XXIX. Drunken State
I know I’m not the best mother in the world.
I know my children run wild.
I know all of that already, so stop giving me those looks of disapproval.
But, I’d take the looks of disapproval over pity.
She’s a single mother.
Her husband is missing.
Her daughter was found beaten up in the woods.
Her son has hearing loss.
The deeper they dive into the situation, the more they know and the more their attitude changes. They’re irritated now with your wild children, but they won’t say anything to you because of your situation.
Now, irritation is mixed with pity.
But, when those tears gushed out of your eyes, the only thing they could think of is: “Poor woman” and the only thing they would give are empty words of:
“If there’s anything I can do to help, tell me.”
“It’ll all be okay.”
“You’re a strong woman.”
The more I hear it, the worse I feel.
So, I shut myself out from the world and plant a fake smile on my face.
“Did you see?” My coworkers huddled together in the break room.
“Piper and her family at the carnival this weekend.”
I gripped onto the papers in my hands.
“Oh! Yes!” Someone else intervened. “She’s with this man. He was a looker, that’s for sure.”
One of them exhaled, “Youngsters these days. Her husband’s body isn’t even found, and she’s already going for someone else.”
“Well, what do you expect her to do? Wait for him? It’s almost been two years. I say if she wants to find a new husband for her children, then let her be.”
“Agree. God knows it’s exhausting to raise two children as a single mother.”
“I heard she took Thursday off to go get her son checked. Someone saw her at the hospital going into that ear specialist section. It turns out her son has hearing problems.”
“I feel bad for Piper. Dead husband and now a son with hearing problems?”
“Not to mention her wild daughter. I think she has ADHD and anger issues. She got expelled from elementary school. Elementary school!"
“I don’t blame her for trying to find another man.”
I closed my eyes and walked away.
Once I got back to my desk, I laid my papers down along with my head.
That was the tip of the iceberg.
I turn my head and rest my chin against the papers. The family photo came into view. It was the first picture we took after I gave birth to Dustin. My hand inch closer to the frame, and I ran my finger across Emerson’s face.
Many people had wondered why I chose Emerson over Jackson.
Emerson had nothing.
Jackson had everything.
Don’t think too much into it.
The answer is simple.
I love Jackson, but I despise his lifestyle.
Those are a few words of the people - if you can call them people - who pushed me down.
Unlike Nina, I couldn’t handle them. I couldn’t handle his world. It was all too much for me.
The whole watching you through the small lens.
It was all too much.
And he knew it too.
He shouldn’t be here. He should go back to his life and let me live mine. Because the longer he’s here, the more I’ll desire to hold onto him.
To hold him.
After work, I found myself on the couch with Dustin on my back. He pulled my hair, and I only grunt slowly. When I turned my head, I could see Crystal and Jackson playing patty cake in the middle of the room.
It’s not an odd thought that Jackson is exceptional at tea parties and is a master at children’s lullabies.
Well, it is an odd thought if you don’t know him personally.
Jackson has a little sister who is now 18 years old. I used to babysit her when I was younger. It would blow my mind away whenever I saw him interact with her. At that time, it made me want to lock him down - have a baby with him.
Jackson wasn’t ready.
Crystal sighs, “You’re too good at this game.” She pouted, “Why are you good at all these games?” She spread her arms toward the stack of games beside them. It ranges from candy land to connect 4.
Jackson wouldn’t give Crystal any opportunity to win. Whenever she whined, he would say: “Life ain’t easy, kid.”
With Crystal’s hard head, she would then declare: “I’m not a loser! Let’s play another game! I have holly hops! I bet I can out holla you!” She rushed upstairs.
“You know,” I said, capturing Jackson’s attention, “This marathon will end sooner if you just let the girl win.”
“What’s that going to teach her?”
“How if you try hard enough, you can succeed?”
“But, it’s all based on a lie.” Jackson smiled, “I enjoy playing these games with her.” He grabbed a handful of cards and organized them.
“Abby hasn’t been visiting?”
He shook his head and exhaled, “All she wants is to hang out with that boy in Texas.”
“Ungrateful brat,” I said in my best angry tone.
Abby found a young man in the middle of nowhere and decided to stay in Texas to help him with his family farm. They don’t know she’s the younger sister of a billionaire.
It sounds like a cliche storyline from a book, but it isn’t.
“Look at the bright side,” I said. “You raised her to understand that money isn’t everything.”
“I don’t remember teaching her that lesson.” That’s true. Jackson never taught Abby the value of money. She wants it. He gives it.
“Just take the credit and stop complaining. I mean, she could be dating a wealthy playboy.” I grinned, “She could be dating someone like...Matt.”
He stopped organizing and pointed a stern finger at me, “Don’t you ever say that again.”
