Olivia was tired when she got back from therapy and didn’t even seem to notice the difference in her parents or the blood shot look in her mother’s eyes.
“Keesha will be here soon,” Jason told Elizabeth. He looked at Olivia. “You remember her, right Princess?”
Olivia nodded. “She bought me a doll last Christmas and came to see us in London.”
“That’s right.” He stood. “If I’m not in the parking garage when she pulls in, she’ll assume she’s in the wrong state.”
Elizabeth managed a weak laugh and closed her eyes when Jason kissed her forehead.
Olivia blinked. She’d never seen her daddy kiss her mommy before. Then again, before last month, she’d never seen them in the same room together.
“I’ll be back later, Princess,” he promised her. He kissed her cheek and left the room then.
“Daddy kissed you,” Olivia said immediately.
Elizabeth opened her eyes and sighed. “Yeah, he did, Baby. We’re getting along better now. No more fighting.”
Olivia nodded. “Good. Can I watch cartoons?”
He was standing next to the parking garage attendant’s booth when he saw Keesha’s dark curly hair behind the wheel of a black Jaguar.
She glared at him and he slowly followed her car until she parked it. “No faith in me huh?” She pushed the door open and grabbed a bag from the passenger’s seat.
“Well, I didn’t think I could trust you to find the penthouse,” he told her easily. “After all, you were the girl who confused Harvard and Yale. Twice.”
“It’s not like it’s that uncommon,” Keesha huffed. Jason took her bag from her and led her to the elevator.
“They’re in two different states.”
“Details,” she shrugged. “Anyway, I’m eager to find out how you’ve screwed up this time, oh and I want an update on the Liv babe.”
He punched the button for the penthouse floor. “We’ll start with Livvie. She was in the car accident but she seemed to be recovering from that when some god damn intern gave her the wrong medication.”
“She came out of that coma but the doctor thinks she’s going to have some problems and will therefore need additional therapy.” He sighed. “She’s had some trouble with her legs and now she’s going to have some trouble gripping things with her hand.”
“The poor kid,” Keesha sighed. “I’m so sorry, Jase. But she’s going to be okay, right? I mean, that’s all that matters.”
Jason nodded and looked at the row of numbers watching the elevator climb higher. “I think that if we’d lost her, we both might have gone insane.”
“How is Elizabeth taking all of this?” Keesha asked. Despite having never been formally introduced to Jason’s ex-wife, after supporting Jason through the divorce and the last four years, she felt like she knew the other woman intimately.
“I think she’s doing better now,” Jason hedged.
“Better now?” Keesha echoed. “As opposed to last week?”
“As opposed to five hours ago,” Jason answered. “Look, I’ll tell you everything–let’s just get to the penthouse and let me do it in my own way.”
“Okay, it’s your life I’m criticizing, we’ll do it your way.”
She tossed her bag in the guest room and headed right for the stairs, intent on getting to the bottom of things. But there was an jar door and she thought she saw a crib, so Keesha pushed the door completely open.
There stood the nursery that they’d never taken down. Elizabeth had started decorating it even though she’d been on bed rest and there were things here she’d never moved to the new house. Stuffed animals, a mobile, the crib and a dresser.
A cluster of photos were on the dresser and Keesha moved closer into the room to get a better look. A picture of Olivia and Elizabeth in the hospital, one of Jason and Elizabeth holding Olivia and then just one of the happy parents before the birth. Jason had hid most his pictures with Elizabeth and this was the first chance Keesha had had to see them together.
She picked up the one of the three of them and studied it. They looked happy. Jason had the adoring husband/father look on his face, Elizabeth had the radiant new mother glow and Olivia’s face was all scrunched up. Elizabeth was in the hospital bed, cradling the baby and Jason was to her right, one of his arms braced over Elizabeth’s head. Just one big happy family.
“Keesha, there’s three rooms and a bathroom. I know you didn’t get lost!” Jason called to her.
Replacing the frame, Keesha closed the room. “I think I’m still in New York if it that helps.”
She went down the stairs and settled herself on the couch. “Okay, bard, tell me a story.”
He rolled his eyes. “You have problems.”
“So you’ve been telling me since we were five. Go please.”
