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Blanche Tickle Girl
Book Two of the Full Sails series
Wes Boyd
©2012, ©2014

Chapter 24

The word “pregnancy” ricocheted around the room like it had been shot from a gun. Mary searched for words for a moment then said, “Huh? Are you sure?”

“Oh, quite sure,” he soft-spoken black man said in a West Indies accent. “At a guess, I’d say two to three months along. It’s a little hard to say at this stage without an ultrasound, but I would expect you’ll be giving birth along about the middle of November, give or take a few weeks. You appear to be healthy and there’s no reason I can see that you should be experiencing any problems, at least at this stage.”

Still stunned with the news, they talked with the doctor for a few more minutes, then went back outside and found a cab to take them back to where the Mary Sue was tied up. “Matt,” she said with tears in her eyes. “I’m sorry, but this changes everythin’.”

“Yeah, I guess it does,” he agreed. “I never expected this to happen. But while it changes things, there’s a part of me that isn’t sorry about it. I love you, Mary, and I plan on loving our child, too.” He let out a long sigh and added, “Let’s face it, Mary, we’ve been with each other long enough to know we love each other. I think the time has come for us to get married.”

“Married? Matt, are ye sure?”

“I’ve been sure for a long time,” he smiled. “A year or more, anyway. It’s just that there’s never been enough of a reason to bring it up. There is, now.”

“But Matt,” she protested. “I always thought ye didn’t want ta get married ’cause of the leukemia. Ye always said ye didn’t know if ye had a future.”

“I still don’t,” he shrugged. “But there is a future out there, and you and our child will get to see it even if I don’t. If I was to come down with it again tomorrow, I’d like him or her to at least know they had a father.”

“You’re thinkin’ it could happen?” she said warily.

“It can always happen,” he told her flatly. “You’ve known that since the day I first met you, back there in St. John’s. I’m thinking now that the least I can do is offer you a little more protection than I’ve been doing. If we’re married and something happens to me, that would mean you and the baby will have more of a legacy to work with. I’m sorry, Mary. I should have made the offer a long time ago, but somehow it never seemed quite real. It does now. Let’s get married. I don’t think it will change a thing between us, but if worse comes to worst, it’ll help provide for you and the baby a bit.”

“Matt,” she shook her head. “I ain’t sayin’ no, but this all comes at me kinda quick. I sure wasn’t expectin’ this.”

“Well, I wasn’t either,” he grinned. “But it’s the right thing to do, and we should have done it a while ago.”

“All right, Matt,” she smiled. “I’ll marry ye. I somehow never expected it ta happen, but I never expected ta be havin’ your child, either.” She turned to kiss him, and it was a kiss that took them most of the way back to the Mary Sue.

Once they got out of the taxi, they decided to find a quiet place out of the sun to sit and talk. They found it in a small restaurant not far away; both of them ordered cola drinks and sandwiches. It wasn’t until after they were served that she spoke up. “I suppose this kills the idea of our sailin’ around the world.”

“Doesn’t have to,” he shrugged. “Although it’s probably going to mean we’re going to have to put it off for a while. Let’s assume you’re going to have the baby in mid November, just to have a date to work with. That’s cutting it mighty tight to be in Panama by December, especially with a newborn, and with having to find and rig out a bigger boat. I mean, I suppose we could do it if we found a boat in Florida, but it still strikes me as cutting it a little too tight.”

“Aye, you’re probably right,” she agreed. “So you’re sayin’ puttin’ it off for another year?”

“Well, yeah, just talking it out,” he shrugged. “Maybe longer than that. One thing is for sure, we will need a bigger boat than the Mary Sue. Maybe something like that Alberg 35 I was talking about a while back, or something about like that.”

“With a little one aboard, we might even want ta think about a boat that’s even bigger.”

“I don’t think we want to overdo it,” he shrugged. “But at least we don’t have to be in a hurry about it. This is not the time of year to buy a boat anyway since the prices will be a lot better in the fall. What would you say if we don’t try to sell the Mary Sue right now, just to keep our options open?”

“Might not be a bad idea. But I don’t think we want ta be livin’ on it when the baby comes.”

“You’re probably right on that. We probably ought to find a place ashore, and I’d say not later than early September. That’d give us time to get settled in a little before it happens.”

