Gary didn’t want to hear talk like that, but Ariana needed to speak the words because how else would he know if something did happen? They had both been so lucky up until now. Gary could have been lost in the collision of cars, Ariana could admit that grief had threatened to swallow her whole sometimes. At some point their good fortune would run out, and if it was to be bringing life into the world then Gary needed to know. Ariana didn’t dare to argue with his words, though, instead she tuned her attention to his hand on her stomach. Gary seemed to have succumbed to rest, something Ariana’s busy mind wouldn’t allow for herself. The gravity of the situation seemed to hit her a little too late. Gary’s first fears are the news of her being pregnant seemed to make sense now.
What would happen if she simply wasn’t here anymore? Would Gary cope? Ariana sat up slowly, draping a blanket over Gary gently and doing her best not to disturb him. He had slept a lot, but his body was still healing and fighting the lingering infection. But then, there was fresh Hope was there not? Disguised by a movement, easily explained away by logical things but Ariana so badly wanted to hope. Somewhere at the back of her mind she knew it was no doubt her body adjusting to food.
Ariana eyed the contents of the fridge, plucking out the empty wrapper of watermelon cubes. When had she finished them off? Then again she had been picking at the contents for a few days. She figured they would need some essentials anyway, milk, bread and teabags and of course watermelon to sate her cravings. Ariana glanced to Gary’s resting form and rubbed her eyes a little, pondering on waking him up to ask if he felt up to a walk to the shops but she decided against it. He needed rest.
Arian grabbed her keys and headed out, stuffing into a jacket and making sure she would be warm enough. Usually she would drive round to the supermarket but given she would barely have a bag to bring back. It was cold out, but not so bad underneath the confines of the fluffy jacket and layers she had donned. Thankfully the shop wasn’t busy, it was quiet and she picked up a few essentials. At least there wasn’t Christmas music blaring out the shops speakers.
Ariana shut the cold out the minute she was through the door. She set the bag down on the kitchen table and stifled a yawn she glanced to the clock and at least it was a little later than usual and she wasn’t asleep yet. She set the shopping away, rewarding herself with some watermelon as she learnt on the kitchen table and eyed her phone. Nothing of note, until her phone buzzed, alerting her to an incoming call.
“Hello?” She answered and raised an eyebrow when she heard her father. It sounded like he was driving which was probably a good thing and explained why he was calling without her mother looking over him.
“Hi, Ari.” Her father said warmly and didn’t leave much of a beat before speaking again.
“I was going to come over tomorrow, just me. Your mother has that community thing tomorrow, I could take you and Gary for lunch somewhere?” He offered and Ariana let her eyes trail to Gary.
“Sure…” she trailed off. It always depended on how they felt these days and she wasn’t sure if Gary would feel up to going out for a few hours or not.
“Great! I’ll come round around one?” He said and Ariana agreed softly as she always did with her father.
“Thanks, dad. I’ll see you then.” Ariana murmured and hung up, setting the phone aside.
A soft murmur, a shift and a kiss to his fingers; they offered up small distractions, pulling him gently back toward the here and now, rather than his inner turmoil. Was it though? Gary wanted to refute those words, wanted to say that three months was only a milestone for ordinary pregnancies and this was anything but. He held his tongue.
"I don't know what's up with me," Gary managed at Ariana's request. Frightened. Again his feelings were too mixed up to help derive from them a concise reply, so Gary just wrapped his arms around Ri and sighed out.
When those emerald eyes finally landed on his, Gary could only look at them. A few fingers brushed over his cheek.
"I don't want to hear talk like that," he rejected Ariana's apology. It'd feel as if they'd already resigned to failure being an option. "Everything is going to work out. I- It has to." His hand came to rest on Ri's stomach, but the flutter she was able to feel didn't quite make it out into the world, if it hadn't already settled. Gary relaxed a little, gave himself some time to let his emotions sort themselves out, so that he could perhaps carefully deal with what was left.
He zoned out after a while, emotionally drained and foggy because of the headache that the pills suppressed. Still, they'd slept a long while and his body wasn't eager to subject itself to more sleep yet. Soon there'd be more treatment. More scans. More checks. For the both of them. Gary took solace in the fact that they weren't facing all these challenges alone, but felt like he would've appreciated this period better if there wasn't any need for all that help. And then the real challenge would truly begin.
