The Somber Silence Of Miniscule Losses
“Is this better?” Mike asked as he finished fixing the pillows behind Lena.
“Yeah. Thanks, babe.”
Lena didn’t want to look him in the eye for fear that he might see the truth behind the lie. She couldn’t get comfortable no matter how hard she tried. Every position hurt.
“What else can I do?” Mike stood next to the bed, feeling the helplessness flow through his veins as he observed Lena struggle to get comfortable. He surveyed her struggle not to wiggle every few seconds. He knew that she was faking the contentment for his benefit.
She looked up at him. The meds in her system still made her look lifeless. There were bags under her glassed over eyes. They were red and puffy though she hadn’t cried in almost ten hours by now. Her face looked pale and narrow with her hair tied up in a bun. Mike didn’t care. He knew how the meds were going to affect her. And yet, he couldn’t help wanting to do whatever he capable of to help his wife in whatever way she needed. He was hurting too, but he refused to show it because he knew Lena had it worse. Physically at least.
“How about we share a bowl of ice cream and watch a movie?” she suggested. She gave him a tired smile as she spoke. How she was staying so calm during this time troubled Mike. He wished he had her strength because being the calm rock she needed was a struggle to keep up. Mike wondered if the calming scents of lavender and chamomile from the aromatherapy diffuser he bought her only worked on women. The room reeked of the scents, but not overwhelming for him yet. It might have been if he hadn’t opened the windows daily to give Lena fresh air.
“Honey Pistachio?” he asked.
Lena’s bright smile made Mike’s heart leap in his chest. There she was, the woman he fell in love with. The woman whose smile could literally brighten up a room. The woman who danced barefoot in the rain and sat eating meals with the homeless once a week. His woman.
“Is there even anything better?” she joked.
“We have lots of free time right now. Maybe I’ll go buy a dozen cartons of new flavors to try.”
Mike tried not to let his disappointment show as Lena’s smile fell at the corners of her mouth. His heart pounded against his chest as he replayed everything he had said. Mike tried to think of all the emotions he had let shown on his face. He didn’t know what he had done wrong.
“I would love that, but only if you’ll watch Twilight with me.”
Mike let out a laugh of surprise as the relief rushed through him like a tsunami. “Of all the damn movies, Lena.”
Mike heard Lena’s soft laugh down the hall as he went to get ice cream. He picked up Lena’s favorite blanket from the couch on his way back, knowing it would help comfort her.
As Mike walked up the stairs, he couldn’t help but look at the photos hanging on the wall. The memories flooded him and made his heart ache even more at each photo.
A photo from their first date was first. They had gone to a carnival, and it made Mike smile to remember how he hadn’t told Lena he is terrified of clowns. She wanted to go so badly before the carnival left town, and Mike didn’t want to disappoint her. She wasn’t even mad when they got kicked out after Mike punched a clown who snuck up behind him. She had been laughing too hard the whole way out.
Next was a photo of them on vacation at the beach minutes before Mike proposed. Lena held on to Mike’s hand. She had her eyes closed and let the sun hit her face. She looked like a goddess with her red curls shining in the sun. In the photo, Mike was staring at her like she was the only woman in the world even as he had been reaching into his pocket. He was forever thankful the photo had been taken seconds before he realized the ring box got stuck in his shorts. Mike ended up ripping a hole in them, trying to get it out.
Mike’s gaze traveled over the next few photos. There were the two of them together on their vacation to Salem. Lena insisted they had to go so she could learn more about her family’s heritage. There they were at his first family barbeque with Lena’s family. Her older brother’s death glared at him all night. Mike’s heart ached at the last photo taken of him and his younger brother at the airport. Mike had dropped him off for his deployment only to pick him up a few months later in a coffin.
