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Chapter Forty-five
His Eye is on the Sparrow

"Are not two sparrows sold for a farthing? and one of them shall not fall on the ground without your Father. But the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear ye not therefore, ye are of more value than many sparrows."
~ Matthew 10:29-31 ~

They kept to Terry's plan and slept between the couches before Terry called the next day and donated both couches to charity. Two men had come in a large truck, and hauled the couches away without much comment, for they had other stops to make, and that had been it-- no more furniture in the bedroom except the dresser. For all the trouble Terry and John had gone through to get those couches in there, it felt like a letdown to see them go so easily, so quietly. In their wake, they left a room where echoes bounced off the walls like some unexplored cavern. While Terry and John went to work for their new client in Singapore, Madison set about turning the empty room into a home. The sleeping mat was laid out with comfy blankets and pillows, her verses went back up on the wall, and the new porcelain angel was placed on the dresser. She unpacked their bags from the honeymoon, caught up on their laundry, and considered moving the recliner in from her apartment so the bedroom wouldn't look so terribly vacant. In the end, she decided to leave the recliner where it was; she had plans for this room, and they didn't include more upholstered furniture. Even though the mat on the floor, the things in the corner, and the dresser didn't sound like much, she wanted to save room.

Room for something big.

As October ended, she kept pushing at her goal to get off the floor. Before she knew it, November had turned into December, and still, they were sleeping on the floor. She kept going, and didn't let herself give up, though it felt like she was getting nowhere fast. Even though previously Terry had said she was making progress, and even though reason told her it was still true, she felt like a caterpillar down there, and not very much like the butterfly she knew she'd become. Using the things she'd learned from Carol, Madison fought for her future, but she did it in private, with no one looking, for she did not want Terry or anyone else to see her struggle. The trick was, to not lose herself in a flashback.

At first, Madison could only eye the master bedroom at the end of the hall, and wish herself in there. However, wishing wasn't the same as doing, and one morning, when Izzy left to take the triplets to preschool, Madison made her move. With Terry and John in the office, the house was all hers, or at least mostly hers, for the men were usually so absorbed in their work, Madison knew she could count on them to leave her alone unless she cried for help. Which she had no intention of doing.

This was it-- her mind filled with promises from her wall, she turned the doorknob, and pushed open the door.

The Dragon did not own her. Fear did not own her. She would conquer this. She took a step into the bedroom, and let herself stare at the carpet. Her heart pounded, her hands tightened into fists, and she prayed one of her promises. A short one-- just something to hang onto while she gathered her courage. Little by little, she inched her eyes up until a dark brown ruffle came into view. A ruffle? Then she saw the edge of a matching bedspread that hung over the side of the mattress, and knew she was looking at the right object. Bile tasted in her mouth, but she forced herself to just stay there and look at the edge of the bedspread. She remembered Carol's words, their talk, and took several deep breaths to calm her breathing. To shut down her fight-or-flight response.

It was only a bed. It couldn't hurt her.

She prayed, meditated on her battle cry, and practiced her breathing. How long she stood there, she didn't know, but when she was able to stare at that bedspread edge without thinking of the Dragon's ugliness, she backed into the hall and thanked God.

The next day, when no one was looking, she went in, and made it as far as the foot of the bed. She couldn't go in until two days later, because she lacked opportunity, but when she did, Madison made the most of it.

It was just a mattress on box springs, something covered with a pretty bedspread, and yet to her, it meant a place of pain. She'd escaped, and now she wanted back in? It seemed to her to be proof once and for all that she was crazy, and yet she kept coming back whenever Izzy took the girls into preschool. Then, one weekend, when the girls were home, but the house was quiet, Madison felt brave enough to go in and touch the bedspread. She nearly passed out, but sheer will pumped into her, and she stayed put; she breathed, ran her hand over the length of the bed, and felt the weave of the fabric. Her jailer was dead. He could no longer hurt her. This bed was just an object-- an object without a jailer.

Over and over, she repeated these words, then prayed and asked God to free her the rest of the way.

Then she saw the painting, above the headboard of John and Izzy's bed. She instantly recognized the artist as Jake, and the faces of her family. So this was the painting, the one in the bedroom she'd never seen. It made her want to see every inch of the house.

Going into the hall, Madison steadied her pulse, then looked into the girls' room. She smiled as she watched Ruthie play on her computer; so that was the computer she'd heard so much about.

When the munchkin saw her, Ruthie excitedly called her over, and Madison went inside and found herself learning all about Hoppin' Froggies-- small multi-colored frogs that easily got squished if you didn't know what you were doing. And Madison didn't. The other two triplets were quickly pulled into the game, until Madison had quite forgotten the three beds surrounding her. It was all she could do to keep her froggie alive. When Madison finished level one, she got a high five from Lizzie, and a man's laughter came from the doorway.

Grinning, Terry folded his arms, and nodded to them to keep playing, and Madison could tell he was proud of her. He was practically glowing with pride at her accomplishment.

In that moment, Madison knew-- really knew-- that she was going to finish her own level and beat that bed.

* * * *

Looking through the kitchen window, Madison saw dark gray blanketing for as far as she could see. It seemed all this month, they cycled between rain, and snow, and now it was raining again. This early December gloominess didn't bother her though, for it only made the house feel all the more snug and safe, and she went back to cleaning the counter while Izzy kept watch over the vegetable stew simmering on the stove. When Madison caught sight of the printed email from Abby tacked on the fridge, Madison's thoughts turned to family. The email was a reminder of Abby's upcoming schedule, and just looking at it made Madison wonder how Abby intended to do it all. Abby had listed where she would be going, and when-- all different places, but grouped during the months that were better for fishing, not to mention a camera crew.

With Jake's full support, Abby had accepted a request from her boss, Dennis, that she do something called segments for "Bassin' the Weeds." It was more than Madison could understand. It meant Jake would be staying home with Ricky while Abby went to shoot, or film, or whatever it was they did to make those segments, and while Abby's schedule would be minimal, it meant she would still be busy. When possible, she would take her family with her, though since Ricky would be attending preschool soon, he and Jake would be staying home when Abby's trips meant being away on a weekday.

Even the triplets would be starting kindergarten next year, for they were turning five in January, and thankfully, all four children seemed to be looking forward to school.

Though Tim hadn't been able to come up for Thanksgiving, he and his family were going to spend Christmas in Three Mile Bay, and the thought of it made Madison eager for a real Christmas. Momma had never much cared about this season, even grudgingly going so far as to pull a dismal five-inch plastic tree from a public trash can one year, just to shut up her little girl. But Madison hadn't wanted things. Not really. She'd wanted what made Christmas special. As a child, Madison hadn't been able to put it into words, but looking back, she understood that Momma simply never had any love in her to give. Momma had known so little about love, and could have cared less for the Reason for Christmas, that Madison might as well have wished for the stars than to hope for anything more tender than that trash can tree.

