Not So Perfect
Owen tried to focus on the sign of growth. They hadn't blown up at each other the moment they had wanted to. Instead, acknowledging that it wouldn't do anyone any good for Maisie to be a party to it, they had both been able to reign themselves in until she was off to school; cheerfully waving goodbye as she rode off on her bike.
However, the moment they had closed the door, silence fell over the house. Maybe that was a sign of growth too – neither of them immediately lashing out at the other with words.
Neither of them moved. Owen was a couple steps in, standing near the bottom of the stairs, while Claire was leaning against the door. Taking the moment of silence as a chance to observe her, Owen realized just how tired she looked. Tired and worn down. He remembered this look – he used to see it in the first few months post Jurassic World, when Claire was being run ragged; depositions, PR events, meetings with Masrani Global, trying to stay in touch with her sister and more. Through it all, Claire never complained. She would just straighten her back, pasted on a smile, and marched into the next item on her calendar like she was paying penance.
But what was running her down now? Things were going pretty well. Maisie was adjusting to school. He was getting use to being back at work. And Claire continued to run the DPG, heading into the office at least five days a week. Wracking his brain, he couldn't think of anything she'd mentioned recently that was out of the ordinary. Work seemed to be work, and life was just life.
Even this morning, he wasn't sure what set them off. Sure, they had both been running behind frantically trying to get Maisie and themselves organized and out the door. But, considering the two of them were still standing there, and neither of them were showing any sign of moving, being late didn't seem to be a concern to her.
He thought back to their earlier conversation; the one they'd cut short when they realized where they were headed, both of their gazes having shifted over to Maisie, who had been sitting at the kitchen table eating cheerios. Had it really all started over coffee?
"Hey, can you pour me some too?" Owen asked, rushing into the kitchen, running his hand through his still damp hair.
"Hmm?" Claire replied, distracted.
"Coffee," Owen reminded her, moving past her to grab the bag of bread and pulling a couple of slices out before putting them in the toaster
"Oh, sorry," Claire looked at her mug, and then at him. "I'm actually drinking tea this morning. I haven't made any."
"Tea? Did you get replaced by a pod person and I missed it?" Owen joked, reaching into the cupboard for the coffee grounds, now tuning into the fact that his favourite morning smell was missing.
"Just didn't want coffee, alright?" Claire's snapped reply had Owen looking at her, confused.
"It's just coffee," Owen said, raising his hands in surrender, before grabbing the carafe to fill it with water. "No harm meant." Once the coffee was started, he began pulling out what he needed to make Maisie's lunch.
He could feel Claire's eyes following him as he moved about the kitchen. His toast popped up, and he quickly spread on some peanut butter, wolfing it down as he made Maisie a sandwich. He rounded out her lunch by adding an apple, a couple of cookies and a small bag of chips, before tracking down her water bottle and filling it.
"Perfect Owen," Claire muttered angrily, and Owen paused in his movements, turning to her, not sure he heard her correctly.
"Nothing," Claire shrugged.
"No, what did you mean by that?" Owen asked.
"I didn't say anything."
"Oh don't give me that," Owen rolled his eyes, before mimicking her. "Perfect Owen. What does that mean?"
"What do you think it means?" Claire voice started to rise.
"Am I missing something?" Owen asked. "Did you wake up on the wrong side of the bed? What's gotten into you this morning."
"I just-" Claire cut herself off, the sound of Maisie's chair scraping against the floor as she got up, drawing their attention.
Letting out a deep sigh, Owen scrubbed his hands down his face, before returning his gaze to Claire, seeing her slump even more against the front door.
"What's going on?" he asked, sinking down to sit on the stairs.
"Nothing," Claire shook her head, straightening up and shifting away from the door. "I don't know what you're talking about."
"Claire…" Owen let out another sigh. "You're not usually this tense or easily upset. We don't normally have it out over coffee."
"We didn't this morning either," Claire denied.
"Only because Maisie was sitting right there," Owen argued back, his own voice rising.
"Well good thing for Maisie."
"I don't know that it's a good thing," Owen disagreed. Claire looked at him surprise and he clarified. "I mean, yeah, I don't want us fighting in front of her, but… we've done the not communicating thing before. It's never ended well."
"Yeah, well…" Claire shrugged, and silence fell over them again. Owen was trying to figure out how to break it, when Claire spoke up again. "What are we doing?" He looked up and found her gazing at him, a pleading look in her eyes.
"What do you mean?"
"This. Everything." Claire waved her hand around at the house. "Maisie. Us. A house..."
"I thought you wanted this," Owen asked carefully, his heart sinking. "All of this."
