I just finished this book I bought at the grocery store entitled, “Happiness Sold Seperately.” I thought it would be an easy read, but good because on the back, the reviews describe the fiction story as sympathetic toward all its characters and it was about a number of interesting themes—infertility, a broken marriage, and infidelity.To see how a writer could write about those themes and yet make the reader sympathetic toward all the characters piqued my interest and so I bought it. It took me two days to finish the 294 page novel and I am so hapy I picked it up. But one thing has been driving me crazy. The author leaves the reader hanging. We know what is going to happen next, but how will it happen? To some that might not be important. But the writer in me finds a deep appreciation for the how. And so, because I couldn’t simply hope for how it would end if this story were true, I just had to write my own ending. The way I would hope it would. The way it does in my mind.
Before she grabs her keys to head out the door, Elinor does one last thing. She calls Gina at the gym.
As Gina drives back home with Toby in the passenger seat, she is quiet in thought. Should she really trust Elinor’s plan? Elinor told her to show up at the hospital around 8pm and to bring Toby. She said that she knows that Ted is in love with her and that after the accident, she realized that he deserves to be happy. That try as they may, they were not happy. They once were, but they “flooded only the surface and didn’t get to the roots” or something like that. She said she was filing for a divorce and she is happy that Ted found someone that appreciates him. He is such a loyal man.
But what if she is wrong? What if Ted really isn’t in love with her and he really wants to stay with Elinor? Sure he called her “Angel” at the hospital, but he was drugged up. He could have thought she were Elinor for all she knew. But that look in his eyes. The same look he gave her when they made love. With that deep, free, child-like peace in his eyes.
But what about Toby? She can’t let her son hurt any longer. He loved Ted so much. Just like her. Both heartbroken. What if Elinor changes her mind in two weeks and then Ted’s loyalty brings him to break up with her and her son once more? What if, what if, what if? But Elinor had a vindication in her voice that seemed rooted deep. And she didn’t even seem angry or overly emotional at all. There was a peace in her voice when she called her. A peace that made her believe her enough to grab Toby from the café and leave her client during his push up session.
She will wear the sarong wrap skirt when she goes to see him. He loves that skirt. Lets just hope he really loves her. Excitement floods her veins and she looks at her son who smiles for the first time in weeks.
“Can I call Dr. Mackey Dad?” Toby asks, looking out the window.
“Hopefully one day, Toby. But lets just stick to Ted first, okay?”
Ted laughed with Elinor as she read the Dave Barry essays at his bedside in the hospital. But there was a sadness in his eyes and in his breath that made Elinor even more positive that she was making the right decision. He would stay with her, yes. He would adopt with her, yes. All because he made those vows and he is truly sorry he broke them and would do anything to not hurt her again, forgetting that she was already hurt. But all the while he will be suffering inside. He will never be truly happy with her and deep down she knows, she will never be truly happy with him. On the surface, they would look fine. Like the old oak in her yard, large and seemingly strong, but dying inside. Rotten from the inside out with disease that would slowly get to the surface. He has spent the last 5 years trying to make her happy and she never was. Yes, it was time she made him happy. To let him go. To let this all go. The infertility, the affair, the hypothetical them. It was time.
“Ted, I love you,” Elinor said sternly, interrupting the silence that followed their laughter, “ And I know you love me, but I know you are not in love with me anymore.”
“What? El, I love you. I have always loved you.”
“You love me, yes. But you are not in love with me. You once were, before all of this childless grief changed me. Before it turned me into this bitter woman. And perhaps you are still in love with the woman I once was. But I’m not her anymore. And I’m not bitter anymore. I’m okay with all of this. I forgive you. I forgive myself.”
Ted lay on his hospital bed silently. A content, but questioning smile on his face and sadness still in his eyes.
“I know you would stay with me to the end to make me happy. That you would sacrifice your own happiness for me. But I’m not going to let you. You love Gina. She loves you. It was so obvious when I saw you look at her after you woke up from your sedated dream and didn’t know I was there. And the truth is, I want you to be happy. You deserve to be happy.”
“What are you saying El?”
“I’m going through with the divorce papers, Ted. And I want you to be with Gina.”
He breathes in deep, his blue hospital gown tightening against his expanding chest as he takes his air in and thinks about what she just said.“We could have been really happy, right El? I mean, if none of this infertility ever happened?”
“And we once were Ted. So let’s just cherish and remember that. I don’t want to fight anymore. I don’t want to be bitter anymore. I will always love what we once were and what we could have been, but isn’t it time we both just let that go and stop trying to fake it anymore?”
Ted nods his head with tears glossing his green eyes and wipes the tear falling down her right cheek.They share another silence, both absorbing the powerful moment and the relief that comes with letting go.
“I’ll be back tomorrow to say hello and bring the papers, ” Elinor says at last, kissing Ted on the cheek. In the meantime, someone is here to see you.”
Gina and Toby were standing in the doorway and Elinor watches Ted turn his head toward the door and see them. A peaceful look returns to his eyes and pink warms his gray cheeks. Elinor gets up and walks out of the room, looking both Toby and Gina in the eyes, with a content ‘he’s yours’ look. As she walks down the hallway, she hears laughing and the warm chirp of lips kissing from his room.
“God, did I miss you two.” She hears him say.
A tornado of emotions fill her—happiness and sadness twisting round and round inside. At last, she thinks. Something other than bitter.