The Remainders

By Matthew Arnold Stern All Rights Reserved ©


Chapter Fifteen: Lake Forest

One 145-milligram tablet of Fenofibrate. One 50-milligram tablet of Losartan. One 81-milligram tablet of low-dosage aspirin. One 5-milligram tablet of Cialis. And no Rachel. I figured whatever delivery she was called away on must have been a doozy.

I had gotten good at filling in for her with her sons. David had a game that night. I was surprised to see that Moshe got into watching it. Usually, he’d rather play on the iPad or run up and down the slopes. David did really well. He went 2 for 3 with an RBI double and turned a 6-4-3 double play. His team won. The strange thing about watching your kids play sports is you care more about how they did than whether the team won or lost. That was the way I felt watching Muriel and Dylan. I was glad that I was feeling the same way about David and Moshe.

I took them to In-N-Out after the game. We had the burgers the way Rachel insisted, protein style with the meat and fixings wrapped in lettuce instead of a bun. I did let them have fries. When we got home, I made sure they did their homework, showered, and off to bed with a good night kiss.

“Good night, Dr. Glass,” David said.

“Good night, Dad -- er, Dr. Glass,” Moshe said.

“Good night, kids.” I let myself smile a little wider.

So, there was more to my relationship with Rachel than “banging an obstetrician,” especially when the obstetrician wasn’t there to bang.

The Orange County Register from this morning was still on the kitchen table. I usually go to the entertainment section. Pearls Before Swine would still be as funny in the evening as it was in the morning. But as I took the paper out of the plastic bag, something caught my attention. It took up a chunk of the front page and had a large photograph. It was too big to ignore.

Then I heard the key turn in the lock. I tossed the paper back on the table.

Rachel stepped through the door. She looked even more exhausted than she did in the afternoon.

“We had to do a C-section.” She chucked her purse and keys on a side table by the door.

She seemed too exhausted to even stand. And with two difficult deliveries in one shift, I could understand. I moved towards her.

“You need anything?” I closed the door behind her and locked it.

“Just get me to bed.”

I put my arm around her to steady her. As we headed down the hallway, she started shedding her clothes. She kicked off her black tennis shoes and left them in the hall. She would get cross with her kids if they did that, but I couldn’t fault her after she had been standing in them all day. She loosened the drawstring of her pants and let them fall down her legs. She stepped out of them and kept walking.

When we got to the bedroom, she started tugging on her shirt. I pulled up from the bottom hem and lifted it over her head and arms. Its musty reek was worse than after a long run in the heat. I waited until we were in the bedroom, and I tossed it by the dresser. She reached behind her back for her bra.

“I got it.” I unfastened the hooks, and she let her bra fall off her body. She bared her firm, full breasts only for a moment, then she collapsed face down on the bed. She laid crossways. I reached across her chest and thighs, lifted her gently, and set her lengthwise across the bed. She didn’t even stir. She fell fast asleep, naked except her panties and anklet socks.

I softly closed the bedroom door and turned off the light. I lingered by the side of the bed for a moment. I wasn’t completely tired, but I knew Avicii was going to kick me out of bed at four thirty in the morning. I walked around to my side of the bed. With Rachel pressing on top of the covers, I wasn’t able to flip up my end and get under them. So, I lied down next to her.

Her body felt so soft and warm. Her skin glowed blue in the faint light, accenting her curves. She looked peaceful and vulnerable in her deep sleep. I started to get sleepy as well. I let my eyes close and drifted off.

Four thirty a.m., and Avicii’s “Wake Me Up” blared out of my iPhone. I reached over and slapped on anything until the music stopped. When I opened my eyes, I expected the lights to be on and a dressed Rachel exhorting me to hurry up and get ready for our workout. But the room was still dark. I turned to my side. Rachel was still asleep. I figured she would be asleep the rest of the morning. I would have to get the kids ready and drive them to school. After two tough and long deliveries the day before, she deserved her rest.

Without her, I felt disoriented. Do I run without her? Although I ran the trails behind her housing complex dozens of times, I didn’t completely know the way without her. Besides, she was my motivation to run. Before we started dating, I couldn’t be bothered to walk to the supermarket a couple of blocks away.

I could be motivated to pick up the newspaper in the driveway. I tucked it under my arm and carried it into the house. Instead of tossing it on the kitchen table, I kept it with me as I went into the study. I tossed it on the sofa and went to my MacBook Pro. I tapped the trackpad to wake it up.

My inbox was full of the usual junk. I scanned through the list in the hope that Dylan would finally write back. I did find an email from Muriel.

“Hey, Dad.

Sorry I haven’t written recently. I’ve been busy with studying for midterms and softball. I pinch hit in our game with Purdue. I got a single and drove in a run. Coach says that if I keep working hard, I can start next season.”

I smiled. I was happy to see her doing well. I really needed to make plans to fly out to Minnesota and see her.

But as I kept reading, I stopped smiling.

“BTW, do you know what’s the deal with Mom? She keeps calling me saying that people are lying about her and Steven. And is it true that they kicked Dylan out of their house? Have you heard from him?”

I clicked Reply. I had to let her know.

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