Heart of Stone Ch. 12bypsyche_b_mused©
Author's Note: I want to thank everyone who has taken the time to read, enjoy and review this story. I love knowing what you all think. To the Anonymous reviewer who mentioned my transposition of the "Your" and "You're" in the previous chapter...i HOPE that's the only time it's happened, but it is very hard to see those things when reading my own work sometimes. Unfortunately, i don't know how to go back and fix that now that it's posted. So, i'll apologize and hope you will all forgive me.
I hope you continue to enjoy this - and future - chapters.
Aiden was even more watchful that night than he was usually. Mary had to practically push him out of the bathroom so that she could shower. In the end he only left because she agreed to leave the door open, so that if she fell he would hear her. She had barely dried off when he scooped her up and brought her into the bedroom. Mary found she was too tired to protest. She curled up against him and was asleep before Aiden even got the covers arranged around her.
The next morning, Mary went downstairs early and completely bypassed the rooms where she expected her guests to gather, preferring the kitchen. Joanna and Maureen were both putting the finishing touches on the meal.
"Morning." Mary poured herself a cup of coffee.
"What are you doing in here, Miss? You're guests will wonder if you're still feeling poorly." Maureen said.
"I need a cup of coffee before I face another crowd." She added sugar and a little milk and sat down at far end of the table. "God knows what they're saying about me anyway."
"I'm sure they're all hoping you feel better. You still look a little pale." Maureen handed the fork she was tending the sausages with to Joanna so she could sit with Mary for a minute. "Are you certain that you're feeling alright?"
"I'm fine." Mary said firmly. "I just need to start sleeping a little more. It all smells wonderful by the way." That wasn't the whole truth. The look and smell of the eggs turned her stomach, but she wasn't about say anything. Maureen would have only asked more questions.
"I've been telling you that for the last month." Maureen got up again.
"I know. And I didn't listen." Mary smiled a little, and picked up a platter of pastries. "I'll start bringing things into the dining room."
"You'll do nothing of the kind." Maureen said, taking a platter from her.
"No! I might have gotten used to you wanting to scrub and polish because from what you've told me that's how you were raised, but I'll not let you act like a servant in your own house when you have guests here." Maureen set the platter down again and smiled a little. "Besides, what would they think of me?" Mary laughed a little.
"You win. I'll go be a good hostess." Mary took another long swallow of her coffee. "Where are they?"
"Out on the terrace." Maureen started putting the sausages on a plate and Mary realized how good they looked.
"Thanks." She grabbed one from the plate and ate it on the way out to the terrace. She was surprised that it actually seemed to settle her stomach a little.
Mary was expecting to see Veronica, Caroline, Ramona and Robbie for breakfast. Nigel and Quentin had stayed as well though, and even though she was surprised, she was glad to see both of them.
"Good morning everyone." She noticed that there was coffee and tea set out on two wrought iron tables. Matching chairs were placed in conversation clusters. The assembled group greeted her warmly. She fielded several questions about how she was feeling and how she slept before Joanna announced that breakfast was ready in the dining room. Everyone served themselves and even though Mary took some of the eggs the thought of actually eating them turned her stomach. She concentrated on the sausages and fruit.
"Well, since no one else is going to say it, I will." Veronica said. "Last night was probably the most amazing thing I've ever been a part of."
"It was?" Mary was genuinely surprised. She knew it had gone well - not counting her little spell – but she didn't think it was all that wonderful.
"When we worked with Ambrose it felt like a great physical effort that produced very little result, but his technique was far different from yours." Quentin said. "Where did you find it?"
"Well, I don't know really." Mary sipped her juice. "I read a number of different sources, but none of them really made sense to me so I read through Ambrose's journals. He wrote about searching the literature and choosing the technique that made the most sense to him. I did the same thing, I just got a little more creative."
"Do you fee ready to try waking Esme?" Robbie asked.
"Well, not this morning." Mary laughed softly. "But yes, I think that should be the plan. If we fail I don't think we can make it any worse than it already is."
"It's going to work this time." Ramona's statement was firm and Mary didn't want to be the one to be the voice of doubt.
