“Good morning, darling. How was it at your dad’s?”
“Meh. It was ok.”
“Just ok? Did something happen? Is he all right?”
The marriage may have dissolved, but she didn’t have to stop caring about him. Care was her thing, and she needed people to dote on and infuse with love and affection. It’s what made it so hard when Tim and Susie left. She still had Phoenix for now, but when she left…she shook away that thought and turned her attention back to her daughter.
“I think he’s lonely.”
“Hmph. He would be.”
“Nothing, darling. Did you get your homework done?”
Sometimes she forgot Phoenix was free of John’s sins and let little jabs like that escape her head.
“What about you, mom?”
“What about me?”
“Do you get lonely?”
She blinked a few times and tried to recover from the shock. “Why, darling, how could I be lonely when I have you?”
The child blushed, and Mary wiped the proverbial sweat off her brow. She kept herself so busy, she did not have the time to think about her feelings or what she wanted. Still, she couldn’t hide from them. Some nights, after a long day of shaking hands and making speeches, she fell into bed and rolled over longing to see someone’s body there. She’d imagine a phantom arm draped across her torso and soft lips to kissing her nose. Some mornings, she wanted someone besides Phoenix to enjoy the breakfast she prepared so lovingly. She loved caring for her daughter but it wasn’t the same. Taking care of Phoenix was her duty as a mother, and the girl expected it. But, to care for someone who didn’t need it? Someone she wanted to pamper and adore? She missed that. Being married to John may not have been the best experience, but she enjoyed being his wife. That role suited her perfectly, and it felt unnatural to be anything else despite settling into the single life quite well. But, that didn’t make her lonely, right? Could she have those feelings and be content with her current lot? Did she want to be content? Sometimes yes, sometimes no. With Reed chasing her again, that was a very important question to answer.