"And that's the nine o'clock news." The anchor on TV said right before the screen went black. "Ugh." Said the man holding the remote in his hand, stretching his upper body with a big yawn. As he was putting his arms down, he looked at the sight of his wife coming down the hallway to the living room. She came and sat down next to him. "What are you doing?" he said in an upbeat tone. "I'm staying up tonight!" she exclaimed proudly, grabbing his arm and wrapping it around her body. "Ha-ha, you haven't stayed up past nine ever since Max was born," he responded with a short laugh. She used his body to lift her a bit, looking him in the eyes. "If you don't want me here, I can go back to bed," she said with a half-hearted stern look. "No, not at all," he said, tilting his head back then with a broad smile, adding, "this is nice." The woman shot up. "I've got an idea," she said. Climbing over the back of the couch towards the kitchen. "What are you doing now?" He asked, not moving from his position. Closing his eyes, he heard the clink of glasses from the cupboard. Shortly after came the pop noise of a fresh bottle. With light footsteps, she headed back to the living room with both drinks in her hands. She handed him both before climbing over the couch, grabbing her drink from his hand as she sat next to him. "Let's play truth or drink like we did back when we were getting to know each other." She said with a pleading look on her face. He gave a slight snort-laugh. "Sure." He said, straightening out, changing his grip on his glass. "Really?" She asked, slightly bewildered. "Yes, unless you weren't serious," He responded. "No! I was. I just thought you would think this is stupid," She said, eyes falling to the floor. "Seems like an amusing idea," He said, using his free hand to go under her chin and lifting her eyes back to his, causing the woman to break out into a giggle, followed by taking a swig of her drink.
"Ok do you want to go first, or should I?" she asked. "You can go first," he responded. "Ok...Mmmm. Did you eat the last piece of my birthday cake that I was saving?" The man burst out into roaring laughter. He didn't answer, instead opting to take a shot from his cup. "Ok, my turn." "Umm… Do you remember what I won for you at the state fair the last summer we went?" "Of course I do! It was stuffed giraffe that Max now has custody of." She took a drink. "You do remember how to play, don't you?" He asked, raising one eyebrow with a slightly surprised expression. She ignored the follow-up question. "Do you? You don't get back-to-back questions." She retorted wittily. "Does Max have a secret stash of bedtime fruit snacks that you both think I don't know about?" With a guilty smile on his face, he took an enormous gulp of his drink, this time trying to keep up. "Your turn." "Do you remember what your dad said to me the first time you took me to meet him?" She laughed a little too loud. "Shhh, it took forever to get him to fall asleep the first time." He said, putting his pointer finger over his mouth. "He told you that if you ever hurt me, he wouldn't hesitate to pull some strings and have you arrested on trumped-up charges." She answered in a loud whisper. She took another drink this time. The man didn't point it out or make a fuss about it. "Would you ever lie to me?" She asked somberly. This question changed the energy in the room almost instantly. It wasn't very noticeable, but the atmosphere had suddenly become somewhat serious. "Of course not!" He said with a slight voice crack, caught off guard. "Why would you ask me that?" He asked, staring at her intently. "Is that your question?" she retorted with a wave of slight anger in her tone. "Yes." He said, slowly retreating in volume. Without a word, she downed the rest of her drink. As she neared the bottom of her glass, she saw her husband's wide-eyed expression from her peripherals. She took a deep breath once she was done with her drink and asked her final question of the game. "Would you ever cheat on me?" She asked, refusing to look in his direction. "What kind of questions are these?" he asked, clearly annoyed by the line of questioning. There was a stillness in the room; all the other noise was drowned out by their hearts beating. The man broke the silent standoff by turning to his wife to see if she would give him a way out of this. What he saw, though, shook him to the core when he caught a glimpse of her face seeing the tears dripping off her cheeks into her glass. "That's not fair; you didn't answer or drink. Would you ever cheat on me?" she asked again, looking up trying to make eye contact, but her vision was too blurry even to see his face. "Why would you even ask me that?" He asked, scooting a little to the left away from her. "No," she responded, putting her pointer up in the air to stop from being interrupted. "It's my turn: answer or drink. Would you ever cheat on me?" she asked for the third time. A heavy silence fell over the room.
The man took a deep breath like trying to stop this sudden gravity from caving in his chest. "It feels like you already know the answer to this," he stated, setting his drink down on the coffee table in the middle of the living room. He let out a closed mouth; through the nostrils, exhale. "Roger called, and boy did he have a little story to tell me." She sniffled, regaining her composure. "He told me he's been suspicious of Megan for quite some time now." sniffle. "She had been acting differently. She was becoming much more distant and easily irritable. On top of that, she took more and more business trips for books that weren't selling all that well. So do you know what he did? He hired a private investigator to find out what was going on. The investigator followed her for six months finding out an ugly truth about her. The reason she became so distant was that she was unfaithful. Can you believe it, poor Roger? What didn't make sense was why he called me so late at night to tell me this. I mean, he's your friend? But then he tells me who she cheated with." She stopped talking. The slight second that passed seemed like an eternity had utterly stopped at that moment, freezing them at the moment. "Do you want to take over, or should I continue?" she asked, cutting through the silence like a cake with a dull knife.
