This is a continuation of my story “What If.”
I lumbered up the steps of the oak porch, waddling back and forth, my pregnant belly threatening to tip me over like some damned teapot. I put my brass key in the lock and set the tumblers free – the door swung open with a signature squeal, announcing my presence. My husband looked up from the magazine he was reading, and smiled.
“Hey babe” I said cheerily while dumping the insane amount of baby clothes I had just purchased on the leather ottoman beside him.
“This baby’s wardrobe is better than mine…” he teased.
“That’s not difficult” I replied with a wink, “Your sense of style suggests you’re a colorblind hobo”.
He laughed out loud and the sound of his soft melodious voice immediately set me at ease. I plopped myself next to him and snatched the magazine from his hands. I glanced at it quickly and rolled my eyes.
“I thought I married someone interesting!”
“What? You’re not a fan of science?”
“Not when we could be discussing baby fashion”
He leaned over suddenly making choking sounds and feigned noises of disgust while snatching back his reading material.
“Please, string theory is much more interesting than what diapers you purchased or what burp cloths you got on sale”
“Well I think the diapers and burp cloths will be more relevant to your life than any theory some lonely physicists concocts”
“I think I’ll need proof of that” he stated.
“Well I’ll let you change the first diaper” I replied with a wink. I somehow managed to pull myself upright and started to sift through everything I had purchased. I removed all the tags in preparation for washing when my husband suddenly took my hand in his, startling me from my fantasies of motherhood.
“Uh oh, I know that look!”
“You do?” His eyebrow raised and I pushed it back down with my finger.
“Yes” I said with a smile, “What’s wrong?”
I studied his body language as he slowly leaned back in our well used microfiber sectional. He then shifted and leaned forward again. I blinked in anticipation as he cleared his throat and once more settled into the sofa.
“Before the baby comes, Drew!”
“Right, sorry Carly. I was thinking that I might change careers…”
* * *
I could see the room as though it were yesterday; large picture windows cast all the hues of the sun into my small but cozy living room area; and the dining room backed into glass french doors that led onto a beautiful wrap around deck. The dark hardwood floors, soon to be marred by the merciless acts of a rambunctious toddler, added to the mystique of the home’s heritage based architecture. The walls were painted an off white,and proudly displayed pictures of our wedding day and soon to be son. Our kitchens red stained oak cabinets and floating island was set upon natural stone tile. All of the finishing touches were perfect for us. It had been the house of our dreams, only affordable because of the drastic down turn in the housing market.
I traced the lines I had scratched into my jail cell wall, 32 tiny scratches, representing each year of my life before it had ended so abruptly.
I thought back to the conversation my husband and I had carried on that day and wondered what might have been different…if only I had supported him in his desire to switch careers. Would we have been diverted from the hell we found ourselves in less than a decade later? If Marie, my inquiring roomate, is right that multiverses exist, then is there another me out there? A happier me? A me with a child who lived and a husband I never stopped loving?
* * *
My first instinct was to denounce this suggestion out of hand, but a look in his eye stopped me in my tracks.
“Alright, why now?”
” I think the economy is possibly heading for a recession. I don’t want to be an investment banker if that happens. I love you, and our baby, and I want not just a good life, but a stable one”.
“So what’s the alternative?”
I almost laughed out loud because the idea of my investment banker husband taking on such a job was..well quite frankly… laughable. Instead I decided that perhaps the best way to serve my husband at this time would be to indulge his little fantasy.
“Well, if that’s what you want…” I said noncommitally
“Really?!” He replied with a sigh of relief, “You won’t regret this, I promise”
He swept me up in a hug and swung me around our living room while grunting like an Olympic hammer thrower.
“Phew” he proclaimed loudly and I responded with a playful punch on the arm.
“Shut up!” I replied with a chuckle. I shook my head and couldn’t help imagining what it would be like to be married to a man in uniform. Maybe if wouldn’t be all bad…
I fingered the photograph of my husband’s police graduation and felt the same pride I did the day it was taken. Ten wonderful years later my husband turned out to be eerily correct and thanks to his new career path we weathered the economic storm better than most folks. Our beautiful green eyed boy, Benjamin, had also gained a sister in this time, something that could not have happened if Drew had lost his job. I couldn’t help but smile at my good fortune. How can some people not believe in fate? Everything I have is a testament to it.
“Mom!” Ben screamed at me from the top of the stairs shattering my train of thought into tiny unrecognizable pieces, “Do you know where my favourite shirt is?”
“Nope, because I haven’t a clue as to what your favourite shirt looks like!”
“It’s the green one, with the skateboard on it”
“Did you check your bedroom floor?” I screamed back at him.
“Why would it be – OH – Here it is! Thanks mom.” I heard him slam his door as he settled in for a weekend of video games and movies with his sister and their friends.
The smile on my face faded as reality began to sink in. I gathered up the photo albums and slid a few meaningful pictures into the inside lining of my purse. I could only hope my belongings would not be searched thoroughly. I sighed and looked around one last time. I had everything I could ever want and hope for, and I was about to leave it all behind. Every second I stood undecided in my kitchen was a second that put my family, and all their lives at risk. I placed the note on the counter, a pathetic excuse of my need for space and absence, and stepped outside where a black, non descript car was idling in my driveway.
“Hello Carly” the driver said as I settled into the passenger seat, “did you say goodbye?”
“In my own way, yes.”
“Good, let’s get back to the lab, there’s no telling what kind of damage has been done to your DNA while you foolishly wasted time with trivialities”.
“My family is not trivial” I said between clenched teeth.
“Of course not…” he murmured as he pulled away from the curb and drove towards a life full of immense possibility.