“I’d guess you’re about right on that,” she nodded. “Any idea where we might want to be?”

“I don’t know, other than the fact that we probably don’t want to be anywhere close to my mother. She’s going to shit a brick when she finds out that I’ve gotten married to someone without her approval.”

“Aye, I don’t think I’d care ta have her breathin’ down my neck on that, either. But Matt, ye know, we could go ta Blanche Tickle.”

“Might be a possibility,” he agreed. “Do you know if the house is going to be rented again this summer?”

“I could call Sinead and find out,” she said. “But if it is, it’s probably goin’ ta be ta that artist fella again, so he’d be gone before the end of August.”

“That would fit together about right,” he agreed. “I can think of lots worse places to be. My only concern is that it’s a little far from a hospital.”

“Aye, it’s a couple hours inta St. John’s, but maybe when the time gets close we could rent a hotel room or somethin’ till the baby comes. An’ at least if we’re in Canada the government pays for the birth and health care.”

“That’s not something that we’d have in the States, but I’ve got enough money that it’s not that big an issue,” he shrugged, then shook his head. “God, ever since this came down, I keep thinking that maybe Mom is right after all, and maybe it’s time to start thinking about settling down and getting a job to be able to support my family. I don’t think I have to, not yet, but I can see it laying out there on the horizon.”

“An’ where might ye do that?”

He let out a sigh. “Damned if I know. Mary, I’ve never really thought that far ahead, you know that, and you know why. That round-the-world trip, well, that’s about as far as I’ve let myself think ahead seriously. Now, all of a sudden the horizon just got a lot bigger and I don’t know what to do about it.”

“At least it’s not something ye have ta be makin’ your mind up about right now,” she pointed out. “But if we decide ta go ta Blanche Tickle for the winter again, ye’d have all winter ta think about it, an’ maybe investigate a few things.”

“Yeah, thank god it’s not something I have to make my mind up about today, and maybe not soon.” He took a sip of his cola drink, leaned back and looked at the ceiling for a moment. “You know,” he said presently, “I think I want to talk to Dad and Grandpa and Uncle Jake about it, and maybe a few other things.”

“An’ not your mother?”

“Oh, hell no, not now,” he shook his head. “Whatever happens, I don’t want her trying to bully me into doing something even if I think it might be a good idea. In fact, if she did something like that she’d probably convince me it was the wrong idea, just because she wanted it.”

“No reason you couldn’t,” she said. “Ye know ye can call your dad at his office, an’ your grandfather, too. Your Uncle Jake shouldn’t be much of a problem.”

“Yeah, but I’d rather talk to them face to face. I think this is one time when the phone just isn’t going to cut it. What would you say if we got on the Mary Sue in the next hour or so and took off for Miami? We ought to be there tomorrow afternoon if we do, and we could easily get a plane for Detroit. Or, for that matter, we could fly out of here.”

“We could do it, but do ye want ta be in that big a hurry?”

“Well, yes and no,” he sighed. “Look, I know Mom is going to be a huge pain in the ass about this, but I’m wondering if she’s going to be a worse pain in the ass in the future if we get married behind her back.”

“What are ye sayin’ b’y?”

“OK, just talking again. Suppose we go up, see Dad and Grandpa and Uncle Jake and straighten out a few things, then get married while we’re there? Mom won’t like it and will probably raise hell about it, but if we surprise her and then get out of town quickly, maybe we won’t have to put up with too much out of her.”

“My thinkin’ is that maybe ye ought ta run that by your dad before ye do it.”

“Yeah, you’re right. He’ll have a better idea of how to play it than we will. Let’s find a phone, call him, and then see what we can do about getting on a flight.”

Two days later they were back at the airport in Detroit. This time they’d decided to rent a car so they’d have a bit more flexibility than the last time they’d been there.

They called Matt’s father to let him know they’d gotten in on schedule, and then drove to a restaurant not far from the company offices. Matt was not surprised to see that his grandfather was present, along with his father. It had been over a year and a half since he’d seen his grandfather, and that had been only a brief visit; now, he looked visibly older and more worn. “It’s good to see you again, Matt,” his grandfather said. “Although I have to say this was pretty unexpected.”

