"I think Eddy talks to my mom, must've called her when I didn't show up for work," Gary waved with a lazy hand. Having all his mates drop by was nice, if not a little overwhelming. Gary felt even further detached from it all and at the same time intimidated by what he would have to return to. At least they'd allowed Ariana to stay and Gary reached for her hand.
"Most definitely," he shattered her dreams with a wan smile. He still had to go through the other batch of antibiotics, after the results were in and judgment passed by the doctors. Gary reached up a little higher to cup Ri's cheek and brushed some hair to fall a little nicer around her face.
"I wish you could stay," Gary sighed out.
Now that he was feeling less like a wrung out towel hung to dry, Gary was eager to get out of the hospital and get on with things properly. A kiss to his cheek was all he got? Gary pouted and looked up at Ariana, reaching up to claim a better, deeper kiss. One that held a little more conviction. The motion jostled his leg and made the needle going into his leg shift awkwardly, though he didn't care right then. Actually, he was starting to feel the absence of pain-relief now, though it was a steady moaning his leg did, rather than fiery stabs of pain it had when they admitted him the other day.
"Will you visit tomorrow?" he asked softly, whispering in her ear. His steel blue eyes tried to judge whether Ariana should or whether he should just ask his parents to come pick him up and meet up at their place later on.
"I can ask my parents to pick me up... You don't have to," Gary started. He worried for Ariana. She should be focussing on the pregnancy, not on him and his stupid luck. Just as he was about to say she should take care of herself, rather than worry for him, a nurse peeked around the corner of the curtain.
"Visiting hours are over, Mr Jenkins," she warned her patient.
Gary looked at Ri and sighed out.
"I'll see you tomorrow?"
The nurse lingered. Gary stole a kiss regardless.
Once Ariana left however, the nurse pulled a cart into his little nook, upon which was the remainder of his treatment. The nurse's hands were quick and warm as she hooked the antibiotics up to the drip in his leg. Soon, the thin blanket covered everything nicely, obscuring things from sight. She adjusted the bed's position so he could rest better and offered him some pills.
"It'll help you have a more restful night if you're not in pain," she said with the wisdom of someone who'd seen it all. Gary reluctantly took the pain relief and then just flicked through the channels on the small television suspended above his bed. Focussing on the programmes had become easier, but he couldn't keep it up for an entire evening. Especially the pain relief made it difficult to focus on much of anything.
Or maybe it was the combination of the cold saline dripping into his legs and the unnatural warmth of the hospital that was his undoing. Either way Gary was asleep long before the evening program could start.
Ariana was enjoying the quiet but it was soon interrupted and she looked to Gary’s visitors. She recognised some of them, she figured the young thing was Jones, she did vaguely remember Gary explaining how they had broken the boy in on a night out. Poor thing. She smiled to them all the same, looking to the flowers and figuring they were a nice touch to his little ‘private’ space. Ariana had to admit it was really nice for them to stop by and she watched the exchanges. She looked to Robert, nodding in affirmation of Gary’s explanation. How exactly did they know so much? She supposed they were journalists after all, they had a way of knowing everything. There were no secrets amongst them though and she eyed the nurse when she came in. They all seemed like nice guys, Ariana figured she’d been fairly absent from Gary’s life the past year so it almost felt a touch awkward for her.
Evidently the men, no matter how charming, wouldn’t have any give with this stern nurse and Ariana glanced her over. What was the harm in a few extra visitors anyways? She didn’t make the rules she supposed and she nodded to them.
“Thank you for coming.” She said, watching them depart and she cast a look to Gary, laughing a little.
“You weren’t kidding, that Jones is young. Looks like a sweetheart though.” She pointed out and turned her gaze to the flowers and then to Gary.
“How exactly is it that journalists know everything?” She asked him. Gary being in hospital was fairly easy but her pregnancy was another thing entirely. It still felt weird to be telling people, like explaining it would cause some sort of curse and she would miscarry all over again. Still, she couldn’t deny it was nice to see Gary’s work colleagues and friends had stopped by to wish him well and see how he was doing.
Half of her was tempted to burrow into his side and hope and pray the nurses didn’t notice the timid wife tucked at Gary’s side, but that was just wishful thinking on her part but their house wasn’t the same without him.
“D’ya think they’d notice if I just stayed?” She complained quietly. Visiting hours wouldn’t last forever no matter how much she wanted it to, and given half a chance she would sleep in the plastic chair at Gary’s side but it wasn’t just them now, was it? They had a third member slowly growing to think about at this point. She couldn’t sacrifice her health, her sleep or her appetite any longer. And Gary needed her, a month worth of weekly visits was going to take its toll but if it stopped the infection then it was a blessing, not a curse. Ariana gave his hand a gentle, assuring squeeze and sighed out.
