Egg appeared in front of him and Gary looked up to find Ri offering him up some lunch. He replied her fragile smile with one of his own and took the food from her hands. "Thanks," Gary mumbled and watched Ri for a while longer. The words he wanted to speak died on his lips. There was no way he could phrase his concerns in a way that wouldn't annoy Ariana any further and so Gary just focussed on the food. He appeared lost for words a little often lately, probably a lingering side-effect of the concussion, though his headaches had thankfully taken a back seat.
Neither James nor Gary made long work of their lunch. Gary beat James by only a few bites and before long he rested back, slumped down on the couch. James was trying to balance the small mug for himself, where he sat kneeled at the low-end table.
Lisa announced herself by ringing the door bell just as James was climbing back onto the couch. Gary gave Lisa a meek wave in greeting, and tried to prevent James from standing on the couch by pulling the boy back down.
With half a dazed eyes, Gary watched the cartoons prance and dance on the screen, while the other unoccupied part of his brain was listening in on the conversation between Lisa and Ariana. Her dad came up. Ri played it off.
It was obviously the whole thing with her mother still bothered her. Gary felt a bit guilty, but at the same time he probably wouldn't have lashed out if he hadn't been as uncomfortable as he had been. His gaze lowered to the cast on his leg and he rubbed at his face. Gary pushed his hair back. James gave him a funny look.
Gary raised his eyebrows.
James copied him by putting his hands on his head.
"You're a silly kid," Gary told James and messed with the boy's hair until he started giggling. Definitely had a lot of Mike in him, James did. James jumped off the couch and started for the two sisters in the kitchen and Gary took that opportunity to properly stretch out on the couch. Even though he felt alright, he wasn't sure what to do with himself, other than just docilely lay on the couch. Useless didn't even begin to describe his current state of bodily and mental health. To put the cherry on the cake that was his laziness, Gary pulled the blanket to cover his lower half and yawned for good measure.
Apparently infections really did drain your energy. Gary put one arm behind his head and flipped the channel to something less colourful and loud. There wasn't much choice, so he ended up watching a nature documentary. When was the last time he'd really taken a vacation and done absolutely nothing anyway? A few distracted fingers toyed with the scab that'd formed where he'd hit his head on something hard enough to knock him out. It was sensitive, but didn't exactly hurt no more.
His thoughts wandered. What would've happened to them if their first child had survived?
“Mm, I feel better. Hungry though.” Ariana said to Gary and watched him as she eyed the hot chocolate. She wasn’t going to say no to a sweet treat as she fixed her own. Gary was probably right, going out in the snow wouldn’t end well for him and she figured James was exhausted now. She rifled around for some eggs, making sure to check the expiry date as she looked thoughtful. Omelettes would be a great choice and satisfy the pangs in her stomach. She paused for a second to take a drink from her own hot chocolate and let her eyes rest on the scene on the couch. It was heartbreaking and heartwarming at the same time, a peculiar mix. James tucked into Gary’s side as the two followed whatever the brightly coloured cartoons did, it wasn’t fair. In some other world it would have been their child on the couch enjoying some time with cartoons and playing in the snow.
Ariana felt a cold chill run up her spine as her mind cast back. Suddenly the snow was cold and cruel and so was the scene before her as she tore her eyes away from it and busied herself with making something to eat. Life wasn’t fair, she figured as she rummaged around and she guessed they were lucky they had a second chance, regardless of whatever lay ahead. It didn’t take long for her to make up three omelettes, figuring a smaller and plainer one for James would go over a lot better with the toddler who was still engrossed in his cartoons but accepted the little plastic bowl with egg and some ham added.
Ariana handed Gary’s over to him with a small smile but her mind was elsewhere as she did very best to not drink in the scene before her. She settled with her own plate and pushed it around for a while before hunger got the better of her rapid thoughts. The food warmed her up along with the hot chocolate and thankfully her stomach seemed to accept its offerings. After some time she set her plate aside with a content sigh as she ran a hand through her hair. She at least felt comfortable after eating something and she let her eyes trail to the television, by means of distraction. The doorbell rang and Ariana raised an eyebrow as she got up, opening up to her sister who bundled in.
“Slow day, thankfully! And Mike gets off soon.” Lisa said as she came in from the cold and looked to Gary and James and then to her sister.
“How’s he been?” Lisa asked.
“Fine. We made a snowman and he’s really got an arm on him for snowballs.” Ariana said with a laugh.
“He’s has some hot chocolate and omelette.” Ariana informed Lisa who nodded along.
“Oh that’s great, it’s Bath day for him and he looks tuckered out.” She explained to Ariana who just smiled.
“Dad called. Said you and him met up.” Lisa commented and Ariana shrugged a little.
“Mom still hasn’t forgiven me.” She said with a bemused tone as she fixed Lisa coffee. Lisa tutted.
“All the religion in the world can’t teach that women forgiveness or tolerance.” She remarked quietly as she sat at the kitchen table with Ariana, taking a drink from her coffee.
