“Roux why is she here?” I asked as I saw who it was a the door after he stood there blankly in suprise, long enough for me to wonder who it was and come see for myself. There she stood with her swollen stomach that looked like it couldn’t grow any larger on her small frame. It was her, the one that Roux had talked about when we first met, the one only one that he was willing to compromise his marriage for. I wanted nothing more than to scream at her and physically force her off our property but I didn’t because that’s not how I was raised. So I swallowed my pride and swallowed it even more after I heard my husband, my love say “She came here to tell me that she is pregnant with my child.”
The news hit me like I had just had a bucket of cold water splashed over me. For a moment I forgot how to breathe, all I could do was stare at her round belly in shock. My husband was going to have another child and it wasn’t with me. “Aubergine?” Roux asked concernedly as he put his arm around me while looked intently at me “I didn’t know, honestly. If I did I would have told you months ago. I swear I didn’t know.”
I could practically hear the voice of my mother reprimanding me for not inviting that woman, that pregnant woman with my husband’s child in. Where are your manners? Aubergine Plumeria don’t you dare make a scene. Stand up proud to her and show her how we Concords do things. Finally taking a deep breath I did what my mother would have expected, what she would have done. So in a tight and cool, but pleasant voice “It appears that we have much to discuss Ms. Tannin would you please come in so we can do so?”
At the sound of my words Roux’s arm around my waist gripped me tighter and Shiraz came into our house. My house with our children playing carelessly in the living room, looking over my shoulder back to her I could see her pale as past them as we walked to the kitchen where we wouldn’t disturb their peaceful play. “Won’t you please sit?” I asked motioning to the chairs at the table after the three of us were all in the room.
“Exactly how long have you known that you were pregnant with my child?” Roux asked as his voice broke the uncomfortable silence that followed after she sat down. “Since before I left back to Chambery with Flaugnarde.” She replied uncomfortably as she shifted her weight in the chair. “Flaugnarde?” He questioned in a cold voice and anger in his eyes. “Yes, he was the first person I told. He’s been there for me this whole entire time” Shiraz replied defensively instantly matching his tone.
“So you can tell some other guy that you were pregnant? But not me, the father?” Roux asked darkly as he crossed his arms. “Flaugnarde is not just some other guy, he is one of my closest friends. And do you know how hard it is to tell the person that left you yet again that you are pregnant with their child?” Shiraz answered with a question of her own and I began to feel like I had shifted into the background as their fight continued over barely raised voices but still full of passion. I knew as angry as he was with her that he still loved her.
Most people would say the wife is always the last to know but truthfully I think the wife is always the first to know but instead ignores all the signs hoping that it will go away and that it was just a bit of insecurity. I knew my husband better than most people did in the few years that we had managed to meet each other, be wedded and have children of our own. From the moment he came home and broke the mirror in our downstairs bathroom I knew something was wrong. The guilty distracted look on his face when he was home only confirmed it.
But like so many before I didn’t want to believe it, that the person I had married, given four children and was planning on spending the rest of my life with was willing to cause me that much pain for someone that he had put aside so many years ago. So I buried my head into the sand and focused completely on our children, not wanting for a moment to believe my own suspicions no matter how almost blatant they were. I didn’t want to know that he could do this to me.
When he did finally tell me barely a month after it started it still shocked me and hurt like nothing I had felt before. I never had to deal with heartbreak before, I had only dated one guy before Roux and I had left him that night we ran away. I didn’t know how to deal with it, as the night wore on I could barely look at him because it hurt too much. When he held me in his arms that night as I cried I felt sick from the hurt I was feeling, confused how even though he had cheated on me that his arms could still felt as warm and comforting as before. I felt like I was losing control and after he went to spend the night on the couch I realized I had to take control. That’s when I decided to take things into my own hands and leave the next morning. And now as I hear them bickering like two children I feel the same way again. “Oh right and I’m sure our child won’t be resented here at all after you’ve painstaking put your family back together.”
As Roux was about to reply I put my hand up and spoke “I may not like you and I don’t have to. I won’t pass judgment on an innocent child because of the actions of her parents. But I really don’t want to see you when I don’t have to. This is not an open invitation for you to be around here anymore than you have to. And now that, this has been settled I’d like you to leave right now.” I said in a tone that left no room for argument or question.
