Summer 2011: Arthur and Marie Heredon are 27, John Heredon is 31, Rachel Heredon is 30, Joaquin Valdez is 29, Gabriela Valdez is 26, Nicolas Heredon is 7, A.J and Frederic Heredon are 5, and Nadia and Maribel Valdez and Sarah Heredon are 3.

Soundtrack: “I’ll Be Waiting” by Adele

Warning: A bit of simulated nudity and 2,500 words.

She never tells Gabriela that they still have this. She never tells her that she never worries whether he wants or needs her because every night when he creeps into bed, it’s like a storm sweeping her up and leaving her broken on the rocks. There is desperation to it, a sense of searching underneath the passion. She’s not a great thinker, she doesn’t like to spend a lot of time on introspection but when his lips dance across hers it makes her think about love, how anyone whose ever been in love could say they really understand it.

She sighs when he nips her lip then soothes it with his tongue. The path he makes down to her breasts inflame her and she wants more, she always wants more. She presses closer for his bites, offering up her flesh for his devotion but there isn’t a need. He stays close to her, always nestled within the cradle of her hips as if to make up for the long hours he spends away.

When he finally enters her she cries out sharply, the only sound that’s been made since the children went to sleep a few hours ago. She doesn’t mind the silence here; it’s the only time she can see that spark in him, the one that’s kept him strong for so long and is kept hidden. She peppers his face with kisses, clinging to him as he starts to move inside her. If only they could stay in this moment, if only they could stay right here.

Morning brings reality and Marie feels Arthur move away from her, the emotional stinging more than the physical. She watches him pull his pajama bottoms and a shirt on from under her lashes. He’s reserved again, nothing like the man who visits her during the night. She often wonders where he goes.

“Today’s a big day.” She attempts to keep it light, her emotions too raw from the conversation with Gabriela yesterday and the way he switches on and off. “I still can’t believe A.J starts kindergarten in a few short weeks.”

“Time does seem to sneak up on you.” Arthur runs a hand through his messy hair tousling it more. “I’m going to head into town after my shower so I can pick up a few things. When I get back I’ll put his gift together.”

Marie stands, slipping into her robe. “I’m still not sure I like it, it’s too high. What if he falls?”

Arthur shrugs. “Then he falls and he’ll have fun picking himself back up and doing it all over again. That boy isn’t scared of much.”

“He is a daredevil, isn’t he?” Her tone is wistful. “I wish they could stay this age forever, they’re all smiles, laughter and perfection. It wouldn’t be so bad to have another one.”

She shocks herself with that slip and knows he’s taken aback. It’s a private thought Marie’s been having for two or three months and not one she’d been ready to share.

“Babies aren’t band-aides, Marie.”

Arthur’s dismissal causes her flush in anger and embarrassment. “Then tell me what is because you can tell me what won’t fix things but never say what will.”

The lightness breaks with that one comment and she watches him retreat fully within himself. The kiss he gives her is perfunctory and on the cheek. She refuses to cry.

Marie doesn’t pay Arthur any attention until the party is underway and the guests are crowding their front lawn, much too busy baking cakes and getting food for the party ready. She barely recognizes him and doesn’t know how she missed such a dramatic change. He’s gotten a haircut, fully baring his trademark slightly pointed ears for the first time in years, and traded in his dusty overalls for low-lying jeans and a clean shirt. He looks amazing, so amazing that she stops and stares for a moment.

Arthur’s involved in his conversation with Joaquin and only turns to give her a small smile. She doesn’t mind, not really, because she likes that the two get along. They have similar interests and demeanor although Joaquin is better at the big gestures from what Gabriela’s told her. Her point is proven when Gabriela also stops near them with one of the twins and Joaquin immediately slides an arm around her waist, bringing her in close. She’s not too ashamed to admit to herself that she’s jealous.

“Hey Red, nice party you have here. It’s so very down on the farm.” John comments, drawing her away from the group and the mess her marriage has become.

Marie waves at him, hyper-aware of the all the little moments between them that most would never consider proper.

He smirks. “The silent treatment? Very interesting, never imagined that would go into effect but we’re all playing with new ground rules.

She scoffs in annoyance. ‘I’m not giving you the silent treatment, John. It’s my son’s birthday and I want everyone to have a good time despite everything.”

