I loll my head to the side, checking the clock on the stove for the hundredth fucking time. It's 3:57 in the morning, and it was 3:57 when I looked two seconds ago. Ian hasn't been home all day. And I'm planning on ripping him a new one the second he walks through the door.
Just as the thought is crossing my mind, the front door cracks open, a tentative Ian peeking through. "Hey, you," he whispers as he gently closes the door behind him.
"'Hey. You,'" I repeat slowly. "That's all you have to say? You were supposed to be home fucking hours ago, Ian! What the hell?"
His eyebrows bunch as he studies my face. "Mick, I think you need to calm down."
"Calm down? Calm down?!" I sputter, "You don't come home until four fucking AM, and I'm supposed to calm down?!" I stand, moving around our small kitchen table so I can get in his face. "Where the fuck were you?"
He presses his lips together so hard they turn white. "Look," he says after a minute.
"No," I burst in, "You look, fuckface, if you say you'll be home at five, be home at five! Or at least let know what the hell is going on!" He says nothing, nostrils flaring- a sure sign that his own anger is coming up on him. "Were you with someone?" I ask.
"Are you fucking kidding me?" he says through a clenched jaw, "you really think I'd do that? You're my husband, Mickey. Husband. For better, for worse, sicker, poorer- all that shit, I'm here. Have you even checked your phone today? Because I did tell you I wouldn't be here;told you like ten fucking times." I keep silent because I hadn't checked it, hadn't even thought of checking it. "Fuck you," he spits out, "Fuck you so much for even thinking that, let alone saying it out loud."
I feel everything in me deflate. "Listen, Firecrotch," I murmur after a tense minute has passed.
Before I can stumble through an apology, Annabelle's door creaks open. "Daddy?" she says sleepily as she steps into the dim glow coming from the kitchen light. She's got her teddy bear nestled in the crook of her arm. She rubs her eyes as she yawns.
Ian gets to his knees, and she falls into him. "Hey, babygirl," he mumbles, all anger zapped from his voice.
"Why're you and Daddy Mickey fighting?" she asks sleepily.
I kneel down beside Ian. "Because Daddy Mickey is an idiot," I sigh, locking eyes with Ian over her head, "And he's sorry. Really fucking sorry."
Ian nods, a soft smile tugging at his lips. "Watch your mouth," he scolds halfheartedly.
I know I'm forgiven. "C'mon, rug rat," I say to Anna, scooping her up, "S'late. Sorry we woke you." I dump her on her bed, and she giggles as she bounces from the impact. I tug her pink comforter up to her neck and press my lips in between her eyes. "G'night, beautiful."
"Daddy?" she says as I turn to leave.
"Yeah, short stop?"
"Why d'you worry 'bout Daddy Ian s'much?"
I squeeze my eyes shut in the darkness, opening them after a second and sit on her bed. "Because I love him, munchkin, and that's how you show people you love 'em."
I smirk. "Well, it's how us Milkovich's show them."
"Am I a Milk-a-vish?"
I chuckle at the way she butchers the name. I reach out a hand and stroke her hair. "Sorta."
"I hope I find someone to yell at someday," she yawns, turns over and falls asleep.
"Me too, Bells," I whisper to her, "me too."
I emerge from the room, finding Ian sitting on the couch with a cigarette between his fingers. "Picked up an extra shift," he says before I can open my mouth. He smiles sadly. "Guess I shoulda known you wouldn't read my texts."
I shrug. "Phone's off," I offer lamely. I step closer, awkward and uncertain. "Sorry I yelled."
He looks back down at the stick in his hand, and raises it to his lips. "Don't care that you yelled, Mick."
I settle next to him, staring at the ground. "Sorry... for what I said. I don't really think you'd-"
"I know," he says, nodding, "I know you don't." He hands me the cigarette.
"I yell at you because I love you," I blurt out.
He makes eye contact then- finally- and grins- finally. "I know that too."