“It’s getting late as it is. I just wanted Roux to know about his child, I didn’t mean to… I should be going. I’ll let you know when she is born before we go back to Chambery.” She said uncertainly before leaving as quickly as she had come back into our lives.
That night after we had put the kids to bed Roux exploded angrily while we were getting ready for bed ourselves. “I can’t believe she waited this long to tell me. I mean Berry, what the fudge! I’m going to call a lawyer tomorrow. If she could wait this long to let me know that she is going to have my kid then what’s stopping her from not allowing me to see her after they go to Chambery?” He ranted as he slipped out of his clothes and hurled them into the hamper. Even if he still cared for her it was now just a distant memory that his anger had pushed behind.
“But she did come here.” I said not believing that I was coming to her of all people’s defense, but it seemed necessary to soothe him. Dejectedly he sat on our bed “I grew up without knowing my real father that’s something that I never wanted any of my kids to experience, nor did I want to ever go through what I imagined that my dad did when he was alive.” He said as I sat down next to him “But now you know and you can do what you need to do to make sure that never happens Roux.”
Then he focused on me as if seeing me for the first time all evening. “How are you doing with all of this? You’re not thinking of leaving again…are you?” Roux asked nervously as he rubbed his thumb lightly on my palm after taking up my hand. “I can’t say that I am happy about it because I am far from it, but I did mean what I said earlier. I just… It’s a lot to take in, finding out your husband that you’ve been working hard with on putting an affair that he had behind that two of you had resulted in a soon to be born child. And see to her here, here in our house while knowing that she’ll never be gone from our lives it’s just a lot to take in at once.” I replied honestly as I looked into his green eyes and only seeing the fear that I would be gone again come tomorrow night reflected in them.
“I’m sorry, I don’t know what I can say or do to make this easier for you. I don’t know what to do. I’m so afraid that you’ll leave again.” Roux admitted to me, his voice cracking with emotion as he fell back on to the bed. “I’m not going to leave again Roux. Yes you did have an affair, yes our marriage has been through a lot this year but as long as we keep trying I have faith that we’ll make it through this and anything else. As long as there is no one else that will be coming to our door pregnant with your child.” I said assuredly as I laid down next to him though the edge in my voice with the latter was not lost on him. Roux replied as he slipped an arm under me and pulled me close “No, there was no one else and there’ll never be again.”
Days moved on to weeks as we waited to hear news of the birth. But it wasn’t as if those days drug by as a house with four toddlers is anything but boring and it seemed like sometimes they saw to that personally. Summer days were spent trying to cool off in the pool as we took turns holding them as they paddled their feet in the water. When the sun would begin to dip down to disappear behind the ocean waves we would often settle in together as Roux would work on writing a story in his office as the twins would play with their play table as I tried my hand at painting using an easel that I had found in the basement last Spring.
It was some time in the late afternoon that Crème stopped by later than usual for our weekly afternoon tea together. “Your husband’s Uncle Azure hasn’t been feeling all that well lately.” She explained almost out of breath as I let her in. “Are you feeling well Crème?” I asked with concern but with a small wave of her hand she brushed them aside. “I’m fine really dear, some days it’s harder than others for this body of mine to keep up with me. You know that’s my secret to all these extra years, keeping busy.” She said with a twinkle in her eyes as she crossed the threshold a bit wobbly. “You know I think it would be better if I sat down for a little bit just to catch my breath.”
As I helped her to the couch the twinkle was gone replaced by unsure in her eyes as she said uncertainly “You’ll need to call someone.” As those last words were barely spoken before she completely collapsed “Crème are you alright?” I asked her worriedly but there was no answer “Roux quick! Call an ambulance!”
