Read 31 Days of Autumn Online

Authors: C.J. Fallowfield

31 Days of Autumn (9 page)

‘I’m good, thanks Jenny. I’ve got to go,’ Dan
announced, pushing his empty plate back. ‘I’ll hopefully see you all later. If
not, have a great time.’ He leaned over and kissed me, then caught Jenny’s eye.
‘Keep an eye on her for me, will you? I don’t want her overdoing it or getting
overexcited, and you phone me if anything happens, ok?’

‘No problem, boss,’ she saluted.

‘What was that you were saying about men in the
family?’ I teased, as Molly came down hand in hand with Brooke.

‘I’m going before mother and Magda turn up, too.
Take it easy,’ he warned, kissing me again.

‘I will, you too,’ I nodded. I watched him as
he went to kiss and hug Molly, then Brooke, holding her for longer than normal.

‘Oi, Davenport, I’m married. I warned you that you’d
fall in love with me one day.’

‘You make sure that doctor gives you a private
referral letter this morning,’ he warned with a pointed finger as she grinned
up at him. ‘I’ll sort it as soon as I get home.’

‘It’s like I get to have my cake and eat it too.
I get hot girl-girl action with my wife and sugar Daddy treatment from my best
friend’s husband. Thank you,’ she said sincerely. ‘I really appreciate it.’

‘You’re family,’ he replied, clasping her face
and kissing her forehead. ‘See you later.’

I blew him a kiss, feeling so proud to have a
man like him as my husband, then got up for the good morning round of hugs and
kisses. I sat back in my chair, watching them eating, talking, and laughing.
This felt so much better than yesterday morning.

‘Danland?’ called Brooke, bouncing Jonas on her
knee.

‘For once no, familyland. I’m just so lucky to
have you three girls in my life. You know I love each and every one of you,
right?’

‘I love you, Mummy,’ Oliver called.

‘Of course we do, sweetie,’ Molly smiled,
squeezing my hand. ‘And we all love you back just as much. Right, we’d better
go and get this diagnosis confirmed, Brooke.’

‘We’d better go before I finish off Jenny’s
waffles. I can’t believe you all ate in front of me, it was torture,’ she
moaned.

‘I’m doing a three course lunch, Brooke. There’ll
be plenty when you get back,’ I reassured her. ‘Do you want me to ask James to
take you? He’s looking after me for the next couple of weeks. Andy’s driven Dan
to work.’

‘No, it’s ok, thanks. I can drive Megan. Just
make sure you set aside some extra helpings of food for me.’ She handed Jonas
over to Jenny and stood up, and her jeans dropped down onto her hips again. I’d
never seen her so skinny.

‘Will do,’ I nodded, reaching up to hug her as
she came to give me a goodbye kiss. ‘Good luck and text me the minute you know
for sure, as you know that I’ll sit here worrying.’

‘I’ll make sure she does. See you later, don’t
overdo it,’ Molly warned, kissing my cheek. We went to the French windows to
wave them off. Jenny rubbed my back as I let out a sigh.

‘She’s going to be fine. My dad is a type two
diabetic, he just has to watch what he eats and drinks and take his blood sugar
levels every day. She’ll soon get her head around it.’

‘I hope so. Right, why don’t you go and play
with the boys while I tidy up and get lunch on the go?’

‘No, you’re going to sit with the boys while I
tidy up. Don’t get mad with me, but Dan’s hired a cook who’ll be here any
minute. He didn’t want you slaving over a stove all morning and wearing
yourself out.’

‘A cook? Honestly!’ I exclaimed.

‘Ellie, you’re having your caesarean tomorrow
afternoon, you should be taking it easy. Go and sit down with the boys before
Luiza and Magda arrive to collect them. When I’m done here, I’ll go and pack the
boys' suitcases, then I’ll be in the gym if you need me, ok?’

‘Thank you, Jenny.’

I made the most of my couple of hours with
Oliver and Jonas, one either side of me sitting at the dining table, drawing
and doing jigsaws. Jonas wanted to sit on my knees, but my tummy was far too
big, so I sat with one arm around him as he scribbled. I was going to have to
put my foot down with the publishers until the boys and Eva were a bit older. I
was really going to have my hands full for a couple of years until they could
amuse themselves and I could get a few hours to myself. Writing was going to
have to take a back seat. I looked up as Oliver shot off his seat and raced
across the room.

