“Mom broke up with Luke,” Elysia says. She doesn’t call him “dad,” or “daddy,” or anything else a child typically calls a father. Why would she?
“Shut up, Elly,” Luna grumbles, “you big fat liar.” It’s true—Elysia was prone to lying, but she made sure to weave in the occasional truth.
The girls are trying to complete their homework last minute after a wild weekend of tag and pillow fights. As usual, Solaris finished his homework at lightning speed, leaving the Luna and Elysia to work on their own. He doesn’t offer any help as they struggle.
“Really, they broke up,” Elysia insists. They hardly ever see their father anyway, but she feels like Solaris and Luna should be taking this more seriously. Their parents are no longer together—they should probably get busy developing psychological scars or something.
Solaris sits down at the table, having retrieved a book. He often speeds through his homework just so he can read. Science fiction is his favorite.
“Yeah,” she sneers at Luna, “I know these sorts of things.”
She speaks the truth. Luke had indeed come to the house several nights after his encounter with Crux.
“I’m surprised you’re alone,” Luke retorts, “Or is that pussy hiding inside?” Polaris snaps—she’s in no mood for this.
“Polly, I didn’t mean—“ Polaris interrupts him, making a cutting motion with her hand. He winces. He’s suddenly ashamed of his behavior.
“Meanwhile, you leave behind three gorgeous, brilliant, thriving children,” she continues, “all so you can live out some pathetic fantasy. You chose fame over your children.” She leaves out the fact that the school regularly calls, complaining that Elysia won’t stop bullying some of the other students and Luna won’t stop biting her sister. She’s sure fame has its downsides, too, but she doesn’t want to devalue her children.
“I sent back money—I took care of you,” he protests. His makes the claim in earnest.
“Great care. I’m sure the kids think to themselves, ‘well, dad isn’t around, but at least we have a bitchin’ house,’” her words drip with sarcasm, “grow up, Luke. Money isn’t a relationship.”
“Polly, you’re being unfair. I’ve tried, really hard. I’ve provided a home for you and the kids, and I love them…and you.”
“You’re missing the point. You don’t trust me, and I’m only part of, what? A third of your life? I deserve better.”
“And what, he’s better? Who is he,” Luke asks pleadingly, “I need to know.” He feels pathetic for asking, but he has to know, if only for masochistic reasons.
whether you realize it or not. You don’t get to ask questions like that. Leave.” Luke turns around to leave, half-fuming, half-embarrassed. As he walks down the pathway, she calls out to him.
“You’ve decided not to be a part of my life…” she hesitates, “but don’t cut your children out of your life.” He nods sullenly.
I would like to visit you tonight. Please respond in the affirmative soon.
She responded with two words: Sounds good.
“I know you’ve seen rain before, Crux,”
“You seem to be in a good mood,” she remarks.
“Oh yes,” he says enthusiastically, “very much. Did you know there is a building in which you can access books and other forms of knowledge? For free! No requirements, except a little plastic card. Lyra took me there.”
“She took you to the library?” Polaris feels a stab of jealously.
“I am afraid that is why I have not communicated with you,” he explains sheepishly, “that, and I decided I should maintain radio silence for a prudent period of time.”
“That…makes perfect sense, actually,” she says. Her feelings had been hurt for no reason. He was just being a cautious nerd with a library card. “Come in,” she gestures to him.
“Thanks,” Polaris can’t help but feel that he’s forcing the compliment. He seems to discern the doubt on her face.
“I am being genuine. The home Lyra chose for us is not as colorful. It is quite drab, in fact. I appreciate the liveliness of your home,” he explains. Polaris feels another jealous pang at Lyra’s name. Stop that, she tells herself.
“Are your children home? May I meet them?” It’s a stiff request—again, Polaris thinks he’s forcing it.
“Not tonight. Uh, I asked them to stay in their room. To give us time to talk.” They stand awkwardly for a moment.
“Shall we sit?” Crux politely suggests. He has been reading etiquette books at the library, but so far they haven’t told him how he’s supposed to interact with an estranged lover who’s your accessory to treason.
