Happily Married [ROMANCE]

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[25]

November 23rd 2017

Audrey hummed to herself quietly as she walked into the coffee shop. The bell chimed when she opened the door. She offered a small wave at the familiar lady who stood behind the counter. She had been working when Audrey had last come into Darcy’s Diner.

Her lips tugged down into a small frown as she noticed the corner booth was empty.

There were a number of reasons that Audrey had decided to return to the quiet diner that evening. One, because she was hungry but wasn’t in the mood of cooking. Two, because she had secretly hoped that she would run into that handsome stranger again and three, it was their three-year anniversary and Audrey hadn’t seen her husband all day. Calvin had left for work -or she presumed that he had left for work- before she had woken up and since then, she had been in a sour mood all day.

All she wanted was to spend some time with her husband on their anniversary -especially since she knew that it would be their last anniversary- but it seemed that, that was just too much to ask for.

Sighing, she gave her order at the counter and walked over to the empty corner booth, preparing herself for an evening alone.

An hour passed and Audrey was silently picking at a chocolate brownie and nursing a nearly empty glass of milkshake when someone sat down from across from her. She didn’t need to look up to know who it was.

-

Calvin loosened his tie as he simultaneously stepped out of his car. He didn’t bother fetching his briefcase because he didn’t plan on staying at his house too long that night. After a quick shower and picking up some papers that he had forgotten that morning, he would be on his way to Jane’s.

He would be working; something that he could very well do from home, but he would rather have Jane for company than Audrey.

His footsteps were quick as he walked swiftly over the drive way and jammed his key into the lock, wanting to get going as soon as possible. Calvin didn’t even have time to take his shoes off before he jumped back in surprise, one hand holding on tightly to his tie while the other clutched at his heart, attempting to slow it down.

A loud yelp sounded from his lips as his eyes widened in both surprise and shock at the sight in front of him.

In his living room was all of his family and friends. And by the looks of things, it was all of them.

His lips stretched up into a stiff, forced smile as he greeted all of the people in his house, his eyes scanning over all of the faces. There was no sign of Audrey, though he had no doubt that she was behind all of it.

Trouble always seemed to follow her.

Calvin couldn’t help but grit his teeth as he smiled harder, not at all happy with having to put up with so many people after suffering through a long day of work. There was no doubt that this was all of Audrey’s doing. He had noticed that she had been trying to get as much done over the past few days as possible. He could only presume that she was making the most of her time before she had to leave.

Calvin hadn’t said anything when she had begged him to go out to dinner the other day, or even when she had wanted to go out to the cinema. He had just nodded and silently gone along with it, not wanting to experience the drama that would surely ensue if he were to refuse. But this was where he was drawing the line.

“Thank you,” he smiled at someone who had congratulated him with a pat on the back. He didn’t glance over his shoulder to see who it was. Calvin slowly drifted through the crowd, in attempts of finding some normality, or at least some answers to the questions that were swarming around in his mind.

He stopped to greet his parents and chat with them for a while, but it was only when his mother asked where Audrey was that Calvin realised that he didn’t know the answer to that question. And so he excused himself to make his way into one of the corners in the room so that he could call his wife.

“Calvin?” She asked, almost as if she was surprised that he was calling her.

“Why do you sound so surprised?”

He heard some muffling from her side of the call, almost as if she was covering up the speaker. A few quick moments passed before her soft voice sounded, much quieter than it had previously been. “I’m just surprised that you’re calling me.” Audrey answered honestly. “Is something wrong?”

He rolled his eyes. “Where are you?”

She coughed. “I’m just getting some food. Why?”

“What’s with all the questions?” He snapped, feeling very short-tempered.

Audrey paused momentarily, not sure why she was on the receiving end of her husband’s wrath this time. She was sure that she wasn’t even within three-mile radius of him. “Nothing.” She answered warily, not sure of what to say in fear that she would set him off at any moment now. With the mood that he was in, he was a ticking time bomb and Audrey couldn’t be even more glad that she wasn’t anywhere near him at that moment.

However, it seemed that she had spoken too soon.

“You need to come home. Now.”

“Why? Is something wrong?”

“Stop asking so many questions!” He shouted. His voice had been so loud and uncontrolled that he was sure that the people standing around him would be able to hear. He was just glad that the music was loud enough to drown out the rest of his conversation.

Calvin sighed and pinched the bridge of his nose in frustration. He opened his mouth to demand that she come home in a much more quiet and calm voice, but no words came out.

His eyes had landed on the large, colourful banner that hung from the ceiling.

Happy Anniversary.

Calvin tried to come up with a number of solutions, but none of them seemed even the slightest bit logical. There were the stupid ones such as, perhaps he had walked into the wrong house, or maybe everybody was in on some elaborate scheme to prank him. However, as much as he wanted to deny it -he couldn’t, but it seemed that he had forgotten his own wedding anniversary. Not that he had any intent of celebrating it; as if it was something worth celebrating in the first place.

Despite all of his perfectly sane and acceptable reasoning, he couldn’t seem to shake off the guilt that was eating at him. And there was also the intense glare that his brother Kade had directed towards the back of his head. He didn’t need to turn around to know that it was aimed right at him.

He didn’t know what to do, so he ended the call.

-

“Hi, stranger.” His voice was deep, deeper than she remembered as he greeted her. His knee bumped against hers as he stretched out his legs under the table. “Long time no see.”

Audrey smirked up at him. “Where have you been hiding?”

Joe quirked an eyebrow playfully. “Who says I was hiding?”

Audrey didn’t say anything, she just smiled. It seemed that words weren’t needed for them to have a conversation. “So, what do you do?” She asked, sipping on the last of her milkshake as she peered at him from over her glass.

