Thanks as always to Hubby for the edit, and loving me enough to tell me when my chapter isn't up to its usual standards! <3
Please let them be okay. Please let them be okay. Please let them be okay.
That was the mantra I recited to myself, as the ambulance sped from the university across town to the hospital.
Even though Meg had come round quickly, and had managed to talk to me and her parents, she was visibly weak, and when the paramedics had taken her blood pressure it was dangerously high.
The sweat rolled down my forehead as every horrible scenario flashed through my mind.
Time felt disjointed, one-minute passing too quickly in a blur, the next passing agonizingly slowly. My mind couldn’t keep up with what was going on around us, and as the ambulance made its journey I didn’t notice the change in surroundings until we pulled up outside the hospital.
The paramedics opened the rear doors, and unloaded the wheelchair Megan was seated in. I followed behind, scanning the car park for her parents, who’d been forced to make their own way to the hospital, but saw no sign of them yet.
Megan was taken straight through to the antenatal ward, and after signing in at reception, we were told to make ourselves comfortable in the waiting room.
“How are you feeling now?”
“A little woozy, but otherwise fine.”
“And Ella? Is she still moving about?”
I tried not to let the fear show on my face, but in the ambulance, Ella’s heartbeat had been distressed, and I took this as a sign something was wrong with our little girl. But I had to stay strong for Meg. She needed me to support her.
“I haven’t felt much movement since before I fainted, but I’m sure she’s fine.”
Megan’s parents burst into the waiting room, and I shuffled aside to let Elizabeth sit down.
“What have the doctors said? How is Ella?”
Megan told her parents that her blood pressure and Ella’s heart rate had been taken in the ambulance, and now she was waiting for an obstetrician.
As Elizabeth and Edward digested the news, I watched their faces carefully. Edward turned pale, his forehead wrinkling, and Elizabeth’s lips formed a thin line.
“It will be okay,” I said, trying to offer us all some positivity.
Elizabeth wringing her hands told me she didn’t believe me. “Have you been getting enough rest and eating properly?”
“Mum, I’ve been doing everything the doctors have told me to.”
Elizabeth stood up and started pacing. “Then you’ve been spending too much time gallivanting around town with him.”
“Kian’s been at work. For God sake, this isn’t anyone’s fault.”
“Megan, pregnant women don’t just faint in the middle of graduation ceremonies. You’ve been pushing yourself too hard.”
My temple throbbed. I couldn’t take any more, and stood up. “No-one is to blame here and arguing isn’t going to help Meg.”
“Well said, Kian,” Edward said, then turned to his wife. “Elizabeth, Love. I know you’re worried, but going on like this isn’t helping anyone.”
Elizabeth’s head dropped. “I know. And I’m sorry Megan. Just after last time, I’m so worried about you and Ella. If anything happens to either of you, I’ll never forgive myself.”
“Mum, I’m fine. Ella is fine. It was just too hot in the hall. The doctor will probably say the same.”
The room plunged into silence, as we were all absorbed in our own thoughts. My instinct was to be close to Meg; to hold her, to comfort her, but Elizabeth was guarding her daughter like an angry mama bear. Edward sat on the other side of Megan, his face stony and stoic.
The waiting was driving me almost as crazy as the atmosphere in the room. What the hell were the doctors doing that meant we had to wait so long? Hadn’t they been informed how serious the situation was?
I took to pacing the length of the waiting room, stalking backwards and forwards past windows with the blinds half drawn.
Finally, Megan was called into see one of the obstetricians, a locum named Doctor Hill.
She stood up from the wheelchair and took a few steps forward, before I rushed to her.
“Are you sure you don’t want to take this?
“I can walk, it’s only down the hall. If I sit in that thing much longer, I’m going to go crazy.”
I offered her my arm, which she took hold of, and leaving Meg’s parents in the waiting room, we headed through to the doctor’s office.
Doctor Hill was stern-faced woman, much older than our usual obstetrician. She looked over Megan’s notes with a critical expression.
“Okay, let’s take your blood pressure so I can compare it to the paramedics’ results.”
She attached the monitor to Megan’s upper left arm and took a reading. The digital counter displayed 160/ 90, which I knew it wasn’t good. When Meg had been admitted to hospital a few weeks earlier, it had been 140/90.