“I’m going to get kicked out by the stern nurse.” She murmured and leant down to kiss his cheek.
Her father? Gary raised an eyebrow at that news, but then dismissed the action of the older male as one of cowardice. Why not confront his wife head-on and say exactly what his stance was regarding her behaviour concerning their daughters instead? A backbone the man wouldn't have or grow any time soon, at the very least he seemed supportive of their child's arrival. More so than Ariana's mother.
"You'd think he'd grow a backbone," Gary said under his breath.
No one could get him out sooner than himself and Gary knew he'd have to be patient with himself and let his body mend. Patience had never been his strongest trait. It was good to know Ariana missed him as well, at the very least. Gary sighed out and rested back into the pillows, giving up on his struggle to get more comfortable. The needle just underneath the surface of his leg's skin was overly present, as were the scents of the hospital's disinfectant. Gary had naively assumed he'd get used to it, but each time a cleaner went by, the scent appeared renewed.
A smile played across his lips, "I love you too, Ri," he muttered in reply.
"Are we interrupting you two love-birds?" Robert started. Gary blinked and smirked, but didn't let go of Ariana's hand. He wanted her close no matter what and the arrival of some of his colleagues wasn't going to change anything about that.
Eddy gave a sorry wave with his good hand and even Jones was there. Behind them were Ray and Dan, arguing with the medical personnel about the maximum amount of visitors a single patient was allowed.
"How did you find out?" Gary started, narrowing his eyes at Robert.
He waved at Eddy. "The man has some contacts, what can we say?" They were journalists, after all.
Eddy shrugged, "when you didn't show up and no one answered your phone, I got curious," he said and rubbed the back of his head. He could've also called Ariana, but he didn't want to disturb anything and this was just as easy.
"Aren't they supposed to not give out any patient information?" Gary said with a suspicious look at Eddy.
"Never mind that," Robert swept away the finer details of how they'd gathered their intel and took a seat on the chair. Jones put down some flowers on the bed-side table.
Dan came in to the privacy of the curtain and smirked. "They got you on the good stuff? You look pale mate," he said, all honesty and nothing else.
Ray nudged Dan and shoved him to the side, "never mind him, how're you doing?"
"I was doing alright until it got infected," Gary explained and both Ray, Eddy and Dan winced at the news.
"I heard you got some more news too," Robert said, a big grin on his face. Gary looked up at Ariana and smiled at her, a broad, knowing smile.
"Yeah, a little over three months now," he said without bothering to deny or omit any details.
"You sly dog," Dan said and clapped Eddy on the back, whispered something into the man's ear and he sneaked off. Probably to keep his contact nice and warm for the next time they needed information on his physical well-being. Gary took a deep breath and shrugged, "I was planning to go, I swear, Rob."
"What am I going to do with you, eh?" he said, gesturing at the whole circus.
Another nurse came in now, the head-nurse. Gary recognized her stern look.
"Only three visitors per patient, can you not read the signs?" she started and crossed her arms. Jones looked self-conscious, Dan and Ray looked away. Robert huffed and stood. "Alright, alright," he said and gathered himself, gesturing to the others to make off.
"You're going to call me when you're out," Robert said as he pointed at Gary. Gary gave a half-hearted salute. "Yes, boss."
"Enjoy the flowers," the older man said and with his departure there was some calm returning.
Eddy patted his shoulder, "get well soon, mate."
Gary looked brighter, more awake at least and that was a relief in itself to Ariana as she got as comfortable by Gary's side on the bed. Did something happen? She shrugged a little and just gave a sort of awkward, half smile.
"My dad and me went for coffee. It was like something out of a secret agent film." She said with a roll of her eyes, because they were both too old for this sneaking around for fear of ruining her mothers precious fantasy world she had built up. Her eyes trailed over Gary as he spoke and she could tell he was frustrated. And she did understand it, casting a small smile at his remark about lining them up. Her next appointment wasn't for a short while so for now she just had to worry about Gary and his condition.
She shifted her hand to flick some of his hair from his face.
"You'll be alright. I know you." Day by day he was returning to her, the Gary she knew, the Gary she married. It seemed he had become a stranger for such a long time, estranged from her in events that had transpired between them. Neither of them had been innocent but it was becoming easier to stop placing blame. It was becoming easier to be brave for the other one's sake. The journey had started and she wasn't sure where it would finish, she just silently hoped it ended with the two of them and a child. And if that wasn't possible, then let the ending be inclusive of them both healthy and somewhat happy.
"It's always hard sleeping without you in the bed." She mused, having become accustomed to his body beside her, his warmth and the very scent of him. It was strange how that had never gone away, the missing him part. Now though, she looked upon him with no judgement, just concern and kindness. Perhaps with all of this going on, something had been awoken, an ability to finally see what was before her eyes, what she still had and what she risked losing if something terrible had.
