My Favorite Wife

Chapter 3

He had recognized her; that much was obvious. It took every ounce of willpower Rose had to not run up the stairs and meet him at his door. But she wouldn't just be seeing him—that woman would also be with him. She didn't even know what to say to James when she met him face to face. She had thought of him every waking moment for three years–seeing his face, feeling him next to her, telling him how much she loved and needed him. And now? Now she was clueless as to what to say or even where to start. One thing was certain though–she had to get his attention somehow. She was running out of time and she had to get him away from that woman. Rose began to nervously fiddle with her wedding band. As she did so, an idea struck her. She saw the bellhop walk through the lobby towards the lift, dragging what she recognized as James' luggage behind him. She ran up to the young man and tapped him on the shoulder. He turned towards her, his eyebrows raised questioningly.

"Yes, ma'am?"

Rose gave him a bright smile. "Yes...," she started and looked at his name tag, "Eric. Are you taking this luggage to the man and woman who just checked in?"

He nodded.

"Oh, good! I have something for you..."

I'm going insane…there's no other explanation. She's…she's gone. I lost her and she's not coming back. It's just not possible.

These and so many more thoughts rushed through James' mind as the lift proceeded to climb upwards. It was a strange sensation to have your mind instantly go from hollow to drowning. He tried to push these crowding thoughts from his mind. He had done this very thing when he had first lost her. Every time he rounded a corner, he would imagine he had seen her. It felt as real as anything. But after countless times of being painfully wrong, James had come to the conclusion that she wasn't coming back. The more he thought of her, the more the pain ravaged him. Even saying her name made it feel as if his heart was in a vise. Any time he referred to her, it was always as "my wife," "your mother," or simply just "she."

The lift arrived on the fifth floor and he unconsciously followed Reinette off the lift. When they stopped at Room 530, she looked up at him. He stared back, unsure why they were just standing there. She arched an impeccably groomed eyebrow at him.

"Are you going to open the door?"

He suddenly remembered that he had the keycard. Reaching into his inner coat pocket, he pulled out the key and tried repeatedly to open the door, finally succeeding on the fourth try. She walked in as he held the door open for her. His eyes went from the hallway to the room and he swallowed deeply before he closed the door. The realization that he was on his honeymoon made him feel oddly uncomfortable. He watched Reinette walk over to the window. There was no denying that she was attractive. Or smart. Or interesting.

But she isn't…her

He shook away the thought as Reinette turned to him, smiling coyly. He returned her smile with a warm one of his own. She swayed over to him and wrapped her arms around his neck. Before he could properly register what was happening, she was eagerly kissing him with such force that it caused both of them to stumble backwards towards the door. Before the situation intensified, there was an abrupt knock on the door. They separated and James answered the door to find a bellhop with their luggage. Although Reinette looked more than a little annoyed, James felt almost relieved at the young man's arrival. He stepped back and allowed the bellhop to enter the room.

"I'm going to freshen up," Reinette said irritably, stepping into the large en suite while the bellhop unloaded the luggage.

The young man turned to James. "Excuse me, sir, but a woman downstairs found this. She said you'd lost it," he said as he reached into his pocket, pulling out a small gold band and handing it to James. James' eyes widened in disbelief and his hand began to tremor as he took the ring.

It can't be…

The band looked painfully familiar. It matched the one he used to wear, the one that had her promise of "forever" engraved on it. Holding his breath, he looked on the inside of the band. He felt an insane rush of euphoria flow through him when he saw his promise of "always" engraved on the band he now held in his hand. A brilliant smile overtook his face as he looked up at the puzzled bellhop.

"Where is she? The woman who gave you this?" he asked eagerly.

"In the lobby, sir."

