A little view into Karen's life before her adventure in Cozumel.
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Rene D Holden
Chapter 3 - Las preparaciones
The yellow porch lights glowed enough to aid the short walk back home. The mother and her child walked back to their own little carport and climbed into Karen's old oxidized, silver-gray Camaro. She and Jim had purchased it new after two years of marriage. Karen shivered a little with the chill in the night air. It was the first car she and Jim had bought as a couple after he totaled the two Toyotas they had owned as nineteen-year-old newlyweds.
Driving along, Karen and Andy talked about what happened in Kindergarten that day, about Red, about Ginger, and various subjects. Andy commented once that they did most of their talking in this car. She loved him and he literally gave her a reason to keep going. Responsibility kept her sane.
After a rare silence, Andy asked, Do you still love Daddy?
Karen sighed and stared at the road for a few moments. never knew how to answer that question. Finally she tried something different.
Why are you asking me that?
Just tell me. Do you?
Yes, I love Daddy as a friend and as your Daddy and as someone who loves you. When we fell in love and married and had you, it was the best thing that has ever happened to me. I love people who love you, sweetie.
Well, I hope you don’t meet any boyfriends in Mexico.
Me, too, Karen laughed weakly.
Ironically, Jim lived in a suburb even further north than the one he and Karen fled to avoid the traffic. While he loathed and avoided yard work during their entire marriage allowing Karen to carry the full responsibility for home care, Jim was now the model citizen.
Houston's city planning lacked something in those boom years of the seventies and eighties. The demand for housing from Yankee immigrants being transferred or looking for jobs created hundreds of thousands of homes but no roads leading to Rome. It took nearly half an hour to reach Jim's even after the peak traveling hours. She’d be late to the Firehouse but didn’t feel concerned. Andy’s head drooped, and Karen realized it was after ten o'clock. Working, attending classes (which she had skipped tonight), and caring for Tim made for late evenings on Tuesdays and Thursdays. At this rate, she’d never finish college.
As they pulled into the driveway, Andy roused a bit and looked around.
"Daddy has a big house. We should get a new house."
Karen frowned into the darkness. Not out of envy for the house. She certainly didn't want to live in north Houston. She worried, however, that Andy’s perception of the divorce all had to do with houses.
For one thing, when he explained to Andy why he had left, he told his son, "I still love you. I'm just went to live in a new house. You can still see me any time." Andy was in the bathtub at the time surrounded by plastic action figures and didn't seem to find that unusual. Dad was gone a lot.
The little boy mentioned the house theme from time to time. Dad's house was newer and bigger than the one he and his mother occupied. Maybe Andy thought Daddy would come back if they moved into a nice brick home with a fireplace.
"Andy, one of these days we'll have a nice, big house. We're going to stay put right now, OK?" she said, squeezing his arm.
She handed him his little overnight case which was hard plastic, lime green, and had a miniature railroad track on the outside. It was filled mostly with toys since step mom Betty Jean loved shopping for Andy and kept several outfits at her house. It worked out fine for Karen. Actually, she now felt gratitude towards the "other woman" for filling in the gap that Jim didn't seem to know how to fill. Jim had a hard time communicating with Andy, probably due the child's young age. He knew only that kids needed to be fed and entertained. That was the extent of his parenting skills. At least he and Betty Jean didn't do drugs anymore.
"I'll be back on Monday night," Karen told Andy and his father at the door of the "big, new" house.
"'Bye, mama, I'll miss you."
"I'll miss you, too. You and Daddy have fun."
Jim said, "He'll be all right. We're going to have a good time, right, buddy?"
Andy nodded without smiling; Karen felt pangs of guilt.
"Here's the number of the hotel in case you need me."
"We won't need a thing," said Betty Jean from the living room sofa where she'd tastefully remained.
Karen had to hand it to Betty Jean. The house always looked great even if it was too full of "stuff" for Karen's taste. Every square inch of wall space was papered and decorated with Southwestern motif accessories. Karen had gotten over hating Betty Jean once she and Jim had given up drugs. They both went to rehab together and turned into responsible citizens. At least Karen felt safe leaving Andy with them. With Jim completely sober, he doted more on his son than he ever had when he lived with Karen. Deep down, Karen knew she intimidated Jim with her overwhelming desire to nurture Andy’s feelings and education. Jim didn't take things so seriously, saying kids just needed to be kept out of the street.
Fathers are not mothers, Karen reminded herself frequently, but she resented Jim's detached attitude.
Karen bobbed her head in way of a response to Betty Jean and waved good-bye. Andy had already been distracted by one of the cats on the floor and struggled to get down to chase it. Karen hated cats.
Andy may be allergic to cats. Be careful with him.
"Why don't you go try to relax and become a fun person again?" Jim grinned back. "Andy is fine."
The remark stung Karen's ego a little.
"Yea, well," Karen responded, turning and trudging back to the Camaro. The smoke of various fireplaces mixed with the dense, damp atmosphere causing Karen to sneeze twice before she reached the car.
What does he know of guilt and being a single mother? He has Betty Jean to deal with our son, thought Karen belligerently. And I am fun. Ask Adelia and Iris.
The window of the Camaro lowered jerkily as Karen cranked it fiercely. She spit her gum onto Jim's freshly trimmed, damp lawn with defiance, fired up the engine, and left.
"Why don't you go try to relax and become a fun person again?" Jim grinned back.