Short Story: Shards

The look in Timothy’s eyes said it all. Grace saw him as he rounded the corner of the aisle as she stocked the shelves of the toy department. She had dreaded seeing in him for some time, dreaded the look he was now giving her. Her hands instinctively went to her belly, protecting her baby from his anger, though he was never prone to fits of outrage. His reaction was all the worse for it.

With one glance at her pregnant form, she could see waves of shock and surprise fighting with jealously and anger. She thought there was revulsion in there where, but she wondered if she was reading her own feelings in his eyes as they stared silently at one another. Her customers walked by them, oblivious to the awkwardness of the reunion.

“His?” Timothy muttered at last, once he found his voice.

She nodded. “Yeah, sorry I didn’t tell you. Me and Ken are, well…”

“I can see that,” Timothy said as he grappled with the unexpected feeling of betrayal. “You and him, huh?”

Grace nodded again, rubbing her belly absently, regretting the chain of events that led her to this moment, and not for the first time. “It was an accident, you see. Didn’t mean for it to happen.”

“Didn’t mean for it to happen,” he sighed quietly, closing his eyes as he tried to make sense of everything. “I thought he was only a bit of fun after your divorce. Wasn’t that why you and me didn’t happen?”

“I know,” she whined. “I know. He was only supposed to be someone to  play with before I settled down with someone a little more stable. I’m sorry. I know we were supposed to, but,” she shrugged helplessly. “You disappeared, and I know we kept in touch, but I thought I would never see you again.”

“I moved an hour away,” he retorted angrily, losing control of his emotions. “Promoted and moved one fucking hour away. I tried to call you, but you never answered. I text you, and the same. Oh, and you blocked me on everything. I guess you didn’t want me to know what was going on.”

“That was Ken’s doing,” she protested weakly. “Didn’t want me to get any ideas. He’s kind of controlling, and he’s always been jealous of you. You know how he’s like.”

“Oh, I remember Ken. Spent his whole marriage, or all three of them, controlling them, cheating on them, and just plain treating his wives like crap.”

“I know, but he promised it would be different this time.”

“Different? This time?” He said inquiringly as he pieced it all together. “You and Ken are married?”

“Well, no,” she shook her head, “but we’re supposed to get married in a month, once his divorce is finalized. “I don’t want to raise this baby without his father.”

“But you had no problem raising your other ones without their father,” Timothy argued heatedly. “What makes him so special.”

“I don’t know really,” she furrowed her brow in concentration, trying to explain the unexplainable. “It just is, you know. We’re together now. We’re going to have a family.”

Timothy scoffed, shaking his head in disbelief. “I must be the biggest fucking idiot.”

“No you’re not! Why would you even think that?”

“Because, I was hoping that maybe me and you could, but now this,” he pointed at her pregnancy. “I mean, holy fuck woman! You’re having Ken’s baby. And you’re marrying him? How fucking stupid can you be? How fucking stupid am I to hold on to the hope that maybe you’d finally decide to give me a chance. I mean, you said you loved me. You said you were in love with me.”

“I was,” she cried. “I still am, but it’s complicated.”

“No,” Timothy shook his head. “It’s simple, or at least it was. You chose him over me,” he said, tears streaming down his face. “Funny how everyone says I’m a nice guy, but it’s always the asshole that ends up with the girl. Either no one wants the nice guy, or maybe I’m really not as nice as everyone pretends I am.”

“You are, and I’m sorry,” Grace pleaded, sobbing into her hands, longing to fall into Timothy’s arms once more. “I fucked up. I should have picked you, but now I’m having his kid. I’m sorry.”

“No,” he shook his head. “Don’t be. I’m the one who should be sorry. I wasted all this time hoping that you’d give me a chance, but of course it was just that. I colossal waste of time. I – I have to go. Um, see you around, but probably not.”

