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Authors: Theresa Ellson

Hard Choices

BOOK: Hard Choices
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Hard Choices

 

 

 

Theresa Ellson

Copyright 2014 by Theresa Ellson

 

All rights reserved. This book or any portion thereof may not be reproduced or used in any manner whatsoever without the express written permission of the publisher except for the use of brief quotations in a book review.

This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, businesses, events and incidents are either the products of the author’s imagination or used in a fictitious manner. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or actual events is purely coincidental.

 

For my mom, who has been nagging me forEVER to write a book.

 

And for my three bestest friends in the whole wide world,

Lisa, Lisa, and Kerstin,

because they crack me up.

 

 

Special thanks to:

 

Lora, who diligently proofread my first draft.

 

Wendy Rincon
, who proofread two drafts, and provided invaluable feedback and moral support!

 

Deirdre Gould
, a busy author who edited, proofread and generally helped a sister out.

 

And

 

Diana Murdock
, who convinced me it was possible, and has been my constant cheerleader.

 

Thank you!

Chapter
1

 

“Lyssa? Lyssa? Where are you?” Molly called from my front door. I hadn’t answered her knock, and she’d known better. She knew I was hiding. She knew I was stewing.

“I’m here,” I called tiredly. “In the kitchen.”

Molly came through to my kitchen and took me in as I sat at the table, cradling my wine glass. I knew I looked a little unkempt. Bedraggled. Messy. Befuddled, but unbeaten.

“Hey.”

“Hey,” I answered.

Then I waited. I wasn’t going to make this easy on
anyone
. Not even my best friend. Let her say it.

“I’ve been calling all morning,” she said. I nodded. I’d turned my phone off. “So,” she finally said, as she leaned against the wall, “it’s not every day you find out your best friend is getting divorced... on Facebook.”

I sighed. Then I looked her dead in the eye and said, “It’s not every day you find out
you’re
getting divorced on Facebook.”

She was quiet for a minute.

“I thought he was kidding,” she shook her head, “When I saw that Scott had changed his status to ‘single’ and then ‘it’s complicated.’ I figured it was a joke.”

“No joke,” I said tersely. “He moved out last night. Rented himself a house.” It was one o’clock on a January Saturday, and I was still in the sweats I’d crashed in last night. I’d come home from work, changed into comfy clothes, then my husband of twenty-two years dropped his bombshell on me.

“OK, I didn’t find out
on
Facebook. He told me he ‘couldn’t fight it anymore,’” I said that last bit unkindly, mimicking a drama queen, using air quotes. Molly raised her eyebrows at me, and I answered her unspoken question. “Couldn’t fight his feelings for Sarah anymore. You know, Sarah? Our neighbor?” I jerked my head to the right, to indicate the direction of her house, around the corner.

Molly’s jaw dropped open. “Sarah Campling?” she said incredulously. “That... mousy... little... nothing?”

“YUP,” I said sharply. I got up to pour myself another glass of wine. “The one who always called me by the wrong name. She could never get that my name is just Lyssa, not
A
lyssa. That always annoys me,” I grumbled and Molly chuckled. People hearing my name wrong was a common mistake, but I didn’t tend to dwell on it. “Now I’m just being petty,” I sighed and picked up the bottle. “Want one?” I asked Molly.

“Hell yeah, I want one,” said Molly, flopping down into a chair at my kitchen table. Still sounding confused and incredulous, she shook her head and said, “What... why...
really
?”

“Really.” I said as I poured us each a big glass of Shiraz.

“Holy shit, Lyssa. I don’t even know what to say.”

“Me neither.” I put the glass in front of her, slid back into my chair, and downed half my glass in one gulp.

“If J.J. pulled something like this…” Molly said, shaking her head. She and J.J. had been together for six years. They didn’t live together, had no intentions of marrying, but they were very committed to each other; they just liked their space. “How... how do you feel?” she asked tentatively, then picked up her glass for a sip, watching me warily over the rim.

“Humiliated. Confused. Sad. Pissed,” I said. “But you know what, Molly? Mostly, I just feel relieved.”

She choked on her wine and started coughing. After a good thirty seconds, I realized she was laughing. Laughing her ass off. Laughing until tears ran down her face. That got me started.

Minutes later, still laughing so hard we could barely breathe, I finally choked out, “You’re not really surprised, are you?”

