(I apologize for not getting a chapter posted last week. We took my son for a college visit and ran out of time before I ran out of items on the to-do list. UNDONE has been through the editing process and is now with the interior designer. That means the finish line is in sight, which brings up the question: What to write next…?)
Friday, September 10
I woke up at six and quickly showered and dressed. Today was Friday, which meant Maddie had a football game. It would be very hard to avoid David and his mother and Neil. However, facing them would be easy compared to seeing Maddie. I could only imagine what David told her, what she must think. I wanted to reassure her that it wasn’t as bad as her father made it out to be. I’m not sure she would believe me over him.
In some ways, I am jealous of their relationship. He is gentle, soft with her. He reassures her, supports her, and encourages her, whether it’s in her schoolwork, or band or boys. The way David treats our daughter proves he can nurture and shelter. Deeper than that, it made me hunger for something I never had. A dad who loved me.
My father was no saint, that much was certain. By the time I was twelve or thirteen, I had figured out that he loved work, and beer, and golf and almost everything else more than he loved us. So I took his place. Not literally, but I made sure Scott had someone to play catch with. I made sure there were pictures of Lynette’s recitals. I checked their homework. I investigated their friends. When I was old enough to drive, I took them for ice cream.
And my mother, who never acknowledged that I filled in any gaps, seemed as bitter toward me as she was toward my father. Now my parents live on opposite coasts, four thousand miles apart. I haven’t seen my mother in fifteen years. I haven’t seen my father in twenty-seven. I think we all prefer it that way.
Scott and his family are in Oklahoma. Lynette and her husband are all the way in Pennsylvania. Alienating David and Maddie, and maybe even Grant would trim my circle down to one. I headed downstairs before thoughts of being all alone took over my imagination.
I stopped by the front desk. “I’m in 413. I think I’m going to need two or three more days.”
“Let me check,” the desk clerk said, then she frowned. “I can do tonight, but we are completely booked Saturday night. I can put you on standby for cancellations.”
“Thanks. Do that.”
I walked out to my car, lay my bag on the passenger seat and pulled out my phone. I had stuffed it in my bag after I hung up on David last night and left it there. I didn’t want to hear his pleas if he called back and I didn’t want to read any text messages from him. No one else would be calling me.
David had called almost two hours after we talked. No message though. Good. So I took a long, deep breath and called my son. He was a swimmer, and by this time of the morning he’d have already finished his laps and was probably dry. I knew better than to call him in the afternoons, but I could always catch him in the morning.
“What were your times?” I asked when he answered.
“Just over a minute for the fly and a minute five on the breast.”
“Not too shabby.”
“For high schoolers maybe, but this was just a light workout. I could shave off ten seconds if I had to. But I doubt that’s why you called.”
“Are you coming home this weekend?”
“Thinking about it. Why?”
I hated doing this over the telephone. “Your dad . . . He knows.”
There was a long silence, then he asked quietly, “What’d he say?”
“He said I had cost him his ministry.”
“A little melodramatic.”
“Maybe I have, I don’t know. I told him I wanted a divorce.”
“Also dramatic. Unless you mean it.”
“I might. We’ll see.”
“On second thought, I may have a lot to do this weekend.”
Call waiting. There’s no way I was checking it. No way. “I don’t blame you if you don’t want to come home. It’s up to you. You should know, I spent last night in a hotel.”
“Wow, that’s major. He probably thinks you’re bluffing.”
“He’s going to be surprised then.”
“I haven’t talked to her.”
“She’ll be all right once she gets over the shock,” he said.
Not the most encouraging words. “Listen, I’ve got to get to work and pretend everything is fine. Have a good day.”
“Bet mine’s better than yours.”
Yes, Grant knew my secret. There was a day last summer, I don’t even remember when. Maybe it was during band camp. I know Maddie was gone and, of course, David was at the church. He and Grant had had words that morning because Grant had opted not to get a summer job and the tuition bill had come in the day before. Grant goes to Fischer College, a small, Christian college, one David handpicked, knowing exactly what the tuition would be. He stopped just short of calling Grant lazy and ungrateful.
What David never took the time to hear was how hard the first year away had been on Grant. He was homesick. The classes were difficult, the environment strict and his circle of so-called friends seemed bound to compete for the most pious. Or at least most hypocritically self-righteous. When Grant got home in May, he was depressed, burned out, questioning his faith and the faith of everyone around him. He needed time and space to heal, and seizing that opportunity last summer was the only thing that enabled him to go back to Fischer.
That morning, I had told Grant I was going to pay some bills. I never heard him on the stairs. I never realized he was in the room, until he cleared his throat. There were no believable lies to concoct, so I stuttered through an apology.
“I don’t care,” he said with a shrug. “It’s not that big of a deal.”
“I’m not sure everyone would agree with you.”
“Everyone won’t hear it from me.” He slipped out of the room without ever saying why he came upstairs, and we left it there.
When Grant hung up, it was tempting to drop my phone in my bag and ignore the missed call, especially since I suspected it was David, but curiosity got the best of me. The call was not from David after all. It was from Donna.
I knew her well enough to know she wouldn’t give up, so I swallowed two or three times so I could talk, and I called her back. “I would like to meet you for lunch,” she said. “Is that possible?”
I could easily say no, but that would be prolonging the inevitable. “I need to double-check my schedule. If you could, give me the freedom to cancel later.”
“Oh, of course. I’ll meet you at that deli, what is it? Strohm’s? Close to your office there.”
“About twelve fifteen should work.” I started to hang up, but she stopped me.
“Jan, Neil and I love you very much. That hasn’t changed. We won’t abandon you.”
And I burst into tears.
Read the rest of UNDONE Chapter 4