An Honest Answer

Spoilers for "Big Man on Mulberry Street." Takes place between seasons three and four.


"Did you love her?"

"Love who?"

"Your ex-wife?"

David turned his eyes away from the road to stare at her. "What the hell kind of question is that?"

Maddie met his gaze calmly. "An honest one. Did you love her?"

"Maddie, I knocked the girl up and my father told me I had to step up and be a man. Love didn't have a hell of a lot to do with it."

"I know. I know you didn't have a choice, and I know it didn't work out. That's not what I'm asking. Did you love her?"

He looked away, eyes bugging out a little because it was too early in the morning to be fielding this sort of question from the woman who was—depending on the hour—his employer, partner-in-crime, best friend, fantasy, worst enemy, external conscience, entertainment system, sounding board, therapist, mother, sister, and/or lover. She was all these things and more to David Addison, but never in their three years together had she been an inquisitor without cause. She'd never delved farther into his past than the situation required; she'd never pushed for answers to the personal questions he worked to avoid. She let his family wander through and accepted his stony silence in the stead of explanation. And she listened once alcohol turned his silence into loose-lipped anguish.

And in the morning, once the hangover had worn off and the dust had settled, she would forget. Well, not forget—not really. But she'd let him settle back into routine—let him hide his memories and his soul away again without a word. She never dredged their late night conversations back up. Even when they fought and yelled and threw words around like grenades—just aiming for any soft spot within range—she never dug into her arsenal and pulled out the big guns. She never threw the contents of his inebriated confessions back at him to rip through his defenses and wreck havoc the way only ancient, ingrained pain could. Their collective past and his recent screw-ups were fair game, but never his darkest secrets.

He'd never afforded her such a courtesy. He wanted to know. Everything. From that first day, from that first moment she'd introduced herself as Ms. Madelyn Hayes, he'd wondered. Behind the blond hair and the icy blue eyes, the perfect makeup and the pristine suits—who was she? She looked like any other woman. No, that was a lie. She looked like any other supermodel walking around on the street, maybe, but any other woman, no. And she opened her mouth and the damnedest things came out—ideas and beliefs and things he'd never heard someone say with a straight expression on their face before. Listening to her spout off outrageous judgments and incredible insights about other people, he'd wondered just who she thought she was. He'd wondered if she knew.

And he was still wondering, because Maddie Hayes—for all that she was quick to offer her opinion to and about others—was surprisingly tight lipped about herself. And he found that fascinating.

He found her fascinating.

She was a creature of habit; he knew that much. She feared change and loss and not a whole lot else. She was tough, and he treated her that way because he could tell not a lot of people had. They treated her like fragile porcelain, never noticing the force in her convictions or the steel in her determination. They were easy to miss behind the million dollar smile; it was easy to forget the strength required to keep that smile going.

So, if she was breaking habit to dredge up his past and unearth his personal feelings, he reasoned, she probably had a good motive. Well, one that registered as good to her mind at least. She could be a little warped with these things. And he probably owed her one, since he'd never stopped rooting around in her past.

He tried to think back to his marriage and found his thoughts shying around the subject. It was too painful to think about—impossible to talk about without a few drinks first. He tried again and came up with a picture—the one he'd carried in his wallet until the day he'd pulled it out and burned it in his office trash can. He rubbed his chin, thinking, wanting to solidify this last fleeting image of his wife before it too faded into pain.

"She had these pigtails," he said and stopped for a moment, trying to ignore the way Maddie turned to watch him, sincerity etched on her face. He swallowed, feeling nervous. "She had these pigtails that went down all the way to her butt and just sort of swung there. You couldn't look away. And sometimes she'd braid them, and in the summer they'd frizz like nothing I've ever seen." He smiled with reluctant affection, remembering the girl he'd lost years ago and missed ever since.

"And she'd throw these fits because the damn things were always getting tangled and giving her hell, but she wouldn't cut them off either. I used to pull them in elementary school. I watched her twirl them at graduation. I didn't see her without them until a couple months into our marriage."

He shook his head, and the smile disappeared. "She cut them off when we got to New York. Said they didn't work with the scene. Said she'd always hated them anyway."

There was silence in the car for a moment. Maddie looked away, embarrassed that she'd asked and confused by his answer. He parallel parked and turned off the motor before sitting back and staring at the back bumper of the car in front of them.

"Yeah," he said on a sigh. "I loved her. But sometimes—some things…"

"They change you."

He looked at her with surprise. "Yeah."

"And love isn't always enough."

"I guess not."

"But you loved her?"

"Yes."

"And you would have stayed?"

"What?"

"Would you have stayed? If you hadn't found her—if she hadn't done what she did—would have stayed with her?"

He considered, sensing they were talking about more than his ex-wife, but unable to determine the underlying subject. "Well, yeah. Probably."

"Even though people change and love isn't always enough? Even though she cut her hair and never liked it anyway?"

"It's marriage, Maddie, not a junk sale. You don't haggle for the few good pieces in the lot; you take it all, crap included, and promise to take care of it. I meant it."

"All right." She unbuckled her seat belt and reached for the handle. His hand on her shoulder stopped her.

"All right? That's it?"

She nodded. "That's it. That's all I wanted to know."

"Do I get a reason?"

"It not a junk sale, David. We're not haggling for information. I asked and you chose to answer."

"And I asked—"

"And I'm choosing not to answer. Try another question, if it will make you feel better."

He searched her face, hoping for context clues and finding nothing in her beautiful eyes but exhaustion. "Did I at least get it right? Whatever test this is, did I pass?"

She sighed and leaned back against the seat, closing her eyes. "I don't know, David. I really don't know."


And in case you were wondering, an update for "Steel Blue Moon" is up today and every Sunday 'till it's finished. Happy reading!

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