A gut-burning regret tore at my heart as if the mad scientist, Dr. Frankenstein, was ripping the organ from my chest without using anesthesia. I was like a surgical patient feeling intense pain coupled with the horror of being unable to fight the perpetrator slicing through my flesh.
The full moon cast a lonely, eerie glow about the bedroom, while shadows played with my imagination. The house was so quiet I heard dust particles dropping to the night stand next to the bed. Even after a brutal 16-hour shift in the ER, sleep eluded me.
As the garage door rolled up with a screech that night, the lights of my Lexus illuminated the spot where Brittany’s Volkswagen bug was usually parked. It was after midnight, and I was tired and hungry. She’d had time to drive home from her job at the restaurant, and I expected dinner to be simmering on the stove. Instead, the pots were cold.
The note simply said, “I won’t take any more.”
I even missed the hair-belching ball of fur that always sat in her lap, purring. She found him in the alley behind the restaurant after she’d finished her shift one rainy night last January. When she walked into the house, with him cradled in the crook of her arm, I thought he was dead, and she’d brought him home to bury. She bathed and fed him with an eyedropper, then applied ointment to his festering sores, ignoring my protests about possible infectious diseases. He survived, and I think she called him “Fluff.”
Tonight, I ate the last of her Jenny Craig dinners. I should’ve told her she was perfect and didn’t need to diet, ‘cause she was . . . and she didn’t.
She said I made snap decisions, acted upon impulses and placed consequences in a box to dissect at my convenience. She called me, “Dr. STAT.”
In my defense, I’ve been trained to respond quickly and efficiently. Lives depend on the decisions I make in the ER. Many times I don’t have the luxury of hesitation. Hesitation—a life may be lost.
It’s time to lance the wound.
I had an affair. Darlene meant nothing to me. I know all men say that . . . after the fact. My personal life was controlled by snap decisions and arrogance. Arrogance is a destructive acid, not a cleansing salve.
I love my wife. I never told Brittany I appreciated the long hours she worked and her sacrifices to put me through medical school. Her dreams of a college degree and completing her novel remained on hold. Although she had written several short stories, I never read any of them.
I had hopes when Brittany called and asked me to meet her for dinner in the little restaurant where we had our first date. All heads turned as she walked to the table where I waited. I noticed a radiance about her I’d never seen before. She ignored the rose I extended to her, and turned her head, rebuffing my kiss.
I said the first thing that came to mind. “How’s Fluff?” I regretted the words the moment they filled the void.
“His name is Tiger,” she sighed.
Her next words were like a scalpel to my heart. “I’ve met someone.”
Fumbling for the rose as it slipped from my hand, I tipped the water glass. The icy liquid spread across the white, linen tablecloth. I mopped the table with a napkin and then used my handkerchief. “When did this happen? Where did you meet him?”
“A lady where I work invited me to her church, I met him there.”
“Is it serious?” I said, as the words from my lips sounded like an adolescent trying to control the pitch of his voice.
“It’s a very serious relationship. He loves me, listens to what I have to say, and promises to always be faithful.”
My body was as cold as the water I dried from the table minutes before—afraid to ask the question but knowing it must be answered. “What about our marriage?”
I watched as her hazel eyes became pools of liquid sadness or perhaps joy; I was unsure, but the tears trickling down her cheeks were unmistakable.
Reaching across the table, she covered my hand with hers. “If you let Him, my new friend will heal and cleanse your soul—as He has mine.”
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