narrated by: Emma
Two years ago Grace hired Joslyn to help out at the Salon. She was concerned that we couldn’t do well raising kids, and running a salon without an extra hand. I wasn’t exactly joining the welcome party at that point, but recently Grace has promoted her to an assistant manager, and it’s been great having the same day off as Grace.
Grace refuses to bring her girls to the park at my apartment complex, thinks they’ll find heroin needles or something else entirely ridiculous. Grandma Mandy wouldn’t have got us this place if it wasn’t safe for Chaz. But Grace has become demented over South Port since settling in Millwood.
We sold our car that Chris had rebuilt to get a better nursery for Chaz, so it requires Grace to come out and get us. It seems unreal that we have three kids between the two of us, even more insane that Grace wants to try for a third even after the miscarriage. One is plenty for me.
Grace teases that I’ll change my mind and want another one, but Chaz turns 3 this August, and I don’t feel even a twinge of envy over Isla. When I told Grace that Chris was thinking of going under the knife to make it permanent, she really didn’t believe me.
I just see my nieces and think that it’s great for Grace, but not for me. Another baby would require moving places, and just more investment. Plus a piece of me thinks it might be nice to spoil Chaz, I had to share my parents with six other siblings, and maybe it’s good to change things up a bit.
I always feel a little out of place at Hamilton Park, with all these suburb Moms with their nice clothes, and clean looking kids. I don’t blend well with my own family; Grace gets me, but she’s not like me, she fits in fine with family, and here in the suburbs.
Sometimes it feels like the other Moms frown at Chaz or feel sorry for him. In the past I might have been pissed, but now I sort of wonder if they are right. Maybe I’m not good at parenting Chaz, and that’s the other reason why I don’t want anymore. Best to only screw up one human, instead of a duo.
He’s such a good kid too, he wasn’t what I’d consider a good baby, but that seems unfair to judge him for all that crying. It’s not like he did it to make me insane, maybe a suburb Mom would have known how to calm him, and in the end it was me that was lousy at raising a baby.
We all went to Community College with Rebecca but I’m not friends with her. She came over to talk with Grace, and monopolize her while I stood awkwardly to the side. They talked about adopting, and house repairs, and how Quint was enjoying construction more than being an EMT.
I felt like a third wheel, so I snuck off to sit with Ainsley and Chaz in the sand. Chris talks of moving out of the city, and “getting some land” as he puts it, but there’s no way I could ever find friends in Millwood. I can’t even have a pity friendship with Rebecca. Besides that, half of what she says I think is stupid, and pompous. It’s as if she thinks she’s saving the world by adopting some kid, maybe it’s not a good idea to separate a Mother from her baby. Afterall, isn’t it mothers like me that the Suburb Moms wants to steal the babies from?
I was relieved when the rain began to fall harder than a sprinkle so we could leave. The kids were exhausted, and on the way back to South Port they all took turns dozing off.
Chaz didn’t want to take a nap, he’s in this phase where he usually doesn’t even need one, but the days we hit the park he always does.
I hired this girl, Caitlyn to come babysit him. She lives in a complex not too far away, so she just walks over. I make sure to lay Chaz down for a nap so that he won’t be too much of a handful for her.
Chaz adores her, and I think it’s mutual. Caitlyn’s only twelve, so I imagine she likes to pretend this is her place, and her kid. I don’t mind as long as she takes good care of him.
Which she seems to do, she even works on potty training him for us, which is a big bonus for Chris. With any luck he’ll be using the potty on his own before his third birthday.
I know that Grace would babysit in a heartbeat, but there’s something to be said about a teenage girl watching your toddler. They play more, and get on the floor more than an adult would.
She can even calm him down when a big thunderstorm moves into the area, which I know Grace could do that, but she lives far away and I don’t have car to get there.
So I wasn’t worried about Chaz when we went out to get a bite to eat. Chris thought I was, because I was on edge, and I let him go on thinking that.
We don’t get out too often these days, so when we do, he gets really into it. I grin and bear it, but sometimes it’s a little much. We aren’t teenagers anymore, he’s thirty for frick sake.
When he orders his coveted fried chicken, I break the cuddling. He doesn’t get it, why would I get upset about what he wants to eat. And I can’t explain it.
“Why can’t you just try something different? Why do you always settle for the same thing?” I say it through my teeth, and a piece of me sort of wants to take it back.
The waitress, Candice takes the order, but I’m embarrassed for saying that in front of her.
