The past. The road not taken. The temptations of regret. I loved Kelly and the boys though even Kelly was slipping away from me, so it seemed at the time, as she started going with Jax to town during the week to attend the new school they had built. The boys weren’t even babies anymore and Jax asked if they too could come to town to play with kids their own ages in the medical center’s daycare.
I was alone. Very alone. I was in danger of slipping into the funk I had been after the terrorist attack … back to when my family was killed. I tried to fill my time with constructive things like I always had but somehow or other there just didn’t seem a lot of point to it. No one needed me. Oh, they needed the things I provided for them but even that was less and less as the town started to provide more and more.
Then a letter came. It was innocuous, or so it seemed at the time. It had gone to the medical center and Jax had brought it home. Several such letters arrived in our town from some recovery effort group. The letter said that they were surveying farmers to find realistic and sustainable methods that fit with the limited resources we were experiencing back then. Jax encouraged me to respond with ideas otherwise I might have just thrown the letter in the trash. I let it sit on my desk out in the barn for almost a month before I decided to sketch out the pond that we were still dependent on though we managed it slightly different these days than we had when the pellet food was so easy to come by.
I didn’t think another thing about it until another letter arrived for “Lydie Remington.” This letter asked questions about the set up and whether it was a theoretical design or under current construction. Again I delayed responding as I was in the midst of three kids have colds and then doing battle with one myself. When I did respond I perhaps wasn’t as careful as I should have been though I did say that I knew of one such in current production.
Then another letter, this one more personable and admiring. And more letters continued. In the old days I suppose I would have been ripe for some stupid online “romance” due to all of the things I was going through but in truth “romance” didn’t have a thing to do with it. In all honestly it was simply vanity I suppose. I missed someone acting like I had answers, acting like I was … well … acting like I was smart. I’d been relegated to play a “hausfrau” and while I didn’t resent it, and in fact enjoyed that position in my family … part of me was resentful when others acted like their ”real jobs” were so much more necessary and integral to the continuation of our community. So it wasn’t romance I was after even when Jax didn’t seem to have the energy or time for it any longer. We were growing apart and he seemed to be taking the children with him.
No, what I wanted and needed was … companionship and conversation and the letter writer gave me that. I thought it was safe. I never wrote anything inappropriate and in turn made sure that I never encouraged anything inappropriate. All we ever talked about were projects and plans and theories. My brain seemed to come alive again. I felt like I was alive again. But most of all, while might have been alone most of the time, I no longer felt lonely.
And when I started building things again it wasn’t to Jax that I went but to Ashton and Reggie. In hindsight that was a mistake but by that point I honestly didn’t think Jax would care in the least. He’d gotten into the habit of falling asleep as soon as he’d eaten, there was never any talk between us. All he needed me for was to make sure that he and the children were fed and clothed.
I came to accept that as the reality. And without realizing it I had walled off the pain that feeling created. But rather than let a vacuum exist I replaced it with work and with … my letters … and then the projects. The projects I didn’t discuss with Jax because I didn’t think he cared.
I was out at the biofuel shed measuring to install a new vat system when I had a surprise visitor.
“Whoa, should you be out and about Ginger? You look about ready to pop,” I told her as I led her back to the hose to offer her some cool water.
“I’m fine. Just came from the clinic as a matter of fact. Um …”
“I know that look. What is it?”
“I’m probably sticking my nose in where it doesn’t belong.”
“Has that ever stopped you?” I told her grinning. She wasn’t smiling in return. “Okay, what’s up and what I have I done wrong?”
“Yeah. That’s usually at the bottom of it. None of you ever come by for any other reason.”
“Hey that’s … uh … that’s not …” She stopped and said, “Can we sit down?”
“Ginger what’s wrong? Are you and Reggie …?”
“No! Absolutely not. As a matter of fact … everything is great and …”
“Yeah. He’s finally done with the over compensating. Look, just let me get this out. Are you and Jax … okay?”
I just blinked before sighing. “Something made you ask so what is it?”
“C’mon Ginger, spit it out.”
Then she did and where she expected to have to deal with an angry Lydie she got … nothing. “Well I suppose that explains why all he does is come home, eat dinner, and then goes to sleep. Why should he need to save a little of himself for me when there isn’t anything left to share?”
“God Lydie … I … I …”
“Don’t. It is what it is. He took the kids, now he’s … never mind. Look, just forget you saw me. Go home. Have a good life. You and Reggie … you don’t have to make the same mistakes your folks did so just … just have a good life. I’ll figure this out.”
I finally convinced her to leave. And when Jax came home I didn’t say a word. Just watched him eat, play with the kids, and then fall asleep. But I was pretty sure that I was done.
The next day I cleaned up, made a list of things that I needed from town, and then I got on my bike and I pedaled to town. I looked around and noticed all of the changes, some of them the beginnings of what the town is today. I rode to the clinic and they wouldn’t even allow me to see Kelly or the boys. Seems most of them didn’t even know a mother was in the picture. God that hurt. I said I would take care of it and went to where I knew Jax had his office. I walked in and … I didn’t catch them in the act but it cleared up the doubts I’d been having about my suspicions. I stood there are full five minutes before either of them even noticed me.
The woman noticed me first and blushed and said, “Um Dr. Remington a patient must have …”
“I don’t have any patients scheduled Vicky. Who?”
Jax was slower but the look on his face when he saw who was standing there was more than I could take. It dawned across his face like the sunrises we used to watch together. It was a mixture of both guilt and sorrow. I slowly backed up and out of the office and left the building. He caught up with me before I could get on my bike.
“Lydie! It’s not like it looks! I swear …”
“They wouldn’t even let me see the kids.”
“Uh … what?”
“Apparently no one realized there even was a mother in the picture much less that you were married. But … but you aren’t are you? It just got away from you and … I just thought the words were enough.”
“No. No I am not going to let myself believe some fairytale. Not this time. Not ever again. I believed you that you needed to be in town so much. I was so proud of you.”
“Don’t. Just don’t Jax. I even believed you that the kids needed to come to town. To socialize with their children own age. So that you’d get a chance to see them here more because you worked such long hours. I even accepted that your work was so important that it was okay that you only came home to eat … and sleep. That’s it. That’s all you needed from me. A roof over your head, food, and a bed.”
“Dammit Lydie, I said …”
“Uh uh. No. No more. See I know this feeling Jax. I just don’t have any energy left to try and go out and find another family that might need me. Apparently you’re needed here. And the kids want to be here with you. So … so fine.”
“Lydie wait …!”
I finally got loose from him and got on my bike and rode off fast and hard. I didn’t even stop when I heard him yell my name. I’d traveled the road I was on too many times … both physically and metaphorically; only this time I was careless. I still to this day don’t know what hit me. All I know is that I was riding along … and then I wasn’t.
I woke up in the back of a van. I could tell from the smell that it was one of the new, hybrid eco-fuel conversions. I knew the smell because I’d just finished building one for Jax to drive into town with the kids last month. It was one of the plans that I’d drawn out with my letter friend. I would have thought it was the one I had built except there were no car seats.
I sat up and took in my surroundings. I was sore all over and there was a horrible taste in my mouth, my knees were skinned, so was one elbow and an ear. I looked around and then suddenly I thought I must be hallucinating.