The day baby Addison and I were discharged from the hospital the nurse gave us our final wheelchair ride to the parking garage. Nicky followed with another wheelchair carrying the dozens of flowers, balloons, stuffed animals and greeting cards that we had receive in those last four days. The nurse dutifully checked the car seat to make sure that Nicky had installed it properly and instructed us how to secure the baby in the seat. “Hospital policy,” she told us. We weren’t even permitted to leave until she could confirm we understood her instructions on car seat safety.
Once we were on the road, Nicky drove ten miles under the speed limit. Every time we came to a stop light he would turn and look into the back seat where I sat with Addison. He smiled and seemed so proud that we were in the car. I was so confused by this. It was just the day before that he was in the parking lot kissing that woman. Who was she? Was it that Hope person he kept going on about?
I hadn’t said much to him since I witnessed the kiss, he noticed my coldness, but when he asked about my silence I used exhaustion as an excuse. He appeared content with my answer and mentioned that I must be exhausted with everything I have been through. Yes, ten months of ‘everything’ was exhausting.
What would have normally taken us twenty minutes to get home, took forty. But we arrived safely and he pulled the car into the garage. After settling the baby into the nursery, we unloaded the car and arranged the flowers throughout the living room and kitchen. The dirty dishes I had left in the sink before I was admitted into the hospital were gone and the kitchen was spotless. I walked into the living room and noticed that it had been rearranged. There was a new rug on the floor and several large floral arrangements in the corners of the room.
“What is this?” I asked as Nicky walked by towards the kitchen.
“Oh, mother came and did some cleaning. You know, to surprise you, so you could rest when you got home and not have to worry about the mess.” He kept on towards the kitchen and I followed.
“That is nice of her, but what’s with the new stuff? Where’s the old rug? The one that was in there was an antique. It belonged to my grandmother.”
“I don’t know, I think she threw it out. It was dingy and faded. She said it didn’t match the furniture she bought for us as a wedding gift.” The fact that I pointed out the importance of the rug to me and it belonged to my deceased grandmother went right over his head. He seemed nonchalant about my obvious sadness over the rug being gone.
“But it was my grandmother’s. My mom gave it to me after she died.” I was wondering if I was over reacting when tears formed in my eyes.
“Dammit Tess, what the hell do you want me to say? The fucking rug is gone. Get over it.” He poured himself a bowl of cereal and proceeded to eat it while I stood in the kitchen realizing that the man I had married had just returned into my life and the sweet guy from the hospital was gone.
“Who is Hope?” I quietly asked. His spoon stopped in midair. I had a feeling that I was pushing his boundary, but it was too late now, the question had been asked.
“Who?” He brought the spoon to his mouth and continued to eat.
“Hope. Who is Hope?”
“How the hell should I know?” he took another bite.
“Well, you once asked me why I couldn’t be more like Hope. And a few weeks ago when you came home from that party at Ted’s, you passed out and you were talking in your sleep. You kept saying her name. You told her you loved her.”
“I did not. Quite making shit up Tessa.” He stopped eating and stared at me in a warning way. His eyes told me I needed to stop talking.
“I saw you.” I looked down at the counter. I picked up the dish towel that Nicky had used to dry his hands and started folding it.
“Oh my God, saw me what? Tessa, why are you always trying to start a fight with me?” He threw his bowl and spoon into the sink. The porcelain bowl smashed into pieces and milk splattered over the counter and ran down the cabinets, “Dammit, look at what you made me do! You’re so fucking stupid!”
He stood staring at the mess he had just made and then turned at me so quickly I jumped back. He smacked me across the face then grabbed it between his thumb and first two fingers.
“Saw me what?” He hissed. I tasted the saltiness of blood in my mouth. I answered him even though he continued to squeeze my face in his hand.
“I saw you kissing her. In the parking lot at the hospital” He pushed my face away from him and took a few steps back. For a moment I thought he knew he was caught.
“No you didn’t. You must have seen someone else and thought it was me.” He laughed and crossed his arms leaning back against the kitchen island.
I walked around the other side of the island, to put something between us in case he decided to move in again.
“No, Nicky. It was you. I saw you get out of our car and I saw you kiss her.”
“Well, let’s get something straight. It isn’t our car, it is my car. The same goes for this house and everything in it. It’s mine, not yours, not ours. Mine. You have nothing, because, you are nothing. Do you understand that?” Yep, he was back, in full force. He walked slowly around the island and I was frozen. There was no point in moving.
I heard the baby crying from the other room. Suddenly the look on his face softened. He looked in the direction of the cry, “Go check on her.” He turned to the sink and began cleaning up the broken bowl and spilled milk.
