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Ripples On the Water, chapter one.

Beth Ellis is a Christian wife, mother, author, and musician; married to her high school sweetheart for 35 years. This is her 3rd book.

Photo by: Killy Ridols

Photo by: Killy Ridols

First chapter of Ripples on the Water

Ripples On the Water

Elisabeth Ellis

Drop a Pebble in the Water

A poem by James William Foley

Drop a pebble in the water — jes' a splash an' it is gone,

But th's half a hundred ripples circlin' on, an' on, an' on,

Spreadin', spreadin' from the center, flowin' on out to the sea,

An' th' ain't no way o' tellin' where th' end is goin' to be.

Drop a pebble in the water — in a minute ye forget,

But th's little waves a-flowin' an' th's ripples circlin' yet;

All th' ripples flowin', flowin', to a mighty wave hev grown,

An' ye've disturbed a mighty river — jes' by droppin' in a stone.

Drop an unkind word or careless — in a minute it is gone,

But th's half a hundred ripples circlin' on, an' on, an' on.

Th' keep spreadin', spreadin', spreadin' from th' center as th' go,

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An' th' ain't no way to stop 'em, once ye've started 'em to flow.

Drop an unkind word or careless — in a minute ye forget,

But th's little waves a-flowin' an' th's ripples circlin' yet;

An' perhaps in some sad heart a mighty wave of tears ye've stirred,

An' disturbed a life 'et's happy when ye dropped an unkind word.

Drop a word o' cheer an' kindness — jes' a flash an' it is gone,

But th's half a hundred ripples circlin' on, an' on, an' on,

Bearin' hope an' joy an' comfort on each splashin', dashin' wave,

Till ye wouldn't b'lieve the volume o' th' one kind word ye gave.

Drop a word o' cheer an' kindness — in a minute ye forget,

But th's gladness still a-swellin' an' th's joy a-circlin' yet;

An' ye've rolled a wave of comfort whose sweet music can be heard

Over miles an' miles o' water — jes' by droppin' a kind word.

