Social distancing 2020: Interview with Valerie and Ryan
With the Covid-19 epidemic spreading at lightning speed around the world, things are getting harder to bear every day. So I thought you might want to spend a few minutes away from the stressful situation and lose yourself in my fictional world, where my characters have also been forced to social distance and self-isolate in order to stay safe. Actually, I was the one forcing them to! I can’t afford for any of them to get sick, you know? Who would I be writing about, then?
I’ve had a Skype video chat with the quarantined couples, to check how they’ve been coping so far, and I’m going to be sharing the transcriptions of our chats. I’ll start with Valerie and Ryan, the main characters in my Melody duet.
*** Please note: this is unedited, so please excuse any typos or mistakes***
G: Hi, guys. How’s life in good ol’ Ireland?
*Ryan looks away, while Valerie reaches for his hand and gives it a squeeze*
V: We’re all okay, so far. Ireland officially went on lockdown on the 27th of March, though we’d been social distancing even before then, as a precaution.
R: I have been social distancing, while you were playing hero.
*Valerie rolls her eyes and sighs.*
G: Ahem, guys? Is everything okay? Do I sense a little tension here? *I’m happy to be the peacemaker, if they need me to.*
V: He’s not happy I’m still going to work every day. But we already talked about this a hundred times: I’m a doctor, I have to be on the frontline. It’s my job and my duty, as a doctor and as a person. I’m needed now more than ever.
R: We need you too! You can’t blame me for worrying about you, and about our child risking losing her mother. You know I’m not good at twiddling my thumbs at home while you’re out there, in the middle of the battlefield.
*Valerie’s frown softens a little, and she brings Ryan’s hand to her lips.*
V: I’m being extra careful and I would never do anything that could put my life, or the one of the people I love, in jeopardy. You know I can’t look the other way when people are in need, knowing I could have made a difference. If you love me, you can’t ask this of me.
R: It’s because I love you that I don’t want to lose you. You’re my world, Val, you know I’d never be able to live without you.
G: *Okay, this is getting a little too dramatic here. We need a little cheering up.* Um, guys, how’s Aine, by the way? (note: the pronunciation for the Irish name is awn-ye)
*Both their faces brighten at the mention of their 16-month-old baby girl.*
R: She’s doing great! She played her first chords on my piano yesterday, Val filmed it. And she says da-da now. All the time. Actually, it was her first word, even before she said ma-ma. *He’s beaming now, with a face-splitting grin and eyes shining with pride.* She also says piano and nana and poo.
V: And no. She says that a lot.
R: She does.
V: I have no doubt who she took her stubbornness from. *points a thumb toward Ryan with nonchalance.*
R:*chuckles again and wraps an arm around Valerie’s shoulder.* Can’t really argue with that. But she also took her charm from her mommy. She has me wrapped around her little finger, just like her mom. One bat of her eyelashes and I’m practically at her mercy. *He kisses the tip of Valerie’s nose and her gaze turns dreamy.*
G: Aww, guys, you’re so cute! Anyway, how are you coping with the social distancing? What do you do?
R: Since Val’s shifts have become a little crazy lately, I try to help out as much as I can. I’ve turned into a real housewife, sanitizing everything around the house, and I take care of food preparation, especially when she’s at work. Then of course I look after Aine and keep her entertained as best I can. We play the piano together, and she loves it. And since we can’t visit with our families, we FaceTime every day—
V: Though it’s mostly Aine stealing the scene, and everyone else oohing and aahing and cooing at her while we sit there, wondering if they’ve even noticed us.
R: *chuckles.* Yeah, we’ve been relegated to the background since she’s come around. She’s everyone’s little princess now, though Aisling—my niece, remember?—is starting to get a little upset she’s not the baby of the family anymore.
V: But he still spoils her rotten; even more so, as a matter of fact, to make sure she doesn’t feel threatened by Aine’s presence. So he’s still her favorite uncle, anyway.
