Three dots blinking, that means he’s typing. Heather thought to herself.
Heather chewed her bottom lip as she held her phone, its glow the only source of light in the dark bedroom. Her husband, Chris slept snoring softly next to her. Heather looked away from the blinking dots on her phone at Chris as he rolled over. She examined her conscious, quickly, searching for guilt but it wasn’t there. She turned back to her phone. The three dots turned into a message that read:
“I love you too. He’ll be back to the rig tomorrow. Stay strong beautiful.”
Heather read it greedily twice before she deleted it. As much as she would have loved to keep the message on her phone she didn’t want Chris to see it. She plugged her phone back onto the charger and set it screen side down on the nightstand. She sunk further down onto the bed thinking of his hands, not her husband’s hands, but his best friend’s hands on her body. It felt physically painful to be sleeping next to a man she no longer loved. Trying to push it away, she thought of laying in Ellis’ arms, safe and loved as she drifted off to sleep.
The next morning Chris’ alarm went off at 4am. He had an early start to get back to the oil rig that he worked in the Gulf. Heather hated that he had chosen to work away from home so much. Chris was well educated and could have easily worked for the company in a myriad of other ways, that kept him closer to home. She roused at the sound of the shower turning on. Although they had not slept together in almost eighteen months, she kept up the rouse of his wife. The lack of intimacy had been a point of contention in thier marraige.
As Chris showered, Heather made coffee, and brought two mugs for back for them into the bedroom. She handed Chris his, as his towel hung around his hips. Heather couldn’t help but stare, her husband was built like a cover of a romance novel. His tan skin, curly chestnut hair, and muscular body, was once her source of pleasure, now the sight just left her with an empty feeling.
The lack of intimacy started slowly. It started when Chris came home a little over a year ago. He was normally on the rig for six weeks and then home for three. She had grown used to not leaving their bed for the first three days he was home, neither of them able to get enough of each other, but it stopped. He returned from one shift and Heather sat waiting for him, her hair done, makeup on, and new lingerie. Her face lit up as he walked in, but she could see on his face something wasn’t right. He had told her he was ill, showered and climbed into their bed. He slept for almost two days. Heather tried to nurse him back to health, even though he didn’t show any symptoms of any sort of illness. As soon as he looked like he was in better spirits Heather, tried to entice her husband, it had been a long time for both of them. Chris feigned illness again. Over the next three weeks, they slept together once before he went back to the rig. The whole ordeal left Heather confused. She chalked it up to stress and didn’t bring it up with him before he left.
They talked a little less than they normally did while he was away, and when he returned home again, Heather pulled out off of the stops to entice him and welcome him home. While this time upon his return he wasn’t ill, he complained of exhaustion and put off her advances saying he was too tired. The harder she pushed, the harder rebuffed her advances. Finally fed up, she confronted him, wanting to understand what was happening. Pressed for an answer he told her had changed his mind about starting a family, he wasn’t ready after all. They had been trying for almost six months but with Chris’ work schedule they both knew it could take a little longer. The news surprised her, he had led the charge to start a family. The last night he was home, she suggested they use protection, he told her he was too tired and rolled over. She laid in bed that night upset, as her tears wet her pillow. This was not the man she had married, who was kind, loving and affectionate.
Chris went back to the rig and Heather knew she had to find out what was going on. She couldn’t go out to the rig, that was unheard of. Concerned that perhaps there was another woman, she sought out Chris’ best friend Ellis. She wondered if Chris had confided in Ellis. He had agreed to meet her at a local tavern. That night as they ate and caught up, she asked him if he had noticed anything different about Chris. Ellis said that he had not, and Heather didn’t want to go into details about what was going on in her marriage. She chickened out asking about another woman, not sure if she was ready for an answer to that question. After dinner, Ellis walked her out to her car. The orange light glow from the tavern sign lit the parking lot and in that light, she thought Ellis looked handsome. He had always been Chris’ best friend, so she had never allowed herself to look at him as she did now. There was a moment before she got into her car where she thought he was going to kiss her.
As she drove home from the meeting she hated that the thought of Ellis kissing her in the parking lot aroused her so much. She had never been untrue to Chris. Ellis called to check on her twice while Chris was away, something he hadn’t done since Chris had first started the job. At first, the calls set her on edge. That next break when Chris came home she didn’t pressure him but intimacy had not happened either. He returned back to the rig after only a week home. Something inside Heather crumbled after he left that time, he had not touched her, kissed her, or hugged her for almost six months.
Heather continued to try to connect with any way she could. She emailed him, knowing that he’d read it since he said he was too tired to talk most nights. That January while Chris was away a record-setting blizzard hit. Heather had prepared for it and hunkered down alone. During the storm, a coating of ice had formed before the snow hit and took a large pine tree down across the driveway. She emailed Christ to tell him, and he had actually written back saying he’d ask Ellis to come over and help with it. Ellis had continued to call and check on Heather while Chris was away, and she found that she talked to him a little longer each time he called.
The afternoon he came to cut up the tree that had fallen, Heather slept with Ellis. She had not intended for it to happen. She had hated herself for it, but her body had devoured the intimacy. That night she laid in her bed racked with guilt, and still aroused from the sex. She hated herself for being unfaithful. She cried herself to sleep as she thought of Chris and the state of her marriage.
Over the next six months Ellis provided more than physical intimacy, he had become something so much more. Chris had returned home on his normal schedule but never made any advances towards Heather. She still tried each time and had even suggested that they see a marriage counsellor. His reply to the argument about the counsellor was to return to the rig early. She took this action by Chris as his intent for their marriage. From then on, she allowed herself to fully feel any emotion she wanted about Chris and Ellis.
