A Sense of Symmetry Pt. 05byKarennaC©
Dani and Jason slept late the next morning, leaving Melanie to entertain herself in her crib a little longer than usual. When they finally got up, they found that Melanie had gone back to sleep. They went back to bed too, although not to sleep. By nine thirty, they and Melanie were downstairs, dressed, and fed. "I'll call Phyllis and Steve and Robin and ask what time they want us to pick up the kids," Jason said.
He took the cordless into the den to make the calls. Dani thought that she heard him dial three times, but assumed that one of the lines had been busy. "Steve and Robin are keeping Anna till after lunch," he informed her when he came back. "Phyllis and Sean were just leaving to see his old sitter, and she said she'll bring him back here after, probably just before we go get Anna. So come on, because we have an errand to run."
"Really," said Dani. "And I follow your orders since when?"
"Sorry," Jason said. "Please get ready to go somewhere with me. I'll take care of Mel while you get ready."
Dani was ready in ten minutes. "Where are we going?" she asked Jason.
"It's a surprise," Jason said. He stopped her when she started to buckle Melanie into the car. "We're taking my car," he said.
"Jason, your seatbelts don't hold her car seat very well," Dani protested.
"We aren't going very far, and the problem will be solved when we get there," Jason said. "Trust me."
Dani could see that arguing wasn't going to get her anywhere, so, saying a silent prayer that they would get wherever they were going safely, she got into the car. Jason was right; they didn't go far. He stopped at a car dealership about two miles from their house. "What are we doing here, Jason?" she sighed.
"You'll see. Come on."
He carried Melanie into the dealership, with Dani reluctantly following. "We're here to see Mark," he said when a salesman approached them.
"I am Mark," the salesman said. "You must be the Sheridans. Hi, Cutie," he added, tickling Melanie's chin. Melanie gurgled and tried to grab his nose. "The one I told you about is right outside," Mark said to Jason. "It's all ready for you to try out."
"The payments are going to be what we talked about, right?" Jason said.
"Well, as close as we can get. It depends on what finance rate we get, which we don't have any control over, and on what we get for your trade-in."
"I can accept that," Jason said. "Okay, let's see it."
"Jason, what on earth do you think you're doing?" Dani demanded in a whisper as they followed Mark outside.
"Don't worry about it."
"I am worried about it. How do you think we're going to afford- Oh, Jason!"
The salesman was standing in front of one of Dani's dream vehicles: a Toyota Sienna minivan. "Jason, we can't possibly afford this," Dani said.
"It's used, Dani," Jason said. "We'll be paying for it till Melanie's in kindergarten, but we can afford it."
"Jason, this, plus the mortgage and all our other bills?"
"Mrs. Sheridan, I understand where you're coming from," Mark said. "But really, the payments won't be as much as you might think. Mr. Sheridan, if I could have the keys to your car..."
"Jason, you're going to trade the Z24?" Dani said. "But you love that car!"
"You and the kids are more important," Jason replied. "I've seen how hard it is for you to get the three of them in and out of your Oldsmobile. Besides, you're right about the seatbelts in the Z24. How much sense does it make for me to hold onto a car that we don't even dare to put the baby in? So you'll finally have your Sienna you've been wanting for years, and I'll drive the Oldsmobile."
"And Mr. Sheridan tells me you own the Z24 outright," Mark said. "Those do pretty well on resale, so we should be able to give you a good trade on it. Our used car manager will take a look at it while you try out the Sienna."
Dani loved the minivan; it handled better than she'd expected, and she was impressed with how easy it would be to get the kids in and out. But she still wasn't sure about buying it. "Jason, it's great," she said when they returned to the dealership. "But-"
"We do have the money," Jason said. "For one thing, I didn't tell you because I wanted to surprise you, but I got my raise. I'll be getting another dollar an hour."
"Jason, I can't believe it! You've been trying for that raise for months! I'm so glad you finally got it, but still-"
"For another thing," Jason continued, as though Dani hadn't spoken, "we were talking about getting a minivan as soon as we found out you were pregnant with Melanie. So I've been putting some extra money in the bank every week, on top of the regular savings and the house fund. Since we bought the house, I've been able to put more away. We have almost two grand for a downpayment for this, plus the Z24. The payment will be about what we were paying for the Olds and the Z24 together, but since the Olds is paid off now, we won't be paying any more a month than we have been. Dani, I want to do this for you. Especially if we decide to go through with what we were talking about last night. A mother of three needs a minivan, and this is the one you've been wanting. If you don't let me get it for you, you'll ruin my life."
Dani laughed and kissed him. "All right," she said. "Thank you, Jason."
"Just taking care of my family."
It took a while for the approvals and all the paperwork to be done, but Dani, Jason, and Melanie went home in the Sienna. When they got there, there was a message on their answering machine. "Hi, folks. This is Rebecca Perry. I was hoping we could talk about Sean spending some time with us. Give us a call."