"Hey," Gary started, looking up at Ariana. He followed her gaze down to James, who was fiddling around for the remote.
"Yeah, that's right," Gary told the kid with a meek smile. James didn't seem to think much else of it, already distracted by the television's programme. Cold lips distracted him and Gary raised his eyebrows at Ri's remark.
"You know I'm supposed to keep this dry, right?" he played the sick-card to prevent any happy cold snow-accidents to happen. "I put on some milk," Gary started. "Figured you'd like some hot chocolate." If not, him and James were sure to have a cup.
"Are you feeling better?" Gary asked, taking Ariana in. There was a fairly healthy looking blush on her face, but at the same time she seemed as knackered as little James. Gary abandoned the phone on the table and pushed himself up to check on the milk. He got out a spoon and stirred the milk so it wouldn't create a film.
"Lunch, isn't it?" Gary said. It was early for lunch, but he could eat. Just a piece of toast in the morning really didn't constitute a proper breakfast in his eyes. Maybe he ought to make some eggs or something.
Gary focussed on the milk and turned off the fire. Soon, he was pouring some milk into a mug, giving Ariana a questioning look.
"You want some? This'll be James'," he explained the smaller sized cup. Gary poured some for himself too and rummaged around the fridge in search of some cream. Of course, Ri wouldn't be herself if it wasn't stocked to the brim and then some. You'd think they wouldn't have access to any means while it snowed, judging on the surplus of foodstuffs.
Gary abandoned one crutch against the dining table and carried over James' hot chocolate first. It was a slow, careful trot and he didn't pause to get his own.
"Let it cool down first," he advised James on his way back.
The second time around was no more comfortable than the first, but he managed in the end. A few nudges and Lisa's spawn was happily leaned up against him, looking at the hot mug with longing eyes.
"Think your mom will be back on time?" he teased James.
The boy didn't reply, but docilely kept sucking on his thumb instead, tucked comfortably in between Gary and the blanket. Gary put his leg up and rested back. He wasn't as tired as he'd been yesterday or when he'd just gotten back from the hospital the first time around, but it still wasn't back to the old. Maybe he'd get some work in later today though. Just a paragraph or two, if Ri would allow. Actually, he hadn't caught her working yet either. Gary surmised he might've been asleep for it. There'd been a lot of that going on lately.
A soft thud on her arm alerted Ariana that James had infact learnt the craft of snowballs and she raised an eyebrow.
“Hey!” She said with a smile as she got up, realising it wasn’t much fun for the toddler to be playing by himself in the snow and she had been caught in a day dream. She tossed a snowball back at him, deliberately missing as she shirked some snow off her jacket and let him run around giggling with rosy cheeks and a bright red nose to match. This was probably the last of the winter snow, he deserved to enjoy it.
“No man.” James halted, as if a brilliant idea had just shimmered before his very eyes and Ariana watched him, catching up with his garbled speech.
“You wanna make a snow man, little boy?” She cooed and was grateful she had remembered her gloves but it didn’t save her own nose or cheeks from the cold air.
Ariana ended up doing most of the work into making Mr Frosty but James was ecstatic all the same. It wasn’t exactly the most impressive snow man out there, a little lumpy and more square looking than circular. Ariana lifted James so he could fix two pebbles for eyes and a wonky stick for a nose. His jacket was soaked now and she set him down in the pure white snow. Being around him wasn’t so bad, she still had the niggling sadness that it could have been her and Gary’s child playing endlessly in the snow but it wasn’t. But James kept her mind busy for now.
“I think you’ve earned a cookie and a hot drink!” She said to James, wanting some shelter from the cold herself and James did seem pretty tuckered out. James made a big deal about stomping the snow from his boots as Ariana got the door and helped him out his jacket and boots. His little fingers were even nipped with the cold slightly beneath the mittens. Ariana shed her own coat and boots, rubbing her face slightly to try and lessen the cold as she stepped inside and shut the cold out.
Her eyes turned to Gary,
“Oh, hey.” She smiled a little as James clambered on the couch, fiddling around to try and find the missing remote.
“Hurt!” James chirped as he looked to Gary, eyeing the cast curiously because his young eyes had never seen anything quite like that before. Ariana soon found the remote absently under the coffee table as she switched it over to cartoons for the young boy.
“I think he’s tired.” Ariana said as she kissed Gary’s cheek with cold lips.
“If I’d known you were up I would’ve brought some snow in.” She teased a little, almost as if testing the waters, still wary about what mood he could be in.
“You fancy some lunch? Uh, breakfast.” She said to him as she glanced to the time. Brunch was probably the closest option. And she hadn’t eaten yet but it turned out morning sickness made you hungry later on on account of nothing being left in your stomach. James had stuck his thumb in his mouth and even managed to tug a blanket from the back of the couch over himself as he stared at the television, no harm done given he had been out in the snow for a while, their wonky snowman testament as it peered in with black eyes through the window.
