Skeletons In The Closet
Ricky got ready for work the next morning on autopilot, his mind on his upcoming conversation with Adrian that night. After his talk with Amy he knew he needed to sincerely apologize to Adrian for his behavior and actions towards her but he was also angry at her for the way she had treated someone he cared about so much. He went through his work day quietly, not saying much unless he was spoken to but not appearing so standoffish to customers that Bunny would get on his case. He had never been so relieved to be done working the day when his shift finally ended. He showered and changed before fixing himself something for dinner. He kept checking his phone to see what time it was, silently willing 7:00 to get closer. He finished his meal and headed over to Adrian's. He stayed in his car and took several deep breaths before he got out and walked up to her front door; this was gonna be one uncomfortable conversation. Ricky knew Adrian lashed out when she felt attacked and she was going to say some pretty hurtful things to him because she also had a tendency to be cruel when she felt hurt or upset. Regardless, Ricky needed to have this conversation with her and get some things off his chest. He knocked on the front door and Ruben answered it.
"Hello, Ricky. Adrian said you'd be stopping by." He moved aside so Ricky could enter. "She's up in her room."
"Just so you know ahead of time, our discussion is probably gonna get heated and there may be some yelling." Ruben arched an eyebrow in question but only acknowledged Ricky's words with a nod of his head. Ricky climbed the stairs apprehensively but full of determination and knocked on her bedroom door when he reached it.
"Come in." Ricky did so and closed the door behind him. Adrian was sitting on her bed cross-legged and looked up from her phone. Ricky sat down on her bed but made sure to keep some distance between them. "So…" she said.
"I need to talk to you about what happened to us, Adrian, beyond the BS facades we both put up." She arched an eyebrow but didn't say anything. "And we need to start with your jealousy of Amy."
"I knew this was about Amy."
"Most of our problems have always been about Amy. Care to explain from your point of view why that was?" he asked her seriously, determined not to reveal anything to her before he was ready to. Adrian sighed.
"Because I knew you wanted her more than me." Ricky arched an eyebrow.
"And did you believe that before or after you found out she was having my baby?"
"It was obvious, Ricky. Why else would you change your mind and decide you wanted to be a daddy if not to get closer to Amy," Adrian replied, rolling her eyes.
"That decision had nothing to do with Amy; it was about me. And you didn't answer my question. Did you think I wanted Amy more than you before or after you found out she was having my baby?"
"A little of both I guess."
"Meaning I knew you were interested in her 'cuz you'd already slept with her and I knew you'd probably go after her just because she wasn't interested in you. When I found out she was having your baby I knew that was gonna be a problem for me." She crossed her arms as an irritated look came over her face.
"We weren't together at that point Adrian; we were just fooling around." Ricky rolled his eyes, remembering their conversation after Amy decided not to get an abortion. "And why did you suddenly jump to the conclusion that I was gonna marry her anyway?"
"That's what most guys do when they get a girl knocked up."
"I wasn't most guys back then and I certainly wasn't gonna marry some girl I barely knew and that I wasn't in love with."
"What about now?"
"What do you mean?"
"Are you planning on marrying her now, or in the future?"
"I don't know, Adrian. Whether I do or I don't is none of your business because we're not together anymore but we're getting off track; I'm here tonight to talk about why our relationship was so screwed up."
"It wasn't all bad!"
"True, but if Amy was such an issue for you, why not break things off with me as soon as you knew we were keeping our kid instead of trying to find ways to hurt her?" As he'd expected, Adrian suddenly went on the defensive.
"And why didn't you break up with me if Amy's the one you really wanted!?" she asked, her voice rising slightly.
"Because I was selfish and clueless at the time, Adrian! I didn't think I could be a good dad until I faced Bob again. Before that I was more interested in having sex than taking care of Amy, which her boyfriend was doing anyway. Plus, I didn't know how far you were willing to go to try and keep me away from her." Adrian swallowed, nervousness creeping into her face. So does he know the types of things I said to her? Adrian decided to try to deflect his attention with another question of her own.
"Why do you suddenly care now about how upset I made Amy back then?"
"Because I just found out about it!" Adrian gave a disbelieving huff.
"You knew about it back then, Ricky, but you obviously didn't care too much because we were still sleeping together!"
"No, Adrian, I didn't know!" Some of his earlier anger came surging back as he remembered what Adrian had implied to Amy. "If I'd known you were scheming to replace Amy as John's mother I would've broken up with you long before I did! Had I known you were stressing Amy out on purpose we would've ended months before you moved in next door to her!" Adrian was taken aback at Ricky's forceful tone but she was curious about something.
