Chapter 10: The Ripple Effect
Making Allison cry was not my finest moment, it happened to be one of my worst and made me feel like a stranger to myself. I snapped at her for no reason because of the stress I was under and knowing that she was feeling insecure in our relationship made everything all the more stressful. I had already kept something from her and she instantly assumed I was cheating on her.
Every morning when I woke up and left the house, I went to my attorney’s office. For hours and hours I would sit there with her, trying to figure something out, some kind of loop hole in this agreement with Alexandra or even a way that I could win the custody case. My attorney, Sasha, was supposed to be the best case worker for child custody cases. I paid her for hours on top of hours, just so she could put all of her effort into finding some way to make sure Thomas wasn’t permanently removed from my life.
I hadn’t explained any of this to Allison yet which I knew would possibly cause some problems, but it wasn’t something I was wanting to talk about for the time being. I wasn’t even confident that I could get custody of my son, the last thing I wanted to do was admit that to my girlfriend. I just needed time to get some answers or some plans figured out, time for Sasha to find information we could work with. The fact that she was having such a difficult time concerned me.
As any normal man would, I had apologized to Allison the same night that I lashed out on her but even I am smart enough to know that apologies don’t make everything automatically better. She said it was okay, that was it. Two simple words. ‘It’s okay,’ but the softness in her voice told me something else. That I had hurt her more than I intended, more than I ever wanted to all because I let stress get to my head.
“I’m sorry,” I said for the forth time in the past fifteen minutes since I laid next to Allison in bed. Her back was turned to me and I was currently laying on my back, staring up at the plain ceiling. I’d much rather be looking at her face before I fall asleep.
“I told you it’s okay...” She attempted to reassure me, but it didn’t help. I’m an asshole and no amount of reassurance would change that.
I turned on my side to face Allison’s back, my one hand tucked under the pillow, “Babe... Come on. Let me have it. I was a jerk. What I said has no excuse and... Jesus, Allison, I didn’t mean to sound so harsh.”
She was silent and I finally began to understand what people meant when they said that sometimes silence said more than any amount of words ever could. She was thinking about what to said which mean that she was hesitant on saying what was actually on her mind.
As Allison turned to face me, I noted the tear stained mascara on her face.
God damn it, Matt. You idiot.
“Matt, don’t take my tears for weakness, okay? I am not weak.” She suddenly said in a stronger voice than I expected, “I became slightly emotional because I wasn’t expecting you to be so harsh with me, that’s all.”
“I was too harsh. I know I was,” I agreed with her, placing my free hand on her waist, “Allison, I’m just really stressed, okay? With work and everyone looking down on me because of the affair, I stated that in an extremely inappropriate way... Baby, you know you can trust me, right? I never want you to feel like you can’t trust me.”
“I do trust you,” Allison nodded her head, “I never said that I thought you were seeing someone behind my back, you insinuated that on your own. In the worst way possible, might I add.”
I nodded my head slowly, “That’s fair. But I was frustrated, and I know that’s no excuse but there is no other woman but you.”
My fingertips moved along Allison’s soft skin slowly, tracing little circles around her hips. Her eyes stayed on mine and I could see the moment she gained the courage to ask me another question, “You still didn’t tell me where you’ve been going every morning.”
A long sigh escaped my lips as I realized to best solution to all of this was honesty. I would be honest and Allison would understand like she always did, “I’ve been meeting with my attorney to get ahead on the divorce situation. The case is getting more difficult than I thought.”
I watched as Allison’s lips parted to speak but she froze, instead she placed her hand on my cheek and frowned in response before whispering, “I’m sorry that you’re going through so much...”
“Hey, don’t... It isn’t your fault.”
“But I’m not making it any easier for you, you’re stressed and all I’m doing is making you feel like I’m an insecure little girl in our relationship,” She moved her hand down my jaw and rested her palm on my chest. “I’m not, Matt. I’m confident about us. About you. I love you and I’m sorry for questioning you.”
A smiled tugged at my lips, my arms pulling on her waist to bring her closer to me. As her chest collided against mine I heard a soft giggle and I grinned at her, “I love you. You have no idea how much I would go through to be with you forever.”
“Mm... Forever sounds nice.”
