I take an ice pick to the chest with that one, the cold spreading through me. Because of course, of course, that’s what I want for him. It’s what’s held me back and back and back. But kids know, they know when their parents aren’t happy. Hamish deserves better than a childhood tainted with angst.
“Separated parents are better than two miserable parents together,” I tell her, pleading now. “You know it’s true. Hamish is smart, so smart. So intuitive. Children pick up on so much more than you realize.”
Her eyes narrow. “Oh? What self-help book did you steal that from? Bloody hell, Brigs. Just listen to yourself. Talking out of your arse.”
“Do you want him to grow up in a house where I don’t love his mother? Is that what you want? Don’t you think he’ll see? He’ll know.”
“He won’t,” she says viciously. “Stop making excuses.”
I get to my feet and raise my palms, feeling helpless to the core. Guilty as sin. “I have no excuses. Just the truth.”
“Go fuck your truth, Brigs,” she snaps.
The thunder crashes again. I pray it drowns out our argument, that Hamish is still blissfully asleep and unaware that his future is changing. Not for the worst, please God, not for the worst. Just changing.
She walks over to the antique bar cart and pours herself a glass of Scotch from the decanter, like a heroine in a Hitchcock film. Playing the part.
Can’t she see how tired I am of pretending?
Doesn’t she get tired, too?
“Do you want one?” she asks over her shoulder, almost coyly, the glass between her manicured fingertips. Her father gave us those, and the decanter, as a wedding present.
I shake my head, trying to steady my heart.
She slams back the Scotch, and in a second it’s down her throat. “Suit yourself. I’ll have your share.”
She pours another glass, holds it delicately, and glides over to the couch, sitting down in front of me. She crosses her legs and stares up at me, cocking her head, a wave of blonde falling across her forehead. She’s buried her emotions again, pretending, acting, as if that will make everything okay.
“You’re a fool, Brigs. Always were. But I forgive you. We all have lapses in judgement sometimes.”
I sigh heavily and close my eyes. She’s not getting it.
“People fall out of love all the time,” she goes on, finishing half the glass and putting it down on the glass side table. The clink sounds so loud in this room that seems to be growing emptier and emptier. “It’s a fact of life. A sad, sad fact. But you can fall back in. I’ll try harder. I really will. I’ll do anything to make you stay. You know this. You know how I can be. Once I have something, I don’t let go. I fight. And I keep what’s mine.”
I do know that. Which is why I have to give her the truth. The terrible truth. Because only then she’ll see. Only then she’ll see what I mean.
I wish I didn’t have to do this.
“I’m so sorry,” I whisper.
“I forgive you.” She finishes the rest of her drink, wiping the back of her hand across her lips without managing to smear her lipstick.
“I’m so sorry,” I say again, feeling the tears building behind my eyes. I shake my head sharply. “The truth is…I’m in love with someone else. I’ve fallen in love with someone else.”
The truth falls.
Lands on her like bricks.
She jerks her head back from the impact, eyes widening in confusion. Fear. Anger.