After an interesting morning with Veda and Blue, eating breakfast and arguing over music for me to play later this week, Blue is heavily on my mind. In fact, Blue is featuring more and more in my inner musings as the week progresses and I can’t shake the feeling that he is going to be important to me. He is important to me. As little as I know him he has already helped me immensely; he’s reintroduced me to the music scene that I’ve been so lost from, he has invited me into his circle of friends who have welcomed me with open arms and hearts, and he has made me smile. I have smiled and laughed with Blue so much these last few days that my face has ached from the effort.
So why is it that when I accumulate all of these positives I get a negative? Firstly, it is pushing me even further away from Reid, and secondly, because I don’t think it can stay as a friendship for very long. Blue has made it clear that he would like more than my friendship and while I have made it apparent that his advances are not welcome, I know that I can only hold them away for so long.
So, I should end this now.
I shouldn’t allow this friendship to progress.
And I won’t.
This dinner then, is a promise to Reid; a gesture of my willingness to work harder for us, and a plea that he will too. I need him to remind me of what I felt for him just a few months ago, because I know that it is only circumstance that has allowed those feelings to wane. Not him and not me. My love hasn’t burnt out, but the passion has, and the passion can easily be reignited, right? Consider this meal kindle to our prospective fire.
As if the table wasn’t decorated enough, I have gone all out on my own attire. Wearing a delicate gold dress that fits snug to my chest and waist before flowing softly to my knees, I feel immensely overdressed. My hair has been coiffed into neat curls and I’m wearing more makeup than necessary considering how I intend on staying in. But, the dress is a favorite of Reid’s and I can’t wait to feel his appreciation.
The night has been ticking by slowly and although Reid doesn’t know the reason behind my incessant checking, he is finally able to tell me that he is on his way home. I feel a slither of butterflies in my empty stomach as I remove the food from the oven and place the salad on the table. I pour us some wine and wait patiently.
And then impatiently.
I have finished my glass and I’m ready for another when Reid finally opens the door. I’m retrieving the bottle from the fridge when he tosses a look my way. He’s having a heated conversation on the phone and I can practically feel the aggravation emanating from him. He mouths two minutes somewhat apologetically before rushing through to his office and slamming the door.
Well, that wasn’t the reaction that I was hoping for.
He didn’t acknowledge the candles on the decorated dining table, his eyes didn’t wander over my specifically chosen dress and he didn’t even falter at the smell of my painstakingly prepared meal.
I bite back the hurt and take a seat with my second glass of wine. Instructing myself not to take anything from his insensitive arrival I wait...
An hour later and the food is stone cold. The candles have lost their romance; their flickering only encouraging my annoyance. Sade’s smooth voice grates on me like grit against my overly moisturized skin. My outfit feels desperate and ridiculous. Everything has been ruined. I try not to see it as symbolic but the inner drama queen in me is too loud and too brash to ignore.
The conversation emitting from behind the apartment wall sounds far from over. How long am I expected to sit here and wait? Pah. I won’t wait. Not anymore. After downing the remaining wine from my glass I throw a coat over my arm and grab my purse, purposefully neglecting to throw in my phone as I fly out the door.
I don’t know what leads me here; my feet, my heart or my need for a stiff drink, but I end up at The Nest. It’s oddly quiet, quieter than I was prepared for. I had hoped to slip into the usual bustling crowd and fester in my frustration in private. That’s not going to happen. Veda clocks me as soon as I walk in. I must have ‘pathetic’ stamped across my forehead because with one look she assesses that a Corona will not be enough for me tonight.
“Tequila?” she asks, already reaching for the bottle.
“Eugh. I love you.”
“I thought you said you were going to shy away from the booze for a little while?” she says, smiling teasingly at my inability to follow through with anything.
“Yeah well, that was before I realized what an ass I’m married to.” I regret my over keen admittance immediately so I shake my head at Veda when she opens her mouth to respond. She dutifully closes it and fills my shot glass. I tip it all the way back, wincing at the taste and subsequent burn.
“You want to come out with us next week?” Veda asks, re-adjusting a Kirby-grip in her choppy red hair.
