For days she’d been anxiously waiting for Riley’s return. They’d parted in anger, and she had no way of knowing what his mood would be once he returned. After the horrible way they’d treated each other, he might wish to end their marriage. The pains had started early that afternoon, long before she’d had anything to eat – small, barely distinguishable cramps that she’d dismissed as nerves, which in fact they were.
It was later, during dinner, that the sharp, hard, contractionlike spasms had started. Not knowing what they were, she’d tried to ignore them, hide them from Riley, hoping they’d go away. Instead they’d grown more intense while she was doing the dishes. Not wanting to alarm her husband, she’d excused herself as soon as she could and gone into her bedroom. If she lay down and rested, she’d reasoned, it might help to ease the pain.
Instead the cramps had grown steadily worse, so piercing and constant that she’d convinced herself she was suffering a miscarriage. Her fear and panic had added to her physical distress – at least that was the doctor’s explanation. Nevertheless she felt like such an idiot, frightening Riley the way she had. He’d driven like a madman in his rush to get her to the hospital, and it had been for naught.
"Hannah?" Riley pulled back the white curtain and stepped inside. How pale he looked, colorless and stricken as if he’d aged ten years in the last thirty minutes.
She held her arms out to him, and he hastened to her side, gathering her in his embrace and holding her so tightly against him that he nearly stole her breath.
"You’re all right?" he asked, brushing the hair away from her face, examining her as though he could read in her eyes everything he needed to know.
She blushed and nodded. "The baby, too."
He grinned at that. "I heard." He pulled a chair to her bedside and sat down. He took hold of her hand, gripped it in both his own and pressed it to his cheek. "Tell me what happened."
"I…I’m not exactly sure. I started feeling pains earlier this afternoon."
"Why didn’t you say something? I’m your husband – you should have told me." He sounded so angry, and with good reason, she supposed; but that didn’t restrain the tears from flooding her eyes, brimming and spilling down her face.
"I’m sorry," he added quickly, once he viewed her distress. "I didn’t mean to shout. It’s just that…"
"I’m the one who’s sorry," she said between sniffles. "I feel just dreadful putting everyone through this trouble for… for a case of nerves."
"Nerves," Riley bellowed loud enough to shake the windows. He slumped back down into the chair and rubbed his hand down his face. "Nerves," he repeated, as if he hadn’t heard her correctly the first time.
"Hey, buddy," the corpsman said, walking abruptly into the room, "I told you before, you’re going to have to move your car. You’re blocking the roadway."
Riley looked at him as though seeing a ghost, then turned back to Hannah. "Are they going to let you come home?"
She nodded eagerly. "The doctor gave me something to settle my stomach, but he wants to check me in another ten minutes and see how I’m feeling."
"You gonna move that car? Or are you going to force us to tow it away?"
"I’ll move it," Riley answered without looking at the impatient corpsman. Riley paused long enough to kiss Hannah, shook his head and then turned and walked away.
She might have imagined it – in fact Hannah was sure she had – but as her husband started out the door, she thought she’d heard him mumble something about indigestion and God not playing fair.
Sunday morning the alarm woke Hannah. She reached out, turned off the buzzer and pulled the blankets over her shoulders, wrapping them around her.
Three days had passed since her episode at the hospital, and she still hadn’t forgiven herself for creating such a terrible fuss and alarming Riley the way she had.
He’d taken it all in good humor, teasing her about it, but always in fun, being careful not to embarrass her.
They were much more at ease with each other now. The terrible tension that had existed between them the first awkward weeks of their marriage had disappeared.
As she lay in bed, savoring the warmth, she mulled over the strange events of the past few days. Riley had been so gentle with her, solicitous, making few demands on her.
She’d hoped once he’d returned from sea duty that he’d say something or make some token gesture toward inviting her into his bed.
Thus far it hadn’t happened. If Hannah were more worldly or a bit more sophisticated, she would have approached him herself. But she’d hoped her husband would make it apparent that he wanted the two of them sharing a bed. Perhaps she’d ruined everything early on when he’d asked her to make love and she’d callously rejected him. A hundred times since, Hannah had regretted it. She’d been so foolish. Her pride was hurting them both.
Perhaps Riley, disgusted by her attitude, didn’t intend to ask her again. Perhaps he was waiting for her to voluntarily come to him. She mulled over the thought several moments, wondering how she’d go about it. Should she broach the subject herself? Hannah didn’t know how she’d do it without becoming flustered and red-faced.
While he’d been at sea, she’d often gone shopping with Cheryl. One Saturday, a week before the men were due home, the two had gone into a lingerie shop at the Kitsap Mall. Cheryl had bought a skimpy black nightie with a fur hem. She’d joked that the hem was there to keep her neck warm.
While they’d been in the shop, a lovely peach-colored silk gown had caught Hannah’s eye. Cheryl had convinced Hannah it was perfect with her coloring, and with a little encouragement from the saleslady, Hannah had purchased the gown.