Notes: I left this deliberately open-ended with respect to who, if anyone, Sharon might seek out for future romantic partnership because I wanted her to leave Jack for herself and not for someone else, so y'all can just imagine your personal OTP. Unless your OTP is Sharon/Jack, in which case I'm afraid this is not the story for you. ;)
Salting the Wounds
There it was, between a letter from her mother and her credit card statement—a red envelope addressed to her in unfortunately familiar handwriting. Sharon paused, considering the envelope with an unpleasant taste in her mouth.
She sighed, and set the envelope to the side for now, and continued leafing through the mail. She had a pile for advertisements, one for bills, one for personal correspondence, and a separate stack of letters from college admissions offices for Rusty that she organized by geographic location, putting the letters from the schools closest by on top. Once she was done, she threw the ads into the trash, put the bills and letters on her desk, and went to deliver Rusty his mail, where she stood in his doorway and won a brief argument about how, yes, she was aware that he'd already applied to several colleges but he was going to read these letters anyway.
"You can tell me about them at dinner," she said, and pulled the door shut behind her. Time was, he'd have opened it just for the sake of slamming it again. But the door remained shut, and it made her smile a little.
It faded when she remembered what was waiting for her, and then Sharon went straight to the kitchen. She poured herself a tall glass of wine and sipped it slowly as she sat at the table, contemplating the envelope once more.
She hadn't seen or heard from her mercurial husband since their showdown in her murder room the summer before. How long had that been now? Five, six months? She hadn't worried overmuch that he he'd left with no word but the ones she hadn't read. Jack always seemed to find his way, and as long as his way led straight away from her front door and never curved back around, then she was happy for him. Thrilled, even. It wasn't as if she hadn't wanted him to be successful, whatever he might think.
And she well knew what he thought, because he'd told her. Repeatedly, in every letter he'd ever left her, every phone call, each and ever time that he'd popped in and out of her life like it was a game and then abandoned his children again, there was always a reason and the reason was always her. He was sorry, but he just didn't feel welcome coming by her apartment to see the kids and could she be a little nicer? He was sorry, but he wasn't going to be able to make it to LA for Christmas and could she drive them to Vegas? He was sorry, but he was a little short on cash this year and could she buy the birthday presents and put his name on half of them?
He was sorry.
He was always sorry.
And it was always, always her fault.
Sharon tapped the envelope against her hand, weighing her indecision. She hadn't opened the letter he'd left her the last time, and hadn't regretted that for an instant. It had felt... liberating. More than. It had felt so good that part of her wondered why she'd taken twenty years to do it.
Still, she hesitated.
It wasn't a letter. She could feel stiff card stock within the envelope.
Maybe it was a Christmas card.
She knew that he'd sent them to both Ricky and Katie this year. She knew, because they'd both called her up to tell her about it, and neither of them had been happy in the least. Ricky had yelled, Katie had yelled and cried, and both of them had asked her if she knew what their father wanted this time. Sharon had been left to soothe them both and worry that she'd made the wrong decision when she'd dialed Ricky's number and thrust the phone into Jack's reluctant hands.
Maybe they hadn't needed to talk to their father, after all.
She'd asked them if he'd called them after the first night. He tries, Ricky said. We don't pick up, Katie told her.
Sharon sighed, and ripped open the envelope like an unpleasant bandage. The temptation to throw the card straight into the trash was overwhelming, but then she would be asking her children to shoulder a burden that she was unwilling to.
It wasn't a Christmas card.
Her eyebrows stretched up into her hairline as Sharon stared in disbelieving fury.
It was an anniversary card.
The bastard sent her an anniversary card.
It was a nice card, as cards went. Heavy paper, the edges embossed with foil. When she overcame her shock enough to flip it over, the price on the back confirmed that it was one of the expensive ones. Sharon turned it over again. It was strangely surreal, seeing the 30 emblazoned across the card in ornate script.
She'd been married thirty years.
It didn't feel like thirty years.
Sometimes, it felt like forever. Other times, she could forget that she was married at all.
She'd spent half her life with this man. More than, because they had dated three years before they'd married. She'd been so happy the morning after the wedding. She could remember thinking that this was the first day of a marriage that would see both of them as happy as her parents, and her grandparents.
And she knew that she was not a perfect wife. She'd started her fair share of the arguments, same as him. She'd gotten under his skin. She'd been frustrated and fed up and angry.
But she'd also tried very, very hard to forgive him for all the things he'd said in anger, all the names he'd called her when he was drunk, all the ways he'd betrayed her and disappointed her and let her down. She had tried to be his friend, for the sake of their children.
He hadn't wanted to try.
And this was an insult, and she loathed how it burned.
Sharon set the card down flat on the table and stared at it for a very long time. She didn't open it.
Jack wanted her to open it.
And she knew that, whatever was written in there would be full of empty apologies and passive-aggressive recriminations, and whatever was written in there would make her want to reach for the phone and shout at him. If she did, she would be pulled right back into the mess that was his life, and the mutually destructive cycle she'd stepped back from when she'd torn up his last letter.
She couldn't go back there.
Lately, she had been increasingly uneasy about this marriage of hers.
Before he'd moved to Vegas and abruptly disappeared from her live for five years, he'd been around more frequently. Not enough to see his children every week or pay for Katie's ballet lessons, but he'd show up for the occasional birthday party or Thanksgiving, and when the kids were younger she'd called him the first of every month to ask when she could expect his child support check to arrive and inevitably they would argue.
She'd always known there was no money coming. It was never about the money. But she intended to remind him at every opportunity that he had a responsibility to his children, and she had, right up until the day Katie had turned eighteen.
So maybe it was that the last five years had given her ample time to get enjoy the pleasantness that was her life without him.
Maybe it was that her children were at the age of finding partners of their own, and she found herself worrying that they would follow her example. To follow in her footsteps was not advice that she would give her daughter, or her sons.
She would tell them that, if they were in a relationship that made them stifled and trapped, to cut themselves loose and move on. Be happy.
She hadn't been unhappy, precisely. She would even say that she had been content. She loved her children fiercely and she was proud of the people they had grown up to be. She was satisfied with the work she had done, and where her career had taken her.
Lately, she had been thinking that it might be... nice, to try again, with someone who was not Jack. It was a vague, undefined sort of desire. She had enjoyed coming home to quiet and solitude, before Rusty. She would pour herself a glass of wine or fix a mug of tea, and curl up barefoot on the couch with a book. Someday, Rusty would leave her and go out on his own. If she returned at the end of each day to an empty house where she could do as she liked and be beholden to no one, that would be more than all right.
Lately, she had been feeling that she would like to have the option, if she decided that companionship was what she wanted.
Sharon rose. She took the card in one hand and her wine glass in the other, and returned with both to the kitchen. The card she threw unread into the garbage, and the glass she refilled. She brought it with her when she sat again at the table, and then she reached for her phone.
The first call was to Gavin.
The second was to a locksmith.