Author's Note: I shouldn't be doing this, should I? I'm already crunched for time…but here's the deal. This came to me in a dream, and when I woke up I just knew I had to write it. It's actually an idea I had awhile ago (before Rock Bottom, believe it or not). I just didn't know where to take it, and now I do.
Summary: It's spring break, and all Ruthie Camden wanted to do was spend some quality time in New York with her brother, sister-in-law, and nephews. Little did she know she was about to discover an unsettling secret that could tear her family into pieces.
Setting: Spring break 2007. T-Bone, Margaret, and Jane do not exist. Ruthie is still good friends with Meredith and Peter.
Where the Heart Lies
Friday, March 30th 2007
7:00 PM - New York City
His clammy hand faltered as he set the phone against the wall in the living room. In the kitchen, he could hear the sound of running water. The smell of Kugel and other assorted Sabbath foods traveled down the hallway. Matt turned around, where he saw his two eight-month-old sons sitting in their playpen. Letting out a sigh of anxiousness, he took a seat on the couch across from the two small boys whose big brown eyes were looking up at him. He frowned, as he looked into their eyes, which all of his colleagues claimed were splitting images of his.
"Daddy may have just made a big mistake," he whispered in a cooing voice toward the two small boys. The little boys' eyes remained set on him, and Jake started to giggle. Matt smiled weakly, that was one benefit of talking to babies who could not answer you back; no matter what you said, their reaction was never offensive. Matt sighed to himself. "But look on the bright side," he began speaking again, but stopped urgently when he heard footsteps behind him. Swiftly he turned he jerked his head around.
There she stood. She had changed her clothes since he had last seen her when he had gotten back from the hospital just an hour prior. He searched body from head to toe, something he couldn't help but do every time he saw his wife. Her hair was let down, last time she had it up and out of her face. She didn't wear her hair up often, only at work; she would often complain that it distracted her from doing an efficient job.
Her lips curved downward, a solid stern frown wore on her face. She had been doing a lot of frowning lately, and it pained his heart to see the woman he truly did love hurting; it told him that this was just as hard on her as it was on him. Her eyes were watery, and he could tell from the small smudging of her eyeliner that she had been crying while preparing their Sabbath dinner.
Gold dangling heart-shaped earrings drooped from her ears, noticeably swaying back and forth as she walked. They would gently press against her frail-appearing pale face. He immediately recognized those earrings; they had been his gift to her on their first Valentine's Day. In a way he couldn't help but wondered if she remembered that. Whether or not was irrelevant.
She wore a long velvet red buttoned-up sweater and a pair of black slacks. His eyes traveled down her right arm and stopped at her discolored fingers; soon he found his eyes bouncing from finger to finger until it stopped at her empty ringer finger. He knew that she didn't like to let their colleagues know that they were married. Why, he never fully understood; but he had accepted his wife's wishes and followed suit. She was her own independent person, and that was what had turned him on about her.
Sarah edged closer to the playpen where their sons were sitting calmly and looking up at their parents. She bent down and picked up Noah; the little boy smiled as he was pulled up by his mother who loved and adored him. She wrapped her arms around him and cuddled him tightly; slowly she turned around and met eyes with Matt. "So," she mumbled, the sound of moisture dictating her raspy voice, "Who was on the phone, and what big mistake did you make?"
He frowned, realizing she had heard him talking to the boys. Grunting and shrugging, he reached for his other son. He grabbed the little boy and gently gripped his arm around the baby. Matt's heart raced as his son giggled in his arms. Matt looked into his son's round olive colored face. The baby held his head up strongly; he raised his hand, placed it in his mouth, and began sucking on it. Drool started to slobber out of the baby's mouth.
Sarah's dark brown eyes were still set on him. "So?" she insisted, seemingly impatient.
"It was Ruthie," Matt responded flatly as his son took his hand out of his mouth and set it on his hand. The slobber smeared across his face giving him a familiar feeling. At the same time, Sarah contently raised her eyebrows as she was waiting for a further explanation. Matt sighed, "Her spring break is next week, and she wants to come and spend it with us."
"And what did you say?" Sarah inquired quietly.
He suctioned in a deep sigh, filling his lungs with as much air capacity as he could at one time. "Well," he began as his hand traveled down his son's head. "I told her to come; I mean, I just couldn't tell her, 'No.' Even if…" he stopped, knowing he couldn't finish that sentence.
Sarah was slowly nodding her head. "I understand," she spoke with Noah's head resting on her shoulder. "You hardly see any of your family, and you were really close to Ruthie before you moved to New York."
His head nodded and added with certainty, "And I'm sure Ruthie wants to get to know her nephews, seeing as she hasn't even met them. She was in Scotland when they were born and the rest of the family was here."
Sarah nodded in agreement, "Of course." The bluntness in her voice made him certain that she had something else she wanted to add to that. Her eyes dawdled away from him. She bent her neck down at pressed her head against her son's. He couldn't help but notice her teeth curling over her lips, sucking their color out.
He shook his head vibrantly. "Just say it," he dictated imperatively with a rush of anger traveling through his body. "You're the one who is always going on and on about, 'We have to mean what we say, and say what we mean.'" His face burned and his heart raced as he immediately regretted the force in his tone. He knew that it wasn't making matters better, and he immediately wanted to apologize. He clenched his teeth, forcing himself not to apologize. Never apologize for something you know is right, he told himself. It was something Lucy had once told him; he wondered when she had gotten so clever. He did know that words came from experience; and when she was young, Lucy always apologized for everything she did. More so, he should wonder who gave her that piece of wisdom.
