I land in Los Angeles after a five hour direct flight that has left me jet lagged, exhausted, and somewhat depressed. The only thing I could think about the entire flight was how badly I wanted Samantha, Emma, and Izzie to be there with me. I want to picture them so clearly in my brain so that I can pretend, if only for a moment, that they are here with me. I can hear Emma’s lyrical voice insisting that I look at her drawing and tell her what I think. I can feel Izzie’s soft, tiny hand placing itself against my cheek. I smell the sweet scent of Samantha, that intoxicating combination of jasmine and lavender that makes her feel wild and free, like she has just come in windswept from running in a meadow.
I feel the airplane come to a complete stop and my eyes fly open. I am almost surprised right then to see that my family is not here with me and I feel the soul crushing disappointment at their absence all over again. I lean back in my seat for a moment, shutting my eyes tightly as I try to gather my bearings before I descend from the plane to the airport. I am dreading the moment I touch my feet to the ground. In the air, I still had the chance to fantasize that my girls were all here with me. The second I am on solid California ground, it’s real. They’re gone.
I realize that there’s a great deal of insanity in this thought, but it is irrational and it is mine. I miss my family.
I adore my work. Being an actor is incredibly gratifying, being able to portray the words of some of the greatest writers in history, to be directed by the most talented in the business and then have the ability to bring entertainment and joy to people. Who wouldn’t find that amazing? I owe everything to the people in the business willing to take a chance on me, each and every time, and for the fans I have acquired over the years for being able to tolerate me as long as they have. Without any of them, I would never be in the position I am in now, and not a day goes by I don’t realize just how lucky I am to be in this position.
And all the while, I got through my life knowing exactly what it took to make me happy. I was focused on my education and subsequent career, hoping one day to be able to give back to everyone who could give me to so well. Romances were fleeting. I always wanted to settle down and have a family at some point, but it just seemed more important to make sure I was headed in the right direction. I was going to pay back all of those wonderful people, I didn’t have time to settle until I was sure that I had achieved something great.
That’s when Samantha happened to me. I was content to keep living the way I was, not really investing in anything romantically. I even recall having made a promise to myself on that trip that I was going to wait just a bit longer before I decided to get serious about anyone. And after a long, exhausting convention and in celebration for the path I had decided to take, I made my way down to the hotel bar to have a private toast. I was planning on having one Long Island iced tea before making my way back up to my room and tucking in for the early flight I had the next day.
What was it they say about plans?
Samantha made me a true believer in soul mates and a love so achingly deep that it reaches across time and space itself. For one week I was captivated by this wildly vivacious, somewhat damaged young woman. Everything I had ever known about love and companionship in the past was gone and all there ever was for me was Samantha. I finally understood all of those classic Shakespeare sonnets, Romeo as he stands beneath Juliet’s balcony and professes that she is akin to the sun in his eyes. She is everything to him and there is no longer a world for him that doesn’t revolve around her. It was as though I was struck by lightning at this realization and I knew I would never be the same again.
I let my love for her grow and intensify in the years we were apart. This was the case for both of us, and when I rediscovered the love of my life five years later and found out she had made me a father in the interim, the shock of this was overwhelming. I was so disappointed about missing out on that time with them that I knew the only rational thing to do was to make sure I never let her go again. I had my first and only love back in my arms along with the treasured gift that was my first daughter, and it didn’t seem like it could get any better from there. And that was when Samantha gave me Isabella.
Now it seems silly that I ever told myself to wait before actively looking for the woman I’d spend the rest of my life with. Maybe our story was fraught with anxiety and its own share of drama, but my life is perfect and I wouldn’t have it any other way.
So this is what brings me back to reality as I recognize that though I am appreciative of my career, I find times like this when I am so tender with loneliness and heartbreak hardest to think of anything but just throwing in the towel and running home. I know this is how I provide for my beautiful family and that Samantha would never in a million years approve of me abandoning something that is so much a part of who I am. It is part of my identity and she has always understood and supported that. She couldn’t let me abandon this any more than I could let her abandon writing because it was hard at times. It was much too important to her.