Joe leaned back in his seat. “I own a diner.” His answer was short and simple, leaving Audrey to think that there was more than he was letting on.

“And?”

“And what?”

“Where is this diner of yours?” She asked, even though she felt as if she already knew the answer.

Joe tapped the table. “This is my diner.”

Audrey frowned, yet quirked an eyebrow when he smirked at her reaction. “So, when you said that this booth was yours...” she trailed off.

He chuckled. “I really meant it.” His smile only widened. “This booth, as well as every other booth in this diner belongs to me.”

“I would hope so, because one booth just wouldn’t be enough to run a business.”

He shook his head. “No.”

“Why the name, ‘Darcy’?”

“My name’s Joseph Darcy.”

“Ah,” she sounded aloud. Audrey pushed her now empty glass of milkshake to the side and leaned forward, resting her arms on the table. “So, do you sit with all of your customers?”

Joseph and Audrey sat in the corner booth for over an hour. They enjoyed a cup of coffee and a slice of cake each as they allowed the easy going, carefree conversation to lead the night. But the night was cut short when she got a call from Calvin. It was pretty cryptic, but she did manage to understand that she needed to get home.

Audrey frowned, still looking down at her phone. She really didn’t want to leave yet, but it seemed that she didn’t have much of a choice. “I’m sorry, Joe. I really have to go.”

Joe pursed his lips. “You’re running off again.” He stated.

“No,” she sighed, already pulling her jacket over her shoulders. “I really do have to go.”

“Is it the husband again?”

She nodded. “Yes.”

His lips stretched out into a thin line as he crossed his arms over his chest. “I’m starting to think that you don’t like me.”

Audrey shook her head. “That’s not true.” She denied, slinging her bag onto her shoulder as she brushed her hair out of the way. “I like talking to you.” She tried to assure him, but it seemed like he didn’t believe her. If she had the time, she would have loved to stay behind and talk to him some more, but Calvin sounded pretty urgent on the phone.

Joe stood up to. “Well, you’ve got my number.” He told her, leaning forward hesitantly. He paused briefly, allowing her a moment to stop him, and when she didn’t, he leaned forward and wrapped his arms around her. She hugged him back, enjoying the feeling of his rich, musky scent to wrap around her. “Feel free to call me whenever you want to talk.” He whispered in her ear, his mouth lingering there for a second too long before he finally began to pull away.

She smiled at him and started heading out.

“You know where to find me.” Joe called from behind her. Audrey offered him a last-minute wave and a smile in response before she was out of the door before the bell could even finish ringing.

The drive home was quick, quicker than a taxi would have been now that Audrey had collected her car from the garage. She didn’t even have time to make it up the drive way before she was ambushed by groups of people, hugging her and congratulating her. It was almost as if she was passed around from people to people as they took their turn to shower her with gifts and sweet messages. Audrey smiled and thanked each and every one of her friends and family, silently grateful that her -their- anniversary wasn’t actually forgotten.

The breath escaped from her as she stepped into the house and was greeted by all the people and decorations. Audrey could feel tears springing to her eyes when her eyes landed on the huge banner that hung from the ceiling.

Happy Anniversary, it read.

He did remember!

She sniffled happily, surprised that Calvin had remembered their 3rd year anniversary. Even more surprised that he wished to celebrate it with a party.

It didn’t take her long to weave through the crowd and find Calvin and when she did, she wished that she hadn’t.

Audrey was stood right behind him, close enough that she would be able to touch him without stretching her arm out completely, but he didn’t turn around.

Audrey reached out to pat him on the shoulder since he was facing the phone. “I’m sorry. You know it’s not my fault.” Her hand paused mid-air at the sound of his voice and her eyebrows furrowed in confusion. It was only when he carried on speaking and she realised that his phone was pressed up against his ear that she realised he was in the middle of his call.

“I’ll try, but there’s definitely no way that I’ll be able to get away tonight.”

It seemed that curiosity killed the cat because Audrey couldn’t stop herself from listening in on the conversation, even if she couldn’t hear what the person on the other end of the line was saying.

“I know, I’m sorry.” Calvin apologised again.

“If I had known that Audrey was throwing this party then I wouldn’t have come home.”

Audrey blinked back the tears. She refused to move, forcing herself to listen to the full conversation. If Calvin wanted some privacy, then he should have gone upstairs and spoke to his lover behind closed doors, not during a party.

“Don’t worry, baby. There’s not long left now.”

“Trust me, I don’t want to be here. Celebrating being married to Audrey for three years is the last thing I want to do tonight, but I have no choice.” He sighed, pinching the bridge of his nose as he closed his eyes. “She probably threw the party to try and get close to me.” His voice was softer now as he attempted to calm down his lover who didn’t seem very happy with the situation that he was in.

Determined to walk away with some self-respect, Audrey brushed away the tears and immersed herself back into the crowd.

And to think that she was going to thank him for remembering and putting in an effort.

The rest of the night went downhill from that. Audrey spent it smiling forcibly and picking at her food, not really eating any of it as she very strategically avoided Calvin. She thanked everyone that congratulated her and she made sure that no one spilled anything on her furniture.

She hated herself for hoping, for wishing that he cared. That her husband actually cared enough about her and their marriage to remember their anniversary. Audrey was stupid for getting her hopes up every time. She knew Calvin well enough by now to know that he hated her, that he would never care about her.

She was so tired of fighting a losing battle. It was about time that she retreated, allowing herself enough time to fall back and lick her wounds where no one would see her, where no one would be able to hurt her anymore.

It was about time that she started thinking about herself.

-

Layla Knight

09.09.17

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