Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Kimmydon Week 33: Counting


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Picture 2

Kimmydon's Choice: both


Something was bothering Beth. I didn’t know what, but she’d been preoccupied for a week. She was jumpy, too, unusual for her. Tonight was my night in the gym. She was catching a ride with Mary to a girls’ night at the movies and would meet me at home. Gary sensed my discomfort, which stemmed from hers.

“What’s gotten up your butt?” he asked as I was spotting him on the bench press.

“Nothing,” I mumbled.

“Bullshit. Something’s wrong.”

“Something, but I don’t know what,” I admitted nervously.

He smiled and pushed the bar up again. “Don’t like the unpredictability of married life?”

I snorted. “Yeah, really unpredictable.” I guided it back into it’s rest.

He chuckled. “I suppose. Go to work, go to bed, go to work, go to bed, sex on Tuesdays.”

I punched him in the gut.

He grunted and laughed harder. “Oh? Thursdays, too?”

I shook my head. “You don’t know half.”

“Oooh, that means four days a week. Are they scheduled?” His grin wasn’t malicious at all, just teasing.

“Only a few. I mean, if she’s going to tie me up, we need to know we’ll have time.”

He choked on the water he’d just drank. “What?! Shit, man, you can’t drop something like that on me with no warning. What the hell?!”

I shrugged. “I said ‘if.’” I grinned suggestively now.

“Oh, man, that’s just fucked up. You let her tie you up? What does she do to you?”

I silently took my place under the bar and began lifting. “We can do a lot in a year.” Had it really been that long since I invited her in and refused to let her go? Counting reps, I also counted months. At twelve, I put the bar down. “Yeah, a year. Wow.”

Gary still had a stupid look on his face. “What does she do to you?”

I sneered at him. There was no way I was going into detail. “What, you have no imagination? Google it, jeez.”

He didn’t ask anymore. He didn’t say much of anything for the rest of the evening and ran for the showers as soon as we were done. I decided to run the elliptical a little longer.

How long had Beth been acting differently? When had it started? I couldn’t quite pin down a day, but it had been last week. Had anything else changed? Work was the same, end of quarter messes to untangle. Those usually made her happier though. Home was good. Some small repairs to the house, nothing major, nothing we couldn’t handle ourselves. Her family was good, at least the last time I saw them. Hell, Terry had visited just a few weeks before, so she wasn’t missing him either. What was it, and why did it continue to bother her?

When something tripped her up, she might be out of sorts for a day or two, until she nailed down what it was and how to fix it. Like when we found out that we had a pipe leaking in the basement. We knew something was wrong down there, and there were couple uneasy nights. As soon as she located the leak, though, everything smoothed out. We got supplies, made repairs, done and done. It had to be people related. Maybe Jamie? Something was going on with her and Brian.
I remembered Beth coming home in a horrible state one day, but she wouldn’t tell me what had happened. Just that it involved Jamie, Brian and Mary. How that worked, I didn’t know. If Gary did, he wasn’t saying. My guess was he didn’t either. Maybe a date mishap? She was supposed to go out with Brian but made plans with Mary by mistake? Knowing Jamie, it could be anything. She didn’t seem to stay put on anything for long.

Worn out, I hit the showers. My phone had a text on it.

Home early. Going to bed. Don’t wake me? -B

Don’t wake her? Something was seriously wrong. I skipped the shower, thinking to do it when I got home.

Tiptoeing into our room, I did my best to obey her request. She was sobbing very quietly into her pillow.

“Beth? Baby, what’s wrong?” I knelt by the bed, stroking her hair and back.

She stilled quickly. “Nothing. It’s not wrong. It’s fine. I just... I’m not ready yet.”

Frowning, not knowing what to say to that, I kissed her head. “Tell me when you are, please. I want to help.”

She nodded, sniffling. “Ewww. Go shower,” she complained turning her head.

I chuckled and obeyed.

The next morning she seemed to be doing better. Up before me, as usual, she had made breakfast, something she hadn’t done in a few days. No big deal, we just grabbed something on the way, but it had been one of the signs something was up. Maybe it was sorting itself out?
I didn’t say anything during breakfast or the drive to work, afraid of setting her off, but I made a point to ask her on the way home. Not being able to help her was driving me insane.
She buckled up after work, smiling. “Good day?” she asked.

I shrugged. “Usual. Looks like you had a good one.”