He turned to walk away but Grace grabbed his arm and turned him around, pulling him towards her and kissing him. His resolve melted as he kissed her back, his need pulling him towards her in spite of himself. He ached for her and now there was nothing for him to do but walk away, but he couldn’t tear himself away.

Finally he wrenched himself from her grasp, unable to control the sobs tearing down his pride. “I love you, but I can’t do this. Not again. I’m sorry, but – goodbye.”

Without giving her a chance, he raced away. Grace stood there, rooted to the spot as he disappeared back around the corner, watching the man she was in love with get away, and she died a little.

***

A little over a year later, Timothy walked around his store, making sure the workers were busy with their tasks when he got a text. “It’s Grace. I need to see you. Can we meet?”

He stared at his phone the rest of the day, not knowing how to respond. Once he was home, he picked up the phone and replied. “I guess. I’m off tomorrow.”

“Okay.”

They agreed to meet at the city park. He waited on the bench by the pond as Grace walked up pushing a stroller and followed by her two other children, a boy and a girl.

“Thank you for meeting me,” she said timidly. “Can you guys go and play? I need to talk to Timothy for a minute.”

Her children ran towards the playground, not bothering to wonder why they had driven more than an hour to meet the strange man. She watched them for a moment before turning around and taking a seat next to Timothy who sat impassively watching the ducks waddle by.

“You wanted to meet?” He said in a cold voice.

“Yeah, I did,” she replied timidly.

“Ken know you’re here?”

“Me and Ken are getting a divorce,” Grace replied, picking up her baby from the stroller.

“That him?” Timothy pointed.

“Little Dexter,” she said lovingly. “He’s turning one next month.”

“Time flies doesn’t it?”

“Yeah.”

“So why are you here?” Timothy asked at last. “I mean, I don’t mean to be rude, but why bother driving all the way up here just to tell me you’re divorcing that sack of shit. I suppose you caught him?”

“Three times, the last time in my bed, while the kids were sleeping,” she whimpered. “That was the last straw. I kicked him out. That was last month. He doesn’t care enough to call to see how Dexter is doing.”

“Okay, but why are you here?”

“I fucked up, okay?” Grace choked. “I choose the wrong guy and let the right one walk away. I should never have decided to play with him and lose you in turn. That was not what I wanted.”

“But it’s what you did, and what you got. You can say sorry all you want, but it’ll never change the fact that you picked him over me. He was the one you wanted, not me. Why should I give a shit that you’re here apologizing?”

“Because,” she begged, “I was hoping you’d maybe give me another chance? Please?”

Timothy laughed. “You’re fucking unbelievable. You expect me to take you in after what you did?”

“I expect you to tell me to get lost,” she shook her head wearily, resigned at the idea of losing him for good. “I had to try anyways. I have to see if you’d give me another chance.”

“I don’t know,” Timothy shook his head slowly. “I’m tired of always coming in last. I’m never anyone’s first choice.”

“You’re my first choice now.”

“No, I’ll never be your first choice. You made sure of that the moment you went with him. I’ll always come in after that asshole, no matter what you try to say on the contrary. He married you, and you had his baby. No matter what, you’re linked forever. I can’t compete with him.”

“You don’t have to,” she cried. “He gone. Out of the picture. He moved in with that whore of a homewrecker.”

“As I recall, you broke up his last marriage. Don’t get mad that he treated you like he treated everyone else. You knew what he was like, and you choose him over me anyways.”

“You made your point. I guess I drove out here for nothing then?” She looked at Timothy, and he could feel his resolve slip away. She had a way of doing that when no one else could.

She stood and he joined her, looking deep into each other’s eyes. He had forgotten the striking blue of her eyes, or the dimple on the corners of her smile, or the way she’d squint when she smiled, as she did right now.

He had to have her, but he knew it would end in heartbreak. He also knew his heart would fail if he allowed her to walk away. Either way he’d end up hurt. It was a no-win situation, and he hated no-win situations.

