Welcome to Chapter 4 of Quarantined. Let me know in the comments if you are following along and what you think should happen next.
Since this is a novella there will be less chapters than the other stories I share on my blog, which will be good for some of you who don’t have time to read a longer story.
To catch up with the story you can click HERE.
Maddie and Liam hadn’t spoken to each other for four days, other than for her to ask if the doctor had called and him to say ‘not yet,’ and him to ask if she wanted some lunch or dinner and her to say ‘I’ll make my own.’
He’d locked himself in his office, dealing with the fall out for his brother’s delay in quarantining himself after his interaction with the ambassador; writing press releases and using video chat features to do interviews with major news commentators.
She’d locked herself in the bedroom, writing bits and pieces of her novel in between pouring over news sites; scrolling through social media feeds for personal stories from those who had had the virus and were recovering. She wondered if she and Liam would eventually face the same situation, or would they be worse with one of them admitted to an ICU somewhere. Who even knew at this point since he’d lied to her about having the virus in the first place? She should have been happy it wasn’t confirmed, but she was furious he had lied to her and it made her wonder how many more times he’d lied to her.
In the evenings she binged watched Parks and Recreation while eating ice cream or popcorn, grateful she’d stocked up on groceries even before Liam had told her about the quarantine. Liam spent his nights straightening boxes, speaking to his brother through video conferencing and binge-watching Bosch, the crime show about a rugged, hard-edged Los Angeles Police Department detective; just what he needed to distract him from the restlessness he felt.
“So, how’s it going with Maddie?” Matt asked via video messaging on night seven of Liam’s quarantine as he’d leaned back on his couch and cracked open a soda.
His gaze wandered off to one side, toward something behind his computer before Liam could answer. “Tyler. Stop hitting your sister. I don’t ca—you know what, just go outside. In the backyard. You’re allowed to go in the backyard. . . . I don’t know. Hit the ball. Chase the dog. I don’t care. Just get out for a while. Take your sisters with you . . . Hey! I’m still in charge around here. Do what I say!”
He looked back at Liam through the screen. “Fun times over here. I can’t wait until this thing is over.”
Liam scoffed. “It’s only been three days for you, dude. If you can’t handle three days with your wife and kids, you’re in serious trouble.”
Matt grinned. “Yeah. I know. First world problems, right? Anyhow, what’s up with you and Maddie? I see you’re still alive, so she hasn’t stabbed you yet.”
Liam winced and rubbed his hand across the back of his neck. “Not for a lack of wanting to, I’d imagine.” He sat back against the headboard of the bed, arms across his chest. “We had it out the other night. The stuff she accused me of doing — you wouldn’t even believe it. Affairs, spending more time at work than with her, not supporting her after the miscarriages. It was all a bunch of crap.”
Liam scowled at his brother. “Well, what?”
“Did you do those things?”
“You know I didn’t, Matt.”
“Then why is it bothering you so much? Don’t be so defensive. You know you didn’t do anything wrong so let her rant.”
Liam shifted on the bed, focusing his gaze out the window. “I don’t know. Maybe I didn’t support her like I should have after the miscarriages. And she’s pretty accurate about working too much too.”
“And the affairs?” Matt asked.
“No!” Liam snapped, looking back at his brother. “I didn’t have an affair.” He paused, a sick feeling in the pit of his stomach. “I could never do that to Maddie. You know that. We haven’t been getting along, yes, but I . . . I could never hurt her that way.”
He furrowed his eyebrows and leaned closer to the screen of his laptop. “Do you really think I could do that?” he asked his brother.
Matt laughed. “Liam, no, I don’t, and I don’t know if Maddie really does either, but she’s scared. She obviously didn’t feel secure in her relationship with you to think that.”
Liam sighed. “Yeah, well, it’s not like I helped that feeling any. I told her I already had the virus.”
Matt shook his head and rubbed his eyes. “Oh, Liam, Liam. When will you ever learn? Never lie to a woman. When she finds out she thinks that means you’ve never told the truth about anything and you’re really a secret agent whose been living a double life.”
Liam flopped back on the bed and groaned. “I know. I know. I’m an idiot.”
“Yes, you are. Seriously, though, I don’t think you or Maddie really want this divorce. You’re both just afraid to do the work it will take to keep this thing going. It’s going to hurt, little brother, but I think you two need to work things out. I think you still love your wife or what she said to you wouldn’t have hurt so much.”
Liam shook his head and clicked his tongue, rolling to his side and propping himself up on his elbow. “Senator Matthew Grant. The hard-headed, some might say, pig-headed, youngest-ever head of the homeland security committee showing that he’s also a marriage counselor.”
The brothers laughed easily together.
Matt leaned closer to the screen, his expression fading from jovial to more serious. “Liam, lLet me give you some brotherly advice. Make sure this divorce is truly what you want before you sign those papers. You and Maddie have something special. Always have. I don’t want to see you throw this away without really thinking it through, okay?”
Liam let out a long breath, tapping his fingers along the touchpad of the laptop.
Matt pressed him further. “Promise me you’ll think really hard about all of this while you two are locked up in there, okay?”
Liam nodded. “Yeah. Okay. Thanks, Matt.”
The brothers said their goodbyes and Liam closed the laptop and laid back on the bed. The last thing he wanted to do was think long and hard about anything else, especially his marriage. Thinking about it all made him hurt more, but he knew Matt was right. He knew he had to be sure that this divorce was truly what he wanted, not simply something he was doing because he didn’t want to face the tough questions, work through the tough issues. In the end, though, it didn’t matter if he wanted to work through the issues. Maddie had to want to work through them too and if she didn’t, then, well, all this thinking about it all would be completely pointless.
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. 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 senators 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 win. She’d worn that black skirt with the slit in the side, the slit that went from the middle of her thigh to her knee. 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 senator 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 you’re 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, sliding her arms around his neck. “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 up that leg, under that skirt, 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.”
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.”
Cassie was back into her book. “Mmm. If you say so.”
Am I? he wondered
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, eyebrows raised slightly.
“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?
Matt 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 craziness.”
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?
Cassie blew out a breath. “Wow. Now they are stuck together in that house. That has to be super awkward.”
“Yeah. Liam said Maddie accused him of cheating on her.”
Cassie’s eyes widened. “No way.”
“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 uncomfortable with his wife’s line of thinking. He stood and walked toward the kitchen for a glass of juice. Did Cassie really think his little brother would cheat on Matt? 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 senator 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 lead to affairs, okay? Or not all the time anyhow.”
Cassie raised her eyebrows 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, 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?
He had been thinking he could help people, change things in Washington. Most days, though, he felt like he was a hamster on a wheel in its cage, getting nowhere fast. Maybe he’d made the wrong decision deciding to run for re-election this year. He’d accomplished most of what he’d set out to do to help his constituents and then some, but there were days it was as if those wins were eroded by the opposition until they were losses again.
Laying his arm across his eyes he sighed and tried to think clearly. He needed to decide if this re-election was really what he wanted, for one, but also if it was really what was best for his family.