Authors: Jade Goodmore
I can’t shake the smile as I make my way back to my seat. It takes muc
h longer than it should, having to stop and shake hands with almost every member of the audience. When I finally relieve my jelly legs I find the dangerous eyes of Blue still watching me, and I begin to realize just how dangerous he has the potential to be.
The bright light from the bare
window coaxes me awake and it takes me a few seconds to realize where I am. On the sofa. I stretch out, thinking that I’m alone, but when my feet meet something firm and warm I look up to find Darlene curled up on the opposing end. A thick blanket is cast over the two of us and my shoes have been removed.
I don’t even remember her coming in last night. I didn’t get back until late and expected Darlene to already be home. When she wasn’t I planned on waiting up for her. I took the weight off my feet and apparently fell asleep.
Shit, what time is it?
I check my watch, worrying that I’ve slept through my alarm, but find that it’s not even seven yet.
I relax and watch my wife undisturbed.
Darlene seems completely different when she sleeps. The sexiness that clings to her throughout the day sleeps with her at night, leaving her to come across almost angelically. Her breathy, deep voice, silenced. Her doe eyes with lashes that flick out at the corners fan across her cheek instead. Her full lips, reminiscent of a pin up, sit parted, emitting the gentlest of breaths.
The confidence that she carries in consciousness, abandons her, leaving her seeking comfort in anything she can reach; a cushion, a blanket, or hopefully, my arms. She curls herself into the smallest ball cowering rather than peacocking, and I marvel at the change.
I love Day Darlene. I love that her sexiness and confidence is effortless, but it’s Night Darlene that appeals to the needy hero in me. Why I decided this self-assured, independent, difficult woman should be the one I’d spend the rest of my life with I will never know, but despite everything I thank God everyday that I did.
Darlene stirs at my movement and stretches her sleepy limbs. When she opens her eyes I can see the same confusion laced into her features.
“Morning,” I say, smiling warmly at my wife, who after finding me asleep here, covered me in a blanket, took off my glasses, and stayed with me.
She stayed with me
,” she yawns, rubbing her eyes. “You sleep okay out here?”
“I think so. I must have passed out when I got in. I wanted to wait up for you, I tried...”
“It’s okay, I got in late. You missed a good night though.” She smiles lightly, maybe remembering last night, and sweeps her hair away from her face. Her makeup is a little smudged and her skin is pale. She’s clearly hungover. Guess she really did have a good night last night.
“You look a little rough,” I blurt out before my brain to mouth filter has had chance to wake up.
Embarrassment flashes over her face before she adopts a look of heavy annoyance. “Yeah, well I obviously had too much to drink, didn’t I?”
nwardly curse her, chastise her for putting her safety at risk yet again. Drinking alone in a bar with a bunch of strangers? Really? You’d think she’d know better after everything she has grown up with. She’s witnessed the bad that can come from bars and drinking, but she only chooses to see the good. That’s exactly why she needs me to look out for her. She just won’t accept that though.
“I don’t think you should be drin
king on your own there, Darlene,” I push.
“I’m not on my own. I have friends there.”
“After two days you call them friends?”
“They’re the closest thing I have to friends, so yeah,” she bites, standing up quickly from the sofa before holding her head and swaying a little.
“What’s wrong?” I ask, shifting closer and holding her arm, prepared to steady her.
“Head rush. I just stood up too fast.” She flinches away from me. “Stop worrying about me.” I construe her words to
mean more than the context in which she spoke them, and when she stalks to the bathroom I want to punch myself for pushing her away, yet again.
An hour later and Darlene is actually washed and dressed at the same time as me today. She normally waits to shower and change until after I leave, having no reason to be presentable so early. She looks great as usual, casually dressed in jeans and
boots, cleaned of her hangover. “Are you going out?” I ask as Darlene hands me some toast. She doesn’t take any for herself.
“Yeah, I’m having breakfast with one of my new
. She’s going to help me choose some music for my performance this week, so we might go record shopping. I’m not sure.”
“Oh right.” I choose to ignore the
indictment. “Do you want some money?” I ask knowing she’s going to say no even though her savings are radically being used up with her joblessness.
“Okay. You staying local or catching the El?”
“The train,” I explain, wondering when I adopted Chicagoan colloquialisms.
Umm, no I’m meeting her locally, but I’ll walk with you.”
Cutting through the park in the midst of an uncomfortable silence, Darlene suddenly takes my hand. I’m so caught off guard by this I actually flinch, but then the connection resonates familiarity and I cling to her hand as if it is the emotive warmth that is tangible rather than her slender fingers. She’s looking straight ahead, unaffected by this rare, sweet gesture. When I follow her gaze I see someone adapt their path to turn and meet us.
