Two days later, Ben was busy packing up the next batch of marijuana to sell.
Grace walked in, went straight to the coffee pot and grabbed a cup. She slowly lowered herself into the chair next to him. She picked up her cup and took a drink and frowned. “How much longer do you think you will have to do this?” she asked, eyeing the pots of cured marijuana.
Ben thought she looked even more tired than the day before. She was so pale, but he figured it was because she was still recovering. She had even stayed in her pajamas and it was nearly noon. Not that he minded that she hadn’t changed, but he worried about her nonetheless. “Babe – are you okay?”
Grace managed a small smile. “I’m fine. Just tired,” she said weakly, “It’s all just so depressing. Not being able to do anything. I’ve had to sit around for months and it’s really difficult. I have no energy. It’s probably just the ‘Baby Blues‘. I’m sure I will feel be better as soon as this incision heals and I can start helping. Plus – this – stuff,” she said motioning to the canisters, “it worries me. So, how much longer with this Ben?”
Ben took a deep breath. He knew she hated it. He sort of did too, but it was providing a better income than he could earn. And selling to the dealers had actually made it easier. He always knew when and how much he would get. He tried to justify it for her. “We have the hospital bills to take care of which were much more than we thought. We haven’t even received them all yet. I can’t leave you alone to start looking for a job for at least another month. So I need to keep this up, at least until then and maybe a little longer.
“Then, once the hospital is taken care of, I would like to save enough for a down payment on a decent apartment or even a house. I know you hate it. And I certainly wish it were something else I was growing. Or that I was selling to a pharmaceutical company instead of dealers.”
Grace looked like she might cry and Ben’s heart ached for her. “As long as you promise that as soon as I am released by the doctors, you will stop this nonsense and get a real job,” she said.
Ben was deflated. He really wanted to get out of the apartment. “I promise,” he said. There was no way he would argue with her while she was feeling so down. Maybe later they could discuss it again.
Grace sighed softly and gave him a sad little smile. “You have one more promise to keep. Your folks…”
“Fuck. Fine,” said Ben.
“Language!” said Grace. She let out a little laugh and grabbed her middle. “Ouch…remind me not to laugh. Seriously, you need to clean up your language. You don’t want Cole’s first word to be fuck!”
Ben rolled his eyes and smirked at her. “You are so cute when you say fuck. Say it again,” he dared.
“Ben!” she said giving him the evil eye.
“Okay, I will call my mom and dad as soon as I get this delivery done. I have to be there in 10 minutes. Cole’s asleep. Do you want me to see if Emma or Rachael can come stay with you in case he wakes up?”
“No. You won’t be gone long. I can rock the crib if he wakes.”
Ben leaned over and kissed her. “I won’t be long. I love you. Both of you. Call me If anything happens.”
He picked up his satchel of goods and walked out the door. “Be careful,” she called out as he left.
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
Ben walked back into the apartment almost exactly 30 minutes later. Grace was holding Cole. Shit! he thought. “Grace! What are you doing?” he said as he rushed over to check on her.
“I’m okay Ben. Stop worrying,” she said.
“But Grace… you are not…”
Grace interrupted Ben, her words tumbling over each other. “Ben! He was crying and I couldn’t get him to stop and I started leaking and he needed to nurse and I needed to nurse him and so I picked him up and he was better and it didn’t hurt much to lift him up…” she stopped to take a breath and continued, “and I sat down right away. I’m okay.”
Ben wanted to breathe for her but was furious that she ignored the doctor’s orders. “I am not leaving you alone again!” he snapped, much harder than he intended. He took a deep breath to calm himself before continuing, “You heard the doctor,” he said softly.
“I’m sorry Ben. Really, I promise, I’m okay. Why don’t you go ahead and call your folks.”
That again? Ben sighed. Satisfied she was alright he took out his phone and dialed his mother. Here we go, he thought.
“Hi Mom,” said Ben.
“Ben! It’s so good to hear from you! I have been so worried. How is the baby and Grace? I wanted to talk to you so badly. But, well, I called Nick so I wouldn’t bother you. He sent me pictures from your wedding. Grace is beautiful and you looked so handsome.”
Ben suddenly felt guilty for not calling, but was simultaneously mad at Nick for not telling him that she called him. “Nick didn’t tell me. I didn’t know you knew.”
“I told him not to tell you. You had enough on your plate. I’m sorry for before Ben. I didn’t know how you felt about Grace….I just assumed, I mean you never…”
The more she talked the madder he got. “Mom…just stop. Look, Grace is the only reason I am calling now. She had a rough pregnancy, but you fucking already know that if you spoke to Nick, but she’s doing fine.”
“Ben!” scolded Grace.
“Okay,” he mouthed to Grace. He inhaled deeply and continued in a lighter tone. “I’m sorry Mom. I called to tell you that Cole is doing well. Hold on, Grace just finished feeding him. How about I snap a picture and send it?”
“I would love that!”
