“Cameron, I’ve had a long day, too. I work just as hard at my job as you do at yours, and I’m constantly picking up the slack with Toby and the house. This place doesn’t run itself.” I didn’t even have to think to come up with the words – we’d argued about this so many times that it almost felt like a script.
Only this time I wasn’t going to play the same role.
Time. There was never enough time…. but sometimes, there was too much of it. I’d spent way too much time by myself in that house, lying in the dark bedroom, spending gritty, uncomfortable hours staring at the ceiling as I waited for Cameron to come home – ignoring the sound of the shower he only took on the nights he was late.
Time. I think it was time.
I crossed over the room and went to stand in front of him again. “I’m serious, Cam. Where were you?”
He looked up from his glass, moody, a heat to his lazy movements. It took me a moment to identify, but when I did, it surprised me. Angry? He was angry?
“Do we really have to do this right now, Alexandra? I’m serious, I am not in the mood for this.”
I remained calm outwardly, but I could feel my fingernails biting into my palm as I clenched my fist.
“Cameron, I’m not really interested in what you’re in the mood for. Do you know what I’m in the mood for?” I paused, making sure he was meeting my eyes. “I’m in the mood for the truth. Where were you?”
I was right about the anger. He exploded up from couch suddenly, probably in response to the fact that I was standing over him, and began to pace around the room with a liquid grace.
“So that’s how it’s going to go, is it? I come home after a long day of work, and I show up to— what— you pouncing on me as soon as I hit the living room, not even giving me a chance to sit down? What gives you the right?” He picked up speed as he got going, and I stared at him, not even bothering to hide the fact that my mouth was gaping open. What in the world? Where was this coming from?
“Cameron, what is going on? What are you even talking about? I didn’t ‘pounce’ on you, I–”
He interrupted me, flinging his hands up in the air for emphasis, obviously forgetting about the drink in his hands. I watch as it spilled over the side again, and onto the carpet. Well, if he thought I was getting down on my hands and knees to clean it up again, he had another thing coming. “You’re arguing words, and I’m discussing issues. Quit picking at me over the small stuff. Jesus, Alexandra, can’t I get five minutes to myself?” He gestured sharply again, and there was another splash onto the carpet – this from a man who never had a hair out of place, or a wrinkle on his suit. It hit me suddenly.
“Are you….. are you drunk Cameron?” I take it all in – the flush to his skin, the lazily hooded eyes, the sloppy behavior. “You are, aren’t you?” Cameron never got drunk – he’d drink, but getting drunk implied being sloppy, and that’s one thing he never was.
That’s when it really hit me. “Wait a second – you’ve been home less than five minutes. You had to have been drunk before you got here. You DROVE drunk?”
Somehow, out of everything that had happened tonight, this bothered me the worst. It was one thing for him to slowly destroy our family from the inside out. It was an entirely different thing for him to put the lives of strangers at risk with his stupid behavior. Suddenly I wasn’t just angry.
Suddenly, I was furious.
“You drove drunk?!” I repeat. He thought I pounced on him before? He had another thing coming. “What in the hell were you thinking? Do you have any idea how lucky you are that you didn’t plow your car into some unsuspecting family?” I approached him, raising my finger and jabbing at his chest, stopping just short of actually touching him. Once I’m closer, I can smell it on him – he’s not just drunk. He’s plastered. “You’re not some idiot teenager, Cameron. What were you thinking, driving like this?”
“I wasn’t,” he said in a surprisingly clear voice for the amount of alcohol I could smell oozing out of his pores, the words coming out tight through his gritted teeth.
“You’re damn right you weren’t thinking. Nobody who is thinking would drive while drun–”
“No, I wasn’t driving.” He waited a beat, then leaned forward, invading my space aggressively. “I said I didn’t want to do this tonight, but fine. You want to do this? You’re going to insist on it? Fine. Suit yourself. I wasn’t driving,” he repeated, still leaning forward, face only inches from my own. “Kristen was.” He said it deliberately, weighting the word with significance, eyes hot with anger and daring me to understand.
It felt like ice. It wasn’t pain, it wasn’t hurt, it was ice, ice that threaded its way deep into my heart, slicing through and enveloping everything I was in a single flash.
“Kristen?” I repeated numbly. Kristen. I finally had a name, and proof, and yet – and yet I couldn’t seem to wrap my brain around it. “Who’s Kristen?”
“Who do you think she is, Alexandra?” He leaned back out of my face, and suddenly I could breathe again, released from the potent force of his nearness. He headed back to the couch, where he sprawled on it again, holding the drink in front of his eyes, swirling it.
I knew darn well who Kristen is – or at least what she is, and what this implied, but I wasn’t about to let him get off that easy. I wasn’t going to fill in the blanks for him – he had to say the words. I deserved that much, didn’t I?
“I don’t know, Cam, why don’t you tell me? Who is Kristen?”
He laughed then, and the sound of it was a little bitter. “You know, the interesting fact isn’t really who Kristen is,” he said, still staring into his glass. I don’t even know if he’s talking to me – it seems like he might just be talking to himself. “The interesting thing is what she is.” He paused again, and gave that same, bitter laugh. It wasn’t a sound I was accustomed to hearing from him, and suddenly, I was scared. I didn’t want him to say another word. Stop. Just…stop.