"I do," Claire's reply was quick, before she sighed, sinking back against the door. "I didn't realize it would be this hard." She rubbed at her eyes, but Owen couldn't see evidence of tears, at least not yet. "You know," she looked up at him, "the other day someone was telling me about my 'perfect' life and 'perfect' family. About how everything has worked out so well for me." She laughed, but it sounded hollow. "So well…"
"I know things aren't perfect..." Owen wasn't really sure what to say.
"I don't want perfect," Claire cried out, one of her hands falling down in a fist, thumping against the door. "Perfect is an impossible ideal. I'm sick of aiming for the impossible." She thumped her fist against the door again. "So sick of it."
"Did something else happen?" Owen asked, trying to piece together the puzzle. He'd never seen Claire back down from a fight before. Never seen her not want to aim for the impossible. Impossible was what she did. Off her look, he clarified, "At work? Or somewhere else? Or here… did I say something?"
"No," Claire shook her head, her gaze darting away from his, "Not really."
Owen climbed back to his feet, moving to stand in front of her. "What did I say?"
"Not you," Claire shook her head again, this time meeting his gaze and giving him a lukewarm smile. "You've been… you've been great. More than great." Her gaze darted around their house again. "'Perfect' husband." But she wouldn't meet his eyes when she said that.
"While I do like to think I'm perfect..." Owen tried to get a smile from her, but it didn't work. He sighed, reaching for her hands. "I'm not trying to be perfect. And I don't expect you to be perfect either."
"I know," Claire nodded, biting her lip, gaze shifting away again.
From this close, Owen could now see the tears that were threatening to fall, and he tugged her closer, letting go of her hands to wrap his arms around her instead in a loose hug, staying back just enough that he could continue to try to meet her gaze. "What happened?" he asked again. She just shrugged and tried to pull back, but he tightened his grip on her, pulling her closer, until she rested her head on his shoulder. he could feel the tears finally fall, soaking his shirt. He was glad she couldn't see him, as his eyes widened in panic. He'd never been good with a crying Claire. Hugging her, he thought over their morning again. "Who told you everything was perfect?"
Claire didn't reply, but she finally wrapped her arms back around him, hugging him tightly, as if afraid he was going to disappear from her grasp.
"You know there's no such thing as a perfect family, right?" Owen tried a different tack. "Each of us – you, me, Maisie – we're all just trying our best. And that's all we can and should expect from each other. It means we'll have good days and bad. Days where we'll feel like that perfect family and days we'll feel far from it. It doesn't make us any less of a family."
"That's a perfect answer," Claire sniffled, then took a deep breath. "God, why are you so perfect?"
"Can I get you to say that on record?" Owen quipped and Claire gave him a half-hearted shove on his shoulder, but she stayed wrapped around him. "I'm not. You know that, right?"
"Sometimes, I feel like I don't belong in this family," Claire admitted. "I'm the one who's furthest from perfect."
"Um, what?" Owen pushed back this time, twisting until he could meet her gaze. "Claire, have you taken a look around recently? Each one of us is just getting through the day. And each day, we all get a little bit better at it."
"Easy for you to say," Claire mumbled.
"Yeah, because I see it in all of us," Owen shrugged. "Seriously, Claire. Who was talking about perfect families? That doesn't sound like Zia or Franklin or really any of the DPG people."
"It wasn't at the DPG," Claire admitted, leaning against him and letting him support her. "Soccer practice on the weekend. One of the moms."
"Oh," Owen nodded slowly. Outside of Karen, they didn't know or were friends with many people who were parents. And getting used to the parent-to-parent interaction was turning out to be tougher than they'd expected. School pick-up and drop-off could be like walking through a minefield. Owen was thoroughly annoyed by the number of moms who'd practically swooned all over him when he'd meet Maisie there sometimes, like that simple act made him an amazing dad. He'd been the one who pushed having Maisie ride her bike to and from, just so he wouldn't have to deal with it. "I swear, some of those parents are almost worse than the Indominus."
"She just kept going on how great I have everything," Claire said. "How fantastic and perfect my life must be. And all I could think was that I forgot to put the laundry in the dryer before we left. And that I needed to get my suits to the dry-cleaners. And that I forgot to phone back the investor the other day with the updated numbers. And–"
"Shhh," Owen put his finger to her lips, quieting her, feeling her getting worked up again. "I know it doesn't really make anything better to say she's jealous or whatnot. But, it really doesn't matter anyway. We're doing the best we can, and that's all we can hope for. Now," he let go with one arm, keeping his other wrapped around her shoulders, and turned, maneuvering them towards the stairs. "You know, it's been a long time since we've had some time that's just the two of us."
"I've got work," Claire weakly protested but let him lead her up the stairs. "You've got work, too."
"We'll call in sick," Owen shrugged, tugging her into the bedroom. "And show them we're not perfect."