We Can’t Love Like This Anymore
I can look back now and tell you the exact day my marriage began to slowly wash out to sea like a child's sand castle when the morning tide rolls in. Of course, at the time, I didn't realize anything that great of significance was occurring. True, it was the worst fight Janet and I had ever had. And by ever had, I'm going all the way back to January of 1975 when we started dating.
Up until that point the majority of disagreements in our marriage were small and almost comical in nature. I didn't like the way she always parked her car so close to my tool bench in the garage. It made it hard for me to get at anything I needed. She didn't like the fact that I always let a hot shower run in the bathroom a good five minutes before I climbed in the tub. She said all the steam I created would take the wallpaper off the walls. So, the kind of minor, reoccurring disagreements every married couple has from time to time that are forgotten about within a few minutes.
This one was different, however. It wasn't forgotten about in a few minutes. Or a few hours. Or even a few days. Not even in a month or two. For the first time in three years of marriage, I found myself thinking back to our engagement when we'd lived in Florida all those years earlier, and why we'd broken it. We didn't want the same things out of life, we'd sadly told each other. The dreams we each had for the future, were too different to make a marriage work.
After three good years of marriage, three years in which my love for the woman surpassed all else in my life, I was stunned to find that once again our dreams weren't the same. That once again we didn't want the same things out of life. That once again, the dreams we each had for the future, were too different to make a marriage work.
Now the above revelations didn't come to me on the day of that very large altercation. Nor did they come to me all at once a few days afterwards. Nor did they come to Janet in that fashion. Almost a year passed before either one of us really knew the ramifications of that morning in November of 1993. A year filled with misunderstandings, angry words, tears, sorrows, and regrets. The hardest year of my life, bar none. And, the hardest year of Janet's life, as well.
Cold rain was beating against the side of our house when I woke up at six-thirty that Saturday morning. It was the weekend before Thanksgiving, 1993. I lifted my head long enough to see the water running in sheets down the bedroom windows.
My mind sighed with resignation.
Another Seattle rainstorm.
I burrowed under the covers once more, snuggling against Janet's warm back. She had adapted to Seattle's weather much better than I. True, I loved the brilliant oranges, reds, and yellows of autumn that didn't grace San Diego. And the first snowfall of winter was still a novelty that caused me to stand at the kitchen window like a child, watching each flake fall with wide-eyed wonder.
Nonetheless, on a day like that day was, damp and chilly and wet, my Southern California blood seemed to be calling me home.
Both Janet and I laid in bed dozing until eight o'clock. It was a good morning to be lazy. And also a good morning to progress no farther than the jacuzzi hot tub for a long, playful session of lovemaking. Which is exactly what we did.
An hour later I climbed out of the jacuzzi and into the shower. I had just soaped up my body when I heard the shower door slide open. My wife, with a devilish grin on her face, joined me underneath the hot spray. What had ended in the jacuzzi ten minutes earlier started all over again.
She kissed me lightly at first, then more ardently as her hands began to caress me from chest to waist...and then below.
I returned her attention with a fiery passion of my own. I gave a throaty chuckle, "I like it when it rains in Seattle on a Saturday morning," before pinning her gently to the ceramic tile wall with my body.
She laughed at me. "Need I remind you that when we got of bed this morning your exact words were, ‘It's so damn cold in this city when it rains. I'd be perfectly happy if I never see another drop of rain in my entire life.’"
As I entered her I told her softly, "I've changed my mind."
Fifteen minutes later I left Janet under the hot water to finish her shower alone. I lightly pinched her firm bottom as I climbed out.
bad for an old guy of forty-four, huh, Mrs. Simon?"
Water sloshed down her hair and back as she leaned forward to kiss me. "Not bad at all, Mr. Simon. As a matter of fact, terrifically fantastic. You get better with age." She gave me a smile and a wink. "And I should know."
I laughed at her while thinking back to some of our intimate times together in Florida. She was right, it was better now. Rather than diminishing our desire for each other, age and experience had only enhanced it. It had been that way since the first time she'd made love to me three weeks after Erika Garcia's death. We'd been on an extended honeymoon ever since.
I dried off, then hung the wet towel on the rack. I combed my hair before walking into the bedroom. I stepped over the slumbering Toby as I padded across the thick mauve carpeting to the cherry highboy. I pulled on a pair of underwear and blue jeans. I tossed a pair of socks and a heavy burgundy sweater onto the king-size, four poster bed. I walked over and sat down on its quilted comforter. The multi-print pattern in mauves, grays, and blues, blended in well with the room Janet and I had given a distinctive colonial flavor when we decorated. Gleaming cherry wood planking rode halfway up the walls. A chair rail, also in dark cherry, capped that off and circled the room. Above that was the ivory wallpaper with its repeated pattern of mauve and blue ribbons. A bright mauve border lined the paper where it met the high ceiling.
I loved that room, just like I loved the rest of the house. Every nook, cranny, and corner had been painstakingly redone. Even yet, we were still decorating. Buying pictures and handmade crafts when we ran across items that fit into our country colonial decor.
I sat bare chested, listening to the rain ping against the windows as I thought back over the past year. Admittedly, there had been one very painful part of it. Janet's miscarriage at the end of February. I had wanted that baby like I had wanted nothing else my entire life.
Janet had been at work that Wednesday, but unbeknownst to me hadn't been feeling well. I was surprised when I arrived home at six o'clock to find her there. Usually it was closer to seven before the chief assistant to Seattle's District Attorney pulled in our driveway of an evening. I was even more surprised to find her lying on the couch in the family room.
Janet wasn't worried, so neither was I. She said she had a headache and stomachache, but that it was nothing serious. She thought she had a touch of the flu that was going around. She'd called her obstetrician, who agreed with Janet’s assessment, and and who simply told her to get plenty of rest.
I made her eat some soup and drink some 7-UP, then helped her to bed. Within minutes she was sound asleep. When I joined her three hours later she was still sleeping peacefully.
She woke me up at midnight in hysterics, saying she had bad cramps and was bleeding heavily. I threw on a pair of jeans and a shirt before thrusting my bare feet into a pair of deck shoes. I wrapped her in a blanket and carried her down to the car. An hour later an emergency room physician told me that Janet had lost the baby. They let me see her within a few minutes after that. We clung to each other and cried. She told me over and over again how sorry she was. I rocked back and forth with her in my arms, stroking her hair and kissing her face, telling her she didn't need to be sorry. That it wasn't her fault. I don't think we'd ever been closer.
I worried about Janet for several months afterwards. As soon as she was allowed to return to work she immediately began putting in ten and twelve hour days again. She was too thin and too pale for the rest of that winter. I thought a trip to San Diego over Easter would do her good. And it did, until she and I got into a fight over the fact that I was working for Rick on Saturday morning. Now I could tolerate my wife being angry with me, but I couldn't tolerate her being rude and standoffish to my brother when he didn't do anything wrong in the first place. Which is just what she was that Saturday evening when Rick came to Mom's for dinner, as well as the next day when he came over at noon for the traditional Easter ham.
Janet and I saved any further discussion regarding her behavior until we arrived back home. I know Mom must have heard our argument that Saturday morning as it was, because when she kissed me goodbye at the airport on Sunday afternoon she said softly, "Be patient with Janet, honey. She's been through a lot this winter. No matter what the circumstance, losing a child is a devastating experience for a woman. Just give her some time. She'll be back to her old self again soon enough."
That first week home from San Diego was a tense one for both of us. Janet was mad at me, and quite frankly I was pretty upset with her, as well. But by the next week things had smoothed out between us considerably. Not because we'd resolved anything regarding the Rick issue, but simply because we'd laid it to rest. Or chosen to ignore it might be a better way to phrase it.
As summer came to Seattle that June, so did Janet's health return. She gained back the weight she had lost. I could no longer count every one of her ribs when I wrapped my arms around her in bed each night. Her cheeks had a healthy glow to them once again. And like Mom had promised on Easter Sunday, she was back to her old self once more. We had a good summer. A summer filled with backyard cookouts, and Mariners baseball games at the Kingdome. A summer filled with long Saturday evenings with friends on our deck and a neighborhood block party. A summer that included Sunday picnics in the park with Toby, symphony concerts under the stars as performed by Seattle's orchestra in an outdoor band shell, and gliding over the gentle waves on Puget Sound in the sail boat we'd purchased and kept docked at a nearby marina.
For the third year in a row I surprised Janet with plane tickets on the eve of our wedding anniversary. This time our destination was that little South Carolina town we'd been so fond of fifteen years earlier. I'd even managed to get a reservation at the same bed and breakfast inn we'd grown to love.
We spent the week strolling the beaches hand in hand and swimming in the Atlantic, among other things. We'd rented bicycles and pedaled for miles over peaceful country lanes. We popped in and out of the antique and craft shops we so well remembered. As we picked up items for our house in these old- fashioned stores, we'd look at each other and laugh with disbelief. We could hardly imagine that all these years later we finally had a Victorian home of our own to decorate. We no longer stood on the sidewalks outside the quaint mansions on that South Carolina main street dreaming that one day we'd marry and own one just like them.
We put the stresses of every day life behind us that week, just as we'd done on our prior anniversary trips. In the relaxing atmosphere the small quiet town provided, we made love every night when we returned to our room at the inn. And more often than not most mornings, too. We laughed over the way the ancient bed springs squeaked each time we moved. Janet was both amused and mortified at the thought that every guest in the place knew what we were doing...and doing so frequently. We even made love one morning in the claw-footed tub our private bathroom contained. A first for both of us. A very enjoyable first I might add.
As our vacation drew to a close I remember thinking how fitting it would be if our child was conceived on that anniversary trip, in the pretty little town that held so many wonderful memories for both of us.
I came back to the present when Toby yawned loudly, shifted position on the carpeting, and curled up in a tighter ball before going back to sleep.
Smart dog, I thought as I looked out at the driving rain once more. Thunder rumbled, causing the windows to rattle in their panes. Lightening streaked the dark sky as the storm intensified.
I heard the shower shut off in the bathroom. Within a few
seconds the high-pitched whine of the blow dryer drifted out to me.
As I often found myself doing in recent days after Janet and I had made love, I wondered if this was the time that everything worked as it should. Was this morning in the jacuzzi, or later in the shower, when a child was conceived? Although I hadn't said anything about it to Janet, I'd begun to worry a bit. We'd been trying to have a baby again since August. Now I know from August until November isn't that long a period of time, especially where the making of babies is concerned. But I couldn't help remembering that the previous year Janet was pregnant within two weeks of our stopping the use of birth control. I knew there would come a point very soon when Janet’s age could play a factor in our easy ability to conceive. She had turned forty-one in February. I wondered if we were suddenly going to face long months of trying for a baby, and long months of being continuously disappointed.
As I sat on our big bed I couldn't resist daydreaming about three or four little kids piling in it with us on a rainy Saturday morning just like that one was.
Of course, I suppose when that time comes I'll have to return to my old habit of wearing pajama bottoms and forego sleeping next to my wife in the buff, I thought with a smile. Just like Janet will have to stop buying her nightwear out of the Victoria's Secret catalog. Or at least buy something a little more suitable for the children to see her in each morning, and save the fun stuff for Daddy's eyes only.
