Divorce And Dating And Other Disasters At Age 40: Part 18
- Divorce And Dating And Other Disasters At Age 40
- Divorce And Dating And Other Disasters At Age 40: Part Two
- Divorce And Dating And Other Disasters At Age 40: Part Three
- Divorce And Dating And Other Disasters At Age 40: Part 4
- Divorce And Dating And Other Disasters At Age 40: Part 5
- Divorce And Dating And Other Disasters At Age 40: Part 6
- Divorce And Dating And Other Disasters At Age 40: Part 7
- Divorce And Dating And Other Disasters At Age 40: Part 8
- Divorce And Dating And Other Disasters At Age 40: Part 9
- Divorce And Dating And Other Disasters At Age 40: Part 10
- Divorce And Dating And Other Disasters At Age 40: Part 12
- Divorce and Dating and Other Disasters at Age 40: Part 11
- Divorce and Dating and Other Disasters at Age 40: Part 13
- Divorce and Dating and Other Disasters at Age 40: Part 14
- Divorce And Dating And Other Disasters At Age 40: Part 17
- Divorce and Dating and Other Disasters at Age 40: Part 15
- Divorce and Dating and Other Disasters at Age 40: Part 16
- Divorce And Dating And Other Disasters At Age 40: Part 18
- Divorce And Dating And Other Disasters At Age 40: Part 19
- Divorce And Dating And Other Disasters At Age 40: Part 20
- Divorce And Dating And Other Disasters At Age 40: Part 21
- Divorce and Dating and Other Disasters at Age 40: Part 22
- Divorce and Dating and Other Disaster at Age 40: Part 23
- Divorce and Dating and Other Disasters at Age 40: Part 24
- Divorce and Dating and Other Disasters at Age 40: Part 25
- Divorce and Dating and Other Disasters at Age 40: Epilogue
THE (NON) DATE WHERE I TALK TO KIRA
Kids gather at the splash pad below a suspended bucket. It wobbles, teetering with water until it slowly tips. High-pitched squeals and boisterous laughter crescendo as the cooling spray offers relief from the oppressive heat.
Kira sits across from me at a table, watching the gleeful strains of summer from the shade of a pavilion. Her son Nikko and my boys run wild in the park. Even Josh didn’t complain about the splash pad being just for kids. And I’m glad. Because after the ex-hole left, I needed to talk. To air out the horrific suggestion he dumped in my lap.
Anna, I think we should get back together.
Recalling his statement, how his lips kicked up at the corner, his demanding eyes staring into mine, makes me dry heave.
“Did you knee him in the groin?” Kira’s shocked and appalled expression fuels my disgust.
“We were sitting in his car,” I say.
A chuckle slips despite my churning stomach. “No, I told him to go home to his girlfriend. Which made him mad.” I still feel where his hot fingers curled around my knee like a hand clutching a branch above gator-infested waters. “He grabbed my leg. Now my skin needs a thorough scrubbing after his sweaty touch.”
“Your pants will have to be burned.”
“Exactly.” The Mike Migraine Zone throbs, and I rub the space between my eyes. “Then he had the nerve to say we both had fun, but it’s time to work it out. For the sake of our family.”
“And then you throat punched him?” Vicarious anger vibrates from her, a furious chihuahua ready to attack.
“I wish. Instead, I just said no, and he told me I was being unreasonable.” I use air quotes on the last word, mimicking his nasty tone. “Before he stopped me again, I busted out of the car and almost made it to the porch.”
“Oh no.” Her fists tighten on the table. “Almost?”
“Yeah. When his door opened, I looked back, and he knew I saw him.” Even then I should have kept walking, but I hesitated, watching his expression turn hostile. “He blamed my reluctance to get back together on Dylan. As if the years of crappy treatment, his cheater-cheater-pumpkin-eater face, and the home wrecker Mitzi have nothing to do with it.”
“What an ex-hole,” she says.
“Right? But that wasn’t the worst part.”