Morning sickness. Gary pulled a face out of sympathy and watched Ariana give in to his suggestion of resting up a little while longer. He helped her get the blanket situated and bit his tongue. Telling Ri to eat while she wasn't feeling well sounded cruel even to his ears so Gary just sighed and relaxed back into the pillows.
"I'd just as happily rest out in the sun, I'll have you know," Gary said with a snort. A rapping at the door disturbed their moment of peace and Ri was already gone, fleeting as ever, before he could protest her departure. Defeated, Gary pushed his hair back and just stared at the ceiling for a while as he listened to Lisa's excuses and explanations. Ri was too good for her sister, honestly.
Sometimes he felt Lisa was more like her mother than she cared to admit. Maybe that's why the two of them never got along nicely. Soon the door shut behind and things went quiet again.
Gary closed his eyes and dozed a little, burrowed comfortably in the nest of blankets he'd constructed for himself. Apparently infections really did take it out of you. When he woke, several hours had passed by unnoticed. Gary sat up and sighed out. He was well awake now, even if it felt like it wouldn't last particularly long.
He found his crutches and went through the motions of showering. Gary moved quick, uncomfortable with standing still for too long on one leg and wary of getting his cast wet. When he finished, he found himself some comfortable clothes to wear and slowly made his way downstairs. It was empty.
Gary didn't have to look far; James' squealing could wake up the dead. For a few moments he just stood there, balanced on his crutches, watching Ri and James play outside. James had gotten mischievous and found out how to make a snowball. In the youngster's hands, they were small and uncoordinated, but give it a few years and he'd be making Lisa's life well miserably cold.
A dull ache welled up in his chest from watching the two play like that. That could've been their child. It should've been their child. Or it should've at least been there as well. Two kids, playing happily in the snow. Gary turned away and ventured into the kitchen. Just to give himself something to do, he started some hot chocolate. At this point, he felt all of them could use something warm and sweet to forget the melancholy of that which had never been.
It took him a little longer because of the crutches, but all in all, Gary wasn't too displeased with how he was recovering. He already felt a lot stronger than the other day. His leg wasn't overly happy, but that was more of a given these days than not. Not even the phone's screen blasted into his brains as harshly as it had the last few days. He sat down, waiting for the milk to boil and skimmed through some of the messages.
Ariana watched Gary for a moment, as if thinking about what to say. A small part of her didn’t want Gary to worry over her while he was still recovering. She glanced down to their hands as she thought. Lying wouldn’t get them anywhere, she couldn’t expect honesty from Gary when she was lying. She sighed as she leant back on the pillows and figured he was right. She could relax for an hour or so until Lisa arrived with Malachi-James. It always confused her, double barrelled names like that. Commonly he went by James because Lisa preferred traditional names like that. Mike always liked the unusual, it explained why he had ended up with an exciting woman like Lisa.
“Morning sickness.” Ariana grumbled and tugged a blanket over her, now that she was still, the cold nipped at her.
“I didn’t eat yet, but I will when I’m sure I’m not going to- Get intimate with the bathroom again.” She excused and swallowed for good measure.
“I didn’t eat yet, but I will when I’m sure I’m not going to- Get intimate with the bathroom again, I will.” She excused and swallowed for good measure. She flashed him an assuring look and sighed as she enjoyed the warmth for a while and his company. He wasn’t angry or in pain it seemed, at least he wasn’t yet. She knew how quickly that could change for them both.
“Winter gives us an excuse to stay in bed, Hm?” She said and let a yawn escape her, turning her gaze to Gary. Just as she started to get comfortable, she heard a rapping at the door.
“Hm, trust Lisa to be early this one time.” She remarked as she got up and kissed Gary’s head fleetingly. He could take as long as he needed. If he wanted to stay in bed then she understood.
James has his thumb firmly stuck in his mouth as he was handed over and Lisa handed over a bag.
“Just some necessities.” She said as she untangled herself.
“I won’t be long, half shift so I’ll be back about one.” She explained away as she finally seemed to take a breath.
“It’s fine, really. Don’t rush.” Ariana said to her with a small smile as she set the boy down.
“Has he had breakfast?” Ariana asked and Lisa nodded.
“He’s an eating machine right now.” She tutted a little with a bemused smile before saying her farewells.
Ariana turned to watch Hames who was staring at her, swaying ever so slightly on his feet with his thumb still planted in his mouth.
“Here, let’s get you out of this coat.” He said to him as she knelt and unzipped his coat, hanging it with hers as she offered the boy her hand and towed him along to the living room, watching him free himself in favour of clambering on the couch, which Ariana quickly remedied by taking off his boots.
