The Truth about Marriage by Kay Kittrell

Lenore made her way into the living room from the kitchen bouncing on her heels. Her black pin curls bobbed with every step. “Hey babe, look at this cute baby book,” she said with a grin. “I’m thinking we could paint the nursery with either this nice shade of lavender or not! Maybe this nice lime green but just toned down a little,” Lenore said. Her brown eyes sparkled as she leaned over the couch, never stopping for a breath.

She slipped her arms around her husband Bubby, magazine in hand.  Lenore nuzzled Bubby’s cheek before giving him a quick peck as she said, “I think we could get maybe all white wood furniture, or mahogany… No wait, cherry! I love Cherry wood. We can put the crib in the corner and maybe a teddy bear rug in the middle of the floor and a little rocking horse,” Bubby stiffened slightly. Lenore didn’t miss a beat as she continued talking, “God it’ll be so cute. I betcha Aurelia would help with the shopping. She loves this kind of thing,” 

He yawned and cracked his knuckles slowly and asked, “Lenny, that’s nice. Did you finally get a positive result?”

Lenore stiffened. Her arms tighten around him. A small whimper escaped her lips. “Well umm… No… But we can try right now. Betcha the stars are in alignment.”

“Eh, not really feeling it Lenny.”

“You ain’t gotta feel it to do it. That doctor said we have to actually try,”

“Lenny, I said no,”

Lenore pushed herself away, her fisted clenched at her sides and her lips twisted as she said, “Fine, be that way,”

“Don’t start with that crap again Lenore. Nobody got time for that!” he said. He finally turned to look at her. A gold tooth sparkled in his mouth with every word.

“Bubby if you don’t shut the hell up. Oh, I swear I’m gonna be a widow,” she said, gritting her teeth. Her eyes burned and she blinked away tears.  “You always do this. Every time we’re supposed to try you don’t want to. When I try to be spontaneous you don’t want to. Is it me?” she asked. Tears flowed down her chubby cheeks.

“Seriously woman? I’m going out,” Bubby said as he stood up stiffly stretching like an old lazy alley cat. He sauntered over to the front door. He stopped at the door and turned back to look at her as he slipped on a red felt hat. “Dinner better be ready when I get back,” he said closing the door with a resounding thud.

The clock chimed softly. Lenore barely spared it a glance. Only two in the afternoon and he’s already gone…

Lenore stood silently watching as he left. He was one fine chocolate man. From the strong arch of his back to his thick pink lips. He was one of those boys. You know the ones. The guys that know they can have any girl they want.

After nine years of hanging out and fooling around as kids they had finally tied the knot when they turned twenty. She’d hoped he’d be different. No, she prayed he’d be faithful. It’s been three years since that day. He said he stopped messing with those other girls after all the fights and threats to leave. She wanted to believe him. Needed to believe him.

“Why would I be the one to get him… Everybody warned me about him,” Lenore said as picked up the magazine that lay forgotten on the floor. She bit her lips. Tears starting to bubble over again. She blinked them away angrily as she studied the cover. Maybe this is just a fantasy. She tossed the magazine onto the couch and made her way into the kitchen.

Four hours later Bubby wasn’t back yet. Lenore was sitting alone watching reruns of “the Jefferson’s” when the doorbell rang. She cursed under her breath and ignored it. Maybe if whoever it was thought nobody was home, they would go away. Quickly the rings became more frantic interchanged with a hard pounding on the door.

Lenore took a deep breath as she shimmied off her couch and headed towards the door. “For Christ sakes! I’m coming,” she said as she opened the door. She raised an eyebrow. A short blonde woman was in raising her fist to bang against the door again. “Who are you knocking on my door like that?” Lenore asked putting a hand on her hip. She inspected the woman from head to toe. The first thing she noticed was this woman was massively pregnant. Second thing she noticed was the little ring on her ring finger left hand.

The pregnant woman rubbed her hand over her distended belly, she said coolly, “My name’s Shawn, and I’m looking for Bubby. We need to talk about his baby,” the blood drained from Lenore’s face. Her lips popped open forming a small “O”. She wanted to scream but she couldn’t find her voice. Lenore swallowed loudly clearing her throat as she made room for the woman to enter her home.

“Well um… Bubby’s not here… Are… Are you sure he’s your kid’s dad?” Lenore asked in a small voice. She raked her fingers through her hair not caring if her curls were ruined. The woman crossed the threshold with a sniff as she eyed the small apartment.

