He sounds tired. Might be work though it is late Sunday morning, could be personal. I hope it’s not me. “Just wondering if you’re okay,” I tell him. It’s been over a week since he last called me.
“It’s been busy here,” he says, but he’s always busy and that hasn’t stopped him before from calling me every night.
“I’m sorry. I was starting to worry.”
“No, it’s okay, Luce. I’m at home. And I’m okay.”
Then a silence between us, but not the easy one we have when there’s no need to say much. This time, there’s so much of the unsaid between us.
“Jim? Are we okay?” I whisper into the phone.
I hear the sigh before he answers. “Yes, of course we are.”
“Then why do I feel …. that we’re not?”
“Look, I’m just giving you space to sort things out with Dan.”
“It’s sorted,” I tell him. More silence. I hate how this conversation is going, such a cold, distant feeling about it. “Jim? You still there?”
“I’m here,” he says quietly.
“It feels like it’s you who needs space from me,” I tell him.
“I understand you’ll always have feelings for your wife,” I interrupt, because I’m afraid of what he’s going to say.
“We can’t just delete feelings we have for people we’ve loved in the past. But do you love me at all?”
“It’s not that simple …..”
“Just a simple yes or no ….”
“You still love your wife.” Of course he does, in spite of everything. It’s the nature of the man, isn’t it ….. Dan’s the same.
“No!” That came out so fast and adamant, I believe him.
“Then what is it? She wants you back?” This will be the third time I know of that she’s pulled that trick.
“She doesn’t want me. Just doesn’t want anyone else to have me.”
“Well, that’s her problem. She can’t force us to play her game.”
“She can get vicious.”
“Well, bully for her! I’m not running away because of some nasty comments she makes.”
“You know about that?”
“Annie belongs to the same arty group on the net. She told me.”
“Then you know what she’s like. You talked about having feelings for people we’ve loved in the past. Do you have feelings for that photographer?”
“No. Not nice ones, anyway.”
“That’s how I feel about her.”
“And me, Jim? How do you feel about me?”
“Honestly? I feel you’d be far better off with Dan. Can’t ask for a better family than the Johnsons. You’d have a nice life such as I can’t offer you. There’s just too much baggage in my life, past and current ….”
“You’re not going to give me an answer, are you?”
“Luce, you know the answer. We don’t have to play these games.”
And I feel sorry for going on like I have. I do know the answer and I also understand what he is doing and why.
from the second book in the ‘Mundoo’ series, contemporary fiction set in a small country town in coastal South Australia