He stared at the naked form beside him. He watched the rise and fall of her chest. Her round breasts down to her delicate naval. And he felt sick. To his stomach. To his core, to his very being. It was their anniversary. She'd gotten tipsy from the champagne and asked him to make love to her. Her sweet eyes, her sweet voice. How long had it been? Six months? No, longer, he was sure. He felt bad, felt obligated. She'd excused herself first, wanted to make a show of it, slipping into some special lingerie she bought for the occasion. Like some plan. And Rick had slipped into the bathroom and quickly swallowed one of the little blue pills he hid in his vitamin bottle.
She just didn't do it for him anymore. He wondered if she ever did? When he closed his eyes and moved against her, did he always imagine a flat chest, thick arms, strong jaw, large hands… he rubbed his face, eyes, hair. He felt sick. Really sick.
One last look and he slowly got out of the bed. He pulled on a pair of sweat pants and headed out to the living room. He sunk down on the couch and leaned back. This was wrong. This was so wrong! He dated her back when he was trying to pretend. They were both so young and naïve. And she said she loved him. No one had said that to him. And when she got pregnant, he asked her to marry him.
That's just what you did. And it was proof that he could do it. He could… be normal… he could be… straight. Marry a woman, have kids, get a manly job. Be a man. He had to be a man.
And she said she loved him. He thought he'd learn to love her. 12 years later and he was disgusted with himself. He just… he couldn't do this to her anymore. He shouldn't do this to her anymore. She deserved more, better. She deserved to find someone who really loved her. All of her and no just her willingness to say yes.
And him… well he deserved to die alone for being such an asshole. He was an awful, terrible, horrible person. And he had to tell his wife and son and parents and best friend and everyone that he wanted a divorce… because he… he was gay. And if he had to have sex with his wife again, he was going to shoot himself with his gun.
Okay, that was a little dramatic. But still, the idea of her made him sick. He closed his eyes and took a deep breath. He sat there, staring at the ceiling and reliving his life with her in his head. He wasn't for sure how long. And he didn't mean to. But at some point, he fell asleep.
It was a few hours later when a voice roused him. "Dad?" The kid said softly. He leaned over the back of the couch and poked the sleeping man in the shoulder.
Rick opened his eyes slowly. He yawned and stretched. "Morning, Carl. Must have... fallen asleep." He said slowly. He leaned forward lightly, leaning on his knees. He felt exhausted.
Carl leaned in closer and his voice dropped. "Did you... have a fight... again?" He asked slowly.
"No we didn't." He said automatically. That was always his answer. No, they didn't have a fight. No, he didn't sleep on the couch. No, he didn't work late on purpose to avoid her. No, she didn't go to her sister's place upstate to avoid him. Everything was okay. Everything was always okay.
Carl stepped around the couch and sat down beside him. "You can stop lying to me." Carl said softly. "I'm old enough to understand. Most of my friend's parents... are divorced."
Rick wanted to lie. He wanted to adamantly deny it and assure Carl that he loved Lori. That he always did and always would. And that they were one big, happy family. But he let out a sigh and put his arm around Carl. He pulled the kid against him and planted a kiss on his head.
"Ah! Dad!" Carl squirmed and pushed him away.
Rick smiled, watching him. Then he grew serious and leaned in closer. "Whatever happens, know I love you. Everything I've done, it's always been for you." He said. "Always."
Carl nodded quickly. "I know, dad. I never listen to the stuff mom says. I know you care."
Rick fought back the urge to glare at that. He remembered that fight, were Lori had implied in front of Carl that Rick didn't care about either of them at all. It was the furthest thing from the truth. That whole argument had escalated when Lori demanded he talk, yell, scream at him or call her names or something. But Rick had been tired of fighting and ignored her.
"Is it... is it all my fault?" Carl asked, rousing him from his thoughts.
"No, no!" Rick said quickly, shaking his head. "Our fighting has nothing to do with you. It isn't your fault."
Carl looked down at his lap. "Not that... I mean... everything." He said softly. "You got married because of me."
Rick let out a sigh. He should lie. Of course not! We were in love! But the way Carl was looking at him, he already knew the truth. Damn smart kid. Finally, Rick nodded. "Fine. You want the truth?" He asked softly. "Yes, we got married when she got pregnant. I thought... I thought I'd grow to love her. But Carl..." He turned to Carl. "I've never regretted anything about my life... uh... well not about you." He corrected quickly. "You were the greatest mistake of my life."
"But you married someone you didn't love!" Carl said sourly. "And you're miserable! You guys fight all the time and mom's always mad and she says these awful things about you and you... you're always sad... you could have married someone you loved and been happy."
Rick leaned back on the couch and shook his head. "No. I could never marry who I wanted to." He said with a sigh.
Carl looked at him and his eyes widened. "Who did you want to marry?"
Rick shook his head again. "No one. Just... in general."
"What's that mean?"
Rick blinked and hugged Carl close again. "Nothing. Don't worry about me. Every, alright? No matter what anyone says about me. I'm your dad and that'll never change. I'll never stop being your dad and I'll never stop loving you."
