Chapter 15: I Understand
I could only imagine my eyes were bulging at his words and my mouth gaped open, unsure of how I could possibly respond to something like that. Tristan had just opened up to me and told me that he had a sister, a sister who passed away, there’s no easy way to respond to that.
Tristan seemed like a completely different person now, his entire behavior has shifted to soft and mellow - completely unlike his usual self.
Speak? Allison. Say something.
“She was sixteen,” He suddenly spoke up, lifting his head to look at me. His brows furrowed in a confused motion, then he shook his head as though he were hearing about it for the first time, “You know, sixteen is so young, Allison. She barely had time to experience life at all and...”
As Tristan stopped to take a deep breath, I attempted to process everything that was being told to me. I hadn’t been expecting to hear any of this but what Tristan needed was comfort and that’s exactly what I was going to give him.
I walked around the island and sat on the chair next to him, placing my hand on his forearm gently, “I’m so sorry you had to go through losing a sibling... I-I can’t imagine.”
Tristan turned on his chair to face me, a slight smile on his lips as his eyes met mine, “You’re a lot like her... The hair, the eyes... And for the most part she talked to me with the same damn attitude that you did. Told me I was arrogant and rude, just like you.”
I managed a small, politely laugh at his memories of his sister. It was strange to think that he seen some kind of resemblance in us but it made sense that he had grown close to me out of nowhere because of it.
“What was her name?” I asked suddenly, but at the same time I didn’t want to cross any boundaries so I quickly apologized, “I’m sorry, I shouldn’t--”
“No, no... It’s fine. Her name was Deena,” He nodded his head, “You know, Allison, I don’t talk about her a lot. It hurts and I’m not a fan of showing weakness at all.”
“I understand... You don’t have to talk about it if it hurts, Tristan.” I shook my head instantly, remembering that I was the reason this had gotten brought up to begin with, “I’m sorry I made you open up, I didn’t know it was going to be so personal.”
“It actually feels a little good to talk about it,” Tristan finally admitted after giving a deep breath.
When I managed to look at Tristan again I noticed a single tear sliding down his cheek, the pain in his eyes was evident and his jaw was tightly clenched. It was clear that he was rehashing he memories of his sister, painful memories that hurt to even think of. I slid my hand towards him and took his hand in mine, squeezing it gently.
His head lifted to look at me and I could feel his hand squeeze mine in return, “It was a car accident, you know one of those things unexpected and out of nowhere... She was upset and ran off in tears. That was the last time I seen her alive, she was crying and begging me to stand up for her and do you know what I said?”
Tristan looked at me, waiting for a response that I was unable to give. Obviously he had been beating himself up over something and it was all resurfacing.
“I told her to stop acting like a kid and that the world doesn’t revolve around what she wants...” As Tristan recited the words he had said to his sister he closed his eyes tightly and I could see a few tears escape his eyes, “Fuck! I can’t believe I said that to her... My world revolved around her. She was my little sister, I made sure she was safe and no one would hurt her but that night I didn’t protect her.”
Without hesitating I wrapped my arms around Tristan and hugged him tightly, doing my best to comfort him in any way that I could, “You can’t blame yourself, Tristan. It isn’t fair... Do you think she would want you to constantly hurt yourself like this?”
Tristan leaned his head against my shoulder and I could feel his hand squeeze my arm gently, “I don’t know... I deserve it.”
“You don’t,” I insisted, “I’m sure she loved you as much as you love her and wouldn’t want you feeling this way.”
“My last words to her were horrible, Allison. I can’t just forget that... I didn’t even get to give her a proper goodbye because by the time the ambulance had arrived at the hospital she had already died,” Tristan explained as he moved his fingers through his hair, “She was all alone and probably terrified and the memory I left her with was telling her that the world didn’t revolve around her.”
I shook my head vigorously, unable to allow Tristan to blame himself any longer. It was taking a toll on him and it wasn’t fair that he had to live with this never-ending guilt, “Tristan, siblings argue. Up until last week I hadn’t spoken to my brother since last year...”
All I could hear was his hallow breathing as he looked ahead. Tristan wasn’t anything like what everyone assumed, he wasn’t rude and mean - in reality he was a kindhearted person who just found it hard to show his emotions, but when he did you really began to understand the kind of person he is.
Sitting around with my family and acting like a husband to Alexandra while my girlfriend was at home was difficult. Playing husband wasn’t hard, I’ve been Alexandra’s husband before and I technically still am, but not talking about Allison was the tough part. There were moments when I would almost accidentally slip something that I had done with Allison and almost mention her name.
I didn’t want to hide her, she wasn’t anything to be ashamed of. Allison is a beautiful and kind woman, I want nothing more than for my grandmother to meet her and see the woman who I’m madly in love with but all she would be see is my adultery and failed marriage.
