Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Hope: Infinity Series Short Story

          This short story takes places during Falling Into Infinity. If you remember, Charlie and Colin break up, and Colin marries "rebound chick" not long after. By the time Colin and Charlie reconnect at the Clay South retirement party, Colin's been divorced for awhile. This short story takes place when Colin informs his first wife he wants a divorce.
          I wrote this piece with every intention of using it in Infinity. After the book was complete, I realized it bogged the story down. So, with a heavy heart, I removed it. However, I just couldn't let it hang out in my saved documents, so here it is . . . Enjoy!

By: Layne Harper

He should be home in ten minutes. I race around our condo making sure that it’s tidy—fluffing pillows on the couch, transferring his athletic clothes from the washer to the dryer, and smoothing the comforter on our bed. I perform one last check on dinner. It smells divine. I’ve prepared Colin’s favorite: pork chops, mash potatoes, and roasted broccoli.  
Opening up the double oven, I use a hot pad to pull out the pan and stick the meat thermometer in the center of one of the chops. Perfect. They’re just at the temperature where Colin says they taste the best.
I can’t wait for him to arrive home from practice. There’s so much for me to share about my day. His mother and I had a lovely chat about the upcoming Easter holiday. She invited me to help with the school parties at the preschool that she’s the principal of. Maybe I can convince Colin to make an appearance. While we’re in the Austin area, I also made arrangements for us to attend a fundraiser for cancer research. I remind him frequently that to whom much is given, much is expected.
I’m also ovulating. We’ve been trying to conceive since our honeymoon. So far, no luck, but I’m sure that it’s just because it’s not our time to be parents yet. We haven’t celebrated our first anniversary. We’re both young and healthy. It’ll happen.
Instead of conceiving a child a chore being a chore, I don’t tell Colin when I’m ovulating. I make sure that when he comes home, everything is perfect, and I’m dressed in sexy lingerie to turn him on. Tonight, I’m wearing a silky, peach-lace gown that hits at my knees. The matching robe is tied in a loose knot around my waist. I don’t want anything to frustrate him when he’s removing it. My hair is twisted up into a neat chignon at the nape of my neck. I’ve worn it this way before, and he went crazy for how sexy he thought it was to remove the pins.
I debate whether I should wear the matching peach satin high heels with feathers across the strap, and decide to go for it. After one last check in the mirror. . . Yes! My appearance should please him.
Our building’s concierge rings the penthouse phone. I race to it, knowing that he’s going to inform that Colin’s in the building.
“Hello,” I answer.
“Mr. McKinney just pulled into the parking garage, ma’am,” Doug says in his jovial, eager-to-please voice.
“Thank you.”
“My pleasure, Mrs. McKinney. Have a lovely evening.”
Walking briskly to the refrigerator, I take out a bottle of sparking water. Quickly, I transfer it to one of the Baccarat crystal glasses that we received as a wedding gift. I carry it over to the couch, which is positioned almost dead center of the line of sight of the front door.
       I make myself comfortable against the cushions, I grab a Sports Illustrated and open it to a place about a quarter of the way in. I want Colin to think that I’ve been reading it while he’s gone. It’s critical that he knows how much I value his career, and that I show interest in what’s important to him. The ding of the elevator, tells me that he’s about thirty seconds from walking through the door.
I count down in my head waiting for the brushed-nickel handle to turn while I skim the page of the magazine that is open in my lap. I have to make sure that I can discuss the article if Colin quizzes me on it.
Five . . . four . . . three . . . two . . . one . . . The door opens, and my recently showered husband enters. He’s wearing a black pair of athletic shorts, and a fitted performance T-shirt. It’s white, which makes his naturally tan skin look even darker. We’re a gorgeous couple. Everyone says so.
I place the magazine on the coffee table, pick up his sparking water, and rise to greet him, pretending that I didn't know he was about to walk through the door. I do a slight version of my catwalk strut—just enough to show off my hips, but not enough to make it appear obvious what I’m doing. He’s standing just inside of the entryway, watching me draw closer to him with an unreadable expression on his face. This concerns me somewhat. His eyes should be heavy with lust, and I should see the evidence of his desire for me in his shorts.
When I get no more than an arm’s length from him, I hold out the glass with a sexy smile on my face. “For you, my husband who’s worked so hard today at practice.”