"I love you." Her words fell from her lips with some sort of realisation that she didn't care what happened, her past would not be forgotten, but embraced because it had shaped them and she had forgotten so often that Gary had lost a child too that day. And this second chance would not be wasted, or so she hoped.
No sooner than the scraps of lunch were taken from the plastic pull-up table, which was subsequently stowed away again, did Ariana arrive. Gary was awake this time, more so than he had been that morning. Actually, seeing Ariana that morning seemed naught but a faint memory. Her smile seemed brittle. Gary tried to deduce whether that was because he was stuck in this place for another night or something else. It seemed selfishness to attribute such a heavy emotion to his circumstances.
"Hey," he greeted her with a small curve of his lips.
"Yeah. Another round of antibiotics too, if the blood-tests pan out," Gary explained. He didn't know how much they'd told Ri, but as his medical proxy, she should know most everything they were doing to him.
People came filtering in, but through the half-drawn curtains, Gary wasn't too bothered. At least this time he wasn't too fevered or exhausted to take note of how things were going around here. Visitors came for about an hour in the mornings, afternoon and evenings, depending on the patient's condition. Nurses peeked in every half hour unless called upon sooner than that. Meals were supplied regularly.
In short; there was hardly a moment of privacy.
Gary still found it miraculous that he'd all but slept through everything.
"You look tired, Ri," Gary noted, patting the side of the bed. At least for now, they ought to use this brief reprieve to its advantage. He'd missed her presence, missed her touch. Worries about the baby and Ariana's health encompassed his thoughts whenever he had a moment to spare. She not only looked tired, but also downtrodden.
"Did something happen?" Gary's cool blue eyes scanned Ariana's face with more clarity than they'd mustered before New Years. It was obvious the antibiotics were doing their intended job and helped Gary beat down the infection. He hoped it was for good. At least his appetite was back by some measure.
"I'll be out come tomorrow, I'm sure," he soothed her obvious worries.
"You don't have to worry, they take good care of me here."
But it wasn't quite that, was it? Gary was keen, more keen than he had been. Whatever headaches he'd suffered before were almost down to nothing as well, which led to believe him they'd been symptom of the infection more so than the lingering concussion. With each passing hour, he was getting back to his old usual self more and more. Now if only he could get rid of the cast around his leg, it'd be perfect.
"I can't wait to get out of here," Gary said and shifted, conscious of the tubes and needles stuck into his leg. He wasn't looking forward to having more cold fluids run into there either.
"Doctor says I have to come back every week for at least a month." Gary snorted, "maybe we should line those appointments up with yours."
“A boy.” Ariana said to him quietly. Then again, it wasn’t as if she would be picky, whatever gender this child came to be, she would love them fiercely no matter what. It still felt so strange to her that she didn’t feel excited to be a mother. Perhaps closer to the time when they were assure that their baby would come into this world alive, maybe then she would feel excited but for now it was mostly worrying and a whole host of ‘what ifs’. In time, Gary drifted off to somewhere Ariana couldn’t follow and she watched him for a few quiet moments before a few looks from the nurses told her it was time to leave. She did stop off and enquire about what was happening. The news wasn’t exactly good but it wasn’t the worst news she had received either.
Her cell phone buzzed the minute she got into a signal area outside the hospital and she fumbled around. A text from her father. He wanted to meet her, get lunch and catch up. Well, that was probably not the best idea but Ariana did know she had to eat. She text him back and he soon enough gave her a location, a neat little café not too far from here. She sighed and wondered what new Hell she had gotten herself into now as she found the car and bundled in. Her father was waiting by the window, nervously fidgeting when Ariana pulled up and she almost felt sorry for him. Almost.
She stepped inside the café and smiled a little to him. He fumbled up out of his chair and wrapped his arms around her.
“You look well.” Thomas said to his daughter as he looked her over and offered her a seat.
“I got us some tea and soup with a sandwich.” He explained and hoped that was alright with her and Ariana offered no objection. There was a long pause, awkward almost as the two sat in silence.
“Your mother is busy. She would have loved to come.” Thomas tried.
“I’m sure she would have loved to know that the heathen baby I’m carrying is doing fine.” Ariana replies as she shot her father a look for lying to her, taking a drink of tea.
“Ah. Yes, of course. But it’s good the baby is doing well. Do you know the gender? Have you discussed names?” Thomas was being conversational and it felt wrong.
“Gary looking after you?” The last part stung slightly because everyone kept asking that and seemed to forget her husband had a few issues of his own.
“Gary’s in hospital. He has an infection. He gets out tomorrow.” Ariana murmured and cut off as their lunch arrived. It was surprisingly good and she eyed her father. A secret meeting, perhaps she should start calling him James Bond.
“Everything’s fine.” She soothed his guilty conscience, as she always had.
Thomas beamed at her.
