Love Knows, Love Fights, and Love Comforts
Philip stared at the empty garbage pail, its bright white inner wall and spotless lip, and tried to restrain the little bomb of anger that had just exploded in his belly. He turned around, facing the hall, and was about to shout his wife’s name before she appeared in the kitchen doorway.
His tension softened slightly when he saw her; Kiera leaned against the jamb, one thumb hooked into the waistband of her light blue workout pants, capsizing them slightly and creating a space between the cloth and her dark beige hipbone. She wore one of his white dress shirts, just three or four buttons fastened. A large art-nouveau necklace shimmered in the soft light of late afternoon. Etched in solid bronze, a goddess's face, her hair flowing in waves that formed butterfly wings, wobbled well below shoulder level where its pewter chain came to a point.
“What do you think?”
“It looks amazing on you.”
“You sure know what I like, you must be a pretty good listener.”
“So are you,” Philip said, looking through her and then back at the garbage pail, back at the feelings of a moment ago. Even though it was Friday and his work was over early, he looked hot and uncomfortable in his wool business suit. The jacket clung to his broad but stooped shoulders. At least he had removed his necktie and unbuttoned one shirt button, exposing a whisper of his upper chest. His mouth was open, face red, hands fidgeting like two Bedouins at an empty well.
Kiera straightened her stance, the waistband lingering beneath the edge of her hip. She said quickly, quietly, “Whatsthematterbaby?”
“You…I’m sure you meant to…never mind sweetie. It’s nothing.” He bent his back, opening the cupboard beside his knees.
“No baby. You can tell me, I can take it,” she said. Her hands rose slightly, alighting across her midsection as though to brace herself for what Philip had to say.
He pulled out the box of garbage-bags, foolishly trying to extract one in a nonchalant, unbothered manner. But Philip’s knuckles were as white as the daylight; he couldn’t get a grip on even one plastic bag inside the box labeled “GLAD.”
“Oh,” Kiera said, gliding across the room to him. Her little hands landed on his, warm and soft like sunshine. Between her acorn-shaped fingernails she drew forth the bag as though it was a pair of stockings from within the plastic egg.
“Thank you,” Philip said. “It’s just…I wish you could…”
“What?” she said, fidgeting, placing one hand inside the little pocket on her left front thigh. “Tell me.”
“What I mean is…we both have to…we should both try to remember to put a new bag in when we take the garbage out.”
“Did I forget again? I’m sorry, babe, I can always tell when something’s bothering you. You can’t hide from me.” She reached for the bag.
He tossed it to the floor. “I lost that freedom long ago, and now I couldn’t live without you,” Philip said, running his hand through his black shock of pomaded hair.
“Baby, what’s the matter?” she said again, patiently speaking the individual words this time, as one speaks to a child.
“It’s not the trash, it’s nothing you’ve done.”
“Babe, then tell me what it is.” Kiera wrapped her arms lightly around his waist. He stopped shifting for a moment and looked her in the eyes. “It’s work, isn’t it?” she said again. “You know, when I was going to acupuncture school, you were always there for me, to listen to me whine about my teachers and coworkers and hours.”
“That was different,” he said. Kiera’s eyelids narrowed.
“What do you mean?” She pulled back just slightly, to see all of his face at once.
“You were…two steps away from getting a job, and I’ve just been fired.” Then, his face fell as he pretended to pull away from her, knowing she wouldn’t let him, but needing to know yet again.
“I’m sorry, babe,” she said, pulling him back in, close to her, against her body, pulling his arms around her so his tall frame could cling to her completely. Running her hand through his hair, Kiera ached for him; she’d always known this day was coming.
“It isn’t fair,” Philip said, his hands tightening into fists. He held her tightly, plunging his face where her neck and shoulder met, and couldn’t help but kiss her. But he sobbed a little as he did so, a few tears soon rolling down that shoulder like boats on a channel.
