True love. The dates. The first kiss. The proposal. The Wedding. All creating a magical happily ever after. Well, that is what everyone is told growing up isn’t it? Sometimes personal experiences change the expectations of this. If your parents had a healthy relationship, how past dates treated you, if you have good communication with your eventual possible spouse. Not to mention even the media consumed can set expectations, often unrealistic ones. After all, how many people have sworn they wished they could have someone do those rom com scenes that in real life come off really creepy and stalkerish?
Regardless, many people get married every day. Some made it, some didn’t. Often such unions started with such love and hope for the future. A bright path for the lovely couple to take.Of course things never went to plan for anyone. People, jobs, times, they all change. And each time a change comes, there are older members of the married community that have their own comments to make. Like the ones August was getting now as she and the other librarians cleaned up after a long day.
“I’m just saying, the honeymoon ended and now you just deal with the fact you have a sperm donor living with you like a third child.” The 60-year-old branch manager went on as she had for the last 5 minutes. “Even worse now that he is just a jobless bum.”
August was suppressing a sigh. It had taken years for her to get used to not saying what she really thought. It was hard work making sure she maintained proper eye contact and facial expressions and tone all day long. She had to watch herself with her job and boss. Lest she get another write up. Two years and a lot of tears since the last one. She was proud of herself but hated it at the same time.
And yet Brook got to call someone else’s husband a sperm donor with no repercussions. Small town and senior privilege she supposed.
“We’re doing fine, Brook. Honest.” She squatted down on the children’s chair to straighten up the picture books. “And he’s not jobless. He’s doing freelance work and working on his novel.”
“Yeah sure he is…”
At 38, August was the youngest full timer working. Truly, she was the youngest if you counted half the part timers as well. With the library being in a small town, most people didn’t want to transfer to the branch. Not just a small town, a small town outside of the Dallas Fort Worth area so small they forgot it existed. The town of Where, Texas. If you tried to google it you tended to just get a map of the state. This meant you didn’t have a lot of younger folks moving in and the ones that thought about coming often got annoyed by the long-time workers of the government owned buildings. August didn’t blame them, if she hadn’t been trying to find work in the area back during the hiring freeze she probably wouldn’t have come either. Being the youngest meant she’d outlast most of the staff. August might even make it to branch manager one day if she wanted. In the meantime, it also meant they treated her like one of their own children.
The adult reference librarian, Sloan, put her hand on her hip. Waving a book around. “And when was the last time he took you to some place fancy for dinner? Or to a movie.”
August slowly got up from her chair on the floor. Her knee was acting up. She was wishing she hadn’t left her cane in the car again. And for that matter was wishing she had known why Sloan cared so much in the first place. “We haven’t gone out in a while but-“
Sloan rolled her eyes. “Men! They never think to ask us out after we have kids. You know, I bought a dress 5 months ago and hid it in the closet. For whenever he asked me out next.”
August stood there awkwardly. She knew she was expected to pay attention to this nonsense. It was incredibly obvious what was coming, like a train heading for a car on the tracks
Brook acted like she didn’t. “When did you get to wear it?”
“Last week. He said, ‘let’s go out tonight!’ and I went to change. When I came down, I made sure to get his attention.” The 58-year-old pretended to saunter down her stairs.
Ok, here was a spot August could react to at least. “Did he like it?”
“Oh he loved it. He said I looked stunning and asked when I got it.”
August couldn’t stand this part. The payback that the husband ‘earned’ it was more heart wrenching each time she heard these old biddies do this.
“So I told him, ‘Oh… I bought it back last March. For the next time you asked me out on a date.’ His face just dropped, and he went ‘oh’.” The cackling that came out of the two rang in August’s ears as she started walking away to pretend she was turning off the computers.
August couldn’t understand these women. Sloan literally punished the man for doing the thing she wanted. Working in the library, they all had odd hours. Sometimes having to be in as early as seven after being there until ten at night the prior shift. Their husbands worked for fancy corporations in a nearby city with a long commute, a few as long as an hour and fifteen one way. The normal for anyone living outside a city in Texas. So of course they didn’t go out as much.
Granted her husband, Beau, didn’t have that issue but kids and everything played a part too. Kids had play dates when they were little and sports and dance as they got older. You wanted to make sure you had some time with them and if that wasn’t enough, you needed to make certain that you actually spent time with your own kids. Not to mention the chores, the bills, and all the little things that came with, well, being an adult.
While lost in thought, a hand suddenly appeared on August’s shoulder making her jump out of her skin. Brook’s face dripped with annoyance. “August! You didn’t answer me.”
“Oh sorry, I was double checking some connections. The kids were complaining earlier the screen was acting odd.”
“Again? Tsk.” Brook poked the cords, nearly knocking over a monitor in the process. “Make sure to put the cords on order. And stop focusing on your love life so much. I want us to leave on time tonight.”
August nodded a little as Brook headed off. Brook was the one projecting doom and gloom onto her marriage just because Brook’s own was doing so poorly. The other older women all seemed like they had their problems they just wanted to put on everyone else. When August first arrived 15 years prior she had dealt with similar comments about how Beau would stop trying so hard. Swearing it’d go away in a month or two after the wedding. Instead she seemed to annoy them all when it hadn’t and August had mostly nice things to say. But every time she brought up something good she got buried in more nasty insults and doomed predictions. So… August slowly stopped sharing things from her love life lest Sloan or Brook in particular attacked her for it.
As she shifted in her slacks and itchy cape top blouse the other women insisted she had to have to look… What did they say? More professional at work considering her plump shape, August couldn’t help but feel like she let these women have too much to say about her life at times. Her clothes, how she did things… all altered because the ones who had been here longer nagged her and then made excuses to write her up. She was already seeing the signs they were going to write her up or call in mediation because she wouldn’t socialize more than needed. They had even hinted she couldn’t get a promotion unless she was willing to hang out with them.
She paused at one screen looking at her reflection, slight wrinkles that came with age and stress showing. She’d like to pretend the silver came from working with those women, but it was normal in her family to go silver and gray early in life. The wrinkles were from the stress. The same stress that left her too exhausted to do anything at home.
Well… pain from the car accident didn’t help, did it? Sure she could do her job, and was a hit at story time and with the teens. But at the end of the day August found herself so drained she barely talked for an hour after getting home. That was one of the big reasons it felt like there wasn’t any romance going on at home now. She loved Beau deeply, and August was pretty sure he still felt the same but… if she didn’t do her part in keeping the romance, would that love last?
Or would she become a clone of her awful coworkers?