At first he wants to hate her. Gods know it would be easier if he did.
He does resent her, though. Resents her conviction and passion that is no longer reserved for him, if it ever was. Resents her composure as they go about their divorce, like it means so very little to her, like it’s just a bump in the road, another diversion that keeps her from her right path.
Their family was supposed to be that, he thinks then. It was supposed to be enough.
You don’t get to decide what’s enough for me, she echoes in his head.
“You don’t get to walk out of this and then have any opinions on how I raise our kids,” he tells her when they fight over it, again and again as the “time apart” grows into “breaking up” and then “divorce”.
“And you don’t get to suggest that I don’t love our kids as much as you do.”
“I didn’t say that.”
“But that’s how you feel, isn’t it? That I’ve betrayed them, too.”
“Haven’t you?” He doesn’t want to be this man, he really doesn’t. But he is. At least right now.
There are so many you don’t get to between them. A whole world full of accusations and thinly veiled threats and held-back anger that boils, deep and full beneath the surface. It’s ugly and cheap and he hates them both for it, for not being better people.
She tells him she wasn’t happy, that she regretted things and that those things had begun to eat away at her, make her regret her entire life and that life isn’t supposed to be like that. If something’s broken, you fix it.
And he thinks, but doesn’t tell her, that for him nothing was broken.
It’s her practical side, he knows. That pragmatic, analytical side that makes her a technically brilliant writer but often, unless she makes an effort, leaves out the emotions. There’s coldness to it but she’s not cold, he knows she isn’t. She’s just different from him. Different from this, perhaps.
They decide together that she’ll move out, that he’ll let the kids stay in their home for as long as it takes her to get a new place set up, suitable for children. He adds the “suitable for children” bit to their agreement – written down, signed; even when they disappoint each other they are reasonable – and she winces, asks him if he thinks she’ll rent a place in the red light district.
He tells her that maybe she won’t but he doesn’t know anything about her new guy, can’t resist a blow like that when he has the opportunity.
The kids had been devastated at first, Sienna in particular had thrown tantrums and had breakdowns and asked questions, never-ending questions about the hows, the whys and the whens. Kent likes to imagine he had been fair, answering her. He knows he probably wasn’t, that he somehow became that parent everyone teaches you not to be, the one who blames the ex in front of the children.
When Sienna tells him she wants to live with him and not with Clara, he feels triumphant for a while, before that emotion drowns in the shame that follows it.
And at the same time, he wants them to be safe. To have their lives as undisturbed as possible even when everything has changed.
In the beginning they compete. There’s no other word for it.
Clara moves into a modern rowhouse in the middle of Barchester City, right in the heart of a family-oriented but still cool neighbourhood where you can get all sorts of things at all hours. Samuel and Sienna will love that in a couple of years, he’s sure of it. He briefly considers moving, too, but stops himself just when he’s begun to look at ads in the newspaper.
Instead Kent throws out all of her remaining things from the writing studio she once set up and turns the whole room into a playroom for the twins.
There’s a desperation to it and he can tell the kids only find it more confusing, not less. They spend time in their playroom but he’ll never be sure they do it because they like it or because they’re afraid to hurt his feelings.
And he knows they’re not exactly easy-going when they’re at Clara and Simon’s place either, knows they barely even want to go there to visit, let alone stay the night.
“It smells weird,” Samuel claims.
“It’s too noisy, I can’t sleep,” Sienna adds.
Still, life goes on.
Kent finds that as the months pass by and they’re approaching the one year mark of their separation, he’s found comfort in unexpected places, sometimes without even noticing.
Ada Cousland, Clara’s friend, has been part of their lives for several years now and though she’s mainly been there as a sounding board for his ex-wife, Kent can’t deny that he’s come to consider her an ally as well. It’s her personality, he guesses. She’s calm and composed but warm, the kind of person you want on your side on a bad day.
This year they devote many hours to drinking coffee and talking about life. Ada’s life is chaotic at the moment, he understands though she never gives an abundance of details about it. Her husband is ill, that much Kent knows, at least. Her husband who’s about thirty years her senior is ill and she knew it was going to happen, that she was going to be widowed early in her life but that, he gathers, doesn’t make it any more bearable.
Perhaps that’s part of why he finds her company so soothing, too. The fact that she’s got it worse. At least Clara isn’t dead.
He doesn’t tell Clara he spends a lot of time with Ada and isn’t sure if she mentions it either, because Clara never says anything about it which he’s certain she would had she known.
Whatever works for you, he decides.
Whatever works for them.
* So this is the second part of their little special update. I’ll play both households during this round, too, so we’ll get more updates from these wrecks. 🙂