“This is far too high. Have you been resting and taking the medication prescribed?”
“Yes, of course.”
I could tell by the way Meg’s jaw tightened that she was getting pissed off, and I rubbed her shoulders to calm her down.
“Well something obviously isn’t right. We’ll need to take a urine sample to test for pre-eclampsia.” Doctor Hill handed Meg a specimen jar. “The bathroom is just down the hall.”
As soon as Megan closed the door behind her, tension swallowed up the room, and Doctor Hill turned her attention to me.
“She needs to be taking better care of herself, for the baby’s sake,” Doctor Hill said. “You need to help her with that.”
My pulse increased, and I took a deep breath. One, two, three… “I’m doing the best I can.”
“Then do more. Because if her blood pressure remains this high, she’s going to have to be hospitalized for the rest of the pregnancy. You don’t want that, do you?”
“I can’t expect Meg to stay locked up indoors for the next how ever many weeks, can I?”
I said nothing more until Meg returned with her sample, which Doctor Hill quickly tested.
“The sample shows traces of proteinuria, which means you have pre-eclampsia.”
Megan’s face drained of all colour, and she gripped my hand tightly, as my heart thumped.
Maybe this was all my fault?
I shook the negative thought out of my head.
“What can we do to make it better?” I asked.
“I suggest bedrest until it’s safe enough for labour to be induced. Until then, you’ll be admitted to hospital for regular monitoring.”
Megan looked at me, her eyes wide with panic. I knew this is the last thing she wanted.
“You can return to the waiting room now while we find a bed for you.”
The dismissal was clear. With her head bowed, Megan stood up from the chair, and crossed the room to the door. I scooped up her notes from the doctor’s desk, the followed her out.
“This is all my fault,” she said, as I took her hand and we walked down the corridor back to the waiting room.
I paused and pulled her to me, wrapping her in my arms and kissing her forehead. “No it isn’t.”
“After last time, I should have taken things easier, but I didn’t. If something happens to Ella, it’s all my fault.”
“Don’t let what that bitch doctor said get in your head. This isn’t your fault.”
Meg’s shoulders started to shake, and she sobbed into my chest. “What if something happens to Ella?”
I rubbed my hands up and down her back. “Nothing is going to happen. I promise. I’ll do everything in my power to make sure you and Ella are okay.”
Meg looked up at me, moisture shimmering in her eyes. With the pad of my thumb, I brushed a tear from her cheek.
Once Meg had composed herself, we went back to the waiting room and told her parents what the doctor had said.
I braced myself for Elizabeth’s reaction. If she’d been on mine and Meg’s case before, God knows how she’d take the news Meg had pre-eclampsia. But before she could say anything, Edward stepped in.
He wrapped his arms around his daughter, and her head fell on his shoulder. “It’ll be okay, Love,” he said, stroking her hair. “You’re in hospital now, so they can get everything sorted. And me, your Mum and Kian are here. Anything you need, you just have to ask.”
Edward’s words not only comforted Meg, but soothed Elizabeth too, and when Megan sat down in the wheelchair again, she took her daughter’s hands.
“Dad’s right, Meg. We’re all here for you, and the doctors will make sure you and Ella are okay. All you’ve got to focus on is resting.”
It was almost an hour before a nurse finally came and told us a bed on the antenatal ward was available. Megan was taken down to her new room, which housed five other women in various stages of pregnancy.
As she had nothing with her, Meg had to borrow a hospital gown. Her parents said they’d go to her flat as soon as visiting hours were over, and collect some stuff.
Elizabeth and Edward only stayed another thirty minutes, as the visiting hours for non-partners were almost over. Thankfully, the time for partners was less restrictive, and I wouldn’t be forced to leave until nine that night.
“We’ll be back later with your things,” Elizabeth said, embracing Meg.
“Thanks Mum.” Megan kissed her cheek. “Can you call Stacey too, and let her know what’s going on. I can’t get any bloody reception in here.”
Edward took his turn to embrace his daughter, and then the couple left.
When they’d gone, I pulled up a chair beside Meg’s bed, took her hand and asked, “How are you feeling now?”
I laughed. “I’ll take that as a sign you’re feeling better.”
“I was feeling better as soon as I got out of the ceremony hall, but obviously my body thinks differently.”
