The Affair by NT Franklin
The Affair by NT Franklin
Bam! The screen door slammed behind Marie as she carried the groceries in. She flipped her long hair out of her eyes with a practiced dip of the head. She stopped in stride when she saw the state of her previously clean kitchen.
“Been shopping?” Ben yelled from the living room.
“Uh, yeah,” Marie called back. She stepped in something on the floor and closed her eyes for a moment, then put the bags on the counter. She cleaned three cans of soda from the counter and an empty jumbo-sized bag of chips fell to the floor. Marie sighed then called out, “Good day?”
No answer. Marie wasn’t sure her husband heard her over the explosions on the video game. She slumped her shoulders and mechanically went about putting the groceries away.
When the groceries were put away, the trash thrown out and the counters wiped down, she walked into the living room and stared at Ben. Three hundred and twenty pounds of useless fat were sagging the only chair he could fit in and he was crushing the game controller in his hands. He had gained 25 pounds per year since he lost his job five years ago. The intimacy and closeness disappeared from their marriage within the first year after he lost his job. He no longer looked at her the way lovers do.
“Shit. I was on level nine and you distracted me. It took me two hours to get there. Thanks a lot. This better be important.”
“I asked if you had a good day.”
“Up to now.”
The aroma of grilled steak and onions filled the house. As usual, the smell of supper cooking brought Ben to the table. He sat on a sturdy bench at the end of the table, and without speaking overloaded a plate, despite Marie’s frown. As their routine had become, they ate in silence.
“What’s for dessert?” asked Ben.
“No dessert? You’re killing me,” Ben said.
“I didn’t have time to bake. I was late. I could open some peaches I put up over summer.”
“No thanks. A bowl of peaches isn’t dessert. I’ll take coffee, though.”
Ben hoisted himself off the bench and made his way back to his gaming chair.
Marie’s phone buzzed as she watched him waddle out of the room. She smiled at the text that came across her phone.
Marie cleaned up the kitchen while the coffee brewed. She brought the coffee cup out and removed three soda cans from the side table to make room for it. Ben never took his eyes off the screen.
As Marie left the living room, she heard Ben murmur, “Yeah, go and call that bitch Lilly, why don’t you.”
Marie took her cup of tea up the stairs to her bedroom.
Beautiful, fit, bright with a quick wit, sparkling brown eyes and long sandy brown hair, Marie attracted male attention everywhere she went. She always had. But she and her husband hadn’t shared a bedroom in over four years. She hadn’t been hugged in longer than that. She didn’t want to fall for the first man that fell for her, she wanted someone that made her feel special again. She stopped at the landing and studied the photograph on the table. She still looked as good as the photo, Ben, not so much. The photograph was from when she and Ben were on a sailboat off the coast of Maine. The best summer vacation they ever had. She turned the photograph face down and continued down the hall.
Behind her closed bedroom door, she flopped onto the single bed. The bed purchased for children she never had because Ben changed his mind.
She rolled over and called Lilly. Lilly answered on the third ring. The comforting familiarity reminded Marie of the years of friendship between them and how they talked about any and everything.
“What’s up, Marie?”
“Oh, Lil, I loved him once, but I don’t anymore. He won’t even look at me. I don’t think he loves me either.”
Lilly answered, “He’s going through a rough period.”
“Yeah, five years of rough period with no change in sight.”
Lilly was silent for a minute. “You still seeing that lawyer?”
“I was with him today.”
“This is serious, Marie.”
“Does Ben know?”
“Ha. Ben doesn’t know anything but the stupid video games he plays. He hasn’t been upstairs for over three years. I don’t think he’s been out of the house this week.”
“Maybe you should tell him.”
“I don’t know, Lilly. What would that accomplish?”
“If he still loves you, he’ll get upset and fight to keep you.”
“But I don’t love him.”
“Tell him. He deserves to hear it from you. You can stay with me for a while if you need to.”
“I’ll talk to you later, Lilly. And I’ll think about it.”
Marie paced the small bedroom. A flood of memories and emotion raced through her head. She finally decided it was time to confront Ben. She stormed downstairs and stood between Ben and the screen and faced him, arms crossed. “I need to tell you something.”
Ben paused the game, sighed deeply, and met her eyes. “Okay, talk.”
Marie took a deep breath and said slowly and clearly, “I’m having an affair.”
Ben’s eyes never left hers. “Yeah, well, so what. Half of everything here is mine.”
Marie, stunned, took a step back. “Do you want to talk about it, Ben?”
“Why? What am I going to do about it? Cry? That’s what you do.”
“I’m in the middle of something here, Marie, and you make a better door than window.”
Marie’s jaw dropped. Part of her wanted to pull the plug on his game, but she was better than that. “When did you become so mean, Ben?”
“Whatever,” was all he said.
Marie didn’t cry; she clenched her jaw, made fists, and went upstairs. She called Lilly. “I did it, Lilly, I told Ben I was having an affair.”
“WHAT? You told him what? You’re not having an affair, are you?”
“No, no, no. You know me better than that.”
“Yeah, that’s not your style.”
“I told him I was having an affair to see if he’d fight to get me back. He didn’t. I got a text that the divorce papers are ready to sign. You said I could crash with you for a while, right?”
“I’ll make up the spare bed.”
Marie loaded a suitcase with a few day’s clothes, some toiletries, and left quietly so as not to disturb Ben on her way out of the house. Ben never looked up.
Copyright NT Franklin 2019