Summary: (based on a character created by Isobel in “Avenging Angel”, beta by Lacy, Spanish lessons by Isobel)
Category: The Quick and the Dead
Word Count: 3300
Ysabel smiled as she cut fresh carrots for the soup she was preparing. It was hard to believe that she had been married almost a year. And now she was with child.
When Cort returned home that evening, he found his wife humming softly as she stirred the pot of soup. “I hope you didn’t lift that pot,” he said with a frown.
Ysabel gave a start. “Cortland Wells! What do you mean sneaking up on me!” But he only grinned. You wait till later, she thought, I’ll give those beautiful lips something to smile about. “You scare me like that and I’ll have the baby right now!” Cort covered the distance between them in two strides. He came up behind her and embraced her, careful of her belly. “Besides, you know you hung the pot for me this morning.”
“I worry about you,” he whispered in her ear. “I don’t like leaving you alone.”
“I am never alone. Maria and her mother are always here. They do practically all the work.”
“It’s not the same as me being here,” he argued, nibbling on her ear.
“Stop that,” she giggled, swatting him with the wooden spoon.
Cort released her. “The soup smells wonderful. When are we eating?”
“That’s all you think of,” she teased. “As soon as the biscuits are finished, we’ll eat.”
“How do you feel?”
“Very good,” Ysabel said cheerily. She always felt better when her caballero was around. She watched him remove his coat and hat; he was tired. “I felt him kick again,” she said softly. The maternal joy she felt was apparent on her face.
She’s more beautiful than ever, Cort thought. “And what makes you think it’s a boy in there?” he asked amused.
“Just a feeling.”
“Well, I’ve long since learned to trust your feelings.” Cort sat heavily on one of the kitchen chairs.
“You worked too hard today.”
“No, I’m fine.”
“Your eyes tell me a different story. Don’t think you can hide anything from me.”
“Wouldn’t think of it,” he assured her.
Mealtime was quiet. Cort ate well; he always did—and anything she put in front of him. Tamales, enchiladas, soup, chicken, stew—he devoured it all with appreciative enthusiasm.
“One would think you hadn’t eaten for two years,” she noted, as Cort got up for his third bowl.
“Now that’s your fault, corazon. If you cooked like every other woman, I wouldn’t bother eating at all.”
Ysabel’s cheeks turned pink. People had always praised the culinary abilities she had obtained from her mother and grandmother; and up to that point, she accepted their kind words with gracious poise. But all this gringo husband had to do was sniff the air around her cooking pot, and her quiet dignity was replaced with a giddy joy—as though he was the first person she had cooked for. “You say the nicest things, Cort.”
He looked at her puzzled. “I’m not just saying it to be nice. I’ve no doubt should we be reduced to cactus cuttings and sawdust, you could make it appetizing.”
A tear came to Ysabel’s eye. It was the pregnancy; she knew it was making her more emotional than usual. She quickly wiped away the single drop, but Cort caught the motion in the corner of his eye. There was a lot about women and their makeup that he had no understanding of; but he quickly learned that Ysabel had moods. Tears or a quick temper signaled one of those times when it was wiser for him to back down rather than try to explain or argue a subject.
“Remember when we were married and you said I was the most beautiful woman you had ever seen?”
Cort’s deep blue eyes twinkled as he smiled. “Yes. Of course.”
“Do you still think that?” There was a childlike, hesitant quality to her voice.
Moving from the table he got down on one knee in front of her. Enveloping her hands in his larger ones, he looked into her eyes. “Amor, you are even more beautiful now.” He raised one hand and kissed it lightly; then he kissed the other one. “Don’t you ever doubt it, darlin’. Not one second.”
She had always loved the depth of his voice, but the slight drawl sent shivers up her spine. Ysabel leaned over and kissed his chestnut hair. There could never be a man better suited to her than Cort.
After dinner, they fell asleep immediately, Ysabel wrapped tightly in the arms of her husband.
A few hours later, she awoke to the sound of Cort’s snoring. She reached up and pinched his nostrils together causing him to snort and cough.
“You trying to kill me?” he asked groggily. She pretended to be sleeping but he wasn’t fooled. “I know you’re awake.” Ysabel laughed. “Was I snoring too loudly?”
