November 18th 2017
Calvin was glad that he was back at work. His parents had accepted his excuse that he was really busy at work and had allowed him to leave a few days early. Sadly, that also meant that Audrey had to come with him.
But he was at work and she was at home, so at least he didn’t have to put up with her at the moment.
He might have lied to his parents about being busy at work, but he couldn’t bring himself to feel guilty about it seeing as the lie wasn’t technically a complete lie. The truth was that it was busy in the office seeing as they had undertaken a few new projects, but it was something that his employees could handle. Noah, his assistant, had assumed that Calvin would be gone for the full week and so had finished all of the necessary paperwork before hand in order to have time to spend with the clients and understanding their needs and necessities.
So, it seemed that he didn’t have anything to do for the next few days. Other than popping in phoning in every now and again to supervise and tell them what he wanted, Calvin wasn’t needed at work. And if he wasn’t needed at work, Calvin was more than happy to allow him some time off. Time, that he could spend with Jane.
Audrey would assume that he was at work, and Noah assumed that he was still on his Thanks Giving holiday; Calvin was covered from all angles.
While Calvin was busy playing Casanova and spending time with a woman who was not his wife, Audrey was at home. She, also didn’t have any work to do as she had requested a week of paid vacation. She didn’t think that Calvin would drag them back before the end of the week.
Seeing as she had no work to do from the office, she decided to work around the house instead.
A few hours passed and she had finished scrubbing the house top to bottom. Every room was cleaned and tidied, all but one. Calvin’s room. There were no dishes in the sink and there was no dust on any of the furniture. The floors had been cleaned and the carpet had been vacuumed. Audrey even had time to wash the one-bathroom downstairs.
The only thing left was to wash the clothes that they had taken away with them on vacation. She had managed to do her own last night when she couldn’t sleep, but Calvin’s ones remained.
Audrey had put it off long enough, but there was no point in wasting any more time.
She would probably be told off for it later, but that was better than knowing that there was one room in the house that was akin to a pig sty.
Sighing, she reached out for the door handle and squeezed it gently, pushing it down. The door opened as she pushed it open.
His room smelt like him.
Audrey wasn’t the least bit surprised to see the mess that was Calvin’s room. He was never very tidy, and that used to drive her up the wall in frustration. But now, she found it oddly calming to be able to clean up after her husband because she knew, deep down, that, that was probably she would ever get to him.
It didn’t take her long to locate the medium-sized gym which he had taken with him. It was stuffed under the bed, the usual spot. She stripped down the bed and added them to the large pile of clothes that had already accumulated in the basket at the doorway of the room. She grabbed the few articles of clothing that littered the floor and then opened the cupboard.
Calvin’s used work shirts were carelessly thrown at the bottom of the cupboard. Lifting one up, she stretched it open in front of her and inspected it for any dirt. It was either the case that they were all used and dirty, or Calvin just didn’t fold them after they had been washed.
There were no visible stains on the shirt, from what she could see. Audrey froze, yet didn’t flinch when she turned up the collar of the white shirt and her eyes landed on the red marks that littered the vicinity. There were even some on the inside of it.
The shirt dropped out of her hand as she let it go to retrieve another one from the bottom of the cupboard. This was one was stained too, yet the evident lip-shaped marks were pinker in colour this time.
There was a total of eight shirts scattered over the cupboard floor, and not one of them was clean. They had all been used and remained to tell the tale of Calvin’s disloyalty.
Folding the shirt in her hand messily, she threw back into the cupboard. She then did the same with the other seven that lay by her feet on the ground. She walked back to the entrance of the room and picked up the basket filled with clothes.
It didn’t take her long to empty the dirty clothes back into the room where she had first found them.
It was later that evening and Calvin still wasn’t home.
He had said that he would be back early today, but it was already a couple of hours passed the usual time that he returned, and Audrey was tired of waiting. She had proposed that they would both go out and grab something to eat and much to her surprise, he had agreed.
But now she was hungry, so she decided that she would just dine out by herself.
She didn’t need a man to take her out when she was perfectly capable of doing that herself. Well, that was what she continuously told herself as she got off the bus and walked the few minutes needed to walk into the centre of the city.
Her mind was so clouded with thoughts and feelings, that Audrey just didn’t trust herself to drive.
She smiled and walked faster when her eyes strolled up.
Calvin and Audrey used to come here all the time. It would be like old times, except she would be dining alone tonight.
The bell chimed as she walked in. The smell of greasy, cheap food hit her and the nostalgia stepped in. Audrey found herself humming to the sound of the quiet music playing as she unwound the tightly wrapped scarf from around her neck. She guided herself to an empty booth in the corner of the diner, just wanting to be alone.
Audrey shimmied out of her coat and removed her phone, placing it on the table. She didn’t have to read the menu to know what she wanted.
She’d been here more than a couple of handful of times to know what she liked.
A turkey sandwich, no may, gherkins and no tomatoes. Extra cheese, extra crunchy lettuce, a side of chilli fries and a large chocolate milkshake to wash it all down with.
