Could she at least acknowledge that the blueprints were changing?
âThose guys arenât coming over, right? You were willing to stop everything and visit with them,â said Joe, rising to take Scout back. âSo visit us instead. Come on. How are you feeling? Still flu-ish?â
âNot flu-ish. It came, it went.â Elliot slumped beside her, brooding and resentful. She watched Joeâs clumsy attempts to get Scout latched and drummed her fingers on the coffee table. Scout fussed when she couldnât quite figure out the nipple. The milk drips started again which made latching harder. Joe opened her mouth at the baby to mimic what she wanted: wide open, guppy-lipped. And Scout responded. Silence reigned; the baby suckled, and Joe winced at a new pain she supposed was good news.
âWe should watch the latching movie the midwife gave us,â said Joe.
Elliot drew in a sharp breath.
âWhat I said earlier. You really could think about breast-feeding, Elliot.â
âDo I have to remind you I donât have nipples?â
âNow youâre being intentionally stupid.â
âIâll be back at work in the fall,â said Elliot. âYouâre off for a year. You have the freedom.â Ell looked small and vulnerablesuddenly. âAnd Joe, if itâs okay, could you maybe not mention my deficiencies again, please?â
Elliot suffered phantom pain and numb skin. Can you feel that? Joe would ask, trickling her finger across Elliotâs chest or arm. No, Elliot would say. Now? No. Now? Maybe, sort of.
âGod, youâre crabby. You donât have to be mean, Ell. Iâm just trying to do the best thing for Scout.â She paused, thought, didnât resist. âAlso I donât see why you have to sleep with Logan anymore.â
Ell rose. âYou asked me to come sit with you and now youâre attacking me. Can I say anything right?â
Joe thought about that. âProbably not. Probably no, you canât.â
Elliot said, âLook, please, for fuckâs sake, donât pick a fight with me when you donât mean to.â She tickled the babyâs cheek.
âI might mean to,â said Joe, tears tracking down her cheeks. âThe book even says you are not supposed to leave me alone this week, not once, not for an instant. You read it, I know you read it.â
Elliot shrugged. âYouâre not alone alone. I donât want to argue. I wasnât trying to do anything against you. Or us. Iâm happy about Scout.â
âAbout the baby, but thatâs where your interest here stops.â
âWell, I donât want her to grow up hearing our fights, Joe, I donât. Weâre patterning the experiences sheâll gravitate toward later on. I know you donât want to hurt her future chances either.â
âI donât, butââ
âI am pulling with you, Joe. I am. Iâm just overwhelmed with some things, some things I wasnât expecting, that Iâm having trouble dealing with.â
âSee? See? I knew it!â
âDonât go off the deep end now. Donât. You do this. You explode into a fervour when I havenât said anything to rile you up.â
âOkay, fine. Okay. What things?â
âNothing things. Work things, some of them.â Elliot shrugged. â Things, okay?â
âYou need to show me you care, is all,â said Joe.
âDonât I show you? Isnât cooking for you showing you?â Ell did almost all the cooking. A lot of the cleaning. She was no slouch around the house. And no slouch as a partner either, most of the time. Most of their years.
âI need you to notice me ,â said Joe. There were small snuffling noises at her breast, but Scout kept falling asleep instead of nursing and coming off the nipple open-mouthed, head canted like a drunkâfinally food comatose. Could babies feel the stress between a