The Wryters' Block

Shaping, Designing, Sculpting Words

Love Everlasting

“Love Everlasting”

a short story

c. by Arsoleen Woolcock

Was tonight the right timing? No.

No time would ever be right. Tears swelled in Tracy Burton’s eyes. She bent to kiss six-year old Jason’s brown forehead, grateful that he was tucked in bed asleep, not wanting him to overhear the oncoming, heated argument sure to come. But, why argue? Tracy was certain that Wayne felt the same way she did. Even so, she wanted to protect her child, to shield him away from any hurt or pain.

She reached to cradle his face in her hands, knew that her decision would affect him, but better to live semi-normal with one parent than dysfunctionally with two who had nothing to say to each other. No doubt, Jason would miss this particular style of living he’d grown accustomed to, Tracy thought with regret. She glanced around his room, complete with all the newest electronic gadgets. Outside a new tree house stood, recently built.

Lost in thought, she walked to the door and closed it behind her. Her eyes lit on all the material objects she passed when she moved through the huge five bedroom house with its expensive furnishings and paintings. Their house was beautiful, but it wasn’t the home she wanted.

She sighed. How could she compete? She bowed her head in misery, for alone, what could she afford?

Now to find Wayne. Was he even home? Tracy walked down the hallway. It was ten o’clock at night. If Wayne bothered to be home, he would have showered and gotten into his PJ’s to relax with newspaper and TV remote in hand. She pressed her ear against the bedroom door. Hearing no sound from within, she knocked anyway.

No answer.

He wasn’t home. Her fingers clutched the doorknob and turned, and she opened the door and stepped inside.

“Wayne!” Tracy called again.

“Right behind you.”

A gasp escaped Tracy’s lips, and she turned to face him; her steps, backing further into the room. “You startled me!”

As she studied her husband’s face, Tracy let her mind conjure up images of a seething cobra, tried to make herself forget how devastatingly handsome Wayne was – tall, slim, medium brown skin with hair cut short and combed back in waves. How she loved the thin mustache he sported along with narrow sideburns that hugged the sides of his beautiful face! He was so good-looking, and the navy, pin-striped suit he wore did nothing but accentuate his perfect body.

She swallowed nervously. “I-I needed to talk with you.”

“Can’t it wait?” One question. One frown.

Wayne walked past her and entered the huge bedroom they once shared. “As you can see, I’m just getting in. I’m tired. I’d like to shower and relax a bit.”

Tracy heard him heave a heavy sigh, watched him pull the silk tie he wore. He tossed it alongside the bed next to the jacket he’d removed. His fingers unbuttoned his shirt, and he stood there in a thin tee that clung to his upper torso. Then she saw him stop what he was doing to give her his full attention.

She licked her dry lips. “It’s obvious that you’re just getting in, Wayne. But was it all work?” she accused. She moved toward the bed and picked up his blue shirt, saw the lipstick smeared on the front.

“What difference does it make to you, Tracy?” he asked gruffly and grabbed his clothes. He opened the walk-in closet and methodically started putting them on hangers.

She watched him tight-lipped for several moments. Before she knew it, she blurted out the statement she’d been practicing for months, “I want a divorce, Wayne.”

“A divorce?”

Wayne snapped his head back, swung around to face her. The clothes he held in his hands lay at his feet. His frown deepened. His chest heaved up and down.

“Yes, I want a divorce,” Tracy repeated firmly. “We don’t see each other for days on end. There’s no communication. Now, you’re plainly having an affair…”

“What about Jason?” he interrupted. Wayne rubbed his hands up and down his face. He walked over to the edge of the bed, sat down, and stared into open space.

“Jason will be happier when we’re happy.”

“I will never,” he emphasized, “give you a divorce, Tracy.” His voice was hard; Wayne’s coal black eyes, mere slits when he turned to face her. “The answer is no! Now if that’s all you’re asking, get out of my bedroom!”

“I’m not asking. I’m telling you, Wayne.” Tracy stared back at him with a newfound boldness she merely pretended to have.

“Keep asking,” he threatened; his voice, dangerously low, “and you will never see Jason again.”

Her face crumpled, and her eyes were wide. “I hate you, Wayne! I can’t believe you’d actually do that to me or to Jason.”

Tears slid down her face. She could never live without her child. Jason was her life, her everything. And Wayne, with all his money, knew that. She would never be able to fight him and win.