Thinking about all of this is making me even more anguished so I open my eyes and try to focus on the flight attendants. It feels as though eons are about to pass in front of my eyes before I can leave the plane. A moment ago I was okay with it, not wanting to touch down into California, but now I’m not sure if I want to sit here with nothing to distract me from thoughts of my girls that continue to plague me, making the aching in my heart absolutely excruciating.
I suppose it doesn’t really matter. I am most likely going to feel like this way for the rest of the night. All of my real work begins in the morning so I’ll have that to distract myself and undoubtedly the first night is always the hardest when I am away from my family.
I take a second, debating whether or not I should give my wife a call right now or if I should wait until I am actually off of the plane and can talk to her without interruption.
I drag my hands across my tired face, trying to gather my wits. It has been a long, emotional day, and I am ready to fall into a very deep slumber for as long as I possibly can. It might actually be better if I called Samantha right now because then I could just get to the hotel and knock out the moment my head hits the pillow.
Then again, I’d hate to think it was acceptable for me to call her for five seconds while I’m on the plane, making me feel rushed when I am actually quite anxious to talk to her. I want to tell her when I get to the hotel so that she knows I’ve made it safe and sound and there wasn’t some kind of accident from the airport to the hotel.
I find myself grinning then, thinking of Samantha’s insistence that I call her nearly every time I get in and out of a vehicle when she’s not there. She maintains that it’s part of being a mother but I know that it is in her nature to be a bit of a worrier. It is something I find absolutely endearing about her.
And with this thought, I know I have to call her right away. I need to hear her voice. The second I have my mobile turned back on, I am dialing her number, waiting for her to pick up, which she does quite quickly, greeting me with the most ecstatic “Hello, angel!” I’ve ever heard.
I close my eyes at the sound of her voice, so overjoyed to hear from her that my heart soars a bit. It seems like every time I separate from my better half all of those initial feelings I had for her come back. I have butterflies in my stomach and my pulse is racing. “My love, it’s so good to hear your voice.”
“I’m so glad you called,” she says, and I can hear the smile in her tired words.
“I wish I was there with you,” I tell her, sinking into my seat and running a hand through my hair.
“I wish you were here, too,” she says. “We all miss you and love you,” and I hear some rustling and a second later I hear my daughters yelling to me. This is when I feel the first tear stinging my eye but I try not to let it show. I’ll have the privacy to be emotional later. I tell them how much I love and miss them and promise to call them soon. Samantha talks to the girls for a moment and then I hear a much different voice greet me.
“Don’t worry, man, all your girls are well taken care of, I promise!” Joe is saying.
I smile widely, thankful that he is there and realize with a start that I had completely forgotten about Joe entirely. I tell him how grateful I am to him for being there when I cannot be and I end my conversation with my family on the promise I’ll call when I get to the hotel. I feel much lighter than before, knowing my family is in capable hands and I relax, knowing sooner or later I’ll get back home to my beautiful miracles.
Not for the first time in his life would Tom find his way down to a bar to distract himself. He was mostly a social drinker and he liked to keep it that way for the most part. He seldom saw a need to drown his problems in a bottle of alcohol but he supposed everyone had their weak moments when they just needed the distraction from life.
Tonight was no exception, and Tom knew that as he slid into a small table at the hotel bar and ordered his first drink that it was very much needed. It had been a long day and it was about to be a long night.
He had arrived here for location scouting three days beforehand and unfortunately were having little to no luck at all finding someplace either suitable for shooting (for aesthetic or functional reasons) or available for shooting. It was becoming incredibly tiresome and frustrating. He had figured that there was a good chance he would need to stay longer, but by the morning of the third day there he was sure of it.
He woke to this sad realization and what looked to be a pretty terrible day, weather wise, for the small island. Before he had a chance to really ascertain just how bad the weather was, he spent most of the first hour he was awake trying to gather the courage and fortitude it would take to call his wife and tell her that there was no way he was going to make it home today or within the next couple of days.
