Strangers In A Strange Land
He was uncomfortable and she could see it. Every twitch, every fidget, every little glance towards the door all highlighted the fact that he couldn’t wait to be gone. Frankly, she couldn’t wait either. Everything about this moment felt wrong.
"He’ll be home soon?" Lindsey asked and she wondered if he was aware of the biting tone. The first time they’d seen each other after the wedding, she’d been greeted with a terse and almost mocking ‘Congratulations to you and the happy groom’ and things hadn’t improved since then. Either he seemed to attempt to ignore the wedding ring on her finger altogether (had even briefly kissed her on the lips last week) or made her hideously uncomfortable by acting like it was some fairytale dream for everyone involved when he more than anyone knew it was anything but that.
"Um, I think so. He’s working. I think he’ll be home for dinner."
"You cook for him?"
She picked up the knitting she’d placed beside her earlier, trying to focus on that and ignore the look in her ex-boyfriend’s eyes. It was pained. And pitying.
"Stevie? You cook for him?"
"Uh, he has a housekeeper who cooks."
"Of course," he said mildly and she could poke him with a needle if he weren’t looking so worn down and apologetic. No, the marriage wasn’t exactly a walk in the park and locking the bedroom door to stop your husband coming in a mere two weeks after marrying him probably wasn’t a great indication of contentment but still… She bristled at his judgment, spoken and unspoken.
"I’m very happy," Stevie said, trying to sound it. "Very."
"Yes, I can see that," he replied and the skepticism in his voice wasn’t even hidden beneath a thin veneer of politeness. Ass. "And Matthew?"
"Is well." And he wasn’t allowed to go there, couldn’t assault her emotions that way. Because Matthew was well. And she wasn’t. Not even a little.
"Is he sleeping right now?"
"Um, I think so." He raised an eyebrow, question obvious in his too intelligent eyes. "His nanny," she spat out. "She’s with him right now."
"Why?" And that stupid question, that stupid question was too much. Because god knows, she’d asked herself the same thing too many times to count. Every time she tried to approach Kim about it, tell him that she wanted (NEEDED) to take care of that small innocent child, he shied away, told her not to worry, that it was handled. She felt handled. Watching him carefully, ready to snap if he continued talking, she was struck by the sight of his clenched fists resting in his lap, pretending to be something they weren’t - relaxed. His knuckles were becoming white and she found herself curious as to why. "You going to answer me, Steph?" he spat out.
"Fuck off, Lindsey," was her calm reply. Pride filled her as he blinked slowly, a bit disconcerted. He was flesh and blood after all - not the cold, removed robot he sometimes liked to act when around her.
"Can I see him?" he said, seemingly ignoring her more than clear request. "Matthew," he added as if she didn’t know.
"No." An easy answer. "Of course not."
"Why?" Not an easy question, on the other hand…
"Fuck off, Lindsey."
"I think you may have already said that."
"I mean it."
He titled his head, looking at the knitting as if seeing it for the first time. “For him?”
"It’s a blanket."
"Babies are." He almost smiled and consequently, so did she. "It’s just nice that, um, that someone can actually use these this time…" she admitted softly, knowing he’d remember.
"The red and white one was my favorite. I couldn’t wait to see him all cuddled up in it." He was looking at the floor now and she resisted the urge (would it ever go away?) to go over to him, be wrapped up in his warm embrace, to hold him in hers. "Did you throw it away? All of that stuff?"
"I couldn’t. Mom took it for me. For later. Just in case."
Smiling sadly, he glanced up at her. “Guess you can use it now.”
"Seems wrong to. Fresh start and all, you know." She cleared her throat, trying to stop the welling up she could feel. "Matthew isn’t a replacement," she said curtly, her voice brittle.
"No one could be."
"I know, sweetheart, I know. I’m going." He stood up and looked down at her, apparently gauging what he should do next. "I could stay a bit longer? If you want?"
She shook her head sadly. “You can’t be here when he returns. It would be, he doesn’t like… No. Just go. I’ll see you later.”
"Apparently," she said, a half-hearted smiled crossing her face for a moment. "Can’t escape."
"Do you want to?" he asked, taking a step closer and he was almost looming over her now and it was too much. She ducked her head and gripped the ball of soft yellow wool more tightly.
"Bye, Linds. Don’t be a stranger."
"I’m here if you need-"
"I know." She met his clear blue eyes, searched them. She knew he would be. And maybe one day… Sighing, she gestured for the door to her home (it still felt like she was a temporary guest and she wondered if that would ever change). "You can let yourself out." It wasn’t a question. He left.