Ever since playing Hoppin' Froggies, Madison knew what she wanted Terry to get her for Christmas. This morning she had put her request on a gift tag, tacked it onto an office present, and hid the present in his top desk drawer. After working so hard, her goal was now within reach.

Family, Christmas, and goals-- they all reminded her of what was on her heart, and her thoughts went back to the calendar. Ever since last month, she'd been wondering how to ask Izzy a question without her getting excited. It probably wouldn't be what Izzy would think it was, but the longer this went on, the more Madison wondered. She knew she needed to talk to someone, and Izzy was her best choice, but she hadn't, just in case things went back to normal. She'd always gone back to normal in the past, but then, she'd been with the Dragon in the past, and now that she wasn't, she couldn't be sure what to expect when not beaten.

She wasn't sure. If only she could be sure.

"Hey, Maddie," Terry moved into the kitchen, his wool sweater pushed up around his elbows, "I found it." Snagging Madison around the waist, he hugged her, while Izzy pretended not to notice. "Are you sure about this?"

Madison nodded.

"I hope you're not doing this for me." He kissed Madison's neck. "I've been doing just fine on the floor."

"I'm sure," Madison nodded. "I'm ready for a bed, and I want one for Christmas."

"Then we'll get one, but that's like getting socks. It's too practical. What do you want for just you?" Terry brushed the hair from her eyes and smiled encouragingly.

"But I already have--" she stopped as he let go and gave her a look. "I can't think of anything else I don't already have. Honestly."

"If you could let me know sooner instead of later, I'd appreciate it. What with the holiday rush, and all. You wouldn't want me trampled by last-minute shoppers, would you?" He kissed her nose. "I have to get back to work, but think about it."

As he left, Madison looked at Izzy, and Izzy smiled.

"I think he feels guilty about the fishing equipment."

"I wish he didn't. It wasn't as though I didn't get to enjoy using some of it-- he gave me casting lessons."

"The sweetheart," Izzy smiled, and Madison laughed. "Maybe I should get John to give me some casting lessons, sometime."

Now was as good a time as any, so Madison took a deep breath. "When I saw my doctor..." She paused, and searched for something else to say. "I've been doing those exercises my doctor gave me to strengthen my hip. Terry's been helping me in the gym, before the guys come in and do their workouts."

"Have they helped?" Izzy asked, sprinkling a dash of seasoning into the stew.

"I think so." Madison knew she was a big fat chicken, and decided to try again. "When I saw my doctor, she didn't do any tests. So that means she didn't noticed anything different about me, doesn't it?"

"Different in what way?"

Madison bit her lip.

"I think I know what you're trying to ask me."

"You do?"

"The Urgent Care Center where you went to be treated for your cuts is in the same building as your doctor's office," Izzy nodded, "so your doctor knew about your stitches, and if she didn't say anything, then it's because she had better things to talk about. They don't have much time with their patients, so they have to get down to the important things fast." Izzy smiled. "I know it's that way with my doctor. You can relax-- if your stitches had healed wrong, she would've told you."

With a smile and a sigh, Madison put her sponge away. Izzy hadn't understood, but then, Madison hadn't given her dear friend much to work with.

While Madison helped Izzy get dinner ready, she prepared to try again. This time, with someone else. Dinner almost ready, Madison went into the hall, and peered into the office. The men looked to be in the middle of something, so she stood outside and waited for a lull in all the intense concentration before trying to get Terry's help. Terry sat with his hand on his chin, peering at one of the two large monitors on his desk that were supposed to make his work a little easier. The two monitors were connected to a laptop, a setup mirrored on John's desk, giving the office an almost command-center feel.

Throwing at a dartboard, John spoke without looking away. "I'm telling you, I'm good at spotting these bugs."

"Stay where you are-- I almost have it." Terry hit a key, and scanned the screen while John accosted the dartboard. "I'm afraid we can't come right now, Maddie."

"It's okay," she shrugged. "Dinner's not ready."

"Oh?" Terry looked up. Every feature said he was busy, and impatience edged into his eyes. "Is it important?"

"I-- I don't know."

He pushed away from the desk. "John, I need to take five."

"Take ten, take thirty."

Terry shot a look at his friend, and John got up and went to Terry's laptop. "You need to unwind, buddy. I'd suggest you don't come back until after dinner."

"I'm close."

"That may be, but you still need a break."

Terry rubbed his forehead, pushed into the hall with Madison, and sighed deeply. "What is it?"

"I'm sorry. I didn't mean to interrupt."

"You aren't." Terry rubbed his neck. "What's up? Is it the bed? Are you having second thoughts?"

"I need your help, Terry. I think I have to get to the store."

He hung his head. And let out a breath-- a very patient breath. "Okay."

She braced herself for what she needed to say. "I don't know what it would feel like if the Dragon hadn't beat me when he did, but since you haven't, I missed my period last month. It hasn't come back. I think I need to take one of those home pregnancy tests you see on TV."

His eyes grew wide. "You're kidding."

"Do I look like I'm joking? Would I pull you away from your work--"

"Maddie," he held out a hand, "it was a poor choice of words. What I really meant was, 'Wow, that's great.'"

"Are you happy? Because I'm not sure. You look stunned."

"That's because I am." He shook his head, and grinned. "It's a delayed effect, I promise. I knew protection wasn't one-hundred-percent effective, so this shouldn't come as a complete surprise, but still. Wow. You don't know if you are though, do you? So I can't start celebrating, and tell our family?"

"You want this to happen?"

"If it's God's timing, yes. Absolutely."

She sighed in relief. "For a moment, I--" She didn't have time to finish, for Terry pulled her into a hug.

"What are you thinking?" he asked.

"If God gives us a baby, then I have to believe He'll make me strong enough to be a momma." Madison hung on to Terry. "And I'll have you."

"You'll have me. And Izzy, and John."

"I'll have help," she nodded.

Terry kissed Madison again, and walked her to their bedroom. "Do you want to come with me to the store, because it's on the stormy side, and I'd feel better if you stayed home. I already have a good idea of what to get." He smiled at her surprise. "Who do you think got Izzy's pregnancy test when it was time? John? He was a nervous wreck." Terry pulled a coat from the closet. "You get some rest, and let me do all the running."

"Thanks, Terry." She kissed her husband, and felt so much better, now that he knew, and they were doing something about it.

"Don't tell the others until we know for certain?" Terry asked. "No need getting their hopes up for nothing. Just in case."

She nodded, and zipped up Terry's coat while he smiled.

