Daisy Duke awoke with a start, a scream dying in her throat as she sat up. Her wide, brown eyes scanned the darkened room as she willed her wild heartbeat to slow. The baby’s cry shattered the silence, and Daisy sighed in relief as she swung out of bed. The baby was just hungry.
As she crossed the hall to the nursery, Daisy thought back over her dream. The dreams of Hazzard and home had been coming much more often lately. This one had been really disturbing. Luke had been shot, Bo had been hurt, and she had not been able to get to them, no matter what she did. She shook her head to clear away the remnants of the dream and smiled at her eight-month old daughter watching her from the crib. “Okay, Jessica. Mommy’s gonna feed you,” she murmured, lifting the baby and starting towards the kitchen.
As she warmed the baby’s bottle, Daisy examined the family pictures in the living room. It had been almost a year and a half since she had last seen her family, but, if she ever felt she was in danger of forgetting them, all she had to do was look at Jessica. The baby had Bo’s bright smile, Luke’s intelligent, pale blue eyes, Uncle Jesse’s laugh, and a head full of hair just like hers. Her family had no idea Jessica even existed – a fact that regularly broke Daisy’s heart.
While she fed the baby, Daisy’s hand drifted toward the phone on the wall. Almost of their own accord, her fingers tapped out the familiar number. ‘Just hang up the phone, Daisy,’ she thought, but her hands seemed to have other ideas. The phone was answered on the second ring by a familiar, gruff voice. “Hello. Duke farm,” Jesse sounded perfectly alert, as if it were closer to noon than four a.m. Daisy did not respond, just kept willing herself to hang up, but a small sound of longing escaped her. “Daisy?” Jesse’s voice now held a combination of excitement and concern. “Baby, where are you? Are you okay?”
Daisy sighed and half-laughed, shifting Jessica in her arms. “Yes sir, it’s me. I’m fine, I-I guess I just wanted to hear your voice again” A smile played across her face as she heard her cousins in the background. “I’m in Greenriver. Everything’s fine.” She hugged the baby again, her heart swelling with joy at the happy sounds of her family. Jessica grabbed for the phone, giggling and babbling, sensing her mother’s excitement.
“What was that?” Jesse asked, surprised. If he didn’t know better, he would swear it sounded like a baby. He waved a hand at his nephews to still their questions. The boys had missed their cousin almost more than he had.
“It’s a long story, Uncle Jesse, and one I don’t think your gonna like. Are y’all gonna be home today?” Daisy closed her eyes for a second, willing herself to remember that she was an adult and a mother. The thought of explaining Jessica to her uncle made her feel like a little girl confessing to some mischief.
“Well, of course. We’ll be here all day. Just come on when you get ready. In fact, come now if you want to,” his little girl’s laughter at this made Jesse smile. He still wanted to ask her again about the babyish sound, but he knew that, if he pushed her, it might be even longer before he heard from her again.
After agreeing that Daisy would arrive at the farm around noon, Jesse hung up the phone and turned to face his eager nephews. Bo seemed unable to sit still, his hands fiddling with everything within his reach. Luke sat watching his uncle intently, just as excited as his cousin, but more controlled. As soon as Bo realized his uncle was off the phone, he began a barrage of questions. “Where is she? What’s wrong? What time will she be here?” Bo finally stopped for breath long enough for Luke to inject a question of his own. “Is she okay?”
Jesse smiled at their excitement and held up his hand to stop any more questions. ”She’s in Greenriver. She’ll be her at noon. I don’t know that anything’s wrong. She sounds fine.” His boys exchanged grins, then Luke stood and lightly clapped his youngest cousin on the shoulder.
“We might as well get started on chores. That way we’ll be done when she gets here.” Luke grinned at Bo’s mock groan and headed out the door. Bo hesitated a second, then gave his uncle a quick hug before following Luke. Jesse stood at the window for a moment, smiling as he watched his nephews play around as they began their chores. This was the happiest he had seen them in a long, long time.
Daisy leaned back against the wall with a sigh, still gazing at the phone. A little thrill of nervous anticipation ran through her. She would finally be seeing her family again – and introducing them to the newest addition. Jessica continued babbling in her arms, making her smile again. “Well, little miss, if we’re going to the farm today, you’ve got to go back to sleep. We want Uncle Jesse and the boys to fall in love with you. It might make you a little easier to explain.”
The morning passed fairly quickly for the Dukes, with Jesse and the boys inventing chores to keep themselves busy and Daisy pacing her apartment, rehearsing what she would say to her family and picking out just the right clothes for Jessica. As it got closer to time to leave, Daisy became more and more nervous. Her mind raced with a million foolish thoughts. ‘What if they don’t like Jessica? What if Uncle Jesse gets mad about her and throws me out? What if they can’t forgive me for leaving?’
