State of Emergency – Chapter 8

January 3, 2011


Waking from warm and loving dreams in the wreckage of what was once a well-made bed, Dolly’s head was filled with misty, glowing memories that lit the smile on her face as she searched for her underwear.

Times Square had been a dizzying flood of light and colour and blaring car horns, but Ian’s hand, warm and solid as it wrapped hers, was all the anchor she had needed not to be swept away. The two of them stopped on the side-walk near the gleaming silver pyramid of the Paramount building, oblivious to the other pedestrians that flowed around them and the taste of her first Coney Dog was still on her lips as she smiled up at him, listening.

“So… you ready for life back home?” Ian’s grin was huge and infectious. With England and a new life only days away, the excitement of the move was buzzing through both of them and her fingers trembled with it as she squeezed his hand.

“Maybe a little twitchy still, but I guess it’ll take a while to lose that San Paro vibe. But there’s so much I’m looking forward to. Like taking Gerrard for a walk without a gun in my pocket. And doing… I don’t know… homely things! In a home we won’t have to move away from at the drop of a hat! No more running… It’s going to be idyllic.” She pursed her lips for a moment, brow furrowing in thought. “There’s stuff that scares me too, though. Like meeting your parents.”

Ian’s shoulders shook with laughter, though his eyes were invisible behind the dark glasses he habitually wore. She continued. “I can just picture your father, putting his arm around your shoulders, taking you aside.” She lowered the pitch of her voice, adopting a stern expression. “Son… I don’t know how to say this, but you’ve made a mistake! You’ve married a fuck toy, son! They’re all very well, but you should be marrying serious women with…” She started to giggle helplessly “…brown hair and their own aprons.”

His laughter faded as he leaned in close to her, his tone low and intimate, for her ears alone. “What about starting our own family?”

The jolt of sheer terror that had struck her at the time felt as far away as New York itself as she pulled on her knickers, then turned sideways to look at herself in the mirror, puffing out her stomach as far as it would go and resting her folded hands atop it. The ghost of a tender smile crossed her lips as she contemplated her reflection.

“I think you’d make a pretty terrific father, you know? You can be so very gentle… So very warm…”

He’d chuckled, blushing. “I’m not so sure, but I’d like to try.”

In San Paro, the idea would have been ludicrous; the chance of carrying a child to term was negligible in the daily barrage of wounds and bruises, the tortuous electrocutions from stun guns. Here, though… Stanley Park was full of young families just starting out; she saw the loving glow that surrounded the young mothers and felt the first flutterings of the desire in herself. The sight of them brought back memories of her own mother, bitter-sweet with loss, countered by dreams of the future, of Ian’s face alight at his first glimpse of their newborn infant, or teaching a wobbly-legged toddler to kick a ball for the first time. Or just sitting together; she in his arms, gazing tenderly at the child in hers.

She wanted it. Her terror of the agonies of childbirth seemed childish and petty now, in the way that all her fears faded away with Ian’s touch. In a year, perhaps two, they’d be ready and their marital home would become a family one.

As long as she didn’t get sick again. As long as she wasn’t crazy.

She heard a door close and bounded out of the room and down the stairs without regard for her state of undress. As she skidded into the kitchen, Gerrard barked sharply in welcome, but her eyes immediately locked on Ian’s back as he drove home the bolts on the outside door and primed the alarm.

Her voice caught in her throat. “Are we… are we leaving again?”

He glanced at her before turning back to the alarm, entering the last digits of the activation code before taking off his glasses and crossing the room swiftly to wrap her in his arms. “Not this time, love…. Not this time. Everything’s going to get better… You’re going to get better. I’m just being careful, that’s all.”

She gazed up into the green and amber of his unguarded eyes, his every word not just promise but fact to her ears.

“Now…” He patted her bottom playfully. “Be a love and go get the assault rifle.”

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