I looked over at the jacuzzi that was in a far corner of the massive room. It sat up on a raised platform that was carpeted in mauve as well, with a skylight in the ceiling above it. I'd even gladly give up making love to my wife in that hot tub if it meant adding a few kids in swimsuits to the scenario.
I knew when the day came that Janet gave birth to our first child our lives would drastically change. We hadn't quite settled yet on the issue of three children or four – me, of course, opting for the higher number. Regardless of what the number, even just two, I knew because of Janet's age we'd be having them back-to-back. Our household was likely to be a pretty hectic place for some years to come.
I smiled that morning because I couldn't think of anything I'd look forward to more.
And every time I thought of our yet-to-be-born children, I thought of Mom and Rick. I thought of what a wonderful, loving grandmother my mom would be. The kind of grandmother every kid would eagerly anticipate a visit from. She'd patch skinned knees and heal broken hearts all with a single kiss just like she'd done for me time and time again throughout my growing up years.
And then there's Uncle Rick, I mused with a fond smile. There's no doubt he'll be the favorite of all the children. The perfect playmate who will spoil my kids unmercifully, put them up to no good, then protect them from Daddy's wrath. But that's okay. Every kid needs a best buddy like Rick. I know I did. And if there ever comes a day when I’m not around I want my kids to look upon him as their father. Just as I know Rick will look upon them, and love them, as if they are his own children. I couldn't ask for anyone better to guide them through the trials and tribulations of life.
I pushed all those thoughts to the back of my mind when the blow dryer was silenced. I quickly put my socks on before walking back into the bathroom, still bare chested, to shave.
The vanity ran the length of the room and contained twin sinks with brass faucets. Janet was standing at the sink closest to the door in her long, dark-green velour robe. Her hair was done, and I could tell she’d recently finished putting on her makeup.
My quiet entry into the room caught her by surprise. She was just bringing a glass of water to her lips. She stopped the motion in mid-air, turning to give me a wide-eyed, startled look. For just a moment she made me think of a frightened, delicate doe who'd been stumbled upon in a thick forest. I caught sight of the tiny white pill she held between the thumb and forefinger of her left hand right before she concealed it in her closed fist.
My immediate thought was that there was something medically wrong with her that she hadn't told me about.
Concern furrowed my brows together as I walked over to gently grasp the closed palm, forcing it open once more.
She looked up at me, but didn't answer. The expression on her face was the same one Rick used to wear when Mom caught him with his hand in the cookie jar. It would have been funny had I not been so worried.
"Janet?" I demanded firmly.
Before she could answer me, my eyes fell to the round, white plastic case that lay on the vanity top. It was similar in size to that of a woman's makeup compact. Only that's not what it was. I knew if I opened it I'd see little numbers etched in the plastic that went from 1 to 31. I also knew I'd see the remainder of the birth control pills for the month nestled under those numbers.
With an angry jerk I released her wrist. The pill flew out of her hand, pinged off the bathroom mirror, and ended up lost forever in the thick carpeting.
"What the hell is that?"
"A.J...A.J., please," she begged while laying a hand on my chest. "Don't get mad. I need to talk to--"
I backed away from her, causing her hand to fall helplessly to her side.
"Don't get mad! What do you mean, don't get mad? Janet...I thought we were trying to have a baby. For God's sake, I've thought that since August! How the hell long have you been back on those things?"
She wouldn't look at me. "Since March."
Since March. Well now, that came as quite a surprise to me. Here she'd led me to believe she was using an over-the-counter method of birth control since the miscarriage. And that she'd been using no birth control since the first of August.
"Damn you," I spat at her right before I stormed out of the room.
She ran after me into the bedroom, grabbing my arm to halt my progress for the stairway. "A.J., please. Just listen. Just listen to me for a minute."
As angry as I was, my common sense prevailed when it told me this was too serious of a situation for me to take off in the Camaro for an hour or two. I had to hear her out. I had to know just why she'd been deceiving me all these months. Just why she'd smile and murmur yes every time I made reference to conceiving a child when we'd made love in recent weeks.
I shagged my arm free and moved to the farthest corner of the room. I folded my arms across my chest, my stance rigid and unyielding.
"Okay. Talk. And it better be a damn good explanation, Janet."
For as skilled an orator as she was in the courtroom, she was suddenly verbally impotent. She swallowed hard before sitting on the edge of the bed. She gathered her long robe around her legs as if the icy atmosphere in the room permeated her skin. She looked up at me briefly, catching my gaze of steel, before her eyes were downcast to the floor.
"I have something I need to tell you," she confessed softly. "Something that I had hoped you'd never have to...know about it."
Even Janet's broken tone didn't evoke any sympathy from her upset husband.
"So tell me."
She took a deep breath. "I've had...I've had two prior miscarriages, A.J."
To say I was confused doesn't even begin to cover the depth of my bewilderment.
"Two miscarriages prior to the one in February?"
"Yes," she nodded her bowed head. "When I was married to Allan."
My mouth had to have been hanging open at that point in time. "But...why?" I stammered. "Why didn't you ever tell me?"
She finally looked up at me.
"I don't know. For a lot of reasons, I suppose. First of all, because the memories surrounding those miscarriages...especially the second one, are very painful. And then...well, I've worked hard these past three years at burying the ghost of Allan Cassidy. Of what he did to me. I think of you as the only husband I've ever had. I guess...I guess I fooled myself into thinking the pregnancy last winter was my first as well." Her eyes were wrought with sincerity. "And that's the way I wanted it to be, A.J. I wanted you to be the only man I've ever had a child with. I didn't want you to be...upset, over my prior pregnancies with Allan."
If she thought that was going to appease me she was wrong. She knew perfectly well that nothing about her past life with Allan bothered me, or threatened me, in the slightest. I wasn't at all curious, and never had been, as to what their married life had been like, what kinds of things they'd done together as a couple, or even if the guy was good in bed. I didn't know...and quite frankly I didn't care. All I knew...the only thing that had mattered since the day Janet and I had rekindled our romance, was that I was the most important man in her life. Just like she was the most important woman in mine. The past relationships either one of us had engaged in over the years meant nothing anymore as far as I was concerned.
I leaned against the highboy, my arms still folded across my shirtless chest. "Why don't you tell me about it," I firmly insisted.
She searched my face for signs of empathy. When she didn't find any, she had no choice but to continue.
"The first time we...Allan and I, had only been married five months. I was trying a very complex murder case, not that dissimilar to the...Garcia situation. It was both physically and emotionally draining. When I missed my period I didn't think anything of it. I was a newlywed, under a lot of stress at work, and putting in fourteen hour days six days a week. And I wasn't trying to get pregnant. It was the farthest thing from my mind. We were using birth control. So when I missed my next period I still didn't think too much of it. Just decided that if I missed one more I'd go see the doctor. Then about two weeks later I started bleeding. At first I thought my body was back on track. That I had finally gotten my period. But then the bleeding became heavy and I started having cramps like I never experienced before. One of my coworkers took me to the emergency room and got a hold of Allan, who was in court that day. By the time he arrived I had discovered that I had, in fact, been pregnant, and was in the midst of a miscarriage."
She paused there, waiting for my reply. When I didn't make one she continued with her story.
"Even though we hadn't planned for that baby, and I hadn't known I was pregnant, it hurt - to lose a child like that. But considering the hours I was putting in, I thought it was for the best. I really hadn't been taking care of myself like I should have. Later, when I saw my own doctor, he agreed. He also left me with the impression that as far as future pregnancies went, I probably didn't have anything to worry about provided I took care of myself."
Again she paused, waiting for my reaction. She didn't get anymore out of me than my order of, "Go on. I want to hear all of it."
She slowly nodded her understanding. Whether she wanted to tell me the rest or not, she was well aware she owed it to me.
"During the winter of 1989, three and a half years after that first miscarriage, Allan and I decided it was time to start a family. Try as I might, I'll never forget the day I found out I was pregnant. It was June 12th."
Okay, I'll admit it. I got a bit of perverse satisfaction out of the fact that it took Allan the better part of six months to get Janet pregnant. Something I had accomplished in only two weeks time. Had the situation been different I would have teased my wife and strutted around the room like a proud old barn yard rooster. At the time, however, levity wasn't at the forefront of my mind. Though we both could have probably used some of it just then.
"I had told Allan I'd be tied up in court all day," Janet said. "But in actuality, when I left the doctor's office after getting the results of the pregnancy test, I rushed home. I was planning to surprise him with a candlelight dinner and romantic evening, then tell him we were going to have a baby...in much the same way I told you," she confessed quietly.
And that's just how she had told me. My first shock of the evening back in early December of the prior year came when I pulled my Camaro in the garage at five forty-five and found my wife's BMW already parked there. The next shock came when I was yanked in the door by the lapels of my suit coat to be greeted by Janet, clad only in a revealing red negligee I had never seen before. A very revealing red negligee. She slowly undressed me right there in the family room, making love to me on the carpeting in front of a roaring fire. From there we moved up to the bedroom where I took the lead and made love to her...twice. After we had showered together and dressed, she did indeed serve me dinner by candlelight. It was over dinner that she told me I was going to be a father the following summer. I was so happy that tears flowed down my cheeks as I rose to kiss her and hold her close.
My thoughts of that very special night receded as Janet continued with what happened on the day she planned to tell Allan Cassidy much the same thing.
"In the end, however, it was Allan who surprised me."
From across the room I asked, "What do you mean?"
I could clearly read the pain in her eyes as if whatever had occurred to hurt her so had happened only yesterday.
A bittersweet smile touched her lips. "Allan had already started his romantic evening. With my best friend. In our bed."
Even when she had told me the details surrounding her divorce almost four years earlier, she had not told me this. I was willing to bet she had never told anyone. Not even her father. As mad as I was at Janet right then, my heart constricted with pain over what Allan Cassidy had done to her.
She held her head up in that proud way she has when she's triumphed over great adversity.
"I kicked him out of the house that day, A.J. I've lost count of how many times that summer he begged me to take him back. Promised me he'd change. Only by then, it was too late for me to care whether he'd change or not. By then I'd uncovered the other affairs he'd had. As you can imagine, I wasn't sleeping and barely eating. I lost fifteen pounds in a matter of only three weeks. Yet somehow I still managed to get up each morning and put in fourteen hour days at work. It was as if my career was all I had left. And, in a way, I suppose it was. In August I miscarried the baby. I never even told Allan I was pregnant. In September I moved back to San Diego. In November I filed for divorce. From there...well, from there you know the rest of the story."
I stood in silence, absorbing all she had told me. She waited for me to speak. I had absolutely no idea what to say. I was mad at her, hurt that she had kept all this from me, and yet I felt sorry for her, too. Sorry for the pain that she had tried so hard to put in the past and forget about. I was almost sorry that I had walked in on her in the bathroom fifteen minutes earlier and caught her taking the pill. Almost sorry that act precipitated this anguishing discussion. Almost. But not quite.
Silent tears trickled down Janet's face. This was the first time during the life of our marriage that I hadn't held her when she cried. The first time I purposefully kept a distance between us.
When the flow of her tears ceased somewhat I informed her coldly, "What happened between you and Allan doesn't excuse the fact that you've led me to believe since August that when we make love there's a possibility of a baby being formed."
