This Wretched Heart

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Breaking Through

‘Break on through to the other side.’

Break on Through by The Doors

Lara

Hands trembling, she tried carefully to peel the potatoes, cutting out the black without causing too much damage. Her nerves were getting the better of her. Peter’s puzzled face when he saw her jitters hadn’t made the prospect of the evening ahead any more appealing.

‘Don’t be nervous Lara; I’m sure we’ll get on’.

Why had she invited Sam over? This is what friends do after all, have each other over for dinner. Had her subconscious known that if Sam met her husband everything would be different . She was sure that once they were all in the same room together it would be crystal clear where her heart was and that all confusion would dissipate into the air. The intensity between herself and Sam had been reaching breaking point. Their conversations were intimate...too intimate. She was glad now that her instinct to regain control had emerged. So why the tingling of electricity all around her? She was being skittish and Peter would notice sooner or later. The fact was, that an evening with Sam despite its platonic nature was exciting as well as terrifying. She wondered whether he was dreading it. He had seemed a little taken aback by her invitation. God knows he wasn’t the only one. She had half thought he would cancel.

‘I’ll be back in a second.’ She told Peter who was zesting an orange for his famous sauce.

‘Righto.’

For the hundredth time she looked at herself in the mirror. She had consciously avoided anything too provocative. Not that Peter would mind or suspect. He would think she was just making an effort for their guest. She felt guilty thinking like this. Peter wasn’t the blind monkey in life , his mind was just less prone to reading between the lines. But just to be safe she opted for a black woollen dress which although high necked, clung to her body and accented her curves. She had sprayed some perfume that Peter had given her for Christmas. She wasn’t crazy about it but it felt more grown up than what she usually wore. She glossed her lips redder than usual and was just thinking she would wipe it off when Peter’s hands cupped her breasts from behind.

‘ We still have time for a quickie.’ He whispered in her ear chuckling at her ‘Don’t even think about it’ face.

Their living room glowed with rose scented candles and fairy-lights. Peter had the duck crisping up nicely in the oven along with his rosemary roast potatoes and glazed carrots parsnips. He had made a special effort with dinner.

’I can’t let the wifey down now, can I? Even though he had been slightly bemused at first when she had told him about the dinner plans, he thrown himself into it with his usual vim and vigour. His foreboding had more to do with a stranger coming to their home.

‘Oh God Lara. Do ya not think it’s going to be awkward? I mean he’s your friend, I’ll having nothing to say to him.’

‘Just ask him about his writing or his travels. It’ll be fine. He knows you’re not into sports.’ She hoped shyness wouldn’t overcome them both and she would be the one who would have to make conversation.

‘Anyway you could do with meeting more friends.’ She added to distract him.

‘Well I’d rather try and get my own thanks.’ He grinned to take away the snipe.

He was always complaining that other than Joe, he had few friends but she knew that he was too shy to put himself out there.As they waited in the living room, sipping on a Pinot Noir from the Bistro, her nerves were gently diminished, replaced with an inexplicable contentment. Perhaps it was dawning on her, how close she had sashayed to a future without Peter. She wasn’t being overly dramatic. Given her personality, she had been heading down a very dangerous path. The slow revealing of her inner self coupled with the undeniable attraction she felt for him meant that the only thing holding her back had been the guilt of hurting Peter. Tonight would draw the whole thing into the light and out of the opaque world of her imagination and desire. She would now be spending time with Sam guilt free. Taking him out of the park shadows and plopping him into their house would take away the allure of the unattainable. The sight of him, which up to now, had made her shake or the tipping of his hand against hers which had sent her senses into overload, would diminish. She would be a magician and merge two worlds, jolting it all back to normal. Part of her hoped that this could mean more dinners in the future as her mind pictured the three of them on outings together laughing and joking, something akin to a cheesy wine advert. This battled the other part that hoped they wouldn’t hit it off and that she and Sam could revert to the world running around in circles. It was all in the hands of fate. The sound of the doorbell seemed symbolic.

‘You check on the food, I’ll answer the door’. She smiled at Peter as he went into the kitchen.


Sam

He heard the doorbell reverberate within the house and couldn’t help but hear an ominous undertone. It was exactly the kind of place he had pictured, small and cottage like. The latch gate at the front of the garden had led him through to a windy narrow stone path which was dotted with night lights in small glass jars. He laughed as he saw the pumpkins on the front doorstep. Halloween was early it seemed. None of the neighbouring houses held any signs of the imminent feast. He was reminded of a holiday he had in the States when he was younger. His child’s mind had been unable to contain the excitement of all the fuss and hubble that was made of what he considered a much underestimated holiday back home. Here was an occasion that didn’t hold the pressure and expectation that Christmas did. It was pure frivolity without the hassle of gift buying and family obligation. The streets littered with pumpkins and all manner of ghoulish decor had fed his imagination and it had been like stepping into a fairy-tale. As he stood on the doorstep of Lara’s home he was overwhelmed with nostalgia.

