Chapter 19: Susan
There’s a problem with my idea to tell Matthew what he’s done.
I don’t want to go to his place ever again.
And in spite of her promise, I’m afraid that my doctor might call Martin about me. She doesn’t know my new address, but I gave her my new number when I called to book the appointment.
I’ll have to switch phones again. All this switching and moving around is getting expensive.
I have money in the bank, but I don’t want to tell them my new address.
I want to be anonymous.
I’ll change my number one more time and not give it to anybody. I don’t really need a phone, but I have to have one for emergency calls.
Maybe I can send Matthew a letter.
The idea pops into my head as I finish knitting a hat.
How can I send him a letter? He can’t reply without my address, and I’m certainly not giving him that.
I start another hat and mull things over in my mind.
He can meet me some place. I won’t put my return address on the letter, but I’ll designate a date and time I’ll be at a certain restaurant. What will I write in the letter?
I’ll finish the hat, and then I’ll figure it out.
Once the hat has been added to my pile of finished projects, I get a pen and piece of paper and write.
This is important. Meet me next Monday at noon at the McDonald’s three blocks from your apartment.
I address the envelope, go and buy a stamp, and mail it.
Will he show up?
I go back to work on more hats.
The week is bad.
Work is stressful.
A customer is unhappy because her fries are cold, and the manager is there to hear this.
I get pulled aside.
“One more unhappy customer, and you’re done.”
It happens on Saturday.
I’m not the one who makes the customer unhappy, but the manager likes my coworker better than he likes me, probably because she’s in her twenties and flirts with him, so he believes her story and I’m called into his office.
“You screwed up again. Go home.”
I have no job, and my rent’s due soon.
Even if they want me back, I can’t handle nights at the bakery.
This is all Matthew’s fault.
What seedy job will I end up at next?
I spend Sunday knitting so I won’t have to think about anything.
On Monday, I drive to the McDonald’s and arrive just before eleven. Being early means I get a good table. I haven’t brought anything to keep me occupied for an hour, so I grab a newspaper somebody has left on another table and sit down with the milkshake I’ve ordered.
It’s yesterday’s paper, but that’s okay. I don’t get any papers or magazines. I don’t even go and buy them. I don’t read news on the Internet because my phone has a tiny screen and I’ve left my computer behind.
There’s nothing much of interest, so I flip through the paper. I scan headlines.
Then I see it.
I don’t even see Matthew come in and walk over to me.
I have my head down on the table, but my sight is so blurred by tears, I wouldn’t recognize my own mother if she were looking right at me.
“Susan. Are you okay? What’s wrong?” I recognize his voice. He’s standing beside my table.
The reason I wrote to him seems now like the distant past.
The smell of newspaper is horribly in the present.
What will my future be like?
I probably shouldn’t ask that or even think it.
I point to a chair and he sits down.
“I got your letter. Are you okay?”
I shake my head.
I don’t trust my voice, so I point to the paper.
“Is there bad news in there about somebody you know?”
I shake my head.
I point to the line, which is getting longder.
“Would you like something?”
I shake my head and point to him.
“Oh, you’d like me to go get something. Are you sure?”
I use the time to clean up my face and sip some of my milkshake.
By the time he returns with a tray of food, I’m as composed as I’ll ever be.
“There’s news about me. It’s yesterday’s paper, so I’m old news.”
“I’m sorry. I don’t understand.”
“My husband wants a divorce.”
I take a sip of my milkshake.
“It’s a summons. I don’t want to talk to him or even see him, but . . .” I gesture at the paper.
“Would you like me to help you find a lawyer?”
“I don’t have any money. I lost my job.”
“Oh no. What kind of work do you do?”
“I worked at a fast food place.”
“I don’t know if I’ll be any help, but I’m here to listen if you want to tell me about your husband.”
“He wants the house and the mortgage. I get my car and some money. I don’t want to talk to him.”
“I’m not a hundred percent sure, but I think that if you don’t respond, he gets what he wants. Would you like me to check?”
I shrug and he takes out his phone, which is much bigger than mine.
He taps on the screen for a few seconds and nods.
“You have thirty days to respond. If you don’t, then he gets what he wants. If you don’t agree with him, then you do need to answer, but you should be able to do that through a lawyer.”
“Except I can’t afford a lawyer.”
“I could help with that.”
He hasn’t even asked to see the paper and he’s offering to help me.
“You know this isn’t why I wrote you that letter.”
“Why did you send the letter?”
“Because . . . I’m having a baby, and it’s yours.”
I wait for him to say that it’s probably not his, but he doesn’t.
“You know what my grandma used to say?”
“‘God works in mysterious ways.’ I think she was right. I’m moving out of my place.”
“Are you moving back in with your daughter’s mom?”
“With Francis? No. I’ve never lived with her. I go and visit, but no, what I mean is that I’ve bought a house. It’s a farmhouse. I mean, I’ve bought a farm.”
“I know it sounds crazy, but yes, I really did. If you’d waited much longer to send that letter, I wouldn’t have received it. I’m moving tomorrow. Would you like to come with me?”
He hasn’t even asked my husband’s name.
“I won’t cook you dinner. I won’t do your laundry. I won’t work for nothing.”
“We can each do our own laundry. As for dinner, I have a rule for when Beth, my daughter, visits. We cook and eat together. When she was three, she helped me to set the table. Now she’s thirteen and helps me make dinner. After we finish, she helps me to clean up. Breakfast and lunch are make your own, although of course I made those for Beth when she was little. Now she makes the best scrambleed eggs ever.”
“Does Beth live with you?”
“No, she lives with Francis. We visit every Sunday, sometimes at my place, and sometimes at hers.”
“Is Francis your ex?”
He shakes his head.
“We were never married. She was never my girlfriend. We went to the same high school. We were best friends, and when she finished college, she asked me to be the father of her child. Will you come and live with me?”
I shake my head and he looks crushed.
He picks up a fry, grimaces, and puts it back down.
“What kind of farm is it?”
“A dairy farm. The previous owners sold the cows, so there’s not much there now.”
“Have you ever milked a cow?”
“Never. Well, I’d better go and look for a job.”
“Will I ever see you again?”
“Yes. We can meet every Monday at noon, but not at your place, and not at mine. What’s your phone number?”
He gives it to me.
I don’t offer mine, and he doesn’t ask.
I’ll block my caller ID when I phone him.
It’ll be nice to get out for something besides work.
Now all I need is a job.