"What makes you so sure now that if you'd known about that back then you would've dumped me?"
"Remember when I asked you not to make problems for me the day after Amy caught you holding John?"
"Amy and John are the two most important people in my life; they have been since I decided to be a father to my son. What you said and did to Amy back then ended up almost coming between me and John. If I'd known earlier that being in a relationship with you was the one thing that could keep me from my son I would've broken things off with you sooner!" Adrian was both hurt and angry at Ricky's admission.
"So you think I was the only problem in your relationship with Amy!? You had something to do with that too you know! You were so busy sleeping around during her pregnancy it's no wonder she let Ben step up and take your place as the father of her baby!" Adrian hit a nerve. Ricky knew he should've been there for Amy from the beginning and it was something he was gonna have to live with for the rest of his life.
"I know I didn't do right by her, and Ben was never gonna take my place! Amy and I've already talked about our past issues and I take full responsibility for what I did and didn't do back then! What I wanna know is why you were so determined to be in a relationship with me if you thought I was more interested in Amy than you!"
"We're a lot alike, Ricky. We both had unhappy childhoods, we have similar temperaments and personalities, and we both like having sex. I liked having sex with you and I really liked you. I fell in love with you and that only made me more jealous of Amy because I knew after she had John that they would always come before me, unless I could keep you preoccupied!" Ricky groaned with frustration.
"Adrian, I knew you were using sex to try and keep me away from Amy and I let you because I liked having sex with you too. Yeah, I shouldn't have and yeah I should've manned up and put a stop to the game we were playing. I didn't because I was more interested in having sex than a relationship. You knew it was a game too so why'd you keep playing it? You ended it once and walked away from me. Why'd you take me back and start playing that game again?" Adrian could see the irritation in his eyes and it was matched in her own. Almost as quickly as it appeared it vanished, only to be replaced by shame and regret as she remembered her mother's words about their past behavior. Adrian started to tear up, catching Ricky off-guard, but he didn't make a move to hug or reassure her.
"I was jealous of Amy and Grace." Ricky hadn't expected that to be her answer and his confused face told her so. Adrian looked away from him before continuing. "Amy had your baby so she had your attention, even though she wasn't willing to put out for you again anytime soon. Grace was waiting for marriage to have sex and guys, including you, were attracted to her for that. I wanted to be with a guy who'd give me his undivided attention and wouldn't see or treat me as an occasional hookup. I wanted to feel better about myself and Grace offered to help me change my ways. I couldn't have you so I decided to move on and try something new."
"So why'd you take me back?" Adrian thought back, remembering how she'd broken up with Ricky for Max and things had been going pretty well, until Ruben got in the middle of it and she started to miss Ricky. She then remembered the moment Ricky asked her to be his girlfriend officially.
"When you told me you cared about me and didn't want me to see other guys I thought that you'd finally given up on Amy and had chosen me instead. But it turned out she was still more important than me because she had your baby."
"So you're saying you never got over your jealousy of her?"
"You didn't make it easy for me to get over it you know," she told him with irritation as she turned her head back to face him. Ricky sighed and ran a hand through his hair.
"Yes, Adrian, I do! By continuing to sleep with you I let you keep things tense between me and Amy. I knew she didn't get along with you because you picked at her and I knew you did that because you were jealous of her and wanted to keep me away from her. When things between you two escalated to her refusing to let John come over to my apartment and then you sleeping with Ben, I'd had enough. It shouldn't have ever gotten that far, Adrian, but we both let it happen."
"You more than me," Adrian said, in an effort to place more blame on Ricky than herself. He narrowed his eyes at her.
"The problem wasn't just you messing with Amy. We used sex to hurt each other." Ricky could tell from Adrian's expression that she knew he was right but didn't want to admit it. "Adrian, I cheated on you simply because sometimes I wanted to have sex and you didn't so I went out and found someone who did, simple as that. I also knew sometimes you'd refuse to sleep with me because I wouldn't do something you wanted me to or I'd made you angry so those times I cheated on you just to prove that refusing to sleep with me wouldn't control me." He sighed, disgusted with himself. "And then there were times I cheated just to get you back for cheating on me. Yes, it was selfish and petty and stupid, but back then that's how I felt so that's how I acted." Adrian had no response, Ricky's explanation explaining her past behavior as well. She sighed and looked down at her bedspread, suddenly not willing to face him.