Alexandra on the other hand was soaking it all in and enjoying the benefits of my grandmother being in town. She was far more touchy than I would like but I couldn’t necessarily push her away, her fingers stayed intertwined with mine a lot of the time and occasionally she would run her fingers through my hair. The rest of my family was playing along as well, they were just happy Allison wasn’t around. Bastards. Though, Will, something about his expression seemed weary.
My grandmother looked towards Alexandra and I while we were sitting side by side on the couch, “So, where did you two go for your anniversary this year?”
“Fiji.” I answered the first place that came to my head.
At the same time as I answered, Alexandra spoke up, “The Bahamas.”
We both looked at each other and Alexandra’s mouth gapped open slightly. I cleared my throat slightly, “I wanted to go to Fiji, Alex wanted to go to the Bahamas, so we decided to just do a week at each place.”
Alexandra smiled at me, seeming impressed with my answer as she leaned against my shoulder, “Next year I really want to try something different... Maybe Alaska, somewhere cold where we can get a cabin and go skiing.”
That idea was very unlike Alexandra. She wasn’t a cold weather kind of girl, she preferred everything simple and perfect, just to her standards. But skiing and cabin life was far different than her usual style of living.
“We can look into that,” I nodded my head as I went along with her false suggestion. Obviously that wasn’t going to happen because by the time our next anniversary came around we wouldn’t be married any longer.
“That sounds so fun,” I heard Amelia join in and I looked over to see her rubbing her belly, “We should go some other time too after the baby is born and make it a double. Both of you along with Ian and I.”
This was all beginning to sound too real for me, or they were just too good of actors for me to even stand. I felt like I was cheating on Allison and being a cheater from a past relationship I wasn’t going to go down that path again, plus that wasn’t what tonight was about.
“We’ll see,” I answered bluntly, annoyed that they were taking this so far. They were pushing me and they knew it. Everyone here knew that I had only agreed to this charade because of grandmother and everyone was taking advantage of the situation.
My grandmother was holding Thomas in her arms when he looked up at her, “Daddy’s Gwandma, are you staying at papa’s house?”
Grandmother laughed at Thomas’ words and shook her head, “Not tonight, sweetheart. Tonight I’m staying here with you and your parents.”
My heart stopped and instantly my eyes moved to my father with was staring me down. He knew this. He knew that I had to go home to Allison tonight but he intentionally set it up that grandmother would be staying here.
“You’re staying here?” I asked her without realizing that it may have come off sounding rude, I quickly recovered, “Alexandra, did you clean the bed sheets? I want them to be fresh for my grandmother.”
Grandmother laughed softly, shaking her head, “Don’t be ridiculous, Matthew. I’m sure they’re fine. You don’t need to do anything different for me.”
“You deserve nothing but the best, Grandmother. I assure you...” I smiled at her and looked at Alexandra, “Sweetheart, let’s get to spare sheets for the room.”
Obviously I was coming up with an excuse to speak to Alexandra in private because I was willing to bet that she knew about this just as much as my family did. Manipulative people, you give them an inch and they take a mile.
Alexandra didn’t hesitate to stand up and follow me as I walked upstairs. I had a lot of emotions going through me right now, I needed to get the the second floor of the house in case I had an outburst. I was pulled into this fucked up night and it was spiraling out of control.
As we reached the upstairs hallway, I stopped dead in my tracks and heard Alexandra’s footsteps falter behind me. We stayed silent for a moment which gave me time to gather my thoughts but at the same time it gave me enough time to get more frustrated.
Turning to face Alexandra, I laughed dryly and shook my head, “You’re good. Really clever of you, Alexandra.”
She paused and stared at me blankly, “I’m sorry. What?”
“As if this entire evening wasn’t bad enough, you and my family take advantage of the entire situation by making sure I have to stay the entire night?”
Alexandra shook her head quickly and her mouth gaped slightly, “Matthew, I didn’t know about that.”
“Bullshit!” I raised my voice, “You’re manipulative. You’ve always been manipulative and even now that we’re not together you’re still making sure to make me miserable.”
“I swear that I had no idea your grandmother was staying here!” She countered her voice in a high tone similar to mine, just slightly more pitchy, “You should be arguing with your parents, not me.”
“Trust me, they’re going to get an ear full, too.” I sighed as I ran my fingers through my hair, “I need to call Allison... Can you please go downstairs and if anyone asks tell them I’m setting things up in the guest room?”
Without another word, Alexandra nodded her head and walked down the stairs. This wasn’t good at all. Allison wouldn’t go for this. Hell, I didn’t want to go for this. I had no idea what I was going to say to her and there was no way I could go around planning it so I decided on winging the conversation.
I took out my cellphone and pressed her contact number, hearing the ringing as the call was connecting. Suddenly I heard Allison’s voice on the other line and my chest tightened, “Matt?” She asked.
