Creative Nonfiction

The bright pink stain moved rapidly across the window of the wand, smearing a line across the control box and a glaring addition symbol in the test area. I stared at it for about three seconds before I thought, The box says this takes a full minute to work. What is happening here?

I took the stick and left the bathroom, my eyes wide and stunned. My soon to be ex-husband sat on “our”” king-sized bed, staring at me with curiosity.

“Well?” he said.

“It's positive,” I revealed. I sat down next to him, test in hand, which indicated how in shock I was. In the last two months, I had made it crystal clear I wanted nothing to do with this man. Not even friendship.

“Are you going to tell Zach?”

“Of course I'm going to tell Zach,” I snapped back angrily. It was an insult to have even asked me if I would tell the man involved in this mess about what had transpired. But that was Corey. A manipulative, controlling, debasing human being. All the reasons why I wanted a divorce from him.

“I can get a test done, if that'll help,” Corey offered, thoughtlessly, slyly. “I've got the feeling I might be sterile.”

He stated it as if a person would wake up one morning and suspect they might not be able to father children. I had suspected it for years, one of the reasons I despised him so much. He lied to his own wife about wanting kids. From things his family talked about, things he said, I figured out the bad accident he had at eleven years old caused him permanent damage. His family tried to tell me without telling me, I just hadn't wanted to listen close enough because I wanted a family.

Now it looked like I would be getting one.

“Sure, fine,” I told Corey, not caring if he jumped off a bridge and flew away. “Do that.”

“I'll call the doctor's office this week.”

He certainly expressed an eagerness to prove he could not be biologically responsible for my little slip-up. Not that I needed proof. We hadn't been a couple since just before I asked for the split. Around the time I did something I really shouldn't have done. Something I should have probably regretted, but didn't. Especially since a precious little life was now growing inside of me.

I rose from the edge of the bed and went to get my purse.

“Where are you going?” he asked, as if it was his business to know.

“To see Zac,” I responded, talking as if to a child.

“Right now? Don't you want to think about this first?” he questioned in surprise.

“What's there to think about? I want to keep it,” I returned snippily.

“But Zac might not feel that way,” he reminded me.

I glared him, partially because it was none of his concern and partially because he was completely right. Zac would definitely have some strong opinions when I told him. That's why I didn't want to wait. I needed him to know so he could decide for himself what he wanted to do. This would be a life changer.

I found my purse and keys and left the apartment, driving directly to the video store where Zac and I worked our second jobs. His main career dealt with processing student loans and mine, as a paralegal for an attorney. We met at the store, both of us needing extra money to pay the bills. It felt like kismet.

My first night working at Video Supreme, after we closed up, my manager Todd let me know to expect a fellow employee, Zac. I kept my attention on the locked front door while I counted the money in the cash register. A few minutes after I began, I heard a strange conversation coming from just outside.

“Aw man,” one male said unhappily. “I hope they don't charge me a late fee for this. It's barely after ten.”

“Oh, they'll totally charge you,” a second, deeper, attractive voice replied with a sarcastic tone. “They're total jerks. Even if you're one minute past closing, they'll mark it late.”

The first man mumbled something even as a knock came on the door and I realized my co-worker had arrived. I went to open the door. The most beautiful man with the sexiest smile waved to a perplexed customer and came into the building. I locked the door behind him and went back to counting my drawer.

I could not think straight. He had thick dark brown hair which hung partially over one of his mesmerizing blue eyes, charming glasses and the straightest, whitest teeth. He walked like he owned the store and I loved his cockiness. However, this was my first day at work and I needed to do my math correctly.

“Hi, I'm Zac,” he introduced in a friendly tone.

I had just let him into the store. I wondered if he thought I was dumb enough to let a complete stranger in after hours without realizing their identity. “I know,” I said in a tone which indicated he had stated the obvious. I went back to my count. I didn't realize how much of a jerk I sounded like.

I'm certain my manager officially introduced us when he came out of his office a little while later, but all my heart could do was pound so wildly in my chest, I don't know if I clearly heard anything over the sound. I do remember I checked in the customer's “late” video and marked him in as on time. Zac had just been having fun with the guy.

Now, eight months later, I walked into Video Supreme and saw him working behind the counter. Brown hair flopping over one eye, he wore a sexy grin as he helped a customer out. A special glimmer came into in his gaze when he glanced toward the door and saw I had arrived. I melted.

I went to the return bin and began placing videos back onto the shelf to help him out while he dealt with customer check-out. The rhythm was a familiar one, as we had worked together so many times before, effortlessly finding a system which worked for us. Even as far back as that first evening.

