The Soul Mate Page 18

The tension around her eyes and the fact that she didn’t elaborate then or there settled it. My gut clenched and I braced myself for the blow.

Jesus, what if this was it? If she was sick again and Bren was pregnant, it would add a whole new level of grief to the mix. She wanted grandchildren so desperately.

Full of dread, I followed her into the quaint living room and settled onto one of the pink floral couches as my father appeared in the doorway with a black coffee carafe in his hand and a tray of mugs in the other.

“Let me help you with that.” My mother rushed toward him and took the tray, setting it on the coffee table between us before taking a seat opposite me and beside my father.

For a moment, silence fell over us and my father leaned forward, the light shining off his bald spot, as he poured three cups of black coffee and handed one to my mother and one to me.

“So let’s hear it. What going on?” I asked.

My parents looked at one another, then back at me.

Finally my mother cleared her throat. “Your father and I have come to an important decision, and we felt it was important that you knew about it as soon as we were certain.”

“Okay.” I nodded, my skull pounding with a tension headache as I resisted the urge to demand they just say it already.

“We’ve decided that, as we are now entering new stages in our lives, we’d be better off apart from one another,” my father said, patting my mother on her knee as she nodded solemnly.

I examined each of them, not sure I’d heard them right. Apart from one another?

“What does that mean, exactly?”

“We mean we’re going to enter into a trial separation,” my mother said, the finality in her voice ringing through the otherwise silent room.

For the next minute, my brain did a decathlon. On one hand, I felt nothing but relief. Neither of them was dying or prepping to spend months in the hospital dripping poison into their veins to kill something worse than poison. On the other, this was the second thing that had happened in the past hour that made absolutely no sense.

“I don’t understand. You guys have always been inseparable.” I shot a pointed gaze at the spot where my father’s hand rested on my mother’s knee. “Even now, you’re a team.”

My dad pulled his hand away and sighed.

“Just because we’re separating doesn’t mean we don’t love and support one another. And I know it probably feels like we have a perfect marriage because we’re your parents and we don’t fight, but if you really think about it, do you think that’s true?” my mother asked. “Do you think we’re a good match?”

I took a deep breath, thinking her words over carefully. In truth, I knew they had their differences—every couple did. My mother had always been the life of the party, the light in every room she entered. Whenever I called her, she was on her way to some bingo tournament or garden luncheon while my father stayed home, desperate to find out what happened on the next episode of one crime drama or another, and was happiest with his nose buried in a book.

Sure, they had different interests, but was that really reason enough for a divorce?

“Our differences are significant,” my father cut in. “Your mother wants to go and explore the world and now that we’re getting older, I can’t bring myself to hold her back. But I also can’t bring myself to even think about traveling like that.”

“We are still a family.” My mother smiled from my father to me. “We always will be. We have shared so much of our lives with one another and we have you, but I can’t sit around this house and become an old lady who knits and stares out the window, wishing for more.”

“And I wouldn’t want you to.” My father nodded toward her, then closed his hand over hers. He shot a glance to me and shrugged. “It’s time, son. And we are both at peace with it.”

My mouth went completely dry. Were they serious right now? It’d be one thing if they’d been unhappy. I’d be fully supportive, encouraging each of them to move on to something that made them happier. But this? What in the what? I took a deep breath, searching for the words I knew I was supposed to say as their adult son.

“You should do whatever makes you both happiest, of course. It’s a shock, is all, so I’m just trying to process.” Now that I’d finally found my voice, I couldn’t seem to shut up. “I thought you guys had this fairy-tale marriage, you know?”

“A lot of kids think that,” Mom said. “You never would have known the struggle and compromises we’ve made along the way to make it work as long as it did.”

“But the cancer—”

“—was terrible,” Dad said with a wince, his eyes soft with remembered pain. “But just because someone stood by you through a bad time doesn’t mean you’re shackled to him for life. We get only so much time and we each should guard it as we get older. Use it exactly as we each see fit.”

“Exactly. So instead of ignoring the fact that we are different people, we’ve decided to embrace it and try to find our bliss while we still can.” My mother squeezed my father’s hand. “We hope once you’ve wrapped your head around it all, you can understand and support that decision.”

I nodded slowly and then pushed myself to my feet.

“I need to get some air. Are you guys okay if I just take a little walk and come back in ten?” I asked.

I was a grown-ass man and my parents had to live their lives. There was no question I would support and love them unconditionally. But suddenly, the room felt stuffy and hot and I had to get out, if only to reconcile everything that had just happened.

“Sure thing, sweetie,” Mom said, but I was already halfway toward the door, ready to breathe in the crisp evening air and think through…well, my entire life, really.

Every decision I’d made, every relationship I’d been in had been founded on the belief that once you found your soul mate, that was it. Game over. You stayed together through thick and thin. There was no challenge or difference too great for the two of you to overcome.

Now, though? That was gone. And the timing couldn’t have been worse, from a totally selfish standpoint. I was on the precipice of a huge relationship in my own life with someone who was gun-shy and possibly pregnant with my child. Not only that, I was locked and loaded to go all in based on my own confidence in the premise of soul mates and my unshakeable belief that I’d found mine.

Only soul mates weren’t real. Or at least, the pair I’d always hung my hat on weren’t. And I couldn’t deny, this news was like an A-bomb, obliterating my world and shaking one of my core beliefs.

I took the familiar route I used to walk when I’d hung around with my friends in this neighborhood, but I barely noticed the brick homes or stately trees as I strode past them. Instead, I was focused on my life, the faces of all the girls I’d run through or disappointed over the years because I’d had such strict blinders on. I’d been searching for my one and only the entire time.

If my parents’ happy, perfect relationship wasn’t as happy or perfect as I’d thought, then why had I stayed single for so long? Why had I insisted on being so choosy about the person I’d finally settle down with?

Not for the first time, I thought about fate. That maybe, after all of this, fate had forced me to be single in the hope that it would lead me to Bren and, maybe, our baby?

But now, if my parents were right, what did any of it matter? I had only the here and now.

For the next ten minutes, I ate up the block with my stride, trying to work off some of the tension that had been building since Bren had left.

By the time I got back to my parents’ house, I was feeling less breathless and my brain had finally calmed.

My parents were healthy and, by the looks of it, happy with their decision. They would be fine and so would I. And as for Bren?

Nothing had changed for me.

I thought of her panicked face as she’d sprinted from my apartment. Of her sweet-smelling hair and her soft lips. Of the way her mouth tilted to the side when there was something else on her mind—something she wouldn’t, or maybe couldn’t, tell me. She was hiding something, and I just hoped she’d tell me before it was too late.

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