"A woman phoned at two this morning asking for Dennis," Tracy said to her friend.
"Dennis?" Laura's brow crinkled. "Who's that?"
"That's what I wanted to know, but she hung up." Fear hit Tracy once again. Lunch ruined, she pushed her Fajitas away and gulped water to quell quick tears.
Laura cocked her head. "Are you okay?"
"I'm fine.” Tracy waved the server over for a water refill and a To Go box. “It’s just that I was looking forward to a nice hot bath when I got home. You know: dim lights, soft music and enough candles to light a cathedral. Except on my way here, Jeff called saying he has to work late, again, and I'll have to take the dog to the vet." She twisted her wedding band. “He's certainly been ‘working late’ a lot the past few weeks.” She swallowed hard and dabbed at the corners of her mouth with her napkin.
Laura finished chewing a salsa-laden chip. Brow creased, she said, "You’re the only person I know who can put two and two together and get forty!”
“I’m just saying. Your face is blotchy, you look like you’re on the verge of tears, and you’re drinking water like a dehydrated camel. You’re obviously not fine! You think Jeff’s working late is somehow connected to that phone call this morning, don’t you? You’ve probably concluded he’s having an affair and ‘Dennis’ is some code word he said to use if a woman answered. I’ll bet you’ve imagined him packed and gone already, huh?”
Tracy’s vision blurred as she again reached for the water glass, hating that Laura knew her so well.
“Remember that time you made yourself sick with worry because you thought Jeff was falling for his assistant?” Laura asked in a soft voice then took a swig of her Strawberry Margarita. “When are you going to realize Jeff's a totally different person than that lousy ex of yours?”
Tracy's head jerked, eyes widened.
"Come on,” Laura said, face filled with compassion, “I’ve never seen a man more in love with his wife than Jeff is with you. You've got to stop assuming he’s going to hurt you the way your ex did or one of these days you’re going to push Jeff right out the door. Haven’t you heard of self-fulfilling prophecies?"
Laura softened her words with a squeeze of Tracy’s hand.
“I just,” Tracy said then cleared her throat. “I just don’t think I could handle going through that pain a second time. Losing Jeff would kill me.”
“I know,” Laura said, “but think about what I said.” Then she deliberately changed the subject.
After Tracy dropped the dog off at the vet that evening, she mulled over Laura's words again. What if she’s right? What if I’m so afraid Jeff will hurt me, too, that I’m pushing him away?
Instead of driving home, Tracy picked up takeout – for two – then drove to the insurance building where Jeff worked. When she stepped off the elevator on Jeff's floor, the place was quiet and dark except for his office. A feeling of loneliness crept over her when she realized her husband was the only one there. Seeing his desk covered in paperwork, concentration tensing his rugged features, she stopped. And here’s proof that his late-night sessions have nothing to do with another woman and everything to do with providing for his family. How could I be so stupid?
"Hi," she said a minute later. Her heart felt so heavy, her voice was barely above a whisper.
Jeff looked up and broke into a wide grin. "Hey, babe, what a nice surprise," he said, voice tired.
“Didn’t you hear the elevator bell?”
Jeff raked his fingers through his hair. “No. I guess I was really concentrating on these papers. Luckily for me, you’re not some nut job here to do me in.” He grinned then, eyes lowering, nodded. "Hmm, what have you got there?"
"I thought I'd bring the man of my dreams a little Chinese," Tracy said, emotion softening her features.
"Wow," Jeff said, "how'd you squeeze him into that tiny bag?" Tracy rolled her eyes and giggled, remembering how Jeff used to come up with silly little jokes a lot. Her face sobered. When did those lighthearted moments stop?
“What’s wrong?” Jeff’s eyes held concern as he rounded his desk.
“Nothing,” Tracy said, eyes glistening. “Not anymore.”
“Good!” Wrapping his arms around his wife, Jeff nuzzled Tracy’s ear. "By the way,” he whispered, “have I told you today how very much I love you?"
Bio: April is a sucker for romance. Hopefully you are, too.
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