I've had this story floating around in my head. It's the next installment after New Year's Blues. No worries, I am still working on Declarations, Hesitations, and Realizations ending. Just wanted to jot this down before the month was over.

Recap from New Year's Blues:

-Annie broke her left humerus (upper arm) and fractured her right radius requiring casts and physical restrictions.

Warbucks' staff that adopted the other girls:

Cecile (seamstress/maid) and Jack (caretaker/gardner) = Kate & Molly

Annette (maid) and Michael (2nd footman) = July & Tessie

Jane (stenographer) and Dexter (bookkeeper) = Pepper

Mabel (stenographer) and Rolland (treasurer) = Duffy

Again I do not own the characters of the 1982 movie, just borrowing them for a bit! :-)

February 26th, 1934

Dear Bessie,

It's another snowy day outside and my sixth day in confinement. I never would have imagined, I would have fainted outside our office door six days ago. Thank heavens Oliver was right behind me in order to catch me since I was falling face first. If I had, I'm sure, the baby wouldn't have been as lucky as it was after the car accident, after all my bump is much larger, now, and I definitely would have landed on it during impact.

Of course, Oliver hastily called the doctor, as you already know from my earlier entries, and Dr. Jackson came immediately ordering me on bedrest for a week (aka my confinement) due to low blood pressure and sugar. He quickly took me to task as well as Oliver for not making sure I rested more in addition to taking more breaks for meals during our long days. Of course, Oliver took this completely to heart and has made sure the only time I get out of THIS BED is to use the restroom. He won't even let me tuck Annie into bed or help her get ready in the morning for school.

Yes, Annie doesn't have far to go for school but it's the principle of it all (I'm her mother and that's part of my job requirement). It's silly, I know, after all we did turn one of the main floor's sitting rooms into a school room for the girls, in August. We decided that for this academic year (with their parents of course), that it was in their best interest to catch them up academically as well as socially before enrolling them in a private school somewhere around here. So, we enlisted Esther's help since she's a licensed school teacher. Because not only would she be able to catch them up academically but she would also know how to use kid gloves with them especially when addressing their social skills since she understood the environment they came from.

All the girls have done wonderfully with their academics especially since they all have such inquisitive minds which have allowed them to catch up to their expected grade levels. However, the more 'boring' lessons, per Miss Annie, also known as appropriate social skills for young girls have been more trying for Esther and Mrs. Greer to teach (i.e., trying to teach the girls how to act and speak more appropriately yet not crush their spirits has been more taxing for both women). However, both women have stated that they are coming along and not to worry.

I can tell, at least with my own daughter that she's not running into rooms unannounced bashing the doors against the walls with her gusto. She actually knocks now and will request entrance into the room; however, she's not always good at remembering that if there's no reply she should try again before barging into the room. She's caught Oliver and I in several embraces, thank goodness, they haven't been too heated. We have definitely learned to lock the door in the evening when we retire to enjoy each other more thoroughly (I definitely don't want her walking in on us, that would be mortifying); nevertheless, after our interludes one of us always gets up to unlock the door encase she comes to us in the night.

One night, as you know, we forgot and we had a hysterical Annie beating against the door after she had a nightmare about that horrid bridge experience! I will never forget how Oliver and I both jumped out of bed like the house was on fire trying to find the nearest article of clothing to throw on before opening the door to our distraught daughter. Initially, I felt like the worst mother ever after she launched herself into my arms as she tucked her head under my chin and proceeded to sob her little heart out. I never dreamed that she would be that terrified to seek us out in the middle of the night. After all, the only time she insisted on sleeping with me was the week after the bridge (right before the wedding), but once Oliver and I were married she never appeared to need more than our nightly mother/daughter cuddling and tucking into bed by both of us (boy do I miss the cuddling time and tucking her into bed!).

Well, I take back some of it, she found out early on in our marriage that if the door is unlocked and she does enter our room in the wee hours of the morning she will generally find that neither Oliver nor I are thrilled to be woken up at the crack of dawn. So, generally in those cases she will crawl into bed between us and soon after the sandman reclaims her. Oh how I cherish those mornings when I wake up with both my loves in bed with me!

Well, back to that night when we forgot to unlock the door … after she settled down, there was some comic relief when she asked her father why he was wearing my pink robe. Let's just say I've never seen Oliver turn so many shades of colors before (from white, to ash grey, then to bright red). His attempt to explain his wardrobe was even better, as he stumbled through his explanation about spilling water on his pajamas and was just in the process of changing when she knocked. However, our precocious Annie didn't buy it and astutely called him out on it when she noted that the bathroom light was off. Despite her sharpness, Oliver's wit in tight spots is infallible and he was quick with his response stating that he didn't want to wake me so he was doing it in the dark. Thank goodness she bought it! Nevertheless, after that night we agreed that after our interludes, we would redress ourselves appropriately, and unlock the door encase she required us again. We've only had a few occasions that it was necessary, BUT DEFINITELY NOT RECENTLY!

