Marital Duplicity; chapter thirteen, part two

      Chapter Thirteen; Part Two

After lunch, I do the dishes while Rembrandt goes up to take a shower. I don’t mind him still being in the house, much to my surprise. I would have thought I’d be itching to have him leave by this time, but I’m not. It’s only having him in my bed that I’m not keen on, but the rest of it? I’m not unpleased to have him around. Ginger, Onyx, and Jet are chirping at me as I go to the living room. I chirp back at them. I throw a catnip mouse to each of them, and I watch in amusement as they go nuts over their prey. Onyx starts zooming after ingesting her nip, whereas Jet lies on his back and waves his massive paws in the air. Ginger’s eyes are dilated as she chases after Onyx. I laugh as Ginger pounces on Onyx, and Onyx whaps Ginger across the nose. They scrap with their claws retracted, so I let them have at it. Jet is rotating his paws in the air, and I start giggling helplessly at how ridiculous he looks. He has a goofy grin on his face as he waves ‘em like he just don’t care. Five minutes later, Rembrandt comes down the stairs, shirtless. I eye his chest with appreciation as he towels his hair.

“Look at the crazy cats!” I say, pointing at Onyx and Ginger, who are still scrapping. Jet is still waving his paws in the air, and Rembrandt laughs with me as he sits next to me on the couch. We both check out phones as we cuddle, but there’s not much going on. I’m still ignoring politics, and I don’t really care about football because I’m a Vikings fan, albeit a casual one. No matter how good they are in the beginning, they find a way to fuck it up in the end. Onyx and Ginger race around us in circles while Jet gives up his ‘dancing’ and falls asleep. He always crashes hard after a nip high, and he sleeps for a very long time. Onyx and Ginger tire themselves out after a half hour, and they collapse in a heap next to Jet and promptly fall asleep.

“This is nice,” Rembrandt says, nuzzling my cheek and placing his hand on my thigh. He squeezes it affectionately, but there’s no lust in it. I rub his knee as I nuzzle him back.

“It is,” I say, a hint of surprise in my voice. I’m not much of a domesticated person, but there’s something to be said about having someone to cuddle with.

“We could do this more often if we moved in together,” Rembrandt says casually. I stiffen at the suggestion, but I don’t want to argue.

“I’m not ready for that,” I say with a gentle smile. I don’t know if I’ll ever be ready for it, but I don’t tell him that.

“OK. I just want to put it out there that I wouldn’t mind.” Rembrandt squeezes my knee, but doesn’t press the issue.

“Duly noted,” I say, kissing him on the cheek. I’m relieved that he’s not being a dick about it, and he has the right to state his needs. I have the right to say that I don’t want to live together, too. It’s not a huge problem right now, but I know it will be soon. He’ll start pressing for us to spend more time together, and he won’t be satisfied with stayovers every few days. I can maybe put up with having him spend the night two to three times a week, but not much more than that. I sigh a small sigh, but Rembrandt hears me.

“I’m not pushing—honestly,” Rembrandt says, kissing me on the forehead.

“OK,” I say, patting him on the thigh. He’s not one for dissembling, so I take him at face value. I’m trying not to borrow trouble, but I know how this song and dance goes. He’ll be satisfied for a while, but then he’ll want to take it to the next level. I’m the one who’ll have to give in every time, even if it’s incremental. If his goal is for us to move in together, than he’ll be unsatisfied with anything less. I don’t want to move in together, and each concession I make will make me increasingly unhappy. I’m OK with Rembrandt still being here, but I know in a few hours, I’ll want him to go home.

We just cuddle until I drift off to sleep. I have a weird dream about splitting atoms, and when I wake up, I’m prone, on top of Rembrandt. I’m on my stomach, and he’s on his back. His hard-on is pressing against my belly, and I’m tempted to put it to good use. There are three cats sitting on my back, and I don’t want to disturb them. I’m between a rock and a hard-on. I giggle at my own inanity before snuggling closer to Rembrandt. I fall asleep again, and it’s dreamless this time. When I wake up, Rembrandt is no longer on the couch with me. I’m curled up in a ball with Onyx on my hip and Jet near my head. Ginger and Rembrandt are nowhere to be found. I check my website, and my post on sex is still receiving responses. There is one yahoo who insists that men always want sex more than women, but I let my commentariat take care of him. The older I get, the less desire I have to argue with pigheaded people. I’m interested in dialogue, not in parallel monologues. It’s one reason I don’t talk about issues such as abortion because I don’t have any compromise to give on such issues. I think what a woman does with her body is her choice and always up to her. No exceptions. So, there’s no reason for me to talk about it with anti-choicers because we have no common ground.

