A/N: Like other viewers, I've been trying to make sense out of the Raydor marriage. This is a slightly AU account of their trajectory.

.

.


.

.

Jack Raydor is that charming, funny guy who takes you out to dinner at his favorite place. And when you order the chicken, he shares a joke with the waiter, calling him by his first name, and tells him to bring you the steak. It's a great steak, an expensive cut and cooked just right. It's even delicious. But a part of you wonders why you're not eating chicken.

.

.


.

.

Jack Raydor is a great father, he was there when the kids were born. She's gotten over driving herself to the hospital for their second, him sitting beside her with vodka on his breath, mumbling he didn't think it would happen tonight.

He loves his kids.

The day she started the family rule about never getting into a car with Daddy if Mommy's not home breaks her heart.

.

.


.

.

Jack Raydor is grinning ear to ear. It's her birthday, and she's woken to heavy equipment and yelling voices. She's always loved swimming, it's your favorite, he says, and he's all loving smiles and just a touch of last night's gin.

She pulls the curtain back and sees a 'dozer dig in to the spot where she'd thought about having a garden someday. I didn't want a pool, she says. Not with the kids, the upkeep. Sure you do, he says. You love the water. And I love you. He's surprised her with a pool that'll be the envy of their neighbors.

She shouldn't feel like she's already drowning.

.

.


.

.

Sharon's arrested enough rapists to know what rape is. Or was. These new definitions: capacity to consent, coercion…some day, maybe, she'll look back over her marriage, nights when he poured her more wine that she'd wanted, the 1:00 AMs when she could tell he wouldn't stop asking and she bought a night's sleep with ten minutes' use of her body.

But that wasn't rape. Was it? She loved him. He was her husband, he never hurt her, not a mean bone in his body, usually, it was just that sometimes…

She imagines her daughter, her son, Rusty, telling her this, asking the question. Mom? Sharon? Is that rape?

It would be so clear, if it were someone else.

It would be so clear, if it were now.

.

.


.

.

The first time she had to ask her parents for money for daycare, Sharon thought she'd die.

He promised he'd never bet that much again, he'd be more careful, pace himself.

The second time she had to ask, her parents looked at each other and said they'd bring the check by the daycare themselves, it was no trouble really, they had to be in the neighborhood anyway. It would save her, or Jack, a trip to the bank.

She died a little more. She didn't ask again.

.

.


.

.

It's 2 in the morning, just barely still their anniversary. He wakes her with a cheap vodka kiss. You thought I forgot, he says, as he fastens the diamond bracelet around her wrist.

It's not her style, it will pick her sweaters and run her hose, but it's something. She takes it off the next morning and puts it in her jewelry box. It's not practical for work. And the faint scratches, signs of wear, bother her.

Saturday afternoon she's at the club, trying not to look at the wrists of their friends' wives. But she does anyway, and Jennifer Wilkins has bags under her eyes and a pale circle of skin that shows stark against her tanned hand.

She won't look at Sharon but her eyes never leave Jack. When her husband goes to the poker game in back and Jack follows, she walks out to their car.

Sharon never sees her again. It's the last year they can afford membership. She buys herself a cheap bracelet, Mexican silver. Jack never mentions the diamonds again.

.

.

.


.

.

It was the last good year, contracts and raises and the move to the new house. He made it work on paper, buying a share of a racehorse. The first race was thrills and roses, champagne and straw hats, and when his horse placed, he whirled her around like first year law school all over again.

A room at the VIP hotel, room service and kisses and bills from the payout strewn over the bed, and Sharon laughed for the first time in ages. He slowed his drinking that night and they made love three times before dawn.

The next time, his eyes had held a greasy sheen while they watched the horses being readied. The snap from the track was sharp as gunfire, the tarps and tents went up like a crime scene, and between the vet and the crowd, Jack whispered he hadn't paid the insurance premium yet.

The swimming pool didn't help the sale of the house as much as he'd thought. She told the kids the condo would have a pool. Everything would be fine. Daddy would need to work out of town more, for a while.

