The text had been calm, measured, informative – Karen had broken her ankle, but she was home now and everything was otherwise alright.
It still didn’t help, didn’t stop the pounding of her heart and the clenching of her fist and the way that her frown attracted Chim’s attention. She’d barely managed to breathe out a brief explanation as she’d strode out of the locker room, laser focussed on getting home and leaving Chim to explain what happened to Bobby, who was left behind with an open mouth and raised hand.
As soon as she opens the front door, her eyes track across the room and find Karen on the sofa, leg propped up. She’s about to speak when Karen’s finger points at the source of the slight snuffling breathing. Nia is asleep in Karen’s arms, face pressed into her chest.
She swallows the barrage of questions, and is about to make her way over when she notices Denny, hovering in the doorway.
“Nia and I were playing, and I kept telling her to keep the Lego away from the hallway, but she kept running off and then I was in class so I couldn’t stop her, but I called 9-1-1 like you always said to do and I’m so sorry mom - ”
Hen interrupts the whispered stream of explanation turned apology, pulling Denny into a hug. He clings on tightly and she lets a little of her concern seep out into the way she holds him.
“It’s fine, Mom’s fine. We just all need to be careful.” Rubbing his back is as much of a soothing gesture for her as it is for him.
She levels a resigned glare at Karen, who gives one right back, whispering over Nia’s head, “don’t give me that look!”
Looking around the floor, she’s grateful that there’s no more of the offending items in the living room, or as far as her eye can see. “Just… go finish off your schoolwork. I’m not angry at you, it wasn’t your fault.” He deflates a little in her arms.
Once he’s in his room and she can hear the clacking of his laptop keyboard, she sits herself on the arm of the sofa, beside Karen's head.
“How bad is it?” She tries not to stare too hard at the cast, to imagine the swelling underneath it and the bone underneath that.
“Doctors said it was a fibula fracture, so we’ve got a few months of me hobbling around. Unless you want to start cooking, that means more takeout … I don’t think this’ll convince the kids that this isn’t a good thing.” They must have given her enough painkillers for her to be able to joke about it.
“Karen, don’t. You could have been seriously hurt.” Her mind whirs with images from medical textbooks and real life emergencies.
“Babe, they’re one and a quarter inch lego blocks, I think this was the worst case scenario. Maybe I’ve caught your bad luck.” She must be grimacing again since Karen has extracted one arm from where it was holding onto Nia, her thumb caressing circles into the side of her knee. “I’ll be more careful. And it’s alright, we’re all alright. Plus, I’ve got you to take care of me. In sickness and in health, like you said.”
“Always, Karen, always.” Her exhale lets out the last of the worry, and she finds herself lighter without it. “I’d prefer more of the health though.”
Karen’s laugh jostles Nia, who sleepily raises her head, eyes blinking a few times before she recognises her.
“Momma!” Her outstretched arms almost send her toppling sideways, so she swings her up, prompting a delighted laugh as she settles in her lap.
“Momma got hurt but she got a bandaid from the doctor, so all better.” She makes it all sound so simple.
Karen’s look is a mixture of “see” and “I told you so”, but the sight of her family never fails to make her smile, so she lets it go and lets herself believe it.