She was sleeping and was awakened by the cries of a baby, her baby. The moonlight was drifting in through the open window, casting just enough glow to allow her to move through the room. Even with the light, there seemed to be some kind of fog in the room, and she had trouble seeing. Slowly she made her way to a small room where a cradle stood in the center, gently rocking back and forth. The cries were louder and more urgent now. She made soft hushing sounds as she approached the crying baby. As she leaned over and reached down to pick up her child, she stared in horror at the empty cradle. Where was the baby? What had they done with the baby? The crying stopped, and only an eerie silence hung over the crib. There was no baby; there would never be a baby.
With a jerk Nola sat upright in the bed. She was covered in sweat, and tears were streaming down her face. It was a dream. “Just a dream,” she said aloud, as if saying it would make the dream less real. It was the middle of the night, and just like in the dream, the moonlight cast an eerie glow across the room. Nola sat staring out the window. She was thinking she would not go back to sleep, and staying in bed only made her dwell on the disturbing dream. She had a lot of dreams like that. “Omens,” Mother called them. As a child she would often tell Mother of her dreams. When she became old enough to understand, she stopped telling her because she knew it upset Mother. As she started to put her feet on the floor, Nola felt something warm and wet between her legs. Instinctively she put her hand down there and stared in horror at the blood on her hand. She stood up quickly as if this was a dream, and she would wake up by standing. Pain hot and hard shot through her stomach. No. No. This is not happening. Quickly she found trousers and a shirt. Putting them on, she went out the door of her little home and down the path toward town. Her only hope was to reach Miss Dominy. Miss Dominy would know what to do. All thoughts of the day ahead, of the funeral for Milo, were gone. All she could think of was saving her baby. Hot tears stung her face. Tears for her baby and tears from the pain that seemed to be getting worse. She made her way as fast as her body would allow. Even though the light from the moon was making her way a bit easier, it was still a treacherous walk at night. Weeds and rocks and the occasional root from some plant or tree were tricky to navigate in broad daylight. Nola knew this path, but she was struggling, panting now from pain and fatigue. She kept moving, placing one foot in front of the other. Suddenly she caught her toes on a root and lost her balance. She hit the dirt hard. Dazed for a few seconds, she lay there moaning. Slowly she got up on her hands and knees. The pain was constant now, and she knew that she was still bleeding.
“Please God, help me to make it to Miss Dominy. Help me.” Nola prayed. With that prayer on her lips she was able to get back on her feet and continue down the path. In the distance she heard the sound of a dog barking or the sound of thunder. Which was it? Both. She knew it was both.
Dominy Brooks heard the old hound barking. She was lying awake trying to decipher what the bark was about. A coon? Maybe. Could be an opossum. She didn’t think so. After 14 years with Jake, she could almost read his mind or at least his bark. She got up slowly. When you are as old as Dominy, you do everything slowly because every movement you make causes some kind of pain. Over the years her arthritis robbed her of many of the things she used to do, but she refused to let it keep her sitting and waiting to die. She went to the window to see where the dog was at. His barking was some distance away toward the path that led up hill to the Todd place. Dominy took her 22 rifle down from the wall. Walking over to the window where she could see by the moonlight, she quickly pulled the bolt back to check for a shell. Loaded, as she knew it would be. She kept her gun loaded just in case she needed it quick. She put her hand on the door knob, and as quietly as her squeaky old door would allow, she opened it a crack. Seeing no one, she stepped outside onto the wood floored porch. She looked out into the yard. Jake was now at her side, and his barking turned into a very serious low growl that she knew was his alarm for real danger. That meant something much bigger than some critter was out there. Her eyes were not what they used to be, but she had keen ears, and she could hear a noise other than Jake’s non-stop growling. It was a grunting noise, panting, broken by muttering, and a whimpering sound. She lowered her gun when she saw Nola Rain Todd stumble into the clearing between the path and her tiny shanty. She began to make her way across the field to the girl, and she yelled at the old dog to stay as she went.
Nola drifted in and out of consciousness. Each time she would come around there was pain, a soft soothing voice, and a strange bed. Where was she? What was happening? She struggled to see through the fog of pain.
“This happens sometimes, and with all you been through, well it just happens. Sometimes for a reason, and sometimes there is no reason you can see or feel. You will be all right girl. God is with you, and He will comfort you,” the soft voice said.
At some point she gave into the darkness and stopped trying to understand. She stopped trying to wake up and let the pain and darkness drag her down into the pit of sorrow. Teetering on the edge of life and death and knowing her child was gone, she decided to follow her child and Milo. Dominy wasn’t about to let that happen. No ma’am. No ma’am.
