I heard someone trying to get in the front door but the chain was on. I figured it was probably Chris, thinking he could come over for breakfast after hanging out with me last night and I hurried out there with my flannel PJ pants, big baggy white T- shirt and my glasses on with my hair thrown into a ponytail on top of my head. So when I shut the door, unlatched the chain and heaved it open, I was really, really surprised to see Evan standing there.
He followed me inside and I said, “So you are here to see me and not Luna?”
“That’s right. I was hoping to talk frankly about a few things, especially now that you and Chris seem to be in a good place again.”
“Things aren’t always what they seem.” I said.
“Don’t try and downplay what is going on with Chris. You should have more respect for him with all he puts up with from you.”
I was surprised at his tone and suddenly wasn’t at all excited about what he had to “speak frankly” to me about. I rolled my eyes. “Sit down at the bar and I’ll make you some breakfast. Do you want a poached egg on toast? That’s what I’m having.”
He nodded. “Sounds good.” He sat in one of the tall chairs at the bar and I went into the kitchen and pulled out the pan and the egg holders.
“I like your glasses” he said. “You should wear them more often. They offer up a mirage of substance.”
“What’s that supposed to mean?” I paused by the oven and looked at him angrily. “That doesn’t even make any sense, and it’s way too early in the morning for me to be able to handle your sarcasm.”
“I’m just kidding with you,” he said, snickering a little.
“Hmmm. So, Chris is going to buy a house near Luna’s on the beach.”
“I don’t know which one he means yet, but he said it is a foreclosure just a few houses down from here.”
“Let’s go walk down the beach and look for it after breakfast” he said.
We sat and ate our eggs together at the bar and then I made us some hot tea and poured it into mugs with lids that we could carry with us on the beach. He mixed in the milk and sugar while I peaked my head into Luna’s bedroom and she looked up sleepily when I told her I was going for a walk and to please listen for when Zoe woke up.
I threw on a sweatshirt then Evan and I headed out the back door, across the porch and out onto the blinding white sand. It was cold on my bare feet but the hot tea helped to keep me cozy anyway. The steam fogged up my glasses as I sipped and walked. I took and held his hand, just because I needed someone to hold on to and he let me. We passed a couple jogging and they smiled and said hi to us. “They think I’m a lucky guy” he said.
“What do you mean?”
“It looks like you are my girlfriend or wife right now, so they gave me that approving smile, like I need to hang on to you.”
“Maybe you should?”
“Yeah right. I’m glad I never kissed you that time, before I left for England” he said. “That was probably one of the best decisions of my life.”
“Why would you say that to me? What is up with you this morning?” I let go of his hand which was weirdly sweaty anyway and I made a conscious effort to not wipe my hand on my leg.
He stopped and looked at me and so I stopped too and waited for what he had to say.
“I’ve been thinking about this all night. I was wondering why you can’t just be happy with Chris? Do you have some sort of a valid reason of why you can’t just be with him again without pushing him away. Could it be the, ‘he wants me so I don’t want him anymore-problem?'”
I plunked down on the sand and he sat close next to me and I leaned against him. He shifted back a bit but didn’t let me fall. I tried to think of what the problem was and when it started. I buried my mug a little so it wouldn’t fall over then picked up a handful of sand and let it slide through my fingers. “I guess I just feel like if anything bad happens, like really bad, he drops the ball. I can’t shake that. I get panic attacks when I think I have to play the good wife again.”
I looked at the ocean. It was a cool winter morning but there were still surfers out there in their wetsuits. The sun was climbing higher in the sky and I thought of sitting on the beach and watching Meliah surf in contests when I was 16. “When Meliah and her baby died, Chris just left me alone for 6 months. I don’t know what I expected from him, but the last few, he was always annoyed with me and resentful. He played video games all night, every night and didn’t even try to talk to me during the day. I just got used to him not being there emotionally. Now he acts like everything has changed, and it has changed. We have worked hard on getting past every problem. But the fact remains that he wasn’t there for me when I needed him most. I think that is when I stopped being faithful to him, in every sense of the word and I’m not sure if that will ever change back.”
