Jonathan and Jennifer begin a new path in their lives together ….
It was that time of morning he so loved, that time just before dawn when the mountain air was cool, crisp, and untainted by day. He took his time inhaling, relishing the peace and the tranquility of where he was in contrast to his usual hectic commute through early morning traffic.
His large body rocked in gentle rhythm with the movement of his horse. Jack’s footfalls crackling through the brush on the trail, and the waking songs of the birds over his head, the only sounds to be heard. The man held fast to the reins in one hand while keeping the other on a sling strapped securely to his chest. He was a handsome, solid man, and that morning his face bore an expression of a man at peace with his world.
“Jack,” was his simple, quiet command as he pulled up on the reins when they reached the spot.
There on the rim was where he came when he was in the mountains. He was there to witness the new dawn as it woke and slowly peeked over the horizon.
Dismounting with care, he pulled the saddle blanket from the horse’s back, and spread it out onto the grass under a large tree. He then removed a small pouch from his saddlebag, which he dropped onto the blanket. Still cradling the bundle in the sling on his chest with his one hand, he used the other to ease himself down to the ground where he settled in with his back against the trunk of the tree. When he loosened the sling, fine reddish gold curls appeared, and two bright blue eyes blinked up at him.
Well,” he whispered, “are you still awake in there?”
After carefully extricating his infant daughter and wrapping her in the small blanket he had folded into the sling with her before leaving the cabin, he pressed a soft kiss her forehead.
“Let’s cover you up,” he said, pulling the blanket over her head and around her face. “Your mommy will have a fit if I bring you back with your first cold.”
After making sure she was warm on top, he unzipped her footie pajamas and felt inside to check her diaper.
“As a duck, huh?” he said to her.
He kissed her head again before placing her on his outstretched legs to pull the squirming legs from her pajamas.
“Let’s get you comfortable, and then Daddy is going to show you something so beautiful you’ll want him to bring you here again and again.”
From the pouch he had earlier removed from the saddlebag, he took a box of baby wipes and a fresh diaper, both of which he held up for her to see.
“Bet you thought I forgot, didn’t you? Your Daddy doesn’t forget. There won’t be anything you’ll ever need that you won’t have.” He winked at her. “You can count on it.”
It was a moment’s amusing struggle for him to try to catch the constantly moving tiny feet in his large fingers. Eager to get her exposed flesh back into the pajamas, he hurried to change her and zip her up. Then he wrapped her again in the blanket, and put the things away. Nestling her in the crook of his arm, snug against the warmth of his chest, he settled back on the tree and waited for the colors to appear on the horizon.
At that moment in time, Jonathan Hart felt more fulfilled than he had ever been in his entire life. The woman he loved more than life itself lie in his bed at the cabin sleeping soundly for the first time after giving birth to his baby. Their daughter, now snuggled close to his heart, was four weeks old.
Their daughter, two most beautiful words.
He gazed down at the baby. She was watching him, her eyes intense and focused on his face. Jennifer, his wife, could already be seen in her.
“You know, if you keep looking like your mother, I’m going to be holding the boys back at gunpoint in a few years.”
She grinned at him.
He grinned back.
“Your mother thinks you have gas when you do that, but I think you know what I’m saying, and you think I’m pretty funny.”
She smiled again, her entire body shuddering with delight.
He nodded his head. “You and I know it’s not gas, don’t we?”
The baby’s arrival into the world made for good local news. She had taken her time in coming to them, and apparently her debut had been anticipated by a lot of people. The press camped outside the hospital as soon as word of her imminent birth was leaked out to them. The society news coverage and the congratulatory calls were relentless.
Reporters and news trucks waited awaited them outside the gates of the estate, held back by security, on the day he brought them home as if he and Jennifer were royalty. The executive secretarial pool from Hart Industries volunteered in shifts to take on double duty at their home to help manage the constantly ringing phones. Gifts and flowers arrived daily from their friends and acquaintances around the world.
Since he and Jennifer met and married years before, the two of them somehow managed to make the news or the society pages with regularity. The globetrotting couple, a self-made millionaire and an award-winning journalist, were always involved in social events, philanthropic efforts, or some bizarre episode that they somehow managed to back into through one circumstance or another. Personally, he never really cared for the publicity for himself, but he did enjoy showing off his lovely life partner.
Usually the notoriety was amusing, exciting, and occasionally dangerous, but this time things were different. He realized as a couple they were popular, and that people wished them well, but the overwhelming attention was disruptive. Jennifer seemed unusually tired and nervous, even for having recently had a baby. He simply wanted to be left alone to enjoy his family.
Family. A fine word, indeed.
“Jennifer, are you alright?”
