Rose hates it. She hates every single second of the state she’s in.
It’s two days before her monthly arrives, and she feels rotten. Properly miserable. She’s achy all over, the small of her back feels like it’s stabbed by a crowd of angry mice armed with dessert forks. Her life seems dim and prospectless, and although Rose knows perfectly well that such thoughts are her hormones' fault, she still feels like throwing a huge pity party to her existence.
Scratch that. She feels like arranging a wake for her life, not a simple crying session.
Black seems to be the most suitable colour for her mood.
Rose is lying on the far side of the double bed, feeling confined and uncomfortable in her work attire, but she’s far too tired to move. She knows she’ll feel lighter, better if she changes from the black pencil skirt, the cream blouse, and the boned bra, but even thinking about getting up and going to the dresser makes her want to whine.
Rose attempts to get comfortable, but it’s to no avail. There’s no relief even in curling into a miniscule ball of misery that she is. Rose knows very well that staying as she is now will not put her out of her misery; that only a scalding shower, muscle relaxants and her favourite flannel jim jams with a cup of tea will make her feel vaguely human again, but she can’t muster the strength to complete these actions.
Chocolate with salty crackers. That’s what she should add to the ‘feel better’ list.
If only she could start ticking the points off it right now.
Rose groans and turns her face into the pillow, muffling her scream of despair.
Her period hasn’t even started yet, and she felt like lying down and dying already.
The bra bone pokes her in the left side mercilessly, and the zip of the skirt is askew because of her constant wriggling, and the waistband of her neutral-coloured tights cuts into her bloated belly.
Stars above. This is pure torture.
Rose sniffs and closes her eyes. She feels tired. Exhausted. Drained even. It’s like her life forces, all the energy that she possesses, is sucked dry by her own hormones, like her own body depleted her will to live.
What a betrayal.
Exhaustion continues looming over Rose in sluggish, persistent waves, and she gives into their power. She promises herself to only rest her eyes for a couple of minutes. Ten minutes tops. Then she’ll get a grip, put on the kettle and go take a nice, hot shower.
Just where did she put the painkillers? Are they in the cupboard in the bathroom? Or are they on the shelf in the kitchen next to the coffee jar?
Rose doesn’t bother to try and remember the location of the pills. She’ll think about it later.
Rose falls into a restless sleep instantly after hugging the pillow closer to her chest.
Rose is awakened slowly by someone’s presence near her.
“Rose? What’s the matter? You’re not usually asleep at this time of day. Are you ill?” John’s low voice vibrates through Rose’s tired body, soothing her. He’s squatting in front of her prone form, and she can’t see the expression on his face because it’s dark in the room, but she knows that his brow must be pinched with worry.
Right. They’ve only been living together for two weeks, and John is yet to live through the whole Rose’s monthly package experience. They’ve discussed and decided that it was more convenient (let alone less money-consuming) for Rose to move into John’s apartment and to stop renting the little studio in the outskirts of London. Rose insisted upon paying half the rent and half the electricity bills, even though John assured her that it wasn’t a problem. Rose Tyler, however, wasn’t accustomed to anyone providing her things on a silver plate, and she valued her independence, and protected it fiercely. She knows for sure that she can trust John; she feels calm and safe in his presence even during the times of crisis, even when life gets tough. Still, she is quite capable of taking care of herself, and she won’t allow her mother the satisfaction of calling Rose a kept woman.
Rose and her mother, Jackie, have got their differences.
Lots of differences.
That’s probably the reason why Rose moved out of Jackie’s place when she was 16. And then again when she was 20.
Look, it’s a long story for another day.
So, John and Rose have been living in John’s apartment for about two weeks now, and it is the first time that Rose spends her worst days in his company. Usually she was able to beg several days off their dates and meetings, but now that they lived together it wasn’t an option anymore.
Oh, God. She really should have thought about it before. Rose should have warned John…
She must look like a fright now. A worn-out, whiny, miserable fright of a woman.
Rose is not sure that she’s ready for John to witness her suffering, although she’s sure that she won’t have a say in the matter.
John is very persistent when it comes to her well-being.
“Rose? Can you hear me? Are you feeling unwell?” John’s imploring voice breaks through the foggy thoughts in Rose’s mind, and she returns to awareness, hating to make him worry.
