Cory Green is 48; Rose Green is 35; Corinne is 8; Noah is 5
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It was getting darker in the morning now, but Rose still woke up earlier these days than she ever had before.
She wasn't sure why. She did know that waking was one of the hardest part. It wasn't so much the fact that the other side of the bed was empty when she woke, it usually was anyway as Cory almost always got up before she was even awake. It was the fact that is hadn't been slept in at all, the sheets still smooth and tidy. She'd even tried sleeping in both sides of the bed, rolling over and messing up his side before she slept, hoping that for at least the very first minutes of the day, she might be able to pretend that nothing was wrong. It hadn't worked.
How long had it been now - 3 months? Surely she should be getting used to it, after 3 months. Especially given that she was the one who'd asked him to leave.
Ok, so it hadn't been what she'd thought... but there were days when she honestly believed that, as angry as she was, something as simple and ordinary as a cheating husband would have been a hell of a lot easier to deal with. There were worse betrayals than plain old infidelity.
"I'm not drinking again.... Didn't I promise you that I would tell you if anything like that ever happened?"
Well, she knew what that promise was worth. She knew what her trust was worth. So Cory had told her eventually - but after weeks, after he'd hidden it, and stopped hiding it, after days lost in a drunken haze, after the damage had been done. So she'd believed everything he'd told her that night - but that wasn't the same as believing him in future. That wasn't the same as trusting him to do anything differently, if it were ever to happen again.
Yeah, there were worse things to deal with than just infidelity.
She looked at her watch. It'd be time to wake the kids up soon. Sam hadn't come home last night, and Rose wondered if she'd be back in time to go with them. She'd barely been home lately, and Rose wasn't sure if it was because her father was away, or because her boyfriend Matthew had moved up to SSU.
Nothing she could do about it anyway - after all, as Sam had reminded her when she'd tried to discuss it, she wasn't her mother. She'd been more polite about it than a lot of teens would be, Rose had to admit - no raised voice, no sulking, just a simple statement of fact. But a fact that she'd never mentioned before, in all the years that Rose had been married to her father.
Rose wondered what other consequences there'd be to this. She had a feeling she'd get a hint of them today.
Low risk. That was what they were calling him now.
It usually came on the tail of one of the many gentle but constant reminders that Cory really should be leaving here sometime soon. They had ticks in all the right boxes - he'd come voluntarily, he was motivated to stay sober. He had supportive family and friends. Low risk.
It was a joke. There's nothing low risk about leaving a place like this. Cory knew that, all too well. He'd done it before, and first year or two had been hell. Three times, he'd started drinking again. Three times, back in this goddamn clinic... he'd beaten it in the end, though. He'd stayed sober for more than ten years. That was the real kicker in this - because what kind of idiot starts drinking again, after ten freaking years?
It was different, in those early days, you expect it. When a person's been drinking their whole adult life, you don't expect them to throw it away easily. But now, after ten years... nobody relapses after ten sober years.
But Cory had.
You'd think here, of all places, they'd understand. But they didn't. They just kept telling him not to be so hard on himself. He'd had ten good years, they said, it had just taken that long for something to happen of enough magnitude to push him into another relapse. And it had only been for a few months this time, it wasn't like he'd made a lifestyle of it again.
But that wasn't the point. The point was, he'd been low risk for years now, but just when he thought he'd beaten it... just when he could honestly say this was a part of his past, just when the last of the doubters, people like Kyle, were finally trusting him... Then, he'd gone and blown it again. And now, now, they were calling him low risk.
They just didn't get it. The minute he left here, the clock started counting down the time until he was back. It was like an earthquake... it's when the big one is over, that you know the aftershocks are going to come. It never happens only once.
Yeah, low risk...
