Quarantined: (A Short Story Part 4)

So, three things before you read part four of Quarantined. First, this is the fourth part of a six part story. You can find the links here:

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

Second, are all of you using the new blocks system for writing now? I hated it when they first introduced it and I still somewhat hate it, but I’m getting used to it.

Third, does anyone who uses WordPress know if you can make text single line and indent?

And fourth (I know, I said three, so sue me.), what do you think of the story so far? Let me know in the comments!


QUARANTINED (5)

The smell of bacon and brewing coffee woke him. Sunlight poured across the bedroom floor and Liam squinted in the light, disoriented.

What time was it? He looked down at his wrinkled T-shirt and sweatpants. Had he slept all yesterday afternoon and night here? He snatched his phone from the bedside table. 8:30 a.m., Thursday.

He dragged his hand through his hair and across the back of his neck, which was stiff from laying in the same position for so long. He inhaled deeply to try to wake himself up and smelled the bacon again. And coffee.

Who was making breakfast?

Who else would be making breakfast, Liam? he thought, walking groggily down the hallway. You two are the only ones here, idiot.

Maddie was standing at the stove with her back to him, flipping an over-easy egg. She hated over-easy eggs. It must be for him and for that he was grateful at least.

“Hey,” she said turning to face him, spatula in her hand.

“Hey.”

“I made you some coffee and bacon. Your egg is almost done.”

“You didn’t have to do that. Thanks.”

She shrugged, pouring herself a glass of orange juice. He had thought she would still be mad this morning but instead, she seemed indifferent about it all. She slid the plate across the breakfast bar to him and carried her plate with her to the kitchen table.

“I guess I figured we should have a good breakfast before we get too sick to eat,” she said sullenly, taking a bite of bacon.

He sipped his coffee. Two spoonfuls of sugar and vanilla bean creamer. She knew how he liked it, that was for sure. He was feeling guilty as he dug into the eggs. He needed to tell her the truth. That he didn’t even know if he really had the virus. Maybe he’d wait until their breakfast was done at least, so he didn’t have to dodge the flying frying pan while he tried to finish his cup of coffee.

“Have you heard anything from Matt?” she asked.

He shook his head. “I have a feeling he and John are still trying to put out fires from all this. Maybe they are in quarantine by now too.”

“You’re his press secretary. Shouldn’t you be in on putting out the fires.”

He shrugged. “Yeah, but John’s my assistant. I’m sure Matt will be calling soon, pulling his hair out or going stir crazy. One or the other.”

She nodded and finished her toast.

“Have you talked to your parents?” he asked.

She didn’t look at him. She studied her plate of food. “Yeah. They’re fine. Mom is having a hard time keeping Dad from going in and out of stores for supplies and stopping to help everyone he knows, but they’re locked in now, trying to stay well. They’re worried about me, of course.”

Oh, crud. He had to tell her so she could tell her parents there was a chance she might not catch the virus. There was a good possibility she might kill him, but he had to tell her.

“Maddie, listen. . .” She turned her head to look at him. He cleared his throat. She cocked an eyebrow. This was going to be rough.

“There’s a possibility I don’t have the virus.”

Her eyebrows sank into a scowl and she pursed her lips, looking at him for several moments before she spoke.

“I’m sorry?”

“The doctor who took the test said he’d have the results in a couple of days but that there was a chance I didn’t have it.”

“You told me you had the virus, Liam. Had it, not might have it. You yelled it at me, in fact.”

“Yeah, I know, it’s just —”

“It’s just, what? You told me it was positive. Are you telling me now that you lied to me?”

“Yes but listen … I just didn’t want to talk about it. I know I should have cleared it up, but I needed you to stay in the house and I figured you wouldn’t listen to me if I said I might have it. If you’d left and someone found out it could have been bad for Matt.”

Her eyes were ablaze with fury now, crimson spreading up her cheekbones. “I have been sitting here waiting to feel sick, looking up ways to deal with the coughing and the fever if one of us gets it and you still don’t know if you really have it? Holy crap, Liam. Really?”

“I was still exposed. This is still the right thing to do.”

“That’s not the point. The point is you lied to me. Again.”

“Again? What are you even talking about?”