“Well, it was unexpected for us, too,” Matt admitted. “I suppose we’d better get right down to the basics. We found out a couple days ago that Mary is pregnant.”

“Well, that’s good news,” Adam said. “Your mother has been whining about wanting grandchildren again. Does that mean that you’re planning on giving up your sailing and moving back here?”

“Probably not yet,” Matt shrugged. “What we have worked out is that Mary and I are going to be getting married as soon as possible, probably while we’re back on this trip. The point is that it opens up several issues that I’d appreciate your advice on.”

“I’m glad that you felt like you could ask for our advice,” his grandfather nodded. “Your father and I have agreed that we’d like to have you with us in the company, but it’s not something that you have to do right away. But since you’re starting a family, you’re probably appreciate the stability of a regular job.”

“It’s something we’ve talked about,” Matt sighed. “The problem is that I don’t think we want to be around here, mostly because I don’t think we want Mom poking her nose into everything and trying to run things. Mary and I have been able to build a pretty good relationship, but I’m afraid Mom would do her best to try and wreck it.”

“You have your mother pegged pretty well,” Adam agreed. “Don’t get me wrong, son; while I’d like to have you around I don’t think it would be a good idea to let your mother get involved. Even if she wasn’t trying to wreck things between the two of you she’d be trying get you to do everything her way, whether it was something you wanted or not. I hate to say it, but that’s the way it is.”

“And that was about how I figured it,” Matt said. “Anyway, we don’t want to put up with it, in the short run, anyway. At the moment, the boat is in the Bahamas. We’re thinking about slowly working our way up the East Coast for the next three months, then going to Blanche Tickle to have the baby in the fall. After that, well, things are open to question. We may decide to go ahead with the round-the-world trip we’ve talked about off and on, or we may decide to do something else. Whatever it is, I don’t think it’s going to be around here.”

“That sounds like a good idea,” Adam nodded. “Of course, your mother is going to blow up just as soon as she finds out she has a grandchild. She’s not going to be able to stand for not having you close at hand. Like I said, she’s really been obsessive about it lately, and when she finds out there’s one on the way, well, it’s not going to be pretty.”

“You’re thinking we should keep it from her as long as we can?”

“If you don’t want her breathing down your necks all the time, yes.”

“You know,” Matt’s grandfather Samuel said thoughtfully, “I think your having the baby in Canada is an excellent idea. Matt, have you given any thought to what happens to your child if something happens to you?”

“I’m hoping to leave Mary as well set up as I can,” Matt said. “That’s part of why I want us to get married. I’ve got a fair amount of money that I can leave as a legacy, and that simplifies transferring it to Mary.”

“Well, that’s true,” Samuel replied. “And there’s no reason Mary and the child can’t be well endowed if something happens, but that’s not what I was thinking about. Let’s think worst case on this. Matt, I don’t trust your mother any more than you do, or your father does. What’s more, I think she’s less in command of her senses now than she’s ever been. What happens if your leukemia relapses and Mary is left alone with the baby?”

“That’s a concern,” Matt conceded. “That’s why I want to do what I can to prepare for it happening.”

“I think you’re wise to do it,” Samuel said. “But that’s not what I’m thinking about. Your mother has become so obsessive that it scares me more than a little. I’d worry about your mother trying to have Mary declared an unfit mother so she can have the baby to herself.”

“Shit,” Matt shook his head. “I didn’t think about that. Do you think she’d try it?”

“No telling, but I wouldn’t put it past her,” Adam agreed. “And your grandfather is right, it is a concern and something you really need to prepare for.”

“I’d not want that ta happen,” Mary nodded. “I’ll be the first to admit I don’t know Matt’s mother well but I don’t like what I know of her, an’ from what you’re sayin’, ye seem ta think it could happen.”

“Maybe, maybe not,” Samuel shook his head. “But the possibility has to be taken into account. I’m thinking maybe you ought to see a lawyer now, just to have some idea of what she could do and what you could do to prevent it. The lawyers I know aren’t involved in those kinds of issues, but I’m sure that they can point me in the direction of one who is. I’d say that the sooner you make those kinds of preparations, the better. Are you planning on being around for a while?”

