A Taste of A Life Less Monogamous – Chapter 11
Ryan yawned and stared into the pancake slowly bubbling on the griddle in front of him. Far too early to be up after far too late a night. The pounding in his head kept a steady rhythm, and the sizzle of the pancake cooking sounded like a foghorn. He closed his eyes, slid his spatula under the cake and flipped it. Bummer, dark brown. Overdone.
Jennifer, at the table behind him, hummed tunelessly, her hum occasionally drifting into a distinct bowm-chica-bow-wow tune here and there.
“Bruce is pretty attractive, don’t you think?” asked Jennifer.
Ryan looked over his shoulder at her. She sat at the kitchen table behind him, facing away, her iPad next to her plate, tapping on a time-killer game Ryan didn’t recognize. The question hadn’t sounded rhetorical. His first instinct was to say, “I guess,” then add something like, “if you’re into guys.” But that sounded very bro-y to him. Especially if he replaced “guys” with “dudes.” Then he had an urge to say it just because it’d be so out of character.
But it didn’t answer the question, not really. Bruce’s actual attractiveness couldn’t be denied. Not that he needed to deny it, either. Ryan wondered why his first instinct was to distance himself from the question. “Sure,” he said. “Yeah.”
“Rugged.” She still didn’t look back at him. “Like Tom Selleck.”
A new moment of clarity hit Ryan as he realized that was who he’d been trying to remember all night, thinking that Bruce reminded him of someone, some celebrity. Tom Selleck! Ryan chuckled. “Selleckian quality there, definitely.”
“So is Paige.” The way she still didn’t turn toward him was beginning to seem rather conspicuous.
He flipped the pancake onto the stack and walked breakfast to the table, setting it in front of his wife. She tapped to pause the game. “Except for the mustache,” he offered.
“She’s not Selleckian, you doof!” Jennifer grinned at him. “She’s attractive.”
Again the instinct, the overwhelming feeling that somewhere a sign was flashing “Turn Back Now!” and ahead was Dead Man’s Curve. Ryan! Lookoutlookoutlookoutlookout! “Yeah.” He kept his tone noncommittal, playing it safe, but unwilling to even attempt the standard bullshit of “I didn’t notice.”
“She’s cute,” he added.
“Cute?” Jennifer finally looked at him, smile curved up on one side, eyes calling him an idiot. It was the way she’d looked when he hadn’t realized that Bruce Willis had been dead the whole time, or that Tyler Durden didn’t exist. “Why don’t you say what she really is? Hot!”
“Yeah, okay.” He returned to the stove.
As he poured another pancake onto the griddle, he heard her eating, fingers tapping lightly on her tablet. Then silence.
“I just don’t get how two people like that can…do that!”
“Like what?” Ryan didn’t turn around.
“You know. Like, family people. Grownups!”
Now he did turn toward her. Her arm was on the back of her chair and she was looking at him. “Grownups?” he repeated.
“You know what I mean. They have kids and everything.”
“Oh, I didn’t know that.” Ryan flipped the pancake just in time. Tan, not brown yet.
“Two boys, high school.”
He contemplated, remembering how suspicious he’d been of everything in high school. Always looking for his parents to slip up, so he could point out their mistakes and somehow offset his own juvenile foolishness. “Do they know?”
“Bruce said one has suspicions.”
They sat across from each other and ate in silence, introspection on both sides. “Do you ever wish we’d had kids?” he asked, suddenly enough that he surprised himself with the question. It hadn’t even been a fully formed thought in his head before it was on the table.
Jennifer raised her head. If the question surprised her, she didn’t show it . Her eyes searched his face, then the netherspace between them. She took a deep breath. “Sometimes. I guess. Do you?”
“Only when I think about being old. I wonder who’s going to take care of us in our old age.”
“Not the best reason to have kids, certainly.”
“No,” Ryan agreed. “Rather selfish, in fact.” He recognized the reason he’d asked the question and pivoted. “Is it a regret, ever?”
“Once or twice,” she said, her voice lilting up at the end as though it was almost a question.
“Once or twice,” Ryan repeated, flat.
“No, honey, I mean,” she paused, “we’ve been together almost twelve years! Of course I’ve thought about it once or twice. That’s a lot of time being very happy we don’t have children, if you think about it.”
Jennifer reached out and put her hand on his across the table. “Hon?”
He met her eye.
“You thinking of something else? Or do you regret not having a family?”
She watched him contemplate.
“No. Not regret. And I have a family.” His smile looked weak, distracted. He shook his head, and his face lightened. “It’s okay. I’m okay.”
“Yeah.” He glanced at the clock on the stove behind her. “Shit, I need to get downtown.”
Ryan stuffed the last few bites of his pancake down and dumped his plate in the sink. As he walked by he placed a light kiss on the top of her head.
She caught his hand. “Wait.”
He turned back.
“Really kiss me.”
With a smile he returned, and really kissed her.