Well, I don’t know if I mentioned this before, but I’m writing a little short story called Only a Mother. It’s set in 1888 Scotland, and it’s about Ivy’s struggles in motherhood.
Soooo … warning! There’s HUGE spoilers for Beyond Her Calling in this short story (
if you don’t know how romances work). So just be wary of that. Those … spoilers.
But I don’t really read romances to see if couples will get together – but rather to see how they get together. So if you’re like me in that concern, you should be fine!
About Only a Mother
Ivy McAllen feels she’s a woman ill-fitted for the job she’s been given. That job happens to be the most difficult one in the world – motherhood. Struggling to manage her twin toddlers while preparing for her third child is more than she can handle. And it seems that her best is simply not enough.
Hoping to finish it: in the next couple days
Hoping to publish it: in autumn
Other details: it takes place between A Prayer Unanswered and Love Once Lost
An Excerpt of Only a Mother
Ivy McAllen stood, palms flat on the kitchen table and knees still shaking. There was a throbbing in her temples that just wouldn’t go away, and her throat was sore from sobbing.
Tired. That was it. She was tired and emotional because of the baby and the work and … everything. But she’d be fine. She just had to get through this day.
And the one after that, and after that, and on and on into the foreseeable future. Tears started again, but she dashed them away, stood from her seat at the kitchen table, and walked into the small nursery.
Molly was sobbing softly as she sat on the floor just inside the room. She hadn’t stayed in bed for long, probably. Which was good, in a way—an extra nap would just mean trouble at this point.
Letty, meanwhile, was quiet, but Ivy didn’t trust it. When Letty was quiet, it meant she was planning her next adventure, and Ivy was so tired of Letty’s adventures.
“It’s a’right, Molly mine!” She scooped up the toddler and cuddled her close, patting her back. She felt a little bad over disregarding Jordy’s advice, which had been to stop picking her daughters up until the new baby came, but she liked to hold them. And Molly plainly needed comfort. “I’ve got you. I’m sorry, I’m sorry. What’s wrong, angel?”
“Mummy, Mummy,” Molly whimpered over and over again.
Ivy kissed the damp, red-tinged cheeks then shifted Molly to her hip and directed her attention to her second child, who was watching her emotional twin pensively.
“Letty, let’s get something to eat. Come with me, love.”
Letty instead picked up a somewhat limp stuffed rabbit and stuck its ear in her mouth. Then she grinned toothily. “Mum?” Her tone was questioning. “Mum, pway?”
“Not now, darling.”
Letty’s face set. “Wanna pway.”
“Violet Claire.” She made her voice sound firmer than she felt as she rubbed small circles on Molly’s back. “Time to eat.”
“No. Molly’s sad. She doesn’t want to play.” Of course, Letty was just a baby, and babies weren’t known for their empathy, but Ivy had seen other toddlers express at least a minimal amount of concern over their playfellow’s tears. Or some of them. But Letty didn’t seem to notice or care. “Come and eat. It’s midday.”
Honestly, Ivy was guilty over the fact that she’d put them down this morning. She shouldn’t have. They hadn’t been taking naps in the morning for months now.
But everything that could go wrong that morning had, and at last putting them in their room and sobbing at the kitchen table for an hour had seemed the only option. At least they couldn’t hurt themselves too easily in the nursery.
She winced. Not too easily? What was she thinking! She shouldn’t even let the girls out of her sight. They both liked to explore everything in every way possible—and that led to so many dangerous possibilities. Things she wouldn’t have even considered.
Hating herself, she carried Molly back out into the kitchen, coaxing Letty to follow her. Not wanting to add the additional stress of forcing them to stay seated, she ended up letting them picnic on the kitchen floor.
Frankly, at this point, she didn’t care. She needed to stem off another panic attack, she needed to be calm and collected. This couldn’t keep happening. It had to stop … it just had to.
At the thought of her many, many failures as a mother, another lump rose in her throat and her vision blurred, but she took deep breaths, closed her eyes, tried to pray it away.
It’s going to be all right. Lord God, tell me it’s going to be all right. Oh, Lord, don’t let me fail at this … God, they need me …
Molly, now pacified with a mouth full of homemade bread, crawled into Ivy’s lap and gave her some crumby kisses. “Mummy?”
“Time to eat.”
Ivy laughed softly at her own words mimicked back to her. “That’s right. Time to eat.”
After a pause, Molly presented her half-chewed slice of bread, obviously making a great sacrifice. “Dere.”
“No, thank you.”
