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Forgetting the Loss

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When Martha is born, Thomas hugs both of his Marthas close. He can’t stop smiling, ear to ear, at the two of them. They’ll be happy now, he knows it.

When Mary is born, he sits with Martha and kisses her gently. Their family is growing faster than ever. He’s more grateful than he can describe.

They don’t talk about the next three.

When Lucy is born, he hugs his wife and daughters close. “It’s alright,” he says aloud. He isn’t sure if he’s talking to them or to himself. “Everything is fine.”

When Martha dies, part of him dies with her. He lets himself fall apart. Someone else can look after the girls for a while. He doesn’t need to take care of them. He can’t take care of them right now.

He leaves the youngest in care of Elizabeth and Francis Eppes while he goes to France. He doesn’t worry much about them until Lafayette shows up at his door one day with a letter and sad eyes. “Thomas, mon ami,” he says, and all Thomas can ask is a soft, “Which one?”

It’s Lucy. Lafayette gives him the letter from Doctor Currie. He reads it, numb to the core at this latest loss. The letter doesn’t give him any comfort; all it tells him is that another child is gone, another child with “the most auspicious hopes” dead and buried.

He thinks he recovers well from the shock. He’s wrong. It’s May - her birth month - when he finally receives the letters from Francis and Elizabeth informing him of the loss. It cuts him deeply again. When he goes home, he stops first at Eppington to see her grave.

It’s unmarked.