For my official “Writing Life” blog post, I’ve decided to share the first chapter of a novel I began about ten years ago. The novel is called No One Else and it’s the furthest I ever got in a writing endeavor, not counting a book I hand wrote on lined paper in a red floppy binder when I was 8 years old. I left my red floppy binder in a hotel room on a summer road trip in the early 1980s and sadly never saw it again. For this novel, I made it about halfway through when I got pregnant with my fourth child and had to put my novel on hold. She Blooms Violet has me revisiting this novel and now I’m sharing a piece of it on the blog.
No One Else is the story of a tight-knit married couple and the very best of friends, Audrey and David. Something’s gone wrong and for reasons that aren’t clear, their marriage is suffering a severe lack of connection. Audrey longs to make it all go away, but is going about it all wrong causing David to drift further and further. And to make things even more complicated, an unlikely encounter brings up a painful piece of Audrey’s past shaking things up in an unexpected way. Can their love survive, or is friendship in a marriage just not enough?
So here it is – part one of Chapter 1 of No One Else. Of course I’d love to know your thoughts and if you want to read more.
No One Else by Renee Maude
Some days are uneventful. Nothing interesting happens – you wake up, get dressed, go to work, go home, eat dinner, go to bed. Then there are days you remember forever – every tiny detail, every word spoken, every expression, and every emotion – because things happen that alter the course of your life. And these profound days are completely unexpected, which may explain why they’re experienced so deeply. Whatever the case, today is one of those never-going-to-forget-this-day for me.
My husband of five years, David, and I have been drifting apart for months but until this morning I gently (but firmly) plunged my head into the sand in trademark ostrich fashion. I convinced myself we were both being busy at work, involved in other projects, wrapped up in other things. Things are fine, even though the usage of the word fine implies exactly the opposite. Of course while my head was deep in gritty denial below ground, my butt was perched high in the air, rigid and stubborn, inviting a swat sure to sting sooner or later.
The valley wedged between us creates an excruciating tension that I like to remedy with good old-fashioned polite conversation. And, this morning was no different.
I heard David’s footsteps coming up the stairs as I stepped out of the shower and wrapped myself with my rose colored bathrobe.
“Good morning, honey” I said with a smile. I felt fake as the words came out and wished I could take a deep breath and suck them back in.
“Morning,” he said, unaffected.
I watched him lather shaving cream on his face. I looked at his eyes from his reflection in the mirror, a feature of his I love. His light green eyes, framed by long, dark lashes, speak volumes to how warm and welcoming he is. My mother says “the eyes are the window to the soul,” and if this is true, and I believe it is, David has a very solid, good soul. His dark hair that he use to wear on the long and wavy side in college is now kept short, almost like a crew cut, which I find sexy. His tall, athletic build has gotten better with age, a reality that rings true all too often for men even though it can be the opposite with women.
I was thinner when I met David; I had youth on my side. Now, as I creep up on my 30th birthday, I have work twice as hard to lose half as much weight. When David feels like he’s put on a few extra pounds he simply cuts out refined carbohydrates and alcohol and within a week he’s dropped ten pounds and gets to go shopping for new pants. The last time David thought his pants were getting tight, he surprised me at work a week later with my very complicated Starbuck’s coffee order that he never got exactly right but this time he did. He used this accomplishment as leverage to lure me to Macy’s for shopping assistance in choosing three new pairs of slacks. Afterwards, we went home instead of going back to work, climbed into bed and watched old episodes of The X-Files, a favorite show during our college days.
I gaze back up at David as he pats his face dry with a hand towel. He walks into our closet and I hear him rustling with his hangers as he chooses what to wear. I walk in behind him, take my outfit that I arranged last night, and head over to our bathroom floor length mirror to dress myself.
He emerges from the closet looking unusually sharp wearing a black pinstripe suit with a royal blue shirt, and a silver, cream and blue striped tie. The royal blue flatters his medium skin tone, especially set against the black suit. I wonder if he has a deposition today. David is up for partner at the medical malpractice firm where is he is an attorney representing physicians, nurse practitioners and physician assistants. If he earns this promotion, he’ll receive a substantial pay increase followed by a substantial increase in workload, work hours and travel requirements.
“You look especially nice. Something going on?” I ask, casually.
His eyes meet mine for the briefest of moments, but I get the feeling he is irritated by my question.
“Yeah, I have a big meeting today and might have to go out of town, all depends on the meeting. I’ll let you know,” he says. Maybe he’s frustrated with the idea of traveling for the second time this month.
David adds some styling pomade to his hair, with I notice a little more vigor than usual, and then rubs the remnants on the hand towel. He fixes a few stray hairs, gives himself a once-over in the mirror and then turns to face me.
He awkwardly places his hands on my shoulders, draws himself in and quickly pecks my cheek. I take a deep breath through my nose and inhale the sweet woodsy scent of his cologne, but he pulls away so fast that I don’t get the familiar whiff I so dearly crave this morning.
“Have a great day, honey.” I say, sweetly.
David turns around and sighs deeply. His glance is down and he’s rubbing his forehead. Then he looks into my eyes with a serious stare and for several seconds doesn’t say anything. I wait.
“Stop trying so hard, Audrey.”
He quietly walks out of our bedroom. My cheeks burn and a large lump swells in my throat like a dam holding back the onset of tears. He never calls me by my name unless he’s introducing me to a new colleague at his annual Christmas party. And as disconnected as we are, he still can see right through me.
David is not distant. He’s gone.
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