Wiping her eyes, and trying to get her breath back, Molly said, “Honestly? No. You put up a brave front, Lyssa, but... yeah, you’ve only been going through the motions for a few years now.”

“Once again, Molly, you have the rare ability to nail it in twenty words or less.”

She really had. I’d been married at nineteen, a mom at twenty... and again at twenty-one and twenty-three. My youngest, Daniel, had graduated from high school and gone off to the Coast Guard five months ago. “You know, when Scott and I watched Danny graduate from boot camp,” I shook my head, “I think we both kind of thought, ‘OK, we did our duty.’”

I’d sent my youngest off with ambivalence. I was proud of him, and terrified for him, and, if I was honest with myself, terrified for
me
. I’d spent half my life raising kids. Who was I without at least
one
underfoot?

“Yeah,” Molly took a big swig of wine, “I can relate.” Molly had been a single mom from the get-go. Her son, Jared, and my son Kyle were twenty now, and had been inseparable since first grade. Jared had moved out already and Molly was doing just fine on her own. “So, what are you going to... you know,
do
?” I knew Molly asked out of genuine concern, not morbid curiosity.

I took a deep breath and exhaled slowly. “I don’t have a friggin’ clue,” I said wryly.

“Yeah,” she took another sip of wine. “Yeah.”

We drank our wine in companionable silence, while I thought about her question. What the hell
was
I going to do?

First of all, tell the kids. “Oh crap,” I muttered and dropped my forehead into my hand. “The kids must all know by now, if he’s splashed it all over Facebook. What a moron.”

“Well, they have their mother’s restraint,” Molly consoled me, “because they didn’t comment on Scott’s ‘changed status.’ But it’s a good bet they saw it.”

Oh they’d seen it all right. When I finally got around to checking my phone an hour later, after Molly and I had polished off the bottle of Shiraz and she’d taken off, I had more than a dozen missed calls and text messages from them, asking, then demanding, to know what the hell was going on. “Crrrrrrap!” I muttered. Scott was such an idiot. Who does that? Who tells the world and his three grown children that he’s left his wife... by announcing it on Facebook?

I sent a text to all three kids: “Sorry you found out like this. I didn’t know your dad was going to post it like that. I’m OK. Your dad’s OK. I hope you’re OK. I love you. Call me when you have time.”

Ten minutes after I hit
Send
, Kyle burst through the front door. He must have gotten my text on the road.

“Mom? MOM!” he called out as he tore through the house.

“Kitchen!” I called back.

I heard him tear through the living room, and came around the corner to meet him. Kyle had suspiciously red-rimmed eyes. I hadn’t seen him like that since his serious high-school girlfriend had unexpectedly dumped him the week before leaving for college.

Kyle looked so much like his dad, and truthfully, that made my heart hurt a little. He was the same age Scott had been when we’d met. I smiled sadly at this ghost from the past, and held my arms out to him. Kyle was the least affectionate of my offspring, but he moved in and quickly grabbed onto me.

“You OK, buddy?” I asked with my head against his chest.

Kyle didn’t answer. He didn’t say anything. But his body shook with sobs.

I was dumbfounded.

Without saying anything, I pulled him onto the couch. He still clung to me, and when we sat down, he rested his head against my shoulder and just wept. I stroked his hair, and wondered what he was feeling. But I knew better than to say anything. Kyle would tell me when he was ready. If he told me anything at all. I just sat there in shock, stroking his hair, and rocking him, broken-hearted over his sadness.

I had no idea how long it lasted, but he finally cried himself out. He pulled away from me, and buried his head in his hands, elbows resting on his knees. I kept stroking his hair, not knowing what to say.

“Kyle, I’m so sorry this is so hard for you. I really am,” I said sadly. “I... had no idea it would... hit you this hard.”

He looked up sharply. “You didn’t?
Really
?” He said angrily. “You and Dad just decide this, without telling any of us, and you’re surprised it’s hard to hear? Jesus, Mom!”

I bit back my angry retort, and breathed deeply. “I had no idea your dad was planning to announce our divorce on Facebook. In fact, I didn’t know until last night that he was planning our divorce at all.” Somehow, I managed to say this gently, without sounding accusatory. I silently applauded my own force of will.

