It had been exactly a week since Mitchell showed up at her door. Toby, as predicted, was thrilled to see his old friend. He had gotten home from work, throwing his bag on the sofa, wandering through the house shouting “Uh mom, mooom, did you get a new car?” The look of surprise on his face when he made his way into the kitchen, seeing his old friend standing there, it had made April’s heart soar. They had embraced in a big hug, each talking over the other, trying to catch up on a 7-year gap. Within minutes they were off, visiting friends and getting Mitchell caught up on what he’d missed.
Her phone call with Jay had gone much how she had expected. He was brusque on the phone. Always busy, busy, busy, never enough time to talk. He had picked on the third ring, letting her know she needed to make it “snappy” as he was heading to a meeting.
She did her best to give him the condensed version of her conversation with Mitch. He had told her on his first night that he started going by Mitch a few years before. She filled Jay in on her plan to let Mitch stay a few weeks, telling from his tone he wasn’t happy with the news. his words snappy and short. “I really can’t talk right now; we can discuss more when I get home.” “Ok I love…” the word you met the dial tone, Jay had already hung up. April tried to hold back her tears; they were becoming old friends that wouldn’t take a hint. She had pulled herself together and returned to the kitchen, she had a guest now, someone to take care of, she would be strong, if only for him.
Every morning began with coffee and the paper. Like herself, Mitch was a voracious reader and liked to keep up with the news. Splitting the paper in half, they took a turn reading their sections then trading them. They would sit, side-by-side on the leather recliners, coffee in hand, papers on their laps, and slowly the truth about her friend’s marriage came to light.
It seemed that Pat was not at all the man she had known. He was a perfectionist to an extreme, demanding that nothing in the house, ever, be out of place. He performed nightly “inspections” where he looked for flaws. Anything deemed “not right” was a trigger for his temper to arise. Mitch and Julia had learned to walk on eggshells, carefully navigating the secret horrors of their home life with the perfect picture they presented to the world. Mitch explained to April how his dad knew where to hit them, in places not seen under clothes. It suddenly all made sense to April, why her friend was always “cold”, why she wore sweaters in the sweltering heat of July. Her refusals to go to the pool, or laze around at the beach. How could she do those things without exposing the marks, that formed a map of her husband’s rage?
“Mitchy….Mitchy, come here my boy” she had said, her voice hiccuppy and ragged from the drink.
A few hours later he felt brave enough to venture out, and there stood his mother, freshly showered, with her makeup and not a single hair out of place. The kitchen smelled of cinnamon rolls, and she invited him in for one. “Mitchell, I am so, so sorry,” she said. “I never meant for you to see me like that. Please forgive me. It won’t happen again”
Whenever April listened to his stories, she cringed inside. “All those years,” she thought, “All those years and I never knew.” She found herself thinking more and more about her marriage, how they too wore masks. On the outside they were the perfect couple, looking fabulous on each other’s arms. On the inside, the had become strangers. Two people were sharing a space, who barely knew one another anymore. She ached, for Julia, for Mitch, for herself. So many secrets and lies, so much time spent trying to put up a front, none of them brave enough to face their truths.
Mitch brushed up against her arm, rousing her from her thoughts. “Let me get that Mrs. P., umm April, I mean”. He gestured to the basket of clothes, heavy in her arms. She gladly handed it over, walking with him towards the bedroom door. April tried to shake off the goosebumps that had formed on her arms. Anytime they made contact; her reaction was the same. She had the sensation of tiny electric sparks rolling over her flesh. While she was grateful for the company, she would be glad when he left. She didn’t like the reactions she was having to him, didn’t like the thoughts that swirled inside her brain. He was just a boy, her sons best friend. She couldn’t think of him in any other way.She felt her face begin to flush and quickly turned her head from him. Once again he was walking around the house without a shirt, his muscles rippling, his body tan and lean. He had the confidence of youth, the cockiness that came with the early twenties. Six pack abs led the eye down towards the very distinct V shape near his hips. She did her best to keep her attention focused above the neck.
She knew in part her thoughts were clouded because of the latest dry spell with Jay. It had been six weeks and counting. Six weeks since he had touched her, kissed her, made love. Her body was on overdrive and having a young, sexy man who liked to bare his chest didn’t help. April was at a loss as to how she and Jay had gotten to this point. Things were not good but at least she could count on their Sunday rendezvous. The first week he was too tired, an unusually busy week. The second week, he had come down with the flu. On the third week, she had felt desperate; she was going to give something new a try.She went to a lingerie store and picked out an outfit he would like. A very sexy bra and panty set with a matching garter and thigh highs. He had a rare Saturday at home, and she thought it was a good night to try.
She slipped into the bathroom while he read in bed, removing her purchases from the bag she’d hidden in the closet. She had taken great care to dress. Letting her hair down and combing it till it shown, putting on the red lipstick he adored. She had even spritzed some of the fancy perfume that he told her drove him wild. By the time she was done she hardly recognized herself. From frumpy housewife she had morphed into a siren and she knew this would certainly catch his eye.
She sauntered out of the bedroom only to find him fast asleep. A small line of drool on his chin. His papers were strewn all over the bed, his computer on his lap. She tried to rouse him, shaking him gently, coaxing him to open his eyes. He did, for a moment. Mumbled something under his breath then resumed snoring, beginning to turn on his side. She gathered his papers and laptop putting them on the dresser, allowing her tears to flow. She missed her husband with all of her heart, and she felt completely lost. She sadly walked back to the bathroom, putting her outfit away, climbing back into her cotton pajamas and robe. She had fallen asleep that night with a heavy heart, in bed next to her husband, yet utterly alone.
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