“Yeah, Nile and I have made Tuesdays our Friday night. We never get to enjoy weekends anymore,” she says, but I know how much she enjoys working here. When she smiles sweetly I want to jump across the bar and hug her. Why couldn’t I have met her months ago, before I became so bored and bitter?
“I’d really like that.” I attempt to smile. I try really hard, I do, but a scowl seems to have permanently settled on my face. “Now, in the mean time. Keep. These. Coming.” I hold up the now empty shot glass. Veda smiles again, her elfin features aren’t completely convinced though. I see a little hesitance as she pours me another.
As I recover from the nastiness of the tequila, Blue saunters into the bar from a door on the back wall. He finds me straight away, his brow creasing. Our eyes meet and I immediately feel like crying. I don’t of course, because I’m not that emotionally accessible, but confronted with them dangerous eyes brings my failings flooding back.
My plan to avoid Blue has lasted no more than several hours. I have sought him out immediately after being let down by Reid. Is this how it’s going to be? Am I going to come crawling to Blue every time that I’m disappointed by Reid? Will it eventually drive me to tarnish our marriage? No, no. The thought fills me with a sickness that far outweighs the burning nausea of the tequila.
It will never come to that.
“Ya’ know, if you’re going to do tequila at least do it properly,” Blue says as he slides a bowl of limes and a salt shaker in front of me. He reaches for another glass and fills both of them up, holding the salt out expectantly. I say nothing, but lick the back of my hand and offer it to him. He does the same on his own and I have to briefly look away at the appearance of his long tongue. He douses our wet skin with salt and raises his glass to me.
“To tequila, fixer of everything.”
We clink glasses, lick the salt, down the shots and bite the lime. And that’s pretty much how the next hour goes.
Blue doesn’t ask me what’s wrong and he doesn’t try to curtail my drinking, in fact, he matches me shot for shot. He gives me free reign over the jukebox, cheering or moaning in response to my choices. I notice his moans come whenever anything country is chosen so I childishly play the entire compilation album.
The bar is eerily quiet. Apparently Wednesdays are decidedly dead here, and by eleven it’s completely empty except for me and Zach, who’s chatting quietly with Veda. Blue has flipped the closed sign on the front door, allowing my drunken pity party to play out without an audience. Thank God.
I’m heading toward the bathroom, working hard to walk straight, when the twanging opening of Luke Bryan’s Country Girl pulls me to the dance floor. I hear Blue’s bellowing laugh from across the bar and before I know it, his hand has found mine. He spins me around and attempts every clichéd country dance move he can. I don’t think either of us pulls off anything to be proud of, since he is as equally smashed as me, but we both bow after our performance. I’m laughing for the first time tonight when I am tugged into Blue’s arms. He’s laughing too and the shared chuckling feels cathartic. I physically feel myself loosen up, melting limply into Blue’s embrace and breathing in his spicy fragrance as if it is the freshest of cool, mountain air.
Before I know it, my head is on his shoulder and his hands are around my waist. He’s so comfortable. I wonder if it’s possible to fall asleep standing up. I’m more than willing to try. It’s only when I close my eyes that I become aware of the new song accompanying our embrace, Tim McGraw and Faith Hill, I Need You.
With one recognition comes another, we are dancing. Blue’s hand is cupped lightly around mine and he’s brought them to our touching chests. His other hand is descending down my back, over the bare skin until it meets the low material of my dress. It took me a while to have the courage to take my coat off, knowing how overdressed I was, but after the sixth tequila my dress was the least of my worries. And now, Blue is showing me the appreciation that I had hoped for when choosing to wear it, albeit from Reid.
“This dress is fucking hot, Pilgrim,” he croons. His words aren’t the poetic compliment I’d longed for when putting it on, but the passion is. Speaking directly into my ear intensifies the appeal, tenfold. I’m putty in his hands as I lean into his breathy voice. “It’s too hot. I feel like I’m burning up dancing with you.”