Lenore blushed. She and Bubby lived on the third floor of a little place between Caroline and Biddle Street. It wasn’t much but Lenore tried to keep it homey. Her little front room was filled with little feathered knick-knacks. She loved owls. They were everywhere, owl pillows on the couch and a quaint owl clock rested on the mantel of the fake fireplace. Living in East Baltimore her whole life Lenore had never seen a real owl. But her little figurines made her happy.

Having this woman come into her home and sneer at her treasures bothered her.

“I know who the father of my baby is,” the woman snapped. Storms raged in her dark eyes. “Who are you? The maid?” Shawn asked eyebrows raised. She cleaned her long-manicured nails before plopping her round behind on the couch.

Lenore stared mouth agape. She clenched her fist at her sides. She wasn’t a violent woman; not anymore. She’d prayed for the Lord to help her remove some of her wicked ways. He had obliged her. But this woman was testing every ounce of patience she possessed.  Lenore closed the distance between them balancing herself against the tv stand as she stood above the woman.

Lenore breathed quickly through her nose and let out a deep breath before she spoke. “I’m his wife, and you cannot speak to me that way in my own home. I don’t know what lies my husband has been telling you but there just that. Lies,” a vein throbbed in Lenore’s temple as she crossed her arms.

“Wife? How can you be his wife if he plans on marrying me?” Shawn asked looking up at Lenore with big dumb eyes. They were the color of dirt. She thrust out her hand her engagement ring sat there glittering prettily. Lenore cursed colorfully using the arsenal of vulgar language she learned while drinking with her dad’s work buddies. She could cuss like a proper steel worker.

“Now listen little Ms. Holly Homewrecker. I can assure you I’m his wife. We’ve been married three years. We may have our issues… But we have no intention of divorcing,” Lenore said through clenched teeth. She could feel her face getting hot; she couldn’t breathe.

“What? I’ve been seeing Bubby for a little over a year and he made no mention of being married to a whale,” Shawn said snidely as she looked Lenore up and down. Lenore’s hands slid down to her sides and she clenched her fist tightly. The half-moons of her nails digging into her skin.

“Get the hell out, before I throw you out. Pregnant or not. I will fuck you up,” Lenore said through clenched teeth. She was seeing red as she forced her hands to stay clenched at her sides. She had her mother’s temper. Though she kept it on a tight leash. Today her control was slipping.

Shawn’s eyes widened and she stood quickly almost falling over as she ran towards the door. She couldn’t get it open fast enough, as she said, “Tell bubby to call me.” Shawn barely avoided the cup that came whizzing towards her head. She ducked and it shattered against the doorframe leaving pieces to fly everywhere. Shawn slammed the door and fled.

Lenore slid to the floor as sob after sob wracked her body. Piece by piece she felt herself starting to fall apart. She cried long into the night lying in the fetal position on the floor. When Bubby returned in the wee hours of the morning, he found her curled up dead asleep. She was puffy eyed and red nosed.

Lenore woke up groggily as daylight streamed through her open window. She clenched her pillow tighter as she tried to get her bearings. What happened last night? She and Bubby had gotten into a fight. Some woman had shown up claiming to be Bubby’s baby mama. She had fallen asleep on the floor. So why was she in her bed?  Her answer came in the form of a short sweet hand-written note that lay on the pillow next to her.

Lenny, I’m sorry I blew up on you yesterday. You know how much I have always loved you. I have my faults but I’m trying my hardest to be a better man for you and hopefully a great father when our time comes.    Forever yours, Bubby

Lenore tasted blood as she bit the inside of her cheeks as she read and reread the note.

Lenore hadn’t seen Bubby this morning. Her only sign of him being the note but when she’d gotten to work there was a bouquet of roses and a box of chocolates waiting for her. Her office mates swarmed around her. There was an endless stream of “oohs”, “ahhs”, and “I wish I had such a good man.”

Was he trying to buy her affection? Did he know she knew about that blond harlot? Did she want him to know that she knew?

“Lenore. Lenore!” someone nearby snapped, and Lenore blinked up at the woman. She’d been lost in thought.

“Huh? What’s going on?” Lenore asked looking around frantically. There were a few people left in the Social Security building. They made a point to avoid meeting her eyes. Lenore looked at the woman who spoke to her sheepishly. “Hi Evette,”

The woman rolled her eyes. “Long night?” Evette asked as she took a seat on a free space on Lenore’s desk. The woman was a tall redhead. They’d been friends for years. They’d grown up in the same neighborhood. Evette knew something was wrong when Lenny wasn’t running her mouth.  “Or?” she didn’t finish the sentence as she gave Lenore a knowing look. Evette knew all about Bubby’s playboy attitude.

