Authors: Shelly Hickman
Monday evening, I come home tired from a busy day at my clinic. Although I have always been actively involved in the treatment of my physical therapy clients, I’m beginning to consider pulling back and taking more of a behind the scenes role in my practice. It’s not that I want to. Interacting with clients is one of the most satisfying parts of my job, but it’s times like these, when I would have liked to stay home a bit longer with Kiran while he recovered, that I wish I didn’t run my own business. Because there was no opportunity to plan ahead, I was only able to take a couple days off before returning to work.
Somewhere in the back of my mind, I consider how I would also like to make myself more available for Carly. If her concerns about Claire turn out to be valid, she and Jason will need some help, even if it simply means watching Claire more often so that the two of them can decompress.
When I reach the top of the staircase, I can hear music playing from our bedroom. I’m barely through the door when Kiran catches me by surprise. He swiftly takes my purse and drops it to the floor before pinning me against the wall, wearing nothing but boxers and a sexy little smile.
He says nothing in return, but instead slowly trails his lips down my neck while unbuttoning my blouse. I know he means business because Bryan Ferry’s “I Put a Spell on You” plays on the stereo and Kiran is well aware of what his voice does to me. My panties will be on the floor in record time.
“Um, sweetie,” I breathe heavily, trying not to get too worked up by his roaming hands paired with Bryan’s sultry voice. “Do you think this is wise? You’ve only been home a week.”
He pauses briefly to close and lock the bedroom door before returning to my mouth, gently biting my lower lip. “The doctor said it would be fine in a few days,” he whispers. “It’s been a few days.”
His body presses against mine, and that warning about his meds possibly affecting “blood flow” doesn’t seem to be relevant at the moment. In fact, I’ve not seen him quite like this before. So… in charge. Despite my apprehension about resuming sex so soon after his heart attack, I find myself running my hands over his broad shoulders as I watch him lower his face to my breasts. Moments later, he rises to wrap his arms tightly around my waist and lifts me. Taking a few steps to the bed, he playfully drops me to the mattress.
“What has gotten into you?”
He continues to stand before me, leaving me the opportunity to admire the physique that can’t possibly be nearing fifty.
“Why? Does it bother you?”
“You wonder what’s gotten into me.” He lowers himself on top of me and his mouth begins to roam my body. “One… after a week of being coddled and hovered over by your future mother-in-law, I’m about out of my mind.” He pauses to kiss the hollow of my throat. “Two… after last week’s scare, I’m pretty damn thankful to have a heart that’s still ticking.” His lips now land on my stomach, and I wriggle as his whiskers tickle my skin. “And three… I’ve been dying—pardon the expression…”
I laugh softly as he brings his face to mine.
“…To make love to my bride-to-be.”
We gaze at one another a few seconds and my throat tightens. He’s definitely gotten to me, but he has a solid history of that. “Holy crap. You’re good.”
Afterwards, we share a bath; something I wish we’d had the opportunity to do at the Paris Hotel. I actually would have preferred to clean up before our romp, maybe even shave my legs, but I wasn’t about to kill Kiran’s spontaneity. He leans back in the tub and invites me to lie back against him.
“So, your mom’s been getting to you, eh?” I ask with a smile.
“Oh, good God.” He leans his face into his hand. “Anna, she’s driving me crazy.”
I pat him on the knee and laugh. “Aww, poor baby.”
“Be prepared for her to start making you crazy as well. Just wait. She’s going to start trying to take over”—he pauses for a moment—“the wedding plans.”
It occurs to me that he knows this from when he was engaged to Christine, and he immediately seems to regret his remark. He silently pulls my hair to one side.
“Is that what she did with Christine?”
“I’m sorry.” He rests his chin on my shoulder.
I turn my head so I can see his face. “It’s okay for you to talk about it. It won’t bother me.”
“There’s not really anything to talk about. Just know that she will try to sway you from anything simple.”
Running my fingers back and forth over his arms which are now wrapped around me, I tilt my head. “What kind of ceremony do you want? Do you want big and fun with lots of guests? Or would you rather have something more intimate?”
“It makes no difference to me. The end result is all I care about.” He kisses the side of my head. “I want you to have the ceremony that
want, and if that’s something understated, Mother will work to convince you otherwise. In which case, I’ll have to firmly remind her that it’s our wedding, not hers.”
“Dude, I really need to shave my legs.”
“Here, turn around.”