Ben quickly took a picture with his phone and texted it to his mother. “I just sent it.”
“I got it. Oh Ben, that baby….I want…to hold him.” He heard her sniff before she continued. “Sorry. I’m all emotional now. Grace looks so happy.”
“We are very happy. I can’t believe I’m about to ask, but would you like to come and spend a weekend with us? Get to know Grace and your grandson?”
It was silent for a minute before Kaitlin could respond. She sniffed again and said, “Of course. Um, who is invited?”
“You can bring whomever. But more than you and Leroy, someone will need to get a hotel. I gotta call Dad too. And Uncle Reid.”
“Ben!” said both his mother and Grace simultaneously.
Ben rolled his eyes. “Sorry. Yeah, I’ll call his highness too.”
“I don’t understand why you and Reese don’t get along.”
“No, you wouldn’t…sorry, my wife says I’m supposed to be making nice. I’ll call him.”
“Next weekend too soon?”
“No. That’s fine. Let me know how many.”
“Okay. Ben, thank you for calling. I miss you.”
Ben hung up. His good mood not so good anymore.
“That wasn’t so bad. Now, was it?” asked Grace.
“They are all going to be here. It will be a fucking circus. They just want to coo over Cole and find out what kind of fool would want to be with a fuck up like me.”
Grace was visibly upset at his harsh words and began to cry.
“Oh shit baby. I’m sorry. See what they do to me. Please don’t cry.”
Grace stood up to put Cole back in the crib and gasped. “Ouch! Dammit!” she said and looked at Ben, now frightened instead of upset.
Ben jumped up and grabbed the baby from her. “Hey little guy,” he cooed, “time for bed. Mommy needs some rest.” Then he put the baby in his crib.
He sat down next to Grace and pulled her gently into his arms. She was full on sobbing now and his heart was breaking for her. He didn’t know how to fix her, so he just held her and let her cry, rocking her back and forth like he did with Cole, trying his best to soothe her.
Finally her sobs subsided and she looked up at him with tear-stained cheeks. “I’m sorry Ben. I don’t know what’s wrong with me. I don’t usually cry all the time. I hate this. I can’t do anything for Cole. Most new mothers are up all night taking care of their baby and you are doing that instead. I want to do it. I need to do it.”
Grace took a shaky breath and continued. “And you most certainly are not a fuck up! You have been awesome. The only other family I have is Gran, but you have this huge family that wants to see you. That’s so sweet. But you push them away. Gran isn’t doing very well or you know she would already be here. Ben, I’m scared she won’t be around to see Cole grow up. Can we please take him to her as soon as I can get around better?”
Ben turned her to face him. “Of course we will, and as often as you want. As for you, my sweet angel, you have a lifetime to take care of Cole. You just need to be patient and not push yourself or it will be even longer before you get started.
“You are right too, you know. About my family. I mean, my mom was crying when she saw the picture. Maybe she does love me in her own messed up way.”
“Of course she does you big oaf,” said Grace smiling through her tears. She punched his arm and then winced in pain.
Ben laughed, “You shouldn’t punch steel!”
“No, Superman, it hurt my incision!”
She was joking with him which made Ben feel a little better. He kissed her sweetly. “Does this help?” he whispered.
“Always,” she said weakly.
He was so worried about her. She always tried to be strong. “You ready to lay down and rest?” he asked.
“Yes,” she conceded, “I don’t know why I’m so tired. Help me up, Superman,” she teased.
Ben smiled and reached out to help her up.
Grace groaned in pain. “Wait…my stomach is cramping,” she said and took a couple of deep breaths.
“Okay,” she said. Then she looked up at Ben with love in her eyes. “Take me to bed or lose me forever,” she quipped.
“You didn’t just quote Top Gun?” asked Ben laughing.
Grace giggled. “Classic movie. I wish you were going to take me to bed instead of just helping me into it.”
“Damn, I love you! Soon Sweetheart. Soon. Come on, go slow,” he said as he helped her back to the bedroom so she could rest with the lights out.
Ben looked at his wife lying on the bed, worn out, in pain and so sad. It killed him to see her like this instead of feeling the same joy he did at their newborn son. He wanted to cuddle up with her on the bed. Well, why not? he thought.
Just as he decided to do that, baby Cole began to cry. His little boy needed his father’s attention more than his tired wife. Ben sighed, turned out the bedside lamp, and walked out of the room to take care of the other half of his new family.
Ben sat on the couch talking to the wiggly baby. “Cole, maybe if Mommy is feeling better tomorrow, we can take you to meet your Great Grandmother Lillie. You are named after her you know. She is a very special lady. And guess what else? Your Grandma Kate and Grandpa Leroy are coming this weekend. Maybe Grandpa Newt and Grandma Janet will come too. You have so many aunts, uncles and cousins to meet someday. And Mommy will charm them all. Then they will love us, because Coleman Ramsay, your mother is an angel and everyone loves angels.”