In the Dark

George, the older gentleman in the Armani overcoat, cashmere muffler draped around his collar, rests his head in his hand. He’s on the late-night train to Chicago, days earlier than expected, after spending a week in business deals with hard-nosed competitors. There was a time when coldblooded decisions thrilled, invigorated; now they cause physical pain. He takes two aspirin from his pocket and swallows them without water. I should do something new, he thinks. Impossible! His shoulders sag with thoughts of adult children who take, take, take and a second wife, born after his youngest child, who wants, wants, wants. Ashley is unaware of his early arrival. He didn’t call her to meet him at the station, realizing once there she’d profess her love and kiss him with what he’s come to sense is false passion. He presses fingers to forehead, wondering how foolish he was for convincing himself she could ever love him.

Closer to the exit sits Tony, a young man dressed in a faux-leather jacket he bought on sale. He, too, rests his head in his hand. Thoughts still on her, he relives their first encounter at that new club on Seventh Avenue. He was entranced when the vivacious lady looked his way. For three days, Ashley showed him a passion beyond all he’s experienced then sent him on his way. He sighs. Her sapphire earrings must be worth more than I’ve earned this year, he thinks. With alimony and child support, he’s left with little to impress the woman who dominates his every thought. He pulls a piece of paper from his pocket. Pain zigzags behind his eyes, but the note she wrote saying she’d call him brings a smile. Anxious to see her tonight, he’s glad she kept her promise.

Ashley waits for her lover at the station and wonders why she married George. He’s old enough to be my father! Granted, marriage to a wealthy man provides the security she craves, but his passion has waned. He seems tired, weary in fact. Mentally she justifies her trysts with Tony — the one who makes her feel she’s on fire — while the train pulls to a stop. She’s reasoned she’s too young to put her sexual appetites on hold because her husband can’t keep up. Thoughts return to the younger man, and her pulse quickens. She contemplates keeping him at her house a few days. After all, George won’t be there until next week.

As passengers begin to exit the train, Tony glances out the window and sees Ashley scanning the crowd for him. He rushes to her, takes her into his arms and kisses her with a longing like no other.

Out of breath, they turn as one and come face-to-face with George, his mouth set in a grim line.

About April Winters

April Winters’ other works can be read at The Dead Mule School of Southern Literature, Linguistic Erosion, The Short Humour Site, and Short-Story.Me.

>> April Winters's author page

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