My body shook. It was too much emotion all at once, and it seemed to ooze out through my body physically as I trembled.
“Get out. I never want to see you again!” I shouted.
Sam just stood there dumbfounded, in disbelief that I was kicking him out.
“Linds, please let me explain, it’s not what it looks like. I mean it is, but I am so sorry I would do anything to take it back.”
My anger had shifted to heartbreak again, and my tears flowed again. The harder I tried to hold them back the fuller and faster they fell.
“Just leave,” I said softly as I stood in the middle of our living room. The living room we had just pained in our new house.
Rage surged again inside me.
“Get out of my house!”
“Our house,” Sam said quietly.
I knew he was right, but that was an argument for another time. We had only just moved in two months ago. We had bought this house as our first starter home, and I imagined us starting a family in it. Now that dream was gone. Sam looked at me, the remorse coming off of him in waves. I said nothing and stared at him hard. He turned around, grabbing his bag, and his keys out of the dish on the table by the door. He stepped out and closed the door quietly behind him.
I stood in the middle of our living room of the life we had begun to build, in shock. I didn’t know what to do. What does one do when her finance sleeps with the exotic dancer at his bachelor party? Our cat Oliver wound around my legs, his tail stroking my calf. I took a deep breath and headed for the kitchen. I grabbed the bottle of white wine out of the fridge, the bag of spicy potato chips and headed for my bed. I didn’t bother with a glass; I intended to finish the whole bottle. I climbed into bed as Oliver curled up alongside me. I could smell Sam’s scent on his side of the bed. Angry, I pushed his pillow off the bed. Oliver seemed unfazed and was more interested in the bag of potato chips.
I woke the next morning with a blinding headache and a mouth so dry it felt like I had crossed a desert in the night. I sat up slowly and looked around the bedroom. Our bedroom that was now my bedroom, I wondered? I noticed that Oliver wasn’t in bed with me, and I thought it was odd. I got up and slowly made my way to the bathroom, passing the living room on the way. As I used the bathroom it dawned on me that I had passed Sam sleeping on the couch in our living room. I hadn’t heard him come back in during the night, but then I doubt I would’ve heard anything after an entire bottle of wine. I walked back into the living room, and sure enough, he was fast asleep on our couch.
“Wake up,” I said firmly, then backed down my tone, it hurt my head to be any louder. “Sam, wake up.”
He opened his eyes and sprung up, causing his footing to be unstable. He braced himself against the couch.
“I know, I’m not supposed to be here. You asked me to go, and I did.”
“Why are you here now,” I asked, cutting him off.
“I have nowhere to go.”
“Go home to your parents, or Duane’s.”
“I never want to see him again. I can’t go to my parents, all flights have been grounded, and nonessential travel cancelled.”
“What are you talking about?”
“That virus, the entire country is on lockdown. I went to rent a hotel room last night, and they wouldn’t let me check-in. There’s a statewide order that started at midnight. I got pulled over on my way home last night for violating it. I didn’t even know the damn thing was going on. Here,” he said as he reached for the remote and turned on the television.
I watched the crawl at the bottom of the screen trying to gain as much understanding as I could grasp as quickly as I could. With the lead up to our wedding, and then this bombshell with Sam, I had been out of touch. Apparently much more out of touch than I had realized. I sat on the edge of our coffee table and watched.
“I’ll make some coffee,” Sam said as he left me watching tv.
I watched in disbelief at the reality I had woken up to. My cell phone rang, and I answered without looking at who was calling.
“Lindsey, are you okay? Is Sam okay? We’ve been so worried about you two,” my mother said. “You didn’t answer your phone last night, neither did Sam, we’ve been so afraid for you two.”
“I’m sorry mom. I didn’t mean to scare you. I took a sleeping pill,” I lied, “and went to bed.”
“Oh, are you ill? Why are you taking a sleeping pill? Is it wedding jitters?”
“No mom,” I said as Same walked back into the living room with a cup of coffee in his hand for me. He sat down next to me and handed me my cup. I nodded as my mother went on.
“Yes, mom, he’s here. We’re both safe and here, together.” I tried not to look at Sam as I said it. Taking a deep breath, I searched for a way to get off of the phone. I felt Sam pull the phone away from me gently.
