If you’re just joining, please check out https://susiefinkbeiner.wordpress.com/2011/07/18/single-part-1-short-story/ and https://susiefinkbeiner.wordpress.com/2011/07/19/single-part-2/
“There is no us, Anthony,” I say. Something inside makes me want to play games. Manipulate him. It would feel good to make him cry. Would that mean that he still loves us? “Hasn’t been for years.”
He sighs. “Marley, I wasn’t a good husband to you. Wasn’t even a good dad.”
That’s true. But could he have changed enough for a second chance? Or am I just lonely, groping for whatever I can reach?
“But you were never the best wife to me,” he says. “You never knew how to talk to me.”
“Did you ever learn to listen?”
“Listen, we had some real rough times. But there were some good things, right?”
“I don’t remember any good times with you.” That’s a lie. There were great times. Beautiful times. But I need him to tell me. I want him to remind me. I want him to tell me what he missed about me.
“Not even one? I wasn’t a monster.”
No, not a monster. More like a disengaged sloth.
“Why are you here, Anthony?”
Standing up, putting his hands in his pockets, pacing the room. “I always thought marriage was supposed to be easy. But it wasn’t. Nobody told me it would be so much work.”
“Who told you it would be easy?”
“My parents made it seem effortless. They just did their thing and raised us kids.” He stops and looks out the window. “They never screamed at each other.”
“I didn’t scream.”
He’s looking for something. “Well, close enough.”
“Hey, what are you looking for?”
“Nothing.” He turns around. “Anyway. I thought I’d give up on marriage after you kicked me out.”
“I didn’t kick you out. You left.”
“That’s not how I remember it. You told me to leave.”
“No. I said that you might as well. You were never really attentive to us. There was no difference with you gone. Not a single difference.”
That’s a lie. The difference was in the kids. They folded in on themselves. Didn’t trust, didn’t smile as much. They needed him. Was it really my fault? Did I really send him away from them?
“That’s why I’m here. I want to give marriage another try.”
“I’m confused.” Something isn’t right. “What are you talking about?”
I’m too exposed. But all my defenses are down. Sarcasm, bitterness, snark, biting insults, bluffs. All far too overwhelmed to snap to action. I’ve worked so hard since he left to hide myself, who I really am. I became mean and nasty. A hard worker. Now all that is failing me.
“I don’t want to give up on marriage. You know, I miss being in a loving relationship.”
“Did we have a loving relationship?”
“Once. Yeah, I think we did. At the beginning.”
I don’t want to go back there with him. Or do I? Everything is so confusing.
“So, you’re looking for a relationship?”
“I’ve found one.” He looks outside again.
“I swear, if you look out that window one more time, I’m going to bash you in the head.” Oh. There’s the mean and nasty. “Will you please just tell me what you’re talking about?”
“I got married.”
“You did what?” I try to suck in air without him noticing.
“I met her…it doesn’t matter where I met her. But we got married. I thought you should know.”
I don’t love this man. Can’t even stand him. But somehow there’s pain in my soul. Just knowing that there is a replacement is awful.
“That’s not all. There’s more, isn’t there?” I know this man’s holding back. “Just tell me. I know you didn’t come here just to tell me that you got married.”
“Right.” He clears his throat. “We’re moving to Hong Kong. That’s where she’s from.”
“When are you leaving?”
“As soon as she gets here. She’s going to pick me up and we’ll be on our way to the airport.”
So the ring, the shifty behavior, the constant peeks out the window. Now I understand.
“You didn’t say ‘good-bye’ to the kids.”
“Can you do that? Let them know that I love them?”
“Yeah. But they won’t believe it.”
“What? Right. I wouldn’t either.”
“You’re leaving them again. And without even really talking to them. They’re going to hate you no matter what I tell them.”
“Well, I can’t really do anything about that.”
Headlights flash in the window. She’s here to get him.
“That’s her, huh?” I ask. “What’s her name?”
“Cindi. She’s real nice.” He looks at me. “You want to meet her or something?”
“No. That’s stupid.”
“True.” He’s thinking about something. “Should I hug you or something?”
“Just go, Anthony. We’ll be fine without you.”
And this time it’s not a bluff.