"Hurting people who've hurt me is kinda what I do, huh?" Ricky nodded.
"Adrian, we claimed we loved each other but purposely hurt each other. If we're both honest here then we never loved each other, we just really liked each other." His words hurt so Adrian lashed out.
"I DID LOVE YOU, I STILL DO!" she exclaimed, looking him right in the eye. Ricky shook his head, making Adrian angry. "We would've been fine, eventually, if you had just decided to be faithful to me and stop trying to go after Amy!" She let out a frustrated growl when Ricky remained silent. "Everything would've been fine if you hadn't gotten Amy pregnant! Why couldn't you have just used a condom!?" Now Ricky was irritated.
"Oh, like that solves everything, Adrian!? Condoms break, as you're well aware, so don't try and blame this on the lack of one to avoid the issue!" he shot back, his voice slightly rising out of irritation.
"If you hadn't changed your mind and decided to play daddy we could've figured it all out!" Adrian shot back, her voice rising slightly as well.
"HEY! I'm not playing daddy; I'm a good father to my son and I always will be! We didn't work out because neither of us knew how to love ourselves let alone somebody else!"
"I TOLD YOU! I LOVE YOU! I could just see that you were attracted to some other girl and what did you expect me to do!? Just stand by and let some other woman steal you away from me!?"
"Adrian, do you hear yourself!?"
"Adrian, if you loved me like you claimed, then you would've loved anyone who's important to me and a part of my family! I TOLD YOU, John AND Amy are part of my family which means they're BOTH important to me and yet you STILL went out of your way to try to hurt her! I love my son and being a father and you KNEW that! So why'd you make it your mission practically to mess with Amy and make her consider taking him away from me!? Why couldn't you LEAVE HER ALONE!?"
"BECAUSE I KNEW YOU STILL WANTED HER!" Her words rendered Ricky speechless. How could she possibly have thought that when I didn't even consider it until a few weeks ago? At his stunned expression Adrian rolled her eyes. "Oh please, Ricky. A blind person could've figured it out from the way you talked to and about her and a deaf person could've figure it out from the way you catered to her and made your whole world revolve around Amy and John. Hell, you even tried to break up her and Ben by crashing at her house while he was in Bologna." She crossed her arms with irritation.
"First of all, Adrian, I love Amy, in a nonromantic way, because she gave me a son and let me be a father to him. Because of that I will always care about her and do what I can to be there for her. I thought I loved you romantically but we kept hurting each other and that's not love Adrian. So how can you possibly sit there and tell me you love me when our relationship was so toxic?" She opened her mouth to respond but Ricky continued before she could. "Secondly, I crashed at her house because I was helping her take care of our son who wasn't sleeping through the night yet. It had nothing to do with Ben. And while we're talking about that summer, why'd you tell Ben about it in the first place?" Adrian shrugged.
"What makes you think I'm the one who told Ben about that?" Ricky raised an eyebrow and gave her an 'I know it was you so don't bother trying to lie about it' look and she shrugged. "I just figured he had a right to know what you two were up to. He and I were friends and I did live next door to his girlfriend." Ricky gave her a patronizing smile.
"Oh please, Adrian. You didn't tell Ben out of the goodness of your heart. If you were spying on us then you would've known that we were only taking care of John and I slept on the living room couch. I told you what went on at Amy's house shouldn't affect what went on between us at your house, but you couldn't let it go!" Adrian let out a frustrated huff.
"Ricky, I knew you cheated on me if I held out on you for too long and I knew if you got too close to Amy she'd consider taking you back and you'd go running back to her willingly. You gave me no choice but to spy on you!" Ricky glared at her.
"You were aware that she hated me back then, right? Were you seriously that concerned that Amy might willingly sleep with me again?"
"She'd change her mind eventually, Ricky. You have a way of getting what you want from a girl."
"Are you saying the whole time we were together you were worried about Amy taking me back?" Adrian sighed and nodded.
"I knew you weren't over Amy. That day you showed up at my apartment upset because Amy hated you proved it." Ricky gave her a confused look. "If Amy's opinion bothered you enough to make you cry than you cared about her more than you'd let on. If she could make you that crazy than she was competition. And when it came down to it, you always sided with Amy anyway."
"What do you mean?"
"When we broke up the first time you were busy checking your phone for a message from Amy instead of listening to me. You said I had to apologize to Amy for holding John or we'd have to break up instead of sticking up for me. She called me a slut, more than once I might add, and you got mad at me for getting her suspended! And then when she had boyfriend troubles with that guy…Johnny? James? no, Jimmy, you went running over to her house to make her feel better!" Ricky narrowed his eyes at her irritated face.