“No,” she croaks out and clears her throat before explaining, “No, I’m not ill.”
The way John’s eyebrows rise to his forehead expresses his disbelief.
“I’m…it’s my…I…that is,” Rose stutters, stumbling over words like a school girl that she isn’t anymore. She hasn’t felt this embarrassed discussing her monthlies since she was 13 and was alone at the gynecologist’s office for the first time.
But she’s not 13 anymore, and this is John, her partner, her lover, the man she adores, the man she loves, and if she wants their relationships to work, Rose needs to be open.
No matter how uncomfortable the whole predicament is.
John’s low baritone awakens Rose from her mental stroll again.
“Rose? What is it? You know I’m a doctor, right? There’s nothing I don’t know about a human’s body. You can tell me what’s bothering you, love.”
And just like that, Rose is on the verge of tears. Only this time, they aren’t just threatening to fall; they are already gliding down her cheeks unevenly.
“Oh, John. It’s so silly. My monthlies are due in a couple of days, and I feel…I feel wretched,” Rose squeezes the words out, eyes shut down tightly, and she is mortified because of her state. Her words come out in patchy patterns, broken by the sobs that she tries to hold back.
God, this is hell. Falling apart completely for seemingly no reason but her stupid hormones, and doing so in front of John, and oh…
Oh! Rose opens her eyes wide in surprise at John’s tender touch to her cheeks. He’s smiling at her sympathetically while wiping the saltwater off her skin with his thumbs.
Rose can’t help jumping up into his embrace from her prone position. John laughs quietly at Rose’s enthusiasm and hugs her tightly, causing her to squeak in delight.
They stay like this for several minutes. John is stroking her back in round, soothing motions while waiting for Rose’s hiccups to slow down, and he’s taking great pleasure at the way she’s playing with the short hair at the nape of his neck. They continue sitting like this until John’s legs complain by experiencing pins and needles, and Rose flinches because of the zip of her skirt biting the skin of her waist.
“Tell you what,” John starts with a smile, “how about I run you a bath and make you a cup of tea? Something herbal to help you relax?” he sounds so sincere, his voice full of gentle concern, and Rose feels the tears burning her eyes again.
Naturally, John notices.
“Now, Rose, no more crying. My special mix will make you feel better in no time,” John bops her nose gently as he’s helping her to unbutton her work shirt, deft fingers releasing buttons from the loops efficiently. Rose slouches ungracefully on the bed when he pulls the skirt down her legs as well as the tights, and she purrs in satisfaction when John hovers above her body, kissing her cheeks, her neck, her shoulders while unfastening the clasp of her bra.
It’s her least beautiful bra, Rose worries half-heartedly, and she’s wearing her most unflattering knickers, but it all doesn’t matter because suddenly John crawls off her body to bring Rose her cotton robe.
Well, at least this one’s in a colour that compliments Rose’s complexion, and for all its plainness, it’s trimmed with white lace at the hem and the sleeves. The peach-coloured cotton soothes Rose’s skin, and she feels like she can breathe freely again.
John smiles tenderly at Rose’s lighter mood, and he bends to place a kiss on her nose. This earns him a bright, grateful smile, but he sees the tiredness lurking in the brown of his lover’s eyes.
He pats her shoulders and tells her to lie down while he’s making necessary preparations.
Rose, utterly spent and unwilling to do anything at all, gladly obliges.
She closes her eyes, relaxing in the plushy comforter on the bed. As if through the fog, she can hear the sound of the water running in the bathroom, and she thinks that she can hear John muttering over the wide assortment of cosmetic bottles on Rose’s shelf. He still can’t get over the price of the bath bombs (she has to agree, the good ones cost a small fortune sometimes), bless him, and he is often overwhelmed by the sheer amount of bath oils, shower gels and lotions that Rose uses.
Now, he never comments on the way Rose spends her money, but she will never get over the expression of his face when he first learnt about the price of the handmade bath bombs that Rose favours so much.
Rose smiles lazily, amused at John’s puzzled murmurings, and she thinks that she falls asleep because the next thing she is aware of is John’s callused palm stroking her shoulder.