The rest of the meal was spent in good-natured conversation and laughter. A few possible dates for the attempt to wake Esme were discussed, but without the whole group present it was impossible to make a firm plan.
Only Veronica stayed on for lunch and Mary was glad to have most people gone. Exhaustion had been creeping up on her ever since the middle of breakfast. The only explanation Mary could come up with was the lack of sleep from the previous weeks. At two in the afternoon she lay down for a short nap, and was awakened by Aiden sitting down next to her. She could see the concern in his eyes whenever he looked at her, even though he didn't mention it.
Over the next few weeks, Mary's life seemed to revolve around the telephone, her e-mail and food. She was still trying to find a date to wake Esme. This time it was harder than before. She had expected opposition from Andy and his faction, but he was surprisingly cooperative after her display. From the tone of his voice on the phone she could tell he was grudgingly impressed. Things were simply not lining up with everyone's calendars.
Food was a recent obsession. Mary had always enjoyed a relatively untroubled relationship with food. She liked a balanced diet and wasn't a particularly picky eater, but lately the only balance in her diet seemed to trying to find a happy medium between nausea and ravenous hunger. She noticed that if she was too hungry she got sick, but the smell of just about anything she would normally enjoy could trigger the same feeling. Just the scent of eggs, milk, yogurt and anything sweet made her stomach turn. She hadn't noticed that some of those things even HAD a smell before now. Meat of almost any description was a different story though. There were times that was all she wanted and it always had the ability to settle her stomach.
By the beginning of the third week she was ready to admit that it was more than just nerves or exhaustion, but she was hesitating to call Dr. Carlyle. Mary knew that she was being silly, it just seemed so difficult to pick up the phone. Mary had almost convinced herself to do it when the phone rang.
"Beeson Hall." She answered, silently thanking whoever was on the other end.
"Mary? This is Nigel Pressman." He seemed surprised to hear her answer.
"Hey Nigel, how are you?" Mary asked.
"Doing well, and you?" Nigel had become one of her favorite people in the group, even before her little spell.
"Well, I haven't fainted again." She laughed softly. "I don't think I told you how much I appreciate your help that night."
"It was my pleasure." She could hear the smile in his voice. "I've been looking at the revised dates you sent me, and I think that either the fifth of September or the seventeenth of October would work best for me." Mary made a quick note on her calendar.
"The fifth is looking good. Ramona's the only one who hasn't responded." Mary said.
"You might have to track her down. We all love Ramona, but she's a bit scattered sometimes." She heard him chuckle softly.
"I'll do that, thanks." Mary smiled and made a note of that too, she sighed a little. "Nigel, this is kind of outside the scope of why you called, but I was hoping I could ask you a question or two."
"That sounds rather mysterious." She could hear the smile in his voice. "Ask anything you like."
"I was wondering what kind of medicine you practice." The words came out in a rush, and Mary knew it was obvious how nervous she was.
"Obstetrics and gynecology." Nigel sounded curious. "Are you REALLY alright?"
"I don't know, I think so. The thing is," Mary took a deep breath. "The thing is I think I might be pregnant, and I would rather not have the whole village speculating about the possibility within forty-eight hours."
"When will you be in London next?" He didn't even hesitate. Mary felt all the gathered tension drain out of her body.
"I don't really have any plans one way or the other, but my schedule is pretty open."
"Good. If you can come to my office later tomorrow morning, I'll see to it you get in." He gave her his office address and reassured her that she would be fine. Mary sat back in the chair with her hand over her stomach. It was the first time she said it out loud and she hoped she hadn't jinxed anything. She had already decided to wait and tell Aiden when she was certain herself. Caroline was a different story. She didn't want to go to London alone and she didn't want to lie about why she needed a companion. She doubted her friend would refuse though.
Mary sat in the waiting room, filling out the forms the receptionist gave her and trying to keep her nerves under control. Everything seemed to be taking too long since she got off the phone with Nigel. Dinner took ages. Not telling Aiden seemed to take an eternity, and on the drive there she was beginning to think that someone had moved the city. Now that she was sitting there, everything seemed to be moving too fast. Before she was finished with the paperwork, she was taken into an examination room where a young nurse with a friendly smile and efficient manner took her vitals and a blood sample. She was directed to a restroom and gave a urine sample, then she changed into the gown she was given and waited alone for Nigel.
