Julia hated days like these, had since she was a kid. The humidity was so thick it would take your breath away. Even from the cool comfort of her highrise office building, she could see the heat rolling off the dark asphalt parking lot in waves. It left her feeling restless, the kind that would come in late fall when the Santa Anas would blow in from the south or the way she was felt after yet another failed pregnancy test.
It had been months since they had last talked about adoption. She had looked relentlessly for the child that would complete their family, and Joel had done his best to be supportive. But like any man, too much conversation about the same topic had proven weary for him. It had been her sole focus in the passing weeks, and she couldn't really blame him for being tired of it. Hell, she was even tired of it, but he was perfectly content being a family of three. Their daughter was perfect, and he felt complete in every way.
However, that couldn't squelch the yearning inside Julia. More than anything in the world, she wanted to be a mother again. When she was a kid, she had dreamt of so many things. She had wanted to be a lawyer for as long as she could remember, and like the other Braverman children, she had been blessed with some kind of ambition that dictated her dream would come true. Yet, unlike the others, she had no artistic ability to speak of and that made her rely on other gifts.
Sarah had her writing, a gifted poet and playwright at the same time. Adam was talented in art, a skill that had proven useful in all his years with the sneaker company. Of course, there was Crosby with his music. But, no, Julia had always been the logical one, the smart one, the one whose intelligence defined her. Sometimes she wondered if she had clung to it so tightly because it was all that she knew. In fact, for a long time, it was all she really felt like she had.
That all changed one day, though, a night much like today. It was the middle of August, hot and sticky, and Julia felt restless in her own skin. She had just come off a long day as a clerk in the research firm of a small law firm where she was interning for the summer in her prelaw days. She was sharing an apartment with a few other girls from the program, and the long hours and short pay was starting to catch up with her. Today had been particularly stressful for all of them, which explained how they ended up drinking beers on their fire escape until all hours of the night. They had eventually poured themselves into a cab to head for a popular dive bar downtown. It was karaoke night, and Julia was determined to be a star.
No one knew about her secret obsession. It was something that she came back to time and time again when the stresses of life became too overwhelming. It was this thing that was all hers when it was too hectic and too much. It was a way to relieve stress and live just a little outside the lines. That was something that was hard for Julia. She was a lawyer. Her entire world was built on logic and reason, on organization and structure.
But karaoke was different. Yes, there was this whole natural premise that defined it, but she was free on the stage. With the bright lights and half-drunk crowd, she could just let go. Whatever was going on in her life, whatever she was feeling, she could set it free through the lyrics of a song. She wasn't afraid up there.
That's why after the long day at the office, she finds herself driving her dark SUV in the direction of a small neighborhood bar that had the rare karaoke Thursday night. No one she knew would see her there, so there wasn't much of a risk. She had been coming here lately. Late night conversations, hushed behind a closed door while their daughter slept, had become a frequenet thing for Joel and Julia. She wasn't used to fighting with him, and she hadn't felt this far from him in a long time.
She's thinking about this as she pays the cover and makes her way to the tech's table to pick her song. It was this old Faith Hill song, "It Matters to Me," a song she hadn't heard in years. There is only one lyric that seems to be repeating in her head, a single line of words that takes over her mind as she takes the stage. She's lost her suit jacket, pulled her hair free from its bun and traded in her usual sensible heels for a pair of sexy stiletto boots. Julia looks good and she knows it. The hoots and the hollers of the wild crowd provide just the confidence she needs. As the piano music fills the club and the spotlight overtakes her, Julia closes her eyes and just lets go.
What she didn't hand, what she hadn't predicted, was that Joel knew her pattern. From the darkest corner of the room, he watched her as she sang every word with all the soul in the world and it broke his heart to know that she was this unhappy, this broken. You could feel the pain she was feeling. Itmatteredtoher, that much was apparent, and that meant it mattered to him.
As the last note faded away, Julia smiled to the crowd and bowed her head slightly in gratitude. Just as she was about to step off the stage, she spotted a man coming out of the dark and into the spotlight. Her eyes met Joel's familiar gaze. She felt a little embarrassed because this wasn't her, at least not the person that he knew. But, she decided, amybe it was time he knew this part of her, all of her.
"Wow," Joel said as he met her on the side of the stage. She smiled and handed off the mic to the tech before following her husband to the table he reserved in the back. "I had no idea...and how long as this been going on? And, I don't know...What that song?"
The waitress at the bar knew Julia and knew her order. Within a few moments, a dirty martini appeared at her table. Julia smiled appreciatively at the pretty brunette waitress and indulged in a long sip before answering. "For how long? Since college I guess," she answered. "Why? Because it makes everything seem easier and it's actually fun. And maybe I've been missing fun lately." Joel started to say something but she waved her hand dismissively. "And I'm not blaming that on you. It's my fault, I know that. It's just I needed to get out, relax a little – you know, take down my hair, kick up my heels, just have some fun. I'm sorry, I needed to do this on my own."
"And the song?" he asked.
She knew there was another song he wanted to ask; it was there dancing in his eyes and in his tones. "The song?" she repeated. "That's how I feel, Joel."
"No, please, let me explain," she replied. "I'm used to being able to control everything, but this isn't something I can control. I can't make myself get pregnant and I can't make you want to adopt another child. And I know we've talked about this and I said okay and then I said it wasn't. Now, we're here, and Joel, I'm just so tired of fighting about it. I know you're tired of hearing about it. It's just that I have to be a mother. I mean, I want another baby. I used to think I was just meant to be a lawyer, but after having our daughter, I know I was meant to be so much more."
Joel reached down and patted his wife's hand. "You're a wonderful mother and a wonderful lawyer and one hell of a karaoke singer," he grinned. "We'll find a way to make this world."
Julia wiped at her eyes, the faintest hint of a tear starting to form as she found herself a little choked up. "And if we can't?"
"And if we can't?" he repeated, shaking his head. "That's not my wife. My wife doesn't know the word can't."
She bit her bottom lip and smiled before looking confidently in his eyes. "You're right. We can totally do this."
"There's the Braverman I know!"
"Oh," she sighed. "You sound just like my father."
"You don't want to hear that if you want to get lucky tonight," he joked.
"Oh, yeah?" Julia replied.
"Yeah, my wife looks pretty hot up there," Joel retorted. "I've never slept with a singer before."
So Julia went home with her husband and they made love but they didn't make a baby. Julia knew that it would take time to find the answers that she was seeking, the right solution that would fit not just for her but their entire family. And on the rare Thursday when she needed to slip away, she would still find that same comfort in the bright lights of a dark bar stage. Life got messy some times, but up there, Julia was perfectly happy to live life outside the lines.