Today's word count: 2,030. This section clocks in at a little over 1,000.
Tuesday, Lewis slept through the alarm. He might have slept clear through to dinner if the alarm clock hadn’t crawled onto his face and poked him repeatedly on the forehead. Burying his face in the pillow would only result in him getting jabbed in the back of the neck, as he had learned by repeated experience, and while an inverted wastebasket would rid him of the bother, doing that would mean getting out of bed anyway. So he might as well just surrender and get up.
“You can stop doing that now,” he grumbled at the alarm clock as it continued poking him. “Really. Any time now.”
It swivelled its face to examine him, but didn’t stop. As he’d also learned from repeated experience, the only way to get it to stop—besides trapping it inside something, and even that didn’t always work; the thing was resourceful and determined—was to return it to its stand on the dresser, which at the moment was on the other side of the room. So he did, because all the poking was beginning to wear a hole in his forehead.
Well, that’s what it felt like.
And in doing so, he finally saw just how late he was. At which point panic seemed not unreasonable. Which is how he managed to be racing down the stairs approximately a minute and a half later, in mis-matched socks, one shoe, with his shirt buttoned crookedly, pants unzipped, and unbuckled belt waving in time with each step. If there’d been anyone downstairs to see him, he would have been humiliated.
But there was only Alys, who was feeding the highchair. Inadvertently, because Gabe was currently in the drooling stage and more interested in his new teeth than mashed—well, carrots, probably, judging from the color. Although you couldn’t be sure with baby food.
“Good morning,” Alys said more cheerfully than a wife should when confronted with her husband looking like a madman. Especially when she was the one who had allowed him to wind up in such a state.
“I’m late,” Lewis said in return. “I thought you promised to make sure I was up and moving by seven thirty.”
“I did.” Alys continued placidly providing material for Gabe’s dribble-art. “And if you’d still been in bed this evening, I would have gotten you up long enough to feed you.” She put the baby food down and smiled at him. “You didn’t specify AM or PM—or even what day of the week, as you would have noticed if you hadn’t been falling asleep on your feet.”
Lewis sat down beside the highchair and gently rested his alarm clock-abused forehead against a relatively clean piece of table. “This is your way of passively protesting me not protesting the hours Mr. Trevisent has me working, isn’t it.”
“Nope.” Alys rummaged around in the drawer underneath the oven, the pots and pans making such a frightful din that Gabe crowed and slapped his hands against the highchair tray in delight. “This is my way of making sure my husband doesn’t fall dead of exhaustion before our second anniversary.” She closed the drawer with more force than had to be necessary, and then started rummaging in the cupboards, and what seemed to be an awful lot of paper sacks, judging from all the rustling noises. “Me calling Mr. Trevisant at five thirty this morning and telling him you wouldn’t be in until noon and that I was tired of not getting to see you except on Sundays and weren’t there rules against overworking journeymen?—that was my way of not-so-passively protesting the hours he’s had you working. Now, would you like your pancakes with or without fruit?”
“With,” Lewis mumbled into the tabletop, and then lifted his head and smiled at the marvelous woman he’d married. “Have I told you recently how I much adore and admire you?”
“Mm. Yesterday evening, I believe. Of course, you couldn’t walk straight at the time, so I’m not sure how much weight I should put in it.”
“A great deal,” Lewis assured her. “More than when I’m wide awake, probably, since all I wanted to do at that point was curl up into a little ball somewhere dark and maybe die.” Gabe punctuated this sentence quite spectacularly with a somewhat carrot-colored raspberry, momentarily capturing the attention of both his parents.
“Would you finish feeding him while I get the pancakes going?”
“Sure,” Lewis said, with what he hoped wasn’t too obvious a fake smile. He loved his son dearly, but the last time he’d attempted the feeding-of, the clean up had taken almost two hours and had required mopping the ceiling. It seemed the bottles of baby food were somehow larger on the inside. Or Gabe was, or something. All things considered, the first theory was probably the least disturbing.
He stood, as would some mythic hero about to face a frightful monster; Gabe’s innocent and baby food-stained smile would have struck fear into the heart of even the bravest of men. Which Lewis most definitely wasn’t, since he couldn’t even stand up to his boss about reasonable working hours.
A cough that was clearly a cover for a laugh stopped him from reaching for the bottle of baby food. When he looked over at Alys, one eyebrow raised in silent interrogation, she had a perfectly straight face, but this was a woman who had once out-bluffed an entire dorm floor of card sharks in a vicious game of Who’s Got ’em Harry.
“You might want to, ah, finish dressing,” she said with an abbreviated gesture at his clothes. He glanced down, took in disarray of his clothes, and grimaced at her.
Five minutes later, properly attired to face the world and feeling a little less like screaming hysterically, he went back down to face his son, the great destroyer of kitchens and general cleanliness.
He was greeted by a stack of pancakes from Alys and a rather mushy Da! from Gabe, who was being fed a bit more efficiently this time around. “Not that I’m complaining, but I was supposed to be feeding him,” Lewis remarked as he settled himself in front of the pancakes and reached for the (real) maple syrup.
“Yes, well, I asked you mostly because I wanted to see you make your not-panicking-no-really face,” Alys admitted without the least sign of remorse, and blew a raspberry at Gabe, presumably in imitation of a ‘thopter, as she ‘flew’ a spoonful of mashed something at his mouth. Which stayed cheerfully shut and required another two passes.