Cam held himself back from me the next day when I answered the door. He walked in with his hands in his pockets and stepped away from me when I moved to kiss him.
"I met someone, at the bar last night."
My breath hitched. "Oh."
He seemed to be expecting more, but I had nothing else.
"I'm seeing her tonight."
He was watching my reaction. This was where I could really screw it up for us both if I wasn't careful. I'd set the rules, so I had to abide by them. I had no stake on him, no right to care if he moved on. I wanted him to move on. Didn't I? Of course I did.
"I slept with her last night."
"Busy day for you yesterday, huh?" I walked away, toward the kitchen. "Want a drink?" Like some sweet tea, maybe, to go in that sweet mouth I wouldn't be tasting anymore?
I had to remind myself to buck up, concentrating on getting the drinks ... wanting to douse my drink with vodka, or just skip the tea and pour vodka over ice. "Where will you take her?" My voice was my weapon, my words my ammunition. As long as I kept talking, I could ignore how I felt.
"Ali." Cam stood close, took the tea pitcher from me, and held my hands in his. "I didn't sleep with her. Yet."
"I wanted to see what you'd do. I wanted you to be mad, or jealous. Or offer to leave your husband." His face got red, and he pushed my hands away. "Dammit, I wanted you to do anything but be interested in my date! What's it take to piss you off and spur you into action? If you found him banging her here in your bed, would you start feeling again? You don't fight for him, and you don't fight for me. Wake up and LIVE, Ali. Jesus!"
My outlook started hazing over. Things were better blurry--you couldn't see the ugly things that way. I didn't need to focus unless I was driving. I'd feel my way through life until this crisis passed. I tried not to think that the crisis was getting bigger with Cam bowing out. With the blur came a good numb, one like I got from the pain killers when I had my wisdom teeth out.
I handed Cam his tumbler with what felt like a smile. "Hon, I'm not gonna throw myself to the floor and ask you to cancel your date. You have a right to a life. If things don't work out, call me and..."
"It's the money, isn't it?" He looked around the house as if for the first time. The expensive TVs and appliances, the pricey print I'd bought and hung above the couch when I moved the boys' photos to the front room. "He's loaded and you're willing to turn your head so you can keep living the high life!"
My halo of haze vaporized. I was pissed. "First of all, if I divorce Bill, I'll get a freaking bundle of money. When I divorce him, I'll get substantial child support, and alimony." My finger jabbed at his chest and he took a step back, maybe wishing he hadn't been trying to anger me. "But if I divorce him, the little twat who set her trap will get exactly what she wants and be able to marry him, so then my children will have to compete with her for attention as well as money. How long 'til she talks Bill into having another family, and Will and Andy fade into the shadows entirely?"
My question left Cam's eyes wide. He apparently didn't believe I'd been thinking this hard over what to do.
"My boys need a father. Believe me, I won't have them feel the hurt I did when my dad stepped out on my mom and made himself a new and improved family, complete with a little girl who got every fucking thing I always wanted and never got." My voice broke and I had to pinch the bridge of my nose a second to hold back the tears that childhood hurt could still bring on. "Third, I have my own money, asshole."
Sheer surprise and possible disbelief left my lover's mouth hanging open.
"Not that you've ever cared to ask what I do with my time around here, since you're every bit as consumed with doing the dirty as I am, but I'm a writer. Maybe not world-famous, but I'm making pretty good money from royalties that I've been socking away. Last, and this is most important," I said, still following each step he retreated, "I would never, ever stay with a man just because he had money."
"Ali." He reached out to me, probably to apologize.
"Hold on. I have something for you, then you can go." I brushed past him and went upstairs to my office.
When I came back and handed him the neatly folded parchment, he made to open it but I stopped him.
"Please. Not here. Trust me. It's kind of all over the spectrum of styles, but it's just for you." I'd debated whether to give it to him, but I couldn't tell him goodbye and have him thinking bad things about me. I followed him to the door, where he turned and kissed me. One or both of us was shaking. I know I was holding back tears, and the second I'd turned the lock behind him, I returned to my spot in the window seat.
With my arms around my knees, I rocked myself and cried, much the way I had the morning of the day we met. A month had passed, and I was no closer to a solution than I'd been in the beginning. When my cell rang, I knew it was Cam. I knew he'd have read what I wrote and, by then, I regretted giving it to him. I listened to the ringing and tried in vain to forget what I'd written.
Thank you, sun,
For bathing us in your glory
The day he loved me by the pool.
Thank you, carpet,
For softening the treads
The day we shuddered as one on the stairs.
Thank you, cool tile
Growing slippery beneath us
With the effects of our labored passion.
Thank you, Camden Jarek Moreton.
You shared willingly, generously,
Offering yourself to be part of the "us"
Which was never to be.
From the beginning, the end would be
Our Only Option.
It would cost us both a price
I can't begin to afford
To describe the emptiness
You'll leave behind.
For, despite my best intentions,
It will certainly hurt.
All that I meant not to feel
Took root and grew
As the stranded pine seed
Germinates and grows
On the hard ledge,
Knowing its potential is limited,
Its days numbered,
By the scant grains of soil
It clings to
While it dreams of
Another place ... another time.