I sit up and swivel around to face him. Pushing the faucet to one side, I lean back and he lathers up one of my legs with soap. “Hand me your razor.”
“You’re going to shave my legs?”
“Sure. Why not?”
I shrug and hand it to him. “Part of me would enjoy a big, celebratory wedding because when Luke and I got married, it was very understated, as you say.”
Kiran is concentrating so intently on his task, making sure not to cut me, that I’m not sure he’s fully paying attention to what I’m saying.
“But at the same time, I don’t want us to spend a fortune on one day. I think I would rather have a nice honeymoon, which I also never had when Luke and I married.”
He pulls the razor away, purses his lips, and nods. “All I know is, once Seth arrives, I’m hoping he’ll serve as her distraction for a while instead of us.”
“Great!” I mutter and roll out of bed, completely soaked between my thighs. There’s a spot of blood the size of a plum on the sheets that leaked through my pajamas.
Kiran rolls over. “You okay?”
Holding a hand between my legs to keep from staining the carpet, I hobble toward the bathroom. “Just the usual. It’s that time of month for me to bleed like a stuck pig.” I close the door behind me, and as I back up in front of the toilet, I ready myself to quickly pull down my shorts because an imminent flood awaits.
For two days each month, it’s the same drill. Debilitating cramps. Head throbbing with pain—bleeding out tends to do that to a girl. How is it that I can be “enjoying” onset of the occasional hot flashes and insomnia of perimenopause, and yet my periods are only getting worse? Isn’t that supposed to be one of the perks of getting older—gradually having lighter periods until eventually they just disappear?
Sitting on the toilet, I pull off my soiled bottoms. I cannot go on like this. I keep telling myself I’ll suffer through a couple days a month, but that’s usually after it’s over. Then Mother Nature strikes again, and I’m reminded of how frickin’ awful it is.
Kiran knocks on the door. “Can I get you anything?”
I drop my face in my hands. This is not the part of couplehood I allowed myself to consider when he and I first started seeing each other. “Could you please bring me a clean pair of shorts and underwear?”
It’s quiet for a minute, then he taps again. I crack the door open and his hand slides through with my requested items.
When I return to the bedroom, he’s already stripped down the sheets and is putting on a clean set.
“Thank you. I could have done that. You have to get ready for work.” Once he’s finished, I crawl back into bed.
Standing over me, he rubs my forehead with his thumb. “You’re going to stay home?”
“I don’t want to, but I can’t go in like this. Even if I didn’t feel like crap, I can’t stand on my feet all day when I’m practically hemorrhaging. I’ll have to change clothes five times by the end of the day.”
He nods and retreats to the bathroom to start getting ready, while I curl up into the fetal position.
Not a good time to be feeling like this. Kiran’s cousin arrives this afternoon, and Geena has planned a family dinner to celebrate our engagement. I guess I should be glad that we won’t be going out, at least. A toilet and/or clean clothes will be at the ready.
Hardly any time has passed and Kiran emerges from the bathroom. Ah, to be a man and ready in twenty!
He comes to sit on the edge of the bed and runs his hand up and down my back. “I’m sorry you feel so lousy. Maybe you should really consider talking to your doctor about that ablation you were going to look into. I hate seeing you so miserable each month.”
By ablation, he means uterine ablation. One of my girlfriends had one a couple of years ago and said it was the best thing she’s ever done.
“Maybe you’re right.” My face contorts with discomfort. “I’m tired of wondering if I’m having my period or passing a kidney.”
Kiran squeezes his eyes shut at the visual and chuckles. Then he leans over and kisses my cheek. “I’ll ask Mother to look in on you today… It’s your turn.” He gives me an impish grin as he heads for the bedroom door, but I manage to pelt him with a pillow before he escapes.
I walk to the small desk in our room, get my laptop, and sit back on the bed. After pulling up various websites about uterine ablation, I find one that has numerous video testimonials from women going on and on about how the procedure has changed their lives. Trying to ease the pulsating in my head, I massage my scalp as I read about the possible complications. Never a good idea, but something one must do when considering any kind of elective surgery.
“Anna?” Geena knocks on my open bedroom door.
Still wearing her bathrobe, she approaches the bed. “Can I get you anything, dear?”
“That’s sweet of you. Some Excedrin and an ice pack for my head would be nice, thanks.”
“You’ve got it.” She leans sideways to peer at my laptop. “What are you looking at?”
“Just doing a little research on uterine ablation.”
