The Sidelined Wife(7)

By: Jennifer Peel

Except, Reed had other ideas. He was politer than the Decker boys and men and took breaths between bites; he was full of conversation.

“I didn’t realize you moved back here. I thought you were living in Chicago,” he said to me.

I took a sip of ice water before responding. “We moved back to Clearfield a few years ago. I didn’t want Cody going to middle school or high school in the city.” And I was ready to build the home I had been dreaming of. The one we saved for and Neil made me wait for. He was adamant that we should pay cash for everything. It was a lot of cash to save, but I guess I should thank him now since I owned it outright.

“So tell us where you’ve been, Reed,” Ma interrupted. She always had to be in the know.

Reed turned toward Ma. “After college I got a teaching and assistant coaching position in Wisconsin close to where my parents are now. But when the head coach position for the Panthers came up, I couldn’t resist being back at my old alma mater.”

I never went to Pomona High; it was built after I had graduated. Back in the day, it caused a lot of heartburn when our city went from one high school to two; now we had three. But I was proud to be the mom of a Panther. Matt and Jimmy attended James’s and my old school. Technically they were rivals with Cody. Thankfully, Matt and Jimmy ran cross country, so there weren’t any hard feelings between the cousins. They were happy to cheer each other on at their respective events.

“How are your parents?” Ma asked Reed.

“Good. Dad finally retired this year and they bought an RV to travel the country.”

Ma gave Dad the eye that said, See? It was her dream to travel with Dad, but Dad wasn’t done working. Dad grimaced before pretending like he hadn’t seen her glare.

Ma let it drop for now, but I’m sure Dad would get an earful later. She still had some questions for Reed. “Are you dating anyone?”

Poor Reed.

He took it all in stride. “Not right now.”

Ma got my attention. “What young women do we know at church that we could set him up with?”

I gave her a blank stare. I hadn’t been to church since Easter and I wasn’t up on all the single ladies. I’d had my own relationship issues to deal with.

Ma waved her hand at me like I was no use, but then a thought popped into her head and she was back to penetrating me with her all-knowing eyes. “We really need to come up with a list of single older men for you. You’re going to be forty in two months, and you know what the odds are of you ever getting married after that? You’re more likely to die in a plane crash.”

I dropped my fork and it clanged against my plate. “Ma, could I at least be divorced for a few weeks before we talk about getting married again?” Not like I was ever planning on it. Dying in a plane crash sounded better.

The “D” word set Mimsy off again. Dad saved me and grabbed her glass before anybody else got sprayed with her unsanctified water. But Mimsy still had her two cents to add. “Whoever she marries now will be committing adultery since she’s been married.”

Snickers of muted laughter filled the room.

I really needed that triple chocolate mousse pie.

Everyone guffawed at my expense, well, everyone but Reed and my son. I could tell from Cody’s stiff stance next to me that he didn’t need to think of both his parents as adulterers, even though he knew what Mimsy said wasn’t true.

While I touched my son’s knee, Reed, in a very unexpected gesture, placed his hand on my bare knee under the table. “You’d be worth it.”

He removed his hand as fast as he had placed it on me. Then he acted as if it never happened. Or maybe he was disgusted by how prickly my leg was. Shaving had gone way down on the priority list.

I wasn’t sure how to feel about his touch. That man hand didn’t belong to the boy I knew, and neither did his look. And why would he say something like that? What did he know? He was a kid.

Chapter Four

Nights were the worst. My mind not only raced, but it replayed every gut-wrenching moment of the past eight months. From the second Neil confessed his supposed one-time indiscretion to the real truth. Or at least as far as I knew. I wasn’t sure what was real anymore. He was gone, and all I knew was the king-size bed felt too big. Loneliness filled the room with the tray ceilings I had insisted on having.