Her contract with the hospital only made her work part time, three days a week. Because she worked so little she felt guilty when she had to take a day off, especially this week with having Wednesday off already. She needed to take a sick day.
You’re not sick.
Sarah shook her head, she had been trying to ignore her subconscious for the last few days. She was sick, it couldn’t be anything else. There was no way she was getting pregnant, they needed fertility tests and go from there. After trying for six months, she had lost hope, there just was no way she could be pregnant, she had a flu.
You could be.
“Don’t get your hopes up.”
“What? Who are you talking to?” Richie had just walked into the room.
Sarah looked up at him, a little alarmed about what to tell him. “Nobody, just talking to myself.”
“Oh, what shouldn’t you get your hopes up for then?”
A quick lie that would convince him… “Being better tomorrow.”
“You should just take tomorrow off, I’ll stay home with you.”
“You don’t need to take the day off for me, you’re working on your album.”
Richie waved it off. “My wife’s more important.”
He sat down on the couch with Sarah and Sarah cuddled to his side, putting her head on his shoulder as he wrapped his arm around her.
He too had his doubts about Sarah's illness, she had the symptoms of flu but he wasn't sure wether to hope for her to be pregnant or not, after all, she had been pregnant before and should know and remember what it felt like. If she was having morning sickness, she'd tell him.
“Kids gone?” Sarah asked.
“Yeah, except Noah.”
“Why not? He said he really wanted to watch that movie.”
“He said he had a history test tomorrow he hadn’t studied for so I told him he had to study.” Richie explained, feeling guilty.
“Oh.” She said a little surprised at Richie telling one of her kids to study.
She felt a little tinge of protectivity towards Noah but felt too exhausted to say anything. Richie was their stepfather, in a way they should listen to him too.
“I shouldn’t have, wasn’t my place.” He regretted making Noah feel bad.
“No you’re right, he does need to study.” Sarah tried to make up. She agreed Noah needed to study instead of going to a movie but still wasn't sure if she liked Richie telling him instead of her telling Noah what he needed to do.
“I yelled at him.” Richie said regretfully after a few minutes of silence.
“Why would you yell at him?” Confused, Sarah looked up at him from his side.
“Noah yelled that I wasn’t his dad and I yelled back that I was the best dad he’s had.”
“Oh Richie… Why would you say that?”
Now there was simply too much thinking going on in her mind, first Richie telling off her child and now yelling at him? If her headache and ill feeling hadn't been rising at the same time she would have said something to Richie about it. Even though he, in fact, had been a better father than Jonathan.
“I know, I shouldn’t have done it.” He sighed.
“What did Noah do?”
“He just went upstairs.” Richie sighed again, not sure what to do.
“I need to go apologize.” Richie said after another few quiet minutes and an inner battle with himself to go apologize. He knew he was wrong even though he was probably right, he shouldn’t have said that.
Sarah let him get off the couch and watched him leave the room. Instead of staying seated, she moved to lay down where Richie had just sat.
Richie knocked on Noah’s door, not really expecting an answer and fully understanding if Noah wouldn’t want to talk to him. He waited a little while and knocked again.
“What?” Noah asked from inside his room.
“It’s me.” Richie said and opened the door. “Can we talk?”
“I guess.” Noah shrugged, he was sitting on his bed in the corner of the room, his arms wrapped around his knees.
Richie walked over to the other side of the room and sat down on the end of the bed, then noticed Noah had been crying.
As soon as Noah noticed Richie had noticed, he started wiping his face. He knew well enough he wasn’t like Caleb who probably would have just shaken it off or yelled back. “You’re just sensitive, like me.” His mom always told him and usually that made him feel better, being like his mom, but sitting in front of his stepdad with tears rising in his eyes again made him feel really small.
Richie took an unnoticeable deep breath. “I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have said that, you’re right I’m not your dad but you do need study.”
Noah just shrugged.
“I really am sorry Noah. I know I’m not your dad, just your stepdad and that isn’t the same but I still care for you.”
“Honestly.” Richie tried again.
Noah simply nodded again, unsure to say anything.
After a few minutes of uncomfortable silence, Richie decided he could better leave, Noah didn’t want to talk to him and maybe he could try again later. Slowly he got up from the bed.
“You were right”
“What?” Richie turned around to face Noah.
“You’re right. You are a better dad, you don’t hit my mom.”
“Noah…” Richie said, lost for more words as he watched tears starting to well up in Noah’s eyes. Instead of leaving he sat down next to Noah. “I’m sorry.”
Noah looked down as if he didn’t want Richie to notice he was crying and started wiping his tears away.
“You know I love your mom.”
Noah nodded, he did know and he knew his mom had been much happier for the last ten months.
