Divorce And Dating And Other Disasters At Age 40: Part 17
- 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
Recently divorced Anna Waite is learning to appreciate life after first love. With the support of her best friend Kira, and a solid sense of humor, Anna tackles the world of dating. This is her coming of middle age story.
THE (NON) DATE WHERE I FIND MY PANTS
A slab of wood separates me from chaos. One door with a jiggly metal handle protects me from the awkwardness on the other side where two burly protective men, my ex-husband, and a teenager wait.
I pace the small confines of the bathroom, which affords me about four steps in either direction. Step, step past the toilet. Step, step to the wall. Turn, allow the scrappy hospital gown to billow around me and expose my backside, then repeat.
When I hear voices from the room, I stop walking and strain to listen. The exact words escape me, but I recognize the whiny whisper of the ex-hole. Then Dylan’s soft tone. Moving closer to the door, I press against the smooth surface. I angle my left ear to the cool wood, but it’s still swollen from the accident, so I shift and use my right ear.
“She’s my wife,” Mike says, and the vomit reflex hits the back of my throat. Wife? Ha! Attending my high school reunion naked sounds more appealing than stepping back into wedded un-bliss.
“Ex-wife,” Dylan clarifies.
Knowing how much Mike likes to be corrected (not at all), I imagine him squirming. “Who are you, anyway?”
“Dylan,” he says. No further explanation given.
“Oh, you’re Dylan.” This comes from Isaac, his rich baritone adding to the men’s chorus. “She said your name at the accident.”
I did? Closing my eyes, I replay the night, remembering what happened. In the short moment between dream and reality, fingers glided over my cheek. And I imagined Dylan. His gentle gray eyes crinkling at the edges. The special smile reserved to make the butterflies flutter. I wanted it to be true, to have his tender touch wake me from the between. But it wasn’t him.
“Are you her brother…?” Isaac trails off.
“They’re cousins.” Mike jumps in, trying to sound knowledgeable, despite being wrong. Very wrong. “On her mom’s side.”
Mike’s an idiot. On every side.
“Right, that’s me. Cousin Dylan.” Sarcasm squeezes out like water from a sponge.
“Aunty Anna is the best.” This from the teenage comedian. It makes me smile even though her knowledge of family relationships could use a brush up. Savvy and I would be first cousins once removed if Dylan was related like that. Which he’s not.
“I’m gonna head out,” Isaac probably senses the weird vibe brewing and makes his retreat. “Anna, I’ll call you tomorrow,” he says louder.
Do I reply? Or will that give away my eavesdropping position? I stay silent and listen to the rustling movements, murmured goodbyes, and the door closing on his exit. One down…
“You can leave too.” The ex-hole aims for authoritative, but the demand sounds sullen.
“Nah. A good cousin would check on how she’s doing.”
His footsteps approach, and I jump back as if I did something wrong. A wave of dizziness from the concussion scrambles my brain. Running fingers through my hair, I glance in the mirror and drop my jaw in horror. That can’t be me. The person reflected looks like a creature crawling from the swamp. Suddenly, my embarrassment goes beyond flashing my butt cheeks.
My hair hangs in tangled clumps and dark circles bulge below my eyes. Angry cuts slash the left side of my face, tiny hints of the damage peeking from behind small bandages. The red lipstick I applied before my date now resembles an old, faded painting, impressions of shapes and colors all that’s left behind.
In short, yikes!
A light knock rattles the door, and a startled squeal leaves my mouth. “Anna? Are you okay?” Dylan asks.
“Oh, hey, Dylan.” I go for nonchalant, acting like it’s normal to hole up in the bathroom for ten minutes.
“Do you need anything?”
A brush, heavy-duty coverage makeup, and pants. Definitely pants. “Nope, I’m good.”
“Okay, but there’s chocolate out here.” A smile fills his statement. Add to that the small chuckle and I know he knows I’m hiding.
I look at the mirror and cringe. “I’ve given up chocolate.” And apparently pants.
“Talk to me.” An echoey timber hollows his voice as he leans closer to the door.
Curling my fingers around the metal molding, I scooch closer. We’re mirror images, him on one side, me on the other, tilting toward the hunk of wood that serves as our confessional. “Did you notice my butt hanging out of the gown? Never mind. Of course, you did.” I follow the statement with a long groan.
“There’s not a good answer to that.” His breath sounds from just above my ear, the placement perfect for me to snuggle into the Deltoid Den if the door wasn’t between us. “If I say yes, you’ll be embarrassed, and if I say no, I’d be lying.”
My laugh catches me by surprise. “Please forget I even brought it up.”
“It’s forgotten,” he says. “You can come out now.”
“Still a no go.” I swipe at the mascara streaks under my eyes. “I don’t want you to see me.”
“I’ve already seen you.” He speaks in true puzzlement, unable to comprehend the magnitude of my moment in front of the mirror.
“Yeah, but now I’ve seen me. And it’s not pretty.” I expect his amusement, but he stays quiet.
The silence stretches, my insecurity hanging in the air, and I wonder if he left. A loaded ten seconds pass without comment.
“Please open the door. Just a little.” There’s a new intensity to his tone.
