Today, for the first time since Easter, Luke and I are going to take off for the weekend to visit our families. While part of me is excited to be around people again, the other part is already lamenting not being able to flop around on the couch in my pajama pants falling in and out of sleep during episodes of Murder, She Wrote. I'm at 10 weeks today and still not feeling any better, so the car ride should be interesting. The last time I threw up en route was at the age of nine, when my sister, next-door neighbor, and I overdosed on Flinstones Chewables (yes, I knew better, but they tasted like candy!) and had to go to the hospital to get our stomachs pumped. Hopefully, this trip will be vomit-free.
(Incidentally, I'm taking Flinstones Chewables once again because I can't keep the prenatals down, and man, do kids have effed-up notions about what qualifies as candy. Blech.)
Anyway. On to TLF.
CHAPTER FIVE - KAYLA (CONTINUED)
When I woke up, it was four-thirty. Time to get ready.
First I hopped in the shower. Then, in my robe, I looked through my closet for something to wear. I decided on a long-sleeved red shirt that almost reached my knees, black stretch pants, and black ankle boots. [You must forgive Kayla's choice of ensemble. Even though it was 1994, lil' Frema still had a special fascination with all things eighties.] I pulled my hair in a clip, but left some strands loose to soften my face. I put on a little make-up.
"Do I look alright?" I asked my son nervously.
"Yeah, Mom. Where ya goin'?" Kyle grinned. "Or should I say, who's the lucky guy?"
"Just a friend, nosy," I said with a smile, and ruffled his hair. "Did Katherine go home?"
"A while ago.... Mom, how do you know when you're in love with someone?"
"Is there someone in particular you're thinking of?" I asked. [It couldn't possibly be Katherine, even though you hang out all the time and just did this weird creepy portrait of her that you won't even show your own mother, because after all you guys are just good friends and God isn't so cruel as to allow siblings to be attracted to each other!]
"I just wanted to know," he said, and looked at me earnestly.
I grew thoughtful. "Well, you know you're in love when you smile when the person's name is said. When you see her, you're stomache feels fluttery and you want to vomit, but it's a good feeling. Everything looks like you're seeing it with someone else's eyes. You learn new things about yourself because she'll point them out to you. You'll feel so happy, you won't know what to do with yourself." I squeezed my son's hand. "Love is like nothing else in the world, Kyle. I can't wait for you to feel it."
[Thank you, Kayla, for your deep insights. I guess my relationship with Luke is a sham, then, because I haven't smiled at the sound of his name since 2001, back when I was scheming to date him.]
"Thanks, Momma," he whispered, and to my surprise, gave me a fierce hug. Then he went to his room.
Momma. He hasn't called me that since he was seven years old. I sighed. How I missed having a little baby in the house. If only--
DING, DONG. [Look! Foreshadowing has come a-knocking!]
Michael. I grabbed my jacket and purse and opened the door.
"Hi," he said. He looked great in jeans and a tight white t-shirt. He smelled of aftershave.
"Hi, yourself," I said, smiling. "Where do you want to go?"
"I don't know. We'll figure something out in the car." [What happened to the movie they talked about seeing in the grocery store? Ugh, these two are killing me.]
After we drove around for a while, we decided to go to "Garry's," the local bar.
[Always an appropriate destination for a married man and a single mom.]
The place had a pretty good crowd. There was an empty table in the corner in the back, but I wasn't ready for a heavy discussion yet. I wanted to have fun. I looked around and saw a pool table that nobody was using.
"I play a mean game of pool," I hinted.
"Is that a challenge?" he asked, grinning.
"If you want it to be," I replied. He was already walking over to the pool table.
So, for a while, we played pool. I beat him easily. It was fun, and it helped us to loosen up with each other. After the game, we had a drink at the bar. We were quiet for a while, and I decided to break the ice.
"Tell me what's on your mind," I said.
"It's not just one thing," he replied. "It's everything."
"Talk to me," I whispered.
[Oh, gag me with a spoon.]
He sighed. "I don't know where to start. At the beginning, I guess. We were young when we got married, and thought we could handle any problems. The last year hadn't been great for her, and she began to close herself up. I didn't know it, then. Love made me blind to it. I thought that my love for her would change her. We had Katherine from the very beginning of our marriage, and the twins came later.... We were happy, so I couldn't figure out why she'd wake up and cry the whole night. She got the shakes often. Sometimes she'd stay in our room with the door locked for days."
I brushed tears from my eyes. I had done those same things so many times. [Apparently there was something special in David Donovan's sperm that had the ability to reduce lovers to muted versions of their former, colorful selves. But Michael's can produce twins. Who's to say which is better?]
Michael noticed my face and grabbed my hand.
"Jenna's better now," he said. "It doesn't happen that much anymore."
"She might be sick," I said, a lump in my throat. "Did you get her help?"
He shook his head. "She won't go to counseling. She doesn't need it, anyway. All she has to do is open up to me. She wont, and I cant try."
"Cant or wont?"
"Both. God, Kay, it scares me that I don't love her the same."
"Love doesn't stay the same," I replied. "It's supposed to change."