OH BESSIE, MY BABY GIRL HAS BEEN STANDOFFISH TO ME! I didn't put it all together until last night but my daughter is definitely avoiding or upset with me for some reason (and even if I don't want to think this ... I think it has something to do with the baby)! I mean she'll come to visit me before going to bed and she will share with me details of her day; however, it's like she's on autopilot and just going through the motions (her normal jubilant self is missing and even my oblivious husband has noticed that her sweet disposition has changed).

All the pieces of the puzzle fell into place when I felt the baby move last night and grabbed her hand to place it on the spot gleefully announcing that the baby moved. You see up until two weeks ago, Annie would constantly rub and feel for the baby she'd even started reading to it each night so he or she would know her voice when it was born. It was so precious and I hadn't realized until last night that she'd stopped doing that until she yanked her hand out like it was on fire.

Yes, I know, last week was very hectic and I had to cut out our nightly routine to help Oliver crunch numbers to justify keeping or selling that Pittsburgh factory, that he's been trying to save for the last six months; and, yes, our rigorous schedule is the primary reason I fainted because I skipped a few meals here and there so we'd finish it in three days instead of the projected six days. It was all so we could spend more time with Annie to assist with her 'cabin fever' or 'physical restrictions,' whatever you want to call it, due her broken humerus and fractured radius.

She'd been putting on a good front for us since the accident and even joked that she enjoyed her daily flour bath from Mrs. Pugh to assist with her casts' stench. The longer she'd had the casts on and the less her arms ached the more restless she'd become. Even though she didn't complain I could see the longing she had to be outside playing in the snow with the other girls or even inside swimming with them. There were so many things she couldn't do, over what she could do that our little spitfire was about ready to explode by the fourth week following her restrictions. Therefore, Oliver and I intervened quickly by making sure we finished business by four o'clock each day to spend some quality time as a family of three. Generally, Annie is always full of energy but Oliver and I have figured out that she will calm down when she knows she has our undivided attention (which will soon be divided by the baby); so, the evenings have been spent together as a family reading or listening to radio programs together. Each night after our mother/daughter cuddling we check off another day off her 'confinement' on her calendar. She only has three more days if all goes well, after all, March 1st is the day Dr. Wheatley told Annie he would remove her casts as long as she followed all his rules.

Until last week, when several of Oliver's accountants, researchers, and project overseers indicated that the Pittsburgh factory was treading on a thin line and teetering back into the red, if we didn't attend to the problems hastily. We hated the fact that this would interfere with our nightly routines but we discussed the situation with Annie, promising to try and continue our evening routine. However, knowing that it was a slim chance we made it very clear, that in all likelihood, we would only be able to tuck her in at night.

I should have noticed it then, she was more argumentative and whinny after we told her this, and stomped off to her room when we tried to reason with her. This surprised both of us, she'd never done that before, but we shook it off thinking she was finally comfortable enough with us to rebel a bit. However, paired with her peculiar behavior a few days prior where she asked if I would always love her no matter what … should have had warning bells going off. Along with her clinginess each night leading up to her tantrum. Another piece of the puzzle came to me, as well, when I laid awake all night and this morning worrying about Annie's reaction … SHE WAS ALWAYS IN BED ASLEEP BY THE TIME OLIVER AND I WENT TO TUCK HER IN … BUT, HERE'S THE THING … WE ALWAYS MADE SURE WE MADE IT TO HER ROOM BY HER NORMAL BEDTIME SO WE WOULDN'T MISS OUR GOODNIGHTS!

How could I have missed my child's drastic change toward me and possibly the baby?! What could have changed? Oliver and I have tried so hard to make sure she knows that she won't be replaced and that she will always be our first baby! I don't under

(Knock, knock)

The knuckles rapping on her bedroom door stopped Grace in her tracks, preventing her from completing her thoughts as she hastily wiped away her frustrated tears, in case it was Annie. Unfortunately, deep down she knew it wasn't hers it was to heavy for it to be nor was it Oliver's. Once, she felt she had herself reasonably collected she attempted to lighten her mood by answering the knock in jest, "Yes, please come in and save me from my boredom." Who she saw enter her room at 10 a.m. had her very concerned, "Mama Esther, shouldn't you be in the school room with the girls? Is everything alright?"

"Grace, dear, how are you feeling?" asked Esther deflecting Grace's concern as she went into her own 'mother hen' mode as she went to plump Grace's pillows around her. Her keen eye caught Grace's red rimmed eyes and she gently cupped her 'daughter's' face. "Other than the obvious, that something has you upset, how goes your 'confinement'? Yes, Oliver has jested to Papa William that you have been referring to your bedrest, since the second day, as your 'confinement.'"

