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Emotions at War

Desire and Guilt are fierce opponents in the battleground of the mind.

By Aythan MaconachiePublished about a month ago 10 min read
Top Story - June 2024
Emotions at War
Photo by Andrik Langfield on Unsplash

It was work, but not work. It was Tuesday, but not Tuesday. It was mid-afternoon, but the sun was already down. Everything was uncertain. Everything except her.

There she stood in perfect light – hair straight and long, dress clean and pressed. She reached out towards him, her soft manicured hands making contact with his shoulders.

She wanted him. And he couldn’t deny it: he wanted her. She leant forward and their lips locked in a lengthy, lustful kiss. He could feel her as she pressed her body in closer. Thin cloth barely separated them as they exchanged their passions in the breakroom that wasn’t the breakroom…

RING-A-DING-ding-ding! RING-A-DING-ding-ding!

Logan lurched awake, his alarm ringing on the table beside him. Drearily, he smacked his phone, not knowing if he hit Stop or Snooze, and turned over the other way. Stacey was still asleep, immune to the shrill noises put out by his alarm. Guilt gripped his gut as he thought about the dream. It was, he couldn’t deny, a great dream; he would be lying if he said otherwise. But it wasn’t his wife that he’d been dreaming about, despite her lying right next to him in the bed. And, though he’d done nothing inherently wrong, he felt like he’d betrayed her.

His heart beat fast as Stacey stirred and a silent sorry slipped his lips. He loved his wife and he’d do anything for her, and he would never do anything to hurt her. And yet, deep down inside, he had the troubling knowledge that he was only human. Temptations were tactful, slippery little creatures that liked to weave their way into a mind the moment it let down its guard. And that worried him.

***

“Are you ok?” Simon asked, frowning. “You seem a bit off today.”

Logan looked up from his lunch and stopped prodding it with his fork. He glanced to his right, where she stood, over in the kitchen, drinking a cup of coffee. A quick flutter of unwanted butterflies tickled his insides. He looked back at Simon and nodded. “Yeah, I’m just tired.”

Picking back at his food, he subtly glanced again. He’d worked with Clara every day for the past eleven months, and he’d formed quite a good working relationship with her. He’d always thought she was pretty, but over time, the more they talked, the more his opinion of her grew. And before long, without any conscious attempt at all, she’d carved out a tiny section of his heart and had settled right in.

Last night was not the first night that he’d dreamed of her. Last night was, however, the first night he’d dreamed of them being that close. He could feel Desire playing with Temptation, ricocheting through his body like a bouncy ball thrown in a small room. And Guilt and Shame played right alongside them as he thought about Stacey and everything they’d been through together. It was almost too much to handle. It was making him exhausted.

Taking a deep breath, he allowed himself one more half-glance, before scolding himself internally. He was married. He was happy. He didn’t need to be looking elsewhere. And yet… Staring at his food, he wondered if he believed what he was saying.

***

“What’s wrong?” Clara asked. She sat opposite him, in a pub that wasn’t a pub, alcohol and perfume strong in the air. Her deep brown eyes stared at him sharp and clear, contrasted with the uncertainty of the background. Logan felt his heat beat faster.

“I have a wife…” He said, severely conflicted. He didn’t know what more to add. He knew this was a dream, and he knew that the right thing to do would be to wake up before anything happened. And yet… he didn’t want to. His desires were in perfect balance with his guilt, resulting in him doing nothing.

“But does she make you happy?” Clara asked and frowned. She stood up and walked around to sit next to Logan, on a seat that was not there before. She reached out and put her hands over his, her soft fingers barely touching, her fake nails subtly scratching his skin, sending a stream of sensation flowing, fluttering, down his forearm and flowering into his chest. He could feel her breath on his neck and her hair against his shoulder. He wanted nothing more than to pull her close and hold her tight and never let her go. And yet he hesitated. A tiny part of him heedfully held him back.

Clara leant in and kissed his cheek. Logan felt all the guilt wash away as he turned and kissed her slowly. Her lips were soft, her breath was warm, and her skin smooth as she–

RING-A-DING-ding-ding! RING-A-DING-ding-ding!

Logan opened his eyes and sighed. He lay there for a moment before turning his alarm off. He glanced over, realising that Stacey wasn’t there. A moment later he heard a flush and she appeared at the door of the ensuite, wearing nothing but her pants.

“They were some interesting grunts.” She commented as she climbed back into bed beside him. “I hope you were dreaming about me…”

Logan forced a smile he hoped she’d believe. “Always.” He replied and looked away immediately. Guilt ate away at him like an acid, Shame pulling on puppet strings connected to his pupils, forcing him to avoid eye contact. He rolled back the other way and stared into darkness. What was wrong with him? He replayed that moment over and over again in his mind, the one from the dream with the question he refused to answer honestly.