“At least you know what the deal is now, and you can take it easy.”
Megan sighed. “I’d be much happier at home, in my own bed, with you.”
I kissed her knuckles. “I know. Me too, but this way they can monitor you and Ella.”
“I guess. As long as I don’t have to see that cow from earlier again.”
“She was awful, wasn’t she?” I grimaced and Meg smirked.
“I don’t know how you kept from punching her.”
“Right? Me either.”
A nurse came round with the food trolley and served Megan some unappetising-looking grey slop that was apparently pork and apple casserole.
“That looks gross. Why don’t I nip down to the canteen and grab us some food?”
“What do you want?”
After taking Meg’s request for a sandwich, crisps, a chocolate bar and a can of pop, I headed down to the canteen.
I was buying a coffee from the vending machine when someone called my name, and I turned to see Marie walking towards me.
“Is everything okay?” she asked, once she reached me.
“Meg’s been admitted with pre-eclampsia.”
“Jesus Christ! Is she okay?”
I took a sip of my coffee, and joined the queue to pay for the other things I wanted. “The doctor has insisted she stays here, on bed rest. I don’t think she’s happy about it.”
“Who’s your obstetrician?”
“Normally Doctor Stone, but she wasn’t here today, so we got some locum named Doctor Hill. She gave Meg a really hard time about being sick.”
Marie frowned. “It’s hardly Meg’s fault.”
“Exactly. That’s what me and her parents said after.”
“And it’s this Doctor Hill who’s put her on bed rest?”
My answer was delayed as I paid for mine and Megan’s food, then me and Marie left the canteen and made our way back up to the maternity ward.
“Yeah, she seems to think being here is the best thing.”
We stopped outside the security doors, and Marie chewed on her bottom lip. “Some older doctors think that, but it’s not always the case. Sometimes bed rest can make pregnancy complications worse. I’d talk to your regular obstetrician when she gets back.”
“Isn’t it dangerous for Meg to be up and about, though?”
“I’m not suggesting she run a marathon or anything. But I don’t think pottering about at home will cause more complications, as long as she takes it easy. Being in her own home, with people who care about her around, will more likely lower her stress levels and bring down her blood pressure.”
“Good point. I’ll tell Meg to have a word with Doctor Stone when she’s back.”
“Okay. Give her my love, and call me if you need anything, yeah?”
“I will do. Thanks, Sis.” Surprising us both, I pulled Marie into an awkward hug.
“Shut up you idiot. Don’t get all soft on me now.”
Marie headed back to the lift, and I buzzed in to be let through the security doors. Careful to hide the food I’d bought, I made my way over to the room Meg was in.
“Everything okay?” she asked, as I sat down next to her, and handed her a pre-packed ham-salad sandwich.
“Yeah. I ran into Marie. She reckons you should ask Doctor Stone about this bed rest thing. She thinks it might be better for you to be at home.”
“Anything is better than being cooped up in here. I’ll speak to her tomorrow.”
We both fell silent for a few minutes as we ate our food.
“God, that was good,” Meg said, draining the last few drops from her can of pop.
I laughed. “You really must have been hungry if you were that impressed by canteen sandwiches.”
“I haven’t eaten since breakfast. You could have bought me a microwave meal and I would have thought it was a banquet.”
“When you’re discharged I’ll cook you anything you want.”
Megan grinned. “I hope it’s soon. Even spending more than a night in here will drive me crazy. You’d think, given people are supposed to be getting better, the conditions would be nicer. But this bed is like sleeping on a wooden plank, and I can’t relax with the noise from the other people in the room.”
“Do you want me to draw the curtains to block some of it out?”
“If you would, please.”
I stood up and pulled the curtains around so that Megan’s bed was cocooned in a little bubble of seclusion.
Before returning to my seat, I brushed the hair out of Meg’s face, and kissed her gently on the lips. “You try and get some rest, okay?”
“Uh-huh.” Her eyelids fluttered closed, and I sank onto the chair next to her.
I must have drifted off too, because sometime later, I was jolted awake by the sound of someone pulling back the curtains. I sat up in the chair, trying to roll the kinks from my neck, to see Megan’s parents had arrived with a duffle bag of Megan’s belongings.
Meg woke up too, and pushed herself into a seating position.
