Digital ISBN 13: 978-1-63112-055-8 ISBN 10: 1631120557
Print ISBN 13:978-1-63112-056-5 ISBN 10: 1631120565
Purchase link : http://www.5princebooks.com/buy-links.html
A Painted Room
The best day in a
parent’s life turns into the worst.For expectant parents, the origins of a
new life are usually accompanied by excitement, anticipation and just a touch
of anxiety about the future. There are classes to attend, prams to buy, and of
course, the baby's room has to be painted.
This description fits Gary and Melinda quite nicely - except
Gary hasn't painted the baby's room yet. He finally gets around to starting the
job, but Melinda's water breaks before he finishes the first coat.
From there, the situation rapidly deteriorates. Their baby,
Justin, is born via caesarean. Shortly after the birth Justin experiences
breathing difficulties and is transferred to intensive care a few hours later.
The story follows Gary over a tumultuous few days as Justin
undergoes emergency treatment. Gary and Melinda quickly discover that when a
baby's life is on the line, it doesn't really matter whether or not you have a
About Pete Abela
Pete heralds from the city of Wollongong, just south of
Sydney in the state of New South Wales, Australia, where he lives with his wife
and four kids. His love of reading eventually led him to take up writing, a
difficult task which presents rewards and challenges in equal measure. A Painted Room is Pete’s second book,
and follows his debut novel, Wings
When he’s not working, reading, writing or enjoying the
company of his family, Pete likes to sneak away for a bit of exercise – either
tennis, golf or a refreshing swim.
You can find more about Pete at his website and blog
(http://peteabela.com). The blog contains a number of bad jokes and puns. You
have been warned.
Melinda waddled into
the bedroom, looked at the display on the luminous alarm clock and frowned.
Shaking her head, she trudged across the room and pulled herself slowly onto
the bed, wincing as her back registered its habitual protest.
She looked down at her
body, an expression of displeasure crossing her pretty face. A couple of
varicose veins featured prominently on her once smooth and unblemished legs.
She removed the chain from around her neck and unthreaded the wedding band.
Holding the ring in one hand, she tried to place it on her swollen ring finger first
then her pinkie, but could not get past the first knuckle with either of them.
Shaking her head, she replaced the ring on the chain. Her pajama top stretched
tightly over her eight-month belly. She tried to pull the top down to cover the
exposed band of skin at the bottom of her tummy, and snorted in disgust when it
sprang back, once again revealing her stretch marks.
Melinda picked up a
piece of paper from the bedside table and examined it closely. It did not give
her any more joy than the sight of her pregnant body had. In fact, she scowled
as she perused the paper.
It was a list of jobs.
A long list of jobs and
only a few of them had been crossed out. The spare bedroom still needed to be
cleaned out and painted. The cot required assembly and the plastic bags full of
nappies, bibs, clothes and toys still remained unsorted.
A leather bound diary
lay on the bed. Melinda turned to the yearly planner page and placed her finger
on a prominently circled date. She counted backwards, a week at a time on her
fingers, stopping at four. She looked from the list to her fingers and back
again with pursed lips. Reaching across to the alarm clock, she fiddled with
The jangle of keys at
the front door interrupted her. She looked up expectantly, and then composed
her features to remove any trace of welcome. The keys were dropped, and a male
voice swore. The jangling resumed and the front door opened. Melinda sat back
on the bed with her arms crossed and looked down at her watch. “It's about
time,” she greeted him icily.
“Hello to you too,”
“Don't give me hello.
Where have you been?”
“I just had a few boys
with the drinks,” slurred Gary. “It's not even midnight. Why are you upset?”
“Where do I begin?”
asked Melinda. “For starters, you said you'd come straight home after soccer
and empty the spare room.” She picked up the list and waved it at Gary, before
throwing it in the air in disgust. Gary’s vacant eyes followed the list,
struggling to keep up with it as it floated gently to the floor. “You never
called and told me where you were. I've been stuck at home, resting under
doctor's orders, not able to have a drink, not supposed to do anything, bored
and uncomfortable. All the while, you're gallivanting around the country side,
getting drunk with your mates.”
