stood with his arms encircling Kathleen. His mind, however, drifted
far beyond the closed space between them. Since stumbling across her
picture in his wallet, her face was all he could see. He remembered
the day the picture was taken. She had just come back from her
business trip to Wisconsin and was seated at their kitchen table; her
face buried in the bouquet of pink roses and daffodils, the petals
rustling along with the gentle sway of her long blond hair as she
deeply inhaled their scent. "Angela---" She looked up; her
smile captured with the click of the shutter. Looking back, Tony
wished he could've frozen that moment in time. At the sound of his
voice, the smile danced in her eyes before spreading to the corners
of her mouth, causing one dimple to appear then another. For his
part, Tony just delighted in knowing he had been instrumental in
bringing the bright grin to her face.
"When I see you smile, Angela..." She sat and he stood; simultaneously feeding off the happiness flowing through them.
Suddenly, the arms that were lightly laced around Tony's neck seemed to strangle him. Extricating himself from Kathleen's embrace, he offered the excuse of a quick bathroom run; admonishing that she had made too much coffee, which, in anticipation of her father's visit, had put her already jittery nerves into overdrive. Kathleen was left staring after him.
As he sat alone on Kathleen's couch, Tony absentmindedly ran his fingers over her glossed image. Angela had been elated that day; this he knew. So elated, in fact, he doubted she was even aware he'd taken the picture. Her smile simply a natural response to his voice. But there was something else--- something he'd said. He told her he hadn't played around during the week while she was gone, not at all. He had been a 'good housekeeper.' The implication was there---and as their eyes met, understood. They were...
Tony blanched. Looking at her warm brown eyes staring up at him from the photograph, he murmured brokenly, "Baby, I'm so sorry." "Sorry for what?" Kathleen asked. Stunned by the sound of her voice, his back tensed; the picture, which had slipped from his trembling fingers, lay face down on the floor. Kathleen knelt down; picking up the photo before sitting beside him. He couldn't look at her. "She's beautiful, Tony." Finally meeting her eyes, and not knowing quite to say he muttered, "Yeah." Kathleen continued; her voice edging slightly, "I do have one question though...Why do you have Angela's picture in your wallet and not mine?" As Tony groped for an answer she mused, "Come to think of it, you've never even asked for a picture of of me." Her voice rose and then fell; now acutely aware that she, too, like Tony, had been all too willing, and in willing their relationship to survive, had stayed silent for far too long.
Kathleen hid in the present; holding fast to the fact that Tony would come to her after school. This charismatic Italian did want her; at least, in the moment. They would go to the theatre. Seemingly the stuff seen on the silver screen, right? Except---Tony was rooted to his past. He would go home to Angela. He raised a family with Angela; had two children, and invited another little boy into the home they shared with open arms. Kathleen knew there would never be any room for her in their home. Her voice then vocalized a question although, in her head, she already knew what his answer would be.
He seemed so far away; a world apart from her.
"I want to take Sam shopping, what day do you think would be best?" When he didn't answer, she pressed, "Saturday or Sunday?"
"I'll condense it for you," she said; her irritation evident.
"Me; shopping; with Sam," she repeated.
Tony answered as if he had his daughter's schedule scribbled on the palm of his hand.
"Saturday Sam works in Angela's office; Ang, well, she cuts down her workload on a Saturday so that she and Sam..."
"What about Sunday?" Kathleen asked.
"On Sunday, Sam, Angela, and Mona hit the boutiques," he said; his paternal pride now pronounced though unbeknown to him.
Kathleen caught the gleam in his eyes and said acerbically, "Shopping is limited to her mother and grandmother I see," she said; now completely certain his future was already drawn out on the lines of his hands as well.
He just had to make the connection.
"I didn't mean it like that," Tony said, in response to her change in tone.
"I know; you never 'mean' anything..." Just like the time we 'coincidentally' ended up at the same restaurant as Angela and her date. And I never did quite understand why you asked her go with you to New Mexico instead of me." Tony's face flushed as it characteristically did whenever he tried to articulate his and Angela's relationship into words. There were words for what was between him and Angela, one word to be exact, and it sat tripping on his tongue as time ticked the years away.
"Kathleen... he began; Angela went with me to Mexico because she is---" Once again Tony was at a loss for words. "She is exactly what I referred to her as before," Kathleen said quietly. "She is Sam's mother." Her statement was blunt and unarguable and left Tony sitting open mouthed. "Go home to your wife, Tony." "Ay, oh; Angela's not my wife; although, we did pick out the china pattern for the house years ago." He grinned in spite of himself.
"That's it!" Kathleen exclaimed. At first, Tony thought she was angry, and he couldn't say he blamed her, but instead, she had the look of a sleuth who'd just deduced 'who done it.' "What's it?" Tony asked, dumbfounded. "Tony, do you realize you grin like a goon whenever Angela's name crosses your lips?" Kathleen's interrogative statement couldn't have surprised Tony more.
"Yeah?" he asked. His reply was more of a conformation rather than a question, and his incredulous look became one of relief as he now had an objective witness confirming the chemistry between him and his boss that he'd denied for nearly a decade.
"Has your love for her escaped your attention too?" Kathleen queried.
