Chapter 22: Martin
Well, today’s the day.
I need to make sure Melanie doesn’t see the paper.
One of us normally gets it and puts it in the living room.
I have to work, and it’s my turn to make breakfast.
I won’t have time to sit and read the paper, so I can’t take out the relevant page and hide it before I go to work.
This means I need to come up with a way to keep her too busy to read the paper until I come home.
She sits at the table while I crack eggs.
“What are you doing today?”
“Oh, I thought I’d go see Mom. Can you join us after work?”
This is perfect.
“I have a little bit of reading to do, but I can come around four. Will that work?”
“Sure. Joseph’s making his famous spaghetti and meatballs.”
“Um, he is?”
“Yeah. Have I never mentioned that he makes the best?”
“No, I don’t think so.”
“Well, make sure you finish your reading in time, because I’m not saving you any!”
“I’m being serious.”
Everything goes well until lunch time.
It starts with a strange look from Rick.
I ignore him and go to get something to eat.
After lunch, I check my schedule.
Frank is coming at one.
I leave my office and go into the waiting room.
He’s not smiling like he usually does.
“Hello,” I say.
His tone is stiff and formal.
“How are you?”
“I’m well, thank you, and you?”
He never talks like this.
His expression becomes almost angry.
“She is well, thank you. I would prefer to complete my exercise program, rather than engaging with you in small talk.”
What the heck is wrong with him?
He does his HIIT workout as usual. He follows my directions to the letter, but doesn’t talk to me during the recovery intervals.
At the end, he says, “This is the end of your status as my personal trainer.”
“You’re finished as my trainer. I’m going to ask to work with somebody else.”
Tim is there, but isn’t listening to us.
“Can we go into my office and talk about this?”
“There’s nothing to discuss. I saw the paper. What you’ve done to Susan is just plain mean.”
My stomach falls down a long elevator shaft.
“I couldn’t locate her, and printing the summons in the newspaper was the only way to get her attention. She just disappeared.”
“For all you know, she could be dead or being abused by crooks.”
“She’s not dead.”
“It doesn’t matter. Divorce is a sin.”
“If you don’t mind, I’d prefer to keep religion out of this conversation.”
“Well, I don’t. However, this conversation is at an end. I’ll pray for both of you, but I don’t trust you anymore.”
With that, he gets up and leaves the gym.
Tim hasn’t heard us I don’t think, but he must have seen something in my face.
He walks over.
“Are you okay?”
“Yes. Frank doesn’t want to be my client anymore.”
“I’m sorry to hear that. He’s been your client for a long time and it must be rough. Is there anything I can do?”
“Yes, be his trainer.”
“I’ll see what I can do about that.”
I have to go and cry about losing Frank’s friendship. I try not to get emotionally invested in my clients, but I just couldn’t prevent that with Frank.
Nor with Melanie.
With most of the others, I can switch on and off.
Another exception to this is Matthew. I don’t know what it is about him, but something about his determination just makes me like him.
He’ll make a great husband for some lucky woman.
I don’t know anything about his family, but he’s never mentioned a wife or kids, so I’m assuming he doesn’t have either.
He’s laser-focused when he’s in the gym. It’s so intense, it’s almost in the air.
If he’s not careful, he’ll end up stronger than me.
He’s also one heck of a sprinter.
I’m seeing him tomorrow at ten.
I hope he hasn’t read the paper.
When I walk into the living room, I expect to see the paper open to the page with the summons, but it’s exactly as I left it this morning.
Melanie won’t ever read it.
I throw the whole paper away, once I check to make sure the summons is there.
Now all I need to do is wait for Susan to respond.
According to my lawyer, she has thirty days in which to do so.
I go to visit Melanie’s family and taste Joseph’s spaghetti and meatballs.
She’s right. They’re the best.
I see Matthew. He either hasn’t read the paper, or he doesn’t care.
Thirty days pass, and the only client I lose is Frank. A few give me some odd looks, and two of them ask me about Susan, but they accept that my marriage has nothing to do with my job.
She never contacts me or my lawyer. The court grants me a divorce, and on my terms.
I’m free to marry Melanie!
She’s becoming very pregnant.
It’s a good thing I managed to give away all the things Susan and I bought for the baby we never had.
By the time Melanie saw the room, it was empty.
In the early months, Melanie didn’t talk much about buying baby things, but once she learned she was having twins, we started talking about whether they each needed their own room.
“I think they should have their own rooms,” she said.
We were sitting at the kitchen table with pens, notepads, and my laptop.
“It doesn’t matter so much if they’re both girls or both boys, but if we end up with one of each, then they should have their own rooms.”
“Yeah, maybe, but it doesn’t matter until they’re four or something, right? And if we have more kids, then what?”
“Let’s worry about more kids if and when that happens. For now, we have our twins to prepare for.”
“Yeah, okay. Why don’t we set up two cribs in the same room for now. We can always move one if the twins need their own rooms.”
“No, let’s do two rooms. They’ll wake each other up crying if they’re together.”
“Won’t they comfort each other? I know when I was a boy, I wouldn’t have minded a brother to keep me company.”
“That can work when they’re older, but not for little babies. There’s no reason we couldn’t move them into the same room if they decide they want to share when they’re four or something.”
The way Melanie and I talk is so much different from how Susan and I did. We never sat and talked about our opinions about things. I guess that’s why we’re divorced now.