“I’m glad! Really I am! Oh- I know it isn’t much and I didn’t know the gender. Well, no one does yet.” He said as he dug under the table by his feet and pushed a small package towards her. Inside was a small hamper, complete with little grey bear and some newborn essentials. Ariana looked to her father and said her thanks.
“I’m trying, Ari.” Thomas said to her gently, his own guilt riddled in his eyes. Ariana wasn’t sure how to respond so she just nodded with a weak smile.
The pleasantries has an expiry date and Ariana didn’t want another argument weighing on her as she shifted to take her leave, a garbled explanation of wanting to head and see Gary once more. They embraced and she left.
The hospital was more welcome than the cafeteria, that was for sure as she scurried along, now more familiar with her route as she stepped into the ward and smiled a bit to Gary.
“Hey, the nurses filled me in. Here for another night.” She commented as she sat down in her usual perch and eyed him over. At least the treatment was working, that was the important thing amidst all this.
A hand slipped into his, soft and warm. Gary gave Ariana's fingers a gentle squeeze, then watched her with unfocussed eyes, heavy eyelids threatening to undo what he was fighting for.
"I'm tired," Gary confessed, trying to wake himself up a little.
"Leave it to my parents..." he said with a shake of his head. Of course they'd be excited about having a grandchild, especially after having the first promise so rudely taken away from them. Sometimes it was hard to take into account that the death of their child had impacted a lot more people than just them as a couple.
"Are you hoping for a girl?" Gary asked softly. Maybe, maybe if they allowed themselves to dream, it would become reality. Dream about a baby boy or girl, about the baby's name and what colours to paint their room in. The thought of the baby-room made Gary pause for a second. Ri had been hung up on that for a long time, reminiscing and afraid to move on without their child there.
Gary lifted her hand and pressed a gentle kiss to the back of it. One day they ought to allow dreams to infiltrate their dark lives and brighten it up for the both of them. He closed his eyes again, the promise of sleep growing stronger with each passing second until he could no longer ignore the pull. Without meaning to, Gary dozed off again, fingers still loosely wrapped around Ariana's. He dreamt about their future, about holding a child, about Ariana in a hospital bed and the baby wailing for its mother, who was unable to wake up and hear their cries.
When Gary woke next, a nurse was taking his temperature, closely monitored by Doctor Sterling. Gary felt a little more rested, but still fairly meek. Some of what had blocked any reasonable thought had gone though, so either he was due for more painkillers or they were neglecting them on account of there no longer being a need for them.
"Ah, good afternoon, Mr Jenkins," Sterling greeted his patient.
Afternoon? Gary glanced out the window, then at his hand. Empty. The nurse obscured his view by taking his blood-pressure next.
"You've responded reasonably well to the antibiotics," the doctor mumbled, reviewing the blood values from the chart.
"Please make a fist," the nurse instructed and Gary did as she asked.
"We'll take a measure of blood to verify and you'll receive another round if everything checks out, before we can let you go," Sterling informed him. "If everything goes well, that would be tomorrow afternoon."
A needle pierced his arm. The nurse took his blood easily, and Gary just watched her perform the mundane task.
"Do you have any questions, Gary?"
Gary looked up at the doctor and sighed deeply. "Is this going to be all?"
"No, unfortunately not," the doctor corrected Gary's assumptions. "We'll be seeing you every week for at least a month to give you the treatment and monitor your condition more closely."
Gary gave a slow nod, letting the information sink in.
"Right," he agreed at long last.
"You look tired still. Would you like something to eat for lunch?" the nurse asked him and Gary deliberated on his appetite.
After a moment's thought he nodded, "yeah. Yeah, I could eat."
The doctor smiled.
"If there are no more questions? For now, it's important you rest and allow your body to fight off the infection properly," Sterling instructed. "The antibiotics will help, but you need to pace yourself."
"Yeah, I'm very good at that," Gary said sarcastically.
Doctor Sterling gave the man a smile and nodded.
"I'll come see you tomorrow before you're discharged," he promised and off the man went.
Stuck for another day. Great.
Ariana let her eyes trail to Gary’s, finding them heavy with sleep. She smiled a little to him,
“Hey.” She replied quietly and shook her head when he mentioned waking him up. But she didn’t know if he was getting out today, certainly no one had said anything to her.
“The nurses will do their rounds soon, then we’ll know.” She assured him quietly. Gary really wasn’t a good patient but she could understand his frustration. He could lay in bed at home and rest just as well, but then again Ariana didn’t have a ready supply of antibiotics and miracle cures to help him out.
He was feeling better, that was good but also easily said when he was laid up in hospital.
“It’ll be alright, just a minor set back.” She comforted him. He’d be home in no time, she was sure of it. And this time she would make sure he rested properly. No parties, no moving around unless it was vital. Ariana could manage some appointments herself, if it meant Gary testing and not ending up in here again.