This caused Grace to crack a small smile but then it instantly crumbled when Esther tenderly caressed her cheek, followed by miserable sobs as she threw herself into Esther's supportive embrace. Esther whispered sweet nothings in her ear as she continued to let her cry out her frustrations and worry. After a few minutes Grace calmed down and quickly told Esther her discoveries and concerns about Annie, deep down hoping Esther could shine some light to her worries. Unfortunately, Esther did not provide the reassurance that Grace sought instead she had a stricken look on her face, increasing Grace's worry and concerns tenfold. "Mama Esther, what do you know, please share if you know something?! Anything?!"

"Grace, this is Annie's daily writing journal," started Esther as she grabbed for the notebook she had placed on Grace's night table but stopped Grace from snatching it from her as she continued, "I started this project with the girls in August. One, to show them at the end of the year how much their skills have improved, and two, for them to feel they could pen down their feelings, whether good or bad, down on the paper. You know, a therapeutic way to express their emotions and feel safe they won't be shared with others."

"Mama Esther, I understand how jotting down your feelings and emotions can be therapeutic but how is a daily writing journal considered constructive creative writing? If it's suppose to be secretive, how in the world would you know if their skills have improved?" questioned Grace.

"Ah, you didn't let me finish my explanation my dear. Even though the girls get to write in the journal each day, the rule is, when I request to look at them, at random times, they are expected to flag down one of their recent days which they don't mind sharing. I told them that I would not read their other pages unless absolutely necessary, and I've not broken that vow … that is until now. Oh, and Miss Annie was very clever to have written a very fluffy day for me to review when the time came. I wouldn't have been wiser had it not been for Miss Tessie's entry, entitled 'Mean Pepper,'" stated Esther which elicited giggles not only from Grace but herself too.

Be as it may, once their giggles subsided Esther immediately went back to her tale, "Well, as I was saying Miss Tessie flagged a day entitled 'Mean Pepper.' In a nutshell, she tells of a simple tale that began about two weeks ago, it was a day Annie had ventured down to the pool area to watch the other girls swim. Pepper began taunting Annie about being a better swimmer than her which started their usual squabbles. I didn't find anything wrong at that point because those two are always squabbling, but it was her last comment that sent me reeling. From Tessie's recount, Annie must have verbally put Pepper in her place but Pepper had one last zinger up her sleeve to use against her. Now, Grace I don't want you to get upset again," Esther paused as she somewhat prepared Grace for the zinger, "because I know you and Oliver have done a wonderful job."

"Esther, please tell me, you're worrying me even more now!" exclaimed Grace.

"Well, the zinger, that silenced not only Annie but I guess the other girls as well did have something to do with Annie's future place not only in your heart but in this house hold as well once the baby arrives," finished Esther.

"OH NO! No wonder she was so clingy and required so much reassurance those few days leading up to our Pittsburgh headache. My poor baby!" exclaimed Grace as tears of sorrow clouded her eyes.

"Grace, I'm breaking several rules I've set with the girls if I allow you to read Annie's journal, but I've also witnessed the change in her disposition during our sessions. Each day seems to be a bit worse and even today Pepper attempted to repair the damage she'd done by apologizing. Of course at first I didn't understand her apology but after reading Tessie's entry I understood. It also made sense as to why the other girls have been giving Pepper the cold shoulder for over a week. Anyhow, after reading and grading Tessie's page, I tried to nonchalantly flip to Annie's journal which of course was at the bottom, as the girls silently read their history lessons. None were wiser to my haste to uncover the horrid truths as to why our little girl was suffering. However, I feel she needs to share them with you herself," finished Esther.

"What do you mean she needs to share them with me? I can read her journal and find out about her heartache without her being here," argued Grace.

"Yes, dear, you could … but you would also be breaking a trust that is hard to earn back or have you forgotten when Abigail looked at your diary?" inquired Esther as realization dawned on Grace's face, "So, you do remember how hurt and upset you were when she read your diary. Just think how Annie will feel that her mother read her journal? Now, she's right outside the door. After reading several of her pages I called her up to my desk and requested that she follow me up here. By now, I'm sure she's figured out that I have read more than the page she flagged. Shall I call her in?"

"Yes, please!" responded Grace. Esther slowly removed herself from the edge of the bed and ventured toward the door. She slowly opened the door and stepped out into the hallway.

"Annie," Esther called causing Annie's head to shoot up from its downcast position as she sat on the bench near her parents room. Esther gestured for Annie to get up and she did but not without displaying her defeated posture and shuffle. It almost appeared as if she was entering a courtroom ready to be sentenced to a life of doom. Esther wrapped her arm around Annie's shoulder as she walked her in, as well as, guiding her over to her mother. Annie ducked her head during their approach not wanting to see the shame and hatred her mother probably felt now that she knew the contents of her journal.

