held her. Molly cried herself out, then fell back on the pillow. "I'm sorry, Mother," she said.

"Don't be," Victoria said. "I do know how you feel."

"Do you?" Molly asked.

"I've had several miscarriages myself," Victoria said. "Why do you think there's such a large gap between Nick and Audra?"

"I didn't know, Mother. I'm sorry."

"I'd decided I'd never have another, then Audra came along, my only daughter, a little miracle. But I never stopped wondering what those other children might have been like. So you'll recover, but there's a part of you that will always wonder, and mourn."

"Thank you, Mother. I should have known you wouldn't offer any false comfort."

"We've both had enough grief in our lives that we know how it works," Victoria said. She stroked Molly’s forehead. "Sleep now, if you can. It's the quickest way to your recovery. Your other children need you to get well, and so does your husband."

"All right, Mother." Molly closed her eyes and drifted off to sleep once more.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Molly stood outside the study door and took a deep breath. She was dressed in her best silk dressing gown, her hair carefully brushed, trailing in long wiry curls down her back. She had found several silver hairs among the black, but then Jarrod was beginning to gray around the temples as well, so she hoped it did not matter. She turned the handle and went in.

Jarrod was seated at the desk, immersed in law books. He looked up at her as she came in, then quickly looked down. "It's late, dear," Molly said. "Won't you come to bed?"

"In a while," Jarrod said, not looking at her. "Don't worry, I won't disturb you."

Molly frowned. "Not the guest room again, Jarrod."

"You need your rest," Jarrod said.

"I'm fine," Molly said. "Dr. Merar gave me a clean bill of health. Days ago." She stood behind his chair, looking over his shoulder. "I thought once you became a judge you wouldn't have to do this anymore."

"Matt Cooper made an interesting motion. I need to see what the precedents are." Jarrod flipped through the pages.

Molly leaned over and slipped an arm around his neck. He could smell her perfume, a gift for their anniversary - he had sent all the way to France for it. Molly kissed the spot behind his ear and felt his response, but then he stilled himself. "When your trial is over, let's go away for a few days, just the two of us," she said. "Remember when we went to San Francisco during our engagement? We could barely keep our hands off each other."

Jarrod said nothing. Molly closed her eyes. "Am I not a good wife to you anymore, Jarrod? Please tell me what's wrong so I can make it better." A tear slid down her cheek and dripped on Jarrod's neck.

He reached up and caressed her arm. "Of course you're a good wife to me, Molly. I couldn't ask for better."

"Then why do you spurn me?"

He swiveled his chair to face her. "Don't you realize how close I came to losing you? It would have been all my fault."

"Your fault?" Molly said, surprised. "How in the world would it have been your fault?"

"It was my child you were carrying."

"Jarrod, dear," Molly said, caressing his cheek, "there's hardly a married woman in the world who hasn't had a miscarriage some time or other. It happens - it's no one's fault."

"I don't see how they bear it," Jarrod said, turning away. "How their husbands bear it. I can't."

Molly took hold of his chair and spun it back around to face her. "So because I lost a child, I'm to have no husband, as well?" she demanded heatedly.

"Of course you have a husband, Molly," Jarrod said. "Don't say such things. I would never leave you."

"You may as well," Molly said angrily. "If you won't touch me, you're just someone I share a house with." She softened and slid into his lap, her arms around his neck. "If your father had done as you do, you'd have no sister."

"What are you talking about, Molly?"

"You didn't know? Well, I guess she wouldn't discuss it with you, at that. Your mother had several miscarriages - it's why there's such a gap between Nick and Audra."

"Really? I had no idea, the thought never occurred to me." Jarrod stroked her hair absently, staring off into the distance. "How did they bear it?"

"As one bears any loss - one grieves and moves on. There's really no other way." She kissed him softly.

"I am sorry about the child, Feather," Jarrod said, "but this is about you. I couldn't bear to lose you - I'd never recover."

"Now you know how I feel," Molly said, "every time you go off into danger. But I don't try to stop you. Don't deny me your embrace because of fear - it's what I need, Jarrod. You can't really expect us to go the rest of our lives this way."

Jarrod looked into her eyes for a long moment. "Is this really what you want?" he asked. "Knowing the risks?"

Molly nodded. "Of course. I always knew the risks, every woman does."

Jarrod shook his head. "It's a wonder the human race continues."

Molly smiled. "But it does. For home, for family, for love." She stroked his cheek. "It's what I'm here for, to love you." She kissed him ardently, then took him by the hand and led him up the stairs.