Gary threw his arms
into the air. “I've been going out with the boys for years. I don't know why
it's a problem all of a sudden.”
“Were you even
listening to me?” pleaded Melinda, a solitary tear trickling down her cheek. “I
can't go out. I can't occupy myself. I'm stuck at home alone. I need you here with
me.” She flicked the switch on the bedside lamp, sending the room into
darkness. “I'm going to sleep.”
He fumbled and bashed
the alarm clock which had jolted him out of an unsettled sleep. He half-opened
one eye. The luminescent dials glowed brightly, searing into his glassy eyeball
like a hot poker. His befuddled brain struggled to make sense of his
surroundings. Was it Monday already? Surely not. It must be Sunday. But what
could cause the alarm to go off at quarter to six?
Melinda looked across
at him. “Morning dear,” she said in a loud and cheerful tone. “We've got a big
“A what?” Gary shook
his head. “What on earth is going on? What are you talking about?”
“It's Sunday. We've got
a heap of jobs to do. You promised me we'd finish the painting today. And since
we didn't clear out the room yesterday afternoon, we're going to have to get up
early in order to finish.”
“Hold on a minute. Take
it back to the start,” commanded Gary. “Are you trying to tell me that you've woken
me up at sparrow's fart on a Sunday morning so I can empty the spare bedroom?
You must be crazy. I'm going back to sleep.” He rolled over, pulling the pillow
over his head and digging into the quilt. However, his pounding head and
cardboard tongue prevented him from relaxing.
Another bout of beeping
broke out, this time from across the room.
“I think that's your
phone dear,” suggested Melinda with just the hint of a smile. “Why don't you
Gary groaned. “I can
see I'm not going to get any more sleep this morning,” he grumbled as he
stumbled out of bed.
Everything hurt. His
legs and lower back were sore from the after-effects of the previous day's
soccer match, his right foot throbbed, and his head pounded as a result of his
night on the town. “But I don't think I'm going to be much good to anyone in
“It might be good for
you,” suggested Melinda. “You'll need some practice operating in a
sleep-deprived state for when the baby comes.”
“I'd rather put off the
practice and just cope with it when the time comes.”
“How about this for a
deal?” asked Melinda. “It's the best offer you're likely to get all day. If you
go and get started on the bedroom, I'll whip up some bacon and eggs for
breakfast. I'll chuck in a couple of Beroccas as well. That'll get you into the
day, and hopefully we'll get the things done we need to.”
“I might need to take
something before I start,” admitted Gary. “However, I did promise to do the
painting, so I'll take you up on your offer.” He paused. “I’m sorry for last
night as well. I did mean to come home straight after soccer. But I scored the
winning goal and now we're in the Grand Final. The boys pestered me to come
out. I was just going to have one drink but once I got there, I couldn't say
no. I drank one, and then someone else put another drink in front of me.” He
walked to Melinda’s side of the bed, knelt down and took her hand. “I'm sorry I
didn't come home on time. I'm sorry I didn't call you to let you know where I
was, and I'm sorry I didn't clean the baby's room last night. I'll try to make
up for it today, even if it kills me.”
“By the look of you, it
might actually do that,” laughed Melinda.
Gary looked at the
results of his work with pride. Despite feeling sore and lethargic, he had
worked diligently and made large inroads into his task of cleaning the spare
room in preparation for painting. Most of the cleared debris stemmed from the
numerous holidays taken over their nine years together. A pile of suitcases,
photo albums and souvenirs from all corners of the globe stood in a neat pile
in the hallway, ready to be placed in the attic.
He smiled at Melinda as
he entered the kitchen. “Brekkie smells good. The room's looking good too.
Another half hour and I think we'll be ready for painting, so there's no reason
I shouldn't get this done today.”
