Monday, May 4, 2015

Chapter 255 What's the use?



Cassandra pushed the door and peeked inside before coming into the restroom. She immediately saw Catherine at the far end bending over a white wicker changing table equipped with everything a baby could need. She was cooing to her now quietly content baby.

Hello, Mrs. Delaney,” Cassandra said, tentatively coming forward.

Catherine pulled her eyes away from the baby and stared. “Hello...”

Cassandra,” she said, smiling down at the baby.

Yes, I remember your name,” Catherine said, eying her curiously.

She's much happier now, I see,” Cassandra said, offering her finger which the baby grasped straight away making her smile. “She is so adorable.”

Yes, I think so, too,” Catherine remarked. “You like babies then?”

Cassandra shrugged. “As much as the next person, I suppose. I have many cousins so I've been around babies forever. I know how special they can be....nice to have one around.”

You're a bit young  to be thinking of having one of your own...”


Oh, no....no, no, no! I don't want a baby of my own...certainly not now!” Cassandra nearly shouted.

Good to hear,” Catherine said.

I... I'm just used to them,” she added, licking her bottom lip before she bit down on it debating what to say next. “I wonder, Mrs. Delaney, if I might ask you a question...if you don't think it's impertinent, that is?”

Slightly amused, Catherine said, “Well, if I find it incredibly impertinent, I won't answer. How's that?”

Cassandra nervously laughed. “Fair enough,” she said, gathering her thoughts. “How old were you when you had your sons?”

Catherine took her time before answering, refastening the velcro on the new cloth diaper decorated with holly berries for the holiday season. “That might be as impertinent a question as they come, because if you know Simon's age and you do some quick, simple math you will then know my age, which is not what I like to divulge to just anyone."

Cassandra nodded, her cheeks going pink. "Sorry, I thought it might be..."

"No worries. You don't strike me as someone who would go telling the world my age, as if anyone would want to know. I was thirty when Simon was born and three and a half years later Ronnie came along. And by the way, had I had Ronnie first, there would not have been a Simon.”

Cassandra stared in wide eyed wonder. “Why?”

They say childbirth is painful, and it is, but with Ronnie it was...” Catherine shook her head as if ridding it of a horrid memory. “Torture.”

I'm sorry,” Cassandra said, frowning slightly. “I guess that means Simon's your favorite.”

Catherine threw her a scorching look, but as Cassandra had been looking down at the baby, she missed it. This gave Catherine the opportunity to think back to Ronnie's birth and she shuddered.

You have no idea...obviously since you've never had a child, but you could never understand the incredible sense of relief I felt after he was out of me. He quite literally was killing me. I never felt such pain,” Catherine said defensively.

Really? Was he a breech birth or cesarean?” Cassandra asked.

No, nothing like that. A cesarean might have been less painful...even without anesthesia.”

Cassandra laughed until she saw the serious expression. "You're kidding, right?”

Being I never had one I couldn't say for certain, but when you have a kid that's nearly twelve pounds pushing to get out...it's... it's no picnic, so a few stitches...” Catherine said, shaking her head grimly.

Wait...twelve pounds?” Cassandra shrieked. “You most be joking!”

I wish I was,” Catherine said ominously. “I would have preferred stitches and the scar.”

Cassandra, with her mouth open in shock, stared at the baby. “I doubt she weighs twelve pounds yet,” she said.

She was born so tiny, barely six pounds,” Catherine said, smiling as she readjusted the baby's clothes. “She's not even nine pounds yet. Ronnie is the reason I was so reluctant for so long to have another child, but...I really don't know why I'm telling you all this.”

Cuz I asked. So, um...then this cutie came along to change all that,” Cassandra said, smiling once again at the baby. “We would need two of you to make one Ronnie!”

Yes, I suppose so,” Catherine said, thoughtfully. “Do you mind watching that she doesn't roll over off this thing? I know she's probably too young still, but...”

You can never tell,” Cassandra finished for her, placing her hands protectively on the baby. “I'll watch her and keep her safe.”

Catherine went to the sink and washed her hands, a nagging thought bothering her as she took out a comb and fussed with her hair a bit and touched up her makeup. All the while she listened to Cassandra talking to the baby.

Mommy must love you extra, Andrea. Yes, she does cuz you didn't hurt Mommy like that, did you?” Cassandra said in an animated voice perfect for capturing a baby's attention. “No, you were not like that big old twelve pound monster Ronnie. He hurt Mommy so much that she won't ever forget it and maybe not ever forgive him for it. But you wouldn't do that cuz you're a perfect little angel, aren't you? Yes, you are cuz you would never hurt anyone, least of all Mommy!”

With unseeing eyes, Catherine stared at her reflection, lipstick only done on her upper lip when she paused, Cassandra's words finally beginning to sink in. Had she been holding a grudge on Ronnie for something which wasn't his fault? It's not like he planned on getting that large and causing such discomfort. She was the one scarfing down those grilled cheese sandwiches like nobody's business so that she gained well over fifty pounds, twelve of which attached itself to baby Ronnie. It wasn't his fault and yet...hadn't she been punishing him all this time for it?

