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Fiction Sad

Jeremy escorted his parents into his two -story brownstone, allowing them to settle themselves on the black leather couch before addressing them.

“I asked you guys here because I want you to understand the rules of my wedding and to remain civil to each other. I…”

“Dear,” interrupted his mom, “we’ve been divorced for 6 years.   We definitely know how to conduct ourselves by now.  Plus, we’re both remarried and very happy - well at least I am.”

His dad rolled his eyes. 

“Mom,” he sighed.  “I had just turned 17 at the time when you guys got divorced, but it still traumatized me although I was almost an adult because you two definitely weren’t acting like adults.  Honestly, I just want to make sure you two can stay civil at my wedding because I both want you to have a part in it.  I….” He stopped, pulling his phone from his pocket.  “It’s Alicia. It’s probably about the wedding. I gotta take this. Before answering, he shouted, “Please stay civil with each other while I’m in the other room,” as he walked with his cell to the back bedroom.  “Hey Alicia, what’s going on?”

Trying to remain chill and to prove to her ex that she was the one that was always civilized, Jeremy’s mom turned to her ex husband.  

“So, how are you doing?  How is Patricia and the kids?  How old are they now?”

“Two and four,” he answered. “And Patricia is doing well.  And actually….we’re pregnant again.  It’s still very early though. I haven’t mentioned it to Jeremy because I don’t want to take any attention away from the wedding.”

“Wow, well your secret is safe with me.  And congratulations!   You guys must make a great team, especially with all those kids that close in age. 

“Yeah.” He smiled. “Believe me, I’m surprised as you are that I have these many kids, especially at my age.  But we’re a great team. And I really do love our kids.”

“And our Jeremy too?” she questioned.  

“Of course!  It goes without saying.”

“But you still didn’t say it.”

He turned his head briefly to roll his eyes again. “I love all my kids equally” and continued with, “how’s Keith?”

“We’re great.” she responded a little too loudly.  “Amanda, Keith’s daughter, is now 18 and a freshman at NYU, so we’re having a great time living our empty nesters lifestyle.  Going to vacation in the Bahamas in a few months, just installed a dishwasher, thinking about installing a pool in the backyard…everything’s great!

So there it was.  

“You know, if you wanted to argue, you could have stopped with all the pleasantries and just come out with it,” his anger rising.  

“What?! 

“Oh come on, who the fuck cares about a new dishwasher - except you.  This is about the red cup I forgot to wash all those years ago, the one that that you say caused our divorce,” his fingers making quote signs on the words “caused.”

“Keep your voice down,” she hissed. “We have to maintain the illusion to our son that we still play nice and I want to be a part of his wedding.  And no, I brought it up because I was excited that we finally found a way to have it installed in his house since it’s such an old house.  Although, Keith and I have never had a problem with taking on chores quite equally including washing the dishes.   This just makes it easier. And, by the way, it wasn’t a red cup, it was a red bowl that you forgot to wash.  So get your facts straight.”

“Ah yes, the red plate or red cup or red bowl. I don’t really care.  You blew up.  It seemed ridiculous.  I didn’t do it on purpose. I was working all the time and...”

“Of course, she interrupted.”  I know that I was working no more than 40 hours from home with a less stressful job and that you were working 80 hour weeks as a financial analyst, but I still attended all of our son’s games and kept up on all housework and cooking. But I still wanted to feel like you were helping around the house. The dishes were your only chore for the month and when I saw that you left that goddamn red bowl, I…

“Went all exorcist on me!  Ya know, It wasn’t intentional.  I forgot to do it.”

“Somehow you washed all the dishes - except that red bowl.  Talk about a f you to me.”

“Are you insane?” He briefly questioned.  “It was an honest mistake. If I knew that forgetting to wash a damn cup would’ve led to our divorce, don’t you think I would have washed it?”

“You didn’t have to work those 80 hours a week, ya know?   We just wanted you around.”

“Sure,” he snorted.  “I’m sure those vacations weren’t all that nice or living in the nicest part of town or driving the new car you wanted practically every year.  I wasn’t doing it for me, I was doing it for us.  Your salary as a customer rep certainly wasn’t going to pay for the lavish lifestyle you wanted.”

“It was all nice,” she admitted, “but I wanted you.  Not for you to have your secretary to send me something for my birthday when you couldn’t make it or had to work late.  Or sending her to film Jeremy’s basketball game when you couldn’t make it.  Or not even pretending to listen to me when I had a rough day and wanted to tell you about it.”

“Well, I’m so sorry I was so tired all the time trying to take care of us. Sending Sheila to film the game - especially when you refused to out of anger - was the next best thing I could do.”

“You should have been there. That would have been the best thing.”

“Of course it would have been!  But by that time, you were always angry with me. It was just easier to stay at work.   We weren’t having sex.  You snapped every time I tried to make it up to you.”

“Because I knew it was all temporary.  You were just going to go back to what you had been doing before, neglecting us, never taking off more time from

work to spend time with us. Sometimes you’d promise you’d be home at a reasonable time, so I’d slip into one of your favorite pieces of lingerie, you know that red piece you liked on me, spend hours making dinner, open a bottle of wine, wait up for you, and then I’d get a call from Sheila that you couldn’t make it. 

“I never knew that!” He said, exasperated. “Why did you never say anything?”

“Because would it have mattered?  It had been going on for so long, you promising to be somewhere and not showing up that I had practically given up.”

They both sat in silence for awhile. 

“And what made you stop fighting for us?” he finally asked. 

“I know it sounds silly, but seeing that unwashed red bowl, well, it was always going to feel like you were neglect something.”

“It was a mistake though. I just forgot to wash a dish.”

“Don’t you see?” she emphasized, “it wasn’t about the fucking red bowl!  It was a pattern.  You never showing up when you said you would!  You sending Sheila as if she was some sort of replacement for you!  You thinking that you could do it all, the job and the family when we needed you!  I needed you!  When I saw that you didn’t finish the one chore I asked you to do, that’s when I knew I wanted a divorce!”

There were tears in both their eyes. 

“I just have to know.  With a third kid on the way, how in the world isn’t your wife feeling neglected with your time consuming job and all the work that comes with those kids?”

He swallowed, then looked sadly at her. “She sat me down one day and said that if I don’t cut down my hours, she’d leave me.  And I know it sounds silly, but I feel like you never really put it out there like that.  There were hints that you hated how much I worked, but I thought that it was worth it to our family in the end. I guess you never really sat me down and said “I’ll leave you if you’re not around more.  That’s why I felt so blind-sighted by you asking for a divorce, because I knew you were annoyed and angry, but I just didn’t know how much.”

“I’m sorry I never sat you down and told you how much I felt like you neglected me and Jeremy. 

“And I’m sorry I never washed that red cup.”

“Actually, it was a red bowl, but it doesn’t really matter.”

“Yeah, I guess it doesn’t,” he said slowly. 

They sat in silence until Jeremy returned.  

July 25, 2022 16:03

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2 comments

Brian Bywater
08:05 Aug 04, 2022

Not the first time this story has been told, thankfully your dialogue still does it justice. A well put together look at life, that for many will hardly read like fiction.

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05:56 Aug 04, 2022

This story has heart. I enjoyed how you structured your tale. It flowed well and had a bittersweet ending. Good job on the dialogue. Also kudos for crafting likeable and relatable characters too. Good job.

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