epilogue

…Two years later

Samina slowly released a breath as Dr. Halliday unsheathed her gloves and stepped away. Sitting up on the examination table, she peered over to Deidre standing stiffly at her side, anxiety lighting her eyes. Quietly, she reached for her hand and watched Dr. Halliday take her seat behind her desk.

“Well?” Deidre asked, impatience coloring her tone.

Samina bit her bottom lip, her nerves a jumbled mess of apprehension and worry.

Dr. Halliday smiled gently, her kind eyes warding off their fears.

The worry eased off her chest and Samina loosened her hold on Deidre’s hand.

“Congratulations…” Dr. Halliday bust a grin.

Deidre blustered a sob, lifting her hands to her mouth.

Samina gaped in silence, though her heart thudded violently as Deidre wept aloud. Her haggard breath deafened the rest of Dr. Halliday’s words.

Deidre seized Samina by her shoulders and pulled her close as she wept openly. After a few moments of Samina sitting in dazed silence, Deidre leaned back and gazed down at her with tears glistening in her eyes. “My darling baby girl! You did it.” Deidre pulled Samina close to her bosom, weeping all the more.

Within the hour they walked arm in arm to the parked car. Still in a daze, Samina didn’t hear anything but her own thudding heartbeat until she felt a hand on her belly. Her stomach did a somersault and she looked to Deidre’s eyes dancing with tears, eye-shadow smudged.

Samina bit her bottom lip, holding back a smile. “Your makeup, Mom.”

Deidre shrugged easily. “Who cares when I’m going to be a grandmother!” She pumped a fist, letting out a whoop of excitement. “I can’t wait to tell Sheena!”

Watching Deidre round the car to the driver’s seat, Samina felt a smile stretch her lips.

To think that the resident fluttering in her belly wasn’t frazzled nerves over the ground-breaking ceremony tonight but a baby growing in a once-barren womb. She sniffed back tears and ducked inside the car.

Deidre tossed Samina a knowing smile as they got on the main highway. “If I’m overcome with joy, I can only imagine how he’ll feel. Even after a year of waiting, what a miracle.” She rolled her eyes and let out a laugh. “I knew you would get pregnant eventually. God’s timing is never late.”

Indeed. Samina placed a hand over her flat belly, smiling fondly. Even after all this time, the mention of her husband still made her heart flutter like a schoolgirl’s. What if she carried a boy as breathtakingly handsome as he was? Her heart jumped, tears tickling her eyelids as she closed her eyes. She was going to be a mother.

Thank you, God. Really, I’m so grateful.

“Speaking of timing,” Deidre prefaced. “Are you sure you’ll still be able to go tonight? Looks like the storm isn’t going to wait, ceremony or not.”

Samina opened her eyes to the dark clouds forming in the distance.

“Flights might be delayed…What if he doesn’t make it in time?”

She glanced once at Deidre’s furrowed brow. “He promised he will.” Still, a pang of worry niggled the back of her neck. After all their sacrifices, the ups and downs of their relationship, he had to be here to celebrate with her. She bit her bottom lip, rubbing her flat stomach. Especially now, he had to come.

Deidre nodded, ffering her daughter a warm smile. “Well then. If he promised, he’ll show.” She winked and turned to face the road. “With this traffic, let’s pray we get there in time too. I hope you’ve memorized your speech. We can go over it one more time before reaching home and chaos ensues.”

Samina breathed out a calming sigh and allowed herself to smile despite her jittering nerves. “Thanks Mom.”

“Hmm, for what?”

She kicked a shoulder, looking at Deidre’s crooked smirk. “For being my mom.”

Deidre’s smile widened, her gaze warmed and glistened. Then she blinked and blew out a breath. “Oh gosh, I’m gonna cry again.” She and Samina shared a giggle. “Now, start.”

