The air was pregnant with the promise of thunder and Jessie wished the weather would indeed break. She looked through the open French windows at the lush garden and then at the burgeoning threat in the eastern sky.
The humidity of the day was beginning to get to her in no uncertain way, even her silk robe, which she had donned in an attempt to find comfort, felt oppressive against her sensitised, pregnant body.
Jessie switched off the electric fan. It wasn’t doing anything useful, only circulating the warm air and the humming noise it made was irritating her.
Even the normally placid, even-tempered David was affected by this unbearable heat. They’d had words over something totally stupid and unnecessary and he’d stomped off down to the pub in a sulk.
She lay down on the bed, the cool, white cotton sheets warming up at the touch of her burning flesh.
“Oh, how I wish I could get comfortable,” she moaned to herself as she shifted position yet again. She listened to the rumble overhead. “It’s getting closer,” she said to the room. Then there was a peal of thunder and a crack of lightning. “That was close!” Her heartbeat was racing
After a while, she got up and made for the bathroom. A cool bath. Perhaps that would do the trick.
David would be back soon, he only ever had a pint or, at most, two. She was sorry they’d argued and she would make it up to him when he came in. He was such a sweetie usually and she knew she’d been unreasonable and that’s why they’d argued. She felt a pang of guilt and hoped he would return soon.
She didn’t like being in the flat on her own. She knew she was being silly and would have to get used to it sooner or later, but she just didn’t like being alone there.
David had laughed when she had mentioned it to him. “Darling, you are a silly girl!” He had hugged her close, kissing the top of her head, like she was about seven years of age. “We’re so lucky to have got this place. How many other couples in our position manage to bag a garden flat in such a beautiful house?”
And, of course, he was right. If you liked shabby Victorian and she did not, but it would do for now. When she got back to work after the baby was born, they would save up for something shiny and modern, all chrome, wood and leather.
The bath soothed her. She’d added some lavender oil to help her relax and she was feeling a little better. David would give her a massage with the lavender oil when he came back - he had magic in his fingers - and the backache she’d had all day would be history.
It was David who had suggested the lavender oil and he was right, it was very relaxing and took away her aches and pains. He had even planted a couple of lavender shrubs in the garden so they could put the flowers into her pillow to help her sleep.
Carefully, she raised herself out of the bath which was slippery with oil. She didn’t bother with a bathrobe or a towel, just padded into the bedroom where a slight movement of air billowed the muslin curtains.
“At last!” Jessie breathed, “A little breeze.”
She lay on top of the sheets and slept, in a lavender scented haze.
She wasn’t sure what time David returned, the bedroom clock having been consigned to a drawer when the ticking was driving Jessie nuts, but she was glad he had. Her backache had come back worse than ever despite his gentle lavender oil massage and it quickly became apparent that she was in labour.
There had been no time to call an ambulance and their little girl had been introduced to this world on a peal of summer thunder.
“The weather’s finally broken,” Jessie murmured as a light breeze moved the muslins. Then, cradling her tiny daughter in her arms, she drifted off to sleep to the sound of the rain.
“Darling,” Jessie awoke from a delightful sleep in which she dreamed of David and the baby and herself happy in summer meadows, to find her mother sitting on the edge of the bed. “Jessica, are you alright?” There was a worried concern in her voice.
Jessie smiled at her mother’s worried expression. David must have called her. “Yes Mum, I’m fine. Meet your new granddaughter. I don’t know what we’ll call her yet, David was so sure we’d have a boy, we only had a boy’s name ready.”
Her mother put a hand to her brow. “We’ll have to get you to hospital Jess, make sure everything has come away.”
“Oh Mum, do we have to? I’m sure everything’s okay. I feel marvellous, not ill at all. I think David must have been a midwife in a previous life! It was amazing! He knew exactly what to do - stopped me from panicking I can tell you!” Jessie smiled at the memory. The pain had got quite bad, she thought, but now, as she looked at her baby girl, she could hardly remember it.
“Is Dad with you?” Jessie asked.
Her mum shook her head, “no Jess, he’s gone on an errand, but he won’t be long.”
Was Jessie imagining it or were there tears in her mother’s eyes? Sentimental old thing! She smiled again. “Don’t worry Mum, we’re going to be fine, David, baby and me. I know we’ve caused you worry, with the baby and all, but we’ll be okay, I promise.”
Now the tears were coursing down her mother’s face. Jess wriggled into a more upright position.
Mum? What’s the matter? It’s not Dad is it? He is okay isn’t he?” Jessie could feel the hysteria rising in her voice. Her mother never cried. Not even when her own mother had died.
“Jess, I’m sorry. There’s no other way of saying this. David has been killed in an accident. He’s dead Jess.”
Jessie felt a lump of ice form in her belly. “No Mum, you’re mistaken. I don’t know how long I’ve slept, but David wouldn’t have gone out and left me alone after having the baby. He knows I’m frightened on my own.”
“I’m sorry Jess, but he is. That’s where your Dad has been, identifying the body. David was killed by a tree at the end of this very street, it was struck by lightning. He never got to the pub Jess.”
“Then who called you about me, about the baby? Jess couldn’t see for the tears and the baby was starting to grow restive.
“No-one sweetheart. I just came over to tell you about David. I didn’t know about the baby until I came into this room. I don’t know who delivered your baby Jess, but David wasn’t alive at the time you gave birth.”
But Jess knew the truth.
In the distance the thunder rumbled and the bedroom was scented with lavender.