The Bullens Deal with a Crisis
((A collaboration of the players of James Bullen and Patience (Sharrington) Bullen))
Patience is not sure what time it is when she opens her eyes. The room is dark and the house is quiet. She is struck with a sort of discomfort that has been plaguing her more and more often as her pregnancy carries on. She does not reach out for James, knowing full well that he is not in the bed next to her, and instead sits up, well prepared to be sick once again. However, something/is/ different this time. She pulls the blanket away in search of the basin to be sick in and notices the unmistakable redness of blood on her night shift. "James," she says, her voice croaking and no more than a whisper. Without thinking, she gets to her feet. Immediately her vision swirls, black blooming in front of her eyes, and her legs give out beneath her. She hits the ground.
It is two hours before dawn but Bullen is still only half asleep on the settee in the parlor where he has slept for the last two weeks. Or at least attempted to sleep. Sleep has rarely come though, and yet again he lies there dozing but not truly sleeping. When he hears the heavy thud above him, he thinks it only his imagination at first. But there is a sick feeling in his gut that tells him he needs to check on Patience. He goes up the stairs two at a time and knocks gently at the door to their bedroom. His heart leaps into his throat when she does not answer, even to tell him to leave her alone. Shoving the door open, his stomach sinks at the sight of her on the floor, eyes closed and limbs splayed. He rushes to her side and kneels on the floor gathering her into his lap. As he looks her over, he notices the blood. “Christ. Patience! I need you to wake up, darling. /Please/ wake up!”
Her eyes flutter open, and she struggles against consciousness for a moment, before she realizes that James is here with her, and that she is on the ground. Immediately her stomach revolts, and she turns her head to heave upon the ground. But there is nothing in her stomach to cast up and she just ends up gagging and spitting on the floorboards. Her skin feels sweaty all over, and cold, and she is pale and her eyes glazed over. "The baby," she says once her convulsions of nausea have subsided. Her hand, shaking, finds her swollen stomach, and her eyes are wide with alarm, even as she is still slumped in his arms.
Alarmed is too tame of a word for what he feels as she retches. Sheer panic screams down his spine and wraps itself around his heart. He looks her over, briefly resting a hand on her forehead to feel for fever, finding it worryingly clammy instead. “I’m going to carry you to bed. I don’t know about the baby, Patience. Should I fetch a doctor?” As he says this he gathers her more fully into his arms and stands, noting how light she is for being in her condition. How could he not have noticed? Gently laying her on the bed, he sits down on the side and looks back down to the dark patch of blood on her shift. He cannot tell if she still bleeds. “Are you...?” He closes his eyes for a moment, trying to gather his thoughts and steel himself for what may come. “Are you still bleeding?”
Patience blinks, slightly confused by what is happening. She feels herself shaking, and she reaches her weak hand out to him. "I--I do not know?" She realizes she has just swooned, which is ridiculous, because she does not swoon. Yet, she feels as if she may do so again. Perhaps he should fetch her a doctor. If she has bled--what about the baby. "Don't leave," she begs, worried that she might be sick, or faint, or fall. She has no idea if she is still bleeding. In fact she had nearly forgotten about it after fainting, she looks down, stricken with the same fear and shakes her head, dipping a shaking hand between her legs. "I think it has stopped?" She feels disoriented, weak, not herself.
Taking her hand, he brings it to his lips. His eyes are beyond worried and his pulse pounds in his ears. “Are you sure I should not go get the doctor? There is one in Oakston. It wouldn’t take long.” Even despite his misgivings, her plea keeps him glued to her side. “I will not leave if you don’t want me to.” He watches as she feels for blood, the muscle in his jaw ticking as he grits his teeth. Unsure what else to do, he starts to rise to go find her a clean shift. And perhaps a clean sheet for her to lie on.
"Stay," she pleads, almost worried about being alone, despite the fact that she has been perfectly content to be alone these past weeks. She looks down at the pale waxy skin of her hands and thinks she must look terrible. "Do you think tomorrow we should fetch a doctor? Do you think something is wrong?" She knows the answer. Something is definitely wrong, but she can't help herself from sounding pathetic.
Her begging breaks his heart. He pauses and sighs, sitting back on the bed. “I only wanted to help with the... “He stops, unable to say the word “blood”. “I hate to see you with soiled clothing and linens. But I will stay if that will make you happier.” He is glad she isn’t sending him away, though he desperately hates that this is what it took to bring them back together. “I think we should. If you are bleeding, there is obviously something terribly wrong. And you fainted. Patience, I am not trying to alarm you, but I am very worried.” All he wants is to pull her back into his arms and protect her somehow from whatever is happening to her.