Chapter One December 2018

On a blustery morning in Dayton Ohio, two weeks before Christmas, Claire Taylor found herself on hold with The Universe. She was sitting on her new cream-colored Weiman sofa that had just arrived from the online e-commerce company that sold both new and high-end vintage items. She had seen it on their website over the weekend and today it was hers. The problem was, online, it was picture perfect, but while trying it at different angles in her living room, she noticed something on the side of the sofa. It was a very small, hardly even noticeable, blemish. The sofa was brand new --brand new vintage but still! She had spent a small fortune on it, and for that price, she wanted perfection. Claire lived, with her husband Jack, in a home she had designed herself. It was inspired by Ludwig Mies van der Rohe; the exterior walls were made of glass. It was a mid-modern century lover’s dream though it didn’t really fit in with the rest of the neighborhood, but then neither did she. Still, she couldn’t help but marvel at the 5 change her renovation had brought to what she was sure would soon become a very trendy little neighborhood. Considering its proximity to the city, the prices in this vicinity would soon skyrocket. When they bought this ho-hum ranch, it looked like every other house on the block but sprinkle a little Claire dust on it and it became gloriously futuristic while still paying homage to yesteryear. If her neighbors were savvy, they’d realize she’d done them all a favor. While walking to the mailbox one day, she overheard her neighbors talking on the other side of the tall hedge that separated their yards. Mrs. George had snidely said to her husband that Claire’s house looked like a mobile home made of glass. It stung, but Claire reminded herself that it was people like the Georges who had kept this neighborhood stuck in the eighties. Of course, it could be argued that Claire’s house was stuck in the fifties, but no matter. Her house differed from the original enough that there really wasn’t a house anywhere that could compare. Though the original Mies vacation home had only one bedroom, Claire added a second bedroom to her version in the event that she and Jack should decide to procreate. 6 It’s not that they didn’t want kids, they did, but they were just having such amazing success in their careers that to stop now felt like losing momentum. They were so young to have accumulated so much and it was hard to stop. Lately, however, Claire wondered if maybe she should have done things differently. Claire’s grandfather had been an industrialist in the auto manufacturing business and when he died, Claire’s mother inherited all his wealth. Even though her own mother was a stay-at-home mom, Claire grew up with a nanny. She really didn’t know which kind of mother to be. She was relatively sure; the stay-at-home life held no appeal for her. She craved the status, and even more so, the wardrobe of a career woman —Claire was absolutely obsessed with clothes. Though she appreciated her mother and grandmother for who they were; she wasn’t sure what they did, other than host events and shop. As far as Claire could tell, that’s what staying at home with the children meant. She momentarily considered the possibility of becoming one of those moms that wore flip-flops at the supermarket. They weren’t hands-off like her mom had been they seemed very involved in their children’s lives, something like a nanny, which just seemed like so much work for so little payoff. Besides, achieving her 7 bachelor’s degree in interior design was no small effort and once her handsome husband, Jack, stepped into the picture, everything else just fell into place. Judy Clay, from Inspired Designs, hired Claire right out of college and for two years, no one could argue that she’d done a bang-up job for the company, but when the Governor of Ohio called looking for someone to redecorate her guest house, Judy felt she had no other choice but to recommend Claire for the prestigious job. Normally, she would have taken the job herself or sent her senior designer. After all, it was an enviable undertaking, but she and the head designer were both under contract with another very important project and couldn’t break away. It was to be: send Claire, her best junior designer, or lose the contract. Claire wasn’t a newbie, Judy reasoned, she simply had yet to establish the kind of reputation that might have given clients bragging rights. However, when Claire sat down for coffee with Governor Dickson, a transplant from Texas, no one could have expected how well they’d hit it off. They bonded over issues like gun control and downtown revitalization and Governor Dickson, a woman of marked decisiveness, hired her on the spot. The 8 governor ended up being so pleased with Claire’s work that she contacted Ohio Magazine, who did a spread on her fifteen-hundred square foot guest house. After that, and for the next three years, Claire became inundated with calls, bringing an unprecedented amount of new revenue to the firm. Unfortunately, the constant hum of life would not let up and the stress became so intense that Claire lost not only too much weight but a lot of her hair too. Claire could never have imagined achieving nor knowing how to handle this windfall of success in a such short time. Everyone in Dayton knew that producers from HGTV had come to town to discuss the possibility of giving Claire her own show. Camera