Phoebe watched as her husband spoke to her friend enthusiastically. He had a thin line of sweat dripping from his forehead as he tried to keep up with Wanda’s great sense of humour. Phoebe tried to steal his attention by loudly pulling from her straw, that was in the glass of juice. Wanda pinched her nose. Fidel did not turn his eyes from Wanda.
“Listen to this Wanda, your mama is so wonderful that she wondered why not name her daughter Wanda!” Fidel said, eager to see Wanda laugh at his creative rhyme.
Phoebe chuckled,he was trying so hard. Wanda threw a glance at her friend and realized she was crossing the border.
“Alright Phoebe and Fidel, I guess I have had enough of you two. My fiance will start calling me anytime!” Phoebe watched as Fidel expressed a look of disappointment.
“You haven’t even finished your juice yet, Wanda!” He said like a child whose mother was bidding goodbye to him. One could feel the controlled passion in his voice.
“Gotta go! Bye sweetheart.” Wanda said as she kissed Phoebe on the cheek. Phoebe smiled at her friend.
“See you later dear.” It was Phoebe. She watched her husband Fidel watch Wanda go. He seemed overcome with nostalgia for the few minutes that had just passed.
“Are we passing by the movie centre bae?” Phoebe asked. He stared at his wife and nodded his head.
“Eat up quickly, I need to go home and watch my game.” He said. Phoebe wanted to tell him that he was the one who had not finished his snack yet. Phoebe had only ordered for a glass of juice whose contents she cleared minutes ago. She watched as he ingested his snack quietly and quickly.
He called out for the bill and a waitress walked to them. He tried to start small chit chat to the unconcerned server, grinning from ear to ear, and even tipping her magnanimously to catch her attention. She walked away with an uninterested ‘Thank you.’
Phoebe felt a pang of jealousy as she wondered why her husband tried so hard to please other women when he did so little to grab her attention. She remembered how he had pursued her ten years ago. She had played hard to get, not to make him suffer but to measure his sincerity. He was indeed serious.
When he married her, she had been grateful that he had remained as loyal as he was when they started dating. Although bringing up three children had overwhelmed her, Fidel had been her support all through. She did not want to sound unappreciative but she felt like, as days went by, he only supported her as a duty, not out of love. She felt as if he did not love her anymore.
She remembered being envious of her daughter when she saw her and her father playing. Not the bad envy, but an envy only a woman in her position could understand. He seemed very happy. He squeaked playfully and looked so lovingly at his daughter when she teased him to chase her. He roared at her and laughed heartily when she screamt at his pursuit.
The two, six and four year old brothers caught her and brought her to “Daddy the lion” and he pretended to eat her up. The brothers laughed hysterically at her but he turned to them and ‘ate’ them up too causing another uproar of laughter from all. She loved that about him, he loved his children wholeheartedly.
They drove to the movie store quietly. She saw him adjust the volume up and sing along the lyrics of the song on the car radio.
“Here we are, which movie again did they ask for?” Fidel asked her as he walked out of the car. She recalled when he would open the door for her and bow as she got out. Now she opened the door herself and had to run up to him as he entered the movie store.
“They asked for Lion King.” She said.
“Oh yea, I wonder whether it has any vulgar language or immoral stuff.” He said.
“Well, I have a friend who has watched it and she says that it is a good…” Phoebe was saying but stopped when she noticed that her husband had left her presence and was walking towards a woman holding a small child. The two embraced excitedly.
“Naomi! Is that you? Girl, haven’t you changed!” Fidel exclaimed at the lady. Her little daughter glancing around.
“Fidel! Oh My! How many years, nine or ten?” She said.
“It’s actually ten. I met my wife on my way to your wedding and we got married the next year. I have been married for nine years now.” Fidel said. Phoebe came closer to meet them. There was an awkward silence but Naomi extended her hand to Phoebe.
“Hi, I am Naomi. An old friend and former colleague, before he changed careers and joined the Sales and Marketing world,” she said.
“I am Phoebe, his wife.” She said.
“So, are you still impacting knowledge on the young ones?” Fidel asked. Phoebe realized she was not needed there. She went to the counter and paid for her children’s movie CD. She moved around to kill time as her husband conversed with his old friend.
“It was nice to see you again. Please pass my regards to Mr. D.” Phoebe heard her husband say. They drove back as he narrated to her about his life back then when he was a teacher. Phoebe listened with a smile planted on her face.
