The Break

Pearl

            I grabbed a couple things from the closet and shoved them into the bag. My make up bag was taken from the counter, along with all my skincare items that I used every morning and night. It was all shoved inside without any organization.

            “Button.” Crow’s disapproving tone came from behind me.

            I zipped up the bag and placed the strap over my shoulder.

            “You think I’m gonna let you leave?”

            I turned to him face him, seeing him black the doorway that led to the hallway. His eyes showed his anger, but the tightness of his face showed something else—fear. “I just need some space right now, Crow.”

            He did his best to keep a straight face—but then he swallowed. “I was honest with you—”

            “Ten years later.”

            “Nothing happened. How many fucking times do I have to say that?”

            “You didn’t fuck anyone—but you still made a fool out of me.” I moved to the door and waited for him to step aside. “Move.”

            “No.” His arms crossed over his chest. “I’ll sleep in the guest bedroom. I’ll stay on the second floor and give you space. Whatever the fuck you want. But you aren’t leaving this house.” His eyes flicked back and forth to mine. “You better get your gun out of the nightstand because a bullet is the only thing that’s going to get me to move.”

            I made a step to his right.

            He moved and blocked me.

            I moved the other way.

            He did the same. “We’ve been married a long time and not once have you tried to leave me—”

            “Because you never lied to me until now.”

            “I didn’t lie—”

            “You omitted the truth. Information that would have drastically changed how I behaved. I looked like a dumb wife that has no idea what goes on in my husband’s life. I’m not sure what I’m more upset about…that Lacey tried to fuck my husband at my business…or Nadine tried to fuck my husband under my own roof.”

            His eyes darkened. “You aren’t leaving me. You think I won’t keep you a prisoner again? Because I fucking will, Button. I will tie you up, and no amount of buttons will ever earn your freedom. If a lawyer tries to serve me divorce papers, I’ll shoot him between the eyes and stuff him in an oil drum. You try to replace me with someone else, I’ll do worse to him. There is no scenario where you ever escape me.” His face tinted red and the tendons started to pop because he was more livid than I’d seen him in a long time.

            “Crow, not once did I say I was leaving you. All I said was I needed space.”

            “You can have your space—here.”

            “No. Now get the fuck out of my way.”

            He breathed quietly, his breaths starting to become more audible.

            “Button—”     

            “I’m angry at you, Crow. Far angrier than I’ve ever been since I’ve known you. The last thing I want to do is look at your face, to share a house with you lurking in every damn corner.  I just want some damn space and that’s not too much to ask.”

            His eyes shifted back and forth between mine, his anger softening into fear. “I’ll let you go…if you promise me that you’ll come back.”

            No amount of anger could make me immune to his vulnerability. Make me ignore the silent plea for reassurance. “Crow, I love you with my whole heart. I will come back and we’ll spend the rest of our lives together until our children bury us next to your sister and your parents in the cemetery. But right now…I just need some time away from you.”

            He didn’t blink as he listened to me, and once I was finished his stare remained just as hard. After a couple breaths, he forced himself to move, to step aside so I could reach the door. He looked away—like he couldn’t watch me go.

            I didn’t say a word to him before I walked out.

Pearl

            I pulled up to the Mediterranean style house, surrounded by cobblestone walls and an iron-wrought gate. The gate was already open because I texted Vanessa that I was coming by. I found a spot on the gravel. Griffin’s truck parked there because he didn’t care enough to use the garage.

            I left my luggage inside then moved to the front door, my heart racing in my chest in a way it never had before. Visiting my daughter and grandchildren had always been a source of great joy for me. It felt a little different now.

            I knocked on the door.

            A moment later, Griffin answered it and flashed me his handsome smile. “You know you can just walk in, Pearl.”

            I gave him a smile before I walked inside.

            “Just about to have dinner. Would you like to join us?”

            “Sure. What’s on the menu?”

            “Vanessa made chicken picatta.”

            “That sounds lovely.” My daughter’s cooking was as bad as mine. Something else she inherited from me.

            I walked into the backroom and Vanessa greeted me with a quick hug. “Hey, Ma. Dad’s not coming?”

            “He’s got plans with Cane.”

            “He does?” I asked. “Because Carmen told me Uncle Cane and Aunt Adelina were babysitting so she and Bosco could go to the opera.”

            That was terrible timing. “I think your dad is coming along. He used to like the opera.”

            “You think?” she asked, her eyes narrowed in suspicion.

