And now? I was looking pretty fine.
Nate's debut album had been a modest success and he was now getting ready for his second tour for his sophomore album, "The Rain in Spain". He wasn't as famous as say, a rapper but he was an artist in his own right and highly respected in his genre.
I had finally completed my master project, "Beggar's Ballad" and it was to be used in some rom-com coming to theaters in just a couple of weeks. Nate stayed at home with Gabe during the day while I went to work. The recording studio was such a blessing as we never had to worry about hiring a nanny or putting our son in a daycare.
Our baby was now two and a handsome little gentleman. Gabe was already developing a stubborn streak that made me fear for his teenage years.
He showed no interest in talking or walking despite my best efforts. Nate joked that we would have to carry him to his first day of kindergarten.
But still, he was kind, loving...
...and what we suspected to be a little artist in the making.
Having accomplished my dream job, the only thing left for me to do was enjoy it. With the funds from Nate's album sales, his first tour, merchandise and the royalty check from yours truly, we were at a point where we could be comfortable.
I could go back to playing for fun. The piano had almost become a chore for me and it felt so nice to be able to play what I wanted with no deadlines to compose.
One evening, Nate demanded that I go out with Alba and Claire for some girl time. I asked him what he would do. That made him smile.
"Gabe and I are going to have some man time, aren't we buddy?" he laughed, scooping our son up. When I left, the two of them were on the back porch. Apparently, this was Gabe's first fishing lesson.
I arrived at the club in my new mini. Claire, as usual, had ignored the dress code but luckily there were no bouncers to enforce it.
Alba and I joked about finding guys to flirt with. But who were we kidding? We were both moms now and sixty percent of the day, were covered in baby food and throw-up.
Well, there was one guy. But he wasn't interested in girls, if you get my drift.
Right before the bar closed, I ran into someone interesting. It was Lucy Vance. I hadn't spoken to her in years, but with a couple of drinks in me, I found my liquid courage. I let loose on her and told her how it made me feel, to know one of my friends had been throwing herself at my husband. I informed her of what would happen if she would ever talk to Nate again.
She looked at me, disinterestedly, like a fly under a microscope, and gave me the brush-off. Yep, still a bitch. Alba then appeared at my side and put me in a cab before I did anything embarrassing.
As I slid under the covers next to my sleeping husband, I thought, life is good.
* * * * * * *
In October, things went downhill fast. Nate was leaving for his tour and we were staying home. Most wives might worry about groupies, but I had three meetings that week plus I had to find a babysitter for Gabe.
With a kiss and a snuggle...
...he was gone.
I have a theory that when Nate left, my son's sanity also vanished. The Terrible Twos, indeed.
He cried when I put him to bed every night. It hurt me to leave him like that, so I would come into his room and cuddle him until he'd finally pass out.
That worked for awhile but after a week of sleepless nights, I decided to change up my strategy.
Nate had written a lullaby for Gabe back in the teething days. It had helped him take his mind off the pain and fall asleep. But it didn't work for me. It didn't matter what I did, he refused to be pacified. He wanted his father. I wish I could say I know how that feels, but I don't. I couldn't blame my baby for missing his daddy - he was lucky enough to have one.
It had been a month since Nate had left for his tour. Our relationship had become increasingly strained. We were fighting every single night. Here he was, living the life of a rock star while I was at home, struggling to balance the demands of my job with my fussy toddler. Plus, I was feeling even more tired than normal. One quick stop to the grocery store confirmed everything. I was pregnant again. It was a large burden on a plate that already felt more than full. I'm not proud to admit this, but I lost it completely.
I whirled around. Was this it? Had I finally gone crazy? It looked like my husband standing right behind me. And it was.
"Nate, what are you doing here?" I gasped.
"I came home for the night but I have to be in Bridgeport by tomorrow morning. I missed you guys!"
He reached out his arms for me and I felt an overwhelming sense of relief. It was real. Nate was home and he was holding me in my favorite place.
"I've missed you so much," I murmured into his shoulder. "Gabe hates me, I haven't gotten any work done and I haven't gotten any sleep since you left."
"I know, love," he rubbed my back. "And I am so, so sorry. I promise to make it up to you as soon as I can."
"And Darling?" My eyes filled with tears again.
"I'm pregnant," I told him, a tear sliding down my cheek.
That evening, Nate poured me a hot bath while he tucked Gabe in. Then we sat on the couch to have a very long talk. Things had to change. It was abundantly clear that we couldn't go on like this.
We both had our own ideas.
"I'll retire," he offered.
"But you're just getting started! You can't quit now!" I exclaimed.
"But I want to," Nate insisted. "I hate being away from my family, I never cared about being famous anyway, and I miss the way things used to be, when times were simpler."
"Okay..." I agreed, still unsure.
"Well," he said, his eyes sparkling, "did you have any better ideas?"
I pursed my lips and took a deep breath. "When the new baby is born, I am not going to go back to work." It all came out in a rush.
"Mar, I can't let you do that. What about your career? What about everything you wanted to become?"
I smiled at him.
"I already am everything I ever wanted to be," I said softly. "A mother."
* * * * * * *
By the time Lilly was born, our family had finally started to come together. Nate had retired from the music business and I had quit my job at the Theatre. I was still planning on composing the odd score for a soundtrack, but it had taken a long time for me to have a family, to be loved, and I didn't want to let that go to waste. Most parents want to right what went wrong in their childhood, to do better than their parents had done. If that worked, one would reason that in the 21st Century, we would have it down pat by now. But there are always different problems, issues, and demons. With each generation, there is a different set of wrongs a parent might want/not want/or not be able to make right.
We might have had chips on our shoulders but at least they were nobody else's and at least we fought them every day. I was determined to give Gabe and Lilly all of the love and affection I had been deprived of as a child. Perhaps being a Bergdorf meant something in Bridgeport but here in Hidden Springs, we were just a family.
Nate and I stood on the bridge where we had begun. Maybe when the kids were older, we'd tell them the story. But they were babies yet. They were still young enough to cry for help. Still small enough to fit in our arms. And for just a little while longer they needed Daddy to toss them in the air and Mommy to kiss their boo-boos. For just a couple more years, they were still ours. I savored the moment as someone who finally became the woman she was meant to be - not a Movie Composer, not a wife, not even a mother, but all of those things rolled into one. Marilyn Astor Bergdorf, wearer of many hats.
Nate must have detected my pensive mood because he leaned over to whisper in my ear, "don't blink."
Don't blink. Times like these will be over before you know it.