"Adrian, I remember that day I kept checking my phone and I told you that message would tell me what to buy at the store for John. I told you you needed to apologize for holding John because I didn't wanna get the court involved in order to see my son and then end up having to pay a court ordered amount of child support. As for Amy calling you a slut, we all know name calling's wrong and hurtful and we also know that the most hurtful names to call someone are the ones that are true." Adrian gasped.
"Did you just call me a slut!?"
"Yes you did! You just said Amy called me a name that was true! So you think I'm a slut too! Have you always thought that!?"
"NO, Adrian. I think you slept around looking for someone to love and care about you the way you wanted to be loved and cared for and then pretended to be a girl who wasn't afraid to broadcast her sex life and show the world she couldn't be fazed by people's negative opinions of her. Honestly, Adrian, with the way you carried yourself and treated people back then are you really that surprised at what name Amy chose to call you?" Adrian couldn't bring herself to respond so she simply glared at Ricky before looking away from him to stare at her bedroom wall. Ricky groaned in frustration.
"We're talking in circles here, Adrian. All we've admitted so far is that I behaved selfishly and you acted like a jealous brat. You still haven't explained why you felt the need to hurt Amy instead of just trying to keep me too occupied to spend a lot of time with her." Adrian was quiet for several moments, searching for an answer.
"I wanted what Amy had," she said quietly. Surprise was written all over Ricky's face at her admission but she didn't see it. "She had a guy who loved her despite the fact she was having another guy's baby plus the attention of the guy who'd gotten her pregnant, who also just happened to be the guy that I wanted to want me. Not to mention she had parents and friends who stood by her despite the tarnished reputation she got by getting pregnant." She began to tear up. "I told you how much it hurt being teased in grade school 'cuz I was the kid with the hand me down clothes and a mom who wasn't around a lot. And I know kids at school call me a slut behind my back for sleeping around. I like having sex and I'm not afraid to admit it but that's all people see when they look at me. I don't have any real friends, accept maybe Grace, and no one wants to get to know me so I still do what I decided to do in grade school: pretend their words don't bother me and hurt them before anyone can hurt me again."
"Regardless of who gets hurt in the process." Ricky said it as a statement and not a question. Adrian smiled a humorless smile.
"Including myself," she said, looking down at her stomach and placing a hand over her belly. Adrian sighed and shifted her position so she was leaning back against her headboard with her legs stretched out in front of her. "Do you think we would've had a chance at a normal relationship if Amy hadn't gotten pregnant?" Ricky shook his head and Adrian's heart sank momentarily before anger started to surface. "Why not?" she asked, anger creeping into her voice.
"Because eventually I would've done everything in my power to break up her and Ben."
"Because I've never stopped being attracted to her and my wanting to be around Amy would've caused you to do the exact same things you did to her out of jealousy."
"So I was just a stand in for Amy this whole time!?" Irritation and anger were beginning to build to a boiling point inside her.
"No, Adrian. You were a distraction that I eventually came to care about," he told her honestly.
"A distraction! WHAT THE HELL DO YOU MEAN A DISTRACTION! WHAT, I WASN'T GOOD ENOUGH FOR YOU OR SOMETHING!?" Ricky sighed and just stared at her for a few moments, waiting for her temper to calm down a little. She glared at him, waiting for an answer.
"Adrian, I've told girls I love 'em before because I know they like to hear it and it makes them more willing to sleep with me. When I met and hung out with Amy for the first time, I thought I had romantic feelings for someone for the first time in my life and it scared me senseless. The only thought in my mind was to run as fast as I could away from her until I outran those feelings. In the process of running from her I met you and you distracted me from Amy. Then school started and there she was, and I was just as attracted to her then as I was at band camp. It wasn't that you weren't good enough for me, it's just that I already knew Amy and I was already very attracted to her."
"So why didn't you go after her when school started!? It wasn't like we were officially together or even sleeping together yet. Or was Grace just a better distraction than I was?" Adrian asked with a pout as she crossed her arms again.
"I was only interested in Grace because I knew trying to get her to sleep with me was a challenge. You already knew that; it's why you had no problem sleeping with me even though you knew I was seeing Grace. As for Amy, I thought she didn't want anything to do with me because I basically ditched her after our night together at band camp but it turns out she was mad at me 'cuz I'd also gotten her pregnant. Then some other guy was willing to stand by her side when I wasn't; not exactly ideal conditions to ask a girl out."
