Everything’ll Be Alright
It is mid-afternoon and Laura is suddenly and quite viscerally missing her husband. Not that he’s been absent, or distant in any way; she just notices that she hasn’t seen him for hours, and it nearly floors her. All those years alone, and now she’s used to having Charles by her side. Both working and living with him did nothing to assuage that feeling, and now being house-bound while he works all week in her place is making her crazy. She’ll be glad to get back to the press, if only to spend her lunch hour talking with him like they used to.
But luckily, today it is the weekend, and so she can go and abolish the bereft feeling in her chest but tracking him down. She puts her potato scoop into the basket by her knees and stands from her spot in the veggie patch, dusting off her hands on her apron. From beside her, Mary looks up, but doesn’t stop her task. They’re almost finished digging up the last of their potatoes, and Mary has been working diligently all day. Laura knows there is some fresh-made lemonade in the ice box for her as a treat for her hard work.
“I’m going to go check on your brother” says Laura, touching Mary’s head as she walks past her. She has a feeling on where she will find Charles, and might as well kill two birds with one stone by seeing if the baby needs a feed.
“Okay Mama” she sing-songs, content to continue her task.
Henry was fed and put down for a nap a short time ago, but the house is suspiciously quiet for a Saturday afternoon, and Laura is curious. Charles had been working on his sketches for the city paper, but ordinarily he wouldn’t go so long without coming out to see her and Mary. Laura walks inside while taking off her apron and places it over the back of a kitchen chair. Just as she suspected, Charles’ work is neatly abandoned, piled on one corner of the kitchen bureau. Peaking into the living room she finds her mother reading by the windowsill, humming a ditty to herself, and leaves her undisturbed.
Laura walks upstairs to the family bedrooms. Mrs Clarke had moved into the room on the ground floor just after Henry was born, both for privacy and convenience – her arthritis made the stairs tiresome, and there are only three rooms upstairs, the smallest of which was not suitable for a woman her age, who needs a space to rest and recuperate as well as sleep. That small room is instead slowly being converted into a nursery, with only a crib and a chest of drawers for the moment, but Charles has promised he will build more furniture in time as the baby needs it. Mrs Clarke had insisted on the move; she had wanted the children to have a room each and Laura has to laugh – for such a grump, she positively spoils the children.
Laura makes her way upstairs very quietly, conscious of the sleeping baby. They’ve been putting him down in his crib during the day, to get him used to it, which means they are constantly checking in on him because it’s harder to hear, and he’s still so little. Sometimes she brings him out into the garden with her, but not always, and today she had wanted to spend some one-on-one time with Mary. They’d had a long chat about Mary’s school projects, and her friends, and Laura thinks that it was a good decision to leave the baby inside. Charles would more than hear him from the kitchen if the need arose.
As she approaches the landing at the top of the stairs, she can hear a soft voice, but it sounds far too deep to be her son. She smirks to herself; she knows exactly where her husband is now.
Laura stops in the doorway of Henry’s nursery and watches the sight before her.
Charles is standing by Henry’s crib with the baby in his arms, bouncing lightly as he sings to the boy. Since the moment he was born father and son have been enraptured by each other. If Charles is not with her and Mary, he is invariably with the baby. She should have known the moment she saw his kitchen seat abandoned that he would be upstairs.
He doesn’t see her standing at the door, too caught up in what he’s doing, and trying to remember the words to the song he’s muttering. He is humming Little One – an old ditty he’d seen in a Bing Crosby movie once, many years ago; one of Kris’ favourites at the time, which is why he even remembers it at all. He doesn’t really recall the exact words, or even much of the tune, just a vague idea.
“Little one, I was so gloomy, till one day you happened to me, my little one” he sings. He alters the rhythm a little to make the words fit. His voice is not bad either – a little low, but it always soothes Henry, so that’s all that matters. And Laura thinks it’s possibly the cutest thing she’s ever seen in her life; Charles standing by the crib gently rocking the tiny baby in his arms, singing slightly off-key.
Will had been a wonderful father to Mary, but distant with the domestic side of things the way most men are in this time. Happy to play in the garden or teach her to walk, and most content when he was showing her the animals on the farm, but also happy to leave the hands-on tasks to Laura. Thinks like feeding and bath time were completely the women’s domain, as far as he was concerned. The idea of sharing parenthood equally – of fathers staying home while mothers worked, or even that they would change dirty pants – is so foreign and yet so endearing. Charles wants to be involved in everything, from dawn til dusk, and though her mother had frowned at first, in the privacy of their own home Laura isn’t going to deny him.
