A little pre-note. I know this chapter is long for a Prologue...but I couldn't chop it up, and felt like it was all necessary. For those of you new to the story, Treasured is the sequel to Winchester. BUT I promise, you don't have to read Winchester to understand Treasured, they are two very different stories, with different plots, and different characters. Not that I wouldn't LOVE for you to read Winchester, I just don't want you to be turned off by the word... Sequel. And, for those of you Winchester lovers out there... don't get discouraged, some familiar characters will make their appearance in Chapter 1 :) Thanks for reading!
October 29, 1929
"I've finished the socks I was working on, Mama, should I start another pair?" Tessa Evans asked her very pregnant mother. They always waited until after the seventh month to begin sewing for the baby because Emma Evans had had seven miscarriages in the past. She had just passed into her eighth month and they were very far behind.
"How about we start on the quilt? I still have some of Lucas' things so the baby won't go unclothed, but I want him to have his very own quilt, like the rest of you," her mother said with a smile.
"So now you think it's a him?" Tessa asked, her eyebrows raised in amusement. Everyday her mother guessed differently at the sex; yesterday she was quite certain it was a baby girl.
Mrs. Evans laughed, knowing exactly what her daughter was thinking. "Yes, but because I can't seem to make up my mind, why don't we try yellows, greens and light blues. Can you start cutting up the scraps?"
"Of course, should I call Sadie? She's old enough to help with this."
"Love, she's only ten, you didn't help me with sewing until you were fourteen. Let's not hurry her growing up quite yet; when it comes, it will happen all too fast. Besides, I won't be able to press you about Lou Jenner if Sadie is here."
Tessa's cheeks flushed, making her mother laugh as she swung backward in her favorite rocking chair. "Well, let's have it! He's been to call three nights this week; he must be enamored."
"Oh Mama! He's wonderful! He's smart and has a quick wit; I find that I'm always laughing when he's here. He told me he likes me very much and wants to talk to Daddy! Can you imagine!"
"Can I imagine it? It's hard for me not to imagine it! You're beautiful inside and out, my special girl; he'd be crazy not to marry you! Maybe we should be working on your trousseau instead of the quilt."
"No Mother, the baby will certainly be here before I'm married."
"You may have a point there," Mrs. Evans said, placing a gentle hand on her stomach.
Tessa smiled at her mother; she was blessed to have such a mother. In fact, she was blessed to have her entire family. Dean Evans, her father, was the perfect combination of gentleness and discipline. Then there were her two younger siblings, soon to be three, Sadie and Lucas. Of course they had their moments of disagreements, but most that knew the Evans' would challenge you to find a more loving family in all of Chicago.
Tessa and Mrs. Evans continued chattering about Lou, the baby, Sadie and Lucas. Around four o'clock, the front door opened and both ladies turned their faces toward the door. Dean Evans arrived at this time every day and always came in to see his two oldest girls. Today was no different, but as Tessa rose and planted a kiss on her father's stubbly cheek, she knew something was wrong.
On any other day he would wrap his arms around her, lifting her off the floor causing her to giggle like a child. Today, he stood like a statue, barely acknowledging her, and his breath smelled like alcohol, which didn't seem right at all seeing as it had been outlawed. Tessa took an uncertain step backward, searching his face, but his eyes never met her own.
"Is everything alright Daddy?"
"Tessa, give your mother and me a moment alone, will you please?" he said slowly, still not raising his eyes.
"Of course, Daddy." Tessa moved out of the room without hesitation, but didn't go far. In her mind, twenty-two was old enough to hear whatever was wrong. Carefully, she listened as her parents spoke.
"Have you been drinking, Dean?" Mrs. Evans asked, worry evident in her voice. Tessa knew exactly the expression that her mother's face held at this moment, and was almost glad she was only hearing the conversation.
"It's all gone, Em, everything."
"What are you talking about? What's all gone?"
"All of our money," he said with a deep, pained sigh.
"How is that possible?"
"The stock market crashed today. Apparently it was a real horrible scene in New York. News spread fast and everyone headed for the banks, including me, but when I got there, the doors were bolted. It's all gone, every penny."
"And, we might have been alright without our savings, if I still had a job."
"Seems they don't have much need for me when it doesn't seem like anyone will be able to afford lawyers, and Jack and Carl know they won't be able to pay my salary."
"What are we going to do?" Tessa heard her mother whisper, a cry following quickly. Tears stung her own deep blue eyes and were soon pouring down her face.
"Tessa," Mrs. Evans said calmly, "please tell your father that I need the doctor."
