Not Very Likely

It’s Not Very Likely

Sentari Minor

Richard kisses him on his rose-red lips, darkened by the Merlot they shared just an hour before and Elis kisses him back then turns so that their bodies fit together like two spoons. They continue to lay naked next to one another; bodies intertwined with the champagne colored sateen sheets, twisted in each other. As they lull into sleep the unnerving ring of Richard’s cell phone reminds him that he can’t fall asleep there.  

     He rolls out of bed and shuffles for his white Jockey briefs; a present from Elis earlier that year. He meanders to the dresser directly across from the bed, wondering why he never sets the phone on the night-stand.

     “Ava Calling” flashes across the screen of his silver cell phone. He ignores it but it rings again, the persistence of a woman who he has called his wife for fifteen years.

     “Is she calling you?” Elis asks, putting much emphasis on the “she” as to illustrate his disdain for a woman he’s never met.

     Richard turns to Elis with his phone in his hand to show him the screen and signals for him to be quiet.

“Hey honey,” he answers in a chipper voice. “Sorry I missed your first call; things have just been so busy around here. The office is swamped.” Richard’s job as a corporate lawyer afforded him with perfect excuses for his late-night romps with Elis. “Two small soft drink companies are merging and its proving to be a legal nightmare. Is anything wrong?”

“Why do you always assume that something’s wrong when I call you late at night? It’s been like that for the past decade,” she says curiously.

“I just don’t know why you’re still up sweetie. Sorry, what did you need?”

“I just wanted to see if everything was going alright. These late nights are always so stressful for you and I hardly get to see you during the day so I guess I’m just checking up on you.”

“Thanks, but I’m fine,” he chuckles then says, “I may not look like it, but I’m twenty in heart and body.” She laughs back.

“Richard, I just worry about you sometimes, even though you say there’s nothing to worry about,” she tells him. He ignores it.

“How are the kids? I feel like I haven’t seen them in days,” Richard says. He could hear Elis sigh in the background then heard the rustling of the sheets and the pounding of a pillow, a hint that he is tired of the conversation and wants Richard to come back to bed.

“They’re doing great. Avery’s worried about her soccer game tomorrow and Broderick is brooding. He’s got that ‘sullen teenager’ bit down. But they’re good. Speaking of, can you make the game tomorrow?”

“Yeah, I’ll be there. But listen sweetie, I really have to get back to work. I’ll be in bed around three. Is that alright?” he asks, hoping to end the conversation with that.

“As always, its fine. Wake me when you get in.”

“Of course. I love you,” he tells her, kissing into the phone.

“I love you too, tell everyone who’s with you I said goodnight.”

“I will,” replies and hangs up the phone. Richard puts the phone back on the dresser and crawls back into bed with Elis.

“That was the most inane conversation I’ve ever heard,” Elis tells him. “It seems so forced. Why is that?”

“Well you’ve heard it hundreds of times before,” Richard quips back, frustrated with the lack of understanding Elis has for the situation. “I have to talk like that when I’m with you, don’t you understand?” He pauses. “I have to do what I have to do to keep both of you happy; get it?”

“I’m sorry. I’m sorry I even said anything.”

“You know, I do actually have some work to do, so I’m going to head to the office,” he told Elis, kissing him on his forehead. He puts on his slacks and tucks in his shirt; he has to look professional even late at night; keeping up appearance sis something Richard knows all too well.

“Of course, of course. Call me this week will you?” Elis asks and Richard tells him he will.

* * *

“Where’d you go?” is a common question Richard gets from his coworkers after he leaves the office for hours at a time to be with Elis.

“Don’t worry about it,” he always replies. “How’s everything going? How’s everyone doing?”

“No progress has been made at all. We’re getting nowhere fast and its worrying me. Plus everyone is stressed and I think it would be best if we all just went home” his most respected co-worker Pamela told him. “I really don’t know how we’re going to make this work, but we have to.”