She fondly remembers Henry’s first proper bath in the kitchen trough– her mother fussing over the water and Mary angling to watch on. Charles had held Henry’s tiny body just slightly submerged in the warmth while Laura used a light cloth to run over his belly and his head, mindful of the black stump at his belly button that had by then turned near black. The whole exercise had been the definition of teamwork, and afterwards Charles had pulled Mary into his lap on the couch, close to the warmth of the fire, and then gestured for Laura to place the baby in their combined arms.
Laura had settled herself next to her mother, balanced on the arm of her rocking chair, and the two of them had watched on as Charles softly showed Mary how to properly hold Henry – how to support his head and his bottom, and rest him in the crook of her elbow.
Her mother had taken Laura’s hand in her lap and patted it between her own – a small but tender sign of emotion. She had been so proud. Laura had never seen her look so happy, and tears had welled in both their eyes at the sight. Had she been born an artist, it was the one scene in her whole life she would want to paint, but alas that was Charles’ area, and so she has to hold that memory tight instead.
That had been two days after Charles’ offer of adoption, and the whole family was still alight with happiness, despite the long first week of baby duty. Now, of course, things are much more routine. It’s practically relaxing, even if Laura is itching to get back into town and conduct business now and then, her mind never at rest. She reminds herself that it’s only just been a month; that she has all the time in the world to just rest and take care of her baby. And besides, she and Henry are not yet sleeping routinely; she wouldn’t last a full day being back at work at the moment.
She doesn’t walk further into the nursery, content to stay hidden in the doorway and watch them. Charles rocks just enough to one side that she can see Henry’s eyes are open and watching his father. His lips are puckered in that newborn way, and one tiny hand peaks out of his blankets near his cheek, fingers curling and unfurling.
Father and son are completely enamoured by each other, blue eyes on blue. Henry had been born with vivid sky-blue eyes, not dark-rimmed like those that might change. She doesn’t think his eyes will darken at all; it would be a precious gift for her son to inherit his daddy’s eyes. Charles, of course, thinks the baby looks like her, but he really is far too small to judge yet. They sometimes watch him, making claims on whether his nose is Laura’s or if his hair will turn auburn-brown. It’s ridiculous; she doesn’t remember ever saying those things out loud about Mary. But so many things are different about this child, not least of which is that his father is from the future.
According to Charles, their faces are merely noisy blobs to little Henry at the moment, but the baby is enthralled; awake and alert and following his father’s every move as he sways gently back and forth, making faces while he sings. Perhaps they are blobs, but they are blobs that Henry knows well. His tongue pokes out just a little, and she stifles a chuckle.
Eventually Charles’ lyrics change, though his voice continues to sing the same basic tune. “Little one, is your mama, just gonna stand there, watching papa, or little one, is she gonna come say hi, to, little one”
She giggles at him as he turns to face her, innocently caught loitering. She shrugs at him and smiles as she steps inside the room towards him.
“Close your eyes, Mama” he says.
She gives him a curious look, but he just nods at her, and so she complies. She feels him come up next to her and then with one hand he nudges her to spin around, facing the corner of the room she couldn’t previously see because it was obstructed by the door.
“Open” he whispers in her ear.
She opens her eyes and gasps, overwhelmed. In the corner sits a wooden rocking chair, hand-carved. Her hand flies up to cover her mouth. “Oh Charles, it’s beautiful”
She steps forward, examining the fine work. She knows, just by looking at it, that Charles built it himself, and she knows now why he forbade her from going in the shed the past few weeks. This surprise is amazing.
“Sorry it was so late, I thought I had a couple more weeks to get it done” he says, nudging her with his shoulders to get her to sit. He knows it will hold up. He spent plenty of time rocking in it himself, content that if it held him it would hold Laura and babe just fine.
“No, it’s wonderful. I love it” she says. She lowers herself into the chair, her hands clasping the end of the arms, and pushes with the ball of her foot, starting a very gentle rock. “Charles, this is just perfect”
The chair is made of solid oak, stained a dark honey-brown. The arms are simple, with an embellishment on the end and a curve to it that gives it a soft, rounded look. The back comprises of uniform slats, ordained with an intricate pattern of swirls and loops – far more complex than most things these days, but Charles is, after all, an artist. The top of the back is shaped off with curves as well, and features a complex array of loops and tendrils; a variation on a dragon carving ornament design that he had used once for an ad many years ago. The chair is more than just the rudimentary design of his first project months ago; more than a few pieces of wood stuck together. It speaks to his growing talents as a carpenter, and his artistic eye. It will last in the family a very long time.
Charles grins at her and then shifts Henry in his grip and lowers the baby into her waiting arms.
“Hello my little prince” she coos. Charles crouches down next to her, running his hand over his son’s head as Laura places him across her lap, nestled in the divot of her two legs, his legs up against her stomach and his head near her knees. The baby looks up at her with as much fascination as he showed his father a moment ago. His tongue darts out as his mouth moves, puckering and then releasing. His hand opens, and she places her little finger against his palm, fascinated that his fingers close around hers straight away.
