“Here, sit down,” I say, hoping to lighten the mood. Ignoring me, Mia takes off her earrings, tossing them on the coffee table before plodding off to the kitchen. The crinkle in my pocket reminds me that I still have yet to read that letter, but I’m more interested in figuring out how to get through to Mia. Pulling it from my pocket, I toss it on the table beside the earrings before pulling myself up off the leather couch.
“Babe,” I call. She doesn’t answer. Peeking into the kitchen, I see she’s lost in thought, taking her time to fill the Keurig. I creep up behind her, weaving my arms around her waist.
“Marc!” she gasps, spilling water everywhere. I grasp her wrist as she reaches for the paper towel. “Sorry,” I mumble, pulling her close. She relaxes a little as I bury my face in her soft, curly hair. Her stiff body loosens a little, and I feel her hands clasp over mine. Nuzzling my face under her chin, I breathe in every bit of her scent. She smells like mangos and sea breezes. I just want to hold her forever and forget about everything. Maybe I won’t be put in the doghouse after all.
“Can we talk about tonight?”
“No,” she says, gently pushing my hands from her chest. “Let’s get this cleaned up, then eat. I’m hungry.”
She sure knows how to give a gut punch. Backing away from her, I rip a few sheets of paper towel from the roll and sop up the water on the counter. Tossing both in the trash, I grab the mop and dry the floor.
“You eat,” I say, grabbing a soda from the fridge. “I’m not hungry.”
She shrugs, not even turning around as she goes on making her coffee like it’s the most important thing in the world. For the first time, I wonder what the hell I am even doing with this woman.
Right about now, I wish we didn’t have a bachelor. I need a door to slam. Flopping down on the bed, I grab my earphones. When the world gets bleak, I escape through beats. Hitting play, I curl up with a damned pillow while my woman eats alone across the room. Moments like these will make a man feel like a lonely stranger in his own home.
I don’t know exactly when sleep found me. A fog washes over me, like a morning mist as I lose myself to the music. Everything around me seems blurry, hidden by a smokey haze.
A soft hand brushes my cheek before it sweeps down my neck to fiddle with the top button of my shirt. “Care to lose this?” she whispers, pressing her pink lips to my forehead. She smells like mangos. Familiar, but I can’t see her face with such large, luscious breasts obstructing my vision.
“Oooh. Hello, sexy!”
“Marcus, wake the hell up.”
Everything comes into sudden focus. The girl is still on top of me. Last I saw, Mia had her back to me, eating a humongous bowl of homestyle mac-and-cheese. Now she’s on top of me. Or is this the evil twin she often speaks of?
“Is this your way of making up?” I say, my voice still groggy. “Perhaps,” she says, slipping her hand under my plaid button-down. My stomach is my weakness, and not just at dinnertime. I reach for my belt buckle, but she grabs my wrist and squeezes.
“You’re waking up a dragon, mami,” I groan, breaking free from her grasp. “You sure you’re up for that?” I ask, grabbing her hips to put her right where I want her. Her soft caramel skin glows in the faint light of the fading sun trickling through the picture window. Her eyes twinkle and darken as she lays forward so our entire bodies touch, and cups my face with her hands.
“You’re really going to be the death of me, woman.”
“Funny,” she mutters, suddenly clasping her hands around my neck. I gasp for air as she squeezes tighter. “You woke up a different kind of dragon hours ago,” she hisses. “Who were you with, Marcus?”
Looking down, a dull pain ripples through my stomach. “N-no…” I mumble, my eyes taking in the scene. I don’t know how I ended up here, with my hands around my boyfriend’s neck? I was just sitting there, eating. He looked so calm and peaceful when I turned around to see him fast asleep. A part of me felt happy at the sight. The other part? With a sharp, inward breath, I let him go, skittering to the far corner of the bed, where I sat, my whole body shaking. “I-I’m sorry,” I squeak. Marc doesn’t say anything. He just lays there, holding his neck and swallowing hard a couple of times. I’m afraid to
Every other day, I wonder if he rushed into dating me. Eight years is a long time for a man to go without so much as a little fling. Don’t guys ‘sample the buffet’ before they settle down? I can’t help but think he’s trying to have his cake and eat it. For a few seconds, everything is blurry. I didn’t notice him get up off the bed or break the chandelier, spraying shards of glass everywhere. I can barely make out what he’s yelling over the rhythmic thumping in my chest.
“I knew it!” He bellows. “You royal bitch. So, you’re gonna kill me now? What happened to talking? To asking questions?”
“I asked…,” I reply, my voice barely above a whisper. “But I guess all the screamin’ you had her doing while I drinking my weight in margaritas made you deaf!”
Crossing his arms, he stares at me, head tilted to one side. His mouth is open, but nothing comes out. The look in his eyes is hurt. Pained. I wish I could care more than I do, but all I want is for the argument to end and my question to be answered. Pulling myself upright, I slide off the bed and walk towards him.
“Get away from me, Mia.”
I stop short. “What did you say?” I ask, my voice betraying my surprise. “You wouldn’t dare.” “Oh, but I would,” he replies. “Don’t come near me. I can’t trust you.”
Without a word, I sit down at the table. My eyes fall on a lone napkin, sitting idly by, waiting to be used. Blank and empty, like my soul, I think to myself. Grabbing a pen from the kitchen island, I begin to doodle all over the paper. My hands must stay busy so I won’t do anything else I’ll regret. As I draw, Marcus rummages around in the storage closet. I didn’t pay him much mind until I heard him pulling out the creaky dresser drawers in mad spurts, as though his fight were with the speechless wood.
“What are you doing?” I ask, watching him pull a few shirts and a couple pairs of jeans from the drawers. “You’re not leaving, are you?”
We lock eyes for a moment. He didn’t answer. But he didn’t need to, either. I had gone too far this time. “I’m sorry,” I moan, sinking to the floor where I curl into a ball. “Don’t leave me,” I whisper, a single tear leaking from my tired eyes.
He stands still for a second, then picks me up off the floor and carries me to the bed. “Get some rest,” he says. “I’ll see you in a few days.”
“Yeah,” he says, his voice dull and flat. “I need time.” I open my mouth to argue, but no words come to mind. Instead, I watch helplessly as he takes up his keys, wallet, and a strange envelope, before heading out the door. As it shuts, I lay in silence, unable to move or even breathe for what feels like an hour.
Then, it hit me. A wave of stormy thoughts, like a summer squall.
A prickly, cold feeling spreads through my chest as I pull the phonebook from under the coffee table and flip through the pages to section “L.”