“Enough!” Daisy muttered. “If you keep this up, your just gonna panic and run again. Uncle Jesse ain’t ever gonna forgive that.” She caught sight of the baby sitting on the floor playing with an old stuffed lamb and smiled. Jesse had given her that lamb as a welcome present the day she came to live at the farm. Now it was Jessica’s favorite toy. “Well, sugar, let’s get going. Today you get to find out what being a Duke means.” Daisy grabbed her purse and the diaper bag with one hand and the baby with the other and headed out to the car.
Forty-five minutes later, Daisy caught sight of the farm for the first time in months. Her heart skipped a beat at the quiet beauty of her home. “This is it, sugar, home. The perfect place to grow up,” she smiled at the baby cooing in her car seat. “You’re gonna love it here.” As she started to make the turn into the drive, she noticed her cousins in the barn, and her smile widened. She recognized the boys’ movements as covering techniques. The appeared to be cleaning the barn, but nothing much was being moved. Instead, they kept glancing up at the road, probably telling each other they weren’t. Daisy pulled her jeep into its old spot by the General, and willed herself to stop shaking. Her family loved her, and they would love Jess, too. She just had to give them the chance to prove it.
A yell from the barn let the entire farm know that Bo had noticed Daisy’s arrival. Before Daisy could move to get out of the jeep, her cousins had begun running towards her. All of her earlier fears were momentarily forgotten as Daisy jumped from the jeep and was immediately enveloped in gigantic bear hugs. When she finally managed to pull herself loose, she noticed Jesse watching from the porch with a smile on his face. Her heart ached to notice how much older he looked since she had been gone. Turning quickly back to get Jessica out of her car seat, Daisy met Luke’s eyes. He smiled gently at her and indicated the baby watching them all closely. “She’s beautiful,” was all he said before lifting Jessica from the seat.
The three cousins climbed the steps together to where their uncle waited. Daisy hesitated for a second on the top step before flinging herself gratefully into her uncle’s waiting arms. “Oh, Uncle Jesse! I’m so sorry! I’ve missed you and …” Daisy’s voice trailed off as tears began to flow down her cheeks.
Jesse’s work-rough hands gently smoothed her hair as he made soft shushing sounds. “It’s okay, baby. You’re home now. We’ll talk about everything after lunch,” Jesse’s bright blue eyes were examining the baby in Luke’s arms as he spoke, his words as much for himself and the boys as for Daisy.
Finally, Daisy pulled back, wiped her eyes, and took the baby from Luke with a smile of thanks. “This is Jessica Lynn,” she hugged the baby as she spoke, then lightly kissed the top of her head. “Jess, this is Uncle Jesse, and that’s Bo and Luke.” Daisy turned the baby towards each one as she said the name, the turned back to Jesse, watching closely for his reaction. For some reason, she was reminded of begging her uncle to let her keep a stray dog as a child. Jesse smiled slightly and reached out to push the baby’s hair back off of her face, the smile widening as Jessica grabbed his finger with a happy squeal.
“Well, now, you look just like your momma, don’t ya?” Jesse murmured, carefully taking the baby. Jessica studied his face intently for a moment, then, with another squeal, wrapped her free hand in his beard. Jesse chuckled softly and gently removed her hand. “Yep, just like your momma. Now, let’s go see what we can find you for lunch. What do you think? Say?” Jesse turned to go into the house, still talking to the baby, leaving his niece and nephews standing on the porch.
As the screen door closed behind him, Daisy turned to find her cousins smiling at her. Bo stepped forward and slipped an arm around her waist. “Welcome home,” he whispered, squeezing her gently, then steering her towards the door. As soon as the cousins entered, Jesse sent the boys to the attic to find the old high chair for Jessica. Daisy leaned back against the counter, watching her uncle and waiting for the inevitable questions. Finally, Jesse turned from the pot he had been stirring and looked her over. When the question came, it was not the one she had been expecting, but, “Are you happy?”
Daisy faltered for an instant as she mentally switched gears, then smiled. “Well, I have an apartment in an okay part of town. I wait tables at a little place down the street, and one of my neighbors watches Jess while I’m at work. She’s really a very good baby and…” Daisy’s voice trailed off and she looked at her uncle for a second before finishing, “But it’s not home.”
Jesse nodded and stepped forward to put his free arm around her. “You know you can always come back,” he told her gently, “You and Jessica will always have a home here, no matter what.” Daisy nodded wordlessly, then smiled as she saw her cousins struggling to get the heavy old high chair through the door to the kitchen. Some things never changed. Her cousins could still make her laugh, no matter how upset she was.
Lunch was a lively affair, with Jesse insisting on feeding Jessica and the baby entertaining the m all with her constant babble. The boys brought Daisy up to date on everything in Hazzard. Jesse made repeated comments about how nice it was to have a baby around again, his blue eyes far away as he remembered feeding three other babies in this same chair. As soon as lunch was over, Daisy took Jessica into her old room for her nap while the boys made quick work of the dishes, then the cousins joined their uncle in the living room. Now that the moment of truth had arrived, Daisy’s heart was pounding. Her family had accepted Jessica easily enough, but this explanation was still going to be hard. She sank down onto the couch with Bo and took a steadying breath.