"So she's always been the one you want." Adrian chuckled sadly. "You know you've never asked me out on a date officially? All we ever did was hang out at my apartment and sleep together." She looked away to hide the hurt in her eyes. "Were you ever really interested in me?" Ricky sighed inwardly.
"Adrian, you're beautiful, smart, confident, sassy, and you go after what you want. Yes, I was actually interested in you." Adrian smiled at his compliment but her smile didn't last long.
"Why were you so interested in Amy then, aside from John?" Ricky sighed. Of course Adrian wants me to spell it all out. As images of Amy came to his mind he smiled.
"Amy's beautiful, sweet, kind hearted, her eyes can't lie, she doesn't hide her emotions, she's become confident and sure of herself, she's trusting, and her smile is contagious." Adrian frowned as she watched Ricky describe Amy. She could see it all over his face and in his eyes that Amy would always have a special place in his heart. I never had a chance.
"So why were we even together if you were just waiting around for Amy to take you back?"
"Because when I decided to ask you to be my girlfriend I honestly believed she'd never give me another chance."
"What changed your mind?" Ricky chuckled, causing Adrian to raise an eyebrow in question.
"Ironically enough, we got to know each other better as we spent time together taking care of our son and having conversations about him. She stopped hating me and accepted me as part of her family. When things between us got better, I decided to simply wait for a chance to get closer to her." Seeing the anger and hurt in Adrian's eyes made Ricky sigh and hang his head in shame. "I know I shouldn't have strung you along just to keep having sex with you, Adrian, and I'm sorry for doing it. I know my apology doesn't change anything; I just want you to hear me say the words and know that I mean them. I'm sorry for the way I treated you Adrian." Adrian sighed and looked up at the ceiling.
"I guess she really did change you."
"You told me you wanted Amy to change you, remember? If you're taking responsibility for your actions and apologizing then I guess she really has changed you into a better person." Ricky shook his head and stared down at Adrian's bedspread.
"I don't know if she's changed me or I've just changed because I spent some time walking in her shoes. All I know is I've hurt a lot of people because I didn't wanna deal with my issues and sometimes because I didn't know how to deal with them. But I have a son and I wanna be the kind of man he can be proud of and look up to. That's why I ended our relationship for good Adrian, for my son."
"So you're saying there's no chance of us getting back together, even though the girl you're attracted to loves somebody else?"
"Adrian we've both got a lot of emotional baggage that makes it difficult for us to trust people and let them love us, but we want someone to love us anyway. We've tried to find love by finding someone who makes us feel good, but for us feeling good usually means…"
"Sex," Adrian said, finishing his sentence and nodding her head in realization and understanding.
"But we both deserve to be with someone who loves us for who we are, who we can trust, and who won't try to hurt us. We won't find that dating each other so yes, we're over for good."
"Even though I still love you and wanna be with you?"
"It's like I told you the last time we talked, Adrian. We don't belong together and I'd like to be friends if that's possible but I know that's gonna take time."
"I think we could be good together again, now that we've both realized we've got some destructive behaviors we need to break," Adrian said, a little more desperately than she would've liked, as she reached for one of his hands. He pulled it away before she could grab it. "We could be good together again, even though I'm having Ben's baby. I mean, he and Amy are willing to make their relationship work and she had your baby. Why can't we do the same?" Ricky shook his head.
"Because I've got my priorities straight now, Adrian. My son comes first and right now that means building a better relationship with my son's mother. Amy and I are gonna be in each other's lives for the rest of our lives and I'm done doing things that cause friction between us. Plus I know trying to be in a relationship with you would only remind Amy of how much you and Ben hurt her." Adrian rolled her eyes at his last statement.
"She already forgave Ben for sleeping with me; that's why they're still together."
"Adrian, you slept with Ben to try to hurt me and Amy for sleeping together again. What made you so sure we had slept together again anyway?" Adrian was suddenly overcome by guilt but Ricky started to feel irritated when she didn't answer right away.
"You'd gone over to her house to talk well after John was asleep and you wouldn't tell me what you two were going to talk about. You had no reason to be at her house so the only logical reason you'd be going over there was because you were sleeping with her." Ricky rolled his eyes.
"Are you telling me you slept with Ben because your jealousy of Amy allowed your imagination to get the best of you?"