She looks down at the bloody shift and sheets and nods understanding. "Right. I should..." She sits up pulling the blankets away, planning to get up and change. However her eyes go fuzzy again and she sits back. "I might faint again. I never faint." She blinks up at him, her bright eyes dull and confused.
Bullen’s brow furrows with concern as she nearly swoons again, his hands coming up to catch her though she manages to return to the pillows on her own. “I know, darling. Just lie here and I will help you change.” As he stands he has to take a few deep breaths to keep from vomiting himself, his stomach is so twisted in fear. As quickly as he can, he locates a clean shift as well as freshly laundered linens, hoping she has truly stopped bleeding. Returning to her side, he gives her the closest thing to a reassuring smile as he can manage given the circumstances. “Do you think you can sit up if you lean on me? If not, we can find a way to do this with you lying down.”
She is still nauseous, but it is not as prominent as it was mere moments ago. She has felt sick most of her pregnancy, so it is almost comfortable. But she still feels so weak, tired. "I think I can sit," she tells him, almost reassuring herself as she grips onto his forearms and pulls herself slowly up. "I am sorry."
Pulling her close to him, he allows them to pause like this for a few moments, his arms around her as tightly as he thinks won’t hurt her. When she apologizes he frowns and leans back to look at her. As he tries to figure out why she might have said that, he works to get her bloodstained shift off of her and replace it with the clean one. Her thighs are also stained with blood but he can see to them in a little while. Reassuring himself that she is still conscious, he asks, “What is there to apologize for, Patience? I’m afraid I do not understand.”
There is not much she can do, for feeling so weak and listless. Her body is still shaking just a little bit, so she merely allows him to undress her and redress her. She takes a deep breath, as deep as she can, and shakes her head. "If something is wrong with the baby, then it is my fault. I am sorry."
Rather than answer right away, Bullen sighs and shakes his head. First, he moves around to the other side of the bed to push the soiled sheet to one side and lay part of the clean sheet out and then comes back around to her. “Patience, this cannot be your fault. Your apology is unnecessary. And even were it your fault, I am currently more concerned with your well-being. I want this baby to be alright but my worry is for you.” He runs a gentle hand over her hair and leans down to kiss her forehead before standing again. “Can you move over onto the clean sheet or do you need help?”
She does not know what to say to that. If something were to happen to the baby, it would feel like her fault--for being too weak, for being a bad mother. Maybe she would really end up just like her mother. Useless, not even good enough to keep the child safe within her body. "What?" It takes her a moment to realize what he has asked. She nods and shifts her body over to the other side of the bed, laying back down and letting her eyes slide closed.
He tries to make quick work of the bloodstained sheet without jostling Patience too much, though he frowns as he notices her close her eyes. “Patience I need you to stay awake until I’m more certain you are going to be alright. Can you move back over here? Or would you rather stay there?” He holds his breath as he waits for her to open her eyes and answer him.
"Just give me a moment," she tells him, her eyes still closed. "I am feeling slightly dizzy." Closing her eyes does nothing to help. Instead, it makes her feel worse if possible. As if the room is spinning madly, or maybe she is spinning madly. She wonders if sleeping will help, or if he is right and she should stay awake. Her mind is floating between trying to get herself comfortable and a strange fear for the child.
Bullen stands helplessly by the bed for several moments before he speaks. “Alright.” Trying to distract himself from the panic that still gnaws at his gut, he takes the sheet and the shift and puts them in a pile outside the door to be sent out later. While he waits for her to feel more herself, he moves the contents from the top of the night stand and brings the ewer and basin over. “Patience? Are you feeling any better at all?”
She breathes a few times through her nose, and tries to pull herself together. However, the closer she feels to better, the more worried she becomes. Her hand presses gently against her stomach. She has felt it flutter within her several times now, and she wishes more than ever it might move now, if only to give her peace of mind. "It does not matter. I just need to know the baby is okay."
He watches with concern as she presses her hand against her stomach. She has mentioned once that she felt the baby, though she would not allow him to touch her so he might feel it as well. Now he furrows his brow and asks, "Can you... is he...?" Sinking down on the bed, he realizes he wishes that he could simply curl around her and hold her through this. "It /does/ matter, Pay. To me, at least." He sighs and rubs his eyes, which feel gritty from lack of sleep and too much worry. "I can still fetch the doctor, or at least find your midwife, if you'd like."
Patience shakes her head. She does not feel it moving yet, but she has to convince herself that it does not mean anything--it is random after all. "I do not know." She takes a shaky breath and reaches her hand out for him. "Perhaps when the sun rises. I think I would feel better to know what is wrong?" Her mind is more clear and she knows she cannot go without a doctor's opinion.
