When I'm standing with my feet firmly planted, I straighten my shoulders and look him in the face. I see something in his eyes for the first time. I think it's fear and it most definitely has a basis for being there. He should be afraid because all I can see is red.
"Get me out of here." I owe Margaret some kind of apology. "I'm so sorry for ruining dinner, but I need to go home and lie down. Please tell everyone I apologize for the drama. I hope I haven't ruined the night for them."
She places her hands on my face and searches my eyes. I'm certain she's confused about what's just happened. "You haven't ruined anything, sweetheart. You just go with Jack Henry and feel better soon."
She hugs me tightly. "Thank you, Margaret. It was a lovely dinner."
She releases me. "I'll call in the morning to check on you. If you need anything—I mean anything at all—don't hesitate to call."
I allow Jack Henry to support me by my upper arm as we walk out of the restaurant. He might take my tolerance as a sign of concession, but it's anything but. This is far from over. Once we're in the parking lot out of the family's sight, I jerk my arm from his grasp. "Take your fucking hands off of me."
"Don't you dare baby me. You don't get to baby me after fucking that woman and then lying to me about it."
I cut him off. "Explain? No. I don't want to hear your account of what happened. I heard hers and right now I have a whole lot more faith in her ability to tell the truth."
"It didn't happen the way you think."
My finger is in his face. "Shut. Your. Fucking. Mouth. I don't want to hear a word out of you." I stand there debating if I'll get in the car with him, but who am I kidding? I don't have much of a choice since I have nowhere else to go. "Take me to the apartment."
We remain silent as he drives. I stare out the window watching the streetlights zoom by. I'm grateful he doesn't make another attempt to explain his actions away because I can't take talking or thinking about him being with another woman right now.
I feel the slight throb of a migraine beginning at the base of my head. It's been months since I had one, but I'm not shocked to feel it coming on after what just happened. I know this process well and it's going to get worse until it becomes so painful, I have no choice but to get sick. Perfect. It's exactly what I need on top of this shit.
The flashing of the streetlights is making it worse, so I close my eyes and lean my head back against the seat. By the time we pull into the garage, I'm in a massive amount of pain and highly nauseated. I reach for the handle and get out of the car so I don't spew in the Sunset. That would be a total shame.
Jack Henry unlocks the door and walks in first. Home is the only place he enters ahead of me. It's his routine and he does it to protect me in case we were to walk in on a burglary.
He tosses the keys onto the kitchen counter and then turns to me. "We have to talk about this."
I run past him toward our bathroom. I slam the door and barely make it to the toilet before I vomit. I see the door open in my peripheral vision and he comes in without an invitation. "Go away," I order, although I know it's in vain. He's never gone away before and I know he won't now.
I hear him turn on the faucet and seconds later, I feel him twist my hair up and off my neck so he can place a cool, wet washcloth against my skin. "Maybe this will help."
"There isn't help for what I'm feeling."
"Laurelyn, please let me tell you what happened."
"Seriously?" I scream and it makes my head pound even harder. "My head is hanging over the toilet because I'm puking up my guts, and you want to talk about being with another woman."
He says nothing and walks out of the bathroom. He returns a few minutes later with one of his T-shirts thrown over his shoulder. "I'm going to help you change and you're going to let me because you need my help."
I give him a look that warns him he better not try anything. "I don't want to die tonight, Laurelyn. I only want to help you change your clothes."
I'm still on my knees when I feel my zipper slide down my back to my hips. He helps me stand and my black sheath dress puddles at my feet around my black Italian open-toed pumps that cost a ridiculous sum. I hold his shoulder as I step out of my dress and he moves it from where it fell on the floor.
I see his eyes studying my black lace bra, matching panties, and garter belt as I stand in my five-inch heels. I know Jack Henry well, and it pleases me to no end to know seeing me like this is probably giving him a raging hard-on with no relief from me in the near future.
I reach behind my back to unfasten my bra and let it fall to the floor. I unhook my nylons and remove them before I slide the belt down my legs. I'm standing in my panties and he studies my near-naked body briefly before taking the shirt from his shoulder and pulling it over my head. "I'll have your side of the bed turned back for you when you're finished in here."
