Genre: Fiction, Family Life
Release Date: August 7, 2014
Digital ISBN 13: 978-1-63112-055-8 ISBN 10: 1631120557
Print ISBN 13:978-1-63112-056-5 ISBN 10: 1631120565
Purchase link : http://www.5princebooks.com/buy-links.html
A Painted Room
The best day in a parent’s life turns into the worst.For expectant parents, the origins of a new life are usually accompanied by excitement, anticipation and just a touch of anxiety about the future. There are classes to attend, prams to buy, and of course, the baby's room has to be painted.
This description fits Gary and Melinda quite nicely - except Gary hasn't painted the baby's room yet. He finally gets around to starting the job, but Melinda's water breaks before he finishes the first coat.
From there, the situation rapidly deteriorates. Their baby, Justin, is born via caesarean. Shortly after the birth Justin experiences breathing difficulties and is transferred to intensive care a few hours later.
The story follows Gary over a tumultuous few days as Justin undergoes emergency treatment. Gary and Melinda quickly discover that when a baby's life is on the line, it doesn't really matter whether or not you have a painted room.
About Pete Abela
Pete heralds from the city of Wollongong, just south of Sydney in the state of New South Wales, Australia, where he lives with his wife and four kids. His love of reading eventually led him to take up writing, a difficult task which presents rewards and challenges in equal measure. A Painted Room is Pete’s second book, and follows his debut novel, Wings (2012).
When he’s not working, reading, writing or enjoying the company of his family, Pete likes to sneak away for a bit of exercise – either tennis, golf or a refreshing swim.
You can find more about Pete at his website and blog (http://peteabela.com). The blog contains a number of bad jokes and puns. You have been warned.
How to contact the author:
Melinda waddled into the bedroom, looked at the display on the luminous alarm clock and frowned. Shaking her head, she trudged across the room and pulled herself slowly onto the bed, wincing as her back registered its habitual protest.
She looked down at her body, an expression of displeasure crossing her pretty face. A couple of varicose veins featured prominently on her once smooth and unblemished legs. She removed the chain from around her neck and unthreaded the wedding band. Holding the ring in one hand, she tried to place it on her swollen ring finger first then her pinkie, but could not get past the first knuckle with either of them. Shaking her head, she replaced the ring on the chain. Her pajama top stretched tightly over her eight-month belly. She tried to pull the top down to cover the exposed band of skin at the bottom of her tummy, and snorted in disgust when it sprang back, once again revealing her stretch marks.
Melinda picked up a piece of paper from the bedside table and examined it closely. It did not give her any more joy than the sight of her pregnant body had. In fact, she scowled as she perused the paper.
It was a list of jobs.
A long list of jobs and only a few of them had been crossed out. The spare bedroom still needed to be cleaned out and painted. The cot required assembly and the plastic bags full of nappies, bibs, clothes and toys still remained unsorted.
A leather bound diary lay on the bed. Melinda turned to the yearly planner page and placed her finger on a prominently circled date. She counted backwards, a week at a time on her fingers, stopping at four. She looked from the list to her fingers and back again with pursed lips. Reaching across to the alarm clock, she fiddled with the settings.
The jangle of keys at the front door interrupted her. She looked up expectantly, and then composed her features to remove any trace of welcome. The keys were dropped, and a male voice swore. The jangling resumed and the front door opened. Melinda sat back on the bed with her arms crossed and looked down at her watch. “It's about time,” she greeted him icily.
“Hello to you too,” replied Gary.
“Don't give me hello. Where have you been?”
“I just had a few boys with the drinks,” slurred Gary. “It's not even midnight. Why are you upset?”
“Where do I begin?” asked Melinda. “For starters, you said you'd come straight home after soccer and empty the spare room.” She picked up the list and waved it at Gary, before throwing it in the air in disgust. Gary’s vacant eyes followed the list, struggling to keep up with it as it floated gently to the floor. “You never called and told me where you were. I've been stuck at home, resting under doctor's orders, not able to have a drink, not supposed to do anything, bored and uncomfortable. All the while, you're gallivanting around the country side, getting drunk with your mates.”