“No, I just felt like pinching your nose.”
Cort chuckled and she could feel his chest rumble under her head. “How long before you have the baby?”
“Not long. The doctor thinks less than two weeks.”
“Are you nervous about the birth?” he asked, stroking her long dark hair.
“No. I’ve seen many babies born. It is easy. The little ones practically fall out.”
Cort shrugged; things weren’t always that simple. He wouldn’t admit to his anxiety. He was elated about being a father; but he’d do without the experience if it would put Ysabel in danger.
“Cort,” she whispered. “He’s kicking again.” She sat up and reaching for Cort’s hand, placed it on her belly. Sure enough, within seconds, he felt a sharp movement under his palm. He smiled. Who could have imagined how much happiness he would find here as a result of getting shot in Tombstone a year ago?
“Does it hurt when he kicks?” he asked.
“No, amor, not at all.” Ysabel lay down and put her head on the pillow next to Cort. A few minutes later they were both sleeping.
Five days passed smoothly. On the sixth morning, Cort woke up late. Ysabel was still sleeping, which wasn’t like her. Feeling uneasy, Cort asked his Deputy to watch things in town and he returned home.
Maria was cooking breakfast and he made two plates of eggs and ham to take into the bedroom.
“Do not worry, Senor Cort,” Maria smiled. “She is a healthy woman. She will have a good, strong baby.” Cort smiled; but his heart was worried. He wanted to stay close by to be sure Ysabel was well.
As he entered their bedroom, Ysabel woke up and rolled over. “Cort, have I overslept?”
He sat at the edge of the bed and handed her one of the plates. “No. You’re fine. I want you to stay in bed today.” He got up on the bed and sat next to her.
Ysabel leaned against the headboard. “You worry too much. I am fine.”
“That’s very nice. Now eat and go back to sleep.”
“What? There’s work to do!” she said pouting. “Supper will not make itself.”
“I’ll make supper.” But when he saw the face she made, it was his turn to pout. “All right, Maria will make supper. I’m not that bad a cook.”
Ysabel laughed and leaned close for a kiss—and got a peck on the cheek.
“Ooohhh! Diablo! Now kiss me!” she demanded. Cort acquiesced and gave her a small kiss on the lips. Ysabel dropped her plate on the nightstand. Leaning over, she grabbed his dimpled chin and pulled it to her ruby lips. Pushing him against the headboard, she punished him with her lips.
“Okay!” he yelped. “I need some air. You call me the devil? You’re just as bad.” A big smile crossed his lips. “And I love it.” They both laughed as they resumed eating their breakfast.
“Cort, you can go to town. You’ll be only ten minutes away.”
Ysabel knew from his tone that there’d be no arguing with him. Admittedly, she didn’t feel as well as she would have liked; and Cort’s presence did a lot to allay her fears. It wouldn’t be so bad to relax and let her husband wait on her. “So, you’re going to stay home and let me boss you around?”
“Within reason, young lady,” he drawled.
“All right, my pistolero, come over here and rub my feet. They are tired.”
“How can your feet be tired when you haven’t gotten out of bed yet?” he countered.
“But they are in need of strong hands,” she purred.
Cort tilted his head to one side and smiled. “You’re a wicked woman and you’re going to use me, aren’t you?”
He smiled as he slid down to the bottom of the bed. Ysabel grinned happily. Cort had large, masculine hands and he knew just how to pleasure her with them. Foot and back massaging were two of Cort’s strong talents.
“Cort, you have magic hands.” Two minutes later, she was fast asleep. Cort covered her up and planted a kiss on the top of her head. Then he took their dishes and left.
Around 6:00 that evening, Cort heard a loud scream and ran into the bedroom to see his wife sweating and in pain.
“It’s time, Cort. Get the doctor,” she said.
Cort ran out of the room and yelled to Maria to fetch Dr. Jacobs. He filled a pan with cold water and bathed her forehead. Please hurry, he thought. I can’t lose Ysabel.
“I’m okay, Cort,” she breathed.
“I know,” he said, trying to be reassuring. “The baby’s going to slide right out.”