"Hello Mary." It was a little strange to see him in a white coat, but his smile was the same. "Miss Sinclair tells me you're very nervous." He glanced at the nurse who had taken her vitals.
"I'm trying not to be." She managed a little smile. "I'm still wrapping my mind around the possibilities."
"Nature does her best to surprise us sometimes." Mary had to keep from laughing out loud. He had no idea how true the statement was. "If you don't feel comfortable with me doing the physical exam I can have one of my colleagues come in and take care of that part of it."
"I think I'll be alright, thanks." She smiled again.
"Let me know if that changes. A few questions first though." He asked a number of standard questions and by the time the exam actually started Mary was more relaxed than she thought she would be. Nigel was thorough but Mary found that she was as comfortable throughout as she could have been in that situation. When he finished he told her to dress and Miss Sinclair would take her to his consulting room.
The office was only a short walk down the hallway but Mary felt her butterflies and nausea returning. She took a bite of the beef jerky she had started carrying in her purse and hoped no one noticed.
"Please sit." Nigel moved out from behind his desk and sat in the wing chair next to hers, her chart in his hands. He was smiling and she took that as a good sign.
"Well?" Mary realized the suspense was killing her.
"Well, when the blood test comes back I'll be certain, but from what you've told me and from the physical signs I feel comfortable saying you are pregnant. About six weeks would be my best guess." Mary felt worry and excitement begin to vie for dominance. "Is this good news?" She could see his concern and it brought her out of the jumble of her thoughts.
"Yes!" Her shocked expression gave way to wide smile when she thought about how happy Aiden would be. "This is the best news you could have given me."
"Good." His smile returned. "I want you to start taking the standard prenatal vitamins, and I'll give you the name of a colleague of mine, you'll be in competent hands-"
"No." Mary said firmly, she could feel her heart starting to beat faster. "I can't see someone else."
"Mary, I appreciate your confidence but I specialize in high-risk pregnancies and infertility. You're young, obviously in good health, there's no reason to think you'll have any trouble at all." If she had been anyone else with an ordinary human husband she would have been reassured by his tone and the look of concern in his eyes.
"This is Aiden's baby." The words were out before she could think of a better way to say it.
"Aiden who?" Nigel asked. Mary laughed.
"You know, big guy, wings and a tail? He's pretty easy to pick out of a crowd." She hoped her answer didn't sound too sarcastic. Tears were starting to well up in her eyes.
"You mean-" He stopped and gathered his thoughts before continuing. She could tell he was having a hard time wrapping his mind around it. "My turn to be surprised."
"I know there are rules. He explained them to me, but, we were in love and that was more important than the rules. I think he had a harder time overlooking them than I did." Mary had told the story so many times she was almost used to the silence that followed her revelation.
"Forgive me." He smiled a little. "Thinking back on his reaction when you fainted I shouldn't be all that surprised."
"I never asked what happened that night." Mary knew Aiden would have been concerned, but it never occurred to her that his actions might have been so telling.
"Well, you know that he caught you before you hit the ground, and you know Robbie was standing next to you. Of course when we saw you collapsing Robbie stepped toward you, but the look Aiden gave him was almost threatening. Before anyone could say anything he picked you up and flew back to the house with you. It took Mrs. March and Caroline a few minutes to calm him down, and convince him to let me in to see you." He smiled slightly. "We were all so concerned about you I don't think anyone read his actions as a male protecting his mate. I certainly didn't."
"Caroline knows, and so does Robbie. Some of the others might have guessed. I wanted to tell everyone that first night you all met Aiden, but Robbie advised me not to." Mary started to calm down again.
"Wise advice. There are a few who will have a very hard time with this." Nigel thought for a moment. "I don't want to lie to you, if you had come to me seeking fertility counseling I would have told you that the possibility of you becoming pregnant with Aiden's child was slim and none. I'm not certain that you'll be able to carry this pregnancy to term, or that child will be healthy if you do."