Kyle stared at me for a good ten seconds. Then he snorted in disgust. “God, he’s such a dick.”

I was so startled, I barked out a laugh. “Well, I’d like to be that enlightened parent who never speaks ill of her children’s father... but yeah, I’d have to agree. It was definitely a dick move.”

He chuckled and shook his head as both our phones rang simultaneously. We picked them up and looked at them.

“Danny,” he said at the same time I said, “Rebecca.”

I shrugged as Kyle brushed his thumb across his phone to answer his brother’s call. He walked through the kitchen, and out the back door onto the deck. I looked at my phone, and willed myself to answer my daughter’s call. She was a few hours away at the university, and I was terrified she was going to break down on the phone with me. How could I help her when she was so far away?

Finally, I steeled myself and hit
Answer
. “Hi, honey,” I said brightly. Stupidly. Who was I kidding?

“Mom.” She said it flatly.

“Yeah,” I said, waiting.

“MOM.” She said again.

“Yes. Becca. I’m here.”

“MOM! What the HELL? I saw Facebook, and then Dad called, and he wants me to
meet
her!” I heard disgust and incredulity in my daughter’s voice. She and Scott had always had a weird relationship. He had always,
always
wanted to impress her. Wanted her to admire him. Wanted her to look up to him. But Rebecca regarded her dad more like a pesky
younger
brother than anything. She loved him, she wanted him to be happy, but he often annoyed her with his neediness.

“Oh, wow,” I said. “Yeah, he’s not wasting any time, is he?” I laughed.

“You’re laughing?!”

It’s always fun to feel judged by your twenty-one-year-old daughter. “Well, what do you want me to do, Rebecca? Cry? That wouldn’t be very honest.”

She was silent, then I heard a slow sigh. “Yeah, I guess not.” There was a long pause. “Are you OK, Mom, really?”

I sighed, too. “Not yet. But I will be.”

Another long pause. “What a dick.”

I barked out another laugh. “That’s exactly what Kyle said!”

“How is Kyle? How’s Danny?”

“Kyle is... fine. He’s here. He’s taking it pretty hard. He’s talking to Danny. I haven’t talked to Danny yet.”

Scott and I had been so young when we had kids. I’d always been the authority figure, but Rebecca was born mature, so it was OK between her and me. Kyle and Danny and their dad were always really tight. He had definitely been more of a big brother than a father to them. Miraculously, they’d both turned out fine, despite that. Somehow, we’d gotten through the years of teenage rebellion and they had gotten past their resentment of me putting limits on them, and we got along well, for the most part. I still yelled at them for leaving the toilet seat up, but no body’s perfect.

“Hey, Becca, do you think you could come up here tonight or tomorrow? I usually Skype with Danny on Sunday morning. Maybe it’d be good if we could all talk. What do you think?”

“Will Dad be there?”

I was taken aback. Not because of her question, but because it honestly hadn’t occurred to me to include Scott in a “family meeting.” We had officially dissolved as a couple less than eighteen hours ago, and I was already thinking of dealing with my kids on my own. That was certainly telling.

I finally answered my daughter, “Uh, no. I don’t think your dad and I will be ‘doing things together’ anymore.”

“Oh. OK. I think I actually prefer that, anyway.”

“Clean break?” I said.

“Yeah, clean break. I guess.”

“So will you come?”

“Yeah. I’ll leave here pretty quick. I’ll be there by dinner.” She paused. “Um, Mom? Will you make fried chicken for dinner? And mashed potatoes? And corn bread?”

I laughed out loud. “Yes! Just don’t tell Danny!” I usually saved my kids’ favorite meal for whenever all of us were together. But I could tell that tonight, Becca needed some normalcy.

I hung up with Becca and waited for Kyle to finish with Danny. Finally, he walked in and handed me the phone.

“Danny wants to talk to you,” he said flatly.

“Sure,” I said taking the phone. “Hi Danny,” I said, too brightly. Again.

“Hey, Mom,” Danny said quietly. “Kyle said you didn’t see this coming. Are you OK?” I was already sick of that question.

“That’s not entirely true,” I said cautiously, “Your dad and I have been growing apart for years now. We were so young when we married. We just grew into different people.” Well,
I
grew; Scott hadn’t. But that wasn’t something I needed to say out loud to my sons.

BOOK: Hard Choices
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