The waiter came and Audrey gave him her order, sipping at the water that he had brought to her table.
Audrey didn’t have to wait long for her food to arrive since the diner was pretty quiet. She tucked in immediately, barely managing to spare the waiter a ‘thank you’. She had been waiting for Calvin to arrive long enough to work up quite an appetite.
She had finished all her fries and was halfway through her sandwich when a small thump resounded from in front of her. The sound of a faint cough followed, causing Audrey to look up from her food.
“That seats taken.” She said with a mouthful of food, though she was well-mannered enough to cover her mouth with her hand.
He quirked an eyebrow and leaned back in the seat, not the least bit fazed by her rather bashful behaviour and less than warm greeting. “By who?” The intruder asked.
Audrey pursed her lips, but gave herself a moment to drink him in. She couldn’t tell how tall he was but judging by the way he made her previously large and quiet corner booth look small and dainty, she was sure that he was above the six-foot mark. His hair was a dark brown, nearly black that swept over his forehead and curled over the tops of his ears. His eyes were a dull grey that seemed to be staring into her soul as she finished the food in her mouth before speaking. His nose was perfectly straight and his eyebrows seemed to be naturally arched, making him look like he was mocking whoever he was talking to. A five-o-clock shadow clothed his jaw, giving him a rugged and dangerous look. Audrey had no doubt that this man was trouble, but she had to admit; he sure was a sight for sore eyes.
Too bad she wasn’t interested.
“My husband.” She replied with an empty mouth.
Audrey didn’t expect for him to stick around, so she picked up her sandwich and took another bite, determined to finish it.
After she had just finished chewing the second mouthful, she looked up. Evident surprise clouded her eyes when she saw him still sitting across from her. The thin sweater that he worse stretched over the large canvas that was his chest as he leaned back on his side of the booth and crossed his arms over his chest, his eyes trained on her.
She blinked one. And then twice.
He was still there, even when she blinked for the third time.
“So where is this husband of yours?”
Audrey ignored the way her heart tightened in her chest. She knew exactly where her husband was. This stranger had no idea the extent of his words, but it hurt anyway. “He’s in the bathroom.” She said quietly, placing down her food, not really feeling like eating anymore.
She drank the remained of her milkshake, not wanting to make any more conversation. But the stranger sat across from her seemed determined to test her patience. “He’s been in there an awfully long time.”
Audrey hesitated. “He’s got stomach problems.” She lied, though they could both tell that she was lying through her teeth.
His smiled widened and she could see his teeth. “Poor guy.”
Audrey merely hummed.
“I guess I’ll just keep you company until he gets back.”
Her eyes shot up in alarm at his words. “Oh, you don’t have to do that.” She pushed the words out hurriedly. This was not going to end well.
“It’ll be rude of me not to.” He reasoned.
She shook her head, no. “I won’t mind.”
“But I will.” He smirked, his eyes not once wavering from her. “So, what’s your name?” He asked, leaning his arms on the table, leaning into her.
“Not interested.” She looked away from him.
“Well, hello there, ‘not interested’. I’m ‘persistent’ but my friends call me ‘stubborn’.”
Audrey couldn’t help it, she laughed. She laughed even harder when she looked up and he was his still staring at her, his face completely innocent, but his eyes filled with mischief.
“I’m Audrey.” She said finally after her giggles had calmed down.
“Joseph.” He greeted her. “Nice name, Audrey.”
Audrey blushed, and ignored his words. “So, what brings you to my booth?”
“This is my booth.”
“What do you mean?” She asked in confusion. Had she sat down, ordered her food and then began eating it without noticing that a stranger had been sitting across from her from the very beginning?
“I always eat in this booth, twice a week.” Joseph explained.
“And the other five days?”
“I try to spice things up a little, but always end up coming back here.”
“The food is good.” She praised, understanding his attraction to the diner. The food was good.
“The company isn’t too bad either.” He teased, his lips upturned at the corners into a smile.
Joseph and Audrey talked for a little longer until her phone chimed with a text from Calvin. It seemed that he was finally home.
She sighed and looked back up at Joseph. “Sorry, I have to go.” She smiled apologetically.
“The husband?” He asked her with a teasing smile
She nodded. “Yeah.”
He paused for a moment, probably thinking that she had lied earlier about her husband to get him away from her. But he seemed to believe her now.
“I really do have a husband.” She confirmed for him. “He may not be in the bathroom, but he is real.”
He frowned. “I have no doubt about that.”
“I really do have to go now though.” She stood up and grabbed both her scarf and her coat. When she reached into her bag to pull out the money for the food, Joseph stopped her. “I got it.” He smiled at her, placing down a twenty-dollar bill on the table.
“You don’t have to.”
“I know. I want to.” He stood up with her. “Here.” He said, pulling out a phone and handing it to her. When she turned it around in her hand, she realised it was hers. “I put my number in it. Call me anytime.”
She smiled. “See you soon, stranger.” Audrey walked out of the restaurant, not once looking back.
Even though she really wanted to.