“Do you ever think that me ‘settling for the same thing’ benefits you?” He used air quotations, and I know that logically he meant it in a good way, but I’m not in the mood to be logical.
“So you settled to be with me then? Is that right?” I almost go further with my words, but I stop myself. The diner is quiet, just the fork clinking from the girl eating at the counter, and the sizzling of Chris’ chicken frying in the grease.
“What the hell Emma?” He’s not angry, and I know that if I just let it go, we can have a nice evening, but I just can’t. With Rebecca at the park, from the strangers there, from the waitress here, and to Chris, his fucking chicken, and his pipe dream job, it’s just all building in me today. I just can’t let it go.
“I don’t want to talk about it.” I say it, knowing that he’ll press for it, and that I’ll give in and let everything out in an explosion, or he won’t ask, and I’ll freak out further.
Candice places our food before us, and I wait, staring at my plate, breathing in his insulting greasy chicken.
Chris says nothing, just begins tearing the skin off the chicken, and tossing it down in a hurry. I press my lips together, and try to play his silent game, but fail.
“So what, you aren’t talking to me now?”
“You said you didn’t want to talk about it Emma, so I’m not talking about it.”
I hate him sometimes. I want to huff and puff, then cross my arms and eat my Denver omelet in silence, but I’ve never been able to hold my tongue. “Your chicken makes me sick,” I mumble in a child-like tone.
He takes another bite, glancing at me from the corner of his eye as he brings his water glass to his lips. “So what’s new?” He has a coy smile, and once again there’s this opportunity to just let this pass. I could playfully punch his arm and we could move on.
“What’s not new is your lack of a real job! That’s for sure! ‘I’m Chris, I want to own my own mechanic shop,’ blah!” I mock him, and do the air quotations right back at him. “Please! You’re just a mechanic sucking sludge from that jerk of a boss, you won’t ever save enough to have your precious business.”
He had picked up his menu to place a second order, still hungry, probably for more chicken. I hadn’t even finished my omelet yet, and here he was wanting seconds.
“What? Can’t eat fast enough to get away from me?” My voice is barely low, and I’m aware of the uncomfortable shuffling at the counter, one of the workers had gone to turn the juke box on in the back.
“Fine, Emma, you win.” He tosses the menu on the table, and stands up, knocking the table and startling the customer at the counter. I follow behind him, cursing myself for not just letting it go, for once in my life.
He turns on me once we are near the street, his calm having stayed behind in the diner.
“So that’s it then huh Emma? I’m not good enough for you? You don’t think a guy like me could have my own mechanic shop, fix people cars? Am I not good enough for that? Maybe I should be a shoe-shiner, am I good enough to do that job?”
I chew on my lip. I don’t really feel that way at all, what I really feel is like a misfit, tagging along with everyone else and their dreams. I run the salon with Grace, but it’s her dream, and business at the end of the day. Everyone has something, and I’m just there, taking up space.
“Maybe you shouldn’t have married me then, Emma, if I’m just no good, if you can’t handle that I like video games, fixing cars, and eating fucking chicken.”
“I didn’t even mean that.” I try to interject, but he just waves his arm up at me, dismissing me.
“Just forget it, forget all of it. Screw having a nice night with my wife, don’t know what the fuck I was thinking.”
He walks past me, and heads down the street, stomping his feet. “Find your own ride home.” Then he disappears in the shadows, I see him hail a cab at the next corner, and I just stand there, hating myself.
I don’t want to go home in a cab behind him, not with Caitlyn at the house, likely doing her homework at the table while Chaz sleeps. If I go home now, we would just continue fighting, and those are my reasons for walking down the block to the Cellar. I haven’t been here in years now, it was a good place to find a one-night stand, and that didn’t seem smart when me and Chris got married, but maybe he doesn’t want to be married, and maybe I want someone to find me attractive.
At the bar, I feel lonely, and exposed, as if a spotlight is on me for everyone to point and laugh at, sitting alone in a building full of people. I’m startled when someone nudges my arm and tickles my ear.
It’s a face I haven’t seen in a few years, Max. For a minute it feels good to see a familiar face, even if it’s just an old fling.
He asks me up to the booths to catch up, and a nervous fluttering occurs in my stomach, something I haven’t felt in far too long. Max still finds me attractive, even after having a kid, if he didn’t, he wouldn’t have come up to talk to me. I know his game, and I’m pleased to be a part of it on this night.
“I’m not surprised to find you here tonight, Emma.” He traces his finger over the back of my hand, smiling up at me under his lashes.
