The Seed of Hardship - Chapter 26
Kristel walked into the house and dropped her bag on the floor. Everyone in the living room turned their attention towards her. Then immediately, Kezia began crying. Kristel looked as though she had trudged miles and miles through the rain. To top it all off, she had a look on her face that might as well had been a ‘Do Not Disturb’ sign.
Tori stood up from the couch, holding Kezia in her arms. “Hi Mom,” Hazel hesitantly said.
“Hi, sweetie,” Kristel replied. She sounded out of breath.
Tori approached Kristel and leaned close to her to speak quietly. “What are you doing home so early? Are you okay?”
Kristel slowly shook her head. “I’m going to take a shower and get to bed.”
“Kristel, talk to me,” Tori quietly said.
Kristel’s face was wet from the rain so Tori couldn’t tell whether she was crying or not. Kristel ambled across the living room and disappeared out of sight. Tori smiled reassuringly at the children, and then followed Kristel to her bedroom. Kristel was removed her sweat pants, which were soaked through and through, tossed her robe on, and sat on the bed.
“Why are you home so soon?” Tori asked.
Reaching over to the side table, Kristel popped open the pill dispenser and swallowed down a couple of pills dry. She grimaced for a second and then said, “I’m extremely tired.” She lay down on the bed and looked at Tori. Kezia was beginning to fuss again, stretching her arms out to Kristel.
“That’s the only reason why?”
“And I have a migraine,” Kristel added.
Tori looked at Kristel sceptically. She sat down on the bed beside Kristel and had to hold Kezia tightly, so that she wouldn’t hop out of her arms. Kezia struggled, against Tori’s hold while Tori stared at Kristel.
“Things were finally looking up for me, Tor,” Kristel finally said after a long moment of silence. “I felt good yesterday. No light-headedness, no exhaustion, no pain. I was happy that my first day on the job went great. Then Matthew had to make his signature ‘stupid Matthew moves.’ He’s forcing me to spend money that I don’t have, and worse, other people’s money. We’re already in debt. I can’t risk another loan. And I hate owing people!”
Tori remained silent, just rocking Kezia and patting her back. Surprisingly, Kezia was falling asleep without much of a fuss. Kristel slowly shook her head and continued venting. “I can’t afford to send the kids to that summer camp they wanted to go to, and I have to work during the day, so I’ll have to hire a babysitter. Then I’ll have to pay the babysitter. Not to mention, I still owe tuition for the fall semester, or just give up on advancing myself.”
By the time Kristel finished venting, tears had taken to running down her face. She wiped them away with the heels of her hands and looked at Kezia. “And I’m tired of Kezia being so miserable.”
“You know, my mother always said that babies are the thermostats of the household – more specifically, of their parents,” Tori commented.
“Your mother’s right about that,” said Kristel. She wiped her face again and added, “I’m sorry that I’m being so whiney.”
“You’re not whining,” Tori disagreed. “You need to get this off your chest, and I’m here to listen.”
Kristel sniffled and managed a smile. “The only luck I’ve run into in my life was finding you.”
Tori smiled sweetly and then began fanning her face vigorously. “Don’t make me start crying,” she said. She pulled Kristel into a hug, still being mindful of Kezia, and patted her back. “Don’t worry about the money. It will come back to you somehow. As for the money you think you owe me and Hank, consider it already paid.”
“Three months’ driving license suspension, a four hundred-dollar fine, two hundred and thirty to IDRC, one hundred to the drunk driving fund, one hundred to AERF, seventy-five to Neighbour Services Fund and let’s not forget the one thousand per year for three years!”
Matthew remained silent, staring down shamefully at the courtroom floor. He was sharply dressed in a black suit and tie, yet his display of pity seemed to downgrade him in a sense. Kristel stood in front of him, her hands on her hips, her eyes piercing Matthew’s skull.
“I can’t believe you!” she shouted. “And you have no job! Not to mention we lost the health benefits we used to get from that job.” She snatched her purse from the pew beside Rob and Tori. “You ruin everything,” she tearfully muttered. Then she stormed out of the courtroom, leaving Matthew standing there dejected and embarrassed.
Tori stood beside the pew where Rob was still sitting. She comfortingly put one hand on Matthew’s shoulder and looked sadly at him. Though her eyes were apologetic, no words escaped her lips. She lowered her head, and walked out of the courtroom after Kristel.
Rob continued staring straight ahead. Once it was silent for almost a minute, he stood up and began walking away. “Let’s go,” he muttered to Matthew.
Matthew silently followed behind him, like a child, too afraid of the consequences to speak.
While Tori drove, Kristel kept her eyes pinned on the road, her mouth a straight line, her arms folded tightly across her chest.
“You never give him a chance to explain himself,” she heard Tori say.
Kristel glowered in Tori’s direction. “What?”
Tori didn’t repeat her statement. Instead, she continued driving, focusing on the road.
Things fell silent for a while. Then, at last, Kristal said, “I don’t care for an explanation. He has no excuse. He’s always messing things up.”
“But Kristel, you can’t blame him for everything. You’re being unreasonable.”
Kristel looked at Tori as though she wanted to hit her. “Unreasonable?” she repeated. “Matthew is unreasonable.”
“See!?” Tori exclaimed. “You turn everything on Matthew. I call you unreasonable and you just slide the blame onto Matthew. You displace the attention to Matthew when you don’t want to see your own flaws. We all have flaws, Kristel. Nobody’s perfect.”
Things fell silent again before Tori said, “Matthew’s probably been drinking so much because he’s grieving. Ever think of that?”
Kristel lowered her head and bit her bottom lip. She closed her eyes and kept her head lowered. Tori had expected her to blow up on her after making those statements. She intermittently turned to Kristel as she continued to drive. When Kristel finally looked up and opened her eyes, she pressed her fingertips to the corners where tears were accruing.
Leaning back against the chair, she pulled the lever to recline it farther, and blinked up at the car ceiling. Tori noticed Kristel’s hands pressed against her stomach. Kristel squeezed her eyes shut and began tapping the fingers of her right hand against her left. Tori heard Kristel gulp. With her eyes closed, Kristel quietly called Tori’s name.
“Yeah?” Tori asked.
“Pull over,” Kristel told her.
Seeing the obvious discomfort in Kristel’s face, Tori began easing her car over to the right shoulder, and finally shifted it into park beside a grassy area. Kristel unbuckled her seatbelt, opened the door and turned to face the outside. She made it to the edge of the seat, preparing to stand, but instead she remained seated and leaned over.
Tori grimaced as Kristel began vomiting. She waited until she felt it was safe enough to get out of the car before walking around to the passenger’s side. Though Kristel finished vomiting, she remained folded over, one hand on her stomach, she other on her knee. Tori opened the back door and grabbed a bottle of water. She handed it to Kristel to rinse her mouth.
“Isn’t it a little too late to start having morning sickness?” she quietly asked Kristel.
Kristel swished the water inside her mouth before spitting it out. She frowned in disgust and rinsed again. “Well I thought so,” she said.
“Maybe you just need to rest,” Tori suggested.
Kristel nodded in agreement. She turned and put her feet back into the car again. Tori got back into the car, buckled her seatbelt and merged back onto the road.