The Seed of Hardship - Chapter 3
Matthew had lost track of time and was now running extremely late to pick his children up from Church. This meant he had to forfeit the remainder of the bowling match among his friends and run out. Which meant that he had lost the game and had to give up the 70 dollars he bet at the beginning of the match. All he had in his pocket was 40 dollars, which he hastily tossed into his friend’s hand before running out of the bowling alley.
When Matthew got into the car, he strapped Kezia into her seat and called Hazel. “Hazel, I’m sorry,” he said, bucking his seatbelt and reversing out of his parking spot. He drove out of the parking lot and onto the highway. “I’m on my way, okay?” he told Hazel. “Give me about…” He looked at the time. “I’m on twenty-two,” he said, looking at the NJ route 22 sign to make sure. “I will be there as fast as I can, okay? See you!” He closed his phone and tossed it into the passengers’ seat.
Kristel was also in her car and on her way to pick her children up. She was in a sour mood after being informed by Hazel that Matthew was late. Though she tried her best not to speed, she couldn’t help herself. In addition to her pet peeve of tardiness, she was upset. Adrenaline coursed through her body.
Coincidentally, Kristel drove right past Matthew's car when she hit route 18. Recognising his wife’s car, Matthew pulled over on the side of the highway and quickly picked up his cell phone from the passenger’s seat. Kristel had noticed Matthew’s car as well so she made a U-turn in the road and pulled up right behind him. As soon as she shifted the car into park, her phone began ringing.
Kristel snatched the phone from her pocket and answered by saying, “Go, Matthew. We’ll talk when you get home.” She disconnected the call, stuck the phone back into her pocket and pulled out onto the highway again.
Matthew felt a slight pang of nervousness in his stomach and for a moment, he couldn’t move. His wife sounded angry and he knew he would be in the dog house once he got home. He gulped and merged back onto the road.
When Matthew got home after picking Hazel, Daniel and Stephanie up from rehearsal, the children remained in the living room while Matthew went into their bedroom on the first floor to speak with Kristel. She was quickly packing the clean laundry away; tossing clothes into drawers and slamming the draws shut.
Matthew cautiously entered the bedroom but remained standing at the door. Kristel turned to face him, both hands on her hips, her eyebrows furrowed, her lips tightly pursed together. “What happened?” she loudly asked.
“I’m sorry, I didn’t hear my phone,” Matthew told her.
“Where were you?” Kristel wanted to know.
Matthew wanted to lie but he couldn’t bring himself to do it. He knew that honesty was the best approach. “Babe,” he said with a sigh. “I forgot that I agreed to go bowling with Rob and the guys yesterday, I—”
“You can’t be serious,” said Kristel, sitting on the bed and looking at her husband with an expression of utter disbelief.
“Kris, I’m sorry but it was my chance to get easy money. Bowling is not Rob’s forte.”
“How much did you bet?” Kristel asked, seeming to calm down a bit.
“Did you win?”
Matthew didn’t answer. He stared down at his socks and bit his lower lip. “Matthew,” said Kristel, sounding strangely monotonous in Matthew’s ears. “When will you ever learn?”
“I’m trying,” he responded, looking up at Kristel.
Kristel closed her eyes and slowly shook her head. Then she stood up from the bed, picked up a small pile of different coloured clothing off the bed and began walking towards the door. “Excuse me,” she quietly said, avoiding making eye contact with Matthew. Her husband stepped out of the way and watched her as she walked down the hallway to the nursery.
When Kristel reached the door of Kezia’s nursery, the doorbell rang. Right away, Kristel placed the clothes on the diaper changing station near the door of the nursery and briskly made her way back into the living room and to the door.
Already knowing who was at the door, she opened it to her life-long friend, Tori. The blond-haired woman was big-boned and busty with a small waist and small hips. She was holding the hand of her four-year-old daughter, Hailey. The child was small and skinny with platinum hair and a pale complexion. Fine freckles dusted her nose and cheeks and large pale blue eyes sparkled with excitement.
“Hi, Kristel!” she exclaimed, wrapping her arms around Kristel’s waist.
“Hi, sweetie!” said Kristel, rubbing Hailey’s back.
“Hey,” said Tori, kissing Kristel on the cheek before stepping into the house.
Hazel and Stephanie’s eyes were glued on the television screen but Stephanie looked away for a moment to smile and wave to her mother. Hailey ran into the living room and jumped on her sister sitting on the couch.
“Are you okay?” Tori asked Kristel. “You look a little flustered.”
Kristel waved off Tori’s suspicions as though swatting at a pesky fly. “Okay,” said Tori, raising one eyebrow. She was unconvinced of Kristel’s casual dismissal. “Matthew is still chaperoning that trip tomorrow, right?”
“Yes,” said Kristel. “He said he will because he does not have to work this whole week. For some construction or something.”
“That’s a relief,” said Tori as they began walking towards the kitchen. “I have to go out of state to visit my aunt. The dialysis doesn’t seem to be doing her any good.”
“I’m so sorry,” said Kristel, easing into one of the chairs in the dining room area near the kitchen. She felt too tired to continue walking.
“You don’t have to be sorry,” Tori told her. She sat at a chair next to Kristel’s.
Matthew came cantering down the hallway and into the living-dining room area. “Hey, Tor!” he cheerfully greeted.
“Hey, Matt. How are you?” asked Tori, turning her attention to Matthew. “Looking forward to the trip tomorrow?”
Matthew looked confused. He halted and squinted in deep thought before asking, “What trip?”
Tori turned quickly to look at Kristel, wanting to catch her initial reaction. Kristel was staring at Matthew as though she wanted to strangle him. Tori turned back to Matthew and replied, “Hazel and Steph’s wilderness trip… tomorrow.”
“Oh, I’m not going,” he said.
“What?” Kristel asked, struggling to keep her voice down. “I thought you said you would go.”
“I said I would have wanted to go but I have to work.”
“Matthew, you said that you weren’t working this week.”
“No,” Matthew corrected. “I said that I don’t have to work Monday and Tuesday because the office will be closed for some minor repairs the rest of the week. Why don’t you go?”
“I told you I couldn’t go,” Kristel said, trying not to clench her teeth in anger. “I have an audition and an interview on Monday. You’re the one who agreed to go the on trip in the first place.”
“You never told me that.”
The children in the living room were clearly hearing the argument between Matthew and Kristel, although the adults were speaking rather quietly. “Oh brother,” Daniel sighed.
“I did tell you,” said Kristel. “And you told me you were off this entire week.”
“No, I didn’t. I told you, Wednesday through—”
Kristel stood up abruptly and walked right past Matthew, going towards the hallway. “What’s the big deal?” Matthew loudly asked.
Kristel waved him off and continued walking down the hallway, refusing to look back even to see Tori’s wide-eyed expression. Tori whistled quietly in a descending pitch and stared down at the floor.
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