By Kristin M. Morris.
Failure is not an option. The bold letters stood out from the postcard her son picked up at the Air and Space Museum during their trip over spring break. Failure. Option. Those were the only words that stood out to Addison.
She took the small grooming scissors and pressed them to the forearm of her skin. The scratches began, just across the top, in rapid movements flashing across the flesh. Little beads of blood began to form, but not enough to require even a band-aid. After seven marks, Addison rolled up the sleeve of her sweater to begin on the right arm. This was harder, as she was right handed. Scratching with the left hand was a bit messier. She grabbed the vanity with her right fist to steady herself and began to press into the skin of her arm. One, two, three slashes against herself, until seven lines appeared on her arm. The warm feeling went through her arms and into her entire body. She was okay.
Did her ex-husband have regrets? Addison wondered as she rolled down her sleeve. She fluctuated between thinking he was a bastard or her best friend, despite the divorce. The scissors were placed back in their antique glass jar, ready for the next time she needed calming. The scratches were easy to do in winter. Summer, not so much. Short sleeves made it hard to hide the marks. Regrets. Did she have regrets?
“Mom, are you done in the bathroom?” One of the kidlets pounded on the door. Ah, the joy of having only one full bathroom. Addison stared in the mirror. She pondered how much her face had cost her. Three hundred and fifty dollars in makeup? That latest binge at Sephora was pretty costly. Under eye cream for bags, eyelid primer, pore refiner, lip liner, Addison bought into it all. As she quickly approached the age of forty-five, she still wanted to look on the cusp of forty. Was that all that bad? So what if she was trying. Who wasn’t?
“Yes, I’m done.” She pulled down her sleeves to her wrists one more time, extra precaution so that no one would see her work, her careless self-inflicted tattoos.
Her cell phone rang in the bedroom where it sat next to the bed.
Evan. Evan on the phone. Her ex. Should she pick up or not?
“Hi, Addison. How are you?”
“Fine, Evan, great. Where are you?” Addison dreaded his response. Here she was in her usual suburban haunt, and he was probably off somewhere overseas, eating real sushi or drinking authentic German beer. He’d bring back Belgian chocolates for her and the kidlet, a sign of affection or bragging of his travels? Addison was never sure. It was probably a bit of both, she assumed.
“I’m in lovely Baltimore. I was just calling to check in on Harry.”
“Oh, he’s fine. He’s in the bathroom now. Want to wait to talk with him?”
“No, that’s okay. Hey, can I ask you a favor?” Here it came. She knew he called for a reason.
“Sure, Evan, what is it?”
“Do you mind if Harry stays with you this weekend instead of me? I can’t swap, because of some things going on. Do you mind?”
Do I mind? I have no one to see, no one to spend time with other than my few girlfriends who just want to go out for drinks and complain about their husbands. As if that was fun. They turn to me, giving me such a sympathetic look and then saying, “You’re so lucky you don’t have to deal with this!” Lucky? I wake up next to no one in the morning, saying hello only to the dog.
“Not at all. Everything okay?” I probe, hoping to get more information. Yes, I’m one nosy bitch.
“Oh yeah. Just got something going on.” He’s tight-lipped, unusual for Evan the Braggart.
“OK, well let me know about the following weekends.”
“Take care, Addison. You’re the best! I’ll text you!”
He’ll text me. I don’t have a boyfriend to text me, but I have an ex who does. Oh, the irony.
“Harry, you’re with me this weekend!” Addison yelled towards the bathroom door. “Want to head into Harvard Square with me?”
“Can’t! I’ve got plans with Luke to head up to the mall and then a party at his house.”
Ah. So much for mother-son bonding. Those days are over. Regrets. When did those days end? The days my son actually enjoyed hanging out with me, just chilling on the sofa watching a TV show or going to the movies.
“I’m heading out, Mom. Remember – Failure is not an option!” Harry put his hands in the air, yelling his motto.
Addison decided to fill her time flipping through an old photo album – the one from the year Harry was born. Evan looked so young! They were so full of promise back then, weren’t they? Five years had passed since the divorce. She had been the one to ask for it. Infidelity was something she could never forgive. The cigarette smell in the car was something she couldn’t forget. Another woman, one who smoked, probably wore hooker heels. Her vision of her was always one of some trampy type. Who knows what she was like? Until the end he begged and insisted there was no one. The woman’s phone call to the house asking for Evan was the final blow, the end of it all, the proof Addison needed. So now she trusted no one. No one. Her one relationship after the divorce was affected by that. A great guy, but Addison constantly suspected he was cheating on her. It became too much, and she ended it.
Could she forgive Evan? No one else seemed to understand her jokes, her moods, her angers. Maybe she could. What would people say? She and Evan back together after five years apart? Could it really happen? Could she take a chance?
Failure is not an option.
She needed to call him right away and get this over with. She picked up her cell phone, and with shaky hands, dialed his number. He picked up right away.
“Hey, Evan. I was wondering, next time you’re in town, do you want to go out to dinner? Just me and you? We can chat and stuff?” Oh gawd, Addison felt so dumb. She felt like a teenager, her knees shaking.
There was a very awkward pause on the line. Addison could feel it. She wasn’t expecting this. Evan always responded right away, even if the answer was a negative.
“Addie, there’s something I need to tell you. About why I won’t be seeing Harry next week.”
Addison breathed in deeply, ready for his next sentences.
“I’m getting married. We didn’t want a big production, so we’re just going to do a small ceremony in her hometown’s town hall, and then honeymoon up in the mountains.”
“Congratulations, Evan. I’m so happy for you!” Addison feigned excitement, while trying to conceal her hurt and shame.
“Thanks, Addie, that means a lot, coming from you. I learned a lot from you. Mistakes I won’t repeat this time. Regrets I won’t make again.”
“Good, Evan, good.”
Addison ended the phone call with the usual salutations and hung up.
She went into the bathroom and pulled out the grooming scissors. This time, she flipped her wrist to the underside. And cut deeper.
KRISTIN M. MORRIS is a mom to twin boys, Spanish educator, and self-confessed java addict. When not trying new recipes in her kitchen you can find her hanging out at her blog (http://mausigal.blogspot.com/) or Postcrossing.