.

.


.

.

He confesses to cheating, just once, hungover and hangdog, weeping into her lap. He was so sorry, so very sorry, it was a winning streak and poker night and a birthday and coke and strippers.

She wonders why he's confessing as she tells him he needs to get tested.

She wonders, distantly, why she's so numb, so calm.

He's cracking, falling hard, hitting bottom. She wishes he wasn't dripping snot and tears on her skirt.

Later, she asks if the stripper consented. He shrugs, he doesn't know, he guesses so, she was there, wasn't she, knew what they were there for, what'd she expect, anyway?

It's the first time she hits him, and it's a toss-up as to who is more shocked.

.

.


.

.

She asks him to use a condom and he laughs, he hasn't used a condom since college, is she too Catholic to be on the pill? This new virus can kill you, she reminds him, speaking softly in the dark room. That's just people who sleep around a lot, he tells her. You don't sleep around.

I still sleep with my husband. And you know how he is, she says.

Afterwards she stares at the ceiling. It was good, it was a break, it was not-Jack.

We can't do this again, she says.

Are you sorry we did?

No. Yes. I don't know. It's complicated.

He tells her she deserves better as he gets dressed again and kisses her on the cheek.

They pick up their badges off the nightstand at the same time. They leave ten minutes apart.

.

.


.

.

She pours a second glass of wine and they go on, and she doesn't stop until her words rip his flesh and leave metaphorical blood splatters sprayed over the kitchen cabinets. Her daughter is pounding her thighs with her little scrunched fists.

Stop making Daddy cry! Stop it, Mommy!

Your daddy, she starts to say, and the words shrivel in her mouth.

She pours her wine down the sink.

She can't keep doing this.

They can't keep doing this.

.

.


.

.

The first time he goes to rehab, she's there at every family meeting, every counseling session, the Al-Anon groups. She takes the literature home; she reads the books.

He teaches their son to play ping-pong in the dingy rec room while their daughter watches.

He looks good, twenty-one days in. She can see glimmers of the man she married. Maybe she can do this, hang on until the kids are grown. She's got the groups, she's got the books.

The second time he goes to rehab, she drops him off. She picks him up after twenty-eight days. They ride home in silence.

She doesn't know who takes him the third time.

.


The offices start out bleak and get nicer. The IRS agent. Their accountant. Their tax attorney. By now the offices are book-lined, thickly carpeted.

The divorce attorney's conference room is quiet, heavy lined drapes absorb their sounds. There's a box of tissues on the table.

A second trip to the accountant confirms the divorce attorney's words. Jack doesn't look at her when he says he's sorry, he had no idea, he doesn't know what to do, he never meant for this to happen.

The separation papers come the next week, by registered mail. The envelope should be heavier than it is.

It should feel as heavy as a box of iron chains.

.

.


.

.

She signs the lease. It's the last time she co-signs anything of his.

The apartment is big enough, safe enough, for overnight visits. They push the shopping cart companionably through the discount store, and it reminds her of setting up their first apartment, cheap dishes and thin towels. She picks out sheets for their children, ninja turtles and mermaids.

They're not the first kids at their school to get cell phones. She programs all the numbers they might need, and goes over the rules one more time.

When he breaks the lease and leaves the state, she cancels the cell phone contract. She lets them bring the sheets home, the ninja turtles and the mermaids.

The sheets stay in the hall closet.

.

.


.

.

.

The first year she attends mandatory training on domestic violence, she takes notes and tucks handouts into her notebook until they get to emotional abuse. When the handout on "The Wheel of Power and Control" lands on the table in front of her, she stares at it, picking out words here and there.

When the instructor gives examples, she looks down at her pager with a slightly theatrical frown. I have to go, she says. Work emergency, she says.

She gathers her papers and makes it out of the room before the shaking starts.

Her training hours come up short that year.

The next year, she sits through the DV training again. She gets all her hours in this time.

.

