Yet another story challenge on an email list.
The challenge this time was:
Okay...You're married to Nick, whom you don't love
anymore and tonight is the beginning of your affair
with Brian. You and Brian have always flirted but,
tonight you find out he loves you as much as you love
* * * * * *
"So, where's Nick tonight?" Brian popped the top off his beer bottle and settled against the back of the sofa. It didn't escape me how he emphasized the word 'tonight'.
I shrugged. "Not sure. Where is he 'any' night? Out..." I waved my hand off into the fictional distance. "Somewhere ..." I sighed, then giggled as Brian began to sing.
"Out there ..." he sang in a horrible, sickly sweet falsetto, "Beneath the pale moonlight ..."
I joined in. "Someone's thinking of me, and loving me tonight..." My voice faded away as the words sank in and I quickly downed a long swallow of my own drink before Brian could see the one, fat tear that rolled down my face.
"So," he said cheerfully, "here we are."
"Yep," I agreed. "This makes what? Third night this week?"
"No, only two so far this week. LAST week it was three."
I shook my head, staring at the ice in my glass. "This is so pathetic. Brian, go home."
"Because, you should have a life. You shouldn't be here for every meeting of the lonely hearts club, you need to go out too. Ask Nick, I'm sure he knows some great places," I said derisively.
"No thanks," he said shaking his head.
"Sure, Bri, hot times, hot women," I smirked. "Just right up Nick's alley."
"Bec, you know that's not my scene. Never HAS been."
"Or mine, but then you tried to tell me that didn't you?" I stood quickly, walking to the bar and pouring myself another drink.
"You were in love, Bec. Love does crazy things to a person."
Something in the way he said that made me turn and look at his face. He was so sweet, he had a gentleness about him that never seemed to get rattled. Even when ... something was nagging at my brain, but for the life of me I just couldn't place it. "Yeah, I guess it does. Look where it got 'me'." I turned away, and the first thing I saw was the portrait of me and Nick, taken just two years ago. A week after our wedding. We were so in love. Or so I thought.
I'm not sure when things began to change or if they even did. A part of me was certain that our marriage had never been real, it had been some sort of publicity fantasy that I took part in. I knew deep down that Nick had never been faithful to me. His solo outings became more and more frequent until he was hardly ever at home any more. Hell, his best friend spent more time with his wife than Nick did.
His best friend. Seems to me that had changed somewhere along the line, because it certainly appeared that Brian had become 'my' best friend.
"Don't knock love, Bec. It's one of the most powerful forces in the universe."
I laughed. "Sure it is. Cheers," I said raising my glass as the irony of his words began to sink in. Powerful force, that thing called love. Especially when it wasn't really love at all but chemistry, infatuation. I had loved Nick with all my heart. Hadn't I? Lately I wasn't convinced.
"What went wrong?" Brian asked softly, reading my mind.
"What went 'right'?" I asked in return. I thought back to my early days with Nick and the whirlwind I'd been caught up in. He was young, he was handsome, he was outgoing ... and he'd kissed me like I'd never been kissed before. Nick and I were inseparable and our names became nearly joined when others spoke of us. We had become 'Nickandbec', rarely was one seen without the other. The day we'd made love for the first time was the day I knew I could never spend another day without him in my life. It was also the last time he'd ever seemed to care about pleasing me.
"Nick loves you."
I shook my head. "Nick loves the idea of being in love with me." Poor Brian, I watched him and I could see the hurt in his eyes. I felt awful talking about his best friend that way, but it was the truth. I wondered if I should let him in on my plans or let him be as shocked as everyone else when they found out I'd left Nick.
Brian had tried so hard to keep things light, to smooth things over when Nick and I were together in a group. He was always the clown, always hitting on me at just the right time to draw Nick's attention back to where it belonged, with his wife. The problem was, Brian was too good at it. It had come to the point where Brian's little shows of affection were the highlight of my night and it scared me. What was he doing? What was *I* doing responding to him? Was it obvious? Who noticed? Did Nick notice?
More importantly, did Nick even really care?
"It's not fair you know," he whispered, suddenly right by my side, his arm around me.
My breathing quickened, the way it always seemed to when I was with Brian, and my voice almost squeaked when I answered. "What's not fair?"
"He doesn't deserve you Bec, he never did."
He spoke against my temple and I shivered as his warm breath ruffled my hair. I had to send him home. He had to- "Brian, I think you need to go now," I whispered. "I can't-" I couldn't be responsible for what might happen if he stayed another minute. In just one soft touch, one simple sentence, he'd conveyed more tenderness than I'd seen from Nick in our entire marriage.
"Not tonight, Bec. I'm not going anywhere tonight." He sat forward, took my face in his hands and kissed me. Out of the blue, Brian kissed me and it was so right, so perfect, that I knew what had been missing all along. Love. Real, true love.