We were at the Renaissance festival in Washington Gardens; a beautiful southern park which sits along the banks of the Intracoastal Waterway. A place where you could lay your blanket and picnic under the canopy of ancient oaks, as pods of dolphins breech the surface and play in the blue green waters just a few feet away; an enchanted place to say the least. He’d taken me there when we were dating, and we’d returned each year for the past thirteen.
I left him alone for a short span of time, as I made my way to the water’s edge, to capture the moment in photos. Upon my return I noticed a woman sitting on our blanket beside him. I stopped for moment, observing them from afar; their conversation lively, their body language a little too familiar; the feeling in my belly an unwelcome one.
I approached slowly, and as if he felt my presence upon them, looked up and briefly met my eyes. She was mid-conversation, enthusiastically laughing and jovially pushing her body into his. I approached and politely said, “Excuse me, but I believe this seat is already taken.”
Her head shot around quickly, my words obviously startling her. Her eyes met mine and held them, filled with defiance and challenge, as if I should dare interrupt whatever was happening between them. I turned my gaze toward my husband, who had averted my eyes and was now looking toward the ground; a cowards stance, in every sense.
I took a deep breath as I drank her in completely; noting her age, far more advance than mine, the black leather vest and matching boots. Her jewelry was cheap and distasteful, hair poorly dyed, straight and stringy; her make-up outdated and haphazardly applied. A tawdry tramp if ever I’d seen one. And still she did not flinch. In fact, she leaned into him further; her hand wrapped around his forearm, offering support or protection, I couldn’t be certain; but refusing to relinquish her man nonetheless.
And in that moment, I was sickened and saddened; knowing full well that all was over. Not angry that he had met a woman with whom he connected on every level, but saddened and unable to believe that after the years we had spent that it should come to a close in deafening silence. I thought perhaps by now, he knew me well enough to know that my mind and heart are open and receptive to not only change, but the staunch belief that life is too precious to waste.
I walked to the edge of the blanket, slipped on my sandals, picked up my bag; and though my words were mounting into what would surely be an unpleasant eruption, I fought them with every ounce of my being and left them in silence.
My heart threatened to explode from my chest, my hands trembled and my legs were unsteady, but I squared my shoulders and held my head high, as I made my way toward the path; an unfamiliar path whose direction I hadn’t a clue, but vowed to follow even in this darkest hour.
I made it to the opposite end of the park then was forced to stop and steady myself against a tree. I took a deep breath, fighting back the tears; then suddenly I heard his voice, calling out to me from the distance, and before I knew it, his arms were embracing me…
“Baby, you slept through the alarm,” he whispered into my ear, as he nuzzled his face in my neck, pressing his warm, naked flesh against mine.