Ann had been experiencing labor pains for almost an hour when two other women entered the room. Doctor Sanchez looked up and saw Whitney being supported by her girlfriend, Jonesy. Whitney must have already broken her water by the looks of her sweat pants.
Pat sighed. “Is there a full moon or something tonight? I hope the other two women don’t go into labor too.”
“Pat! Bite your tongue and don’t tempt the fates. Jonesy, help Whitney to that bed over there.”
The two newest arrivals to the hospital glanced at Joseph with curiosity. He grinned and joked that he ought to wear a sign.
“I’m Joseph. I heard Ann call for help and brought her over here.”
Jonesy stuck out her hand. “Ah, so now you’re a labor coach. Good, you can keep me company.” The woman sat her large frame into one of the wooden chairs and pushed her carrot-red hair behind her ears. The door opened once more and Sara came in.
“I told Mary and she headed for the work site. She wanted me to pass on that she gave her permission for you to stay if you want to.”
“Thanks. It didn’t feel right leaving her.”
Pat put up a privacy screen between the two beds and began her examination of Whitney. “Sandra, I think Whitney is going to beat Ann to the finish line. She’s already at eight centimeters,” she said loudly.
“No fair!” Ann whined playfully. “Whitney, I got here first!”
The pregnant woman sent Ann a razzberry. “Tough, I’m not gonna tell this baby to slow down,” she giggled.
The doctors rolled their eyes. It was going to be a long day.
· * * * *
Three hours later Whitney and her new baby boy were resting at the farthest bed while Ann was just beginning her hard labor pains. Joseph and Sara took turns wiping her face with a cool cloth and holding her hands.
“I see the baby crowning,” Pat told Ann. “You’re doing fine.” The push pain eased off and Ann leaned back against Joseph and tried to catch her breath.
“Is it too late to say I changed my mind?”
Everyone chuckled at Ann’s old joke and prepared for the next push pain. The babies were being stubborn but an hour later Pat told Ann that one more push would deliver the first baby.
“Sara! I want you to catch the first one. You’ll be the Godmother to this one,” Ann smiled at her friend. Sara wiped away a tear and nodded with a smile. She moved into position and Pat handed her a soft cloth.
Ann felt her body straining to push the baby along and cried out in pain. Suddenly, the baby slid from body and into Sara’s hands.
“Oh my God! Ann, it’s a boy!” Sarah said, crying with happiness.
Ann laughed between her own tears and watched Sandra take the baby and clean him gently. The doctor tapped the baby on the bottom of his feet and he hiccuped then cried. The doctors tied off the cord and handed the baby to Sara just as another pain had Ann moaning.
“Round two,” Sandra told everyone.
The second baby was being just as stubborn as the first and Ann felt she couldn’t take it much longer.
Joseph knew the look since he had seen it on his own mother’s face during the birth of her last two babies. “Just a little more Ann then you’ll get a nice long rest. You’re doing wonderful and we’re very proud of you.”
“Hey, I want you to catch this one. I need to have a Godfather too.”
“I’d be honored, Ann.”
Pat coached Ann through several more agonizing pains then told Joseph to move to where she was to catch the baby. The construction worker settled himself and tried not to look at anything but the baby’s head.
“This one has a lot of hair,” he commented.
Ann managed to bark out a laugh then began pushing in earnest. Joseph kept the towel in position as Pat gently guided the baby out. Suddenly the baby slid free and into his hands.
“A girl!” Pat told Ann.
They cleaned the baby up and Joseph was handed the little girl while they helped Ann with the afterbirth. He looked down at the tiny thing in his arms and lost his heart to her as well. At the thought, he felt a funny sensation inside as he realized he had fallen for Ann at the very first moment. Joseph looked up at Ann and smiled.
“She’s as beautiful as her mother.”
Ann managed to blush in spite of her exhaustion.
· * * * * *
Joseph knocked on Ann’s door the next day, feeling nervous and gripping the bundle of flowers tightly in his hand. He wanted to bring her gifts but he and the other construction workers were stuck on Mother Earth until the job was done. He settled for bringing her wildflowers and a package of cookies from his cache of goodies that were in his tent.
