Serial Fiction: Rekindle Parts 3 & 4

I’m sharing parts three and four of Rekindle today. To read the first two parts, click HERE.



With the children in bed, it was just Matt and Cassie alone in the living room. Alone. Together. With a canyon of silence between them.

Matt slumped further down on the couch, drumming his fingers on the cushion. He had no idea what to do with himself without hearings to plan for, committee meetings to gather research for or statements to draft for the press with his brother. He should probably be on the phone with John and Liam, preparing their plan of action for when they got back into the office in the next week or so. He looked at his phone on the end of the couch but didn’t feel any motivation to reach for it.  In fact, he didn’t feel any motivation at all to deal with his job, especially the press.

He’d already drafted a statement with John. There really wasn’t anything else to say. For now anyhow. He was sure in the next day or so he’d be getting calls from other congressmen and congresswomen looking to set up virtual meetings to draft various bills or establish plans of action for the current situation, but for now his phone had gone silent and he should enjoy the silence while he could. He would have enjoyed it, if it just wasn’t so weird.

He felt his forehead. Maybe he was coming down with that virus after all. He’d been going full bore at his job for two years straight now, but today he’d finally hit some kind of wall. He wasn’t even motivated to reach for the remote and watch television.

He looked over at Cassie sitting sideways on a chair, her legs hanging over the arm of it, her head bent over a book. She was wearing a pair of hot pink short-shorts, a loose fitting white t-shirt and her hair was falling out of a messy bun she’d piled on top of her head. Her long legs were as shapely and attractive as the first day he’d met her. His eyes followed the length of them from her bare toes to the edge of her shorts and remembered the many times his hand had traveled that path over the years.

Desire swelled in his chest as he thought about the night they’d celebrated his congressional win. She’d worn that black skirt with the slit in the side, the slit that went from her knee to the middle of her thigh. Only she hadn’t even known the skirt had that slit until she was at his victory speech and he’d laughed later in the back of Liam’s car when he had watched her try to hold the pieces together, her cheeks flushed pink. Cassie always was fairly modest in how she dressed and he knew she never would have worn the dress if she hadn’t been rushed. The election results came in earlier than expected and she’d snatched the skirt out of her closet, the skirt she’d purchased a few days before but hadn’t had a chance to try on. She knew Matt’s acceptance speech was going to be closely watched by many since he had run against a long-time congressman who had been thrown in the middle of a scandal the year before.

“I can’t believe I wore this skirt to your acceptance speech,” she hissed. “I can imagine what the press will be saying tomorrow.”

“That your gorgeous?”

“Or that I’m a floozy.”

Matt tipped his head all the way back and laughed. “A floozy? What happened right there? Did we just teleport back to the 40s?”

Cassie punched Matt in the upper arm, giggling. “Shut up.”

Back at the house, the children staying with Cassie’s parents, Matt had stood behind Cassie as she unhooked her necklace and took her earrings out.

“For what it’s worth,” he said, stepping closer, reaching out to touch the edge of the skirt. “I really like this skirt.”

“Oh, you do, do you?”

His finger found the slit and slipped inside, touching the skin there, on her upper thigh.

His mouth touched her bare neck, his voice husky as he spoke. “All I wanted to do was get back here with you. No kids. All alone. Finally.”

She turned, smiling, pushing her hands into his hair. “And what can we do here, all alone?”

He didn’t need words to answer her question. His mouth found hers while he gently pushed her back toward the bed, lowering her to it.

“You okay over there?”

 Cassie’s voice interrupted the memory of his hand traveling under that skirt, up that leg, that night.

“Huh? Oh yeah. Good. I’m good.”

“You miss work, don’t you?”

“Um. No. Actually. I don’t. And that weirds me out a little.”

“Oh.”

She shrugged and turned back to her book. “This break is probably just showing you how burned out you are.”

“I’m not burned out. Am I?”

Cassie was back into her book. “Mmm. If you say so.”

Matt sat up straighter and leaned forward on his knees toward Cassie.

“We haven’t spent a lot of time together lately, have we?

She glanced up from the book, one eyebrow cocked.

“No. Not really, but you’ve been busy. I understand.”

“Do you want to spend more time together? I mean, maybe you’re bored with me? Our life here together?”

Cassie laughed. “Matt, where is this all coming from?” she closed the book. “Is this because of Liam and Maddie?

