I haven't written for ages so this was just to see if anything flows. Let me know if anyone is interested in me carrying on with this as a full story?
They'd decided to stay together during lockdown, all 3 of them. Chloe still needed emotional support and comfort from Ange and the realisation that if they lived separately they wouldn't be able to see each other meant logistically it just made sense. Dom joined in too, deciding that the world had gone mad but he may as well use it to his advantage and bond with his family, plus with the long hours it seemed logical to travel together.
They'd thought it would be for a few weeks, maybe a month at most. Then that month turned into two, and then into 3.
They were still going out for their shifts obviously so the true cabin fever hadn't affected them as badly as others but sometimes it still felt like they were stuck in some alternate universe.
They'd seen the horror of the virus at work first-hand, the parents dying without their children, the children dying without their parents. Nothing was the way it was meant to be.
The stress took its toll on all of them, everyone was emotional and slightly grumpy. They were all exhausted but had settled into a good routine.
Ange loved having her babies under one roof, something she'd never truly experienced before. She went into superhuman mode, checking they had everything they needed, anticipating what they wanted before they even had to ask. Dom and Chloe both enjoyed not having to do things for themselves, relaxing into that childhood mode again.
Everything was settling slightly, they were working hard then home to their own bubble of bliss, safe and content together, until it wasn't a safe bubble anymore.
Chloe had had a few difficult shifts, she'd looked after a poorly patient who died but there was more to it, more than what she'd admit to Ange and Dom.
They knew something was wrong but no amount of coaxing would get Chloe to talk. She'd started to go into her shell again, skittish and restless.
Ange heard her moving around at 2am most nights, exercising in her room to burn off some of her anxious energy. She would keep going until she was exhausted, flopping back onto the bed and falling asleep for the next couple of hours until she had to wake up for work.
She became paranoid about the virus, she'd always been anxious about things but never about catching something at work. Her hands were raw from washing them so often, they cracked and bled but still she scrubbed them, ignoring the pain – convinced the germs would get in through the open wounds. She was getting changed into her own clothes at the end of her shift which wasn't abnormal but as soon as she got home she stripped off, shoving whatever she was wearing into the washing machine and turning it onto the hottest wash. She ran to the shower, the steam enveloping her body as she stepped under the scalding hot water. Once she was back into her PJ's the hand scrubbing began again, convinced she had touched something in the process of getting changed
Their shopping was done online, it made sense with their shifts but Chloe didn't like it. She didn't know who had picked it up, who'd packed it and who delivered it. She wiped everything over with Dettol wipes when it arrived then insisted they stored it all for 3 days without touching it. Ange suggested they could just go shopping themselves, chose what they wanted – try to alleviate those anxieties but Chloe couldn't actually face the shops, even with social distancing she felt there were too many people around. She saw people with typical winter colds but convinced herself they the virus. She grabbed the bare essentials and ran out the shop. She also wouldn't let Ange or Dom go, worried they were putting themselves at risk.
Both Ange and Dom noticed it, the change in her mental state. Initially, they put it down to work stress – everyone was feeling the strain and there were posters all over the hospital for counselling services for the staff. They hoped it was a normal albeit heightened response to the virus. They were surrounded by it, by something that nobody really knew how to deal with. Surely some extra vigilance couldn't hurt?
It was only when they noticed the alcohol gel all over the house, the dry, cracked hands, the blood stained towels, the obsession about it all that they realised it had risen way beyond vigilance.
That was the trouble with Chloe, she managed to keep it all under the radar until it had got to a point where she was in trouble – where it was difficult to pull her back.
There had been the hushed conversations between Dom and Ange, the worried glances across the kitchen as she scrubbed her hands for the 4th time in a row, seeming to be stuck in an endless loop of scrubbing them with soap, washing them off with water then drying them.
Ange could practically see the thoughts building in her daughter's head. She saw as Chloe dried her hands then sat there, fidgeting and having to resist the urge to run back to the tap. She saw the discomfort in her eyes increase until eventually she caved in, trying to casually stroll away without anyone noticing until she was back scrubbing every inch of her skin, picking at and cuts and digging under her nails.
One evening they were all sat there watching TV. They had managed to get a few days off together which was practically unheard of so they were enjoying the calmness in the air, the peace of knowing there would be no early mornings, no pressure from work and no stress.