This baby, Andrea...was she so much better than Ronnie? Was she deserving of so much more love because she had shown up like a stork delivery, no pain, all joy? Was Catherine truly such a callous mother? Was she no better than Repunzel's Mother Gothel, just as Georgiana mentioned? They both stole babies to get what they wanted, after all.

May I hold her for a minute, Mrs. Delaney? I'll be very careful. I know how to do it properly,” Cassandra said. When she got no answer she turned toward her. “Mrs. Delaney...are you okay?”

No, she was not okay. She felt ashamed of herself for the first time in many, many years.... since she vengefully stepped away from her marriage to Victor when he did nothing wrong.

Mrs. Delaney, I hope you're not upset about what Sophie said...and me. I meant no disrespect. It's just...” Cassandra said. “I just knew how unhappy Ronnie was about having to go to a business school and...”

Andrea isn't mine,” she whispered.

Pardon?” Cassandra said.

Catherine turned to her, the baby now crying again. “Could you...please?”

Cassandra swiftly but gently took the child in her arms and she quieted down right away.I'm sorry, I don't know what you mean,” she said.

I...we... she's adopted. I didn't give birth to her so she's not really...mine,” Catherine said.

Oh!” Cassandra said. “Oh, I didn't know that. How nice! But you gave her a home so of course she's yours now. Did you know her parents...her birth mother? I might know her.”

Catherine stared in horror at this tiny girl, barely out of high school herself, marveling how comfortable she looked with the baby, although in all honestly she looked more like a babysitter, or at best an older sister, but Catherine knew otherwise. The baby's mother could easily be this girl or any other teenager girl she saw on a daily basis in and around Catalpa Valley. How stupid she had been not to see this complication sooner!

I'm sorry, what did you say,” Catherine said, completely thrown off base.

Did they choose you and Mr. Delaney to raise her? Her birth parents, I mean,” Cassandra asked.

Yes, they did,” Catherine said, straightening her shoulders, stretching to her full height, this sudden and inexplicable guilt vanishing as quickly as it came, replaced with self-perservation.

Do you know them?” she said eagerly. “I ask cuz I knew a few girls from school who were pregnant and thinking of giving up their babies. I remember their due dates were around September or October. You said Halloween was Andrea's birthday. I just wondered if this might be Noreen's or Sheila's baby...I mean, used to be their baby. Andrea's all yours now, cuz...she just is. When you give up your baby, that's it.”

Catherine shook her head, a dreadful panic starting at the base of her heart. It never occurred to her how quickly her cleverly woven web of lies could unravel if someone only took the notion to discover the laughably easily available truth.

It was all done anonymously,” she said a bit more harsh than she intended.

I see, then I won't mention it to them when I see them again, even though...I'm sure they'll be happy to know little Andrea is well looked after and so loved,” Cassandra said, smiling at the baby. “It's probably better that way.” She then took a deep breath and looked up, anxiously. “I'm sorry if I upset you before. It's why I came in here in the first place, to apologize and... I hope you don't take it out on Sophie.”

Sophie?” Catherine said, distracted by this new and disturbing information which could pull the rug right out from under her and lose her the baby she so desperately wanted.

About Ronnie,” Cassandra said. “She...we just care about him so much, you know? He looked so embarrassed and uncomfortable and...he's so sweet that we...”

Catherine frowned slightly. “I don't quite understand you, Cassandra. Are you dating Simon while you're in love with Ronnie or...what is this?”

Uh...I'm not,” she said, shaking her head adamantly.

Not what exactly.”

Not really dating Simon, although I do kinda like him... a little...when he's not being mean to Ronnie, but I'm definitely not in love with Ronnie. I mean, he's really nice and all but...we're just friends and even if I did like him like that I would never do that to Sophie cuz she's been my best friend since forever and she's been in love with...” She abruptly ceased her rambling chatter and bit down on her lip looking as guilty as sin. 

Catherine knew the feeling...when she thought about her own mistreatment of Ronnie and the true reason she was so hard on him.

I shouldn't have told you that. She'll kill me!” Cassandra whined.

I see,” Catherine said, taking the baby from her and placing her into the stroller, tucking the lacy pink blanket around her. “Sophie is in love with my son and he's in love with her, too, apparently. I don't see that being a problem.”

Cassandra gasped. “No, I never said that! I mean...I didn't mean to.”

You didn't have to say it at all,” Catherine said, steering the stroller to the door waiting for her to open it. “I could tell just by the way they were looking at each other, but don't worry. The secret is safe with me. Only thing I want to know is why they won't at least tell the other. What's the use of being in love if you don't let the other person know?”

Cassandra would like to know that too.



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