“But what if it’s a girl?” Leroy asked as he held his wife’s hand. Sophia was reclining in the rocking chair on their farmhouse porch. She had one hand placed in Leroy’s while the other cupped her growing belly.
Two years had passed since he had asked her to marry him, and Sophia had thoroughly enjoyed the challenges that life brought while she had been with Leroy. Things had been easy for the most part, although there had been times when she had let Leroy do all of the heavy lifting. Like when they had moved into the ranch next to her brother’s ranch. However, it was now Sophia’s turn to do the heavy lifting as she held onto her stomach and thought about the taxing role of being a mother. The entire process had brought her much closer to her mother’s memory; although she had died when Sophia was very young, she still could remember how loving and tender she was toward her children. Sophia had vowed she would be much the same as her mother; she would love her child with everything she had.
“I just know it’s going to be a boy. I can’t explain the feeling,” Sophia said simply.
“All right, but I’m not going to be too surprised if we meet our baby and she’s a girl; you could be wrong.”
Sophia wasn’t going to bother trying to explain a mother’s instinct to her husband; she knew he wouldn’t understand, and it would just be a waste of time.
“What about Theodore if he is a boy?” she suggested.
“In honor of your father?” Leroy asked as he glanced over at her. “I think that would be rather fitting.”
“I just thought that since I met you while on a quest in my father’s name, perhaps it would be a fitting tribute.”
Leroy nodded along with her reasoning, although she knew he would simply be happy with any name for the baby. She could tell that in his eyes; he was still just shocked that he was even having a baby.
“It’s not going to be long now, little one,” Leroy spoke as he looked down at her bump. Sophia had never felt so swollen in all her life, and the heat was doing nothing to help with how uncomfortable it felt. It still baffled her that there was an actual lifeform growing inside her, but she was trying to remain calm as she thought about the many stresses that lay ahead of them.
“Will you let your brothers look after the baby when it’s born?” he asked with a coy smile on his lips.
“Absolutely not,” Sophia said while laughing. “Have you seen the kind of trouble that they get up to, even with their wives now. I wouldn’t let them look after some of the cattle on their own.”
Both Joe and Alexander had married women from the town; they were nice, although Sophia still found them a little too proper compared to her. But she had no conflict with them as she could see how happy both of her brothers were when they were with them, and she knew that it wasn’t her place to judge.
“Perhaps only you and maybe Doctor Witby if it really came to that,” Sophia said. The doctor was an old man who had delivered many of the babies in Bellmont; he had even delivered Sophia and was now going to help her with her own child. She found the cycle rather ironic, but he was a good man, and she trusted him in his profession.
“He’s already on standby and awaiting word from us,” Leroy remarked. She could feel him looking at how large her bump had become in the last few months. Sophia couldn’t deny that she looked ready to burst.
“It’s so exciting, isn’t it?” She smiled as she stroked over the clothed bump. “Any day now there’s going to be a small Barnes under this roof.”
“It is rather incredible,” Leroy admitted.
“I remember when you would barely even say two words to me,” Sophia chuckled as she thought back to their first days on the road together. “When I would try and talk to you, and you would barely nod in my direction.”
“How the tables have turned,” Leroy said.
“If I had told myself … or myself as Samson then that this is how things were going to work out, I think I would have just laughed and called myself mad.”
“I would have too.” He nodded. “I suppose you can never predict how things are going to work out.”
She winced slightly at the sensation of the baby kicking into her side. It was a feeling she was sure she would never get used to, and there was nothing in the world that even compared to it.
“Mhhm,” Sophia groaned as she breathed deeply in through her nose.
“Now you listen here, Mr.,” Leroy said as he leaned down to talk to the bump. It was something that he had started to do as Sophia’s stomach grew, and she couldn’t help the way that it made her laugh so much. “You need to stop kicking your mother; I’m sure you’re going to have plenty of time to do that on your way out.”
“Leroy.” Sophia mockingly scolded him and shook her head.
“I just want him to know that he’s causing you some discomfort.” He chuckled and held his hands up in defense.
“So you do agree that he’s going to be a boy?” she asked with a playful smile.
“Don’t push it.”
Sophia watched as Penelope appeared at their gate, waving up to them as she started the short walk up the yard. She was happy that her friend had come to visit, especially since moving around was getting harder with each day that passed.
