"For WXTV, I'm Mia Masterson. Have a good evening, Atlantic City."
"And....we're out. Good job, Mia," my producer, Alice, says pulling her headset around her neck.
"Thanks, Al. I'll see you tomorrow," I tell her as I start towards my dressing room.
"Oh, I meant to ask you; are you still interested in the ESPN job?"
I look down and try to think of a quick response. Heck yeah is what I want to say, but I'm in no position to move to New York and take on a job like that right now. I shake my head. "Things are still crazy at home. I'd love to, but I just...I-"
"Mia, the sitter just called. Torrance is a no show again," my assistant, Carmella, says.
I mumble a few profanities under my breath. "Excuse me," I tell Alice as I start back towards my dressing room.
Carmella scurries behind me, going over my schedule for tomorrow, but I can't hear a word she's saying.
Once I make it to my dressing room, I grab my purse from the vanity and slam the drawer shut. I take out my phone to call the sitter, but Carmella holds her hand up to stop me.
"I already took care of it. I told her you'd be there in twenty and I went ahead and ordered take out from Chino's since it's Gabby's favorite."
I'm left with my mouth gaping.
Not only is Carmella the perfect assistant, she's gorgeous. Her family is from Puerto Rico so her skin is naturally a glowing caramel color. She has thick black hair, stunning brown eyes and lips that would make Kylie Jenner jealous. To top it all off, she's genuinely nice.
"Thank you so much. I don't know what I'd do without you," I say after I've finally pulled myself together.
She smiles. "Anytime."
As I'm walking out to my car, I make a note in my phone to do something nice for Carmella. She's been my assistant for six months now and she's managed to learn every detail of my routine. While she was hired for work-related errands, she's branched out to more personal ones lately.
I unlock my car and open the door to get in, but I catch his reflection in the window just before I do. I sigh and slam the door shut.
"What the hell do you want?" I ask, not bothering to turn around.
"You won't answer my calls," he slurs.
I suck in my anger before I turn around to face him. "Torrance, you didn't pick the kids up, again."
"I know and I'm sorry. I just...forgot."
I laugh sarcastically. "Oh, so you just forgot about the three children you've been living with for the past six years? If it's so easy to do, why don't you just forget about me too? I sure as hell forgot about you."
I turn around to get into my car, but he grabs hold of my arm and jerks me away. At one time, those intense hazel eyes really did a number on me, but now, they fill me with nothing but rage. I can't remember when I started hating him so much, but now I can't remember what it felt like to love him.
"You did this to me...to us! You chose this fucking job over your family!" he shouts.
"No, Torrance. I'm still home with our kids every single night. You couldn't stop drinking and that's what happened to you and to us."
"I started drinking when you decided you didn't love me anymore. Or don't you remember that?" he asks, stumbling backwards.
A pang of guilt shoots through my heart, but in a second, it's gone. I've managed to repress those feelings over time so I could do what's best for my family. Torrance isn't capable of being a father or a husband and no matter how much I once loved him, I have to accept that. "Torrance, don't. We can't keep having this same argument."
"Just tell me what to do," he says, his tone changing to one of despair instead of anger. "Tell me how to fix this."
I back away from him until my back is pressed up against my car. I swallow the lump in my throat and squeeze my eyes shut, trying not to cry. "You can't fix this. I've already told you that. We're done. And the next time you bail on our kids, you're gonna be done with them too. I won't let them hold out hope that someday you'll change when we both know you never will."
I get into the car and quickly start it up. He stands frozen in the same spot, staring at me through wounded eyes. I drive away, but I can't help but glance up at my rear view mirror and catch his reflection one last time before I'm out of sight.
After I've picked up my kids and our take out from Chino's, it's nearly 9pm when we make it home. I rush to get everyone fed, washed up and ready for bed. I never could've imagined being a single mother of three at only twenty-six, but here I am. My kids, while pretty well behaved for six and seven year olds, don't understand just how much I have on me right now and it's hard to not get irritated with them.
"Mom, can Nole and I stay up until eleven?" My son, Kai asks.
"Are you kidding? No way! You have to wake up early and-"
"But mom, please! We just get home and we haven't even done anything fun today," he whines.
I open my mouth to speak, but then I realize he's right. Lately, we've had no time for fun. I look into those pleading hazel eyes and sigh. He and his twin brother are the spitting image of Torrance, which makes it even harder to repress the guilt I feel over my failed marriage.
"You know what? Get your brother and sister. We're going out for ice cream."
Kai races up the stairs and a few seconds later, it sounds like a herd of wild antelope come thundering back down. Their little cheers of excitement are enough to take away all my worries of the day and put a smile on my face.
After loading the kids up in the car, we start towards the twenty-four hour Happy Burger down the street. It's summertime and while the kids don't have school in the morning, I'm sure I'm going to get a lot of questionable looks. I'm used to it by now. I'm the young mom; the inexperienced, the lost and the ill-equipped. It's hard enough living with those labels, but soon, I'll be adding single once my divorce is finalized.