“Wake up, Rose, the bath is ready. And tea should be here any minute now,” he speaks in a low voice, his accent even deeper because of his worry, and Rose tries to gather the will to stand up and enjoy the bath he has drawn so kindly.
Rose stands up forcefully, grunting, and follows John’s lead in the bathroom’s direction. He leaves her alone for privacy and promises to return soon with tea.
Rose is standing on the tiled floor blessing her lucky star. What did she do in this life to deserve a bloke like John in her life? She’s never been with a man so perfect. Don’t get her wrong, they both have their moments, and John’s got his faults and bad habits just like she does. Thing is, Rose is willing to put up with his habits because she loves him. Truly, unashamedly, sincerely loves him. Rose suspects that he does the same because he loves her, too.
She knows that this relationship is not about being with the coolest guy in the school, or dating someone to live with them and not her mother, and it’s not about staying with a boy out of fear of his revenge if she dares to leave him.
No, being with John is different. It’s a healthy, supportive, nurturing relationship where both of them feel loved equally. It’s a safe haven against the brutality of the world they live in, and it’s a comfort zone for John and Rose.
It’s a new hope for them. For John, the man traumatized by his time spent serving in the army, and for Rose, raised in a single-parent household of an unfortunate neighbourhood and a string of careless boyfriends.
John and Rose aren’t perfect separately, but they go perfect together.
Rose undresses lazily, leaving the robe and her bra on the floor and only bothering to hide her knickers in the hamper with the dirty laundry. She steps into the bath and hisses appreciatively at the water’s temperature, feeling her muscles unwind instantly. Maybe she’s compelling herself by thinking that she already feels better, but maybe it’s the magic of John’s solicitous care.
Vanilla-scented bubbles on the surface of the water also help Rose’s sour mood.
Rose suspects that it’s been some time since she’s sunk into the bathwater when she opens her eyes to see John entering the bathroom carrying a small tray. There are two teacups and a plate with toast there, as well as a glass of water and a tiny paper cup the contents of which she can’t see.
“How’s the water?” John queries but he already knows the answer by looking at Rose’s face, softened by the feel of the warmth of the water.
Rose gives him a little smile and draws herself up a bit, extending her hands for the cup on the tray.
“Someone’s eager, eh?” John is grinning, too, now that he sees that Rose’s smile is genuine.
“Well, you did promise me a cuppa,” drawled Rose flirtatiously.
“And a cuppa you shall receive,” replied John with a wink.
“What’s in there?” Rose peers at the small paper cup on the tray.
“Muscle relaxants. But only,” and John’s looking at Rose admonishingly, “only after you have some toast. I bet you haven't had anything since lunch.”
Rose rolls her eyes good-naturedly. He knows her so well. She hasn’t eaten since lunch, and lunch consisted of half a sandwich and a can of cola. Rose knows that consuming caffeine and artificial sugar in huge amounts actually makes the symptoms of PMS and the cramps worse. But Rose is ready to punch the person who writes so in the Internet articles because the only thing that brings one serotonin and some relief before period hits is caffeine and sugar. Lots of sugar.
Screw healthy eating habits very much, summarises Rose only to groan a moment later when she sees an avocado toast on the plate that John brought.
Damn. She really wanted a Cadbury bar.
Rose still tries to be grateful for John’s support, but he sees past her grimace that she was expecting something else as a treat.
“Now, stop your pouting, Rose Tyler. I know it seems like the worst option now, but it’s actually the best. If you take pills after cramming a tube of Pringles, you’ll feel much worse, believe me,” he smirks knowingly at Rose’s unhappy face.
“What do you even know about it? You’re a man! You’ve no idea what it feels like!” John’s words ruffled Rose’s feathers, and she’s getting in the mood to fight. The topic is a sore point for Rose today of all days, and she’s ready to vent her uneasiness and hurt to John.
John, however, knows better than to say anything remotely dismissive and disrespectful about it. Working with women taught him to be more open and attentive to their periodical problems, and many a time the treatment he offered or other specialist’s consultation were able to solve said women’s health problems and made their lives easier.
Sometimes attention and care are the only best medicine, after all.