I got off the chair, to let Elizabeth sit down by her daughter, and decided to take a bathroom break so Meg could be alone with her parents.
When I got back, Meg and Elizabeth were chatting animatedly about Stacey.
“She said she’ll come and visit you tomorrow.”
The conversation paused as I stepped through the privacy curtain.
“Do you want my seat?” Edward said.
I waved him off “Nah, I’m alright standing.” I squeezed around the bed, and stood on the opposite side from Megan’s parents.
Elizabeth looked at me. “I’m sorry about earlier. I know this isn’t your fault, and you’re doing everything you can for Megan and Ella.”
“Don’t sweat it. We’re all worried about them.”
Elizabeth smiled, then said, “Meg tells me your sister thinks bedrest might not be the best thing.”
“Marie is a theatre support worker here at the hospital,” I said, answering the unasked question of why my sister would be commenting on Megan’s condition. “I ran into her in the canteen earlier, and told her what’s happened. She said it’d probably help lower Meg’s blood pressure if she’s at home, in her own space.”
“Well some decent food and a good bed wouldn’t hurt,” Elizabeth said.
“Exactly. I’m going to ask Doctor Stone tomorrow.”
“You let us know if you need us to pick you up or anything,” Edward said.
“I will do.”
Me and Megan’s parents stayed at her bedside, chatting about random non-important stuff until visiting hours ended at nine, and the nurse came around to make sure we all left.
When I got home, I called Davi to ask for the following day off, then made myself a protein shake, had a shower and headed to bed for an early night. Between the early morning, and everything that’d gone on since graduation, I was knackered.
As soon as my head hit the pillow, my brain went into overdrive, and I couldn’t switch my thoughts off. Since I’d bought it up in conversation a few weeks ago, I hadn’t been able to stop thinking about me and Meg and living together, and everything that had gone on since then only made me more sure. I wanted to be there for her as much as possible, so nothing like this happened ever again.
Not just that, but I wanted to be around as much as I could after Ella was born, too. I still didn’t know shit about changing nappies or feeding a baby, but I’d learn to help take some of the pressure off Meg.
Knowing I’d never sleep until I did something about our living arrangements, I turned on my phone and started a browsing property site. I had money left from buying into the gym, and I intended to put it to good use. Then all I’d have to do was convince Meg.
Despite talking to Doctor Stone the following day about being discharged, it was almost a week until Megan’s blood pressure fell low enough for the doctors to even contemplate letting her go home.
I tried to visit her as much as I could, but we both agreed I shouldn’t take too much time away from the gym, as I planned on having at least a month off when Ella was born. I put the time away from Meg to good use though, and visited a number of properties – some within the city, and some in the quieter countryside on the outskirts. My plan was slowly coming together, and everything was almost finalized apart from one last step, which was eluding me.
I was visiting Meg one morning when Doctor Stone came to see her. Thinking it best to give them some space, so the doctor could check her over, I headed down to the canteen.
I was getting a coffee from the vending machine and felt a presence behind me. I turned to see Stacey approaching.
“Hey,” she said, reaching into her purse for some change.
I beat her to the punch, and slipped a pound coin into the machine. “I’ve got this. What are you having?”
“A hot chocolate, please.”
I pressed the appropriate button, and once it was made, handed Stacey her drink. Then we both sat down on one of the couches.
“How long has the doctor been in there with her?”
“About five minutes,” I said. “They’re doing some tests to see if she’s well enough to come home.”
“Yeah, Meg said they might be discharging her today.” She paused for a minute, shifting her weight from one foot to the other. “I was hoping to bump into you. I have a favour to ask.”
I took a sip of my coffee and raised an eyebrow. “Shoot?”
“I wanted to get your mum and sister’s numbers. I’m going to throw Meg a surprise baby shower when she’s discharged, and I thought it’d be nice for them to be there.”
“Are you sure that’s a good idea? Isn’t she meant to be taking it easy?”
“I talked it through with Elizabeth, and she thinks it’ll be okay. It won’t be anything strenuous. We’ll provide all the food and stuff. All Meg has to do is be there.”
I rubbed my chin and thought it over. Meg had mentioned wanting a baby shower before Ella was born, and since the pre-eclampsia diagnosis, she’d been really down. This would be the perfect thing to lift her spirits. “All right. I’ll text you their numbers.”