“No problem, every kid deserves a few good memories so they can say there were happy before mommy and daddy went bust.”

Marie ignores his dig, knowing that it’s directed more at himself than her. His wedding ring catches her attention because in the years they’ve known each other she’s only seen him wear a handful of times. “You’re wearing your ring.”

The words are blunt and John frowns while he looks at his own hand. He catches sight of his wife off to the side watching them quietly. “Like I said, new ground rules for everyone.”

She carefully avoided looking at Rachel. They used to have a good relationship, not great, but they got along well enough to spend a couple of hours together with just the children and not run out things to talk about. Rachel had steadily froze her out. They didn’t plan outings for the children together instead they used Arthur and John as go between for when the children wanted to go to the park or the beach together. Marie really couldn’t blame her but it hurt being shut out of her own family while John didn’t seem to suffer the same consequences.

It’s disgusting how well they get along, isn’t it?” John states before barking out a laugh.

Confused for a moment, she looks at him in bewilderment and he points to where Rachel and Arthur are standing side by side watching the children run screaming around the yard. Rachel gently bumps Arthur with her shoulder and they share a smile before he scoops Sarah into his arms. There’s an understanding there and Marie fights to not shove her sister-in-law away from her husband and into the pond.

“Oh, don’t look so worried, it’s not in their nature to sneak around…well not Arthur. Rachel has her moments. She can be a bit vindictive when she feels like it.”

Marie drifts around the party, stopping to talk with the few parents who decided to stick around for the screaming antics of their children and taking care of the kids’ needs. She watches A.J scramble up and down his giant jungle gym and can’t deny that her heart speeds up every time he decides to jump from the top instead of taking a safer route down. She just knows a trip to the hospital is in their future with that thing around.

Someone tugs on her sleeve and she turns to find her husband standing next to her, a slight grin on his face. She’s confused by the look in his eyes, the openness in his face and doesn’t know what to say.

“You look beautiful, bunny.”

She’s immediately clued in. Her normally reticent husband had indulged in the special adult only punch she had made. It wasn’t overt. His words are only slightly slurred and there isn’t any tell-tale swaying but that may have been a product of his natural stance. Marie ducks her head to hide her smile and sing-songs. “Someone’s had too much punch.”

Arthur moves closer and the heat of him draws Marie’s eyes away from the grass to his face. The stand there staring at each other, neither saying much but trying to figure each other out.

“You haven’t called me that in a long time.”

He shrugs, movement that seems odd on a man who is always decisive. “You seemed to outgrow it.”

“I -” Marie stops herself and decides to skirt the heavy stuff, she just wanted to enjoy her son’s party. “Why did you drink so much of that punch? I warned everyone that it was potent, you should have known better.”

He seems a bit thrown at her teasing tone and she bites her lip, hoping he will play along. Arthur shrugs again. “You always want me so…exposed. It’s easier this way.”

She starts to protest but he grabs her hand quickly and pulls her towards the group of people dancing. “I like this song, we should dance to it.”

Marie allows herself to follow his lead, pretending that everything is fine instead of wallowing in the fact that not unlike Cinderella she too had to until a certain time before reality came back on the scene.

They don’t have another chance to talk alone until the candles are all blown out, the excess toys packed away into the barn and the children tucked into bed exhausted from the day. The moment Marie sees him sitting at the kitchen table she knows that he’s come down from whatever high had been driving him earlier.

She hesitates, a sudden fear that whatever conversation they have tonight will be the deciding factor in where they go from here. Is she strong enough to face whatever happened or did she just want to crawl into bed and put it off for another month or two?

Marie slides her hand across his chest, leaning in close enough to ghost her lips across his forehead. She spends a few moments simply breathing his scent, memorizing it if this is her last chance to get this close to him. “A, you have to give us a chance. Help me fix all of this.”

Arthur barely moves, merely shifting so that he can look at her under his lashes. “Did I make you happy?”

“You’ve always made me happy.”

He jerks away sharply and is across the room before she can stop him. Devastation is written on his face for a moment before he turns away, shielding his face.

“Don’t lie, I hate it when you lie.”

“How have I lied?’ She asks, walking over to him. “I have done everything to show you that this is where I want to be and that I’m sorry but you’re not even trying. I’m doing everything to bring this marriage back to life and you won’t give an inch. The farm can’t always come first. You have to think about the living, breathing people you share a home with. You can’t keep going back and forth, it hurts too much.”