Would they even be fit as parents? The way they'd drifted apart in a time of mutual grief should've been an indicator that maybe they weren't as suited for one another as they hoped. Both of them were too stubborn to admit that. Gary wasn't sure what he would do if they lost this child. He didn't think he could go through such a loss with Ariana a second time. Even as those thoughts haphazardly crossed his mind, Gary ran his fingers through Ri's hair, playing with the ends of it.
In the end his body won out regardless, even if his mind was still mulling over what ifs. It felt as if he was steadily declining again after that first round of antibiotics as his body tried fighting off the remainder of the infection. He couldn't will himself better any faster. Just as much as he couldn't will a healthy child or Ri's safety.
Ariana watched Gary for his reaction, giggling at his comments about dragons lurking.
“It feels like…. A shift?” She wasn’t sure how to describe it, it was difficult with elation coursing through her. She meant back a little and thought for a while. She hasn’t ever experienced anything quite like that before, no matter how much she should have. Ariana figured she would be sure and ask the nurse at her next scan if everything was normal, but she would do that regardless.
What Ariana didn’t expect was Gary’s somewhat emotional response as he slouched back. Ariana would have missed it had she been looking another direction but of course it’s the impromptu reminder that she was carrying a live child, her eyes were set on Gary. Male pride was something not be tested and she reached out and took the hand Gary had used to wipe his eyes.
“Hey.” She murmured quietly and shifted so she could rest against him, pressing a kiss to his fingers. She let silence fall for a moment because she didn’t want to unsettle him.
“Sorry I didn’t mean to- Well, you know.” She murmured quietly. Fractured bonds were help together sparingly for Gary’s sake because she somehow figured that if she appeared to crack under the emotions then the two of them would end up emotional.
“I think it’s okay to get excited, to hope now. I think.” She murmured quietly as she let his hand go free, such a remarkable thing not deserving to be trapped by her. Somehow it still felt like a betrayal to be hopeful, treacherous to their first infant that had never been. She shifted slightly so she could see his face.
“Talk to me.” She mumbled softly.
“Because I’m frightened, Gary.” It was a relief as the words passed her lips, to admit her fears.
“M’scared for me, for you and for what might happen, well, what might not happen.” Maybe she wasn’t thinking clearly but the words that came from her were honest. She knew Gary was probably scared too. But there was something she needed to say.
Emerald eyes searched for Gary’s blue ones as she lifted her fingers to brush over his cheek.
“I’m sorry, for how things got. And if anything does happen, to any of us, then I want you to know that I really am sorry.” She had said so much in anger, so much in grief. And she knew the risks with this pregnancy, she knew what she stood to lose if it went badly. And if it did, then she wanted Gary to know she didn’t mean everything she had said. But there was hope now, in the shape of a shift in her belly.
Even sitting down with his eyes closed has his mind bubble with the information he'd read, struggling to retain it and find a proper place for everything. Silence made his thoughts spin to a halt at long last and Gary finally felt the medicine kick in and take off the razor-sharp edge. Slowly, he regained his senses and he cracked his eyes open when Ri returned to the couch. A glass of juice spawned on the table. Gary watched Ariana for a long moment before shifting and taking a drink.
"Thanks," he said softly, washing the bitter taste of the pills down with some of the juice.
"What?" Gary started when Ri sat up a little. Something seemed to be wrong, but he couldn't decide what immediately. He searched Ri's face for any sign of pain or distress, but found quite the opposite.
"What did you feel?" he ventured slowly, sagging back on the couch a little now that the first rush was tempered. At this time, they shouldn't be able to feel the baby, right? Gary wasn't that knowledgeable regarding these types of things, but he knew from most movies that the real 'feeling' was only happening late in the pregnancy. For people on the outside anyway.
Gary narrowed his eyes a little at Ariana.
"The baby? Did you feel it move?" he ventured slowly. Gary's eyes lowered to Ariana's stomach, trying to fathom what it would feel like to have another human nestled that closely to your innards. His steel blue eyes were a little unfocussed, but still intent.
"What does it feel like?" he asked softly. They hadn't ever experienced this the first time around. Their baby had-
The pregnancy had come to an end too soon.
"Here be dragons," Gary mumbled under his breath with a slight chuckle. Six more months. A little less. Maybe a week less? He made himself comfortable and settled in. Sleep wasn't going to happen after how lazy they'd been the whole afternoon, but his brain was also done being awake and useful.