He was deeply saddened by this fact because, like any other time he left Samantha, no matter what the situation at home was, he missed her fiercely. He really didn’t think it would eat away at him the way it was because he was leaving a situation that could definitely use a break. It was as though his soul knew that she wasn’t there and was responding, despite what his stupid brain was trying to claim to the rest of his body. He wanted to be back home to her because no matter how bad things got, she was still his miracle, and she always would be.
He just wished that before he could get there he could muster the strength to just quit being a coward and talk to his wife. It killed Tom, but he knew that things were getting bad. He went over and over the scenario in his head as he got ready to go the next morning. He let the hot water of the shower pour down his aching back, his heart heavy as he remembered how Samantha had taken the news that he was planning on leaving on such short notice.
He’d expected her to scream, lash out, verbally assault him and tell him he was being a jackass. She would accuse him of keeping things from her and indirectly call him a liar without ever actually saying the word to his face. At some point, he would raise his voice to her and then they would realize they were getting too loud and move their conversation to their room or outside or wherever the closest safe zone was. Then after he screamed a little and she screamed a little more, she would cry, he would feel horrible, and one of them would initiate the tight embrace that would happen when they were calm and would eventually lead them to their reconciliation. That’s how it always went.
Until that night, when he looked at his wife, told her he needed to go soon because they couldn’t move forward with the project until he did, and flinched, waiting for the row to begin. The one that didn’t happen.
The most heartbreaking part of all of it was the fact that Samantha was seething. She was teaming with anger; he could see it in the way she balled up her fists, clenched her jaw, and the way the fire lit up her stormy espresso colored eyes. He prepared himself for it because he saw the words start on her full, rose colored lips, ready to lash out, but at the last second, she swallowed all of it and merely blinked at him, whispering, “Okay.”
Tom clenched his eyes shut at the memory. He had tried so hard to not think about that night while he was on his trip but conversely could sometimes think of nothing else. It was so unfair to have this hanging over his head. He really wished he could talk to her about it, tell her that it really bothered him that she hadn’t fought him on it and that he wanted the screaming, if only to assure himself that his wife still felt that passion for him that she always had.
It scared him more than anything in this entire world thinking that Samantha just didn’t care anymore.
He decided it was better not to discuss any of that while he was gone. He figured he would wait until he got home and he could have her close again before he told her any of his misgivings. He didn’t want her to slip away before he had a chance to show her how distraught he was over all of this and how sorry he was for his part in all of it.
He was so scared she’d reject him after all this time that he just wasn’t sure how to open up that conversation.
So he decided he would just go ahead and fake his way through the motions today. He was going to get this location found, whether he liked it or not, because he didn’t feel as though he could afford to be away from home for too much longer. He had this completely irrational fear that Samantha was going to forget about him completely if he wasn’t standing right there in front of her.
It didn’t take long, though, to realize that this dream of finding somewhere to shoot quickly was going to pan out. As soon as he met his team downstairs he was informed that the weather was starting to get worse and that it was very possible they wouldn’t be able to get a flight out for several days. This was bad enough to hear, because he knew that he was going to have to stay at least one more day anyway. Now he had absolutely no choice and it was a hard pill to swallow.
After hearing this, though, Tom was not swayed. He directed everyone to hurry up so that they could get going and at least get a little groundwork done today before the worst of the weather came down on them. There was reluctance because of the severity of the storm brewing outside but Tom was insistent. He was going to get as much work done as possible so that he could get home sooner. He hated that his personal life was interfering with work but there were time when that was bound to happen and he was fully accepting of it. Family came first when it was necessary.
It was necessary.
Finally, they were able to hit the road and things went from bad to worse. The sour mood Tom was already in was exacerbated by the constant obstructions they came across trying to drive in the torrential downpour coming in from the hurricane. Normally Tom liked to try and be as positive and upbeat as possible about everything, especially a film he was so passionate about, but it was really hard to feel optimistic about everything. He desperately longed for his family. He hadn’t left his eldest daughter on the greatest of terms, he missed his conversations with Izzie, and he wished things had been at least somewhat civil and stable with his wife. He needed to be home and he knew it had been a mistake to just jump into this trip without really thinking it through first.