After I had fed her and put her back in her crib; I turned on the monitor and went to the master bath. I stood in front of the mirror checking the staples of the incision. It was red and swollen. I had strict instructions to keep the incision as dry as possible and change the dressing often. I was scheduled to go back in a few days to have the doctor check the staples. If it continued to heal properly, I could get the staples out soon.
My reflection was not that of the twenty-one year old that stood in the mirror pre-pregnancy. My stomach was still stretched out and covered in stretch marks. Why hadn’t I used that stupid cream my mom gave me? I chastised myself. I slowly dabbed the incision with the gauzed the hospital sent home with me and put a new dressing on. Nicky came into the bathroom while I was smoothing down the tape.
“Damn, you look like shit.” He wrinkled his nose at the reflection in the mirror, “You’re so fucking fat now.” I turned and looked at him with a sarcastic ‘thanks!’ in my eyes.
“Nice.” I said dryly.
“I think maybe tomorrow we need to take you to a gym and get you signed up. The sooner, the better, at least before I have to buy a new house; seems you are gonna grow out of this one!” He smirked. He thought he was being funny. At least he was amusing someone. I just shook my head and tried to ignore him, “Well, at least you are still good for one thing.” He reached around and starting caressing my swollen breasts, “at least your titties are bigger. That’s a plus!” I pushed his hands away.
“Stop Nicky, you can’t do that. I’m lactating. You rub on them, they will leak.” I quickly grabbed my robe and covered my naked body. He reached out and grabbed my arm.
“Where are you going? Haven’t you missed me?” Was he for real?
“The doctor told you in the hospital, we can’t do that for at least six weeks.” I reminded him of the check list that I was given. How much I was allowed to lift, push, etc. The doctor even told us I shouldn’t do simple household chores like vacuum.
“Oh no one ever listens to that list. Doctors just make that shit up so woman have an excuse to not clean or do there Godly duty. You wouldn’t want to go against Christ would you Tess? Besides, are you seriously going to make me wait six whole weeks?” His hand reached down and started rubbing my bottom, “I can go get the bible and show you where God tells a woman she should never deny her husband.” I remembered the pictures that I had placed in the Bible during his day of drinking and panicked inside. If he saw those things would be so much worse than I could ever imagine. Why did I take them in the first place?
“No, you don’t have to get the Bible Nicky, but the doctors aren’t making that stuff up. A woman’s body goes through a lot after having a baby. It’s for her safety.” I wasn’t being convincing enough, his hand moved around to the front and placed it between my legs.
“Well, you see you didn’t push the baby from here. You are lucky. So you aren’t all stretched out like other woman. You’ll still be tight. Why don’t you just let me find out?”
“No.” I whispered, knowing that he would get his way.
“What have you been doing that these staples look like this?” Dr. Kirkson was obviously not happy, “have you been vacuuming? You know I told you no vacuuming.” Vacuuming, yes, I was vacuuming.
“I’m sorry Dr. Kirkson. I shouldn’t have. I just couldn’t sit still any longer. And Nicky came home with snow and salt on his shoes. Do you know what salt does to carpets?” I lied.
“Well, I am going to have to replace these staples; you are going to have a really bad scar here. We won’t be able to avoid that. Now, lie back.” He prepared a needle and gave me a local to numb the area. I still felt the pressure when he pulled out the staples that were already half way out of the skin.
Nicky wasn’t gentle in his love making. He paid no attention to the tears that rolled down my face. I wasn’t sure if I was crying because of the heated pain coming from my mid-section or because I felt violated by my own husband. Was it normal to feel so disgusted by my husband? Was my flesh supposed to crawl at his touch? He was my husband; would God really allow me to feel this way if he made the law that I had to submit to the man I was married too?
I was realizing how blessed I was to be unconscious the last time the incision was stapled; because the sound of the stapler piercing through my flesh was mind bending now. I couldn’t feel it, but the sound was disturbing. After he finished re-stapling, Dr. Kirkson’s nurse put a new dressing on the incision, but not until after he went over the rules one last time. He patted my arm and left the room.
“You know, if you need to talk to someone, this is a safe place.” The nurse said without looking up from her work of dressing the wound. She knew. But how? Was I that bad of a liar?
“I mean if you weren’t really vacuuming, there are people here that you can talk to.”
“I was vacuuming.” I lied, sliding off the examination table. I picked my purse up and put it over my shoulder. The nurse looked at me with a knowing sympathy. She had tried.
“Okay.” She gave me a weak smile and reached out and rubbed my arm. She let me go.
When I walked out the office door, the cold air that hit my face stung. When I got into the car the water works began. I sat in the car for ten minutes weeping.
