Bella was working a children’s show at a private home. Even a year later she was finding it difficult to draw a crowd large enough for a gig at a venue larger than the coffeehouse. In the middle of a card trick, a wave of nausea swept over her and she almost vomited right on the spot. Thinking on her feet, she was able to work a sit-down trick into rotation and sat until the feeling passed. She made it through the rest of the party without incident but on her way home, she had to stop the car to throw up out of the window.
“Oh darling, you do not look good,” Rog stated when she staggered through the back door. “What’s wrong?”
“I’m not sure,” Bella replied. “I was doing a card trick and just felt sick. It passed, or so I thought. I guess it’s not over if you noticed.”
Rog had been with the hospital for well over a year and had worked his way up through promotions rather quickly. He took out his stethoscope and listened to her heart.
“Your heart is racing.” Rog looked for his other tools to test her vital signs.
“Well yeah, I still feel sick.” Bella began to heave and ran for the bathroom.
“Lay down on the sofa and I’ll make some ginger tea.” Rog walked quickly to the kitchen and programmed hot water into their fancy coffee maker. When the water was finished dispensing he grabbed a tea bag and plopped it into the water, grabbed a spoon from the drawer and a saucer from the cabinet. Walking carefully, he set the cup and saucer on the side table near where Bella reclined.
“Did you eat anything at the party?” Rog’s first thought was food poisoning. Not much would make nausea come on that quickly and forcefully, but food poisoning could.
“Nope, not a thing. I didn’t even get anything from the roach coach on the way.”
Another idea occurred to Rog and he dug in his bag for a pregnancy test. “Here, try this. It might not be likely but it is possible.”
Bella took the stick from him and ran for the bathroom, heaving on the way. From the living room, he heard her being sick. Poor girl, he thought to himself. She returned from the bathroom almost a half-hour later, feeling better and smiling. She held the stick in her hands, hugged him and let him see the results.
Two pink lines.
Bella’s pregnancy went smoothly and all too quickly. Rog was able to determine that they were having a girl so Bella went all out to decorate the nursery, the adjoining room. She dug out old stuffed animals from the attic, Destiny’s old antique toys and a rocking horse she had been told was her grandmother’s. As she placed items in the room, it was as though she was transported back in time. She closed her eyes and she could see herself playing tea party with “King Arthur” and her favorite doll. Waxing nostalgic, she took extra special care of every toy, every piece of furniture, and every memory attached to the items.
Rog settled easily into his medical career. He had many days off but was usually on call. He said a doctor never really gets a day off and Bella understood. It was much like the life of a performer, always at the call of another. As her due date grew closer she became more and more uncomfortable. Rog gave her a massage every night before bed and they both talked to the baby. One evening as Bella finished singing to their daughter Rog laid his hand on her belly. Instead of a kick, they both felt her move toward his hand as though she wanted to feel his touch. It was easily the most amazing thing they had ever witnessed.
Bella was at the bookstore about a week later, her due date looming at any time. She was in search of children’s books that she could read to the baby once she was old enough. Just as she opened the car door to go home she felt her water break followed by a good, strong contraction. Frantic, she called Rog, who happened to be home.
“I’m on my way,” he yelled as he ran for his new-to-him minivan. Her contractions were close together and the baby was coming fast. When he arrived, a group of onlookers had gathered and a few people were even trying to help her. Rog hopped out of his car, picked her up and placed her in the back seat of the van.
They drove to the hospital which wasn’t very far away but they were minutes too late. Charlotte Destiny St John was born in the minivan two blocks from the hospital, delivered by her own father. After the baby was cleaned up and swaddled, Rog placed her into Bella’s waiting arms. She was pink and totally perfect, with ten little fingers and ten little toes. And they both had love for this precious baby girl they never dreamed was possible.