Bullen takes her hand, grateful that for once she allows him to be in physical contact with her. Especially now when things seem so gravely wrong. He kisses the back of her hand and rests it in his lap, lacing their fingers together. "I think you might." He glances toward the window, staring out it as if he can will the sun to rise sooner. Finally, he looks back at her, and then motions to the basin and the small towel beside it. "Would you... would you let me clean the blood from you?" He pauses, hoping she will not deny him the task, though he quickly says, "Or, if you prefer, you can do it yourself."
She allows him to kiss her hand, and for a moment she feels as if she is going to cry. She has been so angry with him, but none of it even matters right now. She only wishes for the child within her to be alright. Her eyes flick to him at the question and she hesitates before nodding. She pushes herself up further on the pillows, feeling still weak and sick, but better now that the dizziness has passed. "Alright. Yes."
He feels a moment of panic at the tears in her eyes, but knows she usually prefers he not mention them, so he looks away. As she looks over at him, he turns back to meet her eyes. The relief that floods him as she says he may help her is not enough to chase away his panic, but he is glad to have what little he can. Giving her a small smile as she agrees, he turns to pour water in the basin and then dampens the towel. He gently reaches out, placing on hand tentatively on her knee before pushing her night shift up. Ever so carefully, he cleans the blood from her, trying to stifle his alarm at seeing so much of it, and that she appears to still be bleeding, though likely not as much as before. "I do not mean to worry you, but I think you still are bleeding. But it is only a little."
Leaning back, she allows him to move her legs so he might clean her. The water is soothing, and she tilts her head back, watching as he cleans her. When he tells her she is still bleeding she swallows hard, tears falling. "Do you think--" She swallows the question and shakes her head. She does not want to think about it. Perhaps she was terrified at the thought of being a mother, but she is more terrified of the thought of losing the baby.
He looks up and shakes his head vehemently. "No." The word comes out with certainty far from what he actually feels, but he only hopes to reassure her. Surely having her fly into a panic would only do more harm. Setting the towel down on the table, he reaches up and wipes her tears away with his thumbs. "If that were the case, surely you would be bleeding far more heavily." It comes out almost as a question. He knows very little of pregnancy or childbirth, so he could be entirely wrong.
Her brow is furrowed tightly, and she is not nearly confident that the worst is not happening. But she will not let herself think it, not until she speaks with a doctor. "You are probably right." For the first time she wishes her own mother were there. Perhaps the woman could give her peace of mind. More likely not. Perhaps what she really wants is a different mother to be there. A kind one who cared. "Is it almost morning?" she asks realizing she does not know the time.
Bullen wishes likewise that a mother was there, perhaps his own, so that he might ask her what to do, how to navigate this tricky time. Satisfied that for now Patience is as clean as she might be, he gently pulls her shift back down and moves up closer to her head. Cupping her cheek, he leans in to kiss her forehead. At her question, he looks out the window again. The silvery light of dawn is almost imperceptible, but it /is/ there. He thanks God and looks back to her with a smile and a nod. "Yes, I think sunrise is perhaps half an hour away. If that. Is there anything I might do for you?"
The touch of his lips to her forehead makes tears spring to her eyes again. She leans into the slight pressure, raising her arm to pull him closer, needing in this moment, that contact. "That is good then. I hope the doctor is not occupied" She lets her eyes close, but does not recline all the way back. "Just sit with me, please?"
He hesitates before bringing his arms up to pull her into his chest, kissing the top of her head a handful of times. "If he is occupied, I will make him come anyway. By force if necessary." Rubbing his hand up and down her back, he sighs, grateful that she seems to at least be feeling a little better. Perhaps the worst has passed and there will be nothing more to worry about. "I will sit with you as long as you would like. You know that." At least, he hopes she knows that. After the past two weeks, he has begun to wonder.
She feels herself relax once in his arms. She knows he means it, that he would ensure the doctor came to her. Even if these past weeks have been filled with skirting around him, avoiding him, and not understanding her own feelings, she knows that he loves her and their child. "James..."she begins, hating the tearful quality of her voice. She swallows a few times, hoping to get rid of the inevitable crying.
The tension going out of her alarms him at first, and he has to pull away long enough to see that she hasn't fainted on him again. Her eyes are open though, so he pulls her back to him without saying anything. As she says his name, he closes his eyes, his shoulders falling slightly in relief at the way she says it. It isn't taut with anger, or flat and numb, though he does not like how near to tears she sounds. He says into her hair, "Yes my love?"