He had posed that question to her more than once or twice since her return home. The changes in her personality during those first two weeks made him very uneasy. Dr. Kendall informed him before she left the hospital that hormonal changes might cause her to be moody, but he was unprepared for the quiet. She slept often, which he expected, but she had little to say when she was awake. It wasn’t unhappiness he sensed; she was always pleasant, but he could not put his finger on exactly what it was about her that troubled him. It seemed even though they were physically together, she was somewhere far away and on her own.
Her answer to him was always the same.
“I’m fine, darling.”
“Is there anything you need? Anything that I can get you?” As time went by, he was becoming almost desperate to communicate with her in the way he was accustomed to being able to do. “Is there anything that I can do for you?”
“No, I’m fine.” And she always left it there.
He wished he could make love to her, with her, to connect to her in that spiritual way; but it was too soon for that. At night, as they slept, he held her close like always, and she allowed him to, but it seemed he couldn’t get her close enough.
From the start of their relationship, Jennifer had been honest about her ambivalence toward having children. Motherhood had not been high on her ‘Things To Do’ list, and the pregnancy, while it hadn’t exactly been unplanned, turned out to be a complete surprise. Somewhat unsure at first about her true feelings toward the baby once she arrived, he closely observed Jennifer’s initial interactions with the child. But, it was obvious she loved their child. With Max, their houseman and friend deceased, she accepted his offer of a housekeeper to ease that load, but in no uncertain terms, she refused a nanny for the baby. She waveringly insisted that their girl would be raised by her parents.
Often he found her in the rocker in the nursery where she and the baby would sit while she fed her or sang to her. The little girl, her tummy full and her spirit content, would be sleeping, her cheek pressed against the warmth of mother’s breast. Jennifer enjoyed the feel of the baby’s skin against her own and took deep satisfaction in the fact it was her voice and her touch that brought immediate comfort to her daughter. Caring for the baby, or a lack of connection between the two of them, was not the problem.
One recent quiet afternoon, he found her in the bedroom window seat where she normally went to read. She was staring out of the window, radiant as the delicate fingers of spring sunlight streamed through the panes to touch her. They set her hair afire and brushed a golden, peachy glow onto her fair skin. She failed to sense his presence and continued her reverie. Normally, even in her sleep, she quickly picked up on being watched, an activity he still enjoyed, especially if she was sleeping.
He tried calling her name softly, so as not to startle her, but she snapped around at the sound in apparent surprise.
“I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to frighten you.”
Seeing him standing there, her alarmed posture softened. Crossing the room, he went to her and knelt down next to her. She turned to look down into his face, but she said nothing.
“Jennifer, what is it? You don’t talk to me. I need to know what’s going on up there in your head. Why are you shutting me out? You get on me about doing it to you, but now you’re doing it to me.”
She smiled a sweet, slow smile. When she cupped his cheek with the palm of her hand, he brushed his lips against her fingers.
“I’m sorry,” she said. “I didn’t realize. You know that really wasn’t my intention.”
She was looking right into his eyes, and he basked in her warm honey gaze.
“Darling, have you ever been so happy that you were afraid to be so happy?”
“Afraid?” he asked, “You?”
Jennifer was cautious, but she was rarely afraid of anything. At least she didn’t admit to being afraid.
“Yes,” she answered. “I’m- I’ve been sort of terrified.”
“About having the baby?”
“No, not that. I’m fine with that. It’s probably silly, just hormones or something, but still I am afraid.”
She turned her face away and returned to staring out of the window again, across the front grounds and the pond. “It’s all so overwhelming. I admit to you, I worried about how it would be for us with a baby, but the feelings I’ve experienced with her so far have only been satisfaction and contentment. She’s a little sweetie. I’m tired, but I know that will pass in time once my body recovers, and she and I have a more established routine. But I worry about what’s going to go wrong. You know, that other shoe that’s supposed to fall? It can’t all be this right. Jonathan, I’m really afraid to be this happy for fear that something is going to happen to stop it.”
In the distance, he could hear the phone sounding. The ringers had been turned off on the second floor. Someone on the first floor would pick up and take the call.
He focused back on Jennifer as she continued to explain things to him.
“I don’t like of all the attention that’s focused on our baby. I don’t want someone trying to harm her to get at us. I’m sure with all that we’ve been into, that we’ve made one or two enemies in our time. You remember that I told you that our lives would have to change if we had a child? Well, that’s come to pass. It can’t be the way it that it was, Jonathan.”
Although her eyes were still on the view outside the window, she reached for him and wound her arm around his neck.
“Before the baby, it was just you and me, and we could take care of each other. But she can’t take care of herself, and we can’t watch her every minute of her life.”
She turned back to him from the window, and brushed her fingers through his hair. “Jonathan, do you think that we could go away? Maybe up to the mountains? Just until this stuff dies down?”
