When Cody's developmental delays grow into an acknowledged disability, Sarah's new marriage crumbles, and she is forced to reexamine her future. Now Sarah must attempt to make all the right decisions for her family during a time when she is not equipped to make them for herself. The thought that she may have to abandon her own dreams pushes her to make hasty decisions with severe consequences. Through personal heartache and a near tragic development for her son, life and circumstance bring her to the brink of desperation.
Sarah's only hope is a miracle of God's grace. As her resolve is tested and her determination falters, Sarah realizes she has been fighting the wrong battle all along. Now she must decide whether she wants to sacrifice everything to achieve the life she has always desired.
|Product dimensions:||6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 0.56(d)|
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A Rising Hope
By Nova York
iUniverse, Inc.Copyright © 2011 Nova York
All right reserved.
Chapter OneIn the last six months, it never occurred to Sarah Whitehead that this pregnancy could cost them their very lives. Her plan had been so simple. She knew her choice had caused difficulties for all of them, but easy never suited her well. She always seemed to perform much better when the odds were stacked against her.
She had immediately quit cheerleading at Edmonds High School in Edmonds, Florida, and attempted to pull away from those activities that brought attention to her growing belly. Now she would not be part of the Edmond's graduating class of 1987, but she planned to reenter the world after the baby was born, still moving toward the completion of her high school education and medical school. This would provide for the child eventually.
Today, the idea that she was actually alive stole most of her attention and left little to give emotionally to the immediate situation. Sarah glanced at the thin band around her finger. She admired the way the gold glowed against her olive skin. She considered her skin tone one of the most positive aspects she had gained from her mother's Hispanic genes. While Sarah's features displayed the clean lines of her father's Caucasian family, her skin and large brown eyes were evidence of her mixed heritage. She and her sister, Carol, shared these traits. Although Carol was more than six years older than Sarah, they looked enough alike to have been mistaken for each other more than once.
Carol had moved to Illinois with her husband, Kevin, early last year to allow him to take a promotion with his telecommunications company. Sarah wished, again, that she lived close enough to visit. She missed their extended conversations and would have loved the opportunity to really talk to Carol about the pregnancy and her marriage to Mike.
A large portion of Sarah's attraction to Mike had been the striking sight of them together, his blond hair, blue eyes, and six-foot frame providing a perfect contrast for her petite figure and darker features. The wedding band provided ever-present proof of their marriage. Sarah liked the sight of it and stared at it often, reassuring herself that this was the first step toward a stable future together. She knew that their ages and lack of resources meant their future would be difficult and often fought the idea that the marriage may have been premature. She chose instead to concentrate on her plan to move them forward.
Pulling her attention from the ring, Sarah stared with dismay at the image looking at her from the bathroom mirror and took note of the puffiness around her lips and jaw line.
"Don't hang over that mirror with that glum look, Sarah," Mama said, walking by in the hallway. "The swelling will be gone soon."
Sarah reached over and pushed the door closed. She tried to ignore the drooping skin of her stomach and the deep red stretch marks. She looked back at her face in the mirror and stuck out her tongue at herself.
Only now realizing the massive impact the pregnancy had had on her body, she was beginning to wonder if she would ever feel good again, much less look good. It seemed only moments ago that she had looked into the face of a child in this very mirror. Normally, she would have taken quite a bit of time to be sure that she twisted her long, black hair into a becoming arrangement and sprayed it mercilessly into place. Today her hair hung limp, as it had for over a week now. The dark shadows that formed crescents under her eyes added to the appearance of exhaustion.
Her arms felt like great weights when she woke from the surgery, and she had been unable to hold Cody without a nagging certainty that she would drop him. She had regained some of her strength now, seven days later, but her endurance level was still low. She found it impossible to maintain any activity without overwhelming fatigue. She and Cody slept side by side on the bed throughout the day while Mike was at work or in class.
With the thought of Mike came the slight press of jealousy that fringed the edges of Sarah's emotions periodically. Since the onset of this pregnancy and their marriage, she had been counting the months until she could return to school. Mike's enrollment in the local community college this semester only fueled this desire for her. The thought that he was spending his days with other girls who were pursuing their education and planning their families was an added insult. It seemed that Sarah's life, as well as her body, were on hold for now.
Now, with Cody at home, it was surely only a matter of time until she could refocus her energy on the normal activities that would lead from high school graduation to college and, eventually, to the degree that would seal her career.
The sound of Mama's voice shook Sarah from her thoughts. "Are you actually going to feed this baby today, Sarah?"
"Well, I was considering it," Sarah retorted, reaching for her jeans on the countertop.
She pulled her clothes on slowly, ever mindful of the staples that formed a track down her lower stomach. Entering the dining room, the sight of her father sitting with his chest pressed tightly against the dining table greeted her. Cody lay on a pillow directly in front of him, the object of Ben's unconcealed adoration. The small crystal chandelier above the table provided a source of fascination for Cody as usual. Ben was watching him track it with his eyes.