Gary threw his arms into the air. “I've been going out with the boys for years. I don't know why it's a problem all of a sudden.”
“Were you even listening to me?” pleaded Melinda, a solitary tear trickling down her cheek. “I can't go out. I can't occupy myself. I'm stuck at home alone. I need you here with me.” She flicked the switch on the bedside lamp, sending the room into darkness. “I'm going to sleep.”
He fumbled and bashed the alarm clock which had jolted him out of an unsettled sleep. He half-opened one eye. The luminescent dials glowed brightly, searing into his glassy eyeball like a hot poker. His befuddled brain struggled to make sense of his surroundings. Was it Monday already? Surely not. It must be Sunday. But what could cause the alarm to go off at quarter to six?
Melinda looked across at him. “Morning dear,” she said in a loud and cheerful tone. “We've got a big day today.”
“A what?” Gary shook his head. “What on earth is going on? What are you talking about?”
“It's Sunday. We've got a heap of jobs to do. You promised me we'd finish the painting today. And since we didn't clear out the room yesterday afternoon, we're going to have to get up early in order to finish.”
“Hold on a minute. Take it back to the start,” commanded Gary. “Are you trying to tell me that you've woken me up at sparrow's fart on a Sunday morning so I can empty the spare bedroom? You must be crazy. I'm going back to sleep.” He rolled over, pulling the pillow over his head and digging into the quilt. However, his pounding head and cardboard tongue prevented him from relaxing.
Another bout of beeping broke out, this time from across the room.
“I think that's your phone dear,” suggested Melinda with just the hint of a smile. “Why don't you get it?”
Gary groaned. “I can see I'm not going to get any more sleep this morning,” he grumbled as he stumbled out of bed.
Everything hurt. His legs and lower back were sore from the after-effects of the previous day's soccer match, his right foot throbbed, and his head pounded as a result of his night on the town. “But I don't think I'm going to be much good to anyone in this state.”
“It might be good for you,” suggested Melinda. “You'll need some practice operating in a sleep-deprived state for when the baby comes.”
“I'd rather put off the practice and just cope with it when the time comes.”
“How about this for a deal?” asked Melinda. “It's the best offer you're likely to get all day. If you go and get started on the bedroom, I'll whip up some bacon and eggs for breakfast. I'll chuck in a couple of Beroccas as well. That'll get you into the day, and hopefully we'll get the things done we need to.”
“I might need to take something before I start,” admitted Gary. “However, I did promise to do the painting, so I'll take you up on your offer.” He paused. “I’m sorry for last night as well. I did mean to come home straight after soccer. But I scored the winning goal and now we're in the Grand Final. The boys pestered me to come out. I was just going to have one drink but once I got there, I couldn't say no. I drank one, and then someone else put another drink in front of me.” He walked to Melinda’s side of the bed, knelt down and took her hand. “I'm sorry I didn't come home on time. I'm sorry I didn't call you to let you know where I was, and I'm sorry I didn't clean the baby's room last night. I'll try to make up for it today, even if it kills me.”
“By the look of you, it might actually do that,” laughed Melinda.
Gary looked at the results of his work with pride. Despite feeling sore and lethargic, he had worked diligently and made large inroads into his task of cleaning the spare room in preparation for painting. Most of the cleared debris stemmed from the numerous holidays taken over their nine years together. A pile of suitcases, photo albums and souvenirs from all corners of the globe stood in a neat pile in the hallway, ready to be placed in the attic.
He smiled at Melinda as he entered the kitchen. “Brekkie smells good. The room's looking good too. Another half hour and I think we'll be ready for painting, so there's no reason I shouldn't get this done today.”
