Demetria sat on the edge of her daughter’s twin bed, reading aloud from a wildly popular book about witches. The little girl, Kennedy, was enchanted. Not just by the words as they tumbled from her mother’s lips, but from the beauty of her mother’s voice as well. A faultless elocution, paused between scenes, to allow little Kennedy to run away into her own thoughts and her mother to sip from a glass of white wine.
Kennedy’s thoughts, in those stolen moments, aren’t ever about witches. They’re about her mom. Something is wrong with her but Kennedy has no idea what. All she knows is she’s not the same happy Mommy that Kennedy is used to. She is someone completely different. Not mean, most of the time, just different. She never sings anymore and it takes an awful lot of effort to make her smile these days. It’s weird. And it only seems to get worse when Daddy’s home.
“The witch tossed a pig’s eye in to the pot…” Demetria read aloud.
Both girls cried out “Ew!” in unison as Demetria flipped the page and a moment later they giggled because they discovered the pig’s eye was the last ingredient needed to turn that meanie Bertie Brown in to a wart covered frog. And that was the best news ever because Princess Isla likes frogs a lot more than she likes mean boys like Bertie Brown.
Demetria, who prefers to be called Demi, read the next two chapters and finished her glass of wine before closing the book and tucking Kennedy in to her bed for the night. Kennedy’s curly blond hair fanned out across her puffed pillow. Her stuffed rabbit’s ears peeked out beneath the pink top sheet. Both ladies were tired. It had been a long day.
“I’ll never need my own witch.” Kennedy whispered softly as Demi kissed her cheek.
“Oh? Why’s that?”
“I’ve got you!”
Demi softened and tickled Kennedy while chanting “Bippity Boppity Boo! I love you!”
Kennedy smiled big, rolled on her side and shut her tiny eyes.
All is quiet in the house. Another day has ended.
Demi switched off Kennedy’s end table light and opened the window blinds to let the light of the moon in to her daughter’s room. She turned to exit and that’s when she noticed him there. Leaning against the doorjamb. A satisfied look on his face.
“You’re so good with her.” he said.
“She’s easy peasy.” Demi poked her finger in to her husband’s belly and twisted it playfully as she walked by him. He followed her down the hall to the master suite.
“Kennedy is who she is because of who you are.” he said to Demi as she stood in front of a mirror removing her eye makeup with a washcloth. Demi turned to him, dirty washcloth in hand and stared at her husband. Realizing all at once that his compliment was coming from a deep place inside him, not cursory or casual, though the timing was suspicious.
“Is everything ok?” Demi asked her husband instead of thanking him. She went back to removing her makeup as he responded.
“Yes. Of course. You’re just – You’re a wonderful mother. I think you should know that.” he kissed the side of her head. A peck. Unnatural.
“Oh is that all?” Demi stepped away from him. She shut off the sink and tossed her dirty washcloth in a basket beneath the vanity before walking back in to their bedroom.
“I have to go to New York.” he said carefully.
“I knew it.”
Leaving is nothing new, it comes with the territory. Pick up any calendar in their house, yes they still use paper calendars, and you’ll see arrows stretching across weeks and weeks, every month of every year. He’s gone all the time.
“I thought you had a few days off?” Demi slid the calendar she kept on her dresser closer to the light. She was right. There were two days highlighted in pink. Kennedy’s favorite color. And blocked out just for her. Months ago. Today and tomorrow. Kennedy would be disappointed – again. But Demi wouldn’t let that show on her face. Ever the martyr. This is the life Demi agreed to when she said yes to Jared Leto. The life she picked out for her child that they waited four years to conceive. This was par for the course. Not entirely regrettably either.
“I had an opportunity come up – to speak at a…”
“Doesn’t matter what for. Just tell me the logistics.” Demi said shortly. “When are you leaving?”
Demi closed the lid on her little crystal jewelry box and disrobed in front of Jared. He watched her as she slid out of her day clothes and in to comfortable pajamas. He thought about going to his dresser, grabbing his flannel pajama pants and sliding into bed with Demi. Picking a book off his own night table and reading beside her, their legs intertwined until his eyes ached or the book ended, whichever happened first. But that wouldn’t happen tonight. His car would be here soon and he’d be at the airport next and it wouldn’t be until he was buckled in the first class cabin that he’d open his book and read until his eyes ached. No lover beside him.
“I’m sorry.” he offered while Demi smoothed lotion on her elbows.
She inhaled deeply and hesitated before replying “Don’t say that. Please.”
“What? Why not?” he asked.
“Because it’s not true.”
Jared walked over to Demi’s side of the bed and sat down next to her. “Yes it is. I never like leaving you two. You know that.”
“Just go. I don’t want to do this right now.” Demi stood up, grabbed the lotion and walked into the bathroom again.
“I’m trying to apologize for the last minute trip…what’s wrong?” Jared said following her.
Demi put the lotion on the sink, turned to him and said “I think, maybe, you should just stay away this time.”
“Jesus Christ you can’t be serious.”
“You heard me. Just stay away this time.”
“Oh, Demi.” Jared sighed. He was hurt by her words and quite shocked at what she said. Unexpected.
“I’m sick of you pretending that leaving is the hard part” She brushed past him, he grabbed her arm. “Just go.” she said. Her eyes on the floor, not his face.