            “Where are my grandchildren?” I asked even though they were in the living room in front of the TV. I turned away and moved to both of them, giving Little Crow a hug and a kiss before Cassandra crawled on me like a money. I played with them both while Vanessa and Griffin prepared dinner in the kitchen. I caught Vanessa whispering to Griffin near the counter—and I knew she was suspicious about what I said.

            We gathered at the dining table, the kids in the highchairs with their plastic plates and forks while the rest of us had real dishes. Griffin lets us scoop the chicken onto our plates then dump the spaghetti on top before he did the same. We ate in silence for a while, the two of them more occupied getting their kids to eat without throwing spaghetti on the walls.

            It was nice to be in a house with chaos again. Sometimes it felt too quiet when it was just me alone while Crow went to work. In the warmer months, I spent my time by the pool and read a book. In the colder months, I stayed warm by the fire in Crow’s study until he came home from work. I enjoyed having my freedom and a quiet life, but I missed the constant energy of having little ones run around.

            “What’s new with you?” Vanessa asked.

            “Not too much. Uncle Cane is going to start selling his cheese at the winery. Your father doesn’t care for it much…says it stinks.”

            “Isn’t cheese supposed to stink?” Vanessa asked.

            “I guess it’s not the kind of stink your father likes,” I said.

            Griffin said nothing even though he probably knew all about it. I wondered if he knew about the problems Crow and I were having, but I suspected Crow wouldn’t share it with him out of fear of it coming back to Vanessa.

            When we finished dinner, I helped Vanessa with the dishes at the sink.

            Griffin wordlessly took the kids out of the room and got them ready for bed upstairs.

            Vanessa piled the dishes in the dishwasher then dried her hands on the towel. “Wine?”

            “Always.”

            She opened another bottle and poured two glasses. “Ma, you want to tell me what’s going on?” She took a drink as she looked at me with those knowing eyes.

            The moment had arrived and I knew I couldn’t shy from it. “Let’s sit down.”

            “Okay…”

            She followed me back to the dining table. The house was quiet with the exception of a random yell from upstairs from one of the kids.

            She sat across from me and didn’t touch her wine, her eyes focused on me in concern.

            “Can I stay here for a couple of days?”

            It was like a horror film watching her eyes slowly tighten as the realization sunk in. “What…?”

            “I can help with the kids and give you and Griffin some time alone—”

            “Ma, you can stay as long as you want without any obligation to help us. But that’s not what I care about. What’s going on? I know you and Dad had your little fight but I thought that was over?”

            “It was over.”

            “Okay…then what happened?”

            I understood Crow’s predicament a little better now because I didn’t want to tell Vanessa that one of her closest friends acted like a real cunt. But even then, it wasn’t the same thing. “Your father pissed me off and I just needed some space, that’s all.”

            “He always pisses you off.”

            “I wouldn’t say always…”

            “And you’ve never left the house. Not once. So this is big…”

            I looked down at my wine because I didn’t want to watch the heartbreak in her eyes.

            “Ma, you’re scaring me.”

            “Vanessa.” My eyes lifted to hers again. “Everything will be alright. I just need some space right now and I didn’t want to stay in a hotel alone for that duration…I’d rather be here with you and the kids. And if I went to Conway’s, he would probably just jump to conclusions…”

            “Well, I’m jumping to conclusions right now,” she snapped. “What did he do?”

            “It doesn’t matter.”

            “Dad would never cheat on you, so it must be something else.”

            “You’re right,” I said. “He would never do that.”       

            “Then what happened?”

            “Just leave it alone, Vanessa.”

            “I can’t leave it alone. If you guys get divorced I will lock your asses in a room—”

            “We are not getting a divorce. Your father would chain me up before I could even get to a lawyer…” I stirred the wineglass and watched the Bordeaux spin. “Not that I want one anyway. He really upset me, and I would love to have a couple days to myself before I’m ready to go back and move on.”

            “What did he do?”

            “Vanessa—”

            “Mom, this is going to drive me crazy. I thought we told each other everything?” 

            “We do but I want to protect your father’s privacy.”

            She gave a sigh. “I can’t believe Dad would ever fuck up…”

            “Nobody’s perfect.”          “But Dad is.”  She stared into her wine glass and didn’t drink it, probably because she wasn’t drinking a lot these days, not when she had to monitor her breast milk. “You can stay here as long as you want. You know you’re always welcome. But I’ll be a lot happier when you’re back with Dad…and everything will feel normal again.”