Between Me and You
Kathy and Olivia settled into the café and ordered two coffees. They opted for a booth in the back and immediately set about to make themselves more comfortable but both were pretty nervous.
"So…you wanted to talk," Olivia said prompting Kathy who looked as if she didn't know where to start. She was aimlessly tracing the rim on her coffee cup.
"Yeah. I guess I just wanted us to have a talk without Elliot, the kids and everyone else. I know he can be pretty protective and want to handle everything himself but you and I both know over the years he hasn't always been the best at navigating emotional waters."
Olivia nodded in agreement.
"My first priority is and always will be my kids. I know that they love you, they always have. I just think this is going to take some getting used to from all sides. I mean you've always been their dad's partner and a friend of the family and now you are their dad's girlfriend it's just…"
"Awkward," Olivia said with a small smile.
"Yeah to say the least. I don't think it will be easy to convince them that nothing happened when the two of you were partners," she said looking at Olivia point blank.
"Convince them or you," Olivia shot back.
"All of us I guess."
"Kathy, I'm sure that Elliot has told you that nothing happened between us but if you need reassurance of that then let me tell you from my mouth. Nothing happened. I would never have interfered in your marriage or…"
"But you did. Whether you meant to or not Olivia you did," Kathy stated cutting her off. "Elliot's a lot of things but a liar isn't one of them. So in my head I believe that nothing physical happened between the two of you but emotionally..I can't help but feel like I lost my husband the day he met you."
The statement made Olivia recoil. As much as she wanted to believe that she had practiced so much restraint when it came to Elliot and patted herself on the back for never crossing that line and coming on to him, apparently the emotional damage had already been done.
"Kathy, I don't know what to say. I never meant to cause you or your family any harm. I've always encouraged Elliot to put his family back together and to call you when you were worried, and spend more time with the kids. I never tried to be a hindrance in any way," she said defensively.
"I know you didn't but the truth is it didn't matter. I appreciate all the times you talked some sense into him because he definitely needed it. I have had a tough time reconciling the fact that all this time I suspected something going on, I was right. I never wanted to be that insecure wife that couldn't handle her husband being close friends with a younger attractive woman."
Olivia took a deep breath and stared down at her coffee cup. She hated to hear her relationship with Elliot categorized in such a superficial way and she knew that Kathy wasn't the only person who would think like that. On paper she looked like the home wrecking best friend that was just looking for a way in to steal the husband away from the doting wife but in reality the situation couldn't be farther from the truth.
"I think it's a bit more complicated than that," Olivia simply responded.
"I know but in the beginning that's what it was to me. I was just this wife with no career taking care of kids and cooking and cleaning and waiting for her husband to come home. When he finally allowed us to meet I looked at you and immediately thought that you were everything that I wasn't. Strong, gorgeous, independent and it was so intimidating. I thought…why would he want me?" she said starting to tear up.
"Kathy you can't be serious. You are all of those things too," Olivia said handing her a napkin to dry her tears. Kathy's honesty forced Olivia to make an admission that she never thought she would say out loud. "When I first met you and saw you with Elliot and your kids I was so jealous."
Kathy stopped crying and her head shot up immediately.
"What?! Why were you jealous"
"Not because I wanted Elliot necessarily but because you had this beautiful family and you were the anchor of it all. I had never been able to barely keep a boyfriend a year and I've never had a family. You were raising your kids and they all looked at you like they won the lottery of moms. I thought to myself I will never have that. I will never be the type of woman that any man would look at and want to make his wife. I'll always be the girl they take out on a few dates and sleep with but can't handle what I do for a living or the fact that it's hard for me to let anyone in emotionally."
Olivia's admission made her instantly feel a bit vulnerable because this was not something she ever said to her friends or to Elliot. She never wanted anyone to know that she had insecurities about not being a girl's girl and that she didn't think she was the type of girl that a guy would ever want to bring home. There were a few moments of silence as each woman took in what the other said.
"Can I ask you something?" Kathy asked timidly.
"Of course. That's why we are here."
