The joy of serial fiction: Unraveling, Part 11

Unraveling RopePart 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5, Part 6, Part 7, Part 8Part 9Part 10

Unraveling, Part 11

“Jess, was it easier to talk to him?”

The storm was starting to break now, as the thunder sounded farther away. The lights hadn’t come back on, but the rain had let up.

She shrugged. “In a way it was,” she said honestly, and it pierced this heart. “When I looked at you, I did see your pain, but I couldn’t help you. I just had to tell myself that you weren’t as affected me. And then you accused me of being unfaithful, and that was the last thing I needed. I felt like I failed you in every way. I lost our baby, and then I lost your confidence in me. Gary knew I was in pain. He listened to me and made me feel better, and with no strings attached.”

The words stung, but he knew they were true. “You didn’t fail me or yourself. It just wasn’t meant to be, I suppose. That’s what everyone said to me, anyway. I just didn’t understand why you looked for comfort outside of us.”

“I don’t know what you want me to say, Kevin. I thought I just explained that. You pushed me away!”

“I don’t want to believe that, but if you do that’s what matters,” he said quietly and feeling  ashamed now that it was all out in the open. But there was still one thing he couldn’t get past. “I thought I was helping you by avoiding it. Why didn’t you tell me what you needed? Why didn’t you try harder, Jess? I would have for you.”

She shook her head. “You can’t say that for sure. Besides, you did the same thing I did. You turned to someone for comfort, too. You have Sara.”

He smiled and suddenly felt foolish. “You actually said her name. That’s a major step for you.”

She smiled, too. “I guess it is. The point is, you did the same thing I did, and we both found a way to survive. That’s a sure sign we’re not meant to be together, Kevin.”

“For god’s sake, Jess. There is no Sara!” He paused momentarily. “Well, there is a Sara, but it’s not what you think. She’s a co-worker’s dog. I took care of her while they were on vacation. When I was talking to you on the phone that day and I told you I had to go because I had to take care of Sara, you acted sort of jealous, and I liked it. So, the first time I told you about her, it was true. I had to go make sure she was walked and fed. I just made you to believe she was a person.”

Jess looked shocked for a moment, but then she started to giggle incessantly. There were so many emotions set free in the short time they’d been talking about the baby, he knew she’d probably have a hard time gaining her composure. “I’m sorry,” she said softly. “I guess I’m surprised, Kevin, but I have to admit it’s the funniest thing I ever heard.”

He laughed, too. “Well, I’m glad I can still surprise you. Unfortunately, I know Gary is real, Jess. You found another lover and friend. That’s what you did.” He started to fill with tears again, and this time he let them fall freely down his cheeks. “You know, I thought you wanted to get away from everything I was, and that’s why you turned to him. You hated that I loved to watch football on Sunday and fell asleep during the week in front of the TV by nine. You hated that I didn’t read enough and I didn’t go to museums with you every weekend. You even hated my friends.”

She looked at him kindly and smiled. “Those were the things I loved about you, too. I guess I was looking for something else and I blamed you because I couldn’t find it. My plan wasn’t working. I wasn’t a published author by 30, and I felt my time was running out. Losing the baby was the final blow. Then for some crazy reason, I got it into my head that I should just bury my feelings. Therapy made me realize that I needed just the opposite.” She smiled tenderly. “I should have known it was not too smart, but it was the only thing I could do to make it through the day. Then when you didn’t talk to me about it either, I buried those feelings. At least until the day of the confrontation we had with Gary.”

He looked at her sadly. “I’m sorry. I didn’t understand,” he said.

She smiled again and reached out to touch him on the shoulder. “Kevin, perhaps it’s time for the whole truth to come out,” she said. “I guess I have a confession to make, as well.”

He looked at her and wondered what else she could possibly say. It had all been said and then some.

“I never slept with him.”

Instantly his mood brightened. No words could have made him happier at this moment. “You didn’t?”

“Nope. We were never more than friends. That day he just asked me how I was feeling, and I didn’t hold back. I had a therapist appointment the afternoon before, and I guess it was ready to come out. I think I scared him off for good after that. And if I didn’t, you certainly did.” She smiled. “After that, I saw him in a new light. I found him to be a bit pretentious.”

He looked at her and smiled.

“I know what you’re thinking,” she said. “I know I can be pretentious, too, and I know I have some bizarre habits, just like you do. But we didn’t share a history with each other to help make those weird little habits bearable.”

He started to laugh again. He couldn’t believe what was happening. “We’re sure a pair, aren’t we? We both have vivid imaginations and the nerve to make up outside love affairs. Maybe we can refer to them as our transitional love affairs. How’s that for literary use?”

She smiled. “Not bad, even though that doesn’t make any sense.” She started to rub her arms to generate warmth. “I guess the heat is out, too. I’m freezing.”

“If we were at our house we could light a fire.

“You still refer to it as our house. Are you sorry to be living there?”

“It has its memories. I understand why you would want to walk away and start clean, though. It’s difficult to be there alone.”

“I’d love to light a fire now, but this drafty old building doesn’t have a fireplace on this floor.”

“We could light a fire in the kitchen and pretend it’s a fireplace the way we used to in our first apartment. I can remember the kitchen being so cold on winter mornings we’d have to light the stove burners to warm it up. We could use our divorce papers as kindling. How’s that idea, metaphorically speaking?”

“Now that’s better literary reference,” she said with a pleasant smile. And it was a real smile, he could tell. “And I’m glad we’re talking instead of arguing. I’m even glad we talked about the baby.”

“I guess we have the power failure to thank for this time. And Jamaica.”

“And you,” she said softly. “You didn’t give up, Kevin. That’s good.”

“No problem. Now you owe me one.”

“Well…”

“Ok, I’ll sign. Do you have a pen?”

She shook her head and laughed. “Now you give in,” she said cynically. “I’ve been after you for six months, Kevin, and now you’re finally ready to given in. After all of this.”

He laughed, too. “Isn’t that what you want?”

She paused for a moment and smiled. “I guess I never thought you’d agree to it. And I haven’t thought about what to do if you did.”

He smiled, too. “That must mean you didn’t want me give in.”

“I’ll be honest with you Kevin, I don’t know what I want. Except that I don’t want you to sign the papers right now. And that I’d like you to come to my next therapy session with me.” As she said the words the protective armor she’d been wearing the last year seemed to fall away, and she began to look soft, gentle and familiar again—like the woman he knew and loved. “Maybe this morning I thought I knew what I wanted, but now I’m not sure.” She shrugged. “I know this makes no sense to you, but let me put it this way.” She looked into his eyes and took his hand into hers holding it to her heart. “I need your help.”

He grinned playing along. “And what is my mission if I choose to accept it.”

“Be patient with me while I sort some things out. Like you’ve said, what’s the rush?” she smiled, and this time it was real and warm and inviting just like he remembered. “It can’t be for the fictitious people in our lives, that’s for sure.”

He looked at the woman he loved more than anyone else in the world, the woman he shared a decade full of history with, and he hoped to spend the rest of his life knowing how great they were together. He felt sure they’d make it work now that so much was out in the open. “If I have my way they will never be signed,” he said softly and inching over closer to her on the sofa. “I think we should listen with our hearts more often, the way we used to do.”

She leaned into him and smiled. “That is one emotion you should be proud of.”

The End

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2 thoughts on “The joy of serial fiction: Unraveling, Part 11

  1. Thanks, Pam. I need a bit of a break from fiction right now so I’m not sure. How is your story coming along? I know you’ve been pulled in many directions recently, so I hope you’ve still had time to write.

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