G: Valerie, aren’t you afraid of bringing the virus into your home? I know this is a rotten thing to ask, but I’m just wondering how you’re doing. It must be tough on you, especially on a psychological level.
*Valerie looks away from the screen.*
G: Sorry, I shouldn’t have asked.
V: No, it’s okay. I’m mainly working in the operating room, since people still need urgent surgery despite the emergency that’s taking up most of the other doctors’ time. I’m being careful, sanitize everything, leave my work clothes at the hospital and leave my shoes outside when I come home. We’ve agreed I’ll call Ryan when I’m in the garage, so he brings Aine into her room and keeps her entertained while I shower and get changed. If the situation worsens, we may have to think of alternative ways, maybe self-isolate on each floor, Ryan with Aine and I on my own. I don’t know; thinking more than a few hours ahead is hard these days.
G: It is. We’ve been in lockdown for a few weeks already, here in Italy, and watching those struggling doctors on TV has been really heartbreaking. I can’t even try to imagine what their families must be going through.
*Ryan squeezes her tighter against his chest. Valerie leans into him and smiles weakly up at him.*
G: *My heart swells. I wish I could reach inside the computer screen and hug them.*
R: We’ll be fine. *he whispers the words against Valerie’s temple but I can still hear them.* We’ve gone through worse, I know we’ll get through this too. Together. You and me and Aine. We’re a family.
*Valerie nods and a weak smile curls her lips. Then they stare at each other and I swear I can see the love they feel for each other surrounding them like an aura. Then a squeal crackles from the baby monitor that must be somewhere close by.*
R: Uh-oh. The little fairy is awake. Better go get her. Grace, will you stick around for a minute? I want you to see her. *His face is alight with pride and love, the sadness all gone now.*
G: *Oh, my. He’s truly besotted.* Sure, I’d love to see her!
*Ryan disappears and Valerie surreptitiously—though not enough—wipes a tear from her cheek.*
V: She’s grown up a lot since you last saw her. You’ll be surprised.
R: Here comes Daddy’s girl! *Ryan’s voice comes from off the screen and a second later he plops onto the sofa, next to Valerie, sitting Aine in his lap.* Here she is!
*That’s all I can say. With her dark curls a bit longer and blue eyes the same shade as the sky, Aine is even more beautiful than she was when I last saw her. She sucks on a pink, flower-shaped pacifier and her chubby fingers squeeze a fluffy white sheep. She still looks a bit sleepy, but her eyes widen when she sees me.*
R: Say hi to Grace, baby girl. She’s the author who wrote Mommy and Daddy’s love story, sharing our happily ever after with readers. You wouldn’t be here if it weren’t for her.
G: Aww, Ryan. *I blush and bring a hand over my heart.*
V: He’s right. We’ll never stop thanking you, Grace. We owe our happiness to you.
A: *waves one of her chubby hands, then shows me her plush toy.* Eep
R: Yeah, that’s a sheep. Good girl. *He kisses the side of her head and his smile turns a little wider, if that’s even possible.*
G: I love your sheep. It’s really nice! I have one too, you know?
V: *chuckles.* That’s her new favorite word, apparently.
R: After da-da, of course.
V: *rolls her eyes* Of course, sweetheart. *She winks conspiratorially at me.*
G: Well, I’d better let you get back to your self-isolation routine, now that the little princess is awake. I bet she wants your full attention.
*They both nod and kiss Aine on each temple.*
V: Thanks for checking on us, Grace. Stay safe, down there. And let’s hope once this is over we can hang out together in Dublin.
R: And you can stay at our place, of course. We’ll save the best room for our matchmaker.
*They chuckle, and I join in.*
G: Thanks, guys. I can’t wait to see you. You stay safe too. And give a big hug to Aine from Auntie Grace. Bye!
*Ryan hugs Aine and Valerie lifts her tiny hand in a wave.*
V & R: Bye, Auntie Grace! See ya soon!
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