If walking home with Patrick had proven to be therapeutic, calming me enough to have a rational conversation about a thorny subject with his mother, supper with both him and Shona was a cure for the anxiety that had taken a hold of me since that morning; I probably was going to sleep like a baby. You hear this often, but I’m not saying it because of a bias: my children are extremely smart and prove it to their mother and I every time we talk to them.
That evening’s supper conversation was yet another demonstration of their intelligence, especially when the subject of food restrictions came up.
“What’s that?” Patrick asked.
“It’s when you decide to restrict something from your diet. So for example, you choose not to eat sugar, or pork, or something else.”
“Why?” Shona asked. “I love sugar!”
“Sometimes it’s because of the person’s religion, sometimes it’s because of their health…”
“Like if they have allergies,” Shona interrupted.
“Exactly,” Talya continued. “And sometimes, people choose not to eat something because they want to make a difference.”
“I want to be a venenarian,” Shona declared, turning her cute little nose up.
“A veterinarian?” I asked, puzzled.
She shook her head. “Why would I want to work with animals, Daddy? I have allergies.”
I saw Talya hiding a smile. “I’m sorry pumpkin,” I apologized.
“I think what she meant was a vegetarian.”
Patrick’s mouth dropped open, and he immediately reached out across the table to grab his sister’s plate. “I’ll take care of that then,” he said, gleeful.
She was too quick for him; Patrick was only able to move the plate for a couple of centimetres before she was trying to pull it back towards herself. “Dad!” she shrieked.
Both Talya and I put our hands to the plate to avoid disaster.
“But you said you want to be a vegetarian!” he said.
“Yeah, so?” Shona said with a dark frown.
“That means you can’t eat animals,” Patrick said. “Right, Mom?”
Talya hesitated. “Yes, but…”
“Then you,” Patrick turned back towards his sister, “can’t eat your fish!”
My children love any type and form of seafood, which is apparently quite unusual (or so say other parents). They particularly love fresh salmon grilled with garlic and lemon, which happened to be what we were having that evening.
“Well then,” Shona said very dignified. “I am going to be an out of water venenarian.”
“That doesn’t exist!” Patrick said, indignant.
“Actually, son,” I gently said, “it does.”
Patrick let go of the plate and crossed his arms over his chest. We settled Shona back.
“We do have more fish, if you want some,” Talya told her son.
“Yeah, Patrick. You can’t have mine.”
An evil twinkle appeared in Patrick’s eye. “It’s OK. I’ll just wait for chicken nugget day and eat yours.”
Shona’s mouth dropped open. But instead of walking straight into the trap, she held silent for a few moments, then drew herself up. “You’re mean. I’m trying to be nice, and you’re being mean. Mom and Dad always say that you and I should help each other become nicer. But you’re just a baby.” She sat back, a little smug, and stabbed her fork in a piece of fish.
“Enough you two,” I interrupted, sensing an impending exponential escalation of decibels. “Shona is right, you do have to help each other become better. Patrick is right, you won’t be able to eat any chicken nuggets. But Patrick, you shouldn’t rub your sister’s face in it. It’s not nice.”
“Sorry,” he mumbled before shoving another piece of fish in his mouth.
“Can I become a venenarian even if I am allergic to animals?” Shona suddenly asked.
“I think that this time, she does mean veterinarian,” Talya said, an amused smiled playing on her lips.
And so it went on, all the way until we tucked the two of them in bed.
“They are such a riot,” I said, stifling a yawn as I threw back the bed covers.
“Well they do take after their father,” Talya said with a smile.
I rolled my eyes, fluffing the pillows. “It’s was my witty charm that attracted you to me and kept you amused all these years, so don’t you be complaining.”
“Who said I’m complaining?” she said, slipping into bed.
I almost immediately fell asleep; my last thought was how wonderful my family was and how I hoped I could keep my morning promise to Patrick.
I believe it wasn’t the impact with the car that woke me up, but rather my landing on the edge of the sidewalk. The concrete edge dug so deep in my ribs that I was certain it had managed to bruise my internal organs. I remember thinking how Patrick would be upset at me, then wondering how I would ever be able to sleep again knowing that my so-called ‘internal perception’ I thought had kept me safe all along didn’t exist. Oddly enough, a little ninja came to see me then, and told me about skeletons – which I’m certain now was a hallucination (hopefully, it was, because I would hate for my city to be infested with 30 centimetre high ninjas obsession about skeletons).
“Sir? Sir! Is there someone we can call?”
Ah, true – I was in my pyjamas. Good thing I didn’t wear the pirate ones I had bought to match Shona and Patrick’s. Wait a second – was I wearing pyjamas?
“Am I naked?”
Nothing. Oh dear. I was naked. I had to cover myself. I opened my eyes with difficulty – what’s with all the bright, flashing, lights? – and saw two faces looking down at me with – pity? No, with puzzlement.
“Am I naked?” I repeated.
One face smiled and shook his head. “No, you’re not. You’re wearing a dark blue pyjama set.”
“Is there someone we can call?” smiley asked.
Talya. I wanted my wife with me. But she shouldn’t come – she had the kids, and an important meeting the next morning. Who could I count on – who could… “Connor,” I said, then gave smiley the number. He would appreciate the gesture, surely he would understand what it meant.
