The Seed of Hardship - Chapter 9
Tori showed up at Kristel’s door around midnight. Having a key, she didn’t need to disturb Kristel to open the door. Kristel was sitting in bed, leaning against the backboard. She had given up on her furious 10-month old and allowed her to get her way. Kezia was satisfied with being able to play with her mother’s hands as she nursed.
Kristel closed her eyes and tried to relax. As she felt herself drifting off to sleep, she heard a voice quietly call her name. Opening her eyes, Kristel looked towards the door and saw Tori there. She hadn’t even heard when the door opened. Now, there stood her friend, garbed in pyjamas, her blond hair rolled up into a messy bun. “Hey,” Tori said with a warm smile.
“Hi,” Kristel whispered.
Tori approached the bed and climbed into it so that she was sitting close to Kristel. She gently patted Kezia’s stomach and asked, “Are you giving mommy trouble?”
“Mm!” Kezia mumbled as she continued to nurse.
“I thought you weaned her,” Tori stated.
Kristel sighed. “I thought so too,” she said. “Every night she still usually wants to be nursed but I can usually persuade her to take a bottle instead. But for the past few nights, she’s been giving me hell so… I can’t take it anymore.”
Tori pouted to show her sympathy. “Is Daniel still not talking to anyone?”
Kristel nodded solemnly. After a while of silence, Tori realised that Kezia’s eyes were closed as were Kristel’s. Tori gently poked Kristel’s arm and pointed down at the sleeping baby. Kristel stroked Kezia’s cheek but Kezia didn’t stir. Her mouth was wide open and her breathing slow and relaxed. Kristel pinched her shirt closed but as she shifted Kezia very slightly, Kezia grimaced and began to fret.
“Shh,” said Kristel, beginning to rock her. Kezia whimpered softly. Kristel patted her back, bounced her gently and did everything that would normally calm a baby but Kezia didn’t stop crying until Kristel began feeding her again. She sighed and when Kezia simmered down and closed her eyes, Kristel looked at Tori wearily.
Tori was shaking her head slowly. “She can sense how upset you are.”
Kristel bit her lower lip and closed her eyes, squeezing a tear out. As the tear rolled down her cheek, Tori soothingly rubbed her back. Kristel sniffled and said, “I’m the one who ended this relationship and I have a feeling that I’m taking this harder than Matthew.”
“You’ll be okay,” Tori assured.
“I feel horrible,” said Kristel.
Matthew jolted awake, knocking a can of beer off the arm of the couch. Other cans piled at his feet and a bag of opened chips spilled out onto his stomach, adding more grease stains to his vest. Matthew rubbed his burning eyes and squinted in the darkness. The television screen flashed in the dark, revealing car chase scenes that only made Matthew’s head and eyes hurt more.
Matthew moaned and brushed the chips off his shirt. “About time you woke up,” he heard a male voice say. Startled, Matthew hopped off the couch and turned towards the voice. His friend, Rob was sitting beside him, sipping from a can of Heineken. Matthew sighed dramatically and fell back onto the couch. “Man, you got it bad,” his prematurely gray friend mumbled.
“Got what bad?” Matthew irritably asked.
“It,” said Rob. “You’re a mess without your wife.”
Matthew scoffed and reached out to the coffee table to take another can of beer. Rob intercepted, grabbing Matthew’s wrist. “I think you’ve had enough,” he said.
“Who are you, my mother?” Matthew asked, pulling his wrist out of Rob’s grasp.
Rob slowly shook his head and stood up from the couch. “Alright, I’m off to bed,” said Rob. “You coming to Atlantic City next Tuesday?”
“Of course,” said Matthew.
“Nice,” said Rob. He crossed over the cans and the spilled chips on the floor. “Since you’re the last one awake, you have to clean up this mess.”
“What?” Matthew sputtered.
Tori bounced Kezia up and down as she walked back and forth in the hallway. Kristel lay in bed, trying to ignore the sound of her child’s crying. Kezia’s agonised cries made Kristel feel bad. She felt compelled to run to her baby’s rescue. “Kris?” Tori called from the hallway. “I’m taking Kezia for a little drive, okay?”
“Anything,” said Kristel.
“Alright,” she heard Tori respond.
The sound of Kezia’s crying faded away, leaving Kristel with a buzzing sound in her ear when things were finally silent. The buzzing sound was familiar to her. She covered her ears with her hands although she knew it was pointless. When she couldn’t take it anymore, she sat up. Her head felt as though it weighed a ton.
Kristel slowly stood and began walking out of the room, feeling as though she would fall at any moment. She went to the bathroom to relieve herself and while she was washing her hands, she looked up at her reflection in the mirror and was unhappy with what she saw. She gently touched her face and frowned terribly.
Her face was swollen. It wasn’t obvious but she knew what she looked like well enough to see when there was a slight difference. Still, the difference was there. Kristel approached the digital weight scale behind the bathroom door and stepped hesitantly onto it. She closed her eyes shut, too afraid to look at the scale. When she finally opened her eyes, she gasped from the number she saw.
“No,” she whined. She fought back tears but it was no use. A couple of tears slipped down her face and she quickly wiped them away. She stepped down from the scale and after a brief moment, climbed back onto it. Hoping that the scale was initially incorrect, she kept her eyes opened. The numbers continued increasing: 135… 140… 145… Kristel wanted to break down and weep but she controlled the desire.
Her head and back throbbed and there was an annoying, strange feeling in her stomach – all familiar sensations. Kristel panicked. She quickly returned to her room to take her blood pressure again. This time it was 146/94. The weight gain, the pains, her blood pressure increasing again… what was going on?
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