In retrospect, it’s always so easy to see where things were wrong, to catch those little mistakes and stop the seams from bursting.
When you’re right in the middle, though, it’s almost never possible to be that wise.
Sophie thinks it might have started when Michael didn’t get the new job he was aiming for at the hospital. He had planned to stop working night shifts, but instead he got an even heavier burden at his current position and their weeks ended up more detached than before.
They’ve been leading parallel lives for a long time now and it wears you down after a while, let alone a couple of years which is how long Michael has been doing night shifts. In periods, when she’s been buried in work, too, they’ve barely seen each other.
Most days Michael takes care of the kids during the day, does the chores that need to be done and have fed and bathed the twins by the time Sophie gets back home. At the moment she’s back at University, having been asked to hold a series of lectures based on the books she’s spent the last years writing and researching and it’s as thrilling as it’s exhausting. She’s only been away from the world of academics for a short while, though it feels like a lifetime ago she walked those campus streets and had coffee with the professors that once taught her.
Because of this current workload, Michael is also the one to handle the majority of every little conflict in the house. He steers the boat all afternoon, when the kids come home from pre-school and are tired and full of new impressions and questions.
It’s a job Sophie truly misses and she feels chronically guilty for not being there even if she tries to make up for it by reading the kids to sleep at night.
She misses being at home with the kids but at the same time she knows now after having done it for a while, that she could never be a full-time mom. Once she might have thought that was her future but she knows better now. Her job is her favourite hobby and no matter how tiring it can be, it gives her energy all the same.
Still, she wouldn’t mind having another baby. Having a break, pressing the pause button; she wants to re-live that baby bubble all over again and dive into the chaos and coziness of it all.
She knows Michael agrees with her.
But that’s another issue in their lives at the moment – the lack of time and the lack of synchronicity.
He’s just fallen asleep by the time her alarm goes off and in the evenings, if he’s still at home, she’s too tired to be up for anything besides sleeping.
It feels sort of sad to see their lack of time together underlined by their attempts to have another baby. It comes into focus in a disheartening way and Sophie wonders when the two of them just sat down together, talking. Back when the twins were newborns, they would come up with lots of activities that involved sitting around all four of them, holding sleeping babies while the two of them could watch a DVD box or just discuss the future. It had felt like they were really close, despite having their hands full.
Now, it only feels like they’re becoming strangers to each other.
As long as Liv and Vincent are around, things work. They hold the family together without even knowing it and Sophie feels pangs of sadness when she thinks about that. No kid should have that responsibility, no kid should ever have to be the glue that keeps its parents together.
It’s not the way she planned it. Nothing is the way she wants it to be and it feels like she’s slowly losing control of it all.
It’s a poor excuse but possibly an explanation, she tells herself when she walks down the same old corridor at the same old faculty where things are surprisingly similar.
Perhaps certain things in our history are never really as distant as we’d like to think. Perhaps they’re what dragging us down, pulling us towards disaster when life opens up for it.
Those tiny cracks that will never go away.
“I heard you’re back,” she tells Dawson, rather stupidly because they both know she wouldn’t be in his office unless she knew that.
He smiles a little. “They say you never really abandon your alma mater.”
“How have you been?”
A few years ago it had felt like a clean, nice cut to say goodbye to him. She had done it without regrets and it had been the right move because it had given her Michael and their children.
Now, she’s standing here again and nothing feels the way it ought to.
“Good,” he says, casually but with an edge to his voice that tells her he doesn’t intend to talk about himself a lot. “And you’re doing well, I’ve heard. I read your latest book – very good job.”
You’re such a daddy’s girl, Opal teases in Sophie’s head. Eager to please.
“Thanks,” she replies, and yes, she’s flustered and proud and ashamed in equal measures and damn Opal.
They talk for what seems like a mere moment and forever at the same time, catching up on everything that’s been going on in their lives and their field of work since last time. Sophie talks a lot about history and about research; she doesn’t mention Michael and Dawson doesn’t ask. She knows he can see the ring on her finger, figures he would bring it up if he wished to know.
There’s something exciting and liberating in the fact that they don’t talk about her family. As though she’s been living in the shadow of it for a long time and now finally get to exist on her own again, as the person she is beyond the roles of mother and wife.
The second she thinks that, she feels bad about it. Having a family is her dream, it’s a big part of what she wants to do with her life.
So why does it feel so easy to slip into Dawson’s hug and why on earth does she tell him she’s missed him when she’s not even sure that’s true?
She hasn’t thought about him in a long time, let alone missed him.
But she misses something, and she misses it so much it seems to hollow out places inside her that are just waiting for something to fill them up. Anything, anyone.
“I’ll see you soon,” Dawson says before she leaves and Sophie knows he will.
* So this was the result of catching Sophie and Dawson flirting on a community lot. I thought it fit with the theme of not actually having any time with Michael, which is true. They had a meal together once during the time I played them and when Sophie tried to make out with him, he was too tired. Aw. I think she’s just really frustrated at the moment.