- Narrator: Kaydra
- Characters: Kaydra, Steven, Danny, & Mitch
- Low Spoiler Risk
“Could you fix this?” Mitch whispers in my ear on our way into the theater. He tugs at the knot on his tie and smiles apologetically.
“Of course, silly,” I say back lightly. “Hold Finny’s hand,” I instruct, passing off my nephew’s tiny fingers into Mitch’s strong hand.
“Finny, are you excited?” he asks him as I straighten his tie and brush back his hair just a tad.
Finn grins widely, showing the gaps between his teeth where others recently were. The permanent teeth were already pushing their way through.
“Okay, you’re good,” I tell Mitch as I pat him on the chest.
“Just a second,” he responds, kneeling down and straightening the tiny bow-tie that I had insisted Finn wear to his first Broadway performance. Danny had cringed at first, but as soon as I paraded my nephew from his bedroom, my brother immediately grabbed the camera and started snapping pictures.
I watch Mitch adoringly and feel a little pang in my chest. I want my own children. I want a father to those children that cares so much about them that he straightens a little tiny bow-tie around our son’s neck, or a little bow in our daughter’s hair. I know Mitch could easily fit into that picture. I know he wants that as much as I do.
Mitch places Finn’s hand back in my right one, and then weaves his fingers in between mine on my left.
“Are we ready?” I ask Danny, turning around to see him talking softly to Gabby. She was still waking up from her nap. Neither of us were certain that it was a good idea to bring her to the musical, but it was a children’s matinee, and we figured she wouldn’t be the only baby here. Looking around the lobby, we figured correctly. I had told Danny I’d take care of her if she got fussy.
My brother simply makes eye contact with me and smiles, not interrupting his conversation with his little girl.
Mitch guides us into the large theater and we begin ascending the stairs up to our seats. I glance around the auditorium, delighting in the smiles and excitement painted on every child’s face. Some wear normal, every day clothes; some are in their Sunday best, like Danny’s kids; and some are definitely dressed up for the event. In the center, about ten rows up, sits a large group of little girls with tiaras and fancy gowns. Their parents are in black tie attire, too, and I giggle inwardly until I recognize Steven’s brother, Jack, sitting to the right of the group.
My eyes dart around, looking for Steven. Finally, I see him from behind, recognize his messy hair anywhere. He’s leaning over, whispering something in the ear of a pretty, dark-haired woman sitting next to him.
My heart sinks into the pit of my stomach. So that’s Renee. My eyes well up quickly before I can compose myself.
“You okay, Katie-girl?” Mitch asks as he and Finn both tug on my hands. I hadn’t realized I stopped walking and was blocking traffic. Danny puts his hand on my back and starts to guide me up the steps when Steven looks toward me. His expression is one of surprise and I see a faint smile cross his lips before I finally tear my eyes away.
“I’m good,” I assure Mitch.
“Here are our seats,” he says, about ten rows behind Steven. I swallow hard as I clear my throat and try to blink the tears back and take a seat. Danny sits farthest in, with Finn in between us, and Mitch sits on the end of the row. Danny hands me Gabby as he takes his jacket off. I hug her into my chest and can’t resist the urge to look in front of me again. I spot the tiaras first, and immediately find Steven’s blue eyes staring back at me.
I gasp quietly at the sight of him. I want to smile, but knowing he’s here with her makes me want to scream. I didn’t want to believe that he really did go back to that woman who hurt him and hurt his daughter so much.
Mitch kisses me on the cheek and puts his arm around me, pulling me back into the seat.
“Get comfortable,” he encourages me.
I look at him abruptly, feel my cheeks blush, and nod quickly. He presses his lips to mine gently and drags his fingers through my hair. When he pulls away, I can’t bear to look him in the eyes, feeling the attraction to Steven through the crowded room and knowing that I can never love Mitch the way I loved Steven.
“You know what, I think Gabby needs to be changed,” I tell the group, grateful that I have an excuse to get away for a few minutes and try to compose myself enough to get through the next two hours. I glance toward the back of the auditorium, hoping for another exit, but the only way out of here will take me past Steven’s row again. I’ll have to just look at the steps. I can’t stand to see them together again. It still hurts so much.
Mitch places the diaper bag on my shoulder as I settle my niece on my hip. “Finny, do you need to go?” He shakes his head. I ask another time, just to make sure, but he is too enthralled with the giant props on stage to pay very much attention to me anyway. “I’ll be back in a few minutes,” I smile weakly at Mitch.
“You have plenty of time before the show starts,” he assures me.
I count the steps as I descend them, doing everything I can to keep my brain occupied on anything other than Steven. Why is he still with her? Why couldn’t he feel the same way about me that I felt about him? I would never do anything to hurt him.
I have to remind myself, though, that Renee may be completely sober now… and with a clear mind, I know she would never leave her husband or daughter the way she did when she was messed up. I can only hope he’s happy with her now.
When I get into the ladies room, I check Gabby’s diaper, which is completely dry. I grab a few tissues and carry them to the couch in the lounge adjacent to the restrooms. I dab at a few tears that linger, and blink a few times to free a few more. My nose red, I search the side pocket of the diaper bag for my compact and try to apply some more powder as I balance Gabby on my lap.
She giggles, staring at a woman standing over us.
“Your baby is beautiful,” she tells me.
“Thanks,” I answer quietly. It’s just easier than giving her my life story.
“Enjoy the show,” she says as she makes her way out the door. I smile and nod.
“Why is he here, Gabby?” I ask my niece, dreading going back in the theater. I bounce her on my legs nervously and take a few deep breaths before gathering my things. I stuff a few tissues in the bag, just in case. “Alright, I’m going to teach you how to be a big girl, Gabby. I’m going to walk right past him with my head held high and he won’t have any clue that he can still make me cry like that.” I smile in the mirror on my way out the door and start back toward the auditorium.
“Are you seeing him again?” I hear his voice behind me. I stop dead in my tracks as my head falls forward in defeat.
“Another day, Gabby,” I whisper softly, taking a deep breath. He steps in front of me, looking handsome in his tuxedo, his skin soft from a recent shave. I just clear my throat and try to hold in my emotions as they scream inside my chest to come out.
“Hello, Steven,” I say evenly.
“You look beautiful, Kayd.” His compliment stuns me; causes me to waver, if only momentarily.
I take a few seconds to compose myself again. “Thank you.”
“Are you? Seeing Mitch again?”
“I don’t think this is the right time or place for this conversation,” I tell him, trying to side-step him.
He touches my arm softly, whispering his question once more as I pass him. His voice sounds anguished.
I look at him, confused. “What, you’re allowed to see other people, but I’m not? Was I really supposed to wait? You broke up with me, remember?”
“I asked for some time.”
“That was months ago. You haven’t called or anything–”
“So you are, then?”
“What does it even matter when you’re still with your ex-wife?” I ask him angrily. He shakes his head, but I can tell he’s too stunned with my honest question to answer. “You don’t have the right to question me.”
“Okay,” he says, nodding slowly as he starts to back away from me. “You’re right.” He swallows hard and I can see the remorse on his face. He should feel bad. I shouldn’t.
But I do.
“Steven,” I start to plead with him.
“Good night, Kayd.” He runs his hand through his hair, and I can tell I’ve hurt him by saying what I did. He turns around and swiftly returns to the theater.
I hate hurting him. I just told myself I would never do that.
And I think I just did.
©2015 Lori L. Otto • Distribution or duplication is strictly prohibited without written permission from the author.