"Mrs. Stephens?" The doctor questioned.
"Please, just call me Natalie." I smiled half-heartedly.
"Okay, Natalie," the woman said in a very respectful tone, "I'm Dr. Maria Rodriguez, and I'm taking over for Dr. Jason."
"Taking over?" I asked.
"Yes ma'am. Dr. Jason thought that I would be of more help to you, given your current condition."
"I see. So, what do you have to tell me, doc?"
"Well, you see Mrs Steph-I mean Natalie, the fall you took down the stairs was very severe, and you said that you fell due to nausea, correct?" Dr. Rodriguez asked sharply.
"Um, yes. That is correct." I said looking down at my stomach. I had been here for a few days now, and the baby's loss was still fresh in my mind and the pain was still very sharp. It hurt to be here, I just wanted to go home, but by the look on the doctors face, I didn't think that was going to happen.
"Natalie, I know it hurts. The reason I was assigned to be your doctor is because ten years ago, something very similar happened to me. I also know you're frustrated with being here, I was too. However, it is necessary that we ask you all of these questions and keep you here. In my case, and in many others, there is some internal injury when a baby is lost in an accident."
I sat up a little, obviously shocked that she had undergone something similar. I really couldn't say anything, so I just nodded at her.
"Now, it looks like the worst injury you have is a bruised rib, so just take it easy for a little while and give it some time to heal. I would also suggest that you stop trying to have another child. How old are you now, Natalie?"
"I've just turned 40." I said with a long sigh.
"Yes, I see now that I'm looking at your file. Mrs. Stephens, getting pregnant again would be incredibly risky, not only for the baby's health, but for yours. I would suggest that you enjoy the children you have. I'm sure your daughter wont have a problem upholding the family's name when she comes of age."
I smiled over at her and let out another sigh, "I understand."
"Alright, Natalie, I'm going to leave you to rest now, but here," she paused as she reached into her pocket and pulled out her card, "Here's my number. If you have any questions, or if you just wish to talk about your loss, it may be helpful to talk to someone who also went through it."
"Thank you Dr. Rodriguez."
"Call me Maria." She said with a smile.
"Thank you, Maria." I laughed.
I ended up being in the hospital for a total of three weeks, and Maria and I ended up becoming great friends. The night I left she gave me a hug and wished me the best and made me promise to call her soon.
My mother and Victoria wanted to celebrate me getting out of the hospital so we had a girls day of going to the spa and then going out to dinner and hanging out in the park. I had to explain to my mom and daughter, that essentially, I could no longer have any kids.
"I'm sorry, Tori, it looks like you're stuck with being the heiress." I said, trying to hide the shame in my voice for forcing it upon her.
"It's okay, mommy!" She smiled as she hugged me, "I wanna be just like you, and in order to be JUST like you I would have had to be the heiress anyway."
I laughed a bit and kissed my beautiful daughters hair, "Alright, if you're sure, sweetheart."
"It is momma, it is."
Feeling much better about the entire situation, we went home and picked up the boys, and we all went to see a game at the stadium, and every Saturday since, my mom, daughter and I would have a girls day and the boys would go see a game and then we'd meet up for dinner.
It's surprising how fast time flies. Before I knew it, another two years flew by and Layton was graduating. I was so beyond proud for my son. He graduated with all honors at the top of his class.
"I'm so proud of you, Layton!" I said with happy tears in my eyes.
"Aw, momma," he smiled, "Don't cry!"
"I can't help it! I'm just so happy for you! You got that scholarship to go to Simmarian University out by Bridgeport a few months ago, but now that you're graduated, you're actually gonna go soon! I'm excited for you honey but I also don't want you to leave home!" I exclaimed, more happy tears coming now.
"Don't worry, momma," he smiled, "I'll be sure to call, and write and come visit."
I gave him a warm smile and one last hug before letting my mom come and give her congratulations.
Clifford walked over and wrapped one of his arms around my waist as we watched Layton go about and speak to everyone.
"Things have gotten a lot better over the past few years, eh?" Clifford asked with a smile on his face.
"Yeah, a lot better. I mean look at us! We're all here, and healthy. Layton is going off to school and you're now at the complete top of your career, mom's doing great, Todd's happy, and Tori, well, she's Tori."
"She's almost as bad as you were when you were her age," Clifford chuckled.
"Hey!" I laughed as I nudged him in the side with my elbow.
"Ow!" He laughed, "Okay! Okay! Maybe you weren't that bad."
"Thank you." I giggled.
Clifford laughed a little and then kissed my hair, "You know Natalie, when Victoria graduates highschool, I'm gonna retire, and then you and me, we can take it easy, and maybe do a little bit of traveling. Maybe go visit Champs Le Sims? Or Shang Simla?"
"I think we could do that." I sighed happily, leaning over and kissing my husband tenderly.
Although the past few years had been very hard, things were most certainly getting better, and I was starting to get excited for the future.
The next year, Victoria turned 13. That was the day I started feeling a little less optimistic. What if she turns 18 and then hates me for not giving her the option to decline...?
However, my fears were settled a bit as she exclaimed how happy she was to be 13, because she didn't have that much longer until she got to be the one in my place. She may not be a little kid anymore, but she was just as spoiled as she was when she was 5. Her father overhauled her room and promised to buy her a car when she turned 16, I let her go on a shopping spree and my grandmother gave her her very own lap top, much to my surprise.
Since Layton left for school, Todd and Tori and become very close, and so it wasn't too much of a surprise to see them talking intently in the corner during her party, it was surprising though when she called everyone's attention and let him speak.
"Uh, so guys," Todd said nervously, "I really didn't expect to bring this up now, but Tori seems to think that now is the best time to bring it up, as it's just us here as a family."
"Yeah," Victoria smiled, "right now seems like a really good time to tell everyone the good news that you're finally over Carrie, or whatever her name was and on to someone much better!"
Todd blushed and gave his younger sister a pleading look to which she completely ignored.
"So, you have a new girlfriend?" I asked.
"Well, see, n-not a girlfriend." He stuttered.
"What?" Clifford asked, confused before saying in a half serious, half joking tone, "Did you get someone pregnant?"
"Dad!" Victoria squealed.
"Clifford!" My mother and I both said sternly at the same time while Todd face palmed.
"What?" Clifford shouted, "It's a legitimate question! He might have, I mean come on, all of us Stephen men have dashing good looks, the ladies can probably hardly keep their hands off him."
"Dad." Victoria sighed with an annoyed edge, "It's not the girls who can't keep their hands off him."
"Victoria!" Todd fumed, blushing uncontrollably.
"What!" She squealed, "You're not telling them!"
"Okay! Okay!" Todd shouted, "Momma, Dad, Nana, I have a boyfriend. I'm very attracted to him, and I think he really has a wonderful personality. I'd really like it if you guys would meet him sometime soon."
"How long have you two been together?" Clifford asked.
"A few months..." Todd answered sheepishly.
"Well, I'd love to meet him." Clifford smiled.
"I would too." I grinned.
"I gotta make sure this boy is good enough for you, Todd, so yes, I'd love to meet him." My mother said with a smile tugging at her lips.
The wide grin that Todd gave us was priceless and then he ran around the room and gave everyone a hug, obviously happy that we accepted him still.
Even though I was surprised at my sons announcement that he had a boyfriend, it was a happy kind of surprise, and from watching how supportive she was of her brother, I knew that Victoria was going to be wonderful in the place of Heiress, and that for right now, life was good.
I simply hoped that it would stay that way.