They said a quiet prayer for safety, then he left while the jeep keys jingled in his coat pocket.

From the triplets' room, one of the girls sang the sparrow song, the words drifting to where Madison stood in the bedroom doorway as she watched Terry leave.

"I sing because I'm happy,
I sing because I'm free,
For His eye is on the sparrow,
And I know He watches me."

Humming it herself, Madison went back to the kitchen, and helped set the table. She marveled at her own presence of mind. She couldn't celebrate, or accept disappointment-- she was in an in-between, a waiting room for two, for Terry was in there with her. Quietly, she prayed and kept moving, and asked God for His will to be done. She didn't trust herself to know what was best, and was willing to accept whatever He decided.

* * * *

It was snowing again, this time coming down heavier than before. Terry adjusted his driving even more, grateful the store was so close by. As he pulled into the parking lot, he couldn't stop grinning. That grin would have to go when he got inside, or he would really get comments when people saw what he was buying. He just couldn't wait to find out. Was she, or wasn't she? He should probably go through the self-checkout, though. It would be hard for the store cashier to resist commenting.

He parked the jeep, and as he unfastened his seat belt, light glistened off his windshield. He turned to look behind, and the cutting glare of headlights blinded him. What was going on? The thought had barely registered when a hand shoved at his back, pushed him from the driver's side door, and onto the pavement as his jeep disappeared before him.

Metal crunched on metal, followed by eerie quiet.

His heart hammered, he looked up, and snow filled his eyes.

* * * *

"Are you sure Terry was only going to the store?" John checked the time as Madison called Terry's phone. "It's not like him to be late for dinner."

"Voicemail again." Madison went to the living room window and looked out at the falling snow. "He was only going to the store-- one here in Three Mile Bay. It wasn't supposed to take this long."

"I'll find him," John said, zipping his coat. "Call me when you hear from him."

Madison jumped when her phone sounded, and John paused as he went to the door. "Hello, Terry?"

"Hold on, Maddie." Sirens overshadowed Terry's voice.

Clutching the phone, Madison prayed those sirens weren't for Terry.

"Is that him?" John asked, and Madison nodded. John shut the door, while Izzy looked relieved.

"Sorry, I'm here." Terry cleared his throat, and Madison pressed the phone to her ear so she could hear him better, while John watched Madison with careful focus. "There's been an accident."


"I'm fine. Just breathe, and don't miscarry, or anything-- I'm fine. A man had a diabetic episode, and plowed into the store's parking lot. No one was hurt except him, and even he's going to be fine. We were very, very blessed. He was taken to the hospital, but not before his wife rushed down here. Maddie, that woman was terrified."

"What is it?" John stared at Madison, and since Terry kept talking, Madison could only wave to John that she couldn't speak.

"She insisted on seeing me, and she couldn't stop apologizing. I'm just grateful no one was seriously hurt." Terry spoke at a rapid clip, and when he paused, Madison asked Terry to give her a moment so she could tell everyone what had happened.

"He's in one piece. Thank God." John bent over and breathed deep, and Izzy went to John and hugged him.

"Are you sure you're all right?" Madison asked, unable to help the tears in her voice. "Are you really, truly sure? You're not trying to spare me, are you?"

"Try not to cry. I truly am fine. They want to take me to the hospital to check a few scrapes and bruises, but other than that, I'm fine."


"They're minor. I didn't even bang my head when I hit the pavement. Hold on--" Terry paused, and Madison could hear someone talking to him in the background.

"Is he all right?" John asked, and Madison nodded.

"He said he hit the pavement, though." Madison paced while Izzy comforted the munchkins. "He's all right. Uncle Terry said he was fine. Terry, what hospital are they taking you to?"

"I don't need one. I have to talk to the police-- I'll come home as soon as everything's been taken care of. I love you."

"Terry--" He'd already hung up, and Madison tried to calm her heart, especially since the children were watching. She looked at John, and Izzy. "He said he doesn't need the hospital."

"He should go," Izzy insisted, but John shook his head.

"If he said he doesn't need to, then so be it. He walked away-- that's what counts."

Madison sat down on the couch, and Izzy joined her.

"It's okay, I'm sure Terry is fine," Izzy comforted. "If he needed the hospital, then he would go." Izzy turned to her husband. "Would you serve the girls their dinner?"

John nodded, and went into the kitchen.

Though Madison was distracted, she smiled at Debbie, Lizzie, and Ruthie when they came close, and she hugged them, and calmed her voice so they knew everything was all right. It was good to have someone to be brave for, because it reminded her to stay strong.

"What was Terry doing at the store?" Izzy asked, as the triplets went to eat dinner.

Wondering how to answer, Madison looked up as John came in with a bowl of stew and offered it to Madison.

"You might as well eat," Izzy coaxed. "Terry will be home when he can, and if he hasn't already grabbed some dinner, there will be leftovers. How about I keep you company?" Izzy got up, and came back a few moments later with a bowl of her own, while John ate in the kitchen with the triplets.

The question about Terry was dropped, and when Jake and Abby came over with Ricky later that night, no one left, for they wanted to wait and find out more from Terry. John called Sheriff Peterson, and found out nothing new while the hours ticked by and little munchkins fell asleep and were carried off to bed. Everyone watched TV to pass the time, though no one paid attention to what was on, and it amazed Madison that the world was still spinning after what had just happened to Terry. But then, the world was like that-- it stopped for no one. More than once, John threatened to go down to the store and see what he could find out, but Izzy kept him back. They probably had enough of a crowd down there, without John adding to the mess. Give it some time. Terry would be home soon.

The moment Madison heard a car pull to a stop in front of the house, her heart pounded. She raced to the window while John lost no time getting to the front door.

"It's Terry." Madison held her breath as she saw Terry climb from a police cruiser in his heavy coat. For a moment, she thought he might be in trouble, but then Terry gave a friendly wave, and the car drove away. She grabbed at the curtains to see more clearly, and jumped and cried with delight when he started through the falling snow, and made his way toward the house.

The jeep was nowhere in sight.

Stepping back, John held the front door open, and Terry came inside. Madison couldn't help herself-- she rushed Terry, and he caught her up in his arms.

"Oh, Terry, Terry!" She cried into his coat and he held her close. "I kept praying you were all right. Thank You, God. Thank You." She dried her eyes on his damp coat, noticed it smelled of oil and grease, and pulled away to get a good look at her husband.

Loving brown eyes looked back at her from a tired but unhurt face, and she hugged Terry fiercely.

"I'm fine, Maddie. The man in the other car had it worse than I did."

"Your jeep?" John asked.

Terry shook his head. "There's too much damage to warrant having it fixed-- it's totaled."

With a shudder, Madison squeezed Terry.

