Holiday Hope: A Holiday Short Story + My Cover of “O Holy Night”

o holy night, a capella song, free christmas songs

I wanted to put a special post together to celebrate the season. I wrote a short holiday story last year that placed in a contest, so I thought it would be nice to share it with you. Erynn, my editor, said I should’ve warned her about this story, so I’ll include this disclaimer: It might make you ugly cry.

Okay, you’ve been warned. 😉

One of my favorite Christmas songs is “O Holy Night”, and I thought it would be the perfect song to go with this story. (Shout-out to Sita for being an awesome audience-of-one while I sang it on the long drive to Crossroads and for encouraging me to record it.)

Freya, the producer of the Legacy Code soundtrack, worked with me on it, and I think she did a great job with the recording and mixing.

Download this song for free on SoundCloud.

 

A Season for Hope

A wave of pain surged through Katie and left her panting.

“Almost there.”  The midwife patted her knee.

Katie’s sister, Laura, squeezed her hand. “Keep pushing.”

Katie gathered her strength and pushed once more. Another wave overtook her, and shooting pain radiated through her abdomen.

“It’s too soon.” Tears flooded her vision and then, finally, the wave released her. “I’m scared. Mike should be here.”

Laura brushed a damp strand of hair out of Katie’s eyes. “It’ll be okay. You’re doing great.”

Katie held on to the image of her husband as another wave of pain coursed through her. She’d longed for him during the lengthy, hazardous drive to the hospital tonight. The streets had been empty, but the drive had taken three times as long as it should’ve, delaying their arrival at the hospital.

In a few hours, families would be waking to open gifts and celebrate, and the salt trucks would be on the roads, making them safe again for the holiday travelers.

Another contraction tore through her, and the raw, searing ache between her thighs intensified. Then the pressure—the urge to push—was gone. Her baby was out.

The midwife’s eyes widened. “We need to cut the cord. Now. Call in the doctor.”

Spots danced across Katie’s vision as she ripped her hand from Laura’s grasp and struggled to sit up. “What’s wrong with my baby?”

The team of nurses had whisked her baby away to a table against the wall. No one answered.

“What’s wrong with my baby?”

A doctor hurried in, blocking her view. The nurses murmured something, and the doctor responded in a low voice.

A hard knot of fear expanded in Katie’s chest and made it hard to breathe.  Why isn’t she crying?

A nurse hurried back to Katie, her lips pressed into a thin line, brows furrowed over dark eyes. She placed a gentle hand on Katie’s shoulder. “They’re doing everything they can.”

Time seemed to stop, and Katie looked on as the doctor and nurses worked in front of her, the child she’d carried and loved for so long hidden from view. She wanted to rip the IV from her vein and get out of bed, but she didn’t have the strength. She pressed her hand to her now-empty stomach. There’d been fluttery, swift kicks within her only hours earlier. What had gone wrong?

As the minutes passed, the warmth left Katie’s body.  The sounds in the room seemed to pass through layers of mud before reaching her. Words were garbled, thick to the point of being incomprehensible. She looked to her left and watched tears form wet trails down Laura’s cheeks.

Then the doctor was there. His somber gaze met hers for only a moment before he averted his eyes. “Stillborn.”

It was the only word she heard.

Someone else spoke to her, and she turned her head toward the sound. “Would you like to hold her?”

Katie nodded.  There was a car seat waiting to take her baby home in the freezing car outside. She’d spent so many weeks looking for the best one. It would’ve kept her daughter safe.

The sound of Laura sobbing beside her filtered into her consciousness, and Katie heard herself speak. “I want to be alone.”

The team of nurses filed out of the room, shoulders slumped, taking her hysterical sister with them. The last one to leave brought Katie a small bundle.

Katie gazed in wonder at her baby’s small features, peaceful in their stillness. Her mouth lifted at the corners. She’s perfect.

Their daughter looked just like the pictures she’d seen of Mike as a newborn. This was the strong child who’d survived the car accident that had taken Mike’s life and had nearly taken her own 9 months ago. Katie had chosen the name Hope, for the hope her daughter had given her through some of the darkest days of her life.

With trembling hands, she unfolded the swaddling blanket. Hope was fragile, but perfectly formed. Delicate ribs showed through paper-thin skin, and miniature veins crisscrossed her slender limbs.

