Life’s Curve-balls: 2013 365 Challenge #253

My son's first full day at preschool

My son’s first full day at preschool

Today was a good reminder that, no matter how tough you think life is, it’s always worse for someone else (and it can always get a little harder for you, too!)

When I texted my friend last night, to find out what her daughter was wearing to school, she said she might not even make it to school as she’d had a tumble from her scooter and they were off to hospital. Sure enough, my daughter’s best friend broke her arm and missed her first morning at school. We didn’t tell my daughter, as expecting her best friend to be there was the only thing keeping her calm. As it was she was fine. She ran in smiling and says she cried a little bit when she realised her friend wasn’t there, but she soon made a new friend and came running out still smiling (I, on the other hand, nearly sobbed with pride!)

We stopped off to see the poorly girl after school and my daughter found that much harder: it’s the first time she’s had a friend incapacitated by illness or injury.

To begin with she was brilliant, playing nurse, letting her friend choose the games and telelvision programs. After a while though the novelty wore off. When we left she started crying and said, “Mummy I want my friend back, she can’t play with me properly.”

So what should be such a fun and exciting time for both of them is going to have an extra challenge for a few weeks. And my poor girl, who didn’t want to have to worry about looking after someone at school (having looked after her brother at preschool all summer) has now been asked to look after her friend.

I'm off, Mummy, bye!

I’m off, Mummy, bye!

Of course it’s nothing to what my friend must be going through. I can’t express how bad I feel for her. After seven years, to finally be within hours of having both children at school, only to have to stay home from work and nurse a distraught child after leaving A&E at 3am. It put my tiredness – after little man was up 1am-3am last night – into perspective. Of course it didn’t stop me being grumpy and leaving childcare mostly to my hubbie this afternoon. Sometimes, even if another’s lot is worse than yours, it doesn’t make yours any easier. It just made me pray that one of our kids doesn’t break something. Fingers and toes crossed.

P.S. I have an author interview live today, over on Paul Western-Pittard’s blog, That Thing I Said. It was fun to re-read it, as I wrote it a few months ago (it says that Baby Blues & Wedding Shoes is on hold as a project – shows how much things can change in a short period of time!)

It would be lovely if you could stop by, not least because there is loads of great stuff on Paul’s blog.

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Below is the next installment in my novel Two-Hundred Steps Home: written in daily posts since 1st January as part of my 2013 365 Challenge. Read about the challenge here.You can catch up by downloading the free ebook volumes on the right hand side of the blog: 

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“For God’s sake, I told you not to go.”

Josh rushed towards Claire as she walked away from the jet, dripping wet and clutching her neck. She immediately dropped her hand and forced a smile. Irritation fought with gratitude at the look of concern in his amber-flecked eyes. She longed to bury herself in his arms and have him smooth the pain away. At the same time, her hackles rose at his disapproving frown.

“What do you mean? It was excellent fun!” She looked down at her sodden clothing. “Do you mean this? I’m not as wet as I was this morning. I’ll know not to sit at the edge another time.”

Josh fell in step as Claire and Bethan waddled back to the bus to retrieve dry clothes. Claire willed her friend to stay with them as chaperone, but Bethan seemed oblivious to the brewing trouble, as she chatted to a couple of lads from the bus. Claire realised she was on her own.

“I’m not talking about you being drenched, and you know it. You were holding your neck, I saw you. You’ve given yourself whiplash, haven’t you?”

Claire went to shake her head, thought better of it, and folded her arms instead. “It’s fine. Nothing a cup of tea won’t fix.”

She heard Josh tut in annoyance, but he held his tongue.

*

Claire managed to avoid Josh for the rest of the day. She knew it was putting off the inevitable, but she couldn’t face a showdown. Her body ached with spent adrenalin and pain stabbed from her neck to her fingertips if she moved too quickly. A lecture from Josh would only exacerbate the already-blinding headache flashing in her head.

She was grateful they’d been allocated different dorm rooms and she had almost made it to bed undetected, when he finally tracked her down.

“Claire, please stop avoiding me. We need to talk.” He hurried after her, and she stopped in the corridor, not wanting him to follow her all the way to her room, which – judging by the raucous drinking going on elsewhere in the hostel – was likely to be empty at this early hour.

“Can’t it wait until the morning? I’m beat.”

“Do you need painkillers? I have some prescription strength ones that will help. I know you don’t want me mollycoddling you, I get it. But stupid to suffer in silence.”

“I told you, I’m fine. I took some ibuprofen earlier. What I need now is sleep.”

Josh rubbed his hand across the back of his neck and shuffled his feet. Something about his body language raised the hairs on Claire’s arm. She felt a declaration brewing, and didn’t want to hear it.

“Claire I–”

“Don’t say it.” She held up her hand. He reached forward and took it in a gentle grasp.

“No, I have to say it, before I chicken out. I haven’t had nearly enough beer.”

“Then go drink some more and let me go to bed.”

“I love you.”

The words rushed out and fell like rocks into her empty heart. Behind them a shout of laughter broke above the general hubbub, emphasising the silence between them. Claire felt acutely aware of his hand holding hers, as she stared at the floor and waited for it to open and rescue her.

After what felt like an eternity Josh spoke, his voice barely a whisper.

“Tell me you don’t love me. I won’t believe you.”

She looked up then, and saw a mixture of hope and assurance in his expression. She needed to speak, to end this. Short and sharp, like pulling off a plaster.

“I loved the idea of you: Josh the adventurer, Josh the husband and father. That’s all.”

“I can be those things again.”

He pulled her towards him but she tugged her hand free and folded her arms.

“You still are those things, just not with me. You have a wife who loves you, children who adore you. Don’t throw it away.” Claire thought about all she had lost. Her best friend, her boyfriend, her job, her family. There was nowhere she truly belonged.

“Don’t give up your readymade life for a pipe dream. What if we did get married and have kids? Life wouldn’t be any easier. Far harder, in fact. I’m not a natural parent like Fiona. You think it’s hard now, with her focussing on the baby? You’d be booking me into rehab after a week of looking after three children while my husband sodded off to England to nurse his guilty conscience.”

Suddenly her head crowded with the thought of all the pain this gorgeous man had caused, with his misplaced guilt and his refusal to take responsibility for his life. As he gazed at her like a puppy seeking praise, she felt a hundred years old.

“My advice to you, Josh? Appreciate what you have, before you no longer have it. Go back to Fiona. Beg forgiveness. Try harder. Hire a babysitter and take her out to dinner. Bring her breakfast in bed once in a while. Take the kids to the park so she can read a book or have a bath. And, for pity’s sake, grow up.”

As she walked away Claire remembered another conversation, a lifetime ago, when she’d said the same to Michael.

When am I going to find a man who wants a partner not a parent?

Puzzling over the impossible riddle, Claire headed to her room.

***

15 thoughts on “Life’s Curve-balls: 2013 365 Challenge #253

  1. Wow, poor daughter’s friend. Ouch. You’re right there’s always someone having it tougher somewhere. 😉 BTW, I like the silly car. Do you use it for single kid excursions? 😉

  2. Pingback: Life Sucks and you Move On: 2013 365 Challenge #270 | writermummy

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