It was Dom who noticed it first, Chloe was sprawled across the sofa, her legs draped over Ange's lap while he was perpendicular to them. He saw her ripping at some of the dry skin on her hands, scratching the edge until it lifted enough for her to rip it off. He stared at Ange anxiously, desperately trying to get her attention but she was so fixated on the musical on tv that she was totally oblivious. Dom shifted in his seat, shook the blanket casually to catch her eye. This time it worked, as soon as their gaze met he shifted his eyes towards Chloe, causing Ange to glance over too. Once she saw Chloe scraping her hands she reached over, pushing her own hands in between so her daughter couldn't hurt herself anymore.
It wasn't intentional, that's what Chloe said and they believed her. Sometimes when they caught her she seemed genuinely surprised, as if she had no idea she was doing it.
Chloe snapped back into reality and moved her hands away, she flipped the lid on her alcohol gel bottle and squirted some into her hands. Ange watched as she rubbed intently, covering every inch of her skin. She wasn't sure whether Chloe did it because she had touched her or if it was coincidental. The anxiety grew in her own stomach, sure that this had spiralled into something more than they could manage. She pushed it down and tried to reassure herself she was being overprotective again.
She turned her attention back to the film, starting to relax again when no more than 5 minutes later she heard the familiar click and squeeze again. Without taking her eyes off the TV she spoke, trying to sound as casual as possible "You've only just done that, be careful – you'll make your hands more sore"
Chloe flushed slightly, embarrassed at being caught. She shifted, bringing her legs underneath herself – practically curling into a ball "They're all cracked already – I'm just making sure I keep them clean.."
Dom frowned slightly – trying not to be judgement but knowing he had to say something "You've not moved at all Chlo, or touched anything for that matter. You can't possible have anything on them"
Chloe immediately turned defensive, the scowl appearing on her face " Well I have a terrible habit of biting the skin so I just want to make sure" she held her hands out in front of her, inspecting them closely as if she could see some dirt on them. Dom reached out to grab them but managed to stop himself at the last second, aware she probably wouldn't want anyone touching her, he couldn't help but notice how bad they'd gotten though "They look really, really sore. Haven't you got some cream to put on them? You need to moisturise them or else they'll just get worse and you'll end up with an infecti…" Chloe cut him off quickly with a snort "I know that! That's why I'm cleaning them! Yes I have got cream but its so thick and greasy I can only use it at night. Otherwise it'll stop me being able to touch anything" Dom's eyebrows rose quickly but he managed to hide it "or stop you from washing them you mean?"
Before Chloe could respond Ange decided to cut the conversation short, she knew how Chloe was – confronting her like this wouldn't help. She made a mental note to buy a lighter hand cream to try and cajole her into using it more often but she knew it was unlikely to work. When Chloe was much younger she suffered from terrible eczema and even when she had a flare up she refused to let Ange cream her daily. She would avoid it whenever possible until Ange would have to pin her down and block out her screams as she rubbed it as gently as possible into her flaky skin. She remembered once Chloe had a reaction to some woollen clothing, behind her knees was scabbed and bleeding but Chloe still ran away and writhed around in Ange's lap as she tried to keep her still enough to put anything on it. Chloe would sit on the rough carpet, shuffling herself around to scratch her skin against it until it bled. Even then she hated the greasy feeling of it on her skin, acting like Ange had poured acid over her.
"You'll have to leave them alone though Chloe or I'll tape gloves onto your hands like I used to, remember? Anyway, I'm exhausted – I'm heading to bed. You kids play nicely ok?" She glanced at Chloe, then dom – she realised in that moment it was always in that order, Chloe first to check her response, to see how she was then Dom when she realised her youngest was ok. "Why don't you come up to bed too? You both look exhausted…plus if you're lucky i'll make you breakfast if you're up early enough" Both of them groaned at the same time, Dom being the one to respond first "Ergh, no thanks! That's just another reason to stay up binge watching netflix tonight! Chlo, staying with me?" Chloe had already started rising from the sofa though, her body aching and longing to catch a few extra hours before the daily insomnia kicked in. She shrugged her shoulders apologetically "Tomorrow?"
Dom quickly filled their spaces on the sofa as the two of them trudged upstairs. Ange turned around at Chloe's door and went onto her tip toes as she kissed her daughter's forehead, "Try and get some rest" there was a moment where neither one spoke, Ange held her breath as she hoped Chloe was about to open up to her but as Chloe nodded slightly and slipped inside the bathroom she sighed slowly. She knew she had to address this soon, or at least get Chloe to open up to somebody. As she crawled into bed she planned how to tackle this latest blip, acutely aware that this was the best chance she was going to get while they were all forced together, stuck inside the house.