"I know that," came the regret-filled reply.
"Why, Janet? Just tell me why."
"I...I was scared."
I couldn't imagine what she could possibly be scared of. What she thought she couldn't tell me.
"Scared of what?"
She looked down and nervously fingered the belt of her robe. She worried her lower lip a moment before finally meeting my gaze once again. "A.J., I...I'm afraid I'll never carry a child to full term."
"What makes you say that?" I was quick to ask, and also quick to come up with viable excuses. My heart wasn't ready to hear what my head was already beginning to suspect. "Obviously both times with Allan you were under a lot of stress. And this last time the doctor said it was just nature's way of eliminating--"
"An imperfect fetus," she finished for me. "But at the time...well, at the time, A.J., my doctor didn't know my medical history. I had never told her I'd had two prior miscarriages."
I could have gotten good and angry once again over that fact. God knows I wanted to. But what good would it have done me? I knew that right then was the time to continue productive discussion, rather than let my temper bring the conversation to a quick halt.
She knew me well enough, however, to clearly read my mind.
"I thought...really thought that this time with you it would be different. That there would be no miscarriage. I was naively convinced the love we share would be enough to make the baby grow. And you...you wanted that baby so much. I saw it in your eyes every morning when you asked me how I was feeling, and every night in your tender smile when you insisted upon waiting on me hand and foot. I just didn't want you to...to worry that something might happen."
"You shouldn't have done that, Janet," I gently admonished. "You should have told me. At least we could have both been prepared."
“I know.” She dropped her head in shame. "I know. And I'm sorry. I'm so very sorry."
"And Doctor Thoms is now aware of your past history?" I took an educated guess.
She met my gaze once again. "Yes...yes she is. She's also aware of my...my mother's medical history, too."
The expression on my face must have asked my unvoiced question, "And just what does that mean?" because Janet answered me before I was able to speak.
"My mother miscarried four children before I was born, A.J. She was bedridden for eight months with me because the slightest activity would cause her to start bleeding. That's why I'm an only child."
It took me a long moment to absorb this very important piece of family history neither my wife, nor my father-in-law, had ever felt the need to share with me. Looking back now I can better understand it wasn't spoken of simply because it was painful to discuss. At the time, though, I didn't feel quite that way. The only way I felt was cheated. Cheated and deceived.
"What has the doctor had to say about all of this?" I needed to know.
"She doesn't know one way or another for certain, of course, but she suspects I may never carry a baby to full term," I was told softly. "Or at least not without some very stringent precautionary measures."
"Like being bedridden?"
"Yes, like being bedridden." Unshed tears made her blue eyes bright and large. "A.J., I'm sorry." She dropped her head in her hands and began to sob. "I'm just so sorry."
This time I went to her. The bed dipped with my weight as I sat down next to her. I pulled Janet to me until her head rested on my bare shoulder. I felt the warmth of her tears against my skin while I rubbed my hands over the soft velour that covered her back.
"I know I should have told you sooner," she sobbed. "I've been wanting to tell you ever since the night of the miscarriage. I just...I just didn't want to hurt you. I knew how much you wanted the baby. I knew how disappointed you'd be."
"Shhh. Shhh," I soothed as I planted soft kisses in her hair where the sweet scent of shampoo lingered. I was still good and angry with her, but that anger didn't override the love I felt for her. At least not quite yet. I was even mentally kicking myself for having been so cold to her only minutes before - telling myself I needed to put myself in her place.
She's gone through three miscarriages that were all physically, as well as emotionally, painful. Who's to say any one of us wouldn't have chosen to do just what she did? Especially when she was forced to face in February the fact that her mother's inability to carry children has evidently been passed on to her.
"It's okay, babe," I whispered into her hair. "We'll both talk to the doctor. We'll find out what she thinks we need to do in order for you to carry a baby to full term. Even if it means being bedridden, we can always hire someone to come here for part of the day while I'm at work to do the household chores and get your lunch, or anything else you might need. And maybe I can cut back on my hours in order to help--"
She disentangled herself from my grasp and looked up at me with red-rimmed eyes. "A.J...no. I just don't think...I'm not sure I can put myself through all that."
As much as I wanted us to have a child of our own, I wasn't against exploring other avenues.
"Okay. Then we'll adopt. When I go to the office on Monday I can have one of the other lawyers start working on a private adoption for us. Mike and his wife went that route last year, remember? It was only eight months before they brought little Nicholas home from the hospital. I'll ask Mike on Monday. I'm sure there's a teenage girl out there somewhere right now looking for a couple like us to adopt her unborn child."
Janet grasped one of my hands and lightly squeezed. "A.J., please...slow down a minute. Just...slow down."
She dropped my hand and rose from the bed. I watched in confusion as she began to pace the floor. Finally, she came to a stop and turned to face me.
"A.J...A.J., I've been doing a lot of thinking since February, and to be quite honest with you..."
She let the sentence die there. "What, Janet?" I prompted, my heart beginning to beat out a warning of impending doom. "To be quite honest with me what?"
"To be quite honest with you...I don't want children."
I felt my entire body sag with disbelief. "What?" I whispered.
"I don't want children anymore."
At that moment I was too stunned to even feel anger. "But, Janet...we both agreed we'd have a family. We discussed this before we married." Now that I was getting warmed up the anger was quickly returning. "It was only one year ago that we conceived a child! How can you stand here and tell me now that you don't want any?"
"I'm sorry. I know this comes as a shock to you. But a year ago I wasn't up for a promotion to chief prosecutor. You know how close I am to being named to that position. Everyone from the mayor on down tells me I'm sure to get the job. You know how much that title means to me. You, of all people, know how long I've worked to get to this point in my career."
"I know that," I readily acknowledged. "But what does that have to do with us having a child?"
"A.J., there's no way I can be bedridden for nine months now. And there's no way I can meet the demands of an infant, regardless of whether it's through a natural birth or adoption."
"You could take a leave of absence," I pointed out.
"Not if I want this job I can't."
I stood now, as well, and began to do a little pacing of my own. "What about part-time? You could go part-time for a while and then see how things--"
This time it was Janet who folded her arms across her chest. "No," she stubbornly stood her ground. "I can't do that and be named chief prosecutor as well. If I do, they'll find someone else. Some...some man who doesn't have the responsibility of a small child."
Before I could say anything to that she hesitantly offered, "There might be another way though. If we held the pregnancy off until after I was named chief prosecutor, I might be able to be...semi-bedridden while working here at home. And after that—“
I stopped my pacing and turned to look at her. "After that what?"
"We could hire a nanny like I talked about last Januar--"
Now it was my turn to be stubborn.
"No. Absolutely not."
"No, Janet. I won't have some...some stranger living in this house with us and taking care of my child."
"A.J., please," her arms splayed out at her sides as she pleaded. "Just listen. It won't be that bad. We could convert the basement workout room into a small apartment for her. That way we'd still have our privacy. There's already a bathroom down there. I bet with some careful planning by a skilled carpenter we could even fit a kitchen in down there."
My next question was hardly a major issue to be resolved, but I brought it up anyway. "And just where would we workout together in the mornings? Even if we have baby, I don't plan on us giving up that time spent with one another."
She had a ready-made solution to every problem. "We could build a room onto the back of the garage."
"No," I shook my head. "No nanny."
"Then what about day-care? There's a great center right in my office building--"
"No. Forget it. No child of mine is going to spend his or her day being taken care of by inept strangers."
"A.J., that's not fair and you know it! Licensed day-care providers are, by far, not inept strangers."
She was probably right. I probably wasn't being fair. We'd had several discussions such as this in January and February, but before they'd come to a head and actually broke out into an argument, she'd suffered the miscarriage.
I suppose I knew better than to bring up my solution, but I did anyway. Though I broached it gently, when I suggested, "You could quit your job for a few years. You could stay home with the children until they start school."
I'm not your mother," she informed me.
"And just what the hell is that supposed to mean?"
"I'm not June Cleaver. I wasn't cut out to stay home and bake cookies all day. You know that."
She'd treaded on sacred ground when she'd brought my mother, and her maternal skills, into this disagreement.
"So you think that's all my mother is? A one dimensional June Cleaver who did nothing more than stay home and bake cookies day in and day out?"
"No, of course not," she swiftly amended. "Your mother's a very intelligent, vibrant, active lady. She always has been. And I love her dearly. You know that. But much like my own mother, she was the quintessential 50's suburban housewife."
"And just what's wrong with that?" I wanted to know. "Don't you think my mother did a good job of raising her children?"
"There's nothing wrong with that. It's just that it's a different time now. Women have opened so many other doors for themselves. And yes, I think your mother did a wonderful job of raising you." The way she emphasized the word you, only added lighter fluid to the hot coals that were beginning to smolder inside me.
"Why do you always have to slam Rick like that?"
"I don't slam Rick!"
"Yes, you do! Every time his name has come up in conversation since Easter you always have to make some smart comment about him."
She held up her hands in surrender and turned away from me.
"Look, Rick isn't the issue here right now, so let's just drop it."
"Okay, fine," I agreed. "Good idea. Let's get back to the issue at hand. A child. Our child. The child we both agreed to have," I finished as a sharp reminder.
She whirled around, her hands settling on her hips.
"You're right, A.J. We did agree to have a child. But at that time I honestly didn't know that I might never be able to carry a child. And at that time, I didn't know I would one day be up for the biggest promotion of my life. And at that time, I didn't give you any guarantees that life wouldn't change! It does, you know. Things do change. People change. What we want out of life can change from year-to-year based on what opportunities come our way. So if you're going to ask me to stay home and be a full-time mother, don't. It's never going to happen."
Well now, that sounded rather final, didn't it?
I thought a long minute before I offered the only solution left of me. I barely said it above a whisper, knowing full well what her reaction would be.
"I could go back to being a private investigator."
"No!" Her eyes flashed along with the lightening outside the window. "Don't even suggest such a thing to me!"
I crossed the room and grabbed her hands. I was so desperate for us to turn the clock back a year to when we'd both so badly wanted a child, that I practically begged her to hear me out.
"Janet...please. You've asked me to listen to you this morning, now you owe it to listen to me."
She wormed her hands out of my grasp and adapted my unyielding stance from earlier. She folded her arms across her chest once more.
"If I went back to private investigation work I could make my own hours. For the most part, I could be here with the baby. We could do as you suggested, build onto the back of the garage. Though instead of a workout room, it could be my office. I could meet with clients during the day and do most of my legwork at night after you got home. For the times that was impossible, we could find a good babysitter. I wouldn't be against that if it was just for a few hours a week. When the child...or children, get older and start school, then I could put in regular day hours."
Throughout my entire dissertation she was shaking her head.
"No. No way. It'll be just like it was when I was growing up. Just like it was for my mother. I'll never see you. The children will never see you. I'll--"
"Of course the children will see me!" I countered. "I'll be a stay-at-home dad. I'll be their primary caretaker during the day."
"It doesn't make any difference to me, A.J. All I'd do is worry about you every single second, just like my mother used to worry about my father. Worry that some thug has left you for dead in an alley somewhere. Worry that you've crossed paths with the wrong person. Worry that..."