‘Carino, what a welcome,’ Luiza laughed as she
bent down and picked him up for a hug. She looked as glamorous as ever, in a
pair of black boot cut trousers, high heel boots, and a grey cashmere tunic.

‘Nana.’ He snuggled into her, with his arms
around her neck, and she beamed over his shoulder at me when Jonas called for
her as well. I set him on the floor and held his hand as he walked unsteadily
over to her.

‘Ellie, how are you?’ she asked, as I kissed
her on both cheeks.

‘I’m great, thank you. You?’

‘Perfect, now that I have my grandsons to
entertain me,’ she smiled. She set Oliver down and lifted Jonas up into her arms
and he pursed his lips for a kiss. They were lucky boys to have so many people who
loved them.

‘Where’s Magda?’ I asked.

‘She is busy baking for the boys' afternoon
tea. She sends her love and can’t wait to see you and our granddaughter
tomorrow. Are you nervous?’

‘Not at all,’ I replied as I led her back to
the kitchen to make her a cup of tea. ‘Your son is a whole other matter,
though. He’s sent me four texts already this morning, checking that I’m ok.’

‘I had hoped he’d be more relaxed this time around,’
she sighed. ‘He loves you so much, Ellie. He tries to be brave, but inside he
is still a scared twenty-something, back at Rebecca’s side.’

‘I know, and I feel awful for putting him
through it, but it’s the last time,’ I nodded, looking down and rubbing my
stomach. Desperate as I was to meet her, I was going to miss being pregnant,
seeing as how this was going to be my last time. ‘How’s Daniel?’

‘Driving me around the loop,’ she replied with
a roll of her eyes. ‘He is talking of retiring. What will I do with him under
my feet all the time?’

‘He has his golf and his steam engine
fascination. Maybe he could volunteer his services to a steam engine club and
get involved with that?’

‘Now that is a fabulous idea, Ellie. I could
ship him off for a few days at a time.’

‘Is he that bad at home?’ I laughed, handing
her a mug of black tea with no sugar.

‘I like to shop. Sometimes I don’t want or need
anything, but I enjoy the browsing. Daniel has no patience for shopping, but he
insists on coming with me, then moans every second of our time out. I then lose
my temper and shout at him in Portuguese, he gets mad, and before you know it,
we are talking divorce and spending the entire day and night in silence.’

‘Divorce?’ I looked at her, shocked. ‘Are
things that bad?’

‘No,’ she giggled. ‘I love him dearly, but he
can drive me out of my mind sometimes, as I’m sure I do him. It pays to keep
him on his toes with the odd threat.’

‘That’s so good to hear, you had me worried for
a moment, but I know what you mean.’ I filled her in on Brooke’s illness and
Dan’s insistence that Molly hide it from me, as the boys played at our sides.
Just as I was reassuring her that Brooke was ok, my phone pinged.

It’s diabetes, sigh. He thinks I’ve had it
for a while and it’s caused some nerve damage to my bladder. So on top of me
drinking too much and having to pee so often, it’s made my muscles weak. I’ve
got a referral letter, but I’m under strict instructions to cut back on sugar
and carbs immediately, including alcohol :-( He thinks that’s what got me into
this mess. On our way back and I’m starving! You’ve not dropped any baby juice,
have you? xx

Diabetes is serious, Brooke, but at least
it’s treatable and a whole lot less traumatic than chemo or radiation. We’ll
get you to see the specialist and a dietician who can help you, please don’t
stress yourself about it. We’ll all help you deal with it. Baby juice?! You’re
so revolting. And no, I’m fully intact. You’re premature! See you soon xx

I filled Luiza in on Brooke’s results and was
about to offer her another cup of tea when Jenny appeared with the chef Dan had
hired. It took all of my self-control not to ask her to pack up and leave me to
it. Cooking was one of the things I really loved, but it wasn’t worth an
argument with Dan over, not when he was stressed with work and the birth. Jenny
brought down the boys’ cases and let James know that Mrs. Davenport was ready
to go home again. I shed a few tears as I hugged my boys goodbye. They were
staying with their grandparents for three nights, the longest I’d ever been
without either of them. I was going to miss them terribly. As Luiza picked
Jonas up and carried him to the front door, he started crying and calling for
me, breaking my heart.