“You’re right, I don’t know what it feels like. I’ve no idea about backache, mood swings, cravings, uterus cramps, dizzy spells, nausea, diar…”
“I get it, I get it! Gosh, you think you’re so impressive,” Rose interrupts him before he gets to the most embarrassing displays of a menstrual cycle.
John gasps theatrically.
“I am so impressive!”
“You wish,” she gives John her best dazzling smile.
John harrumphs but Rose can see him hiding a smirk. God, she loves their playful banter.
“Eat your toast, Rose, and then take the pills. I promise you’ll feel better in no time,” encourages John, and Rose smiles at him gratefully when she takes the toast.
After making a sip from her cup, Rose hums appreciatively at the taste. Chamomile.
“Chamomile tea. There’s no caffeine, it has a calming effect, acts as a natural spasmolytic and can also be a disinfectant,” John is full into his doctor mode, as Rose calls it, when he counts the benefits of chamomile using his fingers.
“Yeah, yeah, yeah. I’m so impressed. Just give me the pills already.”
She washes the pills down with the remnants of warm tea, and grins mischievously when she notices John’s eyes wander to her breasts that are visible now that the bubbles have dissipated. John sees that he’s caught staring and averts his eyes, and the very tips of his prominent ears blush.
He’s so endearing.
“See something that you like then?” teases Rose knowingly.
“Can’t help it. You’re beautiful,” John deadpans in reply, and Rose’s breath hitches at the raw sincerity in his words.
Never has the simple adjective ‘beautiful’ held so much power to Rose’s heart.
“Aww,” drawls Rose happily, “for all your cold glares and bluster, you’re such a romantic inside!”
“I’ll show you romantic,” and he gives her a peck on the lips before taking the empty cup from her hands. Rose realises that his cup is empty, too, and wonders how much time they spent talking and drinking tea. The water is not cold but already feels uncomfortable to stay in, and Rose craves the comfort of her bed.
“Finish your bath, love, and come to bed. The painkillers should kick in any time now, and you’ll be able to rest properly.”
Rose smiles wistfully at John’s retreating form and plunges her arms into the water in search of the plug. While the tepid water is draining down, Rose is slathering her body in her favourite shower gel, and she switches the shower on to wash off the lingering exhaustion of the day.
She quickly finishes and towels the water off her body, noticing that her robe is no longer on the floor but is folded neatly on the counter along with a clean pair of knickers.
John has taken care of that, too. Just when did he manage to do so?
Rose’s heart melts. She can’t believe that she is the one to be loved by him in the whole wide world. Being John’s chosen one is still the biggest mystery to Rose, and she spent many nights pondering his love for her before succumbing to sleep.
She’s smart enough not to question his choice, though. She’ll gladly take what he gives her. She’ll enjoy his presence in her life no matter how long it lasts.
Rose hopes it will last forever.
God, what a childish thing to wish for.
The bed is ready for Rose to crawl in the moment she steps out of the steamy atmosphere of the bathroom. John is nowhere in sight but Rose can hear the clattering of the dishes in the kitchen.
For a man who dislikes domestics vehemently, John sure is doing a lot of it, Rose notices happily.
Rose sheds her robe, leaving it at the foot of the bed, and dives under the duvet, nearly purring at the warmth and comfort that she feels. She swears she’s never been this happy to spread out on the mattress, and the sweet lethargy after the hot bath adds to the feeling of contentment and peace.
Or maybe it’s the pills’ doing. Rose really doesn’t care.
She must have drifted off under the pleasant heaviness of the duvet because the next thing she feels is John’s lean body climbing in next to her. They’re lying face to face now. His hand finds hers in the darkness, and he presses it to his lips, kissing her fingers tenderly. Rose shuts her eyes under the onslaught of John’s affection.
He pulls her body closer and helps her turn her back to him. He knows she loves it when he’s being the big spoon to her little one. It’s the safest she ever feels in her life. John’s skin is moist after a quick shower in the places where he didn’t bother to dry it enough in his haste to join her. He’s wearing nothing but his boxer briefs, just like Rose does, and skin-to-skin contact is the most blissful feeling in the world.
The warmth and the smell of John’s body wash envelops Rose in the darkness, and she’s all too ready to return to the dreamland when she hears John’s soft whisper.
“Sweet dreams, love. It’ll all be better tomorrow.”
And Rose knows that it will.