"Well, if I am dead, I know I've gone to Heaven." He grinned, running his hands through her silky hair.
Eve laughed and began lifting her body up off of Julian's. When she put her hand on Julian's side to help herself up, he screamed out in pain. Eve quickly removed her hand. "Julian, you're hurt!"
"No, it's nothing," he said, slowly raising himself to a seated position and patting his side. "Just my ribs. It's Sheridan - she needs you, Eve." He pointed to where his sister was lying on one side of the enclosure.
Eve stood up and looked toward Sheridan. "Oh my God!" she cried when she saw the unconscious woman on the cushion. She rushed over to her and began checking her pulse. "What's happened to her, Julian?" she asked. "How long has she been this way?"
As Eve continued to check Sheridan's pulse, Julian joined her at his sister's side. He began relaying exactly what had been going on with his sister throughout the day.
"She's been in labor how long?" Eve asked, examining Sheridan's pupils.
Julian checked his watch. "Since three o'clock this afternoon. About ten hours, I suppose."
"Well, ten hours isn't unusual for a first child," Eve said, "but from what you've told me, Sheridan still has a long way to go."
"She doesn't seem to be making any progress," Julian said. "She got to five minutes apart really quickly; then it just stayed like that all this time. And she's so weak. She's been in and out - mostly out - for the last two hours. That's why they came and got you. Eve, I'm sorry; I thought Sheridan and her baby were going to die... I asked for you." He hung his head in guilt.
"Julian, I'm glad I can be here for Sheridan. Her condition is very serious. I just hope that I got here soon enough."
"Can you save her...and the baby?" Julian asked, genuine concern in his voice.
"I'll do everything I can," Eve assured him. "Right now, I need to examine her." She looked at the lantern on the floor. "Julian, I'm going to need you to hold that lantern over here near Sheridan while I work. Do you think you can do that?"
Julian nodded. "I'll do anything I can to help my sister - anything," he said protectively.
"Good. I'm going to need my medical bag," Eve said.
Julian hurried over to where he had seen something lying on the floor. "Here it is!" he shouted. "I guess they threw it in after you."
He looked up at the opening of the pit and noticed the clown-faced abductors leaning over, spellbound at the happenings in the pit.
"Now I know why you insisted on us getting that doctor, Mr. Rich," Charlie laughed. "Looks like you and the doc have got something cooking on the side."
"Lay off," Julian said sternly. "I just hope your delay in getting my sister medical attention won't end up costing her life and the baby's life."
He quickly walked back to where Eve was standing and handed her the medical bag. Eve opened the bag and removed several items from it. She immediately checked Sheridan's blood pressure. "It's dangerously low," she said.
Eve put on a pair of latex gloves. "I've got to examine her fast and see what's wrong. We don't have much time."
Julian picked up the lantern and held it by the foot of the cushion as Eve performed a thorough examination. He made sure his eyes were averted throughout the exam.
"Look, Blondie's brother is shyer than I thought!" Charlie sneered. "I bet you wouldn't be so shy if it was the doc here on that cushion."
Julian made a disgusting face on hearing the clown's remark. He felt his face turning red, but was glad Eve was too busy to hear what the idiot had said.
Eve frowned as she examined Sheridan. "Something's not right here," she said. Then, realizing the problem, she cried out, "Oh no, the baby's breech!"
"What does that mean?" Julian asked, turning to look at Eve, his heart pounding fast from the alarm in her voice.
"It means the baby's not turned right," she explained. "Instead of the head being down, in this case, it's the baby's bottom. This is a serious situation, but not uncommon in babies that are four weeks early."
"Can you...fix it?" Julian asked. "Can you do that here?"
"I'm going to have to," Eve said. "But there are things that need to be done first - lots of things."
At this point, Sheridan started having another contraction. Both Julian and Eve rushed to her side. Eve was amazed at how Julian went straight for her hand, clasping it in his. She watched as he rubbed his hand across her forehead and smoothed the damp hair away from her eyes. This time, Sheridan did not regain consciousness.
"Sometimes she wakes up for a moment," he said, "but this time I guess it was too much for her." Julian choked back sobs.
Eve was amazed at how close Julian and Sheridan had become during their stay in the pit. In one week's time, the siblings, who had rarely spoken to one another, had bonded as closely as any brother and sister she had seen. She could tell another thing too. Julian genuinely loved his sister. This was the only time that Eve had seen him lavish true affection on someone besides her. She could tell his feelings for his sister came from the heart.
Julian gently let go of Sheridan's hand and turned toward Eve. "Please do everything you can for her," he said, tears in his eyes. "I'll help you anyway I can."
"I will, Julian," Eve said, reaching out to grasp his hand. "Together, we're going to do all we can to save Sheridan and the baby."
Dropping hands, the two began surveying what items were already in the pit and deciding what was needed for the procedure and eventual birth. "Those sheets - are they clean?" Eve asked, pointing to the bundle that Julian had set on his blanket.
"Yes," he answered, "our wonderful jailors threw them down here today. I caught them, so they didn't touch the ground."
"OK," she said, thinking fast. "We need to get Sheridan off the cushion and put some of the sheets down. Will you help me with that?"
The two quickly tackled that task, with Julian gently picking Sheridan up while Eve laid out the sheets. After Julian placed Sheridan back down on the cushion, Eve removed her blanket and replaced it with a clean sheet.
