A squarish room, hazy from the summer sunlight streaking through the dusty, forty year old windows. A bottle green sofa tucked underneath a dangerously placed wooden shelf, a bright orange, black and cream, Aztec-patterned throw carefully folded and placed across the top of the settee accompanied by a pair of battered cushions dressed in pretty yet faded, flowery cases. A plant pot on the peeling windowsill that was home to a sprawling, thirsty Spider Plant; a pair of voile curtains just grazing it's terracotta pot as they passed in order to reach the floor. The coffee table, wood and glass, covered in the mess from the night before; cans, a full ashtray, an old cigarette box crushed by the force of someone's hand. There on the side table to the right of the sofa, a Kellogg's printed mug half-full of ice cold, stale coffee.
What time was it? According to the pink-rimmed clock in the kitchen it was half-passed six in the morning. It couldn't be, could it? So early in the morning? He was sure he'd only just gone to bed an hour ago. Why was he awake now? He didn't have work to go to anymore. Not since the factory had booted him in favour of someone cheaper. A heavy sigh from his own chest cut through the silence. Maybe it was better to just forego the idea of sleep and start making breakfast? Yeah, she would appreciate that. Breakfast in bed, as poorly cooked as it would be, while he tried his best to clean the flat up a bit. She deserved some rest after last night's panic. She didn't need him making the pregnancy a harder ordeal than it already had been. She was close, now; they were excited. Although Ian's excitement was more so fuelled by sheer panic than overwhelming joy.
In his mind, he wouldn't be a good father. He wasn't at all ready, he was too young. There wasn't enough money coming into the house, barely enough to feed himself and Amber, let alone a third mouth. He was afraid that the child would grow up learning to resent him like he had grown up learning to resent his own father. He was terrified of becoming his father. He wanted to love the baby with his whole heart, the same way he loved Amber, but the fear that rumbled around in his chest was determined to paralyse him.
Ian cleared his throat, forcing his train of thought to focus on the task at hand instead of his idiosyncratic anxieties. He started his herculean task by opening the curtains and forcing the old windows open to let in more of the natural daylight and a swelling of fresh air. The milkman was already halfway through his route already and the last rag'n'bone man in the area was busy collecting his useless scrap. The juxtaposition of a pony and trap versus a loud, motorised truck was one that always amused him and he paused for a moment or two to watch the workers go about their businesses before he lazily decided to move away from the living room window and get on with his self-assigned chore. Not before finding himself a fresh cigarette first, however. He put the little white stick between his teeth, scrambled for a lighter and sparked up, throwing the lighter back onto the table with a muted thunk. A moment to inhale then exhale then he picked up the ashtray and shuffled into the kitchen, stomping the pedal bin open so he could dump the contents of the notched bowl into it before placing the ashtray onto the kitchen counter so he could tap fresh ash into it. Now what? Ah, yes, the mess on the coffee table from his moment of relaxation the night before.
When he was finished clearing the room of beer-smell and what was mostly his rubbish, he decided he wouldn't yank the shitty old hoover out from the cupboard under the stairs because that would wake his sleeping beauty upstairs. Instead, he slowly went around the downstairs area wiping and polishing the surfaces and stupid little knickknacks he and Amber had accumulated over their years together. A framed photograph by the telephone made him stop for a second, enamoured by the subject. It was from their first Christmas together; both wearing those stupid paper hats from a cheap cracker, Amber laughing until she was sick, barely able to keep her balance sitting on Ian's lap. Ian himself had a stupid grin slapped across his face and a bit of red tinsel strewn around his neck but the present Ian didn't pay too much mind to that - he was too busy smiling softly at the memory of Amber laughing at the stupid joke he'd cracked mere seconds before her father had snapped the picture. God as his witness, he had to confess that she was the best thing to have ever happened to him. Without her, he would have been stuck in his toxic gang of lads, drinking at the same pub every week, getting into fights with the rivals from Poplar over their favourite football team. She, for lack of a better description, had saved him from an early grave and for that, he was eternally grateful to her.