I stopped listening to her at that point. I'd heard it all before. Many times.
I raked a frustrated hand through my hair. I hardly noticed it when Toby rose to retreat to a more peaceful area of our home in order to finish out his morning nap.
"Janet...this isn't getting us anywhere. I don't know why you can't see that me going back to being an investigator will work for us. It won't be like it was when you were a kid and Myron was doing it. You'll be the primary wage earner, just like you are now. You know perfectly well I'll never come anywhere near to matching your salary if I choose to do P.I. work again. But that's okay. With your income, it will mean I won't have to do all the jobs Myron did. I won't have to take on jobs you feel uncomfortable with."
She knew me better than that. Probably better than I knew myself where this issue was concerned.
"You say that now, but it'll be a different story when some sobbing woman shows up on our doorstep begging for your help. Then it will be, 'Oh, Janet, please understand. She needs my help. It's only for this one time.' But it won't be for one time only, A.J. It will happen again and again just like it always did with my father. Just like it always did with you and Rick."
Janet reached out and grasped my hands.
"Can't we stay like we are?" She beseeched. "All I need out of life is you and my career. Between you, my job, and this beautiful home - I have everything I want."
"But that's the problem, isn't it, Janet? I don't."
With that, she dropped my hands and walked away from me. She crossed over to one of the windows where she stood with her back to me staring out at the rain. "I don't know what more to say to you," she softly admitted.
"Tell me that one way or another we'll have a child. Tell me that you want a child as much as I do. Tell me that somehow, we can make it work out in such a way that we're both content with the decision."
She shook her head. "I don't know if I can do that, A.J."
For a long minute the only sound in the room was that of the rain hitting the windows and house.
"I just wish I could understand why it's so different now," I finally told her. "Why only a year ago we were both eagerly anticipating our first child. Why you've had such a big change of heart."
"I've already told you all my reasons." She turned to face me once more. "I know I can't make you understand them. But I have told them to you."
"Yes...I guess you have," I agreed quietly. "Only it comes about three years too late, Janet."
I was quite pleased with myself, and the bit of drama I'd induced into the conversation with that ending. I'll readily admit now, that I didn't mean for it to sound as final as it did, but at the time I was mad enough not to give a shit as to how it sounded.
She took a step away from the window, calling to my retreating back.
"A.J.! A.J., please. Please don't leave things this way between us!"
I made it to the bottom stair before I realized I had left my sweater on the bed. I possessed too much stubborn pride to go back up and retrieve it. Plus, that would have put a large damper on that dramatic exit of only moments earlier. I grabbed a jacket out of the closet and zipped it up over my bare torso. I shoved my feet into my tennis shoes and headed for the garage. I thought I could see Janet standing in one of our bedroom windows as I drove off down the street in the Camaro. But I didn't care. Driving had always been my way of letting off steam and thinking things through. And suddenly, I found myself with a lot of things to think through.
Within a couple of hours I had returned home from my drive around Seattle. Janet was down in the workout room pedaling her exercise bike with her Walkman on. Her way of letting off steam and thinking things through.
I had only gone to the top of the basement stairs to confirm that's where she was. She hadn't seen me, and I didn't go any farther so that she would. Instead, I went upstairs and finally put that sweater on that my fastidious wife had, surprisingly enough, left on the bed where I had laid it. I retreated to our home office where I pulled out some files I'd brought from work. When Janet came in the office an hour later to do the same thing, we didn't do anymore than nod at each other like two strangers on a subway. An uncomfortable silence prevailed. I know I wasn't concentrating on what I was doing, and I doubt she was either. Shortly after her arrival I returned the files to my briefcase and left the room without so much as an "I'll see you later." But then, she didn't have any parting words for me either. I went down to the basement to lift weights for a while. From there I moved on to have a thunderous round with the punching bag. After a quick shower I returned to the family room where I spent the rest of the afternoon in my favorite chair with a book.
Janet came in around four o'clock. "Do you want me to cancel our plans with Craig and Annalise for tonight?" She asked quietly.
Annalise was an attorney Janet worked with. She and her husband were Seattle natives, and the first friends we'd made upon our arrival from San Diego. The two women shared a lot of common interests, just like Craig and I did. He was a detective on the Seattle police force. Craig's father had held the same position, and ironically enough, had retired at a relatively young age to open his own P.I. business.
"Yes, I think you'd better," I told her just as quietly in response to her question. I was in no mood to spend the evening eating dinner and playing Trivial Pursuit at the home of these two close friends who would immediately be able to detect that something was wrong between my wife and myself. And I was especially in no mood to be around their three adorable little girls who were all under the age of five.
"What do you want me to tell them?"
I gave an indifferent shrug before returning my attention to my Grisham novel. "Whatever you want."
felt her eyes on me for a long moment before she finally picked up the phone on
the end table.
"Hi, Annalise, it's Janet. I'm sorry to call you on such short notice but...A.J.'s sick, so we won't be able to make it this evening."
I looked up over the top of my book with an expression that said, "I am?" but Janet refused to meet my gaze.
Annalise must have expressed concern for my sudden ill health because I next heard my wife reply, "No, no, it's nothing serious. Just a touch of the flu I think." She chuckled a bit, again at something Annalise must have said. "Yes, I think it's that Southern California blood of his. You know how much he hates these cold, rainy Seattle days."
Now that part was true. And it was also a running joke between the four of us. From November until April Craig and Annalise took every opportunity to rib me about being a San Diego surfer boy who didn't know how to withstand a good old-fashioned Pacific Northwestern winter, as they referred to it. I simply referred to it as misery.
"Okay, I'll tell him," Janet said into the receiver. "And again, I'm sorry about the short notice.
“Sure. I'll ask him and get back to you at work later this week," she promised right before breaking the connection.
I didn't look up from the page I was reading. "You'll ask me what?"
"She wants to know if we'll reschedule for two weekends from now."
Again, my eyes traveled over the top of my book to meet hers.
"I'll have to think about it," I replied neutrally. "It depends on how I'm...feeling." She didn't miss the emphasis I put on that last word, nor the double meaning it contained.
"I don't want to talk about it right now, Janet."
"So that's all you're going to do for the rest of the day? Sit there and read that damn book?"
I focused back in on the written page. "That's about the size of it."
She rose from the couch, her hands automatically going to her hips. "You know, sometimes you still act like the spoiled baby of the family you once were."
If she thought that was going to get a rise out of me she was wrong. Calmly, I shot right back with, "And sometimes you still act like the spoiled only child you once were."
"Oh...damn you," she hissed with frustration before turning on her heel and retreating for our home office once more.
In looking back now, I realize we were both acting like spoiled children to a certain extent. Both wanting our own way, and not having any idea how to meet in the middle.
And neither one of us wanting to try.
Other than the one night Janet had spent in the hospital because of the miscarriage, that November night in 1993 was the first time we'd slept apart since we'd exchanged our wedding vows.
Janet came back to the family room about six o'clock and turned on the news. Neither one of us said anything about dinner. I finally rose around seven made myself a sandwich. Not long after that she tossed a salad for her meal.
If we stayed home on a Saturday evening, especially a cold rainy one, we generally snuggled up on the couch together and popped a movie in the VCR. That night's movie, however, was viewed from our separate perches across the room from each other. Janet on the loveseat, me in my recliner.
I didn't bother to stay up and see the end of the movie. Half of the enjoyment I got out of those Saturday night viewings was the way we laughed together over a good comedy, or the observations we'd exchange during a spellbinding drama, or the way I teased Janet when she cried a river over a sappy love story. Obviously, there was no shared laughter, observations, or teasing that night. I couldn't even tell you what we were watching.
I rose at quarter to nine to finish my reading in bed. Janet didn't ask me where I was going, and I didn't volunteer. I imagine she figured it out fairly quickly when I opened the front door to allow Toby his final run of the evening. I waited in the foyer until I heard his low pitched bark on the other side of the door. I let him in, shut off the porch light, and locked up the house. My loyal little companion must have decided that my chosen bedtime was much too early for a basset hound on a Saturday night. He walked through the house and returned to Janet's side in the family room, while I went upstairs to our bedroom.
I woke up at ten minutes after midnight. My open book was lying on my chest and the bedside lamp was still on. I rose on my elbow to see the other side of our big bed was vacant of the person who normally slept there.
At first I assumed she was still downstairs watching television. I put on my robe and padded out of the bedroom. By the time I got down to the foyer I could tell that other than the dim light we always left on over the kitchen sink, the rest of the house was dark. I broke out into a cold sweat as I hurried through the family room to the garage. Although I hardly thought it possible, I was suddenly fearful that I'd upset her to the point that she'd left me.
It was with relief that I saw the BMW still parked next to the Camaro when I flicked the light on. I swallowed hard, then shut the light off before quietly relocking the door that allowed one to step from the family room into the garage.
I proceeded through the house once more, searched the living room and office just to make sure she wasn't sitting somewhere in the dark, then headed back up the stairs. The first three bedrooms I came to were empty. I finally found her in the one at the end of the hallway. The one whose bay window looked out over the backyard and provided a stunning view of Mt. Rainier. The one Janet and I referred to as 'Rick's room' since it was where my brother always slept when he stayed with us. I had purchased an extra firm mattress for the antique queen-size brass bed the room contained, with just Rick in mind. The extra firm mattress did wonders for a back that had experienced a little too much rough treatment over the course of our years as private investigators.
The rain had stopped several hours earlier. The cloud cover had cleared away enough to allow the full harvest moon to shine in through the big window. For whatever reason, Janet hadn't dropped the mini-blinds before going to bed. Not that it was necessary. Our backyard extended for three quarters of an acre. Beyond that was a four hundred acre wooded forest preserve with no development other than birdhouses built by local school children.
I stood in the doorway of the room, watching the slow, even
rise and fall of her chest. I know now that I should have woken her up and asked her to come to our bed. I know now that it was a mistake for us to sleep apart that night. But as my mother often says, the Simon men possess more stubbornness than a whole shipload of Vikings. Mom claims that she'd have had to give birth to eight boys in order for the abundance of stubborn pride Rick and I alone possess to be evenly distributed.
And it was that foolish, Simon stubborn pride that kept me from asking my wife to return to our bed that night. And it was Janet's own foolish, stubborn pride that kept her from coming to it in the first place.
She slept there the next night, and the night after as well. No matter what the circumstances, I knew she'd be back to our bed on Wednesday night. It was either that, or sleep with Rick since he and Mom were due to fly in for the Thanksgiving holiday on Wednesday afternoon.
I actually chuckled to myself over that thought as I climbed into bed alone once again on Tuesday night.
She might be mad at me right now, but I know she doesn't want to sleep with my brother.
It was only much later, when our marriage was too far gone to save, that I found out Janet took my silence over where she chose to sleep those four nights in November to be acquiescence of her decision. Of course, it wasn't, but I never let on any differently at the time all this was happening. To a certain extent it hurt that she didn't know that. Didn't know how hard it would be for me to ask. She should have. Unfortunately, it was the beginning of many misunderstandings that would divide us in the coming year. I've often wondered how things would have turned out if only we both could have seen what lay ahead that night we chose to sleep in separate rooms.
