A Life Apart

Chapter 2: Jill Paxton (pg. 19)


If he wanted sex, Jill thought, he would have tried to wake me. She lay still, resisting an urge to inhale more deeply, while pondering the meaning of John’s actions. Maybe he felt guilty. Certainly she had done everything she could to make him feel so. Why do I do that? She wondered. It wasn’t his fault that he was in a meeting when she called about Mirabelle’s accident.

She still could not bring herself to call it what it apparently was. How could she do such a thing? Maybe it was their constant bickering. Jill knew that she had no control over her daughter’s life. It was not that she totally disapproved of Mirabelle’s actions. It was just the extremes her daughter was willing to go to differentiate herself from her mother’s wishes. If only John would support her—take her side instead of his daughter’s, Jill would not have to be the lone parent involved. But he was always at work. Even when he was home, he would barricade himself in his study. She could not even remember the last time they had intercourse.

Tears began to trickle down her cheeks. Jill was racked with emotions. She had a daughter in a Psyche Ward and a husband who was no solace to her. If she could scream, she would. Instead, she cried in silence, waiting for her husband to fall asleep. Then she could slip from under his arm and seek refuge in her kitchen. There at least she might be able to distract herself from the emotional blizzard that wanted to blast her apart.


It was mid morning before her husband joined her in the kitchen. A fresh baked apple strudel sat on the round breakfast nook table. Paxton slid into the nook and stared at the strudel.

“You’ve been busy this morning.”

“Not really,” replied Jill. “I baked that at midnight.”

“Oh, I didn’t hear you get out of bed.”

“You went into a deep sleep almost as soon as you hit the sack.” There was disapproval in Jill’s tone. Would he realize, she wondered, that she had been awake when he came to bed?

Looking out the surrounding windows of their cylindrical nook, Paxton watched Billy throwing a football through the tire he had hung in the backyard. “I see our varsity quarterback is practicing for the big game next week. You know, the coach told him there will be college scouts at the game. This might be his chance for an athletic scholarship.”

Jill was annoyed. “I just brewed a fresh pot. You want a cup?” She felt like pouring the hot coffee in his lap. “I can scramble some eggs, if you’d like.”

“No, no. Coffee and strudel are just fine. I have a golf game with a client at eleven. Billy said he would caddy. So we’ll be out of your hair for most of the day.”

“Great! Marge and I planned to check out the Christmas Eve sales at the mall this afternoon.” Jill thought, he doesn’t want to be with me even on the weekends. “I don’t think I’ll be back in time to make dinner. Why don’t you take us out tonight? Louise told me about this Turkish restaurant in Sausalito. I would like to try it out.”

“I thought you were going to see Mirabelle today. You know, I’m following your plan: I saw her yesterday; you see her today; I go to the hospital on Sunday; you, on Monday; and both of us can go on Tuesday.”

Jill still held the pot of coffee in her hand. It was fortunate for her husband that she had already filled his cup. “Does everything have to be a contractual arrangement with you?” She whirled around and slammed the coffee pot into its slot in the coffeemaker. Hot coffee slurped over the top of the pot onto her hand. Without acknowledging the pain, Jill strode to the sink and ran tap water over her hand. She turned suddenly to confront her husband across the counter top that separated them. “I’ve tried to get closer to her, but she’s so ‘out there’. I just seem to aggravate her. That’s why I wanted you to talk to her! I’ve been with her nearly every day since her Christmas break began. She just doesn’t listen to me. God, what does she hope to gain with a philosophy degree? Doesn’t Stanford turn out doctors and lawyers? And how does she expect to find a decent husband if she never dates? Look at her! For Christ sakes, she never wears makeup and dresses like a boy most of the time. I grant it that she’s smart, but the things she says.” Jill shrugged her shoulders at the hopelessness of her situation. “Just the other day she told me that American women would be better off if they adopted the Muslim dress code. I think she said it just to irritate me!” Jill looked out the kitchen window at her son. “At least Billy is easy to figure out. He’s all about football, girls and that whole high school scene.”

Paxton bristled at Jill’s words. “I don’t understand you. You have this beautiful house and two remarkable children. And yet . . . Why do you put them down? Mirabelle won a four year scholarship to one of the most prestigious institutions in the country. Our son is not only a varsity quarterback, but president of his senior class and a member of the student council. Apart from this incident with Mirabelle—which nobody knows about—we are a family that anybody would envy. After I close this deal and take Solvetur public, we can buy a vacation home in Tahoe like you’ve always wanted. I’ll even buy you that Jaguar sports car you like so much.”

Jill glared at her husband. “Do you love me, John?” Pausing, she continued with a whimper, “Because if you did. . .” She suddenly fell silent. She couldn’t withstand the plaintiff whine of her own voice.

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