He knew he shouldn't have gone. It invited nothing but trouble to his already rocky marriage, but he had to set things right. Running his hand over his face, he drove out of the small diner and prayed she'd understand why he did what he did.
As he approached the small town of Walled Lake, Michigan where he lived, he glanced around. It looked like a ghost town. He'd listened to the weather reports earlier, predicting severe thunderstorms in the area.
Stopping at a light, he rolled down the window to allow the warm summer night air to flow into the car. Turning his gaze toward the sky, he saw there was no moon. It was probably hidden by the storm clouds. A warm breeze rustled his short brown hair. The illumination from the traffic light highlighted the worry lines on his face.
Turning his attention toward the road, the blue glow of the clock on his dashboard caught his attention. 3:30 a.m. He just hoped she was sleeping and he could slip inside and deal with the repercussions of his most recent trip in the morning.
When he stopped at the next light, the heavens opened and an onslaught of rain pummeled his car. He quickly rolled up the window, turned on his windshield wipers and hit the lever for his turn signal. He drove down the street where his house was, feeling his heart thunder in his chest when he saw his house. Every light looked to be burning brightly.
A loud clap of thunder had him flinching and sending a silent prayer heavenward. He knew the storm brewing outside was nothing compared to what he was about to face.
She knew she should've changed to meet him, but she didn't care. She'd worried for the past twenty minutes, hearing the rain slash across the windows of the small ranch-style house.
In her anxiety, she'd managed to turn just about every light in the house on. She really hoped he wasn't where she'd thought he was, but the nagging feeling wouldn't leave her. She just hoped it was the weather that kept him out all night.
Clenching her fists in the faded flannel gown she was wearing, she paced nervously, feeling her heart thunder against her ribs when she saw his car pull slowly into the driveway.
Rushing out to greet him, heedless of the pouring rain, she pulled him into an embrace. When she smelled a slight hint of perfume, she masked her anger, just thankful he was alive.
Breaking their embrace, she turned and headed into the house without a word to him. Once inside she pushed her long brown hair out of her face, doing her best to conceal her anger. When she heard the screen door close behind her, she turned to face him.
"You were with someone else." It wasn't a question.
"Yes, but not in the way you think." He set down his briefcase and took off his jacket. Draping it over a hook near the door he approached her. "You never believed me when I told you I never cheated on you."
She stood glaring at him with her hands on her hips. "That's because every time you return from one of your business trips, you reek of cheap perfume. What am I supposed to think?"
Frustration and anger consumed him. "Goddammit! I've never cheated on you! Why can't you get that through your head?"
"Oh really? Then who was the woman who called here two weeks ago?"
"I already told you. She was a co-worker wanting to know about the convention."
"Sure." She sighed. "And I asked you before, why couldn't she just get the information at work? Why did she have to call you?"
When he didn't answer, she turned again and made her way toward the bedroom. He followed, removing his tie and thinking of a way to convince her what he said was true.
"What'll it take to convince you I'm not lying?"
"I don't know. I really don't. Every time you come back from one of your business trips, you seem different. Distant somehow."
He sighed. "It's not because I'm having an affair. It's because I'm tired and I'm stressed. You know how much my boss piles on me. I can't handle things as it is, and he piles more on me."
"Then ask him to give you some help."
"The perfume you smell? It's my new assistant's."
Heading toward the en suite bathroom, he began unbuttoning his shirt. "I need a shower."
She scoffed, knowing he'd essentially blocked out any further conversation. Turning toward the dresser, she paused in front of the mirror. Glancing at her reflection, she didn't like what she saw. Her wet hair was plastered to her head and the old flannel gown she was wearing was soaked and stuck to her body, accentuating her curvaceous figure. Her green eyes were dull and lifeless. She was tired of fighting with him all the time.
Opening the drawer, she ran her finger over the cold steel of the pistol tucked in the corner. Turning her attention back to her reflection, she whispered, "He won't do this again. Tonight will be the last time I'll wonder where he's been."
Pulling out the pistol, she carefully opened the cylinder and loaded bullets into each chamber. Giving it a spin, she flicked the cylinder closed and turned toward the bathroom. She could hear the shower running and his soft humming.
Her heart ached, knowing he didn't love her anymore and knowing she could lose any chance at happiness with him if she did what she'd planned to do with the gun.