Chapter 4: New Year’s Eve | Part 3: The Countdown | Any Other Way But Together

“The problem isn’t that we’re different from each other. It’s that we’re different from the people we were when we first met,” Isobel tells Caroline as they fill plastic cups with grapes. The New Year’s Eve countdown in Times Square is playing on the TV in Caroline’s living room while the Rivas family prepares to ring in 2017.

The decor of Caroline and her wife Lisa’s home is in line with Miami interior design trends of the late 90s. The walls are painted yellow with large, colorful oil paintings by Cuban American artists. The floors are covered with terra-cotta colored ceramic tiles that match the ceramic backsplash and countertops in the kitchen.

“I mean, you guys met each other in college, so of course you’re gonna have changed since then,” Caroline says. “Not everybody grows at the same rate… especially men.”

Isobel laughs. “That’s for damn sure,” she responds as she pours a refill into her champagne flute. “Did you and Lisa go through this type of thing?”

“Of course we did. We still do.”

“But you guys look like you’re so together. Like, in every sense.”

“Dude, we go through our ups and downs just like everybody else.” Caroline takes a sip of her scotch and leans back against the counter. “You guys have been together for a while, but kids throw the original relationship equation out the window. It’s totally normal for you to hate each other some days. Especially when the kids are still little and driving you crazy. Most of the time it’s just the exhaustion talking.”

Isobel places her palm on her forehead. “Honestly, between my dad’s health issues and the energy the kids suck out of me on a daily basis, I literally just feel like crying whenever I have a moment to myself.” Her eyes water as she finishes her statement.

“Aw honey, it’s okay to cry sometimes. Life’s a lot harder than people make it seem – especially in Miami,” Caroline says. She gives Isobel’s shoulder a squeeze and begins helping her with the grapes. “You guys should leave the kids here and take off for a weekend. You need some time to relax and reconnect as a couple. If there’s one thing I’ve learned over the years it’s that sometimes you need to get away from the daily routine and look at your life from a different perspective. If you’ve had more ups than downs in the past year, you’re doing pretty good. If not, you got stuff to work on.”

Isobel thinks back on 2016 as Caroline organizes the cups of grapes on a pewter serving tray. She started it breastfeeding and trying to get rid of baby weight while Xavier focused on growing his business. The year took an unexpected turn when Esthie moved in, but the company was a welcomed distraction for Isobel.

Now that Esthie will be moving out again, she wonders what it’s gonna be like to when things go back to normal at home. With the amount of hours Xavier works, she feels so isolated most of the time that she can’t say she’s looking forward to things going back to the way they were.

Nonetheless, she has experienced more highs than lows in the year, so it can’t be too bad. And the fact that Esthie is going to become a mother in 2017 makes Isobel feel like she’ll finally have someone who understands her. If she could do anything to her improve her life in the coming year, she would go back to interior decorating in her spare time.

Even though guilt made her choose to become a stay-at-home mom over continuing her professional career, it didn’t erase her passion for decorating. But with no economic reason for her to return to work, she feels like she has to justify the pursuit of her passions to her husband – a source of tension in their relationship that has yet to surface as an actual argument.

“We’re doing fine. Your brother just doesn’t get the physiological difference between who I was before and after becoming a mother. Sometimes I envy the fact that you and Lisa each carried one of the boys.”

Caroline laughs. “Those years were a shit show. Trust me, you don’t even wanna know how crazy that was in this house. Not to mention what we had to deal with from society when we left the house. That was before it was even somewhat acceptable to be a couple of lesbians giving birth to baby boys.”

Isobel covers her eyes and laughs with Caroline, suddenly feeling insensitive. “Sorry, I know I shouldn’t be complaining about my life at all.”

“You can complain to me anytime, Hon,” Caroline reassures her. “You guys are gonna be better than fine. I know that he can be a handful, but Xavi loves you and those kids more than anything. I’ve never seen him look more proud than when he walks into a room with you guys.”

Tears begin to fall down Isobel’s cheek. “I know he loves us. It’s not that. It’s just me,” she says as she folds a cocktail napkin and dries her tears carefully, trying to avoid smudging her eye makeup.

“Like, whenever we do stuff with the kids I see these moms with their hair blown out and their outfits looking great and I feel like I can never live up to that. I’m always late, my hair’s always a mess. I just can’t keep up anymore. And I also feel like a terrible feminist for giving up my career to stay home with the kids.”

“Iz, you can’t hold yourself to an impossible standard like that. I know for a fact that you spend more time with your kids than those bitches who spend hours getting their hair and nails done. You’re a great mom and you are an accomplished woman. There’s nothing wrong with taking time off from work. Anyone who says you can have it all is leaving out the fact that you can’t have it all at the same time. Trust me, you’re gonna be happy you spent time with them at this age. When they become little monsters in their preteens you’re gonna be grateful for the warm and fuzzy memories you’re making with them now.”

Before Isobel can thank Caroline for the kind words, the kids run into the kitchen to ask if it’s time to start counting down yet. Xavier walks in behind them and asks Isobel if anything’s wrong.

“I’m fine, Babe,” she assures him and hands him his cup of grapes. “I’m gonna go check on the baby before the countdown.”

Part 2: Don’t Call Him Mr. President Tonight   Contents   Part 4: Fireworks

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