Category: Loving Wives Stories

A Rush of Blood to the Head Ch. 04

by GirlintheMoon©

Thank you to everyone reading this story.

Thank you, Tinkz, for your super editing skills.


********

The only place I could go was to my parents'.

I tried calling my mother on her cell but it immediately went to voicemail. I didn't bother trying my father; he never used his phone. It didn't matter because it wasn't as if they'd turn me away. At least, I didn't think they would.

They lived about two hours north of the city—maybe an hour and a half away from my house. What used to be my house.

The bus ride felt interminable, but the driver did make good time. It was nearing 8pm when I stepped outside, blinking back tears. A bunch of taxis were lined up but it dawned on me I didn't have any cash. There was a little worn ATM near the ticket kiosk. I ran over and swiped my card. After punching in my pin, a notice popped up on the screen saying my card was void. It seemed Mark wasted no time in canceling everything.

My phone still worked, so he mustn't have gotten a chance to call our provider yet. I left a voicemail for my mother, telling her I was at the bus station and that I needed to be picked up. God only knew when she would get it.

I sat on a bench and craned my neck up to stare at the sky. I tried to quiet my mind by singing songs to myself, but it was no use. My leg was jumping up and down and I noticed with horror that I was toying with my wedding ring. It still sat on my finger, mocking me.

Someone pulled into the nearly deserted parking lot. The headlights blinded me, so I couldn't make out the car, but a few seconds later I heard my mother calling my name.

When I was finally in the car and we could see one another, her knowing eyes swept over me. "Did the two of you have a fight?"

"You could say that," I mumbled.

She didn't ask anything else, or attempt chitchat. She didn't seem annoyed with me, her only child, for not calling her in an eternity and not visiting in close to a year. Perhaps she was busy with her own life now. Both of my parents were retired, but they were still quite active in the community and were always hopping from one hobby to the next.

We pulled up to my familiar childhood home and tears filled my eyes. My mother turned off the ignition and moved to open her car door, but I grabbed her arm.

"Mom," I whispered.

She looked back at me. "What's the matter?"

"Mark and I are divorcing."

Mom didn't look surprised, only contemplative.

"I had an affair."

She didn't seem shocked by that, either.

"I'm sorry to intrude like this. I know you guys are busy and the last thing you need is your weeping daughter to come home and—"

"Lucy, you can stay as long as you need to." Her eyes roamed over my face. "Why would we turn you away?"

"I haven't really been a great daughter," I whispered.

Mom was slightly amused. "No. But you're here now, and so are we, and I guess we'll have to act like a family again. Need help with your bags?"

I shook my head and she got out of the car, headed for the house.

A long sigh slipped from my mouth when I pulled myself up. The air was clearer here, and the stars were brighter. We were far from the lights and sounds of the city. Somehow, in spite of the wreckage I left behind and that cloying sensation of devastation rolling through my stomach, I felt safe.

I walked to the house, dragging my baggage behind me.

****************

If I had expected a great deal of fanfare upon my visit to my parents' house, I would have been extremely disappointed. Thankfully I knew my parents well.

Dad was asleep already when I entered the dark house. Mom said she was going to bed, too, and that there were leftovers in the fridge. She appeared reluctant to part from me and it broke my heart that it was because she hadn't seen me in forever...and here I was, on her doorstep, my life a total mess.

I paced around the living room, letting my toes sink into the plush carpet. My feet were still sore from all the glass I pulled out of them, but I couldn't stop myself from walking around and studying pictures of us in various stages of our lives.

My parents' wedding picture hung proudly on the wall. Instead of your standard picture, my parents were gazing lovingly at one another. My father had a mustache, and my mother was a great deal thinner.

Now they were more like friends than lovers. They joked with each other. They understood every action the other did. They knew what to order each other at restaurants, and they knew exactly what buttons to push when they wanted a fight. Sometimes they didn't sleep in the same bedroom when I was growing up. Now they didn't bother staying in the same room at all.

"Your father snores," my mother explained to me once.

Which was true. But they'd never been exactly a model of the passionate marriages you read about in novels, or like my childhood friend Danielle's parents. They'd make out right in front of us sometimes, and we'd go "yuck!", but as we got older I came to consider it kind of cute. Danielle's dad was going gray, and her mother stopped wearing makeup, but they giggled like teenagers whenever they were around one another. I remember thinking, "Wow, they are so in love!"