When they finally reached the side of the bed, Esther felt Annie start to tremble almost violently and inquired quickly, "Annie, dear, what's the matter?" This quickly alerted Grace to Annie's distress.

"Annie?" asked Grace as she too saw Annie shaking causing her 'mama bear' gene to kick in as she threw the covers off and briskly flung her legs over the side of the bed. She then tenderly tilted Annie's head up and what she saw broke her heart immensely. Annie looked exhausted and nearly broken with unshed tears clouding her beautiful dull eyes. "Oh, baby girl, come here!" exclaimed Grace as she pulled Annie as close to her as her baby bump would allow. Initially, Annie resisted reciprocating the embrace which worried Esther and Grace as they shared a look over her head; but, what seemed like an eternity to Grace only took a few seconds before Annie collapsed against her as the flood gates of two weeks of emotions finally let loose. Just like Esther did for her earlier, Grace cuddled and whispered sweet nothings into Annie's ear to comfort her along with kisses to her temple.

Oh, Annie! Why didn't you just tell us your concerns. Sometimes I wish Jane would just box Pepper's ears in or take her across her lap. She had no right to play the baby against you! No wonder you threw that tantrum and seemed so distant this past week. You were probably trying to prepare yourself for the future …

"I … I … I … tried'ta … I tried to … scr … scribble out … my … my … my … wish," stuttered Annie around the sobs.

"Mama Esther, can you reach into Oliver's bedside drawer and retrieve a handkerchief?" asked Grace as she continued to rock Annie softly, however, Annie had become so upset that she started to have snot, shortness of breath, and hiccups along with her tears. "Shhhhhh, it's okay Annie."

"No … no … mama," weakly protested Annie. Good heavens, Annie only calls me mama when she's scared, sick, or very sleepy. I guess I should add to the list very upset as well.

"Sweetie, calm down or you're going to make yourself sick," soothed Grace.

"I … I … de … deserve to … get sick," gasped Annie.

"Oh, Annie, you don't deserve to get sick, no one does and especially not you," emphatically rebutted Grace as she gently tried to wipe away Annie's tears and snot off her face. Esther eventually caught Grace's eye and gave her a silent head jerk toward the door indicating that she would be leaving the two of them alone to sort out their differences at this time. Grace provided her a slight head nod to indicate she understood, she did have other pupils to attend too after all.

"Oh … but … but … I do … mama," continued to choke out Annie as another round of self deprecation over took her, "you … you … sa … sa … saw … my entries!"

"Oh no, I haven't read your journal my dear," refuted Grace.

"You … you … you haven't but …" trailed of Annie with a confused yet thoughtful look.

Grace gently cupped Annie's red, tearful, and snotty face and placed two kisses to her eyes. "No, my dear, Mama Esther, just told me that she read Tessie's entry and was concerned about you. Actually, like me, she has been very concerned about your disposition for a few days now so when she read Tessie's entry entitled 'Mean Pepper' she became concerned with your wellbeing," stated Grace as she attempted to lighten the mood, hoping hearing the title would cause Annie's eyes to flash with amusement or any sort of spark, at that moment. However, Annie only attempted to divert her eyes again but Grace held firm to her cupped face.

"Annie … please tell me what's got you so upset? I can't help you if you don't tell me," implored Grace and eventually Annie met her eyes again with unshed tears as her sobbing had subsided but the hiccups and shortness of breath still persisted.

"Well, I … I … I guess … Grandma Esther had'ta … had to … read it … if she felt I was at risk or somethin' … something. Did she tell … you … what was ... what I wrote?" meekly asked Annie on hiccups but the shortness of breath had diminished greatly now.

"Not exactly, Annie, but she did indicate that most of it would explain your recent behavior. I want you to know that I have missed my old Annie. The full of life Annie who couldn't wait to spend time with me and not avoid me like I had the plague or something," Grace playfully stated to ease Annie's tension to help her open up .

"She didn't tell you?" continued to question a calmer but more puzzled Annie.

"No dear, she thought it would be better to go over together and besides she didn't want to break her trust with you. Journals and diaries are very sacred to their owners. Like she told all of you when you started them in August, she wouldn't read the ones you didn't flag unless it was detrimental to your health or wellbeing. Would you agree that you've had a rough few weeks?" continued Grace.

"Yes …," Annie said after trying to take a deep cleansing breath to calm her nerves; however, knowing that eventually she and Grace would be discussing the contents of her recent entries suddenly increased her anxiety causing a bile of her meager breakfast to rise closer to her esophagus.

"Annie …" started Grace but stopped when Annie made a mad dash to the bathroom. Grace quickly got up from the bed to follow as she heard Annie begin to retch. "Oh Annie!" Grace hastily took out a washcloth from the linen closet and wet it before placing it on the back of Annie's neck. "Baby girl you need to calm down!"