“Yeah, we can’t go to bed just yet, we’ll tough it out. We need to make sure that this merger is legal, we need to make sure that we can vertically integrate and most of all, we need to make sure that everyone gets paid. I mean, that’s what it’s all about anyway.”

The team works throughout the night, researching, leaving messages and trying to tackle the task at hand. All of the stress keeps Richard’s mind off of the bigger problems in his life. For most, this job would be a one-way ticket to a heart-attack but for him, it was the most relaxing thing in his frenzied life.

* * *

He crawls into bed with Ava promptly at three; he makes sure if he tells her a certain time, then he is there. He prefers not to lie too much; lies make people suspicious and they’re how men get caught. He runs his fingers through her strawberry blonde hair and places a kiss on her tan cheek.

She’s beautiful and he appreciates that, but he realizes a decade ago that she could never fill his needs. It was at that time he also realizes that he could never leave her; she’s his wife and he knows very well the implications of that. He’s a man and realizes his responsibilities; his loyalties.

He hates lying to her but he knows that it’s necessary. It’s necessary for their marriage, for their kids, for the family, for their lifestyle.

Everything has to remain a secret and it tears him up inside.

“I’m back sweetie,” he whispers in her ear. She shrugs her shoulder and lets out a sigh. He doesn’t make another attempt to wake her. Instead, he lays there, tired but unable to fall asleep.

It’s always hard for him on the nights he has to see them both, to kiss them both, to touch them. After an hour of heavy eyes focused on late night television, he falls asleep thinking of what he thinks about every time he crawls into bed with the woman he has vowed to spend his life shortly after leaving the bed of the man he truly loves.

“How is this going to play out?” he asks himself, surprised that it’s lasted so long.

He doesn’t sleep very well that night, not with Ava and Elis on his mind. Every toss and turn of his body is another image of when it’d all come crashing down; a moment he hope doesn’t come too soon.

* * *

Richard met Elis ten years ago when he helped him take over a small advertising agency. They had a working relationship and hit it off right off the bat. Before Elis, Richard hid his homosexual tendencies, something he realized as a boy.

He knew it was in his best interests to suppress any attraction, emotions or any types of feelings he had for men. His upbringing made it easy for him to give up any hope he had for a truly fulfilling relationship.

So he suppressed, only faltering for a brief time in college. He vowed that if he wanted the life that was expected of him, he couldn’t afford to get caught up with relationships that could go nowhere; and produce nothing. He swore off men, that is, until he met Elis.

At a party celebrating their success, the two talked over a couple of drinks. Richard had grown fond of Elis and realized that maybe he had more than just professional feelings for the man who was five years his junior.

“So you’re married?” Elis asked, trying to get a read on the handsome Richard, square jawed and olive skinned.

“Yes, happily,” Richard said. “We have a wonderful son and a daughter on the way.”

They sat on a leather sofa, the only available place for privacy in the host’s brownstone. They were unnoticed among tipsy professionals with cocktail glasses in hand.

“Does she have any idea?” Elis’s question was blunt but sincere, and he turned his body towards Richard with one arm behind his head, his hand on the sofa and the other on Richard’s uncomfortable leg.

“Any idea of what?” Richard knew what, but asked the question to stall for time; time to compose an acceptable answer, and time to figure out where it was all going.

“Oh come on. Does she have any idea that you’re gay?”

“I’m not gay!” he blurted out, a lie that fumbled over his lips. His denial was feeble. Richard inched away, noticeably uncomfortable with Elis’s knowledge.

He hoped no one saw.

Richard let his shield down and said, “So maybe I have feelings for men, but I can’t be gay. I won’t allow it. And of course she doesn’t know. Why would she know?”

“A lot of times the wives know and don’t care. They’d much rather keep their lifestyle than confront their husbands,” Elis told him.

“Well I don’t think she knows. How did you know?”

“Are you kidding me? I think it’s obvious, but apparently not.”

