Sunday night I sat at the bus stop thinking about the night before. Date night had been more of a disaster than the Green Lantern movie. It shouldn’t have been. The restaurant was great, the service was great, the food was great, Tyler was great. Me? Not so much. I couldn’t stop thinking about the conversation I’d had with Paul right before Tyler had picked me up. It had started innocently enough.
The boys were fed, bathed, and tucked in for the night. I’d had a quick shower, dried my hair and pulled it into a high ponytail, applied a light layer of makeup, and slipped on my little black dress. Then, holding my shoes and clutch purse, I went out to the living room to watch for Tyler’s arrival.
“You look nice Lillian.” Paul’s voice drew my gaze as I was buckling on my shoes.
“Thank you,” I said, appreciating the fact that we could be civil and polite. I stood up and smoothed down my dress, a plain black wrap style that was a couple of years old, but you couldn’t go wrong with black, right? My shoes were amazing though, I had a nice collection and tonight I’d chosen black t-bar stilettos that made my legs look great.
“What time should I expect you home?”
I looked over at Paul where he was leaning against the doorway to the master suite, looking bored.
“I think I’m a bit old for a curfew,” I finally said, not sure what game he was playing.
He smiled a tight smile and shook his head. “I’m just looking out for you. How well do you know this man? How soon should I raise the alarm that you’re missing?”
I couldn’t believe this! “You’re being ridiculous. Pretend it’s any other weekend where you don’t see me until Monday morning,” I suggested. Sunday was his day with the boys. Soccer, a visit with his family including dinner. I had usually left for work before they got home.
“I don’t think it’s ridiculous to know who you’re involved with.” I opened my mouth to say otherwise but he continued. “Not if the boys are going t be around this … person.”
I spread my arms and looked around. “It’s not like they’re coming out with me,” I stated the bleeding obvious.
Paul smirked and took a couple of steps towards me. “No but, as you like to remind me, it wont be long until we’re divorced. Before we know it you’ll be moving out and having weekend visitations.”
My ears rang at his words, my worst nightmare, just being thrown around casually. Not being with my boys everyday. My work situation meant that I couldn’t be the fulltime parent to them that Paul could be. Weekend visitations, he said it as if it were a done deal and I guess in his mind it was.
“What…” I shook my head. “Why are we having this conversation now?” I asked but I knew. It was his thing, to manipulate and control. To ruin my night out.
He shrugged. “I thought it was timely. I’d like to meet the man who’s going to be part of my children’s lives.”
I wasn’t going there, my mind was still stuck on ‘weekend visitations’. “So if I have them on the weekends, that means soccer too?” His smug smile faded and he frowned.
“You can’t stop me coming to the games,” he said, a statement not a question. He was right, it was a public place, I couldn’t stop him. “Anyway, you’ll need me to drive them.”
”I’ll work something out.” My mind raced, I remembered seeing Tyler at training that time, how we said he usually went to the games, how he played after the kids did! “Actually, we’d be there anyway,” I said, trying to sound confident. “Tyler’s nephew plays and he watches him then plays afterwards as well.”
Paul’s eyebrows dropped as he scowled then his eyes went wide. “Tyler?” he repeated. “Tyler from soccer?”
“His nephew plays,” I said again, the look on Paul’s face making me nervous.
“Right.” He nodded and smirked again. “Good luck with that,” he added.
“What’s that supposed to mean?” I snapped, frustrated and confused.
“Oh well.” Paul shrugged. “People talk at soccer. He has a certain reputation with the ladies.”
Unbidden the memory of the soccer moms waving and giggling at Tyler came to me. There was me in my jeans and bulky jacket while they were all dressed to kill. I swallowed down my doubts with a shrug. “Oh, you mean people gossip,” I said as if it didn’t mean a thing.
“It’s not gossip if it’s true.”
“Well, look at the bright side.” I smiled widely. “You’d know if he was a serial killer from all of the talk right? So I guess I’m safe.”
I heard the growl of an engine even as lights showed in the window. “Well, that’s him now. Don’t wait up.”
I didn’t wait for Paul’s reply, just got out of the door as quickly as possible. Tyler was climbing out of the car and my footsteps faltered at the sight of him. He was wearing a suit and he looked incredible.
“Hey,” he said with a smile as he walked towards me, his hand outstretched. “In a hurry?”
I managed to smile back as we came to a halt a foot apart and I let him take my hand.
“Just saving you the trip,” I said and he laughed.
