Selena wriggled out of her wetsuit and left it crumpled on the porch floor. Barney sniffed it, prodded it with one muddy paw, then flopped his body over it. He had a tatty old quilt, a blue and tan log cabin. She laid it over him and smiled when he found an edge and began to suck.
“You thirsty, Barn?” But he was snoring, already. She set out his food and water, then moved to sit against the wall. Knees to chest, chin resting on crossed forearms, she watched David peel out of his clothes. His body was changing. Working indoors had made him thinner, less muscular, and his skin was so pale. She wondered if he had been skipping meals.
Ridiculous in nothing but some sagging white briefs, he met his wife’s calculating gaze and shrugged. “I’ve been busy.”
“Is that the problem, then?”
She sighed, tipping her forehead against her arms. “No, the problem is that we want different things. You want to play fucking tennis with asshole businessmen and drink imported beer while I give up my life for your baby. Oh, no, wait, your babies, right? Because everyone wants that fucking million dollar family. I mean, except me.”
“I’m not following your logic.” He grabbed a parka from the wall hooks and slipped it on, then crossed to sit beside her. “How will having a baby end your life? I don’t expect you to quit working. And where the fuck did tennis come from?”
“I never wanted children, David. I don’t want children.”
“Why?” He stared at his toes on the bamboo hardwood, then the shoes and boots lined up carefully against the wall. Powder blue paint she’d applied on a weekend, just after they moved here. The coat hooks had come by mail order from some artisan shop in the south. The turned spindled hat rack, a house warming gift from the neighbourhood association. The yellow toile curtains from a girlfriend back home. There was a six by eight foot canvas of fingerpaint art, sent by the PTA after Selena’s first term at the local kindergarten. Next to it, a bulletin board stuck with ladybug pins displayed cards and notes from her class. A Trofast tower packed with colourful bins held art supplies and manipulatives she couldn’t store at the school. A planter-pot crow with a wooden yellow nose grinned down from the top with googly eyes. “Is it the kids at school?”
“No, it doesn’t have anything to do with them.” Bristling. Defensive. “Does there have to be a reason?”
“Yes! There has to be a reason! You love kids. Kids love you. Why the fuck can’t we have any of our own?”
“I don’t have a reason,” she whispered. She was so tired of this fight.
She stood and walked away from him, through the kitchen and the den, to the washroom at the back of the house. The faucets on the old clawfoot tub screamed when she turned them, and then there was the rush of water, steam and foam. She stripped and tossed her clothes in the hamper, avoiding the vanity mirror. Her toes pressed the plug into place. Her neck found the rim while the heat climbed her body and she finally felt like she could breathe.
He said, “I need you to talk to me,” standing in the doorway in his underwear and his parka. “I can’t let you run away from this.”
© Desi S. Valentine, 2012