"Stop." The man responded, putting his hands on his knees leaning forward to get to his feet. He felt weightless, almost like he was underwater with water filling his lungs, drowning him slowly. He walked over to the fireplace below the tv across from where he was sitting. The ledge of the fireplace acted as a life preserver saving him from this feeling. "Well?" she asked in a defeated tone, sobbing. He stood there staring at a picture on the ledge. It was their wedding day. Now those two people no longer resembled the people they had become. Carefree, radiant smiles of kids. Happy faces that hadn’t been hardened by life yet. He stared at this picture with a fiery intensity until he looked past it onto his reflection, bouncing off of the image. His face scrunched upon seeing it furrowing his brow. "No" Silence. "No, no no…. This isn't my fault," he stated matter of factly, turning around with his eyes welling up, letting out a single tear, doing his best to fight back the rest. "WHAT!" she belted out, shooting off the couch as quickly as an Olympic sprinter off the blocks. "No, you pushed me to this." He responded, looking down at his feet, shoulders hunched over, letting his tears fall to the ground. "You're going to blame me for your cheating. You can't even be brave enough to own up to your shit." her voice shook as she tried to keep her anger down. His eyes darted up. He glared at her with the veracity of a rabid, starved wolf finding its prey. "Brave Enough." he mocked with a short laugh. "I was brave enough to stand by you for two years while you just gave up on life." She stood silent, clenching her fists. He looked at her in utter confusion. "It's been two years. Two fucking years and you still have nothing to say?." He took a closed-eyed deep breath and stood up straight. His energy seemed to change completely; it became as calm as a sniper right before taking the shot. "You completely shut me out. It wasn't even like you drifted away. It was so abrupt like I was thrown overboard, and you just sailed away. I tried and tried, but I just couldn't reach you. After a while, you just stopped existing every time I was around. I felt like I was married to a corpse. I’m stuck in this limbo where you were physically, but god only knew where your head was. I was out here keeping our heads above water, but I needed you, and you were nowhere. Not just for me but Max too." "Don't you dare." she interrupted, voice breaking from the cry and deep breathing. "Max hasn't known his mother since birth. He just sees a stranger walking around the house occasionally handling him out of obligation, not love. I don't think he's ever seen you smiling or heard your laugh. The mother he knows is in pictures from the stories I tell him while we look at them together. If you treat your son that way, then I never had a….." SMACK. He received an open palm slap. "You have no right! You don't get to do this." She said, falling to her knees sobbing uncontrollably. Without looking down at her, he said, "I needed a human connection, and you weren't giving it to me." Before he could continue, she interrupted. "Then you give me an ultimatum and go to therapy or anything else. YOU DON'T FUCK YOUR AGENT" she screamed in a loud screech. The man opened his mouth to respond until he felt a slight tug on his pajama bottoms. "Dada." a small voice said shortly, followed by an equally small face peering around the man's legs. The man turned around. "I'm sorry, buddy." He bent over to pick up his son. "Were we too loud?" he asked in an apologetic tone. Max nodded his head. His father gave him a small smile and a kiss on the cheek. As they were about to walk away, the man stopped and turned to position his son between the fireplace and the woman. "Hey, buddy, where is mama?" he asked his son. Max pointed at the picture on the fireplace ledge. The man looked at his wife before turning his back to her, taking his son back to his room.
While finishing up reading his son's favorite bedtime book, the door creaked open a little bit. Like her son had done before, the woman popped her head into the room with tears in her eyes. The room was dark, only being lit by a night light by the little boy's nightstand. She walked in quietly and sat on the opposite side of the bed of her husband. She ran her hands through her son's coarse, curly hair. No one said anything; she just stared at her son while the man stared at her with almost a depraved looked begging to be acknowledged without verbally asking. After a minute or so, she got up, kissing her son on the forehead. Beginning her slow walk out of the room. "Stop!" He said in a desperate whisper. "I'm so sorry." She didn't respond or even turn around; instead, she just continued her walk through the door. He didn't chase her out. He waited in the room, looking at his son reflectively while trying to come to terms with the fact that he might have just destroyed his family.
After accepting his reality, he walked out of the room, grabbing a pillow and blanket from the closet. He headed towards the living room. He noticed the woman sitting at the kitchen island with her head in her arms as he got closer. He set his stuff down on the couch then proceeded to sit next to her. No one said anything; she kept her hands in her arms, and he just stared into the open space between the island and the oven. She finally lifted her head and looked at the zoned-out man. He had stopped fighting the tears. They were falling as freely as a beautiful waterfall. "I'm depressed." She said dejectedly. He didn't say anything. "It happened when Max was born. It’s pretty common after giving birth, and they said it should've only lasted six months to a year at most. But I just couldn't find my way out of it." Why didn't you tell me!" He yelled out. "I didn't want to burden you. You already had so much on your plate with the book tour and your constant need to write." "You know none of that goes over you on my priority list." "I knew you would say something like that, but you were just getting into the swing of things finding traction towards success after so many years of being let down. How could I be the one to take that away from you." Silence. "Say something!" She requested almost demandingly. "I can't think of anything to say that won't come off poorly. It was selfish of you to make that decision for me." He answered. "Selfish?" she asked, perplexed. "Why would you take that choice away from me? Why would I choose something that would take you away from me like this?" More silence. "So, what do we do?" She asked. "I don't know," He sounded defeated. She stood up. "Get some sleep. We can talk about this in the morning after we recharge." He didn't say anything back, just letting her walk past his chair. After a few minutes, he finally turned around and being caught off guard seeing his wife standing at the start of the hallway just looking at him. He ran up to her, giving her the warmest embrace as she cried into his arms. "You better fire her." "I will."