“ ‘No!” He garbled and pointed as he unstuck his thumb. Ariana smiled a little,
“Maybe later.” She said to him, fixing some of her chocolate cereal, feeling a little peckish as she sat on the couch by him, flicking through some cartoons and eyeing him as he looked at her expectantly. Ariana are some of the cereal for a while before it finally clicked and the boy pawed at her spoon like a puppy begging for scraps. He wasn’t quite old enough that she would trust him with a bowl so she held the bowl as he meticulously and carefully attempted the spoon. Eventually Ariana gave in and helped, spooning him some of the now mushy, chocolate cereal. Ariana couldn’t help but wonder if it would be like this in a few years for her and Gary.
“ ‘no!” James insisted when cartoons got boring and Ariana smiled a bit.
“Alright go get your coat.” Ariana said after fixing on his boots. It gave her opportunity to wiggle into her own thick coat and don some gloves and her own boots. James had managed to get one arm in the sleeve of his coat and Ariana reached over and zipped him in after adjusting his limbs. Ariana fixes some mittens on him after rifling through the bag Lisa had left. Ariana made sure the garden gate was locked as she sat on the back decking, letting James squeal and run out into the snow. Kids never seemed to feel the cold as much.
"Morning. Why are you up already?" Gary complained softly, no fierceness behind the words. A mug of tea had materialized on the side of his bed, alongside which a piece of toast. "You didn't have to. I could've-... thank you," he fumbled, deeming it too early for smooth conversation.
Gary sat up a little and reached for his tea. The piping hot brew felt good going down and he shot Ri a grateful smile. Actually, she didn't look that well.
"Why are you up?" he asked again, emphasising he suspected there was a reason to Ariana's early rise that wasn't her usual method of operating.
"It's early, Lisa won't be here..." Gary squinted at the alarm, "for another hour, more? Why don't you come back to bed for a little bit?"
Worry shimmered through the last few words. Was something going wrong? Was she in pain? Bleeding? Gary's eyes lowered to Ri's stomach, but it didn't look as if anything had changed lately. His hands were loosely held around the mug, but Gary extracted one to instead stretch out towards Ri.
"Is something wrong?" he asked, gentler now than before. He knew Ri could play things down as if they were nothing and just carry on without pause. For all she chastised him about crossing his limits, Gary knew it came from a place of recognition. Ri had crossed her own boundaries more than once, he felt. Perhaps that's why she'd taken the loss of their child so hard. Because of guilt.
Saying there was nothing they could've done wouldn't change anything about the outcome and that in itself was frustrating. Gary gave Ariana's hand a squeeze and pulled back with a small sigh.
"Did Lisa say when she'd be here?" He'd assumed it wouldn't be for some time, considering Lisa didn't start that early. Or well, he simply didn't peg Lisa to. Something about the chaotic was she lived dictated early-morning discipline would be hard to find.
Gary put his cup down and shifted a little in the bed, then pulled the toast closer. With a few big bites, it was all but disappeared. Sleep and eat; it seemed that was all he was good for these days, but Gary was happy his stomach displayed something of an appetite, because it'd been sorely missing the last few days.
He hadn't forgotten the days just before his second hospital admission. Those were the worst. Gary washed away the food with some tea and felt reasonably awake by then. When he caught sight of the snow, Gary just sighed and rested back against the pillows.
"I hate winter," he said demurely. Especially now that all the fun had already passed him by.
Gary joined her and Ariana could sense his relief at being in bed. For a while she stayed awake, listening to his rhythmic breathing, a soft and constant reminder he was still alive. Lazily, she shifted on her side to look at what she could see of her husband in the dim light. He looked peaceful when he was asleep, the lines on his face smoothed out and especially given the late events, he looked pain free. She smiled a little and decided against following the temptation to brush her fingers over his cheek. She didn’t want to risk disturbing him. It took a while for sleep to consume her and even when it did, she awoke early.
There was a rushing sense, something unpleasant as Ariana struggled free of the blankets, still doing her best to make sure Gary got a good rest. It was early still, still dark. There was no time to check the time as she sought out the bathroom, stubbing her toe on the doorframe in her haste as she did a good job of throwing up last night’s meal, and just in time too. She huffed slightly and raked her hair out her face, retching a couple more times but her body decided that was enough for today. She fumbled for the flusher as she found the light switch finally, blinking in the sudden bright light. Morning sickness, fantastic. Ariana leant on the sink in front of the mirror, splashing some cold water over her face and patting it dry with a towel. That was pretty draining to say the least. Ariana stuck a toothbrush smeared with toothpaste in her mouth. Ariana spit and felt considerably better after brushing her teeth.
Ariana found the light switch again and turned it out, taking a moment for her eyes to adjust to the dim once more. She checked the time and groaned, five AM. What an ungodly hour, she cursed in her head as she got under the blankets, successfully frozen and she shifted for a while, unable to get back to sleep as the threat of more sickness niggled in the back somewhere. She gave up eventually and sighed. It came again and this time Ariana was at least more awake as she sought out her pillar for worshipping the porcelain god. This time it was more aggressive, pushing tears from the corners of her eyes and it felt like her body would construct on itself with the efforts.