"But … I won't be … won't be … soon, and … besides … after I … after I … share … what's in … my journal … you'll hate … you'll hate me … just … just … just like … I do!" exclaimed Annie as her sobbing recommenced bringing forth the snot, shortness of breath, and hiccups again. After hearing Annie's self analysis and her expectation that she would hate her after hearing about the entries, Grace instantly lowered herself to her knees beside her on the bathroom floor (as gracefully as any almost five month pregnant lady can muster due to her awkward balance skills now).

"Oh Annie, I could never hate you, I may be disappointed with you from time to time. After all, it's only natural that mothers become disappointed with their children but we can never truly hate them. Please look at me baby," pleaded Grace when Annie's retching had subsided. During her retching Grace rubbed her back in a soothing manner silently supporting her, "Do I look like I'm telling a lie?"

"No … mama … but …" started Annie.

"No buts Annie, yes or no am I telling a lie?" persisted Grace.

"No," solemnly answered Annie.

"Good now lets get off this floor and get you cleaned up," stated Grace.

"Mama, I need to go to the bathroom too," quietly stated Annie.

"Okay, as I'm thinking about it, it might be good for me to go after you, as well," stated Grace nonchalantly as she continued to try and put Annie at ease. "I'll just wait out here baby." This back and forth is exhausting, I just wish she would share with me what was in her journal which has her so upset. Then I can cuddle her and reassure her that she will always have a huge part of my heart no matter how many brothers and/or sisters she may get in the future. She will always be the greatest thing that ever happened to her father and I. After all if it hadn't been for her we wouldn't be married nor would this little one be on it's way.

"Mom, it's all yours … are you okay?" questioned a subdued Annie when she spied her mother starring off into space.

"Yes dear, I was just thinking how lucky your father and I are to have you in our life and nothing could ever replace the importance you have played in our lives. Here's your washcloth, why don't you wipe off your face why I use the restroom," instructed Grace. "What's that look my dear?" questioned Grace as she smoothed Annie's inquiring lines off her forehead then headed toward the powder room herself; however, she continued to leave the door cracked to watch Annie's shadow.

"You think that, mom?" shyly inquired Annie with a tinge of hope laced in her voice as she turned on the faucet to wash not only her hands but her face too.

"Absolutely, Annie … I was just thinking, if it wasn't for you, your father and I wouldn't be married but still working together. We would never have found the nerve to state our true feelings for one another; plus, your baby brother or sister would never have been a possibility," answered Grace as she flushed the toilet and rearranged herself before joining Annie to wash her hands as well.

"I'd say, I have a lot to be thankful for because on one fateful day in June, I walked into the Hudson Home for Girls intending to choose a young orphan to take home to spend the week with my employer, to help his public image; however, somehow a young girl in the closet charmed her way into my heart making my decision easy. Then a week later she not only had her daddy wrapped around her little finger but also had convinced both of us that we should get married the following week to solidify our family unit," playfully continued Grace as she bent low to give Annie an eskimo kiss eliciting the first giggle she'd heard from her daughter in over a week bringing happy tears to her eyes.

Grace then took Annie's hand in hers and led her back toward the bed, "I better get back into bed before your father catches me but please join me baby girl." She patted the middle of the bed for Annie to scramble into before she joined her. Annie hesitated briefly but finally crawled into her usual spot during early mornings when her parents refused to get up due to the early hour. Grace followed suit making sure her pillows were still propped up to lean back against them and then proceeded to plump up Oliver's pillows for Annie to lounge up against too. She then tucked Annie under her arm as if nothing had transpired out of the ordinary earlier. Annie initially was stiff but soon relaxed into her mother's embrace then nuzzled into her side a bit.

Once, both girls felt their old familiar bond reforming, Grace retrieved not Annie's notebook from the night stand but her own diary. Annie eyed her mother warily as she went to retrieve her notebook but was a bit mystified that she bypassed it for the other book on the nightstand. "Annie do you know what this is?" questioned Grace.

"No," Annie responded with her eye quirked up in silent inquiry.

"It's my diary and I was writing in it right before Mama Esther came into the room. I'd like to share my entry with you. I haven't quite finished it but I hope by tonight I can. Would you like me to share?" asked Grace. I hope this will help her feel more comfortable with sharing her own journal soon. The suspense is killing me but I know I need to handle her with kid gloves right now. I'm afraid if I push now she'll break down again or worse clam up (quoting my own daughter's slang in my head, oh the irony).

"Yes, if you'd like," softly replied Annie.

