Widow Woman by Julia Tagliere (Excerpt)

Friday, August 9, 2013

Chapter Three

The following morning, I lay on the bed in our motel room, waiting for Peter to come out of the bathroom. Our friend James needed his car so Peter was driving it back to Nebraska while I started handling details here. Catherine was meeting us at the motel for breakfast; once Peter left, she’d drive me back out to Mom’s house, where I planned to spend the morning sorting and cleaning. Later in the afternoon, I was scheduled to meet with George Koblick, Mom’s attorney and an old friend of the family, to go over Mom’s will. I’d dated George’s son Daniel for a long while in high school, but Mom’s determination that I attend college quickly ended that romance. At least, that’s what I’d let her think.

While I waited, I thought about the long night just ended. I’d lain awake most of the night, wanting Peter to take me in his arms almost as desperately as I hated the thought of him ever touching me while he might still be thinking of her. The other woman. God, what a clichĂ©. I shook my head, trying to shut out the thought. The only way to survive everything ahead of me today was to focus on one loss at a time.

Peter came out, carrying his shaving kit. “Your turn,” he said, gesturing to the bathroom. When I didn’t move, he set the kit on top of his suitcase and sat down beside me on the bed, studying my face.

“You sure you’re going to be all right?” he asked tentatively. “I can stay longer if you want me to.” I caught the expectant tone in his voice. Neither one of us knew how to act, but for the moment, I tried to avoid the topic of his infidelity, focusing instead on Mom’s loss and its aftermath.

That worked well enough. I replied, “Yeah, I’ll be fine,” knowing it was likely a lie, but still hurting too badly to ask him to stay.

Peter appeared to debate for a moment. He cautiously pulled me up to a sitting position beside him. I allowed him to tuck my head down onto his chest. I smelled his cologne, and it was the only scent I ever wanted to breathe in for the rest of my life. But no matter how hard I tried, I could not get that woman’s face out of my mind. I abruptly pulled away. He nodded, looking resigned. I slid out of the bed and went into the bathroom, locking the door behind me.

When I was ready, we went to the lobby where Catherine was waiting, wearing a vibrant yellow scarf. After we ate a quick breakfast together at the café across the street, we returned to the motel. Catherine and I waited in the lobby while Peter retrieved his suitcase.

“How are you holding up, darling?” Catherine asked.

“About how you’d expect, Catherine,” I sighed. “I miss her.”

“Me, too,” she said with a sad little smile. When Peter returned, the three of us walked to the car. After stowing his suitcase in the back seat, Peter turned, preparing to take his leave.

“Call me if you need me, all right?” he said. He leaned in very close. For a moment I feared he would try to kiss me, but instead, he whispered softly in my ear, so softly that Catherine couldn’t hear, “For what it’s worth, I’m sorry. Sorry about everything. I hope you’ll come home soon.” He hugged me tightly. Impulsively, I suddenly snaked my arms inside his coat and clung to him, even as I berated myself for such weakness. I suddenly wanted him to stay; what if he went back to her? My fear threatened to overcome my pride.

Peter squeezed me even more tightly as the tears pushed up through my throat. I’m supposed to be mad at you. I’m supposed to hate you. God, what was the matter with me? I rested my forehead against his chest, wishing things weren’t so complicated. I pressed a quick kiss to his lips then backed out of his arms and mumbled, “Have a safe trip.” I hadn’t felt Peter’s lips for days; their unfamiliarity stung.

Peter turned and gave Catherine a quick hug, waggling his fingers at me. He climbed into the car and drove slowly out of the lot. Once the Olds vanished from sight, I climbed into Catherine’s front seat, feeling bruised and ashamed.

“Would you care to stop for another cup of coffee?” Catherine asked softly, as we pulled away from the motel.

Clearing my throat and giving my eyes a cursory swipe with the back of my hand, I replied, “No, thanks. I think I’d prefer to get started sorting through Mom’s things, and try to get as much done before the meeting with the attorney.” Stealing a quick glance at Catherine’s face to see if she was disappointed by my farewell to Peter—that I hadn’t slugged him instead of hugging him—I saw that her face was serene and composed, as usual.

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Genre – Women’s Fiction

Rating – PG13

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