“Come on, babe. It was just a joke,” my husband Chris called through the white bathroom door. Once again he’d made an off-hand joke about my weight and I just couldn’t do it this time. I used to sit and take it, silently agreeing with everything he said. That there was something wrong with me, that I needed to lose a few pounds, or I would look better if I dyed my hair a lighter shade. In the end, nothing was ever enough for him.
“Some joke,” I muttered before blowing my nose. “I’m fine. I just need a minute,” I said loudly through the door. I wasn’t going to debate it all with him again. He was always telling me it wa my fault for taking things the wrong way. Maybe he was right, but I wasn’t doing it today.
Standing in front of the full length bathroom mirror attached to the back of the door I took a long look at myself. I knew I wasn’t as thin or as pretty as I used to be but that was over ten years ago and I’d had a baby since then. Cesarean sections weren’t known for making your body better. I sighed and turned on the cold water before pulling my long blonde hair back in a messy bun. My eyes went around the bathroom as I tried to calm myself. The soft yellow walls were a color I had picked to brighten up the small room. The only decoration was a photo of my daughter, Avery and I at the park. My mother had taken it just about two years ago now.
He doesn’t know what he’s saying, I told myself. He thinks that he’s being funny. Don’t let him get to you.
Even though you’ve told him time and again how self-conscious you are about your looks? Another voice whispered in my mind.
It wasn’t the first time I had hidden in the bathroom so that I could cry in peace. If he knew I was crying, he’d tell me I was just being emotional. This time, I hadn’t been able to hide my hurt look before disappearing, which was why he had come to the door. From the sound of it, he’d returned to his 30-pack of beer and his show. No doubt his phone was in front of his face, as well.
I was just grateful that our daughter, Avery wasn’t home this time. Last night she’d spent the night with my parents. She was a bright little girl who was far too smart for her own good. She always seemed to appear when I was trying to hide. I knew she meant well, but nothing made me feel worse than being consoled by my young daughter because my feelings were hurt by her dad. I didn’t want to hurt their relationship.
Washing my face, I reapplied my eyeliner and mascara before running a brush through my hair. All I needed was some fresh air and something to occupy my mind. Maybe a trip to the store would give me that. I needed to get a few things for dinner, anyway.
Feeling better, I stepped from the bathroom, determined to not let Chris see he’d gotten to me again. We lived in an older home in a town so small the only thing here was a post office. Personally, I loved the quiet life. I could let Avery play outside without worry and our dogs Walker and Hank would keep her safe. The floor creaked as I entered the living room where the tv was loudly playing the tv show Chris was binge watching.
“I think I’m going to head to the store,” I said as I collected my purse and keys.
“Oh, well, I’ll go with you,” he said dropping the footrest of the recliner.
“You don’t have to,” I said, silently hoping he’d change his mind.
“No, it’s fine. I need to get some more beer anyway,” he said.
The car ride was fairly quiet. Not uncomfortably so. We had been together for far too long to not be able to quietly enjoy each others company. After a while, I started thinking that maybe I had just been feeling sensitive that morning. I allowed my pain to slip away and instead chose to focus on the here and now.
At the store, I had picked up the supplies needed for dinner and to make cookies for dessert with Avery. Chris was following behind me, complaining about how much everything cost. I turned down one more aisle, trying to hurry when I almost ran into a tall man who was trying to come out.
“Excuse me,” he said absently before locking eyes on me.
“Lily Farr?” he said in surprise.
I looked at him closely. He looked vaguely familiar but I couldn’t place him.
“Yes?” Chris was standing next to me, silently watching the exchange.
“It’s me, Sean. Sean Mitchell?” he said, beaming.
“Oh!” I said as recognition washed over me. “Sean!”
“How have you been?” he asked, clearly happy to see me. “It’s been forever.”
“Yes, it has,” I said. “This is my husband, Chris DeSoto,” I said introducing them. “He worked at F & S, too. But I think he showed up after you left.”
Sean shook Chris’ hand. “Actually, I think I remember you. Just a bit. We weren’t in the same department.”
Chris nodded. “Yeah, I think you’re right. So you and Lily were friends?” he asked.
“Oh, yeah,” Sean said, beaming. “We ended up working a lot together when I was there.”
