Yet the temptation to take care of her was strong in him, Clymer worried, probably because he had been good at it for so long.
Both of them had married to escape their families, and for a certain time the challenges of establishing their own home had absorbed and excited them. But once their lives together had settled into routine, Clymer found that he really didn't care for Holly that much. He cared about her, and was determined to make good on his promises to her, but she was childish without the child's redeeming curiosity, and with the second pregnancy Clymer had felt his life closing down. It was as if their marriage had taken on a kind of separate existence, Clymer would think, like a relative in a nursing home to take care of.
He began stepping out then, mostly with customers he met at the dealership, but the conditions imposed by these complicated people almost totally overwhelmed Clymer, for not one of them had a life less constrained than his own. All of them had children, that was probably the worst of it, none of them had a moment of unbudgeted time, all of them worried about their health and weight and child support, their jobs, their parents, their looks, their bills, and not one of them was that interested in enjoying herself. They had enjoyed themselves before, they said. They didn't need him for that. It gave Clymer pause, it made him think, but just when Holly had begun once again to seem possible to him, she'd sat him down one night after the kids were in bed to tell him that she had been talking to a lawyer and as painful as it was to tell him this, there really wasn't anything to talk about. She was bored, she was unhappy, she felt chumped, and she wanted out. She was sorry, she said, but also she wasn't, and for once Clymer had understood her completely.
They had been divorced now in this ludicrous way for almost two years, and as far as Clymer could tell they might have saved themselves the trouble. The real question was why they had ever married each other. They might have married anyone, as far as Clymer could see, but each time this occurred to him, it felt to Clymer as if his head was splitting open.
"They'll be out in a minute," Holly said. "You want some coffee? You look tired."
"No, I have to go."
She was the one who looked tired, though. Her eyebrows seemed lower, as if they were dragging at her forehead.
"Have a coffee. You'll tuck them in."
"I can't, Holly. I have to be someplace."
He watched her slip a fresh filter into the coffee machine.
"Holly, I have to go," I said.
"Just a second." She was spooning coffee into the filter.
"Ray, I'm counting here. Where was I?"
"Holly, listen to me. I'm going now."
"But you said you would tuck them in bed."
"But I can't tonight. I have to go someplace."
Holly was shaking her head at him. "Let me get their pajamas on."
On her way out of the kitchen she turned on the coffee machine. "You two better be clean now," she warned them. "I'm not fooling with you this time."
And the funny thing was that the whole thing had been Holly's idea in the first place. She saw it as another chance for herself, like the years had never happened to them. She wanted to laugh again, she said, to get some fun out of her stupid life. The idea of romance with new people was frightening to her, but she would be single after all. It was an adventure she had not known. She would come and go as she pleased, she said.
At least that was the idea of it. But how could she be single if she didn't even believe she wasn't married anymore? If she wasn't his wife, then what was she, she would ask.
They had been too young when they married, Clymer knew now. The marriage had challenged them but at the same time it protected them. They had always known what they had to do. That was the wonderful thing about marriage, Clymer had realized. That's what made it so terrible.