“So why did you really come up here?” Brenda asked.
They were sitting in the kitchen of Brenda’s apartment. After traveling all day, the children had gone to bed and Joellen had accepted Brenda’s offer of fresh coffee. Joellen was busy stirring hers, weighing how much she should tell Brenda. They had never been very close. Brenda was ten years older. They had always lived in separate worlds.
“You haven’t changed any,” Joellen said.
“What did you expect?” Brenda asked. “You call me up out of the blue. You say you need to come up to visit me in Brooklyn. That the kids need to know their family. All of a sudden. Just like that. You show up here and you think I’m buying this little family bonding routine?” She sat down at the table and clunked her coffee mug onto a plate.
“It’s true,” Joellen said. “They had some time off and Brent was going to be away for a couple of weeks. So I thought this would be a good time.”
“Oh sure,” Brenda leaned back in her chair, staring at her sister, sizing up the situation.
Joellen fidgeted in her seat.
Brenda sighed and leaned her chin on her hands. “You know why I got a divorce?”
“No. Why?” Joellen asked.
“Because I got so bored I thought I would scream my lungs out,” Brenda said matter-of-factly. “It seems odd now, looking back on it. But the marriage got so routine and he was so complacent about me and everything in our lives … I just got fed up. I think I only meant to shake him up, but what happened … I think it changed me just to say out loud, ‘I want a divorce.’ And after that there was no going back.”
“Why did you get married to him?” Joellen asked.
“Why did you marry Brent?” Her sister responded.
“I was being a good girl,” said Joellen quietly. “I’ve always been a good girl and done what I was supposed to do.”
“Yeah. That’s the way it always was,” Brenda nodded. “You did what was expected of you.”
They sat quietly for a while, each thinking about the past, about how they had been molded to fit into a role.
“Not anymore,” Joellen spoke quietly.
“No?” Brenda asked and then added, “Are you leaving him?”
“I think so, yes. I couldn’t take it anymore. And then, I sort of, well I … ” she didn’t know how to say it.
“Was he cheating on you?” Brenda asked.
“Yes. But that was only part of it. I mean … I met someone, you see, and it just kind of happened,” Joellen could hardly say it out loud, as if to tell someone else would break the spell and bring all her hopes and fears into the open. She felt that could smash everything, like she was carrying some fragile egg.
“Did you know that Dad cheated on mom until the day he died?” Brenda asked almost in triumph.
“What?” Joellen almost screamed.
“Yeah, he was a real prick to her,” Brenda said and stood up with the cup in her hand. Walking over to the sink she dumped the cold coffee with a flick of her hand, dismissively, like she was disgusted with it. “And she played this game all those years, pretending they had the perfect marriage, that she was happy, that he was good to her, when all he really did was pay the bills. I bet you were conceived by accident one night when he’d had too much to drink.”