She grinned. “Yep, fixed up the files Finance screwed over, got a new program from one of the analysts that’s going to make my life SO much easier. Good day.” She leaned over and kissed my cheek, her hand on my thigh.

It felt like a weight had lifted with that simple gesture. It seem that whatever had been looming over both of us was gone. Of course, I still had no idea what it was, and that bothered me.

“Beth,” I asked, “what’s up?”

She looked at me quizzically. “Up?”

“Last night, last week, you haven’t been yourself.” I ran a hand over her ear, tucking her hair back.

She pinched her lips together, an anxious expression for her. “I... I’m not sure.... Not yet,” she whispered at the end.

I sighed heavily. “Okay.”

She smiled again, seemingly throwing the worry away. Her behavior was so ordinary, I didn’t really think of it again until we were in bed, after we were in bed. She was naked, slick with sweat, head resting on my chest, the smell of us strong in the air. I kissed the top of her head and remembered the night before. Sleep eluded me as she drooled slightly, lost in her dreams.

In the morning, Saturday, I was groggy, cranky, and my wife was gone. I growled as I threw on pants and shirt. I didn’t bother with my hair, a true sign of my irritation, and thumped down to find her. The car was still in the garage, so she’d walked wherever she’d gone. I pulled out, circling the neighborhood. As I drove, I called her friends.

“Mary? It’s Peter. Did Beth have plans with you this morning? She didn’t mention where she was headed.” I tried not to sound like an over-protective or jealous husband. I doubt I succeeded.

“Not me.”

“Do you know if she had plans with Jamie?”

I heard her cough suddenly. “Um, no, I don’t know of any. I’m going to have to let you go, Peter. Sorry, water’s boiling.” The line disconnected. That was weird. I headed to her place, thinking maybe Beth had gone there and she was covering for her or something.

Mary’s car was absent from in front of her building and I dialed up Jamie as I headed to her place. Something was definitely going on.


“Jamie, do you know where Beth is?”

“I am not her mother, Peter. She is not here and you can keep right on driving.” I shook my head as the line went dead again. She was so strange. Mary’s car was parked outside the building. I found a spot and climbed the stairs.

My phone rang as I finished the first flight. “She is not here.” Jamie said in a flat tone. I continued to climb and she stood in the open door, dressed in a robe. “You know you are being ridiculous,” she said, not looking at me and turning back into the apartment. Mary sat with Brian, who I’d only met a couple times before, at the kitchen table, both sipping coffee. Mary’s mug had an interesting heart-shaped handle that would have suited Beth.

“Water’s boiling?” I asked Mary, cocking an eyebrow.

“How do you make coffee?” she asked, her blonde hair fell forward to hide her face.

I turned to the man. “Brian. I’m sorry to interrupt, but the way these two were dodging me, I thought for sure she was here.”

He nodded, but didn’t seem to want to answer.

“Sorry to bother all of you,” I grumbled and turned to leave. It was only then that I noticed Jamie stroking Mary’s back and whispering something to her. Mary leaned into the other woman’s belly, and hugged her around the waist, burying her face in the robe.

“Is she okay?” I asked Brian.

“She will be,” he said, not looking away from his coffee.

“Peter,” Jamie said with a sad sigh. What had brought her down all of a sudden? With Jamie, who knew. “She’s at her high school, JFK. Get out of here, please.”

“Why didn’t you tell me that-”

“Because I just figured it out!” she snapped at me. “Get the hell out of my house, Peter!” She shoved me suddenly and I stumbled out the door, which slammed in my face. So strange.

Realizing once again that I would never understand her, I ran down the flight to my car. I knew where JFK was, although I’d gone to Middleton High myself.

I saw her, leaning on a rail, staring out over the nearly leafless trees. They were shedding their foliage earlier this year. What was she doing? What was going on? I climbed slowly, making sure she saw and heard me approach.

“Beth? Are you okay?” I asked before reaching out to hug her.

She smiled and opened her arms to me. “Do you know what today is?” she asked.

I held her waist in my hands and tipped my head to hers in relief. “What is today?” I didn’t even try to guess. One year since our walk in the park? One year since we went fishing?

“Today is the day I finally got the courage to check.”

My brow furrowed. “Check what?”

She reached into her pocket and pulled out a stick. “Do you think he or she might come here one day?”

I stared at the pregnancy test, utterly flabbergasted.

What was different in the last week? She hadn’t had a period....