I had worked the cash register while he put things away and cleaned the shelves. It was a busy shift and, as was inevitable my second night on the job, I became flustered by the amount of customers waiting for service. I accidentally pressed a button on the computer and pulled up a screen I had not seen before. I froze in place, worried I might have broken the thing.

I turned to Zac, but in my agitated state, I couldn't remember his name. I looked at him and said, “Uh, eh, I, ah...”

He responded as he walked toward me, “It's real easy. Starts with a 'Z', ends with a 'c', has an 'a' in the middle.”

Without losing a step, he swooped in, touched two buttons on the keyboard and it popped back onto the correct screen as if it had never had a problem. He walked away back to what he had been doing without breaking stride. I was embarrassed I had forgotten such an easy name, yet completely charmed with his ridiculously sardonic sense of humor.

He was impressive, like a whirlwind of reaction, always on point with a sharp, amusing answer. He made me laugh at myself and everything else. I found myself fascinated by his combination of self-deprecation and complete arrogance. His intelligence and general recall were amazing and impressive and also a little bit annoying. But I love—liked it.

He made me feel treasured. In his world, women were to be treated with the utmost respect and gallantry. He pulled up chairs, opened doors, lent his suit coat for warmth, bought gum and soda from the drugstore next door. Anything a woman wanted—anything I wanted, he got. After being married to a narcissist, it felt amazing to be humanized.

I had no problem ignoring the fact I had a husband because I despised him and the way he treated me. I repeatedly asked for a divorce, but had been manipulated or bullied into staying. There was another problem entirely. Her name was Lilah.

She was Zac's wife.

How I hated her! She was pretty in a tiny, pixie sort of way I could never be. She had dark gypsy eyes and hair, not in a sexy way, but definitely fascinating. I saw why Zac would choose her on looks alone. But her attitude brought up a whole other matter altogether.

Lilah was pretentious and thought she was so erudite when she really was common. She liked the arts and felt she belonged only among people who understood and appreciated them as well. Zac was earthy and real. He didn't fit in that kind of world where everything was phony. They were a complete mismatch.

She hated me as well.

One day, I happened to be having what could have been construed as an intimate moment with Zac. I told him about a movie I didn't like and didn't understand at all. He told me his wife loved it and why. I still didn't get it. At the time, he may have been rubbing the tension out of my shoulders while I was sitting at the register. Lilah and her mother walked into the store.

I knew Lilah was furious and I felt “caught”, but mostly because my intentions toward her husband were not pure. Not because we were actually being inappropriate. It only got worse after that. It was my fault. I made the mistake of doing something I probably shouldn't have done.

While she was away for a month in California, I sort of seduced her husband. I say, 'sort of' because he seduced me, too. I couldn't resist the way he looked, the way he talked, the way he smelled. I wanted to wrap him around me and never let him go. It only became worse once we broke the rules.

I became obsessed with the time we spent together. I never wanted it to end. When his wife returned, he tried to put a stop to our seeing each other, but it didn't last a day. We were like magnets, pulled toward each other inexplicable and desperately. No matter what, we couldn't break away.

When we began the affair, I told Corey right away, hoping I would finally get my divorce. He resisted, but when Zac and I stayed together for months, Corey finally gave in and agreed to the split. Zac never told Lilah. She came back from California having acted like a single woman the entire time. Her behavior was not above reproach. She decided she liked it and demanded her own divorce. Zac didn't know how to handle it.

I imagined he wouldn't know how to handle my news, either. I waited until the store was empty and told him I wanted to talk to him after work. He hesitated, probably because when we got together things would get intense, but eventually agreed.

That talk was not a happy one. The key points I got from it were, I was ruining his life, he would never be able to stay married now and he wouldn't let me raise his baby without being involved in the child's life. I gave him some takeaways, too. They were terse, succinct, and involved a special four-letter action word.

Zac was sorry about that conversation when I tried to get out of his car and walk back to mine, a good four miles away. His apologies were immediate, sincere and he knew where he went wrong. Though it took some time for him to fully embrace his new destiny.

He gave Lilah her divorce, though he denied being with me when she asked and he never let on about his impending fatherhood. Lilah saw our son once when he was two years old and Zac had to bring the boy with him to sign off on some old paperwork which got missed in the split. He didn't explain who our son was and she didn't ask.

When our child turned three, Zac married me in a beautiful ceremony which meant everything. Our son was the ring bearer. Zac still dances with me to our wedding song whenever it plays.

Twenty years and another child later, we are still together and happy.

I may have fallen in love with someone I had no right to be with, but fate worked out in my favor.

February 09, 2020 21:13

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