To Go or Not To Go

Submitted into Contest #20 in response to: Write a story about a day in the life of a mother.... view prompt

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General


 

“Mommy I’m hungry,” the little boy informs his mother. She glances over at where her son sits coloring at the kitchen table. “Ok Lex, just give me a few more minutes to finish up this painting and then we can go out for dinner.”

The child pauses in his drawing, appearing to consider his mother’s words. “Can we go to McDonald’s?” he asks hopefully. “I want chicken nuggets.” 

“Sorry kiddo,” his mother replies reaching over to tousle her son’s hair. “You already had McDonald’s this week. We can go to the diner. Just let me finish working on this. I’m almost done.” 

The boy gets up from the table and walks over to look more closely at his mother’s artwork. “There’s some trees,” he points at an area of the canvas covered in greens and browns. “And that’s a tiny house,” he gestors at the middle of the painting where the indistinct outline of a small log-cabin is faintly visible. “What place is it?” the child asks curiously 

“I don’t know yet,” his mother replies. “But I know it’s almost finished.” She picks up her paintbrush once again. 

Lex sits back down at the table and resumes drawing. “This is Nancy and me at the park.” 

His mother pauses mid-brushstroke. “Whose Nancy?” she asks in a strained tone. 

“Nancy is daddy’s friend,” Lex informs her. “We went to the park the other day when you were at work.” 

“Daddy took you and his friend Nancy to the park the other day when I was at work?” She asks the question more out of a hope that perhaps she has misunderstood, then out of a desire for clarification. 

“Yup, daddy and I played tag and then Nancy went on the swings with me.” 

 “Did daddy say where he met Nancy?” she asks the question even though she doesn’t really want to hear the answer. 

The child continues coloring, oblivious to his mother’s distress. “He said he made friends with Nancy at work.” The still dripping brush slips from his mother’s fingers and falls onto the floor. “Mommy you dropped your paintbrush,” Lex points out. He retrieves the brush and holds it out to his mother, who looks at him without seaming to see it. “Mommy here,” he says impatiently. More paint drips from the brush and lands with a plopping sound on the kitchen tiles. 

“Thank you sweetie,” his mother says taking the brush from him. “Just let me clean up this paint and then we can go to the diner.”

The boy returns to his drawing. “But what about your picture?” he inquires pointing at the half-finished painting. “You said you were almost done.” 

 “Oh,” his mother replies absently, “I’ll finish it some other time.” 


Twenty minutes later, the kitchen floor has been scrubbed clean of paint. A few green specs remain, clinging stubbornly to the tile. Lex’s drawing is finished. The blue of the lake in the park stands-out vividly against the peace of yellow construction paper.

 It is an especially dark night and ordinarily Lex’s mother would have been focusing all of her attention firmly on the road before her. But tonight, her mind keeps drifting back to the crayon drawing her son made earlier that evening. She keeps hearing his words in her mind, over and over again.

 Daddy and his friend Nancy took me to the park when you were at work. Nancy went on the swings with me. 

Nancy is the name of her husband’s secretary. She tries to think of a logical explanation for why Jack might have needed to speak with her while he was at the park with Lex. Maybe he’d needed some important paperwork filed that couldn’t wait until the next day. Or maybe Nancy had a question about some document that required Jack’s signature. 

Who is she kidding? There is only one reason why her husband would take his secretary to the park with their son. Jack is having an affair. 

She doesn’t see the deer until it is too late. If she’d been paying more attention to the road, if her mind hadn’t been so entirely focused elsewhere, she might have seen what was about to happen in time to do something about it. She might have had a chance to swerve out of the way. As it was, the animal runs straight into her windshield. 

But what if the evening had gone differently. What might have happened then? 

“Mommy I’m hungry.” The woman takes her eyes off the picture she is painting and glances at her son. “Ok Lex, I’m almost done with this and then we can go out to dinner.”

“Can we go to McDonalds?” 

His mother thinks for a moment. She’s already let him have McDonald’s once this week. She doesn’t like giving him fast-food to often. But she’s had a long day at work and is exhausted. She really doesn’t feel like cooking. Jack isn’t going to be home until late and will probably just grab something on the way. They could go to the diner around the corner, but it’s awfully expensive. 

“You know what kiddo, it’s your lucky day. McDonald’s it is.” 


That night, she’s watching the news with Jack. Lex is asleep at last and she’s thinking of turning in for the evening soon herself. 

“Look, isn’t that the road leading to the diner?” Jack says gesturing at the TV screen. She follows his gaze and sees that he is right. The street next to theirs is being displayed, full of car parts and shattered glass. 

“Oh no,” she exclaims, “there must have been an accident. Turn the volume up.” He does and they hear that a young couple were driving home from dinner when a dear ran out in-front of their car. Both occupants were killed instantly. 

“How terrible.” She’s horrified. She’d almost taken Lex to the diner. It could have been them. The deer could have run into their car and they both could have died. 

“I need a drink,” Jack says.

“I’ll get it.” She walks into the kitchen and takes out two glasses. As she reaches into the fridge and pulls out the bottle of wine her hand slips. She manages to catch the bottle before it hits the floor, but not soon enough to prevent the wine from spilling. “God dammit,” she swears as she notices that Jack’s phone is lying on the counter and is now wet. She grabs a nearby towel and attempts to clean it. As she does it chimes with an incoming text. She reads the words and her hands begin to shake. 