It is a moment before she can gather her thoughts and think of what it is she wants to say to him. There is so much, and also nothing at all. Either way, she knows she cannot continue to ignore him, especially now when things are so uncertain. "I cannot forget what you did, or how you made me feel," she tells him, finally not feeling as if she will burst into tears.
He waits patiently for her to go on, his face buried still against her hair. When she does speak, he chooses not to let go of her, though he does nod slightly. "I know." It comes out as barely more than a whisper. He does not know what else to say. All the apologies in the world will never change what he did, and even if he could he would not force her to forgive him. For a long while he sits there in silence, hoping she will say more.
She stays quiet for a long moment, debating carefully before she speaks again "I do forgive you. But I will never forget." She turns her head hoping she can look at him. She needs to see his face, to see the man she loves, and try to understand if they can go back to a place where she does not feel as if her life has been turned into some sort of horrendous mistake--and she knows that feeling too well.
Her forgiveness makes him feel as if he can breathe again, his arms briefly tightening around her before he lets her go and looks at her with an uncertain smile. "Are you..." He pauses, faltering. He does not wish to question her, but he is afraid she only says it because she thinks things will go badly. "Do you truly mean it?" Lifting one hand, he brushes a stray lock of hair from her face, noting that her skin is a little less clammy than it had been earlier.
"Yes," she says firmly. She stretches out, trying to find a more comfortable way to position herself, then she glances back at him and continues. "I was disheartened, and maybe I was mistaken to think you were above such things. But the truth is, you are still the best man I have ever known. And I love you."
He cannot help but sigh in relief, a slightly less tentative smile tugging at his mouth. Watching as she gets as comfortable as she is able, he reaches out to fluff her pillows a little. "I wish I had been, so that I did not hurt you." His eyes are cast downward, the shame still brings heat to his cheeks. He looks back up after a moment. "I love you too. No matter what. That will never change. And I will do my utmost never to cause you such pain again." His brow furrows as he wonders whether what he did has anything to do with what she is currently experiencing, and the guilt overwhelms him again.
"No one is perfect," she concedes, feeling too tired to think of what might have been either way. Right now her concern is her child, and making sure that it is okay. She finally lets her eyes close for good this time, feeling a lot better not that she is close to him. "I know." She does know. She lifts her hand and touches his hair without opening her eyes. "It will be okay. right?"
Her hand in his hair, makes him close his eyes and exhale slowly. After a moment's hesitation, Bullen lays down on the bed beside Patience, twining their hands together again. He turns his head to press a kiss against the side of her mouth, hoping she will not turn away. It is as close as he hopes she might let him come to actually kissing her. "I think it will be." Glancing at the window, he notes the distinct brightening of the sky. "The sun is rising. You've made it through the night. If you are alright with me leaving you for a little while, I can fetch the doctor." He hates the idea of leaving her alone, but he knows that logically it makes sense to be sure she and the baby aren't in any danger.
She does not pull away from the gentle kiss, though she is not entirely ready to return the gesture, not yet--not now. She flutters her eyes open and glances at the glimmer of light coming into the window. A strange sense of relief washes over her. "Yes. I will be okay." Patience gives him firm nod and pulls the blanket around her. "We will both feel better knowing."
It warms him that she does not refuse his gentle kiss, and as she opens her eyes and agrees he should go, he kisses her forehead and gets out of bed. "I will be back before you know I am gone." With that, he hurries out the door and down the stairs, not even stopping for his hat or coat. Who cares if people see him in less than a perfect state? There are more important things at the moment. He rushes through the street to the doctor's house and pounds on the door, hoping that the man is home. When a bleary eyed butler opens the door with a thunderous frown, Bullen shoves past him to see the doctor standing at the top of the stairs. He gives him a hurried explanation of Patience's condition and the doctor nods and pushes him out the door. It takes only a few minutes, but Bullen feels as if he has been gone ages by the time he guides the doctor upstairs to Patience. The doctor notes the bloodied linens on the floor with a frown before going to Patience and shaking his head to tell Bullen to stay out of the room.
Patience watches him leave and does her best to keep herself awake in the short time he is gone. It is not that she is still overcome, it is just that she always feels so exhausted. And there has been a degree of relief in having James near her after the weeks of barely speaking. She runs her hands across her belly, and when the doctor arrives, she is gripped with another moment of fear. She nods to James and waits for him to leave. She allows the doctor to examine her and listens carefully to all he says. When he nods in understanding at her symptoms, she is not sure if she should take it as good news or bad news. The doctor is impassive until she finally asks. "Is the baby okay?" The man frowns but gives a nod. Before he can begin to explain what is happening, she begs him to let James back in, knowing that he will want to know the baby is fine for the time being.