"What's next?" Julian asked.
"We need some boiled water," Eve said, "and plenty of clean towels."
Julian called up to the clowns, "Did you hear that? Get her some water and towels - fast!"
Beth and Charlie left to retrieve the necessary supplies. Julian turned back to Eve, "Is there anything else you need, dear?"
"Some forceps would be nice, but I don't think we'll get them. Let's just hope what I'm going to do here works, and Sheridan is strong enough to help push."
A while later, the kidnappers returned to the pit. "Here you go!" Charlie yelled, tossing down the towels that Eve had requested. Julian ran and quickly caught them before they touched the ground.
Beth lowered a large pan of boiled water in the basket. Julian carefully removed the pan and set it near the cushion. Eve quickly sterilized some instruments in the water. "We're ready," she said, taking a deep breath.
Julian grabbed the lantern and held it near Eve as she slipped on a clean pair of gloves. He looked away as much as possible during the procedure, but at one point when Eve cried out he looked at her to make sure everything was all right.
"This baby is hard to turn," Eve said, clenching her teeth as she worked to turn the infant around inside of its mother. "Come on, baby," she said, "just a little bit more..."
Finally, Eve drew back and replaced the sheet over Sheridan's legs. "Well, it's done," she said, sighing in relief. "The baby's now head first."
"Thank God!" Julian said, putting his arm on Eve's shoulder to celebrate. "You have saved that baby's life, Eve, and Sheridan's."
"Let's hope," Eve said, removing her gloves. "The first major hurdle is over with. Now we need to see if Sheridan's labor progresses and she is able to give birth naturally."
Sheridan's labor did progress. Soon, her contractions were down to every two minutes. Julian smiled as his sister woke up during one of them. "Hey, dear, how are you feeling?" he asked in a loving tone.
"Still...hanging in there," she said softly, trying to focus her eyes. "Dr. Russell? Is...that you?" she asked, startled at seeing her doctor in the pit. She wondered if she was hallucinating.
"Yes, it's me," Eve said, smiling. "We're glad you're back, Sheridan. Soon you will have your baby in your arms."
Sheridan smiled weakly and laid her head back on the cushion. This time she did not pass out. Julian stayed by her side, talking to her tenderly, while Eve continued to examine Sheridan and prepare for the birth.
When Sheridan's contractions were down to a minute apart, Eve announced, "It's time. She's fully dilated." She got up and walked over to speak to Sheridan. "Honey, it's time to push. Do you think you're ready?"
Sheridan nodded, her eyelids heavy from exhaustion.
"OK then, Julian's going to stay by your side and help you through this, while I tend to things down here." Eve's eyes met Julian's. He nodded, reassuring her that he could do the job that was required of him.
He helped prop Sheridan's head and back against the wall of the pit and sat beside her, holding her against his side so she could feel his arms around her.
Eve let Sheridan know when it was time to push. She bore down with what little strength she had left and sank back into Julian's arms. "You're going to need to push again, Sheridan, when I tell you. Harder this time." Sheridan again pushed with all her might, and collapsed once more into her brother's arms. Eve and Julian locked eyes. They were afraid that it was too much for her.
Sheridan remained conscious, however, and was able to give them several more pushes until Eve finally cried, "I see the head! Loads of dark hair." She told Sheridan to cease pushing as she further examined her.
"OK, Sheridan, you're almost there," Eve said. "This little sweetheart wants to see its mommy."
Sheridan's eyes filled with tears. "Luis...I wish...Luis...were here."
"He's here in spirit," Julian reassured her, "even if he's not with us right now. You will all three be together soon enough. Just think about how thrilled Luis will be when he sees your baby."
After several more pushes, Eve announced that the head was finally out. "We're almost there! We just need to get the shoulders out." Sheridan took a deep breath and mustered up all the strength she had. She pushed on Eve's directive, and the doctor called excitedly, "Great job, Sheridan! One more push should do it!"
Again, Sheridan was compelled to use the strength that even Eve was amazed she still had to deliver one more big push, and the baby freely came out into Eve's hands. "It's a girl!" Eve shouted. Sheridan smiled and collapsed into her brother's arms.
Eve quickly cleaned the baby's airway and checked her vitals.
"Is she all right?" Julian asked. "Is the baby going to be OK?"
"She's perfect!" Eve said, and then smiled at Julian. "Would you like to cut the cord, Uncle?"
Julian hesitated and then gently lowered Sheridan onto the cushion. He got up and walked over to where Eve was holding the baby. His nervous eyes met hers. Seeing her smile gave him the reassurance he needed. He took the instrument from her hand and carefully cut the cord in the spot she directed him. "Oh my goodness," he said, tears in his eyes. "She's so tiny!" He reached out with his free hand and touched the baby's cheek.
Eve smiled at Julian's reaction. She quickly cleaned up the baby and wrapped her in a fresh towel. Then she brought the newborn to her mother. Julian followed. "Sheridan? Do you want to see your baby girl?" Eve asked, a big smile on her face.
Julian helped Sheridan sit
up, and she leaned against his arms, tears in her eyes. In a stronger voice
than she had managed for hours, she cried, "Oh my gosh, look at her...so
tiny, so beautiful." She reached out and touched the baby's delicate hand.
"Hi, baby, I'm your mommy... yes ... and I've been waiting for you...for