“I’m not going to lie, she is currently very touch and go. We are doing everything we can, as of right now she is stable.” The doctor said as voices from family members raised in questions that they sought to have answered. But none of them were answered instead he loudly cleared his throat until the questions subsided “Right now we are not supposed to allow any visitors but she has asked for one to speak to while she is still lucid. Umm is there an Aubergine Meringue?” The doctor asked as his eyes scanned the crowd until his eyes fell upon me and motioned for me to come forward. I heard someone say under their breath as Roux released me slowly from his hold “She’s only a Meringue by marriage I wonder what she wants with her…”
“Now I will not have you upset my patient in any way Mrs. Meringue. Crème Meringue is still a much respected person in the medical community and was my attending before she went on to being the Chief of Surgery for this hospital. Whatever she has to say just listen to it and don’t upset her in her final wakening moments.” He said in a low voice as he escorted me into the room. “I wouldn’t dare to think of it.” I promised back into a whisper as he nodded his head in approval. When we reached her bed I could see various machines of medical uses around it all beeping and chirping in the dim light of the room as she rested.
Leaving me there he left the room quietly and Crème opened her eyes slowly letting her eyes focus on me before she started to speak. “I’m sorry I ruined our afternoon tea dear.” She said ruefully before continuing “I bet you are wondering why I asked for you out of all those berries out there?”
“Yes I am actually, you’ve got a hallway of family out there but here I am only one of the recently married in Meringues.” I admitted as I sat in the chair next to her bed and she smiled wearily “For almost my whole life I’ve been the matriarch of this family, the one that’s held it together in the bad times and celebrated with it in the good. I think that’s why I held on for so long because I couldn’t find the strength to hold it together in any of them. Not either of my daughters or their children. Roux?” she chuckled before continuing “Ashen? He is more of a Tundora than a Meringue. Bombay never had children and your husband’s other cousins well we’ll leave it at that. This family needs someone that can pull it through all the bad times and believe me there will always be bad times ahead but they’ll never outweigh all the good ones you’ll have. They need someone with the strength to, without that they’re lost.”
“But I haven’t your strength Crème. I ran away as soon as I could when things went wrong between Roux and I.” I protested but she would hear none of it. This was Crème after all and her word was usually the last.
“You can be strong and still run away. If you had stayed I would have questioned my choice in choosing you. Leaving my great grandson showed your strength and that you would not accept that sort of behavior because you knew you deserved more than that. It also showed him that. He is a child you know and I don’t mean in age. On some level he knows that and that’s probably one of the many reasons why he tried to fight for you beyond him loving you. The both of them are like lost children looking for someone to cling to but unwilling to do all the work that would be involved in clinging to each other. ” Crème said frankly and I understood that her words were not to be hurtful but it was hard not to cry. Every word and every breath were becoming slower and relaxed as she gracefully tried not to show what a struggle it was to get this all out.
“Don’t cry for me child, soon I’ll be with the loved ones that I’ve lost so many years ago. I’ll finally get to see my husband again and my daughter Taffy, who was younger than you were when she passed away.” Crème said in a kind voice so very different than her usual strict one. “I am happy to be here instead of passing away in that house, this hospital was often a refuge from the memories that are tied to it.”
For a few minutes she was quiet after that as if all the talking that she had done taken any of the energy she had left. “You can go no-… Mother?” Crème asked confusedly looking at an empty space of air next to me before all the machines and their beeps seemed to shrilly protest and cry out over her last words that were barely a whisper “I forgive you.” Swiftly a team of doctors and nurses had entered the room before it even registered to me. “Out now.” The doctor that had spoken to the family and had let me in ordered in a no nonsense voice.
A woman who’s age had baffled most of her doctor colleagues had finally met her end. Her funeral was quite the turn out, I guess no one imagined quite how many lives she touched in the course of hers. Most of the medical community was there, from nurses to surgeons even to the older ladies that ran the cafeteria at the hospital who remembered her well. I never knew Roux’s family was as large as it was either but seeing them all there it was easy to believe that in her life she known 6 generations of it. There were even some surprising guests such as a heavily guarded elderly man that looked almost as old as Crème that was completely white and it wasn’t from age as his guards were the same. From their hair, to their skin, even their eyes were almost completely white save for their pupils. I had never seen a berry so devoid of color before. I may not be completely up to current events but I knew that he had to be somebody pretty important and that there was more to the Meringue family that most would probably ever know in one lifetime.