They fell into each other’s arms before their lips met. She fit perfectly in his arms, and she felt it too. They were perfect for each other. They held on for a minute or two before they broke their embrace. He had to answer her. Yay or nay? Either way he would end up broken, and he wondered if he should bother. He looked at her, ready to give her the answer, wondering to himself as he spoke if there would be enough shards of his broken heart to put back together again.


Short Stories

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Short Story: Los Altos

I found out about Los Altos from a friend of a friend, some guy who visited the city and came back going on about how great the club was. “You guys need to go, I’m telling you,” he informed us with a sly smile that told us everything and nothing at the same time. There was something he wasn’t telling us and the only way to find out was to see for ourselves.

I had no intention of going, of course. If you knew me, you’d know that clubs weren’t my scene. I rarely went out, especially to bars. The only place I frequented was an Irish pub down the street from my office where I’d kick back with a few of the locals and shoot the shit. They were mostly from an older generation, reliving their glory days, regaling me with stories that I never quite believed. Mostly, they let me be, knowing that I preferred my own company. All except Ms. Peggy, but I don’t have time to go on about her.

The only times I would go out were when I screwed the courage to ask someone out, usually to go and see a movie, though I rarely did that anymore. I just went alone. Sometimes, if I was in a really good mood, I’d ask Jeannine the receptionist out for dinner. Like me, she preferred her own company so I never felt that she counted as company. We didn’t feel the need to fill the silences so it never became awkward.

My employer sent both Jeannine and me to the city to go to some waste-of-time seminar. We left, wondering why we were forced to sit through hours of lectures that would have been better suited to a couple of emails when Jeannine looked at me, a coy smile on her face, and asked “What are we going to do now?”

“What do you mean?”

“Here we are, in downtown after dark. It’s still kind of early. We could go back to the hotel, maybe grab a drink at the bar, or maybe just go back to our rooms, or we do something out of character. Let loose a little. What do you say?”

“I have my briefcase,” I stated lamely, embarrassed by how ridiculous I sounded.

“So do I,” she laughed. “And I don’t want to go out like this in any case. Let’s head back, change into something a little more casual, something appropriate for a night out, and meet in the lobby, say around eight? Then we’ll see what happens from there.”

“Sounds good,” I answered, still a little less sure than I would have liked. In fact, Jeannine’s sudden aggressiveness had me out of sorts. She was the quiet, bookish woman, a few years older than my thirty-four. She was unmarried, and had never been married before, though she was once engaged to some guy that ended up hooking up with some bimbo in Vegas and she dumped him.

I didn’t know what she had in mind, so I took off the suit and dressed in some khakis and a dress shirt, no tie. I put on a sports jacket and met her by the doors. She was dressed for a night out, wearing a blue cocktail dress, heels, and her hair was down. She always kept it either in a bun or in a pony tail. She looked unlike herself and looking around, all the guys noticed.

“I was beginning to think you were going to stand me up,” Jeannine joked, taking my arm into hers. “Where are you taking me?”

“How about Los Altos?” I said, not knowing what else to say.

“I heard about that place,” she said knowingly, gazing at me with a surprised look. “I’m surprised you know about it.”

“Oh, I guy I know told me about it,” I stammered.

“If you say so, Romeo,” she grinned before adding cryptically, “I hope you’re the type that can handle that kind of fun. I don’t suppose you know how to get there?”

“It’s not far,” I replied, trying to maintain my composure, though I was unnerved by how she was acting. “It’s maybe a couple of blocks. Let me hail a cab.”

“Or we can walk. It’s a nice night out, don’t you think?”

I nodded, but didn’t say a word. I was too busy dreading what the night would have in store, as I usually did whenever I went out. The club, from what my friend’s friend said, was owned by a Colombian couple who fled their home country to get away from some drug lord’s promise to kill them. I don’t know why they were in danger. I didn’t catch the story.