She watches him come to some sort of decision, noting the way he plants his feet and stands up straighter. “I don’t trust you. I don’t trust your emotions, they’re too fickle.”

“How can you say that? I have loved since I was 16 years old! When we turned 18, I was the one who pushed for us to get married. I have always wanted you.”

“Until you wanted someone John. Until you wanted whoever it is out there that makes you so guilty that you’re moved to fix this marriage.”

“That’s not true.”

“Then what’s changed? Months ago you were telling me how it won’t work anymore, now you’re everywhere I turn and I’m still plain ol’ Arthur.”

His words are bitter, his hazel eyes dark and all she can do is watch with her tongue glued to the roof of her mouth when he walks out the door. He doesn’t slam it. He never does, always aware that while they may be fighting their children are sleeping soundly upstairs.

Marie takes some time to compose herself before she follows him outside. She doesn’t enter the small orchard, aware that he uses the repetitive work to work through his thoughts. They stay like that for awhile, Marie watching his work and Arthur pretending he isn’t aware of her watching him, before she speaks.

“I remember the first time I saw you. You were this lanky giant with bright hair that seemed to by trying to hide and all I could think to myself was that boy is special and I want to know him for the rest of my life. I didn’t care about anything else but making that light shine a bit brighter, those shoulders stand a bit straighter, plus I wanted me a gaggle of red-headed babies.”

It’s and old joke but he doesn’t laugh like she wants him to and Marie sighs. She fights the urge to yell at him some more, to point out that here she is again trying and he just stands there silent. It won’t help, it never does.

“Tell me what you’re thinking, please.”

Arthur finally turns to look at her. “You can come in.”

She’s hesitant. She doesn’t spend a lot of time in the orchards, not like when they were newlyweds and she would drive over from their small apartment for a midday picnic under the protective shade from the leaves. They’d made love under those leaves dozens of time before he got to the idea to develop the farmer’s market and transplanted the majority of the trees to the new location. Marie had been upset when he’d moved the tree she’d carved their names into. It had died after the move, maybe she should have taken it as a sign.

“Arthur-”

“I’m ashamed that I can’t let you go. I should be able to. I told you before we got married that I wouldn’t make you happy, that it was beyond me and although you persisted I prepared myself for the eventuality. Only now that it’s here I can’t let go. You somehow became mine, the only person I had to prove anything to, but now you’re not happy and I don’t trust you. So everyday I spend more time picture you not there, picturing picking the kids up for the weekend because what other alternative is there? We can’t keep doing this: fighting during the day and making love at night.”

“Arthur, please.” Marie can’t stop the tears which started the moment he said ashamed. She wraps her arms around him, pressing her face into his chest. She feels grief and shame because she’s done this to him despite knowing his issues. They had their issues but she only wanted to spur him into action not have everything crumble apart. “I’m sorry, so sorry.”

Marie doesn’t know how long they stand like that surrounded by the sharp scent of citrus but she stumbles a bit when he steps away and pulls her by the hand toward the house. They settle on the steps, each wrapped in their own thoughts of their future and where they went from there. She gradually leans against him, taking his hand in hers and sighs in relief when he relaxes wrapping his long fingers around her own. She tries not to hope but maybe they could fix this, maybe they wouldn’t fail so completely.

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A.N: I hope this makes up for the fact that it’s late. I didn’t have internet for several days and the end half needed some serious editing although I’m still not sure about it. I really love that Adele song and felt it fit Marie’s mind frame pretty well.

I really don’t know what to do with these two. They go back and forth between ignoring each other especially Arthur then they will roll countless wants for each other and let’s not talk about ACR. That thing was constantly going off with them. It all makes their relationship very confusing for me to write. I do think they’re interesting together because in a way Marie is and was almost obsessive about him and Arthur grew up feeling very unwanted. How does a relationship survive when an obsession breaks, although I’m not sure it’s broken, and a person who is finally wanted gets shifted to the side briefly by the only person who’s needed them?

Yes, people that is how I think. Anyway, the Behars are up next so probably next Thursday and some picspam is going up on my tumblr: http://hcsimspeek.tumblr.com/

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