I leaned against the wall and took a deep breath, “Hey, baby... I’m sorry I didn’t call earlier. It’s been busy here.”
“No, it’s fine. I understand,” She replied. She always understood - at least that’s what she said. Maybe she really didn’t understand because half of the shit that woman has to put up with is insane and no normal person would understand it.
I smiled anyway, loving the kindness she always shown no matter the situation. However, it was only a matter of time until she broke down and the thought terrified me to imagine my sweet Allison being broken because of the life I’ve brought her into.
I slid down against the wall until I was sitting on the floor with my cellphone pressed against my ear, “Tell me about your day.”
As crazy as it may sound, whenever I was stressed just hearing about Allison’s day would make me feel the slightest bit better. It was a stress reliever, to say the least.
Allison took a deep breath and I could hear tapping on the other end as though she was tapping her fingers. “I haven’t done much... I watched some TV and then Tristan was here for a little while, but he left about twenty minutes ago.”
“Tristan?” I raised my eyebrows in confusion, “Shit... He knows where I am, doesn’t he?”
As my best friend I knew that Tristan would always be on my side, but I’m sure he would have his opinions on this situation. Even I thought this was insane, surely he would give me an ear full.
“I explained as best as I could, Matt. But it isn’t the easiest thing for people to understand.” She paused for a moment before quickly defending, “But I do. I understand.”
Maybe she was trying to convince herself more than she was trying to convince me. She was just doing her best to play the role of a good girlfriend but no girlfriend had to deal with this nonsense.
“Look, Allison. There’s something I need to talk to you about.”
There was a pause, silence taking over the call for a few seconds before Allison finally spoke up again, “What is it?”
How was I supposed to tell her that I had to spend the night with my soon to be ex-wife and sleep in the same bed with her just to keep up some childish act to keep face with my grandmother?
“My grandmother is staying here tonight... So I need to stay here too,” I answered instantly, not wanting to cut any corners with her. I’d rather just get it done and over with.
Rip it off like a band-aid.
“Allison, I’m sorry. I know this wasn’t exactly what we planned but for some reason my grandmother is under the impression that she’s staying here,” I apologized and when she didn’t answer I sighed softly, “Babe, please say something.”
“I...” Allison paused before letting out another soft breath, “I understand.”
There was a crack in her voice, something deeper was being said within her words. She was trying to understand, but it was already taking a toll on her. Allison was growing accustomed to saying ‘I understand’ anytime something came up even if she truly didn’t understand. She was doing her best to make me happy and try to do what she could to help me, but forcing her into these situations wasn’t helping me.
“Don’t say that, Allison. You don’t have to try and understand everything,” I explained to her, wanting nothing more than her honesty. “Tell me your feelings. If you’re angry or hurt just tell me, I can handle it.”
“Matt, I’m fine. Really.”
“Babe...” I spoke softly into the phone and closed my eyes, wanting nothing more than for Allison to be here with me, “I love you. Do you hear me? I love you. No one else. I’m so sorry I’m putting you through this.”
There was no response on the other line, instead there was another pause of silence and Allison didn’t say anything.
“Allison?” I asked.
I heard her suck in a deep breath before clearing her throat, “I have to go, Matt. I’ll talk to you later.”
I pinched the bridge of my nose and groaned as we ended the call. “Fuck!”
What am I even doing here? I knew the reasons. I’ve went over them at least a million times since I’ve been here this evening but hurting Allison seemed to be too much for me.
I wondered what she was doing at home by herself now that Tristan had apparently left. Surely he hadn’t stayed long once her realized I wasn’t home. She ended our conversation so suddenly that I worried she may be an emotional wreck, no matter how strong Allison pretended to be most of the time.
“We need to talk, son.”
The voice of my father caught my attention and I looked to my left to see him coming towards where I was sitting in the hallway. I sighed heavily and shook my head, uninterested in talking to him, “I really don’t want to talk to you, father.”
Of course that didn’t stop him from talking anyway, he had a habit of entering a situation when he wasn’t wanted. With his hands tucked in his pants pocket, he stood in front of me, “You need to be more affectionate towards Alexandra. Your grandmother is going to notice something is off, Matthew.”
“No.” I said simply.
“You cannot tell me that all of the affection you had for this woman has disappeared,” My father argued, “Put on a smile and act like a loving husband. Forget about Allison for tonight.”
I shook my head as I stood to my feet, “First of all, I’m never going to forget about Allison. Not for a day, a night, an hour or even a minute.”
My father rolled his eyes at my words and held his hand up to stop me, “Stop being so selfish. Have you thought about your grandmo--”
“Are you kidding me? The reason I’m even here is for grandmother!” I raised my voice in irritation, unable to believe that he even said that. I took a huge step in even coming here this evening and he wasn’t even acknowledging that.
