Liv had had a few more minor seizures since the first one in the café, and after endless tests and doctor’s visits, epilepsy was the official diagnosis. Only they still didn’t know exactly what triggered her seizures. It had been a month or two since they’d found out and it had scared all of them to bits. Most of all Liv. Even though she pretended it wasn’t a big deal, Aaron had seen the search history when he’d borrowed her laptop. He knew she wasn’t alright.
He’d talked about it with Robert while they were in bed. They were both desperate to help her somehow but neither of them really know how.
They’d asked Liam for advice and Aaron had ended up on a message board with people with epilepsy but all of them had basically said the same thing. Let her come to you and tell you what she needs, when she needs it.
So that’s what they were trying to do now. Even though it was easier said than done.
Liv came stumbling into the kitchen, poured herself a bowl of cereal and sat down at the table, ignoring her brothers.
“Do you want a lift to college?” Robert offered as he put Seb in his highchair. “I have a meeting in Harrogate, I could drop you off on the way.”
“I’m alright.” Liv mumbled. “I’ll take the bus.”
“You sure? It’s on the way…”
“It’s fine Rob.” She sighed. “I can take the bus by myself, I don’t need you to hold my hand. Either of you.”
“I didn’t say anything!” Aaron protested.
“Didn’t have to.” Liv said. “You two share a brain anyway and I bet you put him up to offering to take me to school.”
“We just want to help you.”
“Help me with what? I have epilepsy and they don’t know what’s causing it so there is nothing they can do about it! I’m a lost cause!” Liv snapped, making Robert sigh and Seb give her a fearful look, not sure what was going on but at the same time being sure the adults in his life were not happy.
“I have to go or I’ll miss the bus.” She said and dumped her half eaten bowl of cereal in the sink before all but running out the door, slamming it shut behind her.
“She’ll come around.” Robert said in an attempt to make Aaron feel better.
“You know she’s just scared and pushing us away. Just like a certain someone else I know.”
Aaron raised an eyebrow at him but didn’t say anything.
“Daddy. For you!” Seb said, holding a piece of his toast out for Aaron which made him smile.
“Thank you little man, but I have my own breakfast that your other daddy made for me. We can’t let that go to waste, can we?”
Seb seemed to consider this for a moment only to decide Aaron definitely had to take his toast.
“No. For you!”
“You’re stubborn aren’t you? Just like your dad.”
“I hope you mean yourself by that.” Robert said laughingly as he watched Aaron take the toast from Seb’s little hand, taking a bite of it and making him take a bite as well.
“What about daddy Robert?” Aaron asked Seb, ignoring his husband. “He’ll go hungry now. We don’t want that.”
Seb looked back and forth between his parents before deciding Aaron was right and offered Robert some toast too who took it from him and pretended to eat the boy’s entire hand, making him laugh.
“I have to go too.” Robert said, getting up from the table. “I won’t be back late.” He promised, leaning down to kiss both Seb and Aaron.
“Well it’s just you and me now mate.” Aaron said to Seb after Robert had left. “I suppose we better start looking for your swimsuit or we’ll be late for your lesson.”
Swimming lesson was a big word. In reality it was more like a couple of toddlers splashing around with their parents, but Seb loved it. And seeing Seb happy always put Aaron in a good mood too.
He kept to himself most of the time and the mums only really knew him as Seb’s doting dad. A few had asked him about his wife in the beginning but he’d shrugged off the question and they’d stopped asking when Robert had come along once.
“Oh Aaron, I’m so glad I caught you before you left.” Louise, one of the mums from the class said just as he walked out the changing room with Seb. “What are you doing the 15th?”
“Uh… nothing I think…”
“Perfect! Casey is turning two on the 16th and we’re having a little party for his friends on the 15th. He’d like Seb to come too. You and your husband are both welcome too of course.” She handed him an invite. “It’s no big deal. Cake and lemonade and some games.”
“Right. Well… thanks for the invite. I’ll talk about it with Robert but I’m sure we can sort something out.”
“Great. My number is on there, just give me a call when you have so we know how much cake to buy.”
“Sure. Should we bring a gift?”
“I’ve made an online wish list, the link is on the invite. But don’t feel like you have to pick the most expensive thing on there.”