They formed a picturesque image in the small dining room. Mama's impeccable taste was displayed here by her choice of a spacious mahogany table, framed by the windows on either side. In another home, the presence of the expensive furniture and tailored drapes would create a more formal atmosphere, but the hint of Mama's gentle manner lent the room a comfortable feel. Sarah loved to sink into one of the twin rockers Mama had placed along the far wall to rock Cody or visit with Mama and Ben.
Ben Bradley was enthralled with the child from the moment of his arrival. He had begun the morning and evening ritual of studying each small expression, yawn, and movement. Pawpaw Ben had witnessed the first tiny smiles from his view at the head of the table, and he consistently measured Cody's tiny hand by placing it in the palm of his own large, rough palm.
He did not hold the baby, saying only, "He's still too little for all that."
He sat, instead, looking almost directly down at Cody, laughing at his changes in expression and responding to even the smallest whimper. At the moment, Cody was scrunching his nose up and whining slightly as he gazed up into Ben's weathered face. Cody weighed eight pounds, five ounces at birth and was twenty inches long. His chunky arms and legs lent him the appearance of a baby slightly older, although he was only one week. The illusion was supported by his full head of thick black hair.
Ben was creating quite the habit of explaining to anyone who would listen, exactly what Cody was thinking, what he wanted, and what he liked and didn't like. Even now, he was holding a running conversation with the baby about the fact that Mama was late with dinner.
When Mama had prepared the bottle, Sarah gathered Cody into her arms and took a seat across from Mama at the table.
"Here we go, little man," she said as she positioned him leaning back against the crook of her left arm for his feeding. She teased him slightly, allowing the nipple to graze his tiny lips and smiling as she watched him search for a grip on the bottle.
He had made it through the delivery with bruises along his temples as the only sign that they had suffered any trauma. She enjoyed the sight of the smooth, even color of his complexion emerging now as the bruises faded.
Having given some thought to the dangerous and painful circumstances surrounding Cody's birth, Sarah now believed that it must all have been some form of punishment. The activities that had placed her in this situation to start with were surely displeasing to the God Sarah was familiar with. Having grown up in their local Southern Baptist Church, she was well aware that, although she had accepted salvation at the age of ten, she would still be required to follow the rules of the Christian lifestyle in order to qualify for God's blessings.
Surely God was angry with her for participating in sexual sin and the resulting pregnancy. Today she found her mind somewhat content, if not fully recovered. She saw the difficulty of Cody's birth as God's way of chastising her for that sin. She was thankful, both for her own life and for Cody's—thankful that neither soul had been required as penance.
"See, he's sucking a little better today. Just hold his head up a little higher. It looks like he's getting it," Mama said from across the table, watching intently as Sarah attempted to nestle Cody into a more comfortable position.
She pulled the baby tighter against her chest, following Mama's instructions. Everyone had noticed the seeming difficulty Cody had with sucking milk from the bottle. He appeared to work diligently at the motion but ended with a continual stream of milk flowing along his cheeks and chin. Mama and Sarah agreed that there had been some improvement with his feedings since they came home.
Cody began to cough, slightly at first, but then more violently as his face took on a shade of deep red.
"I hoped this wouldn't keep happening," Mama said, leaning forward to look more closely at Cody's face.
Now, going through the almost habitual motion, Sarah placed the bottle on the table and raised Cody from his reclined position hoping that the shift would help him take in a deeper breath. Her alarm rose when his face darkened instead of clearing. When a slight shake did nothing to clear the strangled expression, Sarah pushed him into the air across the table toward Mama.
Reflexively, Mama reached forward and caught the baby before he hit the table. The shock of flight caused him to suck in the breath he needed. As Mama held him firmly and settled back into her chair, the immediate crisis gave way to a moment of shock.
Surprised at her own unintended action, Sarah sat silently under the full force of Mama and Ben's gazes. Mama leaned forward slightly, placing her hand gently on Sarah's arm, and said, "Now, honey, we don't throw the baby."
With a timid smile, Sarah said, "Well, I didn't mean to, but he was choking."
"Yes, I know, but a crack on the table isn't going to help choking. I'll just finish this feeding, okay?"
"Yeah, I got it, Mama, I got it. I even made a mental note. Don't throw the baby."
The ease of Mama's laughter melted the awkward moment, and Sarah watched quietly as Cody finished the bottle in the safety of Mama's arms.
When Cody had drained the bottle, Mama leaned forward, tossing Cody upward until he left her hands slightly. Sarah jumped from her chair, stumbling forward, arms outstretched, to catch him. She landed on her knees at Ben's feet just in time for Mama's laughter to split the air.
"That was so not funny," Sarah said, pushing herself up off the floor.
