Stories from Lightport, Massachusetts
More stories from your favorite characters in The Front Row Series
Stories from Lightport, Massachusetts
More stories from your favorite characters in The Front Row Series
Summary: They've come a long way, but sometimes Chloe Wren Barrett still forgets she isn't alone, and sometimes Micah Barrett forgets he's been redeemed. Thankfully, they have each other to remind them.
The microwave makes its dull whirring sound, and Luke Barrett spins around the room in tune to its rhythm. His brother Lincoln sits on top of the kitchen counter, peering into the large bowl next to him.
“Does the chocolate go in first, Daddy?” the four year old asks.
“No, Lincoln,” Luke corrects him in a bossy tone, “you have to pour the hot fudge all over it so it’s nice and chocolately, right Daddy?”
Micah chuckles, thinking how he sounds exactly like his mother. As if said woman can read his mind, Chloe calls out from her spot on the couch in the living room.
“You better not be letting Lincoln sit on the counter top, Micah Barrett!”
Micah exchanges a sheepish, guilty look with his two boys, then grins mischievously. He winks at them both as he answers his wife, “Of course not, sweetie.” Lincoln starts to giggle, then claps his pudgy hands over his mouth as his brown eyes widen.
“Riiight,” Chloe quips, but the snap is out of her voice. She’s nine months pregnant, and doesn’t see the point in fighting over all that much.
Micah opens the bag of pretzels and shakes them into the bowl just as the timer dings on the microwave. Luke bounces up to open the microwave, and Micah shakes his head, still finding it hard to believe the boy is tall enough now to reach it.
“It’ll be hot,” he warns his son.
Micah grabs the oven mitts and carefully removes the jar of hot fudge. He slowly pours it into the bowl of pretzels, using a spoon to stir it.
“Why ya gotta stir it?” Lincoln asks, leaning over the bowl.
“If you don’t,” Micah explains, “not all the pretzels get covered in the fudge.”
“Ohhhh,” Lincoln says, as if Micah has imparted vast knowledge.
He lets both boys stir a little until the mixture is, as Luke and his mother so eloquently put it, “chocolatey.” Lincoln hops down from the counter before Micah can stop him, and he winces when the boy’s head comes dangerously close to hitting the edge.
“Can I carry Mommy her treat?”
“Snack, Lincoln, not treat,” Luke corrects with a roll of his eyes, “she’s not a dog like Lightning.”
“He can call it a treat if he wants to,” Micah admonishes his older son as little Lincoln’s face falls. He remembers all too well what it was like to be the baby brother on the receiving end of constant bossy lectures. He loves Josiah, but he could be a self-righteous know-it-all at times, too. He sees it sometimes in Luke, and it bothers him. Chloe says it’s just an oldest sibling thing.
Micah gives Lincoln the bowl, but knowing well the lack of coordination in four year olds, he helps him grasp the sides, then stays close beside him as they walk to the couch. Chloe’s eyes brighten as Lincoln proudly gives her the “treat,” and Micah knows her reaction has more to do with the beaming little boy than the contents of the bowl.
“Thank you, Lincoln!” she enthuses. “You are so sweet!”
She leans over to give him a kiss, and then gives one to Luke as well when the seven year old pouts that he helped too. Micah then shoos them off to bed, eliciting more pouts.
“Your mother needs peace and quiet to relax,” he admonishes them, “and it’s past your bedtime anyway.”
Both boys frown in exaggerated fashion, but shuffle down the hall anyway. Micah waits to hear the sink running to ensure they are brushing their teeth. When both bedroom lights click off, he returns to the couch. He shoos Lightning, the golden retriever, off Chloe’s feet. The dog, who he swears now prefers Chloe over all others, slinks with disappointment to her dog bed in the corner. Micah settles in at the opposite end from Chloe, lifting her badly swollen feet and settling them in his lap.
“I warn you, they’re disgusting,” she tells him around a sticky mouthful. She swallows, then continues, “I feel like I could stick a pin in them and water would gush out.”
Micah struggles to mask a grimace as he begins to knead the pads of her feet. She isn’t exaggerating, they feel like water balloons. “Don’t be silly, Wren, they aren’t disgusting.”