The next day, Bella and Charlotte came home from the hospital in a limousine that Jen Crawford sent for them with a beautiful bouquet of white lilies and pink roses waiting inside. For Charlotte was a doll that looked very similar to Boinky and Bella was happy that Charli, as they would call her, would have a special friend to play with and love. On their way home Bella’s cell phone rang, and Jen’s number appeared on the Caller ID.
“Congratulations on your daughter!” Jen sang. “Take your time coming back to work if you even want to come back at all. But that’s not why I’m calling. I wanted to make sure the limo came to get you.”
“Yes, thank you so much, Jen!” Bella was very excited about the gifts and being able to bring her daughter home to the place she grew up. “I’m sure Charli will love the doll. I had one very similar when I was a girl and he was very special to me.”
“Every little girl should have a doll.” Jen was truly happy for the young family. “If you need anything at all just let me know!”
“Thanks again, Jen, for everything!” Bella hung up the phone just as their ride pulled up in front of the house. Rog was waiting with balloons and a banner with Charlotte’s name on it and a bottle of their favorite sparkling juice with glasses.
“Welcome home, baby girl,” Bella whispered to Charlotte and kissed her gently on the head. She and Rog both went upstairs to settle the baby into her crib where she promptly fell asleep. Bella grabbed the baby monitor from the room and they both went back downstairs. Bella hadn’t eaten since breakfast and she was hungry. Luckily, Rog had already made dinner so he pulled two servings from the oven where it had been warming, the sparkling juice, and two wine glasses. There was already a fire in the hearth and they both sat and enjoyed their first night home as a family.
“Come on Charli! Come to Mama!” Bella set Charlotte on the floor and walked a few steps away. Squatting, she held her arms out for the baby to toddle over. Charlotte smiled and cooed as she got up on her feet and took a step. Two more wobbly steps and she was safe in Bella’s arms. She swooped the baby up in her arms and covered her tummy in kisses.
“You are such a good girl, Charli!” Bella placed the giggling child on the floor and walked back a few more steps, assuming the same squatting position.
“Hi darling,” Rog said as he walked through the front door. “And what do we have here?”
“Da-da” Charlotte cooed as she stumbled Bella’s direction. “Da-da”
Bella laughed. “She only says Da-da. You know that I’m extremely jealous, Rog!” He bent over and kissed Bella’s head.
“I know because I secretly taught her to say it,” Rog teased. “She’s doing great by the way. Good job, Mama.” He took his white coat off and laid it across the dining room chair. Bella picked up Charlotte and sat her down in front of the television, but she was much more interested in playing with the doll Jen bought for her.
“You know, I haven’t even started dinner yet,” Bella said. “What should I make?”
Rog smiled. “How about reservations?”
“Ooh!” quipped Bella. “That’s my favorite kind of dinner!” She called the sitter and then Rog’s favorite restaurant and requested their table. “I’ll be ready in 10 minutes,” she said as she started up the stairs.
“I’ll watch for the sitter,” Rog answered. They hadn’t been to the restaurant much since Charlotte arrived almost 12 months ago and he was pleased she said yes.
Fifteen minutes later Bella’s footsteps echoed down the stairs. Dressed in her favorite comfy jeans and a white top, she looked beautiful. “I love casual places,” she stated. “No dress code, no snooty waiters.” She picked up her sweater and took her keys from the hook.
Rog’s hand caught hers mid-grab. “Not so fast! I’m driving tonight.”
“If you say so,” she smiled. The sitter had been at the house for a few minutes, and she was already playing with the baby. “You have my number, Corrie. Call if you have a problem. We won’t be gone more than a couple of hours.”
The sitter smiled and picked up Charlotte. “We’ll be fine, Mrs. St John.”
Rog held out his arm for her to take. “Shall we, darling?”
“We shall,” answered Bella.
“What am I doing, Rog? I mean, why am I trying so hard to make this work?” Bella wiped tears from her eyes. She was just home from another show with no audience. “It seems clear to me what I need to do.”
“But you’ve wanted this since you were a little girl, Bell,” Rog said.