"You just admitted you assumed I was sleeping with Amy because I was at her house after our son was asleep. You realize her parents and siblings were home too right? How exactly was I gonna sleep with her, at her house, with her family around?" Adrian suddenly felt very stupid, and then angry that Ricky had just made her feel stupid, so she simply looked away from him and he rolled his eyes again. "Neither one of us had the sense to walk away from our doomed relationship when we should've." Adrian's head swiveled back to face him.
"It wasn't doomed, Ricky! All we needed was more time, and fewer distractions!" she gave him a pointed look.
"Maybe, maybe not. What I do know is that now it's time for us to move on. You're gonna have your baby and raise him or her with Ben and Amy and I'll figure out how to get along better and continue raising our son together." Ricky checked his watch and saw that it was only a quarter to nine. Amy might still be up. "I'm gonna go, unless there's anything else you wanna say."
"I'm sorry I hurt you, Ricky." Ricky could see the sincerity in Adrian's eyes.
"And I'm sorry I hurt you. Goodbye, Adrian, and good luck with your kid." Arian couldn't bring herself to say goodbye so she just watched him get up and walk out of her bedroom, and possibly her life. Guess I know how Amy felt now. And it sucks when the guy you thought cared about you walks away from you. She laid down and stared at her ceiling, lost in thought. Ricky sent Amy a text saying he was dropping by as he walked down the stairs and headed out of Adrian's house. Amy was in the kitchen when he knocked and she motioned for him to come in.
"So how are you feeling after that conversation?"
"Honestly?" Amy nodded. "Not a whole lot better than I was before having it. I still feel horrible for using and mistreating Adrian." Amy gave him a sympathetic smile and handed him a soda from the fridge.
"Realizing you've deeply hurt someone you cared about, even a little bit, isn't the most pleasant feeling."
"Yeah. But we've talked about it and made our apologies so I guess all Adrian and I can do now is move on." They sat at the kitchen table and sipped their sodas while chatting about their workday and Amy recounted John's latest antics. Their sodas finished, Amy walked Ricky to the kitchen door and they bid each other good night. As Amy and Ashley were climbing into their respective beds, Anne and George were getting ready for a heart-to-heart conversation of their own. They were both quiet as they finished brushing their teeth and climbed into their bed. George was the first to break the silence.
"So do you wanna start with what Amy talked to me about?"
"Okay," Anne replied, not sure she was fully prepared for what issues had been brought up. George sighed.
"Well, Amy wanted to know if I'd ever loved you or was only in love with you, why I'd married you if I didn't love you, and if I ever really loved her and Ash." Anne was speechless; her wide eyes told George as much and he chuckled. Anne gave him a 'have you lost it' look and he explained. "Amy's not our sweet, innocent little girl anymore, Anne. She's been burned by love, she's embraced motherhood, and she's learned some hard life lessons along the way. She's figured out that you can love somebody without being romantically in love with them and when you love someone you don't purposefully hurt them." It was Anne's turn to chuckle.
"She has become quite astute." Her smile faded as she thought about George's earlier words. "What made her wonder if you were in love with me or just loved me?"
"The affair. Amy concluded that if I'd ever actually loved you I wouldn't have done something like that and hurt you." Anne sighed.
"Why did you have an affair, George?"
"I wanted to spend time with someone who liked me and you didn't." Anne looked at him quizzically.
"You thought I didn't like you because we were bickering all the time, right?"
"Well, yeah." Anne shook her head.
"George, we were bickering because you refused to talk to me about anything important. When I asked you how the furniture store was you'd just say 'Fine' or 'same ol' same ol'' When I'd ask you anything about our finances or bills you'd blow me off and say you were taking care of it. It was like we were buddies or I was just your girlfriend and not allowed to know anything important about your life. We weren't communicating like a couple, George, and that's why I was irritated with you so much."
"Anne, I'm not good at these kinds of emotional conversations and I don't feel the need to discuss my feelings. When you nag me about them I'd rather be anywhere but within nagging distance." Anne gave him an irritated look. "Hey, I'm just being honest here." Anne took a deep breath to calm her rising irritation.
"I think that was one of the main problems, George. I wanted to talk to you about you and you didn't want to. You couldn't have made an effort? Even just a little one?" It was George's turn to take a deep breath.
"Probably. It was just that as far as I was concerned about bills and the store and whatnot, as long as I was providing for you and the girls you didn't need to worry about it."
"George, I wasn't worried about it I just wanted to be a part of it. I wanted to feel like you were including your wife in your life." George looked at her like she'd suddenly started speaking a foreign language and Anne sighed.
"George, do you know why I agreed to elope?"