“Sure, Tracy.” Wayne smiled up into her face, patted the bed next to where he sat. “Why don’t you join me after my shower and we’ll do some relaxing together.”

Her throat seemed to constrict. How she wished she could wipe that smile off his face! It took every ounce of strength she possessed to walk away and leave the room. The sheer audacity of that man!

Even so, Tracy’s skin tingled as she recalled his invitation. She loved Wayne far too much, but she refused to play the fifth fiddle in his orchestra. Enough was enough!

——-

Wayne Burton was a dedicated businessman. Tracy admired his strength, courage, success, and prestige. He had started at the bottom of a huge corporation, gone back to school, and worked his way up the corporate ladder. She was proud of him. But there was more to life than work. Could he not see how he’d alienated his family in the process? The one day a week off, he spent mostly at his computer behind a desk, or he pored over mounds of paperwork brought home that required his inspection.

Yes, there were brief occasions when Wayne and Jason would go to the park or venture on some other outing, leaving her at home. It was a father and son thing. Well, what about the wife thing? Feeling alone and tired of reiterating that, Tracy moved herself into one of the guest bedrooms, hoping that action would enlighten him. Needless to say, it served to only drive a wedge between them that was fueled by anger and bitterness.

Mentally and physically exhausted, Tracy brushed aside tears and pushed open the door to her room, not bothering to put on her nightdress. Who’d see her anyway? Only the four walls. She threw her clothed body on the queen-sized, four-poster bed, squeezed her eyes shut, and prayed for sleep. Instead she managed to spend a fretful night tossing and turning, awakening with dark circles that hovered beneath her eyes.

She bathed quickly, dressed, and headed for the kitchen, knowing it would be awhile before Jason awakened. No doubt, work-driven Wayne had already left for the office. How she could use a strong cup of black coffee, she mused, and grabbed a mug from the cupboard.

“Hmm . . .” she murmured; her body, instantly stiffened. There propped on the counter stood a folded piece of paper with her name printed on the outside. A note? She snatched it up quickly while her heartbeat pounded furiously in her ears. Had Wayne changed his mind after all? Her heart skipped a beat. Was he allowing her the divorce she requested? With nervous fingers, her hands shook as she unfolded the note and read.

Tracy,

You want a divorce. But our child is at stake here. We both love him. He’s dear to the both of us. Let’s go away together – the three of us for just one month. One month! That’s all I’m asking. Be packed at three this afternoon. Otherwise, you do know what to expect. I’ll take Jason away from you for good.

                                                                                               Wayne

“Why? Why?” Tracy repeated. Besides who’d want to go anywhere with someone who threatened to take away your child? She failed to see the benefit that one month would bring. Though she supposed she had no choice in the matter. Wayne was probably right as usual. She’d try just one month for Jason’s sake. Their son deserved two parents who loved him more than the air they breathed.

“Mommy, why are you crying?”

Tracy turned to find Jason watching her, still in his Spiderman pajamas, clutching his pillow. She stooped and held her arms out to him. He raced into them, and she pulled out a seat and sat down with him on her lap. He wound his arms around her neck.

“Why are you always so sad?” his little voice asked.

“Guess what?” Tracy asked with a bright smile. “I’m not sad at all. I am so very happy. This is a note from your dad. He’s taking us away on a vacation together. Isn’t that wonderful?”

“Won’t Dad have to work?” Jason asked with an innocent look.

“No, honey. He’ll spend lots of time with us while we’re on vacation.”

“Where are we going?”

“We’ll soon find out. We’ve got to be packed in just a few hours.”

Tracy gave Jason another great big bear hug and let him slide off her lap. No one was ever going to take away the child she gave birth to. No one.

——-

They had been ready for hours. Three o’clock turned into five; five into seven. How like Wayne not to phone to say he’d be late! He expected them to sit around and twiddle their thumbs and amuse themselves until he showed up. And was the vacation plan still on?

Tracy was not penniless. She had saved the few hundred dollars Wayne automatically drafted into her bank account each month. Nice, huh? But, after all, Wayne was doing nothing more than what he should. Tracy was housewife, chef, maid, and the mother of his child. Money and material goods did not erase the feeling of being unloved. Speaking of that, when was the last time Wayne told her so? It had been so long that she could not remember.

The cab Tracy phoned arrived, and she and Jason climbed in. It was probably the first place Wayne would attempt to look, but Tracy had nowhere else to go but to her parents.