“I haven’t had a sold-out show in years. At this point in her career, my mother was filling stadiums.” She sighed deeply. “All of the mudslinging Estevan did took its toll whether it should have or not, Rog. I can’t go on like this. I’ve already lost the coffeehouse and Mick’s gave up on me long ago.”
“You can’t compare your career to your mother’s, darling,” Rog said. “Apples and oranges.” He took her hand and led her to the living room. Together, they sat on the sofa, her feet in his lap.
“What do you think I should do?” Bella’s voice was quiet.
“I think you need to do what makes you happiest,” Rog replied, rubbing her sore, swollen feet.
“Even if that means walking away?” Bella cried. “I feel like a failure.”
“Oh darling, look at you,” he encouraged. “You are the mother of a precious baby girl, with another baby on the way. If you never did another magic trick, if you never did another illusion, would you feel like any less of a person?”
“No, I wouldn’t.” She buried her face in her hands and started to cry. “I’ll call Jen in the morning.”
“Hey, it’s not all that bad.” He put her feet down onto the floor and scooted over next to her. He slipped his arm around her and pulled her close. “Whatever you decide I will support you. No matter what.” He touched her face gently and kissed her.
Bella didn’t feel any better, but it was inevitable. And four years later she had still not seen a penny from the Best estate. Hal had been trying in vain to get the estate to honor the court order. But the family had already squandered the fortune and in Strangeville, Estevan and Maria Best were serving 20-year sentences each. Nevertheless, the damage was done here at home. Mission accomplished, Maria, Bella thought. My career is ruined.
The next morning, Bella dialed Jen Crawford’s number. She stared at the phone but couldn’t bring herself to press Send. Suddenly, the baby kicked and she placed her hand on the child growing inside her. I have to do this for the baby, she thought. For me.
Reluctantly, she re-entered Jen’s number into the keypad and pressed Send. In seconds, Jen’s voice was on the other end.
“Jen Crawford Agency, this is Jen.” Her voice was warm and friendly as it always was.
“Hi, Jen, it’s Bella.”
“I half expected a phone call from you today.” Jen was not surprised to hear from her. Things hadn’t been going well for their most famous client lately.
“Rog and I talked about it again last night and I can’t do this anymore.” Bella sniffled. She hated hearing the words escaping her lips, but she said them. “I am resigning.”
“Well, you know I’m sorry to hear this, Bella, and it isn’t because you’re our most famous client. I feel like we’ve gotten pretty close over the years. I’m going to miss you and your sweet little family.” Jen was usually good at hiding her feelings but she and Bella had been through so much together that emotion came quickly.
“I’ll finish my show at Verde Park on Sunday and I’ll let Madison know I won’t be back.” Madison was the proprietor who took Rog’s place at Verde Park nearly 5 years ago. She suspected that she might not even be welcome there either. Her last performance at the park was an abysmal failure with no one in attendance. There were too many good acts coming up to keep a mediocre magician with a reputation problem on the payroll.
“Would you like me to call over to Maddy and check her status on this?” Jen was loath to see Bella’s career end like this when she had such potential. “I’d hate to see you waste a trip when I know you haven’t been feeling well.”
“That would be perfect thank you, Jen.” This pregnancy wasn’t going as smoothly as her first and Rog wanted her to rest as often as she could.
“No problem, sweetie. Let me know if I can help you guys out. I’d love to watch that little munchkin if you need to get away for a few hours.” Jen adored Charlotte, having never had children of her own.
“Thanks for the offer, Jen. We might just take you up on that! Hey,” Bella added. “Thank you, for everything.” Bella couldn’t hold back the flood of tears welling up in her soul. She hung up the phone and the flood gate opened as she cried.
“Mama sad.” Charlotte toddled over to where Bella sat and laid her head on her lap. Bella stroked the child’s hair.
“Mama’s okay, little love,” Bella said sweetly to Charlotte. “Now that you’re here.”
Up Next: Chapter Eight, Generation Three