Sarah's face slowly flushed red, and he could tell she was getting angry. He heard her suck in a deep breath of air; before saying a word, she set Noah back in the playpen. Before he even hit the floor the little boy started to fuss. Noah wasn't the only one upset because of the intensity in the air. The once happy baby in his arms had become restless. His own arms were now full of tension; he couldn't calm himself, so he knew he couldn't calm his own son. Tears started to roll down the little boy's cheeks. Babies picked up on emotions in the air; even unborn children and their movements were dictated by the mother's and father's actions. When stress and anxiety was located in the air, children knew it.
"Let's take this conversation to the kitchen," Sarah insisted. Matt nodded as he set Jake down next to his brother. Before he left the room he took one more look at the little guys. Their tears had already started to decay as they looked back at him, still with salty liquid in their eyes. Matt forced a smile back at the boys. All he wanted to do was tell them it was going to be all right. But he didn't want to lie to his own sons; his own flesh and blood.
The fragrance of the food whiffed into his nose with a stronger noise as he came closer to the kitchen. Before uttering a word to him, Sarah started to stir whatever was in the pot on the stove. Despite the warmth in the kitchen, chills swept through Matt's body. He knew what was coming wasn't good. For Sarah not to get straight to the point was never good.
He stood there in awkwardness, waiting for her to finish with her stirring. Two minutes passed on the stove clock before she turned around to face him. Her eyes aimed directly into his. Due to the bright lighting in the kitchen, which the living room didn't have, he could see the dark circles swirling deep into her eye sockets. Her face showed sheer exhaustion, and he knew that she was because she never slept. He would see the kitchen light on at three in the morning when he would get up to check on the boys; come six-thirty the light was still on, and when he would enter the kitchen he would find her sitting at the kitchen table in her bathrobe staring at the newspaper with a full cup of coffee in front of her. She never drank the coffee; he knew that she didn't even like coffee. That should have been his first hint that something was wrong.
"So." He crossed his arms and waited.
"So, have you told your family?" she asked him, though he was pretty certain she already knew the answer to her own question.
He closed his eyes and shook his head. "No," he responded flatly. "I haven't."
She nodded as she crossed her arms and curled her lips. "And when are you going to tell them?" Her eyes sternly gazed into his as he searched for an answer inside of his head.
He shrugged, shaking his head. "I don't know," he said flatly, feeling foolish, "maybe when it's actually official." She glanced away from his face momentarily. Her head shook back and forth.
"Matt, it's official," she whispered hoarsely. "And you know it. You need to tell your parents. I've told mine, and even though I've told them not to say anything to yours until you've had the chance to, it's only a matter of time. It's Glen Oak, not New York. My parents can't avoid yours forever."
"You've already told your parents?" Matt let out a groaning gasp. He hadn't realized that she had already taken that step. His head dropped into his lungs; with that knowledge, in a way, it all seemed so more real. Sweat started to drip down his face as a panicking sensation took over his body. Her parents know. It was only a matter of time before his did.
She nodded. "Matt, you have to tell your parents, brothers, and sisters."
"We've gone over this a thousand times," she cut in, folding her arms tightly. "Let's not go there, because you know it yourself."
He shook his head; even though he knew what she meant, and he had said it himself. To himself, he knew that he didn't mean it. He hadn't meant a word of what he had told her. "We have to say what we mean, and mean what we say," Sarah had told him in the middle of their arguments time and time again. Despite her preaching, he knew that she couldn't mean every word she said. He knew that he knew her better than that. She just didn't.
"With my dad's recent heart condition, it's just not a good time," Matt insisted. "And I don't need to worry him with this and add more stress to his already weak heart."
Sarah looked up at the ceiling as if she were at a loss for words. She tilted her head back toward him and threw her hands up. "Matt, we've been through this. This is why you need to be going back to Glen Oak, not Ruthie coming here. I mean, come on, you are going to have Ruthie finding out. Do you want Ruthie to be the one to tell your parents? Between the two of us, we've already put enough on Ruthie's plate over the course of our marriage. It's not fair to her. She's only seventeen."
His eyes became heavy with moisture filling in his sockets. He inhaled strongly as he forced back his tears. He was a man. Men did not cry; they were supposed to be strong figures for their wives and children. He had two young sons to worry about now. The last image he wanted to give his sons was that their father was a cry-baby.
"Ruthie won't tell my parents," Matt insisted, forcing out a mature natured voice. He adjusted his voice and told her, "Even if Ruthie finds out, she won't. She didn't tell our parents that we eloped until just last year."
Sarah raised an eyebrow. "So, you're going to wait four years to tell your parents? Honey, I don't think you have four years to wait and tell them." He took note to her emphasis on the word honey. Her tone was full of density, not passion. When she said honey, she meant it in a neurotic way.
"No," was all he could say as he looked into her frowning eyes. "I'll tell them before then." She looked away from him again. He could tell that she didn't believe him. It killed him to know that, but nowhere to the point where it would to break this to his parents.
"Okay," he heard her whisper quietly; her face was still turned away from him. He could hear the moisture in her voice again, and without thinking he walked a few steps closer to her. His arm extended and touched her head, and she turned toward him. Instantly he realized that her eyes were blood shot. By gut reaction he wrapped his arms around her and pressed his lips tightly against hers.
After his lips released from hers he held her tightly and whispered, "I'll always love you, Sarah."
He waited for a response; for her to say that she would always love him too. His heart raced as her chilled skin touched against his warm body. A few moments later she gently released herself from his body. Her tearful eyes looked up into his and she mouthed, "I know you will."