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Milli watched Nathan in the dim light, she could only make out his outline so she wasn’t sure what he was thinking. Everything seemed like such a struggle for her right then and she figured if it kept up maybe she should see a doctor or someone just to make sure she was alright and healthy. She gave him a small smile and no matter how hard she tried, she tossed and turned most of the night. She eventually managed to grab a couple of hours, awoken by Evelyn who was babbling and she felt across the other side of the bed, sleepily. Nathan was gone.
For a split second a terrible thought crossed her mind, had he left her entirely? Milli had never woken in such a panic before as she got to her feet and went to see Evelyn, settling the girl as she had kicked off her blankets and she soon fell back asleep. She stepped downstairs, somewhat relieved to see Nathan was in his studio, the door closed. She sank into the couch, not bothered about breakfast as she flipped through some notes and general stuff for work.
She still felt awful about everything yesterday and she knew none of this was healthy. It was going to break them but Milli couldn’t shift the thoughts or the emotions that coursed through her like a mixture of ice and fire.
Nathan knew he couldn’t tell Milli that he was upset. Hate was a strong word and much too strong for what he was feeling at that moment toward Milli. He didn’t know how to properly express what he felt. Disappointment? Maybe. He didn’t know if there was a way to describe how he felt without making Milli feel like – well shit. He couldn’t look at her. What god would it do if he broke after staring into those eyes, knowing he couldn’t lie to her face.
“I don’t hate you,” Nathan finally said after quite some time and it was certainly the truth. He knew if he turned his back, Milli would find that as a sign and he also didn’t want to be away from her. What he was feeling would pass. Art wasn’t going to flee – there were plenty of opportunities. Milli though, this moment with her could have an effect on their future and the longevity of their marriage. “I can never hate you Milli. I’d rather give up on something I care about rather than on someone I love.”
He wanted Milli to allow herself time to heal, to maybe get back to who she used to be. He was at a loss as to just how much more he could help but had hope that this would be the best step. He wondered if maybe it would do her good to have a chat with Nadia, maybe something like a girl’s day. He’d have to ask for help himself.
“Let’s just sleep, please,” he suggested as he turned to cuddle her. He kissed Milli’s temple, burying his nose into the back of her head, closing his eyes tight and trying to will himself to sleep. He didn’t want to talk about it, knowing that it would only make him think too much into it and if he did, he’d have no filter. Nathan hadn’t fallen asleep, but he hoped it was the end of the conversation. Eventually he did manage to fall into a slumber, but not for long unfortunately. Nathan had gotten out of the bed then and headed down to the studio. He’d tried to be quiet in his moving the pieces into the tall corner closet.
He sat in front of the blank canvas then, using whatever free time he had in silence to let out his frustrations before everyone was to awake. He’d made sure to keep the studio door shut.
Milli watched Nathan and she sat for a while as he took Bradley upstairs. She got up and looked to Evelyn, heading into her room. She felt guilty, like she was stealing something away from Nathan that he loved. He loved what he did and she had stolen it from him. She settled Evelyn and stroked her cheek as the little one fell asleep. She checked in on Bradley before going to their room and changing, huddling in the warmth of the blankets.
She wanted to be strong, she wanted to be a woman who didn’t get self conscious about other women with her husband and it made her hate herself that she couldn’t be that woman. She stared at the ceiling as she heard Nathan in the shower before turning to face him as he got into bed, none the wiser to him smoking.
“Do you hate me?” She asked quietly, wanting him to be honest right then and not spare her feelings because she needed to know if she was wrong for feeling this way. She couldn’t straighten everything out in her head or her heart and she wasn’t sure if it made her a terrible person or not.
