July 4, 1913
Things have been quite different between Tom and I since I told him about the baby yesterday. I didn’t talk to him at all after our dinner conversation. He went to his study, and I didn’t see him for the rest of the night. If he came to bed at all, he must’ve risen and left for the office before I woke because I didn’t see him this morning either. I was hoping his anger would have cooled by morning and that he would at least be open to discussing the matter with me. That’s what I’d hoped, but I can’t say I’m surprised that it didn’t pan out that way. Of course at the firm, he barely spoke to me beyond what was necessary, and even then, he used few words and was around me as little as possible. It goes without saying that it’s been a miserable day.
And it isn’t over, yet. We’re going to Ardara House for dinner tonight to tell his parents the “good” news, and we’ll be staying on for the weekend. I’m praying that everything goes well there, but as I did this morning, I’m steeling myself for the worst.
Ardara, Tom’s boyhood home, was a stately gray, brick mansion 8 miles outside the city of Belfast. It was the home of Thomas and Eliza Andrews, Tom’s parents.
After Tom and Brynne arrived, it didn’t take long for the elder Andrewses to notice that something seemed different between their son and daughter-in-law. By the time everyone was around the table for dinner, it was apparent. The younger couple didn’t interact with each other and barely even looked at each other.
It must have something to do with the exciting news they had to to share, Eliza thought, but what kind of news could make them regard each other so coldly? If it is good news, why are they acting like this toward each other? What kind of good news would make people act so?
“Tommy, what’s this big piece of news you have for us this evening?” the elder Mr. Andrews asked.
Tom put his fork down and cleared his throat. He looked at his parents. “Brynne and I are going to have a baby,” he said, a stony expression on his face.
The older couple exchanged excited, happy looks. “Why, that’s wonderful news!” Mrs. Andrews said.
“It certainly is,” Mr. Andrews concurred. “Congratulations are certainly in order.”
“I was afraid something might be wrong,” Mrs. Andrews admitted.
“What gave you that idea?” Tom asked.
“Your current expression is one clue,” Mrs. Andrews said. “You should be overjoyed with this news, yet you both seem so melancholy. Is anything wrong? You do want this child, don’t you?”
“Oh, of course we do,” Brynne replied. “As much as anything we’ve ever wanted for each other.”
“Then what could you possibly have to be sad about?” Mr. Andrews asked.
Brynne averted her eyes and looked down at her salad as she answered. “It isn’t important. Just a little disagreement we’ve been having. It’s silly really, and it’s hardly an issue anymore.”
“Disagreement?” Mrs. Andrews repeated. “Over what? Names for the baby?”
“Over whether it’s appropriate for Brynne to continue working now that we are aware of her condition,” Tom revealed. “I think she should immediately resign from the firm.”
Brynne looked at Tom. “And I agree,” she said, earning a surprised look from him.
“You do?” he asked.
“I do,” she said. “That’s why I considered it a moot issue. I’ve thought it over, and I realize that if I want to maintain a happy home, some sacrifices are in order on my part. I’ll quit the firm.”
Tom said smiled at her for the first time in nearly 24 hours. “You have no idea how happy it makes me to hear you say that,” he said.
Brynne offered a lackluster smile in response. Then, she put her fork down. “I’d really like some fresh air now, if you all don’t mind.”
“What about dinner?” Tom asked.
“I’ve no appetite at the moment,” she said with a small smile. “I think the evening air will help restore it.” She stood, Tom and Mr. Andrews following suit. “If you all would excuse me.”
“Do you want me to come with you?” Tom asked.
“No, I’ll be fine by myself.” She hurriedly left the dining room, denying Tom the opportunity to protest that he should join her. He reclaimed his seat, watching her retreating back disappear out the dining room door.
Brynne found herself in the garden at the rear of the house. When she’d been at the dinner table speaking to Tom just now, it had taken everything in her to put on a happy face and not burst into tears. But now she was alone – it didn’t matter anymore, so she let the tears fall freely.
At what point had she grown so attached to the firm and her work there that the prospect of leaving would cause her to shed tears? But work was only one reason she didn’t want to go through with this. She’d always promised herself that she wouldn’t be one of those women who gave up who she was, or even only parts of herself, just to please a man. But here she was, having done exactly that. That was the hardest thing of all, giving up something that had become an integral part of her identity.
She would get over this eventually. Maybe. In the best-case scenario, her child would fill the void created by the absence of her work at the firm. At worst, a little bit of a void would always remain, and the new little one would serve as a constant reminder of what could have been and what would never be.
Mr. Andrews’s study overlooked the garden, a fact unknown to Brynne. He had a clear view of his daughter-in-law from the large window behind his desk, and what he saw gave him cause for concern.
