“Try.” Armie leaned forward, elbows propped on the knees of his ripped jeans. “Dominic, we know you express your appreciation for Rosie through deeds. Acts of service. We’ve been working on creating words, to go along with those actions.” He paused. “It’s important that you’re not just giving, that you’re also receiving. What is something that Rosie does that makes you feel appreciated?”
“I told you, the food in the fridge.” Her husband shifted restlessly on the couch. Not Rosie. She couldn’t move at all. “She contributes a well-earned paycheck.”
“Okay. A paycheck is a contribution to the household, which is very important, but it’s not meant to express love or appreciation specifically to you, Dominic,” Armie said. “Let’s talk about the food. What do you typically make, Rosie?”
“Um . . .” Her voice sounded rusted. “Sometimes I’ll make a lasagna and just leave it there, so we can cut squares from it during the week.”
“So the food isn’t just for Dominic, it’s for both of you?”
“Yes,” she whispered, her pulse jumping in her wrists.
The cushions on the couch dipped as Dominic moved closer to her. “What is the point? She’s not responsible for making me dinner. I’m a grown man.”
“No, I would agree with that. But if you’re claiming that’s how she expresses—”
“If I’m not doing that, I’m doing nothing. I’ve been doing nothing.” Rosie laid her ice-cold hands on the sides of her face. For the past week, she’d been feeling apprehensive, positive things were moving forward too easily with her and Dominic. Waiting for the other shoe to drop. Was this why? “Oh my God.”
“That’s enough of this,” Dominic ground out, putting an arm around her shoulders. “Stop upsetting her.”
Armie sighed. “Dominic, it’s okay for you to be upset, too. Have you considered that maybe there are reasons this marriage hasn’t been working for you, too? And not for just Rosie?”
“No, I haven’t,” he gritted.
She looked over in time to see his green eyes flash with irritation. There was more happening in their depths, though. Uncertainty. Just a hint of it, but it was there, and it crumbled Rosie’s house of cards. It took a lot to make Dominic uncertain of anything. Her husband was built out of conviction and duty.
“You should,” Rosie whispered. “You should consider I haven’t been good to you, either. I—I don’t think I have—”
He scoffed. “Stop, Rosie. Just stop this.”
“Look me in the eye for ten seconds. The way I couldn’t do last time.” She wasn’t sure why it seemed vital to attempt that prolonged connection in that moment, only that it was. During their first session, she’d seen everything right there, visible in the windows to his soul. She’d seen frustration, apology, heat. She needed that reassurance right now more than she needed her next breath. “Look me in the eye and tell me you were happy in our marriage.”
Dominic took her chin in his hand and leaned close, unflinching as their gazes connected. This time, though, there was a barrier up. He was hiding. “I was . . . I was . . . happy.”
Rosie made a sound and covered her mouth.
“If I wasn’t completely happy, Rosie, it’s only because you weren’t.”
It was hard to watch, her husband struggling to come to grips with his own lack of contentment, all the while desperate to reassure her. She’d had a shard of ice lodged right in the center of her chest ever since the night she’d given up on their marriage. This display of vulnerability from Dominic made it crack down the center and begin to thaw. God, she hadn’t seen him like this in so long. Maybe ever. Thoughts raced behind his eyes faster than a major-league pitch. What went on in Dominic’s mind?
“Dominic.” Armie’s voice brought her husband’s head whipping around, his expression decidedly dazed. “Let’s talk about what Rosie could do, instead of what she maybe hasn’t done lately. I’m going to give you a few examples of expressions of love—you tell me which one appeals to you most.”
Dominic shrugged a jerky shoulder.
“Rosie saying thank you for working hard.” He let that option settle. “Rosie surprising you with a new pair of sunglasses. Rosie going with you to a movie. Rosie filling the gas tank of your truck without you asking . . .”
It was subtle, but she caught her husband’s nod in her periphery.
