Author’s Note: Short Story – Adult Language and Concepts. Written in one sitting today – draft 1.
“I won’t be home until after eleven tonight.” His spoon moves irritatingly slow through his bowl of milk and the remnants of his cereal. I can’t help but stare at it because if I look up, if I look at him, I’m not sure what I might be capable of saying or doing. “So… you shouldn’t wait up.”
I can’t remember when it started. Sometime last month, I suppose. Garret just stopped looking at me. I’m not talking about the way you notice someone in a room, or can tell another person what they’re are doing – I’m sure he looks at me but I know he doesn’t see me. I’m talking about connection. I’m talking about how our eyes use to meet when we talked, but today our conversation is between him, I, and his cereal bowl.
“Yea.” I half-breath or grunt the word, a forced thing I feel like I need to say, but don’t want to. At first, I told myself that I was being paranoid. I’ve read all the books that talk about marriage and about the insecurities that can come with growing older; sometimes women can question the most stable and certain of things as we watch the face in the mirror changing before our own damn eyes. Garret has never given me a reason to believe he was unhappy in our life or unsatisfied in our bed. Sure, I’ve changed some over the years, a little weight gain, lines at the corner of my eyes, and maybe my breasts are a bit lower than they use to be, but I never took him for the sort of man who’d become distracted as Father Time took hold of me.
And yet, here he is – here we are. His slender form rising up from the table, brown eyes still locked tight on this bowl. I can’t help but let my eyes follow him as he goes to the sink and back again towards me. His lips, thick soft lips I use to chew on when we kissed, press firm but briefly to my forehead and then he snatches up his briefcase and rushes for the door.
“Goodbye.” I say to his back. There is no reply.
I try to distract myself with the morning news, with the book I’ve started to read three times now, and even some household chores but I keep coming back to what Garret’s not saying until I can’t avoid it anymore. Suddenly I’m her – that cliched wretch tearing through his desk drawers and pants pockets; but none of his collars are stained with a tell tale kiss and the only perfume I can smell on his laundry is my own. Here I don’t resist the urge to throw things. The bedroom is trashed, but I just can’t make myself care.
Coming down the stairs I see the mail come tumbling through the slot. The credit card statement. It’s taunting me with promises of the answers to his unspoken lies. Instantly I know that it’s the answer. I sit on the ground, criss-cross applesauce, a child ripping open paper to reveal the gift inside – the truth. Past the bill payments and shopping trips that were usual until at last I found the dinners… “$22.57.” I say the price out loud hoping that it would somehow make sense. A steak place maybe? No. Not a steak place… fast food. “You didn’t eat alone.” I kept reading, the florist who didn’t deliver to me… and, of course, the hotel.
Sound rips through my throat and I collapse.
I’ve loved him since we were kids just starting out in life. Key in the ignition, I contemplate what I’m going to say to the only person I’ve ever loved, knowing that he has betrayed me. I tremble, trying to turn the key, I have to force it. My muscles are jelly. Pulling out of the garage and into the drive, I can’t help but feel like God is crying with me as the summer deluge comes down from the sky. I have to go there. I have to know who she is, this person who is so utterly dynamic that she could turn him away from me. The miles pass and I find myself picking apart my every action for the last year, every fight or disagreement. Which was the one who that brought us to this place – the sunrise motel? His car is parked across the street. I’ve caught him. Now he’ll have to look at me.
Standing in the rain I realize that I have no idea which one of these shithole hovels belongs to them. I could ask in the building marked ‘office’ but I’m sure I’m far from the first angry wife to come barging in. They won’t tell me. They wouldn’t want to lose the revenue at a dive like this. I’m already humiliated beyond measure so, what the fuck. “GARRET!” I call out through the sheets of icy water coming down, turning my blonde hair into flat curtains on either side of my face. “GARRET I KNOW YOU’RE HERE!”
Curtains on a few rooms move aside. Accusing eyes, worried eyes, pitying eyes all stare back at me. I must look like a drown cat yowling to come in. “Hey Lady!” A voice from the office yells. “You can’t do that.”
“Look I’ll just need a moment – GARRET!!!”
“Lady, I’ll call the cops if you don’t stop.”
“FINE!” I snarl. “Call them. I’m not going anywhere.” The short man in a stained button down shirt goes back inside with a sigh. I half wonder if he won’t call the cops on me. For a moment it makes me want to drive off and just wait for Garret at home, but the thought of HER in there with him… just feet from me, keeps my legs from obeying my rational mind. “GARRET… please.” The last word is a sob and as my rattling chest heaves out the last of it’s breath, the door on room 4b opens.
