TWELVE – NO COMMITMENT
Jenni blew through the door and into the A-frame without even saying hello.
Tony looked up from where he’d been sitting near the sliding doors and smiled. A shower and a shave hadn’t done much to improve his appearance, though he smelled better without yesterday’s clothes.
“Hi, Jenni,” he said. “I was wondering when you’d come home. It’s almost dark, you know.”
The odd playfulness in his voice stopped her short at the bottom of the stairs to the loft. She looked at him, a mixture of anger and worry washing over her pretty face.
“You were wondering…?!” she said, brushing back a stray lock of blond hair that fell over her forehead. “Jesus! What world are you living in, Tony?” Her brows knitted together, and her blue-green eyes blazed with fury.
“What the Hell happened to you last night?” she asked, her anger apparently winning out over concern for her lover. “Where did you go?”
“I saw someone I knew, and I… left.” He knew as he said it how lame the excuse sounded. Why had he done it?
“Who?” she asked angrily. “Who did you see that was worth leaving me sitting like an idiot in an expensive restaurant?” She left the stair landing and stalked across the room toward him. “I didn’t even have any Goddamn money!”
Then the pictures caught her attention. Her eyes narrowed and grew even colder. “Oh. I get it. It was her, wasn’t it? Glory. What a stupid fucking bimbo I’ve been!”
“Jenni,” Tony said, feeling his world spin out of control, “I saw her, yes. I saw her at the club. She was with some guy. I remember getting angry, but I don’t remember what happened after that.”
“I suppose you don’t remember doing all those paintings, either.”
“I don’t. Honestly. I don’t even remember if she came here last night.”
“For Christ’s sake, what kind of a sucker do you take me for? If you’ve found someone else, if you’re dumping me, just come out and tell me like a man.”
She paced the room now, her fists clenched tightly at her sides. “We always said there was no commitment. That we’d be together just as long as both of us were happy.”
She stopped, sniffed back a tear and wiped a bit of moisture from her cheek with one fist. “I must be some kind of fool. I thought we were happy.”
He rose and took a step toward her. “We were happy. We are happy.”
She pushed him away. “Well, this must be some kind of new happiness that I haven’t heard of—’cause it feels like shit.”
He reached out to embrace her once more.
“Get away from me, Tony.”
“But, Jenni, I love you.”
She looked into his purple eyes and tears began to stream down her face. “Jesus, what’s happened to us? A few days ago, I thought… But now…!” She threw up her hands in despair.
Tony looked down and shook his head, trying to awake from the nightmare. “I don’t know. I don’t know what’s happened to us… What’s happened to me.”
She took a deep breath. “Look. Maybe we just need some time away from each other. Maybe we just need some time to think things over.”
He stepped forward again and put his arms around her. This time she didn’t resist. “I don’t need to think,” he said. “I know I love you.”
She gently parted his arms and stepped back. “I love you, too. But I can’t… I can’t fight this thing. Woman, dream, sickness, whatever it is.
“I’d help if you’d let me, but you won’t let me. It’s like I’ve been living with Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde lately.”
“Don’t be sorry,” she said, wiping the tears from her face. “Just get over this, please.”
“Do you want to pose?”
“No. No, I don’t. I just came to get a few of my things.”
Tony sat down, dejected. “Oh.”
“Look, I’ll check back with you in a couple of days—see what the test results are. Maybe we can talk then. But right now, I’m just too angry.”
“I understand,” he said placidly.
She scurried upstairs, choking back more sobs as she went. He was still sitting when she came back down. He stared blankly at the fog rolling in from the lake.
“I’m going,” she announced.
He rose and looked at her, confusion and pain swirling through him, his head pounding. “Jenni….”
“Don’t,” she said, putting out a hand to ward off any further physical gestures. She turned and headed for the door.
Something blue on the mantle caught his eye. The box. He jumped across the room, seized it, and raced for the door.
“Jenni, wait!” he called as the door slammed shut behind her.
He opened it, holding the box before him. “Jenni, come back!” But his effort came too late. Her Subaru sped down the driveway and was quickly consumed by the fog.
Tony staggered back into the house and gently closed the door. The ring box felt cold in his hand. Somberly, he set it back on the mantle.