The house is empty. Of it’s living residents, anyway. Violet is off to school, Ben is in Boston, and Vivian has just left for the grocery store. The natural tendency of his thoughts is to stray toward Vivian; he runs his hand along the marble of the kitchen counter and thinks of the menial task ahead of her.
Chad used to loathe grocery shopping; it was always so tedious to browse coupons, compare prices, and he was simply awful at selecting fruits and vegetables that were the correct amount of ripeness. And yet, now he’d give almost anything to go back to that existence. To menial tasks, to grocery shopping, bill-paying, even income taxes, even if it just meant another taste at life.
His fingers came to a rest at the base of a vase filled with flowers. Calla lilies. He had watched Ben give them to Vivian, an apology for his sudden departure to Boston, but Chad saw right through his gesture. Once a cheater, always a cheater. He wished Vivian hadn’t forgiven him, that she saw him for the liar that he was…
Chad leaned in and smelled the flowers and stepped back suddenly, unable to stop the rush of memories that began to flood his consciousness. Of course he knew why Vivian had forgiven Ben. He too, knew what love felt like…
…It was a warm day in May, seven days after they had moved into the house. Chad had finished unpacking all of the essentials, because honestly, living out of cardboard boxes was a nightmare, and had moved onto the more decorative aspects. He was in the living room, debating whether the cerulean table runner complimented the colors of the house or clashed with them, when he heard the familiar click of a key turning in the lock. Unconsciously, Chad’s heart started to beat faster. It was silly, to feel such a school-boy rush of excitement, he scolded himself, after he and Patrick had been together nearly three years. Everything shouldn’t feel so new and exciting anymore.
Justification came quickly to mind: but things were new and different. They had just bought a house together and had begun talking dates for a wedding and possibly adopting a baby not long after. Chad nearly clasped his hands together in delight; he had always dreamed of marriage, a family…
Patrick stepped in the front door, calling out. “Chad? Where are you?”
“In here!” he called out, resuming his focus on the table. “Honey, what do you think of this runner? Does it go….I can’t decide.”
“I think it looks fine,” came an answer from behind him and Chad turned around. Patrick stood with a paper bag of produce in one hand and a bouquet of irises in the other.
At Chad’s surprised look, Patrick answered, “I found a farmer’s market along my jogging route,” with a grin. He thrust out the flowers toward his boyfriend’s chest. “These are for you.”
Chad couldn’t help the wide smile that spread over his face at the gesture. “My favorite flower? What’s the occasion?”
“Do I need an occasion to do something nice for the man I love?” Patrick feigned a wounded expression.
Beaming, Chad set the flowers down gently on the dining room table and wrapped his arms around Patrick’s neck. “No, it’s just…unexpected.” He planted a gentle kiss upon his boyfriend’s lips. “You’re so sweet.”
Setting the bag of fruits and vegetables on the ground, Patrick leaned in again, smirking. This time, the kiss was rougher, more insistent, and Patrick nipped eagerly at Chad’s bottom lip. Chad’s hands clutched the back of Patrick’s shirt tightly as he pressed his body in closer to the other man. Patrick’s left hand slide quickly down Chad’s back and grasped his ass eagerly.
Leering, Patrick pulled back to purr, “We haven’t christened this room yet, have we?”
They made love quickly and desperately on the floor and the afterglow didn’t last long; Patrick jumped up quickly to take a shower and Chad had to make sure he hadn’t gotten come on the carpet. (He did not want to explain that to his dry cleaners.)
But for a moment, they simply laid there, their bodies pressed together, the spring sunshine streaming in through the windows and the scent of irises faint in the air. Though it didn’t last long, Chad remembers that moment. Lying there, with Patrick, Chad began to realize how much the other man really meant to him. Sure, they had been using the word “love” for years, and Chad knew that Patrick was the one he wanted to spend the rest of his life with, but in that moment, the depth of his feelings truly became clear.
He knew then, that he wouldn’t be able to bear losing Patrick. That the rest of his life had faded away, and nothing really mattered in comparison to the man who’s arms were wrapped around him. Chad held back a shudder. It scared him: the idea of being that dependent on another person. To have his happiness so deeply entwined with another being that he had no power over. To feel a love so deep and beyond his control.
It began to fall apart after that. Very slowly at first; the arguments were more frequent, the silences were longer. It wasn’t even noticeable for months. Then at first it was only small signs; Chad would catch Patrick’s eyes lingering too long on another man. His visits to the gym kept taking longer and longer.
And he should have gotten mad. But Chad never did, never truly. All he could focus on was winning Patrick back. He was so convinced that Patrick couldn’t be cheating, that they were made for each other, if Patrick could only just see it….
Chad plucked a lily from the vase. He and Vivian weren’t so different after all. He turned the flower over in his hand slowly. If he wasn’t so different from Vivian… It also meant that she was not so different from him as well. He could see how unhappy she was in the house and he wondered if she as well would be soon working as hard as he did to leave it.
The flower was delicate and fragile. He crushed it in his hand and tossed the broken bud upon the counter. She could try, but he doubted that Vivian’s story would end any happier than his own.