More splashing and screaming resonates from the park, and I look in that direction. The happy kids fade to the background and my eyes lose focus as I think of Mike. An air of judgment wafted at me like rotten eggs as he had laughed. Not a happy laugh. A derisive attack spitting from his smirked lips. You’re not getting any younger, and guys like Dylan are only after one thing. Spoiler alert, it’s not a family. I’ll be in touch.
Anger, hot and fierce, boiled inside me. A torrent of words bubbled at the tip of my tongue, yearning to spill onto his smug face. But I crammed everything back, ready to unpack later when homicide ceased to be an immediate option.
“I didn’t stand up for myself,” I say to Kira. “How can I claim to be a new, independent woman when one conversation with Mike sets me back to the submissive chump who’s never good enough? An inadequate, frumpy, boring, nothing of a person.”
“Don’t make me throat punch you! That’s not who you are. You’re Anna Waite. The woman who draws hot guys to her hospital bed.” She takes off her sunglasses and leans forward, giving me her best mom-stare. “Just because Mike’s the serial killer of fun doesn’t mean you haven’t always been hilarious and amazing. Got it?”
“Yeah. I got it.” If I sounded any less confident, I’d be dead.
“On that note, how are the hot guys? Have you heard from either of them?” She changes the subject, adding a deliberate brightness to her tone.
“Ummm.” The phone in my purse is loaded with unanswered text messages. “Yes, actually. They both asked me out for Friday.”
“What? Why didn’t you lead with that?” She settles in for story time.
“Technically, Dylan didn’t ask me out. It’s about my etiquette school. And Isaac suggested brunch.” With a deep groan, I plant my face in my hands and stare at the table. “I can’t do it. The hospital was humiliating. The only option is to change my phone number, move away, and assume a new identity.”
“It wasn’t that bad.” She laughs and shakes her head. “Give me your phone.”
“It was that bad.” I surrender my cell. “I literally mooned everyone, brandishing my backside like some cheeky window display.”
“Cheeky. Great pun.”
“Bum exposure should be planned. At least three dates in, and never to more than one person at a time, with an unspoken agreement prohibiting criticism.” I tick off the points on my fingers.
“You’ve really thought about this, haven’t you?” She opens my texts.
“You need to get out more. Let’s start with Isaac.” She angles the phone, so we both read his message.
Isaac: I’d love to see you again, but I don’t want to step on anyone’s toes. Call me if you’re interested in another date. Brunch on Friday?
Isaac: Also, the kiss was mind-blowing!
“Okay. Mind-blowing is good, you little temptress.” She closes her eyes and tips her head back, taking a deep breath. A worry line creases her forehead. “I miss those days. Stolen adventures and secret kisses behind firetrucks. Now, the only mind-blowing moments I get involve a strategically planned afternoon nap for myself and a forced early bedtime for Nikko.”
Standing up, I move from my side of the table to sit next to her, putting my arm around her shoulders. “Are you okay?”
“Of course.” Her almost real smile almost convinces me. “We’ll talk about me later. But back to Isaac. What’s the holdup? Why haven’t you accepted?”
While I want to focus on Kira and whatever bothers her, I know she won’t open up until we resolve my issue first.
“Well…” On the surface, it seems good. The date with Isaac went well. We kissed. He wants to see me again. Underneath that, in my heaping hamper of self-conscious laundry, I worry. Can I keep the interest of a man like Isaac? Whose biceps send hordes of women swooning. Yes, Mike, I know I’m not getting any younger.
“What if Mike’s right?” I ask, and her loud scoff drowns the sounds of squealing kids. “Wait, hear me out.”
She rolls her eyes, but nods.
“What if Isaac only wants a mind-blowing make-out session?” Heat blooms on my cheeks, but I plow ahead. “Or what if he wants a relationship, and it doesn’t feel right to me? Then I’ve led him on, wasted his time and mine—”
“Look,” Kira cuts me off. “That’s what dating is about. Getting to know each other, discovering whether you want to take it a step further. Even having mind-blowing make-out sessions that lead nowhere.”
What she says connects in my brain, helping me see the logic. “You’re right. I don’t know why I start to doubt everything. It’s the Mike Effect. He drives me crazy.”