‘Don’t worry, carino,’ she soothed, stroking
his head. ‘You’ll see her again soon and your pappy is so looking forward to
spending some time with you and Oliver.’ She blew me a kiss as I tried to hold
it together. Jenny put her arm around me when we watched James drive away with
them all.

‘Gosh, even I’m going to miss them,’ she sighed,
throwing a sympathetic look my way. ‘Are you ok?’

‘I will be,’ I smiled weakly. ‘But I need
something to distract me. At least let me make my frangipane tart, if I promise
to do it sitting at the dining table?’

‘Deal, though I shall deny all knowledge if Dan
asks me if you did any work,’ she warned.

‘Fine with me,’ I nodded with a wink. She let
me get away with things that the men on watch never would. As a woman, she was
more in tune with me and my needs, but wasn’t afraid to put her foot down if
she felt it wasn’t in my best interests. She’d really been a great find.

 

Day Six

Thursday 10
th
October

Ellie

I winced and clutched my stomach as a sharp pain woke
me up. I blinked and tried to adjust to the dark room, glancing over at the
clock. It was only just after two a.m. Dan was fast asleep with his arm around
me. I waited a moment for the pain to subside, then took a deep breath,
wondering if it had been a contraction. I’d much rather have had Eva naturally,
but I’d been warned of the dangers, hence the reason for my scheduled caesarean.
I lay there silently, watching the alarm clock changing from minute to minute.
When it got to ten minutes later, I relaxed and closed my eyes. It must have just
been something I’d eaten. No sooner had I thought that than another painful
episode occurred. I put my hand on my stomach as I tried to keep my gasp and
panting as quiet as possible. Dan needed as much sleep as he could get, so there
was no point in waking him up if this was just a stomach cramp.

I waited until the pain subsided, then carefully
moved Dan’s arm off me and eased myself over to the edge of the bed. This
wasn’t going to be easy, I’d got used to Dan or Jenny helping me up. I swung my
legs over the edge and struggled to an upright position. I sat there for a
while, gathering my strength, then somehow managed to scoot along the mattress
to the foot of our mahogany sleigh bed. I grasped the curved edge and hauled
myself up, then shuffled over to the bathroom door in darkness. I hesitated as
I opened the door. We had a few steps down to the bathroom, but if I turned on
the main light, Dan was likely to wake up. I gingerly tested for the edge of
the first step with my bare foot. Closing my eyes and protecting my stomach
with one hand, while I clung to the door frame with the other, I stepped
forward, making sure of my footing before I let my other foot move. One by one,
with my heart in my mouth, I slowly made my way down in darkness. I made it
just in time, grasping the silver Victorian towel rail that protruded from one
of the sinks as another wave of pain hit me. I clung to the rail, my fingers
tightening around it, as I rested my forehead on the cool porcelain.

‘Shit, shit,’ I whimpered. ‘Come on, Ellie. You’ve
given birth before, this is nothing.’

I managed to reach up and pull the cord for one
of the wall-mounted lights, which cast a soft glow around the room. It was bright
enough for me to see, but not too bright to wake sleeping beauty next door. I
made it to the toilet and lowered myself down, figuring if this was trapped wind,
this was the best place for me, just in case my upset stomach created an urgent
need to go. I giggled as I remembered Brooke’s horror when I’d told her that I
wished I’d been on the toilet when my waters broke with Oliver. She’d been even
more mortified when I’d said letting it happen on the loo would have been the
best place for it. She thought a baby might shoot out head first into a dirty
toilet bowl and be scarred for life, if it didn’t drown first. I’d had to
remind her how long I was in labour with Oliver and reassure her that most
women didn’t fire babies out of their vaginas like baseballs from an automatic
batting practice machine. If only. I palmed the wall and stifled a cry as
another strong cramp tore through me. I felt light headed and dizzy. Surely it
wasn’t labour? I wasn't due for another 2 weeks. I couldn’t stifle the next cry
as I clutched my stomach, then felt and heard a sudden gush of water. No! Eva
didn’t care that I was booked in later, she was on her way. Right now. From my
memories of labour with Oliver, this wasn’t right. Something was different this
time, the pain seemed more severe and I felt really peculiar.