Matthew shrugged. “Yeah. Maybe. It’s got me thinking a lot, I guess.”

“So? What’s the verdict? Are Liam and Maddie getting a divorce?”

Matt sighed. “I don’t know. I mean, they’ve been meeting with a divorce attorney. The only reason they missed the last meeting was because of this whole debacle.”

He looked at Cassie, watched her watching him and wondered again if Cassie would ever want to divorce him. If she did, he wouldn’t blame her. He’d dragged her into this crazy political world, under a never-satisfied microscope of public scrutiny. The same with the kids. What had he been thinking? Of his constituents? The future of the country? Or had it really just been of himself and his own desire to reach a certain level of success?

“And now they are stuck together in that house,” Maddie said with a shake of her head. “Wow. That has to be super awkward.”

“Yeah. It is. Liam said Maddie accused him of cheating on her.”

Cassie’s eyes widened. “No way.”

“Yeah.”

“Well, did he?”

“Cassie! You know Liam wouldn’t do something like that.”

“I don’t think he would, no, but . . .”

“But what? Men do those things because we’re all jerks, is that what you mean?”

“I’m not saying that but long hours, all those pretty women around, he and Maddie so distant after the miscarriages, especially after the last one.”

Matt was feeling uncomfortable with his wife’s line of thinking. He stood and walked toward the kitchen for a glass of juice. His wife really thought his little brother could cheat on his wife? If she thought that then what did she think of him? He’d been working long hours too. Around a lot of pretty women, many of them more than willing to sleep with a congressman to work their way up the ladder in their careers. Was Cassie drawing a line between the possibility that Liam had cheated to the possibility he had too?

He poured the juice and heard her footsteps behind him. “I’m sorry, Matt. I really can’t see Liam doing that, no. Your brother has just been under a lot of pressure and —”

“Being under pressure doesn’t lean to affairs every time, okay?”

Cassie raised her eyes brows and held up her hands. “Okay. I wasn’t trying to pick a fight. I was just trying to enjoy a quiet night for once with a book. I’ll leave you alone.”

Matt turned toward her. “Cassie, I didn’t mean to start a fight either. I just —”

“It’s fine.” Cassie walked to him and kissed his cheek. She stepped back and looked him in the eyes. “You just need to unwind. You’ve been put through the ringer by the media, other members of congress, and now Liam’s drama. I don’t blame you for being tense. Why don’t you go watch one of your favorite shows. I’m going to turn in early.”

“You don’t need to turn in early.”

Her mind had been made up though. She was weary of discussing Liam and politics and viruses and . . . life, quite frankly.

“I really do need to,” she said softly, already at the doorway between the kitchen and the living room. “See you in the morning, Matt.”

Matt finished his juice and shuffled back to the living room. Watch one of his favorite shows? He didn’t even have any favorite shows. Not current ones anyhow. He never had time to watch television anymore. He sat on the couch and slumped in the corner of it again, even further down this time than before.

He didn’t have time for anything anymore other than political fights and trying to put out fires. He pressed the heels of his palms against his eyes. Dang it. What had he been thinking dragging his family through all of this? Just, seriously, what had he been thinking?

***

Cassie climbed under the covers and flopped on her back to stare at the ceiling, barely lit by the moonlight outside.

What was with all of Matt’s weird questions tonight? The situation with Liam and Maddie must be rattling him even more than she realized. She fluffed up her pillow, hugged it and tried to get more comfortable. It wasn’t working, though. Her mind was racing too much.

She was thinking about viruses and if her family was safe and Liam and Maddie and how to get groceries if they had to shelter in place and the media and what they’d be saying for the rest of the week with Matt and his staff having still worked for a week after they knew they’d been exposed to a contagious virus. She squeezed her eyes shut, took in a deep breath and held it for several seconds before letting it out again. She had to calm down.

She couldn’t deny that there were days she regretted agreeing with Matt that he should run for Congress. They both had such high hopes three years ago; hopes that they could make changes for the voters who had put their faith in Matt, while not being changed. But it was impossible not to be changed by the influences of Washington, D.C. Nothing in this city was like the small upstate New York town Cassie had grown up in and it was also nothing like where she and Matt had lived before he had been elected.

