A tiny stream of light makes it’s way through my bedroom blinds. Sitting up in bed, I’m the only one awake. The kids are in their rooms, I’ve already peeked in on them. My husband is rolled on his side, eyes closed.
I want so badly to love him. But it’s gone. How do I reignite anything in my heart for him? I can’t seem to remember a time when I loved him the way a wife should. He has always far more far more for me than I have for him. Does he see that?
Getting up, dressing, leaving the bedroom. Trying to be as quiet as possible. But the bathroom door creaks when I open it. It’s been like that for years. He just can’t seem to get to these things around the house.
I wish I didn’t have to live here. All I want is an apartment or small cottage somewhere, no blocks spread out all over the floor, no him with his expectations, no one else’s messes to clean up.
Looking in the bathroom mirror I know my regrets. I regret getting married, having kids, leaving my dreams out of my life. That I didn’t wait to get married. No 20 year old should be allowed to make that kind of commitment.
If only I was still single. Then I could be with Clint.
I’ve always been the kind of girl who likes getting attention from men. When they notice my new haircut or an outfit I put together. Clint always sees those things. He makes me feel so good about myself.
My husband only cares about how much the haircut cost or how much closet space my clothes take.
The car starts up with a quiet rumble.
“I have to go in to work for a bit tomorrow,” I told my husband last night.
“What? But tomorrow’s Saturday,” he said.
“I know. But I have to finish a few things before the weekend.”
“It’s the third time this month.”
“Well, you wanted me to have a job.”
“Maybe you should work harder during the week.”
So, I’m up early, out the door and on my way to have coffee with Clint. All my Saturday outings are to see him. It’s not an affair. We haven’t so much as held hands.
It’s not a complete lie. He’s my boss. We talk about work.
He’s waiting for me, sitting at “our” table. We had to arrange our meetings on the other side of town. Couldn’t have people gossiping.
“Hey, how’s it going?” He stands. “Can I get you some coffee?”
“Thanks, that would be great,” I say. “A mocha would be nice. Thanks.”
“You already said ‘thanks’.”
“Well, it’s early.” But really, I’m nervous.
He brings a couple cups to our table.
“So, how’re the kids?”
“Fine,” I answer. “They were still sleeping when I left.”
“Good. Nice for them.”
We sit in silence. Then chat about weather, office gossip, politics.
“So, how does your husband feel about us getting together like this?” Clint asks.
I shift my eyes away from him. Sip my mocha. Clear my throat.
“He doesn’t know, does he?” His voice is a whisper.
“No,” I answer. “He wouldn’t understand. He’d just get mad.”
“Oh,” Clint looks concerned. “Does he hit you?”
“Of course not. No. He would never.”
“Because if he did, I’d steal you away real quick.”
“Steal me away?”
His smile is coy. “Listen, we need to talk.”
“Did you know that I’ve been married to him for 15 years?”
“That’s a long time.”
“We were 20. He was my first college boyfriend. You know how that goes.”
“I guess.” His voice is tinged with annoyance.
“Sorry. I don’t know why I told you that.”
“It’s okay. I want to know these things about you.” He reaches across the table, touches my hand. It feels both exciting and wrong. “I really like being with you.”
I just smile. That “wrong” feeling won’t go away.
“I want to be able to see you more.” He wraps his fingers around mine.
“We see each other every day.”
“Not in the office. Not like that. And I don’t want to sneak around.”
I pull my hand back. “What do you mean?”
“Look, I have pretty strong feelings for you. And I think you feel the same for me. Right?”
“But I’m married.”
“It can be undone.”
Is he asking me to leave my husband? What about the kids? And all the regrets. The blocks and the mess and the expectations. Could I really pick up and leave it all? What would happen to my kids?
“You mean divorce?” I ask.
“You could start slow. Separation first.” He moves his chair to my side of the table, puts his hands on my knees. “It’s pretty obvious that you aren’t happy with him. I promise that I would make you happy.”
“But where would I live? I don’t have anywhere I could go. This is just crazy.”
“Live with me.”
“I don’t know. It’s too much.”
“Think about it. You have time. I’m not trying to push you into anything. But I want to be with you.”
“Let me think about it.” I stand, pull the strap of my purse over my shoulder. “I’ll let you know.”
I take the long way home. It’s pouring down rain. I can barely see through the windshield.
Stay with my family. Go with Clint. I go back and forth. What’s the right thing? Who can I talk to?
I pull onto my street. Puddles have gathered in the low spots of the sidewalk. Blurry figures up ahead are jumping, splashing, kicking in the water.
My husband has the kids out, jumping in mud. Another mess for me to clean up.
Getting out of the car, hoping to get inside before I become drenched.
“Mom! Mom!” My kids run to me.
“Hug mom,” my husband tells them.
Four soaked children cling to me, getting me wet.
“Why did you tell them to do that?” I ask my husband, near to crying. I’m so frustrated, so confused. “Look, they’re getting me all muddy.”
“You never looked more beautiful.” He smiles at me. It’s the smile he used to give me so long ago. “Come on kids, let’s see who can make the biggest splash!”
I watch him hold the hand of my daughter. He rustles the hair of one of my sons. He laughs and smiles and dances in the rain with my children. Our children.
My heart feels warm. There is nothing wrong in loving him. But so much could be lost if I go with Clint.
Clint, Clint. Even thinking his name causes my stomach to clench. Not with butterflies, but with anxiety.
“Mom! Come here! We found a giant worm!” My daughter, the only girl of the four, holds up a handful of slither and slime. “You’ve got to see this!”
I stay. The kids and the family and the home remain whole.
I leave. The kids split weeks between me and their dad. I tear our one flesh in two. Everything gets broken.
“Mom. Come on,” she calls to me.
My feet slosh through the puddle. My hands, open to hold the worm she found. My life, wanting to belong in my family.