Mom and Rick arrived right on schedule Wednesday afternoon. I took off work early to pick them up at the airport. For the next few hours it was easy to entertain them without arousing their suspicions as to what was occurring between Janet and me simply because she didn't arrive home until seven. Normally, when my mother and brother visited us for Thanksgiving, my wife left work early as well, in order to get a head start on the holiday. It wasn't lost on me that evening that Janet purposely stayed late at the office in order to avoid them. Or rather, in order to avoid allowing them to observe the two of us interacting together. We hadn't done much of that since Saturday morning. As far as loving husband and wife exchanges went, we were rapidly getting out of practice.
Regardless of why Janet was late arriving home that night, I'll admit I enjoyed my time alone with Mom and Rick. For a little while it felt like those old Thursday nights when Rick and I had been in business together and Mom insisted we have dinner at her house each week come hell or high water. We each drank a glass of wine while supper cooked and we waited for Janet to arrive. They caught me up on family news, as well as news of friends and acquaintances in San Diego. Mom showed me pictures from the summer trip she'd taken to Canada with her senior citizens club. Rick brought me up to date on happenings with Captain Gully Excursions, and told me about a P.I. job he'd recently completed for an old client of ours.
When Janet walked in the door she did so with a smile on her face. She and my mother exchanged warm hugs. She accepted Rick's hug as well, and gave him a kiss on the cheek before going to put her briefcase away and change her clothes.
Dinner wasn't as hard to get through as I thought it might be. But then, Mom and Rick pretty much kept the conversation going as they now answered Janet's questions in regards to family happenings and the news of San Diego.
We all went to bed at the same time that night. Janet didn't snuggle up to me like she usually did, however, and I, in turn, didn't wrap my arms around her and hold her close. She laid on the farthest edge of the mattress with her back to me. I, too, chose to retreat to the farthest edge on my side of our big bed. I couldn't help but think of something I'd read about courting couples during colonial times. If it was too cold for the young man to return home after spending a winter evening visiting his intended, the girl's family would allow them to share a bed, but only after a thick board was used to divide the middle of it to keep her on her own side, and him on his. That first night Janet and I shared the same bed together again, I felt like there was an invisible board between us.
Somehow we muddled through the rest of the holiday. Thanksgiving Day kept Janet and me busy and out of each other’s way, which again, made it easy to fool Mom and Rick into believing things were as they should be. Though I guess we didn't fool them completely.
On Saturday Rick and I were headed to the University of Washington's stadium to take in our annual football game. We had just pulled up to a red light where the Camaro idled quietly.
My brother looked across the seat at me. "So...how are things?"
I looked back at him and smiled. "Fine. Why?"
"Oh...I just thought, you know, that you and Janet have seemed kind of quiet these past couple of days. Is everything okay?"
I returned my attention to the road as the light changed to green.
"Yeah. Everything's fine. We've just both been...real busy at work, that's all. We're tired. We've been putting in long hours and bringing a lot of work home at night with us."
Rick chuckled. "I guess that's the way it goes when you and your wife are raking in a couple of hundred grand a year between ya', kid. Must be rough."
Janet and I weren't quite bringing home two hundred thousand dollars between us on an annual basis, though admittedly Rick was only off by about twenty-five thousand.
"Is everything okay with her health now?" He asked next. "You know, 'cause of the miscarriage and all?"
I glanced in the rearview mirror, then made the turn into the stadium's parking lot. "Yeah...yeah according to the doctor she's fine."
"She looks one hundred percent better than she did at Easter."
"Yeah," I agreed again. "She's doing good...real good."
"So when are you gonna make me an uncle?"
"Soon, I hope," was all I would commit to while I parked the car. "Like I said, we're both pretty busy right now."
"Too busy to even do that?" My astonished sibling asked.
I rolled my eyes as I shot him a look. "You know, Rick, just because we're married doesn't mean we do it every single night."
"Why not? I sure would."
I laughed at him as we climbed out of the Camaro. "You do it every night now and you're not married." Rick may not have been quite the rakish young man he once was, but according to my mother he still had a steady stream of willing ladies in and out of his house on a regular basis.
"That's true," he agreed after some thought. "You know, A.J., you just talked me outta marriage for at least another five years."
I laughed again as I laid a hand on his back.
"Come on, let's get our seats before someone else comes along and takes them. I didn't pay good money for these tickets to have us end up in the boonies."
It was Sunday morning before Mom confronted me with a conversation similar to the one Rick and I had the previous day. Janet was up in the shower in our master bathroom, and Rick was out taking Toby for a stroll around the neighborhood. As soon as Janet was ready and Rick was back, we were all going out to brunch. From there we'd be taking my family to the airport, where they had to catch a two o'clock flight for San Diego.
I was drinking a glass of orange juice and reading the morning paper when Mom came down fresh from her own shower and dressed for the day. She waved me back to my seat when I started to rise to pour her a cup of coffee.
"I'll get it, honey," she said as she took one of the mugs off the rack by the sink. She poured the coffee I had started for everyone when I got up an hour earlier.
She walked over to the breakfast nook's bay window and looked out at the front yard. Unlike the rain and cold of the previous weekend, Seattle was in her glory that one. The last of the leaves were barely hanging on the trees, the bright morning sunshine highlighting their golds and oranges.
"It's beautiful here in the fall," Mom observed.
"Yes," I agreed. "When it doesn't rain."
"I'll have to come up some time in the winter," she said next. "I bet the snowfalls are a sight to see as well."
"They are. But take it from me, Mom, after about the second time of having to brush that cold, wet stuff off your car on a January night, you begin to pine for summer."
She laughed as she pulled out a chair to join me at the table. I folded up the paper and set it aside.
With a fond smile she said, "Janet tells me you still haven't gotten used to the cold."
"No, I guess not," I shook my head. "I don't think I ever will."
"Does that mean that someday you'll come back to San Diego?" She asked hopefully.
"Well...Janet's got a pretty important job you know."
"Yes, I know," she smiled proudly. "Soon to be named chief prosecutor I hear."
"Yeah," I smiled in return and tried to sound happy about it. "So I doubt we’ll be coming back to San Diego any time soon. Though, to tell you the truth, if nothing else I'd like to retire back there some day."
Mom laughed. "Goodness, A.J., that's at least twenty years away. I'll be a frail old woman in a nursing home by then."
"Oh, you will not," I negated. My mother was too healthy and active, and too interested in life, for me to ever picture her as a frail old woman in a nursing home. Besides, I know without a doubt Rick and I will never allow her to finish out her elderly years in a nursing home.
"How are things at work?" Mom asked as she poured cream in her coffee. "Janet says you've both been putting in a lot of hours."
Evidently Mom, like Rick, had noticed the two of us had been unusually quiet during their visit. She and Janet had spent the previous day together shopping, eating lunch out, and going to movie. Those activities had become a tradition for them on the Saturday after Thanksgiving much like the football game at the university had become a tradition for Rick and me. Evidently, Janet had given Mom similar answers to the ones I had given Rick when Mom questioned her as to whether or not we were okay.
"Yeah," I agreed now. "We have been busy. Lots of hours at work, and lots of hours here at home working in the office."
Being a woman, Mom was a bit more direct with her next question.
"So, how's the baby business coming?"
I managed a small smile even though I was suddenly getting sick of everyone bringing up the one subject I had no desire to discuss. Especially after everything that had been revealed the previous Saturday. I kept my answer vague and brief.
"Okay, I suppose. I mean...well, nothing's happened yet, but when the time is right it will."
seems a bit on edge," Mom said carefully.
"You both do."
"Well...you know, I guess it's kind of frustrating. Last time it only took a couple of weeks and she was pregnant. It's not quite...working out that way this time."
Of course, it would help if she wasn't on the pill, I wanted to add.
"As you said, you've both been tired," Mom stated practically. "I'm sure that has something to do with it."
"Yes, I'm sure it does," I swiftly agreed in an effort to get off this subject.
Mom rose to refill her coffee cup. "Now you know, honey, I've also read that conventional jockey shorts can sometimes inhibit a man's ability to produce sperm. They say that boxer shorts can make a world of difference."
"Mother!" I exclaimed. A sudden warm flush streaked my cheeks.
While I might have been mortified at the course this conversation was suddenly taking, it didn't bother my mom in the slightest. She returned to sit across from me.
"I've also heard warm baths can have the same effect. Now I know you usually shower, but have you and Janet been spending a lot of time in the jacuzzi recently?"
I had no idea as to how she knew that Janet and I spent time in the jacuzzi together in the first place. I do know women feel comfortable talking about an array of personal things a man would never consider bringing up to even his closest friend, so therefore it wouldn't have surprised me to find out that my wife had revealed this little tidbit about our sex life to my mother. On the other hand, Mom might have just been making an educated guess.
As my face began to burn all I could do was once again exclaim, "Mom!"
"Well, honey, it's nothing to be embarrassed about. I just thought that maybe--"
"What's nothing to be embarrassed about?" Came from the foyer. Rick walked into the kitchen, Toby trotting along behind him.
"I was just telling A.J. how heat can effect a man's sperm count," Mom told Rick as if this was the type of conversation the three of us engaged in on a regular basis.
"Oh, yeah," Rick agreed as he walked over to fill a coffee cup. "I've heard that. That's why I wear boxers."
"Well, I don't need to wear boxers. And there's nothing wrong with my sperm count," I informed them both succinctly. I might have actually found some humor in this conversation had the prior weekend not been so prevalent in my mind.
"Who said there was?" Rick asked from where he stood leaning against the countertop sipping coffee.
"No one," Mom volunteered. "I was just passing along some information to A.J. that might be useful as he and Janet go forward with their plans to have a family."
"Yeah," Rick agreed. "Stay outta tubs of hot water and wear boxers. Listen to Mom. That's good advice."
With a glare, Mom asked, "And just why would you need to follow that advice, Richard Simon?"
"Well...uh...well..." Rick stammered, once again having been caught with his big old cowboy boot right in his big old mouth.
Thank God Janet's sudden appearance put an end to that conversation. Within fifteens minute the suitcases were loaded in the BMW's trunk and we were off to brunch.
That night Janet and I were alone together again for the first time in four days. I was surprised, as well as pleased, when she climbed in bed next to me at ten o'clock. I didn't tell her that though. Looking back now, I wish I would have.
Janet rolled over on her side, facing away from me, and within a few minutes was asleep. I was awake for quite a long time after that. It was almost midnight before I, too, turned on my side and drifted off to sleep.
The remainder of November and the entire month of December were miserable for both of us. We were, in fact, putting in long hours at work. But we were also avoiding one another. The few times either one of us tried to broach the subject that had gotten us to this point, the subject of children, there'd be a turbulent rehash of the argument we'd had the Saturday before Thanksgiving. Janet didn't want to give up her job. I wouldn't agree to a nanny. She wouldn't hear of me doing P.I. work again. I wouldn't hear of her plopping our newborn child in a day-care center. Round and round we went like two children on a carousel gone mad, neither one of us knowing how to stop it in order to help each other off.
The joy we normally took in decorating our house, entertaining friends, and shopping for family members, as well as each other, was missing that holiday season. Yes, we did each of those things, but with all the good humor of Ebenezer Scrooge. For the first time in our marriage we began communicating in sharply snapped growls and low snarls, like two bad tempered dogs on a hot day.