Rather, Gary surrendered to a state whereby nothing came to mind, other than some emotions that were so mixed up he didn't quite know what to do with them. Bitter-sweet, maybe? But there was a darker undertone and a more hopeful one at the same time. Gary brushed a hand by his eyes and was surprised it came back moist.
And here they always said that pregnant women were the emotional party. Gary wiped his eyes and took a deep, shaky breath. He was vulnerable right now, tired. That's what he told himself. Tired and frustrated.
And hopeful. Hopeful that they might get what they wanted all those months ago.
“I know.” Ariana responded knowingly to her husband. The treatment and antibiotics was bound to take it out of him and she understood that maybe it would be a little too much to simply accompany her places. She supposed it did put a dampener on events, but she wasn’t sure how much more damp events could be anyways. She watched him fetch painkillers and drown them with some water in silence. She could tell his mood was slightly frustrated, the beginnings of a prickly temper and she didn’t want to get poke the bear again.
She got up and did the dishes, letting the silence lie for a while as she glanced over to Gary who was laying down with his eyes closed. She figured if he was asleep then it was probably for the best. Sleep was the best medicine but the whole situation was exhausting and trying on them both. Her next scan she would be five months. She wasn’t exactly sure how many weeks that was but she had to admit the further they made it with this pregnancy, the better the outlook was that she would deliver a healthy child into the world. She dried off some of the plates and set them away before getting some fruit juice from the fridge and pouring herself a glass and Gary, just in case. She set the glass down on the table by Gary and settled next to him on the couch, taking a drink of juice. It was cold, she could practically feel it filter down to her stomach.
Ariana settles back, getting comfortable and being wary of not jostling Gary around, guessing the man wouldn’t be grateful for such a thing. And then something happened, something hadn’t experienced last pregnancy and it didn’t involve worshipping a toilet. It was like bubbles, a small movement but there and she definitely felt it within her. She sat up a little sharply, taken off guard. It wasn’t the same as the kicks Lisa had described to her which were all too present in her pregnancy with James. Ariana wasn’t sure how to react, she didn’t feel like anything was particularly wrong, it just felt odd. Maybe it was nothing, her stomach perhaps just reacting to its contents after her sickness that morning.
For a second though, there wasn’t worry or sadness or grief. There was just the odd mixture of surprise and joy that the scan wasn’t lying and Ariana was carrying a very live child within her. The movement had barely been anything, but it had been there.
“Gary-“ She looked tight him as she tucked her knees up. She wasn’t even sure how to explain it. Small embers of hope dared to show as excitement. If she was a healthier weight she might even have had more to show physically for her pregnancy.
“Gary… I felt something.” She said to him, gesturing to the slight bump in her figure, a breathy laugh of relief and excitement lacing her voice.
Apparently Ariana managed what he didn't: find a wallet, and she paid for the food in his stead. Gary felt a bit frustrated with himself for not even being able to provide such little things. Getting sick in the morning wasn't glamorous, no, but Ri's wariness of food was worrying. Of course, it'd be a while of picking and choosing the foods that wouldn't upset her in the morning, but no food wasn't quite that. Gary watched the bowl of soup and flicked his gaze between Ri's face and the food before sighing out and focussing on his own. He focussed on the food, but his vision was a bit here and there. His eyes were tired, Gary surmised. Or he just wasn't as recovered from the stupid concussion as he hoped to be. He remembered Ri telling him he'd been out an entire day. And he'd certainly been confused for days after.
Oh, right. Gary took a break from shovelling food down his gullet to ponder Ri's comment. It'd be a whole day's affair for him too, because they needed to administer the medicine and keep an eye on how he reacted.
"...when exactly is Monday again?" Gary said with a slight grimace. All the days had just blended together into one giant mess. He leaned over to the laptop and brought up the calendar. It was still a few days out, which didn't surprise him. Only two days ago he'd been discharged from the hospital for a second time, so they wouldn't have him return that soon for a weekly treatment.
And a scan.
"I thought we would try having them on the same day," Gary muttered around a bite of food. "Not that I mind, it's just... I-" He huffed and shook his head. Gary didn't know whether he'd be up to join Ri on that visit, while he'd promised to go on them. Even though the treatment had made him feel considerably better the first time around, he knew the second time around would be draining. He'd slept then too. A lot.
"We'll make it work," Gary concluded, pinching the bridge of his nose. He hadn't finished all of his food, but the headache was being a greater nuisance than his appetite. He let his fork dangle above the plate, dispassionately looking at the leftovers. In the end, he dropped the utensil onto the plate and nudged it further down the table. He hadn't taken anything for the pain in a while, but Gary decided it wouldn't be in anyone's benefit if he was sour and moody because of a blasted headache.