Her eyebrows draw together. “What exactly is that?”
“Well, they remove the lining of your uterus to get rid of heavy periods.”
She sits on the bed beside me and stares at the screen. “And how do they remove it?”
“It says here that they use some kind of wand to burn it out.”
“Ugh!” Geena brings her hand to her chest and looks at me, horrified. “That sounds awful.”
“I know! But it would be so worth it if I didn’t have to go through this every month.”
She shakes her head. “God, it sucks being a woman sometimes, doesn’t it?”
I giggle at her remark. “Yes, it does.”
“When I started going through the change, I’m surprised Ahsan didn’t leave me. I turned into a crazy woman. Moody and argumentative! I’d fly off the handle at the drop of a hat. The poor man could do nothing right.”
Please don’t let me be like that!
“That man is a saint,” Geena continues as she rises from the bed. “I’ll go get that ice pack and aspirin for you.”
If Kiran is unfortunate enough to go through that with me, I guess he should at least be grateful that he has his father to walk him through it.
I go back to reading through the possible complications.
Post ablation tubal sterilization syndrome.
What the hell is that? Something I would be susceptible to, apparently, since I had my tubes tied eight years ago. Whatever it is, it can require a hysterectomy.
Thermal injury, perforation to uterus, air or gas embolism, difficulty with defecation…
I slam my laptop shut without finishing the list.
I believe that’s enough research for now.
It’s still another hour before my family arrives for dinner, but Seth is due any minute now. Kiran and I sit at the island in the kitchen while Geena prepares for tonight.
“Are you sure there isn’t anything you want us to do?” I feel pretty useless just sitting here, not contributing.
“No, you’re fine. You’re not feeling well anyway.” One by one, she places lamb chops into a baking pan. “You can set the table in a little while.”
“We should have just ordered Chinese or something. What you’re fixing isn’t a simple meal for such a large group.”
Geena waves her hand. “Nonsense. It’s my pleasure to do it.”
Kiran walks to the refrigerator and pulls out a beer. “Would either of you like me to fix you a drink?”
“I’ll have a glass of wine, dear,” Geena says.
I slide off my barstool to get the corkscrew out of the drawer while Kiran takes out a bottle of Pinot. “Anna?”
“I better pass. I’m finally seeing the end of this headache, and I don’t want to push my luck.”
The doorbell rings and Trixie issues her obligatory
Geena turns from what she’s doing at the counter and her face lights up. “He’s here!” She quickly washes her hands at the sink and rushes to the front room where Ahsan has already answered the door.
“Uncle!” Seth says, wrapping his arms around Ahsan. “It’s so good to see you!”
Ahsan’s hug in return is stiff, but cordial. “How are you, Seth?”
Seth is quite handsome, and I’m beginning to wonder if there are any unattractive people in Kiran’s family. His hair is almost completely white, with flecks of gray here and there. Something about him reminds me of Richard Gere—only Indian, of course. Maybe it’s just the hair. Though he’s a tiny bit hefty around the middle, he looks like he takes care of himself. His eyes are the same light green as Kiran’s, with lots of laugh lines. He lays those eyes on Geena next, and she grins with anticipation.
“Look at you, beautiful!” He rushes to lift her by the waist and spins her around.
Geena is absolutely giddy. “Oh, it’s so good to see you! It’s been too long.”
“Do you ever age?” Seth turns to Ahsan. “Does she?”
Ahsan just closes his eyes and smiles.
Kiran waits for his hello, and when Seth finally has a look at him, he does a most impressive double-take. His mouth falls open as he slowly approaches his cousin. “No!” he says dramatically. “Kiri? I can’t believe my eyes. This is little Kiri?”
The two of them smile and embrace, giving each other manly back slaps. Seth points at Kiran and addresses all of us. “This does not look like a man who’s just had a heart attack. How are you feeling, cousin?”
“I’m good as new.”
“That makes me very happy.” He places his hands on Kiran’s shoulders and backs away for a better look. “You don’t even look like the same person! What a transformation.”
Like Kiran usually does when there’s any reference to his weight, good or bad, he moves to change the subject.
“Seth, I would like you to meet Anna.” He motions toward me.
“Ah, the fiancée.” Seth grins and takes my hand to bring to his lips. “It is truly a pleasure.”
“Thank you.” I chuckle and eye Kiran. “It’s a pleasure to meet you, too.”
