Ethan half listened to Melody as she kept talking, still feeling guilty about driving CJ from her own home. He knew she left because of him. He felt it. If she stayed home, she would hibernate in her bedroom and if she was getting up for her usual three a.m. snacks, he wasn’t hearing her.
When she was out this late, he found it almost impossible to work until she was safe at home. He was conscious of her whenever she walked into the house, regardless of whether or not he was in the same room. It didn’t matter where she was, he felt her and it was driving him insane.
Where was she? He stared out the window and when a set of headlights flashed as they turned into the driveway, he quickly stepped back into the shadows, his whole body relaxing with relief. She was back. She was safe. She was home.
He brushed the thought from his mind as he quickly headed into his part of the house, not wanting to be in her way. He listened, though, as she opened and closed the front door before making her way into the kitchen. He’d left a meal for her in the fridge and soon he heard the microwave going. Another ten minutes later and everything fell silent. She was safely down her end of the house and he was in his. His sister had hung up, giving up on him not carrying his end of the conversation.
Instead, Ethan sat down at the desk in his room and began to get some work done. Now that CJ was safe at home, he could concentrate.
* * *
CJ finished eating the lovely food Ethan had cooked and put the dish on her bedside table, lying back in her bed and patting her baby. ‘There you go. All fed for now.’ Part of her had wanted him to be in the kitchen when she’d arrived home so that she could tell him about her conversation with Donna regarding Margaret. She’d also wanted to see Ethan for more than two minutes together so they could have an open and honest conversation about what on earth was happening between them.
CJ shuffled off the bed, the pain in her back beginning to intensify. She took her dishes quietly out to the kitchen, moving slowly and carefully, constantly on alert in case she should bump into him. The problem was that even if he came out, even if she asked the questions, she doubted whether either of them would have any answers. She certainly didn’t and that’s why she was happy to live in avoidance land for a bit longer.
Returning to her part of the house, she continued to rub the pain that was still niggling at her back. ‘Did I eat too fast?’ she asked the baby, wondering if she was getting referred indigestion pain, but that made no sense. The next moment she stopped in the middle of the hallway, leaning on the wall, as a sharp spasm gripped her lower abdomen. CJ gasped in shock and waited desperately for the pain to subside.
‘Ow.’ She rubbed her back and her abdomen. ‘What was that for? Do you want some chocolate spread?’ CJ headed to the stash of food she’d taken to keeping in her room. That way, she hadn’t risked waking Ethan when she needed an early morning snack.
Before she could pull the chocolate spread from the bag, another pain gripped her, marginally worse than before. She sat down on the chair and felt instant discomfort, so stood once more, rubbing her belly until the pain eased. ‘Just excessive back pain and Braxton-Hicks,’ she told herself calmly. It meant things were definitely moving in the right direction. She would brush her teeth, then re-check her hospital bag was packed and call Donna. Although CJ was a doctor, although she’d assisted with many a delivery, reading about a contraction and experiencing one were two very different things. If this was just false labour, at least Donna would be able to put her mind at ease. As she walked to her en suite, another spasm hit.
It was then she felt a loosening sensation before a trickle of water slid down her leg. Her eyes widened in alarm as she rushed to the bathroom and stepped into the shower.
‘What?’ She wasn’t sure what to do so she just stood there, waiting for the liquid to stop running down her legs. ‘Oh, my gosh,’ she whispered. ‘This isn’t a false alarm. This is it!’ She was in labour.
Trembling, she thumped on the wall. ‘Ethan! Ethan!’ She waited, not knowing whether he could hear her. The trickle was slowing down and she started to relax a little. ‘Ethan!’ she called again, and thumped some more on the wall, concern in her tone.
She breathed a sigh of relief. He’d heard her. ‘Ethan.’ He knocked on her bedroom door, which she thought was cute. ‘Come in. Come in. I’m in the bathroom.’ A moment later, he stood in the doorway.
‘What’s wrong? Why are you standing in the shower fully clothed?’
‘My water—’ She broke off on a gasp as another spasm hit. She closed her eyes and clenched her teeth, bracing one hand on the shower wall and the other on her abdomen.