"Momma, don't cry."
"I'm not crying Jasmine."
“If you're not crying, why are there tears in your eyes? I don't see any onions around."
Keira was staring into her phone at a text that had just come from her husband, Evan.
"When's Daddy coming home?” Jasmine asked. She was drawing, her tongue planted firmly in her right cheek.
"Soon, honey, soon."
Keira and Evan had been fighting for weeks. Mostly, it was quiet arguments - lowered voices after Jasmine had gone to bed. Evan had lost his job as a carpenter with a local contractor more than three months ago and still couldn't find anything. Keira had her job at the bank, but what she was making barely covered daycare for Jasmine, and it would be another year before she started school. Keira was afraid if she took Jasmine out of day care while Evan looked for a job, she'd never get her back in. Lately, Evan was spending more and more time with his brother Terry who was trying to talk Evan into going in to business with him. Keira, for one, thought this was a bad idea. But, the two brothers had been meeting at Pennants, Terry's favorite sports bar, to do their business planning. Consequently, Evan had come home drunk nearly every night for the last week, usually after Jasmine's bedtime. Evan had just texted that he wouldn't be coming home - that he would be staying at Terry's for awhile. Apparently, he needed some space.
The last time Evan opted to stay at his brothers it was over some silly disagreement Kiera had with his mother. Fay was always telling Keira how to raise Jasmine. Judging by Fay’s children - one divorce, one high school dropout and her ongoing substance abuse, Keira didn’t put a lot of stock in her mother-in-laws advice, though she tried to remain respectful. This fight was different. Evan hadn’t been himself since he lost the job. It didn’t help that it was winter. Still, there must be some inside work he could be doing? Kiera didn’t understand why Evan didn’t just go work for Ted Fournier like Terry did, instead of starting a new business? Truth was Evan was the better carpenter, more consistent, more reliable and more trustworthy. Not that Terry didn’t have talent, but Keira thought he sure went out of his way to see that Evan and Ted never talked about the possibility.
“Momma, do you like my drawing,” Jasmine asked holding up a colorful picture of three stick figures huddled together in front of a bright red house, under a blue sky with white clouds and a yellow smiling sun. “I thought it would make you happier.”
“Happy, honey - make me happy,” Keira said, holding back her tears.
Since daddy wasn’t coming home, Jasmine got to have “the blue box” with chicken fingers and green beans for dinner. Evan hated macaroni and cheese because it was pretty much all he and Terry ate growing up. Jasmine helped clear the table, carrying one plate at a time to Kiera who stood waiting at the sink.
“Can we watch Nemo after we’re done?” Jasmine asked handing her mother a bright yellow bowl with the remaining green beans.
“You didn’t eat very many of these did you?”
“You didn’t either,” Jasmine said doing a quick about face and heading back to the table for more.
“What about Nemo?”
“Oh Jasmine, honey, there’s not enough time tonight for Nemo. We’ll watch it again this weekend, maybe.”
Keira did everything she could to prevent Jasmine from watching the same things over and over again. Evan, on the other hand, didn’t see a problem with it. So, as soon as Kiera went shopping or had a girl’s night out, he would let Jasmine watch whatever she wanted as many times as she liked. He was impressed with how his daughter had memorized all the lines. “Maybe someday she’ll grow up to be an actress,” Evan would say. But Keira thought she’d just end up like half of their friends who would still quote “Dirty Dancing” or “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off” after a couple of beers.
“Let’s go up, and after your bath we’ll read a book, okay?”
With her index finger pressed against pursed lips, Jasmine paused to think it over. “Yay, yay a book,” Jasmine said, jumping up and down.
Keira breathed a sigh of relief.
Mother and daughter finished their dishes and went upstairs. Kiera ran warm water for Jasmine’s bath, adding bubbles, a blue and white toy boat, a mermaid with long red hair and a set of plastic cups of various sizes. Jasmine played happily for twenty minutes pouring water from one cup into another and balancing the mermaid on the little toy boat. “Look Momma, she’s taking a voyage.”
Kiera envied the mermaid.
Two readings of “Good Night Moon” and Jasmine was asleep. Keira left her in the glow of a nightlight surrounded by a menagerie of stuffed animals. Jasmine insisted on having them in bed with her, even though it was these same stuffed animals that turned into monsters in the semi-darkness sending the four year old screaming into her parent’s bed. It was during the second reading of “Good Night Moon” that Keira resolved to contact Ted Fournier herself about a job for Evan. Why not, Evan was a good carpenter and with the economy on the island coming back, he probably could use all the help he could get. As soon as she got a minute tomorrow she’d call him. It wasn’t like she didn’t know Ted. They’d gone to high school together. She was a sophomore the year he graduated, but he’d noticed her. She’d see him from time to time in The Coffee Shop, always in a hurry, but still stopping to say hi to her and Jasmine. What would Terry say? Fuck Terry, she was taking care of her own. As for Evan, he’d be angry at first, but he’d come around, especially if it meant a good job and some real money coming in.
Back in the kitchen, Kiera sorted through a stack of mail on the counter - the mortgage, the heating bill, her credit card, Evan’s credit card bill. How could Evan just not come home? What if she decided to just-not-come-home? It wasn’t always like this. Back before they were married and just living together in Newport, everything was fun, everything was easy. They worked as hard as they played and, if they played too hard on a Saturday night, they just stayed in bed all day Sunday. Evan always said sex was the best cure for a hangover and back then Kiera thought everything Evan said was right. This time, Evan was not right and Kiera knew it. How could he go without saying goodnight to his daughter? She reached across the stack of mail for her phone.
“Did it occur to you to call your daughter to say good night,” Keira asked, not even giving him time to say hello.
Keira could hear music and laughter in background, drunken conversations punctuated by clinking glasses.
“Don’t honey me, Evan.”
“Hon - Keira, I was going to call, but as you can hear it’s just too loud here.”
“Maybe that’s not where you should be.”
“Huh, speak up.”
She knew he’d heard her, but Evan was never very good at reading between the lines. “I said maybe that’s not where – forget it Evan.” Keira hung up the phone. She could tell by the half dozen words he’d said that he was already drunk, that it was already too late to reason with him. Now, she found herself hoping he wouldn’t call back. She wasn’t up for another screaming match, especially one that might wake Jasmine. She thought about pouring herself a glass of wine, but decided against it. She sorted through the rest of the mail, cutting out coupons for Shaw’s and BJ’s. She flipped through a Home Depot flyer and “Soft Surroundings” and tossed them both in the recycling, thinking how strange it was that the things that bring us comfort, turn on us.
If you missed the previous installment of Success Through Failure click here: