I scraped picked-at French toast into the trash. According to the boys, I wasn’t supposed to make that because mine “wasn’t as good as Dad’s.”
Nothing was the same anymore. When Tommy was gone – which was most of the time, for all he said about splitting time – the house felt empty. I felt empty. I’d never thought that I was a woman whose identity revolved around my relationship, but he’d been my other half for so long. I’d forgotten how to live alone – or, really, I’d never learned at all. I’d gone straight from my parent’s house to our house.
“Mom, when’s Dad comin’ back?”
I sighed softly and turned to face my youngest son. He looked so much like Tommy that it hurt. “Next week.”
He shook his head, his blond hair flopping with the motion. “I mean when’s he gonna stay?”
“I don’t know,” I said quietly. We’re not as important as Ava is, I thought bitterly. I bit the inside of my cheek and then pasted a smile on my face. “Hey, go get ready, kiddo. Did you forget we’re going over to Memaw and Granny’s today?”
I watched him go into his room before forcing myself into motion. As I did my make up, my mind was already in next week, planning meals and schedules around Tommy’s stay. I tried to make everything normal – the way it used to be – whenever he was home, but it was getting harder to do so. And part of me thought it was a joke. Normal had taken a flying leap out of a tenth-story window.
It wasn’t easy to maintain any sense of normalcy when we were essentially in one long fight. He still wanted us all to move; I still wanted us to look into home health. And we both knew this “compromise” couldn’t last.
Tears burned behind my eyes and I impatiently rubbed them away. I cleared my throat. “Boys,” I said as I moved out of the room. “Come on. Let’s go.”
Mama looked at me with a soft frown from where she sat next to me on the back porch. “Are you alright?”
I reluctantly turned my gaze away from the scene on the backyard where Mom was playing with Logan and Jasper. I opened my mouth to tell her that I was fine just like I always did, but, this time, that wasn’t what came out. “I don’t know what I’m going to do, Mama.”
Alarm instantly flared in her eyes. “What’s wrong? Is it the baby?”
I shook my head. “That’s fine.”
“You could tell me, you know,” Mama said gently. “If something had happened.”
Irritation flickered. That was the second time she’d said something like that since I’d told her I was pregnant. Vasectomies failed; it happened. If Tommy wasn’t going to accuse me of sleeping around, neither should my own mother.
She must’ve seen the growing anger on my face because she immediately looked apologetic. “I’m sorry. That was awful.”
I just sighed and let my irritation dissipate. The question of my fidelity was honestly the least of my problems. “It’s Tommy.”
“How is he doing? I know it had to be hard, losing Cody so suddenly.” Mama made the same sad eyes everyone had been since he died.
“I wish I knew,” I said bitterly. I hadn’t told my parents what was going on. Part of me, I supposed, had hoped that it would all blow over and it wouldn’t be necessary. But I couldn’t bite my tongue any longer. “He’s in Windenburg more than he’s here.” At her shocked expression, I explained, “Ava’s health has really gone down. I wanted us to hire a home health service, but he won’t even consider it. He wants to move there.” I noticed my voice rising, and I quickly lowered my volume before the boys took notice. “He wants to just uproot our lives and move us across the world.”
Mama opened her mouth to speak, but a dam had burst within me. All of my anger and frustration at Tommy just poured out. “What about his job. He wanted to make chief one day. What about Tomalee? I’ve worked my entire life to make that happen, and it’s finally turning a real profit. What about the boys? Their lives are here, too. Our family is all here! He’s just thinking about himself.”
I’d been expecting some sympathy from her, but, when I finished venting, her expression was one of anger.
“I’m pretty sure the last person he’s thinking of is himself, Loralee. I’m sure he’s doing what he thinks is right for his mother.”
Her reaction only served to make me more upset. I jumped to my feet. “You don’t understand. There are other options besides moving to Germany of all places.” My own mother wasn’t even on my side.
“Logan, Jasper,” I called. “Say bye to Memaw and Granny. We’ve got to get going.” If I had to be there any longer, I was going to start screaming.
Mom straightened up with a confused frown. “Loralee? What’s wrong?”
I shook my head. “I’m sorry, Mom. We’ve got to go. Boys, come on.”
I rushed the two of them through their goodbye’s, refusing to look at Mama or meet Mom’s gaze. On the ride home, the boys were both petulant and sulky, but, then, maybe so was I. Was I so crazy to think about all the things I did? Was I such an awful person for wanting to explore other options?
By the looks of things, the answer seemed to be yes.