Nathan shook his head. “No Milli, it’s not worth it okay? I mean, I should be helping you out more and you’re filming again. It was stupid to take it on knowing how busy things are getting.” He finished his slice of pizza then, Evelyn cuddling against Nathan’s chest, her eyes partially closed and her thumb in her mouth. “I’ve already made my decision okay?” He gave her a small smile. Seeing how tired she was, made it easier for Nathan to make this decision. Did that mean he was happy? No. Would he tell Milli that? Of course not, he knew she could barely deal with the stress of work alone. He wasn’t going to make her feel like he’d given something up that couldn’t be matched. He’d have more chances like this.
“Why do you put Eve to bed and get some rest?” He suggested to Milli. “I’ll put Bradley to bed and out this away.” Nathan gave her a kiss on her forehead before kissing Eve who nuzzled Milli then. Nathan turned on his heel to gather Bradley, who already was dozing off in the chair, a slice of pizza still in his hand. Nathan chuckled and placed it on a plate and out of the way.
“C’mon bud. Time for bed,” he said. Nathan turned off the tv and lamp, following the sluggish Bradley to his room. He didn’t even stay up for Nathan to ask what he’d like to read. Smiling then, he kissed Bradley on the cheek and picked up Mr. Grey and placed him on the bed. Nathan closed the door then and headed to put the pizza away and any dishes. He sighed out then, heading to the back, finding his still nearly full pack of cigarettes behind the watering bucket. Nathan smoked then, laying his head back to clear his mind.
Milli said he didn’t have to wait and yet something told him that would be for the best. What if Milli saw him doing something innocent and interpreted the wrong way? Nathan didn’t even want to admit the worse, which was the possibility of him being an idiot and making the stupid mistake of making a pass at Saoirse. He would never though. Though, could he really know if not in that position. He’d never done anything so far though. Nathan tossed the bed in the trashcan and headed upstairs. He entered the bedroom silently, showering really quick to get rid of the smell of smoke, before finally changing into an old shirt and some shorts and climbing into bed.
Milli felt awful because she knew the situation she was putting him in and she wished she could have kept it bottled up within herself but she couldn’t ever be dishonest with him. His words surprised her and she stared at him for a while as he picked up Evelyn. That wasn’t what she wanted, but then, she didn’t know what she wanted either. She ran a hand through her hair, trying to smooth it back into place.
Her eyes watched him with their daughter.
“I don’t want that.” She said softly, “I just....” She cut herself off because she didn’t know what she was doing, this was horrific and she didn’t know where all of these emotions were coming from.
“I’m sorry.” She said softly to him, really lost at sea and feeling vulnerable. She felt like an idiot somehow and she decided pizza wasn’t a good idea, her appetite lost and somehow in her mind she associated beauty with being as thin as possible.
She looked to Nathan,
“Don’t give it up, I’ll figure it out and- I just want to go to bed.” Maybe she was tired, that’s what she told herself. She was tired, exhausted but she wouldn’t ever admit that she wouldn’t be able to sleep.
Nathan had placed Beverly on the floor, with a bottle to which she was doing well in holding her own, sometimes. Bradley however was nice enough to help. Nathan had returned to the table, looking down at his hand and Milli’s taking seat then. Only one slice gone, she wasn’t eating which he knew as a sign of her being upset. He leaned forward, grabbing those fidgety digits and capturing the between his hands. Nathan tried not to be angry. He wanted to remain open with her, as his wife and Milli shouldn’t have to hold her thoughts or feelings back. It was okay for her to speak up on anything she felt was bothering her. He admitted was a bit thrown off by her words. Nathan swallowed thickly then, his hands a bit limp then, growing a bit damp with discomfort.
He was quiet then, trying to figure out just what to say. There were two directions he could go, and Nathan couldn’t figure which one would be more selfish and who would be to blame. He could simply just not do the project. It was still in the early stages, he hadn’t taken any money and yeah – it would be a bit of a blow to his reputation and yeah, the company would have a shit time finding someone and expediting the work, but then Milli would be happy. It could be said that it was somewhat rude for him to flaunt this single and attractive woman in his home, while his wife struggled with her own feelings.
