Ish shook his head and stared at Tiffany. The couple recently arrived home from attending the wedding of Tiffany’s childhood friend, Serena, who married her boyfriend Mark after dating for just over a year. Most people thought it was too quick for marriage, but Tiffany thought it was romantic. She believed Mark swept Serena off her feet and their whirlwind romance was something out of a fairy tale. Ish heard it all before; had he not been married to Tiffany, he would’ve thought she was in love with Mark. However, he realized she was in love with their story, their fairy tale. It was the one thing he felt he couldn’t offer Tiff, that storybook romance.
There’s had been anything but and he felt Tiffany resented him for that, so when he sat on the couch, looking at her in her matron of honor dress, he said the most romantic thing that came to mind.
“Imagine if we could go back to before we met?”
“You would want that?”
“Yes. I would be able to fall in love with you all over again.”
“What’s that about? That umm.”
“I’m just saying, you might want to change some things.”
“Change some things? Like what?”
“I don’t know. Things.”
“I wouldn’t change anything about it. We’ve been married two years, had three great years of dating before that. I wouldn’t change anything.”
“Umm. You should want to.”
“Should I? What would you change?”
“I didn’t say I should change anything, I said you should want to change some things.”
“Change some things like what Tiffany?”
“Please unbutton me so I can get out of this ugly dress and take a shower.”
She turned her back to him and lifted her hair to reveal the tiny button at the base of her neck, but Ish made no movement, he sat staring at the back of her head.
“Some things like what Tiffany?”
“You really want to do this now?”
“Yes, I do.”
She exhaled deeply and turned towards him, much faster than she expected, feeling each one of the seven rum & cokes she drank during the reception. Add to those the champagne from the three toasts and whatever it was the bridesmaids and bride drank while dressing and she realized she was drunk. Drunk enough to have the conversation she’s been trying not to have for most of her relationship with Ish.
“Yes, Ish. There are a few things you should want to change. Like, waiting three years before you decided you were ready to marry me. Having to take a paternity test six months into our relationship to see if Sierra was really your daughter. The fact that we’re living in an apartment because we can’t save enough money to buy a house because you have to pay child support.”
It was out. Finally. Tiffany felt a sense of relief that all the resentment she’d been feeling over the years has finally been released. On the other end of the couch, Ish felt like he’d been kicked in the stomach. What he heard was that Tiffany resented his daughter and that his support of her was keeping them in the apartment they shared. He knew Tiffany adored Sierra, at least he thought she did before this conversation. Now, he second-thought the affection she showered the little girl with and just about every moment of their relationship seemed like a lie to him at this moment.
He didn’t know what to say. He knew he had to say something, but didn’t want his anger to dictate what and how it came out.
“So...” he began. He stopped to gather himself before continuing, “You blame Sierra for the fact that we’re living in an apartment and haven’t bought a house yet? You think I took too long to marry you? Why are you just telling me all of this now?”
Realizing that she really hurt Ish, she moved closer towards him, but he backed further into the corner of the couch he occupied. She stopped a quarter of the way to him, folded one leg beneath the other and adjusted her hair.
“No, that’s not what I meant.”
“That’s how it came out.”
“Let me explain.”
“What I mean is, yes, I would’ve loved to have gotten married a lot sooner in our relationship. Each year we’ve been together has been great, I just wish sometimes we didn’t wait so long to get married.”
“Do you also wish you didn’t cheat on me with that dude from work?”
“That’s not fair Ish!”
“No, what’s not fair is you saying that my daughter is keeping us from having a house or how I should’ve married you twenty minutes after meeting you.”
“Stop putting words in my mouth Ish.”
“If we got married that first year or two, would you have cheated on your husband?”
“I don’t want to talk about that no more Ish.”
“We can’t talk about it because you don’t want to talk about it. However, in the back of my mind, I still wonder if you’ll cheat on me again.”