"You didn't think I was going to throw him back to you, did you, Sarah?" Mama asked, still chuckling.
"Oh, come on, girl. You know that was funny. You need to lighten up,"
Sarah scowled at Mama, taking Cody from her arms.
With the opening of the front door came a surge of guilt that sent Sarah back to her seat with Cody in her arms. The sting of Mike's last comment to her this morning still rang loudly in her mind. "You need to be doing more for Cody, Sarah. He's your baby, not your mom's."
Mike rounded the corner into the dining room just as she sat. Sarah breathed a slight sigh of relief. At least she was holding the baby when he came in.
Mike offered a brief greeting before disappearing through the doorway that led to their temporary bedroom. When it became obvious that he did not intend to rejoin them in the dining room, Sarah followed him, laying Cody between them as she joined him on the bed. The ceiling fan circled lazily above them, forming moving shadows on the ceiling. The clothing and personal items strewn about the room seemed almost out of place with the antique dresser and bed frame. Mama had chosen these specifically to suit Sarah's love of the hand-carved woodwork and feminine detail. The decor and the heavily padded mattress comforted her and provided Mike with a secluded refuge as well. "How was it today?" Sarah asked quietly.
"Same old stuff. You know, history today, algebra tomorrow."
"Well, at least you'll be home tonight."
"This is not home to me, Sarah. You know that."
"I know, I know. We'll be leaving soon. It's only been a week now. We'll be back at the apartment soon enough." Sarah tried to cover her sarcasm, thinking of the tiny apartment at the college Mike attended, which had been home to them for only two months before Cody's birth.
"Well, a week is long enough. You get the staples out tomorrow and then there won't be any reason for us to stay here. You'll feel better when we get home."
"I'll feel better when I can go back to school."
"Well, that won't happen until Cody's old enough for day care, and until then, I have to be close to class and work."
"Well, let's just be sour about it, Mike. I'm sure that'll help," Sarah said. She stuck out her tongue again, this time toward Mike.
"Great, Sarah. That's a really mature reaction." Sarah noticed the slight smile that teased the edges of Mike's lips.
"Well, I'm not mature yet—right?" Sarah asked. She smiled at Mike until he turned away.
Searching for words that refused to formulate in her mind, Sarah allowed silence to fill the room. Her mind drifted as the sound of Mike's smooth, even breathing lulled Cody to sleep beside her.
She knew there was tension between Mike and Mama. Her pregnancy at seventeen and his seeming disinterest in the details of Cody's care irritated Mama. They never openly discussed these issues; instead, the air took on a heavy quality when the two of them were in the same room. Most of the conversations Sarah had witnessed between them were limited to short question-and-answer sessions or dull, running dialogue centered on Cody. Even these discussions were short-lived.
Sarah, however, was fighting a feeling of depression that surfaced at the oddest times. Recently, she awoke from a dead sleep and went and sat in the rocker in the living room as everyone else slept soundly. Being here, back in her old bedroom for this week, only fed her dread of returning to the apartment. She knew that she loved Mike and Cody but found the excitement that had preceded both her recent marriage and the baby's birth elusive at best.
More often than not, she felt as if she were in mourning for the life she had before—before pregnancy, before marriage, before exhaustion and swollen hands and babies. Just before.
Cody's a gift, she thought. I shouldn't even be thinking of life before him.
She squirmed under the guilt that surfaced until Cody's light whimper forced her from the bed. She knew that Mike would spend the remainder of the evening locked in the bedroom either sleeping or lost in the video games they had set up for him there. She found some relief knowing that his involvement in either of these activities meant that she wouldn't have to continue their earlier discussion.
After arranging a row of pillows along the edge of the bed to ensure Cody's safety, she left the two sleeping side by side and slipped out the back door to the small, concrete porch. Sitting in one of the white wicker rockers, Sarah pulled her pack of cigarettes from its resting place on the railing close to the wall and lit a cigarette. She pulled the smoke into her lungs and enjoyed feeling the tension ease from her muscles. Sarah enjoyed the activity, which she had engaged in secretly since she was fifteen, and was loathe to give it up even though she knew that Mike and Mama didn't approve.
After the cigarette, Sarah joined Mama in the kitchen. Gathering bottles and packing the few unfinished boxes that waited beside the door would occupy her time until Cody woke from his nap. She went about the tasks silently with her thoughts still shrouded in confusion over her own response to their move back to the small campus apartment that now served as home.
Excerpted from A Rising Hope by Nova York Copyright © 2011 by Nova York. Excerpted by permission of iUniverse, Inc.. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
When I read A Rising Hope I was taken into the world of the main character, Sara Whitehead. I felt the struggles and found myself urging her on to find solutions that would help her get to the next step in her journey. So many turns of events that were unpredictable, I was encouraged by the determination of such a young teen/adult by the way she refused to let circumstances of life direct her path. I couldn't put it down. This is a great read!!