Nathan also knew that he could simply just paint at the studio in the city. That would, mean time away from Milli and the kids and that was something he wanted to avoid, wasn’t that what they were working toward since Milli was going back to work. Nathan had to make a decision. Was this contract that important? More important than being there for Bradley when he got home from school, or seeing a smile on Milli’s face? He’d not told Milli he was doing the contract in the first place.
“Then maybe it’s best I step out of the contract.” Nathan said. He tried his hardest to sound somewhat lighthearted, not wanting Milli to think it was such a big deal for him when it was. Nathan wasn’t used to feeling restricted, but he knew that wasn’t the place Milli was coming from and he couldn’t take her being upset. “I’ll just call Sharon, get it all sorted.” He said, distracting the slight tremor in his hand as he grabbed a slice of pizza. Evelyn had crawled over, wondering what was all the discussion she was missing. Nathan smiled down at her, glad for a distraction that would work, putting the pizza down to pick Eve up.
Milli looked to Nathan, opening her mouth to speak but Bradley appeared and she didn’t want him to overhear anything so she firmly closed her mouth again. She sighed softly and cleaned up, looking to the door as it was knocked on. She answered it and took the pizza she had ordered, setting the box on the tabletop, she gazed at the food and her stomach turned despite skipping lunch and having a small breakfast.
She looked up when Nathan came back down and she sighed out a little, catching his hand as he approached and she swallowed thickly as she settled Bradley with his pizza and put one of his favourite shows on. She sat at the table and fiddled with her fingers, awkwardly.
“It’s not.” She mumbled, in reply to his words earlier. It wasn’t fine.
Milli watched him and realised she didn’t seem to make much sense.
“Just earlier, the way you look at Saoirse and how you touched her- I know you wouldn’t but... I don’t want to see it.”
“It’s not fine Milli,” Nathan said to her with a sigh. She was trying to brush everything under the rug and pretend that there wasn’t a problem, but it was clear that something was still bugging her, and it was evident once she requested, he keep the door closed. He was confused then, thinking that if her problem lied with how she felt in comparison to Saoirse, then wouldn’t she want the door open; just to make sure her husband wasn’t another Derek? “Dad,” Bradley called. Nathan sighed.
“Not now son, please.” Nathan looked back to Milli then, almost pleading h=for her to be honest with him. “What is it?” he asked her. Bradley had run over them, tugging at his pants and looking at his parents.
“Evelyn needs to be changed,” he said making a face. Nathan didn’t want Milli to use this as an excuse or somehow break free of their conversation.
He didn’t give up, but turned on his heel to go gather Evelyn, hoping maybe confrontation would make it easier for Milli. He was trying not to be upset, trying to understand, but it was just more and more obvious that Milli was not happy when Saoirse was around. Was it fear he’d commit adultery, was it the nostalgia from a world that never accepted her fully, or was it self-consciousness? Milli looked great and he still had the same feelings for her when they first met, if not more intense now that she was his wife and mother of his kids.
Things had seemed to tame down. Had they lost the spark? Was that what was so wrong?
After cleaning up Evelyn, Nathan gave her a snack. He didn’t want to lash out, but he was angry they Milli wasn’t being honest with him.
“Huh?” Milli glanced up from where she had been daydreaming.
“Why? No, no. I’m fine, sorry.” She apologised and ran a hand through her hair. It wasn’t worth getting into everything again with him and it only served to have hurt feelings and guilty consciences. They had a lot to look forwards too and she didn’t want to spoil everything with her emotions running rampant and starting an argument.
“Could you-“ She sighed and tilted her head back for a moment so this wouldn’t sound as harsh as it did in her mind.
“Could you maybe keep the studio door closed? When you paint with Saoirse?” She knew nothing untoward was going on but it still stung to see how the two got along so well. Milli had been that girl once.
“It’s stupid, I know- It’s just....” She was failing miserably to get her point across in a subtle way. She looked to the kids and smiled a little.
“It’s fine. Sorry, I’m all over the place.” She said with a small smile as she set her phone aside, huffing a little at herself.