I hope Frank’s wrong. I hope she’s okay. I do wish she’d call me and let me know she’s not dead or being abused by crooks.
Maybe she just couldn’t handle dealing with her dad being sick. Maybe she isn’t heartless.
Melanie and I still haven’t agreed on what to do. We don’t have names for them, nor do we have the room or rooms set up.
We also haven’t bought clothes, toys, or even diapers for them.
It’s the beginning of November now, and Melanie hasn’t been in a good mood for a couple of days now.
“I want these stupid babies out of me right now!”
It’s the middle of the night, and she’s struggling to turn over.
“Sorry, I didn’t mean to yell.”
“It’s okay. Do you need any help?”
“We don’t even have the rooms set up yet.”
“Or the room.”
“Are you okay?”
“I think so. Do you mind if I turn on the light?”
“No, I don’t mind.”
“Sorry. I know you have work tomorrow. Ugh. Today.”
“Yeah, but that’s okay.”
The light on the nightstand comes on.
“I can’t even remember what day it is. I used to have a brain.”
“You still do, and it’s a very big one, too.”
“Liar! What day is it?”
“Monday, November 2.”
“Thanks, but just Monday would have been enough. I think I’m gonna get up.”
I try to see the clock, but can’t.
“What time is it?”
“Let’s try to get some more sleep.”
“I can’t, but I’ll sit in the living room, so you can turn the light off.”
“Are you feeling okay?”
“I don’t know. I feel . . . jitter and I had a cramp a minute ago.”
“A cramp? Maybe you ate something that didn’t agree with you. Probably my bad cooking.”
“It’s not that kind of cramp. Anyway, I’m going to the living room now. Wait until I’m gone before you turn off the light.”
I lie awake, listening to her moving around in the living room.
At four, I give up and get up.
It’s Melanie’s turn to make breakfast today, but I think I’ll offer to do it. Maybe that’ll make her feel better.
I walk into the living room.
She’s sitting on the couch, leafing through a magazine.
“How are you?”
“Okay,” she says. “Ready for breakfast?”
“I was thinking I could make breakfast today. What would you like?”
“I’m not really hungry, so maybe just . . . ouch. These cramps are getting stronger and closer together. Oh my gosh! I think I might be in labor.”
“Yes. So here’s what we do. You go to work, and I’ll stay here with my phone right beside me. When the contractions really get to me, I’ll go to the hospital.”
“The hospital? How will you get there?”
“Not an ambulance?”
“No, a taxi is fine. I’d call Mom, but she’s doing something today.”
“What about my mom?”
“Oh, okay, I’ll call your mom.”
“And me. No matter what time it is before two, call the front desk and tell whoever’s there to get me.”
“I will if it’s urgent, but this could take until tomorrow. I’ll probably still be sitting here when you get home.”
She smiles at me.
“Come sit beside me until you have to go to work.”
“Okay. Can I make us some toast?”
“You can make yourself some toast, but I’m just having water, please.”
The day is gonna be endless. For some reason, I don’t want to talk to my coworkers about Melanie, and they don’t even know we’re a couple, let alone that she’s about to have twins.
At 8:30, I have to do intake for a new client.
Her name’s Beatrice. I imagine a lady in her forties or even fifties.
The woman I see is no older than Melanie, and she’s tiny.
She’s also beautiful.
Stop it, I tell myself. Melanie’s in labor, and you shouldn’t be thinking about other women.
“What are your exercise goals?”
“To get fit so I can run with my aunt and cousins.”
“Do they sprint or run long distances?”
“They can run for hours. She’s sixty, and she’s faster than me. It’s starting to make me feel like a total loser.”
“Do you have any other goals?”
She shakes her head.
Her phone beeps, and she reads a text.
I ask her a few more questions, and then we go into the gym.
Frank is there with Tim.
They’re using a treadmill for his HIIT.
The one beside it is available, and Beatrice steps onto it.
“How does this thing work?”
She looks at Frank, who’s just starting an intense interval.
“Wow! You run even faster than my aunt.”
He smiles at her and acts like I’m not even in the room.
“Can you teach me to do that?” she asks me.
“Yes, but you’d need to work up to the speed he’s at.”
“If I can do that, I’ll blow my aunt away.”
“You will, but it’s not long distance running.”
“That’s okay. Can we do both?”
“Yes. We can do one HIIT workout per week, and two long distance ones.”
Frank goes into a recovery interval and looks over at Beatrice with a serious expression.
“Be careful of him. His wife disappeared, and instead of looking high and low for her, he published a divorce summons in the paper.”
“Some people disappear of their own free will,” Tim says. “Ready?”
Beatrice doesn’t comment on what Frank said until we’re out of the gym.
She looks around and then whispers, “Wanna go out for dinner?”
“No thanks. I have a girlfriend.”
“That’s too bad. Is she nice?”
“Can she run?”
“When she needs to, but she prefers bikes.”
“Does she come here?”
By two, I’m almost sick with worry about Melanie.
In fact, I’m so worried, I start driving a little too fast.
Okay, a lot too fast.
A police car comes after me, and I pull over.
I can’t believe this is happening. I’ve never gotten a speeeding ticket, not once.
The female officer is about thirty and beautiful.
Why do I keep meeting pretty women today?
The male officer is in his twenties.
I don’t tell them about Melanie, but accept their stern words and the speeding ticket.