Sara opened the door and gave him a polite hello. She opened the door wider and invited him in. He looked around the tiny interior. The home was just a square room that held a bed and some furniture. There was a fireplace on one end and another door near the rear wall.
He looked at Ann and smiled shyly. “Hello, Ann. I wanted to bring more but, well, here,” he said, handing her the cookies and flowers.
“It’s the thought that counts, Joseph. Sara, could you put these in water for me?” Ann saw a fleeting look of pain on her friend’s face before she smiled and took the flowers. Ann guessed at the cause. Sara could see the attraction between she and Joseph.
Although Sara knew that Ann and she could never be a couple, she had hoped in her heart of hearts that Ann wouldn’t find anyone for a long time. Sara felt guilty for being jealous and petty minded. Ann had every right to seek happiness and build a family. By the looks between the construction worker and Ann there was a possibility that he would remain behind when his co-workers left Mother Earth. She had better push aside her petty feelings and be nice to the man or risk losing Ann’s friendship.
“Of course. They are beautiful flowers,” she acknowledged with a weak smile. She found an empty ceramic crock and filled it with water from the washing pitcher. She then inserted the flowers and placed them on the small table so Ann could see them from her bed.
Sara then peeked at the twins and made sure they were still asleep. “They’re still sleeping. I think I’ll sneak off to the kitchen and get a bite to eat. Is there anything special you’d like me to bring back?”
“Anything will be fine, Sara. Thanks.” Ann knew Sara was just making herself scarce so the two of them could talk privately. She was grateful for her friend’s thoughtfulness and nodded. Sara smiled back and left.
Ann lifted her eyes to the man standing next to her bed and felt her cheeks redden. His eyes were looking down on her with warmth and attraction. Joseph saw the blush and brought a chair to her bedside and sat down.
· * * * *
Cierra was writing in the ‘official’ record-keeping journal. In it she wrote down the three new names of the children and their parents and the date. The mothers had agreed to the new tradition of using the father’s surname as the child’s middle name to keep parentage clear.
Whitney Brown’s and Jonesy’s child was named Benjamin Forester Brown. Ann Hatch’s twins were named William Ross Hatch and Sherry Ross Hatch. Ann had rejected the idea of rhyming her children’s name. William was named after an ancestor and Sherry after her mother. Jenny, not knowing the name of the donor gave her daughter the middle name of Sidney (Cyd’s actual name) since they thought the odds of their child ever marrying a relative was minimal.
She closed the book and sighed.
JP looked away from her plate at Cierra. “What’s wrong? That was the saddest sigh I ever heard.”
“Nothing really.” She looked at her spouse who lifted a brow in disbelief. Cierra knew she was a terrible liar and confessed. “We have four births listed so far but no marriages. I was thinking for a lesbian community we sure never thought about making relationships formal here.”
“Making marriages legal? Hell, why not? I say anyone on the council should have the right to marry couples.”
“You think so? We should bring it up next time we meet. I’m sure there are a few people who would like to make it legal,” she grinned, leaning up for a kiss.
JP kissed her automatically then froze. “Was that a proposal?”
“Yeah, I think it was.”
JP pulled Cierra tight against her for an intense kiss. She broke it then smiled. “Yes, I accept.”
The shaman returned the smile and hugged JP for all she was worth. It was about time that they made a formal promise between the two of them. She loosened her grip on JP then stood up on the bench under her. She raised her voice so everyone in the building could hear her.
“Guess what everyone? I asked JP to marry me and she said yes!”
The people in the dining area and kitchen shouted their approval. The people nearest the happy couple offered their congratulations.
“I think it’s time for another party,” Cyd said loudly. Everyone one agreed. Between Cierra’s announcement and the birth of three babies everyone wanted to celebrate. The harvests were in and prepared and now everyone could relax to enjoy their good fortune.
· * * * * *
Cierra and her protectors quietly went into the Old World with a supply of trade goods and gold. They didn’t want the other people in the community know what they were up to. The only person informed was Sharon so she could plan accordingly.
