This Is Life

Hollie’s Learnt That Life Goes On…

Winter, Year 5
Ethan is 26, Hollie is 25, Jenna is 3, Jareth is 1

Hollie could hardly believe how fast time had gone as Jareth’s first birthday approached at lightning speed. Already it had been more than three months since she and Ethan had split up and while the first few weeks had been a little bumpy, it had soon settled.

Jareth was growing into an adorable toddler and Hollie couldn’t help spotting the remarkable similarities to his father. She was intensely proud of both the children though. The three of them stuck together and they’d come through the messy divorce as a stronger unit.

Ethan had been avoiding visiting Hollie and the children since the split but Hollie had insisted he came round to see them for Jareth’s birthday.
Nervously, he stepped up to the front door. He hadn’t actually seen Hollie since he’d moved in with her sister and he suddenly wondered what the reception might be. They’d spoken on the phone a couple of times but that had been to sort out finances; in more recent weeks, it had been nothing more than a few texts.

“Cheer up,” Hollie said as she let Ethan into the house. “The children are excited to see you.”
“I…I thought you’d…”
Hollie smiled. “You thought I’d start screaming?” She guessed. Laughing, she shook her head. “I’m not going to do that. I got the anger and the upset out of my system at the time. Ethan, you’re still part of my family, whatever else has happened. I still care about you.”

Encouraged, Ethan leant forward to kiss Hollie passionately but she backed away quickly. “Woah, what are you doing?” She shook her head again. “Ethan, we’re divorced. You’re living with my sister, for Watcher’s sake, what are you playing at?”
“But I thought…” Ethan trailed off in confusion. “You said…”
“I said I still care about you, not that I want to sleep with you.” She sighed, irritably. “Just go and spend time with the children, will you?”
Disappointed, Ethan nodded and went off in search of his children.

“Where’s my birthday boy?” Ethan asked as he located the children in Jenna’s room. He dropped to his knees to give Jareth and cuddle and felt the familiar warmth of a toddler hug. He’d missed them a lot.

He picked up his son and snuggled him close. Sometimes, very occasionally, Ethan wondered if he’d made a mistake. Truthfully, he was still in love with Hollie and, if he could have his way, he’d gladly still be with both women. He loved them both equally and times like these made him wish things were a little different.

When Jareth went for a nap, Hollie settled down to get on with some work. Ethan felt a rush of nostalgia as he sat down with Jenna to read her a story. Quiet afternoons with his daughter had been something he’d always enjoyed and he hadn’t realised how much he missed that when he was back at the flat.

By the time Ethan was ready to leave, the children were back to playing happily in Jenna’s bedroom. The sense of familiarity had been very welcoming and it had been on the tip of Ethan’s tongue to ask if he could stay but he decided against it.

Later that evening, after the children had gone to bed, Emily popped in from next door.
“I don’t mean to be nosey, but I saw Ethan leaving earlier. Are you okay?”
Hollie hugged her friend and neighbour. “Thanks, Emily but I’m fine. It’s Jareth’s birthday and I thought it was about time Ethan came to see the children.”
“How long’s it been since he left?” Emily asked.
Hollie sighed. “Three months. Honestly Emily, I know it’s probably for the best but I never expected it to feel this painful. Especially as…well, I get the feeling Ethan’s still in love with me.”
Nodding wisely, Emily smiled sympathetically. “If you want my opinion, Hollie, he is. I think truthfully he’d love to keep both you sisters on. He can have the supportive wife and family whenever he wants it, then run back to his flat, away from responsibilities, to live a casual life with your sister.” She squeezed Hollie’s arm. “That’s fine if everyone wants that. If you and Daisy were okay with that then fine. But I know you and you’d never feel good about yourself in a situation like that. I’m not sure Daisy would, either.”
“No.” Hollie shook her head tearfully. “No, I wouldn’t. I’m not going to let Ethan keep making me feel like this, either.”
Emily smiled again. Hollie was strong but she knew that if Ethan tugged those heartstrings too much more, Hollie would unravel completely.

Emily didn’t stay; she wanted Hollie to be able to get on with some work. Hollie said goodbye to her neighbour and closed the front door. Stepping through towards her computer, she smiled as she spotted the cats playing on their tower. They’d been a source of comfort and warmth in the frightening aftermath of the divorce and Hollie enjoyed their company in the cold, dark and lonely evenings.

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