“You should come over,” Chris said. “Lily’s making her chicken alfredo tonight. There’s always plenty left over.”
“I don’t want to impose,” Sean began.
“It’s no trouble,” I said. “If you aren’t busy it would be great to catch up. You can meet our daughter if she’s home by then.”
Sean nodded. “Sure, that’d be great. Let me give you my number and you can message me your address and what time I should be there.”
I entered his number into my phone. When I looked up he was smiling at me with a sparkle in his eye.
“It’s great seeing you,” I said before we parted ways with the promise of him joining us for dinner.
“What happened to him, anyway?” Chris asked after we had walked away.
“What do you mean?” I pushed the shopping cart through the aisle absently picking up the rest of the things I needed.
“I thought I remembered something about him. Like people talking about him after he left.”
I knew what he was talking about. “Oh, he ended up going to jail,” I said.
“Seriously?” Chris asked in disbelief. “For what?”
“It was manslaughter, but he didn’t do it,” I insisted. “I talked to him about it before he’d left. He told me how he was going to be going away because he refused to rat out the person who really did it.” We were quiet as we walked through the store, headed for the checkout line. I couldn’t believe after all this time we had run into him again. I wasn’t going to tell my husband, but Sean had asked me out when we had worked together. He was known then for being a bit free-spirited. He would be dating one woman while seeing another. I didn’t want any part of that. It wasn’t that I hadn’t found him attractive, but I wasn’t in a position that I wanted anything like that. I wanted a man that would be committed to me, not one I would have to worry about.
“I don’t remember him being that big,” Chris said after we’d paid for our groceries and made our way to the car.
“He was a scrawny thing back in the day,” I said. “That’s probably why I didn’t recognize him at first.” All those years ago, Sean had been a thin guy. Now, he was a much healthier size. He had filled out in a good way. I didn’t think he looked overly muscular, but he was definitely much bigger than before.
“I bet it’ll be nice for you two to catch up,” Sean said absently as his phone made yet another noise.
“Yeah, I’m kind of looking forward to it,” I said as we reached the car. Occasionally Chris would had me a bag but for the most part I was loading it all myself. At least he was nice enough to put the cart away for me this time.
My cell phone began to ring in my purse. Looking at the caller ID, I saw it wa my mother.
“Hi, Mom,” I said as I answered the phone.
“Hey, honey. How was your night without Avery?” she asked.
“Not too exciting. Chris passed out in his chair and I ended up binge watching a new show. How’d she do?” I watched as Chris made his way back to the vehicle. I turned the key in the ignition.
“She did wonderful,” my mother exclaimed. “I was going to ask if she could stay one more night. We talked about going to the movie later and by the time it gets out it will probably be getting late.”
“That works out for us. I have an old friend coming over for dinner tonight,” I said. In a way, I was missing my daughter but glad I wouldn’t have to pick up after her before Sean arrived. My mind was already racing with all the things I wanted to get done before he showed up.
“Okay, I’ll swing her by in the morning. You have a nice evening,” Mom said before hanging up.
Chris climbed in the passenger side of the car and began to buckle himself in.
“Avery’s staying with Mom another night,” I said.
“Good,” he said. “Not that I don’t miss her, but maybe we can fool around tonight,” he winked at me. Years ago, I would have felt giddy at the thought. Now, all I feel is tension.
“Maybe,” I said, trying to match his enthusiasm. In reality, I wasn’t looking forward to it. As I pulled out of the parking space I began to replay the last time we had tried to be intimate in my mind. Chris would rub his hands all over my body until finally pushing his hand between my legs. He would poke and prod, despite the fact that there was no moisture down there. I used to verbalize how much it hurt but I learned long ago he’d just throw it in my face and say I was unwilling to sleep with my husband. After roughly fondling me, he’d roll me on my back and tug down my pajamas. He’d force himself in me and rut until he was finished. I used to try. I really did. But after years of the same thing over and over, I had all but given up. He would be completely oblivious as to if I was enjoying any of it. There were times I had to bite back tears because it hurt. I knew it wasn’t something I should allow, but this was my husband. He had needs, too. If I didn’t give it to him, where else would he get it? I sighed and gave him a watery smile as we headed for home.