Walsh Family Bonus Chapter – An April Morning
Matt was trotting the entire group out to discuss his vision for the Mount Vernon project, despite the blood-slowing late March chill. This house was damp and drafty, and it didn’t look like he’d rigged the generator yet. To make matters worse, I was nauseous and dizzy, and too bloated to button any of my trousers this morning. Don’t even ask me about bras, because none of them fit. My next best option was a pair of leggings with a tunic sweater and boots, and someone was bound to notice the decidedly loose direction my clothing choices were taking. I wasn’t even wearing heels. I couldn’t keep this to myself much longer.
“You look like death. Were you drinking tequila on a school night again?” Andy asked, the faux-disapproval ripe in her tone. “Without me?”
Blowing several slow breaths through my mouth, I closed my eyes and thought about my bed while another pukey wave hit me. It was warm and cozy and safe in my bed, and Will was there, and if I imagined myself there right now, I’d get through this.
“It’s a flu-thing,” I said.
“Mmhmm,” Andy murmured, eyeing my baggy outfit. She stared at my boots a beat too long, but it was probably because she wanted a pair for herself. Hard-core boot whore. “Does your husband have this flu-ish thing, too?”
I wiped some cold sweat from my brow and kept breathing through my mouth. “He had to go down to somewhere with his private military contractor friend to do—you know what? I don’t fucking know what he went there to do, but he’s there—and I wouldn’t be surprised if he was parachuting into Guam right now. He’s supposed to be back from whichever foreign land he invaded tonight, and I wouldn’t put it past him to jump out of a freaking helicopter and swim home. I’ll have a motherfucking heart attack when I see him, all war-painted up, on my back porch.”
“You know Guam is a U.S. territory, right?” Andy asked.
“Whatever,” I said, waving a hand in her direction. “You know what I mean. He’s out being a big, bad commando. Or something.”
“You’re in rough shape, lady,” she said. “Let’s skip this. You already know what Matt’s going to say because you basically designed this remodel. Come on, I’ll buy you some coffee.”
“No, no, no,” I said.
I was two seconds away from telling her that I was pregnant if for no other reason than ending this line of conversation and letting me talk myself out of vomiting. But…Will and I agreed we’d wait one more week. Just to be safe. That, and we wanted to tell the grandparents first. This in-law thing was new to me, but I think I liked it.
We’d started talking about names the other day. I was on the morning sickness struggle bus, sitting on the bathroom floor with my head against the claw-foot tub and Will across from me, and he said, “If it’s a boy…what about James?”
I lifted a shoulder in agreement. It was the greatest amount of movement I could handle without rocking my stomach. “And if it’s a girl?”
Will chuckled, and drew my feet into his lap. “I already know what you’re thinking, Peanut. I like it.”
We had a lot of bathroom floor conversations these days, and while they were good talks, I hated being off my game like this.
“I’m not chronically ill or dying or anything that requires special treatment. I just feel like I could sleep until June and my stomach is definitely sailing the high seas, but I’m going to be fine. Totally fine.”
“It’s good to see that you’re also delusional,” Andy muttered.
“Let’s start upstairs,” Matt called. “We’ll make our way back down here, and review priorities in the kitchen—”
“We can review priorities over corned beef hash and scrambled eggs at Filibuster or Cozy Corner, too,” Riley said. “You know, places where they have light and heat for those of us who aren’t cyborgs, Matt.”
Mentioning two of Riley’s favorite greasy spoons was enough to have me choking back bile. I turned away from the group and covered my mouth, breathing with my eyes squeezed shut until it passed.
“Say the word and we leave,” Andy whispered. “Even bitches get sick sometimes.”
I brushed off her suggestion and followed the group upstairs. I was ready for a nap when we reached the third floor, and asleep on my feet when we reached the fifth.
Instead of listening to Matt discussing the structural overhaul involved with merging two brownstones, I wandered through the attic apartment. It functioned as the servant’s quarters when the home was built over one hundred years ago, and it adapted to fit various needs over time. Storage. Home gym. Playroom. More storage.
The evidence of a leaky roof was apparent, and though Matt had tarps preventing further damage, I wanted to show him the water spot blossoming from the moldings. He had plywood and more tarps covering spots all over the floor where water and time eroded the floor into a virtual marsh.
Another wave of light-headedness hit me as I turned to join the group, and I barreled straight into Riley’s chest. He brought his hands to my forearms and held me while I wobbled.
“You okay?” he asked, peering down at me with a frown.
“Yeah,” I said. “I think I need some air though. Maybe some water.”
“Let’s go outside then,” he said, gesturing toward the stairs. “That way, we can sneak off and get some breakfast.”
I grimaced. “Can we not talk about breakfast?”
He took a step back, watching as if I’d wobble again. When he took another big step, his boot connected with a thick twill tarp. He glanced over his shoulder, but the tarp shifted, and before I could reach out, he was falling through the rotted wood.
I didn’t realize I was screaming until Patrick shook me, hard. When the dust cleared, we saw Riley, two floors below, buried beneath a heap of splintered wood, broken glass, and crumbled brick.
* * *
I watched in horror as a team of paramedics wheeled Riley into the ambulance.
“I’m going with him,” I said, but this time, the nausea was too much to choke back. Sam rushed to my side and pulled back my hair as I vomited on the sidewalk. This was about as awful as it could get: Riley unconscious, me puking in public, and there was nothing I could do to fix either.
“That’s not happening. I’ll go,” Patrick said. He pointed to Matt. “You’ll call Nick?”
