"How dare you speak to me in that manner?" Natalie Jameson clenched her fists. She couldn't remember the last time she'd been so furious, while at the same time full of anguish and regret.
"No, Natalie. How dare you?" Her husband's normally handsome face reddened, the veins in his forehead growing bigger the angrier he became. "You started this. It's your fault."
Natalie stomped past her living room sofa, pausing long enough to pick up a decorative pillow. She squeezed the small, blue square and slammed it down on the couch again. "So you've said. Repeatedly. I've got it, Alex. All our problems are my fault. Read you loud and clear."
"I never said everything was your fault. Just this one thing. This one very huge issue." He ran a hand through his closely cropped, brown hair.
"You're making it huge, that's for sure."
Alex blinked in apparent disbelief. "You saw our daughter when she stormed out of here tonight! Gigi was damn near hysterical. She's got an hour's drive ahead of her. Frankly, I'm concerned that she makes it home safely."
Natalie glanced over her shoulder as she headed into the kitchen. "Great, pin that on me, too, while you're at it. Now I'll worry until she has time to get home and we can phone her."
Alex stayed on her heels. "I doubt she's going to talk to either one of us tonight."
"She might." Natalie dredged some optimism from deep inside. Gigi had been upset. Even though Natalie had the best intentions, nothing about their conversation had gone the way she'd hoped or planned. Natalie's stomach churned with uneasiness.
"Now you're delusional. We'll be lucky if she talks to either of us again this month."
Natalie filled the kettle and placed it on the stove. "In case anyone wonders where Geege gets her flair for drama…"
"I'm not being dramatic," Alex insisted. "Realistic is more like it. And I think I've figured out your motive for stirring this pot."
"My motive?" Natalie raised her voice again. "I told you my motive. Gigi is having some medical issues. Her doctor referred her to a specialist, and before she even sees him, she has to fill out a really long family medical history. I wanted her to have accurate information."
"You honestly think it's better for her to put 'unknown' than to possibly list inaccurate information? Because that's what it is, you know, a great big stinking 'U' for unknown."
Natalie's heart sank. "I never thought about it like that."
"Exactly. You didn't think, Nat."
"Why should I?" she snapped. "You're thinking about it enough for both of us. You're overthinking it to death. You always do this, Alex. Give me a break!"
"Don't turn this around on me. I told you I figured it out. You're bored with the kids out of the house for the first time ever. You've lost your purpose. I think you stirred all this up so you'd feel needed again. So Gigi would need you."
Natalie coughed, choking back amazement at Alex's assessment. He was so totally off base, she wondered if her husband really knew her anymore. "How dare you?" She fumed.
"Here we go again. Round and round in circles. This conversation is going nowhere. I, on the other hand, am out of here." He grabbed his coat and yanked his keys from the hook on the wall.
"Where are you going?" Her voice sounded shrill to her own ears. Natalie knew she needed to reel herself in, but couldn't quite handle that just then. "Don't you walk out on me!"
Alex steeled his blue-eyed gaze at her and scowled. He tugged the door open with a jerk, and slammed it on his way out.
"Alex!" She stared after him but he didn't return. She heard the garage door go up, and the sound of his car backing out. The overhead door lowered again. Alex was gone.
Two hours later, he still hadn't returned.
Natalie sighed. The eyes seemed to follow her as she moved around the house. The ghost didn't move, it simply peered out from the dark hallway, but it had an eerie glow-in-the-dark quality that made her uneasy. Natalie chided herself for being jittery about a cardboard Halloween decoration. She pulled her sweater tighter around her waist, and hurried from the hallway.
The house is too quiet. That's my problem. In the twenty years she'd lived there, the place had never seemed as quiet as it did now.
Is Alex right? Am I bored with my 'new' life? The question nagged at her as she made her way to the kitchen, where the teapot had just begun to whistle for the third time that night. She poured steaming water into her well-used 'World's Greatest Mother' mug and added a fresh tea bag. She scooted onto the bench in the breakfast nook, then leaned back against the cushions and allowed herself to think about what was really bothering her.
It wasn't just the quiet. The stillness of the house was preferable to the yelling and crying that had taken place there just two hours ago. Alex almost never got angry. A calm and rational man, he usually thought about his words before he spoke. Natalie liked to tease that he was the stereotypical accountant—organized, predictable and virtually unshakeable. He'd proven her wrong tonight. He could indeed be shaken, and it wasn't a pretty sight.
Despite her teasing, his predictability and calm demeanor had always provided a steadying influence on her. He was her rock, her strength. An extremely good-looking man, now a mature version of the incredibly handsome boy she'd met in college. The first thing she'd noticed about him had been his eyes—piercing, bright blue irises that could see through her, as if to her very soul. Add to that his intelligence and common sense way of seeing things, and Natalie had the man of her dreams. He was, quite simply, the love of her life.
Natalie remembered seeing those eyes grow dark with anger only one other time in their lives before tonight. Serious anger, not the 'Who-launched-the-ball-through-the-window?' type of stuff. Alex handled those things with a grain of salt. He was a good father, with an extraordinary amount of patience. Not tonight. Tonight he'd been angry, his eyes, normally bright, had grown dark, full of anguish and resentment. She hated knowing she'd caused that.
The ironic thing was, when Alex had gotten so angry before, a long, long time ago, it was for the same reason that he was angry now. Natalie sighed and sipped her tea. The more things change, the more they stay the same.
Secrets and Lies, a novel by Jamie Hill
Published by Books We Love