Liza Bangston

Trip for Two

Chapter 1

The thin black hand ticks, an eternity passing with each second; and yet, we remain silent. Neither of us want to answer the doctor’s question. Whether it’s because of shame, or deep down knowing we’ve opened a door that can never be closed; we stare straight ahead, both of our gazes fixed on time slipping away on the marriage counselor’s expensive clock.

“It’s been a while since our last visit,” she speaks and Justin tenses at my side. “I was beginning to think I’d never see you again after you canceled the last appointment.” Justin clears his throat but says nothing. Dr. Smithson’s droopy eyes dart from his to mine; but yet again, my husband refuses to open his mouth.

“We’ve been extremely busy,” I reply giving him a sidelong glance. It’s the truth, but not the real reason we skipped our last counseling session. The true reason lingers over us like a dark storm cloud, threatening to soak us both at a moment’s notice.

“So, how did the exercise go?” She repeats the question we’ve both refused to answer thus far. I peek over at Justin, who’s busy reading a text on his smartwatch.

“It was…an experience,” I reply choosing the right word to describe what happened in that hotel room.

“And whose fantasy did you fulfill?”

“His.” I point my thumb at Justin, who still refuses to speak.

“Is there anything you’d like to contribute, Mr. Reynolds?”  Justin shakes his head and my eyes roll to the ceiling. The nerve of this man. Deciding to give marriage counseling a try was my idea, but Justin picked the therapist. And now, here he is playing shy and refusing to talk. It is all his fault. Everything.

“Do you see what I’ve been dealing with?”

Dr. Smithson gives me a reassuring smile and opens her black leather portfolio. She puts the tip of the ball-point pen to her tongue before jotting down notes in her journal. I’m sure they’re about Justin and his lack of cooperation.

Good. At least there will be written record of just how much of an asshole the man is. “Before I continue, I want you both to know that this is a safe space. What we discuss within these walls will remain here. Your privacy is of my utmost importance. Now,” she leans back in her leather chair and crosses her legs, exposing the cream-colored slip beneath her skirt, “who would like to begin?”

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Justin’s body is a mass of rigid muscle beside me and I’m tempted to nudge life into him with a sharp elbow. Instead, I take a deep breath and raise my hand, my eyes on him as I do.

Dr. Smithson doesn’t speak as I rehash the vivid memories of what happened in that hotel room a few weeks ago. It seems so real in the back of my mind. I can still smell their cologne. Their scent somehow lingers, no matter the number of times I’ve washed my hair and soaked in the tub. Perhaps, I’m tainted, forever scarred by the events of that night.

“And how do you feel about that?” Dr. Smithson cuts in and I pause mid-sentence. Glancing over at Justin, I’m about ready to smack him. He has remained silent the entire time.

“I feel like he’s ashamed of me…like he doesn’t want me anymore.” Justin finally takes his attention off his watch and meets my gaze. My lids flutter as I try to stave off the tears stinging my eyes.

“That’s not true at all,” he says, and I relax into the soft, supple leather of the love seat. “I could never be ashamed of you. I love you.” The tears flow, hot and fast down my cheeks. Justin wipes them away, and I remember how things used to be. How things were before the kids and his demanding career.

“So, why haven’t you touched me?” I ask in a whisper. His Adam’s apple bobs with the hard lump he swallows. His wide brown eyes shoot from mine to Dr. Smithson.

“I don’t know. I just… can’t get it up.” I blink and don’t know how to feel. Conflicting emotions take me by storm, and I can no longer stand his face. Dr. Smithson is busy jotting notes and I’m tempted to walk over and take a look.

“It’s because you’re ashamed of what we did,” I say with my attention back on the clock. A warm hand brushes against my arm, trailing down to my fingertips.

“Absolutely not. You were so beautiful that night. I’ve never seen you more alive.” Justin grabs my hand, lifting it to his mouth and kisses it. My cheeks burn red and the reassuring smile returns to Dr. Smithson’s face. Butterflies swarm low in my belly. I miss this side of him. The sweet, sincere side I rarely get to see any more.

 

“Well, we can attribute erectile dysfunction to several factors,” Dr. Smithson explains. “Before I begin any extensive treatment, how about we try the simple approach? Some time away, alone as a couple. Why don’t you get away for the weekend? Take a vacation…a special trip for two.”

“That actually sounds like a great idea.” I dab at my cheeks with the sleeve of my blouse. Dr. Smithson reaches over and hands me a box of tissue. I mouth, “thank you,” before turning to Justin, whose nose is back on his stupid watch.

“No can do. I’m completely swamped for the next few months,” Justin replies without taking his focus from his wrist. I snatch my hand away from his and can’t believe I’ve allowed him to put me in this mess of a situation. He is the one who wanted to watch me screw other guys; and now, he won’t touch me. The nerve.

“Can’t you clear your schedule? I mean, it’s only for a weekend.”

“I’m sorry, sweetheart. We’ve got the new store opening downtown and we’re securing permits to start operation in Louisiana.” His reasons sound valid enough, but they are only excuses. He is ashamed of what we did that night. That’s the real reason he can’t rise to the occasion.

The buzzer dings, signaling the end of our session.  Justin excuses himself, rushing out of the office without even a goodbye. I ensure Dr. Smithson we will return for our next appointment and apologize for Justin’s rudeness. “Men are fickle creatures,” she says with a smile. It sounds like advice I’d get from my grandmother, and Dr. Smithson could play the part. You would never expect a woman in her sixties to have such unorthodox views on sex. And her therapy methods, unconventional to say the least.

After scheduling our next appointment with the raven-haired receptionist, I take the elevator, alone, to the underground parking garage. Justin is there, behind the wheel, waiting for me. He peels off before I can even close the door.

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The drive home is silent, despite me having so much to say. But it’s useless. I know it. Things will never be the same between us. Perhaps, our marriage was never meant to be. Justin drops me off at home and doesn’t even bother pulling into the driveway. With a honk and a wave, he drives off, leaving me alone to go about my day as usual.

I don’t go inside and rifle through my bag for my car keys. It’s early and I have a few hours to spare before the bus drops the kids off from school. A nice lunch. Maybe, a trip to the nail salon. An afternoon of self-care and pampering is in order, seeing as though my husband won’t touch me.

Trip for Two

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lizabangston@writeme.com

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