Houseguests

“Of course you can come over,” I told Dawn on the phone.  “I’ll set up the Pack and Play in Zach’s room and put him in his old bedroom.   You and A can sleep together in the bed, it won’t be any problem.  I’ll see you in a few minutes.”

I glanced at the phone as I hung up the receiver; ten forty at night.  It was sheer luck that I was even awake at this point, but it was Saturday night and I had gotten into watching a movie on TV.  I dug myself out of the blanket I’d been wrapped in and started up the stairs to make Z’s room ready for Dawn and her children.

Dawn and Todd had married five years ago, not long after receiving the news that she was pregnant with their child.  They had been away at college, living together in an off campus apartment.  I’d always marveled at how they had seemingly made their situation work; they had slipped into marriage as easily as a warm winter coat.   After a year in student housing though, they had moved back home to be nearer to family and friends who could help with the baby while they both continued their educations.

Their basement apartment in his parents’ house had been an object of envy for me while I lived at home with my mother.  Its separation, its size, its privacy had always made it seem like such an ideal arrangement.   But as the years wore on, Todd dropped out of school and started working for his father, making the web of interconnectedness even tighter with Dawn’s in laws.  She started talking with exasperation about her mother in law, and by the time Dawn’s second child was born last November, Dawn’s patience had worn thin.  Todd refused to talk to his parents about Dawn’s complaints; instead, he’d simply taken on a second job to put money away for their eventual apartment.

It was at this second job, she told me, where he’d met Sandi.   He had started staying out for drinks after work with the group, and has he retold Dawn about his evenings, the name was a constant in every story.   Her resentment boiled white hot as she stayed at his parents’ house with her two small children while he stayed out later and later spending the money he was making at the bar.   It had all come to a head this evening, she’d told me on the phone earlier, when she accused him of an affair with this Sandi.  Todd, unfortunately, had not been at all effective in his denials.  By the time the smoke cleared, he had admitted to kissing the woman and seeing her alone outside of the group of colleagues.

I stopped in front of Zach’s old bedroom door, and turned to the right.  I’d nearly gone into his old room first, until I remembered that he now slept in what used to be my mother’s old bedroom.  I’d moved her double bed into my bedroom, being unable to actually move into her larger bedroom.   Zach now slept in the twin bed I’d always used as a teen, in my mother’s old room.  Tonight, I’d move him back to his old space and give over the room to Dawn and her two children.   I wasn’t sure how long they’d be here;  would she and her husband patch this all up in a few days, or was my home a mile marker on the road to a new destination?

As I tucked Z’s sleeping form into his old bed, I marveled at how quickly things could change.  A year ago I’d admired Dawn and her husband, always looking at them and wondering if I’d made the right choice all of those years ago when I told Joe no, I wouldn’t marry him just because I was pregnant.  They’d always given me a pang of regret when I saw how easy it was between them.  But now, as I looked at Zachary’s cherubian innocence in his sleep, I was grateful that he had been spared the angry words and harsh separations that lay ahead for Dawn’s two young children.

I closed the door and went to answer the knock I could already hear coming from my front door.

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