When We Were Beautiful


4:41 P.M.

Nineteen minutes left of their weekend together. Friday at 5 p.m. to Sunday at 5 p.m. every weekend of every month for the past two years. It'd been the first thing they'd agreed upon in the divorce proceedings. Right from the start the kids would be their last united stance, a judge could separate their belongings, their money and whatever else divorced people fought over but no court would tell them how to raise their kids. It'd been their first agreement, their last joint effort and it'd been a good one. Three days a week, David had wanted more but she was practical, more level headed than he ever was and she'd been right, the kids shouldn't be uprooted in the middle of the school week. So his three days, more like two really, were what he had and the three of them made the best of it. He was pretty good at that actually. When a man lost his wife and in a way his children he had to get really good at making the best of what was left. His 'what was left' was pretty damn non-existent without her but day after day he scrapped together the fragmented pieces of his life and just tried to make it through.

4:43 P.M.

Glancing down at the clock on his dashboard, David waited as the late Sunday afternoon traffic subsided before turning down Breechwood Avenue in his 2007 Ford Expedition. Just 17 more minutes before he'd have to say goodbye. He took a quick look to the right of him and in the rear view mirror toward the back seat and noticed they'd been pretty quiet the entire car ride. Every Sunday at around this time he wasn't exactly sure what to expect, sometimes they'd sit quietly as they did now; too counting down the waning minutes and other times they'd fill the space with noise.

Harper, to the right of him, in her preteen quest to be on top of all things current in the music world would have her hand glued to the radio dial, singing off tune and nagging him on his need for XM radio. And Jack, seated in the back would pepper him with nonstop questions, well in between trading barbs with his older sister. And those times, those times of loud music and even louder voices talking over loud music David wondered if in their childlike innocence were they trying to distract themselves from their upcoming separation. But loud or quiet, he did whatever they needed, if they chose silence he'd count down the minutes quietly in his head, if they needed noise he'd turn up the radio just a little louder, it was all about them. It should have always been about them, why didn't he get that sooner?