- Narrator: Renee
- Characters: Renee & Steven
- Low Spoiler Risk
Ten o’clock. I guess it’s time to get up. The house quiet, I wander into the kitchen to grab a soda before turning on the bath water. I walk over to the closet and survey my clothing choices, but everything bores me today. Maybe I’ll go shopping. I grab some jeans and a lightweight button down and carry the clothes into the bathroom with me. I turn on some music just before I step into the hot bubble bath.
Closing my eyes and leaning back in the garden tub, I try to motivate myself to start the day. I really just want to go back to bed, remembering the argument Steven and I had last night about our future plans that filled the room with tension and made it next to impossible for me to sleep comfortably. After compromising by simply moving past the point of contention–how he wanted to start a family soon, and how I wanted to go back to school–he had offered to help me with the wedding invitations since I hadn’t started addressing them yet. I declined his offer and tried to change the subject with a fair amount of foreplay, but he was frustrated with what he perceived to be me dragging my feet, and he was not open to my advances. After he walked away from me to shower, I ended the fight with a questioning statement about who the woman was in our relationship.
Obviously, he found no humor in that. So maybe I worsened the fight.
It would seem that way, since this morning only Lexi stopped in to kiss me goodbye before she and Steven left for school and work. As soon as the car left the driveway, I called the center and told them I wasn’t feeling well before rolling over and returning to my dream about my ex.
I have frequent dreams about Ryan. I always have. I guess it’s because he was my first love, but I would say he invades my sleep weekly with sweet new memories that never happened. In most of my dreams, we’re both clean, happy–and together. Sometimes Lexi’s there, sometimes she’s not. But after every dream of him, I wake up with a certain longing that I can’t readily shake.
Some days I miss him more than others. I remind myself on those days that he’s bad for me. We were a volatile combination, knowing each others’ weaknesses and preying on them relentlessly. Granted we were very young and incredibly immature back when we were together. Co-dependency was the only way we knew how to survive. I didn’t know who I was back then.
And still today, as I soak in this bubble bath, I recognize that I was more myself back then than I am today. I was independent and smart and so very unafraid to speak my mind. I didn’t care what people thought about me. I don’t have that luxury anymore, though. To be a part of normal society, I am forced to care; to be a mother to a young, impressionable girl, I have to care what people think; to be the girlfriend–no, fiancée–to this man who loves me unconditionally… if I didn’t care what people thought, and acted as such, he would have left me long ago.
And again, I remind myself: he’s the best thing for Lexi. And whatever’s best for Lexi is what’s best for me. Whatever sacrifices I make–
“Renee?” I lose my breath, frightened at the sound of another voice in what was supposed to be my empty house, even if it is Steven’s voice.
“Yeah?” I call back to him, sinking further beneath the bubbles. He cracks open the bathroom door, and the cool air from the bedroom causes me to shiver.
“You’re not going in today?”
“No, I am,” I stutter. I hadn’t planned on going in, but I didn’t want him to know I had called out sick. I wasn’t prepared to have to defend my decision to stay home and enjoy some much needed me-time. I suddenly start to feel suffocated and start taking deep breaths to calm myself.
“Did you oversleep?”
“Yeah,” I lie. “What are you doing home?”
“I left some paperwork here in my rush to get out of here this morning. Look, I’m kind of glad you’re still here.”
He walks into the bathroom and squats next to the tub. “I’ve just had this feeling looming over me all day, that I left some other unfinished business here this morning.”
“I’m sorry I didn’t stop in to say goodbye.” He looks at me remorsefully.
“No, it’s not, Renee. It’s sets a poor precedent. I love you, above everything else, and I don’t like leaving here angry.”
“You have every right to be mad,” I tell him, wishing he would just get truly angry at me every once in awhile.
“No, I don’t. I need to try to understand what’s going on in that pretty little head of yours.” I scoff at his compliment, knowing that I must look atrocious at this very moment. His smile is earnest, and it just pisses me off. “What can I do to take some of this wedding stress off your shoulders?”