What I do know is that they came to the city, with nothing more than the clothes they were wearing, and after a few years scrounged up enough cash to open the club. From the outside, it didn’t look like much. It was housed within a crumbling brick facade amongst towering skyscrapers. There was a few businesses on either side, but I was surprised it hadn’t been bought up yet and developed.

On the north side there was two massive iron doors that led into the club itself, but they were never opened. Instead, you had to go through a glass door which opened to a long corridor in white tile, beige walls, and harsh florescent lighting. At the end of the hallway, a bouncer ensured that only the right kind of people were let in. I was afraid we would be turned away like most of the people ahead of us were, but to my surprise he let us in.

The doors opened to a cavernous warehouse space, where freight was shipped out at one time. Once my eyes adjusted to the dim lighting, I found that there was a bar on the left. To the right was the iron doors that remained closed. I think that’s where the trucks would back up to and were loaded off the dock. On either side of the bar were ramps that led to the namesake club, Los Altos, or the heights. It was exclusive and one had to be let in, and they didn’t let just anyone in.

Jeannine took me by my hand and led me up the ramp, towards Los Altos. I knew we would be turned away for sure, but to my surprise we were let in. “Good to see you again, Baby Doll,” the doorman greeted my date. “And I see you’re bringing in a newbie. Hope he’s up to it.”

“I think he will be, when the time comes,” Jeannine said brightly before planting a kiss on the doorman’s cheek. “And I think you owe me for last time.”

“I don’t think I do,” he laughed, “but I’ll pay up all the same.”

Jeannine pulled me into cozy room, at least in comparison to the warehouse behind us. It was still at least as big as a ballroom, with vaulted ceilings, but no dance floor. Instead, there were plush sofas all around, with plenty of nooks and crannies to hide in. Up aways I could see a guy reclining back while a woman’s head bobbed up and down.

“Are they doing what I think they are?” I asked, wondering what kind of place we had found ourselves.

“Forget them,” a husky voice replied behind me. I turned around and saw a Latin woman, seductive and sexy, though I didn’t think she was all that pretty. “I’m Amalia, the proprietor of Los Altos. My husband is around here somewhere, probably playing with one of the guests. I’m guessing this is your first time here?”

“It is, Amalia,” Jeannine answered for me.

“Jenny!” Amalia greeted my date warmly. “So good to see you. I thought you forgot about us.”

“Never,” Jeannine batted at the owner playfully.

“Then does he know that what happens here can’t be discussed out there?”

“I wouldn’t have brought him if I thought he was a snitch. You can trust him, I promise.”

“Good. He looks like he can use a little stress relief. I think I may want to play with him sometime.”

“Not before I do.”

“I understand. But come, let me buy you two a drink.”

Amalia walked ahead of us and we followed her towards a side room. It was private and our host left us for a moment before returning with a couple of glasses of champagne. “Salud,” she toasted us and we returned the gesture. I took a sip and she smiled. “You need to relax. Jenny will help with that. If that doesn’t work, well there’s plenty of us who’d love to help you out.”

When she left I turned to Jeannine who laughed at my reaction. “Are you okay?”

“Okay? What kind of place is this?”

“Isn’t it obvious? It’s swinger’s club. I couldn’t come alone, and I was hoping I could convince you to come but since you suggested it first I thought you knew.”

“The hell I did!” I said a little louder than I meant to. “Do I look like that kind of pervert to you?”

“Are you saying that I’m some kind of pervert then?” She asked coldly. “Are you suggesting that I’m some sick slut?”

“Well – um – no I’m not, I’m sorry,” I stammered.

“Well, I am,” she laughed again. “Oh come on and relax. I’m the same quiet girl from work, but once in a while even a good girl like me needs to unwind.”

“Unwind? How? By fucking anyone who happens by?”

“Sometimes,” she said quietly. “I like you, you know. That’s why I never tried to sleep with you. I’ve slept with just about everyone else at work, even Laura, the girl you’ve been making googly eyes at for weeks. They all know to keep quiet. I hope you will, too.”