Samina nodded and closed her eyes, summoning the speech in her mind. Taking a deep breath, she began softly as rehearsed. “This is a joyous occasion for the House of Hope ministries as we embark on a new chapter…”

An eagle cawed loudly, swooping over the sycamore tree that provided a welcoming shade from the blistering sun.  Topher opened his eyes as a soft wind rustled the leaves, the breeze tickling his cropped curls.

He rubbed a blade of grass between his thumb and index finger, listening to the eagle’s call as it swooped around the open field, making a round trip past the towering tree.

His gaze fell on the two marked stones to his right and his lips twitched a smile. “I guess I’m not your only visitor…” He leaned away from the tree trunk and grazed the edge of one gravestone with his free hand, eyes skimming over the etchings marked on its face.

Odetta Chance. Beloved sister, wife, friend and mother.

His gaze flitted to the newer stone beside it and his hand followed, caressing the marking. His heart clenched tightly, tears welling up in his eyes as though it was yesterday instead of the one-year anniversary of her passing.

Nadine Chance. Cherished sister, aunt and mother.          

Topher drew in a shuddering breath, his thumb traced the ‘N’ of her name. “Thank you. For making me the man I am today.” He sniffed, rubbing off dirt from the base of the gravestone. “For putting up with me when I gave you a hard time… For giving me the gift of hope, for showing me God.” He closed his eyes and leaned his forehead against the gravestone, tears sliding down his cheeks.

His ringtone broke through the silence and Topher swallowed a breath before tugging the phone from his front pocket. His brow furrowed at the caller ID of Ezekiel Dames and he hesitated briefly before answering.

“You coming?” Ezekiel spoke before Topher could ask why he was calling.

Topher squinted at the line of trees marked in the distance. “I said I would.”

The eagle zoomed down a line of trees, squawking loud and clear.

“Don’t be late,” Ezekiel groused. “She won’t be happy if you are. It’s not every day she gets to lead a ground breaking ceremony.”

“I’m well aware.” Topher glanced down at his phone and grimaced at the ticking clock. “Looks like I already am.” He started to stand.

“I hear congratulations are in order.”

Topher paused on his knees. “About?”

“Aunt Dee told my mom the news about Sam.”

His heart stopped, breath caught in his throat. The eagle circled a tall oak tree and started for the sycamore tree where Topher had laid his mother and aunt’s gravestones.

“You’re going to be a father, Topher. Congratulations.”

Topher dropped on his haunches.

With a loud call, the eagle angled its descent and brushed the trees, loosened leaves dropping around the gravestones.

“Hello?” Ezekiel sounded impatient. “You there?”

A smile twitched at Topher’s lips, his heart now picking up speed. He pushed on his hands and stood slowly, staring out into the open field. “Shouldn’t I hear this from her and not you?”

Ezekiel chuckled low. “Just pretend you’re surprised. She’ll probably be too excited to know the difference.”

Topher’s smile widened, imagining Samina’s lovely face and his body tingled with warmth picturing her belly swollen with their child. His heart fluttered with unbridled joy. He had to go home now. He couldn’t wait a moment longer to hold Samina in his arms.

“I’ll pick you up from the airport. Sam packed you a suit for the event.”

“Thanks.”

“We’ll have to hurry. The chief architect can’t be late either, y’know.”

Topher rolled his eyes, though a smile twitched the corner of his lips. “Got it.”

“See you soon.”

Disconnecting the call, Topher dropped to gaze at the pair of gravestones of the Chance Sisters. His smile softened with fondness for his childhood memories, plus nervous excitement that came when one found out he was going to be a father.

“You’re going to be a grandma… Both of you.” Tears brimmed in his eyes. “I’ll do my best to raise him or her as you did with me.”

He reached forward and dusted off the broken leaves from the stone base before standing. The eagle cawing in the distance made Topher lift his gaze to the darkening sky, his smile sustained. “Thank you.”

The End.

<<Chapter 50 || Cover Page>>

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