“It does, doesn’t it?” I leaned close to her, brushing my lips against her before pressing them together completely. Her lips reacted instantly and I wasted no time in kissing her deeply.
Every time our lips connected it was a firework moment, the explosions and all that sappy romantic shit people hear about in the movies. I wasn’t a sappy guy, I believed in true love, but Allison had be feeling things that I made me talk like an infatuated little boy.
I felt Allison pull back and I couldn’t help but chuckle teasingly, “We usually kiss for a while before taking our clothes off...”
She shook her head, her expression changing slightly, “I’m actually not feeling so good... I think I really just need to turn in early.”
As much as I wanted to get it in tonight, I wasn’t the type of man who couldn’t survive without a night of sex. Pulling Allison close to me, I sunk down into my pillow and gave her lips a gentle kiss, “Relax, snowflake. Get some sleep, okay? I have to get up early to meet with my attorney, but I should be home before you get back from work.”
She snuggled her head into my chest, nodding her head in response. We laid there silently together and I held her close to me, my fingers moving through her hair slowly. Within minutes I knew that she was asleep but I just stared at her, feeling a tightness in my heart.
“I should have done this so long ago...” I whispered to myself.
If I had just gotten a divorce sooner, I could have been happy earlier the only difference was that there was no guarantee of meeting Allison. I hadn’t felt so fulfilled in a long time, I was content and genuinely in love. This was the way relationships were supposed to be; coming home every day eager to see Allison, wanting to spend every waking moment with her. This was love. This was how I was supposed to feel.
I attempted to go through the financing of Tristan’s current advertising gigs on his computer while he sat on the couch in his office playing Call of Duty, but it was oddly distracting. The sound of gunfire and him cursing caused me to constantly lose place and roll my eyes, I wasn’t even sure how the guy managed to get any work done at all.
Tristan had a high clientele. He managed various advertisements for multiple clients around the United States because he had built such a good reputation for himself, I felt like whatever there was to handle, I was doing, yet there was multiple other employees in the building so there was clearly a lot of work put into this. Though the money maker of the operation sat in his office playing video games.
“Son of a bitch!” I heard him yell as he tapped the buttons on the controller rapidly, “Spot me you fucker!”
My eyes widened at his foul language, surely the staff outside of the office would be hearing him, who knows what they were thinking. For all I know they could be assuming that he was yelling at me.
Tristan groaned loudly, clearly annoyed with the game but not enough to actually turn it off, “God, this guy must be blind... Yes, I’m talking to you, you idiot.” He paused for a moment, before laughing sarcastically, “Come find me then! North Carolina, T. Fleming Ads.”
As Tristan began to spit off the address I stood from my desk and rushed over to the game system and pressed the power button, “What the hell are you doing?”
He looked at me with confusion clear on his face, “The little punk challenged me. So I told him where to find me so I can kick his ass just like I did in the video game.”
My brows furrowed in confusion as I noticed the headset on his head, I wasn’t too familiar with video games or whatever the hell this was but it seemed a little much.
“You play the game with people all over the world, Allison. Online?” He raised his eyebrows, waiting for me to catch on, “The guy could be in Japan for all I know. And even if he lived down the street, I would still take him. He got me killed.”
“Tristan...” I said softly, “It’s a game.”
He dismissed my comment with a wave of the hand, setting the controller down. He leaned back on the couch and gave me a questioning look, “Why are you interuppting me? Are you bored? Not enough money for you to play with?”
“Don’t be a jackass, you hired me to help with your work not as your babysitter, right?” I raised my eyebrows tauntingly, “Don’t act like a child and I won’t have to stop working to take care of you.”
Tristan was just about to open his mouth to speak when three knocks came on the door, he groaned in annoyance, “Come in!”
At the same time we looked towards the door as it opened, Tristan’s eyes lighting up at the sight of Amber, “Oh, come on, little one. You didn’t have to get me a stripper... But I must admit, I’m pleased.”
“Amber! What are you doing here?” I smiled and walked to the door to greet her, giving her a welcoming hug.
Amber responded and hugged me back, “I came to see if you wanted lunch, I didn’t know you worked for a perv.”
Tristan smirked at her casually, “Tristan Fleming, and you are?”
“None of your business,” Amber responded before turning to face me and holding up a take out bag, “Let’s have lunch. I brought Italian and guess what? They had fresh lasagna.”
