Rita leaned into Roddy's warm chest and sobbed. He tentatively put his hands on her back, and rubbed soothing circles into her spine. He was amazed at how tense she was.
She gasped, took a few deep breaths, and pulled away from him, a pained expression on her face.
"Hard day?" he asked gently.
"Roddy.. I-" she managed to choke out. She began to sob again.
"Ri, it's going to be all right." He tried to console her, putting a hand on her shoulder.
"No, it's not," she said in between sobs. She dried her eyes and embraced him.
"What's wrong?" he asked, pulling away from her.
"It's… Mum," she started, suppressing more tears.
"What about her?"
Rita sank to her knees in despair. She buried her face in his stomach. A new wave of sobs wracked her body.
Roddy, not knowing what to do in a situation like this, felt completely helpless. He put a hand on her back in an effort to soothe her. She embraced him, unashamed as hot tears stained his shirt.
"What happened?" he asked.
She pulled away, still clutching his shirt as she took a few deep breaths to compose herself.
"Doctors said… she had a heart attack. No one saw it coming.."
He looked at the poor girl as she rubbed her eyes with the heels of her hands. Her eyes were red, and her face was dirty with tearstains.
Rita yawned, and leaned into him, sleepiness overcoming her despair. Roddy put an arm around her and leaned back against the wall.
Poor thing, he thought. He traced his fingers along her shoulder. She whimpered, but didn't wake up. He hooked one arm around her shoulders, supporting her head. He gently slid the other arm under her knees.
He lifted her up, and carried her back to her bunk. Setting her down gently, he pulled the blanket over her.
He whispered good night into her ear softly, stroked her soft fiery red hair once, and went over to his bed.
This can't be happening, he thought. He'd only been with Rita a month, for God's sake! She must be playing some joke on him, or something. But still… he had never seen her crying like that before.
He shook his head and rolled over, drifting off into a shallow, troubled sleep.