“Aren’t you coming up to bed?” Cassie asked her husband Kevin.
“I’m going to watch the end of the game,” Kevin replied, slumping on the couch. “Be up later.”
“Fine.” Cassie tromped away and up the stairs to their bedroom.
Kevin sighed. Sixteen years of marriage, and now he and Cassie were just going through the motions, being fake-happy in front of the kids and indifferent in front of each other. The only action that their bedroom had seen in months was arguing and the occasional vacuum.
This, he thought, was a stupid way to live.
He needed to wind down. Kevin had just returned home from the end-of-season town youth soccer coach volunteer appreciation banquet at the Twisted Pickle, the local dive bar. Although, he thought, it wasn’t really a banquet—everybody paid for their own weak beer and mediocre nachos. It was just a gathering to wrap up the season. Cassie hadn’t been happy that he’d gone, but what was he supposed to do? Besides, she was the one who suggested he volunteer to coach, even though he knew next to nothing about soccer.
Kevin snapped off the lights and snapped on the TV, muting the volume so it wouldn’t disturb Cassie and the kids. He didn’t know if there even was a game on, but with all these channels, there had to be something. It didn’t matter what the sport was—he’d suffer through cricket if he could have the next 30 minutes to himself and dodge another late-night discussion with Cassie about what he thought their problems were.
His phone was chirping incessantly. There had been a big group text among the coaches as they had planned the non-banquet, and the thread, he saw, was still alive with post-Pickle chatter—had a great time, so nice to see everyone, thanks for all your help, what a crazy night.
Crazy night? Kevin hadn’t seen anything crazy. It was the same people all the time. This was a small town, and they were all middle-aged youth soccer coaches. How much crazy could there be?
He clicked off the phone’s ringer. He cleared the group text, and as he did so, another text arrived, this one just to him, from Jamie Winters, one of the other coaches. She had been at the Pickle tonight. Jamie was quiet and smart, and cute in that “suburban soccer mom who goes to the gym and never stops moving” way.
Kevin flicked open the message. Jamie had written:
You could tell I wanted to say something else, but I didn’t have the nerve. I do now. I want you.
Holy hell, Kevin thought, stunned. Holy hell in a holy hand-basket. He shut off the television and sat in the dark and reread the text a dozen times.
Jamie Winters wants him?
Kevin put his phone down, closed his eyes, and felt both nausea and a thrill course through his body. He was used to feeling nauseous, what with work and all the spousal arguing, but the thrill? He hadn’t felt thrill in years.
He opened his eyes, picked up his phone, and started to reply, but then he stopped, as he had no idea what to write.
Jamie Winters wanted him.
Jamie Winters wanted him?
What had Jamie said to him? What had he said to her?
What had he missed?
He pictured them talking. He had been leaning against a wall, watching the group. He had never been much of a joiner and had had zero interest in talking about soccer. Jamie had strolled past, then stopped. They had talked for a few minutes, just non-soccer chit-chat. Jamie was funny. Quirky. And drama-free. Kevin had never heard any gossip about her, which meant that she was either incredibly boring or incredibly discreet.
Had either of them said anything unusual? He replayed the conversation as best he could. There was that one story about the rainy day, a Saturday when he and Jamie had been coaching on adjacent fields. It had started to pour, and all the kids and coaches had huddled under Kevin’s pop-up tent. Jamie had asked if he remembered that day. Of course he had, he told her. He didn’t add that he had liked standing next to her under his pop-up tent as the rain fell, because who doesn’t want to spend a few minutes keeping a pretty woman dry? That was the most time he had ever spent with Jamie, tonight included.
There had to be something he had missed tonight.
Let’s see. He had stayed in his knot for the most part, with the fourth- and fifth-grade coaches, with Sheehan and Meghan and that Paul, while Jamie had mostly stayed in her knot, the third-grade coaches plus Fitzy and short Kenny and tall Kenny. People stuck to their knots at group things. Short Kenny coached the youngest kids. Did tall Kenny coach the sixth graders? Or was he even a coach at all? Kevin couldn’t recall. Maybe tall Kenny had been in the Twisted Pickle anyway and had wandered over to their group. There weren’t many other places to go in this town on a Friday night.