I hum some sort of agreement but I’m too lost in the moment to formulate a response. His lips continue to press lightly against my ear and I find myself holding him just a little tighter. I’m pressed so tightly against Blue’s body that it’s as if I’m trying to weld us together. I feel every breath rise in his chest and tumble from his mouth. I feel every delicate sway of his hips, every circling of his thumb against my lower back.
We fit together pretty oddly. He’s so tall that without my heels my head would only just meet his chest, and his large arms easily engulf my slim frame. But the sensation is intensely calming. It’s the comfort I have been seeking, the mutual attraction that I have craved, the effortless desire that has been lost in my own relationship...with Reid.
At the reminder of my ties I pull away a little, but when Blue begins to sing along with the chorus I am once again lost in his performance. It’s powerfully subtle, his words just little more than a whisper, but neither his ability nor his passion dim in the quietness. When I join in, harmonizing clumsily to this beautiful song, Blue touches his forehead to mine. With our combined singing, our warm breath mixes. Our mouths are so close we are practically kissing.
And then we are.
Blue’s full lips press so delicately against mine that I momentarily wonder if the tequila is causing me to imagine it, but when his hand traces my jaw and the kiss deepens I realize that I am most definitely being kissed. What’s even more surprising is that I’m kissing back. My mouth parts easily and when our tongues meet I almost collapse with pleasure.
I’m already so weak having been molded into an aroused mess, and his lips are working tirelessly to expire me. My stomach is heavy but tight with long forgotten desire and I have a strong urge to climb into his muscular arms. The feeling is apparently mutual. Blue’s hand on my back pulls me impossibly close and I gasp at the feel of his evident excitement against my stomach. The thrill I feel at still being able to excite a man is colossal. I’ve been with the same man for over seven years. Sex is easily available, and consequently less desirable. Or it feels that way. It’s been a long time since Reid has shown me this same need.
But, oh God. Reid.
As if highlighting my sudden reminder, a loud bang echoes from across the room. I open my eyes as we instantly pull apart, looking over in the direction of the noise with sheer panic on our faces. Somehow Blue has maneuvered us into the hallway that leads to the toilets and his intentions are sickeningly obvious. After a moment’s hesitation, Blue loosens his grip on me, allowing me to step away.
“It’s just the door. Probably someone wanting a night cap,” he guesses.
I nod, because what else is there to do.
“Yeah, I, umm, I need the bathroom,” I say before backing away. I turn and stumble to the nearest toilet, locking the door behind me and sinking to the floor. It’s only then that I remember how desperately I needed to pee earlier. God, even my body is easily distracted.
I sit on the toilet long after I have been relieved of the tequila toxins. I can’t bring myself to leave the bathroom and face what just happened out there. Stupid doesn’t even begin to describe my actions. Drunkenly stupid would be a start, but really, any explanation is inexcusable. What would have happened had we not have been interrupted? Would I have gone through with it? I have to believe that I wouldn’t or else I will hate myself even more than I already do.
I reorganize my clothes as well as my thoughts and step out to confront my slutty reflection in the oversized mirror. There are a dozen spotlights lights cast over me, each further highlighting my disgust. I look the same as I did just hours ago and yet I look completely different. My lips have been tarnished, my cheeks heated with hot betrayal. My eyes are bloodshot, but that at least can be blamed on the booze. I attempt to wash the feel of Blue from my traitorous lips but I give up. I think I’d have more success with bleach.
Snapped out of my self-deprecation by raised voices from the bar, I regretfully leave my hiding place. Having suddenly sobered up, I push open the door and turn out. Planning on grabbing my coat and bag and making a sharp exit, I make my way to where they are on my stool. Except they’re not there. They’re in the arms of a stern looking Reid as he rows with Blue.
“You can’t drag her away if she doesn’t want to go,” Blue argues. His hands are in his pockets in an attempt to look calm, but he’s failing miserably.
“Yes, I can. She is my wife,” Reid rebukes, looking more pissed off by the second.
“And that makes her your property?”
“No, it makes her my responsibility,” Reid answers as his hand glides agitatedly through his wild hair.
“Then you’re doing a piss-poor job.”
“HEY!” Reid snaps, his booming voice cracking through the still air like a whip and his finger prodding sharply in Blue’s direction. Without his glasses his eyes look even more menacing.
