The silence woke her. Caitie wasn’t used to that. If Mark wasn’t breathing soundly next to her, he was usually making news somewhere else in the house. Mostly in the weight room they’d set up shortly after the wedding. But, she could usually hear the clank of the weights or his grunts as he lifted himself on the pull-up bar through the air vent.
But, there was nothing. Panic flashed through her for a moment before reason settled in again. He’d probably gone for a run. It was fine. Everything would be all right. If that was the case, he would have left a note.
He’d probably woken from a nightmare, and needed to pound the old ghosts out of his brain. It wouldn’t be the first time. Usually those nightmares woke her as well, and she could comfort him out of them.
She grabbed a sweatshirt from the floor and realized it was Mark’s as she pulled it over her head. She didn’t bother with pants. If she did find him, she knew more ways than running to exorcise those demons in his mind.
Even though she hadn’t heard anything, she went down the stairs first. Sometimes she had found him just sitting on the weight bench, his head in his hands, sweat running down him from a hard workout. But, the light in the weight room was still off. She turned and headed back toward the kitchen.
Flicking on the under cabinet light, she glanced around for a note. There was nothing there, either. The panic tried to work its way in again. She wasn’t going to let it, though. He wouldn’t take off on her like this. Not after all this time. Not now. But, where would he have gone?
Then, she heard it. Down the hallway. A rhythmic creaking. She tensed, thinking it was a floorboard. Someone was sneaking through the house. Then, she recognized the rhythm of creaks. Not someone walking around. A rocking chair. And there was only one room it could be coming from.
She stopped in the doorway of the smallest bedroom in their house. The crib that stood against one wall. A dresser that was already filled with little outfits. They had so many people that already loved their child, loved them, they hadn’t even had to buy any of those clothes themselves. And the rocking chair in the corner. The big man sitting in it, rocking back and forth, his head hanging down, his hands gripping the arms of the chair.
Her heart ached as she took another step into the room. “Mark?” she said softly. “What’s wrong, Mark?”
“I don’t deserve this,” he said, his voice rough. “I don’t deserve any of this.”
So it was one of those nights. “Bullshit,” she said, keeping her voice soft. “You deserve so much. You deserve me. Because I love you. Our love made this child who will be here anytime now.” She took his hand and set it against her stomach, where she could feel a foot pressing out. She felt Mark shudder. “And this baby is going to love you, look up to you.”
“He should,” she argued. “You’re brave, you love so deeply, even if you don’t let yourself see it. You’re one of the best men I know, Mark Young. You need to stop forgetting that. If you weren’t, I wouldn’t still be so bloody in love with you.”
He laid his head against her stomach with a sob and she held him there, ignoring the tears rolling down her cheeks. He was going to be okay. She would make sure of it, no matter what.
Well, that one took a different turn than I’d expected at first. Mark and Caitie are from one of the earlier stories in my Flames series. They might have found love together, but it doesn’t make everything perfect. That’s one reason I like to write a connected series. You can see after the “happy ever after”, which doesn’t necessarily means it’s without it’s harder moments.