I love you.
When was the last time she’d heard those words out of her husband’s mouth?
She couldn’t even remember.
She couldn’t even remember.
Maybe Dominic was the reason she couldn’t make the leap to step three of her aspirations. His lack of faith and encouragement—his utter lack of acknowledgment—was holding her back. She’d become content to waste away in this perfume purgatory. If she had more courage, she would tell Martha where to stick a bottle of Le Squirt Bon Bon. That bravery was missing, though. It had been for way too long.
What happened to us? We used to love so hard. We used to be a team.
With a chest full of crushed glass, Rosie leaned over the counter and checked the clock again. Ten. She’d made it another day. Her marriage wouldn’t.
Marriage to Dominic was complicated.
To say the absolute least.
Rosie pulled her car into the garage and shut off the engine, keeping her hands on the steering wheel as she breathed in and out. In and out. His truck was parked at the curb outside their house, so Rosie knew he was inside, probably nursing a beer in front of the evening news.
Tonight was not only the night she would tell her husband it was over.
It was their scheduled night to fuck like the world was ending.
She reached over and plucked her purse off the passenger seat, holding it in her lap as she considered the door just a few feet in front of the car’s hood. It led into their kitchen. She would walk into the house like she did every single night, kick off her heels, and figure out dinner. Her own dinner. Dominic would have already eaten alone. Separate meals. Just another part of their marriage that should have signaled the end long before now.
With her heart pounding in her ears, Rosie left the car and climbed the stairs to the kitchen door. She paused with her hand on the doorknob, anticipation heating her skin despite her common sense. Sense had no place in what happened between Rosie and Dominic once a week, when the sexual tension between them reached a fever pitch and they gave in. Gave in hard.
Their marriage might be cold, but the bedroom was not.
Ever since Dominic had taken her virginity on the night of her seventeenth birthday, sex between them had grown more and more explosive. That hadn’t changed when he returned from overseas, but something important was missing. Something she needed for it to feel right and not just about slaking an urge. Affection. That had gone the way of her husband’s warmth, caring, and support, leaving nothing but a brutally gorgeous man who knew her body’s every single filthy secret.
Giving her lower lip a warning bite, Rosie opened the door and stepped over the threshold into the house, the familiar sounds of the news reaching her ears. There was already an empty beer bottle sitting by the toaster. An accusation. You’re late. I’m waiting. Ironic that a man who showed so little awareness of her as a woman would keep such close tabs on her schedule. Enough to know she usually walked into the house at 10:15 and it was now 10:22.
Rosie toed off her high heels and loosed a silent groan of relief at the ceiling.
Before she could stop herself, she slipped her feet into her running sneakers, nylons and all, her heart starting to slam loudly in her ears. This is it. I’m doing it. I can’t take the lack of love anymore when it used to be so abundant. There was so much slack in their rope now and nothing to pull it taut.
Even though her stomach was growling for something to eat, Rosie bypassed the refrigerator, stepping ever so slightly into the living room. Enough that she could make out her husband’s profile in the flickering light of the television. Tonight was the night she got relief, and her libido knew it well. Sticky, sweet need meandered downward into her belly, turning her limbs fluid. Yes, Dominic was a gorgeous man. Even though he’d slowly, so slowly, broken her heart, leaving it limp and gasping in her chest, there was no denying how her body responded to the sight of him. Her husband sat shirtless on the couch, leaning forward with his hands clasped between his knees. Tattoos wove over his ripped shoulders, black ink on brown skin, including the single-starred flag of Puerto Rico she’d licked too many times to count.
His head was shaved, the cross around his neck gifted to Dominic at his high school graduation by his father. A Bronx man raised Catholic. Tradition, honor, respect. Those qualities were ingrained in him growing up, but only the skeleton of them remained. At least when applied to her. He provided. Worked himself raw day in and day out on the construction site, had never been late paying a bill or delayed the repair of something around the house. In her bones, she knew Dominic was faithful. Didn’t have a single doubt. He might be the perfect husband.
