Wednesday, November 21st
The floorboards creaked as Fitz climbed the stairs to what was once her childhood bedroom. The creaking floors made the house seem otherwise deathly silent. It was so quiet, it was as if you could almost hear people breathing behind closed doors. Fitz had been downstairs late, enjoying time with her brother Mac and his wife in front of the fire. She wasn’t close with Mac, and Mac had never liked Tom. Mac was the one person Tom couldn’t charm. It used to make Fitz so mad. But not now. Now Fitz appreciated that when she was with her brother, her husband would make himself scarce.
Tom had long since gone to bed. Fitz tiptoed as quietly as possible into the room. Holding her breath as she shut the door. The clink of the latch made her wince, but she didn’t hear any movement, any reaction to the sound to indicate that Tom was still awake. In the dim light of the moon, she could see the outline of his sleeping form in the bed. She let herself breathe. Slowly she sat down on the bed. It squeaked and sagged deeply under her weight. Shhh, bed, please be quiet. She pulled up her feet and slipped them between the sheets. As she lay back the old bed springs betrayed her with a loud sprong. Tom stirred.
“You did decide to come to bed after all,” Tom turned towards her. The bed protested loudly as he moved until he was pressed up against her, holding her from behind. His hands went under her nightshirt, cupping her breasts. She could feel him harden against her.
“Tom, stop. Not here,” Fitz whispered.
“Why not?” he asked, one hand sliding along the curve of her hip, pulling her closer against him. As if in answer the mattress let out another loud sprong.
“Because the whole house would hear. Because my parents would hear,” she whispered back sharply. She pushed his hands away. The bed creaked loudly as he rolled onto his back with an irritated huff.
“Fine.” His voice was resigned. Even he had to admit that making love in this bed was likely a bad idea. Fitz smiled to herself as she closed her eyes. Four nights. Fitz would get four nights where her body would remain hers and only hers. A smile on her lips, she fell quickly into a deep peaceful sleep.
Friday, November 23rd
Tom was tense and unhappy all through Thanksgiving, but Fitz was the only one who could tell. On the outside, he smiled and joked. He played football in the yard with Fitz’s brothers and cousins. He chased Tyler around making the boy laugh and shriek. He kissed Fitz on the cheek and told her how beautiful she looked at supper. He was the picture-perfect father and husband. But under it, Fitz knew he was frustrated. He detested visiting there. He loved his family fiercely and hated missing Thanksgiving with his parents and siblings. Fitz knew she wasn’t helping matters by so obviously enjoying her reprieve from their bargain.
Tom surprised Fitz by insisting that they go shopping together alone early on Black Friday. ‘To buy Christmas gifts,’ he claimed. It was five in the morning, hours yet until sunrise when Tom shook Fitz awake and practically dragged her out of the house and into her father’s pickup.
“This isn’t the way to the mall,” Fitz said as they took an unexpected turn down a dark and windy country road.
“No, it isn’t,” he smiled. The road was familiar but Fitz didn’t realize the destination until they were there. It was their old make-out point from ages ago, their own personal lovers' lane. A small clearing amid a semicircle of tall oak trees, and shorter maples, it was an oasis of shade and privacy on the far edge of an overgrown pasture. “Remember this place?” Tom asked.
“Of course, but I can’t believe you still know the way…” Fitz couldn’t remember how they’d ever discovered it to begin with but once they had they’d come here every time Tom visited her at her parents’ house over school breaks. Her parents were strict and Fitz was nervous about being caught; she wouldn’t so much as kiss Tom anywhere near the house. Parking here in this clearing, watching the sunset through the trees, had felt thrilling and romantic. I used to look forward to coming here. I had liked fooling around. She’d nearly forgotten. What changed?
Tom stepped out of the car and opened her door. He took her by the hand and led her out into the chilly early morning air. He pulled her back around to the truck bed, where he’d laid out several layers of blankets. Just like he used to. Climbing into the back of the truck gave Fitz an acute sense of Deja Vu.
“This place hasn’t changed at all, the trees are a little taller maybe, but it still feels the same,” Fitz marveled as Tom drew her down. At first, being here felt romantic, his first few kisses were sweet. But when Tom’s intentions became clear she tensed. “You took me here to make love? In a truck like a couple of teenagers?” she asked, shocked.
“If we weren’t staying in your parents' house like a couple of teenagers…” Tom pushed her down onto her back. He looked down at her appraisingly. “You say this place hasn’t changed, but we’ve changed, haven’t we, Belle?” he said in a hushed tone. “Time is a funny thing...” His hands moved along the curves of her abdomen. His fingers traced paths across her stomach, brushing across her navel, followed her sides to the outline of her ribcage. “You used to be perfectly beautiful.” As he touched her, laying here in this place, Fitz began to feel overtly aware of the effect that time and two children had on her body. Used to be...
“Shhhh,” he whispered as he pushed her sweater up further, exposing more of her pale skin to the dim morning light. “You’re still beautiful. You’re just not perfect, not anymore. That’s the funny thing about time, you know. I’m still wildly attracted to you. You still drive me crazy Belle, despite the imperfections that fifteen years ago would have turned me off completely. You might not be the same...” As he pulled her sweater over her head, Tom sucked in his breath. “Mmmm. But you’re still mine. And I still want you.”
Fitz was at once hurt and flattered. He wants me. She looked up at the sky, as he kissed down her neck. She listened to the rustle of leaves. How much I used to love the feeling of being wanted. She felt like she’d fallen into some strange alternate reality where her past and present collided leaving her reeling. He began to pull at her pants. She resisted him.
“Tom, that’s too far—” She began, her head was spinning. Tom pinned her against the truck bed.
“Belle, I could do without the full re-enactment,” he said impatiently. “You’re my wife now, so you can stop playing hard-to-get.”
She stopped. Re-enactment. Fitz forced her body to relax as her mind worked to reconcile her memories of this place with the current state of their relationship. The more things change the more they stay the same, don’t they? How many times did he take me here to try and push me past my boundaries in the past? It had all been a sort of courtship ritual back then. It was the behavior Fitz had been raised to expect from men. He would try to push for the home run, and she would stall him at each base as long as she could.
Part of her had enjoyed the chase and the thrill of each little concession. Fitz had felt a sense of control and of accomplishment in her deftness at that game. Sure, there were some questionable ‘bases’ she’d let him visit in the name of protecting her virtue. But in the end, she felt like she’d won. She’d held him off while holding on to him until she had the ring on her finger. She was a good girl and she’d been rewarded with all that she’d ever wanted: marriage and children and a life with the first and only man she’d ever loved. And that’s where I expected the game to end. But now here we are again.
When Tom finished he was panting and sweating. Any frustration that had built up over the long weekend had been worked out of his system, he was relaxed now. He smiled a genuinely sweet, happy smile.
“Thank you, Belle,” Tom kissed her. She could taste the salt of his sweat. “I needed that.” He sat at the edge of the truck bed as she dressed, staring out into the trees. In the soft light of the rising sun, he almost looked twenty-two again. I wonder if he’s thinking about our past too. She sat next to him.
“This place brings back a lot of memories,” Fitz said softly.
“It sure does,” Tom touched her cheek.
The rest of their Thanksgiving vacation went by uneventfully. Tom upheld his role as the perfect husband and charming son-in-law, Fitz continued sleeping soundly in her childhood home. They didn’t revisit any more old memories.