"I don't know either, but the thought of explaining everything to someone else-"
"There'll be no need for that." He waved the thought away dismissively. "I need a bit more information before I can formulate a credible plan, but you've made it through the first six weeks or so on your own and from what I can tell so far your pregnancy is substantially normal. I want you to take the vitamins, but for the moment that's all I'm going to prescribe. If they make you ill, stop taking them and call me immediately, either here or at home. Avoid, caffeine, nicotine, alcohol and for the moment, all medications except the ones I prescribe for you. I want you to avoid stress if you can, that includes physical stress AND emotional stress. Taking a walk is alright, but nothing more strenuous. If you want to sleep more, by all means, do so. If you start bleeding, if you have cramping or any other sign that you're unwell, don't hesitate to call."
"Do you have a card with the office number on it?" Mary asked.
"You'll get a packet at the desk with all of that information and more. I want you to read it thoroughly. Do you think Aiden would answer a few questions for me?" Mary noticed that he had started to jot down notes. The file was angled so that she couldn't read what he was writing though.
"I don't see why not." She smiled a little. "He's going to be so thrilled when I tell him, I think he'll be happy to do whatever he can."
"It's Tuesday, I'll be going back out to the country late Friday afternoon. If you don't mind, I'll stop by then." Nigel's reassuring smile was back.
"I don't mind at all, will Natalie be with you?" Mary met Nigel's wife at the first meeting, and she had to say she really didn't care for the cool woman who looked down her nose at everyone. She didn't relish trying to entertain the woman, but she couldn't very well tell him not to bring her.
"No. Natalie made it very clear some years ago that she prefers to spend most of her time in the country. Besides, I would rather our conversation be private." He made another note, she could tell that he didn't like to talk about Natalie either. "Do you have any questions for me?" He looked over at her.
"One. I've been craving meat lately. Beef, chicken, fish, anything like that. Just the smell of a lot of other things that I would normally enjoy turns my stomach." Mary absently stroked her lower stomach, her eyes on him.
"From what little I know of the gargoyle diet, that's probably not unusual. Try to balance your diet as much as you can for now. If you find there are some things you simply can't tolerate, avoid them and we'll revisit the issue at your next appointment. Anything else?" He smiled.
"No." Mary took a deep breath. "I just don't know how to react to all this. Half of me is VERY excited and the other half is terrified for a million reasons." She laughed a little.
"In this situation I would say that's a perfectly reasonable reaction." He stood and took her hands. "I want to see you here again in two weeks, you can schedule the appointment on the way out with the receptionist. There are some other tests I'm considering, but we'll talk about those on Friday."
"Thank you." Mary smiled, feeling very relieved. "I'm not sure what I would have done if I had to explain this to Dr. Carlyle."
"You're very welcome." He kissed her cheek. "I'll see you Friday evening."
After a big lunch, Mary felt like doing a little shopping. The two women giggled their way through several shops that specialized in baby clothing and furniture and Mary bought a few things. Part of her was still afraid that getting too excited would only lead to heartbreak later, so mostly she restrained herself. She and Caroline were looking at a crib that converted into a twin bed when Mary felt someone looking at her. She lifted her head and saw Darren Rathbun's gaunt face in the shop window. He was still wearing the same neat, but unfashionable suit and his eyes held hers long enough that the saleswoman and Caroline saw her staring. He smiled slightly and a pinched-looking woman joined him. Mary recognized her at once. It was Maggie.
"We have to go home." Mary said quietly.
"Who is that?" Caroline asked. Mary could hear the concern in her friend's voice, but her eyes didn't leave the window.
"Shall I ring for the police?" The saleswoman asked. She sounded just as concerned as Caroline.
"Yes." Caroline said.
"No." Mary said, her tone disconnected. While she watched, the pale man mouthed the words 'See you soon' before he and Maggie disappear into a group of people who happened to be passing.
"Is there somewhere I could sit down, please?" Mary asked, her knees starting to shake. The saleswoman helped her to a chair and offered her something to drink. Mary accepted some water, but the lightness of a few moments ago had dissipated completely.