This story is by Kristen Codey and was part of our 2017 Spring Writing Contest. You can find all the Spring Writing Contest stories here.
Another Summer Tour
I guess you can say that there are a lot of small moments that lead to this one big moment. I’m in trouble. I should have known that this day would come. I think I thought I can could rewrite this part of my life, our lives, as if it was just some part of a story. I’m still a little girl–so small, so naïve, trying to navigate in a very complicated world.
I remember sitting on the roof top of this house, my grandmother’s house, watching my siblings and cousins run around the big yard. They were all so much older than me, and should have been wiser, well at least I thought that they were—but in hide and seek I had outsmarted them. I was three and sitting on the roof, feeling the warm sun on my too-plump-for-my-baby-face-cheeks, laughing without a care in the world. I thought I had them fooled, but someone brought me down the roof of the house then and someone is here bringing me down again.
“Rachel, we need to talk,” he says. I love talking, but I don’t want to talk to him now. I want him to forget. I want him to enjoy our three weeks here together playing house in my family’s home by the lake. In this fairy tale place, there’s no such thing as marriage, bastard children, and broken families. There is just people who love each other and forgiveness. In this scenario, somehow, everyone is happy and no one feels cheated. We all co-exist at the best of our abilities, but alas you cannot have timeshare relationships within a marriage. You don’t get 2 weeks and a flex week that you get to sell. By the way those timeshare meetings are awful and the offers are never as good as what they tell you to lure you into forfeiting 4 hours of your life, that you will never get back.
He starts out saying: “Rachel I love you, but…” but? BUT what?! Where is this going? He isn’t Tom. If he was Tom, then none of this situation would even matter. There would be no “situation.” He is Matthew. We call him Matt. My daughter calls him “Uncle Matty.” He’s my best friend and he wants answers.
I’ve been married for 4 years, but closer to 5 now to Tom, not Matt. Every summer Matt comes to stay with us for 2 or 3 weeks. We are best friends, but we also work on projects together—typically albums. He is guitarist and composer and I’m a singer/ song writer. We do a bulk of them during this time. The first year my husband: Tom, was here for the entirety of the trip. The rest of the years he tends to go away on business around this time. We have a traditional marriage, so nothing unsavory or scandalous has happened since we’ve been married, which is why every year he comes and it’s no big deal. Sometimes Matt is in a relationship too, but not this year. He came single—no one to go home to. This year Matt seems different, almost like he’s got an agenda, but I think he may just be eager to get started on our next album. Plus, now that he’s single, a tour seems like a great idea. I’d have to arrange to bring Lola with us. She loves being a part of the music. Also, I can’t be without her. She’s like the music. She’s my baby, but she’s also our baby.
Tom was only here for a day before he left for his business trip. Tom is a simple guy of simple pleasures. He loves this life that we’ve made. He loves laughing and sports and he is a trusty guy. He’s trusty and trusting and sometimes to a fault. I was always afraid, even while dating that I’d hurt him. Saying that now, even thinking it, makes me feel like the scum of the earth. It went away though, that feeling of failing or betraying faded and I felt normal and safe. We had a solid foundation and secure marriage. We were each other’s worlds. There was a slight disconnect in that he loved facts and consistency and I favored fiction and a flare for drama. I started missing the color of art and the art of deep conversations, things that he couldn’t understand. One time I recall looking for a reaction from him on something I felt passionately about and his reply was: “sometimes I just don’t know what you’re talking about, sorry honey.”
The compromise was having my best friend come and stay and talk and create with me. He figured 2 or 3 weeks of letting my spirit soar and letting us get lost in our world of our own language: movie quotes, cult classic sleepovers, time lost in walls of music would be enough for that side of my brain and that piece of my heart that craved, just a tad more than simple contentment. He admired my hunger for change and my ambition. He trusted me.
“Rachel I love you but…what is this?” he slides over a piece of paper and the room starts spinning. The air gets all hot and thick. I swallow down what feels like bile from the pit of my stomach and say “It looks like a piece of paper Matt.”
He’s unamused. This is not like him, this is more formal Master’s Degree of Science Matthew.
Then there was Matt. Tall, dark, and handsome Matt; lothario-heart-throb Matt, former male model Matt, God with a guitar Matt. Matt the life-ruiner. I guess that’s why Tom didn’t really worry. If a guy like that hasn’t already slept with your girl and they’ve been friends for years, and years the threat level is significantly low. Matt was the light of my life.
