Torn

Loneliness. It drives people to do the craziest things. Things they normally wouldn’t do. Things they often become ashamed of, but when they realize what they’ve done, it’s too late. When loneliness pushes you over to the dark side, it’s only a matter of time before your life starts spiraling out of control.

Upon first glance, you’d never be able to tell that she succumbed to the loneliness; that it could make her do something she swore she never would. One look at her and you’d see a beautiful, strong, happy woman. She was all smiles and laughter on the outside, but her eyes are what give her away. If anyone bothered to take a closer look, it was right there for the world to see. The problem is that most people couldn’t be bothered, but he wasn’t most people. He saw through her façade of a perfect life and noticed the bone crushing despair that had found itself a home deep inside her. For most people it was much easier, and more convenient, to believe the fake smile she plastered across her face, than to take the time to really see her pain. But he was different. He saw it right away and only wanted to ease her pain. He didn’t care about the ring on her finger.

The worst kind of loneliness, she had come to find out, was the kind you felt when you weren’t alone at all. That’s probably why things happened the way they did. Why she let one harmless encounter turn into something so much more. Once she got a taste of the intimacy her life was so desperately lacking, she couldn’t stop herself from wanting more. It didn’t matter that it was coming from the wrong man or that she was still in love with the man she had vowed to be faithful to. She was hooked. Like a junky always looking for the next fix, she’d creep into the darkness of the night and straight into the arms of a man who was not her husband. As she laid in the arms of that man – the man who made her feel whole again, whose touch erased the pain of a struggling marriage — she realized she was in love with two men. As dawn was quickly approaching, bringing with it the threat of a new day and the realization that she had to leave him again, she thought back to that night. The night it all began. It was only supposed to be a ladies’ night out, but it turned out to be a night that changed the course of her life.

Emma couldn’t remember the last time she’d gone out with her friends. It had been at least six months that she could recall. She had a hard enough time keeping up appearances at work, that the thought of going out and having to pretend her life was this picture-perfect dream world was exhausting. She had given excuse after excuse to her friends over the last six months and this time they weren’t taking no for an answer. It was Jenna’s turn to pick so that meant a night of line dancing and drinking, and, of course, she had to pick the one place that held the most memories for Emma. It was where they had their first date and she hadn’t been there without him, ever.

She had been dreading it all day, but as she started to get ready a little spark of excitement started to bubble up within her. She never got “done up” anymore these days, because she found it a waste of time that only ended up making her feel worse and more invisible than she already felt. She knew deep down that she should do it for herself, but she always ended up incredibly disappointed when her husband didn’t notice her efforts. He didn’t notice much of anything anymore and therein lied her biggest problem. He was so wrapped up in himself, in his pain and disappointment in life, that he was slowly letting her slip away. There were rarely comments given any more about how great she looked, or innocent touches that made her go weak in the knees. She longed for the days of goodnight kisses that lead to so much more, or the look in his eyes that let her know, without a doubt, that she was his forever. All that was slowly slipping away and she was beginning to feel that maybe it was gone forever.

Each time she tried and failed to get his attention it hurt worse, but like a glutton for punishment, she always kept trying. So tonight she decided to go all out. She put on her favorite jeans, the ones that hugged every sultry curve and a flannel shirt that she tied in a knot exposing just enough of her stomach to be sexy. She slipped on the boots that he surprised her with on their very first date and topped it off with the cowboy hat that he loved. She spritzed on his favorite perfume – a bottle she hadn’t touched in months. She smiled to herself as she applied the finishing touches, smoky eyes and lips painted in his favorite shade of pink. If this night panned out like she was praying it would, she wouldn’t even make it to the front door. All he had to do was say the word and she’d gladly stand up her friends – they’d get over it.

She nervously descended the stairs and found him sitting on the couch, the remote in one hand and a beer in the other. She made her way across the living room into the kitchen. She grabbed her purse off of the kitchen counter where she left it when she came home from work. She rustled her keys, hoping to catch his attention but got no response. “Tonight’s that ladies’ night thing with Jenna and the girls,” she yelled out.

“Mm-hmm. Have fun,” he answered in between sips. He raised his hand that was holding his beer in a half-assed attempt to acknowledge her, but he never turned around. His response was discouraging but she didn’t give up. “I can make you something to eat before I go if you want?”

“Nah. I’m good,” he said as he raised his hand with the beer again, indicating he had all he needed already.

“Are you sure? I don’t mind.”

“I said I’m good.”

Feeling defeated and stupid for trying, again, she picked up her keys and headed for the garage. She could have easily gone in the living room and stood in front of the t.v. to get his attention, but she wasn’t going to beg like a needy dog. There was no way in hell she’d be reduced to that…again. She slammed the door closed, more for her benefit than his, because she was certain that he barely even noticed.