He takes the glass from me without the expression on his face changing. This would normally send me into a panic, but Colin’s been odd, maybe even distant lately. This just must be one of his moods. I stand up on my tiptoes and kiss his cheek.
As my lips brush his stubbled jaw, he drops his head, and warning bells sound in my head. There’s something that’s disturbing him. I reach up and brush my hand across his temple. “What’s wrong?” I ask, registering the fear in my voice.
“Sit down. We need to talk.” His voice is even and controlled, and his face is telling me nothing. It’s a blank slate, void of any emotion.
“Can it wait until after dinner? Your pork chops are ready.” My voice is high-pitched and sing-songy. Anyone that knows me well would say that this is my “pretend everything is normal” voice. 
“No. It can’t,” he responds, not betraying his feelings.
“Okay. Well, then. Let me remove our food from the oven and put it in the warming tray. You just sit down and relax. I’ll only be a moment.” I’m so nervous I almost skip into the kitchen. Has he been let go? Did he lose his starting position on the team? I can’t imagine what he wants to discuss that can’t wait until after dinner.
Once the food is situated, I pour myself a gin and tonic, and walk into the living room, taking a seat on the opposite end of the couch from him. I sweep my legs to the side and settle back against the padded arm, pulling my robe around me as if it’s protective armor.
There’s clearly something amiss. His face betrays nothing, but his eyes are not their usual sparkly green. They’re dark and clouded. Maybe even a frosty sort of a moss green. Yes. This must be about football.
He opens his mouth as if to speak, but instead he brings the glass of water to his full lips and takes a sip. After what feels like a lifetime in the quiet of our home, he begins to tell me what is worrying him. “I want you to know that this is not easy for me.”
I cut my almond-shaped eyes to the side and tilt my head. The photographers tell me this is my “drawing in the audience” face. “You can tell me anything, honey. I love you. We’ll get through whatever it is together.” I attempt to reassure him as I casually bring my three-carat engagement ring into his field of view. Just a subtle reminder of how much we love each other.
He drops his head and leans forward, placing his elbows on his knees, still holding the glass of water I fixed especially for him. Without even having the courtesy to look me in the eyes, his voice fills with sadness. “I want a divorce.”
What? What did he just say? I smile at him, convinced that this is a joke. “Excuse me. I didn't hear you correctly. I could have sworn that you said you want a divorce.”
“I’m so sorry. That’s what I said. I love you. I’m just not in love with you, and I can’t keep pretending that I am.” His voice is forlorn, strained, but it doesn't make my blood boil any less.
In my head, I scream, at least give me the courtesy of looking at me when you’re shattering my heart. His words slice through me like a Ginsu knife. Divorce? I’m only twenty-three. I can’t get divorced. I’m married to one of the most well-known athletes in the world. Everyone will know that we’re failures. What will my friends and parents think? What about all the people who sent us wedding gifts? Should I return them? We’ll be the targets of all the late night comedians. How can we get divorced when we haven’t even been married a year?
I lean forward and begin to reassure him. “Oh, Colin. Stop. This is silly. Of course you love me. We just got married. We’re still newlyweds. This is just adjustment pains. You know, everyone warned us about them. Now, let’s go eat the dinner I made just for you. Pork chops . . . your favorite. We’ll discuss this later.” I hop to my feet as I slam my gin and tonic, and head for the kitchen.
I’m pulling our dinner out of the warming tray when he saunters into the kitchen and leans against the counter next to me. “I've rented a place in the building. You can keep the penthouse condo. The movers are coming to get my things tomorrow.”
“I think a place in the building is a good idea. You need a man cave. Somewhere to be with the boys,” I agree as I set the bowl of whipped potatoes on the island. “Leave your clothes and things here. Just have the movers get your sports memorabilia, and maybe one or two of the TVs. Oh! Have them grab the maroon recliner in your office.” Yes. This is what he needs. Colin can have his own space—somewhere to just relax, and have the guys over to watch sports. This is a brilliant idea, and I’ll finally get rid of the hideous chair that someone gave us as a wedding present.
I grab a large spoon out of the drawer and go about turning over the potatoes making sure that they’re heated all the way through.
Suddenly, I’m being spun around by my shoulders. I drop the spoon in surprise, letting out a little yelp, while potatoes fly around the kitchen. Colin has leaned down and is staring into my eyes. It’s about time.