It was a week before Christmas. The presents were bought, wrapped, and already loaded in a sturdy box to be taken to San Diego with us when we left on the 24th. The remainder of the gifts would go on to Florida with us on the 27th.
I was lying in bed with my head pillowed in my hands, staring up at the ceiling that night while Janet showered. Toby lay sleeping on the floor at the foot of the bed. The only light in the room was that which filtered in from the open door of the master bath. I wondered just how we were going to be able to fool everyone this time. I was sure there was no way Mom and Rick were not going to detect the tension that was emanating from both my wife and myself. Even Myron, whom we hadn't seen in a year, would be able to tell. Of that, I was certain.
Within a few minutes Janet shut off the bathroom light and joined me in bed. We were no longer retreating to opposite sides of the mattress, but we weren't touching one another either. We laid stiffly on our backs as if there was a clearly visible chalk line that divided the bed in half.
I was about to drift off to sleep when I heard her say softly into the darkness, "A.J.?"
I opened my eyes and looked up at the ceiling once more.
"A.J...I...I've been doing a lot of thinking about the upcoming holiday."
Funny, so had I.
"And?" I prompted, turning my head to look at her.
"I think...I think it would be best if I flew on to Daddy's by myself."
I didn't say anything for a minute as I absorbed the suggestion that came as a complete surprise to me. Finally, I asked quietly, "What do you mean?"
"I think...well, I think that we could both use a little time away from each other. I'll spend Christmas Eve and Christmas Day with your Mom and Rick like we always do, but I'd like to go on to Florida on the 26th."
"I see. And just what are we supposed to tell everyone?"
"Well...I thought we could tell your family that I'm flying back here on the 26th because I've got an important case I have to work on. They don't need to know I'm going on to Florida alone. And then I can tell Daddy that you flew back here from San Diego for the same reason."
"Because I've got an important case I'm working on?" I questioned sarcastically.
She chose to ignore my tone. "Yes."
I didn't think it was a good idea, and I should have told her so. But I thought that's what she really wanted to do, so my pride wasn't about to let me beg her to change her plans. And once again, I found out much later that she took my quiet acceptance to mean that I thought it was the right thing for both of us. That I thought it was something we both needed.
"Okay," I finally agreed. "If that's what you think is best."
"Isn't it what you think is best, too?" She asked with just a bit of hope to her tone.
I focused my attention back on the ceiling while giving a weary sigh.
"I honestly don't know what to think anymore, Janet."
When I didn't say anything further, she turned on her side and faced the wall. Within a few seconds I could tell she was crying. For the first time in close to a month I moved to lie next to her. I wrapped my left arm around her and gently pulled her against me. She reached up and grasped my arm, holding onto it tightly while she cried.
Without really thinking about it I began to run my hands slowly over her body...and then underneath her silk sleeping top. I lifted her long hair to softly nuzzle her neck. She turned, cupped my face, and kissed me. Her lips traveled over my nose, cheeks, and eyelids, raining soft caresses everywhere they touched. Soon she was working the pajama bottoms off that I had gone back to wearing when her warm body was no longer receptive to me cuddling up against it on a cold winter night.
We hadn't had sex since that Saturday morning in the shower almost a month earlier. Throughout our first three years of marriage I'd often tease Janet regarding the fact that if anyone polled us about the frequency of our love making, we alone would shoot the national average way up. Unless one of us wasn't feeling well we generally made love five nights, or mornings, out of seven. Granted, sometimes it was hurried, especially if we both had to rush off to work, but more often than not it was slow and enjoyable. A time when our minds and bodies came together as one. A time that we devoted unselfishly to pleasing one another.
That night it was slow, tender...and just a little sad. We made love twice, both of us completely satisfied each time. When we were done she laid against me with her head on my chest. And then she started to cry once more.
I held her to me, not saying anything until eventually her tears stopped and she fell asleep.
Neither one of us said another word about her flying on to Florida alone. And on the 26th of December, she did just that.
We actually managed to get through Christmas Eve and Day with Mom and Rick much better than I thought we would. It probably helped that, without discussing it, Janet and I had called a truce on the issue of children that night we came together again in our bed. We'd made love three more times after that in the coming week, and then it was Christmas Eve and we were on a plane to San Diego.
I couldn't help but think back to the prior Christmas when we'd told my family Janet was expecting. It had been such a joyous occasion. It was hard for me to believe...and accept, that so much had changed in just one year's time. Here I thought when Janet and I returned for Christmas of 1993, we'd be bringing along a small additional suitcase, and when we arrived I'd be carrying our baby in Mom's front door. But that's not the way it was. I carried in the same number of suitcases that I always had. Nor was there a baby in my arms. Nor the prospect of having one any time soon.
I thank God for Rick that Christmas. He seemed to sense what I was feeling and went out of his way to regale us with funny stories and amusing anecdotes like only Rick can.
Mom had asked me over the phone prior to our visit as to whether or not we wanted her and Rick to host a Christmas Eve open house again. I told her yes, knowing it would be for the best if Janet and I, as well as my family, were kept busy the few days we were together.
It wasn't until after the gifts were open and a good portion of the turkey consumed on Christmas Day, that Janet made mention of the fact that she was flying home the following morning.
We had just finished the better part of a cherry pie and were lounging at the dining room table. All of us were too stuffed right at the moment to get up and clear the dishes.
Mom pushed aside her empty dessert plate. "So, since tomorrow is your last day with us before you fly onto Myron's, how would the two of you like to spend it?" She asked Janet and me.
My wife's eyes flicked to me quickly, then settled on my mother. "Cecilia, I'm. . .I’m going home tomorrow."
"What?" Came Mom's shocked exclamation.
"Yes," Janet nodded. "Unfortunately, I'm in the middle of trying a very complex case right now. Although court doesn't resume until January 3rd, I have no choice but to get back home and bury my head in paperwork. I...I'm really sorry about all this, but several other lawyers are depending on me to be at the office the day after tomorrow to work with them."
what about your father?" Mom
asked. "He must be so
A nursery rhyme my mother had taught me long ago rang in my head. Oh what a tangled web we weave when first we practice to deceive.
Again Janet's eyes darted uneasily to mine. If she thought I was going to help her out, she thought wrong. She must have quickly reached that conclusion, because just as quickly she replied, "He is, of course. Disappointed that is. But it really can't be helped. A.J. and I will try to get down to see him some time after the new year. Or he may fly up to see us."
Mom turned to me. "And are you going home tomorrow, too?"
"No," I shook my head. "Janet and I agreed that I'd stay here until New Year's Day."
"Good," Mom smiled with delight, then quickly turned to Janet to apologize. "Oh, Janet, I'm sorry. I didn't mean to make it sound like--"
Janet reached over and gave Mom's hand a squeeze. "You don't have to be sorry for anything, Cecilia. And I understand completely that both you and Rick will look forward to having A.J. all to yourselves for the coming week."
I couldn't tell at first if Janet was serious or teasing when she turned to Rick.
"And don't you go getting him in any trouble."
I would have thought she was teasing if it wasn’t for the glare she threw my brother's way. A glare he ignored with good nature as he replied innocently, "Who me?"
A bit of Janet's own good nature seemed to return as well. She reached over and poked Rick in the arm as she rose to clear the table.
"Yes, you, Rick Simon. You're exactly who I'm talking to here."
Mom and Janet cleared the table, chatting pleasantly as they went back and forth between the kitchen and living room. Rick and I lagged behind, stacking the dishes, silverware and glasses in order to make for fewer trips.
"Smart idea, A.J. Not goin' on to Florida by yourself to visit Myron, I mean," my brother stated.
Now I got along with Myron considerably better than Rick did. I always had. But no, there was no way even I, his dutiful son-in-law, would have wanted to spend a week alone with him. Of course, it was a moot point anyway, since the whole story of Janet going back to Seattle and poor Myron being alone for the holidays was one big fib.
"Yeah, well, I thought I'd just stay here," I said with a grin. "You know, hang out with my big brother for a week."
"Sounds good to me," Rick agreed with a grin of his own. "If this nice weather holds we've been havin' I'll probably even manage to get a few charters. You up to workin' for me this week?"
"Sure," I readily agreed as Rick and I joined the women in carrying the rest of the dishes to the kitchen. "Don't bother to pay any of your other guys to work. I'm available for whatever days you need me."
Our conversation ended there as the four of us pitched in to load the dishwasher and get the kitchen back to its usual impeccable state. Afterwards, we played cards for the rest of the afternoon, then switched to Pictionary when evening came. We only stopped long enough to eat cold turkey sandwiches and start in on another one of Mom's pies.
Rick left for home about ten o'clock. Janet went to bed not long afterwards, while Mom and I stayed up talking until midnight while we sat on the couch in front of the Christmas tree. I knew Janet's little story about having to fly back home to work must have gotten past Mom, because the only thing she said in reference to it was that she was sorry Janet wouldn't be staying with me the rest of the week.
"Well, you know, as of two weeks ago she's the chief prosecutor for the District Attorney's Office of Seattle," I reminded Mom of Janet's recent promotion. "There's bound to be times now when she just can't get away."
"I hope they've given her a good salary increase to compensate her for her trouble."
"They have," I assured.
And they had. Now Rick would be right if he said Janet and I together were making two hundred thousand a year. Though admittedly, a hundred and thirty thousand of that was from her salary alone. I was just one of many lawyers employed by Bloomdecker, Hershaw, and Clark. But I was making far more than I ever had as a P.I., and had certainly been well aware going into my marriage that my wife would probably be the primary breadwinner. At least until I had graduated from being a junior lawyer to being a seasoned veteran.
The next morning I somehow managed to get Janet to the airport without Mom feeling the need to ride along with us. I don't know what we would have done had she wanted to come. It would have been a little difficult explaining to Mom how Janet was going to get home to Seattle, while at the same time she was boarding a plane bound for Florida. Thankfully Mom had some things around the house so was content with saying her goodbyes to Janet in the driveway.
Like she always did when Janet and I were visiting, Mom let me have free use of her Mercedes. Janet waved out the window at her one final time as I backed onto the street.
I said my own goodbyes to my wife at the Miami boarding gate. We kissed, though it was more the kiss of old friends as opposed to the kiss of a husband and wife who were going to be apart for a week.
"At least call me when your plane lands to let me know you've arrived safely," was all I asked of her.
She reached out and touched my arm. "I will," she smiled gently. "And you be careful this week if you're out on the boat with Rick. Don't fall overboard and drown or something."
Now it was my turn to smile. "I won't."
"I'll see you at the airport next week," she promised as they began to allow the passengers onto the plane.
"I'll be there," I promised as well. Our return flights to Seattle were due to arrive within a half an hour of each other on New Year's Day. We had agreed that since my plane landed first, I'd wait at the appropriate terminal for hers to arrive so that we could go home together in the BMW that we'd paid to leave in the airport's parking garage.
For just a split second, Janet hesitated as though she wanted to change her mind. As though she wanted to ask me to go with her to Florida. Or as though she wanted to stay behind in San Diego with me. But then the moment of indecision was gone...and so was she.
I stayed and watched out the big window until her plane took off. Before turning to head back to Mom’s house, I wiped all traces of the tears away that were running down my cheeks.