She turned away from him, standing up from the table, and walking to the window. She crossed her arms tight across her chest, her back to him. “Why did you want this divorce?” she asked, her voice strained.

“What?”

“I said why —”

“I heard what you said, Maddie. I’m not the one who asked for this divorce. You are. Remember?”

“Only because I knew you wanted it.”

“You knew I wanted it? You never even asked me what I wanted. You never ask me what I want.”

“I could tell by how you acted that you didn’t want to be married anymore.”

He pushed his plate and mug away from him. He couldn’t even believe what he was hearing.  Standing from the breakfast bar and faced her with his hands on his hips.

“Okay. Yeah. Whatever. You know what? Just go ahead and make decisions for me, like you always do, Maddie.”

She turned to face him, her arms falling to her side. “What are you even talking about?”

“You know exactly what I’m talking about.”

There went that eyebrow again. “No, actually, I don’t.” She gestured in front of her as if she was conducting a magic trick. “Enlighten me.”

That was it. He’d had enough of her acting like he was the one guilty for the collapse of their marriage.

“Like how you decided we weren’t going to try for any more children, for one.”

She was talking through clenched teeth now. “I did not decide that, Liam. You decided that by running off to run Matt’s campaign and never being home.”

“You pushed me away, Maddie. You acted like you were the only one who’d lost those babies.”

Maddie looked stunned. Her face flushed an even darker red, her eyes swimming with tears.

“I needed you, Liam! I needed you to hold me and tell me it was going to be okay and —”

“I did hold you. I did tell you it would be okay.”

“At first yes, but it was like after a while my grieving just pissed you off.”

He carried his empty breakfast plate and coffee mug to the sink. “We needed to move on, Maddie. We couldn’t wallow in our misery forever.”

He grabbed the pan from the stove next, turning to place it in the sink too.

“Our misery?” Maddie shook her head in disbelief. “I was the one who carried those babies, who lost those babies, whose body failed her, who —”

Liam’s blood boiled. He slammed the pan down on the countertop by the stove and swung to face Maddie. “They were my babies too dammit.”

Maddie stepped back, hugging her arms tight around her, gulping back a sob.

“Yes, it was our misery. It wasn’t all about you,” he continued, his voice shaking with anger. “We made those babies together and we lost them together and I stopped trying to comfort you because nothing I did helped you. I could never do anything right and —”  Liam cursed again, furious at the emotion choking his words, the tears burning his eyes. “I couldn’t fix you, Maddie. I couldn’t make it right. And eventually I couldn’t fix us, and I gave up trying because I didn’t think you wanted me to fix us.”

Maddie dragged her hand across her face and turned to walk back into the living room, bone chilling exhaustion rushing over her. How could he say that? That she didn’t want him to fix them? That she didn’t want to fix this marriage? He was the one who — she shook her head, sitting on the couch, tears rolling down her face. She curled up in a ball, facing the back of the couch, pulling her mother’s quilt off the back and draping it over her.

“That’s what you always do, isn’t it?” he snapped, walking into the living room. “Just walk away and never deal with anything.”

She flung the quilt off her and sat up. “I never deal with anything? And what have you been doing to deal with things? Burying yourself in your work instead of dealing with your life at home, with your marriage that was falling apart was dealing with things? You could have fooled me. Flirting with staffers and reporters instead of coming home and facing the disaster that was our relationship. Was that how you dealt with things too?”

Liam made a face and scowled at her. “Flirting with who?”

“You know who. Wendy. That little redhead from channel 12.”

Liam scoffed. “Wendy? I never flirted with her. She’s not my type.”

“I guess all those female staffers in your brother’s office that you wink at aren’t your type either.”

“That I wink at? I don’t wink at those women and no, they aren’t my type either. Most of them are airheads.”

“Then who is your type? Because it definitely isn’t me or I wouldn’t,” Maddie’s voice cracked and tears filled her eyes again. “be home alone every night in our bed.”

Liam placed his hands on his hips and tipped his head. “Come on, Maddie – it’s not like I haven’t been alone too. It’s not like I’m getting any. I haven’t for a long time.”

He tossed his hands out in front of him then clenched them into fists and pressed them against his mouth. “You know what? I’m just done talking about this. We are getting nowhere. I’m going into my office to get some work done.”

