When Dan’s alarm woke him to a dreary Monday morning, Stacy was already up, slowly pacing the bedroom. As she rubbed her stomach, her face pained, her breathing sounded wrong. Every few steps, she moaned.
“Are you okay, Stace?” he asked through a huge yawn.
“Yeah.” She groaned and then let out a hiccupping-burp. “Just regretting that second chili dog at dinner last night.”
Dan chuckled. “Don’t you mean the third?”
“Shut up, dupek.”
He crossed the room and pulled her to him, rubbing circles in her lower back to ease her discomfort. “You want me to stay home with you today?”
“That’s okay, kochanie. I’m sure I’ll feel better soon. I just need to eat something.”
“Want me to make you some oatmeal?” he offered.
“No. It doesn’t sound good.” Her face twisted from her discomfort. “I think I’ll just stick with some toast.”
“Are you sure you’re okay?” he worried. Usually, when he suggested oatmeal, she asked for a chili dog, even when she was miserable with indigestion.
“I’m sure.” She sighed then hiccupped again. “You better get in the shower or you’re going to be late for work.”
“Call out if you need me.” He gave her another kiss and headed for the closet to find something for the day.
“Could you grab my pink hoodie while you’re in there?” she asked. “It’s cold in here this morning.”
Dan pulled it off the shelf and tossed it to her. “Did it snow?”
“A little. Maybe an inch.”
“It’s supposed to snow again this afternoon. Might be a pretty good storm. Maybe you and Aria should cancel your shopping trip.”
“She took the day off work just to go with me. I’m not canceling.”
“You could stay here, bake some cookies, give Willie Nelson a pedicure.”
“We’re not five-years old, Dan!” She cursed him out in Polish, her irritation amplified by her hoodie as she wrangled it over her head and around her protruding belly.
“Could you at least stay in town, then? Don’t go all the way to Lincoln. It’s too far.”
“Quit your worrying, old woman.”
“Fine. I guess I’ll go take my shower and shut up.”
“About damn time,” she said with a roll of her eyes. Then, she smiled. “I’ll make you some coffee.”
Stacy woke up cranky, but as Dan got ready for work, he quickly caught her mood. The moment he stepped in the shower, his foot went out from under him, slipping in a puddle of shampoo that had dribbled out of an over-turned bottle. He caught his balance before he fell on his ass, but he ripped the towel bar off the shower wall in the process. He cut himself shaving, a first in a very long time. As he leaned into the mirror to dab the blood away, he noticed the few, stray grey hairs sprouting near his temple had multiplied into a cluster. With a tired sigh, he covered his age with a ballcap and headed downstairs.
He found Stacy slowly pacing the kitchen, her toast half-eaten and still sitting on the table in the breakfast nook. He watched her out of the corner of his eye as he poured his coffee, but when he opened his mouth to suggest once again she cancel her plans, she shut him up with a glare. He dared to give her a kiss, and then left her to her pacing.
A few miles down the road, he passed Aria in her little orange Jeep, headed for his house to pick up Stacy. He lifted his hand in wave, and then immediately called her on his cell phone to express his concerns about both Stacy and the road conditions. He asked her to promise not to go further than Juliette and to call him immediately if Stacy started feeling worse. She assured him she would take good care of Stacy, and then told him to stop worrying. He hung up and drove into Allman Falls, worrying the entire way.