AJ opened his front door to see Denise standing there. "Hey, Mom. Jordan's upstairs getting dressed, come on in."
"Hi, sweetheart." They both hugged each other. "You look tired," she noticed with a small frown.
"It's nothing. Do you want some coffee?" he asked her as they both walked into the kitchen and Denise took a seat at the island.
"No, thanks. Rough night?"
"Something like that," he replied as he refilled his coffee mug and took a seat next to her.
"Like what?" she pressed.
He sighed. "Not now, Mom. I'll call you when you get home after you drop Jordan back off."
"Fine. You're okay though, right?"
"Yeah, we'll talk later." AJ took a long drink of coffee and tried to think about something else. "How's Dad? Is he at home?"
"Yeah, he's doing some office work today, he flies out to Indianapolis for a conference this coming Monday for a few days."
"Oh. Is that man ever going to retire?" AJ said with a laugh.
"I seriously doubt it, he doesn't know anything else. I don't think he would know what to do with himself to be honest with you. With all that free time," Denise mused.
AJ shrugged. "True, it's just a thought."
After a few minutes, Jordan and Kim walked in from upstairs.
"I'm ready!" he announced loudly.
"Jordan, don't yell, please. Mommy has a headache."
"Hi, Denise. How are you?" Kim embraced her and sat next to AJ.
"I'm good, yourself?" Denise asked.
Kim shrugged. "I'm tired, but, okay otherwise."
"We'll just chill at home today, okay? Maybe order some lunch so you or I don't have to cook?" AJ suggested.
She smiled. "That sounds good."
Denise looked at her watch. "Well, we better get going. I'll have him home after dinner, I'll make sure he's fed."
"Thanks for taking him today, Mom."
"It's no trouble, I've got quite a few surprises in store..." she smirked.
"Let's go!" Jordan yelled.
"Jordan? What did Mommy just tell you?" AJ asked him.
"No yelling...sorry, Mommy." Jordan apologized quietly.
"That's alright, now, go have fun with Grandma," Kim said. "Give me a kiss."
AJ kissed her on the cheek.
"That's not what I meant. The other man in my life, please?"
"Oh? And who might that be?" AJ teased.
"Me, Daddy!" Jordan hugged and kissed Kim and AJ before running to the door.
"Bye, Mom. Have fun."
"We will. No wild parties while we're gone, okay?"
AJ laughed. "It's my house, Mom."
"I'm just kidding. I love you both. Bye."
"Bye, Denise," Kim said.
Both of them left.
"Ah...silence." AJ breathed. "It's wonderful."
Bernie came trotting into the kitchen behind the pair of them and stood by the sliding glass door. He whined softly.
"Do you need to go out, Bernie?" AJ asked without looking at him.
He barked once.
AJ got up and let him outside to do his business and sat back down. "So..." He took a sip of his coffee.
"So," Kim echoed.
"I'm gonna go downstairs." He stood up.
"Alex..." Kim sighed.
"What?" He knew exactly where she was going with this.
"What was with you last night?"
Yep, she just went there.
AJ sat back down knowing that he wasn't going to get out of talking about it, he had said that they would, after all. "Had a couple of nightmares. Well, the same one twice actually. The first time was when I was asleep on the couch, it woke me up and then I went to bed," he admitted quietly and drank more of his coffee.
Kim was surprised that she got a straight answer out of him so quickly. "No beating around the bush this time, huh? I'm impressed."
"What were they about, babe?"
"My dad. Well, he wasn't actually in them," he added.
"What happened?" she wondered.
"I've had the same nightmare before. Years ago, before we met."
"What is it about?"
AJ took a deep breath and slowly exhaled before answering. "I'm in the apartment that I grew up in when we moved from West Palm Beach, except that I'm in a long hallway with ten doors, five on each side. Keep in mind that I'm two or three in this." He paused before continuing. "Basically, I'm saying 'Daddy?' and calling for him over and over and opening every door, and he's not in any of them. All of the rooms are identical." He stopped again as his voice was becoming increasingly shaky with each sentence.
"Is that all?" Kim asked with uncertainty.