Something inside Katie threatened to break, and she steadied herself. It was so cold in the hospital room. She opened a tie on her gown and lifted Hope to her chest. She covered them both with the swaddling blanket, taking care to support her daughter’s limp body.

Katie rubbed Hope’s back and hummed a lullaby. She’d never get to sing to her in the rocking chair that her own mother had rocked her in, but she could at least sing to her daughter as she let her go.

Katie sent up a prayer. “Take care of her, Michael,” she whispered.

A whimper rose from under the blanket, and a feathery touch brushed against her chest. She adjusted Hope’s body and cradled her small head in her palm. Hope’s delicate ribs rose and fell with shallow breath. Her eyes opened—blue, like Mike’s had been—and focused on Katie. Katie’s wall crumbled, and the tears she hadn’t let herself cry streamed down her face.

Hope was staying with her.

 

baby-short-story

 

What did you think?

4 Comments

  • Bill West

    Reply Reply May 4, 2015

    Wow.
    ……….
    When you get into a woman’s feelings like this, you get into my feelings too.
    ………
    In that first … migrating colonists novel … you did have a bit too much foreshadowing. I am 67 now, and I have been aware of the overall concept of airlock expulsion for at least fifty years. The one thing that was new to me was pain in the bones. Given all of that, I was surprised when Era got airlocked, but a trifle bored with the aftermath.
    .
    I just read 318. I assume that it is more recent because you are … bolder in presenting the woman’s feeling. It felt very, very real.
    .
    There was a concept of “above-the-line / below-the-line” emotions/experiences/interpretations which was introduced to the Human Potential Movement back in the 1970’s. One of the highest below-the-line experiences was anger. Boredom, as I recall, which is a kind of covert anger, was a trifle lower on the scale. Here we have despair followed by relief.
    .
    Aha. O.K. There is a thing certain women do sometimes. There was a Star Trek episode which was allegorically based on it. Women on a certain planet could excite men and compel them to mate with them with their tears. Under certain circumstances, which I have only experienced a very few times in my life, a normal human female will create a little burst of tears of gratitude and/or relief. I am not sure whether the verbal label matters at all, but the chemicals do. Any man nearby will be excited by the little cloud. I saw some high school girls who had heard that you could “turn a guy on” by crying on him, and they were running around, acting silly, in my estimation, grabbing every guy in sight and fake-crying on him.
    .
    What gives rise to this? The woman must be in a condition of relief/gratitude in which she has, somehow, been rescued from a threat, whether or not she recognized it before she was rescued. Where does this lead?
    .
    Most drama is not tragic, since nobody crosses moral lines and dies as a result, but, rather, a form of comedy, since it is common for the hero and his romantic interest to get married afterward. Some elements might have a comic element, such as Chewbaca? Oh, dear. Some parts of the drama might be scary. I was actually filled with fear the first time I saw the fighters attacking the Death Star. At the same time, there tends to be an escalating series of threats with the biggest threats coming close to the romantic ending. Perhaps there a great loss, as when Ben Kenobi lets Darth Vader kill him. However, the ending is celebration with, perhaps, a romantic resolution.
    ..
    Looking at the Paragon & cetera series so far, it is, of course, a mirror of our culture, and there seems to be very little hope. We see no truly tragic deaths, and we see no romantic relief. A character is, quite understandably, driven forward by her emotions and natural urges until she gets airlocked. What this shares with tragedy is that the negativity of her fate is out of proportion to her misconduct. Some people would recommend ignoring the negatives of the political power structure because there is nothing you can do to fix it. We are, as it were, moving into the middle ages again, as vassals of rich and powerful overlords.
    .
    So, yes, you are an important writer to me and, yes, you make me think.

    • Bill West

      Reply Reply May 5, 2015

      I have to wonder whether you have had children yourself or you just have a vivid imagination and a great command of the language. I see that there is current legislation in a southern state to force a pregnant woman to carry a stillborn baby to term.
      .
      http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/03/09/terry-england-farm-animals_n_1335976.html
      .
      The legislator compares the woman to a cow or a pig.

    • Autumn Kalquist

      Reply Reply May 19, 2015

      Thank you for the kind words. I love hearing that readers enjoy the stories, and I want every story I release to be better than the last. That’s always my goal as I continue to write.

      There is much to come in the Legacy Code series, and I appreciate every reader who sticks with it as it really starts to unfold. It’ll be easier once more of the books are out, but for now, I just have to hope my current readers have faith I know where I’m taking them. (And I do.) 🙂

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