“We’ll have a look tonight.” Aaron promised but just as he was about to say goodbye to Louise his phone rang. “Excuse me.” He said and frowned at the unknown number. “Hello?”
“Hi, I’m looking for Olivia Flaherty’s guardian…”
“Uh yeah that’s me. I’m her brother. What’s going on? Who is this?”
“Sorry, I should’ve said. My name is Frank Wilson, I’m a nurse at Hotten General. Your sister was just brought in after having suffered a seizure.”
“What? When? What happened? Is she alright?”
“She collapsed at a bus stop. Bystanders called an ambulance that brought her here. She’s awake and lucid but she has some scrapes on her face and hands. Are you able to come in?”
“Yes. Absolutely. I’m on my way. Please tell her Aaron is on his way.”
“I will.” The nurse promised. “Please drive safely.”
“Yeah, yeah.” Aaron said and hung up. “Come on Seb. We need to go see auntie Liv.” He picked the boy up and all but ran to his car, calling Robert as soon as he’d strapped him into his car seat. “Rob, it’s me. Liv’s in hospital. She had another seizure. Seb and I are on our way there now. Call me when you get this.”
By the time Aaron got to the hospital and got someone to take him to see Liv, she was sitting up in bed and someone was cleaning up the wounds on her face.
“Liv!” he said, rushing over to the bed, wanting to hug her but changing his mind at the last second. “How are you feeling? Do you remember what happened?”
“Just another one isn’t it? I suppose I should be used to it by now.”
Aaron carefully put Seb down on the bed and let him crawl up to Liv to hug her – just like he usually did at home.
“Hi little monkey. What are you doing here?”
“We were at the pool when the hospital called me. We came straight over.”
Liv sighed and rolled her eyes.
“I told them they didn’t have to do that.”
Before Aaron could reply and tell her they definitely did have to do that, his phone rang.
“Rob thank god.” He breathed.
“Ugh you told him too?” Liv complained but Aaron ignored her.
“I’m on my way to the hospital now.” Robert said. “How is she? Is she alright? Have you seen a doctor yet?”
“No not yet. She’s ok I think. Complaining about me telling you she’s here.”
“That’s good. That’s how we like her.”
“Yeah I suppose so. Where are you now?”
“On my way. I’ll be there in 20 minutes. Fifteen. Do you need me to bring you anything? Food? Coffee?”
“No… just yourself.”
“I can do that. See you in a few. Love you.”
“Love you too.” Aaron replied and hung up.
“Is he coming too?” Liv asked.
“Yep. And before you say he doesn’t have to and that you’re fine, I want him to come.”
About fifteen minutes later a stressed out Robert walked into the room after an even more stressed out looking nurse.
“Hey.” He said and pulled Aaron into a hug and kissed him hello. “I came as fast as I could. How is everything here? How are you feeling?” He asked Liv.
“Fine. You two can just take the little monkey home and I’ll get the bus.”
“Like hell you are.” Robert told her.
“IF you get to go home today, I’m driving you home.” Aaron added. “And the same goes for any other time you’ll be getting out of here.”
“Have you seen a doctor yet?”
“I believe that’s me.” A friendly woman in her 30s said as she walked into the room and shook hands with Liv and Robert and Aaron. “I’m doctor Patel, neurologist. Sorry to have kept you waiting. It’s busy and it’s only my first week here. I’m still finding my way around.”
The doctor talked them through the scan results and asked Liv some questions about how she felt before the seizure.
“So nothing really stood out today?”
“No… I was a little tired this morning… but that’s it.”
The doctor nodded.
“Have you ever considered getting a service dog?”
“What? I’m not blind and I don’t need anyone to open doors for me.”
“I meant a different kind of service dog. There are dogs that are trained to detect seizures in humans. It would warn you when one was coming so you could get somewhere safe or take your medication.”
“I’m not on any medication…”
“Yes, I’ve seen your file, but I think you would benefit from anticonvulsants. To stop the seizures.” The doctor said and Liv nodded.
“So what about this dog then?”
Two months later
“Lola, come here girl. Breakfast.” Aaron pleaded. “Look, bacon. You like bacon don’t you?”