It never occurred to me that every marriage was different. That not every marriage was a storybook romance, and that in many ways, my parents probably had a more functional marriage. And just because they didn't suck face in front of me didn't mean they didn't touch one another or value one another behind closed doors. They wouldn't dare make out in front me, let alone my friends! It was inappropriate, and I was forced to admit that when I was younger, Danielle's parents absolutely made me uncomfortable underneath my fascination.

My eyes moved over the rest of the photo frames haphazardly placed on different tables in the room. Most of them were me, transforming over the years from a toothless, pigtailed, platinum blonde precocious kid to a woman with long, golden hair and a twinkling grin.

That smile of mine dimmed a bit when Mark joined me in photos. Then eventually we both smiled at the camera— mouths closed, lips curved and eyes gleaming with our little private jokes.

I missed him already. My heart ached looking at his face, the face I'd known and kissed and stared at for seven years.

But I was still torn thinking about his question— "Do you regret it?"

I fell back on the couch and admitted to myself I did. Yes, I regretted it more than anything. I couldn't believe that I had the capacity to do that to Mark, and that I'd so carelessly disregarded his feelings. Seven years we stitched a life together; I tugged at some loose string until our lives fell apart.

I was still stunned Luke managed to fool me so well, and that I'd become such a pleasure-driven slave and fucked up my life by fucking another person. I'd always had a self-destructive streak, but I never imagined it would screw me up this much.

I took the coward's way out. I did something Mark could never forgive me for, and I'd be haunted by that forever. He didn't deserve that send-out. He didn't deserve me screwing around with his coworker. Even if he had, there was nothing that could make what I did okay.

I loved Mark. Sounds crazy, but I still did. I loved him like you love an old friend, but it was so mired with years of resentment and of living in such a bizarre world of pretend. We never really had a chance, considering the way we started, because mingled with the desire and love that grew between us was that little twinge of obligation. We were beholden to one another not out of passion, but by necessity. Passion did initially bring us together, and passion came back later, until it seemed like that was all there was between us. Years of familiarity wouldn't—couldn't— change that.

I spread out on the sofa and stared at my wedding portrait, the one my parents framed in gold and nailed up beside theirs. We were just kids, smiling too wide at the camera with a little too much space between us. That day was such a blur to me. I remember my mother doing my hair. My aunt accidentally stepped on my train and ripped it. Mark had a cold and sneezed all over the priest. His father got drunk and had to be carted away before we even cut the cake.

Remembering that disaster of a day had me laughing, even as I cried. Mark and I somehow pulled off being the most functional people during the experience. We stood quietly but firmly next to the other, for the first time as man and wife, perhaps not understanding yet the kind of friends we'd one day become. Or that we would have a relationship I would utterly destroy. I was still pregnant that day, and even though we were suspicious of one another, and even if Mark felt he hated me then, there was a faint sense of hope and the slightest bit of excitement at the thought of our new beginning.

I tossed uncomfortably on the couch, but fell asleep just as the sun started to rise.

*******************

Dad woke me up, not intentionally, but because he was so fucking loud. I forgot about that.

He made coffee and murmured inconsequential things to my mother. They were waiting for me to get up, that much was obvious, but they weren't going to rush me. A surge of affection for them warmed my chest.

I stood—still in the dress from yesterday—and tiptoed into the kitchen. They both looked up at me and smiled.

"Hi," I said. It was awkward.

"Dad just made coffee. Go get a cup and then we'll talk."

I followed Mom's instructions and put a little extra sugar in my coffee because, fuck it, I'd had a rough few days. I wondered what Mark was doing. Had he gone into work? It was Friday. He probably figured he could take the day off. Everyone would know about my disgrace, and no one would blame him for wanting to soak himself in whiskey.

And Luke? Would he bother showing his face at the office, or had he already sped off to Boston?

My dad watched me sit and shook his head. "So you cheated."

"Sam!" Mom snapped.

"Did you have a better lead-in, Linda?"

I rolled my eyes. "Yeah, Dad, I cheated and he kicked me out."

