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Variations In Voice
Evening silence dulls the empty living room. Golden light peeking through the window reveals dust particles filtering through the air. The tension in the house creates an impatient and solemn emptiness. It drifts in waves from wall to wall, resounding in the empty bathroom as water drips from the showerhead. In the hall to the back bedroom - all is quiet, although the buzz of a fly in the windowsill echoes through the open door.
In the kitchen, a man and a woman sit on two of four dining chairs set on each side of the table, where their eyes are transfixed on the glossy brown. The light colored counter and tiled floors made to resemble marble show the orange from the evening sun.
The woman's eyes move from the table as a memory appears in her mind.
“Do you remember when we went to Palm Springs together? Everything was so beautiful. You and I were so happy.”
“I remember how many times we got lucky in the bed.”
“Tom,” Mary says. “Is that truly all you remember?”
Tom looks at the door in hopes his son will come through it. “I remember a good amount of fine things that we've done together, Mary. The time we spent in Palm Springs contains the finest memories of my life - and I do not like remembering it. It hurts knowing what I’ve lost because of my own faults.”
“You cannot blame yourself for everything, Tom. Isn’t any of it worth the remembrance?”
Tom looks at Mary; his expression is serious, though soft and compassionate.
“I remember thinking that we would never split. That nothing in the world could break us apart. I remember that I loved you, and you loved me. You were just as beautiful as you are now. However, now you are so much more knowledgeable, more passionate. Yet, you are obviously broken. Knowing I am the cause of it breaks me. I really did not want to be here today. If it was not for Richard I would not have come.”
Mary faces the truth of what Tom really feels. Even though these words hurt her, she knows that there are many others Tom could say to hurt her even more. Yet, he did not bring them up. The words he has said ease a little of the tension; his light face keeps the tension away. She has things to say, yet they cannot come out of her mouth, as if she is choking on the words. She wants his support so much she is afraid to say the things she really wants to say.
“If I could restart from the day I left,” Tom gently says, “I would have changed everything. I cannot tell you I am sorry, I saw amazing things. Although, if I could go back, I would have taken you and our son with me. The lonely nights, and long days I dealt with after I left never faded away. Before today, I have been too afraid to come back to you again. I do not want to ask forgiveness, because I know that I do not deserve it.” Tom’s speech catches in his throat. Tears slide down his face and fall onto the table. Mary knows how much Tom is hurting, yet she will not allow herself to fall into sorrow. She must let him cry out, knowing this is the only way he will learn, and this time he must do it by himself.
“I don’t want to seem selfish; I know how much pain I caused you. Yet, I must ask for forgiveness. I beg that you forgive me.”
“Tom, I forgave you long ago. I would have left with you - after Kayla died, I wanted to give up. I lost my job for how depressed I was; I could not concentrate. I was in shock, Tom." Tears drop from her eyes. A shadier pink rises in her face.
"Tom, Kayla was always your baby girl, and she always will be. The day you married me, she became mine too. Yet, I did not forget our son Richard. He hurt too, his older sis was gone and he did not understand fully why. He stopped playing sports until a year and a half ago.”
Tom stands up and walks to the kitchen sink so he can breathe through the open window.
“I didn’t want you to see me broken. I couldn’t stand seeing you broken either. Everything started falling down; everything in my life seemed dead. Only you and Richard were here, yet I could not cope with losing you too. So I left, believing that it would be better for us all.”
“You would have never lost us,” Mary assures Tom, “We are strong for you because you were strong for us, you held us together. Because of you, I stayed with Richard. It is what you would have wanted me to do. Even though you left, what you believed kept me strong.”
Tom thinks of a way he can make all the trouble settle, although his mind would not work straight.
“Maybe at one point we can leave together. So we can repair what I caused.”
“I can’t leave our son, Tom! Did you know that I can’t even drop Richard off for his football game this Friday? I have to work instead. It is hard to keep a roof over his head all alone! You know what? He is just like you, so damn stubborn. He doesn’t care to see what is going on. He doesn’t see that I am working because of him! This is why I love him so much, Tom. He is so much like you. I will always protect my baby boy, because he reminds me of his old man.” Mary’s temper slows, and her voice becomes soft, as does her heart. “I never stopped missing you and loving you, Tom. But this is reality; I cannot leave him as you left us. If you want to be here and take care of our son, you are welcome. I will not deny you because he will not. Even though he seems mad at you, he needs you here. Even, if at the moment, he does not want it.”
A long silence follows in which Tom looks out the window. The clouds are a bright red, and the street is empty. The plants in the front yard sway in the dusky wind. Tom’s head drops and he looks into the sink.
“What do you want, Mary?” Tom asks.
“This isn’t about what I want Tom! This is not about us or we - this is about Richard.”
Tom takes these words in. He forces himself to swallow the full meaning, without choking. The reality of the situation comes in these words, and the pain is nearly too great to bear. The dream he came back for is so he can be the husband he was when he was younger. Nevertheless, he would not fail to be the father of his son. He knew how wrong it was for him to leave, how bad he had messed up.
The realization hits him, this is what he needs; it is not about him and Mary. His son needs him, more than ever. He understands now that what he needs from this point forward will not always be what he wants, but what his family needs. He looks back out the window as two human figures appear at the end of the street. The figures are intertwined by each other's hands.
“Tom, I do want you here…not just because I need you, I do not want to live any longer without my best friend. I want to ease your loneliness; I know you want to ease mine. I need you Tom, I always have.” The last few words break in sorrow.
Tom drops his head and closes his eyes for a short time. When he looks at Mary, he notices fresh tears in her eyes. Her face has no false detail. She is immensely beautiful. He walks over to her and sits in the chair closest to her.
“I cannot think of what I would do without you and Richard. I cannot go on alone. I am afraid to fathom what life I would be missing without you. I love you. I promise you, if you can trust me, I will never leave you ever again.”
Tom slides his hand across the table and softly lays it on hers. Mary scans his face; there are no traces of falsity. What she finds is love, and she is not blind. She can see him now, better than before. He had always been a very truthful man, never needed to lie to her; why not trust him. This is the man she married, and will always be the man she trusts even if it ends in trouble. Her hand turns over and squeezes his.
“I trust you, Tom. Though right now, our son comes first.”
As the evening grows dark inside the house, there is no hint of tension; it has evaporated. There is a sweet smell in the air. Tom and Mary’s hands lock together. He does not look any other place other than her eyes, and her eyes do not stray from his. They sit there in sweet solace, and nothing can break them apart.