The remainder of that week was good. Really good. I did some minor repairs around Mom's house for her when I returned from the airport. Early that evening she and I drove over to Rick's where we'd been invited for a cookout.
Not much had changed on the old Grand Canal. Long suffering Mr. Gorman still lived next door, and only a very few of the other residences had been sold to new owners since I'd lived there.
For all his teasing threats, Rick hadn't done much to change the interior of my former home. When he had bought the house he had purchased from me the kitchen and dining room sets, as well as the chair, couch, and coffee table that sat in the den. Actually, unbeknownst to Janet or to Rick, I didn't raise the price on the house in order to take those pieces of furniture into account. Janet and I didn't want them anyway, and money wasn't an issue or a need at the time, so I just let him have them.
Those items still sat in the very same places I'd left them three years before. As of yet the living room was empty since Rick had rented his houseboat to Carlos's son fully furnished. Rick kept saying he was going to buy a couch and a couple of chairs for the living room, but just never seemed to get around to it. He had purchased two new bedroom sets for upstairs, but the third bedroom that I had used as a home office still sat empty as well.
Mom and I left relatively early because Rick had a charter for the next day. He would pick me up at Mom's house at six.
He slapped me on the back as I followed Mom out the door.
"See ya' in the a.m., crewman."
"Yep," I replied. "See ya' then, Captain."
By the time Rick and I returned to port at three o'clock the next afternoon he had an answering machine full of messages. I stowed tackle boxes and other equipment while he returned calls. When we left to head home for showers and then dinner out with Mom, Rick was booked solid for the rest of the week with the exception of New Year's Eve and Day. He probably could have been booked for those two days, as well, but over my protests he refused to take any business. He was insisting on taking Mom and me out on the boat on New Year's Eve afternoon. If the weather was nice, as it usually is in San Diego year round, boats of every size imaginable gather off-shore to watch a fireworks display put on by one of the local marinas as soon as darkness falls. Rick said he'd bring along a grill and we'd ring the New Year in right with T-bones, baked potatoes, and red wine.
I had to catch an eleven a.m. flight on New Year's Day so Mom wanted to take both of us out for a leisurely breakfast before I had to be at the airport.
Like Janet had promised, she called me when she arrived at Myron's. Other than that I didn't hear from her the rest of the week. Nor did I pick up the phone and call her. I suppose I should have, and several times I wanted to, but once again my pride wouldn't let me. I figured if she thought it was best that we spend the week apart, then it was also best if we didn't talk to one another via the telephone. What exactly that was supposed to do for either one of us...or our relationship, I still don't know.
It was probably a good thing I was working for Rick all week and that the two of us were so busy. To tell you the truth, I didn't have much time to think of Janet, or concentrate on trying to solve the problems our marriage suddenly seemed to abound with.
I was up and gone from Mom's by six every morning, and didn't return until after six every night. She, Rick, and I ate together as a family every evening, too, which was an added bonus. Mom had a hot meal waiting for us a couple of nights, while a couple of nights I treated the two of them to dinner out. Except for the separation between my wife and myself, there was nothing but bright spots in each day during the duration of my visit. I couldn't remember when I'd had such a good time. Even crewing a boat together, Rick and I seemed to be in sync with each other’s thoughts and moves. Just like we had been when we'd operated Simon and Simon Investigations. We endlessly laughed, teased, and squabbled, like we had back in the days when we spent eight or more hours together on a regular basis five, and sometimes even six or seven, days each week.
It was five o'clock on Thursday afternoon, December 30th, when the Captain Gully smoothly glided into her homeport for the day. While Rick helped the passengers disembark, I tied off the lines and then began swabbing the deck.
My brother tossed a lopsided grin my way as he climbed on board after seeing the last passenger safely to shore. "Ya' look pretty good doin' that, A.J.,"
I tossed the extra mop to him. "And you'll look pretty good doing it as well, Captain."
Rick laughed before joining me at cleaning the boat of saltwater and small pieces of bait. It made for hot work in the late afternoon sun. The temperature was still eighty degrees.
When we finished, I half sat on one of the railings while Rick put the mops and bucket away. He returned with two cold beers in hand, holding one out to me.
"Here you go."
I took it and popped the top. "Thanks."
We stood there together for a while, not saying anything as we both drained our cans to almost empty.
Rick watched from behind his sunglasses as another boat harbored next to us for the night. "So, how's the attorney business going?" He inquired after a few moments.
"Pretty good," I stated.
"Do you like it?"
It was the first time in three years he'd ever asked me that.
"Yeah...yeah I do," was all I said. I had just begun to wonder myself in recent months if I did, in fact, like the ‘attorney business’ as Rick put it. Wonder quite often actually.
"Of course, it doesn't provide quite the...excitement you and I used to have," I said with a sly smile.
Rick laughed as he moved to sit in one of the deck chairs. I sat down in the seat next to him. We both propped our feet up on the railing.
He smiled broadly with remembrance. "Yeah, we sure did have some good times, didn't we?"
"Yes, we did," I agreed. "Of course, we had our share of not-so-good times, as well."
I wasn't in any way, shape, or form, referring to the Garica case. Or any case for that matter, that held some truly bad memories. Rather, I was referring to those times we'd been bitten by dogs as we snuck onto private property. Or those times we'd crossed Abigail Marsh's path in the wrong way. Or those times we'd had to call our mother and beg for bail money in the middle of the night. But Rick didn't know that. Evidently he thought that I was indeed, referring to the time we'd tried to help Erika Garcia. And the time we'd failed.
He slowly took off his sunglasses and put them in his shirt pocket. "A.J...about Erika--"
I looked at him. "Rick, I wasn't talking about Erika," I was quick to point out in order to give him the opportunity to drop the subject right there. "I wasn't talking about anyone, nor referring to any case in particular."
"I know...but there's been something I've wanted to talk to you about in regards to the...Garcia case, for a long time now. Are you...is it okay with you if we talk about it now? I mean, if you're not up to it, or--"
I looked out over the ocean, smiling softly. "I'm up to it. I've...I’ve put it behind me as much as I can, Rick. What happened to Erika will always be a part of me. I'll always carry the memory of that case in my heart, but I can talk about it if you want to."
He looked out over the water, as well. We watched the seagulls dive for the slivers of bait that were swept into the ocean by the crewmembers of the boat that had just docked. The birds shrieked and fought as time and time again the act of retrieving food was repeated.
Finally, Rick spoke.
"For a long time now...ever since I brought you home from the hospital that January day almost four years ago, I've wanted to tell you how sorry I am that I agreed to take that case."
Neither one of us looked at each other. We both continued to gaze out at the horizon, and at the winter sun that was slowly sinking below it. "You don't have anything to be sorry for," I told him honestly.
"Yes, I do. Carlos is my friend. If it hadn't been for my friendship with him, I never would have agreed to take that job. You know that as well as I do."
"And I agreed to take the job, too, Rick," I reminded.
"No, you left it up to me."
"True, I left it up to you to decide what to tell Carlos and Adriano, but I also told you I'd support whatever decision you made, regardless of whether you told them yes or no. At any time I could have put my foot down and refused the case. If I had, you might have been pissed at me, but you would have gone along with it in the end. But I didn't do that, Rick. Like I said, I agreed to take the job as well."
Once again we fell silent. The crew of the other boat had left. The gulls were gone. The only sound was that of the waves lapping up against the Captain Gully.
"For a long time I was afraid you blamed me," Rick finally admitted, again without looking at me. "And if you had, I wouldn't have held it against you because I blamed myself. Blamed myself for allowin' us to take a job in the first place that I knew perfectly neither one of us felt comfortable with. Blamed myself for what those bastards did to you and Erika. Blamed myself for the scars that I know you still bear deep inside to this day because of that case."
I turned my head and looked at him. At his profile. "I never blamed you. Not ever."
"I know," he acknowledged softly.
I returned my gaze to the ocean. "I only blamed myself for letting you and Carlos down."
It was his turn to look at me.
"But you didn't, A.J. You never let me and Carlos down. I've never felt that way and neither has Carlos."
"I know," I nodded. "I knew that even then. But it still didn't help the way I felt inside. You're the last person on this earth I ever want to fail."
He reached out and squeezed my shoulder. "You didn't fail me. You never could."
I shrugged. "I finally realized that the only person I failed was Erika. And even then, after a couple of years had passed and the...the pain surrounding her death had eased somewhat, I came to realize that I really hadn't failed her either. That I had done everything I possibly could to keep us both alive. It was just...just a bad set of circumstances all the way around."
He squeezed my shoulder again before letting his hand fall to his side. "Yeah, it was," he agreed. "As a matter of fact, it was a real shitty set of circumstances, Andy."
He so rarely called me that. Andy. It had been a nickname used only by my father. I can count on one hand the number of times I'd heard Rick refer to me in that manner over the years. When he does, it usually means we’re engaged in a pretty heavy emotional moment. The kind that are hard for him to deal with.
I smiled at what he'd said, and at what he'd called me. "I couldn't have put it better myself," I nodded before we both returned our attention to the gentle whitecaps rolling toward shore.
I thought the conversation was over. It seemed to be an appropriate place to end it.
"There were so many things I couldn't handle right then, A.J.," I was surprised to hear him confess. "So many...feelings I didn't know how to deal with. That's why...that's why I guess I couldn't offer you the help you needed."
Again I shrugged.
"I honestly don't know if I would have been capable of taking any help you had to offer anyway, Rick. I was pretty...adrift. And you did help me. Don't ever think you didn't. Just by being there you helped me. You may not think so, but if I'd have asked anything of you...needed anything from you, you would have come through for me. I know you would have because you always have."
He looked at me and smiled. "You know, even after all these years, you can still make me feel pretty darn good about myself. Even when I don't deserve it."
"You deserve it." I told him sincerely. With a teasing smile I added, "Most of the time anyway."
"I'm glad you had Janet, though," he said now. "Mom and I have always been grateful for what she did for you those first dark months."
"She gave me back my life," I softly agreed. "She gave me a reason to go on living."
"I know she did," Rick acknowledged. "Even though she was so mad at me that time she came to my boat--"
I turned to look at him. "What?"
The expression on his face revealed that he thought Janet had told me about the incident of which he was speaking. His face also told me that he now wished he'd never slipped and brought it up.
"What do you mean she was mad at you?" I pressed.
"She was just a little...irritated, that I wouldn't encourage you to go to counseling. She showed up on my boat one Saturday morning during the middle of the trial and kinda...read me the riot act." In defense of my wife he swiftly amended, "Not that I didn't deserve it, I suppose."
"I wouldn't have gone anyway," I stated. "To counseling, I mean."
Rick seemed relieved that I let it drop there. Funny, for as long as it had been, I knew just what Saturday he had to be referring to. It was a horrible week. One I've long since tried to forget. The week I had to testify in regards to what had happened to Erika and myself. I remember those nights after the long days of testimony in the courtroom. The nights after I'd been forced to sit and view pictures of Erika's bruised and battered body. Every single day of it caused me to recall how they'd hurt her. How she'd begged me to help her. How she'd screamed and sobbed in pain.
