I had gone too far. I saw the look of pity in Elaine’s eyes and I knew. She knew. To this point, she had probably thought it was harmless flirting. But the truth was, I was in love with my best friend’s wife. And now with a few softly spoken words, I’d let her see the depth of my feelings for her. Maybe I could get out of this. I was a bullshit artist, after all. As a salesman, I dealt in bullshit every day of my life. I grinned.
“You know I can’t stand not to be the center of attention, Lainey,” I said, with a wink.
She let out the breath she had been holding. “Oh, Oliver,” she said, giving my hand a playful smack. “Go on. What were you saying?”
I picked up the story from where I’d left off. Elaine’s husband James, had reached across the table to squeeze my wife’s hand and it hadn’t gone unnoticed by either myself or Elaine. But I was past giving a shit what Gen did.
Cold hearted, self centered bitch. I don’t know what the hell I was thinking getting myself tangled up with the ice queen, but here I was. In the beginning I was smitten. She was everything I admired– smart, beautiful, artistic, cultured, and socially conscious. We’d met at one of the gala functions my company sponsored for its clients. Genevieve had been pressed into attending to win additional funding for the liberal think tank she worked for. As the top salesman for financial products, it was a given that I would attend.
When Genevieve entered the room, all eyes turned. She was tall, a natural blonde, with blue eyes the color of arctic ice. When I introduced myself, she was polite but didn’t smile. That should’ve been my first clue. Nevertheless, I pursued her with the same dogged determination I would have used on a million dollar investor.
When I finally won her over, I had felt like I’d won the lottery. I had a beautiful wife with an important job. She was a brilliant conversationalist with opinions on all the current issues. We’d stay up late debating politics, social issues, philosophy. She, of course, being better informed on all those topics always won the argument. But at the time I had enjoyed the banter.
We’d been married for three years when I raised the subject of children. She had off-handedly remarked while we were dating that she didn’t want any children. I didn’t take her seriously. And, I had thought, if she was serious, she would change her mind. So on our third anniversary, when we had come home from our favorite restaurant, I had taken her to bed, made love to her and afterwards, as she lay in my arms, said maybe it was time we thought about having a baby. She looked at me like I had just asked her to cut off a limb.
“A baby?” she asked with a snort. “You’re funny, Ollie.”
I had pulled her close and kissed her. “No. I mean it. I want us to have a baby.”
She pushed away, holding me at a distance. “You’re serious.”
She slid from beneath the sheets and grabbed for her robe. “Oliver, I told you long ago I didn’t want to have children. Nothing’s changed.”
“Why?” I had asked, propping myself up on one arm.
“Oliver, do you know what I deal with every day when I go to work?” It was a rhetorical question. I wasn’t meant to respond. “Suffering.” She began pacing. “Suffering, poverty, disease, famine, the effects of war on ravaged populations. I read reports of men raping and killing young women in the name of their cause. I see the same young women who have been raped being put to death because they ‘dishonored’ their families. I see pre-pubescent girls having their genitals mutilated in the name of religious tradition. I see young boys being sent to fight in militias before they even reach their tenth birthdays. I see the disobedient being beheaded. I see the faithful strapping suicide bombs to their bodies and walking into crowded marketplaces. That’s the world you want to bring another child into?”
“Gen,” I said softly. “Children are the future. Our future.”
“Not my future.” She turned her back on me.
“Can we at least think about it? It doesn’t have to be now. We have plenty of time. Maybe in a few years….”
She was shaking her head. “Absolutely not. I will never, ever change my mind, Oliver.”
I dropped the subject. I hadn’t meant to ruin our evening, but I had. “Gen, come back to bed.”
An entire year passed before I tried again. We had visited her family for the holidays. Her brother had sired two children, her sister had borne three more and her parents hinted with hopeful expectation, that their youngest child would soon follow suit. Gen had joked with them light-heartedly and laughed it off. With just that tiny sliver of encouragement, I foolishly raised the subject in the car on the way home. It had once again led to an argument, with Gen giving all the same reasons she had before. Suffering. Violence. Poverty. War. Disease. Every word was another small cut in my heart. I loved kids. I wanted to be a father. I never imagined that I wouldn’t have that chance.
It became a wedge between us. A wedge so divisive that even images of happy families on television or in the movies would have Gen stiffen and brace for an argument. Not talking about having a family devolved into not talking at all. Gen lost weight as if to emphasize her already boyish figure. It was like she was saying, “See, Ollie? I’m not made for making babies.” And I began to suspect the real reason she didn’t want a baby was vanity. God forbid, she added a little flesh to those bones.
And that’s when James introduced us to Elaine.
I looked across the table at her now. She was everything Genevieve was not. Her dark eyes shone with warmth and humor. She smiled wide and often. She was animated, outgoing, and effortlessly sexy. Luscious. Curvy. I couldn’t help but touch her. I’d even kissed her once, when the four of us were saying goodnight after another dinner together. It had been dark so I was sure James hadn’t seen. I tried to make it appear playful but I had needed to taste her sweet lips. She hadn’t seemed to mind. Or at least she hadn’t objected. Not having her was an agony.
“Ollie?” Elaine said, breaking my reverie. “Now who’s ignoring who?” She smiled and her adorable dimples appeared. “You’re a million miles away.”
I took her hand and played with the ring on her finger. “Maybe you should join me.”