Fiction Fridays: Unsaid

By: Lisa

A flocked Christmas tree trimmed luxuriously with red ornaments and gold ribbons twinkled in his living room, but Matthew thoroughly ignored it. It was a brand-new update to the room, ordered by the housekeeper, erected with the help of the security guard always posted at the gate, and haphazardly decorated by Matthew and Laure and their energetic three-year-old son. Laure had seen photos of flocked trees online, and decided to drench the sweet-smelling tree in crap Matthew thought looked like the stuff that comes out of a fire extinguisher. Not like snow, that’s for sure. But here in L.A., it’s not as if he had anything to compare it to anyway.

Matthew—Matt Beaumont to the public—sat in a Henredon armchair on the far side of the wide, sparse living room, elbows on his knees, face propped up on his fists. A fair line of stubble shadowed his square jaw. He didn’t let his eyes close even though it would have been a relief, and definitely didn’t let himself succumb to probing self-examination. She’d be home soon.

Matthew had been totally against getting a real Christmas tree here on the West Coast, but Laure had insisted that Davie would love it, and he definitely did. Laure and Davie had whirled like dervishes around the stately tree, wrapped themselves in the strings of lights, thrown tinsel at each other, and finally collapsed in a heap, smiling, Davie’s spindly arms clutched around his mother’s tiny waist. That was a good day.

Matthew had grown up in Nebraska, California’s opposite in almost every way. Each year, he’d cut down his own Christmas tree with his father and older brother, bringing it home and trimming it with plastic ornaments in the shapes of G.I. Joe, Darth Vader, and the Power Rangers.

In that climate, the tree could have lasted until May, but here in sunny California, their week-old tree was already beginning to brittle and break, sending pleasing wafts of smell through the house that even overtook the scent of Laure’s forest of Nest candles that constantly blinked from every surface. But for Matthew, all the smell meant to him was that the tree was quickly dying. He’d changed the air conditioning to hit a cold 63 degrees on the ground floor, told Flor not to change it back, and hoped it would be enough to preserve the tree at least until Christmas Day. It was already sagging from the weight of the glass ornaments, the gilded ribbons, the synthetic snow.

A buzzing on his left woke Matthew from his half-reverie, and with a jolt, he saw his wife’s name appear flashing on the shiny surface of his cellphone.

Laure,” he answered.

Just saying her name brought back a flood of memories for Matthew, and he saw them all far too vividly for his comfort: their catastrophic first meeting on a red carpet in Cannes, and their subsequent week-long affair in Paris that had begun the day after. Matthew can still remember the dappled light that filtered through the hotel’s lush white curtains in the morning, as he watched Laure’s chest rise and fall in her sleep. Was it really over four years ago?

They had spent their first Christmas together patting Laure’s swelling stomach, while she called it “ma chère” and Matthew “mon amour.” Every single syllable that rolled from her mouth was beautiful. When she smiled, tiny wisps of crow’s feet appeared at her green eyes, looking like some of her thick dark lashes had escaped. She was only more beautiful for her imperfections. For the dark roots in her honey-gold hair, for the way her tooth just left of center hung at a thirty-degree angle.

Laure, where are you.” Why the hell did you leave, Matthew thought.

Over the phone, Matthew heard Laure’s lilting voice, heavy with a French accent. “I’m fine. At my mother’s.” Matthew wondered if she was lying.

Laure, for her part, was not lying. She had taken refuge from Matthew two days ago, driving straight to her mother’s suburban L.A. home—the one Laure had bought for her aging mother so that they could all be closer: Laure, Claudette, and Davie. And Matthew.

Laure had bought the big white house with her modeling revenue, as well as Matthew’s seemingly bottomless television fortune, spawned by two hit sitcoms—one still on air, the other in syndication. So Claudette had moved from Savoy to Los Angeles, at least for the winters.

L.A. didn’t agree with Claudette, but then again, neither had her daughter when Claudette said she didn’t want to move. Yet here she was. Under the circumstances, Claudette understood it was probably the best thing.

Laure sat in her mother’s unlit, gleaming kitchen. Claudette never used the spacious room, even though it was stocked with top-of-the-line appliances. Laure tapped her long acrylic nails against the marble of the island, and her impeccably polished bare feet dangled from the bar stool. She was alone.

I’m fine. At my mother’s.” I needed a respite from the world, she thought but didn’t say. Your world.

You could have told me that before you just up and left,” he snarled. How dare you run away from our home and leave me here alone. You have responsibilities.

Laure heard everything that Matthew left unsaid, but how to explain to him, again, the tendency she had to break down? The only time she’d said the word, truly said it to him, he’d held her close and cradled her head against his chest. “I’ll protect you,” he’d said. “You’ll be fine. Everything will be all right.” And Laure had let herself be coddled and condescended to, fully knowing that nothing Matthew ever did would erase the word, unsaid, that always lay between them. Manic depression didn’t just go away. But she could.

How’s Davie?” I miss him, mon petit ange, my baby boy.

He’s asking for his mother.” His abandoning mother.

Laure squeezed her eyes closed in pain at the thought of her son calling for her. “I’ll be there in the morning,” she all but whispered. If I’m here in the morning.

There were no traces of Christmas in her mother’s cold, white home. There was no comfort without her mother’s presence, for she’d gone home to France for the holidays, eager to be with her sisters and her late husband’s family, and Laure had been just as eager to accompany her—until the episode.

Briefly, before Matthew talked her out of it, she’d thought of bringing Davie home to Savoy, let him see the village where his mother grew up, freckled and dowdy, until she’d grown into a lanky 5’9 one summer and had her entire world change during one visit to Paris. She’d bring her boy back to his roots, perhaps to sow a seed there.

And maybe, it would be like her modeling career hadn’t happened. Maybe she could erase the sickness there, and erase the torment she’d put Matthew through during three-odd years of marriage, when he’d wake up and never be sure who she’d be that day. After a while, he grew tired of guessing. Tired of being wrong. She saw it in his eyes—the impatience. She let her feelings go unsaid, her depression untreated.

Come home now, Laure,” Matthews voice was weary, but an edge ran through it. “This is where you belong.”

But is it? they both thought. It was the first time their minds had been totally in sync, but neither would ever know that.

Laure fell quiet, and so did Matthew. And for the second time, their thoughts aligned, but with very different images.

The word “home” triggered two very different realities for Matthew and Laure, and neither of them were set in bright Los Angeles. Matthew saw himself holding Davie’s hand through a windy, stone-cold Nebraska, to visit the graves of his father and older brother, and maybe even to cut down his own tree with his young son.

Laure, not twenty minutes away, dreamed of guiding little Davie through the cobblestones of a French village, teaching him the poetic, throaty language that still dominated her inner monologues, and letting her mother and aunts exclaim over his gentle beauty.

I don’t know where home is, Matthew.” Laure knew that this, at least, he would understand.

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We're Sarah and Kaitlyn, roommates from Milwaukee who started this blog to promote creativity and life.
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