Chloe laughs out loud. “Liar! Don’t forget; now that we’re married, I can read you pretty well.”
Micah smiles sheepishly and shrugs, “Okay, I admit. They aren’t . . . pleasant. But you’re on your feet all day at work, you need some relief.”
Chloe relents, leaning her head back and sighing with pleasure. She pops a sticky pretzel in her mouth as she scrolls through Netflix, choosing a romantic comedy. Micah shifts so that his back is against the arm of the couch and his legs are stretched along Chloe’s. He continues to massage her feet, which are feeling slightly less like water balloons and slightly more like normal appendages. He isn’t looking at the TV, instead studying his wife’s face. She looks content, yet there’s fatigue around her eyes.
“I’m so glad I’m here,” he finally says.
Chloe turns from the TV with a confused expression, “What do you mean?”
“I mean, I’m glad you don’t have to do all this alone this time around.”
The furrow in Chloe’s brow deepens, and she shakes her head, “But I wasn’t alone with Luke. You were there.”
Micah lets out a shaky breath. He’s left the past behind, but it doesn’t mean he doesn’t still have regrets. The biggest being how deeply he hurt Chloe. “Not really, Wren. Remember all the appointments I missed? How I constantly let you down? How because of the drugs I was just one more burden for you to carry?”
Chloe’s face sets itself in firm lines as she clicks off the TV and sets the bowl on the floor by the couch. She reaches her hands out towards him. “Come here.”
Micah obeys, squeezing himself between his wife and the back of the couch, wrapping one arm around Chloe and resting the other across her swollen abdomen. Chloe cups his face with her hands and kisses him thoroughly. When she pulls back, she rubs her thumbs across his cheeks as she stumbles over her words.
“I usually speak with actions,” she chuckles, “hence the kiss.”
“I’m not complaining,” he tells her with a grin.
Chloe’s eyes narrow in intensity. “But hear this, Micah Barrett. If there’s one thing God has taught me in the last couple of years, it’s that the past doesn’t dictate our future. We made mistakes when we were young, we both did, but Jesus is all about fresh starts and second chances. Right?”
Micah turns his face to kiss Chloe’s palm, grasping her wrist in gentle fingers. He rubs his thumb over her pulse point, then leans down to press a light kiss to her lips. “Maybe you should preach next Sunday,” he chuckles.
Chloe’s eyes sparkle as she shrugs one shoulder, “Let your dad know he can take the day off.”
Their laughter turns to playful kisses, which turn to passionate ones. Micah runs his hands along the swell of Chloe’s breast, enjoying the moans he elicits from her. He rests his hand against her womb where their daughter is growing, and a sudden thump against his hand has them both gasping.
“You felt that?” Chloe exults as she catches his eye.
“I did,” Micah breathes in wonder. He presses his palm to the same spot and his rewarded with another firm kick. They both laugh as Chloe scoots to a seated position.
“I hope that means you’re ready to join the world, little one,” Chloe coos as she runs her hand over her belly.
Micah’s heart swells to the point that he thinks he might burst. He gently takes Chloe’s chin in his hand and turns her to face him. “I love you,” he tells her with all the emotion he can convey. It still doesn’t seem like enough.
But Chloe hears it; she knows. The look that crosses her face tells him that; the look he can’t describe, but knows so well. “I love you, too.”
The clock on the nightstand reads a quarter past two in the morning, and Micah blinks his eyes, wondering what has awakened him. He rolls over to find Chloe’s side of the bed empty, and understanding dawns. He throws back the covers, quickly pulls on a shirt, and heads down the hall. He finds Chloe pacing the living room, rubbing her belly. Lightning is keeping pace with her, whining under her breath as her claws make a click-clack sound on the hardwood floor.
“Is it time?” he asks with concern, frustrated with himself as he stifles a yawn.
Chloe shakes her head. “I’m not sure. I mean, I don’t think so. The contractions are strong, but they aren’t regular. I mean the last one was nine –“
Chloe’s breath catches and her words are cut off as she leans over suddenly. One arm cradles her belly while the other grasps the back of the couch. Micah rushes to her side, reminding her to breathe. She does, in and out, in and out. Finally, she straightens and brushes sweaty hair off her forehead.