He closed the laptop and reached for his crutches, clumsily manoeuvring in the kitchen to search through the drawer for something to help alleviate his headache. Eventually, he found the packet and washed down a couple of pills with some water. For a moment, he wished they'd start to work immediately. Of course, they wouldn't and so Gary hobbled back to the living. Sleep wasn't likely to happen after their prolonged afternoon nap, so he resigned himself to just resting with his eyes closed.
Ri knew she had slept a lot. She wasn’t sure why, probably a combination of pregnancy, the anxiety and worrying over Gary and the constant fear of losing their unborn infant again, which all proved to be mentally and physically exhausting. Ariana was grateful of Gary’s voice for the distraction as he explained what he was working on. Living with a disability, in an odd way, might be more relatable with Gary than he first suspected. Then again, this wasn’t permanent for him. She was sure soon enough he would be able to get up to his old tricks.
“Yeah, waking up and getting sick isn’t glamorous.” She mumbled quietly. It certainly wasn’t a good wake up call either. She set her cup down and she went to tidy up the couch a little, letting Gary do his work because she doubted that Gary would want a wittering woman in his ear asking all sorts of questions. The doorbell roused her from the distractions and she glanced up. For the small parts of work she had been dabbling in, she was making a wage. It wasn’t grand but it was better than nothing. She shifted to her handbag, rifling through to find her purse and plucking out some notes. She answered the door and exchanged the notes for the bag of food which really did smell divine. A casual thanks in the delivery guys direction as she closed the door and locked the cold out.
Plating up was fairly easy, despite the fact Ariana took her time. Prawn crackers had come free with the order and she dared to take a couple from the bag as she set Gary’s rice dish next to him. She settled at the other end of the table and glanced at the time. Maybe the nap earlier had been a hinderance for her because now she felt rather wide awake. She wasn’t battling an infection like Gary, though.
“You have another appointment about your leg on Monday.” She pointed out to him. Weekly visits and all. Ariana stirred some of the soup and blew on it to save her tongue a scalding. It tasted just as good as it smelled and was a welcome relief to her system as she felt an almost immediate perk up. She ate for a while in quiet and then set her bowl aside, just a few stray noodles left at the bottom.
“I have my next scan on um… Tuesday I think?” It was hard to keep track of the time sometimes. With all the appointments and family and friends wanting to have updates, it could all get a bit jumbled up.
With half an eye he registered Ariana's sluggish manner on getting up, taking note but not making anything of it. He felt a little sluggish himself, so he understood. That, and her body was bound to be going through numerous changes he wanted to know exactly nothing about.
Or maybe he'd look into it. See what was normal and what to look out for. Just in case.
"Just get me a rice-dish please," Gary filled in his part of the order. He needed something more substantial after skipping a handful of meals on account of the infection he'd suffered, even if he wasn't feeling particularly hungry.
Gary found the files Eddy had been on about and tried to read through them in a way that the information on what he was meant to do would stick. There was a concept for an interview he'd most likely had to find some people for, but then there was some more information included of an already taken one. All it needed was some writing up.
Gary blinked up at Ariana's voice, "hmm, what? Oh, it's... uhm. It's some interview. Several, actually. It just needs writing up." He looked up, now thoroughly distracted and taking note of the fact that Ri was still stood hovering in the kitchen, cradling her tea. It seemed she was still nursing somewhat of a superstition on what to do and not do as a pregnant woman. In truth, he hadn't expected Ri to match his ridiculous sleeping habits.
"Are you feeling alright?" Gary asked, slightly worried.
"You slept a lot," he pointed out. And she hadn't exactly put in a large order either. Most of her food had been light and small portions, while she ought to be putting on weight for the baby's sake. And hers, he added.
"Worried you might get sick again?"
Was she still feeling sore?
Gary averted his gaze and sighed. "It's a piece about people overcoming their disability. You know, for one of the paper's weekend editions," he waved and sighed. They'd probably have a theme or whatnot, in between the holidays and the bigger news. People liked some background stories occasionally. A sparkle of hope amid a crumbling world. Gary had long since made peace with the fact that they'd be putting a child into a world like this. He had hopes for the future and hey, things weren't all bad.