“I probably made you think of stuff from back then, didn’t I?” Richie asked carefully, knowing he probably had. Hoping, he wasn't all to blame to upset him so.
Noah nodded again.
“Wanna talk about it?”
“Dunno.” He shrugged.
Richie took a breath and decided to even though Noah didn’t know. “Well, what are you thinking about?”
Noah wiped his face again and looked up at Richie but before long the tears were back.
Richie felt terrible, knowing he had brought this on. He didn’t know Noah remembered anything from Sarah’s first marriage.
But then Noah took a hopeful breath and started telling Richie about a particular night he thought he remembered. He was only three when it happened but he was sure that was how it had gone.
Richie listened and couldn’t believe what he heard. He was sure Sarah didn’t even know Noah knew about what happened to her. She said the boys were alright and her ex-husband didn’t get home until they had gone to bed.
She hadn’t thought of the possibility of one of her sons waking up because of the noise he could hear.
The noise of something going on in the house had woke him up. After a few minutes of laying in his bed, holding his stuffed tiger very tightly, listening to the sounds scaring him more and more, three year old Noah finally got the courage to go look for his mommy to make it go away.
Little Noah had walked up to his door, reaching up with his free hand as he was carrying his tiger with him to try and open it, then peeked out into the hallway to find his mommy being punched by the boogieman. Tears started to well up in his eyes as he watched his mommy helplessly being beaten, unable to defend herself as she got pushed up against the wall. He didn’t want this to happen to his mommy but he was too scared of the boogieman to do anything, he was too small. Even his tiger couldn’t help him.
Crying Noah ran back to his bed, holding his tiger even tighter than before, hoping the boogieman would go away again. An even smaller Noah cried himself to sleep that night.
Richie didn’t know what else to do but reach over and hug Noah.
He didn’t let go of Noah for a while, when he did, Noah was staring at his book shelves. Richie turned around to look at what he was staring and noticed a tiger sitting on top of a shelf. Then he turned back to Noah.
“I’m sorry you had to see that when you were so little but your mom’s safe now. That’s just a memory now. A bad one.”
“I know.” Noah said, wiping his face for the final time.
“I’m sorry I made you think about that.”
“Sometimes I just remember things like that.” Noah said, not feeling resentful towards Richie anymore.
“Your dad’s gone, he can’t hurt anyone anymore. You’re safe too.” He hoped he sounded as reassuring as he tried to be.
“Yeah, I know.”
“Just not as easy to tell your memories that, is it?”
“It isn’t.” Noah agreed.
“Take you books and come sit in the living room with your mom and me, okay?” Richie asked before getting up and leaving Noah on his own.
He didn’t say any more and went downstairs to Sarah.
“Alright?” She asked when Richie walked in, she was still laying on the couch.
“Yeah, he’ll come down in a few minutes.” Richie said. “Are you okay?”
Sarah nodded. “Just got a bit dizzy.” She said as she already started sitting up again. “Need the bathroom.”
“Are you gonna be okay on your own?” He asked concerned when Sarah seemed a little unsteady.
“Yeah, I’m alright.” She said sure of herself and walked out of the room.
Richie watched her until she was in the bathroom, when he was sure Sarah was okay he sat down on the couch and started contemplating what he had talked about with Noah.
Not until the commercial on TV started and with that the sound got louder did he notice how long Sarah had been gone.
He got up and went to the kitchen to find her but all the lights were still off in the kitchen and nobody was there. She couldn’t still be in the bathroom, even if she had been sick again.
He decided to check upstairs, maybe she had simply gone to talk to Noah but when he got to the staircase he changed his mind and turned around to the bathroom.
There was still light coming from under the door so somebody had to be in there. He walked up to the door and knocked.
When no answer came, he knocked again.
“Sarah?” He asked when he still didn’t get an answer.
His mind started racing, Sarah still had to be in there, what if something happened? She would answer if she’d only been sick, something bad had happened.
He forced the lock open and pushed the door wide open.
Sarah was laying on the floor next to the counter where the sink was, a few steps away from the toilet.
“Oh shit.” He hurried to Sarah’s side and kneeled down, noticing a thin line of blood on the floor.
He started muttering to himself and Sarah, trying to talk to her, hoping it wouldn’t be so bad, he tried to locate where the blood came from.
Finally he picked up her arm and noticed a long thin cut on the underside, she must have cut herself while she fell.
Carefully, he put her arm back down and got up to get washcloths to wet. He wringed them out and carefully placed one on her forehead and the other under her arm. He kept trying to talk to Sarah, trying to get a reaction. She needed to wake up so he could bring her to the hospital.
Richie looked up to find Noah in the doorway with his books. “I don’t know.”