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Authors: Calvin Wedgefield

The Nights Were Young

BOOK: The Nights Were Young
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THE NIGHTS WERE YOUNG

Written by Calvin Wedgefield

“The most painful goodbyes are the ones that are never said and never explained…”

-
       
Bilal Nasir Khan

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I

Her life was stagnant.   Marie sat up in bed after the sun rose; her fiancé, James, was always gone by then. She looked around the room, and sometimes she felt she was looking around her entire world, to see if anything had changed yet - nothing ever did, and nothing had in years. The twenty-five year-old stepped out of bed in her white lace nightgown, and made the bed, which was hardly ever unmade. She brushed her teeth in her own personal sink two feet away from James’s. She carefully put in her contacts. Finally, and with her eyesight ready, she analyzed herself in the mirror: her blonde curls on her shoulder were a mess, her curves too fat, her skin too white, but her blue eyes would redeem her appearance – if only there was more life in them as they looked back at her. She leaned forward and parted the hair on her head, revealing half an inch of her natural, dirty blonde hair that she hated.

“Damn it,” she muttered.

              She looked in the closet for something to wear. She gave up quickly, realizing there was nothing to get dressed for today. She was not going out; she was going nowhere but other rooms of the house. Before she turned out the light and left the closet, she found herself taking a long glance at the dresser against the back wall, as she did many times. She’d glance at the bottom drawer, thinking of what was inside. These thoughts lingered often – she could wear it then, only for her, in front of the mirror. However, she always abandoned those thoughts quickly.

              While eating breakfast alone at the table, she looked around at the building she called home. It was a nice house, well furnished, well decorated, and the pictures on the walls and counters made for a good display to company. They were pictures of Marie and James --smiling, always posed perfectly. Marie’s mother professed her happiness for her every time she visited, that she had found the right man to give her everything she wanted. Still, Marie could not help but notice sometimes that in all the time she had been with James her most genuine smiles appeared only in the photographs.

              She rarely finished breakfast. The few bites she would eat took a toll on her self-esteem and she always decided her body was too big to eat more, and so she would go hungry for most of the day to feel thinner.

              She found herself staring at her engagement ring, a remarkably gorgeous set of tiny diamonds on a golden band around her finger -- though it was beautiful, often it felt heavy, at times constricting. She felt more important wearing it, though, so she never took it off.

After breakfast, she turned on the TV and began the cleaning and the laundry and the more mundane, mind numbing tasks that her life ran on.

‘These are my days,’
she sometimes thought,
‘I rearrange things that don’t need rearranging.  I clean what is already clean enough.  At the end of the day, I’ve really done nothing.’

It was never hard to notice the lack of any real mess for her to clean. The monotony was the real mess, a stain in her world, impossible to remove, from which not even the television distracted her. The noise of the TV was always muted by the silence in the house.

“I’m like a dog,” she said sometimes, and then she would think of how nice it would be to have a dog. James never wanted one, though, or any pets, because they might mess up the furniture.

              Every day she would find herself drawn to a window in the corner of the living room. It was nearly blocked by the flat screen TV, and always covered with an expensive curtain. James often spoke of replacing that window, boarding it up and painting it over to match the rest of the walls.

“We just need to get rid of it,” he would say. “It just looks out of place, and no one’s ever going to want to look out of it ‘cause there’s nothing to look at.”

It was true. The window did not seem to belong, and the view through it was nothing terribly captivating. All the same, day after day Marie found herself drawn to the window. She would draw back the curtain and stare out at the hill to the side of the house. The large, rolling hill led onward towards the horizon. Often she wondered about a man, a man that was not James. She wondered where he was, what he was doing. Maybe he still looked at the hills like she did, longing to go past them, or maybe he finally left that town and did go past the hills. Often she wondered where she would go if she ever left, if she ever left James -- but those thoughts were always quickly abandoned, like the thoughts of what lay in the bottom drawer of the dresser in her closet.

              Marie shut the curtain and set her mind to other things. That day was, in fact, different than most. While James worked at the office, her duty was to decorate the house. They were hosting a party for James’s job promotion. Her fiancé was climbing the marketing company ladder. Image was everything for him and his job, and for Marie, and for the house. He wanted it all to look perfect for when his judgmental coworkers would be there that evening.

James had said, “Hey, while you’re doing nothing why don’t you make the house look nice for tomorrow night,” as if the house was ever truly unorganized. The place was as still as a museum, and Marie was a part of its exhibit.

She brought the decorations out of the hall closet and began. In time there was a banner hanging in the living room: CONGRATULATIONS JAMES! There were balloons strung about and a few bowls of candy placed in each room. The mini bar was well stocked, and the party was ready. As she examined her work, nerves crept into her; would the guests like it? Would her mother?

She walked – paced through the empty, quiet house. She went into the garage. James’s car was gone, but a Mercedes he had bought for the two of them to use was there. It was a nice enough car, shiny and screaming
wealth!
James had even told Marie that it would mainly be hers since he would work most hours. It didn’t feel like hers, though, and legally it wasn’t. He owned the title.

She pressed a button along the wall, and the electric garage door opened. As it lifted, her eyes were fixed on another vehicle sitting there in the driveway, under a faded blue car cover. It was an eight-year-old Chevy Cavalier, a cheap automobile, but one that Marie had bought for herself before she moved in with James. It took her a year working as a hotel receptionist, a job her mother had constantly reminded her was beneath her, but she saved up the money and bought it. It was the only thing in life, aside from a guitar she’d had since high school, that she had ever gotten for herself – ever chosen for herself.