I haven't breathed a word of our separation to my family, especially not my parents. My mom has been battling cancer and the last thing she needs to hear about is my pathetic life. I know I'll have to break the news to them eventually, and sometimes I even wonder what I'm waiting for. They will understand. They will understand that things got hard. Torrance and I grew apart, wanted different things. They will understand that I've been raising my kids on my own for months now because their dad can't stay sober long enough to take care of them. Something he blames me for.
The problem is, they'll say they understand, but how can they? My parents and my brothers are happily married. They've never struggled to love their significant other. They've never went to bed each night praying to God that they didn't have to get intimate because the mere thought of it made their stomach turn.
That's what my life has come to. I have no idea how it ever got this bad, but somewhere along the way, it became unfixable.
"Mom, Nole licked my ice cream!" My daughter, Gabby, squeals from the back seat.
"I did not, you liar!" Nole cries.
"Yes you did! Mom!"
"Mom," Kai says, in a mocking tone.
Before I have time to react, Gabby lunges at Kai and knocks his ice cream out of his hand.
And then all hell breaks loose.
After several failed attempts at getting the situation under control, I finally lose it. "Just shut up!" I scream at top of my lungs.
The three of them freeze and look at me with wide, terrified eyes.
I feel the tears coming and I'm powerless to stop them. I cry all the way home right in front of my kids who I just yelled at like I'm insane. And maybe I am.
After I've gotten everyone cleaned up and ready for bed, I tuck them all in and apologize for my little outburst earlier. The twins, as usual, think nothing more of it, but my little perceptive Gabby is different.
I head to my bedroom and change into my pajamas. Just as I'm getting into bed, I see a small figure standing in the doorway with her long brown locks hanging over her shoulders. I motion for her to come in and she quickly crosses the room and climbs into bed with me. I pull her close and hold her tight.
"Mommy, is daddy ever coming back?" she finally asks.
I expected that question to come from one of my kids sooner or later, but I'm still not prepared to answer it. I brush her hair behind her ear and force a smile. "I don't know. I really don't know, sweetie."
She snuggles up next to me and within a few minutes, she's fast asleep.
I wish it were that easy for me. I haven't had more that a few hours of sleep for the past year. The exhaustion is starting to get to me, but unfortunately, I have no choice other than to power through it. My kids depend on me.
The next morning as we're rushing around to get ready for the day, my phone rings at the most inconvenient of times. Nole answers it before I have the chance and turns and looks at me excitedly. "Mom! It's Aunt Courtney!"
I quickly snatch the phone from his hands before he goes into too much detail about our lives. "Hey, Court. How's it going?"
"Great! It's been a while since we've heard from you. Is everything okay?"
"Of course," I lie.
"Okay," she replies slowly as if she can read through my bullshit. "Did Ryder tell you about our party in a couple of weeks?"
I roll my eyes. "You know he did. He seems pretty excited about it."
"He's excited to see you again. You guys hardly talk anymore."
"I know...it's just...life has been so crazy lately."
"Maybe Charlie and I can come up at the end of the summer and help out a bit. I know it must be hard-"
"Sorry, Court, I gotta go. Nole just spilled juice all over himself I have to be at work in exactly twenty-seven minutes."
"I'll call you back later," I say, quickly ending the call.
I put the phone down and bury my face in my hands. When I look up, all three of my kids are looking at me inquisitively.
"Why did you lie to Aunt Courtney, mom?" Nole asks.
"Let's get out of here, minions. We're gonna be late," I say, ignoring his question.
After I've dropped the kids off with the sitter, I call Carmella. She answers on the first ring, like always.
"Mia? Is everything okay?"
The tears take over me like waves in the middle of a storm. "No."
"I'll push back your morning meetings and tell Alice you have a lunch scheduled for 1:00 and you'll be in right after. That should buy you a few hours."
"What would I do without you?" I cry.
"Hey, I'm here. Not just for work, but.... if you ever want to talk..."
"I know," I sniffle, wiping a rogue tear from my eye. "Thank you."
Since I have a few hours until I have to be at work, I decide to stop for coffee and take some time to get myself together. I sit down at a small table in the corner of the cafe, far away from everyone else. I take out my laptop and start researching my next assignment.
I feel a presence around me, but I don't look up since I'm pretty sure I know who it is. I can smell the booze on him from a mile away.
I slam my laptop shut and scowl at him. "Why are you here? You don't even drink coffee."
"I followed you here," he replies.
"Well, you can stop following me, Torrance. It won't do you any good," I say, stuffing my laptop in my bag.
"You're being selfish. You should at least-"
"I'm being selfish? You haven't seen your kids in weeks! I've been doing everything all by myself; homework, soccer, ballet, doctor appointments, everything! How can you call me selfish?!"
I can see the pain in his eyes and it takes everything in me to get up and walk away, but I do. I have to.