“How’s my little princess?” I said when I returned to the house and leaned into the crib at my sleeping baby. My mother was there watching her while I went to the doctor. Being away from her for too long was impossible; I needed to feed her, so I gently woke her. I sat in the rocking chair that I placed in the corner of the nursery and feed her as I rocked. My mother stood at the changing table folding baby clothes, “Mom, do you think you could come stay for a while?”
“I thought you would never ask”, she smiled and continued folding the tiny garments, “I was afraid that awful mother-in-law of yours would weasel her way in here.”
I laughed at her comment about Fannie. My mom never spoke ill of anyone, so it was funny to hear her refer to Fannie as ‘awful’.
“Yeah, I am just so tired. The baby isn’t sleeping through the night. I try to keep her up during the day but she just conks out. Then as soon as it gets time for me to go to bed, she is wide awake.” I gently stroked the flaxen colored fuzz that covered her tiny head. The red patchiness in her skin had gone away and now she was a smooth peach color with blond fuzz all over.
“Well, all babies are different. We will get her on a schedule.” She assured me and started neatly placing the tiny outfits into dresser drawers as I switched the baby to the other side.
“She just cries and I don’t know what she wants. I try to feed her but that isn’t what she wants. I change her diaper, she still cries. Sometime her face gets so red it scares me. I don’t know if she is in pain or not.” I shook my head. I could see that my mom was remembering what I was feeling. I guess you never really do forget being a mom for the first time.
“I remember when Diana was first born. We lived in California, so I didn’t have my mom or Jerry’s mom close by. Your dad was never home and I couldn’t call your grandma in the middle of the night. Oh, I struggled. But we made it through.” She smiled at the memory, “I am glad I have been able to be here for you and your sister.”
So it was settled, my mom was staying for a while. Not only did I need the help, but I felt safer with her there. There is no way that Nicky would be “Nicky” with my mom around.
“You don’t need your mom here Tessa. God, can’t you do anything?” Nicky was not pleased with my announcement that my mom was coming to help me with the baby.
“I do need the help. She has experience and she really wants to be here. It makes her feel wanted. And besides I want her here.” I was almost pleading, “Besides she is so good with Addison. She just has that special touch. Maybe she can teach me how to be as good a mom as she is.”
“Ha! You can’t be taught. You have to have some level of intelligence to be taught.” He pushed his mashed potatoes around his plate, “What the hell is the crap? Are you trying to kill me? Maybe while your mom is here she can teach you how to cook a decent meal!”
“Maybe…” I didn’t have the heart to argue with him, or to tell him that his mom dropped the meal off while he was at work. She wanted to make sure “her Nicky” has his favorite meal. I just smiled and continued to eat the “crap” his mother cooked him.
The next six months got worse. My mother left after staying with us for two weeks. I managed to talk Nicky into letting my sister come stay for a week. He was more susceptible to that since that meant Chris would come over and talk cars and sports with him. But after they left, it was a game of ‘Dodge Nicky’. When I went back to get the staples removed the second time, I insisted Nicky come with me in hopes that Dr. Kirkson would stress to us the importance of me abiding by the rules he has placed for me. But Nicky charmed Dr. Kirkson like he always did. The one person he could not charm was the nurse. She kept her eyes on him and it was obvious by her facial and body language that every word that came out of Nicky’s mouth was a joke.
“Now you keep taking good care of these girls Nicky.” Dr. Kirkson gave Nicky a slap on the back as they walked out of the examination room. I picked the baby carrier up and started for the door.
“The offer still stands Tessa,” she said it quickly before I could leave the room, but low enough that Nicky wouldn’t hear if he was close, “If you need to talk just call here and ask for Nancy. I am here for you.” I looked at her gratefully.
“Thank you Nancy. I know that. But you have to understand, I can’t do this alone.” I smiled at her and followed my husband and the doctor to the reception desk.
“You ready sweetie?” Nicky asked me as I approached. I smiled and nodded.
Addison grew faster than I had imagined she would. Every day she got stronger and she filled out and began to look more like a little person every day. She no longer had that scrunched up, wrinkled look about her. She began to smile, coo, and giggle. Her eyes followed me and she knew my voice. I would speak to her and she would smile this wildly big smile. She had a personality all her own. The only time I could see her father in her was in her eyes and the dimple that appeared in her chin when she smiled. Other than that she was a teeny me.
She made the fights worth it. She made the night that I had to endure her father’s unwanted advances worth in. She made the bruises worth it. I would remind myself that without Nicky, I wouldn’t have her. So I stayed, I would make it to the year even if it killed me and it just might.
Touching Trees by T L Lady is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.
Based on a work at https://touchingtrees.wordpress.com.wouldn’t have her. So I stayed, I would make it to the year if it killed me. And it just might.
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