Disclaimer: I don't own the O.C. Or Friends – the character of Fun Bobby for those who don't know, is someone who is really fun, until he gives up alcohol then he is really dull. Not that important, just for those who don't get the reference.
The sign I couldn't read, or a light I couldn't see, some things you have to believe, but others are puzzles, puzzling me
- Coldplay, Speed of Sound
As Sandy entered the Cohen's not so humble abode, he immediately sensed his wife's presence. The boys were out, he knew, on a "road trip" as Seth had pronounced it, to San Francisco. Show Ryan some of the sights. Even though Ryan was a Californian boy born and bred he'd seen surprisingly little of his own state.
The house was still, silent. The gentle click of the door and the "Honey, I'm home" rang through the house. The words invaded the hallway on the innermost level, separating the particles on their forceful journey to the living room.
Sandy briskly followed his words, as if to take advantage of the protection and the path they forged for him. And there as he had sensed, was Kirsten.
Kirsten sat on their sea-blue sofa, her knees resting on one of their plump cushions. Her head was tilted to one side, in concentration, allowing Sandy a good view of her. Her blonde hair had been styled, and with the weight she had regained at Suriak, she looked gorgeous. Her face no longer wore that pinched, pained look; there was an altogether calmer air about her. But Sandy avoided looking too closely, for those baby blues of hers looked despondent. Almost empty.
Kirsten was picking at a tangled gold necklace. Her version of a worry ball. This piece of jewellery was currently tangled since 1997 – her new pet project.
"Hey babe". Sandy injected a tone of cheerfulness into his voice, but it didn't quite ring true to his ears.
Kirsten looked up, raised her eyes to his.
She smiled, her eyes crinkled, but Sandy couldn't detect a sparkle in those eyes.
"You ok hon? It's so quiet in here, you want me to turn the tv on? Radio?"
"No, I'm fine thanks" replied Kirsten, still in that quiet, husky tone.
She looked down at the necklace, hesitant, unsure of herself. Sandy knew it was wrong of him, but he had hoped rehab would "fix" Kirsten of her problem, not create another one which Sandy had even less idea of how to solve. Kirsten wasn't drinking, she seemed fine to everyone else but Sandy knew she had changed. She still had the ability to pull the wool over people's eyes on how she is feeling, she breezed through a Newpsie meeting last week. As Dr. Julie Cooper said, if she can do that and not turn to the bottle, she's fine, Sandy. But Sandy knew better.
"So how was your day?" Kirsten brightened considerably and Sandy is even taken in for a moment. Ah, there it is. She can really be a pro when she wants to be. Yet Sandy's not fooled, and she knows it, and he knows she knows. This game of bullshit's not fooling anyone.
Kirsten's never been a big talker, and since Seth was born she'd never been lost for conversation. But things have been strained in the Cohen household. Under the cheerful façade, Sandy has noticed Seth struggling to keep the conversation going, worried about his mom. Kirsten would never ignore him, or be rude, but she was very subdued and even Seth can only run on his own steam for so long.
Maybe she's fed up of talking after months of rehab, Sandy reasoned. Maybe she's all talked out.
Sandy was surprised how quickly Ryan forgave Kirsten, faster than Seth. He always knew Ryan would, at least on the surface, but he was astonished when he saw that he truly forgave her. She had sat him down when she had returned, had a good long chat with him on the patio, and whilst lurking in the kitchen he saw them finally rise and hug each other. They had grasped onto each other, eyes closed, almost peaceful. Maybe Kirsten had helped Ryan figure out some issues he had had with Dawn. Who knows? He never heard about their conversation, it was something totally theirs.
Sandy had seen the similarities between the two. The subtle and the obvious. Sometimes, when they had been on a family trip out, where no one knew them, he sometimes became irrationally jealous when they said Ryan "looks the spitting image of his mom". Maybe it's the fact that outsiders think he is Kirsten's son, but they wouldn't image him to be his flesh and blood. Insane, he knows, but he can't help it – he wonders if this is what Kirsten felt like with Seth. At least Seth wasn't referred to as the milkman's son, he supposed.
But with Ryan and Kirsten, silence speaks louder than words. Maybe Kirsten doesn't understand Ryan's background, but she understands him. A glance between them can mean as much as a thousand words between Seth and Sandy. Sandy wonders if his wife knows how he envies that ability – that relationship which is truly unique and theirs. No, he decided, she probably doesn't realise it's there. Sandy knows she's felt isolated in their family at times, out of touch with their humorous banter. His easy camaraderie with the boys is sometimes resented, he knows that. Kirsten may be top dog in the business world, but deep down, she's insecure as hell when it comes to relationships and emotions. Not that she'd admit it.
Kirsten's not touched a drop of alcohol since she returned, but Sandy's still walking on egg shells around her – and dammit she knows.
Maybe she's going into depression.
That thought jolts Sandy, he is suddenly aware of every nerve ending.
Kirsten's never been noisy, but she's never been this quiet.
Sandy knows he should think things through, but a case of verbal diarrhoea comes out instead –
"So sweetheart, anything you wanna talk about? You seem really quiet, can I help at all? I could take you out, we could go golfing again. I know you don't really like it but I think you should give it another go, you're definitely improving and the fresh air would do you good –"
"No, thank you," Kirsten cuts him off, gently, leaving Sandy feeling like a babbling fool.
Sandy feels like he's failed his wife. He doesn't know how to help her, or even where to start. Ryan's not the only member in the family to have a hero complex.
He turns to enter the kitchen, grab a cup of coffee, a safe "Dutch courage". What has happened to their marriage, when he can't even face his wife for more than two minutes without feeling a heavy dread settle in his stomach, that he's going to fail her again? His wife's soft tones stop him in his path.
"Sandy? I…I know you're trying to help, but the constant hounding of me isn't helping. I know you mean well…but it just seems like you're making things harder. And I'm not saying that to make you feel bad – I just need some space, to think things out. You know?"
Kirsten looks up pleadingly at Sandy, and Sandy doesn't have the heart to challenge her. He draws her into his arms, cradling her. He rocks her gently, murmuring "I'm sorry sweetie, I'll try."
Another thought comes unbidden into his head. What if this is what Kirsten's like without the alcohol? He met her in a bar, for God's sake, and he'd never seen her at a party without a drink in her hand. Oh god. Please don't let her be like that Fun Bobby guy on Friends.
No. She won't be. Kirsten wasn't under the influence 24/7 for 20 years of marriage. No. This is just a phase. It has to be just a phase.
And as Sandy Cohen grips onto his wife, his head nestled in her golden locks, inhaling the fresh scent of strawberry shampoo, he fervently prays for his wife, for himself. Because God knows who Sandy Cohen is without Kirsten Cohen.
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