Romona’s Garden

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Holding his hands, I remember all the times Tav has taken my hand lately. Usually, only in front of the cameras. Or, in diminishing frequency, when he wanted to lead me to our bed to blow off steam after a particularly eventful day. When he was actually here. Now, it seems he’s only doing that on the side at work, so he doesn’t have to wait to come home to me. I’m not sure if I’m relieved that we’re done with the charade that comes with him trying to convince me to sleep with him, or whether I miss him enough to long for any contact or attention he might give me, even if he goes back to ignoring me right after. I guess it depends on the day.

The last time, he had taken my hand to lead me to the steps, to give some speech.

Now, I’m struck suddenly by earlier days. When we were kids in the woods. When we had sex for the first time on the camping trip. When we had gotten married, and a few years after. His hands had been warm. Our fingers had stroked, tickled, intertwined, and gently pinched each other. My hand in his had brought instant comfort, or endearment, or fire.

But that last time, on the steps of the Lab, with cameras flashing and clicking and the sun stabbing my eyes, I had shuddered at the touch of his fingers. I hadn’t realized how cold and dead this perfunctory gesture now felt. Like that time I took a dead fish off the ice to toss on the campfire. Except the fish stuck there. I couldn’t shake it off. My brain wouldn’t let me. My hand stayed closed around it, while I was frozen.

He’s so out of love with me that even the blood in his hands has cooled against me.

But not Fin. I dare look into his eyes, and I see that spark. That tantalizing heat that warms me. But there’s more. There’s curiosity, and hope, and just a touch of shyness. No ownership, impatience, or disgust.

“You’re in love with me too, Ro.” His words are simple, and I realize he had been watching me, too.

I shake my head. “You’re my patient. We’re friends, too. And anyway, I’m married.” Buried the lead there, didn’t you?

He smiles lazily. “I could never forget it. But you feel something for me. Romantically, I mean.”

I laugh derisively. “I feel something for anyone who’s interested in me.”

He blinks, and pulls back, his hand slipping from mine. I stare, confused. I’d meant it in a self-deprecating way, not an insult to him. Doesn’t he know how special he is to me?

After a moment, his expression softens toward me again, and once again I’m confused about what has changed. “I don’t think that’s what this is, Ro. You want so desperately to be loved and wanted that you grab onto any bit of hope that someone might cherish you.” He passes his thumb over my cheek. The heat nearly makes me pull away. I know I should pull away. “You’ve told yourself that any man will do, as long as he respects and cares for you. And wants you.” He moves closer, until our thighs are touching on the swing bench. His hand reaches behind me, resting on the seat just beside my hip.

“You dream of a white knight who will come and carry you away, and never let you go, no matter what.” He’s nearly whispering now, close enough that I can feel the words against my face. His breath is quite pleasant, which surprises me, because I hate the smell of people’s breath. But right now, he smells invitingly of the peanut butter and jelly sandwich I’d watched him eat on his break. Almost unconsciously, I lick my lips and sigh hungrily. Unlike him, I haven’t had a thing to eat all day. Usually, I use this nap time to have a quiet, uninterrupted lunch.

Suddenly, I realize he’s staring at my lips. They’re still moist from that compulsory pass with my tongue. Watching his eyes darken in response sends a thrill through me. He’s breathing more shallowly, just a little. I am too, actually, and I can feel a tightening in my chest. I feel tense, like when you’ve been out in the cold for too long and you’re about to start shivering at any moment. But I’m not cold. Far from it.

I put my hand on his shoulder, and his breath hitches.

The smallest flicker of guilt flashes in my mind. I know what I’m doing to him, now. The power I now have over him. Would I use it? Use him? I know I can never leave Tav. He will probably never leave me, either, because the optics would be terrible. But the loneliness eats away at me daily, opening up a bigger and bigger hole that I’m terrified I’m going to fall into. I’m terrified I won’t get out of bed one day, and that will be it.

Yes, there’s the vows and commitments that I made to my church, that I should honour. My children need me. I need to make sure I don’t completely become an empty husk.  

But apparently, our vows meant nothing to Tav. He’s probably indulging in his affair, right now, as I sit looking into the eyes of my gardener. My pseudo-patient. Even though, if I’m being honest, I knew that by agreeing to “treat” him, I was opening a door to a world I shouldn’t enter. But just by opening, maybe I was as good as gone.  

I move my fingers up to his neck, to the smooth, sun-kissed skin there. He closes his eyes, and his hand on the bench seat curls around me, pulling me in. I can feel his raw, masculine power and energy in that one gesture, and tremors that I can’t control begin rolling through me. He could crush me, if he wanted to. Take my heart and break it in two, like Octavius had. Didn’t he stop to think that I could do the same? I wonder this as I trail my fingers down the hard expanse of his chest. He seems to be purring; soft, low sounds of pleasure vibrate from deep within him. Less like a cat, and more like a lion.

He takes my hand and presses it against his heart. The uneven, unnervingly rapid beat there matches my own. Concerning, but enticing. I should protect his heart, I know. That’s what love is about.

But I can tell he has a different kind of love on his mind, there in the sunny, fragrant garden while Tav’s away and the kids are napping in the house. There on the seat of the hand-crafted wooden swing chair that creaks as we come together. There in his strong, gentle, unyielding arms, with his lips on mine and the taste of peanut butter and jelly on my tongue, his hands in my hair, my hands under his shirt. There with my shoes on the ground, along with his belt, and the rest of the barriers between us.

There at the point of no return.  

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“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him.”
~ Romans 15:13

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