Nathan smiled at the sight of Milli and Evelyn. He placed Bradley down, stretching then as all that work bent over painting and now lugging around an eleven year old was really putting some stress on his body. Bradley didn’t seem to mind though and with his mother and sister coming down, he knew his time for a treat was coming. Eagerly he headed downstairs and toward the cookies, to which Milli allowed him one. Bradley pouted, but one was better than none. He grabbed one that he decorated with a bunch of squiggles. He ate the frosting off the cookie first, then the chips before finishing the rest.
Nathan had taken to playing with Evelyn while Milli ordered the pizza. Something was wrong and he wasn’t sur whether it was worth it or not to bring it up. Bradley and his daughter were both soon consumed by television, some animated movie playing on the screen. Nathan came to a stand then, heading to grab some water, but he paused near Milli. She wasn’t talking and she seemed – out of it.
“You okay?” He asked and he was nervous, trying not to make things so obvious as he asked. Nathan didn’t want her to take offense, but it was clear something wasn’t sitting right with Milli and he would hope that she would be willing to tell him what the problem was. Nathan couldn’t think or didn’t want to think that it was still such a big issue about him working with Saoirse. He thought they had moved pass that. “You want me pull out the deal Milli? I will.” He said, looking down at his hands. He twiddled his fingers together. He meant what he said.
Milli had placed Evelyn on the bed as she tidied up the upstairs, listening downstairs and she was keeping herself busy so her mind wouldn’t wander. She heard Bradley and Nathan come upstairs and smiled a little to them,
“We were just coming downstairs.” She assured as Evelyn giggled at the sight of her father and brother being goofy together. Milli scooped the girl up into her arms and kissed her cheek.
Milli went downstairs and closed Nathan’s studio door, his studio had become a sort of haunt more than anything and a stark reminder of the look he had given Saoirse and she couldn’t get it out of her mind. She took the cookies out of the fridge and smiled a bit, setting them on the table.
“Just one before dinner, okay? I’ll get us pizza.” She said as she flipped up the app on her phone.
Milli put an order in and it seemed like she just couldn’t stop. She didn’t want to sit and do nothing because then she would voice her concerns again and it would be made a big deal. She didn’t feel hungry, she didn’t want to eat either. Somehow she still felt unattractive and she knew the last thing she should be doing was eating cookies and pizza.
Working with Saoirse was a dream. She was young and full of such life. She definitely had a chance in this business, he knew. All she had to do was stay true to herself. Much like Milli had and look at her. She was basically a star now and while this was just a show, she was more than likely on her way to making movies he had a feeling. Nathan had taken a seat then, catching her perfectly and commencing painting. He kind of thought back to Milli then, when he had painted her and he would never tell her, but it was his lame and cowardice way of being able to just be with her for some amount of time without making her feel guilty for him being there.
They soon finished up and Nathan left Saoirse along to change back into her original clothing. Nathan walked out then. The cookies were cooling and hardening with their decorations from the skilled Milli and Bradley, on a platter on the table in the living room. Bradley was playing with his switch.
“Hey buddy, you had fun making cookies?” He asked Bradley nodded with a smile.
“She’s giving sissy a bath,” he said before turning his attention back to the game. Nathan nodded then. Saoirse had come out then, the items draped and packed carefully away in the bag she came with.
“I’ll get going,” she said then. “We can get back together on Monday?” She suggested. Nathan nodded and offered her a smile “That works perfectly. Drive safe alright?” It was the late afternoon then. Nathan was a bit tired, but Bradly was glad to have his attention and demanded a piggyback ride.
“Can I have a cookie?” He asked.
“Not yet my good sire, we must wait on our lovely ladies,” he said as he bounded toward the bedroom upstairs, Bradley referring to Nathan as a dinosaur and as smart as he was, starting to name them.
