by Thomas Elson
Raymond awoke before five to a silence inside a barren house. He looked toward his still-sleeping wife. Careful not to make a sound, he crept from bed to kitchen, downed cereal and two cups of coffee, then tip-toed to the hallway bathroom.
He showered, donned his pinstripe suit, secreted his cologne bottle inside his suit jacket, inched into the bedroom, lobbed an excuse at his wife, “The trial should take at least two days,” pivoted and mainlined to his car.
Had he cared, he could have guessed, but not truly known, his wife’s feelings.
He needed to arrive early in the adjacent county, where he had reserved his usual hotel suite. He rode the elevator to the twenty-third floor, opened his suitcase, closed the curtains, and adjusted the thermostat to seventy-two degrees. After which, he drove his Audi to Lemon Park.
He had been to this park many times as a child – to swim in the Ninnescah River, play baseball and tennis, on his way home from swimming or the Boy Scout Lodge. Then as a teenager, in his father’s car over tracks pounded into the grass by others searching private places to discover soft skin and relish that release he had yet to tame. He turned left and saw the swinging bridge hanging across the precipice tremble - its entrance now forbidden due to fraying ropes and a rotting deck. The Buffalo grass, still wet from the overnight dew, struggled with the rising temperature, and emitted a muggy air.
He felt the heat, not of the day, but of himself. He inhaled, and in the briefest of moments was back where they first met when he had rolled out of his car in his usual manner - looking at the ground first, then slowly raising his head - his eyes caught her ankles, then calves, and, what he swore was three-fourths of her long tanned thighs. Within three feet of his eyes, a mini-skirt, a trim waistline, and a bust line that could stop bullets. Her fullness and erect posture exuded ripeness, and, within minutes, he lied himself single.
Their trysts recurred twice a month. No letters exchanged, but periodically she sent snapshots to his office – in the bathtub, on the beach - which he placed inside the top drawer of his desk. He liked to sneak a look during office conferences.
Raymond pulled his key out of the ignition, then scanned the area in case there were any other visitors. Unable to stop fidgeting with the dashboard instruments, he wiped his hands on his suit pants, stopped, and stared out the windshield as her light blue Triumph pulled into the parking spot on the opposite side. He felt lightning once more as she - wrapped like a gift in a dotted Swiss mini-skirt - uncoiled her legs from the car. She turned, caught his eye, and in a singular fluid movement, smiled, ever so slightly lifted her skirt, parted her lips, tossed her head, smiled again. The entirety of that brief moment embedded instantly within him as she rushed forward, leaped, wrapped her bare legs around his waist, and whispered, “I’m here”.
Only moments earlier, Raymond’s wife stepped outside onto their patio, greeted a neighbor. They spoke for a few minutes.
They walked past the bend in the Ninnescah River where he swam before the municipal pool opened, and watched water moccasins glide downstream toward the beaver lodges on the river below the dam. The third and fourth fingers of her right hand glided across her forehead repositioning a lock of hair over her ear. She entwined her hand and forearm between his ribs and arm, tossed her hair, then, rubbed her left cheek against his right shoulder. Her citrus scent like an elixir after a long drought.
A few steps later, shielded under a tunnel of cottonwood tree branches, they watched the air raise dead leaves and create wind witches hurling small particles that fell as soon as they rose.
She stopped, turned toward him, raised herself on her toes, whispered into his ear, “Let’s go someplace,” then wrapped her left arm behind his back, pressed her fingers into the notch of his suit pants, and smoothed her right hand over his abdomen. Neither noticed their cumbersome posture as they walked toward his car.
Later that morning, Raymond’s wife lowered the high back chair in his office, and twirled to face his desk. She looked down.
He drove over the dusty road - her hand whisking his inner thigh - across the railroad tracks, past the tennis courts, the Boy Scout lodge, the swimming pool, a right turn toward the crest of the hill; then, just before reaching the ridge, another right turn into the parking lot and straight to the restaurant on the twenty-fifth floor. After lunch they clung one to the other as they rode in the elevator down to the twenty-third floor. Within two turns they were under the apex of the building, inside their suite, well-hidden from his wife, her husband, and their daily lives.
What his wife felt when she reached inside the desk drawer can be guessed, but will not be known for five years, when on Father’s Day, just before going out to dinner, she will say, “I’m moving out on August first”.
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