Nine am to Nine-ten: Make the coffee.
Nine-ten to Nine-twenty-five: Shower and dress.
Nine-twenty-five to Nine-forty: Stare futilely into the mirror willing time to open up and
swallow your mistakes. Or, in lieu of that, you.
Nine-forty to Ten am: Give up on time travel and take your husband his coffee.
Ten am to ten-o-one: Admit to your husband that you've had an affair.
Ten-o-one to forever: Attempt to pick up the pieces of your marriage
The night before Hannah sent the boys and the dog to Sarah's, allowing her sister to assume she and Jeff wanted some time alone, and allowing Jeff to assume Sarah invited them.
He sat at the desk in their glass enclosed sun room, eyes scanning an online news site. She put his coffee down beside him, and he thanked her without looking up.
Hannah seated herself in a straight-backed leather chair near his desk and studied her husband, noting the gray hair around his temples, the golfer's tan, and the blue-gray eyes that seemed to measure everything, even his family, in terms of its return. She thought about the twenty-five years they'd shared and exactly how she'd arrived at the place she was in.
I don't have anyone to blame but myself. I knew what I was getting into when I married him. I knew he wasn't demonstrative, and I knew he wasn't a talker.
But it was better in the beginning, wasn't it? Early in their relationship, she was the one person Jeff trusted with himself because he'd told her so. And though he didn't talk much, when he had something to say, it was profound, and it always mattered. Back then, the path between them was filled with night time journeys into one another's whispered thoughts. The rest of the time, he contentedly listened to her prattle, and she contentedly prattled.
When did it change? Was it when the boys were born, and she had her hands full just keeping them from killing the goldfish and her house plants? Was it when Riana hit twelve, and her mouth became her greatest weapon? When did she give up hazarding the distance between the two of them only to find Jeff uncommunicative and ungiving when she got there? Did he even notice when she stopped trying?
He was a good man. Everyone said so. He came home from work every night like clockwork, mowed the yard on the weekends, played golf, thanked her for the meals she cooked, and always bought her a pink bathrobe for Christmas. He never demanded his way, wasn't abusive, and never shouted. But he didn't talk to her or touch her either.
"Jeff," she said finally. "We need to talk about something."
He tore his eyes away from an article with a picture of a crying Iraqi woman. "Can it wait a few minutes?"
She wanted to say yes. It could wait forever. He never had to know about Clint. But if she never let him know that she'd stayed when she could have gone, nothing would ever change.
Jeff finally seemed to realize the conversation could not be put off, even for a few minutes. He pressed the button on the computer monitor, watched the screen fade to black, and turned in the swiveling chair to face her. "Are the kids okay?"
"Yeah. They're fine." She waited for the words to arrive in the right order. None of them wanted the job.
"Is it your sister?"
"She's fine." There must be a set of syllables, some soft combination of sounds which could make this easier to hear.
He was mildly alarmed.
"What Hannah? What's wrong?"
Her body arranged itself around her, as though bracing for impact. "Jeff . . . I've made a horrible mess."
Once he realized it wasn't about anyone but her, his concern faded, replaced by the blank, objective expression he wore when he analyzed a proposed financial risk. As though she was a series of numbers that he could calculate in terms of pluses and minuses. She hated that expression. She was tired of objective. For a second, it was easy to hurt him. "I've been seeing another man."
For a full two minutes, he stared at the floor, the only sign that he heard her, a nod. When he did speak, his voice was strained. "Who?"
She'd anticipated this question. "Nobody you know."
More forcefully. "What. Is. His. Name?"
"It doesn't matter."
"Where did you meet him?"
"Through work. He was a client."
"And you're not going to tell me his name."
"No. At least not yet."
Not one to waste energy arguing, he moved on. "Have you ended it?"
"Yes." And because there was nothing else to say, she could only wait for him.
"Do you love him?"
She shook her head. The admission made the deed worse. Little better than self-gratification. Though she couldn't remember Jeff ever raising his voice about anything, she fervently wished he would this time. Demand to know why I did this. Anything but silence.
But the well he dipped into for the few words he possessed was already empty. And his face changed before her eyes; lines appeared in places she'd never seen lines in before, as though folding up in slow motion.
"Jeff. I've been trying to tell you—"
"Don't. Just don't."
"Where are you going?"
"I don't know."
She sat back in the chair and closed her eyes, feeling the chill of the leather against her bare forearms, listening to his fading footsteps in the quiet house. The front door opened. A long pause followed. She half-rose, hoping she could make him come back and yell at her. The slam shook the pictures on the wall.
The car revved, tires squealed, and he was gone.
Hannah imploded. Wept. Wished she'd never been born. Or, lieu of that, death.
Excerpted from "Bright" by Mary Paddock. Copyright © 2017 by Mary Paddock. Excerpted by permission. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher. Excerpts are provided solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.