crews followed her all around and her picture showed up in all the who’s who articles, but then all the chatter and fuss suddenly seemed to dwindle. Nothing came of all the hubbub, and no one could account for the change. The reality was that Claire became unwell. If she had signed a contract with those producers she would have crashed and burned for all the world to see, something unforgivable in the placid world in which she’d been brought up. 9 At her doctor’s urging, and with her husband’s support, she told her firm that she was going to have to take a year off. Judy Clay insisted that she be more reasonable and simply take a vacation, then she could return refreshed and ready to work. Judy worried that if Claire left for too long, her company’s popularity, as well as their net worth, would return to pre-Claire days, but a short break wasn’t going to suffice. If Claire took a little trip to Mexico or Italy, she would only return to the same grueling pace that was currently threatening her well-being. Judy remained adamant, hoping to force her hand, but to her surprise, Claire quit. She walked away from it all and didn’t look back. A few magazines requested interviews, but Claire chose to issue a simple statement and nothing more. Wishing to make a graceful exit, she said that she and her husband had been going great guns for quite some time and they were ready for a break. She didn’t complain about her firm’s lack of understanding or share the fact that she was emotionally and physically exhausted; her mother would have said it wasn’t dignified. She just went home, got in bed, and covered her head for the greater part of every day. The change from being a media-bigshot to a quiet homebody was more radical than she could have imagined. Strangely enough, the 10 only thing about her life that hadn’t changed was her wardrobe. No woman on earth loved their high heels as much as Claire Taylor. She liked the way they finished her outfits and, being petite, she especially liked the way they made her feel taller. Unfortunately, she lacked whatever gene it was that most women possessed, which allowed them to wear heels effortlessly. Her mother had always blamed it on her childhood ear infections, ‘Equilibrium,’ she would say staunchly as her friends sniggered. Not that it mattered, Claire could not be swayed, she refused to give them up, reasoning that she would be in front of a computer most days. Jack tried to convince her that he preferred her five-foot-one and erect to a five-foot-four version of his grandmother, but even he couldn’t change her mind. When Louboutin came out with a new stiletto, she simply had to have it. Even in her depressed state, with nowhere to go and no one to see, Claire wore her executive wardrobe around the house. She told Jack it was the only thing left that made her happy, but he said she looked like she was losing her mind. It was at this point he made an appointment for her to see a therapist named Glenda 11 Solomon -- four and a half stars on Yelp. Claire only agreed because the more introverted she became, the more distant her husband became. Considering he was the only human being in her life, she didn’t see that she had any other choice. Not that if anyone had noticed her downward spiral they would have reached out. When you’re wealthy, semi-famous, and you look like a miniature runway model; people don’t send sympathy cards. Glenda, Claire’s therapist, eventually got her to the point where she was no longer bedridden, yet she wasn’t at a hundred percent either. Here, somewhere between total breakdown and near-recovery, she sat on hold with The Universe waiting for a phone agent to take her call. If it weren’t for the manic, ‘tap, tap, tap’ of her manicured fingernail, you might not have even known she was sitting there like the female version of ‘Where’s Waldo.’ From her pale blonde ponytail to her nude pedicure; from her cream sofa to her beige Moroccan rug, she was surrounded by, and swathed in, varying shades of whites. “Thank you for calling The Universe, this is Chantele, how can I make your world a better place today?” 12 “Can I give you my order number?” Claire said, skipping the pleasantries. “Of course,” the agent said in a friendly manner. Claire’s order number and identity were verified, and the agent asked how she could help. “Well…” Claire couldn't remember the salesperson’s name, Sharissa or Shawnita, something sort of ethnic, not that it mattered to her. “My issue is with this Weiman sofa I ordered. It just arrived, and I noticed that there’s a spot on the side. I don’t know if it was already like that or if one of the delivery men did it, but it wasn’t visible in the photo. Obviously, I didn't pay seven-thousand dollars for a spotted Weiman sofa.” “No, of course not, ma’am. Let me apologize on behalf of The Universe. Our goal is for our customers to be completely satisfied with each and every purchase. Let me explain how we’d like to make this right for you. Much of our inventory is one-of-a-kind vintage items, which means we’re seldom able to just mail out a duplicate product. So, we rely on our customers to take a screenshot of the area of concern and then request that you allow us up to forty-eight hours to resolve the issue. I’m going to send you a link and if you would 13 just attach a screenshot, at your convenience, we’ll be set. You don’t have to worry about adding any additional information; it will all be included in the link I send