In the Stillness
Author:Andrea Randall

“What?” I tried to sound light, as if he hadn’t really heard any or all of my conversation with Tosha.

 

“Who’s Ryker?” He cocked his head back toward my parents. “Your dad said he thought he heard you say his name and your mom acted like she was going to pass out. Who’s Ryker, Natalie?”

 

I looked at Tosha, who shrugged and bugged her eyes like, what the hell do you want me to say? I grabbed Eric’s hand and looked him in the eyes.

 

“Your hand is shaking like crazy.” He squeezed my hand to stop it.

 

“I’ll tell you about Ryker. Tonight. Just, please, don’t mention him in front of my parents, okay? It will make sense later, just . . . please.”

 

He smiled and kissed my hand. “Okay, I promise.”

 

It will never make sense.

 

*

 

“Have a good night.” The hostess waves to us as we walk into the mild April night.

 

Eric and I stroll drunkenly up the sidewalk toward our apartment. Thanks to the wine and all the crying, I’m feeling quite relaxed.

 

“Hey.” I pull him to a stop under a huge tree at the edge of the common.

 

“What?”

 

“Remember when you first kissed me here?” I pull him toward me and wrap my arms around his waist, looking up at him.

 

He bites his lip. “I do. God, I was so nervous.”

 

“Do it again.”

 

“What?” His right eyebrow crooks in.

 

The expensive Syrah is in control of my words. “Kiss me, Eric. Like the first time.”

 

“It would be my pleasure,” he whispers, tucking a strand of hair behind my ear.

 

Eric leans down and presses his lips into mine. I release my arms from his waist and place them on his solid shoulders. I don’t know when he has time to work out, but I ignore that for the moment. It feels good to be kissed—to be wanted.

 

“Let’s go home,” I whisper onto his lips.

 

He gives me a playful smile and nearly drags me the rest of the five-minute walk.

 

We crash into our apartment and kick off our shoes at the door. I drag Eric by the collar and sit him on the couch, straddling him with my tongue in his mouth. He grabs my hips, forcing me down hard on his lap. I moan into his mouth, excited by his urgency. Of course he’s urgent—it’s been three weeks. Eric reaches for the hem of my dress, but my hand automatically slaps around his wrist.

 

“What?” he asks, startled.

 

“I want you in the bedroom,” I say while I slide off his lap.

 

With the lights off.

 

Where you can’t see what I’ve done to myself.

 

 

 

 

 

Chapter 6

 

 

 

 

 

Life has returned to shitty normal by Monday morning. Eric and I managed to have sex two times on Friday night/ Saturday morning before picking up the twins, who had just the most fabulous time, they’re such angels, according to Eric’s mom. Everything was great for the remainder of the weekend; the boys were happy to be home with both mommy and daddy and mommy and daddy were happy, too.

 

On Sunday night, however, I questioned Eric about his graduation, when he had to defend his thesis project, etc. That’s when shit hit the fan.

 

“Do you think that UMass will offer you a permanent position?”

 

That was, apparently, uncalled for.

 

“Jesus, Nat, you just can’t let it go, can you?”

 

“What, that I want to know where we’ll be in a few weeks if and when you graduate?”

 

“If?” he yelled. He never really yells at me, so that was a bit dramatic.

 

I sighed, but kept my tone soft, “You know what I mean, Eric. The boys need to start kindergarten in the fall and I’d like to know if we’re enrolling them here or somewhere else.”

 

I don’t understand his anger about my asking about his job prospects. He’s always so level-headed. Maybe the pressure of his thesis defense is mounting. Either way, I’m driving to his lab today—a place I never go—now that the twins are stowed at preschool for the next few hours.

 

I pull up to the lab and spot all the usual cars, including Eric’s. I grabbed a bagel and his favorite coffee, somewhat of a peace offering for my pissing him off. It’s not that I necessarily care when he’s mad at me—I’m too busy to fluff his emotional pillows—but I just don’t need his attitude to bring me down. And it will. Fast.

 

Eric should be in his office right now for his TA office hours. He’s the TA for a few upper-level courses, and that’s exactly where I find him, behind his desk grading papers.

 

I rap lightly on the door with one knuckle.

 

“Hey, what are you doing here?” He goes back to thumbing through his papers.

 

This means he’s really mad—when I don’t get a smile right away.

 

“I brought you coffee and a bagel. You left this morning without eating.” I place the items on his desk.

 

He looks at them, but speaks to me, “I’m surprised you noticed.”

 

“Come on, Eric, that’s not fair. We had a great weekend—”

 

“Yeah,” he huffs, “the first one in a while and then you had to ruin it wi—”

 

A weak knock on the door interrupts our simmering argument.

 

“Mr. Johnson?” A fair-haired and fairer-skinned twenty-something is standing, shaking, in the doorway.

 

“Miss Kimball, we missed you in class this morning. What can I do for you?”