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SPRINGFIELD
Day Two

Cabin Fever:
Day Two

Created by Robin


My day starts pretty much as you might expect. Waking up isn't pleasant.
Until this morning, I'd begun nearly every day of my life for the past
several months in the exact same manner--crashing headlong into consciousness
as I attempt to pry Ross' death grip from around my waist with one hand so I
can reach out far enough to annihilate the alarm clock with the other. This
morning, however, no shrieking alarm clock, no heavy-armed death grip, no
stubbornly somnambulant Ross... I am reminded of where I am and just whom I am
without before I even open my eyes. Good freaking morning.

My first fully cognizant impulse, of course, is to snatch up the recently
replaced cordless telephone from where it rests on the nightstand and call
home as fast as I can dial, but I resist. Ross will be busy feeding and
bathing the kids at this hour, and no matter how mutual the craving for each
other's voice may be, he really doesn't need the distraction. So, I force
myself to wait and instead pull the covers back up over my head, close my
eyes, and entertain myself with thoughts of what Ross looks like first thing
in the morning, when he's all rumpled from sleep and his eyes are drowsy and
he looks just like a little boy. When he's just starting to get his bearings
and his mouth is still uncoordinated, making his smiles lazy and his kisses
long and slow...

Enough with the self-torture! I kick off the blankets and propel myself out
of bed. At least the hardwood floors aren't practically coated in a layer of
frost, like they were when I was here last winter. Padding barefoot past the
spot at the foot of the bed where Ross walked in last Christmas Eve and found
me huddled on the ground in labor, I can't help but give in to a lazy smile
of my own. This cabin has been the site of some rather unforgettable events
for us, both good and bad. More good lately than bad... All three of our
children were born within these four walls... I confirmed the truth to Ross
that he was indeed Clarissa's father in that very bed... We were sitting over
there by the fireplace when we decided to become a family again... Now, here I
am, once more calling upon all the powers of the Bauer cabin to extend our
hitting streak one last time.

No sense in putting off the inevitable. I have semi-voluntarily entombed
myself in the middle of nowhere in order to write, so that is exactly what I
am determined to do. I put on a pot of coffee, take a seat at the table,
fire up the old laptop, and then...

And then nothing, just like always. I sit and stare at a computer screen
almost as blank as my mind. The cursor flashes impatiently at me while I try
to guess how many words it will take to fill even one whole page of printed
text. Three hundred...? Two hundred, if they're multi-syllable words...? I
make a quick mental note of some of the longer words I know, but it may be
hard to work 'jurisprudence' and 'supercalifragilisticexpialidocious' into
any kind of cohesive narrative, let alone one that features famished hearts
and heaving bosoms. Blink, blink, blink, goes the cursor. Blank, blank,
blank goes my mind.

Three cups of black coffee later, my left leg has developed a nervous twitch,
and my feelings of ill will toward the cursor have grown considerably. In
fact, it's taking all the self-control I possess at the moment to not take
the poker from the fireplace and use it to teach that little blinking bastard
a thing or two. Write something--anything, I tell myself. Forget one whole
page, I'll take one good sentence. All I need is a start. Taking a deep
breath, I type the first thing that comes to my fingers.

"It was a dark and stormy night."

Not exactly be a good sentence, but I'm getting desperate, and 'good' has
become a relative term. Perhaps with an alteration or two...?

"It was a... bleak and boring morning."

Okay, so I'm identifying a tad too closely. I delete most of what I typed
and try again.

"It was a... poorly lit and rainy night."

No, that's not right.

"It was a... dusky and drippy night."

Backspace, backspace, backspace...

"It was a..."

"It was a..."

"It was a..."

"It was a definite possibility that Blake Marler was about to commit severe
bodily harm to her laptop, because despite repeated warnings, the cursor
continued to taunt her even as her inexplicable attraction to the poker
became too powerful to deny."

The telephone rings, granting the laptop a temporary reprieve. I practically
fall on my face jumping up to answer it. Only four people know I am here,
and of those four, only one is allowed to dial a telephone.

"Hello, Mr. Sexy," I purr into the handset.

"Uh... Hi, honey," a familiar feminine voice replies.

I nearly drop the receiver. "Mom?"