“It’s what exes do best. And Mike gets no more of our brain capacity. So…” Her thumbs hover over my phone screen. “What are you going to say to Isaac?”
“I’d like to go out with him again.”
“Perfect.” Her thumbs fly and I lean to see what she types. No squashed toes here. I’d love another date.
The responding buzz of the text comes right away.
Isaac: Great! Are you good for Friday brunch?
“I know you have the boys, but they can hang out at my house for a couple of hours while you’re with Isaac.” She picks up her sunglasses, sliding them on. “As long as you spill the kissing details. Deal?”
I don’t allow myself to think about it too long, pushing insecure Anna away. “Deal.”
Anna: Friday brunch it is.
The splashing bucket tips, cuing shrieking kids as Kira sets the phone down. “You, my friend, have another date with the very date-able Isaac. How do you feel?”
This is better, reclaiming my independent, girl-power life. A woman who goes out, laughs, and inadvertently flashes her butt cheeks. “I am Anna, hear me roar.”
“That’s the spirit. Moving on to Dylan.” She reads the text aloud, though I already memorized it. Hope you’re feeling better. I’d really like to show you that storefront. Friday night? Call me.
“I am Anna and I have a business plan.” Saying it strengthens my resolve. The timid person who cowered at Mike’s work dinners is gone. Replaced by… me. The real me. Capable, put-together, exciting, life-of-the-party Anna.
“Yes, you got this.” Her high-five encourages me to keep going.
“I am Anna, and I am freaking amazing!” I shout.
“I can agree with that.” An unexpected voice echoes from my phone laying on the table.
Dylan. On speaker.
“Hi. Dylan.” An embarrassed squeak accompanies my greeting. “What a surprise.”
My eyes flash to Kira and she mouths, sorry. In a flurry of gestures, she attempts to Charades her way to an explanation. The gist, I gather, is that she’d already dialed by the time I shouted my self-affirming mantra.
“Surprise?” His laugh sounds like the equivalent of a warm hug. “You called me.”
“Right.” I nervously chuckle, and Kira rolls her hand, urging me to keep talking. “But you answered faster than expected. Next time, I’ll finish my motivational pep talk before dialing.”
“Nah, I liked it. Next time call sooner so I can join in.” His voice drops a notch, an intimate whisper. “You are Anna, and you are freaking amazing.”
Did it get hotter outside? Just me? I clear my throat. “Thanks. But I’m calling about the storefront. I’d love to see it. I’ll have my boys Friday, though.”
“Bring them with you.”
“Ummm… are you sure? They’re boys, also known as little heathens.” As I say it, the little heathens themselves head for our table, approaching like hungry animals.
“All little heathens are welcome.” The smile in his voice is clear.
A chorus of mom, I’m hungry, and feed me makes further conversation impossible. The loud howling for nourishment muffles everything else. I pick up the phone, clicking it off speaker. “I gotta go, but I’ll see you Friday?”
“See you then.”
After I hang up, Kira and I spend the next half hour feeding and watering our children. We reapply sunblock and send them back to the wild world of the splash pad. Once the peaceful silence of no-kids descends, I face her.
“Okay, fess up. What’s going on? And don’t you dare tell me everything is fine.” I hold her gaze, giving a lot of eyebrow.
“Don’t freak out,” she says, which I find to be an exceptional way to start the conversation if you don’t want your friend to internally freak out.
“I’m super calm. Ultra zen.” I relax my body, hoping my face reflects the kind of serenity achieved from sixteen hours of yoga, followed by petting a dozen puppies.
She bites her lip and looks away. “I’m pregnant.”
“Pregnant. As in the last pregnancy almost killed you and you decided Nikko would be an only child? Pregnant as in you were so sick and lost so much weight that you were bedridden for months? That kind of pregnant?”
“You’re freaking out.”
“No. Not at all. I am the picture of composed.”
“Good. Because I am Kira, and I am freaking amazing.” She rubs her belly in a tender gesture.
My insides buzz like heavy metal music blasts along my spine, reverberating all the organs. I have a date with Isaac, a rendezvous with Dylan, and my best friend is going to have a baby.
Totally not freaking out.