Evan nodded thoughtfully. “When you were going through this, did you ever confront him about it or ask him to do things differently?”
“Honestly, I just went and found comfort in someone else.”
“Yes.” I smiled, just at the mention of his name.
“Chris seems like the kind of guy, that if you would have told him what you were feeling, that he might have tried to adjust…to be what you needed him to be. I don’t mean that you could change his personality or anything. Its just that, sometimes guys don’t know how to act in situations that we don’t plan for. He probably had no fucking idea what to do and thought he needed to leave you alone to figure it out for yourself. Didn’t he take care of Zoe that whole time?”
“And what would you have done without him?”
“I guess I would have taken care of Zoe and it would have been difficult.”
“But he was there for you, in the way that he knew how to be. He knew how to feed and clothe and love your daughter, so he did it.”
“Yes” I said. “He adjusted his work schedule to take her to school. And play with her, and come home early enough to make dinner for all of us, bathe her and read to her at night.”
“That’s a big deal” Evan said. “A really big deal.”
We sat there quietly for a few minutes. “Lets go find this house” I said and we got up and walked further down the beach. “He said it is white and the number is 111.”
Evan pointed and there was a huge, stone mansion on the beach. It looked fairly new and there was a porch like Luna’s, but the luxury version, then a swimming pool off to the side. “Wow” I said.
“So is that some incentive to forgive the guy?” Evan said.
We walked closer and the dunes in front of the house were completely covered with black-eyed Susan’s. “These are my favorite flowers in the world” I gasped.
“Maybe its a sign.”
“I certainly don’t believe in signs. Or anything,” I said.
He looked a little sad at that declaration. “Can I mention one more thing to you?” he said.
“Go for it”
“I’ve noticed your, well, happiness seems to come and go quite randomly.”
“I’m not bipolar.”
“I’m not saying you are. What I’m saying is that it is the same for all of us. For some reason, sometimes, every human being gets depressed for no reason. But we immediately want to pinpoint then solve whatever the “problem” is that is dragging us down. I guess you could still be mad at him for not “being there”. But we both know that you should forgive him for that. No one is perfect and the reality is, sometimes there is nothing to fix. Sometimes we are just sad because of hormones or life or whatever. I know it is harder for you because you struggle with the anxiety symptoms. But I feel like with you, Odette, that you are a problem solver. This makes you a great mom and it is amazing what you do for Zoe with all of her therapies and vitamins and healthy diets that Luna tells me about. But it seems you also scramble for a cure when you are down. And you think your cure is to push Chris away, when really the best solution is to let him back in. I don’t think his presence and love is a problem you need to fix.”
I nodded. “I never thought of it that way.”
“I also can’t help but notice that you seem to have created bigger problems when trying to solve the one that you are confused about. Like how you just told me you were devastated that Chris wasn’t there for you and instead of communicating with him and figuring out how to make it right again, you created an even bigger problem along side of that by having an affair with Jake.”
“I wouldn’t take that back though. I needed Jake at the time.”
“You are damn lucky Chris didn’t walk away from you after that mess. Not many men would stick around for more like he did. He must have been harboring some serious guilt, or pity for you to let that one slide. He’s a damn saint.”
I shrugged, “I don’t know why he stayed.”
“I don’t know either. I never would have carried on with a woman who had no respect or loyalty, and I want to add that even though I find you attractive and well, slipped a couple of times, I could never think seriously about being with you, even if you weren’t with Chris, because you are such a damn train-wreck. But for some reason Chris still wants you.”
I sighed and looked at the Sea Gulls landing on the sand around us. “I’m not sure why or how this is about you too, or why you seem to be so mad at me. But I’ll have you know, I could find other guys out there who want me, even if you think I’m awful or something.”