I was struck by a sudden source of inspiration. For the past few days, working on a surprise for Meg and trying to figure out the best way to present it to her. Chatting to Stacey had given me the perfect plan.
“Maybe you can help me out with something in return.”
“Sure. What do you need?”
I filled Stacey in on my plan, and what she could do to help me with it.
A week after Meg was finally discharged from hospital, she and I were cuddled up on the sofa at my place, watching a movie, while Stacey and Elizabeth got Meg’s flat ready for the baby shower. I had a few finishing touches to add to my surprise for it to be ready when the party finished, and keeping quiet about it was killing me.
I tried to focus on the film – a random chick flick Meg had picked – but all I could think about was what was left to be done and Megan’s reaction when I showed her. My mouth felt dry as I imagined what she’d say. I hoped she saw the grand gesture for what it was and not me putting pressure on her or anything. Of course I wanted thing to go my way, but if they didn’t, I’d deal with it.
Just as the movie ended, I got the text from Stacey to say everything was set up, and all the guests had arrived.
“Fancy going for a drive?” I asked, as Meg switched off the DVD player.
“Sure. Are we coming back here after or stopping at mine?”
“Here’s good, if you’re okay with that?”
“Sure, I’ll need to swing by mine and grab a change of clothes and stuff though.”
“Perfect. We can head out now and after we can go into the countryside.”
Meg stood up, and made her way into the hall to put her trainers on. “Sounds like a plan.”
I text Stacey back to tell her we were on our way, and followed Megan to the front door.
“Do you smell that?” Megan asked when we got to hers and she was unlocking the door. “It smells like pizza.”
I laughed. “Is that your way of hinting you want to stop off for some food?”
“No … well yes, I could go for pizza, but I’m being serious. Don’t you smell that?”
I shook my head and followed her into the hall, thankful she had her back to me so she wouldn’t see the smirk on my face.
She pushed open the living room door, and was greeted by cries of “surprise,” followed by Meg bursting out laughing.
She ran to her mum and Stacey, who were sitting in the centre of the sofa, and threw her arms around them.
“You like?” Stacey asked.
Meg took a step back and looked around the room. A buffet table had been set up with sandwiches, cold pizza, cocktail sausages on sticks, and a cake in the shape of a dummy laid out on it. Dotted around the room were pink balloons, and other baby-themed decorations. Sitting on the two armchairs were my mum and Marie.
“I love it,” Megan said.
As Elizabeth and Stacey served everyone some red, presumably non-alcoholic, cocktails, I said a quick hello to my mum and Marie, then told Megan I’d pop back later, so she and her friends could enjoy the party without a guy hanging round.
“You’re not staying?” she asked, looking slightly sad.
“Do you know how many man points I’ll lose for being at a party this girlie?” She giggled and nodded her head. “I’ll be back later, and we can go for that drive then.”
Megan narrowed her eyes. “You knew about this, didn’t you?”
I laughed. “How else do you think Stacey got my mum and Marie’s numbers.”
“You crafty pair.”
I pulled her to me and kissed her, causing Stacey to shout, “Get a room!”
Leaving Meg to her friends and the party, I made my way out and headed off to finish my own surprise for her.
A few hours later, I pulled up outside Meg’s place to pick her up. My heart hammered, knowing in less than an hour, the cat would be out of the bag. I only hope she took this as well as she had the party.
I rang the bell and waited for someone to answer. Less than a minute later, Meg threw open the door, wearing a plastic tiara and giggling like an idiot.
“I’m not even going to ask,” I said, following her back to the living room.
The piñata had now been broken, and its crushed remains lay on the buffet table, which was almost empty. All the guests I hadn’t recognized had left, but my mum, Marie, Megan’s mum and Stacey remained, chatting amongst themselves, as they sipped tea.
I grabbed the last slice of pizza from the table, then settled on the floor by Meg’s feet.
“Look at all the stuff everyone brought for Ella,” she said, picking up a pile of baby clothes.
“Damn that’s a lot of outfits.”
“Right, and that’s not all of it. Your parents got us a digital baby monitor, and mine got us a blender and feeding set for when Ella’s ready to start solid food.”
I climbed to my feet with a grin. “Thank you,” I said, hugging my mum, before approaching Elizabeth for a hug too. “Both of you.”
