We sit in the sandwich shop after school: The Child eats pasta, I eat the half-sandwich that my diet permits. We discuss the upcoming holidays, for which we have no plans, and then the subject moves to The Departed’s children.
We don’t talk about them much anymore, which isn’t surprising since the only things we know about them these days come through Facebook pages we can’t see much of anymore: Facebook is a key part of the modern divorce process – the division of friends and family, who ally themselves with one side and unfriend or block the other side.
The Departed was never on Facebook during our marriage – security concerns, he said – but since the divorce, he’s been image-crafting, posting pictures of ski trips and hikes and college tours and The Stepson’s graduation, so I know the boy is now off at small midwestern college of no particular repute, either studying to be an actuary or joking about it. She wants to know what an actuary is, so I explain, and we try to picture him working as one. I hope – rather than believe – that he will finish college.
I’d like to be done discussing the pair, but The Child persists, and we try to remember what grade her former stepsister would be in now, and make guesses about what college she might attend.
The Child asks about The Departed’s girlfriend, and I tell her I don’t really know anything, which I don’t: Only that she exists.
I talked to her, says The Child.
When did you do that?
On Facebook one night, she tells me. I warned her.
I ask, what did you tell her, but The Child is vague, no matter how I pose the question. I warned her, is all she will say. I told her lots of things.
I try a different tack: Did the woman ask you questions?
Yes, she asked a lot of questions. She told me things, too, like she was already thinking about breaking up with him. She said she had been in an emotionally abusive relationship before and didn’t want her children to have to go through that again.
I got the feeling she was going to break up with him, says The Child, firmly.
Did she say that? I want to know.
The Child doesn’t doesn’t quite answer, but rather searches for the answer. That was the sense I got, she says.
After a moment, I offer a thought: Sometimes, in the past, I’ve told people things about other people, but they don’t believe me. Sometimes people have already heard another version of a story, or they want to believe something else, for their own reasons.
She is simultaneously hurt and defiant, but doesn’t respond.
I ask, how do you feel about what you did?
I’m proud: I told her the truth and now that she knows, she’ll break up with him.
I tell her I’m proud of her for standing up for what she believes in.
It’s more than you did: You stayed with him for eight years after you found out the truth.
I want to tell her things aren’t that simple and never were. But when you’re 14, they are, so instead I repeat what I said before: I’m very proud of you.
Finally, she seems satisfied.