I closed my eyes, and when I reopened them, I was in a bright white room, tucked neatly in a bed, with something pinching my arm (probably the IV drip I could see beside my bed went in there) and something down… Oh dear God, had they put a catheter in?
“Oh thank God,” Connor said, walking in. “You’re awake.”
“There…” I croaked, cleared my throat and tried again. “There is a catheter inside me!”
Connor was clearly taken aback. “Not quite the first question I was expecting,” he muttered, pouring some water in a cup. “Yes, you have a catheter. You also have an IV and that beeping sound is a cardiac monitor,” he said, presenting the straw to me. I greedily drained the entire cup while he continued his monologue. “Your heart was playing tricks on us for a couple of minutes and they didn’t want to take any risks. I guess the fact that they transferred you to a normal care room rather than intensive is a good sign.”
“Thanks for coming, Connor,” I said, settling back in the bed, my throat feeling much better. “You’re the second person I thought of.”
“The first was Talya. But I knew she was going to go a little crazy were I to call her. I knew you were going to be the calm, cool, collected one.”
“You have obviously never seen me at a AC-DC concert,” he said, but I could see he was clearly pleased.
“I’m sorry I got you out of bed in the middle of the night.”
“Yeah, speaking of that – it was more like three in the morning. Knowing Talya gets up early with the kids, I gave her a call not long ago.”
Uh-oh. Not good. “What time is it?”
“Which hospital are we at?” I was hoping that maybe they would take me to a hospital at least an hour or so away, especially with traffic, and not the one right by my place…
“The one your wife will arrive at any minute now.”
Luck really wasn’t my thing.
“I’m sorry Sean,” Connor sighed. “But I thought it was preferable for her to not wake up to an empty bed and panic not knowing where you are. So I waited until 6h30, which I believe you said was the normal family wake-up time, and called.”
“No, you did the right thing,” I sighed. “Did you tell her not to come?”
Connor just stared at me.
“Yeah, I wouldn’t have tried, either.”
“Connor… What’s that noise at the end of the hall?”
He looked as stricken as I. For all her loveliness and gentleness, Talya was a scary woman when she was angry. And she was bound to be extremely angry right now.
“Come on Connor, be a man and take a peek.”
“I am man enough to know not to get myself into a sticky situation,” he said with a frown.
I rolled my eyes. “Talya won’t do anything to me. I’m the one she’s going to kill.”
“Now why would I do that?” Talya said, striding into the room.
“Talya!” I squeaked. From the corner of my eye, I saw Connor muffling a chuckle. “Did you sleep well?”
She put her hand to my forehead. “Better than you did, apparently.”
“I was sleeping fine until I had an, um, misunderstanding with a passing vehicle.”
“So I hear,” she said, peering into my eyes, then patting my neck and shoulders.
“I think they already checked that,” I said. Was Connor inching towards the door? Was he really going to abandon me?
“I’m your wife. I have a right to check again.”
“I, euh, am going to… I’ll be outside.” The traitor left the room with what I am sure is a smirk on his face.
“Sorry about getting you out of the house at this early an hour,” I smiled at my wife. She loves my smile. I have dimples (Shona inherited them) and she loves when I flash them.
“Dimpling me isn’t going to get you out of this one, Sean.” How did she guess? “How dare you not call me?”
“You have an important meeting, and the kids were sleeping, and it was the middle of the night.”
“What if I had woken up in the middle of the night and you weren’t there?”
“You never wake up.”
“What if, Sean!”
I took a deep breath. I had to tread carefully; I had never seen Talya this upset before, even when I had managed to somehow bake a salty cake for our guests. That hadn’t turned out too bad because it turns out that apparently there is such a thing as salty cakes and one of our guests had a great recipe for an apple salty cake but loved what I did with the carrots and could she have the recipe?
“I understand that you’re angry, Talya, but I just woke up. The last couple of times that I was awake, I was half knocked out with pain. The only thing I could think of was the kids, fast asleep, and the promise I had made to Patrick about not getting hurt. So I asked for Connor, knowing that the less we change the routine, the less the kids would have to know about what happened.”
Talya also took a deep breath. I could see that she was still upset I hadn’t called her first, but she was struggling to understand my side of the story. “Well thankfully you are all right. I checked with the doctors and nothing has been broken – you are going to have massive bruises for a long time though. We can tell the kids you and Connor went for an early morning game of basket-ball and you fell.”
I nodded, grateful.
“But let me be clear: next time, you are to call me first, understood? I am your wife – I want to be at your side. What if you hadn’t been this lucky? I know Connor is a good friend, but wouldn’t you want the last person you talk to be me?”
I tugged Talya’s hand off the bed’s side rail and squeezed it. “Of course. I’m sorry honey. But I had been knocked unconscious. We already know how faulty my thinking can be when I’m in full shape, so please, give me a chance.”
Talya sniffed. “Fine, fine. I have to go to my meeting now, but I’ll be back in the afternoon to take you home. They are going to stay for after-school activities, so we have until suppertime to get you settled in.”
“And drugged,” I muttered, starting to feel a little pain. Were the narcotics wearing off? Not good.
“Definitely drugged,” Talya said, dropping a kiss on my forehead. “You know Shona is going to want to cuddle to make you feel better.”
Was that an evil grin on Talya’s face? She turned back to wave at me before she left – yes it was. I love my wife, but she’s an evil one.