C13 CHAPTER THIRTEEN
James rolled over in bed at a few minutes past five in the morning. He gave his wife a soft peck on her cheek, before getting out of the bed as gently as possible so as not to awaken her. Evelyn smiled slightly in her sleep, although the crease on her forehead did not disappear and her husband wondered what on earth was troubling her now. His wife was usually a very cheerful person, but sometimes, she got this faraway and sad look in her eyes. No matter the amount of prodding though, she always maintained that she was fine and that nothing was the matter with her.
"Let her sleep," he thought to himself. They had a lot to do as they had to work, plus Zoe, his sister in law was coming over later. It was her birthday today, and as usual, his wife was going to prepare a birthday dinner for her, although this time, it was going to be a small affair as Zoe had insisted. He smiled a little. It would be nice to see her. They hardly saw enough of her and he loved her as though she were his own daughter, even though like his wife, he was only sixteen years older than her. He bathed the kids and was preparing them for school when a sleepy Evelyn poked her head through the door.
"Good morning. How was your night?" James asked, looking her over carefully. Her eyes were bloodshot, as though she did not get enough sleep and there were bags beneath them. In short, she looked like crap, even though she had just slept for nothing less than eight hours.
"It was okay, I guess." She replied and rubbed at her eyes before bending to peck her children on their cheeks. "I'll start breakfast."
"Okay. What are we having?"
"Nothing fancy. Maybe some toast."
She left to prepare breakfast and James finished with the kids. By this time, they had woken up fully and peppered him with their incessant chatter which he loved listening to.
"I can't wait till evening to see the cake mom bought for Aunt Zoe. I will eat and eat and eat and eat until my belly is this big." Chuck said, stretching his hands as far as they would go in front of his belly to show how big it would be after he was done eating the cake.
"Don't be silly," Natalie, Miss High and Mighty said in her superior voice. "You're going to get as sick as a dog if you try that."
"Dogs don't get sick, silly."
"They do too."
"Do not." Chuck said firmly. His sister was not going to win this round as far as he was concerned.
"Do too. Dad, tell him. Tell him that dogs get sick too."
James sighed. Another day had dawned for these two. "Dogs get sick, buddy…" He was interrupted by Natalie's high screech of joy and triumph as she did a victory dance around the room, abandoning the pink socks that she was about to wear.
"Get dressed, Natalie. Anyway, like I was saying, dogs get sick, but that's not what that expression means. It means that you're going to get very sick."
"Whatever." Chuck said sullenly. He did not like to lose to his big sister at all.
His sullenness was soon forgotten when it was time to eat breakfast. He dug into the food eagerly, making slurpy noises as he ate. The bib that Evelyn had worn for him was the only thing saving his clothes from getting soiled as he ate. James was more focused on his wife who was picking at her food as though she was being forced to eat. She did not seem to be aware of anything that was going on around her and she looked so frail that all he wanted to do was to wrap his arms around her and wipe away whatever was troubling her from her memory.
"Are you okay, babe?" He asked her. She didn't seem to hear him, so he repeated the question again, a little louder this time around. Evelyn jumped and looked at him.
"Yes, yes. I'm fine. Why do you ask?"
"I don't know. You seem far away and a little sad."
"Nah. I'm fine, really." She reiterated and looked pointedly at the kids to remind him of their presence. They were looking between both parents with something akin to worry and so James changed the subject, not wanting to scare the kids or make them sad.
"Is Zoe coming with any of her friends for dinner tonight?"
"No, I asked her to do so, but she said she wouldn't."
"Okay. When are you coming back from work to begin preparations? I'll try to leave work early."
"I'm not going to work today." She informed him, averting her gaze."
"What do you mean you're not going to work?"
"What I mean is I took the day off, so I'm not going in today."
"I see. And I take it that you're going to that mysterious place that you always go to every year on this date."
She looked away, but did not say anything and they finished their breakfast in silence before heading for their different destinations.