you. Would you prefer me to send that link by text or email?” One of the first things Claire had learned from Judy Clay, when dealing with distributors and warehouse managers, was not to let up on the pressure until the person on the other end of the line caved. It was like a game of chicken. “Are you joking? Did I reach customer service or not?” Claire challenged the agent. She could feel her heart beating in her throat as her old anxieties began to resurface. “There is only one way to fix this and that’s by sending those same pot-smoking delivery boys back here to pick up this damaged sofa. I expect The Universe to send me a spotless sofa like the one in the picture.” Claire knew how to get things done and this salesperson was about to find that out. When she heard the agent stop typing, she thought to herself, ‘Good, now I have your attention!’ “Ma’am, I feel very badly about this. I fully intend to make this right for you, but I’m afraid the only way I can do that is to follow The Universe’s policy for dealing with vintage items. I can assure you that you’ll 14 be pleased with the end result. We’ve found it takes much less time and effort to resolve things this way.” Claire interrupted, “Less effort for who Shawndelle? Less effort for me or less effort for you?” Claire wasn’t yelling, but her tone was so hostile that even she thought it sounded over the top. “I am literally located down the street from you people! Are you telling me you can’t get someone out here to replace it this week!” Now she was yelling. Chantele’s hands began to shake, “I’m so sorry that I wasn’t able to resolve this matter for you.” She did not want to send this call to her boss, she was already on notice, but this woman was steaming and every effort she had made to fix the problem seemed to make the customer angrier. “Ma’am, if you wouldn’t mind holding the line for one moment, I’ll let you speak to my supervisor. Hopefully, he can find a solution for you.” “What a good idea, Shawndelle! Maybe if The Universe cut out all the unnecessary middlemen – like you -- and just let us speak to someone effective from the start, your customers wouldn’t have to get so irate!” Claire knew that when she put her foot down, she 15 eventually got what she wanted. Getting things done had been the ugly side of her job, but she wasn’t at work anymore. She had left all that behind and a voice inside her kept telling her that she was in the wrong. Something was wrong inside her and it had nothing to do with her former job, her depression, or even an imperfect sofa, but there wasn’t time for that now. Claire would have to engage in one more tyrannical tirade before she could hang up. This second being with Chantele’s boss and after that was over, she was exhausted from the entire ordeal. After Claire hung up, she headed to her bedroom in the rear of the house, which backed up to a sort of greenbelt, then a thick tree line for privacy. She decided what she really needed was a nap, a long bath, and then maybe she would dress for dinner as they had when she was a girl in her parents' home. She wanted to wear something that would capture her husband’s attention, though at this point she wasn’t sure what it would take to accomplish that. So, after her bath, wrapped in a spotless white towel, she searched through her closet looking for just the right thing. Suddenly, a strange feeling came over her like someone was watching her from behind. She spun around quickly and peered 16 through the wall of glass but saw no one; there was nothing there at all but a Frisbee laying on the ground. She shook off the bad vibe and threw on a silk robe, then went and got dinner in the oven. After making a salad, and setting the table she donned a gray knitted, three-quarter sleeve top attached to a black, floral maxiskirt. She added a triple strand of pearls, a black sash tied on the side, and some black strappy heels. It was winter, but the shoes were just too cute to wait for spring. Claire heard the garage door open, and she excitedly ran to the kitchen, her heels clicking erratically across the floor. She’d had a mostly positive afternoon if you didn’t count the irritating sofa issue, and she couldn’t wait for her husband to try the dish she had prepared. By the huge smile on her face, you would never know that only hours before, she had laid a hapless woman to waste. Jack was a striking man, with a solid build, sandy hair, and a cleft in his chin that seemed mandatory with the rest of his good looks. He collected his briefcase and driving gloves and made his way inside. She looked over her cookbook one more time, checking each of the steps before tucking the book into the cupboard. She had begun cooking dinner again since her progress with 17 Glenda. Claire took the halibut and asparagus out of the oven, sprinkled a little sea salt, and added a few extra drops of lemon over the top just in time for her husband to pop his head in the kitchen and say, “Smells good in here, Claire! You’ve been working hard, huh?” She smiled and called out, “Of course! Are you hungry?” “Of course!” he replied, already halfway to the bedroom. Their imitation of the ‘happy couple’ had become such a common performance that no one would have guessed that their marriage was imploding. Claire had to slide her feet back and forth, double-time, like a cross-country skier, to try and catch up. Unfortunately, her stiletto rolled to one side, and she twisted her ankle just a little, so she