"Why didn't you make a move on Elliot when we were separated? It just seemed like it would've made the most sense and could've saved everyone a lot of heartache."
"I'm not going to lie, I thought about it. I thought about it a lot but I felt the ball was in his court. He was the one who was ending his marriage not me. I figured if he wanted me he would've said something or done something. When he didn't I felt that told me everything I needed to know."
"I think he thought the same thing about you," she shot back.
"Yeah I found that out later but at the time I just didn't think he was done. I didn't think the two of you guys were done with each other. There were some things that happened that I thought we were close to maybe getting to that point but it never panned out and I took that as a sign that he wanted to put his marriage back together. I didn't want him if you guys weren't done. I didn't want any blurred lines," she said matter of factly.
"Yeah but it ended up causing so much heartache in the end. I don't regret my son for a minute and I know if you guys had gotten together then Eli wouldn't be here. But Elliot denying his feelings for you caused so many issues in our house that I just wish you two would've just figured it out and put us all out of our misery," Kathy said taking a sip of her coffee which had now gotten cold.
"I'm sorry I didn't see it that way. I didn't know what was going on in your household, Elliot really did keep a lot of what you guys were going through away from me. I assume you are talking about how things went down with Kathleen. Are you really attributing that to me and Elliot?"
"No. I'm not naïve enough to blame my child's death on you," she said trying to steady herself to continue. "About a week before Kathleen's accident and in the midst of her numerous disappearing acts and tantrums I woke up in the middle of the night to go and check on her. Elliot wasn't next to me when I woke up. I went downstairs to see where he was after I checked on Kathleen and there he was on the couch with a half empty bottle of vodka next to the couch. I went to wake him to tell him to come to bed and when I reached for his hand there was something in it. It was a picture of you and him," she continued with tears starting to gather in her eyes again. "I was so hurt and so furious. I started to wake him up and yell at him but I was just so….tired. That's when I knew without a shadow of a doubt my marriage was over. I could no longer deny what was right in front of me and I refused to any longer. I went to see a divorce attorney the next day and then Kathleen went missing shortly after and things got put on hold for a little while."
Olivia felt a tear slide down her cheek as Kathy talked and kept her head down hoping that she wouldn't see it. She quietly sniffled as Kathy continued.
"Does Elliot know that you found him like that?"
"No he doesn't. I don't think it was ever relevant for him to know. We had bigger fish to fry at that point. We talked about other stuff and I know he's sorry for all of it. But I just wanted to give you a little glimpse of what we went through from my perspective. You have done so much for my family Olivia. I hope you know that I will always be grateful for what you did for me and Eli and helping Kathleen when she was having a rough time. Because I like you I hope you never have to find out what it's like to live watching your husband pine for another woman. To watch him drink himself to sleep because he can't stand to sleep next to you because he's thinking about her. I wouldn't wish that on my worst enemy."
As Kathy gathered herself after her admission Olivia struggled with what to say next.
"Kathy I'm so sorry for everything that your family went through. I'm even more sorry that Elliot handled things the way he did because none of you guys deserved it including Elliot himself but I don't regret anything about how I handled the situation. From my perspective I was doing the right thing by allowing Elliot to decide when he was ready to walk away from his marriage. If I would've done anything differently who knows what the consequences of that would've been. There's no way any of us will ever know if circumstances would've been better or worse but what I do know is it would've been wrong. That's what I have to hold on to."
"I understand that. For what its worth you have much more respect than most women. With those long nights and stake outs, you and Elliot had every opportunity to cheat and I would've had no idea. Woman to woman I will always respect you for that."
"Thank you. That means a lot," she said reaching out to touch her hand. "You know we have the same goal. My priority is the children as well. All of them. If this doesn't work out my son is affected too. Elliot is the first man that I have ever let be around him for a prolonged period of time and that's scary for me."
"I'm sure it is. I can say a lot of things about Elliot but he's always been a good father and I know…that he will be…a good father to your son too," Kathy choked out. It was still hard for her to wrap her head around the concept of Elliot being a father to any kids other than hers.