Jennifer was not an apprehensive woman. As a reporter, a writer, a woman, and his wife, she had proven herself time and again to be adventurous and courageous. It wasn’t until that moment that he saw the apprehension in her eyes. It was entirely new, and because it was new, he had missed the cues. In talking about it, she’d probably only just recognized it herself for what it was. Their public lifestyle was making her fearful for their new child.
As soon as Dr. Kendall cleared Jennifer to travel, he brought the two of them there to their cabin in the mountains. He ordered his security team to redesign and implement an entirely new system for the estate in their absence. It was as much for their safety as it was for his. In the past the present system had been breached on a few occasions allowing someone to get onto the grounds without their knowledge. There had even been a couple of times when Jennifer’s safety had been compromised in their home. At those times, he had dealt with a rage that surged within him that he found to be almost unmanageable. But, Jennifer had proven herself a woman quite capable of taking care of herself. Even so, if the circumstances had allowed, he could not be sure of what his reaction would have been against the person attempting to harm her. He could not begin to fathom what behavior a threat on this little girl might bring about in him.
Jennifer was right. For the sake of their family, things were going to have to change.
He toyed with the little fingers, and loved the way that she could wrap her whole tiny hand around one of his large fingers and hold so tight to him that he could almost lift her. She was already strong. He held her closer, facing her toward the where earth meets sky so that she could see the colors just beginning to show themselves. They sat like that until the sun completely cleared the horizon.
“Look at that.” He said softly to the baby. “Isn’t it something? Daybreak is different every time it happens. I never get tired of watching it. You know, if you really like it, I’ll look into getting you one of your own. Which reminds me. I have something that I think is for you. Let’s see.”
He dug into his shirt pocket and removed a little gold box with a small back and gold label. He showed it to her.
“This box says “for Justine Jennifer Hart”. That’s your name isn’t it? Then this must be for you. Let’s just see what it is.”
He removed the top.
Inside was a tiny gold bracelet; two gold hearts each engraved with the letter J. A single diamond sparkled at the place where the two hearts intertwined.
He painstakingly fitted the bracelet onto her wrist. Then explained its meaning to her:
“This J is for Jonathan.” Pointing as he spoke. “That’s me, Daddy. This J is for Jennifer, that’s your Mommy, and this right here, this diamond, that’s you, Daddy’s little J.J. You’re going to have to grow into that big name, Justine Jennifer.”
She smiled at him again.
“And that pretty smile is definitely not from gas.”
He lifted her to his shoulder and hugged her gently. She began to suck softly at the warm skin of his neck, making him laugh.
“You’ve got the wrong one, Sweetie. Let’s get you back to Mommy. She has the milk, and she’ll be ready to jump on me because you aren’t there to get it from her.”
Jennifer was standing at the screened door when they arrived. She looked rested and more like the vital, active woman he knew. She stepped barefoot out onto the porch with her hands on her hips, wanting to know,
“Jonathan, where have you been on a horse with that infant at this time of the morning? I cannot believe you!”
She noted, however, that he looked so very content and at peace, his large hand cradling that precious package on his chest. The baby’s bright eyes were watching for her, following her voice.
“That is a perfect photo-op, Jonathan! Wait there a second, don’t get down yet!”
She disappeared for a moment into the cabin and returned with her camera. Holding it up and manually focusing, she cheerfully called, “Cheese!”
As if on cue, J.J. Hart gave her mother a toothless grin, her blue eyes laughing like her father’s.
“Now, look at that!” He exclaimed, pointing. “I told you that wasn’t gas! My daughter has genuine smiles. She already has a sense of humor.”
“I certainly hope that doesn’t mean that she’s going to be an incorrigible little clown.”
She had to laugh, somewhat convinced that he might be right about those smiles and wondering if that was typical behavior for such a young baby. “Now tell me, where have you two been at this time of the morning?”
He dismounted, stepping down onto the first step of the porch and tying Jack up to the hitching post by the railing.
“We were bonding.”
“Bonding? I bet you didn’t even take a diaper with you.”
“Did too.” He handed the baby wipes to her along with the soiled diaper. “Apologize to me.”
Following her inside, he watched her as she went to the trashcan. She was radiant. She had always been lean and fit, but now her face and her body were still slightly full from the pregnancy. Her lines were softer, rounder, especially at her breasts and her hips. It all looked so good on her, but that wasn’t something that he could tell her; it wasn’t her preferred look. She thought that she was just fat and couldn’t wait to hit the gym. He loved her hair so full and wavy, but tousled from sleep Her legs were still long and shapely. She moved so…..
“Jonathan! Why in the world are you looking at me like that?”
