The air was filled with the fragrant yet therapeutic scent of peppermint and tea tree, quite different from the misty hot bathroom. There she was, seated face to face with her vanity mirror patting her long soft mocha neck with her fingers.
Delicately she misted her skin with the contents from a long lean glass spray bottle, her dainty French tip manicured nails gripping onto the shiny black dispenser that lay secured on the colorless bottle.
She swayed unperturbed from side to side, humming to a tune that i hadn’t heard in a long time. It was good to see her happy again. Maybe this marked the end of her melancholy.
“Morning love, I’ve got your suit ready on the bed.”
She said as she turned and smiled at me. Her eyes were bright, smile wide and face glowing. She looked better than she had looked since the incident. She motioned with her head as her hands found her way up her hair to her secured bun and released her ebony curls from the clutches of her black hair-tie, letting the thick glossy waves cascade down her back and over her face.
How had I gotten so lucky as to marry such an extraordinarily stunning woman? I headed for her, the cold air nipping at my bare moist skin as the warmth of her smile taunted and warmed me. I kissed her good morning then withdrew to meet her bushy brows and bright big brown eyes staring back at me.
“What was that for?”
“Can’t a man kiss his beautiful wife good morning?”
She giggled and spanked my wet arm in spirited revolt as she turned back to the mirror, unsheathing her eyeliner as her adept artist’s fingers went ahead to outline her eyes.
“ ’A man’ better hurry up because the dinner is about to start and you know how traffic is like on the weekends.”
“Yeah, yeah, I just wish that we didn’t have to make such a big deal about it every time my younger brother feels like retracing his roots. He’s the one who decided that the provincial life was too “uninspiring” for him. Nobody said i had to pretend to be happy about having to stay back and clean up his mess and more so dragging the whole company into it”
“It was your mother’s idea my love. If you’re up for debating it with her over her prodigal son returning then be my guest.”
I wasn’t up for it. If there was a day when I would not pick a fight with my mum, it was this one. I knew that I stood the chance of being dethroned from the board now that her golden baby boy had returned. It was better to play along at least until he got bored of playing family and decided to get back to his fast life, leaving the rest of us to work and send him outrageous allowances to finance his lifestyle.
“Honey, do I have to wear a suit? You know how I hate conforming to society’s standards of decorum.”
I giggled as she gave a sarcastic laugh, dismissing my comment. She was now applying an extra coat of lip gloss. I had never seen her put so much detail into how she looked. She was always so easy about everything which was after all why I had fallen in love with her in the first place. She wasn’t fussy and vain like most of the girls I had dated before.
“Is there some important guest who’ll be attending that I don’t know about?”
“What do you mean?”
She asked as she sprayed some perfume on her wrists and dabbed some under her ears.
“You look like you’re going to meet the frigging president.”
Her shoulders drooped as she turned to me, her expression colder and more focused.
“Since when is making an effort considered a crime?”
“No need to get defensive honey. I’m just making conversation here.”
It had taken so much to get her to this point so I didn’t want to push her back over the edge. Still, there was something about the way that she sprang back to life at the idea of attending this dinner. I had tried my best to get her out of the house for a while now and all of a sudden my brother comes into town and she’s looking like a victoria secret model. I was probably overthinking it.
“Honey could you…?”
I said as I motioned to the undone bowtie around my neck. She smiled. I knew how to tie my own tie but it was always our thing to let her take care of me and do the small things that always made her feel like she was in control.
“I swear Todd, if I was to be run over tomorrow, I don’t know if you’d survive without me.”
“I wouldn’t. I’d probably jump in front of the next car and join you on the other side.”
I said as we shared a laugh and i went in for another kiss. She tensed and hesitated for a while then returned the kiss, pulling away suddenly to tie the bowtie.
“What? Does my breath stink or something?”
“What are you talking about?”
She gave a nervous laugh as she undid the tie and started over.
“You tell me. You’re the one repelling me like the plague.”
“No I am not, I’m fine honey; just let me get this for you.”
I stopped her as I held her wrists gently, buckling them around my neck as I stared back into her eyes.
“We don’t have to go if you don’t want to.”
“No…no, don’t be silly. Your mother would be upset, and it would just cause this whole mess.”
She was fumbling and avoiding my gaze.
“Since when do you give a crap about my mother’s approval?”
“No, it’s just…forget it… We’re wasting time.”
She withdrew her hands and continued to work on the tie. She was hiding something from me.
“This isn’t about the dinner is it Charlie?”
“This stupid tie, why won’t it cooperate…”
She complained, her eyes focused on it as the motion of her fingers quickening over my chest, undoing the tie again.