“Hi Mrs Windsor, I mean mom, yes, we’re safe.” Sam stood up and walked over to the window as he took the “mom” bullet for me.
I grabbed my coffee and walked out of the room. I needed a shower, I smelled of stale wine, and if I was honest I needed a minute to think about my next move. I started the shower, and made it as hot as I could tolerate. I took two Tylenol from the medicine cabinet and washed them down with my coffee before I stepped into the shower.
As I walked out of the bathroom, my towel wrapped around me I could smell breakfast cooking. I listened for Sam’s voice, wondering if he was still stuck on the phone with my mother, but I only heard the noise of him cooking. I walked into our bedroom and dressed before I made the bed. I found Sam in the kitchen sitting at the table with Oliver spread out next to the plate of pancakes.
“I’m sorry about this Linds; I’ll be on my way as soon as I can. I just need to find a place.”
The kitchen seemed sunnier than usual, this morning and the light pierced through my skull, angering my headache further. The sunlight in the morning in this kitchen was one of the things I had loved most about this house, when we looked at it. Now the cheery sunshine felt odd and out of place. I rubbed my head as I walked and sat down at the table. Oliver took it as an invitation and stood up and walked over. I hated it when Sam let him on the table while we ate. I petted Oliver’s head and then put him on the floor. Sam put another forkful of pancake into his mouth and chewed quietly.
“I just don’t understand,” I said softly.
“You and I. It’s enough for the rest of the world to fall apart but to do it without the one person, who I thought was my person. I think that is what is scariest of all.”
Sam took a deep breath and put his fork down on the plate.
“I will always be your person Linds. I know you don’t believe that, but it’s the truth. I never set out to hurt you. Believe me if I could be somewhere else and spare you this pain right now I would. At the same time, I am glad I am here. Who knows how crazy this might get,” he gestured outside. “I’ll try to stay out of your way. I’ll see if I can make a space for myself in the garage until I can find a new place.”
I looked over at him and nodded. The whole scene so surreal.
He pushed the plate he had made for me towards me. I pushed it gently away from me.
“I know you’re so angry with me, but you need to eat,” he said softly.
“I can’t eat this morning,” I said as I stood up. “I’m going to go camp out in the bedroom and log-on to work to see what the plan is for Monday.”
I curled up in my bed with my laptop and didn’t bother to open it. All I wanted was things to be the way they were. I wanted to be in Sam’s arms; I needed to be in his arms. I loved him, but in my gut, I couldn’t reconcile the betrayal. I fell asleep and woke in the late afternoon. Groggily, I walked from the bedroom. The house was silent as I walked through. There was a part of me that was afraid that Sam had left, that he had found somewhere else to stay. I walked out the backdoor, and heard saw him hauling more junk out of the garage. When we moved it, the garage had been packed full of a lifetime of the previous occupant’s junk. We had intended to clean it out but had not gotten to that point yet. Sam had built a sizable pile in the back yard, that was separated into wood and metal. He stopped as he walked out his hands full, sweat on his brow, dirt on his face, when he spotted me.
“Hi, I thought I’d get started. I cannot believe how much stuff is in this garage. It’s crazy. I almost have a space large enough for a bed cleared.” He said as he dumped an old chair into the pile of wooden items, none of which were functional. The slapped his work gloves together, to shed the cobwebs that had stuck to them, as he walked up to the back porch.
“I found a bed to put in here.”
“You found a bed in the garage,” I asked?
“No, I.. uh… Mark has an extra. He’s going to drop it in the driveway in a little bit. Sorry, I just wanted to give you your space. I’ll put the medal at the end of the driveway, I’m sure a scrapper will come to get it, and I’ll burn this old wood in the wood stove in the garage if it gets too cold out here, or you can burn it in the fireplace in the house if you want. I’ll break it down for you.”
I felt a pang of guilt that he was having to make a place for himself in the garage, but reminded myself that he had done it to himself. I went back into the house without saying anything and spent my afternoon catching up on work. I saw our mutual friend Mark pull up with a twin mattress and box spring in the back of his pickup truck. Mark came to the front door and knocked, but before I could answer it Sam came around front.
“I’m back here,” Sam shouted so Mark would hear him.
I listened to Mark walk off the porch, and I left them to it as I went to start dinner. As I began to prepare dinner, I overheard their conversation.