"It sounds like a miracle you made it out unhurt," John marveled.

"You have no idea." Terry kissed Madison, then walked her to the couch. "Could someone get me a cup of something hot? I could stand some warming up." While Izzy and Abby hurried into the kitchen, Madison helped Terry pull off his coat, then held it for him as he sat down.

"I'll put that away," John offered, and Madison passed him the coat. John stopped in his tracks though, when Terry snapped his fingers and called out to him.

"The left pocket-- it's for Maddie." Terry looked kind of strange, but then, he'd just been through a lot. "It's the reason I went out, in the first place. I bought it after the accident, after they were done with me."

Patting the coat, John checked the left pocket. He nodded to Terry that he had found it, and handed something small wrapped in a grocery bag to Madison. "I'll hang your coat in the bathroom so it can dry out. Try to relax." John turned and left, and Madison looked over at Terry.

Terry smiled, and shook his head.

"Is hot cocoa okay?" Abby called from the kitchen.

"It's fine." Terry put his arm around Madison as she curled on the couch beside him and hid the bag between them. "Man, what a night."

"Thank You for bringing him home to me," Madison whispered. It was her one prayer since seeing Terry, and she kept sending it up to Heaven.

Moving to the recliner, Jake sat down and rubbed his hands together. He smiled at Madison, then looked at the kitchen as Izzy and Abby carried out a tray crowded with mugs.

"Ricky is still asleep on our bed," John said, coming from the hall. "The girls haven't stirred, so that's a blessing." John took a mug from the tray, moved to the couch, and sat beside Madison as Abby went to sit on the armrest of the recliner. "Have the police charged the guy who hit you?"

Terry shook his head. "It's under investigation, but I doubt they will. From what his wife said, her husband doesn't have a history of blacking out. It was a freak accident-- he's a responsible diabetic. We were blessed no one was hurt, and that only a few vehicles were sideswiped before he hit mine." A strange look crossed Terry's face. "Something happened that didn't make it into the police report. I didn't tell anyone, because I figured they'd think I was under the influence of something, or maybe I'd had a concussion, and haul me off to the hospital. I felt it, though. I know I did."

John leaned forward on the couch. "What happened?"

"Right before the car hit my jeep-- the strangest thing--" Terry stopped and Madison patted his chest to coax him to keep going. "I could have sworn I felt a man's hand on my back."

"A what?"

"A man's hand. It wasn't small-- I had the very distinct impression of a large, solid hand on my back, and it pushed me forward, out of the jeep. I don't even remember opening the passenger door to get out." Terry looked at John. "I didn't hit my head, and unlike the guy who struck my jeep, I didn't black out at any time."

John stared at Terry.

"I remember sitting on the asphalt, looking up at the snow-- and I don't know what came over me-- I said, 'Thank you.' No one was there, absolutely no one, and yet I knew I was thanking one of my guardian angels. I just knew it." Terry looked around, as if waiting for someone to comment.

"Whether we're aware of it or not, God preserves us all the time from things that could have happened, but didn't," John said, looking to each of the family. "There's a time for suffering, and a time for deliverance, and tonight, Terry had a rare glimpse of that deliverance as he was pushed out of harm's way." John paused. "The Lord calls His people His inheritance. That's us. He's delivered us before. Just look around you. I believe God is going to do great things through this family-- He did not test us in a furnace for nothing. I don't know about the rest of you, but what Terry has told us, only makes me bolder than ever."

Jake nodded slowly, as though thinking something through. "'He shall give His angels charge over thee, to keep thee in all thy ways.'" Jake looked about the room. "It makes me wonder how many angels we have, and just can't see."

Madison hugged Terry. "I have one right here."

While her family talked, Madison sat curled up next to Terry and quietly thanked God for sending that angel to save hers. Her thoughts turned to the box wrapped in the grocery bag tucked between her and Terry. Now that Terry was safe and home, she ached to know what her body was trying to tell her.

It was almost three when Jake and Abby left with Ricky asleep on Jake's shoulder. After good nights, and hugs, John and Izzy went to their room, and Terry and Madison went to theirs. The moment the bedroom door closed, Madison ripped the bag off the box and began to read the directions. Terry fell against the door grinning, his face a picture of humor and exhausted excitement. She started to talk, but he held out a hand and motioned her to lower her voice.

Then he went first.

"I thought for sure you had told them why I'd gone to the store. When I got back, and they never said anything about a baby, I was impressed. I never dreamed you'd be able to keep it a secret."

"I might get a negative, Terry. We've been trying to be responsible about this. Whatever this says, we accept it as God's timing."

"Agreed," he nodded. He started to pace, stopped, and looked at her.

"What?" she asked.

He shook his head. "Never mind."

While she read, Terry loosened his shoulders, stretched his arms, as though he were doing a warm-up.

He stopped. "If you had a hunch this was going to go one way or the other, would you tell me?"

"I guess so." She turned the box over and read the other side.

"What do you mean, you guess so? That's important information, don't you think?"

"If I knew something for sure, then I would tell you. I don't, so I can't," she smiled, as she opened the box. He quieted as she looked over the test sticks, and when she headed for the bathroom, he began to pace the wide-open carpet. "I'll let you know as soon as I have a result."

He nodded, and she was grateful when he didn't follow her into the bathroom to watch.

"Hey, how long until you know?" he called.

"Two minutes."

"Man." Something punched the wall.

"You're going to wake the girls, Terry."

She had no idea when this hunch Terry had said she might have would kick in, but as she washed her hands and stared at the test stick on the back of the toilet, a feeling did tug at her.

"Anything yet?" He came in and hovered near the toilet. "I forgot to thank you for coming to me about this. I mean, you could have gone to Izzy."

"I did." She smiled at Terry's surprise. "She thought I was talking about something else." Madison shrugged. "I would've wanted you here for this, anyway."

Terry smiled, and hugged himself like Madison had so many times before, and stared at the ceiling.

Madison looked at the test stick. She bit her lip.



"We're pregnant."

He fell back a step, looked at the stick as his mouth fell open.


She laughed as a grin spread across his face, and he reached for her.

"So it's a yes?" he asked.

She nodded, and he squeezed her to him.

"Wahoo!" Terry picked her up, and gave her a big sloppy kiss. "Are you sure? The plus sign means we're pregnant?" He kissed her again when she nodded, "yes," then he shut his eyes, and she realized he was praying.

She hugged Terry, her own heart full to overflowing. She was going to be a mother. She was going to have her own sweetheart, a part of her and Terry in a child. Would it have his laughter, his sense of humor? More importantly, would she be a faithful momma, one who would love, and nurture, and not walk away as her own had done? Please, God, no! She had not gone through the furnace for nothing, for she had been made to last. This baby would know love, it would have faith, and because of that, hope; it would have a father in Terry, one who was good and true; it would have an uncle in John, an aunt in Izzy, and cousins forever in the triplets, in Ricky, and Abby, and Jake.

