When Richard mentioned going out for dinner on Friday, Leslie was more surprised than excited. Richard rarely made any plans for the two of them. She couldn’t remember the last time that he’d spontaneously suggested anything.
Their marriage was in a place her mother warned about the night before the wedding. Mom said that marriage wasn’t a bed of roses, and there would be times when life was stale. But Leslie believed with all her heart that her marriage would be different. But that was fifteen years ago.
Life threw them a lot of curve balls. Two stillbirths and three miscarriages finally convinced them they wouldn’t be parents to any natural children. When Leslie asked Richard how he felt about adoption, he told her in no uncertain terms, “No.”
So, the dinner on Friday was a big deal. Leslie found herself humming unexpectedly over the next few days. On Wednesday, after work, she took herself shopping.
Twirling in the deep wine dress, Leslie glimpsed the girl she used to be in the tri-view mirror. She was happy to see her figure was almost as lithe as she was in high school, and her stylish haircut framed her face just right.
Paying for the new item, Leslie felt a lift in her heart as she walked out to her car. She thought to herself, “Maybe we are heading into better times. Mom said that things would go up and down over time. This might be an up that I’ve been waiting for.”
Friday finally came, and Leslie was impatient to get home. It felt like all the cars ahead of her were moving along at a snail’s pace, and she wanted to lean on her own and shout, “I’ve got a date tonight – I want to get HOME!”
But she controlled herself and arrived home at the same time it always took during the Friday evening commute. Richard wasn’t home yet, so she treated herself to a bubble bath before getting dressed.
Leslie called out, “Alexa, play Spotify ‘Absolute Faves.” Alexa told her it would be so, and her favorite music filled the bathroom. After setting an alarm so she would have time to dress and carefully apply makeup the way Richard liked it, she slipped into the water that wasn’t too hot but still soothing. Leslie let her muscles relax. She wanted to let go of anything else in her head. She wouldn’t think about work, and the past would stay in the past. Tonight, was all about the future. A future with Richard she wanted with all her heart.
Before her alarm sounded, Leslie heard the back door open as Richard entered. He called, “Hi. I’m home.”
“Hi back. I’m just getting ready. You do not know how much I’m looking forward to tonight. What restaurant are we going to? You made a reservation, didn’t you?”
When the words came out of her mouth, Leslie wanted to take them back. She belittled him with that comment, and she regretted it. He constantly asked her to give him some credit, and she just proved she didn’t trust him to take care of the details for tonight.
As Richard entered the bathroom, he spoke tersely. “Yes, I made a reservation, and no, I will not tell you where we’re going. You must wait until we get there.”
Leslie smiled to herself. “So, he’s going to be playful. Oh, this will be fun. Everything in our marriage will turn around now.”
Richard waited in the living room as Leslie put the finishing touches on her hair. She could hear him jingling the change in his pockets, and she knew he was becoming impatient. She took one more look in the mirror over her vanity and grabbed a wrap that complemented the new dress perfectly.
Her work was worth the time. Richard’s face lit from within when he looked at her. He cleared his throat before he spoke.
“Well, it looks like we’re ready. After you, miss.”
And so, the evening was off to a wonderful start. Leslie felt nervous in the same way she did when they were dating. She stole brief glances at Richard as he drove, and though she couldn’t discern his feelings or mood, she told herself he was as happy as she was.
The French Gourmet was one of the most expensive restaurants in town. As the car slowed in front of the restaurant, a valet approached, and Leslie watched in disbelief as Richard tipped him and handed over the keys. She began to reach for the inside handle to her door and stopped herself when she saw Richard standing next to the car and reaching for the lever on the outside.
“Why, thank you, kind sir.”
“You’re welcome. A pretty lady shouldn’t be opening her own door, now, should she?”
Leslie loved this, Richard. He was the man she’d fallen in love with sixteen years ago. He was attentive and loving. Her head was spinning with joy, and she felt her eyes sting as tears of joy rushed forward.
She was careful to keep Richard from seeing the tears, and as they walked into the restaurant with the Maître de taking them to their table, Leslie felt like she was in a dream.
When they were seated, Richard asked, “Is it okay if I order for the both of us? They have a great seared steak here, and I think you’d like it.”
“Of course, Richard. That sounds good.”
And even as the words fell from her lips, Leslie felt the antenna come up. “When was he here? How could he know anything about their steaks? Somethings up.”
The kernel of fear that his words started in her belly grew as the evening went on. Leslie did her best to enjoy the wonderful meal, but this Richard wasn’t the one she knew.
No, this Richard was more verbose. He knew more about the town they’d lived in for years. She wondered when he’d gone to the place he spoke about. He worked ten to twelve hours a day all week and often went in on Saturdays.
“When did he have time to ‘discover’ all these places?”
The fear turned into a caustic acid, and Leslie knew something terrible was coming. And she was right. It showed up with the dessert cart.
“Oh, why don’t you treat yourself, Les?”
The use of her diminutive name scared Leslie for some reason. It didn’t sound natural as it fell out of his mouth. It felt forced and conniving.
“I really don’t feel like dessert tonight. Maybe we should get home.”
“No, not yet. I need to talk to you about something.”
She held her breath. “Oh, well, tell me.”
Richard drew a deep breath. Leslie could tell he was struggling with the words in his head as they fought to come out.
“Ugh, I have to tell you that I’m leaving.”
“Leaving? Like on a business trip?”
“No. I’m leaving you. I’m not going to live in the house anymore. I’m moving tomorrow."
A buzz started at the back of her brain and grew louder as it filled her mind.
"Moving? Tomorrow? But where are you going?"
Richard had the good grace to flush as he spoke the following sentence. “I’m moving in with my girlfriend, and I’m serving you with these papers tonight.”
She watched him take carefully folded papers out of his breast pocket. He opened the creases and lay the document in front of her.
Spots formed in front of her eyes. Leslie grew fearful as she felt herself leaving conscious thought. And with that, she fainted.
Life would never be the same.