Stevensville, Ohio was small. Very small. It was also still her and Matt’s home in the summers when they left Washington D.C. behind for much needed breaks. Only that break wouldn’t be coming this year. Not with all the craziness about viruses and quarantines and freezes on travel. Cassie wanted to cry but she was afraid to because once she started, she might not stop. She was homesick for Ohio, for her own family, for Matt’s family, for the familiar she’d left behind when Matt was elected two years ago.

She sighed and opened her eyes, looking at the other side of the bed where Matt slept most nights of the week, unless he was working late and then he stayed at John’s apartment, closer to his office. She touched the side of the bed, feeling the cool sheets, thinking of how many nights they’d laid here next to each other, back to back, rarely speaking because she knew he needed his sleep, because she knew he needed to get up early in the morning, because she didn’t want to burden him anymore than he was already burdened.

But she missed him. She missed him holding her and them talking about their future, instead of him telling her about the stress he’d been under that day and then falling into a fitful sleep. She missed his hand on her cheek as he moved closer late at night, a small, mischievous smile that signaled he wasn’t ready for sleep yet.

She missed long, slow kisses, roaming hands, but as much as the physical, she missed the emotional connection they’d once had. The connection when Matt wanted to talk with her before anyone else, when he didn’t want to make a decision unless he’d asked her, and when she’d known so much about his day, his job and his life that it was as if they were thinking like one person.

“Cassie, are you sure you’re okay with this?” he’d asked three and a half years ago when he’d considered running for congress.

“Yeah. I am.”

That’s what she’d said, but she really wasn’t sure she was okay with it. She was okay with Matt wanting to help the people of his small hometown and the surrounding counties by becoming a congressman from Ohio, but she wasn’t really sure she was okay with the lives of their entire family being upended. She’d given up her social worker career five years before, deciding to spend more time at home with the children. Matt’s career as a lawyer had exploded and from there he’d become involved in county politics and then state politics. When the state’s Republican party came to him and asked him to run for Congress, he’d turned them down at first. But after several meetings, a few months of consideration, and talking to Cassie, his parents, his sister and brother, he’d decided to step into an already contentious race for the seat.

From the moment he’d announced to the day he won the seat, the lives of the Grant family had been a whirlwind. After the election, the moving began, the children were enrolled in new schools; every effort was made to ensure that the children and Cassie would see Matt as much as possible, despite his job.

The idea had been a good one, but the execution of it had started to fail within six months. Meetings, conferences, sessions that ran late into the night, and media-made emergencies were constant, taking over every aspect of Matt and Cassie’s life. Matt still made every effort to attend baseball games, dance recitals, and Saturday mornings at the park, in addition to balancing his responsibilities as a congressman, but that left little to almost no time for him and Cassie.

For the most part, Cassie was okay with being the last in line for his attention. She preferred he spend as much time as he could with the children during their formative years. This was a season of life, not a new normal. Time for them, as a couple, would come later, when things slowed down.

If things slow down, Cassie thought, panic suddenly gripping her, like a heavy weight in the center of  her chest. If Matt gets reelected we could have another two years of this and maybe even another two after that. . .

She shuddered, pulling the covers up around her, even though it wasn’t that cold in their bedroom. She tried to imagine two more years, or even more, of accusations against her husband, and sometimes even her, in the press. She tried to imagine two more years of barely seeing her husband; of feeling like her husband’s nanny, even though she loved her children desperately; and of constituents confronting her husband when they were out in public, complaining about this or that change he’d promised he’d make if elected but still hadn’t been able to.

Cassie knew it wasn’t only the town she and Matt had lived in before moving here that she was homesick for, or the quiet life they’d led before he’d entered politics. She was homesick for time alone with Matt. She was tired of sharing him with his staff, his fellow congressmen, his constituents, and the press. She was tired of feeling like she was second in line for his attention, even though she knew he didn’t mean to make her feel that way.

Who knows, she thought, feeling sleep finally settling on her. Maybe this quarantine will be good for not only Liam and Maddie but for Matt and me. Maybe I’ll actually get him to myself for once.

Written by Lisa R. Howeler

I'm a mom, a wife, a writer, a photographer and a former journalist. I write a little bit about a lot of things on my blog Boondock Ramblings. In September of 2019 I self-published my first novel, A Story to Tell and published another one in May of 2020. I enjoy John Wayne and Cary Grant movies, Jan Karon's books, and I have an electic taste in music. Welcome to my blog and feel free to poke around. Fridays are Fiction Fridays, where I share a piece of fiction I'm working on.

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