On the day of the party Cierra jumped to the Old World and returned with Jim and his family in the beaten van. The women gathered around as the beaming man got out and slid open the side door. Inside he had stacks of trays inside Styrofoam boxes to keep the food warm. Sharon and her crew took the food inside the barracks where the preparations for the party were under way. Jim brought out several large boxes and a two-wheeled furniture dolly and took them inside.
Kelly greeted Jim’s wife, Katie, and her two children, James Jr. and Missy.
“Hi, it’s good to see you all again. Hey, it’s chilly out here so let’s go inside, okay?” In the communal building she rejoined Laura and Jenny and made introductions all around. As the adults sat down a small group of the local kids went up to the new kids and invited them out to play. Katie nodded and the youngsters eagerly left to join the others outside.
Jim’s wife sighed and looked around the building. “It’s amazing here. Jim told me all about it and I saw some of Kelly’s photos but it just doesn’t show the scale of everything, does it? It just takes my breath away.”
Jenny smiled. “We’ve gotten used to it. Sometimes I look around myself and remember what it all looked like before we began building. The village is growing in leaps and bounds. We’ve already spoken with the crew building the Embassy. The owners of the construction business will build for us here. We get a break on the costs in exchange for gold ore and the right to advertise as being the sole crew permitted to work on Mother Earth.”
“I thought you wanted to do all the work yourselves?” Katie mentioned.
Jenny nodded sadly. “We do but we are killing ourselves trying to build and farm at the same time. There are just so many hours in the day. We figured if the next four long houses were build by them we could catch up on other projects. We also want to do a little exploring. We haven’t had time and after the scientists get here they will know more about the layout than we do.”
Mary Webb walked up behind the chatting women and winced. She hadn’t brought up a request with the council yet but perhaps speaking with Jenny and Laura first would help ease into the subject.
“Hello ladies, may I join you?” the Colonel asked. She joined the women at the table and took a sip of her herbal tea.
Mary cleared her throat. “You know, the scientists are thrilled you’ve agreed to let them come here but they expressed a concern.”
Laura sensed that the officer wanted to say something and was trying to ease into it. “Oh?”
Mary glanced at the older woman and knew she wasn’t fooling her at all. “They are worried about wandering around on horseback. You banned anything gas powered and taking along armed guards in any quantity.”
“Yes, we know this,” Laura said dryly, “so what are they suggesting now?”
The Colonel swallowed hard knowing this could blow up in her face. “One of them suggested having Cierra transport a ship to Mother Earth.”
Jenny touched her arm to get her attention. “A ship? Like a yacht?”
Mary made an apologetic face. “Not exactly, more like the Coast Guard training ship—but it’s wind powered!” she added quickly.
Jenny’s green eyes narrowed. “Training ship? Exactly how big is this thing anyway? You’re sweating so I know there’s more to it than a small yacht.”
A huge sigh left Mary’s lips. “It’s a three mast cutter ship. It holds a crew of over 200--”
“No way in hell!” Jenny screamed, jumping to her feet. Rissy woke up and cried at her mother’s raised voice. Jenny shushed the baby then hissed at the Colonel.
“There is no way the council will allow than many to enter Mother Earth. Many of us don’t trust the government and military now and you want to send enough armed people here that could overwhelm us if they wanted to?”
“Jenny, it’s not what you think. This is a training ship for the US Coast guard. There are only fifty officers and crew on board and the rest are Cadets who are learning to sail. We could limit the number of cadets so more scientists and equipment can be brought along. Hell, we could even have you set a limit on the number of weapons taken along if you wanted.”
“Yeah, right,” Cyd said from behind her. “Like we could find every stash on board that ship if we searched it. The damned thing is made of metal and about 300 feet long. There’s no way we’d ever be certain that your commanders didn’t hide enough weapons to take over the world in that much space.”
Laura agreed. “I say no also. If the scientists want to explore they can do it on horseback or not at all.”
Mary felt the fight leave her. She knew the women would have hated the idea from the start but had to try. She nodded at the women and didn’t try to convince them further.
Continued in Part 13
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