“Oh, yeah. Of course,” she leads him into the tiny living room.
They sit in silence. Crux shifts his weight.
“I said nothing, Polaris.”
“Hmm,” Crux clears his throat.
Polaris sighs and turns to him. “This is really awkward, isn’t it?”
“Quite,” he admits.
“I’m going to get us some drinks,” she hurries to the kitchen and returns with wine and booze. It doesn’t take them long to drink a couple of glasses of wine, and a couple of beers. Soon, Polaris is reclining—alcohol always relaxes her, with the exception of Big Mistakes.
“Do you like your drink?” Polaris is unsure he’s even had a beer before.
“It is adequate. It is not the type Lyra purchases,” he replies.
“Does Lyra make all your life choices for you?” The question comes out bitchier than she meant.
“She is helping me adjust,” he shrugs. She helps him adjust…Polaris’ mind runs with dirty images.
“And how are you adjusting?”
Crux takes a swig. “Well, I suppose. I have been in Simnation for months. Not having to move around is pleasant.”
“Say, you were going to tell me about your adventure,” Polaris has been curious about how he ended up in Lucky Palms. Suddenly Crux chugs the rest of his beer and wipes his mouth.
“Polaris,” he takes a deep breath, “Can we please talk about how you copulated with another man?”
“Oh,” Polaris says, unsure of what to say. Crux groans and slides off the couch onto the floor.
“I would just like to talk about it, please,” Crux pleads. He looks miserably at the ceiling. Polaris has never seen him act so pitiful before.
“Yeah, well. Shit. Yeah, I guess we have to talk about that,” Polaris feels like an idiot.
“I’m sorry,” she barely squeaks it out, “but…”
“But I was under the impression you and I were over. When we started our mission, you said we couldn’t continue.”
“Yes, but I did not think all of this would happen,” he replies, “I thought I was acting in your best interest.”
“You were,” she agrees, “acting in our best interest. But I had an opportunity to do something new. I thought I was unattached, and I stupidly thought I wouldn’t get caught. Most of all, I never thought it would hurt you.”
“Why would it not?”
“Are you serious? You ended our relationship and became the Commander’s lapdog. And again, I stupidly thought you wouldn't find out.”
“I suppose it would seem that way, as if I was a pet of the Commander's,” Crux says, “I did not understand why you were so taken with that rake at the time. Now, I see the allure of freedom, of experimentation. It’s enticing. I've had many impulses I wouldn't even think of on Alcyone. However, I still feel atrocious.”
“So you’re saying you understand why I did it, but you still feel terrible?”
Polaris leans forward and looks him in the eyes.
“That’s how I feel, too,” she admits, “Luke was a stupid mistake. He’s charismatic, that’s for sure, but not a good fit for me. The only good thing that came out that mess was the triplets.”
“He made you happy,” Crux says, “I saw many of your interactions. I doubt I ever made you that happy.”
Polaris blushes. She’s not quite sure which interactions he means, but a certain one springs to mind.
“Happy, yes. On a small scale. He’s also made me very angry, and depressed, and lonely.”
Crux looks back up at her. He doesn’t move her hand.
“I have missed you, Polaris. That is the most puzzling part. I can miss you and be incensed at the same time.”
And dramatic, she thinks. “I’ve missed you, too, Crux.”
It feels surreal. She leans forward, ready to kiss him until she looks into his eyes. They seem distant, blurry. He’s drunk, she thinks. She’s a little surprised. Other than his emotional outburst, he doesn’t seem drunk.
“We’ve been drinking,” she says, “I don’t want to cheapen the moment.” She stands up and pulls him off the ground and walks him to the door.
“I did not mean to intrude on your hospitality,” Crux says.
“You didn’t. I just don’t want you to regret it tomorrow.” They step out onto the front porch.
“I would like that. Please let me know you got home safely.” With an awkward wave, he leaves.
"Fidelity," Regina Spektor
I feel like this chapter is a little boring compared the last, but I just felt like I had to get in some drama. I hope it was worth the wait. ;)