I Love You Still
I Love You Still
Rich had been across the Illinois border for about an hour. The tank was low. His vision was half focused. He was so tired it was physically painful. He hadn’t eaten all day. But it didn’t matter. None of it mattered. All that mattered was getting home. He almost forgot what home looked like-what it felt like and how it smelled. Laura was a different story. He hadn’t forgotten how she felt. Two months and three days, and he still knew every nook.
Laura rushed in the door, late from work, and took off her heels. She left them on the floor as she shed her white button-up and black pencil skirt, leaving them in a trail on her way to the bathroom. It had been so long since she’d seen him. The night needed to be perfect. She needed to be perfect. They were going to be perfect. Alice was going to ask for every detail. She was a good friend. A little nosey, but all good friends were nosey. Laura didn’t blame her. She was the same with Alice about Jeremy. Now it was her turn. Alice knew the whole story, and how long it had been.
Rich began drifting into the other lane. He wasn’t yet nodding, but it was close. If he didn’t pull over, he was going to get pulled over. Coffee would do him some good. And he probably should freshen up. The last sign said there was a gas station in 4 miles off exit 268, about 3 hours from home. He could fill up, splash some water on his face, and grab a cup. Plus, they’d probably have a payphone. He could check in, and play it off like he was going to spend the night in Iowa. Laura would be disappointed. He wondered if the gas station had flowers. Probably not lilies, but something. He’d show up just as she was getting ready for bed, flowers and a surprise. And he’d tuck her in, and hold her the whole night through.
Laura poured a glass of wine in the kitchen, her wet hair in a towel, cute little toes on the tile. She knew what she was going to wear—the emerald green baby doll she bought on Saturday. She bought it just for him. Laura took the glass of wine with her to the bathroom. She set it on the counter and got lost looking at herself in the mirror. First, they would kiss, as soon as she opened the door. And then he would take her and ravage her on the bed, smear her makeup and leave her hair tattered and her legs wobbly. And then if they felt like it, maybe they’d order in and cuddle on the couch and watch Dallas before he took her to bed again. It had been too long.
Rich finished filling the tank. He got in the car and pulled it around to the payphone. The sign was lit up blue against the red of the dusk sky. He rolled down the window and reached for the receiver. Seventy-five cents was ridiculous. How did they get away with it? Carter was going to destroy this damn country. Before long nobody could afford to live. He scrounged and found three quarters in the ashtray. He dialed, and the phone began to ring.
“Hello,” said Laura.
“Hey baby,” said Rich.
“Oh. Hey. What’s up?”
“What do you mean, what’s up? I’m just calling to check in.”
“Oh. Okay. Yeah. Everything’s fine. When will you be home?”
“I’m exhausted. I’m going to spend the night in Iowa.”
“Okay. So, I’ll see you tomorrow,” she asked?
“Yeah. I can’t wait to see you, baby.”
“Okay. Yeah. Me too. But I gotta go. Alice is here.”
“Oh. Is everything alright,” Rich asked?
“Everything’s great. I’ll see ya tomorrow.”
“Okay. I love you,” he said.
“Okay. Drive safe,” Laura said.
Laura hung up. Rich kept the phone to his ear.
_ _ _ _ _
Laura brushed the last of her mascara and twisted the cap. The doorbell rang. She hustled her makeup bag away in the cabinet and took a breath.
She opened the door, halfway at first, and then all the way.
“Wow,” said Tim. “You look stunning!”
She leaned against the door, pursed her lips and invited him in with her eyes.
Tim looked over his shoulder and then closed the door behind him.
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