In April I shared Quarantined, a short story based on current events. This week I had an idea for a second short story jumping off from the characters I mentioned in Quarantined. This is the first part. You can find links to my other fiction serials I’m sharing on the blog at the top of the page under “Fully Alive” and “The Farmer’s Daughter.” Links to my books for sale are also available under the link at Books for Sale at the top of the page.
Matthew Grant’s conversation with his brother Liam had made him uncomfortable.
Liam’s marriage was in shambles, but Matthew knew Liam still loved his wife Maddie and Maddie still loved Liam. If they didn’t still love each other they wouldn’t be struggling so much with the idea of divorce. It couldn’t be easy being quarantined together during a pandemic with all the issues they had with each other but Matthew was glad they were. Maybe they’d work out some of those issues and save what had been a great union at one time. As it was, their divorce proceedings had been delayed because of the pandemic. As Matthew saw it, this was a way for them to buy more time and truly be sure the divorce was what they wanted.
What made Matthew uncomfortable wasn’t only that he could hear pain mixed with longing in his brother’s voice when they had talked on the video call. It was also that he wondered, worried even, if similar marital trials might one day pull at his own marriage. Maybe it already was happening and he had been too wrapped up in himself to realize it.
Matthew and Cassie hadn’t had a lot of time alone lately. Their life had been a runaway train since the election two years ago. In Washington he faced daily drama and conflict whether he wanted to or not. Becoming the youngest head of the Intel Committee hadn’t helped slow things down any either.
Then there was this crazy never-before-seen virus that seemed to come out of nowhere a few weeks ago and now had him at home with his family, waiting to see if he developed any symptoms after being exposed to it more than a week ago. He was convinced if he had the virus he would have developed symptoms by now, but he stayed home to make sure things looked good to the press and his constituents. Making sure things “looked good and right” to others seemed to be 90 percent of his job anymore, leaving little room for him to actually accomplish the things he’d been elected to do.
All the drama in the House of Representatives left him little time to focus on Cassie or the kids and he regretted that. He regretted it even more when his brother’s march toward divorce had become a growing reality. He’d never pictured Liam and Maddie divorced. They were the perfect couple. They’d weathered some hard storms, including the miscarriages, but Matthew had been sure the challenges would bring them closer together. In fact, he thought it had but maybe he’d been too wrapped up in the campaign to pay attention.
Matthew and Liam’s parents had provided for them the perfect example of a stable, loving marriage. Married 54 years, Bert and Phyllis Grant made it clear each day how much they loved each other. Sure, they had argued, even in front of their children, but those arguments had been resolved usually before the sun had gone down and with a fair amount of ‘making up’. Matthew and Liam, and his sister Lana had been grateful the majority of that making up had gone on behind closed doors.
Standing from the couch to stretch, Matthew looked out the window at his own three children playing ball in the backyard and felt a twinge of guilt. Getting pregnant and carrying three babies to term had been easy for him and Cassie. They’d never had to face the heartbreak of not being able to get pregnant or of a miscarriage. Matthew felt like he’d take it all for granted.
He looked around his living room, well decorated with expensive furniture and commissioned paintings, and thought about how much of his life he had taken for granted, especially lately. He’d taken for granted the newer model car he drove, the highly rated bed he slept on, the full refrigerator and even fuller bank account.
He rubbed his hand along his chin and turned toward the kitchen where Cassie was making a late lunch for him and the kids. Her dark brown hair fell to her waist in a tight braid, the bottom of it grazing the top of the waist band of a pair of red workout shorts. Her favorite tshirt, featuring Johnny Cash wearing a cowboy hat, fit her medium build well, hugging all the areas it should, especially for the benefit of her husband admiring the view that he hadn’t admired for a long time. He watched her stirring the taco meat in the skillet and his gaze traveled down her legs and back up again, thinking about the first time they’d met in an English lecture at college.
He’d leaned over the desk to try to get her attention but she was intently focused on the professor. He had tried again.
She glared over her shoulder at him.
“Do you have an extra pen?” he whispered.
She rolled her eyes, ignored him, tapping the end of her own pen against her cheek gently as she kept her eyes focused forward.
“It’s just,” he leaned a little closer so he didn’t interrupt the other students. “I left my pen back in my dorm room and I want to make sure I’m taking notes.”
He was glad he had leaned a little closer. She smelled amazing. What was that perfume? He had no idea but it was intoxicating. Maybe it was her shampoo. The fluorescent light from the lecture hall was reflecting off her luxurious black strands of hair and he pondered what it would feel like to reach out and touch it. But he didn’t reach out and touch it. That would be weird. Even a 19-year old college freshman like himself knew that.
A year later, though, he was touching that soft dark hair while he kissed Cassie for the first time outside her dorm after their third date. And over the years he’d sank his hands in that hair in moments of tenderness and moments of passion. A smile tugged at the corners of his mouth as he watched his wife and thought about a few of those moments, including that time in the back of his new car after he’d landed that job at the law firm outside of Boston.
He could deny it. It wasn’t only the material things of his life that he had taken for granted. He had also been taking Cassie for granted. For far too long.