"Why, Mama, is something wrong?" Tessa asked, coming out of her chair to kneel beside her mother.
"Nothing is wrong love; it's just time."
"Time? Now? But it's too early! You're not supposed to have it for two weeks!" she squealed in terror.
"Sometimes, things happen early, and who doesn't like an early present? It will be like you getting to open your presents on Christmas Eve instead of Christmas morning."
"No, it will be like getting to open my presents on Thanksgiving, before you've had time to wrap them!" Tessa whined.
"Don't worry, Tessa," her mother said firmly, " just help me to my bed, then tell your father to call for the doctor."
Tessa swallowed her anxiety and did what she was asked. Her mother stopped her once on the way, breathing roughly through a labor pain. They managed to make it to the bedroom and Tessa helped her mother into a nightgown. Believing she would be alright for a moment, Tessa raced down the stairs, finding her father in his study.
Before she could even catch her breath, the words tumbled from her lips, "Mom is in labor, please go for the doctor Daddy." Her father sat motionless, not even turning to look at her, his eyes glued on a spot on the far wall. Tessa yelled again, "Daddy, please, the doctor!"
"We can't afford a doctor Tess," he said with a labored breath.
"Tessa Lynn Evans! Do not talk back to me! We have no money! Unless you can find someone to buy this house, or your dresses, or your fancy broach, we do not have the money for the doctor." The words came out as angry and insensitive, but even Tessa could tell that she was standing before a broken man. A man who wanted to help his wife, but couldn't. Nothing would change that, there was no money.
"What am I to do, Daddy?" Tessa choked helplessly.
"Tell your mother."
Tessa turned from the room, stunned by what her father had just said. She walked slowly back to the bedroom, doing her best to fight the tears that threatened to spill. Her mother was breathing through another labor pain when she entered. "Mama, Daddy says that we don't have money for a doctor..." Her tears burst at the words, she couldn't keep them in anymore, she didn't know what they were going to do, she was terrified.
Her mother's face was completely serene, as if she had been expecting exactly this. "Then it is just you and me Tess."
"Mama, please, I can't! I don't know what to do!"
"Love, you were here when Lucas was born and I have had my fair share of babies. I will know when to push; I just need you to catch her."
Tessa couldn't help but laugh at her mother's pronouncement, it was a girl today. "Ok Momma, what do we need."
Mrs. Evans smiled, "Call Sadie to do the running, but I don't want her in here. We need plenty of towels and a sheet, some hot water, a washcloth, cold water and the baby's quilt. Just tell her one thing at a time, she won't be able to remember the whole list, and then she'll be confused and frustrated."
Tessa obeyed and Sadie made quick work of the list. After an hour, her mother's cries became nearly unbearable. Tessa faithfully mopped her mother's brow and did her best to check her progress. It wasn't long before Tessa saw the head. Her mother pushed fiercely and the baby was out with only two similar efforts, Tessa was the first to hold her baby sister.
When she finished wiping her clean, she noticed that her mother was bleeding heavily. "Mama, something is wrong; you're bleeding."
"A little blood is to be expected love. Put a towel there to stop it, and bring me my baby," she said, exhaustion hanging on every word. Tessa did as she was asked and watched as her mother coddled her new sister.
"You are beautiful, my love. Mama loves you; you will always be my little one. I could hold you forever and ever, but I'm so tired. I think I'll let your big sister have you for a while; she will take good care of you. Tessa, please, I just need a little rest."
Once again, Tessa obeyed. Her mother fell asleep almost as soon as the baby was lifted from her arms. Tessa looked again at the bleeding and noticed that it hadn't stopped, in fact, it seemed to be worse. The towel was nearly saturated. Carefully cradling her sister, she maneuvered the stairs to find her father again. She had to make him see how badly her mother needed a doctor.
"What is it Tessa," he said quietly, massaging his temples.
"You have a daughter, would you like to hold her?"
Dean looked up for the first time, "Of course, please, bring her here," he said quietly.
Tessa handed the baby over and watched as her father snuggled her close. Knowing that he would not yell with the newborn in his arms, she spoke. "Mama is bleeding very badly, Daddy, she needs a doctor. I don't know what to do, and I'm afraid if she's not seen...well."
He looked up from his new daughter, his eyes meeting his first child's. The only word to describe the expression she saw in his eyes, was pain. "I'm sorry darling, I have no money. We can't buy food, let alone pay for a physician. Do what you can."