Ariana watched her husband as he shifted and relaxed. There was more colour to him, but she knew that could be deceiving. She hated seeing him like this, it turned her stomach to think of him being holed up in here, even if it was for the right sort of help he needed. He was always the one doing the looking after when it came to their relationship it seemed. Especially the past year when things had been bad. Ariana would of course look after him, not because it was a repayment of a debt but because she wanted him back to his healed and normal self.
“You look better. You’re not feverish and blotchy.” She pointed out with a quiet smile playing on her lips. She reached out and took his hand, if he did slip under the control of sleep then he would know she was still there as she ran her thumb over the back of his hand gently.
“Your parents were great. Lovely as always. They’re excited about the baby.” She murmured, keeping her voice quiet because they weren’t the only ones on the ward after all.
“I think your dad is excited to find out if he’s having a granddaughter or grandson.” For now she would be hopeful, optimistic and bright, anything that might keep Gary’s spirits up in this place. It wasn’t much but it was the best she could do right then. And why not be a little hopeful for the future? They couldn’t ignore the fact she was carrying a child after all.
Chatter woke him up. Visiting hour? Gary groaned softly and tried to huddle a little deeper into the blankets. At long last, he opened a careful eye, casting a bleary gaze onto the waking world. Or perhaps he hadn't quite awoken yet. Before him sat the most remarkable creature, haloed by a curly mane of blonde hair, clear, bright eyes meeting his sleepy gaze. After a moment's thought, which sparked the ghost of a headache, some memories slotted into place. Gary shifted and carefully moved to rest on his back, rather than his side. His leg was a little less than cooperative, but not as sensitive as when he was admitted either. Meek hands fumbled for the controls and propped up the head of the bed a little.
"Ri... Good morning," Gary mumbled drowsily. They still had him on painkillers, that much was apparent and though Gary himself barely noticed the difference he was also not quite himself. A daze followed him at each thought, motion or act. People filtered into the room. Some brought balloons, cards or flowers. Others just sat in relative peace, carefully judging whether their loved one was recovering as speedily as they'd hoped. Ariana was definitely among the latter group and Gary didn't envy her. It reminded him of the time when their roles had been reversed and Ariana in need of medical attention.
"You should've woke me up," he said softly. Despite having said that, his eyelids were still very much compelling him to simply surrender his waking plight in exchange for that of a darker, more obscure, nature. Gary didn't have any desire to give in.
"When are they letting me out?" Gary started instead, trying to sit up a little straighter and failing. It was as if the hospital itself had sapped all of his strength, though Gary logically knew that it was a combination of poor eating habits and infection that was doing him in, more than anything else.
"Wasn't it for just a day?"
He lifted his hand and brushed some of his hair back. Somewhere along the lines they'd put him in different clothes and Gary almost felt embarrassed that he didn't remember any of it happening. All he wanted now, was to cuddle up to Ariana in his own bed and hold her tight, all with the vain hope that such behaviour might thwart another miscarriage. His eyes ventured to Ariana's stomach, but her clothes hid well what was growing underneath still.
"I'm feeling a lot better," he tried, though such claims were easily made whilst he was simply resting in bed. Walking, or moving for that matter, was a different scenario entirely and one his body wasn't keen to execute at the moment.
A yawn threatened to undo his claim and Gary failed to stifle it. Rather, he rubbed the moisture from the corners of his eyes and surrendered to the pillows once more. Whatever they had him on and whatever they had put him through last night had exhausted him. When keeping his eyes open became too much of a chore, Gary promised himself it'd only be for a few seconds and was met with a dozen or so occurrences where that plan had fallen through as well. He'd been pretty bad with that as of late.
Ariana dined with them, felt comforted by their words and Gary’s parents were exactly as parents should be. They coaxed a smile from her and Hannah’s expertise at distracting Ariana meant she ate more as a result of not being so focused on what was on her plate. Her mind was taken off Gary in the hospital if only briefly and she fully expected to be going home but it seemed Graham and Hannah were more than clued onto things. Ariana nodded to them a little as she listens to the wet splotches against the window as she was left in the bedroom and she looked around. At least it didn’t feel like she was actually missing anything because this wasn’t their room. Her eyes flickered around and she took a moment as she sank into the bed, discarding her jeans and tucking her legs up.
In the quiet it was easy to think, and it was easy to worry. Ariana shifted to her side and closed her eyes, wanting to rest properly but it was difficult. Her husband was laid up in hospital, infection running through him and she was pregnant with a child that may or may not come to be. Her hand slipped to her stomach as if she could simply will this child to grow within her healthily. It was then she realised something; she didn’t care what happened to her. And not in the self pitying sort of way. She was a wife and a mother to an unborn infant, and Gary needed her to be strong as did the growing foetus within her. She shifted a little and settled under the blankets, fingers toying with the empty space beside her for a while before sleep claimed her far quicker than she expected. But it was not dreamless. Baby cries filtered through and Ariana stood on the tiled floor, white. A hospital? She looked down at herself and she wasn’t pregnant. Around the corner came Gary, mangled leg dragging behind him with a blanketed bundle cradled in his arms. Ariana stares at him in silence. She could smell the alcohol from him. He looked angry, frustrated even and his eyes were cold.
