I don't know if I've ever felt as uncomfortable during my time since first visiting the Inn as I did this past Saturday night, when we hosted Samantha and her little girl Meadow for dinner. Even when I was Lauren - beauty pageants, prom, awkward advances from older guys - don't quite compare.
On the one side, there's the kids, sitting and laughing and enjoying the meal - and getting up as quickly as possible to watch a movie on Netflix afterward. Something about Meadow brings out the girlier side of Dylan, the "Olivia" persona... he seems a bit more sweet, if mischievous as ever. The only really Dylan-like thing was when Meadow mentioned problems she was having with a boy at school who was bugging her. Dylan's advice was to "kick him in the dick," which caused Kitty face to glow bright red with embarrassment as he scolded her: "Such language!" I had to stifle a laugh, because it broke the tension in the room. And I was relieved to see Samantha also found it funny, rather than a marker of how "unruly" our kid is. (Meadow, for her part, was somewhat scandalized since she only has the vaguest idea of what that means but knows it's taboo.)
Kitty was in rare form all through the day, re-cleaning areas I'd already been through and bossing me around to make sure the place was presentable for her new BFF. I resented that - I may not be naturally domestic but I like to think I keep a pretty clean house (and I've been working at a party-planning agency for nearly 6 months!) Let me cook, and you can play the good host.
I just hate being in character around people with Kitty. I hate having to look at him like he's my adoring husband, and respond to his condescending "Juidth..."'s. I can be with people who don't know I'm me, but somehow it feels like such a lie when we're doing this together.
It doesn't help the fact that I have come to dislike Samantha for no discernible reason. Something about the way she has become a presence in Kitty's life feels like an intrusion. She's not a bad person and God help me we get along pretty well when I can put my irrational feelings aside. But it feels like her mere existence is a total disruption to our little setup.
Watching the two of them for an evening... the way they hang on each other's every word, snicker at their little jokes, and even get shockingly close, I felt my suspicions about Kitty's interest in Samantha confirmed.
After dinner, and a few games, Sam and Meadow went home. Dylan crashed hard, as he tends to do. We started to clean up, and I took a deep breath and started a speech I had tried to write in my head...
"You know..." I said, "If you want to, you can."
He stood up and looked at me in puzzlement. "If I want to what?"
"If you want to... with Samantha. Anything. Whatever you want. I'm... I'm cool with it. It makes sense."
He furrowed his brow. "We're just friends."
"Come on, Kit," I said, "I can see it's more than that. And I'd be a real asshole to stand in your way. She's fun, she's beautiful, she's young. We'll... I don't know, we'll say that you and I are splitting up. Separating. Amicably. You have my blessing."
"Jude-- Tyler, this is crazy talk," he said. "I don't have feelings for Samantha."
"Come on!" I huffed. "There's no point in--"
"I don't." he interrupted firmly. I could see he was getting hot behind the ears, and it was different from the usual irritation he expresses when we differ on what to have for dinner or decorate the living room. "Samantha is a wonderful woman, and I hope she finds happiness, but... she's not the one I want to be with."
I stood across the room, arms folded under my breasts. Suddenly I felt like the floor was going to drop out as soon as he continued saying what he was saying.
"I'm in love with you, Tyler."
"Kitty..." I started to say, but I honestly had no idea how to respond.
He went on. "I know, you don't think of me. I'm a no-fun old lady in a pudgy man's body."
"Not that" pudgy," I tried to re-assure, I guess a bit inappropriately.
"I know you thought that changing this way would be the end of us, and I wondered myself, but my feelings have only grown. I love seeing you parenting Dylan. I love coming home to you at night, going to bed with you. I know you're not really my spouse, but you're my partner. I love your cooking, I love the way you hum to yourself... I love your sense of humor even though I don't get half of it. I started to love you back in Wisconsin and I can't deny it. I'm sorry if that's inconvenient for you."
I felt a heavy weight in my chest.
I went over and wrapped my arms around him. I was shaking. Confused, exhausted, hot tears streaked my cheeks and I didn't know why.
"Can you just give me some time?" I asked. "Maybe we can do this for real... maybe. I just still don't feel ready."
"How long do you need?" he asked.
"I don't know. Honestly, I was hoping just not to think about this stuff again until our next lives. I'm just not ready right now. I'm sorry."
"It's okay," he said warmly. "We can wait."
The situation between me and Kitty is still so complicated, and I've got my own issues to work through, so who knows what the future holds. I have a lot of reservations toward pursuing any kind of relationship with anyone, let alone her. But I'd be lying if I said it wasn't moving to hear all that. It's flattering, heartening, wonderful just to be told that someone feels that way about you, even if you're honestly not sure, at the end of the day, if you feel the same way. If it's fair to pretend like you do. Or if maybe you just care enough about them to go along with it because it's kinder.