She sat on the edge of the sofa, her spine perfectly vertical and her hands wrung together between her knees. Her eyes had reddened, even dampened but through sheer strength she had managed to prevent any tears from disgracing her cheeks. He sat beside her, unsure of whether the hand he had placed on her knee was sufficient comfort.
“I shouldn’t be this upset,” she said, shaking her head. “I already knew he was cheating on me. How could I not? His excuses and stories are thin enough to blow away with weak gust.”
“It’s different though,” he told her gently, “when you stumble across proof. How bad was it?”
“Oh god.” She gritted her teeth. “It was horribly explicit. I don’t know what made me kept reading. Somehow I just couldn’t stop myself from going all the way to the end and now I just see him—and her—rolling around in my kitchen, on my sofa, in my bed.”
Her voice came to a shuddering halt and she pushed one hand through her hair. There were still no tears. If anything her eyes were growing drier. She looked over at him, into his eyes that seemed to hold in one moment more love and caring than her husband’s had in five years.
“Put it out of your mind Jenna,” he told her, using one finger to tuck a shiny brown lock behind one of her ears. “Don’t think about him or her or them.”
“How can I not?” Her voice became a strained whisper. “They’re together right now—at a hotel in Florida. He probably doesn’t have a meeting. They’ve probably been naked all day, never even left the hotel suite.”
“Stop doing this to yourself,” he insisted, gripping both her shoulders with his hands, “Screw him! You don’t need him. And her? She’s just a slimy little—”
“I know,” she stopped him, “but five years ago he and I stood up and promised to love each other forever. I meant what I said. He’s tossing our marriage into the chipper and I still love him. I do. I just—I keep thinking maybe we can still make it work. He’ll come home and I’ll make him dinner. I’ll have the television on just the right station. He won’t have to do a thing. He never noticed.”
“He doesn’t deserve you,” he said resolutely. “Any man who doesn’t see what a wonderful thing he’s got surely doesn’t deserve to have it.”
“I mean it,” he said, his voice husky, “If I had a woman like you, I would never take her for granted. I would treasure her and I would have eyes for no one else.”
She looked up at him through her thick lashes, the only invitation he needed. He leaned his face in close to hers. She didn’t move away. Gently, tenderly his lips brushed against hers. When he pulled away she looked at him. He leaned in again, but she pushed him weakly away with one hand.
"Jenna..." he protested.
"It's not you," she told him. "I just... I couldn't."
"I understand," he responded, in a tone that plainly said he didn't.
Jenna rolled away from him, sinking into the cushions of her couch. She looked up at the ceiling blades as they went round and round. She exhaled.
"Maybe you should go home."
Everything was right. Everything was ready for him to come in the door. A nice tablecloth stretched over the table. Two plates gleamed on either side, accentuated by a pair of candles. An intoxicating aroma of garlic and oregano spiraled up from her homemade feast. Right on time, a slam of the door indicated that he had arrived. Brushing her hands off on her skirt, she hurried into the hall and took his briefcase.
“How was work?” she asked.
“Long day,” he said brusquely, “Kitchen smells good.”
“Yeah,” she said eagerly, “I made spaghetti and garlic bread. I just—I know how much you love it. We were out of tomatoes but I had go out anyways so I picked some up.”
“That’s great Jo,” he said, already wandering into the kitchen. He slapped a spoonful of noodles onto a plate, doused it in sauce, and retreated to his office.
“Honey,” she piped up, trailing him at a short distance, “I thought maybe we could eat together tonight—like we used to?”
“You know, I’m just really tired,” he said. “Work was rough.”
“They said you left work three hours ago…” she said quietly.
“You called?” he asked, starting to sound angry. “What are you, checking up on me?”
“No!” she cried. “They called here because you left your license. I’ve just been worried about you is all.”
“You don’t need to worry about me,” he snapped. “I stopped by Jenna’s. It wasn’t a big deal.”
“Of course,” she murmured. Right now she wished more than anything that she believed him when he said it wasn’t a big deal. She wished that she wasn’t pretending not to smell another woman’s perfume. "Jenna's? Again? How uhm... how is she?"
"Probably about to get a divorce if you must know."
"Oh. I suppose you were just... comforting her."
"Yeah," Her husband narrowed his eyes. "I was."
"God," He made a sound of disgust. "You can be a real bitch, you know that Jo?"
"Right," she nodded, whipping the plate out from in front of him and shattering it against the floor. He looked at her, too shocked at the outburst to yell or get angry. Jo looked down at the ground, at the mess of plate shards and tomato sauce. "I'm sorry. I'll clean it up."
YOU ARE READING
Nothing PrettyShort Story
This is a collection of short stories. What began as a single short story entitled Nothing Pretty is expanding into a collection of my work. Each part of this book stands alone as it's own brief read. These are short stories, generally related to th...