The two conversed for hour after hour that night and decided to keep in touch even though their working relationship would be over for the most part.

The week later Elis bedded him for the first time, an experience that Richard enjoyed and continued with for the next decade.

* * *

The alarm clock blares at 7am and wakes up Richard and Ava.

Forty-five minutes later he hears, “Breakfast is ready,” as he ties a Windsor knot. She makes the usual, pancakes and eggs, turkey bacon and cranberry juice. The foursome sits at the table and talk.

“Will you be at my game tonight dad?” Avery asks, hopeful for a “yes.”

“You betcha kiddo.” He says with a smile that makes Avery grin with happiness. She loves nothing more than for her dad to be at her games.

He notices that the family looks good together; they all belong. They’re the quintessential “perfect” family and that makes it even harder for him.

He turns to his son. “How are things going Brod?”

“Things are fine dad. Nothing to be happy about, nothing to be mad about. Life is just blah.”

“You know Brod, you should cherish these moments. At around twenty-five, things start to get really complicated and you will look back on these times and pray for them. I’m telling you, the best advice your old man can give you is live for these ‘blah’ moments kiddo.”

Broderick shrugs.

“I’ll see you guys at the game, I have to get to the office.” He picks up his briefcase and walks away.

* * *

He tried walking away before, from Elis that is. He knew that he was getting in over his head at the beginning, when the lies started when he started neglecting his wife; started needing her kisses less. He wrote Elis a poem once called “Goodbye.” He wrote it and even placed it in a striped envelope; one of Ava’s from her Kate Spade stationary set. But he became nervous and opened up the poem to read it one last time. He read it aloud to himself as he walked towards Elis’s place:

It’s difficult with you.

 

I’ve written it all down,

Practiced in the mirror,

Rehearsed it with others.

But I freeze,

Paralyzed with the cold

Of a northern wind,

In the middle of December

Whenever it comes to you.

 

I have to say goodbye eventually,

Just teach me how.

    

As the last word spilled from his lips he realized he wasn’t ready to end it. He knew he had to end it but he was falling in love. That was Richard’s only attempt at stopping it. He didn’t trash the poem; he just stashed it in a small shoe-box he kept away from Ava. From then on, he lived the double life and accepted it.

* * *

     “Are you fucking blind?” An angry parent yells from the stands, a minute into the game. Richard and his family are sitting on the front row of the bleachers, waiting for Avery to get some playing time. As Avery sprints on to the field, Richard spots Elis and drops the box of bland box of popcorn provided by the local Key Club on to the grass. He races towards Elis.

     “What the hell are you doing here? You can’t be here.” Richard screamed as calmly as he could as to keep nosy parents from getting curious.

     “I want to meet her.”

     Avery notices her father not paying attention to the game and stops on the field to look. Ava signals for her to focus on the game and Avery runs with the pack. But Ava watches from the bleachers as her husband and Elis talks. She and Richard’s eyes meet briefly and she sits back down, applauding the play Avery has just made.

     “Why after all this time? Why now?”

     “I feel like you owe it to me. I want to know who she is, how she talks, how she dresses, how she acts…”

     Richard stops him in the middle, “That she is my wife. My fucking wife.” He looks around to make sure no one can see them, that no one can here. “You can’t be here and I can’t believe you’d even show up. Don’t fuck with my family.”

     This was their first big fight and as Richard was screaming, he realized this fact. He calms down.

     “You just can’t do things like this. Why don’t you understand that?”
     But Elis turns away and leaves in tears.

For the first time in their decade long relationship, they don’t talk for a month.

* * *

     The phone rings and its Elis. Richard is elated to hear from him since every call to Elis has been ignored.

     “I’ve missed you,” Richard tells him before Elis even says “hello.”

     “I’ve missed you too, how are things?”

     “Good now that we’re talking again.”

     The two talk for two hours. Small talk at first but then Elis throws a curve in the conversation. “You know…soon you’re going to have to make a choice,” Elis tells him.

