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Printed from https://www.Writing.Com/view/1664433
Rated: E · Short Story · Entertainment · #1664433
I'd expected to go home to find a romantic evening planned. Found something else instead.
won 3rd place in April '10 round of "Invalid Item

Not-so-Happy Half Anniversary


The garage door opened at the touch of the button on my remote as I pulled up the driveway. It had been a long day, but at least I had a wonderful evening to look forward to. Brian and I had been married for six months today and we had decided that we would celebrate half-years as well as years. Brian had promised me an unforgettable celebration. The late evening sunlight spilled into the garage to illuminate Brian’s navy blue Porsche Carrera GT in its usual spot on the right side of the garage. I pulled my VW Bug right beside it and cut the engine. He must have come home earlier to get ready, I thought. I’m usually the first one home and getting dinner ready for the two of us.

The garage opened into the laundry room. Noticing the open lid of the washing machine, I peeked inside and saw a half-load of Brian’s clothes waiting to be washed. They smelled weird, too. He must have gotten dirty or something. I shrugged and continued on into the house.

“Hon, I’m home!” I called out when I entered the den.

Brian’s reply was muffled as I continued on into my study to drop off my bag. My latest scrapbooking project – a 12”x12” scrapbook album for Brian’s birthday - was set out on my desk. If all went as I hoped, the album would cover from the moment Brian’s mother found out she was pregnant with him to the day I would complete the album. The current page was from the some of the early days of the group. I hoped he’d like it.

Peeking into the kitchen, I didn’t see any sign that Brian had been cooking. Maybe we were going out to dinner? I smiled when I saw the single red rose in a glass vase on the table. A large brown box sat next to it on one side, and what looked to be a blue square jewelry box sat waiting right in front of the vase. I went to the big box first, my heart starting to race in anticipation. Reading the label, I gasped in delight when I realized it was from my publisher. My novel! I finally had author’s copies to send to my family and the guys.

“Brian, my book’s here!” I called to the whole house, tearing the tape off the box.

I heard a muted response from somewhere up the stairs that sounded like “That’s wonderful!” but I couldn’t be sure.

I set off in search of my man when he didn’t appear. “Hon?”

He wasn’t in the living room or his office. The game/workout room was empty. Finally I recognized noises coming from upstairs. A television? I moved right past the first four rooms on the second level, being guest rooms. Reaching our room, I started to speak, then took everything in.

Brian had turned our flat-screen computer monitor into a television that was playing one of our Jericho DVDs. An open can of Sprite was sitting on the nightstand next to an open package of Saltines. The big orange bowl we sometimes used for popcorn was just inches from Brian’s fingers. Brian himself was nearly as pale as the sheet he lay under, his hair matted to his head and dark with sweat. His blue eyes looked up at mine, the most remorseful expression on his face.

My excitement crashed in an instant. “Oh, sweetie…”

“Babe, I’m sorry,” he croaked.

I set my book on the dresser near the door before crossing the room. “How long you been sick?”

“Since before lunch,” Brian said as I sank onto the edge of the bed beside him. “I had to cut out of the studio.”

“Oh no,” I sympathized as I put my hand on his forehead. If he’d had to cut the recording session short, he was sick. “What’s your temperature? Do you know?”

“No, but considering I haven’t been able to keep anything down and I’ve got the chills, it’ll probably be high.”

He moved slowly so he could reach for the soda. I reached for it myself. “Here, let me – “

“I got it,” Brian said as he batted my hand away.

I tried not to frown. It was just the soda and already he wasn’t letting me help him.

“Didn’t quite make it to the bowl when I got home,” he admitted before taking a sip.

“I noticed your clothes in the washer. I’ll go finish up the load and get it started.”

“I meant to get those started sooner,” Brian said as I got to my feet. He sat up. “I’ll do it.”

I put a hand on his shoulder and pushed him back down. I could feel the heat radiating through his shirt. “No you won’t. You’re sick, B. I’ll do it.”

“It’s my laundry,” Brian protested.

“Do you even feel good enough to get out of the bed?” I asked.

Brian had swung his feet over the edge of the bed, but that was as far as he had gotten. He swayed slightly, leaned his head down and swallowed. “Guess not,” he grumbled after a moment.

I helped Brian back under the covers. “Are crackers and soda the only things you’ve been able to hold down? Have you tried popsicles?”

“No. But then, crackers and soda were just the first things I grabbed and haven’t felt like trying to get anything else.”

I kissed the top of his head. “I’ll go grab you one after I get the laundry going. I’ll get the thermometer, too. Love you.”

“Love you, too.”

I accomplished the tasks quickly and was soon back in our room with two popsicles and the digital thermometer.

“You won’t mind if I change into my pajamas, will you?” I asked as I handed him the thermometer.