Neither has realized that I am witness to this pissing contest. When their chests collide I dart toward them, finding myself ineffectually tearing them apart.
“What are you doing?” I scream when my feeble attempt to separate them fails. I push against them again. “Stop!”
Pulling away enough to let me stand between them, their harsh stares fall on me rather than each other. I have never felt more pressure to resolve a dispute than I do right now, and I’m a teacher.
“You’re going to let him order you around like this?” Blue asks, acting all gallant as if he hasn’t just had his tongue down my throat.
Reid steps closer, about to argue some more, but I settle a palm on his chest, silently begging him to stop. “He’s not ordering me around. I want to go home and that’s where my husband is taking me.” I can only hope that my subtle statement shows my immediate regret at what just happened. I can’t say anymore with Reid here but something, anything, needs to be said so that Blue knows it was a mistake.
“You don’t have to go,” Blue says, a little too quietly.
“I want to.”
Looking deflated but accepting, Blue shrugs. “Well, I guess I’ll see you tomorrow then.”
“Actually, I don’t know if I’ll be able to do the gigs like we agreed. I mean, I obviously can’t keep away from the drink when I’m here. I don’t think I should tempt myself again,” I say, trying for subtle again but knowing damn well that Blue knows I am referring to him. He says nothing, but huffs pointedly. His agitation is clear and I know how he feels. I want to explain further and I have no doubt that he wants to talk too, but we can’t. And I can’t see him again. I don’t want to see him again.
“Bye,” I call, taking Reid’s arm and tugging him toward the door. I wave apologetically at Veda and Zach at the bar. I don’t know if they saw what happened between Blue and I, but either way that display of overt masculinity was embarrassing for all of us.
The second we exit onto the street I relinquish Reid’s arm and storm ahead. I’m freezing without my coat but I can’t even look at Reid let alone ask him for it. I’m fighting an internal battle and I don’t want Reid privy to it. I’m so mad at him for his earlier lack of respect, lack of sensitivity, lack of romance, as well as the way he has just conducted himself in front of my new friends, but I know that none of that compares to what I’ve just done. I have just kissed away my fidelity, drunkenly handed it over as if it were little more than handshake.
I’ve cheated on my husband.
I don’t need to have had sex to know that the line we drew in our vows has been crossed. I feel sick with guilt, or perhaps that’s the tequila. Either way, I am racing home, toward the bathroom, away from Blue and our stupid mistake and leaving Reid trailing behind me.
“Will you just stop!” he yells, as we turn onto our street.
“Darlene!” he calls, and yet I continue to ignore him. Racing into the elevator before Reid has even entered our building, I punch our floor number until the doors close. I just about make out Reid’s flustered face as he turns the corner.
I use the short seconds that it takes for the elevator to ascend to manage my breathing. Conflicting emotions tear through my mind and my body and I’m failing pathetically at controlling any of them. I haven’t cried in years and I’m certainly not going to allow them to come now. I don’t deserve the relief that comes with tears. I will suffer in silence for what I have done to us. I can only hope that Reid will respond the same way. I don’t want to talk about my mighty error so I can’t expect Reid to discuss his.
As soon as the elevator doors open I see Reid racing over the last few steps of the stairwell. He looks so pissed, so intent on meeting me at our door that I know that my hope for jointly feigning ignorance is void. The last thing I want is to discuss this, but judging by the look on Reid’s face that is exactly what I am going to be doing.
“What the fuck was that?” I pant, but she shakes her head as she passes by without even looking at me. “Why did you run from me?” I continue as I stalk after her. “Why won’t you talk?”
When she reaches our door she stops, turns and snatches her bag from under my arm. She scrambles in the deep pit of it like she’s picking for a raffle when really she is looking for her keys. She can’t find them. Of course not, because she doesn’t have them.
“Looking for your keys? You didn’t take them, just like you didn’t take your damn phone. AGAIN!” My normal restraint used to tone down my anger is missing and so my voice is much louder than either of us expects. I remove her keys from my pocket, jangling them pointedly before unlocking and opening the door. I storm in before Darlene, slamming the keys on the kitchen counter. Every action or movement screams how angered I am, as if the frustration I have held back for so long has merely been growing in strength.