His eyes strayed back to the laptop and he carried on reading the general idea Eddy had put down. He bet Eddy was now taking charge of the work he was unable to do. Or Ray would be. Either way he was left with the boring tail-end of the assignment. Usually they just did things like this in between the more breaking news.
Gary started to put down some notes, pulling together the information in an easy to follow structure, but he didn't get very far into the work. He paused after some time, debilitated by an increasingly annoying headache and less than cooperative eyes. When the doorbell rang, he was glad to look away from the glaringly bright screen.
"That'll be our food," Gary said and realized he had no idea where his wallet had gone since the accident. Going back to work felt like a far stretch right then. It felt discouraging.
“Uh, almost five, I think.” Came Ariana’s response time his question as she glanced up at him, tilting her head back to do so from her position. It didn’t matter what time it was because felt comfy nestled into him on the couch like this. All good things came to an end though as she sat up so he could free himself to tend to natures call. She watched disappear slowly and stretched out, stifling a yawn, how could she still be tired? The temptation to just retreat to bed was a strong one but she needed to eat. She glanced over to Gary as he got himself some water. She water. She truly did wish she could help more but she didn’t want Gary to feel like a child. Order in? That wasn’t a bad idea.
“Hmm. How does Chinese sound?” She asked him as she finally got to her feet, perhaps a little too quickly as black spots danced before her eyes and she sank back down. Blood pressure, pregnancy, right. She took her time the second time around, figuring a hot cup of tea with w little extra sugar was probably needed. It was sometimes easy to forget that her body was doing all sorts of weird and wonderful things to accommodate a pregnancy, she hadn’t gotten this far last time. Her eyes went to Gary as she stirred her drink thoughtfully. For a moment she was about to speak, to ask if him working was a good idea but she thought better of it, closing her mouth firmly.
She dug around in a drawer for the Chinese menu. Given the dazed episode earlier she didn’t much care what she ate. She tried to think for a second, weren’t pregnant mothers supposed to avoid prawns and shellfish? She figured better to be safe than sorry and given the morning sickness that morning, something a little lighter on the stomach was probably a good idea.
“Hmm…” she mumbled thoughtfully. It was a strange thing to have to think about the possibility of throwing up whatever she ate right then. She grabbed her phone as she passed the menu to Gary, dialling up the number and ordering herself some chicken and noodle soup and glancing to Gary, adding on whatever he wanted. Soup wasn’t really substantial but the thought of morning sickness really did put her off. Then again it was about the only normal thing about this pregnancy right then. Ariana took a drink of tea as she leant on the counter, not wanting to sit until she had something to eat in case dizziness came once again.
“What sort’ve stuff has he got you working on?” She said as she looked to Gary, figuring at least taking an interest would dissect the boredom. Plus, recently it had seemed like work was his only passion, the way he spoke it about it sometimes was nice to listen to and she really did want to know. But at the same time she didn’t want to pressure him. He still had a tap in his leg, the infection still festering somewhere. At least next week was more antibiotics and a greater chance of him getting through this. Speaking of which, didn’t she have an appointment again soon? The next scan would reveal if they would have a daughter or son, and hopefully clue away that everything was okay. Ariana was almost five months. Past the danger zone and she just prayed everything went smoothly.
Slowly, the drone of the television invaded his perception. Noise turned into gentle voices, acted out passionately and deliberately by the artists portraying their given role. Gary peeled open his eyes to survey where he was and found the familiar shapes of the living unfolding before him. A familiar and comfortable weight was at his side. Gary stretched a little and let his arm fall above his head, the other still loosely around Ariana's back. Drowsiness followed his waking moments, clinging tight to his thoughts. Nothing came to mind, honestly. Gary watched Ri, mesmerized by her features, the brightness of her irises and the colour of her hair which came in many shades. He took a slightly deeper breath and swallowed to clear his throat. He was thirsty. The whisper of a headache started to take root behind his eyes.
It was evident he wasn't quite back to his old self yet. As if the small port embedded in his thigh wasn't an indicator of the treatment he was yet to receive.
"What time is it?" he breathed. It was still light out, but the light was waning, indicating it might be late afternoon. Obviously Ri hadn't taken it upon herself to move away from the comfort of the couch and why should she? Gary felt useless. He hadn't actually done anything lately. All he'd done was get his lazy ass down the stairs and watched James for a short moment. It was probably too much to ask for a little more energy.
