You can do it. Just finish this episode of What’s Cooking? and you can get off this torture device. I stared at the TV screen, sweat pouring down my face. A smiling woman was trying to teach me how to prepare coq a vin but all I’d managed to grasp so far was that I’d need a chicken and a bottle of wine and the episode was only half-way through. Why did I decide to get in shape?
I knew the answer, of course. I was dangerously fond of Carter, and I knew good and well that I could hardly compete with the women in his age group. If I wanted to keep him, I had to look at least as good as I could for my age.
“I see the basement is finished.”
I jumped, nearly face-planting it on the treadmill and looked over to see that Shirley had just stepped into the music-cum-exercise room. “Oh, yeah.” A few months ago, I had decided that we needed a bit more space in the house, so I’d spoken to a contractor about adding a basement. For now, we just had a third bathroom and this multipurpose room, which, really, should be all we could need.
Shirley smiled slowly. “Carter’s given you the music bug, hasn’t he? I saw Nora upstairs practicing the violin. Is he giving her lessons?”
“Some, but she has a tutor who is a bit more skilled than Carter is at the violin.”
Shirley motioned at the treadmill. “But what’s up with this, Hads?”
I shrugged, looking at the TV. “I’m almost forty. It’s about time I started taking care of myself.”
“And you’ve got a hot young stud to compare yourself to, is that it? Has he said something to you?” Shirley looked half concerned and half already ticked off.
“Watcher, no. I don’t honestly know if he could ever say anything unkind to anyone. But, be real, Shirley. I – I care about him, a lot. I want to look good.”
Shirley shook her head. “Hads, while I’m glad you’ve decided you want to fight to keep him around, this isn’t the way to do it. You can’t try to change yourself to make him happy.”
I turned the treadmill off and stepped off of it. “Don’t think I didn’t notice the weight you dropped after you moved in with Camille. How is this any different?”
She looked at me with confusion. “I got in shape for me. Camille never asked me to. And my circumstances changed. I didn’t have to go out of my way; there was a gym right there in the house. But it was never about what I thought Camille would want.”
Shirley left a short while later. I showered and sat down at the piano. I stared down at the shiny ivory keys while I plucked at them. I was being foolish. At the wedding, I had told Shirley that eventually, Carter would move on to someone more appropriate, and I had tried to shrug it off. I had tried to convince myself that I could like Carter but not mind if he left me. That was all wrong – a huge, heaping pile of crap.
I hadn’t even realized that I’d made a decision but I had. I wanted to keep Carter in my life. And I was afraid of that. Afraid that he’d start looking at a skinny, young woman and want her more than he wanted me. I’d been putting my fears onto him, certain that he’d like me better thinner. I shook my head at myself. What a complete git I am.
Later, Carter came over for dinner. After I had hustled the kids off to bed, the two of us sat down in the living room. Just ask him. “Carter…” I sighed softly. “Would you like it if I…lost some weight?”
A frown creased his perfect face. “Where is this coming from?”
“Well, I just…I’m not exactly a wisp of a woman and you’re so fit…and I’m a moron.” I flushed and shook my head, wishing I could erase this whole conversation.
Carter slid his arms around me. “Haddie, I wouldn’t change anything about you.”
I leaned into him, internally giving myself a swift kick to the shin for being an idiot. If I stepped onto that treadmill again, it would be because I wanted to feel healthier – and not for any other reason.
I drew Loralee down onto the couch. Shirley took a seat as well and looked at me expectantly. Not that I knew how to start this talk any better than she did.
“Honey,” I said slowly to Loralee, “how would you feel about having a brother? Maybe around your age or a little younger.”
Her little face scrunched up. “A brother? Are you going to have a baby, Mama?”
Watcher no, never again. I almost shuddered at the reminder of the terrible experience my pregnancy had been. “No, Mommy and I want to adopt a little boy. There are lots of children out there who don’t have parents or families of their own and we’d like to make one of them part of our family.”
She stayed quiet, thinking about it for a bit. “I wouldn’t have to share a room, would I?”
Shirley laughed. “Gosh, no, Loralee. But you will have to share your toys.”
I smiled and hugged Loralee close. “The two of you could play dolls together. And you always have fun playing spacemen with Tito or Joshua. You could play with your new brother too.”
“I guess that might be nice.” She grinned up at us. “As long as I don’t have to share my room.”