short story about love and pride and what can happen when both are threatened.
I have to keep working; taking orders, smiling. Keep my mask of narmalcy safely in place. But sometimes when I'm alone...it slips. My smile slips, my eyes go blank. But only when I'm alone. When I'm at the restaurant I maintain a cheerful prattle with the customers, and smile and nod at all the right things with my co-workers. I can't let them know. I can't let anyone know. I couldn't bear their pity; "Oh you poor girl" Not for me.
At home I live the facade just as carefully. My pride is all I have left, and I cling to it desperately. My hopes and dreams for the future have all been trampled, but I hold my head up high.
When my husband first beganto talk about 'expanding our family' and 'sharing our life' I thought he was finally accepting my idea of adopting a baby. I didn't realize he wanted to bring another woman into my house.
He said it was just to help her out. She was in a bad way. Her husband beat her, he said. In the face of all that how could I say "NO"? So she moved in. I could see they wee falling in love. I'm not blind. He said it was just that no man had ever been kind to her before.
Then came the afternoon I came home early from work to find them in my bed. I wanted to run out of the house; but where could I go? I'd been dropped off by one of the girls I work with. I had no friends close by. To be honest I had no friends at all. I was too humiliated to call my family. So I stayed.
He explained how loving her didn't diminish his love for me. How she could be the best friend I'd always wanted. How he loved us both too much to lose either of us. In that moment I hated him. I tought back on the seven years we'd been married. I wouldn't let him know how much this was hurting me.
Last week she brought me a rose and hugged me. She thanked me for allowing her into my family. I smiled. I hugged her back. I put the flower in a vase without water. I watched it die.
I do all the cooking. She says she doesn't want to invade my kitchen, but shows no compunctions about my bedroom. When people question me about her, I tell them we're just helping her out till she gets a job and back on her feet. They smile and cluck, "Oh that's nice of you." But I can see it in their eyes. They suspect. I don't want to be the object of their pity. I still have my pride.
This morning I stood at the stove cooking breakfast for them. Behind my back they thought I couldn't see them holding hands. That I couldn't hear them whispering to one another. I've been reduced to the position of maid. They make plans without me. They think I don't know, but I do.
Tonight I pretended to fall asleep watching television. Later I heard her sneaking into my bedroom. I heard the click of the door as she shut it. I heard the bedsprings and their sex noises. I covered my ears and turned to face the back of the couch. Burying myself under the pillows and banket I tried to escape the sound into sleep. But I could hear them as clearly as if they were in my head. I cried. For the first time I cried, but silently. They musn't hear.
Time passes. Finally it'squiet. I wait. And I wait. And I wait. I creep out from under my balnket, silent and sure, out to the garage. Back into the house. Back to the bedroom. I'm careful not to step on the loose board. I start on the far side of the room; working my way back to the doorway. Onto the bed. The smell is strong now. I'm standing at the foot of the bed when I call them, "Wakey wakey lovebirds." They open their eyes and look at me. I strike the lighter and touch it to the bedclothes. The flame races toward them on the gasoline drenched bedspread. She screams and panics, throwing it to the floor, where the carpet too has been saturated. I step back. A ring of fire encircles the bed, trapping them. They are both screaming as I shut the door behind me.
Everyone will know now, but ot doesn't matter. I still have my pride.