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Weekly Fiction Writing : Week 5
The Ink Well Weekly Fiction Prompt #5: A Matter of Time
Prompt: A Matter of Time
Carlton woke an hour earlier. A head start to his busy day was at the forefront of his thinking this morning. Five minutes later, the aroma of freshly brewed Colombian coffee filled the room.
The towel hung loosely around his waist as he headed toward the ensuite. The dark curtains were still unopened. He didn't mind if the covering fell from his body. Perfectly formed muscles in every fold flexed as if yearning for attention.
Suddenly, the cord attached to the small lamp on the nearby night stand clicked, exposing the ripples in his upper torso.
He looked over his broad, square-shaped shoulders toward the rustling sound of the bed sheet. With one flick of his finger, the towel fell to his knees. He smiled, slowed his stride, then continued toward the shower.
The fog from the mirror disappeared as he wiped back and forth, revealing the most handsome face he'd ever seen staring back at him. Thick, black hair cut in a fade style accentuated fair skin he thought. He smiled, then nodded as he remembered approving the barber's decision to go with the full beard rather than a goatee. It was perfect for a rectangular-shaped face.
He'd better get a move on else he'd be late again. Before he could formulate his next thought, the hand wrapped around his waist dissolved all thoughts of the office as it pulled him backward until he fell smiling upon the bed.
Two hours later, he was knee deep in paperwork while trying to accommodate each client with their allotted response time.
"This will fit perfectly with our fall lineup, Paula mused as she twirled around in front of the full-length mirror. The new silk shawl her design assistant proposed hung over her couture suit. Her gallery's new fall fashion line was due next week.
Joanne talked rapidly while eyeing the unopened envelope on her boss' desk. Her heartbeat quickened as she decided to prod Paula into opening it.
"May I tag along to your soiree?" She waited for Paula's puzzled look.
"You have a vivid imagination if you think I'm in high society now." Paula didn't disappoint. She looked at Joanne with one perfectly arched brow raised.
Joanne bent her head in the direction of the desk.
"Oh, that. I haven't had time." It was only partly the reason. Paula grabbed the envelope and tore open the seal exposing the gold-leafed invitation on heavy paper.
"Hurry up!" Joanne was unabashed in her nosiness.
The large black letters stared back at Paula:
"What group is that? Why no name? Does Carlton know them?" Joanne flung the questions like fireballs intent on lighting a blaze on the matter and shining a spotlight on the cryptic wording.
"A swinging gala. What the heck is that?" Paula's attempt to sound uninformed fell on deaf ears.
"Girl, you know what that is! Joanne rolled her eyes then held her head sideways before looking at Paula with clenched teeth.
"No. Enlighten me." Paula was not going to give Joanne the satisfaction she was seeking.
"Well, I did hear a thing or two from a friend who works with your husband. You know how these sort of things travel." Joanne considered herself not only her boss' assistant, but also a true friend. However, she wanted her to find out about her husband's dealings directly from him.
"If you've heard something, then tell me." Paula did and didn't want to hear more unwanted news leading to more nagging questions about her two-year old marriage.
"It just that I could have told you he swung both ways. Look Paula, either you accept it or you don't. Either way, decide what you want in a relationship, then make it happen. Sometimes it's best to cut your losses before you bring children into the equation." Joanna waited, as she'd heard Paula lose her lunch immediately after consuming it a few weeks ago.
Paula removed the shawl and turned away. "What do you mean, and how long have you known?
"I know that Carlton is an undercover brother; about you. I was only guessing. Oh my God, don't tell me you're..." She trailed off as Paula was now in tears, but decided to continue. "Have you told him? Maybe he'll change his mind about the lifestyle.
Both women jumped as the phone rang behind them. Paula answered.
"I'll be home in two days. We need to talk. Busy as ever, so got to run." Paula didn't have time to question as her husband hung up abruptly.
Joanne reached out to catch the phone as it slipped from Paula's hand.
Paula sank down in her chair, put her head down, and allowed all her doubts to take over.
Carlton's office door opened, then shut quickly. "Have you talked to her yet? his friend and co-worker inquired. The invitations were delivered today."
"Damn. Bad timing. I can't leave until Friday." He continued cursing. In two days, he would be facing his wife with new revelations. He knew this day would come. There was no kicking the box of secrets further down the road.
"Hope it works out. If not, please don't miss this event." His co-worker smiled as he looked at Carlton shaking his head.
"That invitation may change the course of my life," Carlton said, mostly to himself. He already knew it would.
The flight on Friday midday offered time to rehearse. Once home, though, his hands shook as he fumbled trying to unlock his own front door.
The 2-story home with its uniquely decorated living room displayed antiques, custom furnishings, and a hand-made oriental rug that covered nearly the entire room.
The room was perfect for entertaining. But that was Paula's idea of high-class society circles she'd set her aim at entering. We're living in the same house with two different sets of expectations and values, he thought.
Carlton knew what Paula expected, and it wasn't what he knew he had to disclose. He threw his coat over the back of the lounge. The couch nearby beckoned as he could feel jet lag catching up.
The light gray walls seemed to condemn him now. They looked as if they were closing in, forcing him to acknowledge what they'd seen when his wife was away on business.
He jumped up and poured him a glass of courage. He'd need all the help he could get. But it didn't work. Instead, it stared back. The liquid within turned to dark, menacing sand as it caught him up and flung him inside.
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The swollen veins in his neck felt the noose tightening. But the restraint couldn't slow his descent.
Startled, Carlton looked up to see a defiant woman. He'd not heard her enter the room. He couldn't remember now why he thought she'd accept what he was about to propose. He looked at the wine glass again.
Paula stood next to the mantle. The fire from the marble fireplace cast a heavy glow in the room. She started the conversation in hopes of making it through to the end without breaking down.
She stared him squarely in the face, then began:
"Carlton, five years ago I walked away from...; No...I left at the altar the man I thought I knew; the man I thought I would spend the rest of my life with. I was so caught up in researching the perfect veil for my wedding day that I forget to look closely at the person who would stand in front of me in that veil.
I swore never again to be caught looking in the wrong direction. Yes, I had expectations. One was a loving, truthful partner.
And here I am again. I need to look deep within myself and discover the reason I keep ending up in this type of situation."
Paula's voice ended in a slight crackle as she walked over to her husband and held out the invitation.
Carlton looked down at the writing, but stopped reading when he reached the section: R.S.V.P. An "X" was inserted in the blank next to "NOT ACCEPT".
"I told him not to send the invitation until I'd had a chance to talk with you." Carlton never looked at his wife's face. He missed her expression that displayed sadness and disappointment as her mascara smeared underneath red pupils. He knew she'd been crying, and he was the source of her hurt.
"Doesn't matter. But for you, I just want to know if it's true that you're attracted to men."
Carlton could only nod his head in the affirmative. His thoughts returned to two days ago while away on business. His euphoria wouldn't allow him to feel remorse now.
Paula continued. "It's only a matter of time before you'll be uncovered to the world. Until then, you'll get a neck strain from always looking over your shoulder if you're not true to yourself and others you bring into your circle of deceit. What's done under cover will always come to light.
Remember this in your quest to find yourself, and don't worry about me and my baby. We'll survive."
The fact that her husband didn't even ask about the details of their unborn child when she mentioned it sent chills through her. She had to keep her composure and release my emotions another time, she thought.
She breathed in deeply and exhaled, then headed out the room, slowly navigating the winding staircase to the guest bedroom.