This baby would know what family meant.

As Madison hugged Terry, he showered her with kisses.

"Are you scared?" he whispered.

"Terrified." She leaned into the arms that held her. "I've never been a momma before, and I'm going to have to trust God for this. When God saved you though, He reminded me that nothing is too hard for Him. If He could push you from danger, then He can make me to be a good mother. It's strange-- I'm scared, and yet I've got goose bumps running up and down my arms. I have this, this--"

"What?" Terry asked.

"This overwhelming joy. Something good was started because of you and me." She touched Terry's face. "Because we love each other, someone else is coming into the world. Isn't that amazing?"

He grinned, and hugged her. "What do you think we'll have? A girl, or a boy?"

"I don't know. I've only just found out someone's in there. But you were right-- a few moments before I saw the result, I think I knew." She closed her eyes and thanked God. All the joy that had come before, paled in comparison to this. Terry wiped something from her cheek, and she realized she was crying. "Merry Christmas, Terry."

"That's right-- Merry Christmas!" He laughed, and kissed her again, and started for the bedroom. "We have to tell the others."

"But it's so late. Please, can't we let them sleep?" She looked at Terry, and he hugged her, and laughed quietly into her hair. "I won't be able to sleep. I'm surprised we haven't made enough noise to wake everyone, already." He swung her around, grabbed his phone and before she knew it, he was taking a picture of them, together. "I want to commemorate the first few minutes of our knowing." He snapped another, showed it to her, and smiled. "I'm so happy, Maddie. I can't believe this is my life."

She kissed his cheek. "I know the feeling."

"It's too late for me to sleep-- I'm running on adrenaline." Terry shook his head, and though he sounded wide-awake, for the first time all night, he looked painfully exhausted. "I'm getting some coffee. I'll go watch TV, and wait for everyone to wake up."

"Then would you keep me company?" She tugged him toward their bed on the floor. "I'm tired, but I won't get a wink of sleep without you."

"Well, you're different, you need rest." Terry turned down their covers, and she went to change into her nightshirt.

When she came back, he was still wearing his day clothes, pacing, and in general, looking wired and like someone who'd just walked away from an accident. She turned on their porcelain angel, he switched off the overhead, and she crawled into bed while he tucked her in.

"Terry?" She held out her hand, and he groaned.

"I won't be able to sleep," he warned, but she opened the heavy blanket for him, and he moved in behind her. "Oh, Maddie, thank God you didn't come with me to the store." Terry spooned behind her, put his arm around her, and she sighed with contentment. "I close my eyes, and I see those headlights." Terry squirmed, and she caressed his hand. "If I had lost you, Maddie--"

"Shhh." In a quiet hush, Madison thanked God for the blessing of their baby, the blessings of each other, for their family, and the blessings of His protection. She thanked God for the angel who had pushed Terry from the car, she prayed for the man who had blacked out, she prayed for his wife-- she prayed for everything that came into her heart, and as she spoke, she caressed Terry's hand. By the time she had finished her prayer, she heard a soft snore behind her ear.

Her poor, sweet Terry-- her tired, worn out husband, was sound asleep.

* * * *

"Un-cle Ter-reeee," a munchkin called from the hall. "Are you still in there?"

It took effort, but Terry opened his eyes long enough to focus on the door. "Am I what?"

"Aunt Madison, Aunt Madison! He's awake!"

Terry pushed onto his side, pulled the warm blanket over his shoulder and let himself fall into the groggy slumber he'd been enjoying. As whispers hushed outside the bedroom door, they barely registered as a wave of sleep pulled him under and he resumed his dream of washing the jeep in a snowstorm while Maddie insisted it wasn't necessary. Something teased his memory...

He sat up in a flash.

He was pregnant. Okay, he wasn't, but Maddie sure was, and he had to go tell everyone the big news. His heart fell when he realized he was alone in bed, and Maddie had already changed and left the room. His eyes tried to focus on the time, but he was so bleary, he had to rub his face before he could make out the numbers. To his horror, he'd slept in. Some kindhearted soul had let him sleep. Of all days to spend in bed, this was the absolute worst. He reached for his clothes, only to realize he'd worn them to bed. One whiff told him he needed a shower, but that could wait.

Throwing back the comforter, and the thick blankets, he got to his feet and ignored the fact the house felt as though it had been awake for over half the day. Which it had. How could he have possibly fallen asleep when he had such important news to tell? This was his first-- not as though a second or third wasn't as important, but things like this didn't happen to him every day. And he had slept in.

He could kick himself.

He pushed into the hall, and found Ruthie, camped beside his door.

"This time he really is, Aunt Madison!" Ruthie stood up and looked at him expectantly, prompting John to appear from the office, and Maddie from the living room with his yellow smiley mug.

Izzy followed with the other two munchkins, Izzy's smile kind and considerate.

"I told them not to wake you," Maddie said, handing him his coffee.

"Why didn't you?" Terry took the mug, but felt the disappointment sink in as he looked at his friends. "I would've loved to have seen the looks on your faces when you found out."

"Found out what?" John stepped close and took a whiff of Terry's java. "Is there any of that left in the kitchen?"

"You mean, she didn't tell you?"

"Tell me what?" John looked at him askance. "You slept in your clothes?"

"He almost didn't sleep at all," Maddie told John.

Terry looked at Izzy. "She didn't tell you, either? I'm not too late?"

"I wouldn't have told them without you," Maddie said, straightening his shirt collar. "Do you want to comb your hair? Someone might take pictures."

"Maddie, you sweetheart." Terry pulled an arm around his wife, kissed her soundly, then grinned at John and Izzy. "We have an announcement to make. Maddie and I are expecting."

A gasp of surprise, then a squeal of delight came from Izzy, while John rushed Terry with a hug.

"Oh, man, congratulations!" John shook Terry's hand until Terry's mug threatened to slosh onto the carpet, then John tugged him into another backslapping hug. "When did you find out? Don't tell me-- that was what your errand was about, last night. Why didn't you say something, or at least drop us a hint?"

"We didn't want you to know unless it was a positive, and we found out it was, after everyone went to bed."

The little ones looked at each other, then at John.

"Daddy?" Debbie pulled at John's arm. "What are we 'specting?"

As John got down on one knee, Izzy covered her mouth and smiled at Terry and Maddie.

"Your Aunt and Uncle are going to have a baby. Do you know what that means?"

"We're going to have a sister?"

"No, a cousin."

"Can we play with her?"

"You sure can, but it might be a boy. You'd better prepare yourselves for that possibility."

