Quinn said, “Nope, Ben’s takin’ care of it this weekend. Because Libby and me are spendin’ time together. What’s that? I didn’t tell you because it ain’t your concern.” He sighed. “Sorry.”
Ooh, pissing off Mama McKay? That was a first. Libby heard the woman’s rapid fire reprimand on the other end of the phone from five feet away.
“I don’t know. We’re workin’ on it.” Pause. “I don’t give a damn what Vaudette Dickens told you. It ain’t none of her concern neither.”
Good Lord. Vaudette had been a busy bee; it was only nine-thirty in the morning.
“Ma. Ma! Look, I know you think you mean well… Butt out. This is between me and my wife.”
Pause. The floorboards squeaked as Quinn paced. “Jesus. Please tell me you didn’t take it upon yourself to ask her that.” Pause. “Because it ain’t none of your goddamn business. I don’t care if it’s the Lord’s Day; you had no right. No right.” Pause. “Fine. Put him on the damn phone.”
Libby’s stomach cartwheeled. She’d never heard Quinn speak to his mother so harshly. Never. She crawled out of bed and laid her cheek between his shoulder blades, wrapping her arms around him. His body shook, not from cold but with fury.
“Dad? No, you listen. I don’t give a good goddamn if she claims she meant no harm.” Pause. “Huh-uh. This is your first and only warning. Back off. Both of you.” Quinn clicked the phone shut and threw it on the floor.
His breathing was rapid and shallow. His body both hot and cold. He didn’t say anything or move to dislodge her arms, so Libby clutched him tightly, hoping it might calm him down.
“I didn’t know. I swear to God, I didn’t know. What kinda husband does that make me? Dammit, how could I not have seen it?”
Libby stepped back. “What was that phone call about?”
“My mother chewed me out for not bein’ in church. She demanded to know why Vaudette Dickens found out we were back together and why I hadn’t bothered to tell her first. She expected me to deny the rumor we were acting ‘obscene’ in public last night. Then she asked if we were done bein’ separated and when she could expect grandkids, ’cause she’d been waitin’ a long time and she was tired of nagging you about quittin’ your job and us startin’ a family.”
He spun around. His eyes were black with rage and his lips were drawn into a thin white line. “I didn’t know she’d been hounding you about grandkids because she ain’t said a single word to me. Not one word. Ever.” His eyes frantically searched hers. “She makes a big deal about it to you, doesn’t she?”
“Why didn’t you tell me?”
“She’s your mother.”
“So, if I would’ve said, ‘Quinn, your mama’s been demanding answers on why I’m not pregnant yet’, we both know you would have brushed it off. If I had complained every damn time she did it, you would’ve thought I was being overly sensitive and brushed it off too.”
Guilt flashed across his face.
“It wasn’t bad at first. But as the years wore on, her comments became a little sharper. I didn’t want to cause family problems or make waves so I didn’t tell you.”
“Dammit, Libby, I didn’t know. I’m sorry. So damn sorry.”
“You can’t control her. I’ll admit I was jealous when your cousins started having babies. It embarrassed me at McKay functions hearing your mother complaining to the other women in the family that she didn’t have a grandchild to spoil yet.”
“And yet, she never said a f**king word to me. Sayin’ sorry doesn’t seem like enough. No wonder you resented me. No wonder you wanted to rid yourself of me and this overbearing family.”
“Your mother didn’t cause our marital problems.”
“I realize that, but her behavior, coupled with my ostrich-like mentality, didn’t help matters.” He blew out a frustrated breath. “Enough.”
“We still have a lot to talk about, but you’re right. Let’s take a break. No more discussions about babies, fertility tests, mixed signals, meddling mothers and sisters.”
“For how long?”
“A while. Look, we can’t solve anything in two days, and with the resentment and confusion on both our parts, some issues we weren’t even aware we had…frankly, I’m too emotionally raw to deal with any of it right now.”
“Amen. And I ain’t sayin’ that because I’m hopin’ you’ll forget about it. I know we have to talk about this. Sooner, rather than later. But when we’re ready…well, I ain’t opposed to talkin’ to a fertility doctor to see if there is something wrong, if that’s still what you want.”
Feeling a little misty eyed, Libby walked straight into Quinn’s arms.
“You all right?”
“No. My head is spinning.”
“You wanna go up to the house and lay down?”
“Maybe for a bit. Then can we just hang out at home today? Screw around. Take the four wheelers out, maybe snuggle up and watch a little TV?”
“I thought you’d wanna do something more exciting.”
She pushed back and looked at him. “Is that what you think? I have to be doing something new and exciting all the time? I find being on the ranch with you…boring?”
Quinn gave her a half-shrug and ducked his head.
Another truth hit her. “I’ve hurt you by letting you believe you and our home weren’t enough for me anymore.” Libby rubbed the tips of her fingers over his morning whiskers. “Oh Quinn. Oh, honey, that’s not why I wanted the separation. I’d hoped if we were apart we’d miss each other. We’d be forced to communicate beyond ‘What’s for supper?’ and ‘I washed your coveralls’ and we’d work harder to stay together.”
“Has it worked? Us spendin’ the weekend together?”
Libby laid her head on his chest and listened to his heartbeat. So strong. So steady. “We’re off to a damn fine start.”
Quinn stayed silent a beat too long and Libby knew she hadn’t given him the answer he wanted.
She shuffled the papers as the printer spat them out. “Research.”