“They said not to give her too many snacks or she’ll become too focused on food.” Liv reminded him.
“Well at the moment I’m not feeding her anything because she won’t come near me.” Aaron argued.
They’d had Lola for a few weeks now and she was a happy Labrador who took her job seriously. She followed Liv everywhere she went. School, home, Gabby’s, around the village, and even the pub.
The first time she’d come with to the pub was something Aaron still wished he’d gotten a video of.
Charity yelling about environmental health while Ryan informed her that she couldn’t refuse service dogs entry. The look on her face had been priceless and made Aaron laugh whenever he thought about it.
Only Lola still didn’t want to come anywhere near him.
Besides Liv she loved Seb and seemed tolerate Robert for the most part. She’d sit by his feet if Liv was sitting next to him but nothing in the world seemed to be able to convince her to come to Aaron.
At first he put it down to new surroundings and having to settle in, but it had been long enough now and she still didn’t want to have anything to do with him.
Aaron sighed and slid the piece of bacon towards the dog and got up from the floor.
“I guess there is a limit to your magic touch with dogs after all.” Robert joked, earning him a glare from his husband.
“Now she’s eating it!” Aaron said exasperated when he looked over his shoulder and saw Lola eating the bacon.
“I guess she just wasn’t hungry before.” Liv shrugged and put Lola’s harness on. “Come on Lola, we have to catch the bus.”
They left and Aaron sighed.
“Don’t. I know you’re dying to say something… but just don’t.” he warned Robert.
“I didn’t say anything!”
“I just don’t get it. She likes everyone. She likes you, she even likes Paddy and he gave her, her vaccinations!”
“Don’t try so hard. She’ll come around eventually.”
“What if she doesn’t?”
“Then… I can always put on a collar and bark if you like.” Robert said, and actually barked in an attempt to cheer his husband up, but only made Seb laugh.
“Idiot.” Aaron said affectionately and shook his head.
A few weeks passed and it seemed Lola was warming up to Aaron. A little.
He decided to join her and Liv on a walk through the fields around the village after they’d come back from a day of training.
“So what did they teach you?”
“I don’t know, just stuff on how Lola is supposed to warn me when there’s another one coming. She has to get to know me better so she can warn me sooner.”
“Yeah? What is she supposed to do then? Is there anything we should know too?”
“No I just have to keep my meds on me and make sure my phone is charged. She’s doing well but she’s only at about 10 to 15 minutes warning now. The ideal is about 50. So you have time to get somewhere safe.” Liv explained.
They’d ended up at the cricket pavilion and sat down with Lola at their feet, who even went as far as letting Aaron stroke her back.
“See? She likes you.”
“Yeah… we’re getting there, right Lola?”
Suddenly the dog got up and started licking Liv’s hands and face.
“Lola get off.” Liv said laughingly and pushed Lola away. “No playing now. I’m tired. Go find a stick. You’re free. Go play.”
“Yeah come on Lola, go find a stick. Come on.” Aaron said, getting up and patting his thighs but Lola ignored him and just went back to licking Liv and pulling on her clothes.
“Lola NO! I’m tired and I have a headache, just let me sit here for a while ok?”
“Headache? Are you ok?” Aaron asked but Liv didn’t reply. “Liv?”
The girl’s eyes rolled into the back of her head and she started trembling.
Aaron rushed over to his sister and laid her down on the grass in front of the pavilion as Lola barked and tried to lick her face.
“Liv! Liv come on, can you hear me?” He put her in the recovery position like he’d learned in the first aid course Robert had insisted they’d both taken a while ago, given how accident prone their family tended to be.
After a few minutes Lola started to calm down and Liv’s trembling stopped.
“Liv? Can you hear me?” Aaron asked again. “Should I call an ambulance?”
“No…” Liv said and sat up with Aaron and Lola’s help. “It happened again didn’t it?”
“Yeah… I think Lola tried to warn you but we didn’t understand her…”
“Sorry Lo…” Liv mumbled and stroked Lola’s head.
Aaron tried to do the same but Lola backed away and sat down on Liv’s other side.
“Yeah you’re right. It’s okay.” He told the dog. “You don’t have to love me, you don’t even have to like me, you just have to look after our Liv.”