“Cowboy suddenly doesn’t sound so bad now, does it?”
He exhaled and organized it again. “I just don’t want her to get her heartbroken.”
“Heartbreaks are normal.” He glanced at me. “If that ever happens, she’ll have you to be there for her.”
“You can make the guy...disappear,” I whispered the last word.
Jackson’s smile fell flat, and he raised a brow at me, “Disappear?”
“Disappear...Gone-” I ran a finger across my neck, “Adios.”
When I heard loud footsteps, I knew who it was, “Found it!” Crystal came downstairs in a tutu with two hoops. “You. Me. Outside. Now mister! March!" Crystal slid the back door open and rushed out.
Jackson shook his head, put away the cards, and went outside.
I scoot upward and rest my chin against the couch arm. In the grass, Crystal pointed a stern finger towards Jackson. No doubt she’s telling him the rules of hula hoops - she’s probably making up rules.
Jackson would stand there with his chin rested on his first. Once in a while, he covered his mouth with his hand—no doubt, attempting to hide the smile that’s desperate to surface.
Today is the last day. After tonight, he will fly back to New York.
After I tucked Crystal and Dustin in bed, I headed downstairs to see Jackson doing the dishes.
“Need help?” I rolled up my sleeves.
Jackson puffed his chest, “Nope.”
I raised both hands and backed away towards the chair. I rested my cheek against my palm, “You must be happy,” I said. “After tonight, you never have to wash dishes again.”
He stopped scrubbing for a moment before he resumed. “I like it.”
I scoff, “Therapeutic? Then, I must be washing dishes wrong my whole life.”
“That would explain the wet crumbs I keep finding whenever you do the dishes.”
I gasp, “How dare you! I’m perfect at doing dishes!” I grabbed the table rag and threw it at him.
Jackson blocked it with his arm, and the small droplets of water land on the ground. He went down to pick up the towel and lay it beside the sink. “Look, I’m not saying you’re bad at washing dishes.”
“I’m just saying if you stop multitasking and focus on one thing, then the dishes would be cleaner.”
I tried to look angry, but I knew there was a smile on my face. “You know my favorite show comes on after dinner.”
Jackson put away the last dish and dried his hand on the towel. “I’m sure your tv has a record option.”
“Who are you to tell me how to do housework? Two days ago, you didn’t even know how to use the lawnmower!”
“Last time I checked, your grass is cut and even. You’re welcome.” I cannot believe he is sassing me.
“You broke my lawnmower!”
“Yes! Because I fixed it!”
“The blades were going too fast! If I touch it, I will hurt my hands!”
“Because the motor was still on!”
By the time we were done with our useless argument, we were out of breath. After a few seconds, Jackson burst out laughing, and I did the same.
“What is this?” I asked.
He wiped his hand and sat beside me, “I have no idea.”
Steadily, my laugh thinned, and I found him staring at me. “What is it?” I asked.
His hand reached for my face, and he pushed back the dangling hair. “Where did this cut come from?”
I reached for my cheek to feel a small scratch. “Probably Dustin. I need to cut his nails.”
“Do you want me to do it tomorrow?”
I shook my head, “Wouldn’t want you to miss your flight.”
“Desperate to get rid of me?”
I didn’t respond. Instead, my gaze fell on my lap. I could see his hand reaching for mine. And slowly, he moved it until our fingers tangled.
Jackson pulls my hand towards him. He closed his eyes, and I watched as it landed on his lips. When he opened his eyes, I could feel electricity devour my body.
Quickly, I pulled my hand away and stood up. Before I could escape, his body blocked me. “I’m not asking you to give me a chance.”
My legs moved back, but he grabbed my hand. I look up, “Then, what do you want from me?”
He held me, “Allow me to hold you a bit longer.”
Some call it bewitchment because this is precisely it. He cast his spell on me, and once again, I’m on the edge of the universe.
His hands slide from my waist towards my elbows...forearms...wrists...and finally, it found its way back onto my hands.
No one should have the authority to tell someone else who they can and cannot love. Put limits on what is acceptable and what isn’t.
The shackles shouldn’t exist.
These emotions shouldn’t have boundaries.
It should not be confined to a single race, culture, or class.
It should not be limited to any age, gender, or background.
But it is.
His forehead pressed against mine.
His nose grazes against my own.
I could feel it.
The tip of his lips.
I know I shouldn’t do this.
But, I find myself dangling on the edge of the cliff, and all I could see is the color blue from above.
I shouldn’t get distracted by the beautiful color and forget the darkness that rests below.
Yet, amid silence, I found myself in the dark.
His lips pressed gently against mine, almost as if he’s afraid I’ll push him away if I ever wake up from this drunken state.
In the moment of the kiss, the clock strikes midnight, and we found our vulnerable selves completely exposed.