“Nothing’s too much for our first grandchild,” Mum said.
While everyone chatted, I sat on the floor between Meg’s legs, impatiently counting down the minutes until they left. Under any other circumstances, I’d have relished seeing mine and Meg’s family together, discussing Ella and the future, but all I could think of was getting Megan alone and showing her what I’d been up to for the past few weeks.
Finally, everyone left, and I couldn’t contain myself any longer.
“Okay, do you want to go for that drive now?”
Meg stifled a yawn. “I’m kind of tired. Can’t I just grab some clothes, and then we can head back to yours?”
I tried to fight the heaviness in my body. Meg was meant to be taking it easy, and if she wanted to go back to mine and rest, I should deal with it.
“What’s wrong? Don’t you want to cuddle up in bed with me?”
I laughed. “Of course I want to, it’s not that. There’s something I wanted to show you. Something important.”
Meg shuffled closer to me, her eyes focused on mine. “So important it can’t wait?”
“Yeah, I guess I can show you tomorrow. I just don’t know how much longer I can keep it quiet.”
Her eyes widened, and her pupils dilated. “Okay, now I’m intrigued. Let’s go.”
She climbed to her feet and headed into the hallway. Once we both had our shoes and jackets on, we made our way outside and to the car.
I drove out of the city, almost as far as the turnoff for the nature reserve and reservoir we’d previously visited, but not quite. When we reached a passageway heavily lined with trees, I brought the car to a halt, and flicked on the overhead light.
Megan looked around incredulously. “This is what you wanted to show me? A load of trees?”
“No, it’s just a little further, but it’s a surprise. I have another request. Will you put this blindfold on, please?”
Megan looked at the blindfold in my hand like I was trying to pass a snake to her.
“You’ve taken me to the middle of the woods, and now you’re asking me to put on a blindfold? Are you sure you’re not a serial killer?”
“Don’t worry, I’ve already killed enough people for one day.”
“It’ll only be for a few minutes.”
She huffed and took it from me. “Fine! This better be good.”
“It will, I promise.”
Once the blindfold was secured, I drove through the pathway of trees until we came out on a tarmacked driveway. I parked the car.
“We’re here, but you can’t take the blindfold off yet. I’ll come around and open the door for you.”
Above the blindfold, I could just see the tops of Meg’s brows drawing together. “Okay.”
I got out of the car, and went around to the passenger side door. Once open, I took Meg’s hands, and helped her to her feet. Then, once she was standing, I looped my arm through hers and led her up the driveway.
I paused for a moment to open the front door, and at the sound of a lock clicking, Meg turned to me. Even though she had a blindfold on, I knew she was narrowing her eyes at me.
“What was that?”
“Just a few more minutes, and you can take the blindfold off.”
I walked us to the bottom of the stairs, and then directed Megan as to when to take a step, until we reached the top.
I led Meg into the nursery, flicked on the light and then once she was in position, I pulled away the blindfold. Her eyes widened, and then she rushed forward.
“Oh my god, Kian. How?” She reached out and touched the mural, made from her decal design, on the wall.
I came and stood beside her, and took her hand. “Let’s just say I had a little help.”
“Stacey. I can’t believe she managed to keep it quiet.”
“Well, I did have to bribe her with wine and chocolate.”
Megan laughed. “It’s beautiful.”
“I’m not done yet.” I took a deep breath, and prepared to give the speech I’d been mentally rehearsing all day. “I suppose you’re wondering what’s going on, aren’t you?”
Megan tore her eyes away from the mural to look at me. “Uh-huh.”
“I’ve sold my apartment. With the savings I had left after buying into the gym, I bought this place. No matter what happens, this is where I’ll be living, and this room can be Ella’s. But I want it to be our home, not just mine. The choice is entirely up to you, and if you say no or you’re not ready, I’ll respect that and leave things until you are ready for us to live together. I just wanted to show you what it could be like before you make up your mind. What do you think?”
Meg threw her arms around me and pressed her lips to mine.
“Is that a yes?” I asked when she pulled away.
“Yes. I want this, Kian. All of this. You, me, Ella. The house. I love it. I love you.”
I grabbed her by the waist, spun her around and kissed her. “I love you, too.”