Nine

“And you never put down the toilet!” Michael heard from behind the bathroom door. He quickly ran down the hall and knocked.  Jen was slamming cabinets inside.

“Excuse me?” he yelled. He ran a hand through his hair and tried to calm down. “What did you say?”

“I said,” the door opened suddenly, revealing a red-faced Jen, “you never put down the damn toilet!” She grabbed a tub of lotion from the bathroom counter and proceeded to angrily rub the pink cream on her face. Michael inhaled a heavy breath and said, “What does that have to do with any of this?”

“It has everything to do with this!” she stormed past him and into the bedroom. He stood in the doorframe and rolled his eyes. “Jen…” he groaned. “Please help me out here.”

He was so sick of this back-and-forth nonsense they were doing. Nine years together and now it seemed like all they did was fight.  This is not to say that they hadn’t fought in the past.  But lately their fights had been lasting days. It all started when Jen’s best friend got engaged. Jen was starting to think about marriage more and it was evident that she was getting frustrated with him.  Five years ago they moved in together and everything was great. She understood that he was against marriage and agreed that they were just as committed to each other now without the piece of paper. His parents divorced. Two out of his three siblings divorced. He knew the odds.

Jen said something he didn’t catch.  He snapped to and his eyes focused on her face. Tears were forming in her eyes and she choked, “Oh great, what are you, just spacing out now? My God, Mike.”

“What, babe? What do you want from me?” He sighed.

“Why won’t you marry me?” she replied with a stern voice. He knew this had been coming. This had been the topic of every fight for the past three months.

“Jen, you know how I feel about marriage. It’s nothing against you.”

“But it is though,” she pleaded. “What is different about what we’re doing right now if we are married?”

He threw his hands up. “Right!” He yelled. “What is different? It’s a little piece of paper. Don’t you believe that I love you?”

“Of course I do, Mike,” she sobbed. “But commitment is about wanting to make each other happy. Can’t you try to see that?”

“I’m sorry that I can’t give you what you want, Jen.” Tears began to soak her face which made him unclench his fists. He walked towards her and reached with a gentle hand for her waist, but she pushed past him and whispered, “Please not right now.” He eased onto the bed as he heard the front door slam.

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Bitter and Sweet

            The white chocolate latte was scorching as it drenched Sarah’s blouse. “Ahh fuck!” she groaned, exasperated. Just what she needed before this meeting with her attorney. She could just imagine Brett’s face when she walked into the room, a smug look on that perfectly scruffy face of his. She hated him. She already wanted to smack off the grin forming on his face and could hear his piercing laugh.

            She felt for a napkin in her Coach purse and tried to wipe the steaming coffee off her white blouse, which she had ironed diligently this morning. She quickly hit the “close” button on the elevator before anyone else could get on.  It seemed so ironic that she was a mess right now when she usually had it together. She still felt the hot embarrassment of telling her mother two months ago that she and Brett were getting a divorce. It didn’t help that she still felt attracted to the bastard. But she couldn’t bear to be with him any longer.

            It’s not like Sarah couldn’t blame him.  Starting her own advertising agency had really put a damper on their relationship.  With the finances alone, it seemed like they had constantly been fighting.  They hadn’t slept together for what seemed like months.  She was so busy and tired with work, it was hard to feel sexy anymore.  She could feel him pulling away, working more nights at the office, falling asleep on the couch, having more “guys’ nights.” Sometimes she didn’t mind—she even enjoyed the solitude.  But once being alone was more comforting than being in the same room as him, she knew something was wrong.  She considered therapy. But when it was brought up, his face grew pale and he stammered, saying “we aren’t there quite yet.”  Many late nights brought her to a bathtub, eyes sore from tears, wondering…what had she done wrong? She went to college, got a degree, met a man she loved, got married. She was willing to fix this. Sarah was good at solving problems.

            It wasn’t until she decided to surprise him for lunch at work and walked in on him with his mouth on another woman’s neck that she realized it was over. She could feel her throat tapering in and her breath tearing in her chest. She remembered his face, how it drained her with its empty stare.  The woman ran out of the room, holding her loose dress around her bare body. She later learned this woman was a newly employed intern, fresh out of college.  It only took Sarah two weeks and many bottles of wine to file for divorce.

            And now here she stood, wiping hot milk off her shirt, feeling the flutter of a sob in her gut as the elevator lurched upward.  She took a deep gulp of air and pushed down the urge to cry. Not today, she thought. He won’t see me cry today.