That was her daughter’s name. From the moment she first laid eyes on her, jet black hair and all, Julie had made up her mind. It was sensible, elegant, a name carried by graceful, beautiful women.
Holding her little girl in her arms for the first time had left Julie breathless. How could such a miracle have been born after so much pain? How could this tiny human being exist this innocently in a world that could be so cruel and unfair?
Sweat covered her brow and tears streamed down Julie’s face as she counted each finger and toe, pressed a kiss to her daughter’s button nose. She felt Nettie’s reassuring squeeze on her shoulder and looked up to see a very pregnant Carrie in the corner, looking away with a protective hand over her belly, taking deep breaths and trying to mentally process the spectacle she’d just witnessed.
Enoch would be downstairs somewhere, waiting for permission to see the baby. All of the women of the house would be waiting close by as well.
Everyone Julie knew and loved was there. For her and with her.
As she looked down at Louise again, taking in every feature, the pang of Billy’s absence hit strong. The pang of his anger and abuse. The pang of how she’d loved him anyway.
The pang of how he’d left her and their daughter here alone, despite being surrounded by so many people.
Hours passed with many visitors coming through, Julie eventually falling asleep with Louise swaddled and laid in a bassinet right next to her bedside.
The midwives had left with a promise to return in the morning, meanwhile Nettie had cleared the room and forced everyone to different parts of the house. Everything had grown dark and hush, and Julie had finally drifted into a deep sleep, when Louise released a cry followed by a series of wails.
Julie rubbed her eyes and yawned. Gingerly, she lifted herself out of bed, feeling confident enough to stretch her legs after being confined for a full day.
She cooed at Louise as she picked her up, whispering to her and rocking her gently.
“Shhhh come here, little girl,” she murmured. “No need to be so fussy.”
She felt the cloth diaper around her and found no wetness.
Hungry probably, she decided. It had been hours.
Thankful that Louise had mastered breastfeeding quickly, she sat down on the edge of the bed and loosened the tie on her nightgown, tugging the front of if aside. It took very little effort to encourage the infant to latch on and get her fill.
She held Louise close and waited.
Once she was finished, Julie picked up the soft wool blanket Nettie and Carrie had knit, wrapping it around Louise and carrying her to the bedroom’s large window seat.
She sat and pulled back the curtain. Snow poured outside, New England January making itself known. She vaguely wondered how she and Billy would have lived in winter. What did he do in the cold months that weren’t appropriate for carousels? What would his new job, when he found one, have allowed for?
Would he have been the type to take treks in the snow? When Louise grew old enough, would the three of them have been found outside after a blizzard, throwing snowballs and building snowmen? Would they have come back inside for hot cocoa and curled up by the fire?
Knowing Billy, she very much doubted it. Although a small part of her had to believe that, in time, he would have found work, purpose. He would have set his priorities in order and softened.
It was impossible not to, she realized, as she listened to Louise’s coos and watched as she yawned, her tiny eyes drifting shut again.
The house was chilly, and Julie wished she hadn’t left the comfort of bed. However, she’d decided that the sacrifice was worth it to sit and watch the snow with her daughter for the first time. To appreciate the fact that, while life wasn’t thriving outside, life had been born within the safety of these walls that sheltered and protected her.
As the infant slept, Julie held her closer and pressed a soft kiss to her forehead.
“I love you,” she whispered, feeling the weight of her own words. “I love you, and I promise to tell you that every day of your life.”
The declaration felt foreign coming from her mouth, but it was every bit necessary.
Fear be damned. She would never again let anyone she loved pass through her life without knowing it. And she would start with this beautiful little girl that she made.