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Excerpt from Never Without Hope
Once we arrived home, I wondered if James had really understood what I’d done. What I’d tried to tell him. He acted like nothing had changed. I readied for bed, wearing my short pink silk gown with the low cut neckline, his favorite. My long brown hair caressed my shoulders like silk. I draped a section over the front of my gown so it covered part of my breast.
I knew he liked my hair this way, so I gave it all I had, including the bedroom eyes. He gazed at me with sadness, and yearning. I wish I could take everything back and start over again. But some things couldn’t be undone.
“Come here.” My husband reached for me.
My skin tingled at his command, and he hadn’t even touched me yet.
I threw myself into his arms. “Oh, James. I love you so much.”
He held me tight for several minutes, then drew back until he could look into my eyes. “You’re my best friend, you know that? I thank God for you every day.”
Closing my eyes, I turned my head away. When he looked at me with such emotion, it haunted me. How could I have hurt him like that? I hated myself.
“Look at me, Hope.” He touched my chin and guided my head. “I want you to look me in the eyes.”
I lifted my lids and peered at him, wondering what he’d say next. Trembling at his touch. Pouring my heart out to him, but without words. I ached for intimacy and held my breath as I waited for his declaration of love.
“I’m not the man I once was, Hope. I can’t satisfy you anymore. I’m sorry.” His eyes filled with tears, and I felt lower than dirt.
Resting my head on his shoulder I held him tight. What did that mean? Was he telling me we’d never have sex again? I didn’t get it. With my face burrowed into his shoulder, I inhaled the scent of his musky skin, then asked, “What are you saying, James?”
“You deserve a younger man, a man with some life still in him. I just don’t feel well anymore. My drive is gone. I don’t know what’s wrong.” He sighed and turned away.
Maybe he hadn’t heard me when I’d told him what I’d done.
Maybe I was too vague, or he really didn’t get it. Now another chance to tell him presented itself. I could make sure he understood this time. I opened my mouth, but the words wouldn’t come.
His gaze slowly covered me from head to toe and back again.
“You are so beautiful.”
Tears now cascaded down my cheeks. “Don’t give up, James. See the doctor and ask him to help you find out what’s wrong.”
“No!” he yelled, making me jump. He shoved his finger in my face. “I’m not telling anyone about this. And you better not, either.”
“But how will it get fixed if you don’t—”
His face darkened. “I said no. I’m not talking about this anymore.” He stomped toward our bed and pulled back the sheets, then slid under them.
I stood with my mouth gaping. “Does this mean that we won’t ever—”
“Hope, honey, it’s not that bad.” His voice softened. “We love each other. What more do we need?” He peered up at me with a distant look in his eyes, like he’d resigned himself to a sexless marriage.
I hadn’t thought I was being selfish, but was I?
“James, there are things we can still do. Your hands work just fine. Sometimes I just like to kiss, you know? Nothing expected, just a kiss.”
He grunted. “Yeah, right, Hope. Come on. You know what you want.”
Was that so wrong? To want my husband? I didn’t get it. “Of course I want that, but I’ll take anything you give me, honey. Anything.”
“No! Not if I can’t follow through.” Frowning, he rolled over until he faced the wall, just like that.
Anger welled up in me. He’d given up too easily. It wasn’t right.
My fists clenched. I’d make him respond to me. I just needed to try harder to get him aroused. So I slid under the sheets and pressed against his back. With our son staying at his friend’s house, we wouldn’t have to worry about him barging in on us. So I kissed James’s hair, his neck, and inhaled deeply. My hand rested on his abdomen. I slid it lower. “Baby, let’s make some noise.”
He wedged himself between my arm and his torso and flung my hand off him. “Stop it, Hope. Just let me sleep.”
Let him sleep? Was this what I had to look forward to from our marriage from now on?
I folded my hands over my chest, stormed into our guest room, and turned on the computer. I hadn’t checked my e-mail yet, so until I cooled down, at least that would distract me from wanting to use his back as a punching bag.
After deleting junk mail, I scanned my list. Tony had e-mailed me. Excited and terrified, I gave in to the urge to find out what he’d written. My blood pumped so hard it made my ears ring.
Clicking on the message, I held my breath…
I still can’t believe what happened. It was like a dream. You make me happy.
Well, at least I made someone happy. I swallowed hard as I decided what I’d say in return. After deleting several potential replies, I ended up with this…
You were great. I will never forget what happened either. I’ll dream about it tonight, for sure.
Within seconds, he responded.
We can meet again. My wife, she is gone for two days so I am home tomorrow until I must leave for work. Call me?
His wife would be gone? Wow. That meant I could see him one more time. So what if all he wanted from me was the same thing I wanted from him. It helped me cope with a miserable situation, and from what he’d already told me about his wife, Tony wasn’t getting any action at home, either.
Okay, I’ll call you tomorrow.
Yawning, I stretched and started when my husband suddenly appeared behind me.
“Who is that e-mail from, your boyfriend?”
My face heated and I shrank from him. “Would you care if it was?”
He flinched. “Come on, Hope. I was being sarcastic. I know you’d never do that to me. Now let’s go to bed.”
“But I don’t want to sleep yet.” I gave him my most pleading look and raised the skirt of my nightie. “Touch me, James.”
“Dang it, woman! I told you how I felt! I just want you to come to bed. To sleep.”
“Then I’ll stay up.” I turned away from him.
He stormed into the other room and I heard him crack open a beer. Well, he could have his beer. I decided to watch a chick flick, since that would be the only romance I’d probably get. Too bad it had to be a fantasy, a work of fiction. I wanted the real thing, and from the looks of things, sex with my husband would never happen again.
Suddenly I felt less guilty about wanting to see Tony. If my own husband didn’t want me, then what other option did I have?
Besides, I’d only see Tony one more time. Then we’d end it. I’m sure he’d agree it was simply too risky to keep meeting, because one of these days we could get caught in the act.
I’d rather be eaten alive by sharks.