Rinse and repeat as she figured she may as well get dressed. Ariana paused when she came back through to the bedroom, decidedly fresher than when she had gone in both times and eyed Gary as he shifted. Breakfast most definitely wouldn’t be on the cards for as she brought up the Internet on her phone. Morning sickness wasn’t anything she had really looked into before. Apparently it would last up until her sixteenth week, well that wasn’t long but Ariana could truly do without that wake up call each day. Ariana crept downstairs and adjusted the heating a little as she eyed the kitchen, almost with contempt.
Still, Gary couldn’t be left to fend for himself as she fixed him a cup of tea, precariously because she didn’t want anything kicking off another vomiting spree. Toast and tea in hand, she set them down at the bedside, sparing a kiss to his forehead. She still looked a little blotchy beneath the thin layer of makeup she had put on so her sister wouldn’t be completely horrified at leaving her son with his aunt. The snow had stuck outside, she noticed so keeping a toddler entertained would be no issue.
“Morning.” She murmured, perhaps not in the best mood ever thanks to her personal alarm clock.
A kiss was pressed to his temple and arms wrapped around his shoulders. Gary leaned back in Ariana's embrace, though his eyes still stared at the laptop as if it'd burst his bubble. A while, a while. Yeah, sure. If he wasn't as drained, Gary might've spat out his anger but as it was, he just sighed out.
Ri invited him to go upstairs and rest, something he'd planned on doing before their tea. He gave her a resigned nod and started to search for his crutches. Toddler proof the house. Gary wasn't sure either of them were ready for something like that. Of course, he knew Ri couldn't deny her sister anything. Things simply didn't work that way.
Gary struggled to stand up and snorted.
"It was just a car, apparently," he joked gently. Not a truck, though he did feel washed out. Whether or not he'd make his work wait that long was up for grabs, but at least Ariana didn't fight him on it as adamantly. In the end, Ri headed up ahead of him and Gary was left to struggle up the stairs by himself. He preferred it that way. Feeling weak and showing said weakness were two different things where he was considered.
Ri was already in bed by the time he was upstairs and Gary sat down on the bed just to catch his breath. He'd been in better physical condition before the infection for sure. Gary shed his sweater and sock, then lumbered over to the bathroom to brush his teeth. Even that felt like too much effort, though he felt better for it.
When his back finally hit the mattress, he breathed a sigh in relief. His leg's uncomfortable throbbing faded almost instantly as the pressure on the limb eased up. Gary sorted the blankets half-heartedly and closed his eyes. Despite having slept for a long time yesterday, sleep still managed to get an easy grip on his mind. Unexpectedly, Gary found himself falling asleep almost instantly.
Exhaustion made his sleep a deep one. Not even dreams or fears permeated the black abyss that had beckoned his thoughts into obscurity.
Gary woke feeling sleepy still. He'd barely moved in his sleep and was now feeling the general soreness because of it. Or maybe this was his body finally recovering from the infection and the marks it'd left behind. He sighed and shifted, trying to find a more comfortable position in the bed without a care in the world.
Time had become an indistinct blob to him. If he was tired, he'd sleep. If he was awake, he'd try and push whatever limits his body imposed on him as it healed. Aware of how cold it had to be outside because of the low light, Gary burrowed a little deeper under the covers and figured he'd stay in bed today.
“See you, Eddy.” Ariana said with a smile to the man as he made his exit and she turned her gaze to Gary from where she stood. Being around kids was bound to bring up a whole host of emotions since Ariana had effectively avoided her nephew for quite a while after her miscarriage. Then again, he was a toddler and easy to entertain, she figured. She fixed herself some more juice from the fridge and took a drink before watching Gary shut the laptop in defeat and she realised all of her nagging made no difference, some things he would have to discover himself. She couldn’t set his limits, he needed to find them himself for a while. She sighed out softly and set her juice aside as she pressed a kiss to the side of his head from behind, wrapping her arms around his shoulders gently.
“It’s alright.” She assured him.
“Don’t rush anything, it’s going to take a while before you’re back to yourself.” Out of the two Ariana was the more capable physically but mentally, it was anyone’s game.
She gave him a soft squeeze and retreated a little. She glanced to counter and swiped whatever dishes were left to be rinsed as she turned off the television, not that anyone was paying attention to whatever was on. She flicked the stereo by the counter and made sure it wasn’t up loud as she scrubbed out the dishes, not recognising whatever song was on as she dried up the dishes and glanced over to Gary as she set the dishes away, draining her juice and looking thoughtful.
“It’s alright if you wanna head up and get some sleep.” She said to him. It had been a long day for him, she figured.
“I’ll just give this place a tidy up. Toddler proof it, I suppose.” She said with a small tone of bemusement before realising nothing in Lisa’s joke was really toddler proof.