So on top of the thoughts of his family back home without him, the barriers they continually hit because of the impending storm were a mitigating factor leading to his extreme annoyance.
It didn’t take much longer before Tom was about ready to throw in the towel. He and the crew were hungry, cold, and exhausted. The radio station was instructing that the worst of the storm was imminent, urging residents to find a safe place to ride out the storm. Before leaving the hotel, Tom and the crew were told there was a basement where the guests at the hotel would be evacuated. Tom didn’t care if it was a dingy, dimly lit place with a dirt floor at this point. He was ready to lie back and relax, call his wife and tell her what was going on, if only to hear her voice.
That was when the first hopeful moment of the night occurred. They saw a piece of land that was especially perfect for their filming needs, so they had to pull over and gather information so that they could see about shooting there in a month’s time. For a moment, as they were pulling over and heaving themselves out of the vehicle and into the pouring rain, Tom allowed himself to have a hopeful moment. Maybe out of this whole weather fiasco they’d actually find somewhere they were able to utilize.
Of course, as soon as he stepped out into the rain, Tom heard his phone go off and anxiously reached for it while trying to shield it from the buckets of water pouring from the sky. He nearly dropped it but managed to answer it before actually noticing who was calling.
Tom instantly felt awful for curtly greeting his wife because he was really happy to hear from her. It was serendipitous that she should call right then, since he was already planning on ringing her to discuss everything going on.
The silver lining in this terrible storm was the moment he got to hear the happiness in his wife’s voice. She was happy to talk to him. It put all of his previous fears to rest for just a second, but what happened next was so unfortunate that it was enough to ruin the rest of his night, causing him to wander into the bar for a much needed cocktail.
The conversation was short and broken up, which was frustrating for Tom because he really wanted to hear what his wife had to say about her book idea. She had struggled with the idea for so long and he was anxious to hear that she had actually found something she was excited about. For a second, he was lucky to have a decent enough signal to be able to hear her. But of course, it couldn’t be that simple. It was right when he was asking her about her it that the weather decided to pick up.
The wind was so intense that he was having a hard time hearing the people that were right next to him telling him they had to go before they were blown off the road, much less someone on his mobile that was a million miles away. He promised himself he wasn’t going to get upset about it, but all at once, the weather situation on the island culminating with the fact that he couldn’t listen to Samantha and give her the attention she deserved was too much and he lashed out at the nearest person.
“I’m really sorry, Samantha, but this is really quite a bad time for me right now!” Tom yelled. He wasn’t sure if it was coming off as callous, but he could barely hear a thing and screaming at the phone seemed to be the best way to ensure Samantha would actually hear him. The rain became unbearable as it fell against his exposed shoulders. He pushed the damp, dripping curls out of his eyes as he turned and heard one of his producers screaming at him that it was probably not a great idea to be out in this weather and they should go.
As they turned back to the vehicle Tom was aware his phone connection was getting bad again but he tried, in vain, to shout to Samantha on the other end before he lost the connection completely. “Listen, love, the weather here is terrible and I want to talk and I love you but I can’t hear you. The weather is absolutely horrifying and I keep coming up with these dumb ideas to go back out into it, so I can’t talk. I’ll try to call you later. I love you. Make sure you tell Emma and Izzie I miss them every day!” He took a deep breath, wishing he could continue to talk, if just to tell her how much he missed her and wanted to be there with her. The storm was becoming a little scary and it made him miss home that much more. “Samantha? Hello?” And with that, the connection was out and there was no more hope of being able to get her on the phone again.
The ride back to the hotel was full of its own obstacles and for the first time he started to feel a little bit afraid that he wouldn’t make it back safely. He went over and over the conversation with Samantha in his head and more and more he was beginning to realize how rude he had sounded. He couldn’t be sure if she’d heard every single word or if a lot of it had been broken up in transmission, but he knew the desperation and frustration he was feeling for the situation here probably reflected in his voice. He could only imagine that it made Samantha feel as though she were the target for this random hostility.