"Now, Annie don't laugh at your dear old mother but I have always addressed my diary with a name, Bessie," this confession had Annie attempting to stifle a giggle but she looked at her mother and crossed her heart. "Good!" and with that Grace started to read today's entry to Annie. Of course she skipped over the part about locking the doors and unlocking them after partaking in 'special activities' with Oliver. As Grace grew near to the end of her unfinished entry both of them were sniffling.

"How could I have missed my child's drastic change toward me and possibly the baby?! What could have changed? Oliver and I have tried so hard to make sure she knows that she won't be replaced and that she will always be our first baby! I don't under … I guess I can mark out the last few words can't I baby?" questioned Grace as she kissed the top of Annie's head. Annie agreed silently by nodding her head. "However, I think I only know part of the story don't I. How am I going to jot down the rest to Bessie?" Grace added a bit playfully as she nuzzled Annie's head with her own.

"I guess, when I share my side of the story … but do I have'ta … I mean have to share my journal. I'm embarrassed with my childish actions. I mean now that … well I mean … it's just bad mom. I did scribble and mark out most of the bad stuff trying to wish it away. I shouldn't have thought so little of you and daddy. Pepper just got me thinking about possibilities I didn't even think about when I wished for a baby brother or sister. I mean … well … it was like you and daddy moved heaven and earth to save me from 'Rooster Hooligan' so I never imagined that you would not love me … but well … this baby will be part of you and part of daddy … and well … I'm not!" exclaimed Annie.

"Annie, darling, you may not be my flesh and blood but like I've said before you are the child of my heart. You my dear may not look like either of us but you are so much like your father and I, it's scary," reassured Grace.

"Like what mom?" Annie questioned.

"Well, for instance your perseverance and tenacity for life are so much like your father's. You never give up on something when you set your mind to it, for instance, trying and succeeding in getting your father and I together. I've heard tell many tried before you and failed," teased Grace, "Your father has the same drive, how else do you think he became so successful? You two, also, like fighting for the underdog, look at how much you've stood up to Pepper over the years to protect Molly. Your father did the same thing, not to long ago, with that factory in Pittsburgh and it's still afloat. He may seem like a tyrant to most but he never wants to see people loose their jobs even when he doesn't know them."

"I never thought about it that way. So, how am I like you?" queried Annie as she nuzzled her head on her mother's chest.

"I would say you got your best qualities from me," joked Grace.

"Moooom, I'm being serious, here," Annie playfully chastised.

"Well, I can say you get your dancing and tennis skills from me. Your father definitely can twirl me around the dance floor but any other form of dancing he's a bit stiff, however, I love him for trying and stepping out of his comfort zone. Your father has often said that your compassion and gusto for life mirror my own. He also has said that he doesn't know how he got so lucky to have two blue eyed beauties steal his heart so quickly. So, the fact we both have blue eyes links us as well. Also, I'd say you have some strong Irish genes with all that red hair, missy," stated Grace as she started to tickle Annie.

"MOOOOM … I might accidentally … smack … the baby … with my cast!" objected a laughing Annie as she tried to resist the urge to thrash about to avoid her mother's tickling. Grace seeing her point stopped her onslaught and gathered her daughter back into her arms.

"Sooooo, mom, where do I get my temper?" cheekily asked Annie.

"Anne Margaret Warbucks, you know for certain you get it from your FATHER!" haughtily responded Grace, however, Annie saw the twinkle in her eye as they both erupted into laughter.

"Now, that's what I like to hear and I have sorely missed it the last few days," stated Oliver as he peeked his head around the corner of the door. "May I join my two favorite ladies or is this a party for two only?" questioned Oliver as he noticed both girls looked awkwardly toward each other.

"Annie, he's been worried about you too," Grace softly reasoned with Annie.

"I know but … but mom … I was hoping that you would just tell him," Annie responded meekly.

"I figured as much but he's here now," continued Grace.

"Okay," sighed Annie, "but can you catch him up? And you promise … he won't hate me either?"

"Annie, he will not hate you and I will catch him up," answered Grace as she looked up to see that Oliver had moved to his side of the bed but was hesitant to join them after their tete-a-tete.

"Are you girls sure I won't be in the way?" questioned a now uncomfortable Oliver, however, Grace quickly put him at ease as she gestured for him to join them. He climbed on top of the comforter knowing that he would have to return back to work soon to finish more business but he had taken a quick break to check up on Grace.

"Don't be silly, darling, our daughter has just had a very rough morning and doesn't want to relive it. It's very understandable and personally I don't want to go through it either because it broke my heart," reasoned Grace as she pulled Annie closer to her. She then quickly recapped Esther's discovery, Esther sharing the news with her, Annie's meltdown, sharing her diary entry with Annie, and then their discussion about what traits Annie shares with both of them.

"So, what trait had you both laughing so hard," asked Oliver.

"Oh no, Annie don't you dare …" trailed off a now giggling Grace as Annie too started to giggle.