I don't know if I would have survived without Janet that week. I clung to her and cried night after night when I could no longer keep the pain inside. And she held me, and talked to me softly, and rubbed my back, and stroked my hair, and just let me cry on her shoulder until I had no tears left. And when my internal storm had subsided she encouraged me to make love to her. She made me feel like a whole man again. She made me feel like I was worth something to someone. Like I was needed. She made feel that despite my failure to Erika, I was valuable to someone. She told me to hang on. That we'd get through the bad times together. That she needed me more than she'd ever needed anyone in her life.
Rick brought me back to the present as the last fading rays of the sun were dipping under the ocean.
"Do you ever miss it, A.J.? Being a P.I., I mean."
I wanted to tell him - “All the time.” But I didn't, because I hadn't even admitted that to myself yet. "Sometimes," was what I said instead. "Most of all, though...I miss working with you."
He couldn't resist teasing me then as a hand came up and cupped the back of my neck. He pulled me sideways until my head rested on his shoulder. He took his knuckles and vigorously rubbed an Indian burn into my scalp.
"Aw, you sentimental ole devil you."
I pulled away from him and smoothed my hair back into some semblance of order. "I just remembered why I don't miss working with you all that much, however."
Rick laughed. As he rose so we could head home I just barely heard him say, "I sure do miss working with you, kid."
I shook my head and smiled fondly at his retreating back. I followed him to the truck where neither one of us said another word until we arrived at Mom's house. She had supper waiting for us. Soon we were engaged in typical family conversation as Mom asked us how our day was.
Rick gave me a smile Mom didn't understand. "Good, Mom. Real good."
I smiled in return. "Very productive," I agreed. "All in all, a very good day."
My flight from San Diego arrived in Seattle at one-thirty New Year's afternoon. I had time to retrieve my suitcase and put it in the BMW's trunk, before walking back to wait at the terminal Janet's plane was due to taxi up to.
She was one of the last passengers to disembark. My first thought was how gorgeous she looked wearing a free-flowing sage colored dress that fell to her shins. The kind you'd see thin, leggy models wearing in magazines as they walked barefoot on a sunny beach. Her hair was pulled back in a French braid. Much like me, she had a suntan that would be the envy of everyone at our respective offices for a few weeks to come as winter settled over Seattle for good.
She didn't see me at first. I was standing off in a far corner just watching her. I saw a fleeting look of disappointment and something else...worry, or maybe fear, cross her face, right before she spotted me.
Without any hesitation whatsoever, Janet ran toward me with her arms outstretched. Considering what the past six weeks of our marriage had been like, I was rather surprised when she flung herself upon me and wrapped her arms around my neck.
We kissed before we said so much as hello to one another. Unlike in the San Diego airport only six days earlier, this time it wasn't the kiss of old friends, but rather the kiss of a husband and wife who were passionately in love.
When we finally broke apart she laid her head against my chest and hugged me tightly. She closed her eyes and whispered, "Oh, A.J, I missed you so much."
hugged her in return while kissing the top of her head. "I missed you too, babe," I said
softly. "God...I missed you."
We clasped hands and walked through the airport together to retrieve Janet's luggage. We were home an hour later, after first stopping to pick up Toby from the eleven-year-old neighbor boy, Ryan, whom we always paid to take care of him whenever we went away.
We sloshed through the three inches of wet snow that had fallen the evening before, as I carried the suitcases into the house and Janet followed with the gifts we'd received from our families. The ones to me from Myron and the rest of Janet's family had yet to be opened.
Janet turned the thermostat up the minute we entered the chilly house. Toby trotted from room to room, sniffing the air and investigating every corner as if to make sure no one had been in his home during our absence. I went upstairs with the suitcases. I heard Janet's soft footfalls on the carpeting a few minutes later as joined me in the bedroom.
already?" She asked with a knowing
"This way it's done," I replied as I put some of the clothes away I hadn't worn that therefore didn't need to see the inside of the washing machine. Considering I'd spent most of my time on Rick's boat, about the only articles of clothing that got a workout were several pairs of jeans and some T-shirts. And Mom had washed those for me on New Year's Eve, knowing I wouldn't want to pack clothes reeking of fish in my suitcase.
Janet walked over to me as I closed the dresser drawer and set the now empty suitcase aside. She lifted her arms and once again wrapped them around my neck. She brought her hands up and began carding her fingers through my hair.
"You must have been on the boat a lot this week with Rick," she smiled fondly. "Your hair's so sun bleached it's almost white."
"I was on the boat a lot with Rick," I acknowledged as I slid my arms around her waist, pulling her tightly against me. "How about you? Did you have a good week?"
"It was...fine," she said, though she sounded like she didn't mean it. "Relaxing."
I didn't ask any more questions of her, just as she didn't of me. I began to stroke her body through the thin material of the dress, then unzipped it and slid my hands inside. She arched her back and moaned with desire as my roving fingertips caressed all the right spots. As the heat between us began to build I made quick work of divesting her of what few garments she was wearing. Soon enough, she was doing the same to me. When we were both naked I carried her to the warm haven of our bed and turned back the comforter. The first time it was quick and frenzied, as if our bodies alone were trying to communicate how much we'd missed one another. The second time it was slow, lazy, and enjoyable. We ended up in the warm bubbling waters of the jacuzzi an hour later, where we sat holding hands and watching snowflakes fall on the skylight above us. It had grown dark by the time we belted our bathrobes and went down to the kitchen. We ate a light meal, then returned to the bedroom where we reclined against our pillows and read. We were tired from our trips, so set our books aside and turned out the bedside lights at nine o'clock. I wrapped my arms around her as we settled under the covers. She laid her head on my naked chest.
"I meant what I said at the airport, A.J.," Janet whispered. "I really missed you this week."
"I know. I missed you, too," I whispered in return as I kissed her forehead. "Very much."
And that was the last thing that was said between us before we both drifted off to sleep, snug in one another's embrace.
As the new year began, so did Janet's new responsibilities as chief prosecutor. Now only on rare nights did she arrive home by seven p.m. It soon became the norm for me not to see the headlights of her BMW until eight.
Because of my wife's lengthy working hours I was left to my own devices many evenings that winter, as well as on Saturday's. Unbeknownst to her, I began taking on more and more investigation jobs for the law firm I was employed by. Because Janet was gone so much it was easy to hide that fact from her. I was somewhat ashamed for doing that, but I knew it would only cause a full scale war to break out between us, so for the time being kept it to myself.
The one thing I couldn't hide from her was that I also began teaching a class on private investigation techniques at a local community college. One of lawyers at the firm where I worked was a friend of the college's administrator. The administrator was looking to start up a short course regarding investigation work when classes resumed in January. He had contacted me back in October, and over Janet's vehement protests, I had agreed to teach the class two nights a week.
Now I was glad I had. It gave me something to do while my wife was engrossed in her own career.
Janet and I were both so busy that winter that our disagreement over whether or not to have children fell by the wayside. Our sex life resumed to its former healthy frequency. Janet seemed to be relieved that I didn't bring the subject up of children each time we made love, or any other time for that matter. That doesn't mean the subject wasn't on my mind, however. Internally, I was still grasping at straws. Still searching for a solution that would work for both of us. I wanted a child so badly.
I spent a lot of time that winter of 1994 thinking of other things, as well. I finally allowed to surface what had been lurking on the fringes of my mind since the previous fall.
I didn't want to be a lawyer any longer.
For a lot of reasons, I was finding that the job wasn't all it was cracked up to be. I realize now, that I had gone into it with an abundance of delusions. I had envisioned myself embroiled in intriguing cases of murder and corporate theft. Which could have possibly been the way things would have transpired had I worked for a very small firm, or even opened a firm of my own. Unfortunately, Bloomdecker, Hershaw and Clark employed sixty attorneys. Those intriguing cases of murder and corporate theft were handed to the lawyers who far outranked me in years of experience.
It wasn't easy being forty-four years old and finding yourself trying the same type of cases the twenty-five year olds were getting who had just graduated law school. To say it was a blow to my ego is an understatement. But, then again, how many times could I be expected to go to court and seriously represent a client who was suing her neighbor because the neighbor's cat had eaten her parakeet? What made it all the worse was being forced to go home at night and listen to Janet as she talked of her most recent case. Believe me, none of the cases she tried involved anyone's parakeet.
I'd also forgotten how much I hated working for someone else. Certainly there were some advantages. Unlike when Rick and I had been in business together, my weekly salary was guaranteed. And far larger than anything I'd ever drawn from Simon and Simon. Nor did I lose sleep at night wondering where the money was going to come from to pay the office rent.
Even though those were some of the very same arguments I'd used to convince myself to leave the P.I. business almost four years prior, for some reason they no longer seemed consequential. Along with working for someone else, came the hassles of scheduling vacation time around co-workers with more seniority, and having to get permission to take a day off. No longer was I able to come and go as I pleased. I hadn't realized how much give and take Rick and I had allowed ourselves. If one of us had been on an all-night stakeout, it was a given that he wasn't expected into the office until noon at the earliest the next day. If we both had been involved on a 'round the clock job we didn't worry about when we opened the office. Many days we were only in the office for a very brief period of time before hitting the streets to do legwork for some case or another. And though I didn't allow it to happen very often, every once and a while Rick could even convince me to play hooky and take in a Padres game on a summer day when our case load was light and neither one of us really felt like working.
And then there were the meetings. Bloomdecker, Hershaw and Clark believed in holding more useless meetings than any place I've ever encountered. Meetings that were a waste of time as far as I was concerned, where everyone did a lot of talking but no one actually said anything. Far different from the corporate meetings Rick and I had held where we'd hash out a complicated case at my house while lounging on the couch with a bottle of beer in our hands. Or decide whether or not to take on a less- than-desirable client while we watched our fishing lines bob in the water from the deck of Rick's houseboat.
And with all that, came the revelation that I had kept hidden from my heart. I greatly missed working with my brother.
True, I gave Rick an entirely different impression when he arrived in Seattle on the Precious Cargo in May of 1995. But then, my pride wouldn't allow me anything other. I could hardly confess to both my brother and mother that they had been right when they'd subtly expressed their concerns five years earlier that as time passed, I'd find that I regretted leaving the private investigation business. As well, I told Rick - no make that yelled at Rick, on more than one occasion after his arrival in Seattle, that I never wanted to be an investigator again...and especially not with him. But then, you have to remember that I do tend to get a tad short tempered when my brother manages to get me tossed off a stolen yacht into the cold waters of the north Pacific, gets our mother kidnapped, and lands me in jail all within a time span of twenty four hours.
Therefore, I could easily live to be one hundred without ever falling victim to some of Rick's wilder schemes again. And I certainly well remembered the downfalls of working with my brother. The habitual tardiness, the pain-in-the-ass friends like Surplus Sammy, and quite often the lack of responsibility. Yet despite all those things, I'd never worked better with anyone. Rick and I have a special chemistry together that can't be remanufactured with any other individual. If we were forced to describe it, or explain how it works, I doubt either one of us could. And as I found myself growing more and more discontent with my law career that winter, I found myself thinking more and more of the times Rick and I had together running Simon and Simon. And although I didn't foresee us ever reopening that business, I did begin to seriously think about starting my own investigation firm.
With or without Janet's approval.