It’s raining again. I forgot my umbrella so I’m soaked, but it’s okay because I’ll be inside soon where it’s dry and safe and warm.
The house key is under the potted plant on the porch, just where it always is. Sometimes you need those little comforts, you know? You need to know the sun rises in the east and the world is round and the key is under the potted plant. It’s those little things that keep you going when things get tough.
I fumble with the lock and hurry inside before my mascara can run any more than it already has. A brief glance around the living room confirms what I suspected when I saw the empty driveway; he’s not home yet, but that’s okay.
I check the fridge because it’s another small comfort: he always leaves a note. He never lets me worry about where he is or who he’s with. He’s so thoughtful that way.
And sure enough, there it is, a little scrap of paper held in place by a magnet in the shape of a banana. It reads in his adorably childlike handwriting, “Working til 8 tonight. I’ll bring dinner. Love you, angel!”
The pet name is enough to make this horrible day okay again. It doesn’t matter that I’m soaked to the bone or that the hair I spent 45 minutes on this morning is ruined, because I’m his angel and he loves me and that’s enough.
It’s 6:30. He’ll be home by 8. That’s plenty of time for me to get cleaned up and ready for him. I go to the bathroom, leaving a trail of rainwater in my wake.
I shed my clothing like the skin of a snake and leave it in a wet soggy pile next to my purse. The surge of heat that rises as I turn on the shower is so soothing I nearly weep with relief. Everything’s going to be okay.
I climb inside and let the water, hot as I can bear it, beat down on my skin, washing away all my failures and insecurities. I feel safe here. I feel safe with him.
It’s been a year but I can still remember our first date, crystal-clear and perfect in my mind like an untarnished strip of film. He took me out to dinner. We had sushi, which was weird, something I’d never experienced before but he made it okay. He ordered things he thought I’d like and he was right; the menu had been intimidating and full of unfamiliar words yet somehow he found just what I didn’t know I wanted.
He was so different. Not like the other boys. He held open the door for me. His smile promised that I was special even though I’ve always felt otherwise. He said I’d be his, forever, always.
I wash with his Old Spice shower gel instead of the flowery one so I can smell like him.
It was hard meeting his friends after we made it official. I just don’t fit in with other people. He’s the only one who seems to understand me. The bar was just so loud and they all knew each other so well. I sat there, petrified, worried about saying the wrong thing or if it was weird that I wasn’t saying enough. He put his arm around me and squeezed my shoulder. He smiled at me, that special smile that’s just between us.
His friends were all boys, rowdy loud boys that were frankly not worth his time, except for one. She may as well be a boy. She was just as loud as them, classless — one of those girls who must be friends with men because other women simply can’t tolerate them. He told me they’re just friends but I could see how she looked at him, her eyes all over his body like sticky little child’s hands and this was unacceptable because he’s mine and she knows it.
Looking back, perhaps I caused a scene. Perhaps the drink in her face was uncalled for. She just wouldn’t stop looking at him.
I turn off the water and step out of the shower. I feel bad when I think about that night. What should have been something fun turned into our first real fight. All because of her. But I promised it wouldn’t happen again. Sure, I have a jealous streak, but who wouldn’t with someone as perfect as him on their arm?
Wrapped in one of the fluffy oversized towels we picked out together at Bed Bath & Beyond, I go to the bedroom. It’s so messy in here; as much as I love him, he simply can’t get his clothes in the hamper, no matter how many times I remind him that I hate clutter. His shirts are everywhere, all over the floor like strange autumn leaves.
But they smell like him and I am in one of my moods so I choose the blue sweater that made it closest to the laundry basket. It looks clean enough. There is still a hint of his cologne and I savor it as I slide it over my head, feeling the material cling to my skin in something of a hug.
It’s 7pm. Only an hour left.
I feel like we fought a lot after that. He said it was unfair for me to ask him not to be with his friends, but I wasn’t asking him that, I was asking him not to be with her and she was always there. Those were hard times. I don’t like to think about it.