A photo of Lena laughing under the fairy lights up at the cabin hung next to it. There was a closeup of Mike’s face when he saw Lena for the first time in her wedding gown as she walked down the aisle. Lena loved that photo, but it made Mike cringe every time because he was a blubbering mess in his suit. Mike and Lena’s first dance at the wedding hung above that one. And in the last photo, there was Mike and Lena as they hit a pinata. Pink glitter, confetti, and candy rained down from the pinata, revealing the gender of the baby that had been nestled in Lena’s belly. The pure joy of their faces in that moment felt like a lifetime ago for them both.
Mike knew he’d have to take that one down for a little while. It hurt just looking at it. Mike felt like a knife had pierced his heart and had been twisted. He had to clamp his jaw shut while he took deep breaths to keep the stinging in his eyes from turning to tears. He knew it might kill Lena to see the memory anytime soon.
When Mike walked back into the bedroom, Lena was scrolling through Netflix for a movie. She relaxed a little when she saw him enter their bedroom.
Lena couldn’t help thinking that he was going to hate her. That he would leave her soon for all the pain she caused him. She wouldn’t blame him. For now, she was thankful that he was still here, still doing and getting whatever she needed.
“Are you up for a comedy?” Mike asked as he made himself comfortable on the bed. He got as close to Lena as he dared and covered her with the blanket. She curled into him as best she could without causing her stitches to burn.
“Sure.” She handed him the remote and took the ice cream and spoon he offered her. Lena felt herself relax more as the salty sweetness of the ice cream melted against her tongue. She wondered if this pregnancy craving would dissipate with everything else as her body transitioned back to normal or if she was going to enjoy this flavor forever now. Lena didn’t know which was worse.
Mike picked a movie, but they both only half watched it. Their minds both were too busy overthinking and worrying about what the other needed. When the credits started rolling, Mike kissed the top of Lena’s head.
“It’ll be okay, you know,” he reassured.
“I don’t see how it can be.”
“We’ll get through this. Together. I won’t say it won’t be hard because I’m positive it will be, but we still have each other.”
Tears filled Lena’s eyes. “I just want to hold her again. I want her to be here so we can see her grow up.”
Mike tried to be gentle as he pulled Lena closer to him. He said nothing at first because he knew if he did, he would crack. Lena didn’t need him to crack right now. She needed strength from him, not a sniveling wreck. The minutes of silence ticked by, and Lena held him tighter.
“I want that too,” he whispered. “She’ll always be a part of us. Don’t for a minute think that she’s any less special or loved because we can’t have her physically.”
A sob broke out from Lena even though she tried to hold it back. She had been holding the tears back, and she felt like a dam was about to crumble inside her.
“I love you.”
“I love you, too. Forever.” Mike promised. He ran his hand up and down her arm in soothing motions knowing it helps calm her down like it always had.
“I’m scared to try again.” She admitted after a long silence. The credits had ended during their silent moments. The Netflix screensaver began to play. Neither of them cared.
“Me too. We don’t need to try again anytime soon. Or ever, if we choose. We have a baby girl in spirit, and we have each other. That’s all we need for now.”
“You would be okay with never having any kids?” she asked, looking up at him.
Mike shrugged halfheartedly. “Before I met you, I never thought about having kids. Then when we got together, I wanted a houseful of mini-us’s running around. But I never thought about losing a baby before we even had a chance to hold her. Now I can’t imagine the anxiety we are bound to feel if or when we try again. Do you think we can even handle it? I don’t know. But what I do know is right now, we both need to heal, mentally, emotionally, and you, physically. So, I want to focus on that. On us. And then later, when we’re ready, we can talk about more babies.”
Lena cuddled deeper into Mike and flinched when her stitches pulled. Mike reacted to her flinch. Reaching over, he grabbed her bottle of painkillers and a bottle of water on the nightstand. She took them eagerly. Lena didn’t like the burning sensation of her stitches every time the medicine wore off. It made everything more real, and she didn’t mind ignoring reality for a little while longer.
“Do you want to see another movie? Or are we going to look at the Netflix screensaver all night?”
Lena laughed. She wondered if Mike would sit here all night watching the screensaver if she asked him to. “Maybe just one more.”