Without another thought, James ran out of the room. He had no patience to wait for the lift, running straight for the stairs and taking them two at a time. He threw open the door and skidded into the lobby, slightly out of breath but not caring in the least. His eyes darted to and from every face, panic and confusion rising as he continued to not see her. Then he felt it, that warm familiar presence, and he just…knew. Slowly, he turned around and came face to face with her. He still couldn't believe what his eyes were seeing. He cautiously walked over to her, as if afraid one false step would shatter her perfect image. She matched his gait and in what seemed like hours, but in reality was mere seconds, they were directly in front of each other.

He took a deep breath and said the one word he hadn't allowed himself to say in so long.

"Rose…"

Her name from his lips sent shivers down her spine. In the blink of an eye, she grabbed his lapels and desperately crashed her lips against his. He didn't waste any time and hungrily returned her kiss, all sense of reason and propriety gone. They were both so engrossed in getting reacquainted, that neither of them noticed the fichus in their path until they ungracefully ran into it, causing it to crash to the ground. At the sudden sound, the couple separated, dazed and more than a little breathless. Several pairs of eyes were focused on them and the spectacle they had just caused. Realizing what had just happened, James quickly began taking handfuls of dirt off the floor and tossing them back into the planter in a rather uncoordinated and unsubtle effort to clean up. Rose tried to stifle her laugh at his attempts. Finally deciding that it was a lost cause, James stopped what he was doing and, grabbing her hand, took off outside towards the beach.

They slowed their pace as they reached the beach, their hands remaining tightly clasped. James looked over at her, his gaze intense and utterly fixated on the impossible creature beside him. Rose didn't realize that he had stopped moving, and continued forward till she felt his hand tug on hers. She turned and looked up at him. The emotion conveyed in his eyes caused the air to flee from her lungs. This time, he was the one to capture her lips, though his approach was much more gentle by comparison. Though the kiss was definitely filled with love and longing, it was also marked with sorrow. It was as if that kiss was communicating the loss and pain both of them had felt. When they parted, both had tears brimming their eyes.

"Hello," Rose said softly, a few tears escaping down her cheeks.

James beamed at her. "Hello."

She threw her arms around his neck and he lifted her up into a hug, twirling her around. It may have looked ridiculous or childish, but neither cared—they were finally together again. He slowed down and she put her feet back on the ground, trailing a hand down his arm and lacing her fingers with his. They then began to stroll along the shore silently, both completely content to just be in each other's presence again. There was also a measure of mutual avoidance between them about why they were in this particular location.

Rose decided enough was enough and cleared her throat. "So…I understand congratulations are in order," she said trying to keep her tone light but unable to hide the nervous and hurt edge to her voice.

"Um…well…I guess…that is…," James sputtered. "It's not what you think."

Rose raised an eyebrow at him. "No? So the grabby blonde hangin' on you and flashin' a wedding ring is…what—your cousin?"

"Okay," he sighed, "maybe it is what you think."

"And you brought her here for your honeymoon?"

"No! I mean, yes we're here. And, yes it's supposed to be our honeymoon. But I didn't choose it! She thought I would like it since I took so many holidays here. I didn't know till today that this is what she had planned! I never told her this was where we…"

Rose tried to smile but it came out more like a grimace. There were a few beats of awkward silence before she spoke again. "She seems…"

"What?"

She shrugged. "I don't know…blonde…"

James could see her discomfort. "Rose—," he started.

"What? I'm not havin' an easy go of trying to find nice things to say about my husband's new wife. Trust me—blonde is the nicest one I could come up with!"

"Rose, I didn't just go running off with the first skirt I came across!" he defended.

"You replaced me!" she cried, then immediately put her hand over her mouth to stifle a sob that threatened to escape. She hadn't meant to say that, but the reality of it all hit her. James looked at her, completely startled.

"Replaced you?" he said disbelievingly. "How could you think I would ever replace you?"

Her eyes filled with tears as she shook her head. "I didn't mean…I know that's selfish. I…I just never thought I'd actually see you moved on. This whole thing is…I don't think there are even words for it!" she said, looking away in frustration.

"I didn't move on," he said quietly, his gaze turned downward.

