The Seed of Hardship - Chapter 20
Kezia quietly whimpered in her sleep despite Tori’s continuous attempt to console her. She lay in her crib with the rail down, giving Tori access to her. Tori gently patted Kezia’s back and quietly hummed a lullaby. Kezia continued quietly fussing. Tori slowly shook her head in the dim light of the nursery. “Two babies,” she mumbled to herself. “God help her.”
Glancing at the digital clock against the wall, Tori silently read the numbers glowing blue in the dark nursery: 12am. She began shaking her head again. After a while of continuously patting Kezia’s back and humming to her, Tori realised that Kezia was finally fast asleep. She carefully withdrew her hand and began slowly raising the crib rail. To her dismay, the rail clicked loudly into place but, fortunately, Kezia remained asleep.
Tori held back a sigh of relief as she made a swift and silent exit from the nursery. As she left and quickly closed the door behind herself, she heard a loud thump. The sound came from upstairs; from one of the bedrooms perhaps.
Upstairs, Daniel had snuck out of bed and accidentally knocked over his table lamp. The lamp dropped onto the carpeted floor. Keeping his weight balanced on the balls of his feet, Daniel tiptoed out of the room and into the hallway. Unable to see well in the dark corridor, Daniel held on to the wall for security. He gripped the wall as he went along until he finally made it to the open door of Hazel’s bedroom.
There, a nightlight dimly lit Daniel’s footsteps. He entered the bedroom and quietly approached his sister’s bed. “Hazel,” he whispered. Hazel didn’t stir. Daniel whispered his sister’s name a bit louder and when she still didn’t wake, he roughly grasped her shoulder and shook it.
Startled, Hazel sat upright and stared wide-eyed at Daniel. For a moment, she was still half-asleep but, when she came to her senses, she was not pleased. “What?” she snapped.
“I’m worried about Mom,” Daniel replied. He plopped down on the bed and looked at Hazel, wanting comfort.
To his disappointment, Hazel just said, “So am I.”
Matthew rolled over on the couch and fell face down onto the carpet. Moaning loudly, he tried to push himself to a sitting position. He felt as though there was a woodpecker hammering his head. He held his forehead and leaned weakly against the couch. Though he was sitting, the room seemed to be spinning. Immediately, he felt a surge of queasiness rise up from his stomach.
Jumping to his feet, Matthew went bounding towards the bathroom, almost running into a wall as he hurried away. Rob was sitting at the table, a cigarette held lightly between his teeth, the small lit end, glowing in the dark. He took a break from counting money and listened to the sound of Matthew retching in the bathroom. After a few seconds, he shook his head piteously and returned to counting the money.
Matthew came back into the living room, clutching his stomach, his hair and clothes dishevelled. He looked at the window. It was still dark out but a small lamp illuminated Rob’s table. “Good morning, sunshine,” said Rob, his voice mockingly cheerful.
Matthew groaned and dropped into one of the chairs at the table. “That’s a lot of money,” he said, reaching out to a stack of 20-dollar bills in the centre of the table. Rob protectively smacked his hand down atop the money. The loud sound echoed in Matthew’s head. He flinched and pressed the heels of his hands to his temples.
Rob slid the money away from Matthew and eyed him with a mistrusting look. Had his head not been hurting so badly, Matthew would have been pretty offended by his friend’s actions. “I can’t believe you bet everything, man,” Rob disappointingly said.
“Yeah? Well, I have nothing to lose,” Matthew sadly said. “I’ve lost everything already. There’s no point in living life cautiously.”
Rob scoffed and took a long pull on his cigarette.
Tori briskly made her way up the stairs, suspecting mischief on one of the children’s part. As she entered the hallway, she flicked the light switch on. Hearing Tori’s quiet footsteps, Daniel and Hazel immediately looked towards the open bedroom door. “Aunt Tori,” Hazel whispered.
“Uh-oh,” Daniel quietly said. He stood up and was ready to run but Hazel grabbed his wrist.
“Where are you going?” she asked him. “She’s in the hallway; there’s nowhere you can go without her seeing you.”
Daniel sat back down on the bed, and both children waited until Tori appeared in the doorway of the bedroom. Tori flicked that light switch on and looked at the two children. Both Daniel and Hazel looked like deer caught in the headlights.
“What are you two doing awake?” Tori asked them.
“I can’t sleep,” Daniel honestly answered. “And I woke Hazel up.”
Hazel looked at Daniel, seeming surprised by his honestly. “What’s on your mind?” asked Tori, leaning against the door frame. Hazel and Daniel had expected to be reprimanded so they both stared at Tori with looks of mistrust on their faces. Tori ignored their expressions and awaited an answer from Daniel.
“We’re not in trouble?” Daniel asked.
“Nah,” said Tori. “But you have school in the morning. Come on, Danny. Back to bed.”
Daniel slumped his shoulders as he stood up from the bed. He looked back sadly at Hazel before beginning to slowly walk out of the room. Tori stepped aside to let Daniel walk through the doorway and then she looked at Hazel. “Are you alright?” she asked.
Hazel nodded her head and lay down. Tori lingered in the doorway for a moment before walking out of the room. She followed Daniel to his bedroom and tucked him back into bed. “What’s bothering you, Danny?” she asked him.
“I’m worried about Mom,” he said.
“Sweetheart, I know you are,” Tori sweetly said. She fluffed Daniel’s pillow and said, “Just pray for her. She will be alright.”
Daniel nodded though he still looked worried. Tori smiled reassuringly at Daniel and stood up from the bed. As she got to the door, she heard Daniel quietly utter, “I wonder if Dad is worried about her.”