If only he’d give her the time of day.
He was prepared to give her the time of night. That was made obvious by his lack of shirt and socks—and when he leaned back, she knew the top button of his jeans would be undone.
A full bottle of beer rested on the coffee table in front of him.
Minutes had passed and he’d made no move to touch it. He knew she was there and hadn’t gotten up to greet her. Hadn’t even said hello. Just sitting there like a king, waiting for his queen to climb on and ride, so they could start the clock again. Another week of silence. Another night of rough sex. A cycle that would never end.
Unless she broke it.
When Rosie normally would have started stripping off her clothes on the way to the bedroom, she turned on the toe of her sneaker and reentered the kitchen. She opened the cupboard above the sink and took out her address book. She set it on the counter and stared at it before reaching back up and leafing through documents. Bills, financial records, things she wasn’t sure why she needed, but certainly would. There was a folder with their marriage certificate and a deed to the house. All of it was coming with her. As much as Dominic treated her like a part of the scenery, he would never file for divorce.
It would have to be her.
“What are you doing?”
His voice climbed her spine like ivy. Endorphins rushed underneath the top layer of her skin and her body begged for the relief her husband doled out like a punishment. But as Rosie turned to face him, she reminded herself how lost and alone she’d felt in Haskel’s that night. How she’d become a stranger in her own life—and she was done waiting for the old Dominic to come back and revive it. The man who used to share her dreams, make them his own? He was gone.
“A man was interested in me tonight.”
Rosie had no idea where those words had come from. They were unplanned. As soon as they were out of her mouth, though, her determination to leave multiplied tenfold. That’s right, husband. I’m a badass. One you’ve taken for granted way too long.
Dominic had gone very still at her statement. Within the boxed doorframe between the kitchen and living room, he seemed to expand, his muscular chest rising and falling as if he were winded. “Excuse me, Rosie?”
“You heard what I said. A man. Was interested. In me.” She cocked a hip, feeling more like her old self than she had in years. “Tonight.”
Charged silence stretched between them.
“If someone touched you,” he said slowly, taking a step into the kitchen and filling it up like a hundred balloons, “that someone will regret it.”
“There was no touching. Only interest,” Rosie said. “And you know what? It felt so good. To have someone look at me and . . . see me. To make an effort.”
A muscle popped in his jaw. “I’ve been sitting here waiting for you to get home.”
“What we do doesn’t require an effort. Not anymore.” He raised an eyebrow at her, as if to say, You sure about that? And her temper spiked. “It’s good. We both know it’s good. But . . .” Her voice threatened to crack, so she stopped to clear her throat. “It’s just empty sex. There’s nothing in it anymore.”
His upper lip curled. “And you think it won’t be empty with some fucking guy you just met? Some guy who showed interest?”
“I’m saying it’ll be the same,” she whispered, before she could stop the truth from emerging. It wouldn’t stay packed in tight anymore. With every admission she made, honesty grew easier. Grew impossible to stay silent about everything that had been hurting her. For years. “The sex won’t be as good. Maybe it never will be as good with anyone else and maybe that’s why I—I thought there was hope? I don’t know, Dominic. But being with a stranger will be the same in the ways that count. I’ll feel like I mean nothing afterward.”
He seemed to stop breathing, his skin turning chalky. “Rosie.”
Before she’d even finished the question, she’d whirled back around and started shoving her address book and paperwork into her purse. The back of her neck prickled and she knew Dominic was approaching. Don’t let him touch you or you’ll lose steam. Her sense of self-preservation kicked in and she turned, avoiding him on her way through the living room, down the hallway to the back bedroom. A total mistake, going anywhere near a bed when her body was involuntarily primed for contact. On Tuesday nights, they gave in. Like clockwork. Rosie steeled herself against the weakness of her flesh and ripped a suitcase out of the closet, throwing it open on the bed.
Holy shit. I’m doing this.