The door opened suddenly and he was enveloped in an overpowering scent which he recognised vaguely from one of his one night stands.

‘Hey Sam, welcome. Come in, come in.’ her smile lit up her painted mouth which seemed like an oversized version of its usual self. Halloween was early in more ways than one. He stepped by her into the hallway.

‘Straight on through’. She said gently.

‘ To the other side?’ He sang the Doors song and immediately felt stupid because she didn’t recognize it.The sitting room was cosy and full of character which didn’t surprise him. She took his jacket and he tried to smile without looking scared.

‘Peter will be out in a sec, he’s just checking on dinner’. She smiled nervously and he felt like a playmate waiting to meet a parent. He tried to take in his surroundings when she left the room. This was his chance to get a feel for a part of Lara’s life, a chance that might only happen once. His first destination was their bookshelves which contained a couple of Anita Shreve and Jodi Picoult along with the ever predictable Stephen King which he assumed one of them had read when they were a teenager. Lara had explained that Peter wasn’t much of a reader much to his shock. What did they talk about he wondered? He knew Lara devoured books and assumed by the lack of variety here that she either borrowed them from the library or like him had piles of them stacked by her bedside.

Their DVD collection was surprisingly bland too, given that Peter was an apparent film buff. An array of chick flicks, dotted with the occasional Tarantino wasn’t impressing him greatly. He had imagined a collection of risque French film with the occasional period drama for good measure. There wasn’t even a single classic zombie flick for God’s sake. He suddenly felt guilty for being so judgmental. Maybe they just didn’t have the money to spend on DVD’s the way he did or maybe they had Netflix.He turned his attention to the mantelpiece which was cluttered with knickknacks and photos of the couple at various ages. He was about to take a closer look at Lara’s other half but was interrupted by their return from the kitchen.

‘Sam, Nice to meet you.’ Turning around he met the dark and intense gaze of a man he felt he already knew. He was surprised not to have to lower his gaze as per usual because Peter was equal if not a little taller than his six feet two. The handshake was perhaps a little over-zealous on both their parts but Peter’s smile was warm and friendly.As the evening wore on he was forced to concede that Peter was a ‘stand-up guy’. But not in a cardboard cut-out kind of way. He was interesting and interested. Sam relaxed a little as he told them both about his many travels. They seemed to really take it all in and he could sense a little regret that they hadn’t been able to experience what he had. Peter really lit up when he told them about his family’s villa in Marrakesh and all the interesting food available in the markets.

He wondered was there even a hint of suspicion lurking under Peter’s friendly exterior. He must have doubted that any man would hang out with his wife without thinking lustful thoughts at some point. Surely though he would see that because he was here in their home his friendship that his intentions were honorable. Yes, he was drawn to Lara but he wasn’t going to be a home wrecker and maybe this once he could have a healthy platonic friendship.

‘So did you ever nearly shag a Lady boy?’ Dinner was finished and they were all in the living room talking about one of his trips to Thailand.

‘Peter don’t be gross’. Lara half laughed but he could sense she was embarrassed.

Peter’s sense of humor after a few drinks was verging more on the vulgar. Lara’s laugh at times became forced and she visibly squirmed when Peter made yet another sexual reference. Sam had kept it pretty P.G around her and had often wondered how she would react if he ever said anything distasteful. She was probably not as sensitive as she was putting on.

‘Peter please stop we have a guest’.

This irked him. ‘Guest’ glossed over all the months they had spent getting to know each other. He knew it was just a flippant remark to stop Peter but he felt as though he had been put in his place. He became conscious just how little he knew Lara. Her history with Peter was something he could never compete with and although he had never planned on doing anything more than being her friend he felt the sting of this realization more than he wanted to. Peter wasn’t exactly pissing on borders, he didn’t have to. He was married to this woman and Sam was just a visitor.

‘So Sam do you have a girlfriend?’ Peter was getting braver per drop of wine flowing through him.

‘ Ummm’.

‘Sam has lots of girls but no girlfriend’. Lara grinned at Peter .’ I suppose I’m his girl- friend in that I’m a girl who is his friend.’ She giggled stupidly. The wine had clearly hit her brain too.

Peter squeezed her knee in warning. ‘Not everyone wants a relationship.'

‘Well it’s not that I don’t want a relationship it’s just I haven’t met someone who makes me want one’. This was a lie.

’But you have to be open to commitment to meet the right person. Women sense these things, I mean if you don’t call them after you sleep with them, you’re not exactly sending out ‘relationship’ signals.’ Lara scolded.

‘Ok Lara I’m sure he knows his own mind better than you’. Peter’s face was apologetic and Sam tried not to let her comments get to him.

‘It’s ok Peter. You’re right Lara. The truth is I do enjoy being free and single. I like not having to answer to anyone. If I stay out till five in the morning it’s my choice and I don’t get any annoying calls asking me to come home.’

‘Amen’. Peter laughed and winked at Lara.

‘Oh fuck off Peter.' She left the room.


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