“I might be biased” says Charles, kissing Laura’s cheek. “But I think he might just be the cutest baby in the world”
Laura chuckles, nodding, running her fingers over the little tuft of hair on his head. “He is rather adorable” she says, nodding, and then turning her head to look at her husband. Their noses are barely inches from each other, and they smile – wide, toothy grins – before he leans in and kisses her softly, yet with passion; his touch imbued with love. She hums against his lips, overwhelmed for a moment by this feeling. To think, when she first found out about her pregnancy she was terrified; overcome with worry over their future. And yet, here she sits with a healthy child and a happy husband, her mother and daughter content downstairs. It’s all a bit much, sometimes, to think of how lucky she is. So many things could have gone wrong, and now everything feels wonderfully right.
Her mind flashes briefly to the explosion in the park – remembers the feeling of Charles’ body pressing over the top of her, protecting her from the blast, Mary tucked under his other arm. She vividly remembers that moment, and the absolute faith she had in him just before she was thrown to the ground. Even as the blast temporarily deafened her, she never felt afraid. He has that affect on her to this day. She pulls away from him, her eyes still closed and a smile on her face. She opens her eyes and looks at him, and his look of adoration sends warmth running down her spine.
They both look back at the baby when he coos, smiling as his mouth quirks to the side, seeking out her finger in response to her touch on his cheek, no doubt getting hungry.
“We make good babies” he whispers against her lips. She laughs at him, rolling her eyes, but she does agree. Not that she thinks they will have another – it was stressful enough to bring this cherub into the world, let alone doing it again. She’s still worn out from the birth; she doesn’t think her body could withstand the entire process again, even if she did conceive successfully. And Charles will understand if she tells him they need to use something when they go to bed together again; he will not hold this against her, he said so when they first found out about her pregnancy.
“We make hungry babies” she counters, watching Henry turn his head more, trying to root around for her breast. He only ate a couple of hours ago, but he is a veracious feeder. Laura likes that, though; given his small birth size, watching him guzzle down his fill – seeing that turn into baby pudge day by day – is a relief to her.
“Do you want a hand?” asks Charles, referring to her clothes. She had taken to wearing only a simple slip dress around, with buttons down the bosom, and has foregone the corset entirely. Being confined to the farm, it doesn’t much matter what she wears, and this way she has an easier time feeding Henry by herself.
She smiles at Charles, knowing that he is just searching to be tactile; that he doesn’t mean to be suggestive, he just likes helping, and he enjoys touching her even when he knows it can’t lead to anything. They haven’t been intimate again as yet – she was sore for quite some time, and he hadn’t wanted to rush her. She misses him though; she thinks she might be ready in another week or so.
“Thank you” she says softly, and watches his face as he undoes the buttons down the front of her dress, revealing the chemise underneath. He unbuttons the three at the top of that too, running his flat palm over the top of her breast, still fascinated by their size. Laura bites back a hum of pleasure, blinking slowly, and watches his face. He looks up at her and smiles. She smiles back. She’s looking forward to making love to her husband again; she misses this part of their relationship.
She shifts Henry, and moves the garments to the side, releasing her breast. The baby latches on instantly and begins to have his fill, look up at her with wide eyes. She always feels like this time is a bonding experience, and sharing it with Charles is a treat. He reaches behind him and pushes the door closed, just so the latch bangs on its catchment but doesn’t completely lock. It’s more for her own privacy than anything, but then there are hardly secrets in this house. She smiles all the same, and Charles sits back on the floor next to her chair, his arms framing his bent knees, and one hand lightly grasping Henry’s foot where it kicks out right near his face.
“I think he’s gonna be a sportsman” says Charles, watching the two legs kick around in defiance of his grip.
Laura hums with amusement. “Is that a prestigious role in the future?”
“It’s an over-paid one, that’s for sure”
She chuckles a little at that. Some of the future’s realities still baffle her. She can’t understand why anybody would become rich for throwing a ball around, but then she has been a farmer’s wife and small business owner her entire life. Her reality is so far removed from all that.
“He might be an artist, like his father” she says, her free hand running through Charles’ hair affectionately. He smiles up at her and, when her hand frames his face, turns his lips towards it and kisses her palm.
“There’s more money in baseball” he drawls, throwing on some commentator’s twang. Laura smiles. By a quick calculation their son will live through the Babe Ruth era. Perhaps he should encourage that thought for Henry.
“We do okay” says Laura, running the backs of her fingers down Charles’ cheek.
“More than okay” he whispers back. She can’t help but nod to that.
Yes, indeed, far more than just okay.