You Were Mine
She missed him.
It took everything she had in her to admit that even just to herself. It had been she who had thrown him out. It had been him who had cheated, who had ruined the life they had created for themselves. He had been the one to destroy the life they had together.
Just because she was in the right didn't make it any easier.
She spotted his truck idling in the deserted corner of the mall's parking lot before their children did and she steeled her resolve, practicing the lines in her head as carefully as she ever had any of her lines from her off-Broadway days. If she could stick to the script she had created in her head maybe this would be easier, if she could force herself to become the woman she wanted to be in this situation then maybe she could play her part.
Hello and a curt nod conveyed the proper opening line. It was civil enough for their children but it said that she still hadn't forgiven him for breaking their marriage vows. She wasn't that woman, the one who let her husband cheat on her but then welcomed him back with open arms. She wasn't so open-minded and forgiveness wasn't exactly her strong suite. No, she wasn't that woman.
But then she didn't think that he was that man anymore, that he hadn't been that guy for a long time. That the man she had married wasn't the boy she had known when they were in high school, the one who had gotten his best friend's girlfriend pregnant and had been romantically involved with every girl in the Glee club. No, she thought he was the man she believed her husband was, the one who came home from work with the milk she'd forgotten. The husband who hugged the kids and kissed her while listening to their day. The one who loved her and only her unconditionally.
"Daddy!" Alex, who she thought missed his father the most, was the first to spot Noah.
"Daddy! Daddy!" Cici joined in on the noise as Rachel brought the car to a stop next to Noah's truck and she found that her hands were shaking as she cut the engine. She couldn't help curse them for betraying her. They'd been doing this every other weekend for six months now; you'd think she'd have the routine down. That just seeing him wouldn't bring up a fresh wave of grief for everything she had lost.
Cici had bolted out of the car as soon as the engine was off and Rachel was glad that Alex was still locked into a car seat because it gave her the chance to calm her nerves. It was only a momentary relief because as soon as his little feet were on the ground Alex launched himself at his father as well and she has no choice but to look at him.
It broke her heart just a little bit more to do it.
She just wished her heart wouldn't beat a little harder whenever she saw him, like some love struck teenager.
"Alex is still on antibiotics, they're in his backpack." She was proud at how even her voice sounded, thanking God that she had dedicated years of her life to her theatrical training. She grabbed both of the bags out of her car before depositing them in the truck for Noah, both kids in his arm clinging to their father with their arms wrapped around him.
It was hard knowing they missed him, when she missed him just as much as they did. In the middle of the night when they begged for their father with tears rolling down their cheeks it was just as hard to hide her own tears.
"Sounds good." He gave her that smile that she'd become so accustomed to. The one that made her believe he was the man she thought he was, not the man he had turned out to be, the one that assured her that he was going to handle the situation, that he was going to take care of them all.
"He needs to take them when he first gets up and then right before bed."
She knew what would come next because it's a script that they had down perfectly. They got the logistics out of the way and then came the line that took her breath away.
"I thought we would grab dinner at The Loop, did you want to join us?" He always managed to make it sound so casual, like them grabbing dinner together as a family was no big deal. Like they did it all the time. Like it wouldn't kill her to sit across from him at dinner, with their children and pretend that they were the happy family she was once convinced they were.
"Mommy come!" Cici's eyes light up at this offer, she's playing her part in their little family drama perfectly. "Please come!"
"I can't tonight sweetie, remember I told you that I have a lot of work to take care of tonight." She'd prepped that line, so it would sound believable to their four-year-old but it doesn't make it any easier when then corner of Cici's lips pull down into a frown. She was four and could understand more than her brother does, Rachel believed she could understand that they'll never be whole again. "Maybe next time."
Slowly, painfully, she moved closer to him so that she can kiss their children goodbye. He still smelled the same as he ever did: a mix of the cologne she'd bought him for Christmas and the constantly lingering smell of fresh cut wood from his cabinetry business that clung to him even after he'd showered the day off.