MNborn writes, “I’m puzzled by how weirded out people are by sex. It’s natural, and animals do it without even thinking about it. We humans, though, we twist it out of shape until we can’t even recognize it any longer. We put all this moral value on it when it’s merely a physical need. Yes, it can bring you closer to another person, and, yes, it can increase your emotional connection with someone else, but it’s not a magic elixir in and of itself. Neither is love, but that’s another rant for another day.” FuckCancer adds, “Sex education is a joke. You’d think in this day and age, we’d be able to give our children information that is accurate and up-to-date. Unfortunately, we’ve regressed, thanks in part to the Christian wingnuts who control our textbooks and what we teach our children. I’ve been a teacher for twenty years, and kids today are less informed about so many things than when I first started teaching.” GodsMaidservant admonishes, “Sex is a beautiful and sacred thing. I am uncomfortable with people who want to reduce it to merely a biological urge. God created sex as a way for a married couple to procreate and for them to grow closer to each other. There is something lost when people treat it as if it’s just an itch to scratch.” As to be expected, she receives a lot of pushback, but there are also a few comments of support. WeddedToJesus backs her up, saying, “I was wild when I was in my youth. I had sex with several boys, and none of it made me feel good about myself. In fact, I hated myself and my loose behavior. I didn’t value myself, so I allowed others to devalue me as well. Now, I’m happily married to a wonderful man, and the sex is joyful and uplifting. It’s only when I invited God into my heart that I was able to truly love another person.” GodIsMight throws in his two cents. “I’ve been a devout Christian all my life, but I’m a man made of flesh and blood. When my wife and I hit our fifth anniversary, I started feeling restless. My wife was the only woman I’d had sex with, and I wondered what I was missing. There was a comely young woman at work who made it abundantly clear she was willing and able to have sex with me. I resisted for several months, but in a moment of weakness on my thirty-second birthday, I gave in. I met her at a seedy motel, and despite how sordid I felt, I went through with it. It was incredible, but I was overwhelmed with guilt. I never did it again, but I had to confess to my wife because it was eating me up inside.”

I should write a new post, but I’m stuck for a topic. All the things I’ve learned about Jasmine and Bob in the past few days has put a damper on my feelings of love. I can’t write about them in particular, but maybe I should do a post on my disillusion in general. How lies and secrets are the norm in even good relationships. Yes, I can do something with that.

If you’re to believe popular culture, love means never having to say you’re sorry. I think this is a dangerous idea because it gives license to abuse. Think about it. If everything is forgivable in love, then that means you can hit your partner without remorse, cheat on them, and, taken to the extreme, murder them. It’s why I also don’t believe in unconditional love—that leads to codependency. Everyone has personal boundaries which they cannot tolerate being crossed. I think it’s healthy and important to enforce those boundaries for your own mental health.

Nobody respects a doormat, though they might enjoy having one to walk on. It’s trite to say that no one will respect you if you don’t respect yourself, but it’s true. If you always put yourself last, so will everyone else. On the contrary, if you think highly of yourself, chances are, others will as well. That’s not always a positive thing, but it’s human nature.

I’ve learned this week that nobody knows what’s going on in someone’s relationship except for the people involved, and, sometimes, not even then. Even the most-idyllic appearing relationships have dark spaces within them. Something about familiarity truly breeds contempt, and it’s no wonder that most murders are committed by loved ones.

I have much to say on this subject, and I run long, even for me. Once I’m done, I’m curious as to where Rembrandt has gotten to. I can hear him somewhere in the house—or rather, I can hear Ginger mewing in the distance. I get up and stretch my back, and Onyx and Jet mimic my movement. They strike the classic Halloween cat pose, and I smile at their cuteness. They follow me as I make my way into the kitchen, enticing smells leading my way.

“Come kiss the chef,” Rembrandt says gaily, stirring a pot of something.

“Smells good, babe,” I say in appreciation, doing as he asked. I peek in the pot, and I see there’s a thick stew with dumplings in it. I’m guessing it’s chicken and dumpling, and Rembrandt confirms my guess.

“My mom used to make this Sunday nights, and my brothers and I always looked forward to it.” Rembrandt adds some salt, then holds the ladle out to me. I taste it, and I’m instantly transported to my happy place. The stew is rich with cream, and the chicken is perfectly seasoned. I snitch a dumpling, and it’s light and fluffy. Once again, Rembrandt has created the perfect dish, and I’m more than happy to partake in it. I check my phone and see it’s nearly six o’clock. I can’t believe I took a nap for that long. “I’m making mashed potatoes, too, because why not?” Rembrandt beams at me, and I peck him on the cheek. I can’t deny that I’m looking forward to this meal, but I’m also getting a little itchy at having him around.

“You’re the best,” I say, swallowing my irritation. “I think this restaurant thing is a good idea.”