Molly scowled and pressed her prize to her mother’s lips. “Time to eat!”
“No. You eat it. Mummy will get her own.”
After another long silence, Molly nodded and dropped her head against Ivy’s breast to finish chewing her food.
Letty, on the other hand, was quite focused on finishing her own meal, ignoring both her mother and her twin. Ivy leaned back slightly to watch her. She wasn’t sure what would be happening next, but it was sure to be something mind-wrecking.
Letty liked to drive her parents wild. Ivy was sure of it. Ivy loved her creativity and sense of adventure and hated the constant fear for her well-being.
“Mm, Molly mine?”
“Da’s at work. Making sick people better.” Yes, indeed, her husband made sick people better—and he worked hard at it, too, and provided for his three girls. Soon to be four in November—or three and a boy. She wasn’t sure which she wanted. Girls were hard, but she’d heard boys were harder.
Still, the new baby was going to be a blessing. She shouldn’t whine so much, even in her mind. After all, Jordy’s job was the stressful one. Every day the lives of the villagers of Keefmore hinged on his cool thinking and skillful hands.
Why, just last week Jordy had stopped a farmer from bleeding out after a bad accident. A month ago, he’d probably saved a man’s leg from being amputated—and, in Keefmore where manual labor was so important, he probably had kept a family from starving that day.
Ivy? All she had to do was keep two toddlers out of trouble and try to get a decent amount of rest and nourishment so #3 would be healthy. Easy enough. Hardly worth troubling herself over.
She glanced up from Molly to find that Letty had disappeared again, leaving her bowl spinning in the middle of the kitchen floor. Ivy hurriedly rose and ran out of the room, calling her daughter’s name.
“Letty? Letty! Where are you?”
No response. But she managed to keep her wits about her, taking deep breaths again.
“Letty? Come here, darling. Time to finish your dinner …”
She swallowed hard when the nursery and front room had been searched and no Letty had appeared.
This was impossible. The doors were shut, and Letty couldn’t reach the handles. There was no place a little child could go, especially since she’d only glanced away for half a minute.
If Ivy panicked, she would never find her. More deep breaths, her hands pressed against her stomach to ease the rampant butterflies, and she continued on into her bedroom.
Holly, her tabby cat, was curled up in the middle of the counterpane, but there was no sight of her daughter. She peaked under the bed and into her closet then walked back out.
Molly was standing in the middle of the living her, her thumb in her mouth. Regarding her mother plaintively, she removed her thumb and said, “Reeree.”
“Letty. Yes, where is Letty, Molly? Did you see her?”
Molly’s blue eyes grew big, and she shook her head.
Ivy ran a hand over her eyes and ran into the kitchen. No sign of her. The cellar door was closed, and too heavy for such a tiny girl to open. Besides, Ivy had been watching it the whole time.
Then there was a loud clattering from behind her, and a low grunt of annoyance. She knew that grunt.
Whirling, she flung open the door of the cabinet near the door which held a variety of heavy cast-iron pots and pans. Somehow Letty had managed to crawl silently over them to the back of the cabinet where there was just the tiniest bit of space.
Letty’s gray-green eyes met hers unwaveringly over the pots. “Mum.” She scooted her body toward the back then toward the front. “Mum, up. Up.”
Letty was right. Cuddles were in order—though they would’ve happened whether Letty wanted them or not. Ivy sighed and held out her arms. “Come here.”
The scowl of her child’s face deepened. She made a jerking motion, then whimpered. Ivy’s heart stalled.
Letty was her quiet child. She’d been born silent, so much so that it had scared Jordy, and even now communicated primarily through grunts, glares, and occasional growls with succinct phrases tossed in.
Whimpering was not in Letty’s vocabulary.
Then Ivy saw it, and she hurried to removed each heavy pan. She felt Molly’s hand tugging at her hair from behind and pushed her away to keep moving the heavy iron death traps which she was going to destroy after this. Throw in a loch. Or something.
Then she lifted the last one, closest to Letty, and the two-year-old jerked back and clutched her hand to her chest. Panting, Ivy pulled her daughter in her arms and clutched her close. For the first time in the last eight months, Letty snuggled in and whimpered again.
If you want to read the rest, consider signing up to beta-read this June! I’m expecting it to be about 6,000 words when I’m finished.
How was your Mother’s Day (e.g. yesterday)? Did you enjoy this little snippet? Have any thoughts? (Negative is actually welcome, too, at this stage!) Are you excited to see what happens next? Do you feel bad for poor little anxious Ivy? Do you think you’ll be able to beta read?