Short Story: Greener on the Other Side

“Are we there yet?” Billy asked his dad, ignoring the irritated look he got in response.

“Soon, Billy,” Robert replied. “Soon.”

‘How did I get stuck with all the kids again?’ Robert asked himself.

“I wanna play with Laia,” Samantha jumped in. She couldn’t wait to play with her grandma’s dog.

“Ow, stop it,” Teddy said, pushing Billy off of him, and into their sister. “Dad, tell Billy to leave me alone! I’m trying to play a game on my tablet.”

“Billy!” Robert said. “Leave your brother alone. We’re almost there, so calm down!”

As Robert brought the car to a stop at a light, he glanced over in time to see a man walk out of a Victoria Secret store with a woman that could have been a model.

The two carried shopping bags to the man’s Porsche and put it all in the trunk.

Robert could only stare at them dreamily.

A honk from the car behind him informed him that the light had turned green, and he was now holding up traffic.

He stepped on the gas and the car took off.

Married ten years and with three kids, Robert felt as if his life had become a routine of hauling kids around and his wife being annoyed with him.

Like everyone else, he often wondered what his life would be like if he hadn’t married so young, but then he would be brought back to reality and come to terms with it.

His wife had picked up on his mood over the last year or so, but figured it was just a phase. She tolerated it, but only to an extent.

The holidays were usually easier to get through and as they drove through the snow filled town, Robert’s mind seemed to be drifting more and more.

“Are we there yet?” Samantha asked, bringing him back.
Once they had arrived at Grandma’s house, the kids ran in to play, while Robert began unloading the trunk.

After his last trip, he laid the rest of the presents by the tree and went around greeting everyone one by one.

“Robert,” his wife called.

“Yes, dear,” he answered.

“We ran out of a few things,” she explained. “Do you mind going to the store real quick to get them.”

Still exhausted from the drive there, he said, “Sure, dear.”

She gave him a quick peck on the cheek and gave him the list.

Fortunately, the store was close and it didn’t take him long to get the few things they needed.

As he pulled into the driveway, he found he was having a hard time getting out of the car. He didn’t know why, but depression filled him. He didn’t want to even go inside.

He leaned forward and put his head on the steering wheel.

“Mr. Smith,” a voice said, making Robert raise his head in surprise. “Is everything alright?”

He looked around stunned. He raised his head to find himself wearing different clothes and in a different car.

“What?” he asked, trying to come to terms with the new environment.

“Is everything alright?” the man repeated.

“Where am I?”

“You’re in front of Bernard’s” the man stated. “I’m the valet. Would you like me to still park your car?”

“I have to get back to my family,” Robert said, but got out of the car since it wasn’t his.

“Family, sir?” the man asked, obviously confused. “I’m sorry, Mr. Smith. I wasn’t aware you had a family. Should I tell the young lady inside that you had to leave?”

“Sure,” Robert replied and started to walk away.

“Sir!” the valet called after him. “What about your car?”

Robert looked around. “Where’s my car?”

The valet looked at him confused. “Sir, this is your car.”

Not seeing his own car in the parking lot, he walked back and got in the car the valet said was his.

Wanting to end the conversation and get back to his family, he started to drive off.

“Have a good night, sir,” the valet said, backing away.

The valet went inside the restaurant to tell the beautiful woman inside what had just happened.

Robert pulled in front of his mother in law’s house, confused why there were now different cars parked in the driveway.

He got out of the car and walked to the door.

His mother in law opened the door when he rang the doorbell.

“Can I help you,” she asked warmly, but curious.

“Hi Madeline,” he said. “It’s me, Robert. Can I come in. I’m having the weirdest night and I need to talk to Jen.”

He tried to walk in, but Madeline blocked his way.

“What are you doing?” he asked.

“What are YOU doing?” she replied.

“Why are you keeping me from coming in?” he asked, showing his annoyance.

He was surprised when she answered, “Because I don’t know who you are.”

“What are you talking about,” he started. “It’s me, Robert. Your son in law. Jen’s husband of over 10 years. Where’s Jen. This night is getting weirder and weirder.”

Still blocking his path, Madeline called out, “Jen, Steven! Come to the door please!”

“Who the hell is Steve?” Robert asked.

Madeline didn’t answer, but instead waited for them to arrive.

“Is everything alright, Madeline?” Steven asked when he and Jen arrived at the door.

“This man showed up at the door and is acting strange,” Madeline explained. “He said he’s Jen’s husband and wants to come in.”

“You’re obviously confused, sir,” Steven said, trying not to antagonize Robert too much. “I think you should leave.”

Robert looked at Jen. “What the hell is going on. I just went to pick up a few things at the store, and then I woke up in that car and wearing these clothes.”

Jen didn’t know how to respond, but wanting Robert to leave, she backed away and said, “I don’t know who you are.”

Robert could tell she was serious.

“But we have three kids together,” he explained. “Teddy, Samantha, and the youngest, Billy.”

