“Good morning,” John said cheerfully. Oddly enough, he wanted to make her smile.
He thought her behavior was odd. He understood that a mother’s connection to the children was stronger and she would need more time to heal than he would. But, this was Mary Jones: queen of masks and expert pretender. It had been three days. Why was she still moping around the house? She rarely displayed her true feelings around John.
He had never seen her like this before—not even when she found out he was cheating. He didn’t know why, but he was compelled to make her feel better; she was so pitiful.
“Come now, Mary. Don’t be so sad. The children were always going to leave one day. Just think… You’ll have fewer people to look after now. You have time now to do whatever it is you want to do! And..you should be proud. They’re both fine children. You…umm…you’ve done a great job with them.”
“Did you ever love me?”
“I’ve been thinking about things you’ve said to me over the past few weeks and…well, I just have to know. Did you ever love me? Even once?”
“Mary…it’s not as simple as—
“Yes or no, John!”
“This isn’t a fair question!”
“Mary, please. You’re getting worked up. Maybe you should lie down.”
“DID. YOU. EVER. LOVE. ME.”
John took a slow breath in and exhaled. He hung his head. “No.”
“I liked you a lot, Mary. I guess…I liked you enough to not want you to be disgraced by your father. We had fun in the beginning, and maybe if things were different I could have fallen in love with you, but… You changed.”
She heard what he was saying, but she wasn’t listening. She already knew what the answer was, but she needed him to say it.
“John… You’ve always acted like you were the only victim.” If she met his eyes, she’d fall apart. She kept her eyes on her breakfast. “Did it ever occur to you that maybe I didn’t want to be a 19-year-old mother? Did you think about how my life changed? Do you know how hard my father really is? Did you know the first thing out of his mouth when I told him about the baby was to get rid of it?”
“I told my father that if he couldn’t accept you, we would run away together and he would never see me again. Would you have done that for me?”
He couldn’t say anything.
“You’re free to do what you want now, John. Tim is sorted, you don’t love me, and you never will. So…go.”
“I beg your pardon?”
“You’re not obligated to stick around here anymore, so go! It’s what you always wanted, right?”
“But, what about Phoenix? Don’t you want me here for her?”
“I want a man who loves me! That’s what I want!”
He was shocked. At first, he thought he was simply getting the choice he never had, but now it sounded like she wanted him to leave.
“Mary, be sensible. You know you want a normal family environment for her. It’s not the best situation, but things are ok as they are, right? Look, I need to get ready for work. We’ll talk about this tonight, ok?”
“I don’t want things to be as they are now! I am not your housekeeper, John! I’m not here to cook for you and clean your house! I am your WIFE!
“But that doesn’t mean anything to you. I have wasted many years trying to show you what that means and I am tired, John! I’m tired.”
“Mary, this is crazy! How are you going to make it on your own? How are you going to take care of Phoenix? I can barely afford this house on my own! How are you going to do it?”
“When you get home tonight, I will have your things packed.”
“Is this really what you want?”
“I can’t have what I really want, John. You won’t give it to me.”
John thought he would have been happy about being freed from Mary’s iron fist, but somehow he wasn’t satisfied. Perhaps it was because this was another decision he was not able to participate in. They finished their breakfast in silence as Mary quietly sobbed. When he was done eating, he hopped in the shower quickly before he left for work. She sat alone in the kitchen afraid with her thoughts. All of John’s points were valid, but she felt like she did the right thing.
When John arrived home, he sat next to Mary in the living room. Phoenix was across the street at the Pancakes’ house.
“Mary…are you sure you want to go through with this? I could stick around until you can get yourself established. Don’t let your personal feelings for me interfere with your well being.”
She narrowed her eyes at him. “Now you care? It’s too late! Here she comes.”