Marital Duplicity; chapter eight, part one

Chapter Eight

“Morning, Darla. How’re you doing?” I wave at my coworker as I enter the office. I’m in a good mood for no apparent reason, but I’m not going to question it. I’ve had enough days filled with pain, sadness, and grief, so I’ll take what I can get.

“Girl. I so do not want to be here this morning. I had a late night, if you know what I mean.” Darla laughs heartily, her eyes sparkling.

“That new man of yours must be quite something to wear you out.” One thing Darla and I share in common is our high libido. We’ve often commiserated over our inability to find a partner who can keep up.

“He can’t get enough of me,” Darla says, blushing bright red. She’s wearing an attractive sapphire blue pantsuit, and this is the happiest I’ve ever seen her. She clears her throat and adds, “What about your new boyfriend?”

“He’s not my boyfriend,” I say, restraining a sigh. “It’s more complicated than that.”

“You’ve said the sex is great,” Darla notes, eyeing me up and down.

“It is. I’m just not sure I want more.” I power up my computer and wait for it to start.

“Let me guess. He’s making noises about taking it to the next level.” Darla nods knowingly, and it’s another thing we have in common. We both like to be single and living on our own, though I have a hunch this might change for Darla. Her last boyfriend dumped her because she turned him down when he proposed. Even though they weren’t living together, and even though she repeatedly told him she didn’t want any kind of commitment, he proposed. In public. In a restaurant, involving the staff. That didn’t go over well Darla, and she never saw him again after that.

“I’m spending the night tonight.”

“All night?”

“Yes. Me and my cats. We’ll see how it goes.”

“You’ll be moving in together before you know it.”

“Bite your tongue!” I say in mock horror. “You’re making me break out in hives.” We laugh uproariously before focusing on our work. I’m relieved that things are uneventful and that I don’t have to be constantly looking over my shoulder. I’m very productive, and Cara nods at me approvingly as she passes by me. I feel like I’m back in the groove.      

“Hey, Onyx and Jet. It’s good to see you!” I smile at my cats as they weave through my legs. “We’re going on an adventure tonight. What do you think of that?” I go into the kitchen and feed them their Temptations. They gobble them down before prancing around me. I ruffle their fur and go upstairs to take a quick shower. I’m not ashamed of what I do, but I don’t like having the stench on me once I’m done for the day. I scrub myself thoroughly before exiting the shower. Onyx and Jet pause in their own bathing to stare at me before they return to licking each other’s assholes. I go to my bedroom to pick out something fetching to wear. Yes, it’s going to be on the floor in a few hours, but I still want to look good in the meantime. I pull out an emerald green dress that stops just short of my knees and shows off my tits to their best advantage. I pull up my hair in a messy updo and fasten it with a sterling silver barrette. I don sterling silver hoops, a smear of lip gloss, and consider myself done. I pack an overnight bag with clothes for tomorrow before trooping downstairs. Now, for the task of getting my cats into their carrier. Jet won’t be a problem, but Onyx absolutely hates being cooped up. I go into the kitchen and grab the bag of Greenies. I sprinkle several in the carrier and Jet streaks in. Onyx scampers after him so she can get her fair share. Jet is very food-driven, and it’s the one time he doesn’t always put Onyx before himself. I slam the door behind them and lock it, then I put several more Greenies in the carrier. I pack a small bag of their toys and treats, then head to the car.

Once Onyx and Jet realize they’ve been fooled, they let up a unified howl that rattles my bones. I crank up the radio to drown them out, but they simply ratchet up their protest. I don’t want to break my eardrums, so I begrudgingly put up with their caterwauling. When we reach Rembrandt’s house, I turn off the car, grab the carrier and the bags, and ring Rembrandt’s doorbell. He answers in a flash and ushers me in. Ginger is right behind him, and her eyes are wide as she stares at the carrier in my hand. In unison, Onyx and Jet point their ears backwards and start hissing. Ginger replies in kind, and it appears that it’s about to get ugly up in here.

