I watch her as she dresses in front of the full length mirror that hangs from our bedroom door.
She slips first one smooth, well defined leg into the silky black dress, then the other. She pulls it up, giving a slight wiggle of the hips as the thin material catches, and then fastens it across her creamy, unblemished shoulder.
“You look beautiful”, I say calmly but on the inside I am screaming.
“Let’s work this out” I want to say, “There’s still something good here and with a little effort, we can make it work. I love you so much and the thought of being without you is tearing me apart, you are my heart and soul and I can’t live without you!”
I look at his reflection in the mirror and smile coolly but politely. “Thank you”, I reply while inside my heart breaks.
“Don’t you understand what your indifference is doing to me?” I want to shout. “This was supposed to be forever, it’s not supposed to end this way. You said until death do us part and I believed you. I am lost without you. Please open up to me, I’m not your enemy, I’m your wife and I love you!”
I continue watching her as she cocks her head slightly to the side to put on her earrings and admire the graceful curve of her neck. After a moment, she turns to look at me,
“All done”, she says with a smile but I notice it stops just short of her eyes, they remain cool and distant and something else that I can’t quite put my finger on.
That look cuts me deeper than any blade ever could and I stand up quickly to hide the pain.
“Better head out”, I say with an airiness that I don’t feel. I quickly walk past her towards the stairs and hear her come out of the room behind me, I hear the soft swish of her dress brushing against her body and steel myself against the emotions that threaten to surface.
Placing my hand on the banister, I begin to make my way slowly down the stairs and it suddenly occurs to me how those condemned to die must feel.
As we continue down, I look over at the pictures that line the wall, each spaced perfectly apart and extending to the bottom landing. Some are of our vacations, others just of us being us but each is engraved in my heart like a stamp.
I see us at Niagara Falls, she is smiling and I am standing behind her, we are blissfully happy and life can’t get any more perfect, further along is a picture of our last camping trip, she is standing there with the last rays of the sun behind her, stunning against the backdrop of the mountains and again I feel my heart start to race.
“Enough!” I tell myself, “Stop doing this to yourself”.
I have almost convinced myself that I will be ok when I see another photo that causes me to falter. It is a picture of our wedding day. The frame that surrounds it is silver with little intricately woven roses all around it and I remember how she insisted on me buying it.
“After all”, she had said with that mischievous smile that I had come to know so well, “You only get married once”.
In the picture we are looking into each others eyes, oblivious to those around us, frozen forever in that moment of perfection.
Did we ever really look like that?” I wonder to myself and try once more to understand what went wrong.
my mind screams at me and for a second my legs almost obey.
“Stop and turn to her”, it says with a seething frustration. “Look into her eyes like you did on that day and tell her the truth. Tell her how meaningless your life was until she came into it; tell her how you only feel half alive when she’s not beside you and how much you miss the sound of her laughter”.
I want to so badly that it’s like a physical ache but I can’t, this isn’t my fault, she’s the one being unreasonable. Instead, I continue to the bottom of the stairs, cross the living room and stand waiting by the door to help her with her coat.
I study his strong back and broad shoulders from beneath my lashes as I make my way down the remaining stairs. He is so handsome with his jet black hair and rugged good looks and I feel the familiar tingle run through my body as I think of his strong arms holding me.
“Tell him”, something inside of me begs.
“Tell him how even after all these years he still causes your heart to skip a beat when he walks into the room. Tell him how alone you feel when he is not there. Tell him how it’s always just been him, that there could never be another and that he has, and always will have your heart and all that’s good inside of you”.
Instead, I walk to the door, turn and allow him to help me with my coat.
After wordlessly waiting for me to slide both arms in,he turns back to open the door and the gust of wind that hits us from the other side feels as cold as an empty grave.
“After you”, he says with a small wintery smile and steps back to allow me through.
I start to step past him, knowing in my heart that this may be the last time that we perform this empty ritual when I feel something soft and warm touch my arm.
I look down to see his handing resting there and look back up in surprise. There is a look of pain and deep sadness on his face that I have never seen before and my heart secretly aches to take it away.
“Let’s not go”, he says and I hear the urgency in his voice. “Let’s just stay in. To hell with the rest of the world, let’s make tonight about just the two of us”.
I look into his eyes, searching, and see how desperately he means it and all of the things that I have been holding back flood to the surface.
“I’d like that”, I say not trying to hide the tears that course down my cheeks.
He smiles a beaming smile and for the first time in a very long time I see the man that I gave my heart to.“I love you”, he says never taking his eyes off of mine.
Gently he takes my hand in his and closes the door.