“It can wait until you feel a bit less run over by a truck.” Ariana said as she tapped the laptop. There had been too many nights spent alone, waiting and worrying about when and if Gary would come home to bed. But she understood if he needed time still. Ariana gave his shoulder a squeeze as she headed upstairs, figuring her body clock was pretty much set the early riser she could finish tidying up in the morning as she shed her loose sweats except the T-shirt and clambered into bed, tucking under the blankets. The sheets were initially cold against her bare legs as she shifted slightly to heat up.
She reached over and text Lisa, explaining they would Malachi for the morning. None of them could avoid the fact children would still be in their lives. Maybe it would be refreshing in some way, a reminder that regardless of what happened they still had family. If she was honest, she did worry about what would come digging it’s way to the surface with her emotions but adults had to stay strong for children so she doubted she would have any full on breakdown. There was a gap in the curtains, snowflakes tumbling down illuminated by a frosty street lamp somewhere and she sighed a little. She didn’t even know what kids liked to do, she realised. Well if the snow stuck then maybe building a snowman in the front garden would suffice for a few hours of enjoyment for a youngster. And for Lisa’s benefit tire her nephew out.
Eddy gave Ariana a grateful smile when she plated him up some food, eagerly and slightly clumsily tucking in using just the one hand. Gary watched the laptop boot up dispassionately. Hah, give it some thought. As if he needed to. He was already bored to tears and Gary was sure Eddy would understand that frustration, even as he was now trying to handle cutting the meat with one hand.
When Ri stalled and looked at her phone, Gary watched on with keen interest. She walked out to take the call apparently, and Gary just refocussed.
"It's just been setback after setback," he complained to Eddy.
"Hmm," Eddy bought himself some more time as he chewed and swallowed a bite of food, "it's not all been setbacks, has it? I mean..." he nodded at Ariana's missing presence and wiggled his eyebrows.
Gary smiled softly and averted his gaze, toyed some with the laptop's keyboard.
"It's not that simple," Gary admitted.
Eddy watched Gary, but didn't ask and Gary chose not to delve into details.
Ariana didn't stay gone for very long. Gary was only just glaring at the screen, trying to set the brightness to a more acceptable level when she announced herself.
"Malachi... I-" Gary let out some air, then shrugged.
"Why not," he figured. If he was good enough to sit behind a laptop and write an article, then why wouldn't the both of them be able to baby-sit for a few hours? Eddy gave him a look that said 'oh-boy' and quietly polished off his plate.
"Really lovely, Ariana," he thanked Ariana for the food. Eddy washed the lot down with the juice and got up.
"You better get your rest, Jenkins," Eddy warned. He wanted to say more, but didn't. Gary lifted his face up to look at Eddy when the pregnant silence lingered.
"I will," he said at last. "It's not as if I'm trying to run a marathon or something, is it now?"
"No, no I guess not," Eddy said with a smirk. There was a lot more of the Gary he knew as compared to the washed out person he'd seen admitted to the hospital the first time around. He was glad that the accident hadn't undone any of that. It'd been frightening to see his mate so helpless.
He clapped a hand to Gary's back, "I'll see myself out. Take care," and then to Ariana, "both of you."
As soon as he heard the door, Gary found the throttle on the brightness and toned it down. With a defeated sigh, Gary pulled the laptop's screen to the keyboard and shut it. He brushed his hair back, leaning heavily on the table by now. His leg hurt from sitting up like this. It'd be better if he stretched it out.
"I don't know if I'll be any help tomorrow," Gary confessed to Ariana. He felt washed out, worn down from fighting the infection and nowhere near fully recovered, no matter how much he wanted to be. They were right to demand regular visits to the hospital to keep check on him.
Gentle fingers dared to play with the strands of Gary’s head as he rested against her and she didn’t open her eyes. She felt oddly content which didn’t seem to makes sense after her earlier miniature breakdown. Perhaps a good meal finally settling inside her and Gary’s close proximity was enough to ward off whatever lingered on her subconscious. Her eyes snapped open at the doorbell and she looked to the time. As Gary waded towards the door, she gathered up the dishes and cleaned up, eyeing Eddy when he came in and smiling at him. She listened to the conversation the two had and saw Eddy sniffing around the food as she played him up some. Company for Gary would be good, as much as it pained her to admit her own nagging and worries weren’t resonating with him much these days so maybe friendly company would be better. She handed the plate to Eddy as she finished washing up and set the dishes away from her and Gary’s meal.
Ariana knew better than to get involved when it came to Gary and his work colleagues so instead she gave the place a quick tidy up, glancing over as Eddy raised his concerns, perhaps in a gentler way than Ariana had herself. She didn’t breathe a word and kept her looks to herself because a huge part of her wanted to point out ‘I told you so’ but another part didn’t want her husband to have an excuse to bury himself in work to avoid her. Socialising was a strange thing but she was glad Eddy didn’t seem to be walking on eggshells around them at least. She could only imagine what drunken stories Gary had told his friends at the pub about his nagging and depressed wife. Perhaps it was about time she started acting like a wife and supporting him rather than chastising him whenever the opportunity arose. She gave a small smile towards them both as she fixed herself some juice and set two glasses down for the men.
