by J. Allen
One husband. One wife. One secret that could change everything. Short story in progress
Even on that road trip with her husband, Rex was all Layla could think about.
Sure, she had told Preston that Rex hit on her last weekend at the office Christmas party—but that was hardly the whole story. Part of her wanted to tell him the rest.
But Preston was too distracted.
“Move it!” Preston shouted at the trucker in front of them, as he punched the horn of his SUV. Coffee spilled from Preston’s cup onto the dashboard, as his cheeks flushed crimson.
“Honey, let me hold your coffee,” Layla offered, but Preston swatted at her hand.
Maybe I shouldn’t have told him about Rex, Layla thought.
Preston and Layla drove west toward Tallulah, a remote town of just 119, nestled in the Washington state hinterlands, where few travelers ventured. They wound through the labyrinthine roads enshrouded by towering pines, hemlocks, and firs, as the minutes drifted into hours, and time melted away.
Around every turn, mountains and waterfalls beguiled and surprised Layla with some of the most breathtaking views she had ever seen. Wide-eyed, she marveled at the waterfall rushing down the mountainside, and she reached for her camera like an awestruck schoolgirl.
But, Preston’s eyes were glued to the semi-truck in front of them. For the past half-hour, the truck had held up traffic, creeping at 30 mph. The trucker ignored the growing line of cars and the furious shouts of drivers behind it as traffic slowed to a near halt.
Several cars had tried to pass the truck but to no avail. The frequent twists and bends in the road made for perilous passing. Plus, the “Do Not Pass” signs posted at every mile mark reminded even the most intrepid drivers to think twice.
“I think this dude is slowing down!” Preston growled. “Can you believe this?”
Behind them, drivers rolled down their windows and shook their fists, some of them cursing at the truck. Unfazed, the trucker plodded along at the same speed.
From her rearview mirror, Layla watched the traffic stretch far into the distance, wrapping around what seemed like miles of mountain-rimmed curves that hugged the road and snaked through the scenic landscape.
Under the late afternoon sunlight, the traffic glittered like amber jewels adorning the sinuous road like a royal necklace. As time passed, the sky dissolved into a pool of sorbet, a blend of rose, tangerine, and honey.
No sign of rain.
Still, Rex’s chiseled face and hazel eyes haunted Layla’s mind. She thought up ways to bring up his name again, but Preston beat her to it.
“I always knew he had a crush on you,” Preston said, forcing out a laugh.
Layla looked at him, feigning innocence. “What do you mean?”
Layla felt a hint of a smile creep onto her lips, but she resisted it.
She wondered if she would ever tell Preston everything that happened with Rex that night.
No, not now, she decided.
Every day since last weekend, she had replayed memories of her and Rex in her mind—including the ones she hadn’t told Preston about. Although she had tried to fight them, those memories refused to fade—just like they had refused to fade after Rex broke her heart back in her junior year of high school.
She hadn’t told Preston that part.
Preston doesn’t need to know, she decided.
As Layla gazed out the window now, she hardly noticed the cascading waterfalls, or the mountain-studded highway, or the unblemished navy waves of the ocean. All she saw was Rex’s face, as it looked both then and now.
She thought back to those torrid four hours she had spent with him in their suite at the Mondrian after the Christmas party last weekend. They had giggled all the way up the elevator like drunk high-schoolers at an after-prom party. Inside the room, Layla sprawled onto the sofa, as Rex stooped down on his knees and slipped off her black patent leather, four-inch stilettos. Layla gently bit down on her lip, as she watched him and flashed a mischievous grin, feeling naughty...and free.
She leaned toward Rex, and they swayed to the music playing in the guest room next door. Being there with Rex that night made her feel every bit of 15 again, the same age they both were when they had started dating. That night flooded her with a giddiness she hadn’t felt in years, and as she thought about him now, she realized how much she had missed that feeling.
But Layla and Rex hadn’t planned for anything to happen between them. No one could have predicted it. Even she wasn’t sure how it had happened or who had initiated the tryst.
Layla wondered if she should just come clean to Preston. A part of her wanted to confess.
Enough with the secrets and the lies, she thought.
Yet another part of her was too swept up in her feelings for Rex--the ones she never expected to feel again, but that now threatened to destroy her marriage.
It isn’t a lie if I don’t tell Preston, she thought. Or is it?