The slamming of the door reverberated in her ears.

“Now who’s walking away from his problems?” she snapped under her breath, falling back onto the couch and pulling the quilt over her again.

Written by Lisa R. Howeler

As a writer, photographer and former journalist, Lisa R. Howeler writes a little bit about everything on her blog Boondock Ramblings. She self-published her first novel, A Story to Tell, in September 2019 on Amazon. She's a wife and a mother and enjoys a good John Wayne movie and a cozy Jan Karon book. She's also a freelance writer and photographer who is a contributor to various stock agencies, including Lightstock and Alamy. Her photography work focuses on documentary and photojournalism.

18 comments

  1. As soon as I get used to the block editor they change it. I wish they would have left it alone to begin with.
    I’m enjoying this story! And I’m glad they’re starting to finally let their feelings out. But they really need to control their emotions and talk like adults. 😊

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Shift + Enter will give you single lines. I don’t know about indents though.

    So far this story is quite sad, so I really hope they manage to turn their marriage around by the end.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I tried the blocks system once and hated it, so managed to get back to the old version. I’ve decided I’ll only do the block thing if they force me. It’s awful.

    I haven’t found a way to do single lines and indents, though have, on occasion, copy pasted text into WordPress (from where I don’t recall) and found there was no spacing between paragraphs.

    It’s one step forward and two steps back. Hmm. I wonder how many marriages are functioning like this right now. A couple of nights ago, my husband told me a Youtube couple had decided to call it quits because of quarantine, so I wonder how many single people will be out on the prowl when we’re finally released.

    I love that both of them are having to face the mistakes and assumptions they’ve made over the years. I suppose it’s a good step in terms of communication? I just hope they’re able to be honest with each other and let go of their pride and feelings of hurt.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I switched to the new block system and now they won’t let me back. I can’t find anywhere to change it. Argh! They have made some changes from how it was designed at first, though and I like it a little better. Maybe I can keep using it. When I copied the one part of Quaranined from WordPress it was single spaced and indented like I had it in WordPress but when I checked it later it had gone back to double space. Oh well. Not the end of the world.

      Yes, I’m sure there will be a lot of breakups during all this but I hope there will be some reconciliations too as people realize what is important in life.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. The strict formatting WordPress has is really the only reason why I think about going self-hosted as I’ve read I could do just about anything I want that way. But it’s way too scary of a thought as I’m far from tech-savvy. Anyways, you’re right. It’s not the end of the world. Though my husband and I joke the coronavirus could make that happen.

        It would be great to hear about engagements and vow renewals. So romantic! The thought of the divorce rate skyrocketing is just depressing.

        Like

    2. Update, I found a way to switch it back. I don’t mind it but I have Grammarly and it won’t work with the block editing now. Argh! I might have to break down and buy Grammarly for my computer instead of using the free version.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Yeah, I’ve been thinking the same thing. Mulling it about, you might say. But I’m in the middle of a couple other projects. Ideas for this one to continue keep popping up, but we’ll see . . . It’s been fun to write.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Yes. I received it. You didn’t like that Blanche rolled her eyes so much. I thought about what you said, but she was 17, so teenagers tend to do that. Thanks for the compliments in the rest of the email though. 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

  4. Yes, I have been trying the new block editor, and didn’t like it at first either. But there are things that it can do, that the classic wouldn’t do, so I decided to stick with it. Still don’t understand so much–but I’m trying! Lol. I use the “verse” block to type in single space. I don’t know if there is another way, but you would think there should be! And, I am eagerly waiting for your next installment of “Quarantined” hoping that Liam and Maddie will just take time to listen to each other! 🙂 Thank you for a great diversion during the midst of all this craziness going on. Blessings and prayers for you and your family.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I was a little nervous with this one, honestly. some of it is a bit “risque” and I kept asking my husband, “Do you think this will offend my readers?” We both pointed out that the couple is married so it’s not like they are running around jumping in and out of bed. I guess I wanted to make it clear that the passion had gone out of their marriage and they need to find a way back to it.

      I’ll have to try out the verse feature and see what it does. I’ll explore it more later tonight or tomorrow, which will also be a nice distraction 😉

      Liked by 1 person

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