“Ginger, no.” Rembrandt picks Ginger up and disappears down the hallway. I follow at a more sedate pace into the living room. After making sure Ginger isn’t anywhere nearby, I let Onyx and Jet out of their carrier. They start sniffing around the room, searching every nook and cranny. “Don’t they look cozy?” Rembrandt says as he appears in the doorway.

“Where’s Ginger?” I ask, feeling guilty. “I don’t want her to be banished in her own house.”

“She’s in the bedroom with her favorite catnip mouse and a hunk of salmon. She’ll be fine.”

Once Onyx and Jet are done exploring, they bolt out of the room. I follow them while Rembrandt goes into the kitchen. I hope dinner will be ready soon because I’m starved, but I want to see what mischief my two cats are up to. They race upstairs and head straight for the bedroom. They start meowing as they approach, but it’s not a hostile sound. I hear a high, sweet meow in return from behind the bedroom door. It’s Ginger, and she sounds like she’s singing. Onyx and Jet respond in kind, and I think it’s OK to open the door. I’m not positive, though, so I go downstairs to get the carrier and treats. When I go back upstairs, Onyx and Jet are sitting in front of the door and pawing at it. I see orange paws poking at the bottom off the door, and I have to laugh at how ridiculous the three of them are. I put the carrier down, and I put a few Greenies in it. Both Onyx and Jet rush in, and I shut the door behind them, but don’t lock it. Then, I open the bedroom door, and Ginger bounces out. She heads straight for the carrier and presses her nose against the bars. Jet noses her back while Onyx trills in the background. I decide it’s safe to let them intermingle, and I open the carrier door. I stand at the ready in case the fur starts flying, but after they all sniff each other’s butts, they run off together. I follow them to make sure they’re not going to kill each other, but everything seems fine. Once I’m done with that, I go to the kitchen where Rembrandt is standing over a hot stove.

“The kits are getting along just fine,” I say with a laugh, kissing Rembrandt on the cheek. “Something smells good.” I glance down at the pan, but it’s not a stir fry.

“Coconut curry,” Rembrandt says, laughing ruefully. “I decided it was in my best interest not to cook Chinese for you.”

“I didn’t want to say anything, but you made a good choice.” I pat Rembrandt on the arm before grabbing the plates on the counter. I set the table, then go to hunt down the cats. They’re in the living room, curled up in a ball on the couch. I smile at them before tiptoeing out.

“Soup’s on!” Rembrandt brings in a big bowl of curry and places it in the middle of the table. Next, he brings in a bowl of rice, some chopsticks, and a carafe of water. We dig in, and I’m floored by how delicious it is. I hadn’t taken him seriously when he said he wanted to start a restaurant, but maybe he should.

“Rembrandt, this is fantastic. You are a terrific chef.” I point my chopsticks at Rembrandt, who flushes in pleasure.

“Thank you. I really enjoy it. It’s relaxing.” Rembrandt finishes up his bowl of curry before dishing us up some more. “I still can’t get the right perspective when I shoot. I’m seriously considering the restaurant option.”

“I know I wasn’t very supportive when you first brought it up, but your cooking is changing my mind.” I dole myself a little more curry, though I’m completely stuffed.

“It’s a wild dream, but if I can’t keep taking photographs, I have to do something.” Rembrandt’s eye is serious, and I see the fear in it.

“I could be your hostess!” I say enthusiastically. “I’m pretty good with people.” I’m joking, but only half. The idea is appealing to me because I’m tired of my day job, but a restaurant isn’t something you jump into without thinking about it.