“Me, too!” Rembrandt stirs his stew, adding more spices to it. “Although, my eye is slowly coming back. I took a half dozen photos yesterday that I really like.”

“I’m glad!” I really am because photography is Rembrandt’s passion. He enjoys cooking, but he lives for taking pictures. I’ve felt guilty ever since he had his eye gouged out because he’s not been able to get the perfect photo. Now, it seems as if he’s getting his skill back, and I couldn’t be happier.

“It’ll be ready in five minutes if you want to set the table.” Rembrandt is paying attention to his food, and Ginger is nipping at his ankles. She’s doing it out of love, however, not with any ill intention. Onyx and Jet join her in the merriment, but they’re careful not to trip up Rembrandt. I get plates, glasses, and silverware and bring them to the dining room. I set two places and pour us each a glass of water. I go back to the kitchen and grab two Diet Cokes from the fridge. I bring them and some napkins to the table as well. A few minutes later, Rembrandt brings in the pot of chicken dumplings and sets it in the middle of the table. He hurries back in the kitchen for the mashed potatoes and a loaf of crusty bread. He returns once again to grab the salad he made, plus blue cheese dressing. I take a Lactaid pill so I can eat the dairy without a problem.

“Everything looks terrific,” I say, my mouth salivating. Rembrandt ladles us each a generous portion of the stew and the mashed potatoes. I dig in with gusto, appreciating the care with which he made this simple dish. I’d rather have a basic dish that someone takes his time making than an elaborate feast that has no heart in it.

“I should have added more pepper.” Rembrandt says, reaching for the pepper shaker. He sprinkles it liberally into the pot, and I add a few shakes to my plate as well. We eat in silence as is our wont as we concentrate on the food. We put a serious dent in the pot, but there’s still plenty left as we slow down. Per usual, the cats perch on the table, and they’re rewarded with nice chunks of chicken.

“That was fantastic, Rembrandt,” I say with appreciation. “Thank you so much.” I resist the temptation to tell him that he’s hired as my personal chef because he might take me seriously.

“It’s my pleasure.” Rembrandt pops up and hurries to the kitchen again. He comes back with two generous slices of apple pie with vanilla bean ice cream and cheddar cheese. He also has two cups of coffee to go with the pie.

“You spoil me.” I’m glad I saved a smidgeon of room for dessert, but I’m already pretty full. I don’t care as I’ll always eat dessert.

“I bought the pie. I can bake, but I didn’t have time to make one from scratch.” Rembrandt gobbles his pie, and I match him bite for bite. Once we’re full to bursting, we take the detritus to the kitchen and clean up. I insist on washing the dishes because it’s the least I can do if someone cooks for me. Rembrandt puts the leftovers in Tupperware and stores it in the fridge. Then, he gives several Temptations to each of the cats, and they meow their appreciation.

“There,” I say in satisfaction once all the dishes are done.

“I should go,” Rembrandt says, hugging me from behind. “I don’t want to wear out my welcome.”

“I appreciate that,” I say, turning around and hugging him hard. “I like having you around. This was a good time. I especially like that you cooked for me. Twice.”

“Any time. Cooking is really relaxing for me.”

Rembrandt goes upstairs to grab his bag and Ginger’s carrier. At the sight of it, she scampers from the room. I chase after her, but she’s too fast for me. Rembrandt sets her carrier in the middle of the living room floor with the door wide open. He places five Temptations in the carrier, and then we wait. Onyx and Jet come by and eye the Temptations. I pick them up and shut them in the bedroom so they can’t interfere. They yowl indignantly from behind the door, and I tell them it’s only going to be for a few minutes. That doesn’t mollify them, and I leave them to their indignation to see if Rembrandt has managed to capture Ginger in her carrier. He has. She’s in the middle of it, looking very displeased. Rembrandt pushes some more Temptations into the carrier, which does little to ameliorate Ginger’s disdain. She eats them, of course, because what self-respecting cat wouldn’t? But she starts hissing once she’s done. I know she’ll be fine, but it still tugs at my heart to hear her in distress.

“I’m off,” Rembrandt says. I link my arm in his and walk him to the front door. He pauses to put on his shoes, and Ginger continues to mewl as he does.

“Wait a minute!” I race upstairs and let Onyx and Jet out of the bedroom. After they scold me, they run downstairs, and I follow them. They trot into the hallway and touch their noses to Ginger’s carrier. She touches her nose to them in return, and they say their goodbyes.

“I’ll talk to you soon,” Rembrandt says, kissing me hard on the lips.

“Mmmhmmm,” I say, kissing him back and pinching his ass at the same time. He swats my ass in return before leaving. I feel a twinge of regret upon watching him leave, but an even bigger feeling of relief.

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