"I'm assuming you thought I was your ex-husband. Obviously, I'm not." She
sounds fairly amused considering barely more than six months ago, she
would've been the one greeting Ross with sexual banter.

"Obviously... How did you know to reach me here?"

"I called over to the Carriage House first, and a certain highly-agitated
bird told me that you took your writing woes on the road."

I flop down on the unmade bed, a sense of foreboding making my limbs suddenly
too heavy to support themselves. "I haven't spoken to Ross yet today. Are
things really going that badly?

"Let's simply say he'll be much more appreciative of your position as the
stay-at-home caregiver when you see him next."

"Everything is okay, isn't it?"

"Well, from the sound of things, no one was bleeding or unconscious, so--"

"Mom!"

"I'm only kidding," she laughs. "Calm down."

"You know, I don't think any of this is particularly funny."

"Oh, come on! Don't be like that. At my age, flashes of good humor are more
few and far between than hot flashes. Don't ruin this one for me."

"I really wish I could see just a glimmer of the amusement you seem to be
deriving from this situation," I snap, annoyed at her unshakable ability to
find hilarity in my failure. Then again, knowing Mom, she probably sees my
current difficulties as some sort of karmic retribution for my past sins.
Been well, Blake? Been trying hard to build a life for you and your family?
Here, let me pat you on the back right before I laugh in your face as the rug
is ripped right out from under you.

"Blake, you're making far too much of this."

Because, yes, you may be behaving yourself now, but there's still a black
mark on your record, dating back to 1978 when--

"Blake, do you hear me talking to you?" A sharp edge slices through the
placid surface of her voice, a little more with every word I don't speak.
But what was that mantra she was always pounding into my head? If you can't
say anything nice...

"I am still your mother, Christina Blake, and you had better answer me."

A few years ago, that little trick would have bombed even more spectacularly
than my last book proposal, but I suppose motherhood has softened me some.
Punching the pillow at my side, I exhale loudly. "Yes?"

"What on earth is wrong with you?" she asks, and--annoyed as I may be--even I
can't miss the relief in her tone. I don't know if we'll ever find our way
back to a point in our relationship where we both aren't half-expecting each
civil conversation to be our last. "One minute you're perfectly fine, and
then--"

"I know, I'm sorry," I interrupt, feeling apologetic enough to say so, but
not enough to listen to one of her
oh-Blake-you're-so-moody-and-you-don't-get-that-from-me lectures. "It's just
that I'm stressed right now, and in a bad mood, and I'm feeling homesick."

"Homesick...! Blake, you've been gone less than twenty-four hours!"

"And you think pointing that out in any way helps?"

"You're positively pathetic," Mom jokes good-naturedly. "It must be love."

I glance over at the nightstand, where my rock and my TicTacs sit waiting.
"Yeah, must be."

"Honey, listen to me; you're looking at this from the wrong perspective. Try
to see this week as a much-deserved vacation. Honestly, haven't you needed
some time to catch your breath lately?"

"Maybe I thought I did, but--"

"No, Blake, no buts. This break will be a good thing for you and Ross, wait
and see."

"Don't say 'break.' I don't like the sound of that."

"Separation," she amends.

"DO NOT say 'separation.'"

"How would you like me to put it?"

"'Semi-voluntary seclusion.'"

"Blake Marler, you are a very strange girl. How did I ever raise such a
peculiar child?"

"Genetics?"

"Yeah, must've been," she agrees, but she says it in the exact same tone I
used when referring to my love for Ross. For some reason, that makes me
smile. "Blake?"

"What?"

"My feature editor just walked in with some revisions for the evening
edition, so I'm going to go if you think you'll be okay."

"Of course I'll be okay. I'm homesick, not homicidal."

"Whatever you say."

"Ha-ha-ha."

"See? There's that sense of humor we've all come to know and abhor."

"Mom, I think that's supposed to be 'adore.'"

"Oh, is it?"

"Well, I guess we both know from whom I inherited said abhorrent sense of
humor."

"Your father," the two of us say simultaneously, and then we laugh about it.
That's another thing that wouldn't have happened a few years ago.

"Well, sweetheart, now that we've found some common ground upon which to
agree, I'm hanging up."

"Sure, Mom. I'll talk to you later."

"You're honestly okay, then?"