It was a gentle request but she ignored it. She always became excessive about perfection whenever she had something gnawing at her mind.
“No, just let me get this…I’m almost…”
“I said stop it!”
My voice was firm now and I noticed that I had startled her as her eyes widened and looked up at me.
“What is this about?”
“What is what about?”
“I have no time to pry this out of you right now honey so why don’t you make this easy for both of us and just say it.”
She stopped as I glared down at her, my expression cold. I had put up with her distance for far too long and I couldn’t help her if she kept pushing me away each time I tried to reach out.
“This is about the pills right? Baby I can’t help you if you don’t let me in.”
She withdrew from me and went back to her dressing table, erupting into a frenzied attempt to put away her make up.
“I don’t want to talk about it.”
“I said, I don’t want to talk about it Todd. Just drop it!”
Her voice was raised now. Direct and firm. She stared me down like she was ready to throw a blow at any more opposition. I had never seen her like this. What was going on?
“Baby…this is me. Why don’t you want to let me in?”
Her eyes watered and she sank back onto the chair in front of the mirror. I hurried to her side, afraid that I had pushed her too far. The doctors had said to handle her with care and show her love. It was common for suicide survivors to attempt to take their life again if they felt like things had not changed. I wanted her to feel like she was safe in my care. To know that whatever it was, I could help her through it. I held her hands, she was shaking.
The words came out faster than I could process them.
Pregnant? We had tried to have kids a couple of times now and after five failed attempts and three still births, we were too shattered to even try riding that Ferris wheel of emotions again. It didn’t make sense that she would be pregnant now though. Then it hit me. Patrick!
“That’s why you wanted to go to the party. To see him…”
I let go of her, the feeling of disgust and hurt welling up inside of me. It was as if I was dealing with a complete stranger. Attempted suicide…an affair? Who was this woman and what had she done with my wife?
“Todd I can explain…it…it isn’t what you think…I…”
“Isn’t what I think? Charlie you slept with my partner. Oh my God Charlie! What the hell…?”
I got up and started to walk away as she fell on her knees, grabbing my leg.
“Todd please…listen I can explain.”
I didn’t know whether to hit her, hit something, throw something, curse or just do it all at once. I had felt anger before but not like this. How could she do this to me? After all that we’d been through, selling our house to pay off the loans my brother had taken, losing three children that we would never know, even excommunicating my mum when she had disowned her, attesting to her hatred for a spouse who couldn’t sire her grandchildren to inherit her business.
“Let go of me Charlie.!”
“Please Todd, just listen. I love you…I lo…”
“Charlie let go of my leg…let…let go of…Charlie!”
“Please Todd, it didn’t mean anything!”
It started to pan out in my head. All this time I had thought that I wasn’t good enough or there for her as much as she needed me to be, and the entire time she was screwing my partner behind my back.
“I don’t want to hurt you Charlie. Let me go…”
Defeated, she let go, propping herself up, her eyes blotched from the runny make up. She was still stunning even when her face was all ruined. I wanted to hate her so much but I couldn’t, i was just… hurt.
“Why? Was I not good enough for you?”
“No…no…you…don’t say that. It was stupid…I was drunk.”
“Please Charlie, don’t blame this on alcohol. You don’t go out with my friend, get drunk and get into…God Charlie! Get into bed with him and blame it on what…being drunk?”
She held onto my arms but I pushed her away. Her touch felt repulsive; almost sickening.
“I can’t be here right now.”
I grabbed my coat and headed down the stairs as she ran after me, crying and pleading. My mind was racing.
“Todd wait…Todd! What about the baby…”
A baby? What would happen now? How would I ever look at her the same way again? How would I look at this baby? Would I even love it knowing that it belonged to another man? I needed air. My brain was closing in on itself and everything seemed fuzzy. I turned round and met her gaze as she ran towards me, her hands stretching to grab me.
“Todd…I know I screwed up, but think of the baby. I can’t do this without you.”
I looked into her eyes to find the spark that I always saw in her. The one that stared back at me every morning immediately she woke up. The love I felt when I’d spend hours just watching her sleep. All I saw now was Patrick and I hated him for taking the most important thing in my world.
I couldn’t believe the thoughts that were running through my mind at the time. They were all pacing back and forth too fast for me to stop them. Before I could restrain the words, they were out.
“I want a divorce!”
We stared at each other mute, the atmosphere growing thick and heavy. Everything was spinning. She didn’t even notice the the door open and slam shut, the deafening loud bang echoing and erupting through the loft and bouncing off the large walls and then everything went quiet.