X. Plain Awkward
“It’s stress,” the doctor said. “Flying to another country can sometimes stress out the mother. I would recommend a nice walk and avoid anything that may lead to more stress.”
“Thank you,” Emerson said. He escorts the doctor out of our bedroom before he settles down beside the bed. “So-”
He smiles, “Sorry.”
I glared at him, “Anything else I should know about?”
“Honey, the doctor said-”
“I’m not going to repeat it.”
Emerson released a deep breath before his head dropped. He licks his lips before he taps my waist. I hurry over, and he laid down beside me. His head rested on my shoulder, “I told you about how I don’t really get along with my family, right?”
I nod, “Yes.”
“And how I ran away?”
Emerson didn’t speak any further.
I ran my fingers up his hair, “Emmy.”
He smiles softly, “I hate my father,” he said. “I hate him so much, Piper.”
Then, there it is.
Whenever Emerson makes that face, I couldn’t do it.
I couldn’t push him any further.
I took a few blinks and looked away, “Nevermind. You don’t have to tell me.”
Things that tell me Emerson didn’t have the most normal childhood.
I hope not.
But, would an abused child know how to speak so many languages?
Then again, Emerson can cook really well. I mean, really well. Is it possible that his parents forced him to cook for them?
That doesn’t sound right.
Before me, Emerson doesn’t even know how to do the laundry.
Sometimes, I ponder about it.
It’s easy to ask him, isn’t it?
No, it’s not.
Not when he looks like he’s in so much pain.
I held him as close as I could.
“It’s okay,” I whispered. “You don’t have to say anything.” I don’t want him to relive it. Whatever it is that happened.
Someone knocks against the door. This must be God’s way of telling me to stop probing. Emerson got up and made his way towards it. I couldn’t see who it was on the other side.
It feels like this won’t be a peaceful trip.
“Hey,” Emerson replied. “What’s up?”
“I heard Piper isn’t feeling well,” Jackson said. “Is she okay?”
Emerson gripped the handle before he stepped aside. When I saw Jackson, I waved at him. “Hey,” I said.
Jackson made his way to me, and he settled down on the edge of the bed. “Is everything okay?”
I smile, “I’m fine, Jackson.”
Then, there it is.
I licked my lips, “Just a bit stressed, so...yeah.”
How do I explain this situation?
Should I say, I found out that my husband hid the fact that he’s fluent in more than ten languages, and I got so shocked that my stomach hurt.
Then, I remembered.
“Aw. I didn’t get to eat the...patella?”
“Paella, honey.” Emerson settled on the other side, “We can always go again after the wedding.”
“Close enough,” I grumbled. I kicked my stubby undefinable legs, “Darn it.”
“I can call someone to get it for you,” Jackson said.
My eyes widened, “Can you?” I’m so hungry.
He smiles, “Yeah. I can-”
“No, thank you,” Emerson intervened. “I can go get it for her.”
Jackson’s smile fell flat before it resurfaced, “The driver you two had isn’t here. Amanda and Todd took him to go around town.”
“I’ll take a taxi,” Emerson responded.
Girls would often squeal over two men - particularly hot ones - who fight over them.
I would too.
That was my mentality a few years ago.
At the time, I would squeal, and a blossom of excitement would rush to my toes.
It’s plain awkward.
“I wouldn’t want you to exhaust yourself,” Jackson said.
“Why would I feel exhausted?” Emerson rebuttal. “I don’t mind it as long as it makes my wife happy.” Even I admit that was a low blow. He clearly knew Jackson’s feelings for me, and it would hurt him to be reminded that I didn’t choose him.
Then again, it’s for the best.
Having emotions for a married woman isn’t good.
Particularly a man of his status.
I laughed lowly, “I think I will grab something from downstairs. So, no need to send anyone or go get anything.” I nod, “Okay?” I cannot believe someone like me has to be the peacemaker.
Steadily, their eyes removed from each other.
“Alright,” they said.
Please, come in, my savior. “Come in,” I said.
Nina popped her head in. “Busy?”
I shook my head, “No.”
Nina headed towards me, “Mind if I have some time with my younger sister?”
Jackson and Emerson nod, then head out. Emerson turned back towards me, “Call me if you need anything, okay?”
I smile, “Okay.” When Emerson turned, my eyes flickered towards Jackson. He opened his mouth but closed it. I know he wants to say something too but decided to go against it.
I’m glad he didn’t.
I wouldn’t know how to respond.