When the girls understood a baby was on its way, the questions came rapid-fire. "Where did it come from?" "When will it get here?" "Can we name it?"

"Mommy and I will answer that first one, later," John said with a slightly panicked look at Izzy. "I suppose the baby will come as most babies do, in about nine months. To put that in easier to understand terms, sometime next summer. And, Lizzie-- I'm sorry, but names are for parents to decide, not well-meaning relatives. Anything else?"

Ruthie raised her hand as high as it could go. "It can have my bed! I can sleep with Debbie or Lizzie."

"That's very sweet of you," Terry smiled, "but that won't be necessary. Don't you worry, we'll take good care of this new munchkin." He bent down and gave Ruthie a hug. "I love you for volunteering, though."

"Will it grow in Aunt Madison, like Linda's sister did in her mommy?"

"That's the general idea."

"It'll need toys," Debbie said, and the other two nodded.

"I'll tell you what--" John winked at the girls-- "we'll get together, and do something for the baby before it arrives. How about that?" John smiled when the girls hurried off to their room to start making a list of all the things they were sure the baby would need.

"You don't have to do anything," Terry sighed, but John only laughed.

"I'd like to see you try and stop him," Izzy smiled.

As the women moved into the living room, the men followed, and everyone talked at the same time. Terry laughed as Maddie handed him her cell phone to call AJ and tell them the big news. Abby was checking out a newly opened store exclusively for anglers that Dennis had asked her to review, and Jake had gone with her to sketch and keep her company. If Terry remembered right, Ricky was visiting at Grandpa and Grandma Doyle's house right now, and was probably having a great time.

Though Terry knew it was customary to only tell a handful of people until the pregnancy was further along, and the danger of miscarriage was more unlikely, Abby and Jake were family, and simply had to be told.

"Oh, Uncle Terry, congratulations! I'm sorry we aren't there to celebrate with you and Aunt Madison!"

"Thanks, Abby." Terry smiled at Maddie. "We're in the process of calling family right now."

"Jake says he'll do the baby shower cake-- whenever we have it. Tell Mom to make sure no one gets you guys a bassinet. We can get Ricky's sparkling like new in no time at all. That is, if you and Aunt Madison want it. Oh, Uncle Terry, I'm so excited for us! We haven't had a baby in the family since Tim's little girl, and even then, he lives so far away, we never get to see her. We get to keep this one! Can I talk to Aunt Madison?"

As Terry put Maddie on the phone, he tugged out his cell phone and checked the time. He knew Maddie hated to call Tim at work, but this was important. He tapped Tim's number in the address book and waited. No matter how few people they told, Tim absolutely had to be one of them. As Terry waited for Tim to answer, Terry quickly smiled with Maddie as John took their picture.

"Hey, Tim?" Terry cleared his throat. "I'm sorry to catch you at work. If this is a bad time, I can call back later." Terry grinned at his wife. "Maddie and I thought you should know you're going to be an uncle. Yeah, we found out this morning-- very early this morning. It's a long story-- I got into an accident on my way to get the pregnancy test, last night." Terry winced, wishing he'd kept back that last part. Now Tim wanted to know more, so Terry told him what his night had been like, and while Terry was at it, he threw in the angel for good measure, then Terry swapped phones with Maddie and talked to Jake.

"So you're going to be a father," Jake laughed.

"Yup, that's what it appears."

"That offer to babysit still stands."

Terry grinned. "I just might take you up on that." It was surreal to Terry that he would ever say such a thing, and about his own munchkin.

When Maddie hung up, Terry was still talking to Jake, and she gave Terry an odd look. "What did you tell my brother?"

"Only what happened last night," Terry shrugged. "Why? What did Tim say?"

"You told him about the angel, didn't you."

"Yeah. So?"

"There was another angel?" Jake spoke up.

Terry sighed as Jake relayed something to Abby while Madison kept talking.

"I think you really floored Tim, because he kept saying, 'okay' to everything I said."

"I thought it might encourage him," Terry shrugged.

"Uncle Terry, are you all right?" Abby's voice came in strong and clear over the phone. "Jake said something about another angel."

Maddie started to say something while Abby kept talking, and Terry handed the phone to John. "Would you please calm them down? I can't talk to three people at the same time." Terry's stomach growled in protest at having been forgotten in all the excitement, and he hunted for his coffee mug. He turned to Maddie, only to find she had left, probably because he hadn't been paying attention. His stomach growled, and he knew he needed more than coffee to make that growl go away. He had slept through breakfast, and had missed lunch. As soon as he downed this mug, he would grab a sandwich to tide him over until dinner.

Nursing his coffee, Terry retreated to the couch while everyone kept talking, though not to him. It was then he noticed Izzy was spreading their announcement to the Doyles. He winced, not knowing what to say. Don't tell them? They were family, though the number of people they had told was beginning to multiply. By all rights, Terry couldn't spare this time away from work, but by now, the day was chaos. This was a family emergency in the best sense-- an aftermath of accident and celebration that was turning his day upside down in a good way. He was alive, after all.

Growing hungrier by the second, Terry looked at his mug and decided to just go find something to eat. Coffee on such an empty stomach was not working out. Then he saw Maddie carrying a bowl into the living room, and heading in his direction. She was beautiful, and not because she carried food.

He thanked her, and she smiled, and as she turned to watch Izzy talk, he gently tugged Maddie onto the cushion beside him, so she could rest her feet. He quietly prayed over his food, then dug into a bowl of heated vegetable stew. It tasted wonderful.

"I'll call your brother again," he nodded to Maddie, "and clear up any misunderstandings about the angel."

"I think he believed you."


"Could I tell Agatha?" Izzy asked, as she hung up from her talk with the Doyles.

"I don't suppose we could limit this to family? Just until Maddie's further along?" Terry breathed a sigh of relief when Izzy agreed, and didn't look hurt.

While Terry ate, Izzy and Maddie talked about pregnancy and prenatal care. Maddie wanted to do everything right, and was intent on learning all she could, and thankfully, Izzy was happy to pass along whatever she knew. Which, for a mother of four on earth, and one in Heaven, was quite a lot. Maddie also wanted to set up an appointment with her doctor, and when she insisted she could do it without Terry's help, Terry went to take his shower.

By the time Terry came out, he found Maddie had set up an appointment for later that week. He kissed his smiling wife, and knew she was making progress in more ways than one.

His time off from work over, Terry headed back to the office with John to get in as much as they could before dinner.

* * * *

Terry's eyes ached from reading lines of code, and he was dying to get up again and stretch, but that wasn't the worst of it. He couldn't stay focused. It was frustrating, to say the least, though he suspected he was coming down from the high of all the excitement. Life was too distracting. It was hard to stare at the screen when his mind kept straying to Maddie, and to the headlights from last night.