Hey babe. I can’t wait to see you. Can we meet tonight? Tomorrow is too far away. Same time same place? xx Nancy. 

She places the phone back on the counter with trembling fingers. 

“Jack, she calls, “Nancy wants to know if your meeting her at the same place. Apparently tomorrow is to long and she’s hoping you can make it sooner.”

Jack comes in to the kitchen looking perplexed. “Amanda,” he asks, “what are you talking about?” 

Putting her hands on her hips and glaring at her husband she responds, “You tell me.” She thrusts his phone at him. 

Hesitantly, Jack takes the phone from his wife’s hand and glances down at the screen. “Babe come on. You really can’t think this means anything. Nancy probably just sent this to me by mistake. I’m sure she was actually trying to text Mike.” 

 “Is that her boyfriend? Do you make it a habit to discuss the love lives of your employees?” 

“Are you serious right now? You can’t honestly think…”

She cuts him off. “What can’t I think Jack? Tell me, what can’t I think? That your having an affair? That your sleeping with your secretary? Because right now that’s exactly what I think.” 

. “Amanda, come on,” Jack protests. “Your jumping to conclusions. You can’t honestly believe that I’d cheat on you. We’ve been married for seven years.” 

“I know exactly how long we’ve been married Jack,” his wife snaps. “I’m not the one who forgot our last anniversary.”

 “I never forgot our anniversary” 

“Yes,” Amanda tells him angrily, “you did. I got you that suit you’d been wanting. The navy-blue one from Tayler’s. I surprised you with it when you came home from work. You didn’t even realize what it was for. You’d forgotten the date. It’d slipped your mind. You’d been so busy with work that you’d lost track of time. That’s what you said. And I believed you. I even felt bad for making you feel guilty about forgetting. I surprised you with a gift I knew you wanted, and you didn’t even get me flowers.” 

His parents are so involved in their argument neither of them notices the child making his way quietly down the stairs. 

“So, I forgot our anniversary,” Jack says defensively. “Once in seven years I didn’t realize the date. Amanda, that doesn’t mean I’m having an affair.” 

“No,” she agrees in a tone that is anything but agreeable, “but it certainly makes me more likely to come to that conclusion when I see messages like this.” She gestors furiously at the cellphone resting in Jack’s palm. 

Her husband opens his mouth but before he can speak, their son interrupts. “Mommy, Daddy, why are you shouting?” 

“Lex,” his mother replies, “I’m so sorry sweetheart. Daddy and I didn’t mean to wake you. We were talking about something important and we didn’t realize how loud we were being. Come on let’s get you back to bed.” She crosses the kitchen and walks to where her son is standing at the bottom of the stairs. “I’ll read you another bedtime story,” seeing Lex’s expression she hastily adds, “just one. You already had two tonight and you’re only getting this one because we woke you.” She glances back at where Jack is still standing in the kitchen, phone in hand. “And then daddy and I can finish our conversation.” 


Fifteen minutes later Lex is once more asleep. His mother heads down-stairs, expecting to find her husband waiting there for her. He’ll be sitting at the kitchen-table, with a glass of wine in hand and an expression full of regret. Having had some time to think, he will have come to the conclusion that it is better to admit his wrongdoing, better to tell her exactly what he has done, only then can he beg her forgiveness. Will she grant it? She hasn’t decided yet. It depends on what he has to say. It depends on how long he has been seeing Nancy, how far things have gone. A thought strikes her and she nearly trips on the next stair. What if Nancy isn’t the only one? What if there have been others? What if this isn’t the first time Jack’s cheated on her? She reaches the bottom step and practically runs into the kitchen. 

She expects him to be there. She expects to find him sitting at the table, where they have eaten so many meals together over the last seven years. What she does not expect, is to find the room empty. She does not expect to see a note, lying on the kitchen-table in the exact spot Lex’s picture had sat just a few hours earlier. 

She moves closer and sees that the note is in Jack’s hand-writing. She doesn’t want to read it. She doesn’t want to know what it is that he couldn’t tell her face to face. And yet she can’t stop herself from picking up the paper. She can’t resist looking down to read the words that are written on it in her husband’s familiar hand-writing.

Amanda I’m sorry. You were right. I’ve been having an affair with Nancy. We’ve been seeing each other for nearly a year. I wanted to tell you sooner. Please believe me when I say that it wasn’t my plan for you to find out like this. I’m leaving. Nancy and I are going to spend some time in the country. When I get back, we can figure out next-steps, decide on a visiting schedule for me to see Lex. Don’t worry. You can keep the house. You and Lex can stay there. I’ll find an apartment nearby. I’m sorry Amanda. I really never meant to hurt you. I just love her so much. Mancy and I, we were always meant to be together. I’m sorry I didn’t have the courage to tell you all this in person. I just didn’t know how to say it. 

Jack 

December 19, 2019 16:31

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2 comments

Natalie Schlegel
12:02 Dec 27, 2019

Hi there! Every week, Reedsy matches me up with two stories by two people for what they call a "critque circle", and it is basically just when you read others' stories and comment on them. I really liked your story and found it interesting. I do have to honestly admit that I was a bit confused on some of the structuring, but maybe re-reading it will help. It was a sad ending and I felt for the mother. There were a few spelling and grammar errors, but that happens so it's okay. Otherwise, I liked the story and am glad I was matched up with it...

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23:01 Dec 27, 2019

Thanks so much for your feedback. I would be happy to read your story if you would like to send me a link to it.

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