A New Birth of Freedom Ch. 01
Lady Nadine has her baby. I give my very best thanks to my technical advisers Penn Lady and Yes_Please for their encouragement and invaluable assistance. (And congratulations to Yes_Please on the birth of her daughter!). I once again gratefully and humbly acknowledge the help and support I received from Grand Master dweaver999 and for his permission to publish (see copyright notice at the end of this story).
Of course, I am solely responsible for any and all inaccuracies, errors and omissions.
"I hate this pregnancy!" Lady Nadine Vanquil was having another bad day. By her count, it was bad day number 262.
"I hate coming here and spoiling everyone's luncheon with my weekly rant. This should be a happy time for you all...."
"Nadine, dawlin'," drawled Marguerite Rawlinson, her soft Baja Oklahoma accent like oil on troubled waters, "we've all been there. Eve should have stuck to the crudités and left the apple alone. But there you are, honey, we're in this together. And you forget it the first time your baby smiles at you."
"Margie, sweetheart, I know that. But even though I know what I know, I wish we had found a good surrogate."
"Nadine," said Elaine Burgett, "rant as much as you like. This is girls' recess. The boys can't play here."
"With a husband and three sons," said Lady Nadine, "this time must be precious for you."
"Oh, I have them trained. Tuesdays are mine, and Friday evenings. My men know their place."
Lady Nadine twisted uneasily on the banquette. "There's no good place to sit, or stand, or lie down. When I'm not ejecting from one end, I'm ejecting from the other. The nausea won't go away; my doctor says I can't take anything for it but ginger, which I hate and I won't take, even if they try to disguise the taste, because if my body doesn't like it I will not take it--no way! And the pressure points don't work for me. And I will not, will not, suck on anything called Preggie Pops--the name alone makes me nauseated."
"But we saw you and Charles at the Opera Society over the weekend," Elaine went on, trying to change a subject Lady Nadine had worn out. "Wasn't young McDevitt great as Otello? I only wish we had had a better Desdemona."
"Kanesha Singeltary really should not be singing that role. Her voice is too light and she's not actress enough yet. We had a frightful time casting Desdemona. All the best were in Europe or pregnant themselves. But when McDevitt sang that wonderful 'Esultate', young Chip in here gave me a kick that propelled me out of my seat. If his behavior to date is a foreshadowing of our post-placental relationship, I'll auction him on eBay! With no reserve bid! And if his father objects, I'll throw him in for free!"
It was Tuesday at the Country Club. Traditionally Ladies' Luncheon Day. The old post-and-beam dining room was off-limits to men, by custom, not rule, and although some twenty-something members would sneak in a husband or boyfriend (but never both; that would be too gauche even for them), they rarely did so twice.
Cleantha Little, turning to model her famous breasts through her tighter-than-necessary-but still-in-good-taste cream silk jersey, said, "Dear Nadine, ranting's cheaper than therapy but less fun than a good ass-fuck. And you can share a rant more easily, so go on."
"No, Cleantha, it's boring and stupid. I'm preaching to the choir. And when a man gets all sympathetic, I suspect pregnant women light his torch or he's gay and wishes he could play too. I just want the baby already."
Monsieur Jean, Lady Nadine's favorite waiter, was always on duty for Tuesdays. As her friends were finishing the second bottle of Beaune Clos l'Écu, she drank the last of her glass of water (no wine for months; Vanquil père et fils have much to answer for, she thought). Lady Nadine gently gestured in his direction.
Coming quickly but without obvious haste to the table, Monsieur Jean bowed, his obviously dyed black hair sparkling and his Terry-Thomas gap-tooth smile appearing suddenly under his waxed mustache. "Madame wishes dessert, perhaps? May I tempt Madame with our special chocolate soufflé?"
Lady Nadine thought to hell with healthy organic anything! I'll get on that damned exercise bike and burn it off if it kills me! I can't box, or weight-train, or drink anything but water and juice, or fuck properly, or do anything but gestate! Fuck this!!"
Smiling, she said, "Certainly, Monsieur Jean. Ladies, who's for some real decadence? I won't tell if you won't."
Marguerite Rawlinson drawled, "You may not, dawlin', but my bathroom scale will tell it on the mountain. Just a single espresso, Jean, please, and no lemon zest."
Cleantha said, "I'm in, Monsieur Jean. And a cup of green tea, please."