put her hand on the wall to steady herself the rest of the way down the hall. After she’d regained her composure, she entered the bedroom like the manifestation of Grace Kelly. She caught Jack’s suit coat, midair before it landed on the Sergio Rodrigues chair that she’d found at an estate sale. She hung up the coat then sat on the bed next to Jack and asked about his day. She didn’t mention her twisted ankle for fear he’d lecture her, for the hundredth 18 time, about wearing dangerously high heels. When they were dating, he used to tell her how hot she looked in them; but back then, she had tricks to hide the fact that each step was a struggle. She held his arm when they walked and took every opportunity to strike a pose in front of various scenic backdrops. Sometimes she just sat, usually at a table in the fanciest restaurants. Those days were long gone, now he just made jokes at her expense as she wobbled her way through life. “How was your day?” she asked. He was taking off his own shoes when he received a text. He looked at his phone and stood up to respond. Not remotely present, he finally answered his wife, “My day? Um, it was fine, how ‘bout yours?” She was just about to relay the whole story of the sofa and the saleswoman from The Universe when his cell rang. He looked at the number and said it was work, he’d have to take it, then sped out of the room. He answered the call with his usual confident greeting, something Claire always referred to as his ‘business voice.’ He had on nothing but joggers, a T-shirt, and socks as he stepped outside, onto the back porch, closing the glass doors behind him. 19 It was mid-December now and though it wasn’t snowing; it was cold. She was afraid he was going to freeze if he stayed out there too long, so like a dutiful wife she ran and got him some slippers and a coat. She stepped outside, left the items on a deck lounge, and before she could step back inside, they made eye contact, and he crossed his brows at her, a silent scold for the intrusion. She went back inside feeling, once again, agitated that he felt the need to go outside every time the phone rang. It wasn’t like they had screaming children or any children for that matter. She sat at the dining room table watching him pace slowly back and forth, trying to imagine what interesting conversation was taking place that caused his reactions of irritation, concern, and even his outbursts of laughter. She would give anything to hold his attention like that, but she’d felt invisible for so long now. For twenty minutes she sat directly in front of him, like a fish in a glass bowl, yet he never once looked at her. Since she’d quit her job, she’d begun to wonder if she had any purpose at all. Had Jack not just scowled at her, she might have wondered if she was even there. She tried to imagine herself as a platinum blonde in a low-cut, red dress. Would a little less class 20 and a little more brash recapture her husband’s imagination? Dinner had grown cold, so she moved it back into the oven and tapped the ‘warm’ setting. She rested her face in her hand and soon, out of boredom, she felt herself drifting off. When she realized that she’d been dozing, she ran into the kitchen to check the fish. To her great disappointment, it had completely dried out. There was nothing to do now but put it on the table and salvage whatever they could that is if he ever came inside. She tapped lightly on the window to try to get his attention. He looked at her for only the second time since he’d arrived home. She tried mouthing that dinner was cold, but he gave her the ‘just a minute,’ sign with his finger. She made an exasperated face, and his response was to turn his back to her, lean on the railing, and stare out into the trees behind their home. She decided to give the ‘dutiful wife’ approach one more chance and filled a glass with Pinot Noir. She slid the door open as quietly as she could and snuck out a glass of his favorite wine. As she approached quietly from behind, she heard him whisper to the caller, “I can’t wait either! You’re so sexy, I can hardly stand it!” Just as the words left his mouth, a deck board squeaked 21 under Claire’s foot. He spun around and there stood his wife, slack-jawed and blinking uncontrollably. For several weeks she had feared that there was another woman, but she hadn’t let herself believe it, but now the truth was, slapping her in the face. For the last half-hour, Jack had experienced such an exhilarating high, but as soon as he realized his wife had heard his adulterous banter he came crashing back down to the earth like Sputnik. He hung up without saying so much as goodbye and the two of them stood completely still, silently staring at each other waiting for the other to speak. Although Claire’s situation was that of having too many words, most of them consisting of four letters, Jack couldn’t think of one. Not. One. Word. The ever-collected Claire spoke first, “Um, I just came out to let you know that dinner’s cold.” Her life had just changed completely in less than a minute, yet here she stood, decorum fully intact. She stepped inside and closed the door behind her. As she held the knob in her hand, the thought crossed her mind that she could simply lock the door with Jack on the other side and all her problems would go away. He would never again be allowed to set foot inside and 22 eventually he would just… disappear. Not the fairy-tale ending she had dreamed of, but effective