Because of Rebecca - By Leanne Tyler
“You must try, dearest.” Rebecca wiped her sister’s brow with a damp cloth and held her hand as another contraction came.
Mariah’s face contorted. “I—I can’t.”
“Just one more push,” Doctor Baldwin ordered from the foot of the bed.
“It’s too hard,” she screamed and squeezed her sister’s hand, bearing down on the bed.
“Now, take a deep breath and push,” he instructed.
She screamed with the push and a drawn out silence filled the room. Then Mariah gasped and slumped against the bed, her wool gown, limp and soiled, crushed against her bloodstained thighs.
Finally, the baby’s wail broke the silence and brought tears of joy to Rebecca’s eyes. The doctor handed him to her to hold while he severed the umbilical cord.
“Let me see him,” Mariah urged in a faint voice. She touched her sister’s arm and Rebecca turned, holding the baby in the lamplight for her to see.
“A fine boy.” Baldwin wiped his brow with his forearm. “You did well.”
When the cord was severed Rebecca carried the new life over to the dresser, where a washbowl waited with warm water, and she proceeded to bathe and swaddle him.
“I’ll call him Lucas.” Mariah’s weak voice was barely audible. “Lucas Samuel Davis after Papa. What do you think?” Her voice wobbled as the doctor finished up the delivery.
“I think it’s perfect.” Returning to the bed, Rebecca sat on the edge and handed Lucas to his mother once the doctor left her side.
She smiled down at her son, and kissed his soft, tiny head. In the next instant, her eyes closed and she winced for a moment.
Rebecca watched her sister’s face contort and her eyes cloud as she took in a quick breath. “Are you all right, dearest?”
“I want you to take him,” Mariah murmured, making another face as she took a shallow breath. “Raise him as your own. Tell him,” she paused, “tell him I loved him dearly.”
She pushed the baby back into Rebecca’s arms and reached for one of her hands, unable to grip it. “Never let Stuart Delaney near him. Promise me.”
Puzzled by her sister’s request, she took Mariah’s hand in hers and agreed. “I promise, but you can tell Lucas yourself how much you love him. After a little rest you’ll feel better. The worst is over.”
“No,” Mariah whispered, closing her eyes. Her head slumped back against the pillow and her hand slipped out of Rebecca’s as she drew a ragged breath.
“Oh God.” Rebecca’s voice rose in pitch. “Doctor, come quickly. What’s happening?”
He rushed from the washbowl to the bedside drying his hands on his trousers in haste. “Go get your aunt.”
Rebecca hurried from the room with Lucas safely in her arms. She found her aunt kneeling before her mother’s rocking chair in the small parlor near a warm fire. The smell of fresh cut pine draped over the mantel permeated the room.
Josephine, wearing her prayer veil, looked up expectantly, wiping tears from her face.
“The doctor has asked for you,” she pleaded. “Please hurry.”
Her aunt crossed herself before rising to her feet. She pulled back the blanket and looked at the baby. “He lives, but Mariah dies for the sin committed.”
“Don’t say that,” Rebecca admonished in a hushed whisper. “Whether you believe her or not, she truly thought Delaney had married her that night on the riverboat.”
Josephine shook her head. “One day you’ll understand.” She turned and walked toward the door, but before she reached it the doctor appeared, wiping his bloody hands on a towel.
“I’m sorry, Miss Davis, I did all I could, but she’s gone. Your sister hemorrhaged and by the time I got to her it was already too late. I couldn’t stop it.”
“But—but—” she sucked in her breath until her chest ached.
Josephine crossed herself and kissed her rosary, murmuring a silent prayer.
Lucas wailed. Rebecca bounced him in her arms and began to weep, recalling her sister’s last words. She’d found them odd at the time, but now she had to wonder how had Mariah known she was dying? Had she sensed this was the end? Had the pain she felt after the birth been more than she showed?
It wasn’t fair. Lucas needed his mother. She needed her sister. She’d already lost her parents, yet she was expected to give up her sister too. For an instant she allowed herself to sink in despair, but Lucas stirred in her arms and she remembered Mariah’s last request. She’d promised to take Lucas as her own. She’d agreed without knowing what she was doing, but she didn’t regret it. Nothing