River pulls into the driveway of his Windsor home, the lights are on, in every room. His children would be in the living room or their bedrooms not every room of the house but these are things he doesn’t mind as long as they are home with him.
Home. What does that even mean?
He’d loved living in this house, raising his family here with a woman he was very much in love with, they had wonderful years here until it was ruined and now he cannot walk in without seeing the whole sorry scene unfold.
River shut the door behind him hurriedly to avoid the rain, talk about a change of scenery from sunny Miami where he’d been on a business trip this past week to the . He wanted to surprise Bree; they’d been at it lately because he had to work late and long hours lately. The website was growing at rapid pace, having gained a cult following among the fashion elite; his hard work was paying off but Bree and the children were taking some of the hit. How she manages to keep it all together never letting him take the hit with his gruelling schedule, she being as busy with a career as a doctor, was beyond him. He wanted to make it up to her. he’d stopped over at DeBeers to get her something before his flight and at the florist up the road; her favourite bunch of damask roses.
‘Hi! You’re home early.’ Bree came down the stairs dressed in nothing but lingerie. She looked shellshocked seeing River there. He set the flowers and bag from DeBeers down by the console table.
‘I caught an early flight. Didn’t expect to see you home, I wanted to surprise you with dinner tonight. I’m sorry we’ve been off.’ He takes steps towards his wife who stood rooted to the spot on the bottom step. He snaked his hands around her waist pulling her to him. ‘How come you’re home this early?’
‘River…’ Bree’s words almost choked her. Oh God.
‘Babe do you need a hand I was-’ Raymond appeared at the top of the stairs, dressed in boxers.
River steps back with quick reflex and held on to the console table for fear he would keel over and die from the scene before him. WHAT THE FUCK!
‘River… I can explain.’ No she cannot explain; how can she tell him she was in love with his brother, and has been in a relationship with him for the past two years. That their fights have nothing to do with him and how much he works, but with her frustration that she is in love with Raymond and has been for a while now.
‘Explain what?’ That bitter taste settled in his mouth. His brother and his wife.
‘Don’t Raymond. Don’t.’
‘You’re sorry. You’re sorry you’re fucking my wife?! MY WIFE?! You’re sorry?!’ His world has been blown to smithereens in a moment. In his entire life he would never have seen this coming. This was his brother, and the woman he was in love with.
‘River please. I didn’t mean for you to find out like this.’
‘How did you want me to find out Bree? How? A holiday card? A letter? Was I ever going to find out?’
‘We were going to tell you.’ Raymond stood behind Bree with the grace to look ashamed, he fucked up. Royally. He fucked up.
‘How long has this been going on?’ This did not feel new, they looked comfortable together as if this was a thing. ‘How long?’
‘Two years.’ Bree answered, hot tears falling down her eyes.
‘Get out. The both of you get out of my house.’
‘River please let’s talk-‘
‘I said GET OUT!’ His voice must have shattered a few glasses that day it was so loud. He didn’t know when Raymond and Bree left but he blinked, and they were gone. He was alone, his children were at school thank God, they’d been spared the sight he would remain prisoner to for the rest of his life.
The divorce was hard, not ugly, the details of their affair came to light, and it broke him. His mother pleaded forgiveness though she was angry with Raymond too, but she is a mother she could not deny her son. River on the hand cut all ties with Raymond. He filed for and was awarded full custody of the children, Bree got supervised visitation. When she and Raymond got married, in a small ceremony in Marylebone, he refused to allow the children participate in it. Bree begged and he refused point blank. When she asked for the supervised visitation to be dropped, he refused. They only communicate through their lawyers, from the day he threw them out he has not spoken to them.
Home… this is home, complete with the memory that confronted him that fateful day on the steps of the home, the same steps his daughter now sits on, eyes buried in her phone.
‘Daddy’s home.’ Wyn bounces up from the steps to hug her father.
‘Hi Dad.’ Ralph calls from the living room.
‘Well hello there.’
‘Surprise! Grandma’s here!’ Wyn says; they’d been in on the surprise. She and Ralph were doubly surprised and happy to see their grandmother when they got back from school. She doesn’t make it down to see them much and they have not seen her since the summer.
‘Hi Mum.’ River hugs his mother. Since the divorce things have been fractured somewhat. She didn’t take sides, but she didn’t not take sides. ‘Good to see you.’
‘Good to be seen.’ She replies with a knowing smile. ‘Go freshen up dinner will be ready in ten minutes.’
‘Yes mum.’ River doesn’t wonder about her visit, he know it has something to do with Raymond and Bree, he will no doubt hear her reasons later on when it is just the two of them when the children have gone to bed.
The night he kicked them out, he moved to a hotel with the children and hired a contractor to make some changes to the house. He did not want to move, but he did not want to be reminded of what happened here, so the master suite was completely redone. His mother’s presence only brings back the past and he hates that. He killed himself almost to be the best father for his children, be there for them and cushion the blow from everything but in the process no one was there for him. His mother tried but he pushed her away, shut the world out and became insular, cold and hard. He threw himself into areas of his life he could control and abandoned areas he could not.
‘Thanks for dinner grandma, it was really lovely.’ Wyn hugs her grandmother who cupped her face in her hands. Anita is so fond of her grandchildren and has missed them something awful.
‘Thanks grandma.’ Ralph clears the table, of the plates and Wyn handles the left overs from their grandmother’s cooking. ‘We’ll put this in the fridge dad so you and grandma can catch up. Grams will you take us to school tomorrow?’
‘If you father will allow.’ Anita motions to her son.
‘Of course. Peter will drive you tomorrow morning.’
Tables cleared it is just the two of them left.
‘Yes please. You know how I like it.’
Both retired to the smaller living room with the bar where River poured two glasses of cognac for him and his mother.
‘So, what brings you here mum?’
‘Do I need a reason to see my grandchildren, even if my son does not care to see me.’
‘I care to see you mum. The kids miss you.’
‘I do miss you. You know why I haven’t been home but I do miss you.’
‘How are you?’
‘Good. Busy but good. You?’
‘I am well. I miss you, miss my grandchildren but I am well.’
‘Mum what’s going on?’
Anita didn’t see how she could beat about the bush, she came here to make peace but that peace carries a heavy weight. ‘Raymond and Bree are expecting.’
River swallows, lead settled in his mouth. ‘Okay.’ His wall of steel is up.
‘Son, I know this is not what you want to hear. I know how much they hurt you. I am on your side even if you think I am not, I am always on your side. I know you’re hurting, and I want you to know that I will always be here for you. I would like for all of this to have been a bad dream, but it is, and we’re here. Your brother is –’
‘Having a child with my ex-wife mum. What do you want me to say to that?’
‘River I am so sorry.’
‘You have nothing to be sorry about mum.’
‘I do. I am your mother, and you feel as if I have to take sides and it feels as if I have. I love you. I love Raymond and whilst this is not ideal, it is where we are. I do not want be caught in the middle of this, I want to be there for both my children and my grandchildren. I cannot appeal for anything other than to please not shut me out.’
‘Mum I’m not shutting you out.’ River downed his glass of cognac, this news rocks him more than he would like to admit. He thought he was getting through to the other side. Getting away from the mess of his life now here this bullshit comes to take him right back there.