“I’m sure you can Odette. There are plenty of guys out there who will be happy to bang you but no one is going to love you like Chris does.”
I started to walk briskly back the house and he kept up with me. “How can you say that no one else will love me? How the hell do you know? Jake loved me.”
“Jake? Are you fucking serious?”
I stopped and stood there for a minute and looked at my wedding ring. “Why are you talking to me about this?” I said. “Why do you even care?” I suddenly felt like crying. I took my glasses off and rubbed my eyes. He immediately reached out and took my arm. When I looked up at his face I was surprised at his anguish.
He rubbed my arm then dropped his hand and struggled to say, “I lost my wife to her indiscretions. Sometimes it doesn’t seem fair that Chris manages to forgive you. I could never do that with her, which kind of sucks for me.”
I nodded. “I’m really sorry about that.” I didn’t know what to say. I was the wrong person to comfort him with this issue.
“But most of all, you are giving Luna a lot of grief. She is really worried about you and I hate watching her go through this.”
“You care a lot about Luna don’t you?” I looked up at him and he smiled a little and nodded.
I suddenly felt really happy for Luna, that she had Evan looking out for her, pretty much yelling at me on her behalf. My heart swelled for both of them. “I’ll give it a real shot with Chris.” I said. “And deal with the anxiety without pushing him away and just see what happens.”
He smiled and nodded. “Good. And you need to realize just how lucky you are. If you could just find some gratitude inside you for the life you have. Look at this place.” He put his arms out and I could feel the breeze he was talking about and smoothed the strands of hair dancing about my face. “There is truth in the saying that people are happy because they are thankful. I’m not downplaying clinical anxiety, Odette. I know how painful it must be. But… between these panic attack things, or whatever, just try to be happy with your amazing life and not wreck the people closest to you.”
I nodded and looked at the house off down the beach. “OK, Evan. I’ll try. And we’ll stay friends, right?” I said.
“I’ll have to stay away from you. It’s painful for me,” he mumbled.
“What! Really? But you said I’m a train wreck. Be honest Evan, you can’t be friends with me simply because you just don’t like me anymore.”
“That’s not it.” He started walking again and now it was my turn to keep up with him. “I like you more than you deserve and I can’t help how I feel about you. To come clean, I actually do understand why Chris is sticking around.” He shook his head and ran his hands through his hair with frustration. “And it kills me to watch you put him through your hell. I keep imagining that you are doing it to me for some reason. Maybe because I realized there was a possibility for us to be together and I have pictured the scenarios for so long. I finally realized that you wouldn’t be faithful and loyal to me either because that is the kind of person you are. So for me, if not for him, you need to be kind to that man. Help restore my faith in love before I fucking kill myself please.”
I gave him a hard stare. “I am very loyal and faithful to those who deserve it.” I said. “Maybe you don’t think you deserve it.”
“Maybe I don’t” he said. And we walked up the steps to the back porch. Luna was in the kitchen with Zoe putting some cereal and milk in a bowl for her. “Well!” she said. “If it isn’t two of my most favorite people in the world.”
I looked at Evan who seemed to shed all his stress caused by me in just one second to grin at Luna. Then he went to kiss her cheek. He put his mug on the counter before he grabbed his keys and headed out the front door, not saying bye to me.
“What did you two talk about?” she said as the door clicked shut.
“He likes you a lot Luna,” I said. I looked over at her and she flickered her eyes up at me with a poker face as she handed Zoe a spoon. “Eat up child” she said. “And drink up too. Almond milk is expensive.”
I examined Luna’s lovely silver hair hanging over Zoe’s bowl as she fed Zoe just to get her started, and thought about how she was very young to be completely gray. She had long eye lashes and killer green eyes always hidden behind strands of her hair. A little bit of makeup could be amazing on her. And if she shed the hippie skirts and flowing poet shirts for something a little more fitted and cute, she would probably look like a completely different person. “Luna!” I said, “I have a great idea!”