Elaine Burgett said, "What the dilly-o, it's Tuesday, and I can always have a salad for dinner. Just the soufflé, please." Turning to her friends, she went on, "Let Peter cook dinner; it's good for him."
Cleantha said, "And you'll give him dessert?"
"If he behaves himself."
"And if he doesn't? Behave himself, I mean?"
"Then he'll have to take his chances."
Nadine joined in the polite giggles. Then the contraction came. At first, she thought it was just another practice Braxton-Hicks, as she'd been having for days. Braxton-Hicks, sounds like he charged Pickett or surrendered Vicksburg, she thought. The discussion went from light banter to a serious review of the latest movies.
Dessert arrived, and Lady Nadine was really enjoying something completely unhealthy, when she felt a grinding in her abdomen. Oh great, another practice contraction, she thought, and leisurely finished her soufflé.
Lunch finally over, the ladies rose slowly, looking over the dining room for friends they might have missed. They started the goodbye ritual of signing chits for lunch, air-kisses, discreet trips to the ladies' room, and individual departures.
Lady Nadine walked to the valet station and was about to order her car when she felt a second grinding, stronger than the first. I'm not due for a week yet, she thought, but this is more than I ever felt before. I hate to bother Helen Waston, but I might call her when I get back home.
She drove her CTS-V down the hill to Country Club Lane, when the grinding started again.
She managed to get to the Interstate, drive the two exits, and up the hill to her home.
Leaving the car at her front door with the engine running and the beeping signal getting louder, she clambered out and rang the bell. Herman answered, raising one eyebrow. Lady Nadine never left her car running, even during the mindlessness of this pregnancy.
"Herman, get my kit."
"Yes, Madam. Shall I telephone to Master?"
"No, I'll do it."
"If I do not, Madam, Master will be displeased."
She snapped, "Herman, if you do call Master, I will be displeased. This may be nothing. Now bring the damned kit!" Lady Nadine never swore in front of servants. Herman brought the kit.
Never in front of the children or servants, she thought, keep it calm, keep it unreal. Never let them see it, ever. You owe it to Charles, you owe it to them....
As soon as Lady Nadine had thrown the backpack on the passenger seat and driven off, Herman called Charles Vanquil.
"7703, good afternoon," said Mr. Jakes, Charles Vanquil's personal assistant.
"Code Seven," said Herman.
"Right away, Herman."
Two clicks and the Master's voice, "Yes, Herman, it's happening?"
"I believe so, Sir; Madam called for her kit and was quite abrupt. She called it her 'damned kit' and told me not to call you. But of course your standing orders...."
"Yes. You did right. I'll call Valerie, in case Madam hasn't. Later." Charles hung the phone up.
Before the last January was half over, Lady Nadine knew she was pregnant. She'd thrown up for the third straight morning. It couldn't be the food, as Charles, Valerie and Sally had eaten what she'd eaten on both previous nights. Rosette was too good a cook to spoil food, and the thought of causing food poisoning would drive Rosette crazy.
It felt like the flu; she felt light-headed. She felt as if she was walking through deep sand or swimming slowly against a gentle current. Then her breasts hurt, and she struggled and winced as Charles pinched and twisted her nipples, which usually aroused her but now was painful and, shockingly, disgusting. "Darling, it hurts and isn't fun." Charles stopped, placed her on her back and drove his cock into her. It was a close race between regurgitation and orgasm.
She told Charles she would see Helen Waston, her special doctor. Charles smiled and said, "I would be smug if I weren't so happy. Let me know what Helen says the minute she says it, even though I know what she will say."
After the happy news, there came the hard part, the part she had dreaded. She hoped she'd chosen the right evening, after dinner. As they sat quietly, Charles with the Rémy Louis Treize and Lady Nadine with her water bottle, she looked down at her tightly folded hands and began.
"I will have Valerie take the doula course, and serve me during delivery. You approve?"
"Of course, no one is better."
"I will take the birthing class with her, once she has completed the doula course."
"Charles, this is hard for me to say." She stopped, blinked hard, went on. "Please believe me, I wouldn't hurt you ever. I know this will be a wonderful time for us after the damned pregnancy nonsense is over. I want your baby; I never wanted just a baby, I always, from the day we met, wanted your baby. But-- I must go through labor with no one but Valerie--"
Charles looked at her as he had never looked before. Had she hurt him? Was this anger? She'd seen him furious before, but never like this. What was she sacrificing at a dead altar?