The doctor sighs but agrees to let Bullen return, opening the door with a disgruntled expression and stepping aside as Bullen rushes inside. He immediately goes to Patience and takes her hand, his face drawn with worry as he looks between her and the doctor. "Is he...?" The doctor practically rolls his eyes but begins to explain quietly. Most of it goes over Bullen's head, but he gets enough of it to understand that the baby and Patience seem to be in no real danger. "You will need to be on bed rest as much as you can be, Mrs. Bullen. No exercise, no heavy foods, no coffee, tea, or alcohol. I should likely let some blood," the doctor looks to Bullen who only looks to Patience. It is her choice ultimately.
She listens as carefully as she can, not entirely relieved to hear what is wrong with her. She does not fully understand, except that the baby will be okay. "Bed? But--I cannot be expected to stay in bed for the rest of my time, right?" She does not have many friends, but it sounds obscene not to have exercise or--or. She swallows her displeasure, realizing that if it is what she must do for the sake of her child, then she is going to do it. Some strange instinct has become a part of her now. "Very well, if it will help. Do whatever you need to. I will do the same."
"You must if you wish for the child and yourself to survive this," the doctor tells her. Bullen agrees that it seems best, though the idea of bloodletting sounds ghastly. But if the doctor thinks it will keep her and the baby safe, and as long as Patience has agreed to it, then he will let it happen. The doctor looks back at Bullen, who nods and chews at his bottom lip. With a grim smile, the doctor grabs his bag and crosses to Patience's other side, pulling out a small bowl and the rest of his implements to begin the procedure.
Patience sits still, unflinching when he begins to bleed her. The act does not bother her in the least, not compared to the idea if being confined for the rest of her pregnancy. Perhaps she might be allowed some time to walk during the week. Even just next door to see Miss Hampton. Or perhaps she might borrow Thomas's curricle to visit Mrs. Hatch. She does not ask for fear of being shut down.
Bullen looks away as the doctor begins his procedure, shifting his eyes to Patience’s face instead. “Do not worry, darling. We will find ways to entertain you. I’m quite sure your friends will be happy to visit.” He knows how much she enjoys her freedom and wishes circumstances were different so she could do as she likes. Leaning down, he presses his lips to her forehead again. Her skin is still cool and pale and he cannot stop worrying about her. “Did he find if you were still bleeding?” he asks in a low voice.
"I suppose." It is the best that can be done for now. At the very least, if it has to be done, perhaps they will find a way to make the time pass. She won't risk her child for her own pleasure. "Only lightly," she tells him quietly. "He said it is normal, made worse by my condition. But with the right diet, I should be alright. At the very least our child is safe right now."
Bullen releases a slow exhale following it with a deep inhale, as if he hasn’t truly breathed in days. “Good then. We shall get through this. I am convinced that after everything, we could overcome God himself at this point.” He gives her a hopeful smile, wishing she would smile herself. As the doctor determines he has done what he can, he bandages Patience’s arm and gathers his implements. “Remember. Bed rest. I will send a note with the diet this afternoon.” Bullen goes to walk the man downstairs but the doctor waves him off and sees himself out. Sitting on the side of the bed, Bullen buries his face in his hands, realizing how exhausted he really is. Patience must be as well. “Now that we know any danger has passed, I should leave you to sleep.” He moves toward the door, wondering how well he might be able to sleep off his worry in the parlor.
For a brief moment, she contemplates being spiteful and awful and letting him leave. But she has forgiven him, and the anger has passed. And in truth, all she wants is for him to be near her. She is too worried of being alone right now, even if the danger has passed, even if the doctor does not have worry. "Stay." She shifts the blanket down and hopes he will come into bed with her. It is hard to sleep without him close, and now she is not sure she could for fear of the bleeding. "Please stay."
He does not turn back right away, though he does pause in the doorway, waiting for her to change her mind. When she doesn’t, he finally turns around, his brow furrowed with uncertainty. Her second plea is enough to have him by her side in a heartbeat. “Of course. If you are sure.” His heart pounds out a staccato beat against his ribs as he nods and pulls off his boots. Sliding under the blanket, he pulls her into his arms without a word, his back against the headboard. As tired as he is, he expects the reason she wants him to stay is to keep watch over her so he settles in.
She exhales, as if she has been holding a breath, and curls against him as he sits next to her. She nods her certainty and lets herself relax. Her anxiety has abated some, but the knowledge that she will be confined so soon weighs heavily upon her. Even so, the warmth of him next to her calms her somewhat, and soon enough, she is asleep.