Here’s a quick excerpt for my work in progress, A Thousand Years.
My son cooked for me on the open fire – just like Michael had taught him from the time he was toddling around, following my ex-husband around everywhere. It was a perfect night, with a bit of a chill in the air – the fire kept us cozy. It was magic, like every other time we’d done this very thing. The Redwoods surrounding us and the distant sound of the ocean remind me of my good fortune. But just like the day that Gray came back into my life, I knew the magic of our lives in Big Sur would be over soon. I’d built up this safe little world for us here. We had our friends and our family and the constancy of the Pacific beating against the shore below our home. But it was only part of Jackson’s story. It was only part of mine. He had a whole other life out there. Along with a dad, half-siblings, and a longing to know his biological father. The longing was more intense than I ever truly realized until last week.
Michael had come to see us before leaving the country for some solo adventure – probably risking his life climbing some mountain somewhere. Our divorce, final for over two years now, had shocked everyone around us. We were quite the team. The chef husband and the vineyard owning wife – a duo that had taken the hospitality world by storm – beyond this wind beaten shore. It truly did shock everyone around us. Michael is a beautiful man. I mean, he’s beautiful to look at. But he’s also good and patient. And terribly kind. He’s one of the best men God’s ever made. He had his flaws. Don’t we all. He’d done the best he could for us though. It was never good enough for me. My friends thought I was insane when I asked him to move out. In only the way Michael can, he got it. I mean, he didn’t want to leave. He didn’t give up on us easily. But he’d settled into reality long before he actually moved out – maybe a year? In that year, we became roommates and best friends. Friends that shared a home, business and, raised a child. But friends just the same.
When he came over, before flying off to parts unknown, I knew Michael and Jackson would find some adventure to get into. After a hug and dropping off some food from the restaurant, he wandered out back with Jackson. They got in Michael’s Jeep and headed out. I knew they’d show up before dusk with fish or wild stories of finding some new waterfall or swimming in the freezing water of Castro Creek. And as expected, they did. They came home with fish and manly stories, smelling of the woods. Jackson hugged me when he came home and then wandered upstairs to watch TV. I stood with Michael while he cleaned the fish in our backyard, at the sink he’d installed when Jackson was a toddler. “Did you have fun?”
“Of course. We always do,” my ex-husband said, sounding more restrained than normal. My sense was, there was more.
“Is everything okay?” I ask.
“No,” he says, getting straight to the point, like he always does.
“Well don’t make me guess. What’s up?”
“Jackson figured out who is father is. I mean, he isn’t certain – but not five minutes into fishing he started talking. And the more he talked, the more he’d figured out.”
“He knows Gray is his father?”
“Yep. And the only thing saving you from your kid not hating you right now is that you’ve talked about his bio-dad his whole life. He knows how much you respect him and cared for him. But he’s angry, Birdie.”
“Why? What? How did -”
“Yeah, that. I mean, the two of them are spitting images. He knew that day Gray showed up here. He told me he didn’t know for sure until he heard you arguing with him on the porch. He said he listened at the door and couldn’t make out everything – but heard enough to think that there was a good chance.”
“And then Gray left.”
“And then Gray left. So as you can imagine, that sweet kid of yours is feeling a little lost and hurt. And rather than hurt you, he waited until he could talk to me about it.”
“Michael. My god. I’m sorry that you’ve been cleaning up after our mess for so long. Thank you for always being there for our boy.”
“You know I love him like he’s mine. I never, not for one second, want to know a life without that kid in it – some way, somehow. But he’s hurting now because Gray walked out and here we are three weeks later and you haven’t talked to him about it. As far as he knows, Gray’s gone forever.”
“I’m a horrible person,” I say.
“Not horrible. Just blind, sometimes,” he says. “I love you, Birdie. I always will. But you need to fix this before you lose that sweet kid. Promise me,” he says, turning off the water and turning to face me.
“I promise. I don’t deserve you. I’m so grateful you’re still here, in spite of what a shitty partner I was.”
“You weren’t a shitty partner. Don’t be dramatic. You just didn’t love me, like I loved you.”
“Oh yeah. Just that little thing. Thank you for coming over. You are the best.”
“I am. Truly.”
“Let me know when you’re home safe?” I ask, as he finishes up and hands me a platter of freshly caught fish.
“Of course.” He washes his hands with the soap I keep under the sink. The way he moves reminds me of how long we shared a life. I know his every step.
“Thank you for everything.”
“You’re welcome, Birdie,” he says, drying his hands on the towel I brought out for him. He sets it on the counter of the old vintage sink we’d found at an estate sale in Morro Bay, right after we got married. “I love you,” he says, as he brotherly side hugs me on his way out. His eyes tell me he’s not yet moved on. I ache that I can’t be the wife to him that I longed to be.
“I love you, too,” I say. Michael walks down the long sidewalk that leads out to our carport. I watch him as he goes and wonder how I ever deserved being loved by him. I’m grateful he walked alongside us for so long. He loves my boy and that alone is more than I can repay.