In spite of the pain she had to chuckle. His handsome face was so worried he was almost in tears.
Five minutes later he heard a horse ride into the yard. It wasn’t a good sign as the doctor usually came with a buggy. He got up just as Maria burst into the door.
“The doctor is not in town! He had to travel to the Forrest home to deliver a baby.” Cort knew they lived at least ten miles out of town…in the other direction. Something had to be done now.
Cort heard a wagon approaching. He looked out the window and saw Senora Lupe Lios pulling in front of the house.
“Where did she come from?” Cort asked angrily.
“I don’t know, Senor. But she is the midwife; doesn’t she need to be here?”
Cort didn’t like the woman; he didn’t trust her. Any time she was around, the hairs on the back of his neck stood up. He couldn’t explain it but he didn’t want her near his wife.
Maria went into the bedroom. “Senora Lios is here, Ysabel.”
“Cort!” He was torn between heading the woman off and going to Ysabel; he went to his wife. “Cort, will you stay with me?”
Maria looked toward the bed wide-eyed. “Ysabel, it’s not proper.”
“I don’t trust her alone with my baby,” Ysabel said, tearfully. “They talk about her in town.”
“She delivers many babies,” Maria said, trying to reassure her.
Cort looked from one woman to the other. “If Ysabel wants me here, I’ll stay.”
The front door opened; it annoyed him that this woman would come in uninvited.
“Where is she?” Lupe demanded. “Is she having the child?” Maria pointed to the bedroom meekly. Cort blocked her way, his eyebrows pulled in a frown. “You wait outside,” she said facing Cort. But he didn’t budge.
“My wife wants me in there,” he said firmly. Maria cowered in the corner knowing Senora Lios would not tolerate it.
He sat on the bed by his wife. “I’m here and I’m not leaving,” he said for the midwife’s benefit as well as Ysabel’s.
Lupe put her fat hands on her fatter hips and glowered at Cort. “You cannot be here when the baby is born.”
“I want him here,” Ysabel said.
“It is bad luck!” Lupe said knowing Ysabel was a bit superstitious.
Cort snorted derisively. “Bad luck? How is the baby’s father bad luck?” Having you here is bad luck, battle axe. For the sake of his wife, he kept his thoughts to himself.
“I refuse to help her if you don’t leave,” she said, pushing her face in front of Cort’s.
He got off the bed and leaned in her face. “Then leave. She doesn’t need you.” Maria looked as though she were going to faint. Ysabel felt her pains coming quicker and knew she was near birth.
“Cort, I can’t wait for Dr. Jacobs.”
“See? You need me here,” Lupe said triumphantly.
“Wrong! She doesn’t. Now leave.”
Lupe looked at Ysabel. “The gringo doesn’t care about you. Send him away so I can bring your baby to you.”
Ysabel cried out as a pain surprised her. Cort, clearly upset by it, turned to Maria. “Get some blankets and the hot water on the stove.”
Maria looked from Cort to the midwife and decided she feared Cort more. “Yes, Senor,” she said scurrying to retrieve the water.
A look of astonishment crossed Senora Lios’ face as she realized what Cort was planning. “You think you can deliver this baby?” she laughed. “A murdering pistolero?”
“Watch your tongue!” Ysabel warned.
She shook her fist at Cort. “I’ll put a curse on you and your baby!”
“You have no power over us, diabla,” Cort hissed. “Now go before this pistolero decides to use you for target practice.” Maria had to giggle in spite of the situation they were in.
Senora Lios huffed out of the house, muttering in several languages.
“My husband has chased the devil away,” Ysabel smiled weakly.
“Don’t worry, darlin’; I can do this. You may have seen many babies born, but I’ve delivered them. It was one of my priestly duties.” He smiled encouragingly and winked.
“I didn’t know you were so talented.”
“I can’t tell you everything about me; I have to maintain your interest. Don’t want you getting bored right away.” He gently pulled her toward him by her ankles and raised her nightgown.
Ysabel tried to concentrate on Cort’s beautiful head of honey brown hair rather than the pain she was feeling. “There is not a chance in the heavens above that you could bore me. Every day with you is an adventure.”