The moment he had a signal, he needed to make sure she was the first priority. He felt the sudden need to purge everything to her. Knowing that the weather was supposed to be nasty for a while, he didn’t think it was possible he’d be on a plane home soon. That terrifying realization that he didn’t know when he would see his family again was sobering enough to make him understand that he really just needed to get over his fears and talk to his wife. She was the most important person in the world to him, other than his daughters, and he wasn’t going to neglect her anymore.
Fortunately, they made it to the hotel in one piece. The storm wasn’t quite bad enough to warrant the basement evacuation but not long before they got to their rooms the power flickered and finally cut off completely. Tom sat in the darkness of his hotel room, playing with his phone, turning it on and off, hoping that the ‘No Service’ message at the top of his phone would disappear so he could call his wife and tell her he was sorry for cutting her off and that he was okay. All he wanted was to hear her voice, if only for a tiny second.
Before he had too long to wallow in this angry desperation, the power came back on and there was a lot of commotion in the hotel that he could hear clearly through the walls. Tom didn’t want to be part of the ruckus; he just wanted to be able to call home.
Try as he might, he could not seem to get the entire situation out of his head, his heart pounding nervously as the minutes ticked past. He imagined what Samantha must be thinking about their conversation. She must be furious with him, more so than usual, and he wanted to make absolutely sure that he never pushed her to the point where she was thinking of leaving him. It would, without a doubt, end his whole world to lose his soul mate.
But twenty minutes later he still couldn’t seem to push it out of his mind and calm himself down. It was so upsetting. He was usually the most positive person he knew. The one thing about his beautiful wife that sometimes drove him crazy was her tendency to over worry about things. There had been times in the past when she made herself sick over it, so he knew how to handle someone like that. Conversely, this made him that much calmer all of the time just in case he had to step in and help his wife through it. This meant whenever he did it, something must be seriously worrying him. This was definitely something he was going to make himself sick over.
It didn’t take long for Tom to realize that his best course of action was to just get out of the room and do something. They were confined to the hotel for now, so his options were limited. He didn’t want to give into it, but he felt that it was probably the only way he was going to feel better tonight. After a quick shower and a change of clothes, he left his room and headed down to the bar, not sure if doing this was anywhere near a good idea, but unable to stop himself.
The memories started coming up in his brain. He saw that night so many years ago when he told Luke that he needed to get out on his own for just a few minutes, have a drink, and just unwind. He didn’t even bother changing out of his suit from the day. He simply brushed his teeth, buttoned his coat, and made sure he didn’t smell too offensive before he left. He remembered wanting to get down there so quickly because he was afraid someone was going to stop him and invite him out, and he couldn’t say no just to go and have a drink alone. It seemed a little selfish to do that.
He wasn’t in a suit tonight but he was feeling equally as exhausted as he was that night so many years ago. He knew this time though that he wasn’t going to be running across any stunningly beautiful life-changing women. His heart skipped a beat as he remembered that a simple escape into a drink had actually turned out to be a good idea. That kind of luck only happened once, so there was probably nothing good that came out of going down to the bar tonight.
And he still had to.
So as soon as he walked in and saw most of his crew and several other hotel guests crowding the bar, he knew that he had not been the only one with this exact idea. This relaxed him, made him feel less like he was trying to run away from his personal problems and more like he was just trying to sit back after a long hectic day on the job.
Smiling, he walked over and greeted many of the crew members and put in his drink order. He decided he wasn’t going to drink anything too hard tonight. No need to repeat his exact actions in San Diego. He definitely wouldn’t get that lucky twice.
It didn’t take long before everyone was ready to head back up to their rooms and Tom was on his third beer and really starting to feel it. He was having a good time talking to his crew and he didn’t necessarily want the night to end yet. He hadn’t given the situation with his wife much thought and it was nice to have it off of his shoulders, if even for a second.
