It was the hottest day of summer and everything was melting.

Josie’s daughter’s ruby red popsicle was dripping onto her white shorts, the artificial smells of cherry, grape, and orange blending and swirling as the three children surrounded her -- Jess in her arms, and Abel and Levi tagging along, literally holding onto her skirt tails.

Not only were the popsicles melting, her make-up was, too -- she could feel a smeary mess covering her face.

The disastrous  job interview from this morning seemed forever ago and yet it just continued the melting theme of the day. . . .popsicles -- melting, make-up -- melting, job chances -- melting. . . marriage -- that had dissolved long ago.  She was thankful that her ex-husband . . . .(Should she call him ex?  They hadn’t filled out divorce papers yet.  She supposed it was a matter of time.  What was proper?  When was it okay to call him ex?  What would it do to their three children?  What was it already doing to them?)  The thoughts drizzled and dripped in her mind as well -- swirling like the summer gases floating with the heat -- barely there -- hints of color dancing in the sultry, still summer air.  Her thoughts solidified for a moment -- her husband, yes, she was thankful he still helped out with the kids.  Of course, why shouldn’t he?  They are his kids, too.  And yet, she had friends whose exes didn’t maintain a relationship with the children at all.  It brought a rash of anger as always.  And a rash of gratitude for Rick, and his watching the kids for her job interview today.  For all his problems, she had loved him (maybe she still did?), and they had created some beautiful children together. 

Children, who were the light of both of their worlds. Children, who brought joy in the midst of every circumstance.  Children, who desperately needed a bath now!  She laughed, in spite of herself.  They were covered in sticky popsicle sweetness, which also surrounded their lips like a halo -- not that they were angels.  Lord, no.  They had their moments.  She supposed all kids did.  There was the time when Levi was potty training and smeared poo all over the walls.  There was the time Abel stuck the green crayon up his nose. . . and when Jess had the temper tantrum in the middle of the grocery store. . . and so much more. Kids were not little imperfect adults.  They were learning how to be adults -- and that meant lots of mistakes.  You know, as she thought about it, Rick was pretty good at handling all of that.  He loved the kids -- and he was good with them.  He handled every crisis that came up with aplomb -- grace and courage under fire.  She smiled, thinking of the dirty diapers he had changed, and all the help he had given now that they were living apart.  As her mind drifted back to the ten years of marriage, the three children covered in popsicle goo faded, melting into the memories of those years as a family.  The births of their children, the vacations they had enjoyed together, the fights and arguments, the home they had created together.  Movies watched, lovemaking sessions, walks on the beach, candlelight dinners and rushed take-out.  

“Mommy! Can we stop and play in the park?” sticky red Jess gently nudged her back into reality.  Josie hadn’t realized they were at the kids’ favorite park. 

“Yes, but first, let’s stop in the restroom and get some of that sticky off you.  Otherwise the butterflies will mistake you all for yummy sweet flowers!” she said as she navigated them into the women’s restroom, reeled off some stiff brown paper towels and wiped the melted popsicle leftovers off as well as she could.  When they exited the restroom, Josie gave them a love pat on the bottom to send them on their way, “Play hard, have fun, and …”

“We know, Mommy, stay where you can see us!” the last words were garbled as they were already on their way to the slide for park fun.  Josie walked over to a bench in a  shaded area where she could watch them and escape the heat.

“Is this seat taken?” a voice said.  A voice she would recognize anywhere.  Rick . . . 

“Join me.” she replied.

“You know, I got to thinking after you got the Littles that you didn’t look so good.  And then I was thinking I should have asked how the job interview went, although I was pretty sure not so good. I thought you might have made a stop here.  I just wanted to check on you, Josie.  Are you -- are you okay?”

Josie’s shoulders drooped and tears welled up in her eyes.  “Not so good.  I feel like everything in my life has just fallen apart -- melted into nothingness. I feel invisible, immaterial -- chaotic and non-existent.  I’m not sure why.  I’m not sure how.  It started with our separation, and ever since, domino after domino has fallen, until nothing is right anymore.”

“I feel the same. When we separated, I thought it was for the best.  We seemed to have drifted apart and communication was practically non-existent.  I didn’t know how to talk to you anymore.  We rarely had sex.  I didn’t know how to fix any of it.  But now, nothing seems right. I feel like I’m just going through the motions at work.  I hate living in the apartment by myself.  Josie, I miss you.  I miss us.  Lord knows, I miss the kids.  I miss the life we had.”

Josie’s bottom lip quivered -- just like Jess’ does when she’s about to wail. “What should we do?”

“I dunno. . . .

Actually, Josie, I do know. . . .

Would you be willing to try again?  It wouldn’t be easy.  I -- I know we’ve got some things -- some things to work out.  I’d be willing to go to counseling if you think it would help.  Maybe. . . maybe your sister could keep the kids so we could have a date night every so often?  I love you.  I miss you.  Whatever it takes, I’m willing, if you are. . . “ Rick said it so quickly, Josie knew he had been thinking about it.  She sighed and looked up at him, wondering if they could really make it work again.

When Josie lifted her head, Rick took the opportunity.  He captured her lips in his, with all the bottled up passion from all the love and all the time apart.  Teeth and tongues and love and memories and hopes and dreams and what-ifs and why-nots all tangled in the kiss, taking Josie’s breath away.  Josie melted as all three children joined them in a family hug.

August 07, 2020 19:04

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