Her mind was elsewhere. She was wondering what to do with the stingy feeling she often felt around her husband. She longed for his attention. She desired to laugh with him at shared secret jokes like the old times. She had kept tabs on him to find out if he was cheating but she had not found anything. He still provided for his family, financially. There was sex between them but it always left her more needy. It felt like two animals mating lovelessly.
She made up her mind. She needed some space. The twinges of loneliness she felt were too much. She felt alone even with so much going on around her. She decided to make some time for herself. She spat the words out.
“I want some time alone Fidel.” She announced. Fidel stopped the car, the brakes screeching dangerously.
“What?” He asked.
“I said I am leaving. I need me-time.” She said. He started to drive again but without saying a word. When they arrived, he angrily jumped out of the car and went to their bedroom. Phoebe went to see her kids, they were already tucked in bed. She called the domestic manager who had worked for them since the birth of their first born.
Phoebe briefed the domestic help about her impending absence. It was unavoidable, she said. She pleaded for her to take good care of the kids while she was away. She went to the master bedroom and met him asleep on the bed, all dressed up. She packed quietly not to wake him up and left in the dead of the night to her parents’ home. She asked them not to ask any questions. She would speak to them in the right time.
The two weeks she spent away made her feel better. The love her parents showered her like they always did restored a self confidence that had been lost. She missed her kids but she wanted to be a little bit selfish this time, for their sake, lest she died of depression and left them motherless. She even decided to attend the college reunion that she had earlier put off.
She was glad she did attend. She met her former college mates. It was nice to meet after so many years. She felt euphoric at many comments on her un-aging beauty. Then she saw him. She was shocked he had attended. Spouses had been invited too but she did not think he had heard her when she had informed him. He walked towards her.
“Phoebe!” He said. She looked at him. She saw him look at her from head to toe and then take a deep breath.
“You look stunning,” he said.
“Thank you.” She said. He rarely complimented her.
“Phoebe, please come back home.” He beseeched.
“I will, but not right now.” She said. They were now far from earshot.
“Why not, Phoebe? The children miss you.” She knew they did, but she wanted to know how he felt. He read her mind. He took her hand, “I miss you, so much. Everything in that house reminds me of you. I can’t think straight, food to me tastes like sand. I can’t pretend anymore in front of the kids. I am about to break into pieces.” He was in tears. She was too.
“I thought you did not love me anymore.” She asked as tears flowed like a stream down her cheeks.
“I do love you. Now I realize I can’t live without you. I watched you speak to your male former college mates and realized that I cannot imagine you with anybody else, I just can’t lose you. Please come back to me.” He pleaded. The two still held hands. Phoebe wanted to calm down first before she uttered the next words.
“Fidel, I love you too so much. But sometimes I feel like you take me for granted. It kills me slowly. It pains when somebody you love looks bored around you and lights up when a stranger talks to them.” She poured her heart out. He promised to change . He almost went down on his knees begging her to come back home. They embraced and cried some more. Then she said the words.
“Ok. I will come back home. But please sweetheart, don’t give me the back seat in your life.” She wanted to say ‘or else’ but they both knew what was unsaid was more powerful than the said.
“I promise that I will do my best to give you all my undivided attention. I also ask, please, that you too, don’t just make hasty decisions. Communication is an important ingredient in this recipe of marriage.” He said.
“I hear you Fidel. Now that you talked of communication. I want to communicate something to you.” Phoebe said, wrapping her arms around his neck as he put his hands on her waist.
“Say it love,” Fidel said anxious, guessing her next utterances.
“Kiss m…” He went for her mouth before she completed her words.
“Hey you two lovebirds!” It was the reunion host. “Save that for later, it’s time for the speeches by the guests.” Fidel and Phoebe stared at each other. Phoebe twisted her mouth to the side. Fidel knew what she meant.
“Sorry but we need to run right now, something just came up.” He said and grabbed his wife’s hand and they ran to the parking aiming to get to their house before the children came from school.
“Did you say something came up,” she asked and he saw the naughty look on her face.
He could not wait to arrive at home. He turned the car and entered a lonely route. He stopped at a bushy area, locked the doors but did not switch off the car. She was intrigued by the fire in Fidel. For the first time in a long period, her body was all yearning and ready before he even touched her. She stopped him before he made any move.
“This is dangerous. Hold your horses bae. Let’s go to the house.” He longingly looked at her. He listened to her. As they drove , she was happy the pain in her heart had gone. He still loved her. She had forgiven him. She hoped she would learn how to communicate too. She laughed at this thing marriage, nine years and they were still learning!