“All right. I found out I was pregnant about a week before I left,” Daisy jumped straight into her prepared explanation, knowing she could not let herself hesitate. “I wasn’t sure what to do, But I knew I didn’t want it to cause problems for y’all. I guess I just panicked and ran, then I stayed away cause I didn’t know how to explain. I’m sorry, y’all, I just figured it would be better that way and… I’m sorry,” tears began to flow down her cheeks as she looked up at her uncle, willing him to understand. Bo slid closer to her and slipped an arm around her as Luke moved to sit on the arm of the couch on her other side.
“Daisy, we would have worked it out, you know that,” Luke’s voice was soft as he rested a hand lightly on her back. Bo nodded his agreement, but Jesse just continued to watch her. He knew his niece very well, and he realized that, maybe without even realizing it, she was trying to keep them from asking one question.
“Who’s her father?” Jesse noticed that Daisy’s eyes flicked away from him at the question and she didn’t answer for a long moment. “Daisy Mae, answer me,” his tone was firm and Daisy winced slightly at the use of her full name. Daisy’s head lowered and she studied her nails.
“Jamie Lee,” her voice was almost a whisper and she felt both boys tense at the name.
“Jamie Lee Hogg!?! Daisy, why would…?” Bo began, but his uncle silenced him with a look. The boys eyes met over Daisy’s lowered head, and Luke sighed. This was definitely getting complicated. Jamie Lee was Boss’s nephew. He had been arrested for counterfeiting right around the time Daisy had left.
“I loved him. Well, I thought I did. I mean, I was gonna marry him and…” Daisy defended herself. “I loved him, Uncle Jesse.” She lifted her head to look at her uncle again and found him nodding slightly, almost as if he had already figured it out and just wanted to hear her say it.
“Does he know?” Jesse asked softly, although he felt sure he knew the answer. Now he did understand why Daisy had run. The baby would have been hard enough for her, but a baby with a Hogg would have to be even harder to deal with, especially here.
“No, sir. I know, I have to tell him, but, I guess, I just haven’t gotten up the nerve to figure out how, yet. I don’t even know what prison he’s in, and I couldn’t exactly ask Boss, so…”Daisy shrugged her shoulders helplessly. Jesse stood and moved over to his niece, his heart aching at the tears in her eyes. He reached his arms out toward her and Daisy rose gratefully into the offered hug. She felt like a huge weight had been lifted from her shoulders. All of her fears for her family’s possible reactions melted in that embrace.
Jesse lightly kissed Daisy’s hair like he had when she was little. “I’ll go with you to see J.D., Daisy. You have to give Jamie Lee the chance to help you, baby. If you keep running and forcing yourself to do it all alone, you’re just gonna wind up with nothing,” the old man spoke firmly, but gently. Daisy nodded slightly. She knew her uncle was right, but she was glad he was coming with her. The meeting with Boss Hogg would be much easier with Jesse there.
After a brief discussion, and the decision to leave the baby at the farm with the boys, Daisy and Jesse headed into town. Daisy was lost in her own thoughts, attempting to come up with the best way to break the news to Boss that his great-niece was a Duke, when Jesse’s voice broke the silence. “You know, honey, I meant what I said earlier.” At the confused look in the girl’s eyes, Jesse smiled gently. “You do need help – not that you haven’t done a good job on your own, mind you. Jessica seems like a healthy, happy baby, and you should be proud of that, but you don’t seem too happy. It’s your decision, of course, and I ain’t gonna push ya, but I really think you’d be better off coming back home. I know me and the boys would be better off with you here.”
Daisy sighed, her eyes filled with longing at the concern in her uncle’s voice. Her heart ached to scream yes, knowing she wasn’t happy in Greenriver, but, “It wouldn’t be fair to y’all. Jess is a good baby, but she gets fussy, and sometimes she won’t sleep at all at night. I couldn’t ask y’all to rearrange your lives for us.” Daisy felt her eyes well up with tears as she finished.
Jesse stopped the truck and turned to face his niece. “ You wouldn’t be asking us to rearrange our lives. I’m offering – besides, we love you. We want to get to know your daughter and have you both with us. All babies fuss and keep you up from time to time, it’s part of having a baby in the house. I think we can handle that. It’s nothing compared to the fun of watching a baby grow up, and knowing you’re both okay.”
Jesse’s little speech broke through the last of Daisy’s resistance and the tears began to flow as she realized again what she had put her family through these past months. She gave in and agreed to move back home. The meeting with Boss Hogg turned out better than the Duke’s had hoped. Boss was not thrilled at first, but when he and Lulu dropped by the farm later to meet Jessica, they both fell instantly in love with the good-natured baby.
Daisy went back to work at the Boar’s Nest. Jamie Lee wrote to her weekly for updates on their daughter’s progress, and Daisy made arrangements to take Jessica to see her daddy as often as possible. The boys and Jesse doted on the baby, and Jessica got to know the joys of growing up in a place called Hazzard County.