Bedtime in the Forever Amber household

So, on Friday night Terry and I are getting ready for bed. I come out of the bathroom, only to find Terry standing at the bedroom window, scanning the street, and sniffing the air like a bloodhound. “Someone in the street’s having a party,” he told me, with an anxious look in his eyes. “But it’s OK! There’s no music! Just… shouting.”

Now, as regular readers will know, I have no tolerance whatsoever for noise, especially when I’m trying to sleep, hence Terry’s anxiety. “Christ,” he was probably thinking, “I’m going to have to listen to her rant about this for hours now. And then I’ll probably have to read her ranting about it again on her stupid blog.” He was only partly right, though, because I actually handled the news better than you would think. You see, I was absolutely exhausted. And while a thumping baseline would have driven me straight to Insanity City, I figured a bit of shouting was nothing I couldn’t block out with my earplugs.

But I was wrong.

Not twenty minutes later, Terry was back at the window. Because it wasn’t some neighbours having a party. No, it was a marauding gang of teenagers, moving up and down the street in a pack. And they were drunk. As skunks. (Why do people say that, by the way? DO skunks drink a lot? Because you never seem to see them buying booze?) You know the sound a crowd at a football match makes? It was like that, only worse. There were about twenty of them, and they’d obviously decided that the Best! Thing! Ever! to do on a Friday night would be to stand around my street, shouting at the tops of their voices.

This went on for at least an hour. The crowd would move from one end of the street to the other, always making sure to stay within our earshot. Then they’d move into the forest opposite the house – also within our earshot – and we’d think they were leaving, only for them all to crowd back out again five minutes later, like, “SURPRISE! It’s us, your drunken teenage friends!” They were so loud that there was no way to block out the sound. All we could do was lie there and listen to the screaming, and you know what? After the first forty minutes, some of the screaming was coming from ME.

Midnight turned to 1am, and still the pack was in action in the street. Terry was still pacing at the window. I was curled up in a ball on the bed, rocking back and forth and muttering, “Why, God, why? Why are you doing this to me? All I wanted was some sleeeeep!” Eventually, Terry snapped. “I’m going out there!” he announced, throwing off his dressing gown dramatically. “NOOOOOO!” I shrieked in horror. “They’re teenagers! They’ll kill you! And also… you’re not wearing anything under your dressing gown!”

Terry was adamant that he could face up to 20 teenagers, and they’d be so terrified they all run straight home to mummy. I was adamant that this would not be happening. So Terry did the next best thing. Throwing open the window, he leaned out and shouted at the top of his voice:

“HEY! YOU LOT! WOULD YOU SHUT THE $%&^^& UP!”

And… nothing. Because the gang were making so much noise themselves that Terry was totally drowned out. He had no choice but to slink back to bed defeated and join me in wondering what we could possibly have done in a past life to justify being tortured like this. Eventually, though,  after another twenty minutes or so of yelling, the teenagers melted away into the night. Silence reigned. Except it didn’t, because no sooner had we settled down to FINALLY get to sleep, but:

“WUFF!”

Rubin had slept soundly throughout the shouting (he sleeps on the other side of the house), but apparently now the silence had awakened him. And was annoying him. We gave it a few minutes to see if he’d settle down.

“WUFF!”

Another few minutes, in case he was just jerkin’ us.

“WUFF!”

With a deep sigh, Terry got up and went to see if Rubin needed to go out. Rubin, however, had other plans. Skillfully evading Terry, he ran at top speed through to the bedroom, and hid under the bed. And he would. not. come. out. Normally the words, “Do you want to go out?” are enough to send Rubin careering downstairs, to slam his body against the back door in excitement. Not this time. No, this time Rubin didn’t WANT to go out. This time, Rubin wanted to sleep in The Big Basket. And he was gonna. Accepting defeat on this issue, and also accepting that it was now approaching 2am, Terry coaxed him out from underneath the bed, and placed him on top of it, where Rubin proceeded to get absolutely hysterical with excitement. “OMG, AMBER!” he seemed to say. “OMG! TERRY! SO EXCITING! SO! EXCITING!”

Usually if Rubin is permitted to sleep in The Big Basket, he will settle down after a minute or so and go straight to sleep. Not this time. This time the hysteria went on, and on, and on, with Rubin trying to lick both our faces repeatedly, and lying down only to jump straight back up and start up the hysteria again. Eventually, however, he found a area of the bed that was to his liking (it was the area my legs normally occupy, but by then I’d have let him sleep on my head if it meant actually getting some sleep), and we all FINALLY settled down to sleep.

Silence reigned for five minutes.

Then Rubin stood up, jumped off the bed and came to place his paws on the edge of it, next to my face. “I need to go out, now,” he said. AAARRGH!

By this point, a headache had settled itself behind my right eye, and was steadily drilling into my brain. There was no way I was budging. “Terry,” I said. “I don’t feel well. I have a really sore head. I think it’s a brain tumour. Also, Rubin needs to go out.”

