It just sort of came out.
They were sitting on the couch. Dave was watching and laughing at a screwball comedy where, during their honeymoon, the hero and his wife get their signals crossed. She winds up in Bermuda at a four-star hotel while he finds himself with the Inuit eating muskox somewhere near Greenland. Somehow, they reunite.
Gloria was reading the latest best seller, the one where the heroine goes on a personal journey to a remote log cabin to find herself. No telephones, radio, or television. Somewhere she has a breakthrough.
Dave was deep into the movie. Gloria was deep into her book. They were sharing some wine and cheese.
Then somewhere down the middle of the page, in the middle of the book, without looking up, Gloria very softly said, “I love you.”
It happened so fast. It simply rolled off her tongue and hung in the air. She couldn’t say for certain what had caused her to say it out loud. Maybe it was the pressure from the pillow she rested on. It may have been from her book and the shapes of the paragraphs, or how soft the edges of the pages felt when she held the open book in her hand. Perhaps the wine had gotten to her. But after that moment, all that was left was the scent of the words, which floated about the room.
Dave looked up from the movie and processed her words. He looked over at her, studied her, trying to peer into her eyes. The eyes are the window to the soul, he thought he had heard once. Gloria would not return his gaze. But even without Gloria’s repaid acknowledgement, Dave felt reassured by her small declaration and went back to his movie and his giggling.
Gloria had stopped reading. Her eyes were still scanning across the page, but the words had become a blur of strange characters. She knew where her confession had come from the moment the words escaped. Last night, in her sleep, he flashed in a dream. It was only a split second, and his image wasn’t clear, but it said everything about him she needed to know. His strength, his reassurance, his knowledge of who she was and what she needed.
She woke from the dream, knowing that if he ever came to her again, should he flash in her unconsciousness but once more, Dave would become unnecessary. There would be nothing he could offer against perfection. Gloria knew that one more time and she would spend the rest of her life in search of a something created from ether. Something that is both tangible and abstract in the same precise moment.
So there she sat, lost in the mystery of her ghost. Dave was wrapped up in his movie. The television illuminated them both. She didn’t want to leave Dave. They were meant for each other. Everyone said so. So did she, many times and she believed it then as she believed it up until the early hours of this morning. But now there was an intruder in their midst. Someone had picked the back door lock and walked in, and this stranger, this uninvited guest, was not going to leave.
Work today for Gloria had been a disaster. Her ability to concentrate, which had been one of her strong points her entire career, was gone. She did nothing more than doodle on a note pad all day. She thought that once she got home and saw Dave, she would snap out of it. But even with the distraction of her book, sharing the couch, and drinking some wine, it was no use. A specter now occupied the space between them.
Gloria came to the realization that there was no turning back from this. The path she had taken this day only went one way. There was a decision to be made. She knew this was all or nothing. To sleep was to risk everything.
She put her book down and rose from the couch. There she remained, standing to Dave’s side, looking at him while he remained engrossed in his movie.
Finally, she said, “I’m going to have some coffee. Want some?”
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