Demi started to cry. She wiped away her tears with a swift flick of her fingers, betrayed by her weakness. She pulled her arm out of his grasp and retreated downstairs to the kitchen.
Jared’s phone buzzed in his pocket. He ignored it, knowing it’s probably the driver or his assistant and obviously his attention is more needed here in this moment than out there.
“Your car is out front.” Demi said curtly when he joined her in the dark kitchen. She was pouring another glass of white wine.
“I’m not leaving like this.”
“I told you to go.”
“No Demi. We have to talk.”
“Talk?” she laughed “Talk about what? All of this has been talked to death. And you still don’t get it. Actually, no, I know you get it. You just don’t give a shit.”
“That’s not fair.”
“Ok then Jared. Let’s talk….ok….I have a few things to say.” She paced on the kitchen tile. “Humph….where should I begin? What exactly should we talk about?”
Jared rested his palm on the kitchen counter. It was supposed to signify his presence and his patience. He anchored himself to the room.
Demi ranted at him with ire and gusto. Wine spilling out of her glass as she spoke volumes with her hands. “Should we talk about how important it is to keep your promises to your daughter? ….How about the damage you’re doing to her self-esteem every single time you break those promises? Or that you actually owe it to your daughter to keep the two days you promised her out of…God, what like…the last.. eighty…free?” Demi inhaled deeply, tears in her throat “Or maybe I should I tell you how lonely I am again? Because that always seems to work!”
She took a sip of her wine.
He said nothing.
“I’m fucking lonely!” she cried.
He still said nothing. But she stepped forward so she was face to face with him. Her voice softer.
“Kennedy misses you…we both…miss you.”
The car horn toot-tooted quickly out front. Clearly thats who keeps texting him. His phone wouldn’t stop buzzing while she spoke. “He’s going to wake up Kennedy.” Demi said referring to the driver. She backed away from Jared. A wall building back up quickly.
“I’m going to send him away. Give me a second.” he pulled his phone from his pocket but Demi put her hand over his so he wouldn’t type the text message.
“I’m not leaving. Not like this. I’m going to cancel.”
“Go ahead and cancel. The damage is already done.”
“Kennedy doesn’t know. I’ll take her somewhere special tomorrow. It was a mistake to book the talk. You’re right.”
“But I know.”
“I can’t win, can I?”
“Really? You’re going to turn this around on me now?”
“This is how I make us money.” Jared said defensively. “It’s very good money for just a sixty minute talk.”
“No. This is how you make yourself money. We don’t need any more money. When is enough going to be enough?”
Jared looked down at his hands. Demi is right. To a degree. Enough will never be enough for him. Their portfolios are very well invested. Beyond financially stable. He doesn’t need another booking. But it’s not that. Never is.
He gets restless at home. Even if just for a few days. His feet itch and his soul begs to be elsewhere. Anywhere but here. Not because he doesn’t love his girls. He loves them more than he ever thought possible. But because that’s how he keeps his blood flowing. He’s a gypsy. Nomadic. A wanderer. And he thought she understood. And maybe she did, for a little while. Clearly there was a tipping point. Probably his fault.
If he’s being honest, he’s known for a long time that Demi is unhappy. He has chosen to ignore the signs she’s posting all along his self-paved, long and winding road. He doesn’t yield to her warnings. He doesn’t want to. She stopped calling him while he’s out on the road a year ago. And now she doesn’t even rise from her chair to greet him when he comes home after weeks abroad. Only warming to him after a glass of wine and a look on Kennedy’s face softens her anger. He sees her. He knows whats up.
When they make love, it feels like this will be the last time most times. Sometimes she cries. After, he feels guilty for making Demi feel so horrible. He tells himself this is where he belongs. That he’s hurting his wife. That life on the road isn’t what will ultimately satisfy him. It’s this woman here, and their child in the bedroom at the end of the hall that matter.
And he convinces himself once again, for a moment, that these four walls aren’t going to close in on him if he takes Kennedy for a splash in the pool instead of getting in one more email. And he’ll make promises to himself and silently to the girls that this summer, or winter, or next spring he’ll take off and just be home with them for a few months, before Kennedy starts school. They’ll rekindle everything. It’ll be good for the family unit he says to himself.
And then his mind will start making plans and he will feel good about himself and what he’s going to do someday soon. In the future. His plans will include taking the girls on a trip – to Greece or to Poland and he’ll think about Russia and he’ll remember the band is white-hot there and he’ll make a note on his pad to see if they could fit a short tour while he’s over there already – 4 weeks – touring Russia in the Fall, perhaps. And he’ll put that on the calendar instead of a date with Kennedy. And the moon will rotate around the earth and the sun will rise and he’ll forget all about his promises and instead will tweet a teaser to his fans. A tweet that Demi will see before he’s said a word to her. And the damage will be done, yet again. Because there will be no family trip. Instead, there will be another tour.
“I’m a bad Father.” he declared.
“No. You’re an amazing Father. When you’re here.”
“My priorities are fucked.”
“Yes, they are. But you’re not going to fix this tonight. So you should go on your little adventure…”
After all that and with all the smarts this man possesses, he still somehow took the bait. Hook, line and sinker. Fleeing to the idling town car after she absolved him of his sins. And he fucking left. Again. That idiot.