When they left, Nina and I released a deep breath.
We look at each other, “Why are you releasing a deep breath?” I asked.
“Because of the dangerous tension.” She waved her hands all around. “What did you do to them?”
“I don’t do anything!” I responded. “They just-” I closed my eyes, “They did it again.”
“I didn’t do anything!” I said again. “I swear, I love Emerson, and I did not lead on Jackson.”
Nina exhales softly, “Piper. I’m not accusing you of anything.” She held my hand, “I would never.”
I laid back down, “What do I do? I already told Jackson that I’m married and that he shouldn’t-” I exhale sharply, and the memories only re-surfaced.
I pushed the stroller through the park. “Now-” I said. “I know you must be upset that daddy can’t be with you on your second day of being at the park.”
There wasn’t anyone around me.
“But, you must understand that daddy is a busy man.” A runner passed me. “He is busy making mommy money.”
I pushed the stroller around the miniature garden and settled on the bench. I turned the stroller around and lifted the lid. The baby inside giggled.
I poked her cheek, and she giggled again. “Hello, my little Crystal heart. How do you like your walk through the park?”
Crystal held my finger and nibbled it.
“I heard parks are good for babies. Talking is good for babies.”
A group of rollerbladers passed us.
“I must look insane right now, but I don’t care.”
Then, a group of children rushed by.
I look at the group then back to the baby, “You will run like them one day.” I grabbed her fat legs, “When these chubby legs decide to grow.” I pretend to make them walk.
“You want to see mommy eat your fat feet?”
Crystal blew out a bubble.
“Nom. Nom. Nom.”
“Nice to see that parenthood hasn’t driven you to insanity.”
In front of me stood a man that I haven’t seen for what seems to be decades. He stood there with a single hand inside the sweats of his pants and a firm smile on his face.
I couldn’t think.
The harder I tried to come up with something, the more difficult it got.
“Care to introduce?” He asks.
Crystal squealed loudly.
I cleared my throat, “Jackson.” I exhale softly, “This is Crystal. My daughter.”
Jackson leans down to get a good look at Crystal, “Hey there.”
Crystal giggled profoundly.
When he turned his head, I realized the closeness of our proximity. Jackson motioned back slightly, “How are you?”
“I-I’m good.” I can’t believe it. It’s him. Jackson. But what is he doing here? In California? “What are you doing here?”
He looks around, “Taking a walk?”
“I mean...in California.”
Jackson took a seat beside me, and I noticed how there was a slight gap between us. A proper space that describes our current relationship.
“I’m here for a business trip,” he said. That reasoning doesn’t sound too far off.
“Why are you here?”
But I don’t believe it.
“Like I said: Business trip.”
“Jackson,” I gave him a soft smile, “I meant at this park. In this middle of nowhere town.”
He can make all the excuses he wants, but it doesn’t mean I’ll let him off. We both know why he’s here. And the reason why is not an acceptable one.
Jackson shifted uncomfortably in his seat. “I know you won’t be ecstatic to see me but aren’t you a bit too mean to an old friend?”
We’re far from it.
There’s this debate inside of me. Should I hold on, or should I let it go? Accept his excuse and move forward?
That isn’t moving forward.
“Jackson. I’m married now.”
His eyes flicker towards my left hand, more accurately the gold band.
“And I hope you’re not here for something.”
Jackson smiled, “This is you.”
I’ve always been the direct type, and he knows it. I don’t play games, and I definitely don’t beat around the bush. And ultimately, that part of my personality is what pushed me to leave New York - leave Jackson.
Jackson exhales roughly before he rubs his hands together. He turns his head back, “You caught me. I’m here to see-.”
“Don’t,” I said. “Don’t say what I think you’re going to say.”
He smiles, “I’m here to see you.”
I stood up and grabbed the stroller. Crystal’s eyes flicker back and forth in confusion. I pull down the hood and move forward.
Jackson stood in front of the stroller, “Piper. I’m not here to start anything.”
“Being here already starts something.” I took a few blinks, “Can you please move? My husband is about to come home soon.”
I need to do it.
I need to push him away.
When he didn’t move, I strolled around him.
“Piper. I don’t want this.”
I stop walking.
“I don’t want us to never talk to each other because of what happened.” I can hear his harsh breathing. “I’m happy for you. I’m happy that you’re happy with Emerson.”
I shouldn’t do it.
I shouldn’t turn around.
Because it would be a mistake to continue this...this heartache.