If you'd like to read the first part of this story, Greener Grass, it's in my right sidebar, under I Like To Write.
*****Joshua's body was sweaty, his head heavy on Tamara's shoulder as she carried him into the house and laid him gently on the couch. Eli and Caitlyn fluttered behind her, asking for Cheetos and graham crackers and cups of lemonade.
"Dave?" Tamara called, hoping he could subdue the kids, get them their snacks and drinks so she could focus on Josh. "Hey, Dave!"
But he was taking his time coming inside: fetching mail, cleaning out his car, probably checking the tires' air pressure. He was always performing inane tasks at the worst times.
"Five minutes," she said to Eli and Caitlyn. "Sit quietly for five minutes and I'll get you some food, okay?"
Joshua looked weak and tired. He'd been given the green light to go home after just two nights in the hospital. He had a serious concussion, but nothing more. Tamara knew they'd dodged a bullet, that he could still be comatose or, worse, slipping away from them.
She covered him with a light blanket and whispered that she'd be right back.
As she took out bowls for the younger two, Dave came in. He sat at the dining room table, unfastened the straps of his Tevas with the familiar velcro rip and let out a heavy sigh.
Digging Fruit Roll-Ups out of the cupboard, she said, "So. Megan. She was good to the kids, huh?"
Dave, barefoot now, rubbed his face up and down with one palm. "Totally good."
She searched for lemonade in the fridge but found none. She poured orange juice into sippy cups instead and screwed on their lids. "Was Megan good to you?"
He peeked at her from between his fingers. "Are you fucking kidding me?" His voice was low. In one motion he stood, closed the door between the family room and kitchen and came up to Tamara. "Are you fucking kidding me?"
Tamara frowned and shook her head. "Nope."
Dave's anger was so heavy and tangible, it seemed as if he were pressing down on her shoulders with his hands. But he didn't touch her. "You take off for weeks on some vacation because you couldn't handle the pressures of being mommy. You shack up with God knows who and do God knows what. You come back only when Joshua hurts himself and falls into a coma. And you're asking if something's going on between the babysitter and me?"
"I know. It's ridiculous." She shoved cookie packages aside looking for crackers or raisins, something at least marginally nutritious. "What do you give them for snacks?" she snapped. It was just an aside, though. "I know it's ridiculous. But, can you just tell me?"
"Can you just tell me?"
"Tell you what?"
"Everything. Starting from about two years ago when you began acting more like a fucking animatron and less like an actual wife."
Anger surged, a million hot bubbles rising within her. "Oh, I'm the animatron?"
"More often than not, yes. It's like–-" and here his eyes clouded. "It's like you moved on. Like you were totally over me and the kids."
Joshua began to whimper from the other room. Caitlyn burst through the kitchen door and announced that he was crying and calling for mama.
On her way out, Tamara said, "I'm sorry for not knowing how to go about getting myself back after being sucked into a black hole of diapers and feedings and needs. Excuse me for messing it up. But I've never come up against anything remotely this intense." With that, she went to Joshua where she sat on the couch and cradled his head in her lap.
Dave stormed through the family room and disappeared down the hallway.
Just then there was a knock on the door. Tamara groaned--who the hell could it possibly be?--and asked Eli to get it.
Struggling with the knob, so big in his small hands, he finally managed to swing the door open. There, at the screen, stood Craig carrying a handful of purple balloons. "Hey," he said.
Caitlyn and Eli squealed at the sight of the shiny Mylar. Craig opened the screen and cautiously, sheepishly, entered. He handed the bobbing bouquet to Caitlyn, who was dwarfed. "Dave's Facebook update said you guys were home. Plus, you know, I saw your car pull in." He nodded toward Joshua and asked, "Do you mind?"
Tamara sighed and shook her head.
He approached her son and knelt, touching Joshua's forehead. She noticed that he'd finally trimmed his nails and, for a moment, she felt more charitably toward him than she had in a long time. She could almost recall how their friendship had formed in the first place. How easy-going and congenial he'd seemed to her in the beginning.
"Hey, bud. Hope you feel better real soon."
Joshua nodded at him, then winced and buried his face in Tamara's lap. She mouthed her thanks to Craig.
He stood, hovering a little, like he wanted to say more. "Want me to take Caitlyn and Eli for a while?"
A month ago, Tamara would've jumped at the offer. But right that moment, she wanted her kids around her. She turned him down and, with one last flaccid wave, he left.
The balloons kept Caitlyn and Eli busy for the next hour. Dave never emerged from the bedroom. And Tamara sat with Joshua, who's warm head she felt so grateful to have resting on her thighs.