‘Dan,’ I called, but got no response. ‘Dan!’

‘Ellie?’ he mumbled sleepily. ‘Where are you?’

‘Bathroom. It’s happening.’ I cried in a panic,
wondering why I felt so spaced out.

 

Dan

‘What’s happening?’ I yawned, rubbing my eyes,
still slightly dazed.

‘Our daughter’s on her way,’ she called. Fuck!
I leapt out of bed faster than an SAS commando called for duty. I dashed in to find
her grimacing on the toilet. ‘I really didn’t want you to ever see me like
this, but my contractions are so strong and they’re coming faster each time.’ I
slid across the bathroom floor on my knees and grabbed one of her hands while I
reached up to touch her clammy forehead. She looked really pale.

‘No matter what position you’re in, when or
where, you always look beautiful, Ellie Davenport. She’s really on her way?’

‘No, I’m just sitting on the toilet naked and
panting in the middle of the night for fun!’ she shot back with an incredulous
look on her face. ‘Yes, she’s coming and I don’t think we have long.’

‘Shit. Shit,’ I muttered. I’d practiced for
this as a worst case scenario so many times in my head, but all of a sudden, my
mind was blank. The only thing I could remember was the fear and total
helplessness as Rebecca screamed during her labour. I shook my head. Ellie had
already given birth to Oliver safely, and there were no complications with her
c-section with Jonas. Nothing bad was going to happen. But I still couldn’t
focus on what I was supposed to do. I looked up at her, my eyes wide with
panic, feeling pathetic for needing her help right now. It should be the other
way around.

‘It’s ok,’ she said, her tone softening as soon
as she read my face. ‘I’m going to be fine. Go and ring the hospital to tell
them we’re coming in early, then ring Andy or James to get the car ready. The
baby bag and a suitcase are already packed in the back of the Range Rover. Then
get dressed and come back with some clothes for me. That’s four steps. You’re
Oliver Daniel Davenport, CEO at the top of his game, you can handle four small
steps, can’t you?’ I gulped and nodded. It was an order, not a question. I
clasped her face and kissed her, then shot back to the bedroom, trying to
regulate my breathing. I had to be strong, I’d be damned if I was going to fail
her again. I’d gone to pieces last time, despite everyone’s reassurances that
her operation went well. This time I needed to man up and be there for her. I
found the number for the hospital on a pad next to the phone and quickly
dialled it, flummoxed when they asked about contraction timings.

‘Ellie, are you timing them?’

‘Yes. They’re already six minutes apart. It’s
happening faster than with Oliver, the contractions are a lot stronger, and I
feel sick and dizzy.’

‘I heard that, Mr. Davenport. Nothing to worry
about, but bring her straight in and we’ll have the team on standby. Your
daughter has decided she wants to meet you on her own terms,’ came the
reassuringly confident female voice. I thanked her and hung up, then pressed
two on speed dial to be put through to the security team’s quarters. James
answered in less than four rings.

‘Is it Mrs. Davenport, Sir?’

‘She’s in early labour.’

‘I’ll be dressed and have the car ready and
waiting at the front door in five minutes.’

‘Thanks, James,’ I replied, but he’d already
gone. I discarded my sweats and pulled on some boxers and my distressed indigo
jeans, then grabbed a clean and pressed white shirt and pulled it over my head
for speed. I quickly donned my socks and a pair of leather lace ups and chucked
a navy sweater on the bed. I headed to Ellie’s side of the walk in wardrobe and
went for what she called her “period pants” drawer. They were French knickers,
instead of her usual hipster boy shorts or thongs. To be honest, I found her
bloody attractive whichever type she was wearing. I grabbed one of her nursing
bras, her blue pregnancy jeans, a white t-shirt, and a navy blazer. She’d have
a fit if I tried to send her to a private hospital in sweat pants and a hoodie.
Even in the midst of childbirth, she’d want to look presentable. She had a pair
of navy converse trainers, I drew the line when it came to high heeled footwear
and labour. She was going in flats and that was the end of the matter. I
grimaced when I heard her crying out for the fourth time since I’d left her and
dashed back. ‘Ok, everything’s in hand, I have clothes for you. How are you
doing?’

