As I watched, Piper seemed to crumble in on herself. The guilt and the worry pushed down on her
shoulders and made her small. It didn’t suit her. She was strong, a fighter, yet fear for Elva tore straight
I I had known the child a few short weeks, and already I was in agony, watching her cry and shake with
fever. I could only imagine how Piper felt. To watch her daughter be sick now, and so often, must have
been a special kind of torture.
Holding Piper’s arm, I turned her into me to offer her the physical support of my body. She clung to me, likely about to fall if I did not hold her upright.
I may have been angry at Piper for all that had occurred between us. She had betrayed me once, for reasons I still didn’t fully understand, when all I had ever done was love her.
Yet seeing her like this, so scared for her daughter, I could not help but soften to her.
“It’s not your fault,” I told her. “It could have been any illness. Even someone with a cough could have sent the germs her way.”
“But I was sick.” Tears clung to her eyelashes. They made my chest ache. “I should have waited to see
her until I was sure. I was just so eager. I missed her so much.”
I moved my hand up and down her back in long, soothing strokes.
“It’s not your fault,” I said again, more firmly,
She shook her head, unable or unwilling to hear me and take my words to heart.
When Elva pulled through, I would try again. For now, I understood Piper’s worry made reason difficult to accept. Even bad things were easier to comprehend when there was a cause and effect. Chaos made.
Thank you, doctor,” I told the physician, who nodded at me.
I will check on her several times throughout the night,” the physician said. “When her fever breaks, send for me, and I will be able to do more.“tu
Thank you,” I said again,
“Thank you,” said Piper, voice muffled against my shoulder.
The physician left. Mark and the maid stayed nearby. I nodded to Mark and he moved a chair from the
table over to Elva’s beside. Gently, I led Piper there and helped her sit down. Immediately, she reached
out and cradled Elva’s hand.
With her situated, I walked back to the table to retrieve a second chair. Mark was at my side at once.
intend to stay,” I told him. “Go and alert my family’s servants of where I’ll be if I’m needed.”
Mark saluted. “At once, sir.”
As he exited the room, I motioned toward the maid. “You may leave as well.”
“If I’m needed..” she said. Bold of her to attempt to stand up to me. Yet it only made me appreciate her,
as someone who cared about Piper and Elva.
“I can handle it from here,” I said, softer. “They will need you rested in the morning.
The maid accepted this. After one last glance over Piper and Elva, she turned and left the room.
With the servants dealt with, I returned to Piper’s side, carrying a second chair. I placed it beside hers
and sat down upon it.
Piper glanced at me, eyes wide with surprise. “You’re staying?”
“If it’s alright,” I said. Did she want to be alone? In that case, I would wait for Mark to return and then I
“No, it’s fine. Just… unexpected.” She looked at me like she had never seen me before.
Was it so unusual, to care for the welfare of a child? Specifically the child of a woman I once loved with
the entirety of my heart?
I didn’t think so. So I didn’t say anything.
Eventually her surprise passed, and she seemed more at ease. Her gaze returned to her daughter, whose
quiet sobs had eased into a restful slumber.
“Does this happen often?” I asked.
Too often. Though less now than in the past. I know the medicine and regular checkups have been
helping her. If only I hadn’t been so careless…”
I didn’t want her to focus on that, so I tried to steer the conversation away. “Do you and Elva have a
place to stay out there?”