In her whole life, Alison had never done a dishonorable thing. She never walked the path less taken—never gave in to her selfish desires until now. To be clear she wasn’t sleeping with another man—that was still a bridge too far—but her heart longed for a distant memory, a love from her past. As is usually the case, the emotional affair started slowly, almost without her noticing it.
She allowed that familiar person back into her heart as the passion she felt for her long lost love was a force irresistible. Each night she crawled into bed next to the man whose ring she wore, but she fell asleep thinking only of the love of her life.
“Did they spell your name right?” he’d asked her long ago, showing her a paper coffee cup with his name hopelessly misspelled in black marker.
“Apparently vowels are now optional,” she replied. “My barista must be an nature lover.” Alison turned her cup towards him. Owlison. They both laughed.
They sat together in the coffee shop, side by side, at a table facing the street. Conversation flowed easily, as they people-watched, trying to make each other laugh.
“Check out the old guy in the pea coat. He’s pushing his wife through the crowd,” he remarked.
“He’s not pushing her. He’s in love with her,” Alison explained.
“His hand is on the middle of her back. He’s walking street side. And he isn’t pushing her—he’s protecting her.”
The look on his face let Alison know he was making a mental note. She was impressed by this small unspoken act. He authentically listened to her, really listened. She wasn’t used to that.
At her office, she was just an administrative assistant. There were executives scurrying all about who only paid attention to her when she walked out of the room. She dressed modestly, nothing low cut or tight, but that didn’t stop the leering.
No one seemed to care what she had to say. But the stranger in a coffee shop looked her directly in the eye and remained quiet when she spoke. He also opened the door when they walked out into the street. Yes, he was different and she fell for him almost immediately.
“Are you busy Friday night?” he asked, not by text, but on an actual phone call.
“Friday? Yep. I’m busy,” she replied.
“On Friday I’m going out with you,” she teased.
“What a coincidence,” he laughed. “I was going to do the same thing.”
“So where are we going this time?”
“I’ve got two tickets to a hockey game.”
“Fantastic, but you’ll have to teach me the game.”
“Basically, we will shell peanuts and yell HIGH STICKING at random intervals.”
“Perfect. I’m your girl.”
And she was.
Lying in bed next to her husband, Alison tried in vain to remember the last time they went out together. It was all her husband could do to talk to her over takeout, before he dissolved in front of the television, flipping from channel to channel.
Earlier that evening, he had paused on a channel long enough for her to see it was the Capitals-Rangers game.
“High sticking!” she yelled, forgetting for an instant where she was. He turned to look at her. Ashamed, she headed back to the kitchen to work on her crossword puzzle.
“Do we have any peanuts?” he called from the other room. The question caught her off guard. Did he know? How could he? It was clear her husband was oblivious to her.
“No, I’ll pick some up at the market,” she replied.
Now, with her husband sound asleep, she allowed her mind to drift back to thinking about the love of her life.
The conversations they’d had in the beginning of their relationship were crisp, brimming with intelligent banter. Her lover had made her laugh, but he also made her think. He could have acquiesced on a particular point she made, but he challenged her. They debated and argued, agreeing on most things, agreeing to disagree on others. How long had it been since she’d had an intellectually stimulating conversation with her husband? They mainly talked about their grown children and what to eat for dinner. How much she wanted to talk to him! Instead, she bristled next to her husband’s body, his gurgly snores heightening her growing revulsion.
As much as she missed her lover’s talks, she missed his mouth and hands on her. The idea of her husband touching her was repellent. The times with her love had given her both passionate conversations and passionate nights. He knew when to be gentle and when to take control. He knew where to touch her, and she loved touching him in return.
Why, then, did she end up here? She vividly remembered her younger self—she wouldn’t have settled for this empty shell of a marriage. She had known attention and affection and fulfillment. The love of her life had given her all of that and more. It’s why she sat and had coffee with him, all those years ago. It’s why she gave him her heart.
She wanted that again—she needed that again.
The man next to her rolled over, wrestling with the pillows they’d lodged between themselves. If possible, he moved even farther away from her, closer to his edge of the mattress. She remembered when they’d first slept together, limbs in a pile, blissfully tangled together. He could not get enough of her, just like the first day in the coffee shop when they laughed over Owlison.
🜋 🜋 🜋
Looking at the wall, he knew he wouldn’t be falling back asleep.
Alison was awake, restless on her side of the bed. He didn’t know what to say to her anymore. Every conversation died, ending in a stalemate or bickering.
Her husband wondered when she grew to hate him over the years. Even tonight, he thought she’d remember their first hockey game, making a mountain of peanut shells on the stadium floor while he taught her the rules of hockey.
He remembered when the love of his life slept peacefully in his arms.
Now there was no peace on either side of the bed.