She had no choice but to continue.
"My darling husband, you are the air that I breathe, the blood in my veins, you are everything in my life, and our baby will be just as much to me. But I must confront this. My mother cursed me when I left to marry you--"
Charles erupted, "Must we go through this damned, and I mean damned, nonsense again? Your parents threw you out; your brother and sister walked away from you as if you were rubbish on a street corner. It's their loss, not yours. Their damned superstition, their damned ancient gobbledygook; what in Hell is that to us now? It's all bullshit. Damn them and damn it! Will you carry these people in your head forever, to the exclusion of the people who love you, to the exclusion of me? This is my child too! No one, not you, not anybody else, will dictate to me. No one tells me no!"
"Darling, please hear me. My mother said I would bear but my child would be dead, like David and Bathsheba...."
"I won't listen to such filthy trash! If that's what's bothering you, take it out on them, not on me!" Charles' face was white. He placed the snifter on the table next to the sofa, and his hand was shaking. His face was red, his mouth compressed.
He stood up abruptly. Was he going to hit her? Her whole body stiffened. She stood up. If he hit, she would hit, to protect their baby, to protect herself.
"Darling, my love, my life, please listen. Be there at the end, after our baby is there, when I've driven a stake through the lies, through the curse. But I must walk alone here. Please, dearest, anything, you'll be there for every baby after, and I promise you, I'll do everything in the world to make sure there are other babies, if you wish them. You are my life. I beg you, dearest...."
"I will be present when my son is born! No one can exclude me from that moment, not even you!"
"All right, come when I call you."
"Am I to be a servant? I am no one's servant. I am Master here, even Master over you. If you have not assimilated this simple fact by now, you may be past learning it otherwise than by some rather harsh lessons. I am rather good at giving such lessons, as you may be aware." He moved toward her.
Lady Nadine was not a coward. She looked up at him. When she spoke, her voice was quiet.
"You don't need to call yourself Master with me. You're something better than Master: you're my life, my partner, my love, my husband." She did not drop her eyes despite the tears. "When I first saw you, standing at our gateway with Valerie that Earth Day, I knew that second you were the father of my babies, the King of my soul! No, not Master! You are the man I love till the day I die, and beyond."
"My Lady, stop that, it will hurt our baby. He needs our love washing over him."
Charles sat back down on the Chesterfield sofa. He sank deep into his mind, staring at the fireplace. He was gone a long way from this room, to a place where Lady Nadine could not go, could never go.
Though the day had been warm for mid-January, the night was very cold, and Herman had lit a fire. A log, burnt through, crashed into another, setting off a cascade of sparks. Neither of them noticed. Lady Nadine sat down, her stomach churning again.
Oh, what a goddamn anticlimax if I have to barf, she thought. The God of the Ridiculous must have invented pregnancy. Why can't I just split in half, like a thing under a microscope? Why me? Why this?
They sat, a few feet apart, but farther from one another than they had ever been, even before they had met. They had been closer, even as children living in different towns they had been closer, than they were now. The thing under the microscope was ready to split.
Charles came back to her. "I will do as you wish."
"Oh, my love, my dear sweet boy," she went to him, held him tightly, kissing him, until she tore herself away and barely made it to the bathroom, and collapsed, gagging and retching, over the toilet bowl. Rosette's elegant blanquettes de veau, haricots verts au beurre, and Boston lettuce and heirloom tomato in Sherry wine vinaigrette all came rushing up and out. Oh God, she thought as the dry heaves that followed her dinner tossed through her, another eight months of this? Young Chip Vanquil, please be nice to your poor Mommy!
Valerie Burbon was finishing the tuna salad sandwich and Diet Coke at her desk. It would have been nice to join her old friend Francine Traline for lunch at Luigi's. Tuesday was cioppino day; the seafood stew was really good. And the late September sun was inviting.
But the advertising production meeting had taken all morning, and calming the nerves, unruffling the feathers, and suppressing the mutinies that those meetings always engendered, took most of the lunchtime. June, her personal assistant, called the local brown-bag deli as soon as she saw Valerie dealing with Mary Carstares and Xavier while almost simultaneously placating George Falstaf. Next Edward, the new art director, threatened to resign for the fifth time that week, after James Whynch, editor of Mastering Magazine, publicly and in language ripe even by Delgrasi's anything-goes standards, threatened to flog and rape him for the sixth time that week.