"What is this? I'm fine. Get to work."

"And you get to writing so you can get home!"

"Yeah, yeah, yeah... You know, that would be a lot easier if you would just
hang up."

"Goodbye, Blake."

"'Bye, Mom." Still smiling, I push the power button and return the handset
to recharge, carefully positioning it securely on the base. Then I pop a
TicTac, and it's back to work.

Let's see, where was I? Ah, yes, the threat to the cursor... I decide to
leave it since it's at least taking up some space, and I scroll down a few
lines. Think romance, Blake. The hell with romance--think sex. Think
longing, desire, arousal... I roll the tiny, pellet-shaped breath lozenge
around on my tongue, savoring the taste of spearmint. Think Ross. Hmmm...
Think bodies writhing together at a breathless pitch, each touch more urgent
than the last. Think--

The telephone rings again, shattering the silence of the cabin and diffusing
any bolts of inspiration that may or may not have been about to strike. I
slam my hands down on the keyboard in frustration, and a combination of
consonants completely unknown to the English language appears onscreen. Once
more, I abandon my post.

Grabbing the cordless, I say without preamble, "Mom, I told you everything is
fine."

"So she said, but I think she wants a second opinion."

"Ross!"

"We have voice recognition--that's a good sign."

"Stop right there. You're not allowed to call me and start teasing right off
the bat."

"I'm not?" He sounds almost disappointed.

"Huh-uh. That's a highly punishable offense."

"It's a good thing that I'm not teasing, then. Holly just called me from 'The
Journal' and said you're up there tearing out your hair. Since I, for one, am
quite fond of your hair, I thought it might be a good idea if I had a word
with you. So put down those coppery curls, Blake."

"Very funny. Everyone is a comedian today."

"How's it going? Have you gotten anything written?"

Wandering back to the dining table, I glance at the threat to the cursor and
the cluster of consonants. "A little. What about you? How are you doing?"

"Well, if our house was a ship, the crew would have mutinied by now."

I drop into a chair. "Wow, what happened?"

"Rain is what happened. All morning, so far."

"No playing in the garden, huh?"

"No, and then the boys wanted to argue about it, so I made them go clean
their room, instead."

"Ouch," I wince. "Mean, Daddy, mean. I thought it sounded awful quiet
there."

"Yes, I'm sure their little heads are huddled together over whispered plots
of revenge even as we speak."

"And Clarissa?"

"She's still on my side, but it's tenuous. She might've already defected if
it hadn't been for the animal crackers."

"Good strategy."

"So, what did Holly have to say to you when she called?" He manages to make
the question sound almost casual.

"Not much. Two adjectives that popped up were 'peculiar' and 'pathetic,' so
it was a good conversation for us."

Ross does not reply, as if he's not sure how to respond. Sometimes I forget
that this situation is just as bizarre for him as it is for Mom and me. On
the other hand, I wasn't the one rekindling old flames while a certain
someone else spent months bloated, alone, and pregnant with my child, so
maybe I'm only choosing to forget.

"Everything's fine," I assure him, deciding to show some mercy. There will
be plenty of time to bicker and make each other miserable once I'm home.

"So you said when you first answered the phone, but now I'm starting to
wonder."

"Ross, really, Mom just called to check in. We had a nice chat. No one hung
up angry or threatened to disown anyone or anything like that."

"You're not just saying that to make me feel better?"

"No, I am not just saying that to make you feel better. Listen, if you want
to be paranoid about something, be paranoid about why we've been able to have
this long of a conversation without the boys interrupting even once. They're
up to something."

"They do seem rather subdued, don't they? Maybe I should go check on them."

"I would strongly advise it."

"I guess I should let you get back to your writing, then."

"I guess so." I'm not sure which one of us sounds more dejected.

"Hey, look at it this way, though," he says, momentarily brightening. "One
day has passed already."

"Well, not a whole day. Less than twenty-four hours."

"We went to sleep; we woke up, close enough. That means one-seventh of this
is already behind us."

"Of course, that also means that one-seventh of my new book proposal should
already be written."

"Is that a problem?"

I glare at what I've come up with so far, such as it is. "No, I didn't say
that."

Backspace, backspace, and backspace some more, all the way to the upper left
hand corner of the screen.

