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Rated: 18+ · Short Story · Romance/Love · #2318493
Tristan and Rena try to save their marriage.
I stare at my wedding rings, flicking the notch on the band back and forth to make it swivel on my finger. I could easily get lost in that sparkle that catches the light and dances around the room. That's what I want to do. Get lost in the shine and take a break from the loneliness, lingering doubts of my future, and the routine of the marriage I had once delighted in and cherished.

We are at an impasse. So many times, we've come to this place. This rift in the relationship has me leaning toward the vile "D" word. I swallow the instant lump that embeds itself in my throat and close my eyes, hoping to ward off the stinging tears that threaten to fall. No one else could make me feel as low as dirt, like a failure. No other man had ever taken me higher or made me feel so alive I could fly. The bitter complexity of our relationship changes everything, so much so that I wonder why we even bother especially since the perfect love we once shared is nothing more than a distant memory now, so far out of reach that I don't bother to try to attain it.

The front door squeaks open, and I brace myself against the table for the next confrontation, knowing it could be our last. I watch Tristan set his keys on the hall table before facing me. Our eyes lock, speaking volumes across the distance between us. Only the clock ticking interrupts the silence that fills the room and seeps into my bones with a fierce ache. Hopelessness remains in his dark eyes, a sadness so intense that the lines at the edges of those once seductive brown pools become more prominent. I sit at the edge of my chair like a warrior preparing for battle.

His eyes snap shut, breaking our connection. My heart flips, slowing to a steady rhythm. The man I once loved more than life itself was defeated. I see it clearly in this moment, and it catches my breath. My thoughts race, searching for something positive, but words escape me. No matter what I say, it won't be enough to make things right. No magic wand exists or spells powerful enough to undo all the hurt we've caused one another. We can't continue to go on this way. There is only one thing left to do; say goodbye. The thought enters my mind; my heart clenches as if a vise has tightened, giving me the most painful sensation I've ever experienced.

Is this what I truly want? Can I just walk away?

Without a word, he turns and moves away from me. I listen to the familiar sounds of the bathroom door closing and then hear the shower running. Relieved, I sigh, knowing there’s still time to work out the perfect speech and finally release each other from this heavy burden we've carried for the past three years. There is only one problem. The thought of having to say the words, to look at him while I tell them and watch as I shatter his heart, brings a surge of bile rushing up my throat. I jump to my feet and head to the other bathroom as my stomach churns, my throat burning.

Grasping the sink, I drag in a ragged breath, desperate to keep from bowing to the porcelain gods. Gazing at my reflection in the mirror makes me shudder. That defeated look I saw in Tristan moments ago also stares back at me. How did we get here? I crank on the faucet and splash cold water onto my face. Returning to the living room I wait, knowing I have to end this insanity for both our sakes.

Sitting on the couch, I work to calm down. Once I begin to cry, which always tends to happen, I won't stop. I must steel my spine and stay strong, say what's on my mind, listen to Tristen, and calmly figure out where we go.

Staring at the clock on the wall, watching the second hand move around, my focus so keen everything else around me is a blur. Thoughts race, and words form coherent sentences as the talk I want becomes a speech in my mind. All I have to do is say the words aloud. If I can manage that, Tristan and I can reach an understanding and go our separate ways. Realizing the weight of that truth, heaviness grips my heart.

Tristan's hand on my shoulder, and the slight shake pulls me back as if sucked through a portal of time. I close my eyes for a moment.

Looking up at him, I force a small smile. "Sorry."

He nods once, a sharp movement of his damp, dark head, then sits across from me as if he knows what's to come. Instead of opening my mouth and saying what had been flitting through my mind, I stared at him, unable to speak.

Tristan leans forward, places elbows to knees, steeples his big hands, and stares back.

"We can't go on like this, Rena." His chin rests on his hands while those dark eyes focus on mine, waiting.

I blink and nod. If I let Tristan take the lead, we might get through this as painless as possible.

Digging deep within, I find my voice. "I know that." Relief swamps me that the words came out without the added tears.

"I don't know what else I am supposed to do. I've busted my ass for a year now, yet you continue to shut me out of your life. Everything is more important than I am."

My eyes widen as I stare at him. "That's not true," I insist, but I have nothing to support my claim. I fight through the barrage of things that rush through my mind, words that go nowhere.

Tristan stands and runs a hand through his hair in frustration, pacing before me. I realize that my speech is long gone and useless. I stand, swallow the fear his reaction to what I am about to say might bring.

