Over the next few weeks, the pain got less constant. Some mornings still felt like waking up to a nightmare; on others, though, she could remember what it was like to wake up happy. Happy, and free. The late winter sun and Oscar the cat warmed her, coffee and the newspaper beckoned. And there was no glowering presence in her house. She would almost skip downstairs in the early morning and savor her morning routine - coffee, newpaper, bagel in hand, Oscar on lap - enjoying the quiet until it was time to wake up Sadie.
When Sadie came home from her Dad's that first Sunday and heard Michael was gone, she'd been sad. Kind of. Maybe just reflecting Annie's sadness, she thought. Maybe sad because things had changed; her world had, once again, been proven unpredictable.
And Sadie probably loved Michael, but more in a theoretical way. In her 10 year old innocence, she tried to do what one was supposed to do, and a kid was CERTAINLY supposed to love her stepdad, right? It was a challenging love, though - she, too, would be pulled in by Michael's charm, then nicked by his moods. He never yelled at her, never said anything mean. He would just sort of invite her in, and then slam the door in her face.
What had started to break Annie's heart was that Sadie had become. . . careful.
Now she was seeing the non-careful Sadie again: goofy, loud, affectionate without fear. Michael had seemed to keep a tally of how much love they each got from her, as though there was a finite supply. Now no one was keeping score. Annie felt an ease she'd almost forgotten.
Sure, there were times. . . times she couldn't remember anything wrong about the relationship, could only remember how well he enfolded her at night, how proud she was to be married to A Doctor, how necessary she felt when she was the center of his universe and she was getting it right. How nice it was to wake up to the smell of someone else making coffee downstairs.
At work one day her friend Becky said he was on the phone - said it with that "Oh, God, I know how this must feel" look. She finished the IV she was starting, hearing the roar of warring emotions in her brain: Is he calling to say he's lost without me, I AM the center of his universe, he wants to go back to the way things were? He's changed, he sees how wrong he was, he's going to therapy and wants to understand his issues so he can be with me, the woman of his dreams? He loves me and Sadie, and he knows there's enough love for all of us? He'll stop always taking the top side of the bagel, the part with all the poppy seeds? . . . Do I WANT him to come back, poppy seeds notwithstanding?
She got to the phone, trying to affect calmness.
"Hi. How you doin'?"
"Oh, about like you'd expect. You?"
"It's hard. I went to get some things at the house when you weren't there - I felt like a tortured ghost. I miss you so much, but I know this is what I have to do."
(small voice trying to be a big voice) "Yeah. I understand."
"I was just calling to ask about the tax returns - do you know where they are? I need them to sign papers for an apartment."
She told him, and got off the phone, and cursed him and the sperm he rode in on. Bastard. Just like him to call her at work, to make this about him and have no idea what the call would do to her.
She went into the bathroom, the traditional place for workplace grieving.
It took several tries and 15 minutes to pull her face back together and come out, walking carefully, holding her face carefully, thinking "Please don't ask me how I am. Please don't ask me how I am."