Authors: Lola Wilder
Follow the Queen
By Lola Wilder
Copyright 2014 by Lola Wilder. All rights reserved. This book or any portion thereof may not be reproduced or used in any manner whatsoever without the express written permission of the publisher except for the use of brief quotations in a book review...blah, blah, blah. In short, don’t be a jerk face.
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Kate had been waiting for her husband David at Zingerman’s Deli, their favorite lunch spot for almost an hour. She checked her phone to make sure he hadn't texted her but when she realized there were no messages; she shook her head and tossed aside her napkin.
She was surprised when he had actually accepted her invitation to lunch, but now she wished she hadn't even bothered. It was bad enough she had to make a date to see him, and now the fact that he was obviously standing her up made her feel even worse.
Just as she pushed back her chair and moved to leave, she saw him come barreling through the crowd, nearly knocking over a waiter, who was forced to side-step David's rudeness to avoid spilling an entire tray of food on the patio.
Kate settled back in her chair, almost breathing a sigh of relief, but when she saw the look on his face, her stomach tightened.
"I thought you might not be coming," she said softly, watching as he shoved aside the plate in front of him.
"I said I would meet you, didn't I?"
Kate swallowed hard, trying not to notice the people at the next table studying them. "I know it's just...never mind. You're here now, that's all that matters."
She clenched her lips together, watching him snatch up the menu and quickly scan the options. While other couples in the trendy restaurant laughed and chatted with one another, it only made the divide between them more obvious. What was perhaps the most uncomfortable for her was that no matter how awkward things got between them, Kate still felt desire for him. Even now, she couldn't mistake the faint scent of his cologne wafting across the table, and it stirred something deep within. When he licked his lips before taking a drink of the ice cold water, she wanted to be the one to reach across the table and wipe the droplets of water away. She longed for his deep blue eyes to look at her with as much attention as he was now giving the menu. But when he looked up at her, and his expression didn't change, she realized just how unimportant she was to him these days, and that made her stomach sink.
She smiled over at the couple sitting at the next table in some sort of attempt to reassure them that she and David weren’t really having an argument. She glanced back to David to find him staring at her. For a brief moment she held a glimmer of hope and her pulse quickened that maybe he sensed her desire, but when she noticed how his jaw twitched with tension, she knew that desire was the last emotion that he felt for her right now, and that realistically she should prepare herself for some sort of confrontation instead.
Sensing her defensiveness but wanting to state the obvious, David distractedly took another sip of water and plunked the glass back down on the table. "I still think this is a bad idea. We shouldn't be throwing our money away on frivolities like lunch at an over-priced restaurant."
Since when did Zingerman’s stop being our place and start being just some over-priced deli?
Kate thought. Not wanting to start a fight, Kate nodded and gave him another polite smile. "I know," she said, speaking quietly in the hopes that it would clue David into the fact that people were watching them. "I just thought it would be nice to get out of the office for a while. You've been working so many late nights..."
"Yeah, well, I don't have much of a choice, now do I?" He reached into his jacket pocket and pulled out a bunch of envelopes which he held up to show her.
"A notice from the bank. We're late on our mortgage payment. Again." he tossed it down, clenching his fist on the table. "I...I just don't know how much more of this I can take."
Kate frowned, but didn't respond. It was bad enough they had been arguing so much at home, but the last thing she wanted was to get into another shouting match out in public. She could read his mood clearly and his twitching temple meant he was on the verge of blowing his stack.
"David..." Kate said, low and soft.
When he didn't respond, she reached across the table for his hand and felt him flinch when she put her hand on his. He shot her a look of disgust, like anything he ever felt for her was gone. She pulled her hand away and tried to ignore the tears welling up in her eyes and threatening to spill down her cheeks. She remembered when just looking at one another would send sparks between them. In those first years of marriage, they would get a small booth at the back of the deli specifically so they could snuggle and feed one another food between kisses. But those days were long gone now, that was evident from the cold look in David's eyes when he looked back at her. She wondered if even liked her, let alone if he was still in love with her. She was starting to feel more like some problem that needed to be tolerated, rather than the woman he supposedly loved, the woman he once wanted over everything else.
Kate drew her hand back sharply. She hated feeling this way and hated even more that she apparently was the reason her husband was so miserable. Maybe it really was over. Maybe she was just holding onto something they had lost a long time ago. That thought made her stomach sink and a wave of nausea washed over her.
She used the cloth napkin to dab at her eyes, trying not to meet his gaze for fear that one look at the disgust in his eyes would make her burst into tears in the middle of the restaurant. But she couldn't help herself. She stole a glance at him and for the first time in a long time, she saw that his expression had softened slightly, although she wasn't sure whether it was love or pity.