“How many people have you slept with?”

“Does it matter?” She asked as she grazed my cheek with her fingers. “I could tell you if you want. I’ve kept tabs on who I slept with, who I’ve blown, and just about everything else I’ve ever done. It’s not all bad. We’re all tested once we join. Amalia’s strict about that. I’d like you to join, too. I’d like a boyfriend and I kind of wish it would be you. It’d make it easier for me, and like I said, I like you. What do you say?”

I stared at her, wanting to submit to temptation but also wanting to escape from this hedonistic paradise. I never would have pegged her for a swinger, and I never would have thought I could ever find myself in a place like this. Before I realized it, I found Jeannine in my arms and I had begun to kiss her and I lost myself in her. I wanted to run but I couldn’t move. I had to have her and I had no power to deny her.

I am lost.


 

Short Stories

Next story – Assassin
Previous story – Marionette

Short Story: Faithless

There’s a helplessness in watching your best friend and neighbor pack his belongings into a car and drive away. It’s one of those moments of profound loneliness as your life unravels around you, when your friends abandon you, not that I didn’t sympathize. What could I do? It’s a trial that a man must face alone.

Gabe and Martina had been together since college. Over twenty years, eighteen of which they had been husband and wife. Gabe was a workaholic, working over seventy hours a week. His dedication gave Martina the freedom to dabble in her pet projects which included a writing career which saw her self-publish a few romance novels, and a freelance design company which specialized in home makeovers.

Gabe gave that to her working as an Executive Communication Officer for a large international firm. He pulled in a healthy six-figure salary plus bonuses which shamed my measly teacher’s salary. In spite of his good fortune, he lived in a modest neighborhood, drove a nondescript car, and didn’t try to show off that he was reasonably well off. That was not the kind of guy Gabe was.

That all unraveled last week when he was fired from his job. He didn’t say much other than to say that there was a major shake up at the firm, and the old guard was being replaced. He tried to sound upbeat, but I could detect a note of worry in his voice. I mean, we’ve all heard the horror stories of once proud executives being forced to make ends meet by delivering pizzas, or other menial low paying jobs. There are no guarantees that he could find another job paying near what he had become used to making, in spite of his credentials.

At first, Martina stood with him, telling him that they would weather the storm. It would require a few sacrifices, but they had enough money saved up, and I recently found out that they owned several rent houses which netted them in a couple thousand dollars a month. They were building a nest egg for retirement, which Gabe joked had come a couple of decades sooner than expected.

It seemed to me and my wife that they were fine, but it fell apart rather suddenly. There was no warning that we could see, that their marriage was in trouble. Theirs was the most solid marriage I had ever known, but then one early evening he got into his car, his wife yelling at him, calling him a no-good son of a bitch, telling him to get out and never come back. He returned the next day, collected a few of his things as his wife glared, only to jump into his car and drive away again.

I wanted to go out and help, but my wife held me back. I saw the same look of concern mirrored on her face as she shook her head. “Let him be,” Nancy told me. “There’ll be time to check up on him later. Don’t get involved with their squabble.”

Reluctantly, I heeded her advice, though with a heavy heart. I watched as a quarter-century old relationship came unglued, and I never suspected Martina to be that kind of woman. She had been acting funny for several days, and I noticed a strange man visiting her when Gabe would leave to meet with his friends, looking for favors that would help land him a job.

Could she be having an affair? Maybe she only stayed with Gabe because he was her meal ticket. Now that he was unemployed, was she looking for someone else to take care of her? It didn’t make sense to me, but I had seen it happen a few times with guys I worked with. It wouldn’t be the first time I had been wrong about someone.

***

I wouldn’t have a chance to confront Martina until yesterday morning. Nancy ran off to meet a couple of friends for brunch, and finding myself with some free time, I headed into town to run a few errands. It was at the office supply store where I ran into Martina, looking forlorn, her eyes red from having recently cried. “Oh, hey Tom,” she greeted me sadly.