"We should call it a day." John looked over his desk at Terry. "It's late, and neither of us can pay attention."

"I won't be able to sleep," Terry shrugged. "I might as well work."

"We might as well have been watching YouTube, for all the work we've been getting done." John pushed away from his desk. "We were crazy to come back so soon, client, or not. Look at us-- we've been staring at the same screen for hours."

"But you're turning in?" Terry asked, and John nodded. "I guess we can get back to this, tomorrow," Terry sighed.

"When was the last time you checked your calendar?" John pulled up the app floating behind their code, and pointed to the screen. "We agreed we would take tomorrow off for Christmas shopping, remember? One day to get it all done early, so we wouldn't get caught flatfooted, like last time? Go ahead and laugh-- I'll remind you, you're a married man now. I won't be the only one hunting for something meaningful for his wife at the last possible nanosecond."

Terry frowned. He knew what to get them, as a couple, but not her.

"Now that I've left you with something to keep you awake--" John grinned-- "I'm going to bed."

"Hold up. I don't have a jeep, anymore."

"Take Izumi's car, and Izumi and I will take the minivan, but get out of the house."

"Thanks," Terry grinned. He put his feet up, pulled his keyboard onto his lap and started searching for the perfect Christmas gift for Maddie. If he got something related to the baby, and she miscarried, it would only bring pain later, so that was out. Anything that was more for him, like nightgowns, was also crossed off the list.


He looked up, and saw Maddie in her robe, her pink and black pajamas showing around her neck. It was nearly eleven, and besides the office, the house had gone to sleep.

"I thought I heard John go to bed."

"He quit for the day," Terry nodded, and quickly turned on the screensaver as Maddie came in. "What are you doing still awake?"

"Aren't you quitting, too?"

"I will in a moment."

"You weren't going to say that until I asked, were you?"

"Maybe not," he admitted. "My internal clock is a little out of whack." He hung his head as Maddie pulled up John's rolly chair, and sat down. "There's no reason for you to stay up, too. I promise, I'll come as soon as I take care of something."

She tucked her legs under her on the large leather chair, and made herself comfortable. "Don't let me stop you."

With a sigh, he woke his screens and quickly closed a window.

"Could I ask you something?"

"You're here," he smiled. "You might as well."

"I know we've talked about moving before, but what are we going to do if we can't stay?"

"What do you mean?"

"We're having a baby. I've been talking to Izzy, and I think I'll want my baby close to me, so we'll probably put the crib in our room, but when it's older, where will it sleep? We can't put it with the triplets because it could be a boy, and even if it's a girl, it wouldn't be fair to Debbie, Lizzie, and Ruthie. It's their room. I'll need Izzy when the baby arrives, but one day, I think we're going to have to move." Maddie looked dismal at the thought.

"We could add on to the house," Terry nodded. "John has already made the offer, and if we can't find somewhere close enough to here, or if we decide we wanted to stay, we could always add on. And if we do, nothing says we have to stay here, forever. We could still move."

"Terry, I don't want to move unless it's right next door, and even then, I'd have to think about it."

"One side of this property faces public land, and the other side, the Wilsons. The Wilsons have been there for as long as I can remember-- Lou is a retired businessman, and his son, Paul, owns a car dealership in town. I don't see either of them leaving anytime soon." Terry shook his head. "Unless you tell me differently, we're staying put."

"I feel much better." Maddie's smile was brighter now. "Winter is coming up, so I'm guessing we'll have to wait until the season is right before we can build, but that's okay. I just wanted to have a plan."

"Sometime after Christmas, John and I will get in touch with an architect."

Maddie climbed down from the chair. "When did you say you were coming to bed?"

"In a moment," Terry smiled. He watched as she left the office, then he opened a browser and typed something in. It was something she needed, could use, and would enjoy, all in one. It didn't take long for him to make the purchase, and after a few minutes of balancing the checkbook, he put his laptop to sleep. He hoped this didn't fall into the socks category, that he wasn't thinking too much like a geek.

He turned off the overhead, stretched out in the hall, and noticed Maddie had left the bedroom door open for him. Tomorrow, he needed to finish his Christmas shopping with Maddie, but hopefully, her gift had already been taken care of.

He tiptoed inside the bedroom, eased the door shut, and heard Maddie stir.

By the softly lit porcelain angel, he changed into his pajamas, then placed his wedding band on the dresser with Maddie's rings. When he crawled into bed, she snuggled into his arms as though she'd been waiting for him.

"I bought your Christmas present," he whispered.

"I thought we were getting a bed?"

"When you come with me tomorrow, you can pick one out."

She sighed happily. A moment later, she propped herself on an elbow and looked at him. "So that's not what you bought me just now?"


"Then what is it?"

"I realize you haven't had much firsthand experience with Christmas until now, but it's usually customary for gifts to be a surprise."

She blinked, snuggled back in his arms and breathed deep. "Is it for the baby?"


"For the kitchen?"

"I'm going to sleep now."


"Another Jane Austen book?"

"I thought you wanted me asleep?"

"I do," she nodded, and closed her eyes. "A hairdryer? Sorry, I'm going to sleep... It's just that Lizzie dropped ours yesterday, and now something inside rattles. I don't know if it's broken, but if it's not, don't get another one, because ours is still working. I only say that because you might've noticed the rattle." She looked at him. "I'm going to sleep."

"Is this the way it's going to be from now until we open our presents?"

"No, I'll be calm." She kissed his cheek, and cuddled with a sigh. "Good night, Terry."

"So what are you getting me?" he asked, then burst into laughter when she tried to tickle him.

It took some doing, but they finally managed to settle down. He said a prayer, and not long after, he heard Maddie drift off, for her day had been an exciting one. It took him an hour and thirty-eight minutes before he stopped checking the time and let himself relax. Then, little by little, sleep overtook him, and Terry drifted off with Maddie beside him.

* * * *

Christmas shopping was fun but exhausting. Madison had come to that conclusion all on her own, though Terry had looked tired, himself. After a day on their feet, Madison and Terry had returned with several bags of Christmas shopping to hide in the office bathroom. And it all had to be wrapped-- something she was thoroughly looking forward to, though the idea intimidated her to no end. When she was little, she had once wrapped one of her toys so she could go to a neighbor's birthday party, and the gift had turned out a nightmare. Since wrapping could wait until they were closer to Christmas, Madison put off thinking about it for another time, and concentrated on the big deal in the other room.

The new bed.

