Dinner was a quiet affair. The dessert was left untouched as everyone was exhausted. Aisling went to her room as soon as she finished. Duncan watched Mary Anne as she dried the dishes. The scene was normal, like almost everyday in the past twenty years. The warm glow of the kitchen lights and the tinkering of the dishes were a lullaby. However he wished it to be, it certainly was not a day like any other day before.
Mary Anne had a calm expression on her face. She stood in a relaxed pose with her eyes trained on the dishes. There were no lines on strain on her face, her jaw was loosely set making her lips slightly part. Duncan could see a bit of her front teeth. He could hear her humming softly yet he does not know the song. He knew it is an old one though. He wanted to speak to her, but the words were stuck in his throat. Mary Anne was wiping the droplets of water around the kitchen sink. She is almost done.
“Huh..” she turned around, looking at him inquiringly. They were never a romantic couple but he loves the way Mary Anne stopped whatever she was doing and looked at him attentively whenever he called her name. He loves the way Mary Anne would kiss the top of his head at the breakfast table when she was in a hurry to go to work. The same way Mary Anne loves it when he stroke her hair each time she lay her head in his lap when they were on the sofa. Duncan shook the thought out of his head.
“It’s the kids. I’m worried about them, especially Aisling.” They stared at each other. Mary Anne took the seat in front of him, a pensive look on her face.
“We need to talk to Aisling. I think…I think there’s something on her mind. About the divorce I mean. I just know. This morning when she…”
“I know what you mean.” Duncan took Mary Anne’s hand in his.
“I’ll talk to her” she said, getting up to finish tidying up the kitchen. Duncan let her hand go.
“We’ll both talk to her.” Mary Anne stopped again and turned around to face him. Sometimes, she feels that Duncan knows what she was thinking at that moment, just like he always had before. A long time ago, Duncan had promised her that their life would be a shared life. At that time, she was so alone only trusting in her own strength and always attempting to do things by herself.
Sometimes she felt so tired and bitter about him not being there with her. She was too proud to ask for his help, to say what she needs. It was when their first child was born, and she was tired to the bones. She was almost asleep when he put his arms around her middle and whispered softly to her.
‘Don’t you trust me? I’ll be here. I’ll always be here. Tell me if you need me. I would never think less of you.’
Since then, she would look at him and ask for his help when she needs to. And then, it was only a look towards him. And then, he would go to her without asking for her help. And Mary Anne was glad for moments like that, especially now. Talking to her daughter and doing what she can to ease her child’s pain has never been arduous. It is just that for this matter, Duncan’s presence would help greatly with the message and assuring their child.
It took them both another half an hour to tidy up and get ready for bed. And then, it was time to speak to their child. Duncan went ahead, and knocked softly on their little girl’s door. A muffled yes, and they entered Aisling’s room. She was already in her PJs but she’s still sitting at her work table working on a Colosseum miniature.
“Hey honey, there’re some things that your mom and I would like to talk about.” Duncan gestured towards Aisling’s bed.
“Sure” she went to the bed and sat beside Mary Anne. Duncan pulled the chair from her worktable and sat across them. Duncan gave Mary Anne a reassuring look, letting her start.
“We’ve talked before about mummy and daddy getting a divorce. And we just want to tell you again that no matter what, both of us love you very much and we will always love you. You know that right” said Mary Anne. Aisling nodded silently.
“Daddy and I were just talking downstairs, and we feel that you have some questions for us?” Mary Anne said, asking for clarifications. “It doesn’t matter what your question is or maybe if you’ve got anything to say. You know you can tell us.”
“Honey, you can ask us anything. We will answer you the best we can” assured Duncan. Aisling stared at him and turned to look at her mother. Mary Anne smiled to her.
“Daddy…” she began “daddy….” She abruptly turned towards Mary Anne, “Mummy, are you sad? Are you sad that you are getting a divorce?”
“Honey…” Mary Anne sighed. She gave a small smile looking at her daughter’s glassy eyes and expectant face. She stole a glance at Duncan, trying to figure out his reaction. Duncan had an expectant look almost like Aisling’s and she knew that she has to answer both of them.
Mary Anne shifted her attention to her daughter. “Honey, if you’re looking at it one way, I’m sad because your father has been by my side for the past twenty years and now he won’t be anymore. I’d have to do a lot of adjustments but I’ll manage it and I know you will too, definitely. You will be close to daddy too and you’ll go for sleepovers during weekends. Your grandma’s place is near to daddy’s new place, so you’re going to see your grandma a lot too. I think saying goodbye will be very hard for me.”
She gave a brief glance towards Duncan, and he was raptly listening to her, “I would never know what would happen afterwards, but that is part of life. A long time ago, your dad and I decided to get married because of something we share. We share a purpose, a reason and we love one another. Today, we are going our separate ways because we no longer share a purpose. For myself, I do love your father. Although it is a sad thing for me, I would not be sad forever. There’s a lot to look forward to. And I want you to remember that no matter what happens, we need to look forward. All of us needs to make adjustments but we’re still family even if your dad and I are divorced. You daddy and I love you very much and we always will.”
Mary Ann did not know if Aisling fully understood what she said, but she tried her best to give her daughter the answer. Aisling would not know everything there is to know about the story yet but someday she would.
“Okay..” Aisling answered in a little voice. Mary Anne tucked some loose strands of hair behind her daughter’s ear.
“Honey, sometimes when two people no longer share the same….sense of purpose and want different things in life, it is best to go on their separate ways. Like myself and your dad, we’ll better person and better parents if those wants are fulfilled. We’ve reached a point where we’ll be a better person on our own rather than together.”
“Aisling,” it was Duncan this time, “it doesn’t matter that your mum and I won’t be together anymore. You will still have both of us. You know that, don’t you honey?”
“Uhuh,” Aisling nodded her head. The girl stared at her feet. Sensing that it was an awkward moment for the girl, Mary Anne stood and gave a big smile to her.
“You should go to bed. Come on,” Mary Ann patted the bed and Aisling got into bed. Duncan gave the most reassuring look he could to the girl.
“Goodnight Aisling,” he said, kissing the girl on her cheek.
“Night honey,” Mary Anne did the same. As Mary Anne and Duncan left the room, Aisling thought that maybe tonight would be the last time both her parents wished her good night together.