Epilogue, Part 4
She spent all her time with Siana and Alan. One day, she was just talking to them both when Siana clutched her belly and groaned.
“Sia?” called Yulia.
“Sia! Are you okay?” asked Alan.
Her voice was so faint it was barely audible. Alan rushed to call the doctor because Siana looked so pale, and the pain wasn’t subsiding. Before she rushed out the door, he looked over at her.
“The doctor! Bring in the doctor! Go! I’ll stay here with her.” Alan nodded and bolted out of the door. Siana clutched her belly and cried out in pain. Yulia was clueless about what to do but she held onto her friend, trying to talk to her soothingly.
“Sia, keep your eyes open,” she said, “Don’t lose consciousness.”
Yulia desperately held Siana’s hand as Alan arrived with the doctor and two other maids in tow. The doctor tried talking to Siana in a comforting voice and checked her breathing. He told everyone in the room to leave except for the maids.
Yulia and Alan were thrown out of the room. Yulia had a hard time letting go of her friend’s hand. She was shaking. The last she had seen of Siana, she was clasping and unclasping her fists, screaming in pain. Her screams made both Yulia and Alan flinch.
Alan was restless. He paced back and forth in front of the bedroom door with clenched fists. Waiting became very painful, for those inside the room and also for those outside. Then at one point, Siana’s scream was cut off abruptly. Alan and Yulia were scared at that.
Yulia tried to convince herself and Alan that maybe the babies had been born and it was not painful anymore for Siana. She tried to tell him everything would be alright, but she felt the doubt creep up on her. Why had Siana suddenly stopped screaming like that?
When nobody came out of the bedroom, Alan and Yulia’s nervousness reach an excruciating level. They clasped their hands as they waited for the door to open. Finally, after what seemed like a million years, the door opened, and the doctor came out.
The doctor beamed at them both. “Congratulations!” he said, happily, “Lord Legarde, both your son and daughter are well.”
At his words, Yulia heaved a sigh of relief. She was so glad and so happy for her friend. The doctor was right, this was a happy event, but Alan didn’t really look that joyful. “How is Siana, doctor?” he asked with urgency, “Is she okay?”
“Yes, yes,” said the doctor, “She is absolutely alright.”
Alan’s worried face melted into a smile. He breathed in deeply. “Can I go see her doctor?” he asked joyfully.
“Of course!” said the doctor.
“Thank you,” said Alan, shaking the doctor’s hands. “Thank you so much.”
Alan rushed inside the room, followed by Yulia. They saw the maids tidying up the room and Siana was propped up on a pillow with a baby on each side.
“Alan! Yulia!” exclaimed Siana, happily. Giving birth had taken its toll. Her hair was plastered all over her forehead and she was soaked in sweat. Alan ran to her side and embraced her.
“Are you okay?” he asked.
“Yes,” said Siana, “Just a bit tired but I am alright.”
“You did great, Sia!” he said, beaming at her. He squeezed her hand comfortingly. “I am so proud of you.”
“Alan…,” said Siana as she watched Alan’s eyes fill with tears. Yulia was also taken aback because she had never seen Alan crying before. “Why are you crying?” asked Siana.
“I was so worried,” said Alan, sobbing, “I was so worried you might die…”
Unable to finish the sentence, he closed his mouth shut. His clenched jaw trembled. Yulia and Siana both were shocked to see Alan this way. They had never seen him so sad and broken. He didn’t care. He held Siana close to him and cried.
Siana lifted her hand to caress his cheeks. “You innocent fool,” she said, “You aren’t going to get rid of me so soon. I am here, alive and well.” She smiled at him warmly. Alan was quiet.
He held her hands so tight as though he never wanted to let it go. “Alan, I will never leave you behind.”
“I had such a hard time giving birth,” said Siana, teasingly, “And you aren’t even holding your babies. Our children, Alan!”
“Yes,” said Alan, “Our children.” He smiled as he looked at the babies and stroked their cheeks gently.
