Gayle stood in front of the elegantly carved fireplace mantel. She intently stared at the wooden framed wedding photograph that rested between two delicately scented primrose pillar candles. Motionless, she tightly held the pale blue feather duster in her right hand. By the glazed look in her eyes, it was as if she was reliving that moment in time from almost three years ago. The elegant white gown she wore as she stood next to her college sweetheart was a flawless fit for a perfect day.
Jonathan Maxwell had made her the happiest woman that side of the Mason-Dixon Line when he flew her back to the place where they first met in Pennsylvania and proposed after five years of dating. She remembered the scene all too well when he got down on one knee and asked her to be his wife. Gayle could hardly contain herself when he pulled the sparkling engagement ring from his front pant pocket and slipped it on her finger. The glimmer she had in her eyes on that day was the same gleam she held when they stood before God and every guest in attendance on their special day, and promised to love one another until death.
What a day…
Suddenly, Gayle was jolted back to her present day reality as she heard the front door open and close. She looked back and met eyes with the man who was recently named defensive player of the year by the NFL. His athletic abilities had captured the eyes of scouts since his high school years. The year he won the Heisman trophy in college helped solidify his dream of becoming a professional football player. And all the while Gayle was right by his side, encouraging him, when he became the number three overall draft pick that year.
“Hey,” Gayle softly said, lowering the feather duster onto a nearby end table. “How was your work out?”
“It was all right,” Jonathan dryly answered. His brown eyes glided across the room to a laundry basket of clothes on the sofa, a pair of sneakers on the floor, an empty foil takeout container on a coffee table to a stack of mail on the sofa.
Gayle’s eyes followed his and she hurriedly explained, “Oh, I was just about to get those out of the way.” She scrambled towards the disorganized side of the room and began placing stacks of folded t-shirts and under garments into the white laundry basket.
Jonathan dropped his black duffel bag by the front door and pulled off his cap. “That can wait.” His eyes shifted back on her. “There’s something I need to tell you.”
Gayle took a few steps in his direction, and then with a concerned voice asked, “What is it?”
Jonathan met his wife halfway and took her face into his hands. He closed his eyes and gently kissed her. Gayle almost lost herself in his embrace as she discarded the heated argument they had had before he left home this morning.
“Wait …” She gently pushed him back by a slight nudge on the chest. “What do you need to tell me?” Gayle searched his eyes for some sort of clue.
Jonathan released a labored sigh. “Let’s talk about that a little later.” His eyes escaped hers as he whispered in her ear, “Right now, I want to go upstairs.” He kissed her again.
Gayle bashfully smiled as Jonathan scooped her up in his arms and carried her to their master suite.
It was as if their wedding night had been replayed all over again. Gayle’s thoughts once again drifted to that reminiscent day they were married. It was a day she had dreamed about ever since she was a young girl in school. Back then her juvenile imagination of getting married only revolved around the actual wedding day, but when she met Jonathan she knew the sacred union was more than a day filled with fairy-tale thoughts. It was a covenant that she had made with the man of her dreams and the God of her life.
Jonathan held her in his arms as if they had never shared a cross word with one another. The way he had stormed out of the house, Gayle was sure that he would start on her as soon as he arrived back home. But instead Jonathan chose to discard his anger and show his wife how much he loved her. Gayle was elated that his wedge of resentment had been dislodged and she could once again relax with her husband. It was the fresh start she had been hoping for.
Moments later, the pair looked at one another, but only she smiled.
“That was, uh, something…” Gayle giggled.
“Yeah, it was,” Jonathan replied as he adjusted a large feather pillow under his head.
Gayle smoothed her long hair to one side and chuckled again. “What brought that on? I mean, after that argument this morning, I thought you would have given me the silent treatment for days.” She gazed at his blank expression, and then softly said, “You know that I’m sorry.” Gayle snuggled closer to Jonathan and wrapped her arms around his body. “It’ll never happen again.”
Jonathan placed his hands on her arms and pushed them away. “I hear you, but saying that you’re sorry doesn’t make what you did go away.” In an instant, his voice turned icy cold.
Taken aback by the way his demeanor had changed in a matter of seconds, Gayle shook her head in confusion. “B-but I thought that what just happened between us was our … you know … making up. What did I miss?” She wrapped the sheet around the front of her body and questioned, “What is going on with you?”