When I come out of the bathroom, the lights are off with the exception of the bedside lamp. There's a glass of water and a pill I recognize as my migraine medication on the nightstand. Jack Henry isn't anywhere in sight, so I take the small white tablet and crawl into bed.
Lying in bed without him could never feel lonelier, but he's wise to give me my space. I'm like an unstable explosive threatening to detonate at any moment.
The clock tells me it's been an hour since I took my medication, so I know sleep will claim me soon. I'm already feeling the drug-induced drowsiness it always brings and I welcome it. I need an escape from this cruel reality.
It's still dark when I open my eyes, so I know I didn't sleep long. The clock glows 3:39 in the blackness around me and I reach over to find Jack Henry's side of the bed empty. Smart man.
I shouldn't care where he's bedded down for the night—but I do—so I slide out of bed and go in search. I don't find him in the guest bedrooms, so I go to the living room and he's sleeping in a sitting position on the couch with a glass of dark amber liquid in his hand. There's fresh ice in his drink, so I know he hasn't been asleep for long.
It isn't often that I'm able to study his figure while he sleeps, but I come to the same conclusion every time: he's the most beautiful man I've ever seen. And I love him so much it hurts.
He stirs in his sleep and his drink tilts to the side, causing some of it to spill down his leg. I reach to take it from his hand and he startles awake. I unwrap his fingers from it. "You can let go. I've got it."
He stares at me with hazy eyes and I realize he's shitfaced when he reaches out to grab me a little too hard around the waist. He leans forward and presses his head to my stomach, causing me to stagger backward to maintain my balance. "I love you, Laurelyn. Please, don't leave me. I'll fucking die if you do."
I love him and I don't want to leave, but how can I stay with a man who would lie to my face the way he did? I asked him if he'd been with another woman and he told me he hadn't been inside another one since me. I gave him the perfect opportunity to come clean. It would've hurt but I'd have eventually gotten over it. At least it would've been the truth. He knows how much I hate lies.
I run my fingers through his dark hair. "We'll talk about it tomorrow when you're not hammered."
He's still holding me around the waist but he fists the T-shirt I'm wearing and pushes it up to bare my stomach. "I can just see you with a baby on the way."
Oh, God. Why does he have to say things like that right now? "You're drunk and you need to sleep it off."
He pokes me with his finger below my navel. "I want to marry the shit out of you and then I want to put a baby inside you as soon as you'll let me." He puts his finger under my piercing and flicks it up. "But I don't know what will happen to this little jewel when your belly grows."
I feel euphoric hearing him talk about marriage and babies, but then I remember why he's drunk and saying things like that. "Be a good boy for me and lie down on the couch."
"I don't want to sleep here. I want to be in our bed with you."
"No! I'm pissed off at you. You're not going to sleep next to me like nothing happened."
He pulls me closer and I stumble again. "Please, Laurelyn. Let me come to bed. I don't want to sleep apart from you."
He puts the side of his face against my stomach. "I'm begging you, baby. Don't make me sleep here without you."
Shit! I'm exhausted and don't have the strength to argue—or wrestle him—so I concede. "You can come to bed but don't you dare try to touch me."
"I won't," he promises. "I just want to sleep next to you."
He lets go of me and is unstable when he stands, so I reach out to steady him. "You okay?"
He's plastered and is going to feel like shit tomorrow. Serves him right.
"Come on." Our roles have reversed. I was the unstable one earlier in the night, but now I'm guiding his drunken ass down the hallway to our bedroom.
I pull the covers back on his side of the bed and order him to climb inside. He crawls in and his eyes are shut when he says, "I love you, Laurelyn."
I'm hurt by what he's done, and although I love him, I can't make myself say the words in return.
I climb in on my side and I already hear him snoring. It's incredible but after being apart for three months, I can't even hate that annoying sound.
When I wake again, I'm lying on my side and Jack Henry's arm is around my waist. He's pressed against me and I feel his breath on the back of my neck. "Please don't make me let you go yet. I just need to savor feeling you like this for a little longer."