I met him after my first real “break up” and he was a great friend to me. I’ve always liked him. For 5 years or more I was in love with him. No one measured up, down, or around to anything close to him. He was the end all, be all, but for some reason as great as he was, he was dumb as rocks. Especially back in the early college years. All those looks but hollow behind those eyes. I loved him anyways, but he didn’t understand back then. It would take him, gosh, closer to a decade to even notice me, but by then it was already too late. I got engaged. He was the first person I texted. Oh yeah, I never said where the switch happened. I was in an abusive relationship. Yes, physically abusive, mentally demoralizing and uh—to put it lightly he snapped me out of it. He still, to this day, says “I guess you could say you owe me your life?”
He had to say things to me the right way or else I think I would have stayed and could potentially have died. That particular ex would have killed me, if not physically–emotionally. So, after that relationship and grad school, we got closer. I started my own business and I sang for him, after I sang for him, suddenly, he not only could see who I was, but he valued me more. I wasn’t just his friend, who was funny and smart, but now I was creative and to him that was everything. As time went on, we had more and more in common. Sometimes it felt as if we were the same people. He was my Heathcliff (Wuthering Heights reference, neither here, nor there). Due to said abusive relationship and being a creative loner, I didn’t have many friends so when I got engaged he and I had a supercharged bachelorette weekend in the city. It was just us and we dressed up in themed outfits every night, and he took off work to hang out with me (his other friends call him a Frosted Flake, so this was rare and special behavior). We danced all night, we watched our favorite movies. We nerded out. We drank, we sang. We were fine. Seriously, we were good, but one night we did get a little too drunk and one or two big mistakes were made. I ended up leaving a day early from the long weekend. It just seemed like the right thing to do.
Now we are here. We’re sitting at my daughter’s table in her playroom. How fitting—I am a little girl again.
“Do you remember our super, ultra, spectacular bachelorette weekend?” Matt says in a voice that sounds like a marriage between Mr. Moviefone and a bro. I nod, of course I remember. “Good,” he nods too, “Do you remember driving up to me when you were pregnant with Lola?”
“Yes,” I say at a tone just above a whisper. He’s on to me.
“My mom always jokes that you came up that weekend to tell me the baby was mine…”
“I miss your mom, she was always one of my favorites. How is she doing?” I try to detract.
Matt shakes his head, with this look of disbelief “No, you aren’t getting off that easy, not this time…You said you just came up for a work event and that you wanted to see me, before you were no longer just you—before you were two. Isn’t that what you said?” I nod in compliance. “Before that day, you didn’t speak to me for 7 months, you know how I know, because usually I can’t get you to shut up. You send me messages daily, we talk on a weekly basis. You left me.”
“Yes, I did, I’m sorry,” I admit.
He continues ramping up in volume: “You left me, alone at a hotel. Then you left some note and some short, vague voicemail and I didn’t hear from you for 7 months and then on the 8th month you showed up at my mom’s house with a basketball you swallowed under your shirt, and then I fall for you again, like an idiot! And I watch you go into labor early, on that same visit. Your water broke on my bed! But we never told Tom that, did we? I even booked his emergency flight up so he could be with you when you delivered. I was with you the whole time, every contraction, every bead of sweat, every tear and kicking myself when Tom shows up and I have to walk away and watch him walk away with my happy ending: watching him live my life with my family.”
“I wasn’t sure if—and what do you mean fall for me again?! Where was I the first time? “
“Rachel, I swear to God!” He puts his hands up by his temples, and then slides over an opened envelope. “You weren’t sure, Well I’ve been here a week, and I’m sure. I found this in my guitar case. Lola’s not my adorable niece anymore. She’s mine, and bonus: these test results were dated a year ago!”
“I was married and I didn’t know what to do okay? Then as she got bigger I suspected and I just wanted you close. I figured it out and I had to tell you the truth. I couldn’t live any longer without you knowing…What do you want to do?” I ask, “w-what are you going to do?”
“I want her…and I want you. I don’t know what to do, but I know that I need more than 2 or 3 weeks a year. I need more than a summer tour,” He gets up to leave the room, “Thank you for telling me the truth, but I really hope you make the right decisions. I know what I’ve done to you in the past and how you couldn’t always count on me, but I need you to help me make this right, and only you can do that.”