I glared for a second and I saw her retreat into herself again. “I’m sorry,” she said with a shaken tone. I didn’t mean to bother you, I just needed to talk. Maybe some other time.”

“Now is just fine,” I answered her icily. “I was wanting to talk to you too.”

“Oh? What about?”

“Gabe,” I stated baldly. “He was good to you, and you abandoned him when he needed you the most. Why? Did you already find someone to take care of you?” I asked accusingly. “Was that all he was to you, a paycheck?”

“You son of a bitch,” she hissed. “You have no idea, do you?”

“I think that I do,” I countered, unprepared for what she had to say.

“Let me tell you a little about this friend of yours, the one you apparently have on a pedestal.”

“Fine, amuse me.”

“He wasn’t fired because of some shake up at work. They discovered that he was harassing his interns.”

“Gabe? No way.”

“Yeah, he’s been sleeping with his interns for years, promising them he would give them a glowing report for their school credit, and recommendations for job placement, if they agreed to help him out, if you catch my meaning. Quid pro quo, only this time he harassed the wrong girl.”

“What do you mean?”

“The daughter of one of the major shareholders was there to do her own internship. Gabe had no idea who she was, but this girl reported the harassment, and after an investigation, one that he kept from me for several months, found dozens of other young women that he had harassed, many who he had intimidated into sleeping with him, and they fired him. There’s a chance that he may be indicted for rape as well.”

“I – I don’t know what to say,” I stammered. “I thought you were the one cheating on him. That guy that’s been coming to your house.”

“That guy is a friend of mine who also works at the company. He’s the one that told me everything. He’s the one who recommended I get a lawyer and start working to protect myself because if he gets sued…”

“I get it,” I sighed, still not wanting to believe what she was telling me. “I’m so sorry.”

“Oh,” she pressed on, “it gets worse.”

“How?”

“Where’s Nancy?”

“At brunch with her friends,” I replied. “She goes out on most weekends to meet up with them.”

“Just like how Gabe would go out to golf with his buddies? Only thing, he doesn’t like golf. Turns out, he likes doing other things.”

“What are you insinuating?”

“I’m not insinuating anything. I’m straight up telling you that Gabe, your best friend, has been fucking your wife for the past several years. I just found out about that, too.”

“You’re crazy,” I spat as I turned to walk away.

“What?” She asked as she grabbed my arm. “You can’t believe that your wife could be unfaithful? She’s cheated on you with several of your neighbors. She’s the village slut, though you’ve been too blind to see it. You’re a joke in the community, the ignorant cuckold with the unfaithful wife. I didn’t want to be the one to burst your fantasy. Now, I just don’t give a shit. And you wanted to believe I was the one cheating. No, we were both cheated on. We’ve both been played for fools.”

“You have to be wrong,” I say desperately, clinging to some hope that she was wrong, but fearing in my heart that she was right. She was confirming a secret fear I’ve had for a long time.

“Do I?” She said coldly. “Fancy a short drive? Gabe moved into one of our rent houses. I bet we find Nancy there. Then what will you do?”

“I’ll go, but just to prove you wrong,” I answered her defiantly, though I wavered as she turned away. I didn’t want to believe her, but what if she was right?  Having to see it through, I followed her out to her car, and she bade me to get into her car. We drove nearly half an hour to a house in decent neighborhood. Gabe’s car was in the driveway, and Nancy’s was parked in the street.

“Wanna go in?” Martina asked as she shook as set of keys. “Let’s catch the motherfuckers red-handed.

I swallowed, though my mouth was parched, and I nodded. We walked quietly to the door, and we could hear moaning through the door, moans that I recognized as coming from my wife. “You want to do this?” Martina whispered.

“Yes,” I answered simply.