"It sounds like I really should let you go."

"I hate to say it, but that probably would be a good idea."

"Okay," he sighs, resigning himself to the situation. "Can I call you
tonight?"

"Are you asking my permission?"

"Well..." I can almost see the shrug I hear in his voice, the lift of his wide
shoulders and the tilt of his strong hands. "Different circumstances,
different rules."

"And what circumstances might those be?"

"Doesn't this seem at all strange to you?"

"Ross, are you doing one of those lawyer-tricks where you start talking about
something and then wander off topic so you can sneak back in while no one's
looking and hammer your point home? Because I have no idea where you're
going with this. What the hell are you talking about, anyway?"

He actually laughs out loud. At me. Of all the lousy...

"Do you want me to hang up on you? We were supposed to have already ended
this conversation, so it's not as if I'll feel all that badly."

I hear something that sounds similar to another muffled laugh.

"I mean it," I warn. "My finger is on the button."

"No, wait. Don't hang up. Not yet. Stay just a few minutes more."

"Then you'd better start talking, buddy, because you have some 'splaining to
do."

"What I meant was..." He pauses, fumbling for words, charming me with his
ineloquence. "It hit me last night--we're unmarried, and we're apart.
That's not real familiar territory for us. I mean, we've recently become
accustomed to the former, and we have previous experience with the latter,
but rarely have we been both unmarried and apart at the same time. Until
now, there has always been some tie to bond us, if not a legal one, then at
least a physical proximity."

"Not always," I argue, unwilling to acknowledge what he's hinting at. "Not
when I was pregnant with Clarissa, and not when the kids and I stayed behind
in Philadelphia."

"Are you intentionally being difficult, or is it just the mood you're in?"

"The mood."

"For your information, Blake, we most certainly were in physical proximity
when you were pregnant. Clarissa served as my proxy."

"She always has been a daddy's girl. And Philadelphia...?"

"Philadelphia was just different."

Well, this is intriguing. If I had known he was going to get all
sentimental, I'd have reached for the phone before my head even left the
pillow this morning. "How was it different?"

"Because I said it was, that's how," he replies irritably. I must be pushing
too hard.

"Okay, geez, I stand corrected."

"As I was saying..."

"As you were saying..."

"Blake?"

"Yes?"

"What was I saying?" he asks, perplexed. "I forgot."

"I think," I giggle, "that you were saying how much you love me."

"Yeah, I think I was, too."

"Ross?"

"Yes?"

"I love you, too, honey. Now go check on the boys."

"Okay. I'll call you tonight?" It's still a question. He's still asking
permission.

"You'd better. But the boys, Ross," I remind him. "Go. Run. Hurry."

"I'm already walking up the stairs."

"You're upstairs, and your voice is the only sound I hear? Oh, that's not
good. That's not good at all. Kevin and Jason are never this quiet unless
they are doing something very, very naughty."

"You worry too much. They've been alone in their room fifteen, twenty
minutes tops. How much damage do you really think they could have done?"

"We are talking about our two boys, aren't we? One looks just like you, one
looks a lot like my dad...?"

"I told you that you worry too much," he says triumphantly. "I just turned
the corner into their room and--"

He comes to an abrupt stop, mid-sentence. My grip on the telephone tightens.

"Ross...?"

Complete silence. I don't even hear the sound of twin four-year-old voices
hurriedly attempting to blame each other for whatever it is they've done this
time.

"Ross, what is it?"

"Uh... I have to go, honey."

All sorts of horrid scenarios flash through my mind. "What's going on?"

"Nothing that I can't handle," he replies, calmly enough, "but I really have
to go. I need to have a little talk with Jason Frederick and Kevin Ross."

Uh-oh, he's breaking out the middle names. "I tried to tell you, didn't I?"

"Yes, dear. I love you, dear. Goodbye."

"Goodbye."

The line goes dead in my hand, but not before I have the chance to hear Ross
say, "Now, just which one of you would like to explain to me--," and I can't
help but think that Mom may have been right. Maybe I should look upon this
week as a sort of enforced vacation.

Grinning to myself, I return my attention to the blank computer screen.
Where was I again? Oh, yeah...

"It was a dark and stormy night..."

Click below to go read Day Three of Cabin Fever!!