Days Like These
Everybody thinks I've got it all
Nobody really does, do they?
I've got more than I deserve, more than I ever dreamed
Nick Buchanan walked through the front door of his home and listened. Were the children asleep already? No, he could hear their familiar rustlings in the bathroom and hallway as they scurried all over the place, desperately trying to avoid their bedtimes. He could hear Jen scurrying after them, trying every tactic to get them to go to sleep – but they all knew only one thing would ensure they'd hop straight under the covers and promise to go to sleep.
He walked silently towards Liam's bedroom and, leaving his briefcase leaning against the wall in the hallway right outside the little boys door, he stepped into the dimly lit room and stood imposingly in the middle of it, tall and with his hands in the pockets of his pants, his chest puffed out somewhat. "Why aren't you little monsters asleep yet?" he asked, his voice comically threatening.
The youngest child had already been squirming in his mother's arms, resisting her every effort to put him to sleep, and when he saw Nick he only squirmed further. Jennifer struggled and then rolled her eyes good naturedly and handed the two year old over to his father, a small smile creeping onto her features. She looked Nick in the eye as she bundled the child into his arms gratefully and stood on her tip toes to kiss him on the lips in greeting. "They're all yours," she smiled and walked from the room.
He smiled affectionately back at her then chased Liam from the dresser to his bed, the little boy squealing at the thrill and diving into bed with a flurry of arms and legs and racing car printed pyjamas. "We need a story," the boy sung out, his tone verging on whining.
Nick smiled again and placed Noah, the squirmer, on the bed beside his brother before reaching for a copy of Possum Magic off the bedside table – the old reliable favourite of the Buchanan family. He settled himself down beside the two boys on the pillow and had only read half the story before they were both asleep, their little faces peaceful, their voices no longer. Nick exhaled, only then letting his own tiredness kick in. He got up off the bed and placed the book back on the shelf before reaching back down to scoop up Noah and carry him to the neighbouring bedroom.
His fatherly duties done he finally trudged wearily towards the bedroom he shared with Jen and walked in only to find her sprawled out on the bed already, the clothes she'd been wearing all day still hanging from her sleepy limbs, her eyes closed, her hair fallen across her face in the dark. He smiled again at his wife and made quick work of changing into his pyjamas, not even possessing the energy to have a shower before he did so, and then crawled into bed beside her gratefully.
She stirred in her slumber as he shuffled in close to her and he leaned in to kiss her goodnight. She smiled in her kiss back and shrugged off her flimsy striped cardigan, throwing it behind her and onto the floor as Nick pulled the sheet up and around her shoulders and then hugged her into his hold. She settled there instantly, her arm stretching across his chest, one of her legs hooking around one of his at the bottom of the bed. It was only 7pm and the light outside had only just faded to a dark pinky dusk, but within moments they were both asleep.
His eyes sprang open, his calm and deep sleep cruelly interrupted. There was no masking of the noises that were coming from the kitchen. The sounds of jars being shoved aside, vegetable drawers being opened, containers being shoved back into their spots in the fridge – it was unmistakeable. He unwillingly rose from the warm bed and followed the sounds.
His wife sat in front of the open fridge door, cross legged, her expanding belly peeking out from the bottom of her fleecy pyjama top. She didn't even hear him walk into the room so she almost hit the roof when he spoke.
"What are you doing?" he asked, looking at her like she was crazy. "It's 2:45 in the morning."
"Nick!" She put a hand to her heart and threw her head back slightly; relieved he wasn't some axe murderer creeping up behind her. "I'm hungry," she replied simply.
He smiled and sat down on a kitchen chair just a few metres from her. He'd been expecting this for weeks, but hadn't expected it to come in the middle of the night. But it was cute nonetheless.
"Hungry for what?"
She got up off the floor. "I don't knowwwwwwwwwww," she moaned. She walked over to him and perched herself on his lap, giving him a quick peck on the lips.
He wrapped his arms around her waist and tried to read her crazy hormonal thoughts.
"Mango?" He hoped she wouldn't say yes to that one. They certainly had none of those in their fridge.