I felt my stomach turn at the thought and I couldn’t hide the face expression that followed, “Ugh... Amber, that’s sweet and all, but I’m not really feeling it today.”
“What? But you love Italian food.” She pouted as she sat the takeout bag on the desk causing Tristan to jump from the couch and rush to take the seaming food off of his oak desk.
“Careful with the furniture,” He scolded before digging his arm into the bag, “Since Allison isn’t interested, I’ll just take her portion.”
Amber rolled her eyes and folded her arms over her chest. As she looked at me, she tilted her head slightly to the side, “Are you feeling okay?”
I laughed softly, nodding my head, “I’m fine. I’m just not in the mood for Italian.”
Truthfully, the thought of eating Italian food made me sick to my stomach. I was assuming that I was catching a bug giving that I wasn’t feeling too well last night either. But my Italian food? That hit close to my heart. I was missing out on the good stuff.
“Strange,” Amber said simply before looking around Tristan’s office. She eyed the dart board, the television, and then the gaming system with furrowed eyebrows, “So... What kind of company is this again?”
With a full mouth of food, Tristan responded with a muffled reply, “Advertising.”
“Ah, I’m sure you get a lot of work done.”
A smirk appeared on his lips and Tristan swallowed the food that was in his mouth before quickly replying, “I can do a lot of things, sweetheart. Including you.”
I couldn’t help myself, without really thinking or realizing it, I gagged and made a ‘ugh’ sound, “Oh god.”
Amber rolled her eyes, paying no attention to Tristan’s eyes wandering all over her body. Her was an animal watching its prey, I could have sworn he even kicked his lips at one point. Amber walked over to me, “I have to get back to work, but I will call and check up on you later.”
“I’m fine, Amber. Really.” I assured her but she just nodded her head sarcastically as if to call my fib, “I’ll talk to you later.”
I watched Amber walked out of Tristan’s office and close the door behind her. He didn’t wait a second for her to be gone before turning to me and flailing his arms, “Jesus, Allison. You didn’t tell me your friend was so hot.”
My mind slipped back to dinner at Matt’s parent’s house and the date Tristan had brought. I looked at him with a raised eyebrow, “Tristan, what happened to Jenny?”
He looked at me with a genuinely confused expression on his face, “Who’s Jenny?”
I pushed the cart in front of me as I moved down the aisle of the grocery store, my ear was pressed to my cellphone that I was holding between my shoulder for support while I was speaking to Matt, “I can pick up dinner on the way home if you’d like?”
He was still out with his attorney, unknowing when he was going to be home but I wanted to have dinner ready when he got home. He responded with hesitancy, “That’s fine, babe. I’ll just grab something when I get home.”
“Are you sure?” I asked once more.
“One hundred percent,” He assured me with a light chuckle, “While you’re there can you pick up some barbecue foods like hot dog and hamburger things, steaks, sausages. You know the rest.”
I nodded as he spoke, my eyes scanning the shelves and grabbing some items, “Sure thing. Anything else?”
“No, that’s all... I’ll see you when I get home, Allison. I love you,” Matt’s voice sounded through the phone a finally time.
“I love you too,” I replied before ending the call and putting my phone into my purse.
I continued to push the cart, collecting items on the grocery list as I went along the aisles. For only having two people living together I was surprised by how large the list was, Matt had a huge appetite so the kitchen was always well stocked.
As I thought about Matt having asked me to get food for barbecues I couldn’t help but wonder if I had to endure another family gathering sometime soon. I did well at being tough, but when all of Matt’s family was together it was much harder than taking on only one persons verbal attacks. I never once interrupted them while they voiced their opinions in hopes that eventually they would run out of insults but even after seven months the insults continued to come.
I began to turn the cart around the corner, heading to another aisle but my cart bumped into another customer’s cart.
“I’m very sorry,” I apologized instantly, “I wasn’t looking where I wa--”
My voice stopped when my eyes met the face of the person I had just encountered. Of all the people in the world, in North Carolina even, I had to run in to Alexandra? I wasn’t sure what kind of luck I had but I was also certain it was terrible.
Alexandra’s gaze stayed fixated on me, surprisingly there wasn’t any smoke coming out of her ears and her eyes weren’t twitching with rage, but I did assume that it would be best to continue on without saying another word so I began to step past her.