"Bye Rach, we'll see you Sunday after dinner." She forced herself not to hear the words, to not hear how easily and familiar her name rolled off of his lips. She waited until they drove off, not so that she could wave to them until they disappear like Cici believed but because she knew that as he made a left turn out of the parking lot she would be allowed to fall apart.
The drive back to the home that they had moved into when Cici was just a couple of weeks old took longer than usual as she summoned all of her energy just to make the drive. She didn't want to go home but then she has nowhere else to go. Her fathers would be too sympathetic, her mother too harsh and any friends she'd had since she moved back to Lima were friends she'd made with Noah and she couldn't face their questions. Although as she pushed the door open to her silent home she wondered if their questioning glances and the accusations in their silence aren't at least a step up from the emptiness.
Ultimately it didn't matter because when she sunk onto the couch with Cici's favorite stuffed bear held tightly to her chest, the tears that flow down her cheeks make up her mind. When she woke up the next morning she was stiff from falling asleep on the couch and she could feel the indentation on her cheek from the corduroy material of the bear that she'd used as a pillow. She has yet to train her body to sleep in on the weekends that she doesn't have the kids so she was up earlier than she needed to be but she began her day anyway.
Turning the radio onto some overly poppy top 40's station she was determined to keep her mind off of everything except righting the disaster that her house has become in the last two weeks. It was an activity that really doesn't do much to help because it kept her hands busy but not her head and she was still left with too much time on her hands. These Saturday mornings were always the hardest, when the silence of the house crawled in around her as she went about doing the household chores by herself. Even before they were married, when they were just living together, Saturday morning had always been a time reserved for cleaning and laundry followed by a nice leisurely lunch out.
She missed him every day, there was no denying that, but Saturdays were always the worst. That didn't change on the Saturdays that she had the kids because she always found herself wondering if he missed her on those mornings.
It was on Saturdays where she felt the most weak, when she was most willing to call this whole divorce off because in her heart she believed that it was just a one-time thing and that he wouldn't do it again. She had seen his face when he had confessed and she had watched his slumped shoulders walk out to his truck, tossing in a duffel bag before getting in himself. Despite what had happened Rachel knew that Noah loved her but how was she supposed to just accept that he had cheated?
It was the ultimate moment of weakness when she slipped in their wedding video. She'd watched it dozens of times, especially right after they had gotten married. She'd watched it over and over like a favorite movie, remembering the movements and the lines of all the people. She watched herself in the gorgeous gown her fathers had spent far too much money on, Cici already growing inside of her even though she hadn't known it yet. She'd memorized the way her lips moved as she said I do and slipped the ring on his finger and she could recall far too easily how she had felt when he had returned the words.
In that moment they had become a family. She knew better than anyone that families were made up of people related in really strange ways, and sometimes they were a part of your life and sometimes you went sixteen years without ever knowing the woman who had carried you inside her. Despite all of that though she did know that family wasn't something that you just gave up on.
Their family was broken, there was absolutely no questioning that but didn't she owe it to the two people who had exchanged vows to try? Didn't she owe it to their children? Because Cici was four and Alex was two and they adored their father and they deserved to get to grow up in a two parent family like she had been blessed with, the two parent family Noah had been denied.
She was in the parking lot when they pulled up and the irony of the role reversal wasn't lost on her. She watches as they both scramble out of the truck with Noah's help, as excited to see her as they had been to see their father only 48 hours earlier.
"Hey." Noah's approach was slower, a pink backpack slung over his right shoulder and a blue one over his left but she doesn't miss the sadness in his face. "We finished up the antibiotics, but I left you the bottle just in case something came up and you needed a refill or something."
"Great, thank you Noah." She doesn't miss the way his eyes lock onto hers when she said his name and she wondered if she really hadn't directly addressed him in that long. She took a deep breath and pushed away the terror that was rising up in her before she spoke, "I was thinking that we'd stop at Lickity Split and grab some ice cream before we go home. Did you want to join us?"