Matt - Thursday
Work had once again invaded Matt’s sleep and had woken him at 2am, should he or shouldn’t he sell Sherbourn Technologies? He just needed to decide, and then would come the tricky job of telling the staff, he would make sure they all had jobs to begin with, but after the initial lock in, they’d have to earn their place, Jo’s was the only job that he couldn’t guarantee.
Matt lay in the darkness listening to Lorna breathe; a peaceful sleep, perhaps he should try the hot yoga that she was so keen on.
“It’s so hard that it’s relaxing?” she had said after her return the previous evening.
“That’s a new one. I’m not sure I’d ever consider inhaling farts in a hot room relaxing. How do you not laugh?”
“It’s difficult, but you get used to it. Everyone does it at some point.”
“No. Not yet,” her cheeks flushed with pink.
“Liar. You’ve torn off plenty I bet. I can tell by your face.”
She left the room and Matt was chuckling to himself.
Matt got up, there was no point laying there just getting hot, he’d probably wake Lorna too if he carried on tossing and turning. He made the mistake of popping his head around Dot’s door to check on her, her eyes sprung open as if he’d triggered a pressure pad at her threshold.
“No sweetie, it’s the middle of the night.”
He leant over her to kiss her forehead and she cuddled his neck as hard a grasp as her small arms could manage, then came the giggle that melted his heart and signalled that Dot was awake.
“Mummy’s sleeping, you go back to sleep too, there’s a good girl.”
Dot started to hum at an ever increasing volume.
“Sssssshhh angel, you’ll wake Mummy.”
Matt knew exactly how this was going to pan out and rather than wake Lorna he lifted Dot still in her gro bag from her cot. “Shall we go and have some nice warm milk together, Daddy can’t sleep either.”
Dot snuggled into Matt’s chest as they went quietly downstairs. Matt smiled as he ignored the warning in the baby book about night feeds being purely functional. He kissed Dot’s downy hair and breathed in the smell of his baby and hot wee.
“Daddy will do a new nappy while we’re up Dot, ah how does that sound?”
“Ham,” demanded Dot pointing at the fridge.
“Please,” reminded Matt.
Dot smiled, all her tiny white teeth lined up like a zip, “pleeeeeese.”
Matt opened the fridge and with one hand and in several journeys gathered milk for his tea, ham for his ham-a-terian and her growing up milk. A few minutes later they sat on the sofa enjoying their refreshments.
“Daddy just get your capsules,” he said as he reached over to get Dot’s Creon. A medication and constant reminder that Dot has CF and is pancreatic insufficient; meaning she can’t break down fat on her own. One capsule is equal to three grams of fat which is fine when Lorna is running the show, but on his own Matt really didn’t know how much fat was in a slice of ham, he knew to give Dot two capsules for the milk, but the ham was causing him stress.
“Dot, how much fat is in the ham do you think?”
“Mmmmm ham,” replied Dot.
“Ok I’m going to give you one, or should I wake Mummy up?”
“Mummy,” beamed Dot.
“No, one will be enough. Come on Matt, you can work it out…Dot I’m giving you three capsules. Ok?”
He got a teaspoon of apple puree and opened three capsules onto the sticky mound. The capsules contain grey enzymes that look like tiny grains of cat litter that do the work Dot’s pancreas is too sticky to do for itself.
As obedient as a little bird in a nest Dot opened up and took the gritty mouthful, she even licked her lips after she had swallowed it, before resuming with her bottle of milk. Matt’s heart ached with the love this tiny perfect girl stirred in him, he had no idea he could love like he does.
Dot’s eyes grew heavy and she fell back into Matt, leaving the bottle hanging by its teat. Matt held the bottle until Dot was fast asleep. He then realised that he hadn’t change her nappy and that her teeth were covered in milk, he’d best get her back to her bed and say no more about it, let their feast be a secret.
