Leoda cursed Kevin for the millionth time as she swung the shovel, flinging snow from the sidewalk onto her yard.
Her yard now. Not their yard anymore. Her yard to have to mow — or pay someone to do it. Caroline and Jake were far too young to push the lawnmower. In several years, they could help out, but not now.
And not with shoveling snow, either. Even though her daughter and son had said they were going to help her clear the sidewalk, the temptation of playing in the snow had won out. There were snowballs to pack and throw. There were snowmen to build. There were snow angels to create.
Leoda couldn’t blame them. They were only 7 and 5, and playing in the snow was a strong draw away from the chore of shoveling it.
But she did blame Kevin. For he was a grown man. He could’ve stood up to temptation rather than give into it. He could’ve stayed around and fulfilled his responsibilities. At least until Jake turned 18.
Leoda’s arms felt weaker at the thought of raising their two children by herself. Should she keep the house? Could she afford it on just her salary and child support? That bastard better keep up that end of the bargain, keep the check coming every month. Get his face out of that bitch’s cunt and do something.
At least he seemed interested in having the children for a couple of weekends a month. But how long would that last? And it was easy to imagine that those weekends would be stuffed with fun. Movies, restaurants, amusement parks, toy stores. A rush to the fun stuff.
Leaving Leoda with the chores. With being the parent who disciplined, who reminded Caroline to do the little homework she had. To get after them to clean their rooms. To be the hard-ass parent, while Kevin got to be the party parent.
The shovel hit the sidewalk with a greater force than she had meant. Caroline and Jake looked over at her, frowning, wondering what the big deal was. Leoda thought for a moment of asking them to help her, but then put it to the side. Let them play. She would do it by herself.
Plus, she got to imagine flinging the snow onto Kevin’s face. She envisioned him laying on the yard he used to be proud of, and she piled snow on top of him, burying him in white.
It was a fitting death for an asshole who waited until their younger child turned 5 and entered Kindergarten. Who waited for Christmas to be over. Who waited after four beers and the kids to be in bed to drop the bomb on her: he was leaving. Leaving because he was in love with someone else instead of her.
He might as well have stabbed her in the gut with an icicle. Yes, he had been distant for a while. Yes, the sex had been not as passionate as it used to be. Yes, he seemed to be distracted when they had conversations.
But this? Him in love with someone else was a thought that had never occurred to her. Yes, there were the dark times that she worried he was sleeping with someone else. But that was worrying about him being in lust and having sex with another woman. Not being in love with another woman.
Now Leoda was convinced that he’d planned the separation for a long time. Waiting for Jake to enter school and waiting for Christmas to pass. Waiting for the new year for a new start in his life. Forcing her to have a new start. And forcing their kids, too.
She threw a large, heavy shovel-full of snow on top of Kevin’s imagined body. Burying him. Like Caroline and Jake had done just last summer, but with sand.
Leoda imagined she and the kids at a beach. Not the one in their family vacation last summer, but a tropical one. One with palm trees behind the beach. One with ocean water that was a dream, it was so clear and blue.
The kids were building a sandcastle together. Because most of the time, Caroline was wonderful in playing with her younger brother with the stuff he was interested in. Leoda thought how much she was blessed to have a patient daughter, who had that kindness to Jake instead of constantly stomping her foot and demanding that he do things she wanted. She stomped her foot at times, and Leoda couldn’t blame her one bit for it. After all, she was only 7.
Because Caroline’s patience and kindness were going to be tested in the many years to come. Years with a single parent and needing to adjust to the new reality. Also helping Jake adjust to the new reality, which was going to be much harder for him, since he had been much more attached to his father than Caroline had. A daddy’s boy through and through.
The tropical beach dream was wonderful. The warmth of the sun. Warm sand on her toes. The wind like a soothing caress. The waves gently rolling in. Her kids happy. That fact alone made her deeply joyful.
But it would’ve been so very nice to have a muscular, tanned gentleman stop on his walk and say, “Hello, where are you from?” Because that was the kind of question that sparked conversation that could last all day, all vacation, and bring back home.
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