“I hope you know what a wonderful,
person you have found,” he informs me.
“Believe me, I do.”
He turns to speak to Kiran. “And you better treat this lovely one well!”
“I intend to.”
“Well, come, come!” Geena says and walks toward the kitchen. “Let’s stop standing in here and have a drink.”
My family has arrived and Geena has instructed us to socialize in the living room while she finishes preparing dinner. Luke and Richard stand in the corner of the room, conversing with Seth. Kiran sits on the sofa with Claire in his lap, asking her to show him whatever music-related activity she’s playing on her ever-attached-to-the-hip iPad, and Carly, Jason, and Hayden are in the kitchen visiting with Geena.
“Okay, everyone.” Geena finally emerges from the other room. “Dinner is served!”
“Come on, Claire Bear,” Kiran says. “Time to eat!” When he reaches for the iPad to set it on an end table, Claire holds onto it with a death grip.
“No! I don’t wanna eat,” she cries. Her eyes are fixated on the screen as her tiny hand pushes on Kiran’s chest, trying to keep him at bay.
“You can show me more after dinner.”
Snatching the iPad, she crawls away to the other side of the couch. Her breathing already grows rapid as she frantically shakes her head. “Nooooo!”
Jason and Carly come out of the kitchen when they hear her howling. “Claire.” Walking toward her, Jason holds out his hand to take the iPad. “You can use it later. It’s time to eat now.”
She has yet to look at any of us, unable to tear her attention away from the tablet. Jason takes hold of the device and a meltdown quickly ensues. However, this is no run-of-the-mill toddler tantrum. She’s not kicking or screaming, but her chest begins to heave so heavily, I worry she may pass out. She then lets loose a wailing that is increasingly panicked and mournful with each passing second, the way a wild animal might cry out at the loss of her young. Something about her reaction is unsettling, even for a two-year-old—something I can’t put my finger on.
Carly keeps a distance as Jason tries to calm her, then she turns to me, her eyes watery; this is what she had been trying to tell me. The whole scene is heartbreaking as we witness Claire drowning in her own terror.
Jason is now crouched in front of her, his hands still on the iPad as he attempts to pry it from her little fingers without yanking on it. “Claire!” he says firmly. “Stop it right now.”
“No, Daddy. Pleeeease!” Tears stream down her face. It’s the first time she looks at him, and the pain expressed in her blue eyes is almost more than I can bear. The rest of us are paralyzed as we watch the drama unfold. Kiran scoots closer to her and tentatively places a soothing hand on her back, which she is oblivious to.
Jason turns to address the rest of us. “Everyone, go on without us. We’ll be there in a minute.” In the meantime, Claire is showing no signs of winding down. She finally releases the tablet and draws her knees to her chest, burying her face. “Please! Please!”
Geena’s shoulders droop and she touches her chest. “Would it be okay to let her bring it to the table? Just this once?”
“Come, everyone.” Ahsan ushers us all toward the dining room. “I’m sure she just needs a couple of minutes without an audience.”
As we sit down to eat, I glance at Luke from across the table. He meets my eyes with a forced smile and pained gaze. I’ve not had the conversation with him, but his manner says he also believes there may be something more going on with Claire than the “terrible twos.”
There’s an awkward lull among us, followed by mutters of how delicious everything looks. Hayden, ever intolerant of uncomfortable silence, is the first to turn the mood around. “Personally, can’t say I blame Claire Bear,” he says before bringing a bottle of beer to his lips. “I’d get pretty cranky, too, if I couldn’t listen to my jams.”
The comment releases some of the tension as we begin to pass the food around. “Well, this all looks beautiful,” I say. “Thank you, Geena.”
“Oh, you’re quite welcome, sweetheart!”
Carly and Jason return to take their seats without Claire. “We’re going to give her some cool-down time,” Carly says with a downward gaze. “Sorry about that.”
“There’s absolutely nothing to apologize for,” Geena says. “I think we all know how difficult two-year-olds can be.”
“Except for me. Right, Mom?” Hayden says.
“Yes, sweetie. If you say so.”
He then touches his cold bottle to Carly’s arm, attempting to tease her out of her gloom. She jolts in surprise and gives him a dirty look. A second later, her heaviness eases and she gives him a little smile.
As soon as everyone has food on their plates, Ahsan stands at the head of the table. “Well, since we’re here to celebrate Kiran and Anna’s engagement, I’d like to say a few short words, if I may.” With a glass of wine in his hand, he looks to me. “Anna, we couldn’t be happier to have you as our daughter.”
