Molly was washing dishes in the kitchen when Dan walked in. He stood in the doorway and watched her for a few seconds, then cleared his throat. She jumped at the sudden sound in the previously silent house.
“Hi,” She said
Dan nodded in response and continued to the fridge to get a bottle of water. The first one he grabbed was warm, so he reached for a colder one farther back.
“I’m going to head back to my room,” he said, looking in Molly’s direction but not meeting her eyes. He gestured toward the kitchen doorway. Instead of leaving, he leaned against the counter and unscrewed the top of the water bottle. He drummed on the countertop with one hand and sipped from the bottle with the other. He could feel her eyes on him, but he couldn’t bring himself to turn his head. The five feet between them was a bottomless canyon.
“Listen, I was thinking…”
“I was wondering....”
They laughed with strained politeness as they spoke at the same time.
“This place isn’t usually this quiet. Where is everyone?”
“Mom and Dad took Aysha to a movie; her first time in a theater, she was so excited.”
As Molly swished and clattered dishes, telling him about Aysha and the movie, Dan studied her profile.
“She is starting to show fine lines at the corners of her eyes. She has changed,” Dan thought. “So different than the woman I married. Married couples usually experience physical differences in each other slowly, hardly noticing as they saw the other every day, year after year. It is different for us; we have been apart for years. The changes seem so drastic.”
“You know how chatty Aysha is; I’m sure she will want to tell me all about when she gets home. I think she is so…” Molly continued as if she was desperate to fill the silence with words. Dan nodded and smiled.
“Aysha. Molly’s daughter inherited red hair from her mother and her grandmother Rose,” Dan thought as he looked down at his sneakers. “Aysha, who should have been our daughter and not the result of Molly’s affair during our separation,” He thought bitterly.
Molly ran out of things to say, and the air lapsed into stiff silence. Unsaid words hung over and between them like a tidal wave. The air was pulled from the room like a tide retreating miles out to sea as a warning of the incoming wave building up its crushing power.
“Whether we speak or don’t speak, that wave is coming down. All we can do is run.”
“You’ll have to tell me all about it,” He said and took two quick steps toward the door.
Molly harpooned him.
Dan closed his eyes at the sad tone of her voice and squeezed the bottle in his hand so that several drops squirted out and crashed onto his sneaker.
“I can’t change the past. I’m sorry for all that happened….”
“You had a child. Molly. With another man, while I was…”
“Gone. That part wasn’t my fault.”
Their eyes met.
“I know. That’s a whole separate issue.”
“How is it separate? It was the reason for all of this…” Molly said, then gritted her teeth and lowered her voice as her gaze slid aside.
“I’m not saying…”
“So it’s all my fault. Even your affair. Same old story, Kitten.”
Molly’s eyes welled with tears. “I haven’t heard that in years.” She broke down crying.
Dan immediately closed the distance and put his arms around her. Her tears gutted the tidal wave of some of its power. They were both tired of the battles.
Molly wrapped her arms around his waist and laid her head on his shoulder. Dan rested his cheek on her hair, smelling the faint sweet smell of her coconut shampoo.
“The affair was my fault. I don’t blame you for it,” Molly sighed. “You weren’t around, I was lonely, and I made a terrible mistake. Can you forgive me for it?”
“I already did...I wouldn’t be here otherwise. It’s going to take time, you know?”
Molly nodded against his chest. “We’re like strangers getting to know each other again. How about a road trip?”
Dan burst out laughing, and the tidal wave collapsed, soaking both of their shoes. They broke apart, startled by the sudden appearance of several inches of water on the kitchen floor.
“Oh crap, I left the water running; I didn’t realize I left the stopper in!” Molly slid over the sink and turned the faucet off.
Dan grabbed a mop and a bucket from the closet while Molly unrolled a wad of paper towels started to sop up the mess.
As he mopped and wrung out water, Dan asked, “You were only kidding about the road trip, right? The last time was a disaster.”
“I was joking. We’ll stick close to home this time and no monster hunting.”
“Yeah, that is whole other conversation,” Dan said.
“We are still like strangers, but at least we are talking instead of avoiding. That’s a start.” Dan thought.
“I’ll cook dinner for the two of us tonight,” Molly said.
“I can help. What are you planning to cook?”
“Lasagna. I picked up the ingredients from the store this morning. I got a bottle of that red wine you like,” Molly said.
“Do we have enough time to cook lasagna before Aysha and your parents come home? I’d like it to be just the two of us.”
“Yes, they are going to go out to eat after the movie, and since it’s mom and dad’s anniversary, they will want to be alone too. Aysha might want to join us. I hope that’s ok.”
“Yes, that’s ok.”
Dan and Molly prepared lasagna and salad and talked about Aysha.
“I’ve never resented Aysha’s presence here. The circumstances of her conception weren’t her fault. She’s a great kid; I couldn’t ask for a better stepdaughter; I just wish she was mine,” Dan tensed as he said this, it was the truth and needed to be said, but he wasn’t sure how Molly would react to hearing it.
“She thinks of you as her dad.”
“I know, that’s why I’m still here, for both of you. I want us to be a family.”
“One day at a time,” Molly said.