     “Why is that? Why can’t we just keep this going?”

     “Because I’m leaving the city, moving west to Los Angeles. We’re expanding the agency and I’m going to head the L.A. division.”

     “Congrats,” he says sorrowful, pushing excitement through his teeth.

     “Thanks. I leave in a week and I have two tickets, one way. I want you to come with me.”

     “I can’t leave, you know I can’t. Don’t be like this please!”   “Fine. This is going to be the last time we talk then. Have a good life,” Elis says, holding back tears unsuccessfully.

     “Don’t be like that Elis, please don’t do this.”

     “You’ve made your choice and I’m going to respect that. Now, I just have to get you out of my life.”

     Elis hangs up the phone and Richard falls to his knees.

* * *

     He climbs into bed with Ava that night, eyes still red and face swollen from the tears. She can tell something is wrong.

     “What’s going on with you Richard, you haven’t been yourself lately?”

     “Baby, I have something to tell you. It’s a secret I’ve kept from you for a decade and I just can’t do it anymore.”

“What the hell are you talking about?” she asks, voice gruff from having just woken up.

 “I can’t lie anymore, I can’t live two lives, and I can’t keep doing this.” He places his head in his hands, like a shamed child, and starts crying.

     She rubs his back and kisses him on his forehead and starts crying herself. She whispers, “I’ve known for quite some time” into his ear, reaches to turn off the light and adjusts her body under the covers to fall asleep to the sound of his heightened sobbing.

* * *

     A month passes and he decides to visit Elis.

     “I’m going to visit him.” Richard tells Ava, timid and worried about her reaction.

     “Fine,” she tells him, “but don’t expect me to like it. I keep up appearances for the kids Richard, not for you and me. If you think that I’m so fucking accepting because I love you, then you’re really fucking delusional. I’ve kept it all inside for ten goddamn years and this is how I feel. If you want to fuck men, then that’s your business. I found the poem you wrote, then did some snooping. I cried nonstop for three days, but you didn’t notice probably because you were off fucking him. But after that, I was over it. I liked what we had and wasn’t going to give it all up because you can’t keep your dick in your pants. So I just dealt with it.” Her voice begins to crack as tears form, “For ten gooddamn years Richard, I knew the reason you closed your eyes when you fucked me. I knew why you didn’t come home until three on some nights and I knew why I never felt loved. But like I said, I’m over it. I’ve been over it. We’ll rethink all of this when the kids are old enough, but until then, you go fuck your little whore and I’ll stay here and be the doting wife I need to be. Don’t feel guilty because I’m not hurt, but don’t think for a second that I like what you’re doing.”

     She walks away and Richard packs his bags without hesitation.

* * *

     “I’ve missed you so much,” Elis says as he reaches in for a hug and a kiss on the lips that both have waited far too long for. The kiss is long and passionate, the union of lips that belong together. “What made you change your mind about coming?”

     “She knows.”

     “When’d you tell her?”

     “I didn’t, she’s known all along; the whole damn time. She hates me and I’m in love with you, but somehow, it’s worked.”

     Richard follows Elis into his apartment and the two make love for the first time in months. It’s fervent and fulfilling.

     Elis rests his chin on Richard’s shoulder and asks, “So are you going to leave her?”

     Richard strokes his hair and says, “No.”

     “So what about us?” Elis asks.

     “That’s for you to decide; that’s why I came here.”

     “Well I thought you visiting would get you to finally make a decision, for you to finally make a choice…and apparently you have.”

     “But not the one you wanted…” Richard says, knowing that it’s the wrong but only plausible choice with his ideal life at stake. He can think only of his children.

     “No, of course it’s not the one I wanted, but I finally understand.” Elis tells him.

     “So, will I see you after this? Can we still talk? Can we still…be?”

     Elis rolls over towards Richard and kisses him on the rose-red lips he loves and says, “Not very likely,” and they fall asleep to the sound of tense silence.

 


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