Garret is a vision. I want to hate him. God but this would be so much easier if I could just hate him! “Hello, Lisa.”
He’s look at me. Our eyes meet and any hope of keeping a wall up is shattered. Tears come hot and fast, only the rain gives me hope that he can’t see just how deep a wound he’s left in my heart. The look of regret, the sadness there, fuck if he doesn’t seem like he actually hates what he’s done. “Why?” I gasp, shaking my head no – the only word I really want to so. No, we’re not here. No, you didn’t do this. No, this isn’t real. I come towards him. I have to see her. I have to just know, the not knowing is killing me.
Panic. He has panic in his eyes. He comes out to meet me in the parking lot, shutting the door behind him. He’s afraid I’ll see her. “Let’s go home. We’ll talk about this…”
“I don’t want to talk about it Garret – who is she?” He grabs my shoulders firm. The last time he held me that tight we were making love… no we were fucking, hard, passionate – they way we did that summer in the back of his father’s old Chevy, scared they’d come home early from the movies and catch us. We shared so much – HOW COULD HE THROW IT ALL AWAY?!?
“Lisa, don’t do this. Please just trust me Lisa.”
My eyes bore holes into his, the sum of my hatred for him in that moment painted across my face, “Go to hell Garret.” And I tore away from him. Throwing open the door to 4b I could see her things all about. Empty take out boxes from our favorite restaurants, a lace bra like the one he bought me for my birthday staycation we took, god she even wore my favorite perfume! “Where are you, YOU BITCH!” She wasn’t in the room with the bed and the tv, but the door to the bathroom was shut. “You stupid… you can’t hide. I know you’re in there!”
I hit the door for all I was worth, popping the lock. The shower curtain was all that separated me from this homewrecker. It was then it occurred to me that Garret had given up on stopping me, but my pain and anger was just too much to bear, I couldn’t stop now. I grabbed the curtain and heard a whispered, “If you love him… don’t do this.”
The audacity of this woman knew no bounds! What was worse was the fact that her voice sounded familiar, was she someone he worked with – someone she’d met at a christmas part or banquet? Lightening flashed, thunder boomed and the lights dimmed and raised as I ripped the curtain open.
Her blonde hair, the lines at the corners of her eyes, the few extra pounds put on these past couple winters, and her wedding ring… MY wedding ring. I stumbled back from myself. “Ho…how…”
She… or was it me… was crying. “Damn it.” She said softly, a tear coming out of the corner of her eye.
I ran for everything I was worth, away from her… away from myself. I’d gone mad. The shock of it all had broken my mind. I couldn’t be seeing this… past my perfume and my lace bra, past the order I always got from the chinese place just down the street and back out into the rain. A crowd gathered around him. Garret was laying on the pavement in a puddle of water.
“Someone call 911!” a lady cried out.
“He’s not breathing.” another said.
“GARRET!” I ran to his side. I helped roll him over gently and looked at his empty brown eyes. He wasn’t there, I already knew it somehow. He’d died. I pulled him to my chest, but two sets of hands pulled me away as another person tried CPR. If what was happening before had been impossible to my mind – this … this was something that there just wasn’t any words for. I was hollow inside, what emotions did I have left – what could possibly be said? The strangers tried to comfort me, tried to ask questions – I suppose they were worried I’d killed him.
Then I wondered… did I kill him? Looking back over my shoulder towards the hotel room, I wondered if she was still there. Surely I’d hallucinated her appearance, some sort of deranged trauma induced lunacy which would have passed after a few moments. If he was murdered, the killer could still be inside that room. “Help me up.” I asked the two men who held me, in a far weaker voice than I had intended. Without further begging, they did as I asked and followed me silently back into the room. I supposed they wanted to keep an eye on me so I wouldn’t run away or hurt myself – I had to admit that both things had crossed my mind if only for a moment.
Stealing my nerves I rounded the corner into the bathroom again. The mirror bore a message, a message in my shade of lipstick, it was short and simple though with little real explanation. Beneath the words was an arrow pointing down to the vanity where a golden ring lay. Atop it, where a stone might normally be, a tiny mess of gold and silver gears lay, connected to one another so that they might be moving parts. Three stars and the word star written on one, another with seemingly meaningless letters another with a small clock, the minutes marked out in increments of five. Picking it up with trembling hand I looked back up to the words and read them again, this time out loud.
“Try again. Save him.”