I stood at my easel, struggling to make something out of the mess that was on my canvas. It had been three years since my father's death and I had yet to complete a painting. My customers had found a new artist to cling to in my absence, a Hispanic muralist named Roger. Apparently, murals were all the rage at the moment and were very chic, oh-so-HAWT. But I wasn't bitter. Much.
I missed my father's infinite wisdom, his ability to find a solution to every problem I had ever had. Our last conversation had left more than just a bitter taste in my mouth. It haunted me to this very day, the things I had said in anger, how I had just let him walk away thinking that I hated him. And he had died, thinking all of it was true. If he had been alive, he would have offered me some fatherly advice and then we would have grabbed a beer together.
Farryn was pregnant again. Apparently, cold medicine can counteract the effectiveness of the birth control pill. We should have known better but we really weren't much for communication these days. We had lost both Olivia and my father in the span of two years and then were forced to shut down my gallery. Things had been tense in the household, with my mother's incessant blubbering and my "drinking" problem. Yeah, okay.
I needed my dad. I would have given anything for a long-winded speech about how it's important to do "the right thing" or maybe even one of his cheesy songs from his old band, back in his "glory days". But he was worm food now. And I was...drunk.
It was ten o' clock in the morning and the perfect time to pass out. I was sure Farryn would barge in soon enough anyway to harrass me for the latest thing she had reasoned in her head that I had done.
"Oh, Dad. I miss you, I miss you."
* * * * * * *
"Good morning, sweetheart."
Marilyn knelt at her beloved's final resting place and wept, as she had done every day for the past seven years. For her, the pain never grew any duller. The ache she felt never lessened and she never stopped hurting. There would not be another man. There never had been. Her husband had been gone for seven years and Marilyn mourned him every single second of every single day. Nate's life might be over, but for her, they weren't over. They had barely just begun.
She still could see his face when she closed her eyes. She could even remember what he had looked like the first time she had seen him playing outside of Carter's father's theater, the day she had gotten her first real job.
Soon after that, he had taken her fishing after work one evening. She didn't catch a single catfish, but she had loved spending time with him.
Then there was their first kiss...
...the lies he told to cover up his wealthy background...
...and their first big fight as a married couple.
They had shared a wonderful life together, with all of the usual squabbles and bickering but she wouldn't have traded them for anything. He had ruled their household and she had respected his decisions because he was the man. In return, he wished to please her because she was his sweetheart, the love of his lifetime. It had been a good match. Of course, occasionally one of them would forget their place and there would be an argument. Once there had been some names that were called that neither one was proud of. But for the most part, he was the yin to her yang and vice versa.
She had thought they would grow old together. They had joked about sitting in the park, feeding the pigeons and lamenting on the years that had passed. But a drunk driver had ended all of those hopes by smashing their little Prius to bits. Luckily, Nate hadn't suffered, but instead left Marilyn alone to grow old without him, with only their pipe dreams to keep her company.
Marrying Nathaniel Bergdorf had been the best decision of her life. Marilyn sighed, getting to her feet slowly. She wasn't as young as she used to be. Stooping slightly once more only to put flowers on his and Olivia's grave, she made her way to her car. She'd be back tomorrow anyway.
* * * * * * *
It had been eleven years since she had been pregnant with Olivia. Since then, they had been blessed with another daughter, a squirrelly little toddler they named Ramona. Go was a delightful father, especially when he wasn't wasted, but those times seemed fewer and farther between as the days passed. It was rare to see him up before two in the afternoon.
For all his shortcomings, Ramona adored him. Good to know someone did. Her mother sure as hell, did not. It wasn't that Farryn didn't love Go, because she did. Sure they had casual sex and ended up getting pregnant. But they weren't forced to stay together. And once Olivia had died, they didn't have to stay together, but they did. At first, maybe it was the fact that they shared a grief so devastating, that the only person they could lean on, was each other. But slowly, Go had turned to other outlets, such as the bar in the family room. Soon, Farryn came second place to Sorrow Annihilators. And after her daughter was born, she didn't rank at all.