“But does she make you happy?”

***

“Is everything ok?” Clara asked. “I feel like you’ve been avoiding me for some reason…”

The air was cold and the sun was bright, a cool crisp Winter’s morning. Clara was dressed in one of her usual dresses, though unlike his dreams, she also wore warm tights and a long thick coat. She’d happened to arrive at the office at the same time as him. There was no way to avoid her this morning.

“Sorry, I’ve just had a lot going on…” He replied. He felt his heart race and his body yearn – just being in her presence was torture, let alone talking to her. The things he wanted to do with her, the things he’d imagined doing with her… He was embarrassed, as if she could read his mind. It was starting to affect their friendship, he knew it was, but he couldn’t help it. He was worried he’d do something that he couldn’t retract. It was all just becoming too much.

“Is everything alright with Stacey?” Clara asked innocently, completely oblivious to the battle raging inside Logan’s mind. She was sweet, and it was clear she cared for him. Her personality only made him like her more.

“Yeah, she’s all good.” Logan said back, putting on a smile. “How’s Kevin and Xenia?”

“Uh… Xenia’s good.” Clara replied with a hesitation. Her smile wavered for a moment.

“But not Kevin…?” Logan asked carefully and slowly.

“Uh, yeah, he’s fine too…” She said unconvincingly. She looked back at him and frowned. “Actually, about that… I was wondering if I could talk to you about something...”

Clara was fidgeting with her bag as she spoke, like she was struggling to get her words out. She looked down and avoided eye contact as Logan’s heart leapt at the possibility of what would be said next. Date? His brain asked stupidly and hopefully. Sex? His gut asked hungrily and obnoxiously. He tried to shoo away the nasty thoughts as she continued.

“Actually, maybe it’s better we talk a bit later.” She said. Logan’s heart dropped with disappointment. “Do you want to go to the pub after work and chat?” She added and Logan’s heart leapt again.

“Wha-uh, just you and me?” Logan fumbled awkwardly. He hoped she wouldn’t notice.

“We’ve worked together for a while now…” Clara said, more timid than usual. “I don’t know about you, but I’d call us friends. It would be good to catch up somewhere away from everyone else…”

“Uh, sure…” Logan said back. Thoughts and emotions swirled inside him all jumbled up, chaotic, like a tornado hitting a small village. Clara nodded.

“I’ll see you later then.” She said and shot him a quick smile. She then turned and hurried inside without saying another word. Logan just stood there dumbly.

***

Logan stared at Clara and blinked a couple of times. “I’m sorry, what?”

Clara shifted uncomfortably, staring at the pint of cider in front of her. She played with the condensation on the side of the glass as she spoke, again avoiding eye contact.

“I’m thinking of divorcing Kevin.” She repeated. Her face was red and it was clear that her heart was racing. “I’ve been thinking about it for a while actually…”

Logan sat there not knowing what to think. He felt confused about her words and at the same time, selfishly, a little happy knowing that soon she may be single. But Guilt was his constant companion too – every time he looked at Stacey on the lock screen of his phone, every time he got home from work, every minute he sat next to her watching TV in the evenings. He wasn’t lying to himself when he said he loved her, he knew that. But they had been together so long now that things were a bit normal… a bit safe. Clara was something new, something exciting. And his brain and his heart were working side by side to try and convince him to break his wedding vows. He worried it may be a losing battle.

“Uh… I don’t know what to say…” Logan fumbled as he looked back at her. “I’m sorry to hear that…? Uh…”

“It’s ok, I know it’s a lot to suddenly tell someone.” Clara said back and looked up at him. “But I don’t really have many friends, especially none as close as you. I felt like you were the only one I could talk to about it. Actually I felt like you were the only one I wanted to talk to about it. I feel like we’ve got a special bond or something… I’m sorry, does that sound cheesy?” She looked away and blushed, clearly embarrassed.

“It’s ok.” Logan reassured her. He nearly choked on his next words. He felt like Stacey was trying to hold them in his throat as he added, “I feel the same way. If you need anything, I’m here for you.”

Clara looked back at him, relief and joy plastered across her face. “I’m here for you too.” She said and smiled. “For anything you need. And if we’re being honest…” She took a deep breath and blinked a hard blink before continuing. “I… well…”

She struggled to get her words out. She looked away like she was scolding herself as Logan frowned. Clara took a deep breath and stood up. Awkwardly she walked around the table, leant over, and pressed her lips firmly onto his.