He pulled up Jamie’s Facebook profile on his phone, but since they weren’t Facebook friends, he couldn’t see many pictures of her. Her profile picture was her kids, of course. He scrolled. There were a few public pictures of her. Hazel eyes, a scattering of freckles about her nose and cheeks, long brown hair in a ponytail. A genuine smile even when she took a selfie, not that duckface thing that everyone seemed to do, including Cassie. Actually, Kevin thought, Jamie was more than pretty. Jamie was hot.
And hot Jamie Winters wanted him.
Was there a spark between them tonight? If there was, would he have even noticed a spark? They had talked about that rainy Saturday, and a few other things, and before she drifted away, she said nice talking to you, Kevin, and gave him a smile.
Was it a bigger smile than usual? He didn’t know how big she usually smiled. Did her smile linger? Maybe it wasn’t what she had said—it was what she hadn’t said. He was meant to pick up on something. He wished she had been more obvious—he was terrible at picking up on somethings. Whatever it was, it couldn’t have been something overt. People would have noticed, especially in a tight room full of gossipy hens and roosters. He certainly hadn’t made a move. He hadn’t even thought about making a move.
He chuckled. What move? He didn’t have moves. He hadn’t made a move in almost two decades. Jamie, however, had made a move. She had texted him. She wasn’t only hot and quirky and drama-free. She was bold.
Kevin took a deep breath, exhaled, then shook his head. Spark, linger, move—this was ridiculous. He’d never know what was going on until he talked with Jamie.
So he had to text back. He had to be bold, like her.
He flicked open the message app—then put the phone back down.
He missed being bold. Back in the day, he had been bold. He had pursued a career, had wooed women, Cassie included. Had Cassie ever been bold? All Cassie was now was unhappy. And he was unhappy. He didn’t talk to Cassie about anything except work and the kids, and she didn’t talk to him about anything except work and the kids. Neither of them was happy, and neither of them was bold.
Jamie Winters wanted him.
Was she as unfulfilled in her marriage as he was in his? She had to be. Why else would she have texted him?
What was Jamie’s husband’s name? Matt or Mark, definitely. Liam?
Jamie Winters wanted him.
Kevin picked up his phone, then dropped it back on the couch again and put his head in his hands.
Jamie. Winters. Wanted. Him. And. He. Had. No. Idea. What. To. Do.
This is big, he thought, pressing his palms against his closed eyes. This is a defining moment. This was a fork in the road of his life.
Kevin got up, got a drink of water, then returned to the couch.
He continued thinking in the dark. What do you do when big moments arrive? Do you shy away, or do you grab them? Do you live in the past, fearful of the future, or do you live for today?
Too often, Kevin knew, he had shied away from big moments. Kids and age and a stale marriage and a career that was nothing more than a job without passion had worn him down, made him afraid to leap. Because leaping meant taking a chance, and taking a chance meant potential failure, and wasn’t it better to stay on the safe road than to fail yet again?
Kevin ran a hand through his thinning hair. This was a pivotal moment, he realized. This was bold time. And Kevin realized that if he didn’t take a chance now, if he didn’t leap, he may never get another chance, because the safe road never has forks.
His heart now hammering, he picked up his phone.
He had another text. From Jamie:
Kevin OMG 😳 please reply
His heart hammered even more. He had taken too long to text back! He squinted at the screen. Which emoji was that? Why did they have to make them so small?
He took a deep breath. It was now or never, and he was sick of his answer always being “never.”
Kevin shakily replied:
I wanted to say the
Crap, he hit send before he finished. He started the text again, his quaking fingers mashing out the rest of his message, but before he hit send, he got an immediate reply from Jamie:
You can’t tell anyone about this
Kevin, now grinning as his heart continued to pound, deleted what he had been typing, then replied:
I won’t. I promise.
Another immediate reply from Jamie:
Thank god you figured it out that text was a mistake
didn’t mean to send it to you
I know too many Ke guys 😳
please please please don’t tell anyone ok?
She texted again:
Please don’t tell Elliot about Kenny
I’m not a horrible person
It’s a long story I can’t share
We’re not in a good place
I just can’t do this anymore with him
Kevin, no longer grinning, dropped his phone and thought—about Jamie and Cassie, about being bold and staying safe, about roads taken and roads ignored. Then he picked up his phone and began typing a text to his sleeping wife.