“You are not leaving this world, Nola Todd. No ma’am.”
Those words kept ringing in her ears as she slipped off to the dark again.
Milo was standing above her smiling down on her.
“Milo, where have you been, Milo? Milo?” Nola whispered.
Her throat was so dry she could barely speak, and looking into Milo’s face was like trying to see through fog. Her body ached all over, and she had no memory yet of the last 24 hours.
“Nola,” she heard a man’s voice say. “You are going to be all right. Dominy has been taking care of you. Do you understand?”
She nodded her head and tried to focus on the voice coming from Milo’s face. Wait this was not Milo. Milo was gone. It was Riley. Why was Riley Todd here?
She whispered “The funeral?”
As softly as he could he replied, “I have taken care of the funeral. That was yesterday. You have been with Dominy for two days now.” Riley looked into her face intently, trying to gage how much she understood. “Try to rest now and get better. As soon as you are well, we can discuss all that’s happened. Rest now Nola. You must rest.”
She heard that word “rest” over and over in her mind as if she was counting sheep, and soon she drifted off to darkness again.
Riley Todd stood in his room at the Bradford House looking out into the night. The town was lit here and there, and still he could see an amazing number of stars. His mind was on his nephew’s wife, and he could see how easy it must have been for his Milo to fall in love with her. He was trying to keep his emotions in check so that he would be able to do the best thing for Fair Meadows. He was overcome with sorrow at the loss of her child. The child would have been Milo’s heir. He could have raised the baby to carry on the Todd name and groomed the child to take over the Todd fortune someday. The child could have been taught how to manage the responsibility of such wealth. Milo refused to listen, and Riley was not going to let anyone even his nephew bring down Fair Meadows. With much wealth comes much responsibility. Riley was sure that Nola knew nothing of who Milo really was. After all, Milo was working in a mine? This was incredulous to Riley. Why would one of the wealthiest men in the nation want to hide who he was, work underground, and live in a shack? Riley had no answer and maybe never would. Riley could never understand why his nephew chose to leave home ten years ago, and never return. He tried to give Milo everything and raise him like he was his own son. Riley was so hurt and angry when Milo left, but over the years the pain and anger had dulled. He had never given up his search for Milo, and he vowed to do whatever it took to keep Fair Meadows for himself. Nola Rain would be easy to care for. She was really so lovely and vulnerable. He found himself having thoughts and feelings long since buried within him coming alive, rising up. He must be careful. He must proceed slowly. He must remember this was about the farm and not about Nola. Tomorrow he would go back to Dominy Brooks little shanty. Tomorrow if Nola was stronger, he would explain everything. He was thinking about tomorrow as he got ready for bed.
Sometime in the night Riley was dreaming about Milo. His nephew was about ten years old, and he kept asking Riley the same question over and over. “What really happened to my mamma and daddy, Uncle Riley?” The boy just kept saying it over and over, and driving Riley insane. Finally he could take it no more and turned to the child, screaming at him.
“They drowned boy, they drowned.” He woke up then, sitting straight up in bed, wiping at the sweat on his brow. He stared out the window at the moon and whispered, “They drowned boy; they drowned.”
Sunlight streamed through the window and warmed Nola’s face. Slowly she opened her eyes and looked around the room. This was not her room, and then she remembered running down the path, the pain, and the blood. She put her hand to her stomach and stifled a sob. Her baby was gone. Milo and her baby were gone. Vaguely she recalled Riley talking to her about the funeral. She was not sure if she dreamed that he was here. She tried to call out, but her throat was dry, and all that came out was a muffled groan. Dominy appeared in the doorway and said, “I thought I heard you child. Glad to see you are awake now. Good sign. I have been really worried but I knew you would be all right. The Lord told me so. The Lord is never wrong.”
All the while she was talking Dominy was moving about the little room straightening the blanket on the bed and trying to fluff up the pillow under Nola’s head. Nola grabbed hold of Dominy’s hand and Dominy stopped, looking directly into those stunning blue eyes. She saw the question there, and she drew a breath and as softly as she could she told the girl what Nola knew but just had to hear.
“The Lord giveth and the Lord taketh away Nola. Your baby is gone. Three nights ago me and Jake found you on the path and brought you here. Wasn’t easy getting you here, but the Lord helped me. Gave me strength, He did. He will give you strength and comfort you in the days to come, if you will let him girl. The Lord is never wrong Nola.”
Excerpted from "Nola Rain" by Lynda C. Yeates. Copyright © 0 by Lynda C. Yeates. Excerpted by permission. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher. Excerpts are provided solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.