"Moooom … saaaaid thaaat I goooot my teeemper from yoooou," screeched out Annie through her giggles.

"ANNIE," exclaimed Grace in mock indignation.

"I beg to differ," exploded Oliver, "I'd say you got it from your mother. She definitely has an Irish temper young lady!" His bellow had both girls stop in their tracks but after getting the response he intended he burst into his own belly laugh causing both the girls to follow suit.

Once the family of three stopped laughing Grace hastily left the warmth of the bed as she dashed to relieve her bladder again. However, she quickly rejoined Oliver and Annie wanting Annie to finish her side of the story. She could tell Annie hadn't been sleeping well and her energy would wane soon. Then she could cuddle with her all afternoon as she too would probably succumb to the sandman. "Oliver, dear, Annie has asked that she not show us her journal but she would just like to share what she wrote. Now, you said something earlier, baby girl, that you tried to scribble away your wish. What were you referring too?" Grace asked as nonchalantly as possible.

This caused Annie to shrink back a bit in her mother's embrace but slowly moved her right hand down over her baby brother or sister as she tenderly began to rub it. Her action had both parents sharing watery smiles. After last night's reaction they feared she would never attempt to caress or resume her nightly routine with the baby. They were so overwhelmed with the revelation, that their compassionate Annie was returning to them, that they almost missed her whispered rendition.

"I … well … after Pepper," awkwardly started Annie, "well ... after Pepper spouted off her last zinger in the pool area … well … you could say it really had me thinking … of course I told her she was full of bologna and that you would love us both the same. The other girls also had my back, they all left the pool and stated to Pepper that she should know better, that you two didn't have it in you to not love both of us. After all you helped all of them get their parents too! I guess you could say everyone's been giving Pepper a bit of a cold shoulder and she did attempt to apologize today. I accepted it because I didn't want her to suffer anymore from their … what's that word … ostrichsizing."

"Ostracizing, my dear," tenderly corrected Oliver as he and Grace continued to nurture Annie's use of big words to increase her vocabulary.

"Yes, ostracizing … since her comments at the pool the girls have been giving her a hard time, I guess to give her a dose of her own medicine. At first I wanted her'ta … her to feel the hurt I was feeling but I was gonna'ta … I mean … going to call it off but then I became really miserable when I felt like you were abandoning me. I guess I felt so bad I kinda forgot to be nice to her!" explained Annie.

"Well, I'm glad you forgave her," answered Oliver who was trying to take Grace's lead of nonchalance to ease Annie into the harder dialogue. His comment earned him a small grin from Annie and a wink from his wife. "I also want to apologize to you, Annie, I'm sorry you felt like we were abandoning you last week." His apology had Annie quickly turning onto her back with a bewildered look on her face. Oliver tenderly smoothed out the lines on her face and inched closer to her in order to place a affectionate kiss to her temple.

"Okay, you're forgiven, but …," trailed of Annie as Oliver interjected.

"Annie, no buts, we should have noticed that something was off; however, we were scrambling to get the project down in order to return our attention back to you that we ended up doing unwarranted harm instead. We never want you to feel like you are alone and that we aren't there for you. Your mother is right, you are extremely important to us, and without you we wouldn't be together and 'all happy-lovey-dovey,' as you like to put it!" Oliver ended his statement by tweaking Annie's nose eliciting a small giggle from her.

"Annie?" questioned Grace as her tone had the effect she was looking for because Annie turned toward her with immediate recognition as to what her underlining inquiry was really referring too.

Annie took a deep breath and quickly rolled back into her mother's arms in order to continue to rub her mother's belly. She then quietly stated, "When I thought you really were abandoning me … I … I started to wish for my wish back." This had both parents perplexed as they shared a look over her head, however, Oliver soon had a look of dawning on his face. Grace attempted to silently question him but he just shook his head.

"Annie, what wish are you talking about?" softly queried Oliver as he rubbed her upper arm in support.

"Well … the day after you told me about the extra work you two would be doing. I penned it down in my journal … BUT I really tried to take it back … I really did … especially after mama fainted. I thought it was really coming true. I didn't want anything to happen to the baby. I really didn't want my wish … my wish to come … true. I really didn't want to … want to wish … that I never wished for a … a … a baby brother or baby sister. I was just scared and miserable! That's why I deserved to get sick mama!" rambled on Annie as sobs of misery took over yet again.

Her revelation had her mother stunned as she shared an understanding look with her husband. Their hearts broke, one, because they never wanted her to feel unwanted or loved because she wasn't theirs biologically; and, two, the shooting pain that generally pierces the hearts of all parents when a child rejects or states something harsh that wounds their souls. However, they also shared a knowing look that even though her wish troubled them her anguish and self ridicule were enough punishment and it also appeared to have been a lesson she's already learned from; no, at times like this, no discourse was required but only unconditional love.

