I look down, bending to kiss her nose while she watches the end of Beauty and the Beast. “Did you bring any leftovers?” I ask him, and he looks down and then up again.
“No, Mom didn’t cook that much.” I just nod my head, knowing full fucking well it’s a lie; my mother-in-law cooks for an army. “She cooked less ’cause Dad is going away for business.”
“That’s okay,” I tell him, and he stands there awkwardly. I don’t say anything else. Instead, I turn to watch the movie.
“I’m going to head out,” he says, and I turn, smiling at him.
“Have a great week,” I tell him as he comes to kiss the kids goodbye.
I wait for the door to close, then turn to Lizzie. “What do you feel like for dinner?” I ask her as she just looks at me.
“We can have pancakes”—she smiles—“with chocolate chips.”
We make pancakes together, side by side, as we dance to songs that Lizzie chooses, and Daisy runs around, dancing on one foot. I put the kids to bed, kissing them and telling them I love them.
I take a shower, looking at my body in the mirror. I’ve lost a good fifteen pounds; my hipbones are sticking out, and I hate it. I grab my pjs, putting them on, and then going around the house, making sure everything is locked up.
I get into bed and turn on the television, flipping through the channels. Looking down at my phone next to me, I pick it up and call him.
He answers after two rings; groggy, his voice is rough. “I’m so sorry. I didn’t know you were sleeping. I’ll call you tomorrow.”
“Hey, you,” he says, and I hear the rustling of his covers in the background. “I got off shift today, and I usually nap, but I guess I was more tired than I thought. How was your day?”
“Eventful,” I say softly, turning on my side. “Are you sure you don’t want me to call you back?”
“Nope,” he says. I don’t know why, but I picture him in bed, his black hair sticking up everywhere. “How was it eventful?”
“Lizzie knows about Hailey,” I say softly, and that wakes him up.
“What?” he asks with a madness to his voice. “How?”
“She heard Ethan and Elliot talking in the garage, and well, she had a boatload of questions.”
“I bet she did. I’m old enough to understand, and I have a shitload of questions.”
“I had to sit there, holding her and telling her that he loved her more than life while the whole time I cursed him and hoped he was rotting in hell.”
“I don’t think you are the only one wishing that,” he says, laughing.
“My in-laws are boycotting me,” I say, and I don’t know why I tell him. “We got into a fight the other night, and well, let’s just say I’m no longer feeling the love,” I say as my thumb rubs the underneath of my eye.
“What happened?” he asks, and I contemplate telling him the truth.
“I was pissed that they were going after Hailey’s bank account, and I voiced my opinion. Well, let’s just say if I was a proper wife, he wouldn’t have looked elsewhere.” Just saying it out loud makes me see how stupid it sounds.
“Who fucking said that?” His voice is loud and almost screaming. “I swear to God.”
I laugh at him. “It doesn’t matter. I know it’s a crock of shit. What hurt was that no one stuck up for me. No one came to my side; no one told me that it was bullshit. No one took my side; no one held my hand and said he’s crazy.” My voice goes soft.
“I’m sorry. Where was Elliot or Ethan?” he asks.
“Sitting at the table,” I tell him. “Was he involved with your family?”
“Yes,” he says, and I know it hurts him too now. “My grandmother loved him, and my mother considered him another son. When he was in town, we all knew because my mother would have a dinner.”
“Did he hold her hand?” I think back to when he stopped holding my hand; I think back to when it started to change.
“Every single chance he got.”
“Maybe he did love her more than me,” I say, thinking about it. “Maybe she was it for him.”
“He was a coward. No man would do that to someone they love.”
“Have you ever been in love?” I ask him, waiting for him to answer.
“Yes, I have,” he says softly, “and I’ll love her till my last dying breath.”
“So why don’t you marry her?” I ask him.
“Because she died and left me when we were twenty.”
I sit up as his words hit me. “Oh my God, Blake, I’m so, so, so sorry. That was insensitive of me,” I tell him.
“You didn’t know, so you had no reason, but if she was still here, I like to think we would have been married and had at least a couple of kids by now. Frankie always wanted a big family,” he says, and I can sense a smile fill his face.