“Whew, that was a strong one,” she tells him, attempting humor and a wobbly smile.
“I could tell,” he replies, his brow furrowed. “So what was that again about it not being time? Because it looks like time to me.”
Chloe bats his arm away from her side irritably as she resumes her pacing. “But they aren’t close enough apart yet; at least not all of them. Some have been five minutes apart, some three, but then others are nine or even ten minutes apart. And then I’ll have some that aren’t even that painful.”
Micah eyes his wife with concern as she waddles her way around the room (not that he would tell her that she was waddling). Chloe is not a huge pregnant woman (though she claims to be), and her stride is not normal for her. Her belly seems to have dropped, altering her stance. Not a good sign.
“Um, Chloe,” he says hesitantly, “I really think we need to go to the hospital.”
She shakes her head again stubbornly. “I can make it until the boys are up and head to school. My water hasn’t even broken yet.”
“But didn’t they have to break it at the hospital with Lincoln?”
Chloe waves him off again as if he’s a pesky fly. “Did you not hear me? The contractions aren’t regular. They’ll just send me home.”
Micah crosses his arms. “Chloe, why are you so adamant about not going to the hospital?”
Tears suddenly spring to Chloe’s eyes. “I don’t want to scare the boys. I wake them up, they worry. They get up in the morning, and I’m not here, they worry. And school . . . they have school tomorrow . . .”
“Whoa, whoa, whoa, Wren,” Micah says quickly, stepping in front of her to stop her pacing. He puts his hands on her shoulders and forces her to meet his gaze. “You are not alone this time, remember? We are not alone. Remember that list in the kitchen drawer? The list a mile long of the people who offered to come over and be with the boys when the baby comes?”
Chloe’s panic has abated somewhat, but concern still lights her eyes. “We can’t wake your parents up in the middle of the night. And Josiah and Kate can’t leave the kids.”
Micah is just about to remind her of the other dozen names on the list, when she suddenly clutches his arm in a death grip. She leans over, this time unable to suppress a groan from the pain of the contraction.
“That’s it,” Micah grumbles as he scoops Chloe up into his arms. “I’m taking you to the hospital.”
Micah remembers Chloe saying she was a fan of epidurals, and Micah can see why. He’s a fan of them now, too (except for the long needle they had plunged up her back; that made him a little squeamish). Luke’s birth had been surrounded by so much chaos, it’s true, but he also clearly remembers Chloe’s excruciating pain. They had both been so young, and neither of them had a clue what they were doing. He knew full well the panic in Chloe’s eyes had only been mirrored in his own back then.
Maybe things would have been different if labor had happened more slowly with Luke, if there had been time for an epidural. Because here and now, Chloe is calm, smiling, laughing even. (Okay, so she’s laughing at a Friends rerun on the television, but still. Laughter had been the farthest thing on her mind the day Luke was born.)
“Knock, knock,” a bright voice says from the doorway. Micah turns to see his mother standing in the doorway, his father behind her. “Can we come in?”
Micah glances at Chloe, who smiles and waves them in. “Sure, of course. I’ve got my happy juice now.”
“Smart girl,” Elizabeth chuckles as she leans over to give her daughter-in-law a kiss on the cheek. “In my day, everyone was doing all-natural home births. Remember that, Tom?”
“Yes,” Tom says, eyes stormy, “I almost lost both you and Micah. Absolute foolishness.”
Chloe’s eyebrows raise, “That’s a story I haven’t heard.”
Elizabeth flashes Tom a look that clearly says not the time, then turns back to Chloe with a bright smile on her face. “For another day, dear. Is there anything the two of you need?”
“Micah hasn’t had breakfast yet,” Chloe says, giving her husband a pointed look.
“But I can’t eat in front of you when you can’t have anything,” he protests.
“Yes you can,” his mother argues. “Tom, go get the boy a sandwich.”
Tom chuckles as he steps for the door, slapping Micah on the back, “In situations like these, just do as the women say, son. Want to come down to the cafeteria with me?”
Micah shakes his head as he looks Chloe over. “No thank you. I don’t want to leave her.”
Tom nods in understanding, then steps out. As soon as he leaves, another family member walks through the door.
“Kate!” Chloe cries out, hugging her cousin tight when she reaches the bed. “How did you manage getting over here? What about Haley and Noah?”
