The doorbell rang while I was relaying my honest story to my husband, cutting me off and stealing my attention away.
"Are we expecting someone?" I wondered.
"My sister," he informed, standing up from the couch. "She's going to stay for a bit."
"Oh, okay..." my voice trailed off as he walked into the next room to open the front door. I got up as well, but I took a moment to assess myself in the small mirror on the wall. I tried to rub my eyes free of tears and exhaustion.
My sister in-law was smart; she'd know I'd been crying. For all I knew, David already told her about our predicament. I was sure she was here to spend time with our kids, to make sure they couldn't pick up on the tension between their dads.
"I've missed you!" I heard Dani's voice at the door.
He chuckled. "Please, it's only been three weeks."
"I know. I wanna see the little ones." Soon enough, she made her way into the lounge, squealing my name upon sight. "Casper, beautiful as ever!" We shared an embrace and I plastered a smile onto my face even though I just wanted to break down.
She was one of my friends for life, but blood was thicker than water. No doubt she'd side with her brother though all of this turmoil, and I needed my best friend right now. I needed her to understand my perspective.
"Hey, have you been crying?" I wanted to deny it but my puffy cheeks were a dead giveaway. Her eyebrows pulled together while her head whipped from me to David then back. "Is everything okay?"
Wait ... didn't she know?
I slowly nodded. "Y-yes."
"No, everything is not okay," David admitted, as honest as ever.
"David—" I started.
"Before you tell me that this is between us, it's not," he interrupted with a firm tone. "This entire situation is greater than just us, and I need my sister here."
"Whoa!" Dani's surprise was unmistakable. "What's going on? You two don't fight. You guys are y'know... happy and perfect and in love... all that romantic jazz. Right?"
When we stayed silent, her eyes widened further. "Oh come on! You guys are the reason I almost wanted to settle down and litter some more babies. What happened?"
My heart fell to my stomach as I bowed my head in despondency. David must've sensed my dejection because despite his hurt, he took a stance in front of me protectively. "I'll... I'll fill you in soon," he said, saving me any form of humiliation. "Our babies will be home any minute. I put them on the bus today. If there's any strain between us, which I believe there is, they'll pick up on it in a matter of seconds and we don't want that. So, please..."
"I understand." Her voice was much quieter now, realizing this was a serious circumstance. "I'll be happy to keep them busy and laughing. I'll take my suitcase to the guest room, don't worry."
"Okay. Casper and I will start making some food." His hand grasped mine, and relief washed over me. If I could wish for anything in this world, it'd be to find my way back into his arms.
I didn't cheat.
How could I? The only person my heart yearned for everyday was David. How could I want anyone else? Why would I forfeit my happiness for someone who'd never compare? He knew that.
He guided me into the kitchen, then let my hand go. "Continue," he requested, opening the fridge to stare into its depths.
"Huh?" I asked, snapping out of my distracting thoughts.
"You left Avery's room to check on another patient. That's where you stopped."
I stood there, in the middle of the kitchen with my puffy cheeks and teary eyes, a total mess. And there he stood. While his body was only yards away, we were so far apart.
"I wanna know why he kept looking at your hand," he said. "Was he staring at your ring?"
I glanced down at my wedding band. "I-I think so. It makes sense."
"It does. Maybe he wanted to remind himself why he couldn't fall for you."
"I don't know, David. That's likely, but..." I stepped forward. "I never gave him any reason or indication—"
"Maybe not in words." He brought out some food from yesterday's dinner, setting them on the island counter.
I paused, lifting my eyebrows. "Are you gonna tell me how 93 percent of communication is nonverbal? No, David, I didn't 'nonverbally' hint that I had any feelings for my patient." I moved to stand on the other side of the island, right across from him. I hated talking to him this way. We always anticipated experiencing life with each other, including arguments that we could grow from.
I regretted that now. We'd thrived without conflict for all our years together. I didn't even know how to begin to go back to where we were. Or maybe that was the point? To learn from this and become better than what we were before.
Except we had been perfect. What could be better than that?
Looking him in the eyes, I promised, "I am not lying to you about this. And you know when people lie. You know when I lie."
"I know when you hide things, or keep something to yourself. Which I'll admit isn't often, but I never caught on to this. Why didn't I know about Avery Weppler; why was he a secret so well kept?"
I don't know, I wanted to say. I truly didn't. But David would never take that for an answer. He'd rather have me say I had feelings for Avery than admit to not knowing why I kept it a secret.
"I... I don't know," I settled.
He shook his head, opening the microwave to warm up some food. "I need you to know. Casper... I'm not accusing you with this question. I only want to understand why you kept him a secret for weeks. You tell me everything, but hid this. What was the reason?"
I sighed, blinking up at the ceiling before closing my eyes. I tried to take myself back to the day I met Avery. I ran through those hours in my head, even when I returned home to David waiting in bed for me. I recalled how we talked about Dawn's desire to be Dorothy in her school's play, and how Royce craved a new toy. I remember telling him about my patients, all except Avery.
I slowly opened my eyes, resting my palm on the counter. "I felt guilty," I whispered, staring into nothing.
"Why?" Again, there was no blame in my husband's voice. He was calm; that was just who he was.
I lifted my shoulder, shaking my head disappointedly. "Because he flirted with me."
"And you reminded him he was a patient. You explained that some nurses and doctors flirt lightly with their terminal patients to help them through the day. You handled it well, in my opinion. So why did his flirting make you feel guilty, angel?"
I looked at him, and he was now closer to me, concern in his eyes.
"I... I was walking out the room and he told me 'see you later, doctor.' I should've kept walking, but I paused and turned around to look at him. I debated if I should tell him to call me by my first name instead, and I wanted to just leave it be. But I told him anyway because I found him attractive." I swallowed, nodding my head. "It scared me. That I could be in love with you and find another man attractive. I trust myself to be faithful. I'm not interested in anyone who isn't you, and I know that with everything I am."
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