The Broken Pieces Make Her Sparkle
by J.D. Pendergast
The day she said "I do," I saw the shape of our lives. We'd be the kind of couple who kept Sundays for ourselves, did crossword puzzles in the evenings, and gave each other lingering kisses every morning. We'd raise two kids who would go on to make the future brighter. We'd retire early, eat key lime pie for dessert every night, and watch the sun set, our wrinkled hands entwined. And I'd look into her big green eyes and remember the full-bodied giddiness that enveloped me as I replied, "Me too."
The first thing to go is Sundays for ourselves. She picks up extra shifts in the cafe after opening the first bill for PA school. For a few months, I stare longingly at the cold space she'd forsaken hours earlier, but then I'd remember my research won't run itself and scurry off to the library for an extra skull session.
Besides, the brunch crowd tips well.
Our first child miscarries after four months. There's an empty space between us for another six, but we slowly fill it with work and unspoken conversations. On the anniversary, she locks herself in the bathroom, and I lock myself in the study. We grieve in silence then fuck away our sorrow.
After ten years of marriage and healthy twin toddlers, she's lost that dancer trimness that seduced me. All things considered, this last decade's been kind to us. The partners have been giving me bigger cases, and the hospital keeps her active, if exhausted. Time leaves harsh wounds.
"It's just getting older," I whisper into her hair while she glares at her lumpy, naked midriff. "You've seen old folks at the hospital. They either shrivel up or explode."
Her expression darkens and she hugs herself, hiding the view. "I never agreed to getting old."
I kiss her shoulder, her neck. "You'll always be beautiful to me."
The partners promote me six weeks later; the pay raise is enough I can give her the gift she's too proud to ask for. When she's discharged after her surgery, she stands naked in the bedroom mirror, touching the tender scars and marveling at her newfound flatness. We pack the kids off to my parents' house and spend the weekend reveling.
Our son, Tommy, gets arrested for hacking the security cameras at school. When the police bring their warrant by the house, they find hours of footage saved on Tommy's hard drive along with writable data discs. When we demand Tommy explain himself, he shrugs and says one of his friends had the idea to score some cash.
At his trial, the DA asks that Tommy be tried as an adult. He is indicted for intent to distribute child pornography. The last glimpse I catch of our son, he glowers in one of my old suits, unrepentant, unremorseful.