"No." I may have tried to deny what's between me and Angela, but I've never been able to escape it...I don't want to." His eyes dropped to the floor. "Angela and I share---"
"A bond that you and I never will," Kathleen said; completing his thought.
"This picture says it all."
"As much as I don't want to admit it, you deserve all of her Tony, and she deserves all of you too."
"Go home to Angela, Tony; she'll be waiting, curled up with your mini-me no doubt."
He looked at her then; his eyes filled with honest gratitude.
"Kathleen; for what it's worth, I'm---"
She interjected, "No apologies Tony; you don't need to feel sorry for something I already knew."
"Still," he said, "You didn't deserve this."
"I'll give you that," she said with a small smile.
Turning to look at her one last time, he thought he'd see a hint of regret, what he read in her eyes, however, was clarity. And he knew she saw that same clarity reflected in his.
Arriving home, he entered the house; the cold air followed him in, urging him to start a fire despite the late hour. Tony had to hand it to Kathleen. For being an art student with an interest in the abstract, she certainly was astute. He found Angela and Billy snuggled together on the sofa, just as she'd predicted. "A Kodak moment if I ever saw one," he thought to himself. He watched silently for a moment before gently picking up Billy and moving him to the far end of couch, saying, "Keep snorin' buddy."
Now looking down at Angela, he couldn't resist placing a soft kiss on her lips, which parted in response to the firm pressure on her mouth. As blissful disorientation faded, her eyes flew open; a tinge of alarm in her voice.
"Shh...Ang, he's right here, Tony whispered; gesturing to the far corner of the couch. "I can put him back where he was, that is, if you'd rather him be here with you than me. In the dim light cast from the fireplace, she saw his characteristic impish grin playing at the corners of his mouth as she pulled him to her once more. His voice was now both breathless and husky as he mumbled, "That was... that was... quite an invitation there, Angela."
Pulling her up, his eyes traveled from the top of her head to her very warm toes. Noticing she was clad in the plaid print flannel pajamas they had worn years ago when they spent night in that leaky hole in the wall motel across from Jonathan's camp, he said, "You wear our jammies so well." The bottoms were about ten sizes too big, but he thought she looked adorable. She grinned sheepishly, explaining that since he wasn't expected home tonight she'd tried putting Billy to sleep in his room to no avail. He'd left them atop his dresser, and they looked to be the warmest thing she could find. And, she reasoned, she had worn them before...well, at least the top. He listened; his smile widening at her rationale. As he smiled, she smiled until her thoughts overtook her emotions. The smile faded and her forehead creased as she wondered aloud, "Why are you home, Tony?"
Tony knew Angela so well that he expected her to question his homecoming as soon as his lips had pressed against hers, and it surprised him that she held out this long. He looked at her intently and the words poured from his heart. "Angela---I'm home because I couldn't see Kathleen anymore; truthfully, I don't think I ever saw her; and I never saw her because all I could see, all I wanted to see, was you." His voice went from earnest to emphatic without missing a beat. "Angela, I need you to know you're always with me, he said; eagerly pulling his wallet from his pocket and flipping to the first picture he came across. She focused on his face; her image forgotten.
"You do?" "But I never showed you..."
"Tony," she said, placing a finger to his lips, "How many times have you bolted out of this house, books in hand, and left your wallet behind?"
"I should've known you knew..."
"I'm glad you found the photo Angela."
"Actually, I didn't...Mother showed it to me."
"I knew Mona would enter the picture at some point in this conversation."
"She always does." Angela's light laughter wafted into a quiver when she spoke again.
"There were also times you left me behind; those times you dashed out the door to be with---"
Even though Angela knew their nightmare was over, she still couldn't vocalize that name.
If she did, she felt as though she were lending voice to something that should've remained unsaid.
"How could you leave me alone like that?" It wasn't as if you didn't have a choice; you chose to leave me!" Her anguish chilled him.
He wrapped himself around her. Turning away from him, she felt his tears; damp against her neck.
"Baby, I'm so sorry." "Angela---he said; his voice weakening as he recalled the evening she had left him; Peter's hand on her shoulder.
"I love you!" he said with all the strength and earnestness he possessed.
"I'm saying now what I should've said the night you walked out on me."
He willed her to believe his words. The relationship between me and Kathleen had so little to do with her and said so much about me and you---it spoke volumes Angela."
His words and warmth drew her to him. As she angled herself to face him, he watched as her flannel nightshirt slid off her shoulder. He sucked in his breath, his lips now pressed against her bare skin. A breathy sigh escaped from her lips in response to his touch. His mouth met hers, gently at first, then with increasing fervor, silencing her. When he pulled back, the familiar look that always passed between them told them they would not go any further tonight.
Their eyes rested instead on the little boy who lie sleeping soundly mere inches from them. The evening's love and loss lost on him, as dreams of Lincoln Logs and Legos drifted in his head. Tony's eyes locked with Angela's as he realized he had one last thing to tell her tonight.
"Ya know, Angela, it was really Kathleen's father who took this situation the hardest of all. In his happiness in seeing I was a family man, he was blind to the fact that I actually am a family man.
She smiled at him, saying, "A family man, is that what you are?"
"Yeah Angela, that's who I am, and I've got my better half sittin' right here beside me."
Her head rested on his shoulder while his lay nestled in her hair.