She still got butterflies in her stomach in anticipation of him walking through the door. It was the same motel and the same room they always reserved and it somehow had begun to feel like home. This was her real life; he and her together, shutting the door to the outside world.
She prepared as she always did, wine chilling in the ice bucket, candles lit, soft music – smooth jazz was his favorite. She took a hot bath and tried to relax, her thoughts traveling back to when they first met; he an aspiring artist and she a struggling writer. It began slowly; she was shy and unsure of herself while he weighed the idea of stepping outside of his union. Eventually, chemistry conquered rationality and they found themselves in the back of his studio early one morning (or late one night), the beginning of a decade of desire.
She ran her hands through her hair pulling it into a ponytail. The red light of the digital clock pronounced him an hour late. She slid onto the bed and pulled a magazine from her tote. She’d been here before. It’s difficult to get through 10 years without someone being late, especially given the circumstances. And she was habitually early, it was a virtue her mother instilled in her at a young age. It was rude to leave people waiting; how was your time more important than theirs?
When was the last time the motel laundered this bedspread? The flowers, once dusky rose, had turned to a near brown with years of smoking and God knows what. They clashed with her dress. Her skin was ashy; she better smear some lotion on those legs.
Ice shifting in the bucket startled her awake. Headlights from the neighboring interstate darted across the wall. Beats from the adjoining room announced a party in full swing. Four hours late. Pulling a dusty chair to the front of the window, she watched the rain wash away the day. Worry gave way to anger and then sadness.
Six hours. Realization smacked her in the face so hard she hit her head on the footboard. Her phone declared her forgotten, repudiated like this morning’s coffee. Trembling, she dialed his number; “We’re sorry, the number you have reached is no longer in service.”
Her eyes fell to the shag carpet. Beige. Her life had become as the color. She became aware that she was a convenience now inconvenient. No longer enough air in the room, she grabbed her bags and moved toward the door. Bitten by frigid air, she turned to contemplate the room, emptier than she had ever noticed. Her eyes found a water stain in the corner of the ceiling, a bubble declaring pressure above. Disintegration of a steadfast façade.
Audrie is a writer and editor living in Illinois. She is a fan of all things horror and pop culture.