He could see a little surprise in her eyes.

“Steve and I have a daughter named Samantha, after my grandmother, but our son isn’t named Teddy or Billy.”

“I think you should leave,” Steven stated, dropping the polite ‘sir’.

Steve pulled the two women back, putting himself between Robert and them. Seeing that Robert was deep in thought, be backed away and closed the door.

Robert stood there for a few more minutes, unsure what to do.

Part of him wanted to pound on the door, but he knew that wouldn’t lead to anywhere. He decided the only thing he could do, was find out what was going on.

He sat in his car and stared at the house that only hours before, he was in with his family, and felt a pain in his chest.

Not wanting to give into despair, he pulled out his wallet, typed the address on his driver’s license into the GPS, and decided that was as good of a place to start.

He was already driving around in a gorgeous car, but the apartment complex he pulled in front of was something he’d only seen in movies.

As soon as he parked, a valet rounded the front and opened his door for him.

“Mr. Smith,” he said. “Welcome home.”

Too tired to resist, he stepped out of the car and let the valet drive off with it.

When he walked into the lobby of the luxurious apartment building, he was met by a bellhop who asked if he could help with anything.

Robert was about to wave him away, when he realized he had no idea which apartment was his.

“I know this is going to sound strange,” he said, unsure what the bellhop’s name was.

“James, sir,” the bellhop replied.

“Yes, James,” Robert continued. “But I can’t seem to remember which apartment is mine.”

James looked at him confused, but over the years, he had gotten use to dealing with the eccentric rich.

“Not a problem, sir,” he said with a smile. “Follow me.”

He led Robert to his apartment and didn’t leave until he was safely inside.

Robert walked around the apartment, touching everything, trying to get a sense of who he was supposed to be here.

His heart ached, as instead of seeing picture after picture of his family, he only saw pictures of himself smiling in picturesque locations around the world.

He walked out onto his balcony to take in the view overlooking the city. As he looked over the skyline, his only thought was he wished that Jen was there to enjoy it with him.

The doorbell ringing brought him out of his trance.

When he opened the door, he was met by one of the most beautiful women he had ever seen, and at least ten years younger.

“Thank you for leaving me at the restaurant all by myself, jerk,” the woman said playfully, stepping past him into his apartment.

Not knowing what to say, Robert could only stand and watch as she walked to the bar and made herself a drink.

‘She seems to know her way around,’ he thought.

“I’m sorry, but all of a sudden I wasn’t feeling well,” he lied. “Actually, I’m still not feeling a hundred percent.”

She took a sip of her drink and walked over to him.

“Poor thing,” she said, sarcastically. “How many times have I not felt well, but you still dragged me off to some art gallery or something. Just to show me off. Suck it up. I stick with you because you have money. You’re not the only one around, so I suggest you dig deep and come here.”

Dumbstruck, he walked over to her.

As soon as he was to her, she leaned in and kissed him.

Her eyes furrowed when he recoiled. Her lips felt wrong. This whole situation felt wrong.

“I think you should go,” he said, walking to the door and opening it for her.

She looked at him and casually dropped her glass, letting it fall to the ground. Even while it was still shattering, she swaggered past him, barely giving him a passing glance.

Slightly afraid that she would return and murder him, he closed the door as soon as she had walked out.

He stepped over the broken glass and fell into the very soft couch.

Nothing felt right as he looked around the room. He knew this must belong to an alternate version of himself that hadn’t married, but maybe focused on his career.

If that was the case, he was reaffirmed he had originally made the right choice.

When he was with his family, everything felt comfortable and warm. This place felt cold and isolated.

‘It’s too quiet,’ he thought.

Since his first child was born, there weren’t many quiet nights.
‘It’s also too clean,’ he thought, chuckling a little.

His mild moment of happiness only added to the depression and his heart immediately grew heavy again.

He couldn’t believe that he ever wanted anything other than the life he had. When he was younger, he longed for riches and to live the finest home, but not as he sat there on the extra soft couch, in the overly luxurious apartment, with the breathtaking view, he felt more lonely than he ever had before.

He groaned as he tilted his head back and closed his eyes.

With his eyes still closed, he brought his head forward, and immediately opened them back up when his head hit the steering wheel and honked the horn.

He shot up and looked around. He was back in his mother in law’s driveway.

His heart raced at the realization that he was back. Back to the right present. Back to his family.

Jen yelped as Robert burst through the door, walked to her, and picked her up into a warm bear hug.

“What are you doing?” she said, laughing.

“I just missed you and the kids,” he said, letting her back down to the ground.

“You’re acting like a crazy person,” she said, lovingly pushing him back. “Now, help me set the table.”

He brought her in for a long kiss.

‘This feels right,’ he thought keeping his lips to hers as long as he could.

“Where’s the stuff?” Madeline asked, interrupting them.

A hefty laugh was her response.
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Published on August 03, 2020 15:21
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