Jennifer sighed. "Nup."
They sat in the kitchen for a few moments silently thinking. Then Jennifer suddenly jolted in his hold and grinned at him.
"You know what I reallllllly want?" she asked hopefully.
Nick narrowed his eyes, knowing he probably wouldn't like it. "What?"
"Strawberries and icecream." She grinned, a twinkle in her eye now she had finally pinpointed exactly what it was she was craving.
"Jen it's July! How can you possibly want icecream?" Nick was incredulous.
She shrugged and stood up. "Please Nick? I really really am craving it."
He sighed. "Okay. I'll be back in a minute."
She smiled again and wrapped her arms around his neck and kissed him hard. "Thanks Nick."
Ten minutes later Nick was wondering the aisles of the closest 7-11, knowing he would never be able to find fresh strawberries this time of year, especially not in a convenience store. He frowned and walked towards the freezers at the back of the store. His eyes scanned the shelves and landed upon an extravagantly priced tub of strawberries and cream gourmet icecream. It would have to do. A few minutes later he was back inside his car, the heater cranked, his breath puffing out in front of him, and on his way back to his pregnant wife.
When he returned, he walked back into the bedroom via the kitchen to grab a spoon. He stopped at the doorway and narrowed his eyes.
"Jennifer Kate Buchanan you better not be asleep." He looked at her body huddled under the covers, only her head showing.
Jennifer's face broke out into a childish grin she couldn't contain, then she opened her eyes and their whites shone in the little light that lit the room, letting Nick know immediately that she was definitely still awake.
"Good," Nick stated, handing the plastic bag to her. He slid into the warm bed beside her and watched as she fished her hand into the bag. "I couldn't find any strawberries," he admitted, not as apologetic as he probably should've been.
Jennifer read the label on the tub of icecream and shook her head, unfazed. "No this is perfect." She squeezed his arm affectionately. "Thanks Nick."
He'd been so tired, and so unhappy about being woken in the middle of the night, but she just looked so damn delicious and gorgeous right then that he couldn't possibly be anything but completely head over heels for her. He settled amongst the pillows and watched her eat a few spoonfuls.
The activity of going out into the cold to the 7-11 had completely woken Nick up, and her craving meant she was more concerned with eating than sleeping, so they sat and talked as she ate. Their conversation stretched until almost 5am and went far and wide.
"Do you remember where you were on September 11?" Nick asked her. She nodded eagerly, licking the spoon and able to answer as if it were yesterday.
"Do you remember your first call out as a uniform?" Jennifer asked Nick. He nodded slowly: that was something a young recruit never forgot.
But eventually, neither could keep their eyes open much longer, and descended into sleep for the last few hours of night time. She burrowed in closely next to him, hooking her leg around one of his, joining their slumbering bodies infinitely.
"Dad Dad Dad Dad Dad Dad Dad Dad."
The little voice came complete with a poking little finger, incessantly prodding at Nick's bicep. He opened one eye and found Liam a lot closer to his face than he'd anticipated.
"Get up," the child demanded, his blonde hair sticking out in ten different directions.
"Mate it's way too early to be out of bed," Nick said quietly, so wanting to remain in the toasty confines of the bed for just a little longer.
"No it's not."
God the kid was stubborn he thought wryly. Did they get that from Jennifer or from him?
"Yes it is," Nick argued back. He slipped his arm out from underneath the blankets and grabbed him, pulling him into the bed. The boy giggled and writhed about in his father's grip before surrendering to the hold after a few moments. He rolled himself over Nick's stomach to be in between both his mother and his father in the bed and snuggled into them, settling in to sleep again quickly.
Jennifer shifted beside them, and without even opening her eyes, swept Liam's hair back from his forehead and stroked his neck with her fingers, lulling him into sleep with her touch. Nick watched her ability to pacify the four year old so easily, and couldn't help but smile, proud of the way he and Jennifer parented their children. It hadn't always been easy, but they'd managed to survive so far.
Nick's heart had just started to beat faster as his hands roamed her body. His skin felt hot and his desire ran wild as he kissed her collarbone.