Logan nearly fell off his chair in shock. He’d been dreaming every night about something like this but he never believed it would ever be reality. Clara quickly withdrew and sat down again. She looked away immediately.

“I’m sorry…” She said as she blushed again. “I know you’re married. I just… want to be close to someone who cares…”

“But… Kevin?” Logan’s brain was struggling to catch up or even form full sentences. Nevertheless she understood what he meant.

“Kevin only cares about Kevin.” She said, looking back at her untouched drink. “He has no time for me. And when he does he’s only criticising me and putting me down. He really knows how to use guilt as a weapon… I don’t want Xenia growing up around someone like that. She’s only three right now – I feel like it would be better to divorce now rather than waiting. At least at her age she can’t ask questions like, ‘Are mummy and daddy divorcing because of me?’

“I…” Logan’s brain was still struggling to catch up. “I’m sorry, this is all so much…”

“I know, and I’m sorry.” Clara looked at him and smiled a sympathetic smile. “Maybe think about it.” She took a deep breath. “I want to be closer to you. It’s up to you what that looks like.”

A silence filled the space between them as Clara drank her cider. Before long she finished it off and stood up. As she went to walk past him, she stopped and looked down at him, awkwardly touching him on his shoulder.

“Think about it.” She repeated and walked out of the pub.

Logan’s mind raced. What the hell was he supposed to do now?

***

That night was the first night in a long time where he didn’t dream. He didn’t dream of Clara. He didn’t dream of anything. And that’s because all night he stayed awake, thoughts and feelings, emotions and logic all battling it out across the landscape of his brain. Together they’d beaten down Sleep, tied him up and thrown him in a dungeon far out of reach.

Around 6am, Logan heard Stacey stir beside him and drearily climb out of bed. He didn’t turn to face her. He couldn’t right now. He listened to her as she shuffled across the carpet and into the ensuite.

Absentmindedly he checked his phone. He had one notification. A message from Clara that he’d avoided reading in the app all night, yet he’d read it over and over on his lock screen. She’d sent it shortly after she left the pub. It simply read, “Think about it.”

Suddenly he heard an unfamiliar sound, as Stacey threw up into the toilet. Frowning with concern, he put the phone back down and turned it over. A few moments later as Stacey got back into bed, he asked her, “Are you ok?”

Even in the dim light he could see that her face was red. She also looked a little bloated, as if she’d been inflated slightly with a bicycle pump. She looked back at him.

“I was waiting to tell you tomorrow when we went out for date night.” She said after drinking from her water bottle. Logan’s heart beat fast and his stomach dropped. Nervousness, Excitement, Guilt and Shame all waited in anticipation of her next words. He knew what she was about to say.

“I’m pregnant.”

Short Story

About the Creator

Aythan Maconachie

As an Australian writing hobbyist, I'm a big fan of alliteration, rhyming, and thinking outside the box. Writing for me is like going to the gym for my mind - stretching my imagination, lifting my inspiration, and flexing my creativity.

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Comments (13)

  • Dr. Jason Benskin26 days ago

    Congratulations on having your story featured as a top story on Vocal! This is a remarkable achievement, and it's clear why your work has received such recognition. Your storytelling is truly exceptional. The narrative was not only compelling but also beautifully crafted, holding my attention from start to finish. The way you developed the characters and plot was masterful, making the story both engaging and thought-provoking. Your unique voice and perspective shine through, setting your work apart. It’s evident that you poured a lot of passion and effort into this piece, and it has certainly paid off. I look forward to reading more of your incredible stories in the future. Keep up the fantastic work! Best regards, Dr. Jay

  • Golam Kibriaabout a month ago

    Write more stories like this

  • Ameer Bibiabout a month ago

    Well described and lesson learned story BTW many congratulations on the

  • MrZabiabout a month ago

    Such a amazing Story Keep Uploading

  • Kabir Khanabout a month ago

    Awesome

  • ROCK about a month ago

    New subscriber here; excellent writing!

  • Kendall Defoe about a month ago

    Excellent work!

  • Muhammad Safdarabout a month ago

    Great story

  • Belleabout a month ago

    I love this! The way you portrayed the dreamscape versus reality was perfect! I love the cliffhanger at the end!!

  • CHRISTIAN Pabout a month ago

    Nice work 👍

  • Margaret Brennanabout a month ago

    Absolutely awesome.

  • JBazabout a month ago

    GreT interaction with a dream character vs reality. Truly a guilt laden dream spilling over to his real life. Nice dialogue exchange. Very interesting ending Congratulations

  • Dylan about a month ago

    Fantastic story! Crazy cliffhanger at the end.

Aythan MaconachieWritten by Aythan Maconachie

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