Thus, in order to show their daughter that they accepted her confession and that they still loved her whole-heartedly, Oliver scooted over behind his daughter then snaked his arm around her as he tenderly latched on to his wife, making a Warbucks sandwich of supportive love. Oliver placed a chaste kiss on Grace's lips as they both shared shiny gazes of comfort and understanding. Then they both mutually shifted their attention to their daughter as they whispered their continued love and support for her, paired with nuzzles and kisses to ease her self inflicted pain and worries away.

After several minutes in this position Annie's sobs turned into sniffles. Grace also felt her resume her tummy rubbing before she squeaked out, "So, you don't hate me?"

"Oh Annie, we could never hate you! Like I told you there may be times we are disappointed with you but that's only natural. Do we wish we could take back your silent insecurities and pain you've harbored these last few days, absolutely!" supplied Grace as she rubbed her head over her daughter's.

"How about you daddy?" continued to softly implore Annie.

"Like your mother stated we could never hate you. Yes, your wish stings a bit …" trailed off Oliver as Grace slapped his arm as she silently chastised him in a playfully manner which caused him to sit up in bed as he absurdly began to rub the place she hit in a childlike manner. "Grace that hurt!" This elicited a giggle from Annie, knowing how playful her parents could get to break the tension sometimes, however, her giggles stopped as she realized what her father started to say.

"So, it does make you upset?" questioned Annie stopping her father and mother's comic relief.

"Annie, we won't lie to you that it does sting a bit but we will get over it," confirmed Oliver after he shared a silent conversation with Grace before voicing their mutual thoughts and feelings on the matter. "Like your mother said we could never hate you and as for not wanting you after the baby is born, that is ludicrous! I agree with your mother's sentiments earlier that without you, there wouldn't be an us, and there definitely wouldn't be a little Warbucks on the way. So, if you are looking for forgiveness its yours, Annie, but you won't find hatred from your mother or I."

Just then the baby made itself known by giving its sister a swift kick, which only felt like a flutter to Annie, but instead of pulling away like she did yesterday she relished it. "Mom, did you feel that?" squealed Annie.

"Yes, I did," said Grace as she and Oliver shared a knowing look of continued astonishment that they were truly living their dream. "I believe that was your brother or sister saying all is forgiven and that he/she is happy to hear your jovial voice again instead of the monotone you've been using this past week," continued Grace as Oliver squeezed his two girls. A knock at the door had all three heads perk up as Oliver sighed exasperatedly before beckoning the person to enter.

"Sorry sir, ma'am, and miss," stated Drake, "but, President Roosevelt is waiting on line one for you sir. He stated that he would wait into the evening if that's what it took to get you on the line."

This caused Oliver to roll his eyes skyward with a mock sigh for his wife and daughter's benefit. "Drake, I will be back in my office in a minute, tell the great FDR I will be there soon, I just need to tuck both my girls in for a good afternoon nap since I know neither of them slept well last night. I know for sure that one tossed and turned all night with continued sighs of frustration, and the other has black rings and bags under her eyes indicating her lack of sleep as well," stated Oliver as if the girls weren't even in the room, eliciting two swats from both of them followed by two large yawns, as if the power of suggestion suddenly brought on the sandman.

"Yes, sir," stated Drake as he turned to leave the family of three.

Oliver then turned to his girls who both wore expressions of mock annoyance. Oliver just shook his head in false indignation in return. Then all three burst into laughter. Once their laughter died down, Grace dashed to the bathroom again to relieve her bladder as little Warbucks was doing a jolly dance on it again. When she returned to bed she noted that Oliver had already assisted Annie into a supine position with eyes already closed in slumber. He then held out his hand toward Grace to draw her into a quick embrace. They both relished the moment in each others arms as they shared a slow lingering kiss of unconditional love for one another. Then Oliver slowly ran his hands to the front of Grace's belly as he tenderly stroked it sharing a sweet smile of awe with his wife. When Grace finally lowered her arms from around his neck he slowly bent down to her bump and placed a loving kiss on it. He then lead Grace over to the bed and helped her get into it.

Just as Grace was getting comfortable and Oliver was tucking the covers around her she felt Annie start to shift from the middle of the bed. She hastily raised her arm sharing another look of awe with Oliver, as Annie naturally rolled into her side seeking her comfort while deep in sleep. Then like a babe inhaling her mother's scent and exhaling a soft sigh of contentment. This caused both of her parents to grin before Oliver dipped his head one more time to place a chaste kiss on Grace's lips. Then he placed one on Annie's head before turning to head toward the door to return to work. When he turned back one last time before leaving the room he noted that both his girls were now fast asleep. He closed the door with a soft grin knowing all was well in the Warbucks household again.

The End!

Another big thanks to my beta, Sis21K, for reviewing this story and giving me two thumbs up!