Slowly she became aware of her surroundings. They were now strangely familiar. Her whole body was stiff from lack of decent, restful sleep. She attempted to stretch her back a little. The woman in her arms stirred at the movement, the blanket of red hair splayed across her chest lifted to reveal a tired and drawn face. As was now custom between them, no words were spoken as they got out of bed, straightening the previous day’s clothes that had been slept in.
The journey down the stairs was equally silent. They stopped beside the front door. Lynette reached out to push a strand of Bree’s hair behind her ear, cupping her cheek after she’d done so. Bree’s eyes closed at the contact and she closed the distance between them, needing to hold Lynette and be held by her. They stood in an embrace for a number of minutes, not wanting it to end.
“I’ll be back later.”
Bree nodded into Lynette’s shoulder, trying to stop her body from shaking. Lynette felt the tremors and her throat tightened. She wanted nothing more than to stay here and hold Bree. But she couldn’t. She pulled back.
“I have to go.”
Bree’s voice was small.
“Stop saying sorry. I’m here because I want to be here, OK?”
Bree nodded and Lynette leaned in to kiss her cheek. She opened the door and looked back.
“Have something to eat , OK? I’ll be back soon.”
She reached over and squeezed Bree’s hand before heading down the path and crossing the street. She rolled her stiff shoulders as she walked, rubbing tired eyes. It was early enough that the boys wouldn’t be up yet. She probably had time for a quick shower before the breakfast rush started.
The first thing she noticed when she opened the door to her house was the suitcase sitting in the hall. It was the one Tom used to take when he went away on business. She frowned. Why would it be there now? Entering the living room she was startled to see Tom seated on a chair, fully clothed, waiting.
“Hey. How come that suitcase is in the hall?”
He didn’t answer right away. Instead he stood up, walking to the window and looking out.
“Where are you going? Did something happen to your dad? Your mom?”
Lynette crossed the room , concern and confusion clouding her eyes. She reached out to touch his arm but he moved away.
“No, nothing…nothing’s happened. I’m leaving…I’m leaving you.”
Lynette felt like all of the air had left the room, like she’d been punched in the stomach, hard.
“Please…don’t make me say it again. This is so hard…”
“Hard? You throw this at me. No discussion, no warning, nothing. And then you tell me it’s hard for you? Where the hell has this come from? Sit down and talk to me. Jesus, I just walked in the door and you…”
“And that’s just it. You just walked in the door at six-thirty in the morning. Just like you have for the past two weeks. How much time have you spent with the boys this week, huh? How many times have you fed Penny?”
Lynette was incredulous. And angry.
“You have got to be kidding me. In fact I really hope you are kidding. So what…you’re pissed off that you’ve had to take care of the kids for a coupla weeks? That I haven’t been around much? Tom, that has been my life for the past seven years!”
Tom was shaking his head.
“It’s got nothing to do with the kids. It’s got nothing to do with the fact that you haven’t been here as much. It’s got everything to do with what you’ve been doing.”
“I have been comforting my friend!” Lynette screamed, rapidly reaching the end of her tether. “Her husband just fucking died and she hasn’t quite adjusted yet. I’m so sorry if that has upset your life ever so slightly for a few weeks but I will go on comforting her until I know that she’s alright. And you threatening to leave is not going to stop me. All it’s going to do is make me think that you are a very small person.”
Tom was becoming angry too.
“And why is it always you, huh? Why can’t Susan or Gabrielle help out? Susan’s kid is old enough to look after herself and Gabrielle doesn’t even have anyone else in her house to think about…so how come you’ve spent every single night over there with her?”
“Because she wants it to be you,” he finished for her. “And you want it to be you. Because you want to be with her. Because you’re in love with her.”
It wasn’t a question. It was a statement of fact. Lynette stared mutely at Tom. Her reaction confirmed what he already knew. He nodded.
“So that’s why I’m leaving. I’ve seen the two of you together. She obviously feels the same way about you. I’ve known for a while…I just can’t ignore it anymore. I’ve seen the way she looks at you…her whole face changes…it’s like…”
He pressed his lips together, unable to go on.
“Tom…” Lynette’s voice was full of barely contained emotion. “…Tom we haven’t done anything. I swear. I’ve never even kissed her.”
He laughed, humorlessly.
“I actually think that might be worse. If it had been some drunken, lust-filled one-night stand I could understand...maybe even forgive it. But to know that you’re married to me, that you pretend to be happy with me while you’re in love with someone else...it’s just too much.”
“I’m not pretending, Tom, I am happy…I do love you.” Desperation tinged Lynette’s voice.
“But not like you love her.” His voice broke and he closed his eyes, fighting down the tears that threatened to fall. “I can’t be second best, Lynette. I can’t live like this anymore. I have to go.”
He pushed past her and made his way into the hall. She rushed after him, grabbing his arm and pulling him to a halt.
“Tom. No. Wait. You can’t leave me.”
She threw her arms around him, clinging to him. He returned the embrace, holding her tight against him.
“Look…you’ll be free to be with her. It’ll be better in the long run.”
She shook her head against his chest.
“It’s not that simple. What about the kids? We have to think about the kids. And work. Neither of us has a job. Please don’t do this now…please…”
He pulled away, wiping at his eyes. He leaned down and pressed his lips to hers in a gentle kiss.
“I have to go now. I’ll call you…we’ll work something out. I have to go.”
He hurriedly picked up his suitcase, yanked open the door and left. Lynette watched the door close in a stupor. Numbly she walked back into the living-room. She picked up the phone and dialed.
“Bree? I…uh, Tom’s left me…can…can you come over? OK.”
She hung up, sitting down heavily on the couch to wait. Her eyes fell upon the framed wedding photo on the side table.
Lynette put her face in her hands and wept.
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