nonetheless. Jack cussed bitterly, then congratulated himself for finally coming up with a word. He cringed as he noticed his wife’s kind gesture, the coat, and slippers. He didn’t know if it was the cold or the fear of what was to come, but his feet seemed frozen in place. Jack was a program manager with a team of people under him. He was often in high-pressure situations that called for quick thinking. At work, when he found himself in impossible situations; he discovered that the simple act of moving forward always brought forth a resolution. It was only in doing nothing that things remained the same. So, he summoned up his courage, took one step toward the house and prayed that his wife wasn’t brandishing a knife. He slipped on his coat and moccasins, then reached for the doorknob, half expecting, half-hoping, to be locked out. When the door opened, he didn’t know whether to be relieved or just run shivering into the woods like a shamed, “slippered” dog. A voice inside his head told him to man up and he wondered if that was the same testosterone-infused voice that got him into this mess, to begin with. He had been 23 fantasizing about bedding Mia, the water delivery girl, for weeks, and yet he never once imagined that his wife might find out. Fantasies are funny that way. Contrary to his assumption, Claire wasn’t sitting at the dining room table when he walked inside. Were his eyes playing tricks on him? He could have sworn she was just sitting in that exact chair; or was that earlier… before he’d been found out? Everything was a blur now. The house seemed eerily quiet as he continued his search. He thought surely, he’d find Claire lying in bed, speaking positive affirmations while staring at the ceiling, something she was prone to do when things weren’t going her way. Only she wasn’t there either, which caused him to entertain a crazy thought: What if his wife was hiding somewhere? “Hell, hath no fury,” he said, under his breath. Now, instead of concern for the emotional state of his wife, a silly twinge of concern for his own safety niggled at him. It was a ludicrous notion; nevertheless, there was no sign of her anywhere, and the atmosphere seemed to hang heavy and dark around him. He told himself he was being ridiculous, Claire had never been prone to violence, but for just a moment; a moment he’d never imagined being apart of, he could envision 24 himself as the protagonist in a horror movie. He imagined how the director always centered the camera uncomfortably close to the back of the hero’s head, right before a masked serial killer sank an ax into it. Jack looked over his shoulder quickly and at that very moment, a Frisbee hit the massive glass wall of his bedroom. His heart almost stopped, and he stepped out onto the back porch through the bedroom door, looked through some trees, and made eye contact with their creepy, far too pale, teenage neighbor, Peter George. He was always walking through Jack’s backyard as if it was a public nature trail. He had several props to aid him in his impression of being outdoorsy, all of which was highly unlikely for a kid whose skin was nearly translucent. The boy stood perfectly still, looking expectantly at Jack, though Jack couldn’t imagine why. “Yo boomer, gimme back my Frisbee,” Pete said. Jack knew this kid came in his yard for one reason and one reason only and it had nothing to do with sports and everything to do with trying to catch a glimpse of his wife unaware. Jack would sometimes lull himself to sleep at night by imagining all the different ways he could bruise the teen without it showing. Jack felt his 25 blood pressure rising as he snapped, “Get out of my yard, Pete, and stop peeping on my wife, you little perv!” Pete yelled over his shoulder, “Then get some curtains, bruh!” Jack still held the Frisbee in his hand, “Do your parents know where you are, Pete! Who plays Frisbee alone, huh!” The boy was long gone, Jack was basically yelling into the air, “WHO PLAYS FRISBEE ALONE, PETE!” Pete had picked a really bad day for one of his visits. Jack dug down and attempted to throw the Frisbee as far into the woods as possible; instead, he flung it into the tree closest to him and ricocheted back into his lip, knocking him down, leaving his mouth swollen and bleeding. He swore again and sat with his back up against his house, fully defeated. He had just put his head in his hands when he felt a presence looming over him. “You alright?” Claire asked, in a strange, quiet voice. He reeled back, still imagining his wife as an ax murderer, then jumped to his feet and quickly tried to form an apology in his head. He hadn’t realized until this moment that he’d been using her depression as an 26 excuse for his behavior. What, only a few hours ago, had seemed so completely and overwhelmingly enticing, like a steaming hot tub on a cold night, had become, in a matter of moments, a humiliating incident that threatened his future, and couldn’t be erased. Jack felt like garbage. He wanted to meet his wife’s gaze, yet every time he tried his eyes dropped to the floor. Jack had always said that Claire’s eyes looked like the ocean; he remembered a time when they distracted him to the point that he could barely concentrate on a word she said. He hadn’t appreciated her beauty for so long and now and for the life of him he couldn’t remember why. His wife was one of those women that were so striking that you had to remind yourself to look away or you might find