Ariana sat up and blinked around the unfamiliar room as she got up, freshening herself up and changing back into her clothes. She fixed her hair up and stepped out the room, heart still a little worked up after the nightmare but within minutes she had forgotten the exact details. She swallowed a little and joined Hannah and Graham for breakfast, this time her appetite truly did wane but she forced herself to eat. Gary was easily argued, his parents not so much. Of course she was full of thanks to his parents, and she felt they had done more for her than just shelter her for the night. She was nervous to see Gary because what if it was worse? She was quiet for most of the morning, thoughts plagued her more than she wanted to admit but a lazy smile in place to safe guard against any tough questions. The hospital was as welcome a sight as a joke in the head as she wandered the corridors.
Ariana eyed the ward and checked the time to make sure she wouldn’t get kicked out for being too early. She slipped by Gary’s bedside and sank into a chair, eyeing the ward before deciding to draw the curtains a little more. She stayed quiet because sleep was probably Gary’s number one priority right then and she could be here for him but she wouldn’t disturb him. Tendrils of blond hair framed her face in a halo as she looked over her husbands sleeping face. When had she last simply taken in his image? He looked fragile, young almost. Still attractive, it had always been those soul piercing steel eyes that captured her and had been a dead giveaway to whatever Gary felt most of the time. But they coaxed her to get lost so often and she obliged every time.
"Oh, that's precious," Hannah said softly as she looked at the small black and grey photo. On it, she could see the clear outlines of a young baby.
"Just look at this, Graham," she motioned for her husband to take a look.
The older man took the photo, put on his reading glasses and squinted.
"Hmm," he managed, not impressed by this particular technology. It was all just blotches and shapes to him.
"At least he was there then," Graham said approvingly, and returned the picture.
Hannah took the picture back and looked at it with a smile. Even this small, she was already looking forward to meeting her grand-child.
"Well, water melon isn't exactly going to put on the pounds, is it now?" she said approvingly, then looked at Ariana. Actually, the young woman could use a little meat on her bones, if anything. She was sure that even if Ariana's cravings would involve cream, it would still be alright in the end.
"Oh, nonsense," the older woman said, returning the picture.
"If feet need to be rubbed, they will be rubbed," Hannah said weightily, as if possessing all the knowledge in the world. "There's nothing wrong with his hands, is there now," she joked, though minutes ago she'd been just as worried as Ariana for Gary's well-being.
Dinner was elaborate and in ample quantity. Hannah made sure to distract the both of them with talk of Gary's past, how she'd experienced being a mother herself and all the fears and joys that entailed. Gary's accident had brought close their mortality, though he wasn't to blame.
"Graham can drive you to the hospital in the morning, sweet-heart," Hannah offered up their guest bedroom. "I'm sure Gary will want to see you," she said. The weather outside was poor, raining lashing against the window. Or perhaps it was wet snow, it was hard to tell in the utter darkness. Hannah didn't like her husband driving this late, nor Ariana. Surely the morning would bring greater clarity.
Gary opened his eyes slowly, trying to make sense of what he saw and heard. The shuffle of feet on linoleum flooring could be heard, chatter on the other side of the room. Unlike yesterday, the curtains had been drawn. Some of the other patients were watching television. Breakfast was being served, evidently.
"Good morning, mister Jenkins," the nurse greeted him.
He was having trouble keeping his eyes open. It'd been a ridiculously long night, filled with feverish and drug-induced dreams, blanket-fights he lost on several occasions and caring, warm hands trying to sort him out. In the end those hands had been successful, because Gary felt better, though drained.
He was surprised when the scent of hot tea and toast ignited a spark of interest in his gut.
"'morning," Gary managed, fumbling about for the controls. The nurse was quicker and helped him elevate the head of the bed. He smiled at her, grateful for the assistance where he might otherwise be frustrated. They'd taken the lines away last night somewhere, apparently. Did that mean he was done with the first round of antibiotics?
Eating was a sluggish ordeal and Gary surrendered halfway in favour of closing his eyes. Sleep happened without meaning to; a restful sleep this time around. When the bed was lowered, Gary shifted to rest on his side, back to the ward, and slept hard. This time, all that greeted him was the darkness of a healing sleep.
Ariana was grateful that Gary’s parents were so talkative. She watched them and nodded along. The warmth of their home was a welcome one as she stepped inside and surrendered herself to sitting and she looked to Hannah.