As I was behind her, her voice stopped me, “How does it feel?”
I froze into place, my hands tightening into the handle of the shopping cart. My body turned slightly to look at her only to see that Alexandra wasn’t looking at me but still looking straight ahead, “H-How does what feel?”
A dry laugh moved past her lips and Alexandra finally turned to face me, out eyes meeting and making me feel like I wanted to melt in that very spot, “How does it feel sleeping next to him every night and knowing that a family was together until you came into the picture? A two and a half year old little boy doesn’t have his parents living together anymore and that wouldn’t be the case if not for you.”
“Alexandra...” I took a deep breath, “I’m--”
“Do not say that you’re sorry,” She stopped me, holding her hand up to hush me, “I don’t know what stories Matt was feeding you, or if you’re just okay with sleeping with a married man, but regardless, no one deserves to be treated the way my little boy and I have been treated... This wasn’t just me you affected, this was Thomas too.”
She was absolutely right. The way Thomas looked at me now proved everything, he disliked me and blamed me, as he should. This little boy was faced with the confusion of his parents splitting up because I entered his life and I was clearly the issue.
“I know that it’s my fault, but you need to realize that--”
Alexandra raised her hand to stop me from continuing, “I don’t need to realize anything, okay? I’m just letting you know that everything bad that’s happening to Matthew, the stress that he’s under and the pressure with this trial? He’s going to blame you, Allison. Do you think I’m trying to get full custody of Thomas because Matthew is a bad father?” She shook her head before continuing, “Matthew is an amazing father to our son, but I don’t want Thomas anywhere near you. You’re the problem.”
My mouth fell open at her words and I stared blankly at her, unable to process what she just said. She must have been messing with me or just considering the thought because Matt hadn’t mentioned anything about Alexandra taking him to court for full custody of Thomas. He would be devastated, completely broken, angry... Oh god. That would explain why he had gotten so upset out of nowhere. He had all of these built up emotions because of the problems he was dealing with and he wasn’t sharing them with me.
How could I help him or comfort him if he didn’t tell me what was going on in his life?
An amused smile tugged at the corner of Alexandra’s lips as she raised an eyebrow at me, “He didn’t tell you, did he?”
No way was she going to assume that Matt and I didn’t have an open relationship. I had always thought we did until the recent occurrences and I wasn’t going to let Alexandra use that as a sign of a unstable relationship.
“He did tell me, actually. And I don’t think you should take this out on him...” I shook my head slowly, “Or Thomas. I understand that you’re hurt, Alexandra, but Thomas needs his dad and--”
Alexandra simply rolled her eyes, ignoring the fact that I was talking as she began to respond before I was even finished, “I know what my son needs. And for the first time I think we agree that he do need his father... But not when he comes home telling me that his daddy and babysitter kiss like mommy and daddy used to.”
I was hypothetically pinned into a corner, unknowing what to say, but feeling obligated to say something, “I’m sorry...”
“You know, Allison. We had a rough patch, but we were still married and we were working through it... We still loved each other, okay?” Alexandra’s eyes peered into mine with a look of desperation and sadness, a look that I hadn’t seen on her before. Normally it would be anger or resentment, “He would still come home every night, he would kiss me goodbye every day and tell me that he loves me. We had problems, but like married couples do, we were working through them.”
I had now realized that this was the first time that I heard Alexandra’s perspective. Up until now the only view I had heard was Matt’s, it was always his side of the story and his take on what was happening in his marriage. Obviously he and Alexandra would have two very different opinions, but that being said, it didn’t make Alexandra’s side any less painful to hear.
Matt had said to me that if he and I didn’t end up together that he would end up with someone else anyway because ultimately, he was going to leave Alexandra no matter what. But was that really even true?
Maybe Alexandra was right. If it weren’t for me, Matt would have stayed in his marriage and worked it our until the happiness came back then Thomas would have both of his parents together.
I was manipulated into thinking that things were far more simple than they actually were.
Matt seemed to be keeping things from me. Leaving his family company and now getting fought for custody for Thomas, how could I believe that he was being honest with me when he told me that he had already planned to leave Alexandra?
I wasn’t alone in causing the problem, but it was a ripple effect.
And I started it.