‘You’re in labour?’ When she looked at him, it was to find him staring at her in stunned disbelief.
‘ARE YOU SURE? You still have a few weeks to go.’
‘Tell that to the baby.’ She would have laughed if she could. As it was, she concentrated on the pain, which seemed to be getting stronger as well as longer. Finally, it subsided and she relaxed against the shower wall, opening her eyes to look at him.
‘I’ll call Donna and the hospital and, uh…let them know we’ll be over soon.’ He reached into his pocket for his smartphone. ‘Has it stopped?’
He pressed some buttons on the phone. ‘Let’s see how far apart your contractions are.’ He stayed with her, quickly calling Donna and then the hospital to give them the latest update. ‘No doubt,’ he stated after ending the call, ‘the entire district will know you’re in labour before we even make it across the road to the hospital.’ She was still standing in the shower, her eyes closed as she rested her head against the tiles. ‘Has the next contraction started?’
‘No.’ The instant the word left her lips the pain returned. ‘I’ll change my answer—yes!’
‘Just over three minutes.’ He waited with her until he thought the pain had subsided. ‘Settling down?’
Her eyes snapped open and she glared at him.
‘Ah… I’ll take that as a no.’ He waited until she was finished, starting his watch again. ‘I’ll help you through the house and into the car.’
‘No car. Can’t sit down. I’ll walk.’
‘You want to walk to the hospital?’
‘It’s across the road. The car will take longer.’
‘I don’t know if it’s a good idea.’
‘Then I’ll be having it here because I can’t sit down!’ she shouted.
‘All right. Sure. We’ll walk.’ He held out his hand to her and when she didn’t take it he levelled her with a warning glare. ‘Accept my help, CJ. I want to give it and, more importantly, you need it.’
He laughed, the rich sound washing over her in waves of happiness. How was it possible that she could feel so happy and so cross with him at the same time? She knew the thought wasn’t worth dwelling on, so placed her hand in his as he helped her from the shower cubicle.
‘I know you’d probably feel better if you change but let’s get you over the road first. Someone can come back for clothes and things like that later.’
‘My bag is packed,’ she said, and motioned to the small suitcase by her bed. ‘Just pick it up.’ She waved her hand impatiently in the direction of the bag. ‘Oh, and grab my food bag, too. It’s next to it.’
‘Food bag?’ Ethan grabbed the bags she was pointing to and quickly peered inside the second one. ‘Chocolate spread, pickles and bananas. No wonder I haven’t heard you in the kitchen.’
‘I didn’t want to wake you.’
‘What’s that supposed to mean?’ she asked angrily as they headed out the front door.
‘Nothing.’ He knew better than to start a discussion with a woman who was in this much pain. ‘Whatever makes things easier for you.’
‘Oh, how magnanimous of you,’ she retorted, and Ethan chuckled.
‘It doesn’t matter what I say at the moment, you’re going to bite my head off and that’s perfectly fine.’
CJ started to whimper but it ended up being a silly sort of chuckle. ‘I’m sorry, I’m just—’
‘You don’t need to apologise, or explain.’ They went slowly, taking small but steady steps, out the front door and across the lawn. They’d just crossed the road when the next contraction hit.
‘Right on time,’ Ethan announced. CJ gripped his arm tightly as she closed her eyes and concentrated through the pain. Neither of them moved until it was over. ‘The duration of the contraction is increasing.’
‘Tell me about it.’
He let go of her hand and flexed his fingers. ‘Just getting the blood flowing again, ready for next time.’
CJ laughed, then was overcome by a sense of gratitude. ‘Thank you, Ethan. Thank you for helping me.’
‘Hey, no problem.’ He took her hand once more, the other still carrying her bags. ‘The ground’s a bit uneven here.’ They started off again, little baby steps, slowly getting closer to the hospital. Not far from the front door she gripped his hand and leaned in closer. Ethan put the bags down and rubbed her back with his other hand, hoping it did something to bring her relief. He felt utterly helpless and wasn’t really sure what he should or shouldn’t be doing, but as she wasn’t yelling at him, he took this as a good sign.