A New Situation
“So you’re not going to be here for Christmas?” Jamie’s voice sounded a bit strangled. He kept kicking the toe of his sneaker against the kitchen table leg, over and over until it grated on Joellen and she wanted to yell at him to stop. But he was staring at the floor in a way that made it impossible for her to make eye contact with him, so she kept looking at Noreen, who had tears welling up in her eyes.
“I’m sorry, really I am,” she tried to explain it to them. “It’s just that Daddy and I have worked out this agreement and this Christmas he’s going to take you down to your grandma’s in Florida. It’s just for a week. I’ll be back right after. Before New Year’s even.”
Jamie kicked the table hard one time and then stopped. He grabbed his book bag and stomped out of the kitchen. Joellen looked at the ceiling as if she could see through to the floor above. She could hear him taking the stairs one angry step at a time until he was upstairs and then his door slammed hard. She winced a little and turned back to Noreen who was now crying openly.
Joellen hugged her and whispered trying to soothe her. “It’s okay Norey. I’m coming back. And you’ll have fun at Grandma’s. You’ll go to the pool and the beach. It’ll be cold and rainy here, but there the sun will be out and you’ll have lots of fun. Maybe Daddy and Grandma will take you to Sea World. That would be fun, wouldn’t it?”
Noreen nodded and at the same time shrugged her shoulders and tilted her head to one side. She snuffled loudly and wiped her nose against Joellen’s dress. They sat there like that until Noreen calmed down and stopped crying. Joellen rocked her back and forth and sang softly, a little song she used to sing when Noreen was a baby. When she stopped Noreen looked up at her mother.
“Why don’t you like Daddy anymore?” she asked.
Joellen took a deep breath. It had seemed so simple and clear before. He cheated. He hit her. She ran to someone for protection and comfort. She got entangled. Then he tried to romance her back and now she didn’t know how she felt about her own husband. They came to an agreement but it didn’t include what was going to happen down the road. Her lawyer cautioned her against taking anything for granted. No one knew her entire situation except North. The thought had occurred to her more than once that being a minister’s wife was hardly a role she saw for herself.
“People aren’t just one thing or another,” she tried to explain to Noreen, who sat there quietly watching her mother for some kind of sign that things were normal. “They’re lost of things. And just because they’re grown up doesn’t mean they know everything or always do what’s right. Do you understand?” She looked into Noreen’s face.
Noreen shook her head. “No,” she said and stuck out her lip.
“Well, Daddy and Mommy still like each other. But things are changing. Just like when you grow, you can’t fit in your old shoes anymore and you have to get new ones,” she explained.
“Are you getting a new daddy for us?” Noreen asked.
Joellen hugged her and chuckled a little.
“People aren’t exactly like shoes,” she said. “But sometimes even grown people have to grow up. And sometimes when they grow up, they change.”
to be continued…