But it was too late.
“I’ll tell you what she is.” His mouth wrenched suddenly with something between a smile and a grimace. “What is she?” He raised his glass to me in a mock salute, eyebrow crooked up.
“She’s pregnant,” he finished, tossing back the rest of his drink into his mouth with a flourish.
Who would have thought that one little word could say so much? Imply so much? I tried to keep my face blank, but it wasn’t my face that was the problem, it was my legs. I felt like they were giving out on me, or like the world was suddenly shaking beneath me. I crossed the room to stand by the bar, placing a hand lightly on it. The feel of the smooth wood grain beneath my palm was steadying to me, and I closed my eyes for a moment, trying to find my balance.
I should have been angry. I should have been furious. I should have been something – anything but this cold confusion.
Kristen, whoever she is, was pregnant.
It was like I’ve never heard the word before, and I turned back to face him, looking at him, shaking my head slightly.
“Whose is it?” I heard my voice say, even though I felt like an idiot for saying the words.
“Whose is it… Jesus, Alexandra, whose do you think it is? It’s mine.”
Of course it’s his. I knew it was his, I knoew what this meant, and yet, I still couldn’t seem to wrap my head around this. How could he do this? How could he do this to me – to Toby?
“Why?” I heard myself ask, hating the tears I heard in my voice, the soft sounds of hopelessness. When did I become this person? What happened to the person I used to be – the strong, independent young woman who felt like she could change the world? When did that person die?
“What do you mean, ‘why’? Alex, there isn’t any ‘why’. It just…. it just happened. I’m not happy it happened this way, and I didn’t want to talk about it tonight, but you kind of forced me to.” He was looking at me with the same expression I gave Toby when he had done something wrong… like this was somehow my fault.
I shook my head again, trying to push past the ice that had become the new core of who I was, trying to find just a single foothold, or handhold, on this new slippery disaster that had become my present. “I don’t… I don’t understand. I mean, I understand what you’re saying,” I said with a laugh – a laugh that now held the same bitter echo that his did a few moments ago. “I just don’t understand…. now what? What do we do now?”
Cameron stared at me with a cool, somewhat vague sympathy. His eyes were as beautiful as they’d always been – hazel seemed too plain a word to describe them. Rich, warm brown, flecked with shards of blue and green, and those lashes….. Back in our early days, I remember rolling over in our bed, watching the first rays of morning sun bathe him in golden warmth until it seemed like he was glowing. His lashes seemed even more incredible when he was sleeping – thick, long, and giving him an air of innocence….. which was pretty incredible, considering the hours of passionate abandon we spent in each other’s arms were anything but innocent.
Even now, looking up into those eyes, I could feel my stomach tighten and warm with the heat of the memories.
“Alexandra….there is no us. It’s nothing that you’ve done. It just….It’s just… well, sometimes two people just fall out of love.”
I was sure I was supposed to make some kind of response, but it was like I’d lost the ability to communicate. I stared at him, trying to make sense of the words. Was I dreaming? Was this really happening?
“What Kristen and I have found… well, I need to move forward with this. We were going to do it anyways, but her being pregnant kind of forced our hand sooner that I was planning. I’m in love with her, and she’s in love with me. I’m sorry if that hurts you, but it’s the truth.” He sounded reasonable, calm. It was his lawyer voice, honed to perfection from years in the courtroom. He sounded perfectly at ease, but I could see a tightness in his shoulders that let me know he was anticipating my explosion.
I should be exploding at him, shouldn’t I? Shouldn’t I feel something? Anything? Shouldn’t I feel anger, or betrayal, or hurt, or something other than cold, icy, numbing confusion?
Nine years of marriage, thousands of home-cooked meals, hundreds of phone calls ending in “Don’t worry baby, I understand, you stay as late as you need to at work, I’ll put the baby to bed and leave something warm on the stove for you“, two different cities, countless hours of passionate intimacy and one three year old little boy who stole my heart…. and it came down to this? He had found something with someone named Kristen, and he didn’t love me anymore?
I stared up into his eyes, those warm, comforting eyes, refusing to blink. It was like they were my lifeline to this earth, and if I lost contact with them, I’d fall. Shatter.
Maybe I was already shattering.
“So, uh…” He was starting to get uncomfortable with the silence. Even while I was in the middle of having my entire world fall apart, I could read him. It was only natural. I’d spent the better part of the last decade trying to anticipate his needs, supporting him and loving him as best as I knew how.
“So, I’ll just toss a few things in a bag…” he trailed off again, waiting for me to say something.
I knew I shoud rspond, but out of nowhere, I was stuck on the thought that he probably had no idea where we kept the suitcases. I wonder if he’d realized that yet? And it wasn’t like he could drive drunk. Was he going to take a taxi? Or would Kristen come back and get him?
“And a couple of things for Toby…”
Toby? I could feel my eyebrows rising in challenge, and I felt myself center again, as if I was being achored, just by thinking about my son. Toby, with his daddy’s eyes and mop of golden hair that would look better suited on a girl. Toby, who drove me nuts all day long with his incessant questions. Toby, who could tear my heart out with one quickfire hug from his skinny little arms.
Suddenly I wasn’t feeling so helpless.