This week we’ve been peeking into Wanda’s background. Wanda is one of the four women of Happiness Key, and she’s a character in more ways than one. In the end, any day I had to write a scene from Wanda’s point of view was a good day. It still is, since she appears in Fortunate Harbor, the sequel to Happiness Key, which will be out next summer.
Next week, we’ll take a look at Alice, the fourth and final major character in the novel and woman in residence at Happiness Key, a rundown beachfront community on Florida’s gulf coast. If you’ve missed the others, page down. Tracy and Janya have had their say.
Through the years, through one colicky baby and another who was allergic to everything God put on the planet, we hung together. I cleaned my own house and cooked nearly every meal we ate. The kids and I baked homemade pies twice a week and people always seemed to come around that day to help us eat them. We never were rich, and I waited on tables for all the extras we needed, but we saw our children through college and on to careers, our son Junior a teacher, our daughter Maggie, a cop like her dad up in Pennsylvania. I was sorry about that, considering I already had one cop to worry about every time he walked out the door. But I’ve never told her so, which is one of the few times I haven’t shot off my mouth when I shouldn’t.
Kenny was good at his job. He made corporal pretty quick, then after we’d been married awhile, he made detective. I liked that better. Miami-Dade’s not the safest place for a cop in uniform, and Kenny wasn’t shy about going places most cops tried to avoid. The day he shot and killed a twenty-seven year old drug dealer at a highrise in Cutler Bay, he shouted a warning. But the man turned his gun on Kenny, and there was nothing Kenny could do except take him down.
It wasn’t the first time he’d had to discharge his weapon. But it was the first time he’d killed somebody. He’s not over it, and I don’t think he ever will be. He sank down into some pit in his imagination, and I think he keeps imagining what he could have done differently, like that kid was worth saving even though he had a record as long as the dirt road outside this crummy beach cottage I’ll never call home.
His job was safe, he could have gone back out on the streets. Instead we moved here to Sun County, where he mostly works behind a desk or knocks on doors in safer neighborhoods. We rented this cottage on the beach, where I think Kenny hopes the quiet and the beach will help him get back to being the man he was. But it’s not helping because he’s never here. How can he put work behind him if he works all the time? Or maybe he just doesn’t want to come home to me anymore.
I’ve about given up hope he ever will, and now I’m not so sure I care. I didn’t sign on for this. We got through all our other troubles together. How come this time it’s different? I figure I’ve got maybe ten more good years left in me, and do I want to spend them with a man who never talks or laughs, a man who disappears in the morning and comes home when I’m already asleep? A man who doesn’t even want to talk to his kids when they call?
Maybe I’m sagging, bagging and turning gray, but I’ve still got something to offer a man. And I need to offer it while it’s still there. But I’m good to go and I might be gone next time he looks for me. It’s not that I don’t have some sympathy for what he went through. It’s just that maybe this is the man he was all along, and I just never noticed before. A man who can’t let me into his life. And who needs that?