As quietly as she could, she checked the door, and it was unlocked. We burst in and we found my wife astride Martina’s husband, both completely naked, lost in their moment of passion, momentarily stunned by our intrusion.

“Oh, shit!” Nancy yelled as she realized who had come busting in. She jumped off and tried to cover her shame, but it was too late. The truth had come out.

“I told you,” Martina said in my ear. “Believe me yet?”

I didn’t say anything as I turned and walked out the door. Nancy ran after me, pleading with me, saying that it was a mistake, that she really loved me. Martina hung back, giving me enough space to do what I needed to do. I looked at my wife, tears streaming down her face, and I laughed. I became hysterical, mad in my grief, having to come to terms almost immediately that my marriage had been a sham.

“I hope you two are happy together,” I said jovially, the mirth in my voice surprising even me. “You deserve each other.”

“Don’t say that,” Nancy cried. “I’m your wife! I’m your wife! Please don’t do this to me, please!”

“If you really cared about being my wife, you wouldn’t have been fucking my best friend, though if he was really my friend…. You know what? It doesn’t even matter. We’re done. Martina?” I yelled. “You ready to go?”

“I am. You want to grab a drink?”

***

I was awoken by a sound at the door. I looked up to see my wife standing at the doorway, a look of shock on her face. In my arms, on our bed, slept Martina. Nancy broke down, rousing Martina from her slumber. “Oh, hello precious,” my neighbor gloated. “Fair is fair, don’t you think? To think you let him go for that joke of a husband of mine. Keep him. Tom is a much bigger man, and a better lover.”

My wife didn’t utter a sound as she left. I never saw her alive again. The next morning, a couple of detectives woke us up to tell us that our spouses were dead, “a murder-suicide,” they informed us. We grieved after they left, devastated that our spouses were dead, heartbroken that we had been played for fools for so long.

After an hour, Martina stood up and started to get dressed. “You leaving?”

“We’re going to my house,” she smiled wanly. “Let’s make love on my husband’s bed. Let’s fuck on everything our others held so dear. You game?”

“I am. Then let’s bury them and fuck on their graves.”

“Sounds good to me.”


Short Stories

Next story – Breaking free
Previous story – Time

Flash Fiction: Time

I’m astounded by the capricious nature of Time, how it ebbs and flows much like the waves of an ocean against the beach. At times it’s gentle as it caresses the coast like a besotted lover, and at other it wreaks havoc like a jealous cuckold, destroying everything in it’s path. Time, I fear, has become the mistress that’s getting away from me.

Age is creeping up on me. I’m reminded every morning as I roll out of bed, by the aches in my back and by how my knees threaten to give out on me. I’m reminded as I look at the sagging spectacle of a naked man staring back at me in the mirror. I’m confronted by it when my younger wife goes out without me only to return tousle-haired in the wee hours of the morning, smelling of cheap booze and stale cigarettes.

She tries to hide it, but I can tell by the satisfied look on her face that she’s fooling around. I cry myself to sleep at night, knowing I have never seen that look after our lovemaking, even when I was a much younger and virile man. I never heard her cry out, I never heard a murmur out of her. She just laid there, an unwilling sacrifice as the dutiful wife, performing solely for the benefit of her inept husband.

I can’t recall the last time we made love. I can’t recall the last time she cared to initiate physical contact. I don’t remember what it feels like to have a woman who cares. She has her lover – or maybe multiple lovers – but yet she stays, my labor financing her betrayal. I’ve often wondered, as of late, how much of my money has gone to lavishing gifts onto those undeserving scoundrels.

It’s getting late out, and I see my wife, in a short skirt, walking out the door without so much as a goodbye. I won’t be here in the morning to witness her return. I won’t be here to play victim, willing or otherwise. I’m done being played the fool. I’m done being less than a man. Better off dead than to remain the joke that Time has made me. Perhaps Time has only granted me the wisdom to see that I’ve always been the joke.


Short Stories

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