After a moment of waiting for the general daze to lift, which it didn't, Gary started to work his way into sitting up. He tried to brush the sleep from his eyes and watched the foggy image of the television as if it was an invention he hadn't ever seen before. Gary put a hand to Ariana's hair and mindlessly let the strands run through his fingers before he took another deep breath. He needed to visit the restroom.
With some effort, Gary swung his legs onto the floor and stretched to gather up his crutches. It was slow going, but Gary didn't want to risk face-planting himself on the floor. His hobble was more of a drag, but he managed without any issues. On the way back, Gary stopped in the kitchen and poured himself some cool water in hopes that it would help wake him up.
"Did you want to order something?" he asked Ri. Their fridge was stocked up aplenty, but he didn't really feel like spending ages in the kitchen to cook something up. His stomach had evidently not woken up yet either. His eyes came to rest on the laptop sat at the dining table and Gary finished his water. Feeling a little rejuvenated, Gary installed himself at the kitchen-table, pulling up a second chair to rest his leg on. With slight curiosity, he opened up the work-laptop and watched it boot up.
Maybe he could work an hour or so.
Nothing big. Just put some notes in order. Do some research for the article he was meant to write. Read up a little. Anything, basically. His hands moved without his consent and sooner rather than later, he had some documents crowding the screen he was lazily trying to take in.
Ariana listened to Gary’s words in silence. She knew it was difficult for him to express himself, she had always been the more emotional of the two openly. She felt his kiss and mulled over his words as she kept her hand in his. He was right, it had just been difficult to come to terms with what might have been if something had been different, but they did still have a chance. Gary kept saying they would be alright but she truly worried that they wouldn’t be. That something would happen. She could lose their child for a second time, she could die in a pristine white hospital, Gary could suffer at the hands of the bottle he so poetically frowned himself in. It was impossible to escape the daunting thoughts that ruptured in her mind from time to time.
Ariana gave Gary’s hand a gentle squeeze as she closed her eyes and listened to his breathing. Just how close had she come to planning his funeral and not their future? If the other vehicle had been faster or Gary had been positioned differently then she could have easily been alone. Before Ariana could help it, she had fallen under sleeps whimsical spell, the low hum of the television no longer a distraction of worth. This time there were no dreams and thankfully, no nightmares. The day spent in the cold with a ram unctuous toddler mixed in with an early morning thanks to morning sickness had really tested her body. Gary’s body beside hers was a subconscious relaxant for her.
Somewhere in the mist of sleep, she realised she had fallen asleep as she pushed herself to wake up, carefully sitting up and blearily looking around. How long had it been? A glance to the clock signified only an hour or so. She reached over for her phone, not wanting to leave the safety of her blankets or Gary’s presence as she checked a few messages. Lisa had thanked her for looking after James, a couple from friends wishing her well, evidently news travelled quickly. She set the phone down and looked sleepily to the television screen. Politicians argued over something, hardly anything new as she switched the channel to a movie, not entirely watching it. At some point her and Gary would have to think of actually preparing for a child to come into their lives, even though there was a chance it wouldn’t materialise. Names, that room… Her heart sank at the idea of going into that room again. It hasn’t been so long ago she had dismantled everything and shut it all away.
And it was somewhat daunting to think of undoing everything again and setting up, when there was still a chance it would be ripped from their arms once more in some cruel and repetitive joke. Maybe after they knew the gender, the next scan… when was that? She had written it down somewhere she was sure. She figured she would have to sort something for dinner soon enough but it seemed easier to wait for Gary to waken, and truthfully Ri wanted to just be comfortable for a while with a film on and think of what lay ahead.
Envy. Of course Ariana would be envious of the happiness Lisa had attained seemingly without effort, leaving them in the dust. Gary knew Ri cared for Lisa a great deal, so she wouldn't condone of those feelings, but they'd be there regardless. Emotion and rationale were two entirely different topics.
They had taken it for granted. Neither of them had, at any point in their relationship, considered that having children would be a challenge. It'd all seemed so natural. Start a relationship, live together, get married.
Children just seemed the logical conclusion to that journey. Of course, there'd be a future with or without, but it wouldn't be as they had imagined. Adjusting their take on the world without children was going to take a long time. It had taken a long time. And now they were thrown in yet another situation where they might yet get what they'd wanted so badly.
Gary looked at Ri's hand as she brushed her thumb over his wedding band. He swallowed. No, it'd been confronting, but little James had been around for a while, so he'd gotten somewhat used to seeing the kid. Sure, it wasn't easy to watch, but it wasn't James' fault that he was born healthily and grew up easily.
