Frankie ran to the back door excitedly. His small silhouette was bouncing in the moonlight.
“Come on, Mommy!” He cried excitedly. “Daddy’s almost done with the tent.”
He raced outside. He looked like a shadow running across the lawn. It almost seemed surreal. Who knew a blackout could make everything seem so different?
Tim was across the lawn, hammering the lasts of the tent posts into the ground. In the moonlight, I could see him smiling my way. It wasn’t a bad idea, camping out in the backyard, I just wish he didn’t suggest it. I needed more time. I didn't want to be alone with him yet.
Frankie ran up to him. Tim scooped him up in his arms and swung him around. Frankie cried out with glee. My heart felt heavy. Tim was such a good father, he was a good husband, he was a good man. Why couldn’t “good” be good enough for me? Frankie waved me over to the tent. I took a deep breath and forced a smile as I walked over.
Tim set Frankie down and he scurried into the tent excitedly. Tim kissed my cheek as I came over.
“You okay, Viv?” He asked.
“Yeah, I’m fine,” I said as cheerfully as possible. “It’s just the idea of being out here with all these bugs.”
“Well, don’t you worry about that!” He cried, puffing out his chest. “Your He-Man is here to squash any bug that would dare touch his woman!”
“Good to know,” I laughed.
Tim chuckled and followed Frankie into the tent. That was Tim for you. Always a sense of humor, always willing to do the dirty work, always thinking of me and Frankie. I wished I could do the same for him.
I ducked into the tent. Frankie and Tim were sitting around an LED lantern in the middle of the floor. Tim was showing him how to make a butterfly shadow against the tent wall. I sat down next to Frankie. He quickly scurried his way into my lap. My little snuggle-bug. He always had been.
How could I even think about doing what I was doing? Tim would be hurt, Frankie would be hurt. Hurting Tim would be bad enough, but my little Frankie? I couldn’t stand the idea of his crying face. I was being really selfish. Maybe it really was a mistake, maybe I could settle with Tim and the life we had built.
Tim leaned over and kissed my cheek at that moment, he grabbed my hand gently. Frankie made a gagging noise and covered his eyes. Normally, that kind of reaction would make me smile, but not this time. No, I couldn’t settle with Tim. Not happily, anyway. Because sitting here with him now, having him kiss me and hold my hand, I felt nothing.
When was the last time I really felt something with Tim? I’m sure I still felt some things after Frankie was born, but those feelings had been shrinking and shrinking with every passing year. Wouldn’t it be better to stop while I still had some feelings for him? Maybe it was a fantasy to think everything would turn out okay, but I could still hope.
Shadow puppet theatre, ghost stories, snacks, and a game of tag outside were more than enough to have Frankie dead asleep within an hour. I was glad he went to bed so easily but wasn’t thrilled about being up alone with Tim. I’d been putting off this conversation for weeks. I either kept myself busy or went to bed early so there wasn’t really a chance to be alone.
Just one more day. That’s what I told myself, but that’s what I always told myself. One more day became two, two became six, and here I was three months later. I was still waiting “just one more day.” I was running out of time though.
“He’s out cold,” Tim whispered.
“Mmm-hmm,” I hummed gently.
“Hey, Viv, why don’t we play one more game before bed?” He asked.
“Tim, don’t you think we’re a little old to-”
“Aww, come on. One game.”
I sighed. “What game?”
“How about Truth or Dare?”
“God, are we in middle school?” I teased.
He nudged me gently. “Come on. Truth or dare?”
“You’re the one who ate Frankie’s candy the other day, weren’t you?”
I chuckled softly and nodded. He pushed me again.
“I knew it. I got in trouble for that, you know?”
“I know,” I said softly.
That was Tim. Always willing to take one for the team, never once questioned me about if I did it. He was dependable, honest. He just wasn’t what I wanted. No matter how much I wished I did.
“Truth or dare?” I asked.
“Dare. I know you. If I don’t choose it, we’ll end up playing Truth or Truth,” he grumbled.
“Dare you to make breakfast in the morning.”
“Figures that you’d choose the most boring dare ever,” he chuckled. “Alright, truth or dare?”
“Called it,” he said, smiling. “Hmmm, do you have a crush on someone?”
It was a whisper-shout, but Frankie still shifted slightly. We held perfectly still until his breathing became even again. I let out a small sigh of relief.
Tim nudged me. “Come on, answer the question. Quietly this time.”
I never expected he’d ask me something like that. Or maybe I did. Tim and his playful nature were pretty reliable. Maybe I secretly wanted him to ask me this. Maybe I wanted an excuse to be able to tell him.
“Yes,” I mumbled quietly.
“Ooo, who is it?” He teased.
I doubted he’d be smiling this much if he knew the answer. This was the wrong time to tell him, the wrong place, but I needed to. I’d already put it off far too long.
The night was hot, but the air in the tent suddenly felt cold. Even in the dark, I could see the smile disappear from his face. He scratched his head. After a moment he started nodding.
“Oh, the guy from the supermarket? Umm, yeah. I guess he’s a good looking guy,” Tim said understandingly. “Can’t really blame you. I mean, I’ve seen a couple cute girls here and there. You’re allowed to find other people attractive. After all, I’m the one you come home to at the end of the day.”
“Tim… it’s more than an attraction. I’m sleeping with him.” The silence was deafening. I took a deep breath and continued. “And… it’s not just a fling. Shawn and I… have something together. It’s more than just sex, it’s a relationship.”
“For… how long?” He asked.
“A few months,” I sighed. “I kept waiting for the right time to tell you.”
“And now was it?”
I shook my head. “No, but I couldn’t keep putting it off. Because I’m leaving. Next week. Shawn and I are moving in together. He’s been patient because he understands my situation, but... I can’t keep making him wait like this.
I-I still care about you Tim, but… it’s just not enough anymore. Things haven’t been ‘right’ with us for a while. I think we’ve both known this has been a long time coming. We can talk about things like assets and custody later. I’m not just abandoning Frankie, but I understand things will be difficult for a while. Please help him through this.”
Tim just nodded. He didn’t cry, he didn’t yell, he just sat there staring into the darkness. After a while, he started to get up.
“I got dared to make breakfast,” he said, shrugging. “One of us should keep our promises.”
He zipped the tent closed behind him. I sat there in silence as the sun began to rise. Frankie’s sleeping face became clearer and clearer as time went on. Again, the thought crossed my mind: why couldn’t “good” be good enough for me?