yourself gawking without even realizing it. Now, as he thought of Mia, the other woman, he realized she couldn’t even compare with his wife. It was only the lure of a shared secret that had made her seem so exciting. Now that his secret was out in the open, he had no reasonable explanation for his actions. “Claire, I’m sorry. I don’t even know what to say.” 27 “You’re sorry for cheating or you’re sorry I found out?” She felt inexplicably calm and congratulated herself for being the Mother Teresa of scorned women. He stumbled with his words as he jumped to his own defense. “I haven’t cheated, Claire, at least not like you’re imagining. It was all just... We just talked about cheating, we haven’t… We didn’t do anything else, nothing real. It was kind of like flirting. Like, sort of, heavy flirting, that’s all though.” His words sounded ridiculous even to him, he felt like he was twelve years old. She just stood listening, saying nothing, which only made it harder on him. “I’m just saying, I never touched her. I promise you that.” “Yet. You haven’t touched her yet. You were making plans, I heard you.” He looked at his hands and soon a wry laugh escaped his lips and he scoffed. “It’s all just so stupid, I don’t even know how it started.” She had every right to lay into him, instead, she just stood there, labeling him a walking cliché with nothing but her eyes. He almost wished she would just go off so he could try to shift the blame onto her. He was a worm on a hook, and he wanted off. Sure, Claire had her issues, and they were 28 huge, but this was one hundred percent on him, which meant he was going to have to do some major self-inventory. He had always been great at pointing the finger, so this changed everything. He had practically forced Claire into therapy, but now the tables had turned. If she didn’t walk away defeated soon, he knew that she was going to insist that he see Glenda too. “It just got out of hand, Claire, I never meant to hurt you. The truth is, I wasn’t thinking of you at all, I was just thinking of myself. We were having our problems, and I wanted an escape, but I just went and made everything worse. Can you forgive me?” he asked, looking into her eyes. The more he talked, the more his mouth bled which was freaking her out. He couldn’t read her reaction, but that’s because she was hardly listening. She couldn’t hear a word he said for fear he was going to drip blood on her very expensive rug. “Claire?” Jack started to remember why he was so easily drawn into a more responsive relationship. Claire had always been somewhat detached from her emotions, but ever since she’d quit her job, she’d grown detached from everything. She was very intelligent; no one could deny that, but when it came to matters of human nature, she simply checked out. To Jack’s 29 discredit, that was one of the things that drew him to her. He liked being the astute one. When it was time to deal with the human race, he took it upon himself to be her liaison to the world. Though he’d never admit that to anyone, it made him feel superior, and he liked that. “Claire, I know you’d prefer not to talk about this, but there’s no getting around it.” He led her over to their bed, and they sat down. He held her hands, but she pulled them away. She surely had had no trouble expressing her feelings to the sales agent on the phone, but that was business, this was personal. All she wanted was to do what her mother would have done; pour a gin and tonic, paint a smile on her face, and pretend everything was fine. “What are you feeling, Claire? Can you tell me?” “What am I feeling?” she asked. “Guess what, Jack, I’m feeling hungry! I made a wonderful dinner -- an hour ago -- as you can see, I even dressed for it,” she stood back hoping he would finally notice how fabulous she looked. “And now it’s all ruined,” she said, in a high, thin voice. “It’s cold, it’s dry, it’s garbage, but it’s all we have for dinner so let’s eat!” Her emotions were coming out sideways. He looked at her sadly and she said snippily, “Hope you like cold fish, cause that’s 30 what you’re stuck with!” He wondered if she’d heard it too. It probably wasn’t a good time to point out the irony of her statement. Jack had known that Claire lived in an ice fortress when he met her. At the time, he was turned on by her standoffish charm, he thought of her as a challenge. He’d grown up in a middle-class American home with salt-of-the-earth parents who taught him that if he wanted to get ahead, he’d have to work for it. When Claire came along like Career Barbie he couldn’t relate to her emotionally detached state, he could only assume that this was what happened when a girl grew up with a pony instead of involved parents. He saw her as a project wrapped in a gorgeous woman, the ultimate fixer upper. Jack reprimanded himself for focusing on her shortcomings at a time like this. He told himself he was being a complete jerk. It was his fault their marriage was falling apart, and it was time for him to come up with a solution. As they gnawed, silently on their fish jerky, he asked Claire what she thought of the idea of marriage therapy. She said she would call Glenda first thing in the morning and see if she could fit them in. 31 They went to bed that night without saying a word, both wondering the same thing: Is this the end?

Ripples On the Water


Elisabeth Ellis (author) from Nashville, TN. on October 17, 2021:

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