“Hey, I’m back.”
“Hi, did you have a good flight?”
“Yeah, it was fine…how were the boys?”
“Perfect. Jack wanted to wait up for you, but he fell asleep watching a movie.”
“Okay, I’m gonna go to sleep now. See you in the morning…thanks for everything.”
I walked down to the kids’ room, slowly cracking open the door and peeking in. They were sleeping together on the futon, snuggled close, their breaths synchronized. I kissed each one and went to make myself a bed on the sofa.
The next morning, after opening their presents, Miles and Jack waited patiently as I put their carseats back into my car. After taking them to preschool I got home and turned on the computer.
My Bloglines Notifier had 52 new items. I clicked the icon and saw one new item on “welcome to the fuck house.” I wondered.
Marcus had deleted the post he’d made three days earlier, but it was still saved in my Bloglines. It was a real, touching post about how hard it was for marcus when Jefferson and I were together and he wasn’t there. About why he wasn’t returning my calls. It made me sad, but I was impressed by the depth of feeling and the fact that he’d written about me at all.
I sent him an email, telling him how hard I knew it was for him, and wondering why he’d chosen to remove the post. It didn’t hurt my feelings; it made perfect sense, and it was a naked, hurting post. I wish he’d kept it on the site.
I thought I’d hear from him in the coming days. I didn’t. Then another post, this one just as Tudor (with whom I’ve had much contact lately) was leaving the country for the holidays. This post made it clear that marcus was at an impasse. He would contact me when he was ready.
It made me crazy, but I respected his request for space.
I sent an email a few days before an important work event:
I miss you, but that’s not what this is.
I want to wish you luck on the opening Monday. I know you guys have worked very hard and I hope it’s a success. You deserve it, baby. You know how to reach me when you’re ready. Love, Maddie
Half an hour later, a response:
i miss you. that’s what this is.
In the weeks that followed, I told myself that this was what marcus needed; a break from the daily phone calls that we’d had up until I’d gone to visit Jefferson. He just needed to get right with this in his head…
He loves you, Madeline. Don’t take that for granted.
Meanwhile, life as a single parent was continuing. My kids had a weekend visit with their dad and (a surprise) his girlfriend. That was something new; disconcerting. I couldn’t talk with marcus about it.
New Year’s Eve came and went, I spent it with Maya and Aaron and their friends. I left at 11:40, preferring the quiet of my apartment to the obligatory countdown and ensuing kisses. My boys stayed the night with their grandparents, counting down the New Year at 9:59.
I drove over to pick them up the next day. We spent the day with my siblings and their families playing board games. Nobody wanted to play Scrabble with me. Early in the evening as I was kicking some Cranium ass, little Jack came to sit in my lap.
“Momma, I don’t feel good.”
I put my cheek to his.
He had a fever, so I got both boys into PJs and drove them home, where the next two days were spent pumping Jack with Ibuprofen. On Wednesday I took him to the doctor. The doctor said he’d run a strep culture, and if Jack wasn’t better in a week I should bring him back to be tested for mono. He then pulled Jacks’ pants down and announced, “Nope; we’re not testing him at all…he’s got scarlet fever!”
I gasped, and looked at the doctor like he was crazy.
Scarlet. Fucking. Fever.
“Don’t worry, Madeline, it’s only strep throat with a rash. Most doctors don’t even use the ‘scarlet fever’ diagnosis nowadays because it throws parents into a tizzy…ten days of Amoxicillin and he’ll be good as new. He can go back to school on Friday,” he rattled off the instructions, tearing the prescription off the pad with a flourish.
(Okay, but do I have to burn his velveteen rabbit?)
That was Wednesday morning. I had a client in the afternoon and Jack spent the time sleeping and watching movies with his grampa. I picked him up and brought him home with his brother.
I was a bit freaked about the illness, and talked with Viviane and Jefferson about it. I wished I could talk with marcus.
At 6:45 the phone rang.
Still marcus’ ring.
“Boys, can you play together nicely? I have an important call.”
“Yay, it’s marcus! ‘I’m Findin’ Out True Love is Blind!’” They started dancing around the room.
It was not the perfect time to be chatting on the phone, but at this point I’d take whatever I could get. I’d missed him and I’d had a shit week with Jack’s illness, having to juggle clients around, not making as much money as I needed for the week and dealing with a local boy who’d decided to get possessive all of a sudden.
The nice thing about talking with marcus when I'm stressed or upset is that he always makes me feel better. Not like, “oh, poor baby, everything will be okay,” but a very good combination of sympathy and constructive criticism. Whenever I talk with him about a problem I usually hang up feeling more confident, more capable.
I smiled and answered the phone.