Jason took a deep breath and crossed to the terrace doors where he had a view of the harbor. “Almost from the second I arrived, something was different.” He hesitated. “Maybe I shouldn’t say that. You know that Elizabeth and I didn’t see each other after the divorce was finalized. We spoke through our lawyers, through notes, through Olivia, but never on the phone, never in person.”
“I know. You said you didn’t want to fight with her but I got the distinct impression that it hurt too much to see her.”
Jason nodded. “But Olivia wanted me to see her room last month and I didn’t want to let her go. I hated when the summers ended and she had to fly back. Usually, I’d send her with someone but this time, I came in with her and…I brought her home.” He shook his head. “Elizabeth is so different from the girl I once knew. She’s grown up, she’s matured. I hoped that whatever her childhood had done to her had finally let her go.”
Keesha scoffed. “Oh, poor Elizabeth, having to grow up with a nanny and travel everywhere and go to a privileged school.”
“Keesha…” Jason shook his head. “That’s not what I meant. It’s her parents. Her father…her father cheated on her mother every second he could. Everyone knew it. Everyone including Elizabeth.”
Keesha sighed. “Yeah, I guess that would be hard to deal with.”
“I’d heard the rumors and once Elizabeth and I were together, we talked about it. Or at least, I tried. She never wanted to go into any kind of depth but she told me she used to hear her parents fighting viciously about the affairs, that her father would tell her mother he didn’t love her, that he needed to get satisfaction somewhere.” His eyes were distant. “She used fall asleep to the sound of her mother crying.”
“Why didn’t–” Keesha stopped. “That’s a stupid question to ask. Women in that world don’t leave their husbands.”
“No, they don’t. They deal with it in private and put on a good face for everyone else. I told you on the phone that it hurt her, the marriage did, the crying, the fighting, it hurt her and I thought I understood that. Even after the divorce, I thought I knew. But…I had no idea.”
“What do you mean?” Keesha asked. She stood and joined him by the window.
“There are some women who grow up with mothers who have a constantly revolving door of men…these women grow up either to be the same way or distrustful of men.”
Keesha nodded. “I know. I told you about that once–after a family psych class in college. Why do you bring it up now?”
“Elizabeth never had anyone she could depend on growing up,” Jason told her. “Her parents weren’t around much and when they were, they were always fighting. She lived in a suburb of Philadelphia and had as many as three nannies by the time she was nine and her parents deemed her old enough for boarding school and to join them on trips.”
“So you’re saying that Elizabeth grew up learning she couldn’t trust anyone?” Keesha sighed. “I suppose that makes sense. Not having your parents around at that crucial time in your development, she would have either not learned to trust at all or learned that it didn’t pay to trust because you just ended up abandoned.”
“I had the same life but I guess because my parents weren’t the same. Because my father wasn’t an asshole. He may not love my mother like I love Elizabeth, but he respects her and she respects him and they’re not those kinds of people.”
“I know. I know your parents. I think they love each other, I think they’re fond of each other. But no, it’s not the kind of love you have for Elizabeth and they’re happy with that.”
Jason nodded. “Right. So I was okay. But Elizabeth wasn’t.”
“Women who hate their fathers swear they’ll never marry someone like them but usually end up doing so,” Keesha said. “I wonder why that it is.”
“The only thing I had in common with that asshole was we both had jobs that travel. I would never cheat on Elizabeth–” he broke off. “But none of that explains the last week.”
“No, so why don’t we cut the psychological profile and get to the good stuff.”
“I brought Olivia home last month and Elizabeth was here of course and we all went upstairs to the bedroom. Olivia wanted to show me her things and Elizabeth unpacked her things.” Jason sighed. “It was fine at first. We weren’t really talking to each other but then Olivia tried to keep me there. She started crying and telling me she’d be good if I just stayed…” Jason scrubbed a hand over his face. “We tried to explain to her why it couldn’t happen but it didn’t work and eventually Elizabeth left the room.”
“After Olivia cried herself to sleep, I went downstairs and we ended up getting into a huge argument. She was upset and ran out of the room and I left.”
“You told me this last month when I came to Spain,” Keesha reminded him. “So what’s going on?”
