Stories from the War-First Meeting: Part 7
Its time for the final part of First Meeting, the first short story in my new WIP Friends of my Enemy! If you haven’t been following along with Monday Reads, you can read Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5, and Part 6 by clicking on the links.
Sometimes the truth is found in intentions and not actions and what is believed is more important than what has been done…
Friends of my Enemy
Stories from the War
First Meeting: Part 7
“We could go to the Pyrenees this weekend. We haven’t gone hiking in years,” Michael said.
“I think there is a ball at the Chinese Embassy to celebrate Moon Cake Day.”
It was Michael’s flat tone that pulled Arinna’s eyes away from the autumn jackets in the window display. She made a mental note of the store name, not daring to buy a coat that expensive while out with Michael. Especially considering his mood. Catching up to his side as he paced away, Arinna threaded her arm under his, clasping his hand.
“You’ve been away every weekend since… I can’t remember the last time you were home,” he said, injured heart in his eyes.
“I know. I’m sorry. You’re right. We should go away. Hiking sounds nice.” And a weekend with her husband would seem a rational reaction to save their marriage. People would expect that.
“It wouldn’t be so bad if…” Michael stopped, turning his face away.
“If what? Michael…” The confusion cemented into a terrified truth when Arinna saw the tears in his eyes. Her thought of needing to pretend to save her marriage the moment before sickened her stomach further. “I’ve never cheated on you. I swear. I haven’t so much as kissed him.”
Michael’s eyes shimmered as he held back whatever emotion rose. Arinna couldn’t read his face. Desperation to understand her husband, and realizing she didn’t, made her shake.
“What do you do on those weekends away then?” he asked, voice harsh. He stared at her, not reaching to erase the tears leaving cold lines on her cheeks.
“Talk. He tells me about growing up here and life in Spain.”
Michael snorted. “You expect me to believe that?”
Hearing it, Arinna didn’t believe it. She fumbled to explain the truth, while the strategic part of her mind caught the people staring at them, giving a wide berth as they walked by. Perfect, her mind hummed, this will make the affair seem that much more real!
“You agreed to this,” she hissed, not wanting her words to carry. “I’ve told you everything!”
“Do you know how many friends have come to warn me about you and Byran? I have seen you together, you know. You’re more than friends. I think you forgot to mention that.”
Standing in front of Michael while trembling so that her hands shook, Arinna wanted to scream. I haven’t done anything wrong! The other side of her counted every weekend away and the times she hadn’t given Michael her attention, but had given it to Byran. She couldn’t remember the last time she’d kissed Michael. Her mind repeated that thought over and over. She couldn’t remember the last time she’d really kissed the man she married. Now, he was staring at her like she was a stranger. And she was. She didn’t know who she’d become. Almost become?
Michael waited for her answer, expression a storm of anger and separation. As if to add the final insult, her phone rang. Fumbling it out of her pocket, she could barely read the number. It was Byran. Of course. Michael laughed a cold rasp as who was calling registered on her face.
“Go on. Answer it.”
“No.” She flicked it off, shoving it back in her pocket before she threw it against a wall. Anger cleared her mind, erasing the trembling in one rush. “I can’t do this. Not anymore.”
Michael paled, swallowing hard. A bit of the anger was replaced with an expression she recognized at last. He was afraid.
She managed the next words with warmth fueled by emotions other than a desire to lash out. “Michael, nothing is worth losing you. We can go home, if that is what you want. If that is what it takes. Things seem less crazy back there. But either way, I’m not doing this anymore.”
His phone rang in answer. He tensed when he saw the number on the screen. “Call him back.”
“Something has happened. Call him back and see what he knows. I’ve got to go in. But,” he turned back to her, hazel eyes dark again. “This isn’t over. Be home tonight. Goddamnit, come home tonight or it is over.”
He left her standing in the boulevard, people glancing at her as they walked by. She was trembling again when she hit redial.
“Arinna, why didn’t you answer? There has been…”
“Byran, we need to talk,” she managed to choke out before she started crying.