The journey home, at the end of a long day of lobster and family. Even just looking at the photo hurts my eyes.
We waited until he left for the day. The eight of us, sitting on the deck of the family beach house, circling a beach umbrella like crows around a carcass. Drinks in hand. Bellies full of the spoils of the day. A feeling of comfort, of belonging.
"So, what really happened?"
My mother groaned. "Oh, Teddy! They just aren't going out any more. That’s all there is to it. He says he's never going to date another woman again."
That made my sister Kerrie laugh. "That might be a surprise to the girl he went out with on Friday."
"Well...go out, seriously." Mom patted Kaeden's little bald head, as the baby squirmed on her lap. "And he'd better not go out with anyone seriously for a while. Pretty soon, there won't be any women left in Plympton he CAN go out with."
My brother, the perpetual bachelor. Ever since his wife had filed for divorce years ago, he's had a morbid fear of making a commitment. Not that I can blame him, frankly. Getting burned in the marriage game is a hard thing to overcome, both emotionally and financially. With the legal system stacked unfairly in a woman's favor the way it is, and the sheer price you pay for having your heart broken into a million pieces, it's no wonder he's skittish. As a result, his girls swoop into our lives, but once there's even the slightest hint of commitment, out they go.
"But I thought this last one was here to stay." I frowned. "I LIKED Maggie. She was sensible."
"No sense of humor," replied Kerrie. "And she didn't like me one bit."
"That can't be true. Everyone likes you, Kerrie."
Kerrie winked and shook her head.
I knew HOW the break-up had occurred. He had planned a road trip to Maryland with Maggie, her kid, and his. The five-hour drive had been too close for comfort. Either her kid had said something to him, or she had said something about his kid, but either way, a serious fight had erupted once they reached their destination, so bad that he had demanded she book a flight home that night. When she protested there were no flights to be had so last minute, he picked up the phone and booked a trip himself, paid for two return tickets home, then and there.
"Which would have been fine," said my mother, as Kaeden gurgled away. "Except she had just moved in with him, and he had gotten rid of all his furniture to make room for hers. When he got home from the trip, his house was completely empty. It still is."
"We saw her the day after the fight," my Dad said. "We were driving near his house and there she was with a U-haul truck and there was a--"
"Kind of handsome," interjected my mom.
"Guy with her."
"We didn't ask who it was," my mom said. "But we asked her how she was, and she said awful. Then we asked her how her son was and she said terrible. Then we asked how her mom was about her moving back in and she said really upset. So we just said, 'okay.' Three strikes like that, what else can you say?"
"Tommy says the only thing he misses is her dog," laughed my dad, after taking another sip of his beer. “But you know the real reason they broke up? Her son kept hiding his TV remote on him. Then he’d lie about it, too. Jim, how would you feel if a kid was going around hiding your remote and lying about it?”
“I would have broken up with her the first time that remote went missing,” said Jim, with a crooked smile on his face.
This from the two guys who both could boast of forty-year long relationships.
“I wonder what's next, though?” I asked, more to myself than to anyone else. “He could do a lot worse than Maggie. I just want to know who the next woman will be we’ll be asked to love.”
Sometimes, forewarned is foreloved.