Brian's old leather wallet--as mentioned before--was an ancient, torn and bulging mess. This was in direct contrast to his personality. In most ways he was neat and organized even a bit compulsive when it came to cleanliness and order. He might wear torn tee shirts and faded jeans but they were always clean and even pressed. His half of their closet had everything efficiently arranged and he never minded helping with clean up in the house. However; his old wallet was the exception to the rule. For one of his Christmas gifts Meadow had brought him a new wallet with the kind of chain he liked; his old chain had broken some time back. But he was not using the new wallet, he was still carrying the shabby overstuffed one.
Brian's old wallet and the new one Meadow gave him for Christmas:
Meadow was boxing up things in their bedroom when she noticed the derelict wallet; Brian always left it on the bureau when he was home. This reminded her that he had yet to transfer the contents to the new wallet which still rested in the gift box in a drawer.
This is ridiculous; he's not taking that thing when we move, Meadow decided.
He was in the master bath fixing the tub faucet for the hundredth time and she went in to talk to him. When he heard her walk in behind him he said over his shoulder,
"Man, I'll be so happy not to have to mess with this stupid tub anymore."
She got right to the subject,
"Brian, would you PLEASE get rid of that horrid wallet? Don't you like the one I bought? If it's not what you want I can take it back and get another one."
"No, sweetheart, the new one is fantastic--I just keep forgetting to do it. I'll tell you what, why don't you go ahead and do it for me?"
"That's like opening your mail; you should have some privacy even if we are husband and wife. Besides you're more organized than I am and you might not like the way I do it."
"That's crazy," he commented, and suddenly muttered a cuss word in connection with the obstinate faucet. By now he was feeling a little impatient and grumpy; he rarely swore.
"Besides," he continued, "I'm obviously NOT organized when it comes to wallets. You'll be able to throw out a lot of stuff and get it down to size."
"Okay," she shrugged.
Brian went on sputtering and complaining under his breath and working with a wrench. Then Meadow appeared in the doorway again.
Her voice sounded strained,
"I don't know what you want me to do with this."
He looked up and she was handing him a photo.
"What are you talking about?"
"You'll probably want this. After all, you had it hidden away so well I almost didn't see it."
Brian took it from her and looked at it. Oh, man. Crap-a-doodle-do. He had a very short flashback as he remembered the day he'd taken the photo of Lori Lassiter. Years ago. Really it felt as though it was in a previous life. Yet for just a second it was like yesterday. He'd totally forgotten that he had even taken her photo, let alone that it was still in his possession. Of course he never went through his wallet and the photo had been tucked away so it had easily been erased from is mind.
"Well? What do I do with it?" Meadow prodded angrily.
She is really steamed, Brian thought, she's always laughed about the thing with Lori, so what is the deal? On the other hand he remembered now that he used to carry it with him everywhere. Obviously for a while there he couldn't forget the girl. But all that was long before Meadow and him.
"Throw it out," he advised as he tried to hand it back to her, "I forgot I even had it."
"Well, if you've cherished it for so long I hate to just toss it," Meadow said sarcastically.
"Don't make a big deal out of this, Meadow," Brian warned.
"Oh, excuse me all to pieces! My husband carries another woman's picture around with him for years and I should just shrug it off?"
What with the stubborn faucet and now Meadow ranting at him, Brian, the usually reasonable guy, was suddenly feeling aggravated and his answer was untypically brusque.
"Look, I told you; I wasn't hiding it or cherishing it; I forgot I had it. If I had something to hide why would I ask you to go through the wallet?"
"All these years, you've kept that photo all these years, Brian! Yet you always insisted there was nothing to it!" she finally let go of her fury, waving her arms wildly.
"This is nuts. You can see she was a kid; not a woman. She had a crush on me. Okay, big deal; nothing happened. I left town. She got over me and found a boy her own age and she married him. I came back to town and found you. We fell in love, got married and, for crying out loud, we have six kids together! I've never been the one to bring it up; you were the one who kept saying 'old flame', 'she haunts you' and all that stupid stuff that you thought was so freakin' funny."
That stopped her for a minute, but then she came back with,
"Maybe I did, but I sure don't think it's funny now."
"Yeah, no kidding. I'm sorry this move is making you nuts, but if you have to take it out on me say it directly. Don't start some stupid argument over a picture from a million years ago that I didn't even know was there."
She suddenly stopped being angry. He could see tears in her eyes that made him feel more guilty than all her yelling had done. Her voice was soft and plaintive as she spoke,
"Oh, Brian, why did you keep it at all?"
He sighed. For years he'd denied to himself that he'd ever felt anything more than friendship for Lori.
"Okay. Evidently for a while I wasn't over her. Maybe not for a good while. But all that ended forever when I came to stay with you."
"So she did mean something to you once?"
"Yes, I suppose I'll have to admit that once she did. But not anymore; not for a long time. Not since I fell in love with this beautiful blonde."
Meadow continued to gaze into his eyes, wondering what this meant to her and Brian. It wasn't that she really thought he had ever been untrue to her, at least, not physically. But admittedly she wanted to be first in his heart; she didn't want to share even a part of him with anyone else except family.
"Throw it out," he repeated holding the picture out to her. She shook her head no, refusing to take it and acting almost afraid of the creased photo.
"Well, I'll throw it out," and he tossed it in the wastebasket and then emptied the wastebasket into the trash compacter in the kitchen. Meadow had followed him out of the bathroom.
"Are we okay now?" he asked, putting his arms around her.
She nodded silently.
"Bottom line: I love you, Meadow. There's no one else. No one. Without you my life is over," he kissed her gently, and then deepened the kiss as he pulled her tight against his chest and she melted.
He'd always been able to do that to her. As long as he loved her and wanted to be with her, she could deal. As long as he loves me best. For she now believed deep down in her heart that a tiny part of him still harbored feelings for Lori, though Brian himself might not know it. A slender thread connected them that would never be broken. Meadow tended to be a bit mystic at times; she always wanted to believe in intuition above logic, and she trusted her own instincts. If a thread was what attached him to Lori then Meadow knew that it was a whole tapestry that held him to her and the children. A tapestry comprised of many threads that made it incredibly strong and flexible. She would not bring up the subject of Lori anymore. Hopefully they would never see her again.
"Sweetheart?" Brian spoke, his lips against her hair, "Are you all right, then?"
"Yes, Brian," she whispered against his neck.
And tomorrow would be moving day. As he held Meadow, Brian hoped fervently they could leave any and all painful memories and strained moments behind them as they made a new home.
Next blog update Brian Ottomas Ch. 19 "Moving the 3-Ring Circus"