“I have the photograph, actually. Somewhere.” Nimble fingers dug around in the bag she had as she pulled out the grey image and handed it to Hannah.
“Everything’s fine. Well, for now.” She said because she didn’t want to tempt fate and say everything was fine and would be plain sailing. Life proved otherwise. She ran her fingers over the wedding ring on her finger and briefly thought back to Gary, in the hospital bed by himself. She swallowed and looked to Hannah, a small smile on her features as she drowned out any lingering emotions as best she could.
“And Gary was there. I think it was all a bit... it was a lot. We expected the worst I think, after last time.” Perhaps she had been too wrapped up in herself and worrying about the baby and the pregnancy to think of Gary and his injuries. Ariana knew full well that she often regarded Gary as indestructible when he was just a man of flesh and blood like any other.
“I’m just taking it day by day. I think we both are.” Ariana explained away and she realised she was probably rambling. Symptoms? She pondered for a while as her mind caught up.
“Watermelon. I’ve been awful with it, eating it whenever I can. No sickness yet and I don’t think Gary is in any state to rub my feet.” She added with a small laugh. He was the one in need of looking after, was he not?
Ariana helped out Gary’s parents where she could. She was grateful to keep busy rather than rattling around in her and Gary’s home by herself. Even going to bed without him, despite him often being gone with nights out as of late, it was haunting when he was in hospital. Ariana went along with whatever was needed of her, making sure to thank them for their sweet hospitality and the efforts they were going to. It was rare times like this that she thought about contacting her own parents, perhaps letting them know everything was going okay but she knew better at this stage. It would only serve for hurt feelings and disappointment.
Perhaps she would ask for her father to meet her somewhere, a little cloak and dagger but he had a right to know. And she wanted him to know that regardless of her mother’s sharp tongue, things her going alright with the pregnancy. Of course she would explain about Gary, and even though he was incapacitated, he was doing his best.
A kiss was pressed against his forehead, but this time it was more sensual than a mother's comfort.
"Me too," Gary sighed and tried to give Ariana an encouraging smile. His parents would make sure Ariana ate something and rested, rather than worry too much. Or at least she could share her worries with his mother.
He watched the soft expression on Ariana's face, as if trying to commit her to memory for the long night to come, taking care to indulge in her gentle affection. A thumb brushed by his cheek and then nurses came in to shoo everyone that wasn't staying the night out of the ward. Gary watched her go, then looked out the window. All he could see was the deepening of night and the distant horizon.
Food was brought around, but Gary didn't feel particularly hungry yet, despite feeling better. He tried his best, but didn't even make it halfway through the meal before his stomach threatened to revolt. Gary decided it was best to try and keep down what little he had eaten rather than risk being sick.
He must've fallen asleep after that, because next he knew, a nurse was helping him unconstrict from blankets, wires and other assorted items. His bleary gaze was met with a sorted smile.
"You've really gone and tangled yourself up, Mister Jenkins," she said softly, with respect for the other people on the ward.
His skin felt sticky now, but he felt less heated. A shiver shimmied through his limbs and the nurse was joined by another one, who effeciently locked off the first round of antibiotics and freed him from at least that one wire.
The first pried some of the soaked sheets from his form and they both worked to get him a little more comfortable again. And dry.
Gary wasn't even sure why the warm cloth across his chest wasn't reason for some embarrassment, but rather something he could only lean into and sigh out at. He was drained. Nothing untoward could possibly happen the way he felt now and the nurses used his utter listlessness to work quick and efficiently.
It would prove to be the start of a long night.
"Three months?" Graham asked, half a mind on the road and the other on the conversation inside the car.
Hannah slapped her husband.
"The baby, you idiot," she grumbled with a giggle. "Oh, Ariana, that's wonderful news," the older woman started with a smile.
"Please tell me Gary was there when you got the news," Hannah threatened to hurt her only son if he hadn't. She knew the relationship between the two had been tenuous after losing their first and Hannah had hoped they were strong enough to see their vows through.
"Did you have one of those scan-things?" Graham piped up from the front of the car. "They can see what's inside of you with those," he explained to his wife.
Hannah rolled her eyes when Graham wasn't looking.
"Did you?" she asked gently. "Oh gosh, three months. And you two haven't started on a babyroom at all yet, have you? Are you excited, dear?"
"Of course she is," Graham teased. "Boy or a girl?"
"Oh, they don't know that yet at three months, Graham," Hannah corrected her husband.
"Oh," he said demurely, and steered the car into their street.
"Have you been having any of the pregnancy symptoms yet, sweet-heart?" Hannah asked.
"She made me massage her feet every day for months," the elder Jenkins nodded and huffed. He parked the car and got out the keys, then opened the door for Ariana.
"Pregnant women first," he said with a broad smile.
