[For previous chapter, go to Then and Now, Part I]
“Yes, she’s younger, but not younger than you,” Roger offered. “It’s not anything like that.”
Miriam thought about it for a moment. The fact that the woman was older than she caught her by surprise. She moved on.
“And….you are going to live with her. I mean, does she have a house, condo, something? Does she have children?”
“No, no kids. She wanted them, but never could. Something about being hospitalized with something for a long time when she was a teenager. Anyway, we’re working out where we’ll end up. See, uh, she’s from Canada. British Columbia, actually, so … anyway, where we’re going to live is a little complicated at the moment.”
“Yep. From somewhere outside Vancouver.”
“Everything in British Columbia is somewhere outside Vancouver.”
Roger shot Miriam a quick smile. “And everything is somewhere outside of here….Mimi, I don’t know where she lives. I don’t know Canada. She said it’s outside Vancouver, so…”
Miriam fidgeted on the couch. He was right. She was being snotty. “So, OK, I assume you are going to still work. You’re not doing something crazy, I mean, more crazy than… what I mean, you’re not thinking of retiring yet?”
“I have to work, of course, I…,” he shook his head, trying to keep his cool. “I have to keep my base here. As I said, it’s complicated.”
“So, she’ll move to the city, or in town here, or wherever, with you. I mean…”
“Honest to god, Mimi, what does it matter where we live? She doesn’t have to…what’ya care if …Goddammit!”
“Goddamnit? Goddamn you! It matters because, because…it… just, does! To me! You come to me with this… news, and I find myself trying to help you, like I always seem to end up doing; helping you figure yourself out of some jam. I mean, you move to Canada, you’ll never see the boys!”
“I just said I have to keep my address, my base, here; or in the city. Not just a post office box! And I wouldn’t ever move so far away I’d never get to see the boys, you know that. You know that!”
“Yes,” Miriam sighed. Roger sat back in his chair and stared out the window. The two of them sat in silence for a minute.
She continued, “So, what did you mean by things were just going to be different? What in the hell does that even mean, Rog, ‘different’?”
“I guess…” He drifted off for a moment and then sat forward again, “I guess I am just trying to soften the blow.”
She shook her head, “How so?”
“I…I’ll still be around as much as I ever was before. I’m not going to disappear.”
“You weren’t around that much to begin with.”
“Which is why I say, it’ll be the same, but different.”
“You really, really aren’t making any sense. Really, you’re not.”
Roger and Miriam looked at each other, waiting for the other to continue. In this moment, Roger could clearly see the difference between the love he thought he felt for Miriam when they were first married, and the love he now felt so deeply for Libby. My God, he thought, it’s really not the same.
He remembered how Miriam used to fill his thoughts in those early days. He remembered the excitement, the awkwardness, the tenderness, as they moved through the discovery of each other. But no sooner had they come together, Miriam was pregnant with Jackson, and so, then, marriage, and not long after that, Mitchell. It wasn’t so much a whirlwind romance, as their friends and families called it, as it was a tsunami of one thing and then the other. Whatever the situation, it seemed perfectly wonderful at the time. He was happy in those years, or, more to the point, he didn’t recall feeling uneasy or anxious.
But now he wondered if he ever felt that deeply for Miriam. He couldn’t excuse it as the shallowness of youth. He wasn’t exactly a young man when he and Miriam married. He wondered if they should have waited for a few years to have children; she was certainly young enough at the time to wait a bit. If he hadn’t been so impatient to have a family, would everything have played out the same?
None of it seemed important to think about until he met Libby. Libby had entirely changed his outlook on his life. All he knew for certain these days, was that his love for Libby was as a profound a thing as he had ever known.
“Mimi, we should have done this years ago,” Roger heard himself finally say. “I know we talked about it once, and at the time it made more sense not to, but the truth is…the truth is, we were never going to come back together.”
Miriam started tearing up. Roger moved over next to her on the couch and took her hand in his.
“We should have done this years ago,” he repeated. Miriam shrugged.
He continued, “Look. I love my family, always will, and I’ll never leave, like disappear, gone. I’ll still be around. You are my family, you and the boys. Nothing changes that. But I haven’t been here for years now. What we had wasn’t a marriage. Not really. I mean, it worked for us back then, somehow, at least it seemed to, but we didn’t…we… look,” he paused to gather his thoughts. “It was … it was caring, and fondness, and our love for those fantastic kids of ours, but it’s not….Anyway,” he paused again. “That’s what I mean about things being the same, but different.”
Miriam’s tears were flowing freely now. Roger could think of nothing else to do but put his arm around her shoulders. She reached for one of the paper towels on the sandwich tray, wiped her eyes and blew her nose.
“Oh, God, Rog,” she wailed a little bit, “You still aren’t making any damn sense with this goddamned ‘same but different’ crap!” She was angry, but she wore a sweet smile through the tears. He was right, she thought. The time had come. Roger gave her a squeeze.
“OH…God…I am going to miss this place!” Miriam blurted. “You sure you guys don’t want it? I’ll sell it to ya cheap!” She gave a little laugh that turned into a hiccup. Roger shook his head and gave her another squeeze. Miriam’s hiccups took violent hold of her.
“I’ll get a glass of water.” Roger got up and went into the kitchen. Miriam fell over sideways on the couch to where Roger had just been sitting. She stared blankly forward; her hiccups sounding like a jumping scratch on an old record.
Miriam couldn’t help herself. She had to find out more about this woman. It seemed ridiculous, this urgent need to know, especially since she hadn’t really cared that she and Roger had been so distant in recent years, but she just had to know more about this woman, Libby.
Roger said something about meeting her through work; that she was a relatively new member of one of his project teams. Miriam started with a simple internet search of the company’s staff lists, but the name did not come up. She dug a little deeper, thinking maybe she was a sub-contractor, but the adjunct list of associates, affiliates and sub-contractors did not have anyone with the name Libby on any of their roles.
“Libby” must be short for something. She made another Google search. “The diminutive of ‘Elizabeth’.” Miriam went back to her staff search, this time looking for “Elizabeth.”
She hesitated, and then decided to hell with it. Posing as some sort of secretary or junior associate, Mariam called Roger’s company and asked for Libby or Elizabeth.
“No, I’m sorry ma’am, we do not have anyone by either of those names.”
“You sure? I think my boss said she’s working on one of Roger Anderson’s projects?”
The receptionist put Miriam on hold while she double checked. Crap, Miriam thought, I hope Roger wasn’t there. He’s in Shanghai, didn’t he say? Miriam waited a few agonizing minutes for the receptionist to come back on the line. “Please God, don’t ask Roger.” she whispered.
The receptionist clicked back on the line, “Again, I’m so sorry, no one here has heard of a Libby or an Elizabeth. Can I leave a message for Mr. Anderson? I’m sure he will know…”
“No, no…that’s OK. I must have misunderstood the name. Let me first go back and see if I got the name wrong, or something. So sorry to…thank you!” Miriam hung up.
What was Roger playing at?
[Go to the next chapter: Then and Now Part III ]