“For a few days,” Matt said. “Really, as long as we need to be, but no longer than that. We need to get up and see Uncle Jake, just to touch base with him, and we need to work out how to get married. Part of the reason we came up here was so that the two of you and maybe Uncle Jake and Aunt Rachel could be at our wedding. It doesn’t have to be any big deal of a wedding, just a judge in chambers or something.”

“You’re saying not having your mother there?” Adam asked.

“What do you think?” Matt said. “My guess is that she’d put up a hell of a scene, and I don’t think that’s something we really want.”

Adam shook his head. “Actually, I think you’re right on that. At best, I doubt if she’d be civil about it. At worst . . . well, I don’t want to think about it. I agree with your grandfather, Matt. There are times that your mother is a lot less than rational, especially about you, and it’s getting worse, if anything. I don’t have any idea of what I should do about it, either. I’ve been able to keep her at least a little bit under control up till lately, and if it weren’t for the fact that I’m trying to defend you from her I’d be damn tempted to just walk away from her.”

“That would just make things worse,” Samuel pointed out.

Adam let out a sigh. “You’re right on that. And then I couldn’t be a buffer between Matt and her. One of these days she’s going to push me too far, though. Life is too short to have to put up with very much more of that stuff.”

“We appreciate your tryin’,” Mary said. “We know it’s not easy on ye.”

“I’ll stick with it for a while yet,” Adam replied slowly. “If nothing else, with you having a baby on the way there’s even more reason to try to be a buffer. I just hope I’ll get a chance to get to know my grandchild a little when we can make the time. If you’re going to be in Blanche Tickle for the winter, maybe I can find a way to sneak up there again after he’s born.”

“We’d be lookin’ forward to seein’ ye,” Mary agreed.

“I guess about all I can tell you is that you need to keep lying low, at least for a while,” Adam said finally. “Maybe sometime it’ll be safe to let her know that you’re married, and about the baby, but Dad, I think it had better be about as big a surprise to us as it’ll be to her.”

“You’re probably right,” Matt’s grandfather agreed. “The shit is going to hit the fan either way, but it’d most likely be worse if she finds out we’ve been keeping it from her. I guess that also does a job on the idea of you coming to work for the company anytime soon.”

“I’m not ruling it out, but I don’t see it happening soon, either. Getting a career-type job someplace is still something that I need to work out, but as long as Mom is going to be such a pain in the ass there’s no point in trying to do it around here.”

“Are you thinking of getting back to your sailing after the baby is born?”

“It’s a possibility,” Matt agreed. “I don’t think we want to do it soon after the baby is born, but getting started next summer isn’t something we’ve ruled out. We’ve pretty well made up our mind we want to sell the Mary Sue and get a bigger boat. It’s been adequate if on the small side for the two of us, but three of us and some of the long passages we’d have to make just seems a little extreme.”

He went on to briefly explain the plan they’d had before they’d discovered Mary’s pregnancy, to find a bigger boat and get it set up for voyaging, with the intent of being on their way by the end of the year. “Obviously that’s not going to work now,” Matt told them. “But there’s still plenty of time to do it if we’re going to put the start off a whole year or so.”

“It seems to me that it would work,” Adam said. “If you’re going up to Jake’s you ought to be there a couple days, anyway. Let me see about what I can do about shuffling some accounts around, and I ought to be able to slip you some more money to help make it work.”

“I can, too,” Matt’s grandfather agreed. “It’s going to take me a couple days to get a lawyer set up, anyway. Don’t get married just yet. It might be that not being married might give you a better protection from Brittany. On the other hand, it might make a legacy a little more difficult. So I’d say don’t do anything for a couple days, until we can get a reading on it.”

“Waiting a couple days isn’t going to be a problem,” Matt told him. “A couple weeks starts to be one. There’s a limit to how long we can be gone from the boat. I’m not all that crazy about leaving it where it is for very long.”

“You probably have a right to be concerned about it, and you know more about it than I do,” Adam said. “I’ll tell you what, though. I’ve envied the hell out of the adventures you’ve been having, and more than once I’ve wished I was with you. The letters and stuff you’ve sent us really have got my fingers itching to do something besides staying home and working.”

“Maybe you can come with us some time, especially after we get the bigger boat,” Matt told him. “I think you’d have a ball.”