She walked out onto the driveway, still wearing her nightgown, and she placed her hand on the car. She could see herself driving away and going somewhere unknown, but only for moment, before she looked back at the house, James’s house, and remembered that she wasn’t a brave enough person to leave.

 

**********

 

              James arrived from work around five o’clock, as he always did. He nodded to Marie and said, “Hey,” before he went straight to their bedroom and put his briefcase in his closet.

Marie stood in the doorway.

“You’re still wearing that?” he asked, glancing at her night gown.

              “Yes well, I wasn’t going anywhere today so I figured why get dressed?” There was hardly any life in Marie’s voice when she spoke.

              “Strange, but whatever.” He hung his tie on the hook and began undressing. “The place looks nice.”

              “Thanks. It took me forever to get that banner up.”

              “Well it looks all right.” He threw his clothes into the dirty clothes basket – more laundry.

              “Are you okay?” Marie asked.

              “I’m fine,” he said. “Why?”

              “You just seem – quiet, I guess. You’re not even on your phone.” He was always talking on his cellphone.

              “I can get off my phone when I want, Marie. I’m fine. I’m just nervous about tonight. Everyone’s going to be here, including my boss. I just want to be my best.” He came to her and put his hands on her shoulders. “And I want you to look your best. So – don’t wear that for too long, okay?”

              Marie nodded. James went back to his closet.

              “You know, I’ve been thinking,” she said.

              “That’s not good.” He laughed. He stopped to make sure she was laughing, too.

              Marie forced herself to giggle for a second.

              “I’ve been thinking I should get a job,” she said. “You know, it would give me something to do instead of hang around here all day.”

              James came back to her and held her face. “Marie,” he kissed her, “you don’t need a job, especially since I just got this promotion.” He left her and went to his mirror, checking his hair and taking tweezers to his eyebrows. “I’ll be rolling in money, sweetheart, so you don’t need to work. What would you do anyway?”

              Marie sat up on her sink. “I don’t know. Maybe I’ll look into working as a receptionist again.” She looked at him to see his reaction, but he didn’t care, didn’t even seem to listen to her. She looked away from him and at the plain, vanilla colored wallpaper of the bathroom. “I’ve really been thinking about getting back into music.”

              He kept tweezing. “Well, you were never really
in
music.”

              “Yes I was, sort of.”

              “Playing your guitar in your room in high school doesn’t count as being in music.”

              “I played in college, too – for a little bit, anyway.”

              “Hmm, I never knew that. How did that go?”

              She looked down. “Not terribly great. I only performed… well, almost performed, once.”

              “Oh yeah? Was it bad?”

              “I don’t really want to talk about it,” she muttered.

              “Okay. Well, see, you’re not meant to be involved in music.”

              Marie sighed and looked at herself in the mirror. “Yes, I guess not. I still think of songs every now and then.”

              “That’s nice, but you’re not going to make a career out of it, so I don’t see the point.” He put down the tweezers and moved to facial grooming, using an electric razor. “It’s like my father said: if you can’t make money off it, don’t bother with it.”

              Marie rolled her eyes. She ran her fingertips along the counter and stared at James. He was tall and fit with short, dark hair. According to anyone who met him, he was gorgeous. Even Marie agreed he was handsome.

Out of curiosity, not physical need, Marie suddenly asked, “Would you ever have sex with me right here?”

              James nearly dropped the razor. “What?”

              “You heard me.”

              He kept shaving, uncomfortably slower now. “You mean right there? On the counter?”

              “Yes.”

              He finished and put the razor back in his drawer. “Marie we don’t have time to… do that now.”

              “I don’t mean now,” she said. “Just… would you ever do it with me right here on the counter?”

              “What’s gotten into you? Why are you acting like this? Are you high or something?”

              “Would you hate me if I was?” she asked, smirking.

              “Are you serious? You’re high?” His voice rose.

              “No! Sorry.”

              “Is there something we should talk about? Something I need to know?” He looked at her sternly.

              She turned away and shook her head. “Just forget it.”

              “You’re acting really strange right now. Cut it out before people get here.” He waited, staring her down, and after a moment he looked back in the mirror at his own reflection.

              “I think it’d just be nice to do something crazy for once, you know? Something – spontaneous, something passionate.” She hopped off the counter and started walking away.

              James chased her down.

“Hey! Today isn’t the day to be crazy,” he said, grabbing her arm and spinning her around to face him. “Yes, everyone wants to do something crazy sometimes, but we’re adults, Marie. You’re twenty-five and you need to act like it. You should’ve acted crazy back in college, or even high school. Those days are gone, and this is real life now. Understand?”

              It took a few seconds to swallow the fight in her. She resigned and nodded. Out of the corner of her eye she could see the window and its curtain drawn.

              “Is this about other women?” he asked.

              “Other women?”

              “You know, other women,” James said, laughing. “The ones that smile at me or ask me if I’m married. I tell you about them all the time.”

              “No.” Marie took her arm away from him. “No you haven’t. What does that have to do with –”

              “Nothing. Marie, that doesn’t have anything to do with anything. I thought I told you about things like that. Anyway, you don’t need to worry about other women and me.”

              “Well I wasn’t, until now.”

              “Please, Marie,” he said, grabbing her arm again, “you don’t have to act different or offer to have sex with me on the bathroom counter. I wanted you, and I have you. If I wanted someone else, I had plenty of opportunity, but I wanted you.”

BOOK: The Nights Were Young
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