Matt gestured toward the phone pressed to his ear and asked, “Do you think I’m ordering a pizza?”
He rolled his eyes and climbed into the back of the ambulance. “Patrick!” Andy called. “Give me your keys. We’ll follow you there.”
She caught the green Walsh Associates lanyard as it sailed toward her, and she towed us in the direction of Patrick’s Range Rover.
The ambulance pulled out, and our doors were barely shut before Andy swung away from the curb. I groaned into my hand as another wave hit my stomach. I knew Matt was talking to Nick, and Sam was saying something while handing me an endless stream of handkerchiefs, and Andy was driving like a fugitive on the run, but I couldn’t process any of that.
Dropping my head to my knees, I closed my eyes and prayed that this baby and these hormones and this goddamn day would all calm the fuck down long enough to handle things.
The ride to Mass General felt like years, but the wait once we arrived was eternal. Nick was walking into surgery when Matt had called, and was only able to send one of his interns to observe. The ER doctors banished Patrick to the waiting room once they had a quick overview of Riley’s medical history,
“They didn’t tell me anything,” Patrick said as he dropped into a chair. “But the paramedics didn’t find any bones sticking out. And he was breathing.” He ran his hand through his hair and let out a long breath. “The cut on the side of his head was pretty bad, but…he’s got a hard head.”
“Probably didn’t even feel it,” Matt said.
“He’ll be pissed about missing breakfast,” Sam said. “And I think he was heading down to Providence tonight for a Final Four game at The Dunk.”
“His ass isn’t driving to Rhody tonight,” Patrick said. “He’ll have to settle for ESPN like the rest of us.”
I sent a quick text to Will, telling him where we were and asking him to call me when he got a minute. Sam pushed a bottle of ginger ale into my hand at one point, and I fell asleep on his shoulder shortly after.
I didn’t know how long I was asleep, but I found myself roused awake when Sam tugged my elbow and I heard Patrick say, “Oh fuck.”
Matt sighed. “Shit,” he whispered.
Blinking to clear the fog from my eyes, I glanced around the cramped waiting room to see everyone staring down the hallway. My heart stuttered as I expected to find a doctor in blood-soaked scrubs or Nick shaking his head in that slow, sad way doctors do before they announce they did everything they could. Instead, I saw my husband was flashing his military ID at the security guard.
They let him through the sliding glass doors, and within the blink of an eye, he was kneeling in front of me. His fingers passed over my clammy forehead and down my cheeks, and he said, “What happened? Are you all right?” One hand stroked down my arm and settled on my belly. “Is the baby all right?”
“I knew it!” Andy hissed.
“We’re both fine,” I said, well aware that Andy and my brothers were all listening very intently now.
“Peanut,” he said, his voice straining for patience, “you said there was an accident.”
“There was,” I said, “but it was Riley. He fell and–“
“Could we maybe talk about this baby?” Matt asked. “When are you due?”
“I’d really enjoy that,” Andy said. “And yeah, I need to know when this baby is coming.”
Patrick growled in Will’s direction. “You got my sister pregnant?”
Will dropped his other hand to my knee. “If you’re asking whether my wife is having my baby, the answer is yes.”
“Stop it,” Andy said to Patrick. “When is this little love child due?”
“Hate to interrupt this very special convo,” Nick called as he marched down the hallway, “but I have an update. If you’re interested.”
He was still wearing his scrub cap, surgical garb, and sneakers, and he looked exhausted.
“How is he?” I asked. “You’re going to tell me he’s fine because if he’s not fine, Nick, you’re going to go back in there and make him fine. Got it?”
Nick shook his head, smiling. “You got it, boss.” He rubbed his forehead and consulted his tablet. “The good news: he is going to be fine. He’s awake, alert, betting on college basketball, hitting on nurses, and passed a neuro exam.”
“And the bad news?” Sam asked.
Nick inclined his head as he studied the tablet again. “Five sutures to his temple. Hairline fracture to his collarbone, and that’s really uncomfortable. However, the most serious injury is the bruised testicles. He’ll need to–“
“I’m sorry,” Matt said, laughing. “He bruised his nuts?”
Nick’s gaze passed over each of us and he sighed as if he knew he wouldn’t be able to keep up his Serious Neurosurgeon routine. “Yes, Walsh, he did. It’s very painful and will be very slow to heal. He needs to keep a cool compress on them, and keep a pillow between his legs when he’s sitting. He’ll need to see a urologist in a few weeks and have his sperm count evaluated.”
“Bruised balls,” Sam murmured. “Urologist.”
“A pillow for his sack,” Patrick repeated.
Will looked up at me. “Only your family.”
I nodded. “I know.”
“Now what about that due date?” Nick asked.
I tried to respond, but I couldn’t get the words out. Something was squeezing my shoulder, and there were sounds in my ear, but I didn’t understand them.
“Shannon,” I heard. “Peanut. Wake up.”
Blinking in the darkness, I realized sheets were tangled around my legs, sweat covered my chest, and Will was leaning over me.
“Shannon, honey, you’re making me nervous. What’s wrong?”
I sat up and reached for the bottle of water beside the bed. After guzzling half the bottle, I turned back to Will. “I had this dream, I think. Riley got hurt at the Mount Vernon property…there was an ambulance…you were yelling at a security guard…I puked on a sidewalk…and Riley bruised his balls, and he needed a pillow to elevate his nuts, and….and everyone kept asking me when Froggie was due. Everyone was asking, over and over.”
Will nodded and pulled her against his chest. “Everything is going to be fine, Peanut. Even Riley’s balls.”