"I can't believe you're going to sit there and let your wife of twenty-seven years bleed to death! You have to do something! Please, Daddy, please we can't lose her, we can't lose her, please!" Tessa begged, tears falling from her eyes. She knelt down beside her father, her hands on his knees, pleading him for some kind of help.
"Take the baby; we will go see your mother, I will do whatever I can, but I am no more a doctor than you are."
Tessa nodded and took her sister, following her father to the room. He inspected his wife, and the look on his face told Tessa all she needed to know. Her mother would not live through the night. The towel was saturated in red, and was beginning to pool. "Tessa," Mr. Evans said quickly, "I need you to keep yourself together. I'm going to cover your mother up and wake her; please go get the children so they can say goodbye."
"Put the baby in the cradle and do as I say. Most people wish they had been given the chance to say goodbye. We have been, and all of us will. Wake Sadie and Lucas, come now Tessa, be strong for just a few more hours," he said tenderly, a hand on her face.
She nodded, unable to speak. After settling the baby in the cradle, she went into her brother's and sister's rooms, waking them gently. Knowing she had to be fast, she pulled them from sleep, and told them they needed to come and meet their new sister, and speak with mother. Sadie was confused, but Lucas was excited to see the baby, ready to be the big boy of the family. When they re-entered the room, Mrs. Evans was awake, but she was pale and clearly exhausted, Tessa fought tears.
"Come here, Lucas," their mother said softly, motioning to him as soon as he entered the room. Tessa couldn't listen as her mother spoke to both her brother and sister, knowing she would be a sobbing mess if she did. Her father sat on the side of the bed, gently stroking his wife's hair as she spoke, the baby in his arms. When she was finished with them both, she kissed them sweetly and sent them back to bed.
"Dean, would you leave me with Tessa and the baby please?"
He nodded silently, planted a kiss on her forehead, said that he loved her, and left them. Mrs. Evans patted the bed beside her, and Tessa sprung up to the bed like she was a little girl, balancing on her knees. "I'm so sorry, Mama; I must have done something wrong!" Tessa sobbed, burying her head in her mother's chest.
Mrs. Evans began to smooth her hair while she lay against her, trying to calm her. When Tessa was quiet enough that she would be able to hear, she began to speak. "You have been my pride and joy for twenty-two years, and I don't ever want you to think this was your fault, ever. I bled with each of my pregnancies, but the doctors were able to stop it. Let's face it, love, I'm not a young girl anymore, it's gotten harder since I had you."
"But Mama, if I had known we didn't have the money..."
"Love, there is no reason to go back over what has already happened. Let me just tell you how much I love you. You are beautiful and more precious to me than you could ever know. You are sweet, smart, determined, clever and a joy to be around. Don't let this make you bitter, promise me that you will still look at life with bright eyes, and that you will enjoy every second of it. You are going to get married and have children of your own. Make sure you enjoy it all; I am so glad I did. Now give me my girl," she said with a weak smile, and Tessa handed her the infant.
"You, my dearest, were worth every moment we had together. I hope you didn't mind my humming. I know that your sister is going to see to it that you grow into as wonderful a woman as she is. You trust her, and respect her; do you understand me little one? Tessa is going to take care of you, and look after you, and I know she'll be an excellent mother to you."
"Mama, please! I'm not her mother; I'll never be the same as you! She needs you, we all do."
"Oh Tess, you are strong enough for this. The Lord would not give you something you could not handle. I know exactly where I'm going, and know that I will see you there some day. Your father has been struggling since Black Tuesday, and you are going to have to take control of the children. I know you can do it; you've watched me for so many years."
"I love you Mama, and I'll love Sadie, Lucas and Emma just as much as you would. Thank you for everything you've taught me."
"I think she should have your name..."
"I think that's nice. Tessa, I'm getting very tired. Will you go get your father for me? I need to talk to him too."
"Of course, Mama, I love you, sleep well." Tessa managed to plant a kiss on her mother's cheek and find her father before falling into a hysterical mess in her bedroom. She didn't even make it to the bed, her legs giving out as soon as she closed the door. Sprawled on the floor, she shed every tear inside her body. Her head ached, her throat was raw, but still she cried. Knowing she would never talk to her mother again was an agony that couldn't be calmed.
Unaware of when she fell asleep, Tessa spent the night on the floor, and when she woke, her worst suspicions were confirmed. Her mother had died in her sleep that night. Her father was a mess, Sadie cried all day, and Lucas was more confused than anything. Tessa didn't put baby Emma down the entire day, trying to find a way to feed her sister when she cried in hunger. Life had become a trial, but Tessa knew that her mother was depending on her to take care of the family, and Tessa was planning to do just that.