Small Cuts (14) Elaine

To find links to all parts of this story, please visit the Small Cuts Page. Now here is Elaine again:

When Oliver pulled me against him I completely lost my composure. Part of it was nerves, part of it was my loneliness, but the rest of it was Oliver’s warmth, his strength and his transparent feelings for me. I found myself relishing the feel of his arms around me, his gentleness and the sweet words of comfort he murmured in my ear. “It’s ok, sweetheart. I’m right here. Everything’s going to be alright.” In that moment, I desperately wanted to believe him.

With a deep shuddering breath, I pulled away. “I’m sorry, Oliver. I can’t. This is all just so…” I didn’t finish, unable to find the right words. What was it, exactly? Scary? Wrong? Overwhelming? Any one of those words fit, but didn’t cover the whole of it. Beneath each of those feelings lay the undeniable truth. I was here because Oliver wanted me. I needed someone to want me, to love me the way I always hoped James would.

“All so…?” Oliver prodded. I averted my eyes but he stepped forward and held me by the shoulders. “Talk to me, Lainey.” He paused, lowering his head. “Or maybe don’t say anything at all.”

He moved in to kiss me but I braced my hands against his chest, keeping him at a distance. The pain and disappointment showed in his eyes. I shook my head to clear it. “Don’t. Don’t do this, Oliver.”

He nodded, shoved his hands in his pockets and stared at the ground. “I think I fell for you the moment I laid eyes on you,” he said softly. “All this time waiting. Wanting you. Falling in love with you. It’s been torture.”

“But … but James,” I stammered and Oliver stiffened.

“James is a fool,” he said sharply. “He doesn’t deserve you, Elaine. He doesn’t make you happy.”

He was right. James didn’t make me happy, but I still wanted him to. I wanted my husband to love me the way he did when we first met. What had gone wrong? I felt the sting of tears again and looked toward the ceiling to keep them from spilling over. “And Genevieve? What about Gen, Oliver?”

He sighed heavily and lifted a hand, let it drop. “Oh, Elaine… if only we’d met each other first.” His voice gruff and full of emotion, he said, “I love you, Elaine.” He paused, swallowing. “I’m laying it all on the line, right now. I love you and I want to be with you. I haven’t figured out what the hell to do about it, but there it is.”

My stomach knotted and my already racing heart squeezed in my chest. A thousand thoughts ran through my head in quick succession. Life with Oliver. For a moment I allowed myself the fantasy —imagining the way he would love me, cherish me. I pushed a fist against my sternum to steady my breathing. I thought of James’ reaction. Would he be stoic, logical, always the lawyer, thinking out the details of a separation? Or would he fight for me, beg me to stay, profess his undying love for me? Perhaps that was more the fantasy. Nevertheless…

“Elaine.” Oliver gripped me by the shoulders. “We don’t have to decide anything right now. I just want you to tell me… Do you feel the same way? Or have I just made a huge mistake?”

Nevertheless, I thought. It was the fantasy I chose to believe. I have to tell Oliver… He’s my friend and I owe him the truth.

“Lainey?” Oliver said, breaking my reverie. “Say something.”

I nodded and started to speak, when at the same time, both our phones began to ring.

Small Cuts (13) James

To find links to all parts of this story, please visit the Small Cuts Page. Now back to James.

My gaze shifted from my reflection in the rearview mirror as the car passing my house suddenly sped up. Could my eyes have been deceiving me? That looked just like Oliver’s car. I watched the driver turn the corner, barely pausing at he stop sign at the end of the block. With a second look, I was positive it was Oliver. And that could only mean one thing —he was coming to my house, while I wasn’t home, to be with my wife.  

I hit the gas and made the turn to follow him. I expected the silver Volvo to circle the block and return to my street but it continued out to the boulevard. What was Oliver up to? Maybe he saw me. I slowed and put some distance between us but not so much that I would lose him. 

At each intersection where he could make the turn to go back to my neighborhood, he continued on. This didn’t make any sense. If Oliver was heading into Center City —the way he appeared to be— there was absolutely no reason for him to have driven past my house. In fact, it was in the opposite direction from the route he should have taken from his own home. Once we were on the expressway, I had no way to easily turn around and so I figured on seeing this through. Perhaps when I discovered exactly where Oliver was going, his detour would be explained.

My initial reaction —shock and anger— had given way to confusion and doubt. Would Elaine really do this to me? Would Oliver? My wife and my best friend. This wasn’t the kind of thing I ever expected to happen to me. This happened to other people. I blew out a breath. Ok, maybe it wasn’t really happening. Oliver must have had some other reason to be on my street. He obviously wasn’t in a hurry. He’d been staying relatively close to the speed limit the whole way. Finally, he put his turn signal on and merged into the left lane to take the Vine Street Expressway. I stayed a few car lengths back. 

He took the first exit onto Broad street, heading south. This could get tricky. Following in city traffic was much more difficult than on the highway. Nevertheless, I managed to keep up as he wound his way over to Rittenhouse Square. I slowed as the silver Volvo pulled into the parking garage of The Park Hotel. A breakfast meeting? With a client maybe? Had to be. Although it still didn’t explain what he was doing driving past my house on the way. 

