She tucked the last plate in the dishwasher, then moved a bowl to fit better. She turned it on and it started, the same ancient grumbling. “You want to sit on the balcony and finish this wine?” she called.
He moved up behind her and kissed her neck. “Sounds great.” He set the last pan in the sink and said, “We’ll just let that soak.”
She felt the smirky laugh growing in her belly and she choked it down. Of course he was going to let it soak. She gave it a squirt of dish soap and turned on the water. He picked up the bottle and their two wine glasses and they moved out to sit and watch the fading sunset.
“God, that pizza was amazing,” he groaned stretching.
“Can’t believe you wanted to make the whole thing from scratch,” she laughed.
He picked up her laugh and said, “Nah, it was all worth it.”
They settled into their chairs on the shared balcony between the two units of the duplex. There was no way they’d ever live in the same shared space. She’d decided this long ago. She loved him, of course, but she needed her own space. More importantly, she needed her own space without his junk in it.
He lifted his glass of wine and took a sip.
She settled in next to him on the wicker loveseat, then pulled the blanket around her legs. The sun was settling behind the horizon, throwing gold and red through the clouds and the edge of twilight chill crept up on her. Not to mention the mosquitoes.
The pan in the sink was niggling at her, but it wasn’t her sink and it wasn’t her pan. How would this be, to marry this man and keep their households separate? Perhaps they’d have to find a new duplex and sell this one. Children? She choked down a groan and took a sip of her wine. A spicy rioja.
“Can I tell you something?”
The sudden scared, tired tone in his voice hit her like a sack of wet cement.
“What is it, Felix?” She set down her glass of wine and took his hand. Whatever he was going to tell her was going to be something big.
“I can’t marry you and not tell you about this.”
She felt her forehead crease. She knew he was going to put off marrying her indefinitely anyway. But, here it was, whatever it was.
She braced herself and held his hand with both of hers. “What is it?”
“There was a girl.” Her eyebrow raised and he said, “No, before I’d even met you. But, I have to tell you about her and what happened.”
She nodded and wiped her hand over her face.
“Well, I met her at a party and there was just something about her. She— I dunno, we started talking. I never asked her name. She never asked mine. But we started talking and it was like I’d known her my whole life. We moved out onto the deck and we just talked until the party began to wind down. Then she looked at me and said, ‘I’m going to go home with you and we’re going to eat pancakes in the morning and then I’m going to leave. And we’re not going to tell each other our names. And that will be that.’”
“Why are you telling me this, Felix?”
“Just. I can’t marry you with this inside of me.”
She bit her lip, then said, “Continue.” She picked up her glass and finished the last swallows, then refilled her glass. She set it down, then wrapped her arms inside her blanket.
“We went back to my place and spent the night. Then in the morning, we made pancakes and bacon. I was…” He wiped a hand over his face, then both hands through his hair. He fiddled in his pocket and pulled out a salinity test strip that was always, always there and began twisting it through his fingers. “I was so sad that she was going to leave. It was just killing me. But we ate breakfast, talking and laughing. I got up to go to the bathroom and she left me a note saying thanks for breakfast and the night and wishing me a long and happy life. She slipped away without saying goodbye.”
“You love her,” she whispered. “You love her and you don’t even know her.”
He ran his fingers through his hair, standing it all up on end and then whispered, staring at his knees, “Like I said. I couldn’t marry you without you knowing this.”
She pulled her blanket tighter around her shoulders. How was she supposed to feel about this? She snaked an arm out of her blankets for her wine glass and took another big drink.
“Why would you ask me to marry you if you felt this way about someone else?” she whispered. The feelings he had for this mystery girl, it was just… how was she supposed to take that?
“We’re right together. We just go together.”
“Not if I’m some fucking consolation prize. Not if you’re pining after some mystery girl, Felix!” She stood up, holding her blanket around her shoulders, then grabbing her glass of wine. “I’m going to bed.”
He stood and moved to follow her. “Can I join you?”
She turned to look at him with naked rage across her face. He took a step back.
“I’ll see you in the morning.”
She turned and huffed away, her blanket still wrapped around her shoulders and trailing behind her. She shut the door to their shared balcony and went to bed, setting her glass of rioja on the nightstand and falling into bed, crying.