Once he was finished with his speed round the clock said it was now pushing toward eight o'clock and he decided that he would make Amber her breakfast. As a treat, he would make some extra toast so that he could steal some. It would be his breakfast too. The first meal he would have eaten in two whole days after running on nothing but coffee and cigarettes from the stress of being suddenly without work. It would be nice to spend some quiet time in bed, making her laugh like he had that one Christmas again, after everything.
He laid out a wooden tray, carefully putting a bowl of cornflakes, a plate of toast and two cups - one full of his coffee, the other tea for Amber - then scrunched his face into a thoughtful sort of frown. Something was missing but with a lack of anything remotely romantic to add to the picture he decided it would make do. It was the thought that counted most and he had put some effort into it... For once, and he was positive that she would appreciate that. With a merry sigh, he picked up the tray and carefully took it upstairs.
Oh, there she was, spotlighted by the morning sunlight coming from the bedroom window, sleeping softly. His heart jumped at the sight, unable to stop itself. He was so in love with her it was hard to put it into a cohesive sentence. A life without her would be a dark one, he decided. An afterlife without her would be a dark one, too, he added. She was his everything and he was glad he was her's. Or, at least, he was glad she had settled for him; as undeserving of her as he was. Quietly, he put the tray down on her bedside table, closed the door and opened the curtain. She only stirred when he was in the middle of pushing the window open, swearing under his breath because it was putting up a fight.
"... Ian?" She hummed, slowly turning over.
Wide-eyed, he stopped fiddling with the window. "Shit, sorry... I didn't mean to wake you up."
"What are you doing?" She mumbled, her eyes scanning his entire being.
"I was trying to, uhm, open the window." He confessed, sheepishly.
"You know that one's stuck... Open the other one." She scolded him, a touch of amusement in her tired voice.
"... Oh yeah. Shit." He blurted, suddenly remembering exactly why he had been struggling with the window now. "There," he sighed, having opened the window on the other end, "that's better."
"Mm, the fresh air is nice." Agreed Amber, slowly trying to get herself upright.
Seeing her struggling, Ian immediately jumped to attention and helped her, making sure she was comfortable before kissing her forehead.
Amber frowned, somewhat suspicious of him. "What's with you?"
"Nothing... I just," his face went red, "I love you is all."
"I love you too, you lanky idiot." Grinned Amber, planting a firm kiss against his cheek.
Flustered, Ian straightened himself then remembered about his plan.
"Oh! I, uhm, I brought you some breakfast." He said, taking the tray off the bedside table and carefully placing it on Amber's lap. "I know it's not much but, uhm, I figured you deserved something nice after last night."
"Aw, thank you!" Amber's smile lit up the entire room. Ian felt glad that he could make her feel better with something as innocuous as breakfast in bed.
"That's your tea, there," he told her, pointing at a mint green cup, "some corn flakes and some toast."
"You're too sweet." She told him, picking up the tea and taking a cautious sip from it. "Oh that's perfect."
"I'm sorry I'm an idiot and that you're stuck with me." Ian blurted, unable to keep his thoughts from escaping.
"You might be an idiot, Ian, but you're my idiot." She scolded him. "I wouldn't have any other idiot in the entire world."
"I just... I hate that I can't do anything right sometimes and I wish I could give you everything you wanted but I can't and-"
"Hey, hey, no." Amber hushed him, encouraging him to sit beside her. Instead, he lay down and snuggled against her, resting his head against her shoulder. "Don't beat yourself up over the job thing, okay? There'll be other jobs. It's hard right now and that's okay... We'll make do." She continued, pushing a hand through his hair. "We always find a way around things, don't we?"
"I s'pose so... I just want you and the baby to have the best and I feel bad that I give you that." He confessed, automatically putting a gentle hand against her bump. "I don't want her to grow up unhappy."
"Her?" Amber quizzed, setting her tea down.
"Well, I don't want to say him because when my mum did you snapped at her." Ian laughed, softly moving his hand up and down.
"Fair enough." She smirked, just about able to kiss his head. "Anyway... She won't grow up unhappy."
"How do you know?" Ian whined, fixated on the bump now.
"Because she'll have us, the best parents in the world." Amber said confidently. "And we might be struggling now but things will get better."
"I hope so."