Florence tucked the washing basket under her arm and went through the back doors into the kitchen, sliding the door closed. Jack returned from the bedroom in his pyjamas and, on seeing her place the basket down by the washing machine, threw his hands up into the air.
"Would you ever stop doing things?" he half-laughed, exasperated.
"I can't help it," Florence told him.
"You're meant to be resting. Your waters could break at any moment," he explained, stepping forward and taking her hands in his.
"Me putting the washing out is not going to make my waters break," Florence told him. "The baby will come when they're ready," she said, putting a hand on her bump. "Washing or no washing."
Florence's bump had dropped significantly, Jack thought, as he admired it. The weight of the baby on her lower back must be agony, he thought. But Florence being Florence, she didn't whine or moan. She just got on with it as if nothing were the matter.
"You heard what the doctor said," replied Jack.
Florence eyed him. "I did."
"He said you need to rest."
"And I did, and then I put the washing out."
Jack laughed again. "And I heard you running the hoover around earlier."
"Do you mean the vacuum cleaner?" Florence smirked, waddling past him into the hallway and down into the lounge.
Jack followed her. "Yeah, the hoover. I told you I'd do it."
"You weren't quick enough. I got bored," Florence told him over her shoulder. She went into the lounge and slowly began lowering herself onto the sofa, gripping the armrest with one hand and the back of the sofa with the other.
"Give a man half a chance, love," said Jack.
Florence gestured to herself on the sofa. "Look. Sitting down," she grinned.
Jack sat down next to her. "You're to sit down for the whole of the new episode of Baby Girl Lost, do you hear?" he told her, grabbing the remote. "Unless you need food or the toilet."
"I'll be up in ten minutes then," Florence replied, deadpan.
Jack smiled and shook his head, turning the TV on. "Cuddle?" he asked, remembering the way they always used to snuggle on the sofa.
"Jack, I can't," Florence whined. "I'm too uncomfortable."
"Want me to rub your feet?" he asked, placing a hand on her thigh.
Florence pouted and nodded her head, angling her hips so that her feet lay across Jack's lap. Jack took her foot in his hand and began kneading it as the opening titles of Baby Girl Lost played out on the screen.
Suddenly, Florence had a downward feeling, a pressure building in her pelvis followed by a bursting release. Her hand flew to Jack's arm and gripped it tightly, her eyes growing wide.
"Jack," she panted.
"What?" Jack asked, turning his attention from the TV.
"I think my waters have broken!" she cried.
Jack bit his lip. "Florence, I think putting out the washing made your waters break," he smirked.
Florence grabbed a throw cushion and batted him on the arm. "It did not," she cried, but still laughed. "We have to get to the hospital," she said, trying to get up.
"We'll need to call Siobhan," Jack said, getting up and taking Florence's outstretched hands to help her up.
"My bag is in the bedroom," Florence told him. "Everything is in there."
"Okay, I'll get it," Jack said, hurrying through to the other room.
When he returned, Florence was standing in the doorway, gripping onto the frame. She was breathing deeply, in and out, measured, and purposeful.
"Are you okay?" Jack asked her, rubbing her back.
Florence looked up at him, her brow crinkling as she bit her lip. "We're really doing this, aren't we? We're having a baby."
"Yeah," Jack nodded and kissed her ardently. "We're having a baby," he told her.
"And I never get to see this damn show!" Florence cried gesturing to the TV.
"I'll make sure it's recording," Jack smirked, stepping past her into the lounge and grabbing the remote.
Florence had laboured for ten hours at the hospital, being attended to by a constant stream of visitors. First, Ruby turned up, bringing board games and snacks, followed by JP who managed to convince Ruby to go home and not stay for the birth, leaving Jack and Florence in peace until Catherine turned up with some of her famous chicken soup. Jack had poured it down the sink after she'd left and nearly clogged the drains.
Siobhan had left work at the airport as soon as she was able to, arriving in her clerk uniform, complete with a neckerchief. She'd let her coiffed hair down and affixed the bands to Florence's own hair to keep the heat off the back of her neck. Eventually, as the night went on, Siobhan grew tired and went back to the Shack leaving Jack and Florence to deal with impending parenthood on their own.
In the dark night of the hospital, as the streetlamps flickered through the blinds, their son was born.
"We should name him properly," Jack said, as he held their son in his arms. Both he and Florence looked down at their baby and then up at each other. "We should get him christened," he said.
Florence nodded. "Matthew," she said, feeling how the name sounded on her tongue. "Matthew Mooney has got quite a nice ring to it."
"So does Florence Mooney," Jack said, without looking up. For a second, Florence said nothing, trying to work out what he meant under the haze of the drugs and sleep deprivation. Jack looked up, gazing deep into her eyes. "Marry me, Florence."
Florence's face broke out into a smile.
"I don't know why it's taken me so long to ask you," grinned Jack. "It's not like there was ever any doubt."
Florence took Jack's face in her hands lovingly and kissed him.
"Is that a yes?" laughed Jack.
"Yes," breathed Florence, kissing him again.
Jack pressed his forehead to Florence's for a moment. "Matthew Patrice Mooney," he said, softly. Florence pulled her head away and looked at him.
"What?" she asked.
"He was my friend too," Jack replied. "It feels right to honour him like that."
"Are you sure?" Florence asked.
Jack nodded. "If you want to?"
"I do," she agreed. "I think he'd be happy for us. At least, I hope he is."
"He is, love," Jack told her. "He would want us to be happy."
After a few minutes, Matthew began to cry, and Jack handed their son over to Florence. She took him in her arms and held him to her breast like the midwife had taught her. It took a few attempts to get the angle right but eventually, he latched on, the sound of his cries drowned out by the promise of milk.
"So, I'll call the Priest in the morning," Jack said, as he watched his son feed. "So, we can get him christened."
"I'd like that," replied Florence, giving Jack a smile.
"It'll be the first proper service I've been to since Kathleen died," mused Jack, sitting back in his chair. "That feels right somehow."
Florence nodded, letting Jack's thoughts wash over him.
"I'll always remember what the Priest said at Kathleen's funeral. From death, comes life. We are returned to the ground where we can merge with the soil and begin to grow anew." As he said it, a single tear escaped onto Jack's cheek.
Florence extended her hand out and gently wiped away the tear from Jack's face. He held her hand in his and kissed her palm, then her wrist, gently inhaling the soft scent of her tender skin. All of a sudden, he was transported back to the night of the storm, when the rain came down in sheets and they made love by candlelight. They had grown into one another that night and entwined themselves together every day afterwards. They had risen up from the ground as one, hopefully, with their faces turned towards the sun.
Now their son was in her arms, a reminder that everything in life comes full circle. There are storms, yes, but rain helps the flowers grow.
"God, I love you," Jack said softly, thinking about tomorrow and the next day and the next day. "I'll thank God for you the rest of my life," he said, kissing her palm again.
"As will I, mon chéri," Florence whispered, as Jack nuzzled her hand. "As will I."
And there will come a time, you'll see, with no more tears.
And love will not break your heart, but dismiss your fears.
Get over your hill and see what you find there,
With grace in your heart and flowers in your hair.