The last time Chris was away, Ellis stayed most nights. She found it odd that she now dreaded Chris’ return, not for seeing him, but for Ellis having to stay away. The whole time Chris was home Heather wanted to tell him she wanted a divorce but she couldn’t bring herself to do it. There was something holding her back, even though nothing had changed between them. Heather told herself she’d give Chris an ultimatum, that they were intimate or she’d leave. The night before he returned to the rig, she made her stand. With tears streaming down her cheeks, she pleaded with Chris to explain what was happening, why wouldn’t he sleep with her? Why wasn’t he returning her calls and emails when he was on the rig. Chris grabbed his bag and left without answering. When he left Heather called Ellis hysterical.
“Honey, I love you. I want to be with you. He doesn’t deserve you. Let him go,” Ellis said trying to calm her. That phone call changed her life. She realized he was right, Ellis loved her and she loved him. Clearly Chris did not want to be in a relationship any longer. They decided that she would leave Chris the next time he came home. She insisted on telling him in person that she was leaving him. She felt guilty enough for going out on her husband with his best friend, the least she could do was to tell Chris the truth to his face, not email him like a coward.
She now watched him get ready to leave again and knew it was time, to tell the truth. She had to, she had promised Ellis that she would. Besides, the secret she hid growing under her nightgown would be noticeable soon enough. She and Ellis had been careful, but apparently not careful enough. He was thrilled at the news she was pregnant and she was happy too. This is the last hurdle she told herself, cut Chris loose. At breakfast she told herself, at breakfast, I’ll tell him.
Her hands shook as she dipped the bread in the eggy mixture for french toast. Chris brought his empty mug back in and refilled it before taking it into the living room. She could just hear the news on if she tried to listen. She flipped each piece of french toast, making sure they were golden brown. The phone rang, and the noise of it made her jump. She heard Chris answer and wondered who would be calling so early. A streak of fear ran through her wondering if it was Ellis, coming clean, thinking she had chickened out. Nervously, she turned down the flame on the cooking breakfast and went to grab her own phone. She took a deep breath, relieved that there weren’t any texts from him.
As she walked back into the kitchen Chris stood in the doorway.
“Who was on the phone,” she asked?
“The Foreman. We’re all staying landside. There’s a quarantine, that stupid virus.”
“A quarantine for where?”
“The whole damn country, for the next 6 to 8 weeks.”
Heather felt her stomach flip as she grabbed onto the counter. Chris turned and walked back into the living room to continue watching the news. Heather picked up her phone and texted Ellis.
“I’m telling him now, and then I’m on my way to your house. He’s staying landside with the quarantine. I can’t stay here with him. I love you. See you soon.”
Heather took the french toast out of the pan and plated it, squeezing maple syrup over it. She brought it into the living room with a glass of juice and handed Chris, who barely said thank you audibly enough to be heard. She turned and walked back to the bedroom and got dressed. She placed her bag next to the door on her way back to the living room. Chris looked up from his breakfast as she walked back into the room.
“Are you going somewhere?”
“You can’t go out, there’s a quarantine. We have to stay in.
“I am going to be staying in, just not here and not with you. I’m leaving you Chris. I don’t love you anymore.”
He stared at her blankly and said nothing. She wanted to shout at him, to provoke a reaction from him. Anything that would show that he registered what she was saying. Instead, he sat further back in his chair and put another piece of the cut-up french toast in his mouth.
“You have nothing to say? After eight years of marriage? Chris did you hear me? I am leaving you.”
“That’s your choice.”
Pure rage coursed through her veins.
“I’m pregnant, the baby is Ellis’. We are getting married.”
This jarred his attention, as the next bite of french toast fell off of the fork. Before she could answer she turned and walked out of the house. She trembled the whole ride to Ellis’ house. She pulled into the driveway and before she could get out of her car, he had already come out of his house. She walked from the car, leaving the door open and into his arms.
“I am so glad you made it, they are shutting everything down. I was afraid you wouldn’t make it here in time before lock down.”
“I told him. It just didn’t seem to register. I am so glad that is done now.”
“I am proud of you, I know how difficult that was. Did you mention me? The baby?”
“I did. When I told him I was pregnant and the baby was yours was the only time it seemed to register with him.”
“What did he say?”
“Nothing, he didn’t say a word. It got his attention thought.”
Ellis hugged her tightly and she clung to him, grateful that life now showed promise. That night as she fell asleep in Ellis’ arms with their child growing inside of her, she thought about how strange life was. She had never thought she would have fallen in love with her husband’s best friend, let alone want to spend the rest of her life with him.
Three days after she had left, she was served with divorce papers. Both she and Ellis joked that divorce lawyers were still working. She did not contest the divorce and was eager to do what she needed to be free of Chris. Together she and Ellis settled into a quarantine routine, grateful that they could both work from home. It surprised them that Chris had not shown up for any sort of confrontation.
As the quarantine lagged on, and their baby grew, the divorce came through. The next night over dinner, Ellis got down on one knee.
“Heather, I love you and you have brought so much more to my life than I could have ever envisioned. I give you my solemn vow that I will always treat you with the love and respect you deserve. Will you please do me the honor of being my wife?”
With tears of happiness in her eyes, she threw her arms around Ellis and kissed him, slamming her lips so hard into his, she worried she might split one of their lips. He kissed her an pulled away.
“So that’s a yes then?”
“Yes. I love you Ellis McCarthy.”
“I love you future Mrs. Heather McCarthy.”