‘I’m ok, nothing new,’ she shrugged. I wet a
facecloth with cold water and gently wiped her face, which already had a sheen
of perspiration. She was so pale. She looked at the ceiling, embarrassed as I
reached down to pull her knickers and jeans over her ankles. ‘Don’t look in the
toilet,’ she warned. Of course, instinct had me look straight between her
thighs and I recoiled with horror when I saw the bowl was a red pink colour
instead of clear. Terror flooded my system as my eyes flicked up to hers and my
hands started to shake.

‘Fuck, Ellie, you’re bleeding.’

‘Dan, I told you not to look! I’m fine,
honestly. Keep looking at me, I’m fine. It’s normal to have a bit of blood when
your waters break. I’m fine, but I won’t be if you just sit there, looking like
someone just ran over your puppy. I need to get dressed and we need to go.
Now!

she ordered, forcefully. I got her bra and t-shirt on while she was seated, then
laced up her trainers. She made me yell in surprise when she doubled up and
screamed.

‘Ellie?’

‘Keep going,’ she whispered. ‘I’m ok.’

‘I’m fucking not. You’re screaming, you look
like you’re going to pass out, and I feel fucking useless.’

‘It’s just childbirth, Dan. Millions of women
go through it. It’s not pleasant, but I’ve done it with Oliver, and when Eva
gets here, it will all have been worth it, I promise.’

‘You’d better not be lying to me,’ I warned,
helping her up and trying not to look at the colour of the toilet again, while
she clutched my shoulders as I pulled up her knickers and jeans.

‘Ellie, Dan, talk to me, what’s happening?’
came Jenny’s voice from outside of our room.

‘Come in,’ I yelled, grateful for some support.
Seconds later, she was standing in the bathroom doorway.

‘She’s in labour?’ she asked.

‘Yes,’ I nodded. ‘Can you let Brooke and Molly
know, if they haven’t already woken up with all of the noise? James is waiting
to take us.’

‘I’ll follow with Brooke and Molly. Andy?’

‘Off duty and I don’t think it’s necessary for
you all to come, it could be ages,’ I suggested, as I helped Ellie up the
steps. Her legs seemed to be made of overcooked spaghetti, she kept stumbling
as she tried to walk.

‘It’s not going to be ages, Dan,’ she gasped.
‘If James doesn’t drive us fast, I’m going to be having her in the car.’

‘Fuck, fuck,’ I uttered. She was moving way too
slowly, all those stairs with her phobia were going to take forever. ‘Close
your eyes, baby,’ I warned.

‘What?’ she looked up at me, then screamed in
surprise as I crouched down and scooped her up into my arms. ‘Oliver Daniel
Davenport, don’t you dare carry me down those stairs,’ she warned, the first
flicker of fear I’d seen since I woke up flashing across her face.

‘I need to get you to the car and to the
hospital fast, and you know how slow you are on those stairs. You’ve got to
trust me, Ellie. I’ve got you and my daughter covered, I promise. Close your
eyes, baby.’

‘If we die on that staircase, I’m going to kill
you again when we get to heaven,’ she muttered through gritted teeth, doing as
she was told.

‘Tell me about Eva,’ I suggested, trying to
take her mind off it as I left the bedroom with Jenny in tow. ‘Who’s she going
to look like, you or me?’ Adrenaline kicked in as I made a start down the
stairs. I was in charge now, she needed to let me take control. I thudded down
them, Ellie tensing in my arms and burying her face in my chest, not answering
me. I didn’t like the look of her. She was really pale and clammy. I was
vaguely aware of Jenny branching off to go and get Brooke and Molly when we hit
the first floor, but I kept going. She knew where the hospital was, I’d had
them all practice emergency runs there on a timer. When I reached the ground
floor, the front door was wide open and I could see James standing by the open
back door of the Range Rover, whose engine was running. He nodded to me as I
approached, then looked down at Ellie. I stopped dead in my tracks when his
eyes shot back up to mine. I’d never seen James look scared of anything, but
right now he had fear in his eyes. I looked down at her, wondering what he’d
seen to make him change, and my heart froze as a lump of acid formed in my
throat. Ellie had a large crimson stain on her jeans.

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