“Can I get another, please?” he said, turning to the bartender and handing over his empty bottle.
“We’re heading to bed, boss,” said his cinematographer, who clapped him on the back.
“All right,” he said, giving him his hand and shaking it. “You have a good night, Peter.”
“We will. See you tomorrow, we’ll figure this thing out,” he assured them, and the last few members of his crew turned around and walked out of the bar.
Tom turned back to receive his newly opened beer and took a deep swig. He was alone now in a hotel bar. It seemed like it would have been this way back in California if Samantha hadn’t been in there that night. He couldn’t help but think how lonely this was and he wished desperately he had Samantha there to distract him from his thoughts. Now that everyone was gone and not talking to him about the film he had time to refocus where he definitely did not want his thoughts wandering.
He knew that things needed to change the moment he got home. He had been still checking his phone, even though his head was even lighter than it had been with the previous beer, but he wanted to make sure he checked periodically to see if he could call home. He was still out of luck. The hotel was running on a back-up generator, so most of the island was still without power. He knew that it wouldn’t be until probably the next day that he would actually have the ability to even get through for a minute, and that was if he was lucky.
He sighed heavily, closing his eyes as he continued sipping. He wished he hadn’t run out at the last minute, maybe wait a moment and discuss it with his wife.
A cold chill swept through his body as he remembered the look on Samantha’s face after she resigned herself to the fact that this was happening. He was preparing himself for that fight and hadn’t even realized that he was hoping for it until she backed off completely and shut down. There was a quick second of insanity where he was thinking about reaching into that vault of unspeakable insults. Those few things that if said will cause an instant fight and an awful lot of anger and betrayal for having brought these things up again after agreeing not to. He thought, just for a second, that it was a good idea because he wanted her to lash out, show her passion, anything that would let him know she was still really in this with him.
He couldn’t blame her, though. He was being a coward again, avoiding talking to her for so many stupid reasons. He was too proud or too scared or whatever the excuse was this time, and he didn’t think it was even remotely redeemable at this point. Tom was so afraid to lose Samantha that it scared him blind to even think about starting that conversation because he was almost eighty percent sure that at this point it would end with her leaving.
Tom came back to himself and felt slightly faint. He peered down and saw that he had finished yet another beer and he pushed it away, debating on whether or not another one was a good idea. He was starting to feel the impending failure of his marriage weighing down on his chest, thinking about going on with the rest of his life without the woman there that had stolen his heart years before. What was he anymore without her? He was a husband and a father and he never wanted any other title more than those. If Tom had to give up the business for Samantha, Emma, or Izzie, he would do it in a heartbeat. They were the world to him and there wasn’t anything he wouldn’t do for his girls.
So why was it so hard to just talk to Samantha? Why did it have to be at all complicated? It was easy to fix and he just needed to stop being so stubborn about fixing it.
Feeling infinitely better, Tom bent over and requested one more drink. He was something of a lightweight when it came to alcohol because he didn’t drink very often and had a lower tolerance anyway. Back in his youth and the beginning days of his time in the business he was able to handle his liquor a lot better than he could now. Just because one of his drunken stupors had yielded positive results did not mean any other would.
Once his beer came he sat back and closed his eyes for a moment before taking a drink, just to clear his head. He was excited to get home to Samantha so that he could take her in his arms again and just tell her what she meant to him. He would spend some more quality time with his girls, because before they knew it Emma would be graduating from high school and be off to college.
He knew the moment Emma left he would be a basket case. He’d missed out on the most important formative years of her life and it caused him such guilt to have missed it that he was determined not to miss one more important moment. He and Izzie got along better because it was easier to find comfortable conversation, even though she was only seven years old. With Emma, it was different and it always had been. They used to talk about art and creativity and she used to ask for his help on occasion, but overall, Emma was more attached to Samantha. He understood and had no problem with it. It still made him feel insanely guilty, because if he had done what his gut told him to do the first time, he would have just turned right back around and took her with him to London. They would have been there when they found out she was pregnant, and instead of there being any fear or trepidation, they would embrace it excitedly, because he knew that both of them wanted to have a family so badly.