The stretch of road seemed endless with hours passing by. When, finally, Tracy saw the one-story, white-framed house, she felt exhilarated. The porch lights beamed a soft welcome. Her parents were expecting them and were overjoyed that she and Jason would be staying for a few weeks.

Joe and Leila Cunningham appeared in the doorway, all smiles, with their friendly faces peering out into the darkness. Joe was a rugged, husky, short man. His thick arms embraced Tracy warmly. Leila’s light brown face crinkled with joy. She was taller than Joe and was a slender, graceful, God-fearing woman with long, thick brown hair that was pulled back into a French roll. Gently, Leila lifted Jason’s sleeping form from Tracy’s arms and carried him to his room with Tracy following close on her heels.

Having kissed her son’s sleeping face, Tracy could hear voices and loud laughter coming from the kitchen. She followed her mom in that direction. She didn’t realize they had company, and Tracy’s spirits plummeted. She did not feel like engaging in conversation. She wanted to be alone with her parents, her child, and her thoughts.

Wayne?

Tracy gulped in a huge amount of air when she recognized his voice and saw him sitting at the dining room table. She suspected Tom the cab driver to be the one who snitched. Come to think of it, she noticed the way he drove – extra slow and in circles.

Tom, an old family friend, evidently phoned Wayne to tell him where they were headed, probably when they stopped for gas and the restroom. Or was it her parents? They had always been enamored by Wayne’s charm.

Too stunned to speak, her heart lurched in her chest when she eyed the woman who sat and watched her with quiet reserve; her face, unsmiling. Who was she? Wayne’s mistress? How dare Wayne bring another woman into her parent’s home!

“We were having a game of rummy while we waited for you, darling.” Wayne’s voice was soft and gentle; his smile, wide. His eyes followed hers. “I don’t think you’ve met Barbara, my new secretary . . .”

Barbara, a dark-skinned woman with short hair dyed honey blonde, observed her coolly. Was this who Wayne wanted? Why was Barbara here? Had Wayne planned to take her along, too, to work during their so-called vacation? What about all the hidden innuendoes she’d read into that note? – spending one month together just the three of us . . . Tracy wanted to vomit. The entire situation sickened her.

Pleading fatigue, she excused herself and retreated to her old bedroom and latched the door. Somehow Wayne had managed to win over her parents, but she would not sit around and watch his fiasco unfold. She was exhausted from the long drive, her torn emotions, and the previous night’s restlessness. She crawled onto the bed, and before she knew anything, she was fast asleep.

——-

Morning came. Sunlight filtered through the curtains. This July day promised to be another sweltering one. Even so, Tracy’s spirits lifted. She was home. But then, who was she kidding? Already thoughts of Wayne washed away any ideas she flirted with peace.

Where did he sleep last night? Was Barbara still hanging around?

Tracy imagined Barbara’s long, dark arms wrapped around her husband; her full, red lips nibbled at his. She grimaced. There was absolutely no point staying in bed beating herself to death with painful pictures her mind conjured up, but she needed answers to those questions.

It didn’t take Tracy long to dress, though she did spend extra time primping in front of the mirror. She looked especially nice in the two-piece pink pants set and matching heeled sandals. Her luxurious, thick brown hair that she inherited from her mom fell to her shoulders in bouncy curls. Tracy was small-framed and petite, a beautiful black woman. If Wayne had found true love elsewhere, then good riddance. After all, wasn’t that what she wanted – her freedom?

“Mom? Dad? Jason?” her voice rang out. It appeared that no one was home, and there was no message or note. Nothing!

Then she inhaled the delicious aroma of breakfast, and her nose led her to the kitchen. There was nothing like her mom’s down-home country cooking. But, maybe, she should wait for everyone else, she thought, as she observed heaping platters of food. Thinking she’d better wait, she wandered out onto the front porch, only to discover that she was not alone after all. There to her far left were the two people she loathed seeing – Wayne and Barbara, their heads bent in deep discussion!

“Ah! I see you finally woke up,” Wayne spoke when he heard the screen door push open. “It’s almost ten-thirty, you know. Did you sleep well?”

What a question! There was simply no need to dignify whatever Wayne just said. She went back inside, hearing fast footsteps catching up to her.

“Go away!” she yelled.

“Never!” Wayne retorted. He swung Tracy around to face him. “I am trying, you know. We could be in the Bahamas or in Hawaii by now if it weren’t for you and your childish behavior!”