Kate waves Chloe off as she straightens. “Josiah’s with them. And Hannah got your two off to school, by the way.”
“Thank you,” Chloe says, voice thick. She glances at Micah, and he knows he doesn’t have to say I told you so.
Kate looks Chloe up and down and frowns, “She’s not here yet? You’ve been in labor for eight hours already.”
“Make that ten,” Micah speaks up, “this stubborn woman here didn’t want to bother anybody and was in agony for two hours before we ever got here.”
“I wasn’t in agony,” Chloe corrects, rolling her eyes, “and what would be the point of getting here two hours earlier? Our little Clara is still staying stubbornly put.”
“Well,” a voice says from the doorway, “hopefully this can help speed things along.”
A nurse comes in with a syringe of Pitocin. It only takes the medicine half an hour to kick in, and then things really do speed along. Chloe starts feeling the contractions, even through the epidural, and she’s soon fully dilated and effaced. Then it isn’t long before the doctor is there, and Chloe is pushing. Micah is surprised when Chloe allows his parents and Kate to stay. He holds her right hand while Kate holds her left. His parents stand on the other side of the room, both laughing and crying as their granddaughter enters the world. Chloe has to push for a long time – turns out Clara is face up when she should be face down – but Micah is amazed at how calm and steady his wife is. When Clara crowns, Chloe reaches down to feel the top of her head, and smiles in wonder. The connection seems to spur her on, and as Chloe pushes one last time, laughter bubbles out of her. The laughter seems to be contagious, because soon everyone in the room, even the doctor is laughing.
Clara’s cry pierces the air, and the doctor shakes her head, laughter still spilling from her mouth. “She’s so beautiful,” the doctor tells them, beaming and shaking her head. “I’ve delivered hundreds of babies during my career, and never once has a birth made me laugh with joy.”
A nurse takes the wee girl from the doctor’s arms, and places her against Chloe’s chest. “Yes,” Chloe says, tears mixing with the laughter, “joy. Absolute joy.”
“That should be her middle name, don’t you think?” Micah asks, reaching out towards his new baby daughter, his heart turning over in his chest when her tiny fingers clasp his.
“Clara Joy,” Chloe whispers, then beams up at him. “Light and joy. It’s perfect.” Then she leans forward and kisses him soundly, despite the audience.
Chloe awakens to Micah’s soft voice. She turns her head and smiles to see him leaning over the hospital bassinette, changing Clara’s diaper. His smile his adoring and his blue eyes sparkle with joy, even in the dim hospital room. Yes, her daughter’s name is perfect.
Micah still hasn’t noticed that Chloe is awake as he scoops his daughter up gently in his arms. Chloe is glad, for as she watches him pace the room, talking in a low voice to their daughter, she feels she’s getting a glimpse inside her husband’s very soul.
“You are the most beautiful thing I ever laid eyes on, baby girl. Don’t tell your mother, though. She’s gorgeous, but you?” Micah swallows thickly. “You, my dear? Words can’t describe this feeling. It’s different than with your brothers.” He brings little Clara closer to his face and whispers conspiratorially. “Another secret, okay?” He chuckles as if Clara has answered him somehow, and Chloe bites back a laugh of her own. “Not that I don’t love them just as much, but with you, my daughter? I don’t know . . . I’ve never felt this way. This urge to protect? I would die for your brothers, your mother, but for you . . . “ Micah shakes his head, and Chloe can clearly see he’s frustrated that he can’t find the proper words. “I feel like my heart is outside my chest.” He sighs and kisses Clara’s tiny head.
Chloe clutches a hand to her own chest and thinks that Micah has found the perfect words after all.
Three months later, Chloe awakens again to Micah’s soft voice. But this time, it’s coming through the baby monitor. Clara has been a great sleeper from the get-go, but until now she had been sleeping in a Moses basket on the floor by her and Micah’s bed. Tonight is her first night in the nursery now that she’s outgrown the baby basket.
Chloe smiles against her pillow as she listens to Micah on the baby monitor. He doesn’t talk baby talk; oh no, he converses with their daughter as if she can carry on an adult conversation with him. A bittersweet feeling fills Chloe’s heart as she wonders if he spoke with baby Luke the same way. He probably did.
