Generation Four: Hope: Part Five
Warnings: none really, unless you get squicked by hospitals. ;)
Ripp’s baby was a boy, with a light down of blond hair and his father’s dark blue eyes.
He was born during a wild thunderstorm; Hope remembered a peal of thunder as the baby emerged and hearing rain lashing the windows of the hospital as they lay him, damp and squalling, on her chest... the most beautiful baby she’d ever seen.
She felt terrible that his father wasn't there to witness the birth. Even though Ben was, it just wasn’t the same.
“It’s really coming down out there,” the doctor commented as he gently prodded Hope’s flaccid abdomen, coaxing out the afterbirth.
“All right,” the doctor said kindly. “Hope, I need you to help me out here a little. I know you’re tired, but I just need one last little push to expel the placenta.”
“Ben...?” Hope said, holding the wriggling red baby and looking around for her husband, who was dressed in hospital scrubs and trying to stay as far out of the way as possible. “Ben, darling, could you take the baby while I do this?”
“All right, Hope.” Ben murmured, taking the baby from his wife, although he had actually no desire to hold a child that wasn’t his.
Ben had known the instant the baby opened its eyes that there was no possible way he was the father. Hope’s eyes were green, his eyes were grey... how did the baby end up with blue? Not the sky blue of Hope’s mother, either… but a dark blue? How was that possible?
Ben had been blond in his youth; he wasn't concerned about that. But there weren’t any eyes that color in Hope’s family at all, and, as far back as Ben could remember, there weren’t any in his, either.
Hope cheated on me! I know she did, it’s obvious! But how can I blame her? I love her, but when have I ever been a true husband to her? Once, only once, and it almost killed me to do it. No wonder she found someone else, but damn it! I tried to be a good husband! I tried to give her a good life! How could she do this to me? How could she whelp some other man’s baby and try to pass it off as mine?
Yet he cradled the newborn boy carefully, and spoke to him softly. It wasn’t the child’s fault, was it?
“It’s all right, little one,” Ben whispered to the innocent baby. “You didn’t ask for this, did you? I’ll take care of you anyway, I promise. You deserve that.”
“Well, everything’s fine down here,” the doctor said jovially, rising from his work and letting a nurse come in to clean Hope up the rest of the way. “It was a very good delivery, Hope. Does the little one have a name yet?” He stripped off his bloody gloves and held out a finger for the newborn to grasp.
“I was thinking about naming him Matthew,” Hope replied. “What do you think, Ben?”
“Why does it matter what I think?” Ben asked gruffly before he thought. Then, when Hope looked at him with a hurt and confused expression, he dropped his eyes and stammered, “Well, I mean... I just think a mother should have the right to name her baby. Uh... you know... since she did all the work...”
“Oh, I think you might have had something to do with it,” teased the doctor as he finished writing up Hope’s chart. “Hope, I’ll see you during morning rounds tomorrow. Congratulations, you two!”
The doctor left the room, and Ben’s quiet gaze fell on Hope.
Did I have something to do with this baby, Hope? Because I don’t think I did.
Hope could not meet her husband’s eyes, and a sinking feeling crept over her as she understood Ben somehow knew Matthew was not his child.
Ben wordlessly gave the infant back to his mother to feed, and as Hope gazed into the baby’s twilight blue eyes, she realized how much the child looked like Ripp! How could Ben not realize something?
However, Ben seemed determined to keep up the facade, so Hope decided she would, too.
Alaina and Leo were thrilled to have a grandchild, and welcomed little Matthew home with open arms.
Almost from the minute Hope brought him in the door, Hope was delegated only the task of nursing the baby; his grandparents joyfully took over all other aspects of care. Both of them were still spry, even though they were older, and the fact there was a baby in the house again gave them a feeling of indescribable happiness.
They had wanted so desperately to have another child of their own and since that had never happened for them, they focused all their many attentions on their grandson instead.
It gave Hope a feeling of great joy to watch her parents with her son. She remembered being a child, and how loved and safe she’d always felt.
It made her feel very good to know her son would know the same upbringing she had known, especially since Hope, herself, was not going to be there to see her son grow up.
I pray he understands what it is I have to do. Please, God… I hope he understands.
As soon as Matthew was weaned from nursing, Hope was going to leave. She was going to go away with Ripp… perhaps back to Strangetown, perhaps somewhere else, and their son would stay behind.