He ignored her at first.
"No Nick, stop."
He pulled away. Her voice was different. He looked at her and the skin that had a moment ago been heated now was slapped into a chill when he saw the look on her face.
She couldn't hide her wince of pain as she shrunk away from him on the bed. Her hand went to her waist, and she looked more frightened than he'd ever seen her.
"Jen." Nick sat up hurriedly beside her, his thoughts of passion and lust completely evaporated from his mind in an instant. "What's wrong? What is it?" He didn't know where to touch, where to hold her, if he should hold her at all.
Her voice wobbled. "I don't know." She looked at him with fear present in her eyes. She looked so tense, Nick observed, like she was preparing every muscle in her body to protect herself from any pain. "I don't know," she said again. She turned away from him and sat gingerly on the edge of the bed, placing her bare feet on the carpet and just sat for a moment.
Nick immediately scurried over to sit beside her and looked her in the eye worriedly. He read her mind, just like that. "You're only thirty six weeks."
"I know," she replied. They looked at each other, not knowing at all what to do until another wave of pain hit Jennifer. She threw her chest forward and opened her mouth in a silent scream, the pain so intense she couldn't conjure up sound. But a tear squeezed out the corner of her left eye, evidence enough to Nick that there was something wrong.
He leant forward and pulled her cheek gently to face him and questioned her with his eyes. She nodded fearfully back at him.
"Take me to hospital."
Nick leant over Liam's head and poured milk into his bowl as he kicked the fridge door shut with his foot at the same time. Across from them, Noah banged his spoon on the table of his high chair with one hand and flung mushy weetbix onto the floor with the other. Nick looked around for Jennifer, wanting help, but she was nowhere to be seen, so instead he placed the milk jug in the middle of the table out of reach of both the boys and then turned to the sink to grab the sponge to clean up that day's Noah mess.
As he soaked the sponge with water he smiled to himself. It was only 7am but he already felt like he and Jennifer had been up for hours, dashing about after their boisterous boys. But Nick liked it that way. He liked how it never stopped, how there was rarely a moments peace, how Liam and Noah just went bang bang bang from sunrise to sunset. It made their household feel alive. Alive and kicking. He'd never felt like this before children, but he loved it. It hadn't started out easily – that night, he'd never been more terrified than he had been that single moment Jen told him to take her to the hospital, and he remembered it so vividly it was like it was just yesterday – but they had come out okay.
He helped her out the door, hovering around her like she was a celebrity and he was her bodyguard. She seemed determined to walk it off, but every few minutes she'd double over in pain and be forced to grab a hold of his arm to steady herself and not bring her to her knees. It made the walk from the front door to the garage a long one and she wished he'd just pick her up, knight in shining armour style, and fly her to the hospital. Because the pain was getting unbearable.
When they finally reached the garage and Nick reached out to unlock and open the front passenger door wide for her she leaned on the cool metal of the car's frame and looked at her husband with eyes filled with tears. "What's happening Nick?" she squeaked out, petrified.
He brushed a light hand over her cheek and gave her the most reassuring smile he could muster. He had to be honest. "I dunno," he whispered back before helping her to sit in the seat and do the seatbelt up across her body. She was still tense all over, a reaction fuelled by her fright and the new found pain she was dealing with. Just before he shut the door he spoke again. "But it's going to be all right, don't worry."
Jennifer couldn't smile back. She just watched him as he ran around to the driver's side and hopped in beside her. As he started up the car and reversed out of the drive way she rested her head back against the seat and when they were just minutes away from the hospital they'd not planned on coming to for another month at least, she spoke again, locking gazes with her equally terrified husband. "I'm scared," she whispered at a traffic light.
Nick's expression melted and he reached out to squeeze her hand. When they were a street away from their destination her hand jumped inside his and her eyes opened wide. Nick looked across at her, stricken, one of his hands still gripping the steering wheel. She suddenly looked very uncomfortable and very afraid. "Nickkkkk…"
He looked closer at her and realised what she'd just realised.
This baby was coming. Tonight.