“What should we do about Molly’s birthday party?” Diana asked her husband, pulling off her black work slacks, her sock halfway off from the effort, nearly tripping with the final yank.
“Elise is too young, don’t you think?” Dan was a tall man who held himself as straight as possible, even as he bent to examine his toenails.
“I don’t know, I was thinking it would be okay. How old were you when you went to your first slumber party?” Diana was working on her top now.
“I was about her age,” Dan said, picking through the drawer in his nightstand for a nail clippers. “But things are different now than they were forty years ago. Don’t you think?”
Diana, top successfully removed, her hair staticky, sat on the edge of the bed facing away from him.
“We can’t make our decision based on fear, Dan.” She held her voice as still as she could.
“I’m not.” He said coolly, sitting on the opposite side of the bed. He had found the nail clippers, and began methodically trimming his nails. “I just want to learn from our mistakes.”
“Those are similar things.” Diana wanted to remove her bra, but didn’t want to change the subject. “We can’t control the actions of others.”
“So that means being reckless? Blindly shutting our eyes and hoping for the best? Yes, Di, that sounds brilliant.”
“What? That’s what you’re suggesting right now.” Dan finished with his toenails, and carefully returned the clippers to where he had found them.
“You know I’m not. Don’t twist my words. Don’t punish Elise just because of what happened to Allan.” Diana wanted to stand, but could only sit and stare at the wall, the bluish grey color they agonized over for weeks. They finished painting the week before The Incident. Their son Allan’s summer long soccer camp seemed like such a good idea at the time.
“It’s not punishment, Diana, it’s just the reality of our family now.” Dan clicked off the lamp on his side and slid under the covers. “Are you coming to bed?”
“No. Yes. In a little bit.” Diana unclipped her bra and felt the darkness on her skin as she turned off her light. A dry sob rose out of her throat. She heard Dan slide across the bed to her side, and then his hand on her back. “What didn’t This take from us?” Diana cried. “Is there no part of us that is free?” Dan pulled her closer, his skin warm against hers.
“We’re in this fight together,” He whispered to her. “We’ll get through this.” In their awkward embrace, as he drifted off to sleep, she lie awake and alarmed. She would choose to believe him, even if she couldn’t feel it.