I woke up early the next morning, feeling especially proud to be awake before Charlie. It was such a rare occurrence to see him sleeping that I spent a few minutes just watching him. Stress was playing a toll; gray hair was just beginning to sprout at his still youthful temples. He frowned even while asleep, the muscles near his mouth moving as if he was reciting some medical ailment even in dreamland.
After a few more minutes of observation I slid out of bed. I got out all the ingredients for cheese and pepper omelets, Charlie's favorite, and turned the kitchen radio on low.
Soon the delicious aroma filled the room, accentuated by the addition of some bacon. I was beginning to think I might just have to serve him breakfast in bed when he stepped into the room.
I was surprised to see him already dressed, flipping his tie through to finish the knot. His hair was wet, a sure product of a quick wet comb job.
"I made breakfast," I said with a smile. "Your favorite om--"
"One of my patients took a turn for the worse overnight. I have to move my rounds up this morning. I can't stay."
I blinked. At least I thought I blinked. I watched him grab a power bar from the glass container, setting the stainless steel lid back on crooked.
"But, I need to talk to you about something," I protested. "and breakfast--"
"Honey, honey, honey, I know, thank you," he breezed over to give me a kiss. "Thank you. We'll talk as soon as I get home."
"You can't stop when the balance between life and death is juxtaposed!" he called out. I wasn't sure he used the word juxtaposed right, but it didn't matter anyhow. He was already getting in his car.
"Thank you for the omelet, Mace," I murmured to myself as I plated one for myself. "I can't wait to hear what you have to say. This bacon's so crisp."
To anyone looking in, they would have thought I'd lost my mind. I slammed my glass of orange juice down, barely biting my tongue as juice sloshed down onto the table.
I knew there was no way I was going to take Rielynn and head off to a some foreign country without talking to Charlie. I stuffed a bite of fluffy, cheesy, egg in my mouth hoping the chewing would help me think.
Instead, two bites in, the doorbell rang.
The sound of a doorbell means different things to different people. For teenagers, it means the sound of friends or the arrival of a hot date. For college students it's the sound of a much needed pizza arriving. For newlyweds it's the interruption of in-laws.
For a mother of a sleeping child, the doorbell is a masked intruder that must be silenced and potentially killed.
That was my greeting as I yanked open the door. Nick’s fingers curled into his palm and his face immediately registered understanding. “Sorry,” he mouthed.
“HI!” Parker practically shouted. Nick placed his finger to his lips.
To say I was surprised would be an understatement. First of all, I didn’t think that he was the type to roll out of bed this early in the morning. Secondly, I didn’t know how he was able to get himself and Parker out of the house this early. And thirdly, I was just surprised to see him. It took a couple seconds before the surprise wore off.
“Come in,” I said, stepping back.
He walked in, Parker on his hip. I almost laughed to see Parker’s chubby finger pressed against his own lips. I noticed Nick inhaling and exhaling heavily. I waved them on into the kitchen.
“Well,” Nick hesitated. I slid the spatula under Charlie’s omelet.
“I have extra,” I said. I grabbed the tongs and placed a couple strips of bacon on the plate.
“If you’re sure...”
“I’m positive,” I said, feeling ridiculously vindicated for some reason. “Sit on down.”
Five minutes later, Parker was in Rielynn’s high chair, a small pile of scrambled eggs set before him and Nick was shoveling in the food like he had transformed into a Hoover vacuum.
“Thesoofdaoocious,” he said, coming up for air just long enough to take a swig of juice. He grinned. “Delicious,” he repeated in English.
“Thank you,” I smiled. “So can I ask you how come you were at my doorstep so early this morning?”
He took his time answering, opting instead to shovel in another three bites of omelet, capping it off with a very carnivorous tear of a bacon strip. “Malaysia.”
I stifled a groan. I should have known. He was a celebrity. Celebrities weren’t used to waiting for things, right? I looked over at Parker. Think, Macie, think...
“Well, I had an idea,” I said. “Instead of taking me and Rielynn to Malaysia, just leave Parker here. I’ll be happy to watch him and it’ll be less expensive.” And less difficult, I thought to myself. But, before I had even uttered the last word, Nick was shaking his head.
“I can’t,” he said in a funny voice. It was kinda strangled, sad and tense at the same time. He pushed his plate aside.
“Why not?” I asked. “I mean, I’d take just as good of care of him here as I would there.”
“I have OPDS,” Nick said seriously.
My brain went into overdrive. I was married to a doctor. Surely, I should know was OPDS meant. OPDS, OPDS...OPDS...
“Over-protective dad syndrome,” Nick supplied.
I couldn’t help it; I laughed. He gave me a sheepish look. He reached into his pocket and I wondered if he had even gone so far as to make a cheesy ‘medical’ card with the faux-syndrome.
Instead he pulled out a small object, rolling it around with his fingers.
“Parker has a severe allergic reaction to bee stings,” Nick explained. “His throat will swell up so quickly that he can die in less than sixty seconds.”
I looked into Nick’s eyes and then back down.
“That’s an epipen,” I said, realizing finally what it was.
“Parker was ten months old when a bee stung him in the neck,” Nick said, his voice filled with emotion. Even Parker looked up from his eggs, his eyes glued on his dad. “I was in South Africa at the time.” I saw the moisture begin to build. He was reliving it in his mind and I knew he was going to cry. I was a second away from doing the same thing. “I have never felt that helpless in my entire life.” He didn’t add anything more and I didn’t dare ask him. I wasn’t quite sure that I could speak. It felt like an impending parental cry fest was impending fast until Rielynn began to cry. I bounced up like my souls were made of rubber.
“I’ll be righback,” I said, merging the last two words together. I felt an overwhelming urge to hold my baby.
“Hi mama!” she said happily as I opened the door. “Oomph!”
The oomph came as I hugged her tightly to me.
“Good morning, baby,” I said, kissing the top of her head. I set her down and she went over to pick out her outfit for the door. As she moved, I couldn’t help but think what I would do if I wasn’t around and Rielynn was put in a life or death situation.
Fifteen minutes later when Rielynn and I came back into the kitchen, I received another shock. Nick had done the dishes. The kitchen was clean except for a potholder Parker had commandeered. Nick smiled at Rielynn.
Her eyes lit up happily. “Hi-hi!”
“I’ll do it.”
The words rushed out of my mouth like they were just air, not meaning. He looked at me. I looked at him.
“Do what?” he asked.
“We’ll go to Malaysia,” I said, not believing I was really saying it. “If you trust me.”
Relief, happiness, and excitement flooded his face. “Trust me,” he said, grinning. “I trust you.”