.


.

.

It's Christmas and the kids are excited he's coming. He's been sober six months this time. He doesn't say where he's staying and she doesn't ask.

It's late and everyone's stuffed and the kids are snuggled into him as they watch TV. She offers him the guest room and the kids cheer. It's Christmas and the presents are scattered under the tree and everyone is adjusting to a new normal.

She flips the lock on her bedroom door without thinking about it.

He leaves after breakfast, destination and plans vague. The kids watch his taxi until it turns out of sight.

.

.


.

.

She orders double sets of class pictures, double sets of snapshots, makes copies of report cards and essays and "A+" math papers.

He breezes through town, drops by, wants to take them out, things are turning around, going great, on the upswing.

They order in, pizza delivery. A slice each, a mumbled "may I be excused?" from one, then the other, and she's alone at the table with him again.

I should go, he says. He's gotten ugly when he pouts.

Try again in the morning, she says. You have to give them more of a chance.

She leaves the envelope of pictures, papers, awards, announcements on the guest room bed. He's gone by the time they get up. The bed's unmade. The envelope is on the floor, unopened.

When she fills out the next class picture order, she orders one set.

.

.


.

.

She hasn't heard from him in a couple of years. He's sober now. He's divorced. She didn't know his drinking problem was that bad. He tells her he's been lucky. Until he wasn't.

He asks how Jack's doing. No different, she says. But he's not doing it here. We don't hear from him much.

What about her? She's advancing her career, she's got a few special projects going, irons in the fire, making a difference, making some changes for those coming behind her.

No, she hasn't gotten a divorce. It remains complicated.

Listen, I wanted to apologize. I shouldn't have done that, he tells her.

We, she says. It was "we."

We did that.

He's ninth-stepping, he's making amends, he's sorry, it was wrong.

You told me I deserved better, she says.

You were right.

It was right.

It was what I needed.

She tells him to make amends somewhere else. She knows the steps, read the books. There was no harm done here.

He starts to ask something, a question, a suggestion. She talks over him: good hearing from you, take care of yourself, I'm glad you're doing well, my son's calling, I have to take this.

Goodbye.

Some nights, when sleep has come and gone too fast, she thinks about his call.

She wonders what he was going to ask.

She wonders if she should have let him finish.

.

.


.

.

He's there when she gets home, chest puffed out, smile on his face.

She'd change the locks again, but she knows he's still got copies of the condo deed, probably makes a fresh copy every time he's in town. One call to a locksmith, lost my keys, can't reach my wife, I feel like an idiot, and he's in anyway.

He's fanning out a handful of brochures and envelopes. He had a great run in Vegas, he tells her. A trip to Cancun, the whole family, Ricky's graduation present, don't say no, it'll be like old times, we're still a family.

She tells him graduation was two days ago.

The kids are at the beach with friends.

He's a brash attorney again, his younger self in an aging, breaking body. Did you think about calling me? Why aren't you making my kids call their father? What kind of mother are you?

You should call them, she says. They're angry, they're hurt.

They won't pick up, he says. I'm not leaving voicemail begging my own kids to call.

He blusters and whines for a few minutes. His shirt pulls at the buttons, his jacket strains at the seams. He's gained weight and hasn't bought new clothes. This is different. He's doing worse than she thought.

Who's Ricky's best friend? she asks. What's the name of our daughter's ballet teacher? She's given up on expecting tuition. But keeping in touch is free. Knowing his own children wouldn't cost him a dime.

Who cares? he says. What difference does it make? She picks the brochures up and hands them back. They wouldn't have gone anyway, she tells him. Neither would I.

He finally leaves, comparing her to ice, to stone, anything he can think of that's cold and hard, inflexible.

He's not wrong. But he's not right, either.

She takes off her shoes, goes to the kitchen for wine, puts water in the tea kettle instead, gathers the tea, the sugar, a mug, a spoon.

The mug is half-empty before she feels fully thawed, finally pliable.

She reaches for the phone.