She snapped her head in his direction. "What?"

He met her gaze, his eyes determined and honest. "I didn't move on. I…adapted. I locked part of me away. But I didn't move on, and I did not replace you."

A few tears fell as she listened to his words. She leaned forward and tenderly kissed him, smiling at him as she pulled back. He cupped her cheek, softly stroking it with his thumb.

James cleared his throat and then said, "And I never…we didn't…that is, she and I haven't…"

Rose raised her eyebrows questioningly at his incomplete statement. He began to tug on his ear and then ran a hand through his hair, but still did not finish his sentence.

"Haven't what?"

"Umm…jumped rope…," he mumbled awkwardly.

Rose stared at him for a few moments before bursting into hysterics.

This was not the reaction he had expected. "What's so funny?" he asked, slightly taken aback.

"That's the euphemism you went with? Jump-roping?" she asked, her laughter intensifying when his face hardened slightly.

"You have something better?"

"Anything is better than jump-roping!"

He crossed his arms. "Go on, then! Name one."

"Alright…dancing for one. It's elegant and works on many levels."

James sighed dramatically. "Fine—we haven't danced. Here I am trying to tell you I've been faithful even when I thought you were dead, and you're focusing on my word choice! I mean re—"

His words ended there as Rose pulled him towards her and began thoroughly snogging him, making their first kiss look like a mere peck. They pulled apart, James wide-eyed and Rose with a small satisfied smirk.

He exhaled. "Well that was…new."

"I've been savin' up," she giggled.

He grinned brilliantly and leaned forward for another, but Rose put a finger on his lips.

"So what are you gonna do?"

"Weelll, I had planned on another go around…"

She bumped him playfully. "I meant about 'what's her name'. What is her name, anyway?"

"Reinette."

"Reinette," she repeated, trying the name out on her tongue. It tasted foul. "So…what are you gonna do?"

He let out a deep breath. "I need to tell her."

Rose's eyes brightened. "Really?" she said hopefully.

"You're surprised?"

She cast her eyes downward and shrugged. "I don't know…"

He lifted her chin up to meet his gaze. "I love you. Always have, always will."

She smiled at his reassurance, poking a slight bit of tongue through her teeth.

His grin broadened. "God, I've missed that smile!"

"And I've missed this hair," she said, running her fingers through his silken locks. He closed his eyes and hummed contentedly at her touch. She stroked his head for a few minutes before asking, "So what did you tell Reinette when you left to find me?"

James' eyes flew open at her question, wide and afraid.

"What?" Rose asked worriedly.

"I may have forgotten to say something to her."

"You just ran from her? And she didn't follow after you?"

He tugged on his ear and looked at her sheepishly. "She…was…uh…in the loo."

"So she has no idea where you are? You need to go back."

James furrowed his brow in confusion and shock. "What?! You want me to go back to her?"

"No, but the longer you're gone, the more trouble you're gonna make for yourself with her. That 'n ya might as well get it over with…you want me to come with you?"

He shook his head. "No. It would be best if she heard it from just me. I don't want her to feel ganged up on."

Rose nodded in understanding.

"Why don't you go ahead back home? As soon as it's done, I'll come straight there. I shouldn't be far behind you."

"You sure?"

"Yeah."

"Okay," she said shakily. She wasn't keen on leaving him, even if she was going to see him again in a matter of hours.

His eyes softened. He leaned forward and gave her long lingering kiss. "See you soon."

After he helped Rose to a taxi, James paced throughout the lobby, mulling over how best to end things with Reinette. He did care for her and he didn't want to hurt her needlessly. After rehearsing what to say, and receiving various perplexed looks from various passersby, he decided it was time. He went up to the room and paused outside the door, realizing he had left the keycard. Before he could even knock twice, Reinette threw the door open, her cheeks wet and eyes ablaze and silently demanding answers.

James opened and closed his mouth several times before finally sputtering out the first few words he could put together.

"Something's come up…"

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