"Yeah, you wanted to marry me and we had a baby on the way."
"That was only part of it."
"Well what was the other part?" Anne smiled, earning another confused look from George.
"The same reason Amy got married illegally without telling us." George didn't get a chance to ask for an explanation because Anne continued. "I was scared, George. I was scared of trying to raise a baby on my own. I wanted someone who cared about me to take care of me while I took care of my baby. I was so scared I let you rescue me by marrying me George." George was speechless, trying to process this revelation. Anne smiled at his expression and squeezed his hand. "Thankfully my knight in shining armor was the man I was in love with and the father of my baby." Suddenly the puzzle pieces came together in George's mind and he understood why Amy had tried to get married illegally. He was snapped back to reality by Anne's sigh. "The only catch is there's a price to being rescued."
"What's that supposed to mean?"
"I was so grateful that you didn't abandon me to raise my baby alone that I spent a lot of time and energy finding ways to show you my gratitude. And I can see the gears in your head turning, George, and no, I'm not talking about sex. I mean doing everything I could to be the best wife and homemaker to you I could be and the best mother to our child. I spent a lot of years worrying about whether or not I was a good enough wife, homemaker and mother to be worthy of you being my husband."
"Anne!" George said with exasperation. "You're an amazing mother and a great homemaker. Sure things have been tense and crazy around here the past couple of years but before that we were happy, truly happy, all together in our home. Not our house, Anne, our home. I'm sorry if I just took you for granted and forgot to let you know I appreciated everything you did for us around here. You know better than anybody I'm not that good at communicating, well, except at the store. I'm a great salesman," he added proudly, causing Anne to smile and shake her head at him.
"Yes, George, you're a great salesman." She took a deep breath before speaking again. "George, do you know that Amy considered abortion?"
"What!?" Anne nodded.
"The day she called you and I told you she was pregnant she snuck out of the house to get an abortion at the free clinic." Anne could see anger flashing in George's eyes so she quickly continued. "She called me from the clinic and asked me to come get her because she couldn't go through with it. After we got home we sat down and talked and she asked me if I'd let her and Ben get married if she kept the baby. That was when I told her that we'd eloped because I was pregnant with her and how I'd felt all these years about being rescued." Anne saw the anger leaving George's eyes.
"So that's why she wanted to know if I'd ever loved you. Ames wanted to know if I'd only married you because of her." He leaned his head back against the headboard.
"Well did you?"
"No! I married you because I loved you and I wanted to take care of you and our baby!" Realization suddenly dawned on George and he closed his eyes "Oh man!"
"Amy thought I'd just done the honorable thing by marrying you and that I didn't really want her. That's why she asked me if I ever loved her." He groaned "Ash was in the living room with us as Amy and I talked and I explained to the girls that I didn't just wake up one morning and decided to hurt all three of my girls. It started out as just talking to someone who enjoyed my company and liked me. It was months later before Cindy and I actually slept together."
"How did that come about, George?" George had been replaying the events that led up to the affair ever since he finished talking to Amy last week.
"It started out when Cindy came into the store to look around. As we talked it came up that she was also shopping for a car for her teenage daughter. I offered to help her get a good deal since, being a salesman, I knew how car dealers might try to rip her off. I liked Cindy and we started hanging out after work when she was in town." George let out a sigh. "The more I got to know her the more I was attracted to her and after a couple of months one night we slept together." He turned his head to look at Anne, unsettled when he didn't see anger on her face.
"You're wondering why I'm not angry right now right?" George nodded. "We've already had that conversation, George. I knew you were cheating on me I just didn't want to admit it and part of me was glad because I was too irritated with you to sleep with you, and I knew you didn't expect me to because you were having an affair. It still hurt to have my suspicions confirmed but honestly with the way we weren't communicating it was only a matter of time."
"I wasn't trying to hurt you, Anne. And I certainly wasn't trying to hurt the girls."
"I know, George. And I'm sure they know that too. Just like I told Amy I wasn't trying to hurt her by sleeping with David."
"While we were talking Sunday Amy told me that I'd thrown our family for a loop by sleeping with David."
"How so?" Anne gave George a serious look.
"She told me that rumors about your fake vasectomy started spreading around the high school and Adrian called me a slut for not knowing whether you or my new boyfriend was the father of my baby. She and Amy got into it and Amy ended up suspended for the day."
"Let me finish, George. Sleeping with David before I was legally divorced put Amy in a position to have to defend my honor. And just how did news of your fake vasectomy get around the high school anyway?" George swallowed, knowing Anne wasn't going to like the answer.