"I wonder if Julie's been in touch with them," Dani said after they heard the message.
"She must have been. They are her parents."
"Ben told me she and her parents didn't always get along."
"So call them and find out."
Dani dialed the number that Rebecca had left. Rebecca answered on the first ring. After a few minutes of small talk, Dani said, "So, when were you thinking about seeing Sean?"
"We're going to be down that way next weekend," Rebecca said. "We figured we could swing by your place, maybe take Sean for the day, then bring him back around supper."
"That sounds all right. By the way, Rebecca, have you heard from Julie lately? A friend of mine said he saw her in Portland not long ago."
"Julie? No, we haven't heard a thing. So we'll see you next Saturday, probably around ten?"
"All right," Dani agreed. "Thanks for calling."
She hung up. "So, have they heard from Julie?" Jason asked.
"She said they haven't," Dani replied.
"She was lying."
"How do you know, Dani?"
"She answered me way too quickly, and didn't seem interested in the fact that Julie was seen in Portland. I think she would have had more questions about that if she didn't already know that Julie was around."
"So what are you going to do?" Jason asked. "Not let them see Sean?"
"They can see him. They can even take him out for the day, like Rebecca just said. But think about it, Jason. From what they said at the mall, they never came down here to see Sean when Ben was alive. So why would they be coming down here now?"
"You tell me."
"Beth said Al saw Julie in Portland. So she's probably living there again. They're coming here to pick up Sean, and they're going to take him to see Julie."
"And you're okay with that?"
"Of course I'm not okay with that! Julie's a bitch!"
"I thought you never met her."
"I didn't," Dani admitted. "She refused to meet me. She didn't want Ben to have anything to do with me, which is one reason for thinking she's a bitch. Then there's the fact that she left Ben for another guy while she was pregnant with Sean, and she left Sean so she could go party."
"So what are we going to do?" Jason asked.
"What can we do? Rebecca and Pete are Sean's grandparents; they have a right to see him. And I don't know what, if any, visitation rights were given to Julie when Ben got custody. I'll call Martin Franklin and see if he knows. I will tell you one thing, though."
"If they don't have Sean back when they say they will, I will call the police. And if the police won't do anything, I'll go get him back myself. I lost Ben. I'm not going to lose Sean."
"What do you mean, you lost Ben?" Jason demanded.
"Never mind," Dani said. "He died. That's what I mean. We have to go pick up Anna."
They left the house in the minivan. "What do you mean, you lost Ben?" Jason asked again when they were on the road.
"For Heaven's sake, Jason, give it a rest," Dani said. "Ben was my friend. We hadn't spoken in over a year because of a stupid thing I said, and before I had a chance to apologize and patch things up with him, he was killed. What do you think I mean?"
"I don't know. Maybe that really is all, or maybe there was something more than what you're telling me."
"Or maybe you're being a paranoid idiot! I married you, didn't I? I've spent almost five years with you, haven't I?"
"Except for when you left me," Jason said.
"I left you because you were an abusive asshole, and you were starting to be abusive to Anna."
"I never hit you or her."
"No, but you sure as hell came close. Anyway, if we're going to argue, let's at least stick to the topic, and not get into this whole separation thing again."
"Fine! So what did you really mean?"
"I really meant what I've already told you a half dozen times I really meant! Jason, why is it easier for you to believe that I'm lying than that I'm telling the truth?"
"You're right," Jason said after a moment. "You're right. You're my wife, and I should trust you. And I do trust you. But you know I've always been jealous of Ben. I've never really understood why you married me instead of him."
"Because you wanted to marry me," Dani said.
"Well, you wanted to marry me, too, right?" Jason asked.
"Right." Dani wasn't sure if she was lying or not.
* * *
When they got to Steve and Robin's, Steve's car was nowhere in sight. "They must have gone to run an errand or something," Jason said. "I'll go see if they left us a note."
He went up to the door. "Can I get out, Mommy Dani?" Sean asked.
"Jason's just seeing if Uncle Steve left us a note to let us know where they are," Dani replied.
"But can I get out?"
"Not right now, Joey."
"I not Joey," Sean said.
Jason came back to the van. "They're waiting for us at Wal-Mart."
"I not Joey," Sean repeated.
"Joey?" Jason asked.
"I didn't say Joey, did I?" Dani mentally kicked herself.
"Yes," Sean said.
"Who's Joey?" Jason wanted to know.
"I don't know. I didn't even know I said it." Another might-have-been, Dani thought.
A week after she and Ben made love, Dani's period was late. Cursing herself for not insisting on protection, Dani waited nearly a week, then finally bought a pregnancy test. While she waited for the results, she daydreamed about having Ben's child, a little boy she would name Joseph. Joey, for short. Ben might be angry if she was pregnant, but surely he wouldn't desert her and their child.
The test had been negative. Two days later, Dani's period had arrived. She was never sure why it had been late, and she'd never told anyone about the pregnancy scare. But she'd never stopped wondering what if, or thinking about a little boy who would have looked exactly like Ben. Exactly like Sean.
