Meant-to-Be Baby(7)

By: Lois Richer


Though she seemed at home here at The Haven, Ben didn’t get the feeling that Victoria lived here full-time. Or hadn’t until recently. Comments from her sisters and her aunts about finally coming home made him want to know more about her.

When Mikey burst out bawling because the apple crisp dessert reminded him of his mom, Victoria didn’t try to change the subject or avoid the topic. Instead she wrapped a comforting arm around his shoulders and encouraged more memories. Within minutes, she had his nephew giggling as she tried to demonstrate his description of butterfly kisses.

Suddenly Ben hoped it would take Tillie and Margaret a while to find Mikey a family, long enough for him to figure out what made Victoria’s gray eyes turn to soot when she didn’t think anyone was watching.





CHAPTER TWO


“Oh. You’re still up.”

Victoria paused in the doorway of the biggest room at The Haven, which was also the only one with a lit fireplace. Tillie and Margaret called this room The Salon but she’d always known it as their family room, the place where they’d shared their lives. Now it was occupied by their visitor.

“Couldn’t sleep. Probably because I ate too much of your sister’s delicious chicken pie.” Firelight flickered across Ben, seated in Margaret’s wingback chair in front of the fire, with Tillie’s lurid purple-and-green afghan covering his legs. “What’s that?”

“Hot chocolate. Want some?” Victoria didn’t want to share with him. In fact, she wished he’d stayed in his room. She wanted to be alone, to think things through, to figure out her next step. But she couldn’t think with Ben nearby because his searching blue eyes made her nervous, fidgety.

Still, he was a guest and the aunts’ lessons on hospitality had been deeply engrained in her.

“I’ll get another cup.”

“Don’t bother,” he called as Victoria scurried away like the frightened mouse she felt but didn’t want anyone to see.

She drew a deep breath for control, patted her unsettled stomach, wondering if morning sickness could also be evening sickness and if its cause now was that her baby knew his mother didn’t have a job now, or even a next step planned. Grimacing, she grabbed another mug and returned.

“No bother. There’s more in that carafe than I can drink anyway.” She filled his mug and set it on the round table, near his elbow. She added another log to the fire before sinking into Tillie’s chair and cuddling her own cup while her brain scrambled for a topic of conversation. Ben beat her to it.

“Are there a lot of fireplaces in this house?” His gaze slid from the river-stone chimney to the massive fir mantel and granite-slab hearth.

“Yes. The Haven was built to be self-sufficient. Thankfully there’s enough deadwood on the property to fuel the fireplaces.” She loved this sagging, worn chair, not for the comfort it offered but for the memories it evoked. “Tom and Jerry were very smart men.”

“Tom and Jerry being?” Ben studied her, one eyebrow arched in an inquisitive expression.

“How long has Aunt Tillie been writing you?” Victoria couldn’t believe he hadn’t heard the whole story already.

“Just over seven months. Why?”

“My aunts started writing letters to military personnel more than twenty years ago when they joined the local Legion. A former colonel suggested those who protect and serve our country might need someone to talk to and since the aunts missed their missionary work, they wrote.” Victoria smiled at the memories of all the service men and women who’d visited The Haven during her teen years. Could she give her child such good memories?

“That’s a lot of letters,” Ben murmured.

“After a couple of years, the aunts developed a format. They usually give some personal history within the first two or three letters. Did they do that with you?” When he shook his head, she inhaled before explaining. “So how did you make contact with Aunt Tillie?”

“She wrote to me, said she was praying for Africa and my name was on the list of servicemen serving there. She asked if I had any special requests. Some of my buddies said I should write back.” Ben smiled. “Tillie was the one who led me to God. So what’s the history of The Haven?”

“That’s a long story. It starts with brothers, Tom and Jerry Havenston, hence The Haven. Tillie and Margaret were nurses and met the two when they were visiting Chokecherry Hollow. The aunts fell in love with the brothers. The four wanted to be married, but the ladies had already promised to go as missionaries to what was then Rhodesia.”

“So I guess the brothers planned to go, too?” Ben asked.

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