Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Chapter 7-5: Falling Back

                Hanley rolled in her sleep, trying not to disturb Ben as he snored softly beside her. No matter which way she twisted, she couldn’t get comfortable. What is wrong with me? As she shifted to her side, she felt Ben stir beside her just before his elbow connected with the back of her head. Grumbling, she grabbed her pillow and huffed her way down to the couch.

                His return was nothing like she had thought it would be. Sure, the first night had been amazing, beyond words even. They had lain in each other’s arms, content with the silence. No words were needed. Now though, she couldn’t even sleep in her own bed at night. After having the space to herself for almost a year, the body lying beside her felt foreign.

                There must be something wrong with me. What woman feels this way when her husband comes home from a deployment? A bad wife, that’s what kind of woman.

                It wasn’t just the bed either. She found herself constantly watching him with Isaac and, worse even, scrutinizing his actions. It’s not like before having Isaac she had any experience with babies. Nonetheless, she constantly corrected him when he spent time with their son.

“Ben, honey, can you tilt the bottle up a bit more? If you leave it at that angle, it gets bubbles.”

“He likes the dinosaur toy in the bath, not the truck. Here, I’ll switch with you.”

“Oh honey, let me take him. If you don’t use just the right amount of powder, he gets diaper rash.”

 “He prefers good night moon instead of singing. If you don’t know the words, I can tell him the story.”

                He was a good father. She knew that. She could see it in his eyes when he held his son. So why did she feel the need to constantly supervise the time he spent with Isaac? Worse yet, why must she find fault with every way he interacted with him? It made her feel ridiculous but no sooner than vowing to stop would she catch herself at it again.

                “Good morning beautiful. You weren’t in bed when I woke up.” She felt Ben’s arms around her waist and turned to give him a kiss. There was nothing she could criticize about the kisses.
                “Sorry. I had trouble sleeping last night so I came downstairs. I didn’t want to keep you up. I made breakfast,” she gestured to the pancakes on the counter before grabbing a few plates from the cabinet.

                “It’s hard, huh?” She looked at him quizzically as they sat eating their breakfast, waiting for him to continue. “Adjusting again. You’re not that good at hiding your feelings baby.”
                “Oh Watcher! I’m sorry! Ben, I’m so happy you’re home. And I love you. Please don’t be mad.”

                “Han, sweetheart, I could never be mad.” He turned in his chair and reached up to stroke her cheek. “This is normal. If you’re that worried about it, we can talk to someone. But I promise, everything will be fine. We just need time.”

                The few weeks that Ben had home for his post deployment leave were soon up. He went back to work which made pretending that he had never left much easier. Their old morning routine fell back into place: the two of them waking to the alarm, Ben going out for his morning run while Hanley took a shower. When he got back, they would share a cup of coffee before he had to leave. The biggest difference being that both Hanley and Isaac would send him off with kisses before work now.

                “How was your day?” Hanley met Ben in the driveway, like she used to when they had first moved to town. Despite the tension between them sometimes, the sound of his truck pulling into the driveway still made her break into a huge grin.
                “Nothing too exciting happened. Mostly boring meetings going over the training schedule.”
                “Would you like to go out this weekend? Emme said she could watch Isaac for us.”
                “That sounds great sweetheart,” he agreed giving her a kiss. “Did you have anything in mind? If not, I’ve got an idea.”

                That Friday night, the two of them headed over to Andromeda’s. Ben had heard the bar was bringing in some live music, a band called Minor Wolves, which he wanted to check out. Hanley had never heard of them but she rarely turned the radio on and, when she did, it was usually some form of cartoon music for Isaac.

The place was pretty packed and the band already on stage when they arrived. Hanley found them a seat at one of the high tops while Ben grabbed them a couple of beers from the bar.

                “You know, I think I might  actually recognize them.”
                “Maybe. They’ve become a pretty big thing. They’ve toured a couple times, mostly overseas. And they won the last Battle of the Bands.”
                “The blonde one with the glasses is really cute!”

                He turned to look at her with a smirk. “You do know your husband is sitting right here, right?”
                “I’m married, not blind. And let’s be honest, they’re all attractive.”
                “Touché. And I’ll tell you what; if he tries to pick you up, you have my blessing.”
                Her brow furrowed and she tilted her head, eyeing him with suspicion before the truth dawned on her. “He’s totally involved with someone, isn’t he?”
                “Happily married to the guy in the blue shirt.”

                “Aww, good for them! Sad for me because I guess that means I’m stuck with you.” He grinned, grabbing her hand. “Where are we going?”
                “Well, if you’re stuck with me, I might as well at least try to show you a good time. Let’s dance!”

                 “Do you remember the first time we did this?” They’d picked Isaac up from Emme’s and settled him into his crib. They now sat outside in the dew kissed grass, just beyond the halo of light from their porch and gazed up at the stars.
                “At the beach, when you told me that you were falling for me?” She grinned at him, enjoying the memory of watching him squirm and the butterflies she’d felt in her stomach as she realized she was falling for him too.
                “I’ve never spoken truer words.” He turned to her with a furrowed brow. “You’ve changed since I’ve been gone. We both have. You don’t need me anymore. Not that you needed me before. Crap, I’m saying this wrong.” She shifted in the grass, suddenly feeling fluttering in her stomach again. The memory of fluttering butterflies suddenly morphed into a swarm of angry wasps. He said we just needed time. What’s he saying?
                “I mean, you’re stronger. I’m so proud of you. You’ve given up so much to be with me. You gave birth to our son while I was gone and you make the best of whatever situation we’re thrown. Back then, I was falling for you and when we got married I never imagined I could love you anymore than I did then. I was wrong.”

