‘Mommy are you and daddy getting a divorce?’
Caroline almost ran the red light when Olive asked that question. ‘Where on earth did you hear that?’
‘Lily was talking about her parents getting one and she said she heard that you and daddy could be getting one.’
‘What’s a divorce?’ Xander asks
‘Nothing you have to trouble yourselves with.’ Caroline inwardly winced moving the car forward at the green light signal. She knew it was only a matter of time before the rumour mill got to work, talking about her marital life, the one where she has no idea what is going on or going to happen. Xavier has been out of the house for two weeks, he sees the children everyday, comes in early before breakfast, sometimes picks them up from school, helps with homework, stays for dinner, puts them to bed and then leaves late at night. Its a really fucked up arrangement but they are at the junction. The next turn will determine their lives together. Or apart. ‘I don’t ever want to hear you say that word again. Both of you.’ She says to the children.
‘Yes mommy.’ They answer in unison.
Xavier and Edward, her brother, are already at home when Caroline and the children arrive.
‘Daddy!!’ Olive and Xander run into their father’s waiting arms, immediately delving into chatter about their day, but nothing about divorce. Caroline knows she’ll have to talk to him about it later.
‘Hey, hey, save some love for Uncle Edward.’ Ed says and soon the kids engage in a war of hugs and kisses with their uncle. Their favourite.
‘Hi.’ Caroline says to Xavier whilst Ed does a good job of distracting the children with a story.
‘How are you?’
‘Fine.’ Caroline doesn’t ask how he’s doing because she knows. He knows she is not doing fine either. Before Xavier can say any more she makes her way upstairs, hating herself whatever is going on between them.
‘That bad huh?’Edward noticed the frostiness between his sister and brother-in-law thankfully, Olive and Xavier didn’t. They are busy setting up their lego and arguing over what goes where.
‘Still in the dog house.’
‘Have you spoken to her?’
‘Everyday I try, but I get nothing back.’ Xavier shrugs. ‘She’s mad at me and I don’t blame her. I screwed things up.’
‘She’ll come round. Caroline is stubborn but I know she loves you. Its the one thing I can stake my life on,’
‘What if this time love is not enough?’
‘You can’t think like that Xavier, just give her time she’ll come round.’
Caroline returns from upstairs, showered and changed into skinny jeans, a cream silk blouse, light make up and flat shoes, tonight she is having dinner with her family at her parents’ home. She knows dinner is a cover up for discussing her troubles with Xavier, but she’ll take the love of her parents home to the coldness in hers about now. ‘Ready?’ She asks Edward.
‘I am.’ He engulfs the children in a bear hug goodbye before giving Xavier a man-hug. ‘Take it easy.’
Caroline gives the children their Friday treats of ice cream which succeeds in distracting them from the fact that she doesn’t kiss him goodbye. Xavier wanted to, but he stops himself sensing she’d rather he didn’t.
‘How long are you going to keep that up for?’ Edward asks his sister, pulling out of their driveway.
‘What?’ She widens her brown eyes innocently.
‘You have to forgive him.’
‘I will. Its just not coming as quickly as everyone wants it to.’
‘When will it come?’
And Edward doesn’t push any more. He pushed far enough.
The rest of the drive to their parents’ in Belsize Park is drowned in Robin Thicke wafting from the IPod dock. Caroline’s mind a millions miles away with Xavier. This thing with them has to end; hopefully she’ll get over it soon. For now, the comfort of her parents will do the trick.
‘Mommy.’ Caroline always loves being back home with her parents, their affection for each other is something that gives her comfort. They are still so in love with each other its a joy for her to see and it gives her hope.
‘My darling.’ Mother and daughter hug. ‘How are you?’
‘Miserable.’ Caroline makes a sad face.
‘Oh I know. Come, let’s eat and we’ll try to make you less miserable.’ Her mother teases.
Dinner with the family is always a fun affair, the four of them get on on so well and their parents delight in telling tales from when they were younger.
‘How are things with Xavier?’ James, their father, asks.
‘Has he returned home yet?’