I glanced at the time. Damn. I was really going to be late for the golf outing. I would definitely miss the buffet breakfast but if I hurried, I could be there for tee time. I drove around the square planning to retrace my route and found myself in the wrong lane for the expressway. I passed the on ramp and merged into the right lane so I wouldn’t miss the next one. Of course, everything goes wrong when you’re already late. I took the next on ramp and immediately realized it was the eastbound expressway which would take me back to center city. Now I’d have to circle around a second time. I hit the gas and prepared to merge with traffic. I never saw the other car change lanes. 

Philadelphia Skyline Image via Flickr

Small Cuts (12) Genevieve

To find links to all parts of this story, please visit the Small Cuts Page. This is what’s happening with Genevieve:

Upon discovering that I was alone in the house, I had a moment of panic, if Oliver was gone and I had lost time, just how much time had I lost? Was it only the two hours I had originally thought or was it perhaps an entire day? Was it still Sunday, or was it a weekday and Oliver had left for work? I ran to the family room, turned on the television, and flipped the channel to CNN where I was sure the date and time would be displayed across the bottom of the screen.

Breaking News, another mass shooting had happened last night —this time at a Senior Prom in a suburb of St. Paul, Minnesota. Students and teachers dead. A teenage gunman with an assault weapon took his own life when the police arrived. I took note of the date —still Sunday— and turned the TV off. I couldn’t watch. This was exactly the kind of thing that reaffirmed my decision about having children. This world was becoming a living nightmare.

I returned to the kitchen and brewed another pot of coffee, waited while the French roast dripped into the carafe. Time, time. How did I lose nearly two hours? My skin tingled —was this how it felt when your atoms flew apart? No, no, stop… I was just cold. The air conditioning had kicked on at its preprogrammed time. But the time… Think. I must have fallen asleep on my feet. The sleepless night had caught up with me. It was the only rational explanation. The other option was too dreadful to conceive: that maybe I really was in some horrible dream.

I had tried to talk to Oliver about the idea recently. He had argued that people were happy, or at least had a measure of happiness, and such a thing wouldn’t be possible if we were all in some sort of nightmare realm. That it could only be a place of abject misery and fear for everyone existing there. I disagreed. I thought of it in more personal terms. After all, what could be worse for a miserable person than to be in the company of people who were happy? Especially if those people had seemingly worse circumstances than you did and still managed to find some joy in life. No, it had to be that these happy people were some sort of incarnations inhabiting my personal hell, placed there by an external malevolent force so that I would feel guilt by comparison.

“What does that make me?” Oliver had argued. “Some sort of evil figment of your imagination?”

I didn’t know how to answer that. The other dominant thought I’d been having was that I was slipping out of existence. If Oliver was a figment of my imagination, then my reality was even more fractured than I thought. I could not lose this anchor for my existence. Oliver’s wife. I was Oliver’s wife. Genevieve, Genevieve, Genevieve. Get ahold of yourself.

Shaking my head to clear it, I laughed nervously and told him to forget it. “I’m just philosophizing again.”

“Your philosophizing always leads you down a very dark path, Gen. I don’t like it,” he said gently. “Sometimes, you scare me.”

Sometimes I scare myself, I thought.

The coffee maker beeped and I poured a cup. Oliver, Oliver, where did you go this morning? Were things between us so bad that you didn’t feel the need to tell me? What if something happens to you? How would I know?

The phone. I could check the phone. We had that app that lets you find all the devices on your account. I set my coffee mug down, sloshing the contents, and ran back to the bedroom where I had left my phone. I swiped it open and found the app. Four blinking blue dots appeared: two phones, two iPads. Three of those dots were here at home, but the fourth was in Center City, off Rittenhouse Square, the parking garage of The Park Hotel. Why? Why? Was Ollie meeting someone for brunch? Did I forget some appointment he had with a client? Or was it with a friend? What friend? We rarely did anything with anybody besides James and Elaine. Was it James? My friend James. James who was going to resurrect me. I should call James. See what he and Elaine were doing. Elaine. Elaine. Elaine. No. No, no, no, no…. it couldn’t be…

I tore off my pajamas and grabbed a shirt and jeans from my closet. Then stuffing my phone in my purse, I ran for the garage. Keys, keys. Back into the house for keys. Hit the garage door opener. Breathe. Breathe. Ignition. Reverse.

GPS. I needed the fastest way to The Park Hotel. I searched the address at the end of the driveway and started the turn by turn directions. “In 50 yards, turn left.”

Turn left. Leaving the development. Out to the boulevard, on to the highway…“merge onto 676 East, The Vine street Expressway…”

Horns, horns, shrieking tires, the crunch of metal on metal. The thump and whoosh of the airbags exploding. Shattering of glass. Screaming, someone was screaming. Then silence.

Header image: Polka Dots ~ Francesca Woodman