She missed the fun they used to have together back when they first started hooking up. He had attracted her with his brokenness and she had wanted to fix him. Olivia might have saved him, but her death had started a downward spiral that he would never overcome. Nate's death had been the final nail in the coffin and by the time Ramona was born, there was barely anything left of the man she used to love. It had taken her a long time to realize that she couldn't fix him.
Go was Humpty Dumpty and she would never be able to put him together again, which is why, when she received a call from a mysterious number, she decided to answer it.
"Hello?" she answered. "Jamie? Wow, you are the last person I expected to hear from!" She couldn't believe that Jamie Sutton, the only other guy she had ever cared about besides Go, was now calling her. It had been ages since they had last talked and she hadn't expected to ever hear from him again.
"You're back in town?" she cried. "Of course I would! I'd love to get caught up."
* * * * * * *
I was fast approaching my thirty-seventh birthday. My adult years had been grueling and my lifestyle had already begun to take its toll on my looks. I had lost a daughter and my father and was in the process of losing the only girl I had ever truly cared about. Farryn had never asked me to like her, she had forced me to love her by being herself. And now, we were drifting apart. Of course, I didn't come to any of these revelations on my own accord. My mother, with sixty years of hindsight to her name, had decided to give me some unsolicited advice, and for once, I didn't object.
"You've been with Farryn long enough to know that over the years, the passion fades," she said wryly. "The people who fall out of love are the hopeless romantics who are blinded by infatuation, who are in love with being in love. Life isn't about stereos outside of windows or hopping an airplane to save Drew Barrymore from marrying Glenn Guglia. The ones who think relationships are built on that sap are the ones who are the first to leave when things get hard."
"But you and Dad were so gross...I mean, err...romantic together!" I protested. "You were always holding hands and going on dates. There were times you literally made me sick."
Mom smiled sadly. "You saw some mushy moments but that wasn't romance. It wasn't the fact that we had a special bridge, the way he proposed or even our private ceremony. That wasn't romance at all. In fact, marriage isn't romance."
My mouth dropped. "And this coming from the mother who was always pushing marriage on me?"
She held up a hand. "Let me explain!" she laughed. It was good to hear my mother laugh. She hadn't done much of it since Dad had passed away.
"The thing about romantic comedies is, you only see ninety minutes worth of a romance. Even if the movie spans thirty years, it's an hour-and-a-half of that relationship and half of it is spent trying to end up together. You don't see the everyday moments in that couple's life, everything they have to fight for to be with each other. And yes, they're just movies, but that's how real life can be, too."
I went to interrupt her and she shook her head. "Listen, Go, this is important! You need to know a little secret. A wedding is NOT the happiest day of your life. It is chaotic, there are guests to entertain and not even time to sit down to eat. Even if you have a private ceremony like we did, it's just a couple hours out of the rest of your life together. It's not even a ripple in a pond."
She looked at me. "I barely remember my wedding day. But what I do remember," she continued, "is waking up every morning to the same person, feeling safe in his arms and thinking that it was like having a sleepover with your best friend every single night."
"I remember the first time he saw me au natural and he told me that he thought I looked more beautiful than ever. He said that everyone can look good in a black dress but it takes a special woman to look good in sweatpants without a drop of makeup on," she faltered a bit, as if replaying the scene in her memory.
"Then finally, the day you were born, was the happiest day of my life. After we had gotten you home, your father had pulled me aside and called me your mommy, the most precious word a woman can be called," she said, wiping away a tear. "Those were the moments that I lived for and I have only one regret about my marriage."
"And what was that, Mom?"
She put her hand on her heart, as she often did when thinking about him. "It wasn't long enough."
Mom and Dad had been fortunate enough to have an amazing marriage, free of adultery or divorce like some of the other parents I had heard my friends talking about. When I was younger, I had thought they were gross and had detested the idea of love, especially after Penelope had shut me down so brutally at P.U.R.E. But when I had gotten older and saw that my parents were not only still married, but actually happy, I had instead become intimidated. Would I ever have that for myself? I doubted it. So I began a long path to where I am today, first trying one-night stands and then finding Farryn, who first began as a friends with benefits. And if I could end up with anyone, I would want it to be her. But was it too late for us?
* * * * * * *
|R.I.P. Nathaniel Bergdorf|
Devoted Husband and Father
You will be missed...