“Maybe Next Year”—A Short Story
If only he knew her, then he’d understand.
But knowing her equals heartache, and that she cannot bear. So she remains in the shadows, waiting for the perfect moment to reveal herself to him.
Her true self. Bare. Raw. Real.
But there never came a perfect moment.
They’re old now — together, but distant. They raised children and once they were grown and gone, that time was supposed to be theirs.
The moment still never happened.
They were busy, always, and they seemed to stay busy, even after retirement when there should have been nothing but time—there never was.
They’re old and, finally, she decides that there’s no better time than now. Her new perfect moment came as they sat at the small kitchen table set with three chairs—just in case one of their children comes to visit in their tiny, two-bedroom duplex in Portland.
“Honey,” she says. “I’ve been hiding something from you for all these years.”
Her hand begins to shake. She lowers the mug of cooling coffee with rice milk to the table. Grasping her right hand with her left to steady it, she took in a deep breath. “I’m not the woman who you think I am. The woman you thought I was. I’m . . .”
Her eyes began to well.
He looked at her, placing his iPhone 47s on the light wood table. “I know,” he said. “I know everything.”
Her heart flutters and her stomach tightens. “What do you mean?” quivers from her lips.
“I know everything,” he repeats, eyes jutting to hers, then back down to his mug. “I know exactly who you are.” He pauses, Adam’s Apple bobbing in his throat. “I know who I married, Dear.”
Dear? She thought. Me ‘Dear’? Who’s ‘Dear’?
“I’m not stupid,” he says and lifts his phone from the table.
“I didn’t think you were.” A tear creeps over her water line and traces the soft wrinkles around her eyes, trailing down around her mouth and drips onto her deflated chest.
‘“What do you know?”
She wants to say what do you think you know, but she knew he’d be upset by the presumption. He always was. That’s why she never said anything. She was always talking, but never saying anything.
It had been almost forty years and her looks have faded, her body, once large yet supple and still desired by men of many preferences, now hung in slumps of aged flesh.
He, once large too, had gotten in shape in his mid-thirties. His skin was rough, but his body was mobile and enough to start again.
She, however, felt ‘done’. Broken.
There was no going forward or moving on for her. She was an old woman, unsightly to most. This is what she had, everything she had.
Men become more appealing with age while women grow tired and worn—at least in the eyes of society. Such is life, I suppose.
“I know everything,” he repeats, eyes fused to his phone’s screen.
She turns her face to the window and sighs.
Maybe I’ll tell him next year. She stares at his still handsome face for a moment. His eyes meet hers for a moment, then drop back down to his phone. She swallows her climbing heartbeat and peers out the window again.
The world hasn’t changed as much as they thought it would. She, at one point, thought that wouldn’t be so with him, though.
He changed his body and he grew as a father, lover, and friend to others. But not enough to help her muster the courage to tell him.
Maybe he does know everything. Maybe he’s content in not knowing.
But the guilt . . . The guilt is what tears her up inside, leaving him perceptively unscathed to the world.
Maybe next year, she thinks. Maybe next year.
I’m Sara Eatherton-Goff, a multi-passionate mom-person with a whole bunch of other things in betwixt. I’m presently writing on Medium and other publications, and you can find me at GoffCreative.com.
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