“It’ll be okay,” she said. “He didn’t appreciate you, he hardly even paid you enough, the amount of work you did for him.”
“I know.” Philip felt his knees wanting to buckle; he held on more tightly to his wife. “But I…I would’ve done it for nothing, he knows it's been my passion since high school! Why would he keep me from my passion?”
“He’s just…you can’t make…you can’t spend too much time thinking about it, babe, it’ll just drive you crazy trying to figure out how he thinks. He’s just like that, he likes to confound people.”
“I don’t mind going crazy, I just…it would just be nice if he could…just once…” He felt himself rise as if with a fever, and then, seeing the man's face in his mind, some god of sorrow poured a jar of tears through his eyes.
“You’ll find another job, baby, you’re qualified up the yinyang, remember that.”
“What other jobs are there for me? He’s my only real boss, probably wouldn’t even act as a reference on my resume.”
Kiera was silent for moment; what he said was very likely true. She pulled him away, slightly but firmly. “You don’t need him,” she said, staring into his eyes. “He doesn’t respect you, or understand what you’re capable of, he doesn’t appreciate you…" Her manner, her tone of voice escalated with each statement, her eyes beginning to rim red as she contemplated the man in question. "He doesn't live for other people, he acts like he doesn't need them. I’ve met people like him my whole life and I’ve never been sure if they’re even capable of love.”
Philip pulled away even more. “Don’t talk about my father that way!”
“Why not?” Kiera said, letting go completely. “He’s been doing this to you your whole life, I’ve been here watching it happen for four years now.”
“He does love me, he loves the hell out of me, he says it all the time, ever since I was a little kid, he just…you just have to understand about him…” But his mind was drained.
“Babe, people believe the way the act and they act the way they believe, and this ain’t no act of love, this is just him trying to control you, to make you feel bad, the way everyone in your life has acted towards you. He’s no different. He’s no different from any of them.”
“He raised me,” Philip said, slamming his open hand into the countertop, rattling the plates in the drying rack, his thick high school ring threatening to chip the formica.
“He raised you into a cripple, Phil! Afraid of what he thinks of you your whole life. That's how he wanted it. He never did you any favors and he certainly never showed me any love either, like how about coming to your son’s wedding? That would’ve been a nice gesture, wouldn’t it?”
Philip mumbled something; it sounded like the affirmative.
“You’ve been through too much to put up with him forever. He wants you to be a cripple, but you’re not, baby. He is. You’re not. You’re strong. You’ve always been strong, what you’ve put up with.”
Philip simply stared out the window at the incipient Friday twilight, his sad, laden thoughts weighing down his brain. Kiera stood by the refrigerator, hands on her temples. But when she saw his despondency, she grew close to him again, placing her hand on his stubbly cheek.
He wiped a few tears away from his hot face, saying, “I’m sorry.”
“I’m sorry, too. I don’t mean to hurt you.”
“I know, you help me, you’re the only one who helps me.”
“That’s all I want.”
Philip took a breath, composed himself, looking into her eyes like a boy looking for treasure. “It’ll be okay,” he said, softly caressing the angles of her cheeks and chin, neck and jawline.
“Of course it will,” she said. A few tears had rolled down his face onto his chest; she unbuttoned another button and brushed them away before Philip leaned in and kissed her.
The kiss continued as the clock ticked, and again he wrapped his arms around her. Yet in the next several seconds or minutes, his formerly failing fingertips unfastened the last three buttons of her borrowed shirt under the approving eye of the butterfly goddess, which he didn't dare remove, while Keira freed him of his suit jacket and his own white shirt, their lips and bodies remaining unchanged for the next several hours.
About the Creator
I'm working on my webnovel, "Binary Shadows: The Prize of the Cybernaughts." I have 47,000 words so far. Once I reach 100,000, I'll start posting it on Royal Road.
I like....lots of things.
IG and TW: @aulos.media
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