"I just-..." Gary sighed out. "It's easier to imagine what might've been when..." He took a deep breath. "We might still have that," Gary said, curling his fingers to hold Ariana's in place. There was hope. Already there was so much pressure on this child. Gary feared it might always stand in the shadow of the child they'd lost. It couldn't be like that. This child deserved everything they had planned to offer their first and then some. They couldn't be hung up on the past if they wanted to offer this child a future.
He pulled Ri closer and pressed a kiss on the top of her head. After a moment of that, Gary eased up his hold and stretched out behind Ariana. With ease, he pulled Ri down to rest next to him. She's been so tentative, but honestly? The only thing still bothering him was the leg. And the simmering infection Gary was sure the antibiotics would help clear up eventually. After that, it'd be back to work. Back to their old routine. Maybe Ri was right to be scared for what might happen once he was recovered. Would they lose touch again? Ariana here, at home, worrying for her child and him, fleeing from the helplessness the situation forced onto him? Gary propped his leg up on the pillows at the end of the couch and closed his eyes.
They'd both been tired of the situation.
"We'll be alright, Ri," Gary promised softly.
Each day was another victory. Another step closer to him recovering, to Ri carrying the child to full term. With Ri there right beside him, it was easy to doze off.
Gary’s words went unnoticed for a moment as she tried to think of whether she was alright or not, because she didn’t know if every emotion she was feeling was ‘right’. She turned a little when she felt his fingers brush over her cheek and she could only give a nod at his question.
“Tired.” She excused away. It was a dreadful feeling, to be jealous in a way of her sister. And for all the wrong reasons. Gary’s arm offered an anchor and she settled beside him on the couch, careful still, hesitant almost for fear of hurting him or worrying that her own actions would bring his infection to the surface.
Her eyes were focused on the TV screen of boring news reporters covering small stories and she tilted her head back a little to watch Gary. He looked done in. But his gentle affections were appreciated. Ariana moves her emeralds back to the television as it danced away in the background, not paying attention.
“Today was hard.” She said quietly, her emotions conveyed in short snips of conversation like a tape being cut into segments. Finding the right order was proving to be a fickle task. His kids seemed to breath some life into her exhausted frame as she leant back into him, comfortable and assured by his warmth.
“I love Lisa- I’m just…” she trailed off, unable to convey what she felt right then because either way she would sound like a terrible sibling.
“Just reminded me of what we lost.” She said, more talking with herself because somehow saying it out loud seemed to make the pieces fix together in a much nicer manner. She fiddled with the edge of the blanket, marvelling at how such a thing could be so inherently warm.
“People take it for granted. Maybe we did too.” She said, but her emotions were guarded and wary, bubbling away under the surface but showed no sign of a threatening overspill like before. Ariana swallowed for a second, wrestling with her own emotions as she looked to Gary. Throughout all of this, she had often forgotten he too, had lost a child. So often she had forgotten that he was grieving too, perhaps that was where the drink has factored in. And she didn’t know if it was too late.
“Are you alright? Can’t have been easy for you either.” She said to him, a touch uncomfortable to be speaking about herself as she shifted some hair and fidgeted a little so she could tilt her head back. Gary never seemed to do well under scrutiny and she averted her eyes, reaching out and clasping his hand, he thumb brushing over his wedding band as if for reassurance that this wasn’t a dream and she didn’t have to worry about waking up and being alone. She should have asked him more often if he was doing alright, taken some of his strain, let him be open rather than have him fearful for what route she would take. There had been times when Gary was out for most of the night, and she was left to her own plaguing thoughts, that she had considering ‘just giving in’. She had been too much of a coward to ever do such a thing, scared for herself and what lay behind the veil and scared her absence would cause a whole new host of problems for Gary. That sort of thing didn’t just die with the victim, it festered with those left behind.
It went quiet for a brief moment after the door fell behind Lisa and James. Gary raised his eyebrows at Ri, who looked at him with half a longing gaze and another, more hesitant shade of emotion. Rather than pursue the duality, Gary just observed. It didn't take long for Ri to solve the dissonance in her head with a gentle excuse. He closed his eyes briefly, acknowledging Ariana's desire to be on her own and sort her emotions. Gary wasn't a stranger to what a cheerful young nephew could trigger in these turbulent times. He was sure Lisa was well aware as well. Gary let out a sigh and zoned out to the pitter-patter of the shower and the dulcet tones of the television switching programmes on him without his consent.