He gives a phony laugh, one that’s likely rehearsed and used on many naive young girls. “No, young Mom’s always need a little fun, after parenting and monogamy has gotten the best of them. Don’t worry dear, I’m here to fulfill your needs.”
“Oh?” I’m not sure how I feel about this, I want to be more normal, but I’m not sure I want to fit into this type of norm.
He leans in closer, “I don’t mind having Matt’s leftovers, it wouldn’t be the first time. He knocks them up, walks out, and I get a night of fun, with a girl who uses birth control now. He’s like my wingman, taking the fall for me, without even knowing it.”
“I don’t have Matt’s kid.” I stutter at first, surprised that he would say or even think that. I had been worried at first, but I look at Chaz, with his black hair, and Chris’ jaw and I know that it’s not Matt’s child.
“My mistake then, my mistake.” He holds his hands up in a peace offering, and something I didn’t expect happens. I miss Chris.
The Cellar is too loud, the music too techno, the people too shiny, and the company less than appealing. I long to be at home, even if it meant fighting with Chris and letting the blow up happen, just so we could move past it. I don’t want to be here, I don’t want to be with Max.
Just like that, there he was. My own personal saint. Colin happened to spot me, and came by to take a seat. He was likely coming by to make sure his buddy’s girl wasn’t up to anything mischievous, not knowing that he was saving me.
He sits down heavily, and sort of puffs his chest as if he expects a confrontation from Max. He doesn’t get one, but Max is flabbergasted, and it makes the entire evening better.
I’ve been pissed at Colin lately for being such a jerk to Erin and his kid, but tonight I could kiss him. Max is weirded out with having a second guy at the table, or he’s realized that he isn’t getting any of me tonight, and he excuses himself.
I don’t sit long with Colin, I am still mad at him for being a lousy Dad, but I do give him proper thanks. Then I tell him to get home and take care of his family while he still has one.
I don’t stick around to see if he leaves too, I hail the first cab that goes by, and then sneak into my house like thief.
Chaz is up before the sun, used to his schedule when I have to go into the salon early. The beers were a mistake, I can feel the punishment of them in my head as he bangs his bottle on the table. After potty training is done, then I am weaning him from this bottle business.
I’m nervous for when Chris wakes up, I don’t want to fight with him anymore than I want to sleep with Max. I thought I might want to do something wild like that, but I choked when it came down to it. That’s gotta mean something, I think.
Chaz tries to distract me from my worrying, he wants to play at the park downstairs, but it’s too dark for that. Grace isn’t wrong that some seedy things go on at the playground, it’s just the nature of the city.
When Chris wakes up, I nervously go back inside. He’s sitting on the sofa, the Xbox loaded on the dashboard, ready to play a game.
“Hey,” I nudge his foot, and he looks up expectantly. We both know this could go two ways, and today I want to make it the better way. “So I’m sort of sorry about last night.” I look at my feet, it’s impossible to force my gaze to meet his, but he doesn’t say anything so I have to look up. He’s got a little grin on his face, and I wonder if Colin text him that I left the Cellar alone. “So we okay?”
He smiles fuller, and I know Colin text him.
“We’re good.” He stands up and pulls me close to him. I hope he’s right.
It feels good to have peace between us again, and I look forward to a lazy day at home with my boys. Chaz will play with his trucks, and watch Chris play a game, and maybe a bit later in the day Colin will come by with his family, and just maybe he’ll put more effort into being a good Dad. We’re all rooting for him to step up to that role.
And I’m just glad that Chris is such a good Father.
Notes: Emma had some wants going on which resulted in this update. She had platonic wants for her brother-in-law Benjamin, she wanted to invite Eric over, and she wanted to slow dance with Matt Picasso. I took that she was having some second thoughts, maybe wanting a relationship/life similar to Grace with Benjamin, and maybe some more adventure like she had with Eric and Matt.
Thing is, she goes to the Cellar, Max is there (another old fling who has slept with Annie and Lorelei), he’s a bartender, what else is there to say. And while Max is trying to make some moves on Emma, she starts rolling all these romantic wants for Chris. Hopefully she’s happy to stick with Chris, who really does eat and order fried chicken all the time! He makes me think of those Grilled Cheese Sims!
Emma and Chris only want one child each, but aren’t allowed birth control. I think they’d be inclined to get it permanently taken care of, but as people tend to delay that sort of thing, I rolled for it. They needed to get 90 or higher out of a d100, and I’ve already rolled it to see if or when Chris will have it done. This year is not one of those years.
A couple outtakes of Chris being a good daddy.