"For the better, though. I'm not even sure if what I feel is love or not." Michael smiled. "I'm not giving you a chance to talk, and I want to get to know you better."
All this time, I was aware that he hadn't let go of my hand.
[Now that I've adequately portrayed myself as a noble, wounded husband, wanna fuck?]
"There's not much to know," I said lightly. I slipped my hand out of his and the sleeve of my shirt went up. Michael's eyes widened as he stared at the faint scar around my wrist. The area was black and blue. I reddened and bowed my head. "It's not recent," I said softly.
He grabbed my hand again and stood up. "Let's get outta here. I know of a place where we can go." I nodded.
[You wanna be where you can see our troubles are all the same. You wanna be where everybody knows your name.]
Fifteen minutes later, we came to a stop. It was a vast field, a blur of green that took my breath away. There was a small brook that seemed to go on forever, and a hill with flowers everywhere. "It's beautiful," I breathed. He grinned and grabbed a blanket from the truck.
"You can find these types of places anywhere in Iowa, but you should see the way the sun sets over here. It's like nothing else in the world."
I had said that same sentence earlier to Kyle earlier in the day, when he'd asked me about [being in] love [with his sister].
Michael spread the blanket out near the brook's edge and we sat down. He looked at me intently, and with concern. I knew he was waiting for an explanation about the scar.
"Life's not easy for me," I began. "Every morning, when I wake up, I hate the idea of going to work, being with people who mean nothing to me, worrying about bills and my son. Knowing that when the day is over, I have to sleep so I can get up and do it all over again. Living isn't fun. It's just something that I do, without any feeling. It eats at me from the inside.
"A few years ago, it was hell. I was fired from my job, so Ca - my sister supported us. Kyle had to be taken out of private school and had to go where the teachers were high and gang fights were normal during lunch. We couldn't afford to pay all our bills; soon our water was shut off. Sometimes we had to drink toilet water and boil it to make sure it was sterile. We--" I had to stop for a minute until the lump in my throat went away.
[You need a moment, too, don't you? To laugh your ass off. Go ahead. Lil' Frema doesn't mind.]
Michael was breathing heavily, and it sounded as if he were holding back sobs. [Not exactly the one-night stand you were hoping for, huh, buddy?] Closing my eyes, I went on.
"It was too much for me. I felt trapped inside myself. I had to get out." I gazed at my wrist. "I didn't slit them both, just made this one more of a gash. When I saw the blood, I felt at peace for the first time."
"Who found you?" he asked, grabbing my hand again. [Boy, he's touchy-feely this evening!]
I shuddered and whispered, "my son. He was only 11 years old."
[I can just imagine the Mother's Day card Kayla got that year. Dear Momma, thanks for botching your suicide attempt so I could stumble across your near-lifeless body when I had to go number one. That image will be burned in my brain forever. Love, your psychologically damaged son.]
Michael pulled me to him, and I leaned my head on his shoulder. He wrapped his arms around me. "I wish you hadn't done that," he said.
"You didn't know me; anyway, it doesn't matter now."
"Yes it does. Everything matters."
[You see, my marriage has a special clause allowing for affairs with women whose emotional impairments are equal to or worse off than my wife's. Jackpot, baby!]
We gazed into each other's eyes.
"What happened to your husband?" Michael asked.
I smiled sadly. "You know the saying, 'three times a bridesmaid, never a bride'? That's me." I laughed softly. "I don't think I was meant to be married. Too many limitations."
Michael shook his head. "No. When you're married to the one you love, there are no limitations." [Well, except for sleeping with other people, but who follows that one, anyway?]
"Are you?" I asked. "Married to the one you love?"
"It doesn't matter tonight." He tilted my face and kissed me, at first tenderly, then with more passion. We fell down, my mouth on his neck and his hands in my hair. For some reason, David popped into my head, along with the day I found out I was pregnant for the first time. [Hello, Random. We meet again.] I pulled away.
"This is too fast," I told him, "and you're too confused." He nodded, and we went back to his car.
"Are you mad?" I asked as he drove.
He smiled and shook his head. "I hope you're not mad at me." He cleared his throat. "I want to see you again."
Soon, he was pulling into my driveway. [Your mom pulls into my....oh, nevermind. I think we did this one already.] He walked me to my door.
"Jenna's staying late at the office tomorrow. Can I see you?"
I could already see a pattern: sneaking around, an hour here and there. But I didn't care. [I'm a dirty whore!] "Pick me up at five," I answered breathlessly. Michael kissed me. "See you tomorrow."
I didn't go inside until his car was a tiny dot on the road.
So. Now we know a little bit about how Michael, Jenna, and Kayla spent the time between part one and the sequel. We also get a crystal-clear picture of just how little Jenna is regarded by her husband and former BFF. However, in Michael's defense, it sounds like Jen's gone batshit crazy. It's a miracle he hasn't cheated on her before! And Kayla sounds desperate for someone to love her. Girl's had a hard-knock life herself.
As the story goes on, these and other characters will go on to do horrible things. But just like in traditional soap operas, I like to think there are redeeming qualities in each person that make you understand where each one of them is coming from.
Or maybe I'm the Queen of Denial.