Even sick, Brian still managed that melt-me-into-a-puddle smile. “Of course not.”

I blew him a kiss and headed for the closet. The phone rang just as I got there. Brian moaned when the ring tone and caller ID registered as Jon Holden, one of the members of Brian's group Midwest. The other two were cousins Chris Kennick and Alex Cochran. They'd been together as a band for just over sixteen years now and loving every minute of it.

“Has he been calling a lot?”

“No,” Brian replied. “I just don’t feel like talking right now.”

“Naturally. You’re sick. You want me to tell him or just let the machine get it?”

The phone was on the third ring. “Doesn’t matter,” Brian muttered before sticking the thermometer in his mouth.

I snatched up the phone. “Hello, Jon.”

“Miss Mary! You’re home. How’s the garden growing?”

I rolled my eyes at the really old nursery rhyme joke. “About ten minutes,” I replied as I finished changing. “And the garden is non-existent.”

“Rats. I’m always hoping,” he said jokingly. “How’s Brian? He cut out early saying he wasn’t feeling good, but we had a bet that it was just an excuse to get ready for you guys’ half-anniversary tonight.”

I sat next to Brian as I answered. “No. Brian’s really sick. I came home and found him in bed with a bowl by his side and soda and saltines on the bed table.”

“Dang, he is sick.”

“So who won the bet?”

“Bet?” Brian asked.

“Chris, of course,” Jon said. “He said he’d seen Brian looking pale long before he left.”

I rolled my eyes and explained the bet to Brian just as the thermometer beeped. Brian’s breath exhaled in a single short laugh. “Doesn’t he always win?” he muttered, handing me the thermometer after checking it himself. I looked at the number and frowned. 101 even. Brian reached for his soda, and then paused, sloshing the can around.

“Is it empty? I can get you a new one.”

Brian climbed out of bed before I could reach for it. “No, I’ll get this one. You got me the popsicle.”

“It’s not a problem – “

“Woman, I said I’ll do it myself!” he said sharply as he glanced at me and left the room.

I scowled. “’Scuse me?”

Brian stopped just outside the door. I couldn’t see his face but the slight movement of his shoulders told me he had winced at his mistake. He knew perfectly well he should never call me just ‘woman.’

“I meant… darling… angel… baby,” he searched contritely; “I can get another soda myself. But thank you.”

“Thank you,” I said sweetly.

“What was that?” Jon asked as Brian left.

“Oh, he just called me ‘woman’ and knows better.”

“Whoops. If he hadn’t been sick, I’d say threaten him not to go along with whatever he’d had planned for your anniversary. Has he told you about it?”

“No. I haven’t been home long enough.”

“Then I’d better let you go find out. Don’t let him not want you to take care of him,” Jon instructed. “Yeah, he doesn’t like anybody to, but you’re his wife for crying out loud.”

“That’s what just happened, but I’ll tell him you said so,” I replied as I started to follow my husband. “I offered to get him a new soda and he insisted he could do it himself.”

“Well go scold him.”

I just laughed and said goodbye. Brian was just getting another Sprite from the fridge when I reached the kitchen.

“Sorry about that,” Brian said as he opened the can.

“I know you don’t like anybody to take care of you,” I said as I closed the distance, “but even Jon says for you to let me. Being that I’m your wife and all.”

He smiled weakly at me, not fully meeting my eyes. I kissed his cheek, wishing I could do more.

“He even said that, if you weren’t sick, I should threaten to not go along with whatever you had planned for tonight. What did you have planned anyway?”

Brian shook his head and smiled. “Not telling.”

“And why not?” I asked, making a face at him.

“Because if you knew, you’d be even more upset that we can’t go because I’m sick.”

“I’m sure I’d get over it,” I replied. “Especially since I know you’re sick.”

But he still refused to tell.

“Then at least let me make something to help you get better. Soup or something.” Don’t you dare say no, I thought. Surely he’d let me do that.

“I don’t know if I could handle it, but you can certainly try.”

He headed back to our room and I set about making some soup. But I had barely set a pot of water on the stove when Brian was back, carrying his bed things toward the living room. Now that I was home, he could curl up on the couch while I made him let me take care of him while multitasking with other things like my next children’s novel. At least he let me give him some Motrin to reduce the fever before he put on Star Wars.

The soup was ready by the time the Death Star blew up Alderaan. I brought soup for both of us on a tray; then, knowing that Brian would insist on feeding himself, I took my big soup mug and curled up on my chair by his head. It was then that I realized that he’d brought the rose and jewelry box from the kitchen and had them waiting on the coffee table. He was holding the jewelry box and rubbing it with his fingers.

With a smile of embarrassment, Brian said, “I was hoping to give this to you in a more romantic setting, but…” he held the box out to me, “happy half-anniversary baby.”