‘No. We haven’t spoken about anything either. He tries but I don’t let him. I know, before you say it, I’m being impossible.’
‘I wasn’t going to say that my dear, but surely you have to come to a decision on what the point is to all this. You cannot expect it to go on like this for much longer.’
‘You don’t have to tell me that. The whispers have started about us getting a divorce.’
‘It won’t come to that.’ Their mother says with utter confidence.
‘And how are you so sure. Your daughter is so stubborn.’ Ed says dodging a bread roll from Caroline.
‘Edward don’t tease your sister like that.’ Their mother playfully chastises, ‘Caroline and Xavier love each other dearly, eventually that’s what will save them.’
After dinner Caroline and her mother catch up in the smaller parlour whilst Edward and their father watch ESPN in the bigger one.
‘Do you really believe that about me and Xavier?’ Caroline asks her mother. She’d sounded so sure.
‘Of course I do my darling.’ Beatrice cups her daughter’s face in her hands, looking so lovingly at her. ‘You and Xavier have a good thing together, you love each other dearly and you will find your way back to each other. You just have to let go Caroline. He has tried to atone for his wrongdoings and you have to forgive him or be doomed to that long face you’ve had all night.’
‘I’m afraid I’ll push him away because I won’t know when to stop pushing him.’ A beat. ‘If I haven’t already.’
‘He won’t let go of you so easily my darling.’
‘How do you know that?’
‘Because a mother always knows. Right now he is fighting your corner. He is squarely in it and will do anything to make it up to you. You just have to let him.’
Caroline sighs; if only it were that easy to let go.
10pm. Caroline walks into the living room of her home and is surprised to find Xavier still there. ‘Hi. You’re here late.’
‘I wanted to talk to you about something. I put the kids to bed about an hour ago.’ Xavier put his hands in his pocket to stop him from going towards her, welcoming her home like he would have.
‘Okay.’ She takes a sit on the armchair. ‘Let’s talk.’
‘How are your parents?’
‘Fine. They send their regards.’ Caroline suspects whatever it is he is working her up to, it will be a doozy. She has an idea what it might be, but he will have to come out and say it.
‘I’m filing papers for full custody of Amelia. I want her to come and live with us.’ A moment. ‘Eventually.’
Caroline takes a deep breath. Exactly what she thought. ‘She’s your daughter Xavier. I’m not going to tell you what to do.’
‘You are my wife so this affects you too. You are her step-mother and you’re going to see her everyday. I need to know that you are okay with this and that you won’t hold Penelope’s misgivings against her.’
‘You filed the papers already without talking to me about it.’
‘I had to act fast Caroline. She’s my daughter and I couldn’t take a chance with Penelope finding out before I did.’
‘Is she still at Richard’s?’
‘Yes. She’s doing okay.’
‘She has no say. She fucked up so she has to live with the consequences of her actions.’
Caroline doesn’t know what to say about any of this. Penelope is the architect of her problems, even so, she feels a little sorry for her. ‘Did Olive tell you what happened at school?’
‘The divorce? She did.’
Of course Olive would tell her father what happened in school, that was one important lesson they instilled in their children; never to keep secrets from their parents. ‘What did you tell her?’
‘Same thing you did. She doesn’t need to worry about that.’ Xavier corks his head to the side slightly. ‘Does she?’
‘Don’t get cute.’ Caroline says deadpan. ‘Anything else?’
‘Nothing.’ Xavier answers heavily, of course there’s a lot he wants to say, but he knows now is not the time. ‘I better go, let you get some sleep. I’ll be by at 9am in the morning to take them swimming so you don’t have to worry.’
‘Okay.’ Caroline walks him to the door to. ‘You should bring Amelia back here, there’s no point in her staying at Richard’s any longer. It’ll give us the time to talk, just me and her.’
Xavier stops walking to look at his wife. He missed her something awful. He pulls her close and plants a soft kiss on her lips. He misses everything about her. Even when she is most angry at him she still wants to be there for him. ‘I’m so sorry I hurt you.’ Xavier says in a whisper. He will do anything to get back in her good graces. Anything at all.