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The Seed of Hardship - Chapter 13
“Can I start you off with any drinks?”
Everyone turned his or her attention towards the cheerful waiter standing at their table. The waiter’s straight brown hair was neatly pulled back into a short ponytail and he had pearly white teeth that seemed to sparkle when he smiled. There was a sense of permanent happiness about him.
“Hi, cutie,” he cooked at Kezia, who was resisting being put into the highchair at the table. Kristel struggled with the infant who held on tightly to her and stiffened her body to prevent the possibility of being forced into the seat. As the waiter spoke to her, Kezia relaxed her body.
“Oh come on! Highchairs are for cool kids,” the waiter told her. “It’s like the VIP seat.”
Kezia was so focused on staring at the waiter that she didn’t even realise she was sitting in the highchair. “There you go!” said the waiter.
“Thank you,” Kristel muttered, setting into her chair.
“Oh, don’t mention it. I remember when my sister was her age.” He flipped open his order pad and touched the tip of the pen to the paper. “So, can I start anyone off with a drink?”
“Yes,” Tori spoke up, raising a finger in the air to get the waiter’s attention. “One kid’s apple juice and one coke.”
Everyone ordered his or her drink and when it was Kristel’s turn, she wasn’t even paying attention. Her eyes were downcast and her forehead was resting in her clasped hands while her elbows, against the table, kept her upright. She seemed to be reading the menu intently but her eyes remained on one point.
“Ma’am,” the waiter asked. “Anything for you?”
Kristel continued staring downcast at the menu. “Kris,” Tori called. Daniel gently tugged on his mother’s sleeve.
“Hmm?” Kristel turned to Daniel. Then she realised that he was looking at Tori. When Kristel turned her attention to Tori, she saw that everyone else was looking at her. Tori pointed to the waiter who repeated his question.
Looking embarrassed, Kristel apologised. She ordered a glass of water with lemon and the waiter went on his merry way. They all returned to their conversations. Hazel, who was too upset with her parents to speak to Kristel, was in a deep conversation with Stephanie.
Tori was showing Hailey how to play Tic Tac Toe on the children’s paper menu and Hank was being a good sport and playing along with Daniel’s attempt at stand-up comedy. Kristel closed the menu and got back into her previous position—hands clasped against her forehead, elbows on the table. She listened to the buzz of conversation all around her, not focusing n any one particular conversation.
Yet, in her head, she could only hear the many conversations she had with Matthew – the nagging she had done, the apologies he made. She was so tired of it and the predictable pattern it had become. The constant bickering was unsettling, frustrating.
“Kristel, are you feeling okay?” she heard someone ask, interrupting her thoughts. She looked up at Hank, who was directly across from her. He awkwardly rubbed the stubble on his cheeks; feeling slightly odd asking Kristel about how she felt.
The corners of Kristel’s mouth twitched upwards in an attempted smile. Unable to even falsify a happy emotion, she suddenly felt like crying. “It’s just a migraine,” she said, as quietly as Hank had asked the question. “Don’t worry about it.”
Hank looked at her with compassion but seemed unaware of what he should say next. His blue eyes looked over at his wife, who was still playing Tic Tac Toe with Hailey, then back at Kristel. “I’m sorry,” he said.
Hearing her husband’s apology, Tori looked up. She looked between Hank and Kristel before asking, “What’s wrong?”
“I’m okay,” Kristel assured, taking her hands away from her head and trying to appear convincing. Tori opened her mouth to say something but she instantly changed her mind.
Within a few minutes, the waiter brought the beverages to the table and took everyone’s main course orders. Kristel ordered a salad, prompting an argument from Tori, who insisted that she ate something more. Kristel remained customarily stubborn, insisting that she stuck to her decision to order the salad.
At last, the main course was served. Still, the conversation continued as everyone munched on his and her food. Kristel stared down at her salad, not really in a mood to eat. When she caught Daniel glancing at her, she picked up her fork and began eating right away. Daniel turned his attention back to his own meal.
Though all the members at the table seemed content, there was a tense vibe in the atmosphere surrounding them. It was as though everyone was keeping their true thoughts and feelings preserved behind a pleasant mask. The only person who was as content as she appeared was 4-year-old Hailey. Then there was Kristel who could no longer hide her unhappiness no matter how hard she tried.
As she munched on her salad she mentally told herself that she had to keep smiling… for her children. It would be selfish of her to subject them to her misery and her hurt. With that thought weighing on her mind, she tried to remain pleasant for the rest of the meal. She even tried carrying on a conversation but deep down she wanted to shut herself in a room and cry. She was annoyed to be sitting with friends and family when she was in such a rotten mood.
At last, everyone was finished eating their meals. The overly cheerful waiter came to take the plates away and supply the check. Kristel tried to insist in paying part of the bill; only because she felt bad about allowing Hank and Tori to pay for them all.
As Kristel stood up to lift Kezia from the high chair, she abruptly gave a sharp intake of breath and pressed her hands into her lower abdomen. She gritted her teeth and automatically plopped back into the chair, sighing when the pain subsided. Tori, who had been helping Hailey out of the chair, looked at Kristel with the utmost level of concern on her face. Kristel’s expression of pain was quick but very abrupt, so everyone noticed.
Kristel massaged either sides of her hips and held her hand against her lower abdomen again. “You alright?” Tori asked. Kristel now had everyone’s attention but the children didn’t know what to say.
“Yeah,” she responded, nodding her head though she looked incredibly perplexed. “I just got a really intense… jabbing pain…”
“In your stomach?” Tori asked.
Kristel shook her head. “Lower than that,” she quietly said, looking Tori straight in the eyes, in hope that she would understand her hint. Tori looked to her husband and signalled that Kristel was alright.
“Come on, kids,” said Hank. “Let’s get to the car so we can get to the ice-cream store before it’s too late.”
“Yay!” Daniel and Hailey cheered.
Hank held his finger to his lips, motioning for them to lower their voices. Kristel still looked confused about the brief moment of pain she had experienced. “That was the weirdest thing,” she said as the children followed Hank away from the table. Hazel glanced back worriedly at her mother but Kristel gave her a reassuring smile and waved in a manner that said she was alright.
“The strangest thing is that I’ve felt that pain before,” Kristel added. Now Tori looked just as puzzled as Kristel did.
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