“Now Clara,” he says in mock sternness, “you are dry and your tummy is full. You stopped crying the minute I came in the room. What is this about, huh?”
Chloe adjusts the video monitor and watches as Clara slaps the crib mattress with both hands. Both feet, clad in footsie pajamas, kick as well. She can’t see on the grainy video feed, but she can imagine a bright, toothless grin on her daughter’s face.
“Oh, that’s what I thought,” Micah laughs. The back of his head appears on the video screen as he reaches down to gather Clara up in his arms. Then both move out of the video’s range, but the creaking sound lets Chloe know they have settled in the rocking chair.
“You just wanted to see me, was that it? Well, I don’t mind that at all, baby girl. Just this once. But don’t tell your mother; she already says you have me wrapped around your finger.” Chloe giggles as she hears Clara squeal. “Yes, yes, I know. As much as I protest, it’s probably true.”
It’s quiet for a few moments, and Chloe feels herself drifting off. But then her husband begins to talk again, and the thickness of his voice arrests her.
“I don’t like to admit this to your mother, but I’m holding on to these months as tight as I can. I missed them with your brother, you see.”
Chloe brushes a tear away at the anguish in her husband’s voice. Will he ever stop paying personal penance for his mistakes? She wishes he could forgive himself. Wishes he could see himself the way she does; the way all three of their children do. Even Lincoln, who isn’t even his flesh and blood.
It’s quiet again in the nursery, until Micah’s voice begins to sing. God, but she loves that man’s voice! She remembers the way she reacted to his singing when she first started coming to church. She chuckles to herself. It wasn’t exactly holy, that’s for sure.
Chloe fights sleep as her husband sings Clara a lullaby, but his voice is so soothing, that her eyelids flutter and soon Micah’s voice has lulled her to sleep.
Chloe is awakened next by a painful fullness in her breasts. She groans as she eases up, glancing at the clock in surprise to see that Clara has slept past her early morning feeding. Bleary eyed, Chloe snatches up the baby monitor and panics for a moment when she sees the empty crib. But then she realizes Micah’s side of the bed is still empty. She smiles to herself as she pushes the sheets aside; she has a pretty good feeling about where she’ll find both father and daughter.
Chloe pads quietly down the hall, not wanting to awaken the boys. She stops in the doorway of the nursery, a smile filling her face at the sight before her.
Micah is in the rocking chair, Clara asleep against his chest. His head his lolled to one side, the top of Clara’s head resting against his chin. Clara’s mouth his open, and drool spreads across the shoulder of Micah’s shirt. Still, it’s the most beautiful sight she’s ever seen. She rubs at her chest, feeling a physical pain in her heart. She’s let go of the past, but still, Micah is right too. She never got to see him like this with Luke. And it still hurts to think of all they lost.
Chloe kneels beside the rocking chair and rubs gently at Micah’s shoulder. “Hey,” she whispers softly as he slowly awakens. He seems a little disconcerted at first, but then he glances down at the baby against his chest and smiles as he massages the back of his neck.
“I can’t believe I fell asleep,” he mutters, “and I have a bad feeling my neck and back are going to regret it later.” His jovial smile fades as he looks into Chloe’s face. “What’s wrong?”
Chloe smiles gently as she tenderly runs her hands up and down Micah’s strong arms. Tears pool in her eyes when she answers. “I just love you so much. You are such an amazing father. And I just wish – I wish you could see it, too.”
Micah blinks the moisture from his own eyes as he grasps Chloe’s hand in his and brings it to his lips. He simply nods at her in understanding.
And it’s enough.
Later, it’s Micah listening through the baby monitor. He knows that Chloe would be embarrassed if she knew; she thinks she can’t sing, but her high, bright voice is a soothing balm as she sings to the baby. He can picture them in his mind: Chloe rocking gently as Clara contentedly nurses at her breast. The words spill over Micah’s soul, and his wife has no idea of the freedom that they bring. She isn’t singing a lullaby; she’s singing a worship song.
She’s singing her love to her savior, and there is no sweeter sound.
I am a former English teacher turned homeschool mom of three who writes Christian romance novels on the side. You know, in my huge amount of spare time.