“Thank you again for the steak Marie, I don’t think I’ve ever tried it before”. I’ll admit I didn’t particularly want steak tonight, but at least Marie and Nathan seemed to enjoy it. She leans over his shoulder to pick up his plate. I admittedly feel a pang of jealousy but push it down, making a mental note to learn how to pull off shoulderless tops as well as Marie does.
“Are you sure you don’t want a hand washing-up, Marie?” I almost do a double take at that. Nathan never washes up at home. “It’ll be fine” She answers. “I’ll leave it to soak for a bit and wash up once you two are gone.” she searches around for something “Ah I forgot to get the bottle opener, I’ll need to find that as well, won’t be a minute.”
She walks out of the room taking the plates with her, and as she leaves so does the easy-going atmosphere, creating an awkward silence in its place. It really shouldn’t be this difficult to have a conversation with your boyfriend. I’m sure it’s fine though, most couples have awkward moments here and there. I look at him, about to say… something, but then I notice it. The dark purple stain on his favourite checkered shirt.
“Hold on, is that a red wine stain on your shirt?”. I have never known anyone to hate wine more than Nathan, I wasn’t too keen on it either before meeting Marie, so I didn’t mind too much when I stopped drinking it, with the exception of when Marie comes over for girls nights. We don’t keep it in the house, so how on earth did he get wine down his shirt? I figured that it might be worth making a joke of it to lighten the mood. “You’ll have to ask your mistress for a white wine next time, it’ll be easier to clean up”. I say the words initially to make fun of how absurd it would be, but as I actually finish the sentence... No. Surely not? I begin to feel more and more unsure. He wouldn’t do that to me. He just wouldn’t. I must be overthinking things.
The silence following my stupid joke about the stain seems endless, I feel like I’m suffocating in it, silently begging him to say something. I shake myself a little, whilst I’m sure everything is fine and he has a reasonable explanation I still don’t trust myself to look at his face right now. I’m scared that if I do I might see something I really don’t want to. I look around the room, trying to find something to focus on instead of him. My eyes eventually land on the bottle of red wine on the table...
It all makes sense now.
I close my eyes and take a shaky breath before I trust myself to speak again. I do my level best to stay calm and speak evenly. “I’m going to ask you something.” My voice is surprisingly monotone and emotionless. It’s likely for the best all things considered. “I am going to ask you one very simple thing and so help me if you don’t answer me honestly Nathan I will never forgive you.” I look him dead in the eyes. Those same chocolate brown eyes I fell in love with two years ago. They tell me all I need to know without saying a word but I still ask the question anyway. “Are you having an affair with Marie?”
“Don’t. Just don’t.”
The room begins to spin, my heart somehow begins to scream in my ears, be punched out of my chest and shatter into hundreds of pieces all at once.
Suddenly everything clicks. This is the reason we always go to Marie’s favourite restaurants, why he reads her favourite books, wears her favourite colours, listens to her favourite songs.
It’s all so obvious when I think about it really. As much as I want to believe I couldn’t have seen this coming, a large part of me wants to kick myself for being so naïve. What hurts the most is that I don’t think they would have orchestrated this for the sole purpose of hurting or embarrassing me, meaning that whatever this is, it’s genuine. He really does like her. To the point that he was willing to go to all the effort of hiding this from me.
“How-“ I pause. My voice is suddenly not in my control anymore and the monotone wall I’ve built up is dangerously close to breaking. I take a moment and try again. “How long has this been going on for?”
At least he’s now actually giving me direct and honest answers. He owes me that much at least. The number itself almost doesn’t register for a moment, there’s hardly a good amount of time for your best friend and boyfriend to have been together behind your back after all. When I realise that this would mean that they were together during February and that he likely didn’t have to work late on Valentine’s Day however, something in me breaks.
I slump back into my chair. I truly wasn’t expecting this so I don’t know what I’m meant to do I’m this situation. Getting angry at them hardly feels worth it. Especially right now as the anger hasn’t had a chance to set in yet, being muffled by the shock of it all.
Acting like everything is okay is out of the question, and I refuse to break down and cry in front of them. They don’t deserve that. They don’t deserve to know how much this hurts.
I must’ve been caught up trying to process it all for longer than I realised because before long Nathan can’t stand my silence any more.
“Aren’t you going to say something?”
the fact that he thinks he has any right to ask anything of me right now is honestly laughable.
“What would you want me to say?” I snap. The shock has loosened its grip a bit. “That I forgive you? Because if that’s what you’re looking for here then I’m sorry but that’s just not going to happen” I pause, take a breath and start again feeling a bit calmer, glad to have let even a tiny bit of emotion out. “I’m not going to sit here screaming and shouting at you just to make you feel better either. It wouldn’t change what you’ve done anyway.”
Just at that moment, Marie saunters in, nattering away about her lovely new yellow wine opener and the “amazing” blue cheese she bought and how she hopes it will pair well with the red wine. I’m not sure which part of the situation I find funniest, the abrupt change in tone or her obliviousness. Either way, it doesn’t last long before she realises how quiet we’re both being.
It stings in a strange way, knowing that this may well be the last time I see Marie acting as cheerfully and as happy to see me as she is right now. For all I know, this could be the last time I see Marie at all. A part of me wishes that the last few minutes had never happened, that I could re wind and ignore the stain. But I can’t, I can’t forget this.
She looks over to us and tilts her head to the side and pulls a confused face, her way of silently asking if everything is okay. It doesn’t take her long to read the room, and between his solum expression and the tears threatening to spill out from my eyes we may as well have a sign saying
We both know.