"Well, you did say it." Jason folded his arms. "Let's go find our daughter."
Steve, Robin, and the girls were in the toy department at Wal-Mart. Anna and Denise were holding matching Barbies. "We were just wondering if you were going to show up," Steve said. "What took you so long?"
"I bought Dani a present," Jason said. "It's outside if you want to see it."
"First we need to pay for these Barbies," Robin said.
"You don't have to buy Anna's," Dani said.
"We do, actually," Steve said. "We promised them last night that if they did everything they were told, they could come here and pick out anything they wanted that was less than ten dollars. The Barbies are on sale."
"I hope you said thank you to Uncle Steve and Auntie Robin," Jason said to Anna.
"Thank you, Uncle Steve and Auntie Robin," Anna said obediently.
After they left Wal-Mart, Steve and Robin offered to treat the Sheridans to dinner. Since Jason had to get home to get ready for work, they turned down the offer. "That was kind of dumb," Steve said. "It would have only taken you twenty minutes to get to work from here, but it'll take you over an hour to go home, then go to work. Why didn't you just bring both cars so you could go to work from here?"
"I had to make sure Dani didn't drive too fast in her new toy," Jason said.
"Well, we're going to have to drive fast if you're going to get to work on time," Dani said. "Thanks again for keeping Anna, guys. We'll have Deeny sometime in the next couple weeks."
"Just let us know when," said Robin.
Sean and Anna both fell asleep on the way home. Melanie stayed awake, babbling at the van windows. "Who's Joey?" Jason asked again.
"I told you, I don't know why I said that," Dani replied. "I didn't even know I did. You sometimes call the girls by the wrong names."
"I call them by each other's names. Ben's middle name was Joseph, wasn't it?"
"Oh, for crying out loud," Dani said. "Yes, it was. And Sean looks a lot like Ben, which is probably why I called him that."
"That might be it."
"What do you think, Jason, that Ben and I were secret lovers and had a kid I stashed somewhere or something? Drop it. I need to concentrate on driving."
When they got home, Jason kissed the kids and got into the Oldsmobile without saying anything to Dani. Then he rolled down his window. "Maybe you and Ben weren't secret lovers, but you do have his kid," he said. "And maybe you should worry more about your own kids."
"What happened to, I love Sean and I want to adopt him?" Dani asked.
"I still do. But you're acting like Sean's the only kid you have or want. I don't know what was between you and Ben that made him decide to give Sean to you. I just hope you're telling the truth."
"I just hope you like our couch," Dani said angrily. "Because that's where you're going to be if you keep up these accusations."
"Now you're kicking me out of bed? What's next, Dani, throwing me out of the house?"
"Don't go there, Jason."
"Fine. I'll go to work instead. I'll see you when I get home, if you can be bothered." He left a strip of rubber at the end of the driveway when he took off.
"Mommy, why's Daddy mad?" asked Anna, who had woken up when Jason kissed her.
"Because Daddy needs to get a life," Dani said. "Let's get inside and figure out what's for supper."
The biggest problem Dani had with the fight wasn't that Jason had gone to work angry. She knew that if he hadn't forgotten his anger by the time he got home, it would at least have lessened to the point where they could talk rationally. The problem was how close he had come to guessing the truth about her relationship with Ben.
* * *
When Jason got home at two a.m., Dani was still awake. "I'm sorry," she said. "I shouldn't have gone off on you like that."
"I shouldn't have accused you of lying," Jason replied. He gave her a hug. "I forgive you."
"We need to talk," Dani said. "If you're too tired, it can wait till morning."
"It is morning," Jason pointed out. "And we have church, so we wouldn't be able to talk till afternoon. Let's get it over with."
"The thing is, I didn't tell you the whole truth," Dani said.
"Maybe I don't want to hear this after all."
"Probably not. But I need to tell you. I didn't marry you so I could lie to you. Ben and I were more than friends. But it ended before you and I got engaged."
"But not before you and I started seeing each other." It was not a question.
"No," Dani admitted.
"You cheated on me with him while we were going out."
"Did you sleep with him?"
"Once. That was when it ended."
Jason punched the couch cushion. "Damn it, Dani, I did not need to hear this at two in the morning!"
"I tried to get you to wait till later to talk."
"Why are you telling me this at all?"
"Because it's what you believed anyway, and I was tired of lying."
"Were you in love with him? Even after we got married?"
"Yes. But after that one time, nothing happened. And that is the truth."
"Are you in love with me?"
Dani knew that their entire marriage probably rested on her answer. So she lied. "Yes, I am."
"Okay. I wish you hadn't told me about you and Ben, but at least you were honest. Can we go to bed now?"
Jason fell asleep before Dani was even ready for bed. Dani lay awake for over an hour. Jason now knew the truth, but not all of it. And what he didn't know, that she wasn't in love with him and never had been, was something he couldn't find out.