“It’s nothing,” Lenore mumbled under her breath as she started to rearrange her desk. It wasn’t messy. She just needed to do something. Anything.

“Hmm… You haven’t been out in a while. Why don’t you come with me to the Ace?” Evette asked as she hopped off of the desk. Evette smiled then started to make her way to her office. “By the way, I’m not asking. You’re going. Meet you around eight,” Evette called over her shoulder.

Lenore stared open mouthed then grinned. There was a reason she was best friends with Evette. She always knew just what to say to cheer her up. Maybe. Just maybe a night out at The Ace of Spades would do her some good. Only one way to find out.

Several hours later Lenore made her way into the Ace. Her tight black dress clinging to all the right places as she strutted inside as if she owned the place. Her hair was curled to frame her face. Her lips shimmered gold in the club lights. She made her way through the crowd of people easily. She was grinning as she saw a few heads turn her way shooting appreciative glances. Lenore was on cloud nine with the help of a nice blunt she rolled on the way there.

A strong hand grabbed her wrist stopping her in her tracks. “Lenore?” the man asking had a good foot on her even while she was wearing platform heels. He was an older gentleman with little lines of gray streaking through his black hair. Even with the gray it didn’t detract from his movie star smile. Officer Paige.

He’d turned up at the bar she worked at on Biddle Street a few weeks ago after seeing her picture on her brothers-in-law desk. He’d been infatuated ever since. “Well isn’t this a surprise,” she said as she fluttered her lashes. “I never would have dreamed of seeing you here,” she said as she leaned in a little closer.

His eyes crinkled and she saw the laugh lines in his face. “Where else am I going to meet a beautiful woman such as yourself?” he asked her while making a serious face as he led her over to a little alcove. The space was intimate. He had yet to let go of her hand.

“Such high praise,” she said trying to contain a giggle. “I’m flattered. Are you here with anyone?” she asked swaying gently to the music. The sound pulsed through her veins. Oh, how she loved to dance. She used to come here with Bubby once. But that had been a long time ago.

She frowned and shook her head a little, tossing thoughts of her husband away angrily. She was here to have a good time not mope about her husband. She batted her lashes at the man in front of her and smiled. He was a little too old for her. He seemed to think the world of her though.

“Would you like to dance? Or perhaps maybe we could go somewhere a little more private?” he asked his voice husky as he leaned down to whisper in her ear. His breath tickled and she let out a small giggle as she drank in the scent of him. He smelled of sandalwood and lavender. It was intoxicating.

Or maybe that was the drugs.

“Just one dance then let’s get the hell out of here,” she said as she smiled at him. This time she led him onto the dance floor as a slower tempo song made its way through the floor. Lenore wrapped her arms around the man swaying slowly in his arms.

She blushed as he stared at her like she was the only woman in the room. It had been a while since she felt like that. They swayed to the beat enjoying the warmth of their bodies pressed together.

“Let’s go,” he growled softly in her ear, need in his voice. She nodded letting him lead her through the throng of people. She never noticed the man with a golden tooth that had been watching them from across the room.

Officer Paige led her to his car opening the door for her like a gentleman. He leaned in planting a kiss on her soft lips. She threaded her fingers through his hair. He chuckled as he untangled himself.  Her cheeks flushing. She slid into the car and he made his way to the driver’s seat. Lenore’s head was reeling. She felt giddy and nervous all at once.

They didn’t speak as he made his way out of downtown. The city flowed by in a blur of colors that made Lenore queasy. What was she doing? She’d never in her life come this close to being unfaithful. She looked over at Officer Paige his face was a blank mask as he stared ahead at the road. In no time they were pulling up to a large grey house in a nicer part of the city.

Lenore’s eyes widened as she scrambled out of the car. It was beautiful. Flowers bloomed in the garden and little fairy lights illuminated the path to the house. “David, it’s beautiful,” she said turning to him as she used his first name for the first time. He smiled indulgently at her as he led her up the stairs onto the porch. “I mean really who knew cops had such good taste,”

At that he laughed as he led her through the darkened house his hand wrapped lightly around her waist. “Should I say thank you or be insulted?” he asked as he flipped a light switch on the wall. Instantly the room was flooded with light.