Ri returned before long, the floral scent of soap and shampoo preceding her. Gary felt remarkably sensitive to the scents invading his personal space. Most everything was a little too sensitive at times; the colours on the television screen, the noise of a commentator or the shuffle of feet. He contributed it to the healing concussion. If those were the lingering side-effects, Gary was glad they didn't include a headache.
He watched her from underneath heavy eyelids. She flicked the channel to the news and Gary didn't care for the entertainment the small screen offered no more.
"Are you okay?" Gary asked softly. Ri often took showers to escape. He'd feared he might one day find her there, passed out on the tiles or hurting herself, but fortunately Ariana's depression hadn't quite taken her there.
She'd had an early morning on account of her morning sickness. Gary shifted to sit up and watched Ariana for a second, unable to get the sleep-daze from his mind or hair. Still, he reached out for Ri's warm cheek, half expecting tears there and finding none. All washed away by the shower, he expected.
Gary opened his mouth to say something and swallowed the words. He didn't quite know how to pin down the emotions rushing through his heart and mind, let alone how to convey that he understood how Ri felt. He sighed softly and instead pulled Ri closer a little.
"Promise it's comfortable to lie down," Gary said softly, inviting Ri to come and stretch out on the sofa. They'd wasted so many days wallowing in their own misery, what was one more day? Gary promised himself that tomorrow he'd try to pick up some of the work Robert wanted him to do so desperately. If he was so wanton for words, surely trying to write now would be all but useless. Gary was a little worried about how the concussion would impact his writing, but honestly? It'd almost been a week already since the accident. He ought to be good by now, shouldn't he?
Gary adjusted the blankets and wrapped an arm around Ri.
"Just give in," he coaxed her and kissed behind her ear.
Lisa was chattering about this and that when James made an impromptu entrance and saved Ariana from her sister’s chatterbox ways. She smiled to James as Lisa scooped him
Lisa was chattering about this and that when James made an impromptu entrance and saved Ariana from her sister’s chatterbox ways. She smiled to James as Lisa scooped him up and Ariana made sure everything was neatly in place in the boys travel bag. Lisa smiled to Gary, despite her sometimes worrying for her sister that maybe she had married the wrong man, Lisa was glad they seemed to be more together amidst this.
“You rest up. And you-“ She turned to Ariana who smiled a bit.
“Just keep eating and resting.” Lisa said, awkwardly because she truly did worry for them both. Ariana has a very real prospect of losing this child or losing her life, and Gary had already cheated death. And death was vengeful that way.
Ariana closed out the cold when Lisa left with a sleepy James in her arms. Ariana stayed, paused for a moment as she caught up with everything. She was still haunted by things. Part of her even hated her sister because she had everything Ariana so desperately craved. She rubbed at her eyes and stifled a yawn. Toddlers had more energy. She made her way back to the room and eyed Gary. He looked a pretty cosy stretched out on the couch like that and she was half tempted to squeeze in somewhere and get warm properly. She gave him a small smile and decided against it.
“I’m going to go shower. I can’t warm up properly.” She said to him. Today had been harder than she had expected and it wasn’t even dinnertime yet.
The hot water immediately brought the blood pumping through cold limbs and she was relieved as she sagged a little beneath the torrents. The mixture of an early morning, puking and building a lopsided snowman with a toddler proved to be taxing. Emotionally, it ran a little deeper because it could have been their child, a mixture of her and Gary bouncing around in the snow and then things would be different. Gary wouldn’t have a broken leg with a concussion to match, Ariana wouldn’t feel so tormented and insistent on shoving people away. They would have been happy, she dared to guess. Ariana rinsed and stepped out the shower, shivering slightly because outwith the hot water was a wall of cold. She picked her way through some clothes but an oversized jumper and some thick Pajama bottoms would trap in the heat for what remained of the day. Ariana ties her hair up, loosely after making sure it was dry because catching a cold was not in her best interest.
Ariana even found socks to keep her feet warm. She quietly stepped back downstairs, keeping wary in case Gary had fallen back asleep as she wistfully imagined collapsing into the land of dreams for a while herself. But she couldn’t. She had herself to worry about, the growing life within her and Gary. She knew he wasn’t completely crippled but she would hate for him to strain himself because his own wife had abandoned him in favour of sleep. She made herself comfortable on the couch and flicked the channel to the news, needing a break from kids cartoons with squeaky voices and loud colours.
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