Yulia stood behind him, looking at the babies, as was the doctor. Everyone looked in wonderous rapture at these tiny humans who were so small but contained so much happiness. Alan felt another rush of tears.
He hadn’t wanted children but had relented because Siana wanted them. But when he thought of the pain and suffering Siana had gone through, and they had made these babies together! He felt so much affection towards them. Alan picked up the baby and buried his face in the cloth that swaddled them and cried again.
Siana felt embarrassed. The Doctor whispered to Yulia, “In my entire career as a doctor, not once have I seen a father cry like that.”
* * *
After the birth, Yulia, who felt that she no longer needed to stay, left the next morning on her carriage back to the Linen estate. And two and a half months later, she visited the Legardes again. She used to visit them at least once a month, but she had been so busy with the annual festival at her estate that she didn’t manage to visit them.
“Come in, Yulia!” Siana, whom she met after a long time, had finally gained a little weight and no longer looked so sunken. She even looked more cheerful.
“Are you doing all right?” asked Yulia. “You look good.”
“These days everyone is saying that. Alan, the doctor, and so on. Do you mean that I have gained weight? I think I have gained a lot.”
“That’s really what I mean…. But it is a much-needed thing. You finally look healthy. Last time, you looked so dead.”
“Gosh, that’s what Alan said. Now you are, too?”
“I didn’t say this the very first time we met, but did you know how skinny you were? I was startled at how sunken you looked.”
“Is that so?” said Siana with a smile.
“And your husband?” asked Yulia, “How is he?”
“He went to work.”
“Then the babies are being watched by a maid, I’m guessing?”
“Not a maid; I brought in some experienced nannies. Since the maids have no parenting experience, I didn’t want them to. Anyway, thanks to them I can care for the babies more easily. And I have enough time to rest.”
“That’s a relief.”
“Oh, do you want to see them? They’ve grown a lot since the last time you saw them. You’ll be surprised.”
“Yes! I absolutely want to see them.”
At Yulia’s words, Siana took a cheerful step to the nursery, where the babies were. Three middle-aged women were moving around busily. The two babies in the crib reached their tiny hands to the music mobile hanging over them in the cradle.
“Look, look. They’ve gotten big, right?”
“Yes, it seems so.”
Yulia looked at them, all fed and happy. They had become so plump since the last time she saw them. Their blond hair shone in the sunlight.
“And they’re both blond.”
“Yeah. Actually, during the pregnancy, I was hoping they’d be blond like Alan, and here they are… as blond as ever. I guess my wish came true.”
“Why do they have to be blond? It shouldn’t matter, even if they had the same hair as you.”
“My hair is too common. It gives me a sense of inferiority. So I didn’t want them to feel the same way.”
Yulia wanted to press her on why she felt that way about her hair colour but let it go. Siana would have to figure out her own way to love herself. She changed the subject.
“At least they have eyes like you and Alan.”
“Yeah. Liz looks like me with her green eyes, isn’t she pretty?” cooed Siana, “Alan Allen looks like Alan with his blue eyes. They are so cute, aren’t they?”
“They sure are,” said Yulia, “What is that thing on their hands, though?”
“Gloves,” said Siana, “I had them custom-made. They scratch their faces accidentally and cry. So, I had them made.”
Yulia nodded. She didn’t know so much about babies bit it made sense that they might scratch themselves with their little hands. Yulia looked down at the babies in their cribs. Liz and Allen. The babies looked up and smiled and reached for her despite her being a stranger to them. It made her feel happy.
“They look so calm,” said Yulia, “Don’t they cry?”
“They do sometimes, but mostly they are quiet,” said Siana, “I am lucky they are so calm.”
Yulia nodded. With their round faces and big eyes, they resembled their parents. Yulia felt something bizarre when she looked over Liz’s face. A tingling sort of feeling emanated deep in her chest.
I felt it when I first held them months ago…. When the babies had been born and Siana and Alan had taken turns carrying them. They had urged her to hold them once. She had thought of refusing politely because she didn’t know anything about babies but Siana had looked so happy that she had relented. She had felt the same thing when she had held the babies that time.