She didn’t get the filthy dreams she hoped for, at least not that she could remember. Her nap was short at around forty minutes, but she woke as if she had slept for hours, ready to make a positive change, even if it wasn’t letting Jay fuck her like a filthy whore.
I wish I could.
Caitlin did one of the things she did best when upset — clean the house so throughly it would smell like the Bellagio lobby for a week. She was so much a servant to this routine, Hudson had caught on enough to ask her about it, or at least point it out when she and Jay had a particularly nasty argument about six months before.
Jay ordered garlic bread at dinner when they went to Spicy Meatball for dinner. He ordered a “thing” of fried zucchini. Caitlin had no idea why it pissed her off, but it did. She felt near murder, wanted to dig her thumbs into his neck and plunge them deep, but she held back, calmly breathed through the moment, then yelled at him for the seven minutes it took for the “thing” of fried zucchini to arrive. She could tell no one, either before or after the zucchini event exactly what happened or why it had upset her so much, but when Hudson came home from school the following day, he told his mother that the house looked super great, and that as much as he hated to hear his parents fight, it was always nice to know he wouldn’t have to put his toys away the next day.
She scrubbed to exfoliate her nervous energy, wondering why should she have to change, and wishing she had never opened her mouth to Jay.
The truth will set you free, after it pisses you off.
What was wrong with her?
Absolutely nothing. She was still a young, vibrant woman. Caitlin did enjoy sex, several times a week. And while it may not have been the most exciting sex, it was true and sweet. Regular. And that was plenty for most people. If it wasn’t plenty for Jay that wasn’t her fault. Caitlin may not be as good as some, but she was better than most and knew it. Jay shouldn’t have to objectify her to get his rocks off.
Sex wasn’t just personal, it was wearing some of your insides on the outside. And if your insides were skinned raw when you were too young to understand why things that shouldn’t have been happening were, well then, it was no wonder if you wanted to keep some of those insides out of your bed.
Caitlin loved Jay more than anyone in her past, present or certain future. If he died, a part of her would die with him. She would never be with another man because Caitlin couldn’t imagine spending her attention on an empty echo. There wasn’t any point. Jay was a prince, and she’d kissed too many frogs on her way to finding him.
He was sweet and funny. Older, but not by much. When he entered her life, everything changed. Jay made their life a garden so she could bloom into the flower he saw behind her eyes. In those earliest days Caitlin almost surrendered, pushing against the invisible retaining wall around them, but she only pushed, never truly breaking through. Now, after 15 years and three children, she was too tired to do even that. Caitlin loved Jay with everything she had, just not enough to be someone she wasn’t.
Caitlin cleaned as if she were possessed, tearing from their bedroom to the closet, then from closet to bathroom and bathroom to kitchen, wiping and vacuuming and freshening as she went, stopping to make dinner only after every counter was gleaming.
Caitlin pulled her ingredients out from the fridge and piled them high on the counter. She decided to make chipotle shrimp, a dish she used to make a long long time ago, back when they counted money and calories less. It had never made the meal plan after their recent jump in income. Caitlin would make mac and cheese for the boys. Chipotle shrimp was her way of saying sorry.
The boys wouldn’t be home for a while. It was Wednesday, the day Hudson stayed after school for extra help with math. Caitlin got the feeling he didn’t really need the help, but that his teacher Mrs. Pritchard was hot. Because Hudson had to stay late anyway, Alex and Max stayed as well. Caitlin picked all three of them up directly from school.
She prepped dinner enough so it would only take 10 or 15 minutes to move it from the kitchen counter to the dining room table, then grabbed her purse, went through the mudroom, climbed in her car, ignored the million things in her mind whirring that something was wrong, gunned the engine, pull the Pilot out of the garage, aimed the clicker and closed the door, then drove to school while trying to empty her mind.
As usual Hudson and Max were in front of the cafeteria waiting together, with Alex nowhere to be found. Caitlin parked the Pilot, growling, then climbed out and went to find her middle child. It took less than five minutes to find him, leaning on a tetherball pole and talking to Lisa Broderick, the same girl Alex accused his older brother of having a crush on during dinner the night before.
Caitlin piled her three sons into the back of the Pilot and drove home, trying to dim their bickering. She wanted to design the perfect evening for Jay, wanted to make up for not listening to his idea after encouraging him to spill his guts. But it was difficult, if not altogether impossible to think sexy thoughts with the bickering bleeding up from the backseat.
Despite the arguing, Caitlin was surprisingly frisky by the time she was opening the garage. As she often did, Caitlin imagined dragging Jay into their bedroom, falling to her knees, and reminding him why he had been so eager to marry her once upon a time. And while the thought of letting her inner slut out to play certainly stewed her juices, most of her knew it was only imagination that would never go farther than that.
Caitlin was surprised to see Jay’s car already parked inside the garage. She pulled her Pilot beside it, killed the engine and the boys’ argument, then ushered them all inside as she took the rear and shuffled into the mudroom.
