The girls and I got up and made pancakes together, hung out in our pjs all day while we watched every single Disney movie we had. We ordered Chinese food and ate in the living room; the mess was very minimal, but I didn’t care one bit. Even when half the box of rice fell on Daisy and went between the cushions, I just shrugged. I cleaned up the mess while they showered, and now we were all camped out in my king-size bed. And it was fucking blissful. I watched the time go from nine to ten to eleven and then finally caved. I picked up the phone, sneaking out of my bedroom and going downstairs. He answered after one ring.
“Don’t you sleep?” he asks instead of saying hello. I laugh.
“I took a three-hour nap today,” I tell him, and it’s the truth. The minute they put on Boss Baby, my eyes closed, and I slept till the end, and even was asleep when they put on another one.
“Figures you didn’t even sleep last night,” he tells me, and I hear the softness in his voice. “Did my text wake you?” he asks, the worry evident in his voice.
“We aren’t allowed to lie, right?” I ask him. “Yes, you did.”
“Sorry,” he says. “I should have just waited until this morning.”
“It’s okay,” I tell him, and it really is. “What do you do?” I ask him. I’m not sure if he’s a police officer or fireman.
“I’m a firefighter for the county,” he says, and the job fits him.
“So you do shift work?” I ask, not sure how it works.
“Yes, we do shifts. Four days on, three days off,” he answers, and I hear creaking in the background.
“Is it hard?” I ask, not even able to imagine being gone from home for four straight days. “What happens if you have a family? A wife and kids.” And my heart stops for just a second. Holy shit, he could have a wife and kid, and I’m calling him, I’m texting him. “Are you married?” I ask before I even know the words are coming out of my mouth.
“So one question at a time,” he starts. His voice just soothes me, so I lie down on the couch with the phone tucked between my shoulder and my cheek. “It is always hard; sleeping on a cot is nothing like sleeping in your own bed.”
“This is true,” I agree with him. “Although I have to say I hate making the bed. I don’t really ever make it. No, that’s a lie,” I say right away. “I don’t want to make it, but I do.”
He laughs, and I smile. “Usually the wives pass by or they go home for an hour or so. They do it in shifts in case something happens,” he answers, and then I hold my breath, knowing it’s the last part of the question. “I’m not married, nor do I have children.”
“I should have asked that right away. It wouldn’t have been right for me to call you and text you if you did,” I tell him quietly. And then I realize what I said. “I mean no disrespect.”
“I get it,” he says, breathing heavily. “At no time did anyone suspect he was married,” he finally says out loud. “Not fucking once.”
“I think I knew,” I whisper. “I mean, I didn’t know, know, but …” I finally breathe. I’ve never told anyone this, not even Judy. “He had just come back from being away for two weeks, and he came in and just kissed me on the lips and turned around. No hug, no I missed you, nothing.”
“Okay,” he says, waiting for more, and I give it to him.
“I felt him pull away. He turned, hugged the girls, and gave them attention, then took off to take a shower. Lizzie looked at me confused, like she didn’t understand why he wasn’t hugging us, why he wasn’t telling us how much he missed us and that it was so long and he hated it. There was just something missing. I chalked it up to him just being tired. He was just …” I feel my arm get wet with the tears that are coming now. “I dismissed it and told myself it was nothing. Till the next time it happened, and I waited until after the kids were in bed and went down to him as he watched television. I turned off the television and asked him if he was happy.” I laugh bitterly. “He was very quick to tell me that he was more than happy.”
“No, it’s okay,” I say. “I told him that if he wanted out, he could go, and I wouldn’t stop him. I would never stop him. I would never ever keep the girls from him. I begged him, Blake, fucking on my knees begged him to tell me.” I sniffle. “I sat there giving him the fucking out, and he got off the couch and sat in front of me and held my hands, telling me he was just tired, telling me that he loved me more than life itself, telling me that the girls and I were his life, and that without us, he wouldn’t be able to survive,” I say. “After that, he made an effort, but it was never the same, so I sat there waiting each time he came home to tell me he wasn’t happy, to tell me he was moving on, but then I got pregnant.”