A Letter from Clara

This following story is for the fans of Across the Distance and takes place a year after the closing of the book. It is my Christmas gift to my readers. I hope you enjoy a bit of “what happened after.” If you have not read “Across the Distance” this is your spoiler warning.

Dec. 5, 1913

Dear Scarlet,
Lately, I’ve been crying, nearly uncontrollably and at nearly everything. We were in the wagon and I saw a hawk swoop down to carry off a sparrow. I cried for the poor little thing, and I did feel badly for it, but then I couldn’t stop. And later I was in the middle of telling Andrew a story which was touching but not particularly so, and I started to cry again.
“I’m sorry!” I said, “I don’t know what’s wrong with me.”
Andrew started laughing and said, “I do,” And then he told me that I’m going to have a baby. Apparently, that’s the only time his mother cries too. She has so many children, I would think she’d be crying all the time, but he says it only lasts the first bit. I didn’t believe him at first, but he was right.
I’m going to have a baby.
I don’t know why it’s coming as such a shock. I always did want children and there’s no reason why I shouldn’t have one now. It’s only that between getting Father settled into his own little place (with a maid who updates us on his health), and nursing poor Tommey, and trying to ready the farmhouse for Andrew’s family, it somehow caught me completely by surprise.

Some of Andrew’s siblings are here and some are still back in New York while his father is finishing up business there. We brought Tommey ahead in a desperate attempt to save his poor lungs, but he continues to worsen even with the fresh air and enough food, and the doctor says only a miracle can save him. Magdala – that’s Andrew’s mother; I can’t quite bring myself to call her my mother yet – believes in miracles, so I’ve not given up on him yet. But this year has been topsy-turvy with selling houses and buying farms and exchanging my life with Father and two servants for one with a husband and ten siblings. I hadn’t even considered adding a baby to the mix.
But I think I’m glad now that we’ve decided to stay on the farm with his family for a year and help get them settled. After that, Andrew wants to keep touring, but if we’re going to bring a baby in the world, I feel better doing it near a woman who’s already done so eleven times.

Actually, I’m terrified and nothing makes me feel better about it but I suppose it’ll be alright in the end. I hope it’s a boy. I want a girl too but I think every girl should have a big brother.
Anyhow, Andrew’s so excited, he went off and made a cradle – by himself. Now, Alistair’s been down to the farm a few times and Andrew seems pretty handy when he’s got someone telling him what to nail where. And he was so pleased with himself, carrying that big old cradle in that I felt obligated to give some sort of encouraging response. It’s enormous and I asked him if he was expecting twins. With two sets of those in his family, he might have been. But he laughed and said he hoped not. That two at a time was completely overwhelming when they both got to crying.
And then he had to leave again and it was the first time he’s left that I’ve actually been glad. Because the cradle is – well, even Andrew admitted it needed some work – but I couldn’t think of a good way to tell him that there’s no chance at all that our child will ever be put in it. If it were a frame for my bed, I’d grit my teeth and climb in and pray to God that it didn’t collapse in the middle of the night. But I’m not about to endanger our baby in that contraption.
Alistair was back in New York and Andrew left for overnight. I paced the house for a good hour, trying to think of what to do. I’d try to fix it myself, at least hammer in a few more nails, but I’m no handier than he is. Besides, Hannah always says ladies shouldn’t work when they’re expecting because they might kill the baby, and I’m not sure how much work that implies. Apparently, all it took was a fall for my mother to lose a baby between me and Vincent. I know so little about babies I couldn’t stand the idea of accidentally hammering the poor thing to death. Instead, I called Father. He’s been better lately without the strain of a looming bankruptcy. He’s not well, of course. He may never be, but his temper has lifted and he’s relaxed a bit as I assure him every time I see him that I’m perfectly content. And he did rather perk at the idea of a grandchild, though I don’t want to ever leave a child alone with him in case he goes back into that frantic mood.
Anyhow. He arrived, and I didn’t have to explain anything. I just gave him a rather desperate look and said, “Help.”
And he glanced at the cradle, looked back at me, and turned back around to find a hammer. I was hoping he could just secure the cradle a little better and Andrew wouldn’t pay enough attention to notice, but once Father got started, he began humming as he sanded down the edges. And it already looked so different, I knew I’d have to tell Andrew something, so I decided to blame most of the change on Father – that it made him so happy I didn’t stop him. And I didn’t. He even carved in little designs and then carried it back outside to put on a stain. Father is a rather good carpenter and I never thought he’d be responsible for making something safe for my child – safer than even Andrew could – but he did. And it’s still far too large but it rocks without jolting, and it doesn’t rattle, and there are no rough sides to offer splinters.
And looking at it, I feel more hopeful about having the baby. Maybe it’ll be the same way. Maybe I’ll just have to do the best I can and trust my family to come along and help me raise the child. Maybe if it’s a girl, I’ll name her Scarlet.

Love,

Clara.

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