Both of them looked war torn, a broken leg and a broken arm between them. Ariana glanced to Eddy,
“S’alright. I’ll keep a watchful eye.” She said, almost in humour but with an air of seriousness about her. Gary did still need rest but she was sure his body would tell him what his limitations were and that he would listen, but that was probably wishful thinking. Ariana felt her phone buzzing from somewhere and she rummaged around in her pockets and eyed the caller ID. Lisa. She looked to the two others with an apologetic glance before retreating upstairs to take the call.
“Hey, what’s up?”
Lisa sounded stressed, which was never a good thing because if Ariana was bad with stress then her sister was so much worse.
“Ari!” Lisa sounded relieved.
“I’ve been called into work tomorrow, some sort of emergency and I know you’re working from home and Gary is well uh- You know. But Mike can’t get outta work either and I’m not asking mum and dad but could you watch Mal tomorrow? Just for the morning?” Lisa was hesitant and Ariana knew why. They didn’t have anything on tomorrow but she did want to ask Gary first.
“Uhh no it’s no big deal. But let me ask Gary first, okay? I’ll text you later on.” Ariana replied and sighed as she heard Lisa gush her thanks and hang up.
She slipped back downstairs and rubbed her eyes. Perhaps having a toddler traps around would be a good distraction for them both. Or be a dull reminder of what could have been, or perhaps what could come to be. She looked to Gary when she came down and eyed the laptop screen as she took a drink from her glass.
“Lisa was wondering if we could watch Malachi tomorrow morning for her? Work emergency or something.”
"Yeah, Eddy," Gary said as he installed himself at on the couch. For the first time in a while, the scent of food was actually enticing. After having gone on half portions at best the past few days, the sensation of having an appetite was actually somewhat refreshing. Ariana dished up their plates and soon sat down with him. Gary was surprised when Ri actually ate her food, rather than pick at it endlessly. Especially after having found her in tears back at the baby-room.
"I've never seen Eddy skip a meal before," he said with a snort and started to tuck into his own food a little slower than usual. "I'm sure he'll take you up on the offer."
Gary was still finishing up his food when Ariana leaned back, a clean plate in front of her. He smiled at Ariana.
"It is good," Gary said, leaving it in the middle whether he meant the food, Ri's appetite or her actually dealing with some of the emotions that had cropped up with everything that'd happened.
When Ri closed her eyes and rested her head back, Gary took the opportunity to get a good look at her. There was some more colour on her cheeks, her eyes looked a little less sunken. Maybe though, he was imagining things and this was all wishful thinking. Gary turned back to his plate to reflect on those thoughts and sighed out.
He struggled to clear the last bit on his plate and Gary figured it wasn't worth it. He was tired, aching and still dealing with the aftermath of the hospital and everything that entailed. In the end, he put the leftovers down and rested close to Ri, head against her shoulder. He wanted nothing more than to sleep and wake up healed and rested. Unfortunately, that wasn't the way things worked.
A ring of the doorbell had him shoot back up with a sharp intake of air.
"That's probably him," Gary started, blinking back to reality. He found his crutches and started the slow trek towards the door.
Eddy was there, a wide grin. He held up a new laptop-bag in his good arm, "look what I got!" The other arm was still tucked in a sling.
Eddy's eyes travelled to his leg and Gary winced.
"Yeah, yeah," he said when he caught Eddy's look of concern. Maybe he looked a little less healthy than he would've liked.
Eddy was a master at hiding it, and quickly recovered.
"Something smells good," the man said and slipped by Gary into the house.
Gary shut the door behind and followed at a slower pace.
Eddy tipped an invisible hat at Ariana, "m'am," he greeted.
The bag was deposited on the kitchen table and Gary sat down at it, fiddling with the bag.
Eddy gave Gary a funny look, "should you be doing that? I know Robert said you would but..."
"I look like shit?" Gary filled in the blanks with a raised eyebrow.
"I wouldn't go that far. Not exactly," Eddy said, but he didn't deny it, so Gary knew the guy meant it.
Gary got out the laptop, "how's your arm anyway?"
"In the way," Eddy said and sniffed around the food in the kitchen. "It's getting better. Cast can come off in a few weeks, they said," the man explained. "Boys asked after you. When you'll be back," Eddy joked.
A hesitant look was all Gary could spare Eddy. Going to the pub sounded fun and nice, but he could barely send a text, so that might be pushing things. Then again, he'd been reasonably alright at Lisa's party. Before he got the infection.
Gary switched on the laptop and waited for it to boot.
"All the regular stuff's already on there," Eddy said with a wave of his hand in the general direction of the laptop. He sat down at the table.
"I know what Robert said, but... you don't look well, Gary," Eddy said with a softer voice.