Edward would not resign, as he had not resigned after each of the previous five monthly advertising production meetings since he began working on Mastering Magazine. The prospect of continuing to receive special treatment at the hands (and other parts) of Mr. Whynch filled him with delight. Still, Valerie had to act out the charade of talking Edward off his metaphorical balcony before he jumped.
Lunch finished, such as it was, Valerie e-mailed the meeting results memo to her boss the Colonel and the senior eyes-only distribution list. Her afternoon was clear, as it always was on advertising production days, in case the bosses needed to talk.
Her cell phone rang. Caller ID blocked. "Valerie Burbon," she answered.
"Valerie, Master. Lady Nadine is seeing Helen Waston now, and matters may be underway. You must get away at once."
"Yes, Master," she replied.
"Go to Helen's office and wait. If you will need anything from your home, have Sally bring it to you at Helen's. She can drive your car back home."
"You may exchange one embrace and kiss with Sally on her arrival. Go!"
"Yes, Master. Goodbye, Master." The phone went dead.
Valerie briefed June rapidly and left.
Valerie had taken the doula birthing assistant course the previous January, when Lady Nadine's pregnancy had been confirmed. Charles had not taken the Lamaze course with Lady Nadine and her. That surprised Valerie, but she knew better than to ask. She had assembled her kit weeks ago and kept it close by, leaving only the perishables for Sally, her slave and life partner, to bring when needed.
She put her Lexus in the last parking space at Helen Waston's office, next to Lady Nadine's CTS-V, which was parked with less than Lady Nadine's usual precision. Valerie was walking to the door as Lady Nadine came out.
"Ah, Slave. Well met indeed."
Valerie looked at the ground. Did she have to ruin her suit and stockings by kneeling in the parking lot?
"No, don't kneel, another time for that. I need my doula. We are going to Memorial."
"Yes, Mistress. Sally is coming to fetch my car. May I drive your car?"
"Yes, Slave." She learned over and kissed Valerie's cheek, as if she were a child. "Such a good slave."
A taxi pulled into the lot, and Sally Thatcher climbed out, carrying Valerie's kit. Sally's baby bump was quite prominent now, in her second trimester, and her braless breasts were quite full. She'll be a little saggy after this, thought Valerie. What fun tit-play will be, once Francine is born and Sally starts nursing. Valerie knew that Sally was carrying a little girl, although they had asked not to be told the baby's sex.
"Your pardon, Mistress," said Valerie, as Sally came quickly to them.
Lady Nadine was in charge, even as another contraction came. "Yes, hand over the keys and let's be going. Don't kneel or speak, Sally."
Valerie handed Sally her car keys, and they exchanged a quick kiss and hug. She always leaves me wanting more, Valerie thought, just like I love to leave her wanting more, as she watched Sally drive away.
At Memorial, Lady Nadine checked in. Valerie followed with Lady Nadine's kit and her own as they reached the birthing room.
Dr. Anil Singh came down from his office. "Hi Nadine," he said, his East Tennessee accent still prominent, though it had been years since he left Knoxville. "I'll just get a few vitals and take a quick look." The assistant following him, a short, stocky woman (Might be fun to play with her, thought Valerie) started taking blood pressure and pulse, and had Lady Nadine give a quick urine specimen as Valerie watched.
Lady Nadine threw off her silk dress, gestured to Valerie to help remove her bra and panties (underwear again, after years without, once she became pregnant) and climbed onto the low bed. Valerie helped get her legs into the stirrups so Dr Singh could do his examination and get her back on her feet quickly. The contractions had become more frequent.
"You're right on time, Nadine," said Dr Singh, "and you're giving birth to a big person."
"He feels big enough," Lady Nadine said, and grunted as a stronger contraction ground its way through her.
"What and when did you last eat?"
"I was at the Club for lunch about an hour and a half ago. Free range poulet au pot, field-greens salad with Sherry wine and Spanish olive oil vinaigrette, roast potatoes, chocolate soufflé, and water. No bread, no drink before, no wine with."
"It was, except for the 'no wine'."
"You're moving along normally. It should be hours before anything more serious happens. Valerie, call me at once if Nadine exhibits distress."