The alarm went off at 5.50, it was time for a run, he ran three mornings a week no matter what, reserving the weekend for lazy lay ins, something Dot clearly hadn’t been briefed on. It took every strength of will to not hit the snooze button, but that would have given away his and Dot’s night time antics, instead he dragged himself from the bed. The running was meant to set a good exercise example to Dot, someone who would need to live a healthy life style to maximise on any helping hand luck might provide. The runs, (as painful as they were on dark mornings when the heating was on and his girls fast asleep) had turned into as close to therapy as Matt would get. He ran as hard and as fast as he could so that he could only think about putting one foot in front of the other and about getting enough oxygen in. He enjoyed switching his mind to neutral, no work, no Dot and no CF.
He arrived home to see some upstairs lights on, and after walking the length of his street a few times to cool off, he retrieved the key that he hid under the welly boot in the front porch, and let himself in. Dot greeted him like a returning war hero.
“Morning,” he called up the stairs as he removed his trainers and headed up. There was singing coming from the bathroom, Lorna, about as tuneful as a car alarm.
“Room for another?” he said looking at a bubble covered girl who was splashing the small amount of bath water.
“She was soaked this morning, she must have had a dream that she was a racehorse. You mind her a sec Matt, while I strip her bed. How was your run?” She kissed him on her way out of the bathroom.
“Ooops,” smiled Matt to Dot.
“Daddy,” screamed a delighted Dot as he began to strip off, she thrust he arms skyward.
“No, darling Daddy’s coming in.”
Her little legs got so excited that she lost control of them and yet more splashing accompanied by screams of delight commenced.
“Shall I make dippy eggs?” called Lorna from behind an armful of bed lining.
Lorna smiled, now and again she saw the old Matt, so handsome and kind, currently sitting in about 10cm of lukewarm water with a human barnacle hanging from his neck and yet he still looked like he’d scored a winning goal.
“Here, I’ll take Dot with me. You need to get a wiggle on or you’ll be late.” She dropped the washing on the floor, “Mummy cuddle you dry?”
Dot stood up in a catsuit of bubbles and almost purred when the hot towel enveloped her. Matt put the tap on with his toe and listened to the noise machine that was his daughter. Matt could remember when his own grandad used to call him a ‘Noisy Herbert’, Dot must have inherited the Herbert gene as well as the faulty CF one from him, not that he alone was responsible for it, Lorna had also given her the dodgy CF gene. Both of them blissfully unaware that they carried it until forty hours after Dot was born when it became clear that there was something very wrong with her tummy. Two carriers with a one in four chance that their baby would have CF. Matt felt no guilt about it as they didn’t know and they had both equally given it to Dot, if it had been one or the other of them maybe that would have been different, at least there were small mercies he supposed.
“Did I hear you get up in the night?” asked Lorna over the dippy eggs.
Lorna knew Matt often got up in the night, she knew that his demons woke him before the birds got the chance. In a funny way she worried more about Matt than Dot. When she was pregnant she’d always intended to go back to work, but after Dot was diagnosed they both knew it wasn’t going to happen, not only could Lorna not bear to be separated from Dot, but the risk of infection from day care was too great. Matt carried the full weight of responsibility to provide for them, which Lorna knew was also a great excuse to work so hard as to leave little or no space to think about Dot’s condition and to try to come to terms with it.
“Give me a kiss girls,” Matt called from the door. “Bye-bye Dot, and I’ll see you tonight,” he looked at Lorna making her heart flutter.
Dot hung on tight as she did every morning, the same as if Matt wasgoing for a fortnight. Lorna prized her off and spun the open arms around her own neck before receiving her own kiss. “I really love you,” she said.
“Until tonight my beauties, I love you both,” and he left the house. At the end of his Victorian tiled pathway and out of the gate, Matt switched to work mode as he did every day. He fleetingly wondered what Dot would do for a living when she grew up, and just as quickly ushered the thought from his mind. The future scared him.