Melinda returned his
smile warmly as she carried his steaming plate to the table. “That sounds
great. It’ll be a big load off my mind.”
Gary picked up his
knife and fork. “Nothing but the best for you, my dear.” He tucked ravenously
into the food on his plate. “This is good. It really hits the spot. Even though
I've made some good progress this morning, I think I was running on empty.”
“Eat up then,” said
Melinda. “You've got a busy day in front of you.”
He looked at her
curiously. “I know it's an important job, although I'm not sure I understand
why you're so keen to get it done today. We've still got a few weeks to go.”
“There are no
guarantees about the timing - the baby could come tomorrow.” She patted her
bulging belly. “Looking at the size of me, it's hard to imagine I could get
much bigger. And besides, there are lots of other jobs that are waiting on this
one. Now that I've finished work, I can potter around during the week in my own
time and apply the finishing touches.”
Gary looked at her with
concern. “Don't forget that Dr. Downing said you have to take it easy. After
all, that's the reason you've finished work. You're meant to be putting your
feet up to ensure your blood pressure doesn't rise any further.”
“The biggest thing
that's likely to have an impact on my blood pressure is if you don't finish the
painting.” Melinda smiled to show that she joked, although Gary could tell
there was a degree of truth in the statement. “If I wait for you, the jobs will
never get done. I won't push myself. Even if I only spend an hour or two a day,
I'll be able to keep myself occupied plus continue to get ready.”
“Not long to go now,”
said Gary. “Your blood pressure will drop, your belly will disappear and things
will go back to normal.”
Melinda raised an
eyebrow. “Back to normal? Are you joking?” She circled until she was opposite
Gary and leaned forward with both hands on the table. “The changes are just
about to start. Life as we know it will never be the same once this little
bundle pops out.”
“How hard can it be?”
Gary dipped the last piece of toast into the remains of his egg yolk and
scoffed it down. “Sure, we might be sleep-deprived for a while, but that never
hurt anyone.” He yawned. “Well, not much anyway. People have been having babies
for thousands of years, and doing it without any of the modern conveniences we
have. I'm sure we'll be fine.”
“That's not what my
girlfriends tell me,” commented Melinda. “They divide their lives into two -
Before Baby and After Baby – and if they are to be believed, there is no
comparison between the two.”
Gary stood, wiping his
mouth. “I'm sure we'll be able to cope,” he said as he turned and walked back
to the bedroom.
Melinda dragged the
sheet across the floor in an attempt to cover the carpet before Gary could
spill any paint on it. He looked at her. “Sit down, love. You need to rest and
leave me to paint.”
Melinda looked up. “I'm
happy for you to do the painting. Just make sure you keep the floor covered.”
“No problem, Melinda.
I'm going fine. Just relax. You can sit there and watch if you like.”
Melinda smiled at Gary.
A surge of affection rose unbidden within her. Gary looked like a big kid,
dressed in his daggiest tracksuit pants and a faded Billy Joel t-shirt. Blobs
of paint were in evidence everywhere – on his shirt, on his pants and even one
large smear across his left cheek. His thinning black hair was dishevelled and
his paint-smudged face managed to simultaneously convey expressions of impish
mischievousness and gentle concern.
Melinda sank into the
large, padded armchair purchased for night feeds. She rested her feet on a
convenient paint tin and eased her neck and head into the back of the chair.
The long, slow strokes of the roller travelling up and down the wall possessed
a strangely hypnotic quality. She sat in silence, her eyes following the
roller's progress as it transformed the wall from a dull peach to a light and
“You look like you're
falling asleep,” observed Gary.
Melinda sat up with a
start. “Sorry – just day-dreaming, remembering how long it took to get
“I kind of miss those
days,” said Gary. “Too much was never enough.”
Melinda laughed. “As I
recall, you were doing it pretty tough. In fact -”
mid-sentence. She touched her thighs with her hands and sat up straight in her
chair. She looked down at the ground.
“In fact what?” A look
of concern crossed Gary's face. “Are you all right?”