Melinda returned his smile warmly as she carried his steaming plate to the table. “That sounds great. It’ll be a big load off my mind.”
Gary picked up his knife and fork. “Nothing but the best for you, my dear.” He tucked ravenously into the food on his plate. “This is good. It really hits the spot. Even though I've made some good progress this morning, I think I was running on empty.”
“Eat up then,” said Melinda. “You've got a busy day in front of you.”
He looked at her curiously. “I know it's an important job, although I'm not sure I understand why you're so keen to get it done today. We've still got a few weeks to go.”
“There are no guarantees about the timing - the baby could come tomorrow.” She patted her bulging belly. “Looking at the size of me, it's hard to imagine I could get much bigger. And besides, there are lots of other jobs that are waiting on this one. Now that I've finished work, I can potter around during the week in my own time and apply the finishing touches.”
Gary looked at her with concern. “Don't forget that Dr. Downing said you have to take it easy. After all, that's the reason you've finished work. You're meant to be putting your feet up to ensure your blood pressure doesn't rise any further.”
“The biggest thing that's likely to have an impact on my blood pressure is if you don't finish the painting.” Melinda smiled to show that she joked, although Gary could tell there was a degree of truth in the statement. “If I wait for you, the jobs will never get done. I won't push myself. Even if I only spend an hour or two a day, I'll be able to keep myself occupied plus continue to get ready.”
“Not long to go now,” said Gary. “Your blood pressure will drop, your belly will disappear and things will go back to normal.”
Melinda raised an eyebrow. “Back to normal? Are you joking?” She circled until she was opposite Gary and leaned forward with both hands on the table. “The changes are just about to start. Life as we know it will never be the same once this little bundle pops out.”
“How hard can it be?” Gary dipped the last piece of toast into the remains of his egg yolk and scoffed it down. “Sure, we might be sleep-deprived for a while, but that never hurt anyone.” He yawned. “Well, not much anyway. People have been having babies for thousands of years, and doing it without any of the modern conveniences we have. I'm sure we'll be fine.”
“That's not what my girlfriends tell me,” commented Melinda. “They divide their lives into two - Before Baby and After Baby – and if they are to be believed, there is no comparison between the two.”
Gary stood, wiping his mouth. “I'm sure we'll be able to cope,” he said as he turned and walked back to the bedroom.
Melinda dragged the sheet across the floor in an attempt to cover the carpet before Gary could spill any paint on it. He looked at her. “Sit down, love. You need to rest and leave me to paint.”
Melinda looked up. “I'm happy for you to do the painting. Just make sure you keep the floor covered.”
“No problem, Melinda. I'm going fine. Just relax. You can sit there and watch if you like.”
Melinda smiled at Gary. A surge of affection rose unbidden within her. Gary looked like a big kid, dressed in his daggiest tracksuit pants and a faded Billy Joel t-shirt. Blobs of paint were in evidence everywhere – on his shirt, on his pants and even one large smear across his left cheek. His thinning black hair was dishevelled and his paint-smudged face managed to simultaneously convey expressions of impish mischievousness and gentle concern.
Melinda sank into the large, padded armchair purchased for night feeds. She rested her feet on a convenient paint tin and eased her neck and head into the back of the chair. The long, slow strokes of the roller travelling up and down the wall possessed a strangely hypnotic quality. She sat in silence, her eyes following the roller's progress as it transformed the wall from a dull peach to a light and airy green.
“You look like you're falling asleep,” observed Gary.
Melinda sat up with a start. “Sorry – just day-dreaming, remembering how long it took to get pregnant.”
“I kind of miss those days,” said Gary. “Too much was never enough.”
Melinda laughed. “As I recall, you were doing it pretty tough. In fact -”
Melinda paused mid-sentence. She touched her thighs with her hands and sat up straight in her chair. She looked down at the ground.
“In fact what?” A look of concern crossed Gary's face. “Are you all right?”
“I'm all wet. I think my waters have broken.”