Cort half smiled as he peered under her gown. “Ysabel, I see his head. Can you push a little?” He put one hand on her leg and rubbed it. “I know it hurts.” Ysabel was so proud of her husband. He had worked hard to atone for his earlier years. She gave a grunt and pushed. “Good girl,” she heard him say from below her. “Give it a second and try that again.” He straightened up and looked her way. “Are you okay?”
“Oh, yes, amor!” With all her might, she pushed the little baby into the waiting arms of its father. There was a few seconds of quiet, and for a moment Ysabel worried. Then the heavy silence was broken by the cry of a baby. All the pain and stress were drained from her body. She raised herself up on her elbows and saw Cort gently wrap the baby in a blanket. There were tears in his deep blue eyes as he kissed the child’s head.
“Ysabel, he’s beautiful.” Maria helped her sit upright and Cort placed the tiny bundle in her arms. “You made us a boy,” he whispered, kissing her head. Maria clapped her hands excitedly.
When Ysabel looked at her little son she gasped. He had a head of honey brown hair and deep blue eyes. “You are your Daddy’s son,” she said softly. “What will we call him?”
Cort, trying to discreetly wipe away his tears, shrugged. “Whatever you want. Just don’t name him after me. There must be someone you admire. Your father maybe?”
She looked at the baby and nodded. “Si, Manuel is a fine name for our son. Thank you, Cort.”
“You did all the work. I was just there in case something went wrong.” He sat on the bed next to Ysabel. They are so beautiful together, he thought. “I’ll be right back. I have a surprise for you.”
Cort went to the barn. When he returned he peeked into the bedroom. “Close your eyes.” She heard him walk to her side of the bed. “Open.”
“Oh, it’s the most beautiful cradle I’ve ever seen. Did you make it?” Cort nodded. “Little Manuel thanks you.”
“Would you like me to help you clean up?”
“You take Manuel, and Maria will help me.”
Cort took the little bundle and, using some of the warm water, he washed his son. Then he wrapped him in a clean blanket and sat in the rocking chair by the fire. “So, you’re Manuel. Well, like it or not, I’m your father. I can understand if you’re upset; I’d be a little annoyed myself. On the other hand, your mother will more than make up for any disappointment I’ll cause you. She’s a mighty special person. She has a great capacity for love and kindness and forgiveness. Maybe you’ll inherit those leanings and not hold your father’s past against him.” Manuel cooed softly. “Speaking your mind, huh? You mother does a lot of that, too. Right smart woman she is. And what a cook! When you get old enough to eat real food you’ll appreciate it.”
“She is ready now,” Maria said, emerging from the bedroom.
“Thanks for your help today,” Cort said. He walked into the room and handed their sleeping son to Ysabel.
“Sit by me,” she said, putting Manuel in his cradle.
Cort got in the bed and held his wife. “Are you all right?” he asked.
“Yes. A little sore, that’s it.”
“You must be tired,” he replied, stroking her hair.
“Si, I am tired.”
“Then go to sleep. I’ll watch Manuel.” Saying his son’s name made his heart happy. He was a father. He knew that realization wouldn’t hit him until later. Right now he was thankful that Ysabel survived.
It was quiet for a few minutes and Cort assumed she had fallen asleep. Slowly his eyes closed.
“What sort of boy do you think our son will be?”
Cort shrugged. “I can tell you what he won’t be,” he said softly. “He won’t be a pistolero. He won’t be a robber or ride with outlaws. He won’t run wild like his father did.” Ysabel’s eyes filled with tears; poor Cort. She had many times tried to imagine what he looked like as a child. How hard it must have been for him to be rejected by his mother and treated so horribly by his father. “He will know he’s loved and cared for. He’ll go to school and learn a trade. Our son will enjoy his life.”
Soon Cort was snoring in Ysabel’s ear. She chuckled softly. On one side of her was her husband, on the other side was her son—Ysabel’s joy was now doubled. She smiled contentedly and thanked God for such fortune and happiness. Soon she joined Cort and Manuel in the land of pleasant dreams.
Author’s Notes: Spanish terms: amante (lover), amor (love), caballero (cowboy), pistolero (gunslinger), diablo, diabla (devil)