She and Terry had bought it the first thing that day, then rushed home to meet the delivery people. Though the salesman had done a good job, he probably hadn't gotten the commission he'd wanted, and it had been Madison's fault. Madison grabbed onto her one big thought, peeked into the room, and looked at the queen-size bed. It was on the cheap side, for the headboard was plain and didn't celebrate that it was a bed. She hadn't wanted "a celebration," she had just wanted a bed. The salesman hadn't been able to understand that, but this wasn't his bed. Thank God. Terry had let her make all the decisions, and he'd seemed perfectly happy with her choice. And it was a good choice. They'd gone to the MegaMart and bought sheets, and a matching blue bedspread with pale blue stripes, and a dust ruffle to go at the bottom, just like on John and Izzy's bed. This bed had everything.

Then Terry and Madison had gone back out to do their Christmas shopping, only to come home late after dinner to find the new sheets washed, and the new bed made. Madison couldn't find Izzy fast enough to give her a hug.

Looking at that bed, Madison decided the colors had been a good choice, for they reminded her of Terry, and it needed to.

"It's a beautiful sight, isn't it?"

Madison jumped at the sound of someone behind her. It was only Terry.

"Sorry," he apologized, and came around her to stand and look at their new piece of furniture.

She was just glad it didn't have upholstery. The bed had been placed where his couch used to be, against the wall facing the bathroom and closet, so the new walkway went around the foot of the bed, making it much easier to move around. No longer did you have to reach over her couch to get into the closet-- you could just open the closet and get what you wanted.

He looked at her and smiled. "What do you think?"

"It's just a bed."

"But it's ours."

"I'm not trying to make this into a bigger deal than it already is," she sighed. "I don't want to be so nervous, I can't get into it."

"Point well taken." Terry motioned to the right. "I thought you might like this side. I pushed the bed as far against my side of the wall as I could, to make more room on this side for the bassinet, or crib. I thought you might like to be closer to the baby."

She nodded her thanks.

A triplet looked inside the room, then smiled up at Madison. Though Izzy was getting the girls ready for bed, this one didn't look as though she wanted to go to sleep. Not wanting to encourage mutiny, Madison yawned, and Ruthie blinked. A moment later, Ruthie yawned as well, and leaned against Madison as though she had gone through a long and hard day, and not one at preschool, followed by a play date at Linda's house. Linda's mom had shuttled the girls so Izzy and John could do their shopping-- a kindness to soon be remembered in homemade Christmas cookies.

"Bedtime," Izzy called, and Ruthie groaned.

"Good night," Madison hugged the munchkin. When the girl left, Madison turned back to face the bed.

"Ready to turn in?" Terry asked, and Madison nodded. He took her hand, and he prayed for a good night. It was their usual routine, though they often prayed after they were in bed, and not before. Tonight was anything but usual.

As Terry went into the bathroom with his pajamas, the rest of the house turned in for the night. She and Terry had already talked this out, and this first night especially, Terry had suggested Madison just try to sleep. No holding, no kissing, just sleep. It seemed reasonable. She stepped close to the bed, and put her hand on the blanket to stake her claim. This bed did not own her-- she owned it, and it would not make her fall down in fear. It was just an object, and not a person. Her stomach may have felt like turning inside out, but she would not give in.

She closed the bedroom door, then went to get her pajamas. As she passed the verses taped to the wall, she went over them, and prayed the ones she used the most.

Tonight, she would need all the courage she could get.

When Terry came out, she was already dressed in her pajamas. She had the angel clicked on, she'd kept the overhead on, and she even went into the bathroom, and turned that light on, too. Though Terry looked surprised, he said nothing. Unlike last night, his eyes were at half-mast, and he looked as though he had to struggle to stay awake.

"I'm so tired, I could fall asleep standing. If that's possible." Terry yawned as he sank onto the edge of the bed. "This is one comfortable mattress. After the floor, I hope you won't think it's too soft. Hey, are you all right?" Terry came around the bed and hugged her. "Would you like some music? Would that help?"

She nodded, and rubbed her face against his shoulder, hating the fact she was getting his pajamas damp with tears.

As Terry went to get his smartphone, Madison pulled back the heavy covers. She wasn't alone. God was with her, Terry would be with her, the triplets were in the next room, and to top it all off... Madison touched her belly. Life had just started inside of her, and now she really wasn't by herself. But a baby couldn't fight for her-- she had to do the fighting.

Summoning her battle cry, Madison gripped the blanket, and climbed onto the softly firm mattress. It groaned under her weight, and images flashed before her. She gasped, and struggled to keep her mind filled with things she chose. A hand touched her shoulder, and she slapped it back, only to look up and see Terry's concerned-filled face. She pulled his hand, and he climbed into bed, and she fought to get into his arms.

"Easy, Maddie. Calm down."

The bed creaked, and she heard screams.

"Hold on, Maddie. I'm putting earbuds in your ears, okay? Just hold on."

She tugged at Terry, her hands grasping to find the phone he'd promised to bring. Suddenly, music filled her ears, and relief poured through her.

She leaned her head on Terry's chest. "Louder, please."

"I don't want to hurt you."

The music edged a bit louder, until she raised her hand, and the volume stopped where it was. Her head went up and down as Terry's breathing calmed, and she patted his pajama top to say "thank you." Her eyes were still wet, but she was on the bed, and she wasn't in flashback mode.

When her shivering stopped, she tried to sleep.

While she listened to someone sing their heart out about the love of an honest man, a blanket pulled over her right side, and then her left. She opened her eyes to see Terry working a blanket with one hand while trying not to disturb her. When he saw she was watching, he smiled, and motioned for her to go back to sleep. She would have tried to help, but she couldn't risk moving. When the blankets stopped shifting, his arm rested around her, and she felt herself relax.

Then the music stopped longer than usual between songs, and she wondered if something was wrong with the phone.

"Easy," Terry soothed.

The quiet faded into song, and she started to breathe again.

She prayed, and clung to Terry long into the night while the music played and covered the sounds of her own memories. The present felt more comforting than the past could ever be, until even with the music turned up, she felt herself fade.

She was safe.

* * * *

He could still hear the faint sway of music from where he lay, and her body felt loose, and wonderfully relaxed after that long tense fight. Her breathing was regular, the sound of someone almost asleep. He didn't dare hope until he heard the familiar rhythm in her breath, then he knew she was dreaming. Something pleasant, he guessed, for when it wasn't, he usually knew by the way she slept.

Breathing his thanks to Heaven, Terry closed his eyes to get some rest. Maddie was sleeping close enough that if she needed him, he would know.

As he drifted off, he felt Maddie twitch. Much, much too early to be the baby, he smiled, and went to sleep.

"I [Madison] can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me."
~ Philippians 4:13 ~

"He shall give His angels charge over thee, to keep thee in all thy ways. They shall bear thee up in their hands..."
~ Psalm 91:11, 12 ~

end of chapter