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“It’s mine, isn’t it.”
My breath slams violently behind my throat, and I nearly trip as I whirl around. The dish towel slaps against my side.
He’s at the dining room table, lounging there like he and I had been in the middle of a conversation while I finish cleaning up. He leans with one elbow on the table, a fist under his chin. Watching me casually, curiously.
“What’s yours?” I squeak out, my voice halting.
I steel myself. “I don’t know what you’re talking about, Fenix.”
Slowly, almost imperceptibly, his other hand strokes the blade of a butter knife I still haven’t cleared away yet. Does he know he’s doing it?
“Ro, please. He’s never here. He never touches you. I think I know now why you sent me away.” I’ve always been good at reading Fin. But right now I’m so rattled and he’s acting so strangely that I have no idea what he’s thinking. The only thing I want is to get away. But Nel is upstairs. I can’t just leave.
Shaking, I lean against the counter, trying to put more space between use. Curse this tiny house. As if by their own will, my arms cross over my stomach. “Please don’t do this, Fin. If you’ve ever cared about me at all, please don’t.”
His lips tighten into a sad expression, and he comes to be near me in two strides. I try not to gasp. Thankfully, he doesn’t touch me but I can feel his heat. “What do you think I’m going to do, Ro? Why didn’t you just tell me you were pregnant?”
I don’t realize I’m crying until he brushes away a tear. Exactly the touch I didn’t want.
“Ro, please. I’ve only ever wanted to be there for you. For the kids. He’s never here. He uses you for publicity, and to manage things, and that’s it! He doesn’t even like kids, Ro! Every little thing they do annoys him.”
“That’s not true,” I mumble, trying to turn away, but he won’t let me. He holds my chin in one hand, and the pressure isn’t painful, but it is a warning.
“I want to be here!” he insists. “I want to change diapers, and read bedtime stories, and help with tantrums, all of it! Think about it. It would be the six of us, together.”
I had thought about it. How wonderful it would be. I have always wanted a big family, to grow with them and have lots of grandkids and be at the center of a huge gathering during holidays. Always someone to stop in on or invite out. Someone to spoil and scold and guide. Four kids would be a dream come true. Maybe there would be more…
I shake myself, and force myself to pull away. Fin’s dreamy smile fades a little. “Isn’t that what you’ve always wanted, Ro?” He’s so plaintive, and I still love him so much, somehow, that I almost give in. But no. I have to think of my own kids, as much as I love his, too. There isn’t much I can do for Salem. I straighten my spine.
“I know about the drugs, Fin.”
This time, it’s like a hand comes and wipes his face clean of all expression.
“I know about the pimping, the gun-running, that whole black-market thing you’ve got going on. I don’t want my kids near it, Fin. And no, this baby isn’t yours. I sent you away because I knew I was having another one of Tav’s kids. Again.” I can’t keep the edge out of my voice. “It was bad enough that I was risking my family for the two kids I have, let alone a third.” I hold his blank gaze and stand up straighter.
His gaze hardens, ever so slightly. “You have no right to judge me, Ro. Not everyone has the fortune to land a good job and a rich genius husband like you. I had to pay my way through school. And now I have a child to support, all on my own.”
“I know you’ve been using me, Fin. You just want to find the doomsday locker.”
Now his eyes are dangerous. “What do you know about the locker?”
I shrug, hoping the movement will make me look, and therefore feel, less terrified. “Not much. Tav wouldn’t tell me anything except that you accidentally lost a fortune’s worth of illegal garbage in it. And by the way, my husband tried to help you. He gave you a job, and you stole from him. You didn’t have to smuggle. You did this to yourself, and that poor boy.”
“Do not talk about Salem. You have no right.’
“You don’t deny it, then.”
“Ro! The only thing I care about is you and the kids. Even if that one isn’t mine – ” he rolls his eyes, and I’m suddenly angered by his unquestioning confidence in his virility, “ – you know I would still love it. I love them all. I love you. I’d give it all up for you. Be a gardener the rest of my life, if you could stand living on that kind of salary. I’d support you opening up your counselling practice. I’d show Nel how to be a man, and show Ari how a husband should treat his wife.” He grabs my hands, and puts his forehead to mine. “Please, Ro. Stay with me. I can’t live without you.”
I breathe him in. He smells like the ocean, somehow. The smell of sunlight, and wind, and salt. For a moment, I pretend I’m being lifted on the breeze.
And then I come back down to earth. “I just can’t, Fin. It’s wrong. Tav is my husband. I promised I would stay with him.”
After another moment, Fin pulls away. He turns to leave. I’m watching his face so intently that I don’t realize he had been holding the knife the whole time until it clatters into the sink when he throws it, making me flinch.
“Will see what Tav does when he finds out you’ve been sleeping with his mortal enemy.”
I’m so frozen that I can’t move, even after he leaves.
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“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him.”
~ Romans 15:13