With a gasp, Jacey grabbed onto the saddle horn to catch herself from falling. Her legs felt like they could not support her. Major Pauldor glanced at her and then touched her arm.
Jacey shook her head as the blood slowly returned and she could stand again. With a deep breath, she pushed herself up and looked at him.
“We can rest here. I do not mind.”
Jacey shook her head. “You need to get to Heddwyn.”
“I also need to you keep and the child safe. Two days of riding is more than many woman could make it in your condition.”
She shook her head again, meeting his eyes definantly, even though she had to look up nearly three feet. After seeing Dylan, everyone looked twice as tall. “We are only ten miles out from Targo City now. There’s no need to rest. We’ll make it.”
Major Pauldor frowned but nodded. “Let us at least get something to eat while the horses rest.”
To that propostion, Jacey consented, letting him lead her into the inn.
One hour later, they were once again riding towards Targo City. Jacey knew that she would not stay awake much longer. Although she had pretend to be brave and strong, she knew the moment she made it to a bed, she would fall asleep. These past two days had been far too draining on her. Every place in her body ached, her back worse of all from the child.
Almost suddenly, her stomach twisted in a knot and sent a jab of pain up her back and down her legs. She barely kept in a gasp as she pressed her hand to her stomach. For the longest minute, the pain swept through her body. She closed her eyes and let her horse follow Major Pauldor’s, trying to act normal. At any signs that she was having problems, she knew Major Pauldor would stop immediately. Heddwyn needed him though, and she would do everything she could to see Major Pauldor made it.
For the longest time, it appeared that the pain was nothing. She rode quietly, watching as Targo City grew before her. Then, it came again. Again, she silently endured it, though every part of her wanted to scream out in pain. Again, it passed.
After the fifith time of it passing, it dawned on her. She was probably in labor. It fit. The pain, a tightening, like someone was squeezing her chest and yet it came and went.
But–it was too early. She wasn’t due for another month. And not here. Not on the side of the road. She couldn’t! Heddwyn wasn’t here. Even if he never seemed that pleased about the child, she wanted him there. She wanted to see his face soften at the sight of the little one. He wanted to be there.
Jacey gasped as a stronger wave of pain took her, causing Major Pauldor to glance back.
Jacey shook her head, biting her lip.
He immediately touched her shoulder. “Miss Jacey, we need to stop if you’re hurting.”
Jacey shook her head and slowly relaxed. “No. No, we’re almost there.”
“I can’t be having you–”
Jacey looked at him. “We’re almost there. I can make it. It’s only been going on for a few hours and it’s not that bad yet..”
“A few hours and now you tell me?”
“I’ll be fine. Just keep riding.”
Major Pauldor said nothing, but slowly began riding again. Jacey kept up, thankful that her horse was smart enough to follow Major Pauldor’s.
In spite of what she said, the pain increased rapidly from there on out. When they finally came to Targo City, Major Pauldor turned to follow the road around the city and towards Heddwyn’s house.
He turned and looked. “Pardon?”
“We–we should go to his sister’s house. On [something] street.”
Major Pauldor frowned at her. “Is it that bad?”
He turned into the city. “The commander will have my head for putting you at this kind of risk.”
“It’s my choice. I–” Jacey gasped as another wave wracked her body.
Major Pauldor turned but said nothing. Jacey just squeezed her eyes shut and tried to follow him as best as she could. Ever so slowly, it passed.
The crowd pressed close to them, making it difficult to ride through the streets. Although Major Pauldor tried to do the best he could to avoid the more major streets, it seemed like every street was croweded that day. After three more waves of pain and a long detour, they finally pulled up to Eva’s house.
Instantly, Major Pauldor lept from his horse. “This is the right house?”
Jacey nodded and he lifted her carefully off the horse. For a moment she had to cling to him or fear falling. Her legs once again felt like pudding. Instead of waiting, he scooped her up and carried her up the stairs. With his foot he pounded on the door.
It took a moment before one of the children pulled open the door, followed by Eva.
“Jacey!” she gasped.
Jacey turned and gave her a wame smile.
“Pardon, ma’am. Miss Jacey be having her baby right now.”
Eva hesitanted a moment and then nodded. “Of course. Please bring her upstairs in the first room on the left. Sami, go run down the street and fetch Dr. Ladislav.”
Major Pauldor squeezed his way through the door and walked up the stairs. Jacey closed her eyes as another contraction squeezed her body. Gently, he laid her on the bed and moved back.