She stomps past me, looking to hide in the comfort of her chair. Not this time. We can’t keep ignoring what is happening between us. She pushes me away for weeks and then does a complete u-turn, dressing up in her ‘fuck me’ dress and cooking my favorite meal. She’s gone all out with candles, food, and music and I know damn well that it’s not a birthday or anniversary. I understand that she’s pissed it got spoiled but can’t she see that it wasn’t intentional? I would never have taken so long talking to James had I known that this was what was waiting for me.
“What was all this for?” I ask, nodding toward the dining table.
“It’s nothing. Clearly it wasn’t important,” she replies, blankly. Her mask is threatening to slip back on but I’ll be damned if I’m going to let it.
“Clearly it was. You know I didn’t see it, right?” “It really doesn’t matter anymore.” She’s removed her shoes and now she’s walking back to me, to the kitchen.
“Stop saying that! It obviously matters, Darlene, or you would never have gone to the effort.” She bites back whatever she is going to say, instead choosing to reach for a glass and fill it with water before taking a sip. “Look, I’m sorry, okay?” I say, managing to lower my voice a little. “But you didn’t need to run away, again.”
She turns to leave the kitchen, muttering over her shoulder. “I didn’t run away, I just, I needed to get out. I needed a...”
“Drink?” I finish, my annoyance already creeping back. “That’s all you’ve done all week. It’s actually getting pretty tiring.”
In one quick movement she’s finally turned to face me. Her huge blue eyes are even more expressive as they brighten with anger.
“Yeah? WELL SO ARE YOU!” she screams, surprising us both.
Several moments pass where we regard each other with utter distaste. Her eyes are intent and mean and her nose is pinched as if I repulse her. Her mouth hangs open as she pants from the excursion of her hatred for me. I can only imagine that my expression is an exact mirror image of hers.
Finding my voice, I ask, “I’m tiring?”
Turning to leave again, but not before rolling her eyes, she mutters, “I don’t want to talk about this.”
“Tough shit,” I call, following her as she begins to walk down the hall to our bedroom. “You can ignore me any other time, this we will talk about!” She continues to ignore me. “Darlene.” No response. I reach out and grab her arm, spinning her round to face me. “Just stop being a goddamn bitch and talk to me!”
The look on Darlene’s face is far colder than the glass of water she throws at me. I gasp at the surprise before shaking the wetness from my hair. When I look back to her she looks almost happy, as if her assault has given her great relief. She really does hate me. I guess that’s better than feeling nothing.
Hate I can work with.
Not allowing her a second to avert my advance, I slam my body into hers, pressing her back against the built in bookshelf that spans the length of our hallway. Our lips collide and I almost fall to my knees in gratitude that she’s actually kissing me back. It takes a moment, but she drops the glass and her hands find my hair, twisting into the wetness and tugging aggressively.
I bend down, lifting her from the back of her knees and guiding her svelte legs around my waist. She grips hard and when I feel the friction of her center against mine I can’t stop the groan as it echoes into her mouth.
This is the passion that we have been missing, the aggression that we have needed to kick-start our reunion, to awaken our libido. I’ve wanted her to reject her apathetic attitude for weeks, months, and she has. Now she burns with rage, the flames warming her coldness and hinting at what we once had, and in the ashes we will find us again.
She tastes sharp, like tequila and lime and I have to bite back the annoyance of what she has been doing tonight. I use the annoyance to up the fervor, fisting my hand in her hair as I guide my lips down her neck, sucking and biting in a frenzy of need. I haven’t tasted her in so long. Her skin is inexplicably sweet and smooth like flavored milk. When I reach her shoulder I feel the goose-bumps under my tongue.
I can still affect her.
Spurred on by her response, I pull aside the strap of her dress, easing my lips down until they meet the fullest part of her breast. She’s moaning in appreciation but when I reach for the zip on her back she freezes.
I gaze up at Darlene to find her hand covering her mouth, looking completely uncomfortable. She squirms in my arms until I reluctantly let her down, silently panicking that she’s going to run again.