"Dad, what're you..."
"Shh!" Rick hissed as he heard a door open deeper in the house.
"Tell mom." Carl whispered. He jumped up and dashed off.
"Carl!" Lori yelled as the kid squeezed past her.
Rick let out a sigh as he stood up. He slowly turned around towards her.
Lori came down the hall towards him. She frowned a bit when she saw him. "You're up early."
"We need to talk."
She yelled. She cried. She yelled some more. And she cried some more. And then she slapped him. Hard. And then she packed a bag and left to stay with her sister. And she drug Carl with her, though the kid didn't want to go.
"Just go." Rick had said with a sigh, hugging him close. "School starts back up in a couple weeks. You'll have to be back by then. It's too late to transfer."
"I want to stay with you." Carl whined. "I don't like what she says about you."
Rick sighed and hugged him tighter. "Don't worry. I'll call my lawyer first thing in the morning and file for joint custody as soon as I can."
"She won't let you!"
Rick laughed softly. "She can't stop me."
"But what if she wins?"
Rick smiled and smacked him lightly on the back of the head as he released him and pulled away. "Stop being so dramatic. If that happens, it'll work out. When you turn 13, you'll be old enough to choose."
Carl whined loudly. "That's like a year away! It'll be forever!"
Rick let out a sigh and pushed the kid towards the door. "Just go."
Carl gone, Rick told his parents next. And they'd yelled. He told Shane and the next day his best friend had filed for transfer. The word divorce and gay and suddenly he was a pariah. Rick felt more alone than he had ever in his whole life. And it sucked.
"Dad!" Carl said urgently as soon as he answered the phone.
"Carl?" Rick sat up, suddenly alert. "What's wrong? Are you okay?"
"I'm fine." The kid answered quickly. "It's mom."
Rick sighed and leaned back against the couch again. He'd been watching TV when Carl called. "What'd she do now?" Nearly two months of bickering and squabbling over phones and through lawyers and he was really tired of it. He was starting to wish he'd never said anything in the first place. Being married to Lori was looking better than being divorced from her.
"I overheard her talking to someone on the phone..." Carl said quickly. "About an abortion." He added in a whisper.
Rick stopped breathing. Abortion? Lori? She was pregnant? How far along was she? If he was the father... Rick had always wanted another kid. A few years ago, they had tried. Really hard. But Lori hadn't gotten pregnant and Rick was certain it was some cosmic joke against him for imagining his wife with less up front and more downstairs.
"She's pregnant!" Carl snapped. "Dad, you have to stop her!"
Rick nodded. "I'll leave now. I'll be there in an hour." He didn't spare a second thought. He just jumped in his car and hit the gas. He probably broke a few speed limits to get there. Scratch that. He definitely broke a few laws to get there but he was soon knocking on her door. Loudly.
Lori's sister answered the door and her eyes widened. "Rick... what are you..."
"Where is she?" Rick interrupted her.
She shook her head and started closing the door. "She doesn't want to see you."
"I don't care." Rick said loudly, stopping her. "Where is she? Lori?"
"Rick?" Her surprised voice wasn't too far away.
He pushed through the door and headed towards Lori. "You're pregnant?" He asked loudly.
Her eyes widened. "How'd you find out?"
"It's true then?"
She looked away, hesitating for a moment, and then the nodded.
"Mine?" He asked softer.
She looked at him and glared. "Of course!" She snapped.
Rick sighed and shook his head sadly. "Were you ever gonna tell me?" She didn't answer. Instead, she looked away again. "Lori! How could you do that?"
She closed her eyes and took a deep breath. "I can't do this, Rick." She breathed out softly.
"I can't raise another one of your kids. I can't look at its face every day and see you and feel this hurt again. I'd be reminded a hundred times a day."
"It's a baby, Lori." He took a step towards her. "That we created together no matter the pretense or current circumstance."
She shook her head. "I don't want to have your kid. Again."
"Then give it to me, Lori. Please!"
"You?" Her sister snapped from behind him.
Rick ignored the sister and took another slow step towards Lori. "Whatever you want, Lori." He said softly. "Take the house, take the car, alimony, I'll move to the next county, whatever. You don't have to do anything with it after it's born, I swear! Just please!" He begged. "Let me have the baby."
Lori looked at the ground. "I don't have to know it?" She asked softly.
Rick shook his head. "Unless you change your mind."
She shook her head quickly. "No, no."
Rick nodded, suddenly too nervous to breath.
Lori turned for a moment, thinking.
They all turned as Carl appeared on the hall steps.
Lori's eyes widened. "Carl..."
"I used to ask for a baby brother for Christmas every year."
She smiled. "I remember that." She was silent for a moment more. Finally, she nodded. But she turned a glare towards Rick. "Not for you. I'm going it for Carl."
"I'm fine with that." Rick said quickly with a nod.
Carl ran forward and threw his arms around Lori, hugging her waist tightly. "Thanks, mom!"