"Oh, don't you mind him, dear," Hannah said as she walked towards the house and opened the door. "Come inside and we can sit and you can tell me all about it."
Ariana couldn’t protest, she didn’t get a chance and honestly the company wouldn’t go amiss for tonight. She looked to Hannah and Graham and finally nodded, smiling to them gratefully. They were a great comfort to her. She loved her sister, that was for sure but Lisa wasn’t exactly the comforting type. She always got awkward and wanted to joke around more than was appropriate. Sometimes it worked but most of the time it didn’t. She watched his parents leave to get the car and she exhaled. She didn’t want to be a complete burden on everyone and Ariana knew eventually she would need to be able to stand on her own two feet, even if Gary wasn’t there. She felt his lips press to her hand and smiled at him softly .
“I don’t think I am either.” She agreed and looked him over, properly for the first time since getting there. He did look better. There was more colour in his cheeks, he looked exhausted though but he did look better.
“I know. And I don’t have to worry about me, I think your parents will do enough of that for us.” She said with a small laugh.
“I love you too.” She said to him and leant down to press a kiss to his forehead.
“I’ll come back tomorrow, okay? I’m sorry you’re stuck here.” She said as she moved some of his hair from where it settled. She brushed her thumb over his cheek and if she could have stayed, then she would have. But it wasn’t an option.
Eventually though, and in no time at all, Ariana was being shooed off by some bustling nurses on the round and she looked to Gary, evidently that was her cue to leave. She gave his hand a gentle, reassuring squeeze before parting from him and heading down through the halls. She stepped outside and pulled her jacket around herself a little more as she looked to see Gary’s parents car parked out front. She hurried over and into the car.
“Sorry. I got chased off by the nurses.” She apologised with a grumble. It still didn’t make sense to her that she was chased off her own husband by nurses that didn’t know him. She was probably just upset that Gary was stuck in the hospital and she couldn’t help him, jealous of the nurses who could offer help and proper attention to his ailments where she couldn’t.
“We uh, we had the scan last week. It turns out I’m three months along.” Ariana spoke to fill quiet and keep things as normal as possible for everything that was going on right then. It was really difficult to think of anything as normal right then, everything just seemed flipped upside down. She had the scan photo, in her bag somewhere to remind her that this was all real. She knew Gary wasn’t going to die, she knew it wasn’t serious yet and the doctor had been very positive but that was his job, wasn’t it? Ariana turned her gaze out the window from where she sat, grateful for the cars warmth.
Ariana entered and Hannah's face softened as she saw the woman bring in Gary's things.
"Welcome back, dear," Hannah said and embraced the younger woman briefly, pouring as much motherly love in the physical contact as she could. Gary just smiled softly, watching from the outside in, it felt like.
"Slow down, Ri," Gary challenged her rushed summary of items.
Graham merely laughed and shook his head. "Think of the baby," Gary's father said in jest.
Gary gave his father a look and he might've tossed something at the older man's head, were it not everything was safely bolted down to prevent exactly that.
"Gary here was just telling us they put a permanent tap in his leg," Graham gestured at the sheets, making things sound more fun or grim than they actually were. Whichever was left up for the audience to decide.
"Graham," Hannah chastised the older man. He could get like this whenever he was worried. Unable to properly show the way that he cared and was concerned.
"Now don't listen to him, dear," she told Ariana.
Gary shrugged, "she was there when they put it in, dad," he said.
"Well, you two don't need us to hover," Graham decided at long last. "Let us know when you're discharged, son."
"Actually," Hannah stopped the progression. "Would you like to have supper over at ours, Ri?" Now that Gary was cooped up here again, she might enjoy some company. Lord knew that worry could make solitude into loneliness. "You can return first thing in the morning."
Graham chuckled, "knowing that kid of mine, he'll be lazing around anyway."
Gary shrugged and waved away any of Ariana's concerns.
"You should go," he said.
Visiting hours would be coming to an end soon and Gary did feel what his dad was saying; he'd be asleep for most of it, if they kept up this level of pain-medicine.
"We'll bring the car around front, dear," Hannah said and wouldn't allow for Ariana to protest otherwise.
Gary merely chuckled at the sight and beckoned Ariana closer. "Hey, I'm already feeling better. It's fine," he reassured. "Just focus on yourself for now." And the child. The words were left unspoken. Gary took Ariana's hand and placed a kiss on the back of it.
"I don't think you're getting out of that one," he indicated his mother's 'henning'. Things had moved so fast. Just that morning he'd been at home, 'celebrating the second day of the new year and now he was back in the hospital. Boredom already threatened with every second he was starting to feel better. Sure, he was tired, because battling the infection took it out of him, but other than that, he was fine. Surely, it was the painkillers talking. Something about pride and a fall.
"I love you, Ri," Gary said and gave her hand a squeeze.
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