By the time she got to the bar she was equal parts pissed and humiliated. What kind of man doesn’t even get up off the couch to kiss his wife goodbye? Or try to entice her to stay in for the evening? What kind of man doesn’t even care to catch a glimpse of the woman he loves before she heads out for the night? She felt invisible and she doubted that a night out with the girls was going to fix that, but she was already there and with not much to go home to she decided “what the hell.” She got out of the car and made her way inside to what used to be her favorite place. It was their place. The spot of their very first date had turned into a standing weekly date night that she had always looked forward to. She felt sad as she stopped to think when the last time they’d been here was and she couldn’t. It had been that long.

She held her breath as she opened the door, wondering if it, too, had undergone as many changes as her life had. The Rusty Nail, as if knowing she couldn’t take one more disappointing change, was exactly the same as the last time she’d been there. Neon lights advertising all the different kinds of beer they served shone brightly above the bar. The familiar pub tables and chairs still surrounded the huge dance floor, filled with patrons boot scootin’ boogieing. The scent of Stetson and cigarette smoke filtered through the air, bringing memories to the surface that were now painful reminders of the life she once had. She was the last of her friends to arrive and they were already two or three drinks ahead of her. They all squealed with delight as she made her way to the table.

“Well, as I live and breathe, I was positive you’d find some excuse to stand us up, sugar! It’s good to see you,” Felicia yelled out over the music.

“She’s here now, so that’s all that matters. Here, you need to catch up,” Jenna said as she shoved a shot glass in her face. She took the glass, held it up to toast her friends and said, “Bottoms up!” They all cheered as they downed their own shots and then Jenna grabbed her by the hand and headed for the dance floor. She was a little rusty at first, but in no time at all she was keeping up with the best of them. She was laughing and smiling and having the best time she could remember having in a very long time. After the third or fourth dance she excused herself to go get a drink. She made her way up to the bar and ordered a Crown and Sprite. She left her card with the bartender for her tab, grabbed her drink, and then quickly turned and walked right into a wall of rock hard chest, her drink spilling nicely down the front of the tall drink of water now standing before her.

“Oh my God! I am so sorry!” she cried out.

“No worries, little lady,” he said as grabbed a napkin off the bar.

“I am such a klutz. Sorry about your shirt.”

“Don’t be. It’s just a shirt. No use gettin’ all upset over a spilled drink.” He took the now empty glass from her and handed it to the bartender, “The little lady will have another one of these. Put it on my tab.”

“Oh, no. I can’t let you buy me a drink. I should offer to buy you a drink or at least pay your cleaning bill for that shirt.”

“That won’t be necessary,” he said as he handed her another drink, “The only form of payment I’ll take is a dance.”

“I can’t,” she said as she held up her left hand and wiggled her ring finger.

His response was an unbelievable sexy grin. One that said, “Yeah, I see, but I don’t care.”

“It’s just one dance. Besides you can’t expect me to go back over to my friends with my tail between my legs, not after you spilled your drink all over me. Come on, darlin’, help a guy out.”

As if on cue, the lights lowered and the DJ played a slow song. A man was singing about ‘doing something right’ and when he flashed that sexy grin at her again, she couldn’t make herself say no. She took his proffered hand and followed him as he led her to the dance floor. When he found an empty spot, he pulled her in real close…too close…but damn if it didn’t feel good…too good. He held her close and looked deep in her eyes as they swayed to the music. She tried to break their eye contact, but she couldn’t. There was something about the way he was looking at her that held her captive. She knew the minute she took his hand that she’d made a huge mistake, but once she started she couldn’t stop. It had been so long since anyone held her hand or looked into her eyes. For the first time in a very long time she felt like a woman again. A beautiful woman. A desirable woman.

She had spent so long feeling invisible, that she decided it was okay to let herself feel these things for what would amount to only a few minutes out of her life. She thought she deserved to feel desirable again, if only for a little while. What harm could it do? It’s not like she was ever going to see this guy again. Then he did something she wasn’t expecting. The song came to an end and he slipped his hand into the back pocket of her jeans and gave her a little squeeze. She was so surprised by this move that it took her a second to realize that he slipped something into her back pocket. She furrowed her brow trying to figure out what it was when he leaned in and whispered, “If you decide you want a man who really sees you, who can appreciate all you have to offer, call me.”

He gave her a kiss on the cheek and then returned to his friends. He kept his distance for the rest of the night, but she could feel him watching her, and much to her chagrin, she liked it. She hadn’t planned on calling him. She was going to throw his business card in the trash on her way out of the bar, but as she ran her finger along the embossed lettering spelling out his name, she made her second bad decision of the night and slipped it back into her pocket.

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