AG2 William Benson has a wife: Alisha. Their marriage is far from storybook…
Alisha picked up Davin from Jess’s and headed home.
She’d stayed out late last night. Alisha wasn’t one for getting dead drunk, especially in a bar full of strangers, especially now. She stuck with water. Going out with the girls, that was how she’d put it, and for all she knew, Will believed her. But the only girls were the ones Alisha didn’t know. They hung out in their groups, some here to enjoy themselves, some here to meet men. Alisha had never enjoyed the interplay between groups of girls and horny guys. Some guys said women trusted women, but Alisha must be weird. She trusted no one.
She sat alone at the bar. A big girl, some men did come on to her and in the end she went out to her car with a baldy named Nick. Nick finished quickly, grunting like he was deadlifting. But Alisha didn’t mind. She got what she wanted, an honest lay, and she sent him on his way with the number for Pizza Hut.
She couldn’t keep doing this. Her condition was worsening. This morning she woke up queasy. Feelings she’d known before, but at least she hadn’t thrown up yet. Now that Will was back, she hoped she could keep from doing it until he left again.
One baby was enough for Will, both financially and mentally. They hadn’t planned Davin, but so what? Planned baby, accidental baby, they all got here the same way and deserved the same amount of love. So, Alisha had put on her big girl pants and carried Davin, giving birth to him while the Roosevelt was on its first sea trials. When they pulled in, they allowed Will to leave the ship first — one of the perks of having a new baby at home — and Will had held his son, but the look on Will’s face. Alisha had seen it before, after the first few months of marriage.
In nine months, she might see it again.
The clinic had just confirmed what she already knew. At her request, they’d given her a pamphlet outlining her options. Will had made it very clear that he did not want another kid. During the pregnancy scare to ring in 2014, he had told her, “Take pills”. Take pills. The monumental choice to keep a child or not, a decision that involved many days of tremorous thought, of debate, logical moral and philosophical, and Asshole had reduced it to two words.
She began cheating on him after the pregnancy scare. She did it when he was in, when he was out, and he didn’t notice. He did his fatherly duties with Davin, worked on his novels — he’d been working on them since before Alisha met him and as of yet, Barnes and Noble carried none of his books — and helped with the housework. They never had sex. Sometimes Alisha would test him, to see what he’d respond to. She knew he had a sizable porn collection on his computer. He preferred watching Latina women, and if he had something on the side, then fine. She had plenty, all strangers.
Then she’d turned up pregnant.
Alisha got on the interstate. Right now Will would be listening to music or reading. He had just spent twenty-five days at sea. But the freedom to move with him here changed little from the freedom to move without him. Will liked to read to Davin — the boy’s favorite was Curious George Goes Fishing — and Alisha figured that’s what Will would spend the rest of the afternoon doing, all the nice to see you again’s covered in a quick two seconds.
She parked. At the door, Alisha unlocked it and laid her hands on Davin’s shoulders. She whispered in his ears, “Go give Daddy a big hug and kiss.”
Davin took off running and Alisha went to the kitchen, listening to sounds of reunion. Will had put her note by the coffee maker. Alisha picked it up, shook off stray coffee grinds and tossed it in the garbage. She looked up. Davin ran into the kitchen, his father behind him.
“Hello,” Will said.
“Did you have a good time last night?”
“It’s the usual.” She opened the coffee maker and dumped the leftover coffee. “Desperate guys pawing all over you.” She poured in new grinds and filled the reservoir with water. “You’d think some of these guys just got out of jail or something.”
“Well you can’t discount it, not around here.”
She pushed Brew. “What about you? Did you have fun last night?”
“I stayed here.”
She nodded. He did not, of course, stay here, even the dullest rock could have seen that. He also did not, she was almost positive, see another woman. He may have tried . . . but no, sadly, not even that. She hoped he would grow some balls, and soon.
“How was the underway?” she asked. Davin was watching them like a pupil. She tried to look happy. She’d read in Parents magazine that the parents’ interactions set the stage for their child’s development.
“I’m too exhausted to even think about it,” he said. “We had the squadrons onboard.”
“A lot of people.”
“Tons.” He tussled Davin’s hair. “Missed our little mirror here. Did you teach him that?”
“Teach him what?”
“Hang on.” Will hurried out of the kitchen and hurried back, carrying a book: Winston is Worried. Will had bought books for Davin on Amazon while underway. Boxes had arrived here, the boy ripping them open like Christmas presents, and Alisha had checked through the books to make sure they were appropriate. The boy liked Curious George. He hadn’t touched this one.
“Davin,” Will said, flipping through the pages. “What’s the doggie doing?”
The doggie was trying to climb the tree to get a cat. Davin glanced at the picture, went over to the wall, and pretended to climb. He did this three times.
Alisha applauded. Little mirror was right.
“And you know what? I didn’t teach him that. He brought me the book and showed me.”
“Oh,” and she stopped. Now that was weird.
“What’s wrong honey?”
Honey? Since when had he called her honey? She nodded at the microwave. “Is the clock wrong?”
“I haven’t messed with it. Why?”
“It seems like . . . ” But she had trouble saying it aloud. Seems like time just jumped ahead several minutes.
“Time flies when you’re having fun.”
“It moves too quickly, always.” Not long ago, Davin had been a little growth in her belly. Now he was two, pretending to climb walls. Not long ago, she’d thought she was pregnant, and her husband had given her advice.
What advice would he give now? He had that lost look he often got. It used to be rare — Alisha would catch glimpses from time to time, like a rumored animal on the loose — but these past few months it had become more frequent. Lost, like all the gears were still turning but the engine they ran had to cool down for a few seconds.
Davin wanted to show them the doggie.
“What’s the doggie doing buddy?” Will said, and Davin pretended to climb the wall again.
If you liked this sample from Keepers of Time, consider following me on Twitter or Facebook. The samples, in order:
- A Step Ahead
- Thirty-Four with a Shrug
- An Encounter at the Thirsty Camel
- Take Pills
Thanks for reading!