To the bathroom.
Slamming the door behind her before I can see her retching into the toilet. I sure can hear her though.
Leaning my forehead against the bookcase, I work on steadying my breath and readjusting downstairs, anticipating a major case of blue balls. So close, and yet now I feel even more rejected than before. Noticing all of the books that have fallen to the floor in the midst of our brief excitement, I wonder if she’ll re-alphabetize. I take the empty glass from the floor and walk to the kitchen to fill it up for her, leaving it outside the bathroom door when I’m done.
There was a time when I would have stayed up all night with her, holding back her hair and cooing sweet words of comfort. But after everything that’s happened tonight and everything that is still left unsaid, it doesn’t quite feel like the right thing to do.
With the rise of the sun comes an immediate reminder of the night before. I am in bed alone having left Darlene in the bathroom to deal with the aftermath of her binge drinking by herself. I am slapped with guilt, but I shake it off because I bitterly remember how I am not to worry about her.
It’s still early and the apartment is silent. I find Darlene on the bathroom floor, wearing only her underwear. She went all out there too. Champagne lace. I close my eyes and blink back the heat that threatens to pump through me. This is not the time.
At some point in the night she has kicked off the blanket I covered her in. She’s no doubt going to be freezing when she wakes up. Maybe I should put her in our bed after all. I bend down to wake her, nudging her shoulder gently.
Freezing is an understatement, she’s ice cold! Her skin feels taut and alien and I can feel a subtle shivering. I nudge her harder. “Darlene!” I call, and as my voice echoes around the tiled bathroom she shudders awake, her eyes wide with panic. She flashes me a look of confusion before the depth of how cold she is hits her. I see it physically hit her. She jolts from the floor before clinging to me, her fingers like a snare around my arms.
“Oh. My. God. I’m. So. Cold,” she manages between shivers.
“I know, baby, hold on.” I lift her easily, and take us to the shower. Turning it on, I wait for a minute for the water to heat and then I step in with Darlene cradled in my arms like a child. She, in turn, has her hands hooked tightly around my neck. She gasps in pained surprise when the water sprays her and the guilt I felt earlier unleashes a full blown assault on my conscience. I did this to her. Out of my petulant pride, I did this to her.
“I can stand,” she whispers.
“I know. Just let me hold you a little more.”
It’s been too long. I want to forget the reason for us being in here and just appreciate the feel of her skin against mine, but her skin is too foreign with cold right now. I just want to wait. I lean my head into her neck, relishing in the closeness but drowning in remorse. Has it really come to this? I’ve dumped the majority of blame of our wilting relationship on Darlene’s neglect and yet I have just let her damn near freeze to death. I’ll never forgive myself for this, but I will make it up to her.
When Darlene has finally warmed up, we cleanse. It should feel erotic, I should be rock hard with desire but it feels completely clinical, even when she lets me wash her back. I savor the feel of her skin under my fingers and store it away for a time when I don’t feel so overwhelmed by guilt.
Finally warm and clean, I wrap her in a thick bath robe and carry her to her chair. She insists that she can walk by herself but having been granted the permission to hold her I’m not going to relinquish it so easily. I make her a coffee and roll my eyes when she refuses any breakfast. There’s not much more I can do, so I get dressed for work. If ever there was a day where I wish I could call in sick, it would be today.
Last night, we came so close to opening up, to pushing through the silence that has shrouded us for months, and I feel like the more time we spend apart the quicker it’s going to return. Our reunion of minds was so close, as was our reunion of bodies, when she met my aggressive need for her and matched it. Then this morning I was able to hold her, to touch her naked flesh. I wish I could explore that more thoroughly today.
When I return to the front room she hasn’t moved from her chair, but her attention is now drawn through the window and onto the street below. She looks so lost again. Not like she is on the path to being found, like I had hoped just moments ago. I walk over and crouch at her feet, touching her leg so that she looks at me.
“Shall we do something this weekend?” I ask while the hope is still present.
Her brow creases a little before a hint of a smile makes itself known. “Like what?”