Tom was determined not to let this ruin his entire night. It was pointless to worry about it anymore. He couldn’t get a hold of Samantha anytime soon so he might as well wait and unwind for the night. Just as he was about to finish his beer and take off he heard someone sit down next to him and say, “What a terribly day, huh?”
He blinked a couple of times and looked down. His vision was starting to get blurry and he knew that one more drink and he would be over the edge. The person sitting next to him had said this and he recognized Malinda, the photographer that had been hired for the location scouting on this trip. Not only did they all have to approve of the location but the film studio had to approve as well because they would foot the bill for everyone to fly there and rent out whatever space it was they needed.
Matilda was young, much younger than him. He suspected she was somewhere in her mid-twenties, fresh out of college, and still so completely inexperienced in the business that he really felt like he was old and out of touch. She was short and blonde and reminded him so much of Samantha at times that it made his heart hurt. He found himself smiling, thinking of her as he turned to Malinda. “I would say so. I thought all of you had gone up to bed already.”
“Oh no, I actually just got down here,” she answered, and the bartender came by and asked her what she wanted. She opted for a beer as well and Tom reluctantly decided to put another order in, if not to just enjoy someone else’s company and stave off going back to an empty bed.
“Seems as though you have some catching up to do,” he said to her, a knowing smirk on his face.
“I don’t know if I’m going to do that much drinking tonight,” she told him. “I really don’t think it’s a good idea for me.”
Tom shrugged in response to this. “It’s been an awfully long weekend and I highly doubt we’ll get much done tomorrow,” he told her. “Don’t hold back on my account.”
It was Malinda’s turn to shrug. “I’ll give it some thought. What are you still doing down here if everyone else has gone to bed?”
“Honestly,” he began and Tom knew things were about to get hairy. The alcohol had once again loosened his tongue, except now he was expressing his thoughts to the wrong person. “I just… for a moment… I wanted to escape my reality. My head is full of the possible outcomes to this tension in my relationship with my wife… and I wanted to get away from it.”
Malinda frowned at him, appearing concerned. “Is everything all right?” she asked. “I know I’m young and you don’t know me very well, but you can feel free to talk to me. I’ll listen,” she added with a sincere smile.
Tom felt a little better about opening up after she said that and he took a deep breath, finally feeling the relief of being able to get this out and off of his chest. “It was, from the very beginning… Samantha and I don’t have the most traditional love story, but not for a second during our entire time together have we ever not wanted to be around each other. I mean, even when my wife was at her worst…” he trailed off and then chuckled to himself as he remembered all of the times he spent with Samantha when they were happy and desperately in love. “Even when we were expecting our daughter Isabella, we were crazy about each other and we still just wanted to be together. She was so adorable… For some reason, all throughout the pregnancy she craved chocolates. You know how it seems so cliché to have the husband wake up in the middle of the night to go fetch an insane food, but that’s really the way it went for a while. I was going out at all hours to bring home bulk candies and chocolates and most of the time she’d eat like four of them and then go right back to sleep and then forget she had them until the next day when she’d eat all of them and then skip dinner.” He paused to laugh at the memory and then came back to the present, noticing that Malinda was politely watching and not saying anything while he ranted. He instantly felt like an idiot.
“I’m so sorry,” he said, clearing his throat. “I didn’t mean to just go off like that.” He wrapped his right hand around his cold beer bottle and stared at it, feeling sheepish. “I’m sure you don’t want to hear about my wife’s peculiarities.”
“No, no, it’s fine,” she assured. “The way you talk about her, it’s sweet,” she said, and Tom lifted his head up to stare at her. Her dark blue eyes were bright as she smiled at him. Another pain shot through his heart as he recognized his wife in her slight mannerisms, even down to the lip she bit as she tried to find a way to answer him. “It’s intense, like you can’t breathe without her or something.”
Tom smiled his wide grin at her. “You have a way with words, you do.”