The two lovers had finally realized it was the only way they could be together but still meet the conditions of Hope’s family inheritance.
The criteria for the estate stated there must be a blood heir in the house at all times; it did not stipulate what age that heir had to be nor when the designation could be passed. Small print, surely, and bound in red tape, but it was a legitimate loophole. If Hope would completely renounce her claim to the inheritance, she could pass it on to her son, and still be within the boundaries of the law.
Although it nearly killed Hope to think of leaving her son, it gave her comfort to know he would be with her parents. Hope knew Alaina and Leo would enjoy having their grandchild and would raise the boy with love, and as for Ben, well… he’d be free to do as he pleased. She honestly didn’t wish ill for him and hoped he was able to find some happiness. It just wasn’t going to be with her.
It had been Ripp who discovered the solution, painful though it was for both of them.
Shortly after arriving home from the hospital with Matthew, Hope called Ripp to tell him about the birth and invite him to come see his son. Ripp had come in a flash, heading straight for the crib, and had cuddled his newborn son close, tears in his eyes.
He hadn’t even noticed Ben standing nearby, but Ben saw him. Ben didn’t fail to notice the color of Ripp’s eyes, and he also noted the way the younger man looked at the baby and at Hope.
So that’s him. That’s the one who fathered the baby that should have been mine.
Ben slowly turned and went to the bedroom he shared with Hope.
No... his betrayer! His Delilah!
Yet still, she was the holder of his heart. Still, he loved her. It wasn’t her fault he couldn’t be the man she deserved.
He couldn’t stop the tears that rolled slowly down his wrinkled cheeks.
“Hope, listen to me,” Ripp said urgently, holding her hands in his. He had just put the baby back in his crib and quietly led Hope outside to talk. “I’ve figured out a way for us to be together and for our son not to lose everything. It’s not going to be easy, though… in fact, it’s going to be the hardest thing we’ve ever done.”
“What? What is it?” Hope asked, her trembling voice a whisper. She’d do anything to be with Ripp, but she couldn’t help feeling apprehensive at the tone of his voice and the serious expression on his face.
“Hope, we can run away together,” Ripp whispered painfully, holding her close. “...but…” His voice broke and he sighed. “Hope, I’m so sorry, but the only way is to leave Matthew behind. He’ll have to stay here, to meet the conditions of the…”
“No!” Hope cried, pulling away from him. “Leave? Leave my son? Our son? Oh, Ripp, how could we?” Hope was appalled. How could Ripp suggest such a thing?
He knew this wasn’t easy for her to hear. It had nearly killed him, too… but it was the only way. If they couldn’t have their son, at least this way they could have each other.
“Hope, from what I was able to find out, the only thing that has to happen is a blood heir needs to be named and living in the home.” Ripp said softly. “Now that Matthew’s here, he can be that heir. Hope, it kills me, too, but once he’s old enough to understand, we’ll come back and tell him everything. He’ll forgive us, Hope, I know he will. Don’t you think he’d want his parents to be together and happy?”
“Ripp…” Hope whispered, full of anguish. “I don’t know… I just don’t know. He’s our son.” But, as Ripp continued to hold her, Hope thought about what he had said.
It wasn’t as though she was running away from Matt’s father to be with a lover; it was actually the opposite, and didn’t all children want their parents to be together? And if Matthew was angry with them for leaving him behind, well, one day, he would know they did it to ensure his future and his place as the next Standish heir. The estate was becoming quite formidable now, and surely he would understand why they, as his parents, did not want him to give it up!
Hope, however, could give it up, but she would need to leave her son in her place.
Only for a little while, Matthew. Just for a little while... and when you’re older, my son, then you will know why. You’ll understand then, I hope, and not begrudge your mother her one chance for happiness with the man she should have married in the first place... your father.
Hope was going to do something she thought she would never do.
She was going to give up her family’s fortune, which meant she and Ripp would be starting from practically nothing. They’d be poorer than poor, but to her surprise, Hope found she didn’t care.
Renouncing her family’s fortune was well worth it.
She had discovered that to renounce true love carried a far greater price.
To Be Continued...
Still to come: Generation Five has been born! And as Matthew grows, will he truly be able to understand why his parents left him behind?