"I'm going to a hotel for the night. Once you're at work tomorrow, I'll come for my things." It's the only way to stop the fighting, to give each of us some distance and a bit of perspective, I rationalize.

As I approach the hall, Tristan grabs my arm, preventing me from escaping. Tears build. I close my eyes in a futile attempt to stop them from falling, wishing I could stay strong and stand my ground. I can't even bring myself to look him in the eye. The thought of facing that hurt in his eyes, the hurt I caused, makes my stomach churn.

"No, Rena." He sighs but doesn't release his grip. "We have to talk. No more evading my questions, no running away, no excuses to get out of it either; we've come too far to lose it all now."

I yank my arm free and stare up into his face. "Don't you get it? We already have! For the past two years, all we've done is exist. It's too late." Tears burn my eyes, blurring my vision before they cascade down my cheeks like a fresh summer rain.

Tristan cups my face, flicking the tears away with the pads of his thumbs. "It breaks my heart to see you cry. Do you want a divorce, Rena? Is that what you truly want?"

I gasp on the next sob, those words filtering into my mind.

He rests his hand on my chest with a long-forgotten gentleness. "Can't you let me back into your heart? I want it back, all of it. I love you, Rena. I've never stopped. Would you stay with me these past few years if you didn't love me?"

The question sat between us, my mind whirling out of control like a train going off the tracks.

"You wanted me around more, and I gave you that. I've been here night after night, but you haven't."

"That's not true," I mutter.

His hands slip from my face, and the loneliness creeps back up my spine.

He rests his hands on his hips as his head lowers and shakes. "Night after night, I am here, waiting, hoping, and wishing you'd give me a second chance. I know I've hurt you, taken you for granted, but I've busted my ass to make it up to you. Instead, you don't even try. You continue to put more and more distance between us. When will it end? When I walk away? I can only take so much, Rena."

Guilt washes over me like a tidal wave. Everything Tristan said was true; I couldn't deny it. We were here because I couldn't get over the past. I let it continue to eat away at me. I never believed he could change, that he wouldn't cut and run once things became comfortable again, just as he'd done so many years ago. My heart aches; pain seeps in, making it hard to breathe.

The tears continue to fall off my face, soaking my shirt, and my knees quake as the realization hits me in full force. I gasp for air as the room spins, and my legs turn to Jell-O. I stumble back for the chair before I collapse, landing like a sack of potatoes.

"Do you love me?" He asks. The softness in his voice mingles with fear.

One word determines the fate of our lives, and I hold the key to our future.

"Rena," he snaps. Tristan moves forward and kneels in front of me.

There is no escape, and he deserves an answer. "I don't know." Agony races through me as I turn away from him. How the words manage to escape my mouth, I'll never know.

"It's not a 'no'."

I laugh. Through the pain, the tears, the fear, and this moment of uncertainty, my husband can still make me laugh.

As I look at him now, I begin to see the man I married. His brown eyes filled with love and hope as he gazes at me with a small, unsure smile. Without thought, I reach out and place a hand on his cheek; the stubble of a beard feels good beneath my palm. His hand covers mine, holding me against his warm skin. I inhale, and his scent washes over me, making the dormant butterflies in my stomach take flight. The feeling is so foreign to me but somehow puts me at ease.

He leans in, his lips hovering next to mine as if waiting for permission. I close my eyes, wanting to feel something other than the hell we've created for one another. He presses his mouth to mine, and I let it in. Tristan's kiss is gentle and warm, but hesitancy is also there. I am desperate to see if that little nook of heaven still exists and if I can push past the anger, hurt, doubt, and speculation and find my way back to him, home, and love.

Dropping my hand from his cheek, I kiss him back. Fire races up my spine when his arms wrap around me, dragging me into his chest. Tristan nibbles at my bottom lip, coaxing my mouth to part. Opening for him, he takes advantage and thrusts his tongue into my mouth. Every nerve in my body comes screaming to life. This kiss becomes a dance, a tango of need, urgency, and longing buried so deep it comes close to being forgotten.

He drags me to my feet and scoops me in his arms, breaking the electrifying kiss. I'm lost in that hazy stare, those intense passion-filled eyes, the warmth and love that shines so clearly for me. I want to return to that place, to open up entirely and find what I'd lost.

Carrying me toward the bedroom, I fuse my mouth back to his, ready to take another chance.

WC: 1998

Edited from original entry "A Second Chance"   by Purple Princess and pared down to be under a 2000 word count limit.
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