"Well…..I saw Grace walking down the sidewalk during the school day and saw that she looked upset. I stopped the car and got out to talk to her, hoping she'd feel better if she just had someone to vent to. She was mad that kids at school were talking about how she'd slept with Jack against her father's wishes and now he was dead. I told her that if she thought she had problems mine trumped hers because I'd lied to my wife about getting a vasectomy and now she's pregnant but thinks it's her boyfriend's."
"George! Why would you tell that to some teenager on the street! Wasn't our family being talked about enough because Amy had gotten pregnant!? And why would you tell someone that before admitting it to me and your daughters first!?"
"Well, technically Ash already knew 'cuz I told her."
"Why would you tell our daughter that before telling me!?"
"I was nervous and the guilt was getting to me!" Anne let out a frustrated breath and closed her eyes for a moment. George nervously waited for her to say something.
"George, you realize that little bit of drama for our family could've been avoided if you'd just talked to me first? I did the math and realized you were Robbie's father and David telling me he couldn't have children only reassured me my math was right."
"I know, I know," he said dejectedly, still feeling guilty about his actions.
"Okay. So we've covered why Amy thought our marriage was a sham and why we had communication issues. That just leaves Adrian and her parents."
"What about them?" George said, irritation lacing his voice as he recalled that Adrian had been harassing his little girl.
"Did you know Amy worried about how I would feel having Cindy as a next door neighbor?"
"Huh?" Anne chuckled.
"Our sweet little Amy was worried that I would feel bad having Cindy living next door because she would constantly remind me that my marriage had ended in divorce." Anne was smiling but George looked down at the bedspread, his face full of guilt. Anne reached over and squeezed his hand.
"I explained to Amy that I knew there were problems in our marriage and both of us played a part in it ending. I also explained that the affair had ended and all of us had moved on. We're trying to reconcile and one day restore our marriage and Cindy is working on reconciling with her own daughter's father so having them as next door neighbors honestly doesn't bother me." George looked at Anne with amazement and then smiled.
"You know Amy gets her kindheartedness from you right?" Anne just smiled back.
"George, even though Cindy and Ruben don't bother me, Adrian does." George nodded. "Amy told me that you don't want Adrian to set foot on the property and I agree wholeheartedly. Our home is going to be an Adrian-free zone until she changes her ways." Anne sighed and leaned her head against the headboard. "I can't believe I was so busy and preoccupied with my life and our relationship to notice that Amy was hurting."
"I was clueless too, Anne. But we can change all that."
"I agree. And I think a good place to start is with family dinners." George gave her a skeptical look and she laughed. "I know our family dinners haven't always turned out so well and we've kinda given up on them since the girls are teenagers with their own lives, but we need to do this, George. After you and Ash went to get her birth control behind my back I said that we were going to talk and talk and keep talking as a family so we wouldn't fall apart completely and I meant it. I just need you to back me up on it."
"I can do that, Anne. I will do that. We can be a good team again, eventually." Anne giggled.
"You know it's been a while since we've acted like a team, like partners. I think it's high time we both remembered that our first job is to be parents to our kids. Somehow we managed to lose sight of that."
"Tell me about it. During my talk with the girls Ashley scolded me and I realized that there's definitely a problem when your kids are the mature one in the relationship."
"I know. During my conversation with Amy I realized that my little girl's grown up and matured a lot but she still needs and wants her mommy and daddy in her life. Even though Ashley doesn't say or show it, she needs and wants us too, George." He chuckled.
"Sometimes I think Ash may actually need us more. She's real antisocial that one." Anne chuckled as well.
"I know, but most of it is just a façade and her way of dealing with life. Our sweet little girl's still in there somewhere." They shared a laugh, remembering how cute and precocious Ashley was when she was little, before she realized very few people saw the world the same way she did.
"So do you think we're gonna be okay, Anne? Think we'll be walking down the aisle again anytime soon?"
"I think we need to repair our family some more first. And I'm sure as we do you and I will have plenty of opportunities to repair us as well. Regardless of everything's that's happened to us that past two years, you and I are still friends, George." She gave him a small smile. "Remember how much fun we had on our date before Robbie was born? We reconnected as friends and I honestly think if we work at it we'll reconnect as spouses." George smiled back.
"Sounds good to me." Anne gave him a kiss on the cheek.
"Goodnight, George," she said, turning her nightstand lamp off and settling under the covers.
"Goodnight, Anne," he said, doing likewise.