Tiffany opened her mouth, but nothing came out. It was true, a little over a year after she and Ish became a couple, she had cheated on him with Michael, a co-worker. It began as a drunken mistake but turned into something a little more, something that she came clean to Ish about when he confronted her. They agreed to stay together, work through it, much like the drama a year earlier when Ish’s ex-girlfriend called to say she had given birth to his daughter. It was a shock to Ish. To Tiffany. The breakup between Ish and Tanesha had been bad, but he couldn’t understand why she would keep her pregnancy from him. Unless there was a chance that the baby wasn’t his. He demanded a paternity test and she countered by filing for child support. The acrimony between the two grew in the coming weeks, but once the results were in, Ish focused on being a father for his daughter and agreed to accept the $700 monthly support request Tanesha filed.
It was true that losing $700 from the household made things difficult initially, but it was a small price to pay for Ish. He had joint custody of Sierra, unlimited visitation and the relationship between him and her mother had improved. Well, they were at least cordial to one another for the sake of their daughter. Tanesha even approved of Tiffany spending time with Sierra and the two women seemingly got along well.
However, not long after Ish became a devoted father, Tiffany began to feel a distance between the two of them. It was in this space, that she found herself having drinks with Michael twice a week after week. It didn’t take long for drinks at a bar near the office to turn into drinks at his place three or four times a week. The time Ish was spending with Sierra turned into the time she spent with Michael.
“Yes, I still think of that. Obviously, the same way you wish I wasn’t paying $700 a month for Sierra and was spending it on repairing your bad ass credit. You blame my child support for our not having a house, but never once mention that your credit score is like 530.”
“I have been working on paying my bills. Don’t try to act like I’m the blame.”
“We could’ve had a house three years ago, but you wanted a $30,000 wedding.”
“Now marrying me was a problem?”
“No, I’m saying we didn’t have to spend so much on our wedding. We could’ve spent a third of that and bought a house, but that wasn’t good enough for you.”
“I’ve compromised on so much in this relationship. I refused to compromise on the wedding I’ve always wanted. I deserved.”
“Yes, I deserved that wedding. All my life I waited to get married and you made me wait so long, put me through so much. I was definitely getting the wedding I deserved.”
“What exactly did I put you through? Really. What did I put you through?”
Tiffany retreated into her corner of the couch. She drew both knees into her chest and fought back tears. She reached both hands to the back of her and undid the button on her dress. The conversation had gone too far and Ish was speaking truths she was unprepared to hear. In the years prior to her relationship with Ish, she had accumulated enormous credit card bills, had a car repossessed and none of that compared to her student loan debt. However, Ish paid most of the bills and allowed her to work on repairing her finances. It was a huge sacrifice for him; to add to the rent, utilities, and his own car note, there was his child support, Sierra’s daycare and dance tuition, which he split with Tanesha. The two of them also discussed enrolling her in private school the following fall, a thought which weighed heavily on his mind.
“You don’t have an answer?”
Tiffany only shrugged.
“Funny, you had all the answers a few minutes ago. Now you have nothing to say.”
“I love you.”
“I love you too. But, your priorities are all over the place. Far away from the two people on this couch, far away from this marriage. Your priority is you and only you. I’ve known that for a long time, but tonight confirmed it all for me.”
“What are you saying?”
“I’m saying that you’re selfish. Selfish. Inconsiderate.”
“I get it. I’m a bad person.”
“No. You’re not allowed to do that. You’re not the victim here.”
“I never said I was a victim. If I’m all those things, why are you with me? I’m selfish, a cheater, I don’t care about anyone but myself, yet, you’re still here.”
“I’m asking myself that same question right now.”
Before Ish could answer the doorbell rang. The two of them looked at one another and then Ish got up to answer the door. She scurried towards the bedroom, holding her dress up to cover her breasts and looked out from the door as Ish opened it to reveal her friend Chantel’s obviously drunk face.
“You guys left so early, I had to take an Uber to get here. Remember you said I could sleep on your couch tonight?”
Ish and Tiffany both glanced towards the couch and thought of all that was said in the space where Chantel would sleep that night.