Charley’s Tale Part 11

Charley was miserable with her measles, but worse than measles was the separation from Cora.  The child asked after her constantly.  Because she was unsure if she’d ever had measles, Dr Evans asked her not to visit Charley.  Ellen demanded Cora’s attention constantly, anyway.  Charles was afraid for Ellen to be alone with the baby, so Cora kept it at her side as she worked.  Ellen was still abed, but called for the baby, despite Cora’s assurances she’d bring the baby to the minute she stirred.  Ellen insisted on calling her Charlotte, though Charles had said that wouldn’t do.  She flew into a rage when he opposed her, so he avoided the subject.  Ellen had a wild look in her eyes, and Charles began sedating her when he had to be out, fearing Cora might not be able to handle her.

Back at Geneva’s house, Charley was settling in with Josie to read to her and play games.  The child had never held anyone’s complete attention before, so she revelled in it.  Her father and brothers came to visit daily.  Birdie made her special treats.  Her grandmother loved having her in residence.  Once the initial misery of her illness was past, she was quite content, never thinking to ask after her mother which was fortunate, since her mother continued to ignore her existence.

Charles had mentioned Charley and her measles to Ellen a time or two, but Ellen acted as though she didn’t hear. When the baby was three days old, Charles decided to take on the problem of agreeing on a name before Reverend Parker came by to discuss the christening.  Ellen had begun calling her Charlotte, over Charles’s objection.

“Ellen, please listen to me.  You’re still confused since this new baby surprised us.  That happens after a baby once in a while, but you’ll be clearing up soon.  Our other little girl is Charlotte.  She’s been with your mother because she has the measles, but she will be home with us soon. I’d like to name this baby after my mother and yours.  What do you think of Geneva Catherine?  We can call her Genny.”

Ellen flew into a rage at his words.  “Why are you tormenting me?  You’re trying to convince me I am crazy carrying on about that other Charlotte.  You’re not getting rid of me that easy! I know all about that trashy little nurse of yours!  Get out of here!  Cora! Cora!  Get my mama over here!  Cora!”  She hurled the knife off her breakfast tray at him.collapsing into a paroxysm of frantic weeping as Cora came in to help him settle her down.  Cora finally got her to take something to relax her, since she wouldn’t have anything from his hand.

As things settled down, Charles realized Ellen needed more help than he could give her.  He made a phone call to a colleague.

 

 

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Charley’s Tale Part 9

Charley’s fourth birthday marked a major turning point in her life.  Her mother unexpectedly went into labor.  At the age of forty-three, Ellen hadn’t had a menstrual cycle in eighteen months and of late had gained a few pounds.  She’d been extremely moody and fractious about her weight gain and loss of sexuality so her husband had steered clear of the sensitive subject

Coincidentally, Charley awoke with a fever and cough.  When Ellen’s screaming started, Charles did an exam and found her in labor.  Cora took Charley to Geneva’s house. Ellen  gave birth to a seven-month baby girl after twenty-four hours of bloody labor.  The baby was tiny, but perfect.   Ellen was ecstatic.  “I finally have a daughter.”

“Ellen, this is our second daughter.  Don’t forget Charley.”  Charles reminded her.

“I never had a girl named Charley.  That’s crazy.  I finally have my little girl.  My life is perfect.”  Ellen was euphoric.  Her eyes glittered strangely.

“No, Ellen, Cora took our girl Charlotte to your mother’s house while you were in labor.  This is our second daughter.”  Charles persisted.  I need to send Cora for Charley now you’ve delivered.”

“Cora’s not going anywhere.  I need her.  I don’t have a girl.  Let me rest.  Have Cora wake me when the baby needs nursing.  I think I want to name this one Charlotte after you since she’ll be the last.”

“Ellen, are you trying to tell me you don’t remember our little girl?”  He feared her mind was unhinged.

“This is my daughter.  Now, let me rest, Charles.”  Ellen closed her eyes. “Don’t be talking to me about another baby.  I won’t have you mocking me.”

Charles left the room puzzling over his wife.  He’d seen baby-blues before, and heard of madness after giving birth, though he’d never actually seen it.  He hoped Ellen would rally after rest.  She’d always been high-strung and subject to mood swings, but this was delusional.  Surely she’d rally when Charley came home.

Geneva called for him to come see to Charley.  As soon as he saw her, he knew she’d contracted measles.  “Miss Geneva, I am so sorry to put this on you, but I can’t bring her in the house with a new baby.  Can you keep her if I get someone in to help?  I’d send Cora but Ellen and the new baby are keeping her tied up.  Ellen seems a little confused and I don’t want her alone with the baby.”

“Of course, Charley will be fine here.  My help Birdie’s daughter Josie has already said she’ll help us out.  What’s wrong with Ellen? She’s always been notion.  Her daddy spoiled her so. Is the baby okay?”  Now Geneva was really worried.

“The baby is tiny, but I think she’ll be alright.  We’ve got her in a basket on the radiator, so she’s warm.  Cora’s waking her every two hours to feed and she’s always hungry.  That’s good.  Frankly, Ellen worries me.  She doesn’t remember Charley.  She says this is her first girl and wants to name her Charlotte.  I believe she will come to her senses in a day or two, but I am worried.”  Charles poured his worries out.,

“”One of my aunts was real queer after a baby.  She kept saying it wasn’t hers and she didn’t want anything to do with it.  She swore her husband had brought one of his women’s babies in.  Poor Wilbur sure was hurt hearing her say that.  He hadn’t ever been anything but good to her.  She finally came around but it was nearly six weeks.  Most of the time she did good after that, but she did have a few bad spells over the the years.  Ellen will do after her female problems settle down.   I sure hope so.”  Geneva’s words worried him.  He didn’t know if hearing the family history made him feel better or worse.