“It’s okay Lily. I understand that coming to your door would be awkward,” he said as he led me to his car. “You look great, love the shoes.” He smiled at me as he opened the door.
“Thanks. You too,” I said and he chuckled as he leaned over me to fasten the seatbelt. “Come on Lily, get a grip,” I muttered to myself after he closed the door and rounded the car. Then he was sliding behind the wheel and smiling over at me again and I felt light-headed and realised I wasn’t breathing. I sucked in a breath and ended up sighing as the smell of Tyler overwhelmed me. He smelled divine and he looked even better.
“Did you have a good day?” he asked as he reversed out of the driveway.
“Yes thanks. You?” I answered politely.
“I worked.” He shot me a quick but heated glance. “Helped the day go by faster.”
I was flustered by his comment which was silly. He’d looked at me like that, spoken more graphically any number of times. What was wrong with me? “Make anything interesting?” I said rather than respond.
“Not really, just some bookshelves.” We stopped at some traffic lights and he gave me a puzzled look so I smiled, like everything was okay. “Oh, before I forget, I’m really sorry but I can’t dive you to work tomorrow night. I have a family dinner.”
It took a moment for his words to sink in and I felt vaguely embarrassed that he needed to drive me anywhere. “Oh. No need to apologise.” I waved it away. “There’s really no need for you-”
“Oh no, not doing this again.” Tyler cut me off. “We have our deal,” he reminded me.
He was so stubborn, I knew I wouldn’t change his mind so I smiled and said, “You’re too good to me.”
“Not yet,” he said with a grin and I laughed, relaxing a little.
We fell into an easy silence for the rest of the short trip and before I was really ready Tyler was helping me from his car and we were walking towards the restaurant. I felt like everyone was looking at us as we were led to our table, I saw women looking at Tyler then at me, their eyes judging. I couldn’t blame them, them in their bright and bold dresses, their hair expertly done, me in my basic black. I felt like Susie Homemaker, I should be home waiting with dinner and a drink, not out in public. What was Tyler thinking? Why wasn’t he with the hot blonde leering at him or the sleekly coiffed brunette licking her lips.
“He has a reputation.” Paul’s words echoed in my head as we sat down and he smiled across the table at me. I struggled to smile back, act like I belonged here, with him, but I didn’t do at all well. Our conversation was stilted, I was distracted. When I wasn’t worrying about not seeing my boys every day, my mind was filled with thoughts of Tyler and other women. I looked around the room and found myself lacking in my out of date dress and butchered hair.
“Is everything okay Lily?” he asked as I pushed around my food, barely tasting it.
I glanced up, barely meeting his eyes. “Sure. I’m just tired.”
“Poor baby.” He reached across the table to cover my hand with his. “I was going to suggest a club, some dancing.”
Even as he spoke I was shaking my head no. No way could I go to a club with him, I could already imagine the looks as people wondered what he was doing with me.
“Another time maybe,” he said gently.
“Yeah, maybe. Sorry.” I pulled my hand from his to lift the napkin from my lap and wipe my fingers. “Tyler I…” I blinked as I paused, not sure what I wanted to say beyond another apology for being such bad company. Tyler is the gossip about you being a ladies man true? Tyler why are you wasting your time with me? Tyler my soon to be ex-husband wants me out of his house so I’m about to be homeless. And I’ll only see my kids on the weekends and I can’t even look after them properly. Could you possibly drive us to soccer every weekend?
I felt like everything I had done over the last months to regain my independence was worthless. I felt like a fraud pretending I could have a normal life, date like normal people. Tyler deserved better than what I had to offer. My boys deserved more than what I could give them.
“Tyler I’m really sorry but I have a terrible headache. Could you take me home please?”
He had driven me back, his concern for me obvious. He had walked me to the door, told me to take care and message him when I was feeling better. He’d pressed his hand to my cheek for a moment before I pulled away to go inside with a whispered, “Good night.”
I hadn’t slept much, I never did, but I planned. I planned to lie to Tyler, to tell him Paul was letting me use the car so he didn’t have to pick me up any more. I planned to phase myself out of his life. I would take my time replying to his messages. I would be brief with my replies. I wouldn’t acknowledge any pictures he sent me. He was a smart guy, he’d get the message and he’d move on.
It was for the best in so many ways. I needed to put my free time to better use. I needed a place to live, a better job, one that would give me a chance at shared custody instead of just weekends. I needed to stop pretending I was something I wasn’t, and I needed to forget about Tyler. My heart might protest but my head knew it was for the best. If I kept telling myself that, I’d believe it eventually.