“Afternoon.” Penelope beamed at her as her eyes darted down to Sophia’s large belly. “I just thought that I would stop by before heading home.”
“It’s good to see you.” Sophia smiled up at her. “Please, take a seat.”
“Are you ready for the big day?” Penelope asked as she couldn’t take her eyes off Sophia’s bump.
“I think so; I’m just a bit nervous.”
“You’re going to be just fine,” her friend reassured her. “When I had Richard, it was the most incredible day of my life, and I had always thought that day would be my wedding day.”
Sophia refrained from rolling her eyes at her friend’s comment about the wedding. Sophia and Leroy had a game they played where they tried to see if Penelope could go an entire conversation without mentioning the wedding.
“I know, but I’m still a little scared. It’s going to hurt.”
“It’s going to be worth it,” Penelope comforted her. “You’re going to have this small human that you have to look after and nurture. It’s something that most families go through, and yet you really don’t appreciate the true magic of it until it happens to you.”
“Thank you, Penelope.”
“Any time.” She smiled and sat back. “I see why you’re both always sitting here now; the view really is beautiful.”
“It is,” Sophia agreed as they looked out over the town.
“How are you coping with … today being …”
Sophia let her friend’s words hang in the air for a while as she sighed heavily. It was the anniversary of her father’s death; two years ago, her life had been turned completely upside down and had put her on a path that she could never have imagined for herself.
“I feel all right about it.” Sophia shrugged. She kept both of her hands under her bump as she spoke. Both Leroy and Penelope were watching her as she spoke, and Sophia felt slightly uncomfortable under their gaze. “I miss him a lot, and I really wish he could have met his grandchild. But I know that he’s watching over us, and I know that I’ll see him again one day.”
Sophia looked up to the sun as she spoke; she really did hope that he was somewhere up there and smiling down at her. She often told herself it was the reason the sun was shining so brightly; it was filled with the love both her father and mother had for her and her brothers.
Penelope stayed for a while longer and gave her some tips about the beginning stages of motherhood and how to combat some of the strange things that would happen to her body. Penelope had married one of the better-off men in the town; he was well known by all, and it was a relatively unanimous opinion within the town that it was a smart match. Sophia smiled as she thought about how her friend had also finally gotten her happy ending; she had the perfect husband and a son who she loved dearly. Sophia felt excited that she was on a similar path.
“You’re going to be just fine,” Leroy reassured her as he placed a comforting hand on her leg. “I’ll be right beside you the entire time.”
Sophia smiled lovingly up at him as she knew he wasn’t lying. He had been so good to her throughout her pregnancy, but there was still one more thing she wanted to do.
“All right, well I suppose I should be getting back before Jeffrey is home.” Penelope sighed as she rose from her chair. She looked so content with her life, and Sophia felt incredibly happy for her.
“I’ll see you soon, though,” Penelope spoke as she nodded to the two of them. “Try not to have the baby when I’m not here!”
“I can’t make any promises with that one, I’m afraid.” Sophia chuckled and shook her head. She waved off her friend and watched as Penelope’s figure got smaller in the distance.
Sophia waited for Penelope to leave before turning to look up at her husband.
“What is it?” he asked with a concerned frown.
“I want to go into town,” Sophia requested. She saw the way his head shook instinctively at this request, but Sophia wasn’t asking him. “I want to go and see my father’s grave, it feels right to do at least that today.”
“I know it would be a nice thing to do, but look how pregnant you are. I’m not sure it’s even a good idea for you to walk around the ranch,” Leroy responded.
“Look, I just want to go and see him. I want to be able to show him my respect today.”
Leroy looked at her for a moment before sighing; he shook his head and moved to stand up.
“I know there isn’t any point in arguing with you,” Leroy said with a deep chuckle. “All right then, but we’re going to take this very slowly.”
Sophia nodded in relief as he helped her to her feet. She kept one hand under her bump the entire time as she slowly made her way down the steps. She knew there would be the people in town who would stare, there always were people who did that, but she had learned to simply get on with it.
She breathed out deeply at the feeling of another kick; they were becoming increasingly frequent as Sophia hoped there was nothing wrong with her. Leroy was so protective of her. Even before she’d fallen pregnant, he was always trying to keep her safe. However, in the last few weeks, his endearing concern had become so much that it was almost overwhelming to her.