"This is the first time I'm seeing you in months. Maybe even a year."

The table instantly became fascinating to me. I swirled my fingers around in invisible circles.

"What happened, Lucy?"

I looked up at my father and felt those old familiar feelings of shame and fear that only a disappointed father can evoke.

"I made a mistake. I keep making mistakes."

"And Mark? What's happening with him?"

I blew out a puff of air and snickered. "No clue, Dad, probably burning an effigy of me. Or, more likely, burning my shoe collection."

"Okay." Dad shifted uncomfortably. "So, what's the next step? Separation? Divorce?"

"I'm sure divorce."

My voice was flat, but inside all I wanted to do was cry.

"And the prenup?" Mom asked.

"Should take care of everything, but I don't doubt Mark will make a bit of a spectacle about this. I don't blame him." I spun my wedding ring around my finger.

Dad sighed. "And what is yours according to the document?"

"I'm not really sure. I actually think I get the house, which is too much. I'm going to sell it and give him half." I looked up at my parents. "Is it okay if I stay here with you for a while? Until I get on my feet?"

Mom took my hand and squeezed. "Of course. I'm just glad you're here. I'm only sorry about the circumstances."

She got up to do the dishes. I realized that Dad was watching me, a strange expression on his face. When he noticed I was staring back at him, he stood. He awkwardly put a hand on my shoulder.

"I'm happy to see you, too, Lucy."

He pulled his hand back as quickly as he could and rushed out of the kitchen. Mom smiled softly at me.

"We missed you."

"I can't imagine why," I said softly. "I feel like I always whirl back into your lives when I'm in trouble."

Mom leant against the sink. "You do, but it's okay. You're our kid. That's what kids do."

"I'm not a kid, anymore, Mom. Even if I still act like it. So if you guys don't want me around, or if I'm going to cause any trouble, please let me know. I won't be offended."

Mom came back to me and stroked my hair back like she used to do when I was growing up. "You're still my kid. I'll always want you around." She bent down to touch her nose to mine. "Even though you're a royal pain in the ass."

*********

Weeks went by and I didn't hear from Mark. I texted him one day, reminding him (as if he needed to be reminded) that we had to talk. Of course he didn't reply. I dug up a lawyer my parents could afford, hating I'd have to owe them but accepting I needed the help, and had him contact Mark's attorney. My lawyer came back to me saying Mark hadn't filed any papers yet, but he would. It would take around 40 days to finalize the divorce.

Then my lawyer called me the next week, saying Mark had now filed the paperwork. In just over a month I would be Lucy Gallagher again. God, I'd have an ex-husband. A failed marriage. It was all so foreign.

That night I tossed and turned. The moon's light crept through a slit in my curtains and caught on my wedding and engagement rings. They were haunting me. It was silly that I was afraid of inanimate jewelry but I slid them off and placed them in my drawer just the same.

Fall was beginning to drag itself through town, turning leaves orange and red. I loved Autumn. I adored the scent of burning embers in the air, the hard cider and the candied apples. This year I faced the season with a quiet dread. Any day I'd get the call from my lawyer that the 40 days were over, that any additional paperwork filed was finished.

Suddenly one morning I woke up and realized it had been a full month since I saw Mark last. Bizarre thoughts flitted through my head. Was Luke married to that girl, yet? I felt a little sorry for her. He was a grand actor and he would undoubtedly make her unhappy.

Would Mark marry again? If he did, I hoped he had better luck this time around.

I thought of David and called him, missing the one friend I'd had in years. He didn't answer. I called him again later that week. No response, and no call back. It was a painful realization that I would never hear from him again.

Then one day I was raking leaves and my mother came to me with my cell phone. Her face was severe, and she spoke slowly and carefully.

"It's Joe, the lawyer. He has news."

I took the phone and listened, not saying a word. He informed me that it was over. All over. I was well provided for. The house was mine, and some of the contents in it. Too generous, I thought, but it was what it was.

That afternoon I took two ring boxes my mother never used, put my wedding rings inside and went to the post office. I mailed them back to Mark. I included a long letter. It was an attempt to apologize, to articulate how incredibly remorseful I was, to assure him that hurting him was never my intention. Of course it could never completely capture how horrible I felt about what I'd done, and it would never quench his disgust with me.

