Finishing the Story
Awakening her emotions, maybe even enough for a night out, the shower felt like a good idea. Feeling pretty for a change, she thought she just might be getting through the pain or, at least, starting to. Accompanied by a long-forgotten half-finished novel, she lay upon her tightly made queen-size bed. Fresh-from-the-dryer pillowcases filled a lonely night with the scent of clean. A summer’s night breeze was hardly enough to offset the humidity as it danced with sheer curtains over the open window.
The recent hot and sleepless nights had turned a time for sweet slumber into a battle of the consciousness. Although better off without him, his absence had taken so much more. She struggled to concentrate, reading full pages of dialog without the slightest comprehension. Rereading portions to grasp the story line, her efforts were futile. The story inside the pages paled in comparison to the drama of her own novel.
11:38. The numbers on the clock were deliberate and smug in the fact that time was the only thing unaffected by adversity and turmoil. They stood tall and turned slowly. For making no noise, they had a looming presence. Folding her arms and letting the book fall to her chest; she exhaled a breath that had been stored unconsciously for the last few paragraphs. Fingers still resting on the open cover, she squeezed her eyes closed and tensed up. Her throat began to burn as drops of her memories forced their way from under her eyelids.
Suddenly, she bolted upright. "No! Not tonight!" she assured herself. Whatever it takes, she was determined to begin the process of forgetting. She sat on the edge of the bed, debating then gave herself permission to indulge in a row of Oreos and a tall glass of milk. Besides, the couch and television would be stronger allies in her quest for normalcy.
Channel surfing and dunking, nothing could be so uninspiring as the pathetic choices presented by a ridiculous 96 channels. She settled for a bit on a documentary about a pride of lions. As interesting as it was, the snuggling of even animals were just a sad reminder that her warmth comes only from an unforgiving heat wave that doesn’t sleep.
The clock chimed the first hour past midnight. Another empty and echoing reminder of "one".
At least it was Friday. No need to worry about being tired for work in the morning. Plus, the weekend should bring some relief in the form of a birthday party on Sunday. She thought of her dad turning 65 and flinched a quick smile. He was in better shape than most twenty-year olds and showed no signs of slowing down.
"Keep at ‘em, Dad." As she whispered, her lower lip made contact with the rim of the glass that she held up with both hands. The milk was now warm and the Oreoes were gone. It brought her back to her thoughts and she worried that such indulgence would render her no prize for new love. She felt guilty for resorting to a means that was sure to make her look the very way she felt: simply sad.
Just then, lights beamed across the front window as a car pulled into the drive. She couldn’t bring herself to look. "It’s just somebody turning around."
Then the familiar sound of the engine went silent. A car door closed with deliberate silence. She trembled at the thought of wanting it to be him just to be let down at, instead, the sight of a neighbor returning late. She didn’t move even when the knock came. She now knew it was he. She wanted to open the door, but she had done that too many times before.
Even though it was over long before, the visits came frequently to give her hope. They gave her terms of endearment. They told stories of regret for his absence. They brought passion. They came with all the things she had asked for then left again at dawn. Like a wicked and twisted joke, his withdrawal took with him all that it had brought, then left a void inside of her. The carrier that was her heart would be turned over and the contents that were her dreams would be scattered among the sheets.
Still, she wondered.... It has been a while. What has he learned? Maybe he’s changed. Maybe it will be different this time. Maybe things can be perfect after all.
She walked slowly to the switch and turned on the porch light. He peered into the window and smiled. Reaching for the deadbolt, she unlocked her heart and opened the door. He stepped in and stopped before her. He smelled of smoke and wine. The smoke was mixed with the scent of his leather coat. A combination that smelled tough: A man’s smell. The smell of wine only bordered on sweet and was better than any frilly cologne that a lesser man would wear. His hands reached for her waist and he pulled her close. She looked up and tilted her head to receive the kiss that she had been missing so much.
Leaving the television on and the warm milk on the end table, she took him by the hand. She led him down the hallway and into the bedroom where the fresh bedding awaited them. With the ‘click’ of the lamp switch, all was good again. Pulling the sheets over their naked bodies, the novel found itself upon the floor. Under the covers, her heart swelled her body shook and her lips smiled. She was now oblivious to the numbers on the clock. The night was topped off with the ability to fall asleep without a war in her head. She was soon breathing the deep breaths of healthy slumber as she lay beside him in his arms.....