Jacey opened her eyes as soon as the contraction finished. Major Pauldor stood against the wall, watching her like on guard.
She gave a small smile. “YOu should go.”
Jacey nodded. “Heddwyn will need you.”
“I’ll be fine. Eva will take care of me.”
“He just told you to get me to Targo City. Not watch after me while I have the little one.”
He nodded. “Very well.”
Jacey smiled. “Keep him safe.”
“I will.” With a slight bow, he ducked out.
Eva entered just as he left and came to her. “How do you feel?”
“I could be better.”
“How long has it been going on?”
“Oh, maybe, three, four, five hours.” Jacey shrugged. “Five miles out of town is when the first one came.”
“Can I get you anything?”
Jacey shook her head. “I’ll be fine.” Eva’s face looked so dark that she reached over and squeezed the woman’s hand. “Honest.”
Eva licked her lips. “Heddwyn–didn’t tell you?”
“Tell me what?”
“A…about what you having the baby will… result in?”
Jacey stared at Eva, her mind searching with what she could mean and coming up with nothing. She shook her head. “No. What do you mean?”
Eva shifted a little and then sat down next to her. She didn’t look at Jacey right away, her eyes instead searching the blanket like it contained the words she was to say. “I don’t know how to say this in any gentle manner.” She looked up. “There… has been no successful deliveries of babies from Targoian fathers and Aldroain–or Ketekey as is generally the case–mothers.”
Jacey blinked. “What–are–you saying my baby is going to die?”
“Not–necessarily. But you will.”
Jacey blinked. “What?”
“The foriegn mothers always die during the birth. They bleed out and die. The babies… sometimes make it, sometimes don’t.”
Jacey felt her heart stop, just as the baby kicked her. NEver, had Heddwyn even hinted that having this baby might result in her death. Yet… his grey face whenever she mentioned the baby, so worn, like it was the last thing in the world he wanted. And he hardly ever mentioned it or encouraged anythiing towards it. The signs that he knew were there. He knew that she would die and he said nothing.
“Why–didn’t he tell me?”
Eva took a deep breath. “He didn’t want you to worry about it. He wnated you to be happy for as long as you could be.”
“But–I can’t die now. I can’t! I haven’t even said good-bye to Heddwyn and we weren’t expecting the baby so soon and–”
“You don’t have a choice. No one does, Jacey.”
Jacey leaned back and closed her eyes. Another contraction sequeezed thorugh her. She waited for it to pass before she let out a sigh. “I could have helped him though.”
“He’s stubborn, yes. But he did it with you in mind. He… I doubt he ever expected that you would have the child without him here to tell you.”
Jacey stared at the cieling. The sun danced through the window and sprayed little patterns of light along the cieling. “I–Is it really coming?”
“I would think so. Sami went to get the doctor.”
She pasued. “Can–you get me some paper then? I need to write a letter to Heddwyn.”
Eva nodded. “Of course.”
Three minutes later Jacey sat propped up in bed and leaned over the writing table. For a moment, the blank paper stared back at her, taunting her with the awareness that she did ont know what to possibly say. Jacey took the pen and dipped it in the ink, then took a deep breath and began to write.
My dearest, dearest Heddwyn,
I wish you told me. I wish you let me know that you did not like the child because the child was going to kill me. I wish I knew that it wasn’t because you were so against having children to begin with. I wish I could have been there for you.
I’m sorry you can’t be here. I wish for nothing more than to have you next to me right now and to hold you close and tell you that you’ll be okay. Except I know you won’t be. You’ll be angery and bitter and mad at the world. Don’t worry. I understand.
I only ask that you don’t hold our baby responsible. It wasn’t the baby’s fault. It just–happened. If anything, blame the Aldroian tradition. But don’t blame the baby and don’t hate the baby. Instead, love it, whether it’s a girl or a boy. Love it and care for it and raise it well. Be there as much as you can.
Leave the army. I know you feel like your indebted to it, but stay there after this is going to kill you. You keep telling your soldiers that they have to be levelheaded but you won’t be. Ten years is more than enough for the mess they got themselves into.
I love you, Heddwyn. I love you so much and I wish so desperately that this didn’t have to happen. Don’t regreat anything that happened or anything that you weren’t able to tell me beecause I know it already. I know you better than you know yourself sometime.
I’ll love you forever.