“Man what were you thinking, Linds is…” Mark said, the frustration thick in his voice.
“I don’t remember doing it. I was so wasted. I could kill myself for hurting Lindsey. I love her. Fucking Duane. I’m my own man, but damnit, why did he let me do that?”
“How’d Linds find out?”
“I told her.”
“Why did you do that?”
“I couldn’t lie to her.”
“Wait, let me get this straight, you told her you slept with the dancer, but you don’t even remember doing it? What the hell, man?”
“Duane said we were all over each other, I mean I woke up naked next to the girl. I mean, I honestly don’t remember. I slept with someone. I just wish I could remember.”
“I was there for most of the night, and you were fucked up, but not that fucked up. What did the girl say when you woke up next to her?”
“She didn’t. I got up to use the bathroom and when I came back, she was gone. Duane stood in the doorway of his room and clapped.”
“Fucking Duane. If I were you, I’d find the girl. I know you man, you’d never do that to Linds. I mean, did the two of you fool around before you went out that night?”
“Well is it possible that you didn’t sleep with the dancer?”
“It’s possible. Shit, I don’t know. I wish I could remember. I’ve never drunk myself blackout drunk.”
“You weren’t when I left, I mean you were pretty trashed, but you were still conscious. I left around 2am. Find the girl.”
“I’ve tried. Duane said he hired her from an online ad but couldn’t remember where. I told him, to text her back, and he said she hasn’t replied.”
“Well when all of this shit blows over, I’ll go see if I can find her. I hate to see you two like this. I’m glad you’re staying here, though. It makes me nervous, her by herself right now.”
“Yeah. Thanks for the bed.”
I sat at the table, my stomach rolling as I overheard their conversation. The fact that Sam had doubts that he had slept with the woman, yet still told me left me more confused. I stood to stir the pot of marinara sauce I had started when I saw Mark leave, waving to Sam. I moved on to chopping up vegetables for a salad to go along with my pasta when I heard a knock at our back door. I walked over and opened the door.
“Would it be okay if I showered before I grab some of my things,” Sam asked, still standing on the other side of the screen door.
I moved out of the way and went back to cooking. I heard the shower start as I finished up dinner. I made myself a plate of pasta and salad and set one aside for Sam as I took mine back to my bedroom. I heard him dress and leave out of the back door. I got up to see the light on in the garage. That night I laid in our bed once again, by myself. Oliver had chosen to bunk with Sam in the garage, and part of me was happy about it. Thinking about what to do preoccupied my mind, and I found it difficult to sleep deeply.
The next morning I woke late and made my way into the kitchen. Coffee had not been made, and I wondered if Sam was awake and had not come in or had not woken yet. I made coffee and opened the back door, so he would know that I was awake. As late morning turned into early afternoon, I noticed that Sam had not emerged from the garage. Curiosity had gotten the better of me. I poured him a cup of coffee and walked to the door at the side of the garage. I knocked, and when I didn’t hear anything, I peeked inside. I stepped inside and saw Sam’s small living space set up inside the garage. Oliver meowed loudly as he walked in circles at the end of Sam’s bed. Sam was curled up.
“Sam, I brought you coffee”, I said loud enough to wake him, but he didn’t rouse.
Concerned, I walked over and knelt down to wake him. He was feverish to the touch. I shook him hard, and he roused slightly. He was ill, very ill. Terrified, I put down the mugs of coffee and pulled my phone out of my back pocket. I saw him shiver as I dialled for an ambulance. The virus started with a high fever, and I had never seen Sam sick with more than a sniffle in the two years since we had met. The operator answered, and I told her our address and Sam’s condition. I opened the overhead door, so the EMT’s would be able to grab him easily. I sat as with him as I waited, the realization that he might actually die hit me hard. I knelt back down and set the phone on the garage floor. I reached over and ran my hand through this thick brown hair. He looked up at me as he shivered hard again.
“I love you, Sam, please hang on. Help is on its way.”
He slipped his hand out from underneath the blanket, and I grabbed it and gave it a gentle squeeze as I heard the ambulance approach. The EMT’s got out and brought the gurney down the driveway. Seeing them in full protective gear terrified me. I knew the virus was contagious, and it hadn’t occurred to me that I had been so close to Sam, and might have contacted it. I tried to go with him, but the EMT’s told me only patients were allowed at the hospital right now. I stood a the end of my driveway as I watched Sam leave in the back of an ambulance. A state trooper approached me from behind.