He looked up at the clock. Not long now. Was the time passing too quickly, or too slowly? He wasn't sure. He wasn't even completely sure how long had he been here now - a month, two? It'd be simple enough to look at the calendar, really work out how much time had passed, but did he really want to know? There was a big part of it that he didn't even remember too well. The hazy mix of withdrawal, medication and plain emotional exhaustion saw to that. He was off the medication now, or most of it. They wanted him to keep taking something for anxiety. He'd fought the idea at first, but days like today, he was glad for it. Days like today, he was anxious as hell.
In the bathroom, he threw some water over his face, smoothed his clothes again. He'd lost count of the number of times he'd started to pick up the phone to cancel the whole thing. Too late now - they'd be on their way, and to back out now, when they were already here... even he could see that would be devastating.
At a loss for anything else to do, he went back to his bedroom and sat on the bed, just to watch the time ticking away.
---He was waiting in the garden when they finally arrived. Corinne stood back, not quite sure of him any more. Unlike Noah couldn't get to his father fast enough.
"I missed you!"
"I missed you, too..."
Still holding Noah's hand, Cory walked over to his daughter. "Hi," he said.
"Hi." she said uneasily, taking a step back. If Cory noticed, he never let it show.
"I'm glad you're here," he said. There's something I really want to show you... both of you." He paused for a moment. "Listen hard," he told them. "Can you hear it?"
He had Corinne's attention now. "Hear what?" she asked.
"The ocean. We're only a few minutes' walk from the sea here. Do you guys want to go see the beach?"
"Are you allowed?" Noah asked.
"Sure," said Cory. "I've already been there a couple of times, and its really great. Let's go there now."
It was another one of those times that seemed to normal to be real. Just an ordinary family, spending a late summer afternoon at the beach.
But that was the whole point - to prove to the kids that they were still an ordinary family, that things could be normal again. To prove it to himself, too.
"That didn't go too badly," Rose said, as the sat down, a little away from the kids. "They seem pleased to see you."
"Noah is," Cory said. "Corrinne... "
"Give her time," said Rose. "She's still trying to make sense of it all. Your father said that Sam was much the same when - ". She stopped abruptly as his expression changed.
"So Sam didn't come today." he said.
"She was busy,"
"She's been busy a lot lately."
Rose didn't answer. What was there to say? They both knew that Sam had never visited Cory in all the time he'd been here.
She tried to move the conversation to a more positive subject. "Noah asked when you're coming home." There was a long silence again, before Cory answered. "My therapist asked the same thing,"
He shook his head, started to say something, then stopped.
"You can't stay here forever," she said.
"I know that!" He jumped up. "I don't need everyone reminding me of that every five bloody minutes!"
He walked a few steps away, then turned back. "Sorry," he said softly, glancing over at the children, unsure if they'd heard his outburst. He and Rose both forced reassuring smiles.
"So what happens now?" Rose asked softly, when she was satisfied the kids were playing again.
"Do you want me to go home?"
"You know I do."
"I... I can't make any promises, I - " he started.
"I know," she said.
He looked down at the hand she extended out to him, almost afraid to take it. She didn't know, not really. She didn't know that, even when he went home, it wouldn't be for long. He wished he had the courage to make her understand. He wished that he could tell her, think carefully about this, because it won't be the way you expect it to be. It won't be easy. Just when everything seemed fixed, he was going to break it again, he already knew that. He knew it wasn't fair not to warn her.
But instead of even trying, he took her hand.
It seemed to Rose that an age passed, before Cory finally put his hand over hers, tentatively at first, then finally, holding on tightly as he pulled her closer.
So Cory couldn't make any promises. Well, nor could she. She couldn't promise to not be angry, to not be suspicious every time something seemed just a little bit out of the ordinary. She couldn't even promise that she would forgive him. But there was more to consider here than just what she did or didn't feel. There were three kids who wanted - needed - their father.
And, there was Cory himself... with all that he'd been through, all that he was still going through, how could she even think to burden him with her hurt? She still loved him enough to not do that. But whether or not that was enough to make a new start - well, she didn't know.
All she knew was that, for now, it would have to do.