Sometimes he thinks he’s living in the past somehow.
A strange portion of the past, too, undefined and vague. More of an idea, probably.
Sometimes he feels trapped. He had been afraid of that when Sarah got pregnant with Zoey, along with the fear of being a horrible father Michael had worried about not wanting it enough. Then during the most intense months of baby raising followed by months of amazing discoveries together with his kid, he had shed all those negative thoughts and just enjoyed his life, such as it was. Seized the moment, carpe diem and whatnot. He still thinks of those first months with Zoey as the happiest time of his life.
The addition to their family had wrecked his momentum a little bit. Not that he doesn’t enjoy Riley but the feeling of being trapped is there, too.
There are days when he misses just having one child – and instantly feels like the kind of idiot dad he fears he is, the dad he’s struggling not to be.
It’s a struggle that makes him tired.
Objectively speaking, he knows he has two great kids. They play well together despite the age difference and Zoey is a patient big sister, full of explanations and instructions for her baby brother who’s doing pretty well, keeping up with her.
Objectively speaking, they are happy.
And then his world sort of crashes in on itself as Sarah tells him one afternoon that she’s taken a pregnancy test, that it was positive.
“I thought you were on birth control!”
Something dark crosses her features at his spontaneous response. “I was. It fails sometimes, these things happen.”
He hates the hitch in his own voice more than he can say, but he remembers a day a few weeks ago when they had been cuddling after sex and she had ran a finger down his chest, confessing that she could sometimes imagine having another baby with him. He had joked it away back then, she had laughed and they had fallen asleep and the whole conversation fell out of his memory until now.
Now it suddenly seems like a starting point for some secret scheme.
She knows what he’s thinking, he can tell by the look in her eyes.
“Fuck you, Michael,” she says simply. “Just…fuck you.”
He leaves the flat after their fight and it’s the first time in their marriage that one of their arguments has ended this way. It feels like a defeat, like a true sign that he’s actually turning into his own father who would never solve any conflict that involved emotions but rather just walk out of the building and stay away until he figured people had stopped being mad at him.
That’s the easy way out. Michael has always known it but now he knows it in his bones.
In this cheap, shitty pub he knows just how easy and worthless this decision is.
Yet this is how he spent most of his days before he met Sarah.
Chatting up random strangers with promises of well, nothing really. Sex, at most. A quick thrill, possibly followed by another quick thrill depending on how well they matched.
And like an alcoholic he seeks it out, hopelessly drawn to a behaviour he despises.
It’s so simple.
It truly would be so easy to go along with it, such a fast solution to feeling this way.
But he can’t. In the end, he’s a sober alcoholic, an ex-addict who sits quietly in the pub until it closes and then walks around town until the first shops open.
He buys her a necklace because he’s a cliche, a worn-out cliche like the rest of this thing, a tired old trope of a man.
As he pays for it he wonders if there are others like him out there, or if it’s just something you watch in crappy movies. The remorseful husband who returns home with jewelry whenever he has betrayed his wife.
Not that he ever got to the betrayal part. Technically he hasn’t done anything but stayed out all night, like a sullen teen. But he had considered worse things, and those things rattle inside him when he walks back to their flat, shuffle around like ghosts in his head.
Sarah meets him outside and he knows, without even looking at her, what her first question will be.
“Did you cheat on me?”
There’s a little edge to her voice, a tone that suggests she’s been waiting for it, that she’s calculated their odds and decided to wait for this, a betrayal from the man she married.
It’s really fucking sad, come to think about it.
“I didn’t,” he say, quickly as he leans down to pick Riley up. “Thought about it. But that’s not who I am anymore.”
This is who I am.
“I’m sorry,” he says then, because he truly is.
And they don’t talk about it any further than that, not this too-early morning when everything still is raw around them, between them.
They rise above it and walk back into their home.
* So Sarah was on birth control before I reinstalled the game on my brand new computer. I was really done with kids for these two. But she did roll the baby want and I did forget to check the settings for her birth control post-reinstall. So it all worked out story-wise. I guess. 🙂 Michael would freak out about it, too.
* And that’s the end of the round, yay! Moving on!