It was the blue sapphire necklace and earrings set I’d been admiring for weeks. That he had chosen to give them to me now instead of my birthday or our year anniversary…

“They’re beautiful,” I breathed. “Thank you.”

Moments later I was wearing my new jewelry while my husband looked on and admired. “Beautiful,” he said. The look on his face said that he wasn’t looking at the jewelry.

I found myself smiling and blushing in return. “Best get yours,” I said as I got to my feet. I blew him a kiss and said I’d be right back. I darted to my study and grabbed the gifts I’d wrapped in paper I’d decorated myself. The second present I’d bought just the other day, hoping it would make a wonderful gift for him.

I was on my way back to the living room when I heard a sound that made me quicken my step, not slowing down until I reached the couch and sank beside Brian as he bent over the popcorn bowl and emptied his stomach. At last, he sat back and closed his eyes. My own heart wincing for him, I emptied the bowl in the nearest bathroom, rinsed it out and returned with it and a cold, wet washcloth. Brian was carefully sipping his Sprite when I returned. I set the bowl at his feet and handed him the cloth. He held it to his face and just sat there for a minute.

“Now, if you didn’t want to celebrate,” I said, trying to be a smart-aleck, “all you had to do was say so instead of getting sick.”

It worked. “What? And miss the chance to have you not take care of me instead of going out to some fancy-shmancy restaurant for dinner?”

I snagged at it. “Oh is that what you were planning?”

“I didn’t say that.”

“Well, what were we going to do?”

“Not tellin’,” Brian replied as he removed the cloth and leaned forward to take another drink.

Very maturely, I stuck my tongue out at him. He did it right back before he drank.

“So are those for me?” he asked. “I get two presents, huh?”

“Well, the second one was last minute,” I explained, reaching for the top gift. “Open this one first.” {iAnd hopefully you’ll understand the second one.

He took one more gulp of soda, and then carefully unwrapped the first gift – he knew I’d want to recycle it for the next gift-giving opportunity. He grinned and held up the golf vest he’d asked me to make. Done in an argyle pattern of brown, tan and off-white, I’d managed to mimic a vest he’d seen in a magazine while we were on our honeymoon.

“You finally got it finished.”

“Sorry it wasn’t finished in time for your birthday,” I apologized.

“Don’t be,” he said as he held the vest against himself. “It looks fantastic, baby.”

I smiled. “I imagine you’ll be on the course shortly after you’re better.” I motioned to what was left hidden in the tissue paper. “You might want to protect your clubs with those.”

“You made these too?” He held up one of the golf club covers I’d knitted over the winter. These were an attention-grabbing candy red. I still don’t know what possessed me to make them that color.

“Now you don’t have to get confused which bag of clubs is yours,” I said meekly.

“That’s the truth,” Brian said with a grin. He set the cover back in the box, then leaned over and tried to give me a kiss, but I reminded him of his fever.

“Air kisses till you’re better, hon.”

He pouted slightly, then smiled and carefully slipped the vest over his head. I helped him tug it around his waist and we discovered it was a good fit. I sighed with relief; I’d been worried I’d knitted the argyle pattern too tight. I’d had previous poor experience with argyle and carrying too many stitches.

“I wish I wasn’t sick,” Brian lamented. “I’d beg you to go with me to the course and take pictures. I can’t wait to use it.”

I laughed. “I imagine you could bring in some extra money as a model for golf clothes. Hey, how’s your fever?”

Brian shrugged. “Probably dropped a little or something since you gave me the Motrin. Did the thermometer get put away?”

I’d left it in the kitchen. As it turned out, his fever had gone down a little, but not enough that I’d allow him to go out golfing. He had to stay here and open his other gift.

His face scrunched in confusion as he took the second gift. The box was light for its size, and he might have thought it was empty. (If the situation had been reversed, I know I would have been just as confused, probably wonder if he were playing a practical joke. It would be just like him.) Especially since he unwrapped it to find that it was the shoebox from the last pair of athletic shoes he’d bought.

“You trying to tell me something?” he teased as he opened the lid. His face froze in its confused state as he stared at the contents.

“I am, actually,” I replied.

It was three yellow rubber ducks I’d found at a flea market just the other day. He pulled them out one by one, probably getting more confused by the second. One of the larger ones was wearing a pair of sunglasses and a basketball jersey. The other one was wearing a skirt and a sun hat. The third duck, the smallest, wore a baby bonnet and had a pacifier sticking out of its beak.

Brian blinked. “Wait a minute. Does this mean…?” He looked at me. “Are you…?”

“Happy half-anniversary, Brian,” I said. “I’m going to have a baby.”
© Copyright 2010 Duchess Laughing Lemurs (grace07 at Writing.Com). All rights reserved.
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