Tom stood at his father’s bookshelf, perusing the collection for newly-acquired titles. He didn’t see what his father saw out the study window.
“Are you quite certain that this little tiff between you and Brynne has been resolved?” Andrews asked his son.
“You were there at dinner,” Tom said. “You heard it from Brynne’s own mouth. It’s done with.”
“I’m not so sure all is at it seems,” Andrews said, indicating the window. Tom, an open book in his hands, joined his father at the desk. He peered down at the garden and saw Brynne sitting alone on a stone bench.
“In fact, think you’re wrong,” Andrews Senior added.
“About what?” Tom asked.
“About everything. About her wanting things to be this way, about your position against her continuing to work.”
“But why would she agree to it if it isn’t what she wants?” Tom asked.
“You have a lot to learn about being married, son. She obviously thought it more important to preserve your happiness and her family than to preserve her own desires and her career. It’s obvious to anyone with eyes that this is not a happy woman.”
Tom peered down at the garden again. He wasn’t close enough to see the details of Brynne’s face, but he had to admit that she did appear to be a little down. The usual energy about her just wasn’t there anymore.
“If your goal in keeping her from working was to prevent stress, I’d have to say you failed,” Andrews Senior observed. “Your actions and beliefs seem to have caused the girl a great deal of stress, I suspect.”
Tom shut the book in hands and set it down on his father’s desk. “She’s just so … unconventional.”
“You knew she was unconventional when you married her, Tommy,” Andrews said. “Finding out about her condition was just as much a surprise for her as it was for you. Did you honestly expect her to just change at the flip of switch?” Andrews took a step closer to his son. “When she married you, she did so believing you accepted her – all of her – for what she was. Did the two of you ever even discuss having children?”
“We would have eventually. It just never came up.”
“So, before any of this happened, you never discussed what you expected of her in this type of situation?”
“So, what am I to do? Sacrifice my core beliefs to keep her happy?” Tom asked.
“I didn’t say that,” Andrews said. “But it’s worth noting that that is exactly what she was willing to do for you. Moreover, I’m saying that since neither of you had a plan for how to approach this, you both must compromise. It may seem like more work than the alternative, but it’s worth it if you don’t want your wife to be miserable. Or even worse – resentful.”
When Tom walked into the garden, Brynne was still sitting by herself on the bench. Her back was to him, and she didn’t see his approach.
“Brynne,” he said softly so that he didn’t startle her.
Brynne lifted her head but didn’t turn to the direction of the voice. She took a moment to compose herself before standing and facing him.
Instantly, Tom felt like the biggest jackass in all of Ireland. He hadn’t been able to see it from his father’s study, but from this vantage point, and with the aid of the light from the nearby gas lamp post, it was obvious that Brynne had been crying.
“I don’t know why flowers affect me so,” Brynne said with a sniff and a quick attempt to wipe her watery, puffy eyes. “They always seem to wreak havoc with my sinuses.”
Tom was silent as he tried to find the words to make this situation right again. Realizing that there would be no perfect words, he resolved to begin the best way he knew how.
“I’ve been so terribly misguided,” he said.
“By whom?” Brynne asked. “About what?”
“By myself, mostly, and the social conventions of the world in which we live,” Tom answered. “And I’m afraid the victim of my misguided ways has been you. All this time, I’ve been trying to protect you from the harm I believed you would suffer by continuing to work, and it turns out that this whole ordeal has caused you so much stress, perhaps more so than working ever would. In effect, I’ve caused the situation I’d hoped to avoid, a fact which my father has been good enough to point out to me.
“I know this isn’t what you want, to quit the firm now, even though you say it is,” he continued. “I know better. I know you better. I should have realized it at dinner, but I couldn’t see past my own wants. I’ve been such an idiot. Your work means as much to you as mine does to me. It’s part of you. I don’t want you to be unhappy for my sake. Furthermore, what I want should be secondary; it’s you that has to stay healthy and sane to have this baby. I know I’m babbling on, but what I’m getting to is that I’m so sorry, Brynne. And I want you to do what makes you happy.”
“Really?” Brynne asked.
“I want you to be happy. I mean it. If that means staying on at the firm, wonderful. I’m for it. I just don’t want you to be upset anymore.”
Brynne hurried around to the other side of the bench and threw her arms around his neck. “Thank you,” she whispered, hugging him tightly.
AN: That does it for Volume 1, but Volume 2 is coming right up! Until it arrives, don’t forget to go to for updates and other information about “The Journal”, “Fumbling Toward Ecstasy”, and other stories, including SOUNDTRACK info!