“Ma’am are you that man’s fiancé?”
I turned around to see the Sherriff standing far away from me, with a mask on his face.
“You’ll need to quarantine yourself in your home for the next fourteen days if your finance tests positive for the virus. Until we know, we’re asking you to quarantine voluntarily. I will have to put a notice up on your property, so other’s know to stay away. I’m sorry it’s the law.”
I nodded and walked into the house as if on autopilot. I sat on the couch watching the last light of day leave the room. I didn’t want to call my parents, and Sam’s lived out of town. I didn’t have anything to tell anyone until I had more news. I got up to let Oliver in as he meowed loudly at the back door. I went out back and shut the garage door, and grabbed Sam’s phone out of the garage. I brought it in the house, making sure to disinfect it. I realize how silly that was, having been in close contact with him today. I made myself a cup of tea, and set both his and my phone on the kitchen table, hoping the hospital would call. After I finished my cup, I couldn’t wait for the hospital to call any longer. I needed to know how he was doing. The phone rang and rang without an answer. It felt like the life I recognized was slipping away from me. I was angry and terrified. I slammed my phone down onto the table.
Not knowing why I picked up Sam’s phone and started to look through it. There were 14 unread text messages. Three were from Mark, and the rest were from Duane. I looked through them, as my stomach lurched. It had been a prank. Sam had not slept with the dancer. Duane thought it was a funny joke. I began to sob, thinking of Sam alone in the garage so sick and now alone at the hospital.
I sat up on the couch most of the night, as Oliver purred away on my lap. Finally, around 3 am, my phone rang. I jumped at the noise of it, startling Oliver, who clawed into my lap. The screen said Lawndale Hospital. My hands shook as I answered it.
“Hello is this Lindsay Eaton?”
“Yes, how is Sam? Is he okay?”
“Hello I’m Dr Tompson, I’m treating your fiancé. He’s stable for now, Miss Eaton.”
I felt tears of relief spill down my cheeks.
“Can I talk to him?”
“He’s resting now.”
“Okay, when he wakes up will you please tell him I love him, and I know the truth. Please, I know that sounds nuts, but he needs to know.”
“I’ll tell him. I’ll call with more updates as we have them. He has texted positive for the virus. You will need to monitor your temperature and will have to self isolate for the next fourteen days. This is very important.”
“Of course. Can his family come see him? I know I can’t, but can someone be there with him?”
“I’m sorry we can’t allow any visitors right now.”
I bit onto my lip to keep from crying harder.
“He’s responding well to the therapy so far. I think his prognosis is good. I will call if anything changes and will update you tomorrow morning. Take care of yourself, Miss Eaton.”
The phone hung up before I could say anything more. I dialled Sam’s parents and told them what I knew. Then I called my own parents. Everyone wanted to come to be with us but with the travel ban in effect; they couldn’t travel. I fell asleep on our couch as the sun came up. I woke to the sound of my phone ringing in my hand. I saw that it was a number I didn’t recognize. I answered right away anyway just in case.
“Hello, this is Lindsey Eaton.”
“Hold on,” a man’s voice said, and my phone beeped to accept a video call. I pulled it away and saw Sam. He had an oxygen mask on and looked weak.
“Linds?” Sam asked pulling his mask away. “I love you.”
“Sam, I love you too. Honey, please get better and come home to me.”
“Are you sick?”
“No so far, I feel alright.”
“I’m so sorry for all of this.”
“No, Sam, I’m sorry. You haven’t done anything wrong. Duane tried to pull the worst practical joke ever. If I ever see him again, I’ll kill him for putting us through this.”
“It doesn’t matter, please just get better. When you come home, if you still want to, I want to marry you.”
I watched as his eyes watered.
“We should wrap up. You need your rest,” a voice from off-screen said.
“It’s a date. I can’t wait to marry you. I love you, Linds.”
“I love you too.”
I kissed the phone screen before he hung up.
Three weeks later, Sam returned home, to our house, that once again held the promise of our future life together. I was lucky and never did end up sick. Sam made a full recovery. The following weekend after he returned home we got married, our family and friends watched online.