“I just see what I see,” she said modestly, shrugging her shoulders and taking another pull at her beer.
“You are quite observant then,” he said, tipping his head and beer to her.
“Thank you, sir,” she said, smiling.
He shook his head. “No ‘sir’ just ‘Tom,’ all right? I’m just a typical man, nothing more than that.”
Malinda scoffed at this. “You, typical? I don’t think so. You’re a legend.”
“Listen,” he said, adjusting himself. His head was swimming so much now that he knew he was beyond the point he wanted to be for the evening. He’d overdid it with this last one, one that he wasn’t even halfway through yet. There was no way he was going to feel all right in the morning. “Right now, we’re two people in a bar. I am a man, talking to a woman, not making a movie or doing anything else like that. We could be anyone in the world. So I’m just Tom.”
Malinda giggled and leaned in a little closer. Tom’s eyes crossed just for a second and when he was readjusting his vision he saw, for the briefest instant, he saw the visage of his wife. He saw her just as she was that first night, her bright blonde hair caressing the soft lines of her face. Her rose red lips pursed and ready, her dark, coffee brown eyes curious and cautious as they swept through the bar. He even saw the vivid fuchsia of her form hugging dress, accentuating her most obvious, supple assets.
He felt himself getting excited for all the wrong reasons, so he sat back, blinked and then tried to shake the image of Samantha from his head before things became very confusing. The woman he was talking to was not his wife. She was essentially a complete stranger and not someone that he knew well enough to truly express everything to.
And he certainly didn’t need to be feeling sexual about her in any way, shape or form, no matter who she thought she was and which woman was actually triggering the thoughts. Tom couldn’t deny that it had been quite a long time since he and his wife had actually slept together and it was frustrating. Tom was not a man that took sex lightly. He wasn’t in it purely for the physical gratification. He much preferred the idea of making love, being close to the person you love most in this world and then waking up with that person still in your arms. What was the point if there wasn’t closeness?
Tom knew that what he really missed with his wife was the closeness. As he stared at this woman that reminded him so much of his companion, he realized that he just wanted to feel like someone was there for him. He knew that for the most part, he was the one lacking on communication and actually opening up to Samantha to figure things out, but he was also suffering the loss of his wife’s emotional attachment as well. If she would have said something when she knew things were getting bad, it would have been avoided as well, but he couldn’t fault her for that. They were both proud, stubborn people. It was what they loved about one another but also one of the most troubling matters they had to contend with.
“Are you all right, sir?”
Tom blinked and brought himself back to the present again. “Yes, yes, I’m sorry, I’m fine, and please call me Tom. I absolutely insist.” He emphasized this last one with a pat on the woman’s hand and without meaning to, he snatched his hand away as though he had been burned at the contact. He couldn’t deny that it felt nice to be affectionate with someone. “I-I’m sorry,” he said again. “I didn’t mean to make you uncomfortable.”
“You didn’t,” she insisted to him. “Don’t keep apologizing. If you need to talk to someone, I’m here. I have nowhere to go. Bend my ear all you want.”
Tom heaved a sigh and began to talk despite the promises he made to just keep it to himself. In the course of the conversation he finished his beer and did get somewhat drunker, almost to the point where he was starting to make no sense and didn’t have the best judgment. All he knew was that it was nice to be able to sit and talk to someone, someone who would listen and not judge or get angry or yell at him and that would finally understand what he was going through, instead of just constantly denying the fact that he could feel anything. Just because he was generally much more optimistic and upbeat about situations than she was didn’t mean he couldn’t feel the stress start to affect him negatively. No one was that strong. It just seemed as though Samantha was so used to relying on him for strength that she forget to let him rely on her sometimes, too.
It was cathartic getting these feelings out but Tom knew he would regret his actions the next morning. He was aware that he couldn’t make rational decisions and hoped as he continued to watch Malinda’s face morph into Samantha’s and back again that Tom was able to differentiate her tonight.
After a certain point though that, like Samantha had, he would just stop caring