“You’re going to have to stop talking to me like that.”  I could feel my cheeks getting flushed and splotchy the minute the words left my lips but I ignored it and gave him my best glare.  I’m no good in confrontational situations, especially when I know I’m the one at fault.  I silently reminded myself to breathe as he gave me an incredulous look and said, “Excuse me?”

“Listen, Mike.  I get it.  I am fully aware of the implications.  But please stop talking to me like I’m an idiot.”  He shook his head as if he was trying to wake himself up from a nap and took a few giant steps towards me. If I didn’t know him better I would have been afraid.  He was eerily calm as he stopped and picked up a picture frame with her smiling face trapped behind the glass.  (It was taken last summer – we had gone to lunch to celebrate her new job and the restaurant carried a beer bearing her name.  The picture shows her tipping her head back, laughing, holding a bottle of Allison’s Apple Cider above her mouth as she lets the last drop fall onto her tongue.)  He wouldn’t look up as he stared at it.  He placed it face down on the dining room table and said, “She deserves better you know.” With that, he finally looked up and met my stare.  

“Look. If this is where you’re going to tell me what a horrible person I am and how you can’t believe things have gotten this bad, you can just stop.  I don’t need a lecture from a guy whose own life is in shambles.  I mean, weren’t you supposed to be in South Padre this week with your kids?  Oh, wait.  They don’t talk to you anymore and want their stepdad to adopt them.  Who are you to come in and act like you’re going to save the day and figure things out for me?”  I knew it was a low blow but I had that defensive feeling running through my blood… you know, the one that makes you say things you know you’re going to regret later.  

“Nice – glad to see you still have some class.  Glad you could find a way to work my kids into the conversation.  But you’re right.  I do want to save the day.  Did it occur to you that I want to play the hero because at least there is still a chance for a happy ending for you?  You’ve messed things up but Allison doesn’t even know yet.  You can still fix it.”  He picked her picture back up and propped it up where it belonged. “But you can do it alone because I’m out of here.”

I expected him to be mad or at least give me a look that told me he thought I was pitiful.  Instead, he just looked tired as he walked over to open the fridge and grab a bottle of water.  He opened it, took a sip and turned towards me.  I was still reminding myself to breathe and exhaled loudly as he said “Tess.  Fix this.  Please.”  He left the bottle on the counter, walked to the front door and fumbled with the deadbolt as he tried to leave.  It always seems to stick when it is humid outside.