The first thing I notice about the guy is that he is tall and well-built. I mean, I work out, but this guy is full on muscles. I don’t
know why I find it threatening; he’s a perfect stranger. There’s something about the way he regards both me and Darlene though that makes me puff out my chest and pull her just a little nearer.
“Pilgrim,” he says by way of greeting. I glance at Darlene for an explanation but she just shakes her head in disregard for the name, or perhaps my curiosity.
“Hi,” she answers, waving pleasantly with her free hand before holding me a little tighter. “Reid, this is Blue, from The Nest. Blue this is my husband, Reid Daley.”
Offering his hand, he looks amused. “Reid Daley? As in, reading books daily?
Don’t you work in publishing too?” The humor in his tone is forced and his handshake unnecessarily firm. I instantly recognize this alpha game and despite not knowing the reason for it, I accept. Commence operation ‘Who Has The Biggest Balls.’
. That’s my name. Unfortunately you missed the opportunity to call that observation your own a long time ago.”
His eyes harden a touch before he focuses his attention back on Darlene. She looks uncomfortable. She’s standing oddly close to me and her fingers are hooked tight around my hand. Is she frightened of him? No, can’t be. She was singing his praises just the other night. But I know I’m not imagining this tension between them.
“So, what are you up to this early? I thought you’d be hungover
for sure,” he drawls while flashing a knowing smile.
“Was I that bad?” Darlene whines, hiding briefly behind her hand. She’s embarrassed. Did she really drink that much? I can’t remember the last time I saw her embarrassed after a night out. Probably not since college.
“No, you were that good.”
I’m immediately on guard and Darlene knows it. She interrupts before I can say anything, turning to me to explain.
“I got a little carried away last night, baby. When the bar closed a few of us stayed behind for drinks and I ended up singing and dancing on the bar. Oh, God.” She squeezes her eyes shut as if mentally reliving it. I don’t know what to say.
“Darlene...” I’m shaking my head. I’m completely not okay with this but how do I say so without sounding like an overprotective ass, especially in front of this guy.
“Dude, she was fine. Don’t worry.” Blue’s stance is so uncaring, so effortlessly blasé, that his words double in their agitating effect on me.
“She was in safe hands,” he adds, as if that makes me feel any better.
“She wasn’t in
“Hey,” Darlene says, cutting through the tension like a high C. She turns a little to face me, consequently blocking out Blue. “Don’t worry about me. I was completely on top of things.”
“You know, you should come on Thursday. It’d be great to see you
Darlene,” Blue says, his words holding a challenge, that again, I gladly accept.
“Great.” He tosses me a false smile before giving Darlene the real deal. “So, where are you off to?”
“I’m actually meeting Veda for breakfast.”
“Really? I’ll come with. She walked home in my jacket last night. Last time I let her borrow it she kept it for months.”
Darlene can’t hide the unease she feels at the new plans, not from me at least, but she attempts to. Why does he unsettle her so much? Heck, why does he unsettle
“Oh, okay, umm…I’ll see you at home later
then,” she offers me, smiling weakly.
Not too much, though.
Tilting up onto her tiptoes
, she leans in to kiss me. This alone is a rarity but the fact that she is going for my lips rather than my cheek throws me off guard. Who is this kiss really for? Is it for us, or him? It’s territorial, like she’s proving her loyalties to me. Has he been hitting on her? At least I know that his advances have not been well received. She couldn’t be any more uncomfortable in his presence if he was naked. I know just how I can help her out.
Taking her face in the palm of my hand I deepen the kiss, pressing my body to hers and holding her there long enough to feel the familiarity. My tongue flicks lightly against her cold lips and is immediately granted entrance. I’m almost shocked to the point of stillness
, but at the presence of her tongue I am overwhelmed with recognizable heat
. God, she’s not pulling away
. I can’t recall the last time she didn’t pull away. I contemplate keeping this going forever, but when a deep cough intrudes, the moment is lost.
Darlene walks away with a true smile on her face. I want to cherish it, but when Blue offers her his
hooked elbow and she accepts it I immediately deflate.
I hate him.
The candles that I purchased during our first week in Chicago have finally been lit. They flicker in the middle of a meticulously laid out dining table, enhancing the bronze hues of the tableware with their golden glow, as Sade sings softly in the background. I’d like to say that I go to this much trouble for evening meals often, but that would be a big, fat lie. This evening’s efforts are a by-product of too much time on my hands. Too much time leads to too much thinking and today’s thoughts have focused entirely on guilt. Don’t get me wrong, I haven’t really done anything completely immoral. I haven’t physically swayed from my marital vows, but I’ve thought about it. And that’s just as bad, right?
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 decorat
ed 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 altho
ugh 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
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 le
ads me here; my feet, my heart or my need for a stiff drink, but I end up at
. 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.
, 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.
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.
toward the bathroom, working hard to walk straight, when the twanging opening of Luke Bryan’s
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.
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.
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.