“Are you all right?” he asked as they continued down the road and into the main area of the town.
“I’m fine.” Sophia nodded.
She was far too focused on putting one foot in front of the other to notice the people regarding her. However, she could sense their anxiety at seeing that she wasn’t at home while she was so pregnant. Sophia knew it was because a problem could arise at any minute, and she would have to rely on the people around her to get her to a doctor. She didn’t want to become that type of problem, but Sophia wanted nothing more than to see her father’s grave on the anniversary of his death.
By the time they reached the churchyard, Sophia was shocked to see a few people also paying their respects. They were members of the town that had known him over the years and had become rather close with him. Theodore Windrow had lived in Bellmont his entire life; he had made an impact on the town and had helped to build many of the buildings that were still standing even after he was gone.
Sophia smiled as she realized that she was part of his legacy too. She simply hoped that he was proud, nothing more. After getting revenge on Stokes, Sophia was glad to learn that he had been transferred to one of the most secure jail houses in the country and wasn’t going to be coming out any time soon. Knowing that she had avenged her father’s death was a rather satisfying feeling, even if it could have gone a completely different way.
“There are so many people,” Sophia whispered as the group started to disperse.
“Your father was clearly a good man, and he did a lot of good for his town.”
Sophia smiled as she held onto her bump with both hands and made her way over to the headstone. The inscription wasn’t anything too embellished or luxurious, but Sophia felt that it represented him well. Theodore had been a simple man, and he was resting right where he belonged.
“I feel so lucky to have you here with me,” Sophia whispered as she leaned into Leroy’s chest. It was a movement that now felt like a habit for the many times she had done it over the years. Even though two years had passed, Sophia still made sure that her father’s gravestone was always neat and clean. She couldn’t bear the thought of it or the plot around it becoming damaged by the elements in some way.
“I feel so lucky that you found me.” Leroy chuckled. “And now we’re going to face our next adventure together.”
She felt one of his hands join hers as he pressed gently against her stomach. Sophia felt her heart flutter at the thought of meeting their child soon.
“I just hope I’m going to be as good a parent as mine were to me,” she admitted with a small shrug.
“You will be.” Leroy nodded. “You’re going to be the best mother, I can already tell.”
Sophia smiled at his words and moved forward slightly to crouch down by the headstone. She pressed a kiss to her palm gently before placing her hand on the cool stone. It had been bleached in the sun, and there was already yet another thin layer of dust on it, but Sophia had never felt closer to her father since his passing.
She closed her eyes for a moment and spoke to him silently. Sophia liked that many people remembered her father, but she didn’t want them to hear the personal things that she had to say to him.
She told him that she was incredibly thankful for him, that she missed him, and that they would all be reunited one day – she looked forward to that day. Sophia could feel her child moving around inside her and quickly moved to stand up and rejoin her husband as she whispered a loving goodbye to her father.
The town people were starting to move out of the churchyard, some of them touching Leroy on the shoulder as they went. It was a sign of respect and to project their condolences for losing a loved one. Sophia and Leroy smiled gratefully at the older people of the town who had come out to remember her father.
“Shall we head home?” Leroy asked. She could tell that he was anxious about keeping her out for so long.
“I’m fine, but yes, I think we should.”
Sophia took one step before a sudden rush ran through her body; she gasped and whirled her head around to look at Leroy. She could see the realization in his eyes as his face paled slightly. She knew in an instant what it was; there was no mistaking the strange sensation that had come over her.
“The baby’s coming,” she whispered to him.
Before she could properly think about the right thing to do, Leroy had scooped her up in his arms and was walking out of the churchyard.
“We need to get to Doctor Witby,” he muttered as he walked with an urgency that she hadn’t seen in a very long time.
“Don’t worry; it’s fine.” She chuckled as she placed a hand on his chest. “We have time, and I want to savor these moments.”
Leroy looked down at her and tried to crack a smile through his worry.
“Leroy,” she spoke a little more seriously. “We’re going to be fine; all three of us are.”
Leroy nodded slowly as he stared down at her.
“I love you so much,” he spoke in a whisper as he continued to rush through the town and toward the doctor’s practice.
“Me too,” Sophia nodded as she looked up at him. “Now let’s go and have our baby.”