Milli busked herself with Bradley, carefully watching him as she guided him on how to make cookies. She giggled a little as she set them in the oven,
“Alright, when they’re all done and cooled, you can decorate them okay?” She said as she got him some juice and made Evelyn was alright as she cleaned up the kitchen. She set up some decorations and icing so Bradley could decorate the cookies when they were ready.
Milli glanced for the open door of Nathan’s studio, watching him adjust her hair and how he smiled and teased her. It stung but she was doing her best. She remembered the first time he had asked to paint her in a similar fashion, how he’d moved her hair and then kissed her for the first time. She looked away and figured it wasn’t worth torturing herself over as she took the cookies out of the oven, biting back the emotions in her, forcing herself to bury them deep down again.
“Here, Brad.” She ushered the boy over and let him go to work on decorating the cookies. She was happy to let him work not he decorations as she was careful to tidy up around him and save some of the mess.
“Into the fridge now, and we can have some later.” She said to him and kissed his cheek, glancing over to Nathan and Saiorse again but she did her best to push it away.
“I’m going to give Evelyn a bath okay?” She said to Bradley and kissed his cheek before heading upstairs.
She was grateful for the quiet of the bathroom as she carefully drew up a bath for Evelyn and washed her, her mind totally elsewhere. She dried the young girl off and wrapped her in some cosy pajamas before heading downstairs and setting her in the napper.
Nathan didn’t mean to come off as though he were upset or to guilt trip Milli. They had their talk and things were good. Milli had even told him herself that she was fine and to not overthink. He smiled and leaned over to give her a kiss. “I can always make time for us,” he said to her softly. That’s what they were working toward wasn’t it? Milli had her problems to work through, but so did he. He had to stop putting his work over everything else. Nathan offered Milli a smile. Bradley was eager to get into the kitchen. He smiled at Milli, rubbing his hand over his cheek fondly where she kissed him.
“Alright, I’m looking forward to those cookies,” he said. He went to prep his studio, before coming back to sit with Evelyn and play with her, keeping her occupied while she watched cartoons and Bradley and Milli baked. He thought about the day that Milli would soon have Evelyn in the kitchen helping.
There was soon a knock at the door and Nathan figured that Saoirse had arrived. He tried not to make such a big deal out of things as he let her into the home. She shed the coat she wore over a loose fitting dressed, layered with a thermal underneath.
“Sorry I’m late, still getting use to the area,” she said with a smile.
“No problem, we just finished breakfast. Do you need anything? Water, juice?” She shook her head. “I’m fine, I’m just so excited. Since we last met, I’ve had so many ideas.” Nathan was happy to hear that. They headed pass the kitchen, Saoirse waving and offering a hello.
Nathan was eager to paint, though some part of him felt bad for feeling a bit awkward still. Nevertheless, he and her got along well. He was finally able to finish the first piece and was working on the second. A sheer white gown draped over her; the bag made of a nice brown leather with a gold chain. Nathan had kept the door open, the smell of sweets soon coming in.
Nathan got up to adjust her positioning then. Fixing her hair. He stepped back and watched her. “Soon enough I’ll pay you for your patience with a cookie,” he teased.
Milli smiled a little as she started to set up for cookie making and she figured Evelyn could go for a bath after as she put on some nursery aged cartoons for her. She looked to Nathan when he mentioned the snow and nodded,
“Sure, sorry, I wasn’t sure if you had something planned tomorrow.” She realised she sounded evasive and sighed out softly as she turned to look at Nathan.
“Sorry, I’m fine, really. Just keeping busy.” She murmured and kissed his cheek softly.
She didn’t want him to think she was just avoiding this whole thing and she didn’t mean to come over that way.
“Me and Bradley will have some cookies ready for you, I’ll get us takeout tonight.” She said to him. Milli knew she still had a little weight left to lose before going back to filming but some pizza or Chinese wouldn’t hurt.
Milli got a stool for Bradley to stand on so he could help with cookies and she glanced up as the door was knocked on and she figured that was Saiorse. She looked to Nathan and gave him an assuring smile that she was fine and he could work.
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