“When I came to the hospital, Elizabeth was curled up in a chair, her eyes bloodshot and her face tearstained. I started to think about our past and we…talked about the day I proposed. Like I said, things felt different.”
“You still love her, Jase. There’s no shame in that. There are some men who never get over the great love of their life.”
“It’s not just that.” Feeling restless, Jason started to pace. “She loves me, too. I can feel it. And we’ve been talking about it all this week. What went wrong, why our marriage didn’t work. She…there were so many things I didn’t know back then, that I didn’t realize. We were so young when we got married that neither of us really thought about what we were getting into.”
Keesha nodded. “These days, a lot of young marriages end in divorce.”
“I was wrong to leave her alone with Olivia so much. I should have gotten a job based out of this town. But I left and I left her alone with a little baby that sometimes cried so much she couldn’t handle it.”
“She started taking sleeping pills,” Jason said softly. “And the morning she saw that god damned clipping in the paper, she’d just brought Olivia home from the hospital after she’d slept through Olivia’s cries. She was tired and she was exhausted–”
“That doesn’t excuse her not believing you,” Keesha said. “She should have realized she was over her head–”
“It’s easy to look back and criticize her now but she did the best she could,” Jason interrupted. “I should have come home more. I should have realized she was unhappy–that she was miserable.”
“She never trusted me,” he blurted out. “She told me that just today. That she realized she never trusted me. Not completely, not even when we were first marriage. That she realized that the clipping hurt her but it didn’t surprise her.”
“Oh, Jase, that must have been so hard to hear,” Keesha said. She touched his arm. “I’m so sorry.”
“It was hard to hear,” Jason admitted, “But it hurt more to stand in that park and watch her cry, watch her body trembling because she was trying to explain it in a way that wouldn’t hurt me. It tears me apart inside because I should have seen this then. No woman goes to ever business dinner, every party, every social function her husband asks her to.”
“She wasn’t going to let you out of her sight,” Keesha deduced. “She was keeping you from cheating on her.”
“It’s so easy now to look back and see it now. Why couldn’t I have seen this? And why didn’t I see her unhappiness after Olivia was born? She was always so tired and one night, I was home, we were kissing and well…” he hesitated.
“You were about to do the nasty?” Keesha supplied.
“Yeah, for want of a better phrase. I went to turn off the light and when I turned back to her, she was asleep.” He sighed and rubbed his temples. “I knew she was with Olivia a lot and I just assumed she was tired.”
“It was the sleeping pills, wasn’t it?”
He nodded. “She’d taken some before I’d showed up at home unexpectedly. And they kicked in.” He sighed. “Why didn’t I see that? How could I miss her pain? Her lack of trust?”
“Because you weren’t looking for it and men tend to be oblivious.” Keesha sighed. “Look, I’m not saying I’m not sympathetic towards her. I haven’t met her but the way you talk about her–the way you’ve always talked about her…it speaks volumes about both you and her. You guys made each other your entire world when you were together and there’s nothing wrong with that. But Jason, you’re divorced now–”
“I want her back,” Jason interrupted. “I love her and she loves me. And we’re going to get back together.”
“Do you think that’s a good idea?” she asked. “I mean, with Olivia’s recovery and the obvious problems Elizabeth is still suffering from…to put a reconciliation on top of that…”
“I can’t live without her and if it takes years before she’s ready to get married again, I’ll wait that long,” Jason told her. “Keesha, Elise was a mistake–an attempt for me to get a piece of Elizabeth in my life. It didn’t work and all I want is the real thing. I want her in my life.”
“Fair enough,” Keesha sighed. “I just want you to be careful, Jase. Take this slow.”
“I plan to. Elizabeth and I have done the whirlwind relationship and now I want give her the life and love she deserves. To give us both the family we never had, to give Olivia the parents she needs.”
“All right.” Keesha shrugged. “I’m not going to try and talk you out of this because I don’t really want to. I want you to be happy and you’re happy with her–or at least when you’re talking about her or thinking about her. That’s all I really want for you.”
“Of course, I want to meet her,” she told him. “So, set that meeting up. It’s time I met the woman who’s turned you into this blubbering mess.”