Jonathan looked away from her and stared up at the ceiling with his hands nestled beneath his head. “Remember when I told you that I have something to tell you?” He jotted an eyebrow.
Gayle tightened the sheet around her body and squinted. “Yes, okay, what is it? What do you have to tell me?”
Jonathan faced his wife and glared at her as if she was a stranger in his bed.
“What?” she pleaded for an answer.
After an angry grunt, Jonathan replied, “I’m gonna need you to be out by Friday.”
“Wh-what?” She nervously scoffed. “What do you mean ‘be out by Friday’?”
He looked away from her and cleared his throat. “I’m having the locks changed, so you can just throw your keys away after tomorrow.”
Gayle stared at him with a dropped jaw and widened eyes, wondering when he was going to deliver the punchline to this awful attempt at a joke. After her husband of three years rolled out of bed and slipped into his pajama pants and leather slippers that were on the floor, Gayle realized that he was serious. She quickly covered the rest of her body with the smooth, wine colored sheets, embarrassed that she foolishly believed he wanted to reconcile with her. She soon realized that Jonathan had only slept with her once last time before he kicked her out of the house he had purchased prior to their marriage.
“And thanks.” Jonathan arrogantly winked at her before closing the door to the adjoining bathroom suite behind him.
Gayle’s eyes immediately welled with tears as she tightened the sheets around her bare body. She closed her eyes, visualizing the bank statements of their joint account. She had apologized profusely, and it wasn’t until this moment that she realized he hadn’t truly forgiven her.
“Oh,” Jonathan said, startling Gayle as he poked his head from behind the door. “Leave the garage door opener on the kitchen counter.”
“The garage door opener?” Gayle quickly slipped out of bed and stood beside the nightstand. “Why?” She secured the sheet around her body by bunching a large knot in the back.
“Because the code is going to change too,” he coldly said. “I’d rather not have a new remote programmed, if I can help it.”
“Ahh!” Gayle grabbed one foot of her furry, pink bedroom slippers from the floor and threw it in his direction.
Jonathan quickly slammed the door shut behind him as the shoe hit the door frame.
Gayle closed her eyes and slowed her breathing, trying to calm down. She didn’t want him to see her cry and she didn’t want to act a fool, giving him reason to call the cops on her tonight, especially not after what she had done. Pain radiated across her chest as she heard the shower cut on from behind the bathroom door. As long as they had been married, Jonathan never rushed into the bathroom for a shower after being with her. The fact that he had done that tonight made her feel like a cheap prostitute. Strangely enough, despite how much he hurt her, Gayle would still take him back if he asked her to forgive him. But she knew that was the farthest thing from his mind.
Jonathan still hadn’t gotten over the fact that she had invested some of his money, their money, unbeknownst to him into her sister’s new idea for a company. The capital was supposed to yield a guaranteed return before Jonathan even missed the money. The venture tanked and the initial investment Gayle had advanced was lost; all seventy-five thousand dollars of it. Although there was twice the amount still left in the account, the money wasn’t hers to give, he had rationalized, and it infuriated him that she took it out of an account he had only told her about just weeks before.
“I guess you just sit around thinking of ways to blow money that I put my body at risk for!” he had shouted at her this morning. “We just paid off that wedding last year. Not to mention your student loans and those rides parked outside. Football is not just a game to me … it’s my job! Do you know how many guys get hurt and never come back? When it’s over, it’s over!”
With teary eyes, Gayle hastily dressed. She pulled a few items from the closet and stuffed them in an overnight bag. She grabbed a slip of stationary paper that bore their last name and scribbled a note. After the shower cut off in the bathroom, Gayle smeared the tears from her cheeks and rushed out of the room.
Moments later, Jonathan walked back into the bedroom. His eyes roamed from the empty bed to the open bedroom door. Gayle was nowhere to be found. He took a few steps closer to the dresser and snatched the note that was taped to the mirror:
I never meant to hurt you, but what you did and said tonight went lower than I thought you were ever capable of. I guess you’re not the man I married three years ago and have known for the past eight … maybe you never were. Don’t worry; I’ll get you your money back. You’ll get exactly what’s coming to you.
The one you claimed to love for better or worse,
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