"I think that's a bit premature but I appreciate you saying that."
"Hunh," she chuckled. "It may be premature for you but it's not for him. He's in love with you and I think if he had his way he would marry you tomorrow. He uhhh mentioned that you were holding back and that he thinks it's because of me."
"He told you that?" Olivia asked shocked. She was actually pissed that he would confide that in his ex-wife. They were obviously closer than she thought they were.
"Yes he did but don't be mad at him. I don't think he meant to. We were just talking about the situation and how I felt about it and it came up," she said trying to explain. Olivia's expression softened somewhat. "Have you told him you love him?"
She stalled and didn't know if she should answer. It seemed a bit too personal to share but then again they had talked about everything else.
"No, I haven't," she replied in a small voice.
"Then he's right you are holding back. I know that you love him Liv and you have for a while so if you are holding back because of me then please don't. I won't stand in your way. In spite of everything I really do want to see Elliot happy and you make him happy."
"He makes me happy too."
"I knew the second you came back in his life because I saw a light in his eyes and a joy in his voice I haven't seen or heard in years. I have to admit I invited you in yesterday just because I wanted to observe you two," she admitted with a smile.
"Yeah I figured. I've been a detective for a long time," Olivia smiled back. "So what did you size up?" She leaned back finally relaxing for the first time in the conversation.
"That you both love each other and were on guard because I was there which is understandable. I can tell he loves Noah already and not just because he's your son and he's scared to death that you haven't truly forgiven him and that you will run because you think he has too much baggage."
"Wow. You should come be one of my detectives," she joked.
"Does he have reason to worry?" Kathy asked.
Olivia hesitated still taken aback by having this conversation with her boyfriend's ex.
"No. He doesn't. If you and the kids weren't on board then that would've been hard for me but I don't want to lose Elliot. These few weeks have been the happiest I've been in a long time. It just feels..right."
Kathy's phone started to ring and she looked at it briefly. "Ahh speak of the devil," she said as she picked it up. "Hello Elliot. I'm fine just having coffee with Liv."
Olivia watched Kathy for any indication of what was happening on the other line. She started smiling when Elliot apparently got quiet when she said they were having coffee.
"I called you earlier just to make sure you picked up Eli tomorrow at 1. He has early dismissal and I need you to keep him until I get off. Ok. Sounds good. I will tell her you said hello. Bye," she said hanging up.
Before they could speak Olivia received a text message. They both glanced at her screen.
"I'm guessing that's Elliot checking to make sure you are ok and that I don't have you in a choke hold or something," Kathy laughed.
Olivia looked at her screen and verified that was indeed the case.
Everything ok? Call me.
"You know him so well."
"Yeah well we were married for a little while," she said with a smile and reached to grab Olivia's hand. "I do know him and I know that being with you is the best thing for him…for all of us."
"Thank you," Olivia said finding herself getting emotional and putting her other hand over Kathy's. "I didn't know how this talk was going to go but I appreciate you being honest with me and being open to me being apart of your family."
"You were always a part of my family Liv. Now it will just be in a different way."
"So you don't hate me?" she asked nervously and they laughed together.
"No I don't hate you. I tried to for a long time when I was hurting but even now I can't hate you. I didn't know how this conversation was going to go either or what I would say to you until we actually started talking. I see that you are sincere and that's all I can ask for. I just ask that you just give me a little while to adjust. It's not going to be easy and some days will be better than others but this is what it is from now on. And don't worry I will talk to the kids."
"Thank you again," Olivia said as she got up she absent mindedly started to rub the pendant around her neck.
"He gave you that when he left didn't he?" Kathy said noticing her gesture.
"Oh. Yeah he did," she said searching her face for how she was feeling.
Olivia wanted to ask more but decided to leave it alone. They didn't hug as they got up to leave because that wasn't the type of relationship they would have, at least right now but they did walk out side by side as they prepared to part ways.
"So what are you going to tell him about our talk?" Kathy asked as she got ready to walk towards her car.
"Nothing. It's between me and you."