“It’s still my backup plan, but I’m really worried about my eyesight.” Rembrandt sighs before going back into the kitchen. He returns a few minutes later with sticky rice and green tea. I eagerly partake In both before pushing away from the table. Three minutes later, the cats come running in and jump on the table. They sniff the dishes eagerly, so Rembrandt quickly puts a plate over the bowl of curry. Miffed, they turn their attention to the sticky rice. Onyx and Ginger eschew the treat, but Jet gobbles it down as fast as I can before I whisk my plate away before covering it as well. He mews in distress, but I stand firm. Dairy is not good for cats, no matter how much they like it. Come to think of it, you could say the same about me. Wait. Sticky rice is made with coconut milk. Still. I’d rather err on the side of caution when it comes to my cats.

“You’ve slaked one of my appetites. Now, it’s time for the other.” I stand up and hold my hand out to Rembrandt.

“I’m at your service.” Rembrandt grabs my hand and stands up. We ignore the dishes and race up to the bedroom, shutting the door behind us. No matter my doubts about us outside the bedroom, I’m ecstatic with our sex life. He’s generous, giving, and always willing to help me get mine, several times, before he gets his. It’s a pleasant way to spend the rest of the night.

 

Afterwards, Rembrandt falls asleep with a satisfied grin on his face. I get up to let in the cats, and they all bound onto the bed. Ginger parks herself on Rembrandt’s stomach while Onyx curls around his head. Jet splays out in the middle of the bed, and I have to snicker at the ridiculous picture they make. I tiptoe out of the room and go downstairs. I grab my cigarettes from my purse, a mug from the kitchen, and slip outside. There’s a chill in the air, and I rub my arms briskly before lighting my cigarette. I wish I could be in a better mood, but I just can’t. I’m glad Onyx and Jet are getting along with Ginger, but that’s no reason to stay with someone, is it? What the hell is wrong with me? Rembrandt is a good-looking, virile, sexy, caring man who’s gainfully employed. He was hurt because of me, and he might lose his employment for the same reason. The sex is terrific, and we get along like gangbusters. In other words, there’s no reason for me not to be in love with him. Yet, I’m not. I don’t know if I ever will be. I’m sure my nasty breakup a month and a half ago has something to do with it, but it’s also the recent trauma of losing my best friend. I don’t trust anyone to be in my life forever, so it’s hard for me to give of myself wholeheartedly.

I don’t want to have ‘talks’ with Rembrandt over and over again. I need to decide whether or not I want to be with him and commit one way or the other. If I do want to be with him, I have to decide what that means. I sigh. Sometimes, I think my decision to be single is more out of laziness than anything else. A relationship is hard work, and I’m not sure I want to dedicate energy to it. Goddamn it. I really do only want a fuck buddy. It’s just my luck that I get a sensitive guy who wants more than just sex. I take a deep drag off my cigarette, hoping it’ll clear my head. It doesn’t, so I take another drag. I hear the door open behind me.

“You left. Again.” There is an unspoken accusation in Rembrandt’s voice, and it seems as if we’re going to have another talk.

“Rembrandt, listen.” I turn to face Rembrandt, and I try to keep my voice even. I don’t want to fight with him, but I really need him to understand my point of view. “Sex energizes me. It makes me want to get up and do things. I don’t need sleep after sex, and I don’t want to just lie in bed watching you sleep. Now, I’m staying the night. That’s my concession. This has to be yours.” I stare at Rembrandt, and he’s the first one to metaphorically blink.

“I understand. I don’t like it, but I’ll try to understand.” Rembrandt pulls me close to him and hugs me tightly. “I’m just glad you’re sharing my bed at all.” I hug him back, and I feel my shoulders relax. I’m overthinking things and borrowing trouble. Rembrandt is a straight-up kind of guy. If he says it’s ok, it’s ok. I have to trust him that much, or there’s no point in us trying to be together. “I’m going back to bed. Coming?” Rembrandt raises his eyebrow. I’m suddenly sleepy, so I nod. We go back to bed, and the three cats are curled up right in the middle of it. We mold ourselves around them, and Rembrandt falls asleep immediately. I pet the cats rhythmically until I finally fall asleep myself.

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