So poor Terry got up once more and opened the bedroom door. “Come on then, Rubin,” he said resignedly. “Let’s go out.”

“Let’s not,” said Rubin. “Let’s hide under the bed again!”

And he did.

Terry tried to bribe him with everything, but nope, Rubin was not for moving. “Leave him,” I muttered, my hand clamped over my throbbing head. “Just let him sleep there if he wants. He’ll make a nest out of my dressing gown and he’ll be fine. And we’ll get some sleep.”

Terry got back into bed. Silence descended. I was just drifting off to sleep, when:

“HIIIIIIIIIIII!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!” Rubin was back at the side of the bed, his face thrust into mine. “LET’S PLAY!” said Rubin. “PLAY! PLAY! PLAY!” I reached out to pick him up and place him on the bed…

… and he ran and hid underneath it.

GAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHHHH!

I decided to ignore this move and let him sleep there if he wanted. He’d only been sleeping (or doing whatever else he was doing under there) for a few minutes, however, when he suddenly let out a high pitched shriek: the kind of noise dogs make if something has hurt them. This was the third such shriek Rubin had made that day: first, while on his walk and rummaging through undergrowth, he had jumped back and yelped. Then later, while jumping onto the couch, he’d done it again. Both times, I’d examined him, but been unable to find out what was wrong, or why he’d yelped, and he’d seemed perfectly fine, so I’d forgotten about it. And now he’d yelped again.

Well, I reached down and picked him up (And he HAD made a nest out of my dressing gown, by the way) and got him onto the bed. Terry checked him over, but couldn’t find anything wrong with him, so we let him lie down at the bottom of the bed and - wonder of wonders! – this time he actually went to sleep! Aaaaah! Peace!

Or not.

3am came. I was WIDE AWAKE. My head felt like someone was drilling through my eye. And my brain WOULD NOT STOP TALKING TO ME.

“Hi, Amber!” my brain said. “‘S’up? I was just thinking… that was some strange behaviour from Rubin tonight, wasn’t it? He doesn’t normally act like that at bedtime, does he? And you know, he was kinda quiet tonight, don’t you think? Like, when you and Terry were watching TV, and dogs came on, he only got up to stare at the screen a few times.  The rest of the time he just lay there with his nose between his paws. He looked a bit depressed to me, actually. And what was with all of the yelping? Seems like something is wrong with him. I bet something is wrong with him! OMG! What could it be! It sounds like something REALLY SERIOUS!”

By now I was even more wide awake. I nudged Rubin’s sleeping form with my toe, which he happened to be lying on at the time. He didn’t move. I nudged him again. Nothing. Oh my God! He was dead! He was surely dead! I raised my foot up in the air, with his body draped over it, and… Rubin woke up and stared at me like I was a lunatic. “PLAY?” he said. Whoops. I lowered him, and tried to settle down.

“Hi, Amber!” said my brain. “I wouldn’t be convinced by that little performance, by the way. I mean, can YOU see him breathing?”

I raised myself up on my elbow and looked at Rubin. Sure enough, his sides weren’t moving. I leaned closer.

“HE. IS. FINE.” hissed Terry, from beside me. “For God’ sake, go to sleep.”

So I lay back down, but by now my head was absolutely THROBBING. The room was stuffy, and Rubin was lying on my legs, so I got up and opened the window. When I came back to the bed, Rubin was lying in my space, so I squeezed myself into the small area he’d left me, and lay down.

“Hi Amber!” said my brain. “SO! Wonder what the sore head’s all about? Pretty painful, no? Remember that migraine you had last week? That was the second one this month. Been a long time since you had two migraines in a month. Probably not ACTUALLY a migraine, then. Probably a brain tumour. Actually? DEFINITELY a brain tumour.”

“Shut up, brain,” I said. “Is not a brain tumour. Have spoken to doctor about migraines. He said not tumour, just crazy.”

Twenty minutes passed, during which Terry and Rubin sunk into blissful, deep sleeps, and I almost fell off my small corner of the bed.

“HI!” said my brain. “You know how you have that appointment with the optician tomorrow? For your contact lens checkup? Well, two things about that: 1) when he shines those lights into your eyes, he is totally going to see a tumour lurking behind one. Probably the right one. 2) Man, you’re going to feel like CRAP tomorrow if you don’t get some sleep. Look! It’s light outside!”

And it WAS light outside. And I DID feel like crap. I guess I must have slept at some point, because when I woke up, Rubin was next to my head, and I don’t remember how he got there, but it was one of those nights where I felt like I just lay awake ALL NIGHT. When I finally decided to give sleep up as a bad job and got up, my headache was even worse than it had been the night before. It took two large coffees, two paracetamol and two ibuprofen to get me out the door. I went to my optician’s appointment, and discovered that I did NOT have a brain tumour. Or not one that was detectable to an eye doctor, anyway, although it’s amazing he could see ANYTHING in my eyes given how bloodshot they were.

As for Rubin… well, Rubin had some other surprises in store for us that day,  but that, my friends, is another story for another time…

[To be continued...]