“So you not only prefer to express your love through deeds, that’s how you need love expressed to you in return.”
“I don’t know,” Dominic said hoarsely.
The tip of her nose burning, Rosie slipped her hand beneath her husband’s, threading their fingers together. “Try to talk through it, please?”
A muscle jumped in Dominic’s cheek. “Not gas pumping,” he said in a low voice. “I wouldn’t want her to pump my gas—ever—and I don’t care if that makes me a chauvinist. But I guess . . . I don’t know. It would be nice to know she’d thought of me.”
The unshed tears that had been poised behind Rosie’s eyes lost the fight and cascaded down her cheeks. Her face felt freshly slapped. All this time, she’d blamed Dominic entirely for the decline of their relationship. But she’d been equally to blame. She might have fought in the beginning, trying to locate that old wildfire that had always burned between them, physically and emotionally. Somewhere along the way, she’d quit. At least Dominic had tried in his own secret ways to make her feel cared for. Protected. She’d done nothing.
When Dominic saw Rosie crying, his face paled. “No, honey. Please.” He reached for her, hesitated, then caught her around the waist. Already throatily crooning comforting words, he dragged Rosie sideways onto his lap, wrapping his big arms around her body, as if he could ward off the icy realization that she’d been blaming him. And taken none of that blame herself.
Oh my God. This is my doing as much as his.
Every day, going through the motions and being so angry at him. How could she not have realized she was doing the exact same thing? How could she have been such a hypocrite?
Tears burned tracks down her cheeks, and Dominic watched them in horror, seeming as though he didn’t have a clue what to do. For once. Finally, he leaned in and started to kiss them away.
“Shhh, Rosie. We’re going to work this out. You’re my wife and I wouldn’t change that for any damn thing in the world. I’m your man.” He exhaled roughly. “Details, right? Words? You need to know I’m always paying attention? Remember that time we took the ferry to Connecticut, the day before I was deployed? Your fingers and mouth tasted like the cranberry-orange muffin we split from the bakery, and I’d scour the mess tent for oranges every fucking day I was away, trying to get that taste back in my mouth.” He turned her face, moved his head, and kissed the freckle behind her ear. Once, twice. “I missed you so bad. I miss you now.”
That ice in her heart melted and dripped, halfway to vapor. “I miss you, too.”
Lord, in that weak moment, she wanted nothing more than to do that. Go back to her husband and hope everything worked out. Hope that their new self-awareness would make all the difference. But she wasn’t willing to gamble. She’d only learned a few minutes ago that she’d played an active role in getting them to this point. Separated. She needed time to get her head around that. To go back and comb through the past five years through an entirely different lens. They both needed to work on themselves—and their marriage—at the same time. They would never do that if they fell back into their old routine.
“Okay. Let’s talk homework.” Armie clapped his hands together. “Rosie, Dominic needs acts of service to feel appreciated. I will leave those up to you, but let me reiterate that—as your therapist—I feel strongly that sex should remain off the table.”
Rosie bit down on her tongue and forced a smile.
Dominic dropped his face into her neck and groaned.
“Dominic, please continue exercising your vocal cords. Find ways to give Rosie the words she needs to hear. You did a tremendous job of that today.” Armie’s body fell bonelessly against the back of his chair. “It might not feel like it right now, but we’ve had a successful session, folks.”
Even though it was insanely difficult, Rosie scooted off Dominic’s lap, allowing him to keep her close with a protective arm around her shoulders. “Armie, you said you usually know by the fourth session if a couple is going to make it.” She swallowed hard. “I know we still have one more session left, but do you know about us yet?”
His smile was apologetic. “Not yet.”
A day after their rocky third therapy session, Dominic was grabbing a quick workout in the back bedroom—hoping to burn off some of his excess mental and sexual frustration—when he heard the sound of water running in the house and frowned. There was no one home, save himself—he couldn’t be more painfully aware of that fact—and none of the appliances were turned on.