Gary gave the man a look and averted his eyes after a sluggish blink. "It's been a long day," he excused and leaned his arms on the table a bit.
Eddy seemed to hesitate. "I'm glad you're out of the hospital, Jenkins. I don't want to see you back in there. Robert's thing is on the desktop, just... give it some thought."
Gary’s embrace was welcome, no matter how awkward it was as she wrapped her arms around his shoulders, gently so he would topple with any added weight.
‘We’ll be alright…’ his words, no matter how much she subconsciously knew he couldn’t promise such a thing, were a comfort and she sighed out quietly. She felt his kiss and slid from him slightly, nodding with a smile at his words about dinner. She’d almost forgotten.
“Whoops.” She said as she helped him back downstairs, this time leaving the nursery door slightly open. There was no use in ignoring its presence any longer. Eventually it would be a place for new hope, and with any luck, new life.
She turned her attention to the oven as she eyed the chicken, sure enough it seemed she had caught it in a nick of time. She deftly balanced it with oven gloves on to set it on top of the oven and looked over to Gary.
“Who’s bringing the laptop? Eddy?” She asked him, conversationally and looked back to dinner. She figured her appetite was fleeting as ever but it did smell good. But there was no way the two of them would finish a whole chicken. She went about seasoning the potatoes and some vegetables, carrots and peas.
“Think they’ll want any?” She remarked and shrugged. Even in her prime she couldn’t have eaten half a chicken and vegetables. She figured anything left over Eddy could have if he wanted, or whoever turned up. And why not? Ariana figures it had been a long time since any socialising properly had happened with the two of them.
Ariana made neat work of carving some of the chicken with a little gravy and plating it up beside the potatoes and bright vegetables. She didn’t plate up too much, not wanting to overwhelm her own appetite as well as Gary’s. She knew antibiotics and treatment could be a real thorn in hungers side.
“There’s a lot left over, incase you’re hungry.” She murmured as she balanced two plates and set one down for Gary as she settled with her own. For once, she actually felt hungry as she cut some chicken and ate. It tasted divine to her, but mostly because her body did cry for some proper nourishment, and about time too!
It wasn’t exactly long until Ariana had cleaned her plate of food, looking rather satisfied as she leaned back and shifted some of her blonde hair out her face. She wasn’t sure if she could go for seconds right then but her meal had certainly filled a void she didn’t know she had in the first place. She glanced to Gary and gave a somewhat content smile,
“That was good.” She mumbled, a bit surprised at herself honestly but she figured pregnancy had a way of draining the body as well as rejuvenating it in some ways. Her eyes closed as she lay her head on the back of the couch, mulling things over. Today had been a weird day, that was for sure.
Sorry? Gary swallowed the lump in his throat at Ariana's words and when she repeated the sentiment, Gary looked away entirely. How could Ri be sorry? There was nothing to be sorry for. What had happened was misfortune, not anyone's fault. It could've happened to anyone, same with the car accident he'd been subject to only a few weeks ago. If it happened again, what would they do? Gary took a deep breath and shook his head slowly. He didn't know. Ri obviously didn't know either. It was heart-wrenching to even think about having to suffer through such an event again. Would they become numb to the grief then, when one intertwined with the other? Would bitterness be their part when they finally did manage to put a healthy child on this Earth?
Gary held Ariana's hand, feeling that if he let go she might become entirely untethered and lost. Ri got up, so he finally managed to look into her eyes and found something he couldn't quite read. Resignation, maybe some fight, but also a deep sorrow. A little bit of everything. And all of that was pushed back on account of the here and now.
"No one is to blame, Ri," Gary said, excusing any blame she had made part of herself. At times, when emotions had risen to an all-time high, they'd accused each other of no longer being part of one another's life. That they'd abandoned all hope of having a happy family and now he'd made some ill-timed drunken advances and Ri was pregnant. If anything, he was to blame for their current predicament.
His expression softened.
"I'm not leaving," Gary promised. He never had. Even when times had been rough and he'd rather spend his time at the pub, he hadn't thought about leaving Ariana behind. Never once. Gary freed his hand from hers and instead slung his arm across her shoulders. He pulled Ariana into an awkward hug, mindful of his crutches and where he put them. Still, Gary managed to have Ariana close and just breathed in her scent. So much could go wrong, yeah. But did they really have to spend all of their time worrying about it? Most of the things that could go wrong were outside of their control. There was no point to investing energy in something they couldn't control.
Gary wanted to say as much, but telling Ariana not to worry was the same as telling the sky not to rain.
"We'll be okay, Ri," Gary whispered soothingly.
The scent of dinner reached his nose now too. "... although I can't say the same for dinner," he said with a slight chuckle. Gary let go and kissed Ariana's cheek. Standing up was becoming a little uncomfortable. Gary searched Ariana's face, but the tears that she'd shed now seemed dried up, if only temporarily.
Gary found the other crutch and shifted his weight onto the crutches a little more. Physical therapy was certainly not something he was looking forward to.
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