Lenore shook her head vigorously “Oh no, I meant no disrespect I promise. It’s just that Sarge has absolutely no taste. But he’s still the classiest guy I know,” she said quickly. Lenore cursed herself. Why did she mention her brother-in-law? She was babbling and she knew it. The best thing to do would be shutting her mouth. Possibly getting swallowed up by the beige carpet.

“Well I’m not Sarge my dear,” he said as he pulled her closer to him and ran his tongue against her neck. Lenore shuddered. Her breathing hitched slightly. Good Lord, she hadn’t felt this way in ages. With skilled fingers Officer Paige slid a hand up Lenore’s dress a few moments later it was lying in a heap around her feet. His lips never leaving her neck.

Lenore blushed and attempted to cover herself a little. “Do you have a wife?” she blurted out. God, it was a stupid thing to say. He chuckled and brought his lips to her mouth biting her lower lip.

“No. I know your married… I don’t mind though,” he said taking her hand and leading her to a large master bedroom. Lenore looked from him to the bed quickly her thoughts racing.

“You know?” she asked quietly as she took a half step back towards the door.

“Of course I know. Sarge told me you were married the moment I asked for your name. But I just can’t resist you. You’re beautiful and smart and I need to have you,” he said absently as he began to unbutton his crisp white shirt revealing hard muscle underneath.

Lenore gulped then straightening her back she met his eyes as she said. “I can’t do this. I love my husband for all his faults. I took a vow. And no matter how much crap we go through. I want us to work,”

“Excuse me? Are you telling me no?” anger flashed in his dark eyes quickly replaced by something else. “Come on Lenore. That man is trash everyone knows he’s a whoremonger,” he said quietly.

“Whore or not he’s my husband. I’m sorry I led you on. Goodbye,” she said as she made her way into the foyer. She slipped her dress back on and made her way home. He didn’t chase her.

As Lenore made her way into the door she yawned. Her feet hurt. All she wanted to do was sleep. She almost didn’t notice Bubby standing in the corner his eyes rimmed with red and a bottle of beer in his hands. How long had he been standing there?

“Christ, you almost gave me a heart attack! Make some noise or something,” she said as she tossed her shoes into an empty corner. He didn’t answer her. She raised an eyebrow. “What’s wrong?”

Bubby took a long swig from his beer and he stared at her coldly, breath ragged as he said. “How long have you been whorin around? Don’t lie,”

Lenore froze and studied him quietly. “Would it matter to you if I said two years, five days, or just for one night?” she asked softly.

“The hell is that supposed to mean! Did you sleep with him?” he asked, starting to shout as he slung accusations at her.

“Does it really matter when you have a baby on the way with some cheap hooker?” she asked calmly. Lenore started to walk towards their bedroom and called over her shoulder “By the way, your dinners in the fridge,”

“Don’t you walk away from me Lenore,”

Lenore stopped dead. She turned slowly after a minute letting out a deep breath. “You have some nerve. You know that?” she said as she took a step towards him then thought better of it. “I sacrificed everything for you. I slave away at two jobs trying to provide for us. I cook, I clean, and I pay the bills. And for what!? For you to go fuck everything on the streets with a pulse?”

“Lenn-” Lenore cut him off with a death glare before he could finish speaking.

“And now I find out after you swore to me you’d stopped running these streets. Now I find out some other woman is having our child,” she screamed. “How am I supposed to feel? What am I supposed to think?” she asked, covering her face with her hands.

“Lenore…”

Lenny took another deep breath as her shoulder slumped and she said, “Don’t ‘Lenore’ me. You can’t love me if this is how you treat me. I went out tonight with every intention of getting blackout drunk and screwing the first guy that looked at me,” Lenore bit her lip and she looked at him with red-rimmed eyes.  “But I couldn’t. I just couldn’t do it. Why?” she asked, dragging her eyes away from him. She pulled her finger through her hair, wincing as a few strands tugged away.

“Babe…”

“Shut up Bubby. Just shut up and listen. I couldn’t do it because I’ve been in love with you since I first laid eyes on you,” Lenore said in a rush. “You were the cute dark-skinned boy that used to always deliver the paper just a little bit earlier. It was nice we could sneak a few moments together,” she took a deep breath as she continued. “I loved you for it. I still love you. But we can’t keep playing this cat and mouse game. If you wanna be with me then be with me. If not, there’s the door,”

Bubby stared at her for a moment. He slipped his hands back and forth into his pockets. He cleared his throat as he walked over to her and planted a soft kiss on her lips. As they broke apart Lenore barely heard his whispered, “Forgive me…” She tasted salt as their tears mingled and he walked away.

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