25 - Uneaten Eggs

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Liz's taxidermy expert friend, the guy from the museum, was named Matthew Cook. Nat woke in high spirits the morning they were scheduled to meet: She was certain that he would find something that would tell them what to do with the damned dog, one way or the other, and that would be one less thing she'd have to worry about. Either he would identify it as some expensive relic and they could sell it, or he would confirm that it was a worthless curiosity and they could get rid of it. Perhaps he might even want to buy it for himself, saving them the trouble of finding a buyer.

Of course, knowing the answer about the dog would not keep her from wondering about Anthony Rivera and the day he murdered his wife and daughter. It would not solve the mystery of the storage unit or drive the crime scene photos from her mind. Only time and distance would do that. 

But the dog was creepy, and Nat would be happy to see it gone all the same. 

She woke early and was in the kitchen, trying to make omelets, when Liz made her way down the hall, wearing a robe and a half-lidded, tired expression. She looked older than she was, the deep circles under her eyes and the wrinkles at the edge of her mouth prematurely aging her. She looked like someone recovering from a long, difficult illness, which made no sense as she had been perfectly normal just a few days ago. 

Besides. Nat was the one having the nightmares. 

 "Coffee?" Nat asked, looking back over her shoulder at her wife. She poked at the mess of eggs in the pan, attempting to dislodge them so the omelet could be flipped, but they stuck; after jabbing it with a spatula a few times, she gave up, deciding on a scramble instead. Omelet flipping could be added to the list of domestic tasks which she had yet to master.

Liz was usually the early riser of the two of them, always up and ready for work long before Nat had convinced herself to get out of bed, and seeing her looking so disheveled at this hour put her immediately on edge. Liz did not reply to the question about coffee, and did not sit at the table; she lingered, instead, at the opening of the hall, and rubbed sleepily at her eyes.

"I'm not feeling great," she said, and stifled a yawn. "I think...I'm going back to bed."

"I'm meeting with Matt Cook today," Nat responded, the furrow in her brow deepening. It was not like Liz to take sick days, either. "Do you want me to just open up late?"

"Whatever you think is best."

The eggs were burning, and Nat hurriedly cut the heat and scraped them onto a plate, leaving behind a quantity of browned egg and blackened bits of vegetable in the pan. She frowned at them. "Do you need me to get you anything? Pain pills or cold medicine or...?"

"I just need some sleep, I think. Can you get Liam off to school for me?"

"Sure, yeah." 

There were still a few weeks left in the school year before summer vacation; weeks in which they were supposed to think of a plan for Liam's summer, a day camp or activity that could keep him busy while they worked. Neither had done so. They had hoped, right up to the hour, that Kyle's custody requests would go unanswered and that Liam would cease to be their concern for a few months.

But that hadn't happened, and now summer was right around the corner, preparing to ambush them with punishment for their lack of planning. Nat thought about bringing that up, but didn't think it was the right time. She wasn't sure when a good time would be. She had never been good at figuring out where she fit in the puzzle of Liz and her old marriage and their child. It seemed like a Liz-and-Kyle thing to figure out, however anxious it made her not to know the answer.

Nat turned, leaving the burnt eggs on the counter behind her, and looked at her wife curiously. The last few days had been strange. Liz hadn't brought up Liam's nightmare again, and Nat hadn't touched the topic herself either — but it had hung between them, heavy with its unspoken weight, clouding the spaces between them. And there was another weight between them, unspoken parts of each other's worlds. Nat had not told Liz everything about the Riveras. Liz had not told Nat everything about her meeting with the lawyers. 

They were small things. Unimportant, really, in the big picture. 

But things that grew up between them, and slowly pushed them apart. Things Nat wanted to broach, but could not. 

"Go back to bed. I'll get everything under control here."

She crossed the kitchen, leaning in for a kiss, and Liz pulled away, putting up her hands as if in defense. 

"I don't want to get you sick, too."

Right. It could be contagious, except Liz just needed some sleep. Nat recognized bullshit when she heard it, but she let it go. She knew when she needed to pick her battles, and there were too many piling up at once. It seemed better to let it slide. 

She would get Liam off to school, and then she would visit Matt Cook the taxidermy specialist, and then that would be one problem solved. And then she would come home and maybe Liz would be feeling better and they could have a proper talk, catch up on the details of each other's lives. She'd keep the shop closed for the day if she had to. It wouldn't hurt anything to take a little break to get everyone back on the same page. 

Liz left, wandering without preamble back down the hall, and Nat went to get Liam out of bed. 

The eggs, growing cold, sat uneaten and forgotten on their plate. 

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