“My childish behavior!” she spat back at him. “I’m not the one flaunting my infidelity! And I certainly don’t want to be in the Bahamas or any other place with you and Barbara! I want my divorce!”

“You want a divorce?” he asked all too calm. “I’ll give you a divorce.”

Against her will, Wayne lifted Tracy’s unwilling body into his arms. He carried her to her bedroom, pinned her there on the bed, molding his body to hers.

“Wayne, don’t!” she begged. “Stop!”

“Tracy, you’re my wife. I love you. I believe you love me, too.”

A quiet stream of tears trickled down her face, and Wayne brushed them all away. He found her lips and hushed her pleas with passionate kisses. Tracy closed her eyes as he kissed her forehead and cheeks. She moaned softly when his mouth blazed a trail of kisses against her soft breasts.

This is like heaven, she thought. Does Wayne truly love me? Her heart overflowed with happiness.

“Wayne!” the voice called again.

Barbara!

In the heat of the moment, they’d forgotten all about the woman they left on the porch. Her timing definitely sucked, and they could hear her footsteps march down the hall.

“Umph!” Wayne groaned. He planted a slow, lingering kiss on Tracy’s mouth. “Promise me we will finish this later.”

Tracy was too upset to speak. Her husband loved her! She loved him! What did Barbara want? Couldn’t she sense that three was a crowd?

Hand in hand, Wayne and Tracy emerged from their bedroom. Not all their problems were solved, but they both felt elated and relieved. With emotions that ran so deep and intense between them, there could never be a divorce.

“Barbara!” Wayne called.

“I’m on my way!” Barbara gushed. “I just wanted to tell you guys goodbye.”

Tracy could hardly believe the woman smiled. They followed her outside and saw the sleek, blue Caddie waiting in the drive. Tracy hoped that whoever it was would hurry and whisk Barbara away.

“Why don’t you meet my family, Mrs. Burton?”

Already the Reeder clan was climbing out of the car. Barbara’s husband Tony had kind, friendly eyes, not really the type she’d imagined for Barbara. Tracy discovered that the couple had been married for seventeen years and had three teenagers. The two eldest boys were away at basketball camp. Shay, the youngest girl at thirteen, was cute, but appeared far too glamorous for her age.

“I promise I won’t get you into any more trouble, Mr. Burton,” Shay blurted. Shay looked at Tracy. “I’m there a lot, Mrs. Burton, at the office with Mom. I had a spout with this terrific guy. I was totally upset, you know. I’m afraid my lipstick brushed against Mr. Burton’s shirt when he tried to console me. He told us that you were very upset with him over that.”

“And, young lady,” Barbara countered, “you’re going to wash all that gunk off as soon as we reach our destination.” She turned to face the Burtons. “Have fun!”

“Thanks, Barbara, for sacrificing a day from your family,” Wayne said. He looked at Tracy. “Barbara worked all night helping me complete an important proposal.”

Even so, Tracy was glad to see the rear end of that Cadillac go down the drive. Her brows knitted together. “Where is everybody?” she asked.

“I’m the guilty party there, I’m afraid.”

Wayne smiled and pulled Tracy into his arms. His fingers lifted her face to meet his. “I wanted some time alone with you, so Jason and your parents are at the beach with a big picnic lunch. They will be back tonight.” He smiled into her eyes. “So, baby, it’s just the two of us and no work for me for three weeks. I took off for some much needed rest and relaxation and loving . . .”

Tracy’s grin broadened. Her heart soared to extraordinary heights. She whispered a silent prayer of thanks, and before she knew it, Wayne held her tightly; his mouth, seeking and demanding.

“I do love you, Tracy,” he murmured when he lifted his head moments later. “I have always loved you,” he breathed. “I intend to spend the rest of my life proving it to you and showing you how much I care.”

“I love you, too, Wayne,” Tracy whispered, and her lips trembled.

“I was so afraid that I’d lost you forever when you asked me for a divorce.” He still looked stunned.

“That was the last thing I really wanted,” she assured him.

“We’ve got a lot of talking and healing to do. But right now, unless you are truly starving,” he grinned, “I’ve got other things on my mind.”

Tracy’s mind was dizzy with delight as Wayne scooped her up in his arms. His mouth devoured hers, savoring its sweetness. But each kiss held a promise – a promise of love everlasting.

-0-

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