                With Isaac’s birthday just around the corner, Hanley had enrolled in a cooking class at the local bakery. She couldn’t believe her tiny boy was going to be a toddler. With direction, she was soon weeping over a perfectly iced birthday cake.

                “Come on in. The present pile is on the counter in the kitchen.” Emme and Todd arrived with Darcy and Kelli in tow. Josephine and Jesse had arrived a bit earlier with Felix, who would be celebrating his own birthday in a few more weeks.

                Even Flynn and Gemma with her daughter Sherry had managed to squeeze in a trip to town for Isaac’s birthday.

                Having so much of her family together made Hanley miss the others that much more. Hal had wanted to come but was playing in an away game across the country. And, the absence of both of her parents was strongly felt. Milo had passed away shortly before Ben came home. She was thankful that he at least got to meet his first grandchild and had been there for her when she needed him most.

                About an hour into the party, Hanley decided it was time for the birthday boy to blow out his candle. The party was already trudging into afternoon and nearing Isaac’s naptime. Though the party was, of course, in his honor, it was important to keep to their routine. Letting him skip nap time was a risk, and epic meltdown, she wasn’t willing to chance.

                Ben handed out the noise makers and joined her at the side of the counter. She blew out the candles with her boy and, in the blink of an eye, she and Ben were the proud parents of a toddler!

                “Get together, get together! Before long he’ll be going to prom and you’ll be sad you don’t have more pictures,” Emme urged pushing them towards each other. She always carried a camera with her and insisted on taking dozens of pictures of everything. Both her daughters were still toddlers and they already had two photo albums apiece. Knowing Emme would never rest until she had at least one family photo that she approved, Hanley and Ben gathered Isaac between them and smiled for the camera. Despite her careful plans, Isaac was still fussy and, after about a dozen takes, they called it quits and Hanley hurried upstairs to get him down for his nap while Ben thanked their guests for coming.

                After Felix’s birthday, Josephine and Hanley often met at the park during the week to catch up and let the little ones play together.

                “I have some news,” Josephine announced as the two took a seat on a nearby bench. “I’m pregnant!”
                “Oh my Watcher Jo, really? You weren’t kidding when you said you loved being pregnant. I can’t imagine having another one.” She glanced down and shifted her son, who’d been tugging on her hair.
                “This one wasn’t quite so planned. Apparently, some women are more fertile after giving birth.” Jo smiled and Hanley knew that, accident or not, Jo was still thrilled with the news. “We’re not telling ‘people’ yet but I had to tell someone!”

                Isaac couldn’t stop wriggling around so the moms made their way to the sandbox. Isaac would be content for a while with plastic toys to bang and dirt to dig in. Felix was much more docile as a toddler and was content to curiously gaze at everything going on around him.

                “So you and Ben don’t want any more?”
                “We haven’t really discussed it. He missed so much with Isaac and another deployment is inevitable. I just want to be able to enjoy the time the three of us have together now.”

                “Honey, don’t forget that you and Jesse promised to take the boys trick or treating this afternoon before the party,” Hanley called up the stairs to Ben as she fed Isaac his lunch. “I’ve got to run to the store to get some stuff for the party so I’ll see you when you guys get back.”

                After she left, Ben got himself and Isaac dressed and met Jesse and Felix outside to begin the trip up and down the street.

                He dropped Isaac off at the sitter’s house on his way home and then headed upstairs to see if Hanley was ready to go. She was standing in front of the bathroom mirror, still wrapped in her towel but as he entered the room she turned to stare at him, leaning against the doorjamb.
                “Just thinking about how sexy you look. Where’d you find that?” He forgot he hadn’t shown her the actual costume when they’d discussed what to wear to the party.

 “Oh, this old thing? I had it lying around, from my vigilante days, before I went into the honest hero business. Pays less of course but the uniform is much more comfortable.” He glanced at his phone. “If you don’t hurry, we’re going to be late.”

                Hanley dropped her towel and stepped close to him, nudging him until he was sitting on the edging of the bed. “We’ll be late.”

                “Wow! Josephine really went all out, didn’t she?”  The front of the house was bedecked in pumpkins with a scarecrow watching over the entryway. Dry ice seeped out from under the door, lending a creepy air to the porch.

                “There you are!” Josephine beckoned them inside as they climbed the stairs. “Everyone is already here. I was beginning to think the two of you weren’t going to make it.” Ben and Hanley exchanged sheepish grins before crossing the threshold.

                “Have you told her yet,” Jesse pulled Ben towards the kitchen.
                “Where’d your other costume go,” Ben asked, noticing that Jesse was now dressed as a medieval knight rather than simply wearing his work uniform.
                Jesse groaned. “Jo had this waiting for me when I got back. Apparently a firefighter was fine for going around with Felix but not for the party. Stop changing the subject.”
                “No, I haven’t told her yet. I hate giving her bad news.”
                “You know you have to tell her at some point.”

Chapter 7.4                                                                                                                                                      Chapter 7.6

Author's Notes:

* I really was trying to be more timely but...I failed.

* goodnightlittlewing from tumblr was kind enough to let me borrow her band for the date night pictures.

* At least until the end of the generation, I will be duel posting here and on tumblr. I know I mentioned switching to tumblr previously, but it feels weird to just stop in the middle of a generation. There are definitely pros and cons to both (I really like my layout for the table of contents and download pages over on tumblr). And with Blogger deciding against pulling content, I decided against moving everything from here to Wordpress. So if you follow me both places, I apologize for the duplicates.