He never called. Never texted. I never heard from him.

***************

"Lucy?"

I stopped examining apples and turned around slowly. It was a Saturday at 8pm. Who the hell could be lurking around here now besides me?

I did my shopping at odd times, terrified people would recognize me. Already some of the mothers of old friends had noticed I was in town. I became completely paranoid, thinking every time I saw people huddled together that they were talking about me.

After a while I told myself I wasn't that interesting and to get over it. It still didn't mean I wanted to run into an old friend and confess my absolute failure to them.

I was pleased, however, to see the girl standing behind me. Shari and I had been fairly close in high school, but going to college in different cities caused us to eventually drift apart.

She looked adorable, all perky cheerleader grown into perky soccer mom. And even though she was now an adult, her eyes were still adorably big and green and her hair was lusciously long and red. She still kind of of looked like a kid; I imagined her still getting carded at bars and almost smiled.

A toddler sat in her shopping cart, watching me suspiciously.

"Lucy, it is you! Lucy, hi!"

Shari rolled the cart closer to me and gave me a big hug.

"Years! Haven't seen you in years! How completely bizarre, right? This is my daughter. Her name is Anna, isn't she adorable?"

"Shari... Hi." I looked at the little girl, feeling extremely uncomfortable. Children made me nervous. "Hi Anna."

"You look beautiful! Almost exactly the same." Shari examined me closer. "Maybe a little tired. What are you doing in town?"

I picked at the label of one of my apples. "Visiting my parents. It's been a while, you know?"

"Totally. I moved back here after college. I was too much of a homebody to... Hey, wait a minute."

She walked away from me and her daughter, who seriously looked like she was about to start wailing, and yanked a young boy over to us by the back of his collar.

"Mom!"

"Michael, if you can't stay by me like a big kid then I'll have to drag you around like a little kid. You got me?"

Michael—who was probably around eight—groaned and threw a few boxes of candy into the cart. Shari glared at him but didn't pull the candy out. Softie.

"Sorry, Luce," she said, shaking her head. "Kids. They're killing me. And I'm pregnant again." She looked up at the ceiling. "God help me. I married this guy—his name is John—and he's hot, but jeez! He's so passionate that I can't ever say "I'm tired" or "I have a headache", if you know what I mean. He's all man, and that makes it even worse when he comes on to me because it's strong and ridiculously powerful! Sometimes I think we're going to end up with ten kids. I'm only 29, for God's sake!"

Her son looked completely embarrassed and I couldn't fight my grin. Yep, Shari hadn't changed; perhaps a bit too hyper and peppy sometimes but still amusing, and still kind.

"Congratulations. You sound happy, even if you're a little overwhelmed."

Shari moved closer to me and waved her hand. "Thanks, thanks. More importantly, how are you doing? How's married life treating you? Do you have an army of children yet? I always saw you as, like, the mother of a brood of boys. You'd totally order them around and raise them to be ladykillers." Shari handed Anna a few Cheerios without even looking away from my now panicked eyes.

"Um. Things are a little less, um... I don't have any kids."

"Oh, well I started young. Sometimes," she got closer to me and made sure Michael was far enough away, "I wonder if I should have waited. But he's such a freakin' cutie. I can't regret that face."

I smiled despite my anxiety. "Your kids are gorgeous."

She pulled her bag up higher on her shoulder and looked back over at Michael, who was once again getting too far away. She rolled her eyes and sighed. "Why don't you come over for lunch or something one day? Or is this just a brief visit into town?"

Her eyes came back to mine and it struck me that it felt nice chatting with someone who didn't secretly despise you, who wasn't angling to get something out of you, who wasn't superficial and dull. I yearned to sit with her and laugh, because I knew she was still sunny and funny Shari from high school, but eventually I'd have to talk about my life and that sucked. I didn't want her to know that I was pretty much the same as I was when we graduated high school. And I didn't want her to know my marriage was over because I had an affair. It would hurt to have her judge me and possibly reject me.

But I heard myself saying, "I'll be here for a while," which was a surprise to me even as my mouth whispered the words.

She grinned and slapped her palms together. "Awesome. I live in my parents' old place. On Sycamore and Brewery? Remember?"

Category: Loving Wives Stories