Chapter 4 - Comfort
In the end, Josh planted a kiss on the top of Pete’s head and slid the peas that Pete had picked out into the blender, pulverizing them without a sign. He then stuck out the empty plate and announced, “The enemy has been defeated!”
“Wawawawah!” Pete cheered excitedly.
Pete happily sat and swung his legs back and forth. Josh loudly kissed the child’s cheek and began to feed him dinner. Pete’s mouth quickly became dirty with food. Without hesitation, Josh took out his handkerchief that he carried with him everywhere and wiped his mouth with his gaze fixed upon Pete. Watching his small hand firmly holding onto and using the fork could very well make his heart burst.
Josh slowly paced around the living room with the child in his arms, waiting for him to fall asleep. When Pete had fallen asleep, Josh laid him down on the bed, loosely cleaned the house, took a shower, and finally, took out a can of beer.
“Phew…” A content sigh trickled out of his mouth. He wasn’t financially unchallenged, but he had no qualms about his life at all. Just imagining Pete growing up and leaving the house for university brought tears to his eyes, but this was something far off into the future. He finished the whole can and went to bed.
When his phone ringtone ominously echoed across the room, Josh was deep asleep without even so much as a dream.
“Yes, hello… Emma?” he answered, still half asleep, before jolting up at the sound of his little sister sobbing. He quickly glanced at the clock on top of the bedside table and calculated the time difference. It was 8 a.m. in the West.
“Oh, Josh, w-what do I—”
“What’s wrong? Did something happen?” he urged.
Emma replied between sobs, “Mom collapsed, and… and we’re, we’re in the hospital now.”
“What? Emma, don’t cry… and tell me slowly. What happened?” Josh’s tone became harsher without him even realizing it. He could hear his sister blubbering on the other side of the phone. He forcefully shook his sleepily dazed head like a dog.
He pressed on with greater urgency, “Stop crying and tell me. Are you in the ER right now?”
Emma began to sob again. She usually had no problem keeping things under control, so it was rare to see her like this. Josh felt his insides boil, but he didn’t have a choice. Blaming the cruel circumstances for not being able to run to her and comfort her immediately, he waited patiently.
After some stifling minutes, Emma finally managed to regain her breath and began to stammer out an explanation. Their mother’s illness had worsened, and she had to be admitted to the ER. She also told him that her savings had run out due to the repeated admissions.
When she had laboriously finished speaking, Josh asked a little more gently than before, “Did you look into insurance?”
“I heard from them last time that they will no longer cover the cost of future onsets… still, I’m planning to pay a visit later just in case. I called work and let them know that I’ll be taking time off. I’m also going to look into getting a loan from the bank, though I’m not sure if they’ll let me borrow more…” Emma trailed off as she swallowed a ragged breath.
She began again, “Josh, I really… really thought that something might happen to Mom. Her hands were so cold, and she wouldn’t answer even when I called her name. Even her breathing was… back then, I really… nnh, hnngh…”
“Emma, Emma.” Josh raised his voice slightly and called out her name. Before his sister lost her cool again, he continued, “All right, just calm down. Mother’s okay now, right?”
“Yeah. They took care of the emergency,” Emma replied, her voice still shaking. However, it was clear that she was trying her best to remain calm.
Thinking about how terrifying it must have been alone made Josh want to fly over immediately. However, there was something else that he had to do first.
“What did the doctor say? Can she be discharged?” he asked.
“No, it looks like she’ll be staying for a few days. They also wanted to run a few more tests…” After coughing out a faltering breath, Emma asked with a mellower tone, “What do I do, Josh?”
“Don’t worry,” Josh said firmly. “I’ll make it work somehow. It must have been hard. Did you get some sleep?”
“No,” mumbled Emma feebly. The weight of her exhaustion suddenly carried over from the other end of the line.
Josh deliberately asserted, “You can rest assured. Now go get some rest. I’ll call you again later.”
Emma sighed deeply and replied very wearily, “Yeah… I should sleep a little. I’ll leave things to you, Josh.”
“Don’t worry and go. Careful on the road,” he added with concern before hanging up.
A sudden cold silence took over. Josh sat blankly in the middle of darkness, summarizing the conversation in his head. No matter what, the situation was clear.
They needed money.
“Hahh…” In the end, he wrapped his hand around his head and let out a deep sigh. However, he couldn’t afford to stay absent-minded. Josh quickly recalled how much money he had on him at the moment. All that thought led to was a string of curse words.
He was gravely calculating how much money he would need when he heard the child crying in the distance. He hurriedly got up and went to the other room.
“Daddy, daddy!” The child burst into tears as soon as he found Josh.
Josh quickly lifted the child up from the bed. From time to time, Pete would wake up in the middle of the night like this and start crying. As always, the child leaned his small body tightly onto Josh.
“It’s all right, Pete, it’s all right,” Josh comforted him as he paced around the room. The sniffles soon diminished, and the child began to breathe deeply. Josh planted a kiss on Pete’s head.
The warmth of the child’s body always managed to calm him down. Hoping that it would do the same this time, Josh took a deep breath of his scent. The characteristic sweet scent of a child seemed to soothe his anxiety a little. In the end, he stayed up on the couch with Pete in his arms.
Vol. 1 now available on Amazon Kindle. It has been edited and formatted for ebook and print release. Please leave a review and ratings on the book. It helps us tremendously! Your continuous support allows us to provide you more official content.
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