He begins speaking to me as if I’m either deaf or do not speak English. “Listen to me. I want a divorce, meaning that I don’t want to be married to you any longer.” His large arms are still holding me in place, and I drop my chin and stare at an imaginary speck of dirt on our tiled floor.  Before he speaks again, he removes his left hand from my arm and uses it to tilt my chin up so I can see the pain in his eyes. “I’m a bastard. I married you hoping to move on with my life, but I’m in love with someone else. You are an amazing woman. You need to find someone who will love you, and treasure you and treat you the way you should be treated.” I cut my eyes to the side so I don’t have to look at him anymore, but he redirects my face so he captures them again. “I can’t pretend any longer, and I’m so fucking sorry.”
I ignore everything that he says and focus on the part where he’s in love with someone else, feeling the tension leave my body.  This is excellent news! “Sweety, this isn’t about Charlie, is it?” I ask, feeling like I’m talking to a child. I reach up and stroke his arm, and he flinches away from my touch, standing up to his full six-foot, five-inch height.
What a relief. If this is about Charlie, his mother and I can deal with it. I put my hands on my hips. “She doesn't want you, Colin. Charlie is on the other side of the country, making a new life for herself that you're not welcome in. Your mom and I actually discussed this today. You’re so much better off without her. She has that Adam boy now. He’s going to be a doctor like her. Plus, his family is mega wealthy with connections in the medical field that you’ll never have.” I go to touch his arm again, and this time he doesn't pull away . “Let’s give our marriage another year. I know that we can make it work.”
I think that I’ve gotten through to him when Colin turns and walks out of our kitchen and heads toward the bedroom. I follow behind him, hot on his heels, hoping that we can forgo dinner and skip straight to make-up sex.
Then, much to my surprise, he goes to the closet and starts packing his duffle bag that he uses for out of town games.
I untie my robe, letting it slip off my shoulders and down my body. A little sex appeal never hurts during an argument. “Yes. It might be a good idea for you to leave and clear your head. I’ll be ready to take you back when you've had time to think,” I reassure him. He’ll come back to me after he’s made his little play to win her back. Charlie dumped him like bad news. When he tells his mom, she’ll remind him of how upset he was when she chose Harvard over him. I feel confident that this is just a bump in the road. Colin will be back in my bed in no time.
He spins around and throws a grey T-shirt into his bag with much more force than is necessary, without noticing how enticing my lingerie is. “I’d rather spend the rest of my life alone than pretending with you.” There’s so much venom in his words that I flinch and grasp my chest.
He stops what he’s doing and runs his hand through his hair. “Look.” His tone is much softer. “This is all one hundred percent my fault. I used you, and that makes me the biggest asshole on the planet. I’m stopping this charade now. Before we have kids. Before we waste any more time going through the motions. Aiden will call you tomorrow and discuss the divorce settlement. I’m sure that you’ll find it very generous.”  Then he turns around and walks back into the closet to grab the shoe box of Charlie mementos that he doesn't think I know about. It’s filled with dumb things like her doodles on his notebooks, concert-ticket stubs, pictures, and her acceptance letter to the medical school here in Dallas.
I sink to the floor, watching him shove the box into the bag. Finally, it sinks in. Divorce settlement? Already talked to Aiden? He’s really leaving. Everyone will know. What will people think of me?
He walks towards our bedroom door, carrying the duffle and pauses in front of me, staring down like I’m some pathetic creature in the animal shelter. “Hope, for what it’s worth, I really am sorry.”
Once I hear the front door shut, I crawl to the phone next to the bed. With trembling hands, I pick up the receiver and punch the numbers. Colin’s mom answers on the second ring. I lose it, sobbing into the phone, “He left me.”

Don't forget. . . Infinity. will be available on April 17.

 copyright 2014 @ Layne Harper


Unknown said...

I feel kinda bad for Hope she seems nice i guess i expected her to be more like Sasha!

Preet said...

As much as I like Charlie and Colin together, what he did to Hope was brutal. I don't like him very much after reading this short story. Of course, there are two sides to every story, but using Hope to get over Charlie was never a good idea in the first place. Sigh.

Unknown said...

He did the right thing!!! I wouldn't want to be in a marriage that my spouse wasn't 1000000% in it with me!!!!

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