“Just stop harping on me about it,” I say quickly, defensive. He raises his eyebrows at my response. I challenge him with a stare of my own. This is me. This is Renee not caring what people think.
“Listen, if you don’t want to marry me–”
“God, Steven, just because I haven’t finished addressing the fucking invitations doesn’t mean I want to end it all. Fuck,” I sigh, not quite under my breath. “Stop suggesting that.”
“Okay, then baby, what does it mean?” He stands up and leans against the sink. “You know, is this normal? Do all brides go through this, because I don’t know–”
“I don’t know, either, remember? Oh, let me check my manual. Yep, I’m just fine. Right on target.” I can’t hide the sarcasm in my voice, and I can see my mood is finally getting a rise out of him.
“Are you still taking your anti-depressants?” he asks me accusatorially.
“It’s a fair question.”
“Get out!” I yell at him. He pushes away from the sink and walks with purpose out of the bathroom. Less than twenty seconds later, he comes back holding my prescription bottle, which I know is empty.
“How long have you been out?”
“I’m not out, asshole,” I tell him. “I’ve got more.”
“Where are they?”
“I don’t know.” He stands and stares at me, his other hand balled up in a fist at his side. I know he wouldn’t hit me, ever, but I can see how tense this conversation is making him, and it’s hard to get to him. “What, you want me to get out of the tub to find them?”
“Yes, Renee. I’d like that.” He picks up a robe and holds it out for me.
“Fine,” I say, standing up and climbing out of the hot water, bypassing his offer of my garment and dripping all over the floor as I make my way to my purse. He follows me and drapes the covering over my shoulders. I shrug it off, flaunting my nudity, trying to distract him in the only way I know how. “They’re in here somewhere,” I mumble, then scratch my lower back slowly, hoping to hold his attention. I look over my shoulder to make sure he’s watching me. “What are we doing?” I ask him with a slight lilt to my voice, smiling apologetically.
He smiles back at me, but I can tell he’s gritting his teeth, impatient with my stalling. “You’re looking for your pills.”
“Baby, I’m sure they’re in there,” I tell him as I turn around and set the purse down. His eyes stay focused on mine. “Don’t you trust me?” I stand in front of him, naked, and take his hand in mine. He squeezes my fingers and puts his other hand on my waist, leaning in to kiss me. I let go of him and move my hands to his chest, pressing against his muscles with my thumbs, kissing him deeper. He pulls away slowly, though, his lips moving to my cheek, kissing once, and then finding my ear.
“No,” he whispers. “I don’t.” He kisses my forehead and then picks up some papers from the bed and begins to walk out of the bedroom.
“Steven,” I start, stunned at his response. He keeps walking. I follow him quickly into the hallway, wanting to yell but not sure what I want to say to him.
“I’ll pick up your refill on my way home.”
“Steven,” I call to him again. I can feel the heat rise to my cheeks as the anger nearly boils over.
“Lexi has show choir tryouts after school. Can you pick her up at seven?”
He shakes his head at me, looking at me as if I’m the most pathetic thing he’s ever seen. At least that’s what it feels like to me. “Of course. I guess we’ll be home late.”
I nod and make sure I’m the first to turn away, returning to my bath. He slams the back door on his way out. I hold my breath and duck under the water, attempting to stave off the tears that are fighting their way out. I will not cry. I will not admit he’s right. I will not admit that I still need pills to maintain. So what if they’re prescription? It’s the same thing in my mind. And at least the other pills made me feel better than good, larger than life. These anti-depressants just make me feel… even. That’s the only word I can think of. And who wants to feel even all the time?
I miss the highs. I don’t miss the lows, because I can still get those by laying off my prescribed “eveners” like I have this time. It’s just easier to enjoy lows when I’m alone, and that’s one thing I never am anymore. Not since Lexi came along, and especially not with Steven in my life. I can never be alone.
©2015 Lori L. Otto • Distribution or duplication is strictly prohibited without written permission from the author.