River age 10 July 2005
I looked from both my parents & then at the table that sat between us before looking up at them both again. Waiting for one of them to speak.
I was going to Maddy’s house soon we had a whole afternoon of fun mapped out. Her older sister was going to paint our nails, our toenails and even curl our hair for us. Mine was already really wavy but she said she could put it up for me instead.
I was so excited. I just wished my mom and dad would hurry up and speak.
My mom had only been home for 2 days and I knew she’d be leaving for New York again soon. It was always like this. She’d be home for a few days, 10 at the most and then be gone again for about 2 weeks. Dad said her job was really important and she needed to be away from home a lot. I was used to it. It had always been like this. And even though I felt kinda bad for saying it. I loved spending time with my dad more than my mom. I was a real daddy’s girl. We were best friends. He called me names like pumpkin and sugarplum. He made me s’mores, helped me bake cupcakes for the cake sale at school and tucked me into bed every night even if he was working. He made sure he came home even if only for 10 minutes.
My mom didn’t do any of that. I loved my mom, but she never hugged me or kissed me like dad did. Dad never left the house without kissing me on the forehead and telling me he loved me. The only time mom hugged me was when she was leaving for her business trips and I always felt like it was more to please dad than her actually wanting to cuddle me goodbye.
One of them cleared their throat. I wasn’t sure who maybe my dad. I looked up at him and he smiled at me. But there was something different about his smile. Not like the ones he normally gave me.
“River, your father and I want you to know that we both love you very much.” She took a deep breath and closed her eyes, I knew that what came next wouldn’t be good. She always took a deep breath before she yelled at me or my dad. “And we care for each other very deeply, but sometimes it’s better for moms and dads to live apart.”
And there it was. My mom sat there playing with the necklace around her neck. Looking anywhere but me or dad. I looked at dad and he looked...sad, like really sad but he was trying really hard to hide it. It was his eyes, they looked lost.
My mom was talking again but I couldn’t really hear what she was saying. Instead I kept looking at my dad. I just wanted to make sure he was ok. It unsettled me seeing him look uncomfortable.
“.....and obviously I think it’s best if you come with me to New York. You’ll like it there. They have good schools. I was thinking maybe an all girls prep school of some kind. We can go together to look around.” I stopped looking at my dad and focused on my mom. She looked so sure of everything and so perfect sat there. Not a hair out of place. I didn’t look like my mom at all. I looked like my dad. My mom and I were so different physically. She had perfectly straight dark chocolate hair and beautiful brown eyes. My hair was an unruly mess of light blonde just like my dad.
“No.” I bit out.
My mom sat there, mouth hanging open looking at me. No one ever said no to her. Ever.
“River, honey. What do you mean no?” My father looked at me with concern in his eyes. His green eyes which were just like mine.
“Why are you getting divorced?”
They looked at each other uncomfortably. My mom shifted slightly in her seat. Touching her necklace again.
“Sometimes people just grow apart. It happens all the time.” She said so matter if factly. “And when that happens...” her voice faltered for just the briefest moment.
“...sometimes people go on to meet someone else. Honestly River it happens all the time, but it doesn’t mean that your dad and I care or love each other any less. It just means we can’t be married to each other anymore.” She smiled at me. Like actually smiled.
“So you had an affair and now you want me to live with you and your new boyfriend in New York?” It was only for a brief second but my dad smiled. He quickly hid it before turning to me “We’re not blaming anyone here pumpkin. And this isn’t a decision we’ve took lightly.”
“Ok. But it’s still a no. I’m not moving to New York. I’m not leaving dad, my home or my friends. And I don’t want to live with you or your new boyfriend.” I spat out at my mom.
She glared at me, seething before smiling sweetly. But the smile was anything but sweet I could see the anger in her eyes. My mom was not happy.
I wasn’t sure why though. She never really liked to hang out with me the way dad did. We never had girl time together instead that was spent with my Nana. So I couldn’t understand why she was so determined to have me come live with her.
“River, sweetie.” Sweetie really? That was a first from her mouth. “Everyone knows that when a couple get divorced the children always go and live with the mom. It’s just how it is.” I got it now. She didn’t actually want me to go and live with her it was because it was what everyone expected.
“It’s still no. I don’t want to live with you. And I don’t want to meet your boyfriend ever. You can’t make me go with you. Right dad?” I looked to him for reassurance. He leaned across the table and took my small hand in his big hand. He then looked at my mom and ran his other hand down his face. He looked tired, even more so than normal. My dad was the sheriff in our town and he always worked so hard.
“Kendra maybe we should talk about keeping River here. It might be for the best. It wouldn’t interrupt her schooling. She could always come to New York for high school?”
Or not ever I thought to myself. “River why don’t you give me and your mom some time to talk about this. Didn’t you say you were going to Maddy’s house this afternoon?”
I got up from the table and wrapped my arms around my dad and kissed him on the side of the head. He smelt like the woods and clean sheets. I loved my dad so much and I knew he would fight to keep me with him.
So that afternoon I went to Maddy’s house and had my nails painted and my hair done. I didn’t cry until I got home. I cried because I knew my dad was sad. He loved my mom so much. I cried because even though my mom and I didn’t have a relationship like my dad and I did I would still miss her. I cried because I knew that now she was leaving for New York we’d never have that type of relationship ever. And I cried because suddenly my family went from a family of 3 to a family of 2. I cried because I couldn’t help but feel betrayed by my mom. How could she do this to us as a family?
My mom didn’t stay long that weekend. She packed her things up and boxed her bigger items for dad to send to her. I found out that weekend that her new boyfriend was called Grayson Mathers and he was younger than her. I heard my dad talking to my Nana. He said that the affair had been going on for almost a year and that he was the brother of a work colleague she met at some event she attended.
Before she left that weekend she pulled me close and held me tightly something she rarely did and I can still remember thinking at the time that this felt like a goodbye.
And it was.
My mom kept in touch regularly the first 2 years. Coming to visit me often and through phone calls and text messages. She always came to my birthday parties and always alone. I had said numerous times that I didn’t want to meet Grayson. I hated this man for breaking my dads heart. But as time went on and she realised that I never really truly forgave her. The visits became less frequent as did the phone calls. And when I was 16 I didn’t see her at all that year. Or the year I turned 17.