I go to the kitchen and pour myself a glass of red wine. It’s still raining outside. Thunder rolls long and low in the distance.
Even though we fought I always knew everything would be okay. I’m his angel, and he loves me. Forever, always. Nothing can change that.
I sip the sweet red wine, enjoying the taste of dark berries on my tongue. A soft buzzing sound catches my ear and I glance around the kitchen until I find the culprit on the counter next to the fruit bowl; he’s left his cell phone behind. He’s so forgetful sometimes.
It’s on vibrate. Why would he keep it on vibrate? Is he hiding something from me?
The phone keeps buzzing and I stare at it. We’ve had fights before about privacy. About trust.
But he’s getting so many text messages.
Setting down my wine glass, I pick up the phone and slide my finger across the glass to unlock it. He’s finally taken his passcode off, which is good, but suddenly my stomach is through the floor because the texts are from her, and there are so many of them, going back so far.
She wants to know where he is tonight. Why he’s not answering his phone. She’s worried.
Why should she be worried?
And why has he been texting her back? I thought we came to an agreement on this.
My hands are shaking so badly that I don’t trust myself not to drop his phone and break it so I set it gently back on the counter where it lay before, in just the right position, exactly how I found it. I have developed this skill and it’s a good skill to have.
I feel like I might throw up.
Yes, we fought, we fought more than ever, but when the fights were over he still loved me, he said so. Forever, always. We were just going through a rough patch. It was hard but some things are worth fighting for.
I go back to the phone. I look again. I read each text message carefully; at first glance I could only marvel at their number, but now I’m reading every word, every last ugly painful word.
He calls her his angel.
I barely make it to the sink before my lunch and the red wine come up in one great heave. I stare at the sick for a moment before washing it carefully down the drain with the sink attachment.
What does this mean?
Have I been right all along? All the suspicions, the insecurities? Is he fucking her? Is he smiling that special smile at her when I’m not around?
I dump the rest of the wine down the sink. With trembling hands I wash the glass carefully and replace it in the cabinet where it belongs. I put the bottle of wine in the wine rack.
I have been pacing the living room in the dark for 30 minutes now. It will be that long before he is home again, and I can’t text him because his phone is here, full of messages from her.
Was this because I hit him? It only happened once. He came back late and I asked if he’d been with her and he said no, it was just his friends, but I could smell that trashy Victoria’s Secret perfume she wears and so I hit him, but I told him I was sorry, that it would never happen again. It was just one slap across his face, his handsome perfect face. I didn’t mean it. I wanted to hit her, but she wasn’t here, and so I hit him instead.
That was when he said we needed some time. Just a little space. To sort things out. Figure out what we wanted.
I wanted him. I still do.
I lay down on the couch to try to relax. I can feel my heartbeat pounding in my throat. I’m just so angry.
It was raining the day he sat me down and said he thought I should move out. That I depended on him too much, I was suffocating him. He felt like he couldn’t breathe.
But how am I supposed to breathe without him? That’s what I asked. He said that was the problem. I was beginning to scare him. How does the person you’re supposed to love for the rest of your life become scared of you? All I wanted was to love him, forever, always, just like he’d promised.
Like a gunshot I hear the sound of his car door slamming. He’s home early.
I scramble to my feet and bolt for the bathroom where I know my wet clothes still lay in a sopping pile next to my purse. I gather them in my arms and shove on my shoes. I have to move fast.
Behind me I can hear him fumbling with front door and I wonder briefly if I put the key back under the potted plant where it belongs. It wouldn’t do for him to notice something amiss.
Before he enters I’m gone, out the back, on my way to the car I’ve parked two blocks over. I’m still wearing his sweater but that’s okay. I’ll return it when I come back tomorrow.
He may have thought it was over, but oh no, love like this doesn’t end. I won’t lose him, especially not to that classless tramp.
I wonder where she keeps her house key. Is there a potted plant on her porch?
I suppose I’ll find out.