Harvest House Publishers
I'm so nauseous, she thought miserably. No, not nauseous. She could hear David's proper British accent gently correcting her. "You mean nauseated, darling. You feel nauseated." Kate trudged along the High Street oblivious to the beauty of the bright blue October sky serving as a brilliant backdrop to the gleaming spires of Oxford. She kept her head looking down toward the dull pavement as she contemplated the news she had just received from the physician at the Radcliffe Infirmary.
Pregnant! How is it possible? And married little more than three months! But what a wonderful three months, she mused. In her heart, her Oxford wedding to David MacKenzie in July had been storybook perfect. The lovely service with David's father officiating at St. Aldate's, the small reception in the rectory garden with only their family and close friends, the honeymoon night in a converted castle, their first week together in the MacKenzie cottage overlooking the sea near St. Andrew's, Scotland, and then their leisurely summer tour throughout Europe had all been a fairy-tale dream come true. After a splendid summer, her father had booked a stateroom on the Queen Mary for their passage to the States. She and David had savored the September transatlantic crossing with dining and dancing and moonlit walks on the decks. They had marveled together at the immense blanket of stars wrapping around them and their great ship—which had suddenly seemed a mere speck in the dark cosmos.
That relative sense of insignificance vanished after arriving in Richmond, Virginia, where Kate was feted and gushed over by her family and friends with a whirl of showers, coffees, and parties. David good-naturedly endured it all, and she was proud, so very proud, to show off her handsome British husband. Homecoming Queen of Douglas Freeman High School and Pledge Queen of William and Mary marries Oxford professor boasted the society columns in the Virginia papers, complete with photos of the beautiful, smiling couple.
They had planned only to renew their vows in America, but in typical fashion Kate’s mother had staged a full-scale wedding ceremony at St. Giles Presbyterian Church, with hundreds of guests attending the dinner-dance reception at the Country Club of Virginia. Still, it had all been magical. And then the quiet and peaceful conclusion of their honeymoon took them to David’s grandparents’ farm near Charlottesville, where they could visit his American mother’s family and truly rest before returning to Oxford for the new school term—as Mr. and Mrs. David MacKenzie.
But pregnant! What will my friends think of me now? I may be married to an Oxford don, but I’m still a student with a year of college to complete. Kate dashed tears from her eyes. I wanted to enjoy this year—not be pregnant and feel lousy and get fat! Oh, I do want a family sometime, but I’m not ready yet. I want to enjoy my husband and have fun and…
Kate considered how she had insisted on using birth control for these very reasons. David had preferred to leave the family planning in God’s hands, but in regard for her strong feelings on the subject, he had acquiesced. How could I be pregnant? Kate thought angrily. I can’t believe it! I was so careful.
Then she suddenly remembered a night in Tuscany—the sparkling wine, the languid summer air, the heavy scent of roses, and a violin’s poignant strains drifting over the deserted garden of the villa. They had been drunk with love…and she had not been so very careful. Even though she was a married woman now, Kate blushed at the memory, and looked up guiltily to see if anyone had read her thoughts. Seeing only the sign for the Eastgate Hotel, where she was to meet David and Austen and Yvette for tea, she pushed open the door and sank onto the nearest sofa to wait.
David MacKenzie quickly scanned the contents of the letter and let out a whoop that startled the staid, middle-aged scout who was straightening David’s study in Magdalen College.
“Good news, Mr. MacKenzie?” asked Watson with his usual deference to the much younger don.
“Splendid, Watson.” David beamed as he slipped the letter in the breast pocket of his warm-up jacket. “I will let you in on it tomorrow after I show it to my wife. Cheers!”
“Right, sir. Cheerio.” Watson suppressed a smile, but his pale blue eyes crinkled with amusement at David’s evident satisfaction in turning his new phrase, “my wife,” as often as possible. Watson allowed himself a chuckle as his master bounded down the staircase of the New Buildings and jogged across the lawn of the college quad toward Addison’s Walk.
David embraced the brisk autumn air as he embraced all of life—with boundless enthusiasm. He relished a late afternoon run along the quiet river bank before heading to the Eastgate Hotel for tea with his wife and friends. Golden leaves swirled around him in a frolicking dance that was in harmony with his own happiness.
Thank You, Lord, for this wonderful news. I can’t wait to tell Kate. And thank You for her, for answering my heart’s desire. Thank You for my job, for my students, for my family, and friends. Thank You for all the opportunities You have given me to serve You and do what I love. I am so very, very blessed. Thank You for this gorgeous day and for all Your blessings to me. How wonderful You are, Lord! Help me to be just as grateful for Your loving-kindness when I go through tough times again. But, Lord, I am very grateful for what I have now and the richness of my life. Thank You! Thank You!
David’s heart nearly burst with gratitude as he sped from the grounds of Magdalen to the Eastgate Hotel, eager to share his good news.
Yvette Goodman walked briskly to her appointment at the Eastgate. She loved this season of the year. The crisp air, the vibrant colors, the promise of new beginnings all invigorated her. Her birthday was in October. For as long as she could remember, she loved this month of possibility. She felt special and ready for some great destiny.
Then she thought of the coming chill, the gloomy rain, and the stacks of mediocre essays to be marked. She decided she really hated this season of the year. After all, her birthday was this month and she would be twenty-nine.
Twenty-nine! Almost thirty. And what do I have to show for it? Well, I am the only woman—no, the only person—in my family to graduate from a university. Not only graduate, but earn a master’s degree and then be elected as a Fellow at the University of Oxford. Not bad for the daughter of a working-class Anglo-Irish woman and a West Indian taxicab driver in London. I’ve worked really hard and achieved goals unthinkable to my family. But…
Yvette impatiently kicked aside some leaves. But, I’ve hoped that by the time I turn thirty I would be married and have children. I love my job, but what I really want is a family and a home of my own.
Yvette had accomplished vocationally what had seemed impossible, and yet she was a realist. She knew the odds were against her finding a husband—at least a good one. She was attractive, but not particularly pretty. She was a mulatto woman in a bastion of white male elitism. And she was too well-educated for men—those outside the dreaming spires, at any rate—not to feel intimidated by her. Besides all of that, she was uncompromising. She wanted an intelligent, considerate man who shared her Christian beliefs and her reverence for marriage. Simply put, like Flannery O’Connor she knew “a good man is hard to find.” And she was growing tired of waiting.
Austen Holmes, another young Oxford don, glanced at his watch as he hurried toward the Eastgate Hotel. He liked to be punctual for all his appointments, but today he had taken a detour. The deep blue October sky had beckoned him outdoors, drawing him irresistibly to the Holywell Cemetery at St. Cross. He often stopped there, opening the creaking iron gate and stepping past the Celtic crosses leaning at crazy angles in the tall grass, to pause at a well-tended plot not far from the graves of the Inklings Charles Williams and Hugo Dyson. He had chosen this spot because its proximity to Merton College allowed him to frequent it, and he thought with satisfaction that here she would rest in good company. Sometimes he felt solace among the dead and their living companions—woodland creatures who had crept in to share the overgrown grasses. But sometimes the rows of forlorn stone crosses overwhelmed him with a sense of desolation.
Autumn was a particularly difficult season for Austen. It was in autumn that he had met Marianne. And it was in autumn that he had lost her.
Excerpted from Expectations by Melanie M. Jeschke. Copyright © 2005 by Melanie Jeschke. Excerpted by permission. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.