“Don’t think I wouldn’t like to,” Adam sighed. “But I’m afraid that I’m going to play hell getting away from your mother as long as it would take. I guess I’m just going to have to settle for dreaming and hearing you tell stories about it. We’ve got a couple hours before I have to head for home, so why don’t we take the time now to hear a few of your sea stories?”

The four of them spent the next couple of hours just telling stories about the things they’d done in the last year and more. Finally, they agreed that it was time that Adam had to head for home, so they agreed to meet again in a few days after Matt’s grandfather had arranged for a lawyer.

With nothing better to do, Matt and Mary got back in the rental car and pointed it north toward Jake’s place at Winchester Harbor. “You know,” Matt said as soon as they were in the car together, “When I stop and think about it, it really pisses me off that I can’t go home. We’ve had a good time and done something we can be proud of but my mother would go so apeshit about it that there’s no way we can enjoy it. I just hate having to sneak around like this.”

“Aye, an’ I do, too,” Mary sighed. “But what else can ye do? An’ especially since we don’t want your mother knowin’ there’s a baby on the way.”

“Very true,” Matt agreed. “Damn, I’m glad granddad thought about custody issues for the kid. That never crossed my mind, but as soon as he said it I realized that he was dead right. If the leukemia recurs, then the first thing Mom is going to do is to take a run at it. Mary, whatever happens, don’t let her get away with it. Dad will help, I’m sure of that, and so will Granddad.”

“I ain’t plannin’ on lettin’ it happen,” Mary said. “I mean, in a way I feel sorry for your mother, since she seems ta have her heart set on dandlin’ a grandchild on her knee. But from what you an’ your dad an’ grandfather are sayin’, it would get out of hand real easy.”

“No shit,” Matt agreed. “Mary, I’ve tried to live my life the last few years so if the leukemia does come back and I’m dead in six months, I won’t be leaving any problems behind me. That’s what scares me about having a baby, because it can still happen. I hate like hell to have to saddle you with the responsibility, but I don’t know what the hell else I can do.”

“Maybe it won’t happen,” she replied with a hopeful tone in her voice.

“I sure as hell hope it doesn’t happen, but we have to be prepared for it. You know that. At least I’ll be leaving you a fair legacy, and I’m sure Dad and Granddad will help out if push comes to shove. But damn it, this is something I wasn’t expecting, and if something happens to me it’s not going to be very fair to you.”

“If it happens, I guess I’ll just have ta make do, b’y,” she assured him. “But I’ll tell ye what, I’d rather be raisin’ a kiddie in Blanche Tickle than I would be around here.”

“That makes two of us,” he sighed. “I hope we get to do it together, but if you have to do it by yourself, well, I can’t think of anyone better to do it.”

“Let’s not be thinkin’ that negative, Matt,” she said. “You’ve gone a dozen years now without the leukemia comin’ back, and there ain’t no reason it can’t be a dozen or a couple dozen more, too. We can’t know what’s goin’ ta happen, after all.”

“Yeah, you’re right,” he agreed. “It’s just that it’s a reality that’s been with me for so long, and now it seems like it’s hanging on me heavier than ever. God, I’m glad Dad is at least keeping Mom off our backs. I don’t know about you, but I got the impression that if it weren’t for that, he’d have filed divorce papers a long time ago.”

“Aye, I picked that up, too, an’ that’s sad. Your Dad would really love ta get out an’ do somethin’ for fun but he seems pretty well trapped by your Mom.”

“That and his job,” Matt agreed, realizing that the whole thing had him feeling more than a little morose. “Shit, maybe someday we can take him for a sail somewhere. I’ll bet he’d enjoy hell out of it.”

“Aye, I think he would, too,” Mary agreed. “He’s goin’ ta have a hell of a time when he quits workin’, I think. He’s goin’ ta be lost without somethin’ to do.”

“Yeah, and I can see it happening,” Matt agreed. “Dad is sort of stuck where he is while Granddad is still alive, but when Granddad dies, I’ll bet Dad doesn’t last long before hanging it up, and if he can get rid of Mom in the process, so much better for him. You know, for a long time I never thought much of him as a father, but my God, he’s done so much for me that he doesn’t have to it’s not funny. I wish he could have kept my mother off my ass better than he did while I was growing up, but maybe he’s making up for it more than a little. Right now, I’m glad he’s my father, and I just wish there was some way I dared being closer to him.”

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