AJ swallowed to keep a lump from forming in his throat. "No. I become more upset with the more doors I open, screaming and crying for him. You know, like how Jordan would get really fussy if he was sick and he would just keep crying until he fell asleep from exhaustion."
"I remember those nights all too well," Kim mused.
"And just before the last door is fully opened I wake up. That's it."
Kim could feel her heart breaking for her husband. "Oh, Alex...so, you haven't had these in how long?"
"Since I went and saw my dad when I was eighteen. When I saw all of the memorabilia on the walls..."
"Alright, alright...you don't have to say anything else. It's okay. He doesn't deserve someone like you in his life."
"But it's not okay Kim! He didn't want me! Didn't give a damn about me, his own son, his only child! My mom was done with him, but I was only two! Two years old when he walked out on me!" AJ bellowed, his voice rising in anger.
"I know, I know. You have to calm down. Just breathe. Can you think of anything that might have set this off?"
He nodded. "I talked a lot about my dad with John yesterday."
"That has to be it. Do you—"
"I have a lot of repressed anger inside me and he wants to try some 'expressive therapy' with me the next time that we meet."
"I know you do. And I'm glad that you don't take it out on me or Jordan, but that's not a healthy way to live, Alex, and you know that."
AJ exhaled heavily. "I know. That's why we're gonna try it and see if it helps or if I can figure out some better ways to deal with it."
"Good. You do realize that your job is kinda like it? You singing. It's like you pour your heart and soul out into every word, every note." She smiled lightly and placed her hand on top of his.
AJ locked his fingers with hers and gently kissed the back of her hand. "I love you."
"I love you," Kim echoed and rested her head on his right shoulder.
"Your headache still there?"
"Kinda," she mumbled.
"C'mon, let's go to the couch."
AJ let Bernie back inside and the three of them went into the living room. "Are you ready for 'Take Two?'" Kim asked, wondering if this was part of his master plan to get some action.
"No, no. Come lay down." AJ lay across the couch and Kim did as well with her head on his chest as they both placed their hands on her stomach. He kissed her temple. "Better?"
"Much," she sighed contentedly.
They were silent for quite awhile, just enjoying each other's company. Bernie had lain down on the carpet in front of the couch and was watching them.
"Yeah?" AJ replied.
Kim looked up at him. "You're not falling asleep on me are you?"
"I was just resting my eyes." He chuckled.
"You hungry yet?" he wondered.
She sighed lightly. "Not really. How about you?"
AJ frowned. "Are you feeling alright? Is your headache worse?"
"I'm just tired."
"Okay then, maybe later. Do you need anything?"
"Just you." Kim rubbed his arm gently.
He kissed her hair. "I'm right here."
Kim looked down to her stomach. "Do you think it's a boy or girl?"
"Yeah." She smiled.
"I don't know. It'd be nice if we had a girl, then we would have the full set."
Kim chuckled. "'The American Dream.'"
"Yeah, kinda. But if Gumby's a boy, I don't mind."
"Do you wanna know when the time comes?" AJ wondered.
"I'm not sure. I know we didn't wait when we had Jordan, but who knows how many kids we're gonna have? This could be the last one and I want to enjoy it just like I did the first time. How about you?"
He nodded. "I don't know, you know how impatient I can be. Do you wanna pick names the same way we did?"
"Maybe. We could do the reverse, like you pick the first name and I pick the middle name."
AJ smiled. "That sounds good. I like that."
"I'm glad you approve," she quipped.
"We've got time though. We don't have to make this decision right now."
"Yeah, but it doesn't hurt to get the wheels in our brains turning."
"What, are you going to check in with me to make sure I'm thinking of baby names?"
"Maybe..." Kim smirked.
AJ laughed. "Woman, you know just how to keep me on my toes."
"One of my many talents. Ow," she winced.
She nodded and closed her eyes. "Yeah."
"Want me to get you something for it?"
"No, it's okay. I'll be fine."
"You have approved meds from Liz, right?" AJ asked, referring to her gynecologist.
Kim nodded again. "Uh-huh. She said I can take Tylenol if I need to."
"We have some upstairs, I can go get it."
"Just stay," she insisted.
