Jeff traced the back of my leg with the tips of his fingernails as I lay on the couch next to him. He was on his phone scrolling through Instagram, as I watched out the High Street window at the snow falling.
“Should we go sledding on the golf course?” I asked. It was hard for me to sit still, especially on the weekends, when I had just two days of freedom before getting back on that hamster wheel of my working life.
“Why can’t we just relax here?” Jeff asked. “Do we always have to be doing something?” His thumb flexed back and forth, up and down, scrolling through Instagram. Sometimes it would pause to give something a favorable heart.
“You’re right. Instagram is so much better,” I said, kicking my leg up in the air and landing it on the cold wood floor. The floors had large cracks between the boards, and I could feel the cold air rising from the basement onto my feet. The heat bill this winter was going to be egregious, regardless of the fact that I kept the thermostat at 63 and wore my favorite purple knit cap all the time to stay warm. I could tell Jeff was annoyed with my restlessness. He just wanted to lounge around, drink coffee, read books, and look on his phone. I, on the other hand, felt the compulsive need to make the most of my life and headed to the shed in the backyard to look for the tube and sleds.
Dingo dashed out the door into the snow as soon as I opened it. He jumped up over the drifts, like a horse mounting the hurdles. I squinted as the bright sun reflected off the snow and thought about my friends skiing in the Berkshires or at Stowe. Somehow the idea of an inner tube on the golf course felt somewhat…deflated. And, in fact, the tube was deflated. I needed a bike pump. I looked around for a pump and instead found myself rearranging boxes, making room for the rusty 10-speed I found on Buzzards Bay Avenue with a “Free” sign on it last summer. It was tipped over on its side, sans kickstand. I then stopped to open an unfamiliar looking box. It had Jeff’s handwriting on it and said, “PERSONAL” in a black Sharpie. I looked behind me to see if Jeff was on his way out, but all I saw was Dingo eating a filthy paper towel he picked up from the neighbor’s recycling bin.
“Drop it!” I yelled, knowing full well Dingo wouldn’t listen. I watched him chomp the towel defiantly staring at me all the while. I didn’t even care, because I wanted to open the box. I turned back to look at it. “Personal,” I read again. Well, that looked like an invitation to me. I mean, I was his wife after all. Didn’t I have a right to see what was inside? Nothing is personal when you’re married! Right?
Well, maybe wrong.
Inside the box I found letters, lots of letters, tied together with an old string. They were letters from his ex, Jessica, the wretched, gold-digging Vegan, whom he was supposed to marry, and who now resided on Joy Street in Back Bay with some geriatric investment banker named Todd. Things between her and Jeff didn’t end well, since he came to rescue me from Stephen’s apartment in NYC. And I knew for a fact she hated me, because, well, she told me as much to my face. “I hate you,” she scowled, wiping the tears and gobs of foundation off of her porcelain face with her long, gel-dipped nails. I felt a pang of guilt. But who can take someone seriously when they have the word “PINK” stamped to the back their ass?
I couldn’t believe he kept her letters. Or, at the very least, why couldn’t he find somewhere else to keep them, like his mother’s attic, or… the dump. Did they really have to travel with him to our new marital home? Sure, they were outside in the shed, but why were they even there at all? Was he still harboring some feelings for her, and maybe like sat in the shed slugging a beer, re-reading and pining away for days long gone? Maybe he wasn’t over her. Maybe he was impetuous breaking it off with her and wanted her back! My mind started spiraling. I frantically began reading. “Dear Shmoo,” she wrote in eighth grade bubble letters. I wanted to vomit.
“Did you find the sleds?” Jeff asked, quickly approaching the shed in his LL Bean duck boots and orange puffer jacket. I panicked and lobbed the letters back into the box, which then crashed to the floor. All of them spilled out. I was going to be busted. I was caught.
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#love #marriage #fiction #woodshole #falmouth #capecod