A note before Libby begins her journal entry: If you’re a Libby addict, check out Woodhaven Happenings, where from time to time you will find more posts from other characters. The latest is a post from Maggie, describing her side of the story of last week’s meeting with Libby. Want to remind yourself of Who’s Who in Woodhaven? Click here for the cast list!
* * *
The babies are in bed. They have been bathed, fed, patted, soothed, and tucked up for the night. After protesting at similar treatment at a too-early hour, Jack is also away for the night.
I sit in the gradually darkening den, watching the sun set behind the trees in the back yard, and wait for Oliver. This is the room he usually heads for when he comes through the door. The temptation to turn on the TV is great, but I resist, knowing I need to channel my thoughts and energy into the inevitable scene that lies ahead tonight, not into another episode of How I Met Your Mother. Also, if I am quiet, I will be able to hear him arrive home.
Oliver’s evening arrivals have been getting later and later. When I comment, mildly, upon this — I never question — he replies in a tone that indicates it’s hardly worth him opening his mouth. “Work,” he says. “Overtime.” “Customer with a problem.”
“What about a wife with a problem?” I want to scream. “Don’t I deserve some of your overtime too?”
But I never do. I’m my mother’s daughter, after all. After the brief interlude here when she abandoned her role as Dutiful Wife To Keith in favour of Fun-Loving Single Woman For Now, she’s back to tiptoeing around the house and fetching Dad his warmed slippers. She gave me the hint about Oliver’s parentage, but I can’t work out what I was supposed to do with the information. Silently store it and sympathise with Oliver, I think she meant.
Thankfully, I have another mother who is not afraid of sticking an oar in when necessary, even if it means breaking a promise to not interfere.
“I used to interfere,” Maggie said, after she had hauled me, the children, and Fergus back to her house earlier today. “All the time. Making that promise to your mother not to get involved nearly killed me.”
“But you decided to go ahead and get involved anyway.”
“You’re like a daughter,” Maggie said, “the daughter I haven’t had for twenty-five years. I could no more stand by and watch you fall to pieces than I was able to watch Sara.”
Maggie sat in her wooden rocking chair, gazing out of the window at the maple tree in the yard. Her eyes were open very wide, as people’s are when they are trying to make tears disobey gravity. Half of me wanted to ask more about the mysterious daughter, but the other half didn’t want to rake over old memories for Maggie.
Also — I have to be honest — I was more intent on getting my own life straightened out. Whatever happened to Maggie and her daughter twenty-five years ago has little to do with what is going on now between me and Oliver.
“What shall I do?” I asked her instead. “How do I talk to a man who won’t talk back?”
Maggie turned slightly, blinking.
“I can’t tell you that,” she said. “You know your own husband. At least, you thought you did. But however you do it, you have to keep telling yourself that you deserve better than this.”
I didn’t dare ask her what she meant by that.
* * *
The sun has been below the horizon for fifteen minutes now, and an occasional firefly flickers among the rhododendrons. The den is completely dark. Oliver is still not home. I curl up on the sofa without bothering to turn on the lamp beside me, and rehearse tonight’s conversation in my head. It’s difficult, of course, because in this imaginary exchange Oliver answers the way I would like him to. We have a reasoned, adult conversation, resulting in a reasoned, adult compromise. He does not mutter monosyllables, or stomp upstairs to the guest bedroom where he has taken to sleeping under the pretext of not getting enough sleep in the same room as the twins, who supposedly wake him up every time they murmur in the night.
I hear the rattle of the garage door and the hum of the car engine as it pulls into the parking bay. The back door opens, then closes again. Oliver’s uncertain footsteps into the unlit kitchen, heading into the hall, then back into the kitchen. Apart from a nightlight glowing on the landing upstairs, the house is in darkness.
Oliver’s footsteps stop. I hear the fridge door open, and the faint light from the fridge interior illuminates the hallway outside the den. Funny how a small light can make such a difference in a dark house. I am reminded of my grandfather’s stories of German air raids and belligerent blackout wardens.
The fridge door closes, the light goes off.
The pop and hiss of a Coke can top, some glugs. A stifled belch.
Another noise. Beeps — ten of them.
I stiffen, listening hard.
Then a quiet voice from the kitchen, speaking into a cellphone.
“Hey. It’s Oliver.” Silence, broken by the tossing of an empty Coke can into the recycling bin. “Change of plan. I can see you now…Yeah, no problem. She’s in bed. I’ll be there in fifteen minutes.”
The back door opens and closes, the garage door rattles open, and the car engine hums again as Oliver reverses onto the driveway.
I stay where I am, motionless, and watch the fireflies for a long time.
Next post: LIBBY’S LIFE: Oliver’s side of the story
Previous post: LIBBY’S LIFE #54 – Opening the cocoon
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Image: Travel – Map of the World by Salvatore Vuono / FreeDigit