I rear back, wondering how he can ask me to do something so extreme. The bathroom is perfectly comfortable. The door yearns to stay closed, happy to be nestled in the jamb. No need to mess up the balance. But I do it anyway, unable to ignore the request, cracking the door an infinitesimal amount.
“Anna.” He leans forward, our noses almost touching in the narrow gap. “You are beautiful. And you have no reason to hide.”
Warmth radiates from my bruised sternum, a pinch of pain at the pleasure of his words. Opening the door wider, I expose a third of my face. “Spoken like a good cousin.”
His head tips back, a locket worthy laugh bursting out. “Come on, Cuz. Back in the bed.”
He lets me make the final decision, waiting for me to either move or stay hidden. And after his whispered sentiment, it seems silly to barricade myself in the bathroom. With a boost of confidence, I leave my sanctuary, my head held high while I hold my gown together in the back.
“That’s my girl.” Dylan puts his arm around me, and I enjoy the comfort of the nearly there Deltoid Den. If I just snuggle in a little deeper. But no, we make it to the hospital bed, and he helps me settle in. I feel Mike’s eyes on us the whole time, and Savvy remains in the chair, phone in hand.
No sooner do I lay my head back than a nurse enters the room. Where was she fifteen minutes ago? She takes one look at the visitors and shakes her head.
“Nuh uh,” she says, hands on her hips. “Too many people.”
She efficiently shuffles Dylan and his daughter from the room after a reluctant goodbye from him and a catch you later, Aunty Anna from Savvy. Mike clings to the edge of the bed rail, claiming to be my husband, resisting the barometric pressure of Nurse Typhoon.
“Anna,” he says. “I’ll pick you up tomorrow.”
My mouth opens to decline, I’d rather live at the hospital, but he uses my kryptonite. “The boys have been worried.”
“Um, okay.” It sounds easy enough. Get a ride. See my boys. But with Mike, I always worry about the ulterior motive.
Once I agree, he’s swept away by my blustery care giver, leaving me to have my vitals checked in relative peace.
“Quite the crowd,” she says, disapproval clear in the way she tightens the blood pressure cuff.
“Yeah.” I glance at the side table where I spot the brownie from Dylan. The cellophane creases on the edges and one side crumbles in the packaging. But seeing it there, knowing he thought of me, causes my tummy to flutter.
I call Kira after the dust settles, telling her about the accident and the subsequent visitors. Like any good friend, she makes sure I’m okay, followed by laughing at the awkward hospital show, and then she promises to bring me clothes and toiletries. Which she does. But Nurse Typhoon cuts Kira’s visit short, insisting I need rest and quiet.
The next day, I breathe a sigh of relief at trading in the hospital gown for my clothes. Pants at last! A long shower with the water turned all the way to scalding, and a fresh pair of underwear help me feel human again.
I sign the discharge papers and meet Mike and the boys out front. Josh runs at full speed, slamming into me with the power of a growing ten-year-old boy. A grunt punches from my gut and pain radiates from my chest.
“I missed you, bud.” My fingers ruffle his soft, brown hair.
“Missed you too. We had to stay with Mitzi last night. It was the worst,” he says, and I silently agree. No one wants a night with the barely legal husband stealing hairdresser.
“It couldn’t have been that bad.” Bonus points to me for not criticizing Mitzi.
“It was.” This from Devin, who gives me a quick side hug. “Are you okay, Mom?”
“I’m good. Remember, you’re stuck with me forever. And ever. And ever.”
They laugh as we make our way to the car and pile in. Climbing into Mike’s red Audi transports me to a different time when I discovered his true love, the A3 Sedan. Don’t touch anything, he’d say, and then promptly give me a microfiber rag to wipe down any stray fingerprints. But the boys wrestle in the back, grubby hands grazing everywhere, and I’m surprised by his lack of yelling and sanitizing spray. Maybe his love affair with Audi has diminished.
By the time he pulls in front of my house, exhaustion drags me down. Last night’s bi-hourly wake-up call and vital sign check means today’s fatigue. Devin and Josh grab their backpacks, running in before I even reach for the door handle. But I don’t blame them. The desire to abandon the car and escape the ex-hole is second only to my inability to move faster.
“Hold on.” Mike puts a hand on my knee, and I realize the ulterior motive has arrived. How stupid of me to fall into complacency, believing the ride came from the goodness of his heart. I remove his hand. No touching.
“What?” Annoyance pokes at my already tired brain.
“I don’t know how to say this, so here goes.” He takes a deep breath, staring out the windshield. “I made a mistake.”
Please don’t tell me Mitzi’s pregnant. “What happened?”
Confusion scrunches his brow, and he shakes his head. “I had an affair. Broke up our family. We had a good thing going, didn’t we?”
Oh. He’s talking about ancient history. “You have Mitzi now—”
“No. Mitzi’s not…” He grips the steering wheel and pinches his eyes closed. “She’s not a long-term kind of girl.”
Ouch. I thought it was impossible, but I feel sorry for the home wrecking hussy.
“While I appreciate the sentiment—” or not—“This sounds like a conversation you should be having with her.”
“Anna, you’re not getting it.” He turns to face me, taking my hand in his. “I think we should get back together.”
Shut. The. Front. Door.
I just threw up in my mouth.