“Listen to me, son. Go downstairs, take your little boy in your arms and be a husband and father for tonight. A good one!” My father’s eyes focused in on me and I could see his jaw clenching tightly in anger, “Do not question me.”
Glaring at my father I decided it was best to not argue with him, he always won and he always go what he wanted. As I walked towards the top of the stairs I turned back to look at my father, having only one thing to say, “I have always been a good father. I know I was a shitty husband, but I’ve always been there for Thomas and I always will be.”
“Bye bye Aunt Milly!” Thomas waved his hand at Amelia and Ian as they left. He then turned to me and raised his eyebrows, “I want a puppy!”
Where the hell did that come from?
I was sitting on the couch with a beer in hand, Alexandra was sitting next to me and my parents were on the other couch with my grandmother. Will had left about half an hour prior, so by now it was getting close to everyone leaving and calling it a night.
“A puppy?” I asked him, “What kind of puppy do you want?”
Thomas tapped his chin in thought, “Uh... a lion one.”
I chucked and pulled Thomas up onto my lap, shaking my head, “I’m sorry, buddy. But I’m not getting you a lion... Maybe a toy lion, okay?”
He huffed in response, “Always toys.”
“You know, my boy. When you get bigger I can take you to see real lions in Africa,” My father spoke up, once again trying to get Thomas to think he was Grandfather of the year.
“Really Papa?!” Thomas asked eagerly.
I looked at my father and shook my head, “He means the African Lion Safari.”
“No, I mean Africa.” My father repeated again, making his point clear.
Before any more could be said, my mother placed her hand on my father’s arm, “Sweetheart, let’s get going home. We’ll be back in the afternoon anyway.”
Suddenly Thomas looked at me and frowned, “Daddy, are you leaving too?”
Hours. He had went hours without saying anything and suddenly everything we had worked all night to achieve just to my grandmother would think that I was a stand up guy would be ruin by one little question.
My grandmother laughed softly, “Oh honey, daddy is staying here. Why would he leave?”
“Because of Al--”
“All the times I’m working late,” I cut in before Thomas could finish, “He’s asleep a lot when I get home, late shifts and working hard. He still has that paranoia in him I suppose.”
“Oh, how sad,” My grandmother frowned before turning to my father and giving him a scolding look, “What did I say about working Matthew too hard? He has a family, Henry. Let him be here to raise his son.”
My father scoffed, “Trust me, I want nothing more than that, mother.”
Amazing how my father lectured me on not acting well enough and then he starts throwing hints across the room.
Luckily he and my mother left a little while later which meant it was a good time to call it a night for everyone. It was way past Thomas’ bed time and I could see the tiredness beginning to make its way to him.
“Time for bed, Tommy.” I told him as we stood from the couch and I picked him up from his spot.
He rubbed his eyes and yawned, “But... I’m not sleepy.”
“Sure you’re not. Say goodnight to Nana Lucia, mommy will come say goodnight in a minute.” I told him before kissing my grandmother on the cheek, “Goodnight, grandmother.”
“Night night, Nana Lucia.” Thomas mumbled, laying his head on my shoulder.
I looked towards Alexandra and motioned towards the stairs, “I’ll start tucking him in while you show my grandmother the guest room.”
“Of course, sweetheart.” Alexandra smiled at me and before I could react she kissed me square on the lips, a gently and light peck. As she pulled away she acted as though nothing happened, like it was the most natural thing in the world - which is was supposed to be, but she knew that it wasn’t and once again, Alexandra was taking advantage of the situation.
I couldn’t say anything or react, any reaction would just give away the fact that I’m not madly in love with my wife, so I swallowed my pride and carried Thomas upstairs.
When we reached his bedroom I pulled out a pair of pajamas from his drawer, setting him down on the floor and helping him change in them. I then pulled down the blankets of his bed, sitting at the edge as he ran over and jumped onto the mattress, “Daddy?”
“Yeah, buddy?” I pulled the blanket over him as he laid down. I moved his brown hair out of his face and smiled to myself, happy to have a moment alone with him.
Thomas looked up at me, holding onto his blankets, “You slweeping over?”
I sighed sighed softly, “Well... It’s something like that.”
It was impossible to directly lie to him, but I wasn’t going to directly tell him things that he wouldn’t understand or things that a child shouldn’t know.
“Just know that daddy always loves you, okay? Whether I’m here or not.” I slowly laid down next to Thomas, pulling him close to me.
The custody hearing was in three days. Three days from now I could be told that Alexandra has full, permanent custody of Thomas. His entire life, as short as it has been, I have always been there for Thomas and I plan to be there for the rest of it but Alexandra is snatching him from me. The thought of not having moments like these were killing me inside.
If I lost my son because I decided to be with Allison... The repercussions would be for more extreme than I intended, than I thought possible and was willing to lose.