She stood holding her arms out to him for the baby, very aware of what that look in his eyes communicated. She was surprised by the heat that one look from him generated inside of her. On her last office visit, when she asked Dr. Kendall about resuming lovemaking with her husband, she told her that it might be a while before she felt that way again. What a crock! But then Kate didn’t know Jonathan Hart’s powers of sexual persuasion.
Wrestling with her own impulses and not really wanting to move any closer to him at that moment, she implored him, “Would you hand me that little girl so that I can feed her before I explode over here!”
“I’m sorry.” He caught himself. “I was having a moment.”
“Eat your heart out, Buster. Justine has determined that we have another two weeks to go.”
“I’m not so sure that I’m going to last that long.” His eyes were still fixed on Justine’s mother’s lovely legs. “And by the way, her daddy has decided that she’s to be called ‘J.J.’”
As he removed her from the sling, and handed her to her mother along with the blanket, she began to fuss.
“Come on Miss J.J., my precious.” Jennifer cooed, holding her up to her face to talk to her. “I know you’re hungry. Your Daddy took you riding and away from me.”
A large wooden rocker with thick cushions had been placed in front of the stone fireplace solely for the purpose of her sitting with the baby, as she did at home. They were making this first visit last four weeks and they planned to return often after that with the baby. He wanted the two of them to be comfortable during their time there.
Sitting, preparing to feed her, Jennifer caught a glimpse of the sparkle on the tiny wrist.
“Jonathan what is this?” She held up the little arm with the new bracelet.
“It’s her first surprise from her Daddy.”
“Oh no,no, no.” She declared shaking her head as she spoke. ” I knew that this was going to happen. You are not going to start spoiling her. This is beautiful; but this is it. You do realize that I’m not going to let you spoil her don’t you? She’s not a princess. She’s just a little girl.”
“Jennifer,” He approached her to stand looking over at them from behind the chair. “You are the love of my life, and she’s my only child. My greatest joy has been spending what I have on you. Now I have her to enjoy. You’re not going to deprive me of that pleasure, are you?”
“Jonathan, she won’t understand that. If she gets extra attention all the time, she’ll think she’s entitled to it. You’re going to have to be careful about showering her with material things.” She held up her hand, dismissing the notion. “Don’t you worry about that. I’ll be there to monitor that situation closely.”
J.J. snuggled up close to her mother’s bosom and began to nurse.
After a few moments of taking in that beautiful sight he had long ago given up on ever seeing, he bent and kissed the top of Jennifer’s head.
“You are amazing.”
She looked up at him to find him beaming.
“What makes you say that?”
“Given your earlier position, and this happening the way that it did.…It’s just the way that you’ve taken to this mothering thing. Like it’s something you aspired to. The whole thing has just been such a natural process with you.”
“Well, I am a woman, Jonathan. I think that’s why I’m made like this.” She gestured to the baby at her breast and she laughed. “Did you expect that I was going to fall apart or something? Besides, this baby is the best surprise present that you’ve ever spoiled me with.”
He could feel his wife coming back to him. Her smile was genuine and playful, like it used to be.
“This wasn’t in your plan.” He said stroking her hair.
“Maybe not in my personal plan, but she was obviously in the Master Plan. Max seemed to know about it. Besides, Jonathan, plans change all the time. That’s what makes life interesting.”
“Not this drastically and not so fast.”
“Are you complaining?”
“No. Not at all. I’m just so pleasantly surprised. I only wish that Max were here to see her, to hold her, to enjoy her. This was something that he always said that we needed to do in time.”
“He did? He never mentioned anything to me.”
“He wouldn’t have said anything to you about it because he felt it wasn’t his place. He didn’t want you to do something that you didn’t really want to do and neither did I.”
Max had been gone almost a year, and still his eyes misted at the thought of the loss of his friend. Max had been his mentor, his father, his inspiration, and his chief source of guidance. It was as if this baby, their daughter, had been sent into their lives to fill the void that Max’s leaving left behind.
“I first thought that it was being her mother that had you worried, but Jennifer if it’s just keeping her safe that makes you fearful, then I’m going to do everything that I can to make sure that you and J.J. are always protected. I want you to feel secure about her always.”
“That’s all I need then, Darling.” She answered, watching the baby’s face; she was nursing more slowly, on her way to sleep. “I can take care of being her mother. I’m not worried about that. I want to be the best mother to my sweet girl.”
He took the throw from the couch and put it over her legs; the morning was still cool. Soon gently rocking back and forth as she slowly stroked the now sleeping baby’s soft curls while holding her close, her own eyes closed. They would both soon be asleep.
He watched them with wonder and a full heart. At that moment, all was right in his world.
J.J. Hart, you’re a lucky little girl. You’re going to love your mother. She truly loves you, and your Daddy loves you both.