"This is another enjoyable book by Jo Huddleston.... the plot is what draws you in." --Victoria, a reader

Chapter 1

Tuesday, March 2, 1954
Talasia, Mississippi

    Alice Patterson bolted upright in the bed and listened for what had awakened her. She heard nothing out of the ordinary. Only the hushed, even snores from her husband Paul’s side of the bed. The black hole in her recurring nightmares must have invaded her subliminal mind—again. She had awakened before she sank into its depths. Paul still slept. Obviously, she hadn’t screamed out this time.
   She eased from beneath the covers, pushed her feet into house slippers, and grabbed her pink terry cloth robe lying across the foot of the bed. After stepping into the hall and pulling the door shut, she stuffed her arms into her robe and tied the sash around her waist. She knew her house, even in the night, and walked to the darkened bedroom next to hers and Paul’s.
   Pale light from the street lamp outside huddled beyond the curtains covering the lone window. Standing in the middle of the room, she peered toward the baby bed, then her gaze focused on the rocking chair with the golden cushions padding its back and seat. She went to the small chest placed against the wall across the room and opened the music box sitting atop it. The tiny box played its shrill rendition of “Brahms’ Lullaby.”
   Alice sat in the rocking chair and idly moved it with one foot grazing the hardwood floor, her arms empty. She remained there even after the music box played its last note. Blinding light burst from the hall and pierced the darkness of the room to reveal the baby bed. Empty.
   Paul’s voice reached her through the night. “You all right?”
   Would she ever be all right again? She turned toward the open door where her husband’s silhouette stood in dark contrast to the brightness behind him. “I couldn’t sleep.”
   “It’ll be daylight soon. Come on back to bed. If you can’t sleep, at least you can rest your body. You need to conserve your energy to help regain your strength.”
   Paul repeated what Dr. Stallings had told her before he released her from the hospital ten days ago. But what did she need her strength for? She no longer carried the baby they’d both dreamed of. Her body was now empty like her arms and the baby bed.
   In his pajamas and on bare feet, Paul entered the room and crouched beside the rocking chair. He took her hand that gripped the arm of the rocker. “You’re cold. Come back to bed and get under the quilts.”
   She allowed him to ease her from the chair and guide her to their bedroom, his strong arm encircling her waist. Finally settled beneath the covers and the lamp turned off, Paul’s body heat radiated to her. Soon her skin warmed, but her insides still trembled with the chill of gloom. Paul’s efforts couldn’t thaw the ice surrounding her heart.
   “Alice?” Paul waited for her response. When none came, he continued. “Sweetheart, we’ll get through this, we will. Don’t give up. You’re exactly where God wants you at this moment. And you’re where I want you—in my arms.”
   After a bit, Alice turned toward Paul. “Thanks for trying to help me. I guess my mind takes its time to catch up with what my body has gone through. I’ll be all right. Please give me a little more time.”
   “I’ll give you all the time you need.”
   She rolled to her right, facing her side of the bed. She didn’t want him to detect the tears that leaked from her eyes.
   He moved close behind her. “You’re warmer now. Let’s get a short nap before the alarm clock goes off.”
   Soon, Paul’s soft snores caressed her back, but sleep didn’t come to Alice. Her thoughts roamed wildly. Surely this is not where God wanted her at this moment—grieving for a lost child who never took a breath, who never saw its parents’ smiles, never felt their love. How could a good God put her through this? She couldn’t speak that thought aloud in Paul’s presence. He was Mr. God-Will-Work-Everything-Out-For-Good.
   When they’d married four years ago, Alice agreed with him. After her miscarriage, doubt had crept into her heart and taken up residence there. How could Paul continue his patience with her? She had become a burden to him.

Copyright 2017 Jo Huddleston

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