Author: Charmaine Gordon
Genre: Mainstream/Romantic Suspense
Emily came out of the ladies room dressed in a bikini. She finally got together with her best friends for tennis and lunch. “Look at you, girlfriend. Not only are you devoid of one ounce of extra fat, but your muscles have muscles,” Margaret said,”always engaged in the battle of the bulge. “How do you do that?” “Grief agrees with me, I guess.” As she went into the whirlpool room to wait for them, she overheard Jesse say, “What can we do for her?” “She said she’d talk after tennis and she will. Hurry before she changes her mind,” Shelly said.
Emily sat alone in the hot water, steam rose all around her. Her hand waved through a wisp of steam. The door opened, the wisps danced and settled in the disturbed air. Time for a chat with women she’d known since childhood.
Margaret, Jesse, and Shelly eased into the water and surrounded Emily, the hub of the wheel in this circle of friends. Jesse set the timer for twenty minutes. Bubbles sprang into action, strategically placed jets pulsed and brought comfort to aches and pains. Her friends waited. “When Larry died suddenly,” Emily spoke in a soft steady voice, “I should’ve left well enough alone. A happy marriage of thirty years is almost more than a person could ask for. Should’ve, would’ve, could’ve.” The women leaned toward Emily to hear every word over the noise of the pool.
“So I meet this man, great on the exterior, damaged on the interior where it doesn’t show, like day old bread or seconds you can buy for less at a discount store. But who’s to know? That’s a rhetorical question. No answer required.” She smiled. Her friends nodded. “I want companionship, he’s starved for love. And the sex is incredible. He’s a walking h***-o*.” In spite of themselves, everyone broke-up except Emily. “Our time together is one long or****.” She glanced at her friends. “Do you know what I mean?” No one did. “So we get married and before too long, I’m learning martial arts. And loving it. He wants me to learn how to protect myself and now I believe I can.” Surprised looks from the women. “Yes, I now have an orange belt and continue to work on my skills.” She talked faster and faster. “He installs a fancy burglar alarm system that makes my house on the beach as safe as the White House and I don’t see my buddies too often because he keeps me so busy.” She paused for a breath as her train of thought peaked at the top of a mountain and hurtled down without stop. She’s barely visible; they’re all barely visible in the heat and steam from the pulsing whirlpool as the timer moved on. “And when I accuse him of controlling me, he’s distraught, begs my forgiveness, promises to stop— how did he put it?” She searched for his words in the mist. “Yes. He’ll stop looking in his rearview mirror before he loses what’s right in front of him. Nice, huh? So I forgive him and we go for a run early one morning and I run very fast and he lags behind. Suddenly a stranger appears, almost touches me, Pat’s not around, I think he’s way back but when I turn, he’s nowhere in sight. So I run and run…and find him in the water. Dead. Killed by hit and run, the cops are searching for him as we speak. I’m a widow again.” The timer clicked off, the bubbles slowed and disappeared. The steam dissipated. “And that’s what happened.”
Emily was dry-eyed. Tears streamed down the faces of her friends. Her voice steady as she finished, Emily said, “I never should’ve let him into my life.” “Now who’s looking in the rearview mirror?”Jesse said. “One more thing. Did you love him?” Shelly said. Emily didn’t miss a beat. “Yes, oh yes.” Margaret wrapped up in a towel and wiped her eyes. “One long or****?” The mood was broken.