I recently re-read my last blog post, which started off with the following quote pulled from one of my agent query letters.
“Who of us can say we’re truly committed in our most important relationship, or really anything? Fully engaged, faithful, devoted down to our core.”
My mind instantly darted down a new, unchartered fictional path, and I thought I’d share where it was going. Will it remain a blog post? Expand into a short story? The opening to a new novel? Let me know what you think. Here’s what I have so far. Enjoy…
Her platform shoes clicked a familiar morning staccato on the hardwoods. From the ground up, my eyes recorded each inch of her shapely figure. The way her calves tightened with each confident stride, perfectly balanced on three-inch leopard skin heels. A pleaded, black pencil skirt hugged her thighs, causing my heart to skip as I made my way to her derriere. I closed my eyes and recalled a night from what seemed like the distant past, when she lay on top of me, my hands gripping her backside.
I swallowed, blinked my eyes and re-focused on the climb, noticing her black camisole squeezing against her breasts. A silver bracelet hung from her right arm, swinging in sync with the heal-clicking beat. She’d flung her black jacket over her shoulder, and I noticed a slight bicep crease up the back of her arm.
Her precious face. Those deep, auburn eyes I fell in love with almost ten years ago. They sucked me in like a black hole, heart first. Her hair was up in bun, adding to her powerful aura. Once released, the frizz and curls would set off a sex alarm.
The whole package, I’ve said to her and myself many times. Sure, time has a way of reminding you it’s leering around the corner. A couple of extra lines here and there, a slight dimple forming somewhere other than her cute cheeks. Still, the whole package. She was my fantasy woman. An absolute dream come true. Not that a body makes a beautiful woman, but you had to start with her looks. Every room she entered men and women alike would jerk their heads to catch a glimpse of the woman who radiated beauty.
Her warmth and compassion were even more alluring. But today I couldn’t focus on the inside.
“What are you looking at?” Her eyes glanced at mine for just a second, then focused on the bottom of her coffee mug. She gulped it down then rubbed her lips to ensure her lipstick didn’t disrupt her perfect ensemble.
The question, while obvious, caught me off guard. I’d been in my own world, hiding from demons who’d been torturing my every thought. Day and night. Especially in the darkness of our bedroom. Which crazy zingers had any degree of truth? With so little sleep, I could be dreaming all of this up. She’s so beautiful. We shared a love others couldn’t even fathom. I held that belief like it was the last treasure on earth, refusing to completely let it go.
But the logical side of me couldn’t ignore the stabbing data points. Her normally endless patience had been reduced to a five-second rule. If you – actually just me – disagreed with anything she said longer than a few seconds, she’d blow a fuse. She blamed it on her work. Too much rampant stress. Made sense, but something about it didn’t ring true. There was another factor.
An hour prior, while she lounged in our Jacuzzi tub, I brought in her iPad so she could get in some reading. It helped her relax. She raised her leg out of the tub and slid her hand up her thigh. I paused and smiled.
“Is that the phone?” she said, returning my smile with a knowing grin.
I made a beeline out to the kitchen and realized her cell was ringing. I flipped it over and saw the picture. A jolt raced up my body, bringing with it bile, a red face, and beads of sweat. It was the same smiling ass hole I’d seen countless other times when he’d called or texted. I looked at the clock. It read 8:02 a.m. He must have thought she was already at work.
My head dropped, but no faster than my heart. I should have answered, as if to stake a claim that this is my wife. But I froze, already feeling like my confidence and very being had eroded from the downpour of pressure against an enemy I couldn’t speak of, let alone touch.
“Who was it?” she asked when I returned to the master suite carrying laundry.
“Andrew.” My eyes focused downward on the grout in the tile. I rounded the corner and entered the closet to hang clothes as my heart pumped liked it was digging up oil two miles below.
“Oh yea, I guess I forgot to return his call from the other day.”
I didn’t respond. I couldn’t. A simple question like, “Why does he only call or text you when he thinks you’re at work?” would initiate the five-second countdown. And I knew I had other questions. But what if it was just a friendship? That’s what she’d told me. Do I follow blindly? I didn’t know what or who to trust. I felt like a fish lost in a sea of emotion, unable or unwilling to trust my own instincts.
Back in the kitchen, she flicked some water in my face as she washed out her mug. I chuckled and the mood lightened a bit.
“Are you in a trance or something?”
“Something.” I realized that didn’t follow the desired script. The flag was now yellow.
A few months ago she would have asked what was wrong, was there something on my mind. She would have come over and caressed my back. I always did the same for her. We were a team. Always had been. Now I wondered if it was a team of three…or, if I was now playing backup.
“Have a good day.” She pointed at the side of her face while re-arranging items in her over-sized leather purse. The last couple of months she asked that I kiss her cheek each morning so her lipstick wouldn’t smudge. I considered it a grandma kiss. I picked up her left hand and noticed, again, that she’d left her rings in her jewelry box. She had a rash that only affected her ring finger on her left hand. Go figure.
I closed my eyes and kissed her hand. For five seconds I poured all of my love, heartache, and hope into a wet kiss on the top of her left hand. I gently released it, then turned and walked toward the back door.
“Stay out of trouble,” she joked as she put the car in reverse, seemingly oblivious to my pain. I didn’t turn around. I waved with the back of my hand and entered the house.
I stood there wondering when this cycle would end. How it would end. I could say nothing, and maybe we’d survive for God knows how long. I’d wilt away like a lone plant clinging to life in a dried-up creek bed. Or would I have the gall to ask, knowing it would create a volcanic response? A fiery end, or a slow drip.
I put both hands on the side of the counter and dipped my head. Tears couldn’t form. They were blocked by pure sadness. I was sure I’d done something wrong to push her away. I didn’t know what. If I uncorked her rage – or guilt – she’d undoubtedly hurl expletives at me, but maybe a few clues, actual true feelings, would be included in the barrage. But I didn’t want that. I only wanted my dear wife to love me like I loved her. Completely. Deeply. Through thick and thin. Sickness and health. Open. Honest.
I wasn’t asking for something impossible. She’d been the one who had brought out the best in me for years.
Until the deception. Until the other man.