“Thank you.” I nod and smile at Kiran, who sits beside me.
“In you, Kiran has found a kind and compassionate soul, who also comes packaged with two grandchildren that Geena and I thought we may never have.” He eyes Carly and Hayden as everyone chuckles politely. “Granted, we didn’t get to watch them grow, but with any luck, we’ll have that opportunity with the little one in the next room. And Hayden, if you would also like to contribute a great-grandchild at some point…” He leans forward for emphasis. “But no pressure!”
That gets Hayden some ribbing from everyone, and he actually blushes. The boy never blushes. “Ah, I think you may be waiting a while on that one.”
“We can always dream,” Luke says.
“I’d also like to thank Kiran and Anna for their hospitality,” Ahsan continues. “You’ve let us invade your home, longer than originally planned, and now you have yet another one of our family members as a houseguest.” Ahsan lifts his chin toward Seth. “Seth, I hope you’ll behave yourself.” He says this in jest, but there’s a hint of sternness to his words.
Seth feigns a sober expression and raises his right hand, swearing to be on his best behavior. He then winks at Kiran, and Kiran is clearly amused by his cousin.
Ahsan raises his glass. “To Kiran and Anna!”
“To Kiran and Anna!” everyone echoes.
A few minutes later, once everyone is absorbed in dinner and conversation, I lean into Kiran to interrupt his chat with Seth. “I’m gonna go check on Claire.”
Hoping to discover that Claire has forgotten all about the loss of her iPad, I’m disappointed to find her on the couch lying on her side, still weeping quietly.
“Claire, honey.” I sit on the floor beside her. “Don’t you want to come eat now? Grandma Geena made some really yummy lamb chops.”
She breathes through her mouth as her chest rises and falls. “No.” Her voice is so full of emotion, she barely gets the word out.
“Why not, sweetie?”
She covers her eyes and her face contorts. “I just don’t, Nana!”
I sit on the sofa beside her. “Come here, pumpkin.”
Though still crying, she tries to hold in her sobs as she leans into me and I put my arm around her. The poor thing’s face is a red, blotchy mess. Carly appears at the edge of the room and watches silently with her arms folded in front of her.
“I want… my… music,” Claire says between heavy breaths.
“That’s okay. But you still have to eat.” I kiss the top of her head. “I’m sure Mommy and Daddy will let you have your music after dinner.”
“Why?” she cries desperately. “I’m not hungry!”
“Well, maybe you are and you just don’t know it.”
Scowling, she looks at me like I’m crazy. However, the connection is very brief before her gaze wanders past me.
“Come back with me and eat some dinner. Then I’m sure you can have your music.”
She exhales one last shaky breath. “Okay. But I’m not hungry.”
Standing up, I hold out my hand to her and she takes it. As we pass Carly, she and I exchange a silent conversation. I think she’s right; Claire needs to be evaluated. For what, I’m not exactly sure. Maybe she’s just a little high strung and that’s all, but if not, the earlier the problem is found, the better.
“Do you think it’s normal, for her to be so obsessed with one thing like that?” Carly asks me as she takes a bite of ice cream. She and I sit at the kitchen island, while Claire lies on her stomach in the adjacent family room, content as ever now that she has her sidekick back. We watch as Hayden comes to sit down cross-legged beside her. As usual when it comes to others, she doesn’t give him much notice.
“I really have no idea. It’s been too long for me to remember what’s normal for a kid her age.”
“I mean, I’m glad she’s into music. That’s good. But I don’t think I’d worry as much if she wasn’t so… I don’t know…
about it.” Carly stares into her bowl and mashes the ice cream with her spoon. “She needs other kinds of interactions. I know it will be ugly, but I think the iPad’s gotta go.”
Seth approaches and joins us. “I’m sorry if I’m intruding on your conversation, but have you tried anything else that’s related to music?”
Carly shifts about and wrinkles her nose. “No, not really. I’ve tried getting her involved in TV shows, like on Disney or Nick Jr. The thing is, it’s not just
to music that appeals to her. She wants to make it. Interact with it. That’s why she likes all those apps.”
“What about putting her in music lessons?” I suggest. “Like piano or something? I know she’s really young, but she’s so stinkin’ smart! And it would force her to interact with a human.”
Carly breaks a smile at my smart-ass remark.
“Dance maybe?” Seth proposes.