"You know I don't like seeing you in pain."
Kim brushed it off. "It's just a headache, Alex."
"I don't want you to get stressed out because it could stress out the baby."
She sighed knowing that she wouldn't win with him on this. "Fine."
Kim sat up and AJ stood and went upstairs into their master bathroom. He opened up their medicine cabinet and took out the Tylenol, uncapping the bottle and shaking out two capsules. He put it back and went back downstairs and into the kitchen to get Kim a bottle of water. He took his out that he drank last night and went back into the living room.
"Here you go." AJ handed her the Tylenol and water.
"Thanks." After Kim took the medicine, she relaxed against the couch.
AJ kissed her cheek. "You feel a little warm, babe."
Kim put her head on his shoulder and sighed. "I guess I do feel a little bit crappy."
AJ put his arm around her, holding her close. "If you do have a fever the Tylenol should help with that. Does anything else hurt?"
"Any other symptoms?" AJ asked.
"Okay. Love you."
"Wanna watch TV?"
"No, I kinda wanna take a nap."
"That's probably a good idea. Do you want your pillow?"
Kim shook her head. "You can just get me one from the closet."
"Alright." AJ got up and got her one and brought it to her. She lay down and he covered her with the blanket that was still on the couch from the night before. "Is that better?"
AJ smiled. "No problem. Try and rest, okay?"
"I'll be in the office if you need me."
"Stay with me until I fall asleep?" she asked.
"Of course I will." He sat down on the carpet and rubbed her side in a comforting manner and she was asleep within ten minutes.
AJ looked up from the computer screen and saw Kim standing in the doorway. "Hey, you. Feeling any better?"
She shrugged. "Not really, I'm gonna go to bed. Just wanted to let you know."
"You'll be more comfortable up there, anyway. Do you need anything?"
"Alright. I was gonna order something to eat, I take it you're not hungry?"
"How'd you guess?" she asked in a sarcastic tone. "Chhshew!" she sneezed into the blanket that was wrapped around her shoulders.
"Bless you. Come here." AJ pulled a tissue from the box that was on the desk and handed it to her.
"Go get in bed, babe, there's more Kleenex in the bathroom if you need them." He stood up to kiss her forehead. "Go on, I'll check on you in a little bit."
"Okay." She turned around and left to go upstairs.
With a sigh, AJ sat back down and continued his work on the computer. After about fifteen minutes, he picked up the office phone to order himself some food.
"Victor's Deli & Catering," the person on the other end greeted him.
"Hey, Bo. It's Alex."
"How are you, man? It's been a few months, you haven't come by in awhile."
"Yeah, it has. I'm doing alright, yourself?" he asked.
"I can't complain," Bo replied.
"That's good. I'd like to place an order for delivery."
"What would you like?"
"A Cobb salad, no avocado, with extra ranch and—what's your soup of the day?"
"Chicken noodle," he stated.
"Perfect. I'll take a small container of that and that'll be it," AJ finished.
"That's all, okay. Your total is $11.29. It'll be about twenty minutes."
"Just doing my job," Bo said.
"Who's delivering today?" AJ wondered.
"Cool. Later, dude."
AJ hung up and went into the living room to watch TV until the food came. The doorbell rang and he got up to answer it.
"Hey Alex. Your total's $11.29."
AJ took his wallet out of his back jeans pocket and gave him twenty-five dollars. "Keep the change."
Josh handed him his bag of food. "Thanks, man, have a good one."
AJ shut the door and took the bag into the kitchen. He took the items out and put the soup in the refrigerator. Instead of eating first, he decided to go upstairs to check on Kim. He made a pit-stop back to the office to grab an orange Post-It note and a pen before going into their bedroom.
Kim was snoring lightly with a tissue clutched in her closed fist. AJ quickly jotted a few things down on the Post-It and stuck it on the nightstand next to her where she would see it. He gently brushed some hair out of her face and checked her fever. 'She feels a bit cooler, good.' he thought with relief. He left quietly and went back downstairs to eat.
AJ was about halfway done with his salad when the house phone rang. He got up as quickly as he could to answer it so it wouldn't wake Kim up.
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