Just when she thought she saw him start to move, to lean in and take her hand, his phone vibrated in his pocket. He paused for a moment but like usual, David was a slave to his job, and when he plucked his phone out of his jacket to answer it, Kate knew the tiny moment of reconciliation between them had passed and she had no idea how long it would take, if ever, for them to get it back.
Once she realized his call was work related she tuned it out and focused on watching all the people in the cafe and after a few minutes, she shifted her attention to checking Pinterest on her phone. After pinning a few pictures on coconut oil and makeup tips, she realized that they had become “that couple” in a restaurant. The couple that they always swore they’d never be: too distracted by life and too bored with each other to even bother having manners and giving the other person the slightest amount of attention or respect and instead turned their attention to their cell phones. This realization bothered her so deeply that she decided to take a stand and turned off her phone.
My marriage might be falling apart, but dammit, I refuse to be that couple,
she thought to herself. About the same time, David abruptly ended his phone call, pushed his chair back and stood up.
"Look, I have to get back."
"Mmm-hmm." Kate tried to put on a polite smile but she knew he could see right through her.
He stood there awkwardly for a moment, obviously torn between whatever crisis had come up at work and their crisis that had been going at home for months.
"Look, Katie..." he said quietly.
She looked up at him. The longer this rift had continued to grow between them, the more formal he would be with her and that he’d just now called her Katie for the first time in months gave her a glimmer of hope.
She tried to manage a weak smile, but when his phone vibrated again, David cursed under his breath, leaning over to give her an obligatory kiss on the top of her head before turning to leave. "I'll see you tonight."
Watching her husband storm off, Kate could see some of the other women in the restaurant watching after him. They looked at him the way Kate did, their eyes scanning the way his crisp suit accented his muscles, and how his blue shirt only made his eyes that much more dazzling. She couldn't stomach the thought of him being with another woman, but the way things were going, that might become a reality much sooner than the two of them working out their problems.
Kate nursed her drink a while before taking out her wallet, prepared to pay for the drinks she had ordered. She supposed that this lunch date was just wishful thinking. The reality was that sitting down to share something as frivolous as lunch had become too much of an inconvenience. That was the sad thing. If they couldn't manage lunch, how did they expect to save their marriage?
The door swung open and the cool air tickled the backs of her legs and neck. She felt a cool hand on her upper arm as a gruff voice spoke behind her, "Why don't you let me take care of that?"
Kate's heart fluttered at the voice. She didn't need to turn to know who it was but she did so anyway. Standing over and grinning down at her was Jake Stone, a guy she’d dated seriously in college until she realized that she needed a guy with more than just great abs and a killer smile. Jake was a decent enough guy, it was just that she wanted to get married and odds are he’d be a confirmed bachelor for life. She’d met David shortly after she realized that her relationship with Jake wasn’t ever going to go to the next level. David was everything Jake wasn’t: where Jake was a take charge kind of guy, David allowed her to share in the balance of power. David was dark and handsome, his features rugged and masculine whereas Jake was more all American with blonde hair, blue eyes and a very endearing boyish charm about him. It was hard for Kate to end things with Jake. The sex was amazing and they’d always had a lot of fun together—she had just wanted more.
And this was the “more” that you wanted?
she asked herself, thinking of her marriage that was now on life support. Maybe Jake was onto something by staying single. She found herself envious of his situation as well as sad for her own.
She tried to hide the mixture of emotions from him - the sadness and regret of how things had gotten with David; the surprise and relief at seeing Jake just when she needed someone.
She could tell by the cocky smirk plastered across his face that he could still read her every thought.
"You don't have to do that, Jake," Kate said, taking a quick look over to the street to see David standing on the curb waving his arm furiously in the air simultaneously clutching his briefcase and trying to hail a cab.
"Oh, it's my pleasure, as long as you agree to sit and have a drink with me in return."
Without waiting for her response, Jake slid into the seat next to her, his leg intentionally brushing against hers, the friction of it pushing her skirt up her thigh slightly.
"You haven't changed a bit,” he said.
Kate looked up to find him eying her legs as she reached to smooth the fabric down. She felt her cheeks flush at the attention. She was sure everyone in the restaurant could tell that she was now sitting with another man, one she probably shouldn't be sitting with-- one that wasn't her husband and one who, much to her chagrin still had a way of making her pulse race.
Oh please, no one knows anything;
Kate told herself, trying to calm her heartbeat with slow, easy breaths, which was so much easier said than done.
Jake didn't simply look at her or even watch her. It was like his gaze enveloped her, hungrily taking her in and wrapping her in his warm embrace with just a glance. Kate hadn't been looked at in that way for what felt like an eternity, and she knew if she wasn't careful, she would get lost in that gaze all over again.