Jay was inside waiting. “Hey honey,” he smiled. “How are you?”
“I’m great,” Caitlin said. “You got to leave early?”
“Ha,” he laughed. “Yeah, not by a lot, but I did. We were all sent home because of some blackout in the local grid. Our server went out. No Internet, no work. Gotta love technology.”
“Yeah,” Caitlin agreed. “It’s great when it works.”
“Why don’t you finish up dinner, then take some time for yourself?” Jay suggested. “Since I’m home early, I can help the boys with their homework.”
“Sounds great!” Caitlin was surprised, and grateful for the unexpected turn.
Jay helped the boys with their homework as Caitlin finished dinner, which didn’t take long since she had already done most of the work before leaving. Once finished, she wasn’t sure what to do. Her pre-dinner hour was most often spent helping the boys with their homework, Jay’s presence gave her permission to do something else, but no matter what she did, Caitlin felt slightly out of her skin.
Though she knew no one was really paying attention, or would judge her for how she decided to spend her time, nothing felt right. She thumbed through a magazine until finally retreating to her bedroom where she juggled the same set of worries she’d been tossing through her thoughts since her unexpected argument with Jay that morning. More than anything, she wanted to bring him into the bedroom so they could talk one-on-one and make everything better. But she could hear him managing the boys with an impressive blend of discipline and laughter and knew that pulling him away would be wrong.
The next 40 minutes before dinner took forever to get there.
Dinner was delicious. The boys shoveled mac and cheese into their mouths as if dessert was only for the first kid finished. Jay savored every bite, holding the meal in his mouth for several seconds before each swallow. He even patted his tummy after he finished, telling Caitlin it was the best thing he put in his body all month. Her playful side, nowhere as near to the surface as she wanted, or as it once was back around the time they both said “I do,” wanted to mouth a joke about it not being better than what he put inside her, but the thought embarrassed her more than anything.
“So,” Jay said. “It’s game night. What are we going to play?”
In addition to Hudson staying after school for math help and an extra long look at Mrs. Pritchard, Wednesday was when the Farrs played at least one board game together. This was one of Caitlin’s nonnegotiable family tenets. Their lives were too digital for her taste, and while she wasn’t naive enough to believe she could change it, and didn’t really want to, she did want to ensure they could have meaningful interactions without electricity.
The Wednesday ritual was born on a ferry ride the previous summer, when the Farrs were vacationing in Griffin Harbor. They were gliding toward the dock, amid gorgeous homes, beautiful boats and seas of people. Caitlin directed her sons’ attention to their surroundings, but each of the three could only be bothered to lift their eyes from their Kindle Fire for a moment, giving their new environment an obligatory but cursory glance before returning their attention to the tiny glossy screen where they were all huddled as if it were campfire on a freezing night.
“I want to play Sorry,” Hudson said.
“Monopoly,” offered Alex.
Max cried, “Hi-Ho-Cherry-O!”
Hudson said, “You’re too old for that.”
“Why don’t we let Mom decide tonight?” Jay searched the table, looking for argument. There was none.
Caitlin had no idea. A board game sounded dull. She wanted to play Just Dance on the Wii. It would be fun, all three boys would love it, and because the kids always danced in front of her while Jay sat behind on the couch, she could wiggle her ass and tease him while playing. But Caitlin couldn’t suggest Just Dance without wearing a hypocrite’s crown for being the one in the family who insisted game night not require a plug.
“How about Clue?”
Everyone agreed that Clue sounded fine. They finished dinner, did the dishes together, then 14 minutes later were sitting around the wiped table figuring out who killed Col. Mustard and with what.
Caitlin watched Jay as they played, keeping the boys laughing and minding their manners, and feeling guiltier by the second for their morning argument.
I’m really, truly lucky.
His hand brushed hers and sent a sharp current in a soft crackle under her skin. She felt suddenly wet.
To her surprise, Caitlin was in a sudden hurry to fuck.
“Five more minutes,” she said.
Hudson looked at the clock. “It’s a half hour before bedtime, Mom.”
“You can read in bed,” she said. “It’s been a long day, and we have a longer day tomorrow. You boys need a good night’s sleep.”
Alex asked, “Why? What’s tomorrow?”
Caitlin said, “It’s Danny’s birthday next week. We need to go shopping for a present.”
Total bullshit, but the best Caitlin could think of off the top of her head. They hadn’t seen their cousin Danny in two years, and she could easily pick a gift at Target when she bought the rest of their crap. Everyone eyed her, especially Hudson. He, like his brothers, knew Caitlin was rushing them toward bed. She felt guilty, but that was a breath compared to the tornado of wind which swirled the thought of Jay fucking her hard enough to make her scream she was his dirty little whore as he did.
No. That’s not me.
Jay picked up on Caitlin’s cue and sped Clue to a finish, then they both got the boys ready for bed, tucked them in, then met in the hallway, eyes burning with fire that had been like hot sun on dry branches between them all day.
Jay took Caitlin by the hand. “I think we should talk.”