David’s Robe

Brenda stood at the top of the familiar staircase in a very unfamiliar home and tied closed the robe that she had found in the master bathroom. The robe was thin, stretchy and an obscure moss green color. She looked at the sad thing as she put it over her naked body with a mixture of unease and nostalgia consuming her being. Years prior, when the robe was fluffy and emerald, it was her favorite thing to wear on a Saturday morning, because it smelt just like David. And it still did. But this Saturday morning, Brenda was wearing it for a much different reason: She needed something to wear down the staircase of shame to gather the pieces of her Friday night outfit. She knew that her dark grey pencil-skirt, matching fitted blazer and ruffled V-neck blouse were downstairs, somewhere. But between the passion, the lies and the margaritas, the details were a little blurry.

With each step of shame that she took down the familiar steps, she entered further into a strange deja vu that she could not pull herself out of. She pulled the faded green robe tighter across her waist and slowly crept down the stairs. With one hand, she gripped the railing much more forcefully than she needed to, and with the other she blocked her chest, as if to protect her heart from anything threatening. She remembered to skip the squeaky step, which was always such a nuisance, so she stretched her left leg over the third-to-last stair and stepped onto the second-to-last with a little more weight than the previous. Squeeeeaaak.

“Dammit,” she mouthed to herself as she hunched her shoulders, as if trying to hide from the sound. Wrong step.

“Good morning, beautiful.” David came flying around the corner from the kitchen wearing long white tube socks, plaid boxers, a stretched-out tank top and his signature thick black-framed glasses. His smile was angelic and sincere, which only made Brenda feel more shame. Years ago, that smile used to make Brenda feel warm inside—just like it did the night prior. But now that smile belonged to someone else.

“There’s some coffee brewing,” David said. “Do you still take one scoop of sugar and a splash of cream”—he lifted a brow—“darling?”

God, he’s good, she thought to herself. How did he remember that after so many years?

“Yes.” She looked down at her feet. “But you shouldn’t call me that, David.” It hurt her to say that because she wanted nothing more than to be his darling again. Though now that the margaritas were flushed from her system, she knew that she was no longer his muse, only an old love that happened to be sitting alone in their favorite bar when she returned to her hometown for a weekend.

David’s smile washed away. Now he was avoiding eye contact, too.

A few moments of silence passed before David looked at her again. He was bold enough to stare at her face, but not bold enough to look into her eyes. What she couldn’t see was that he missed her just as much as she missed him.

“Well,” he said, clearing his throat, “the coffee is just about done. We could drink it like . . .” He paused. “Old pals?” His eyes finally met hers as he gave a gentle smile, the same smile that convinced her to follow him home. Her own shameful eyes lightened and she could not help but smile back.

“I do love coffee.” She stepped down from the squeaky second step, forgetting there was one more step before the floor and she tripped, falling forward right into David’s arms.

“Easy tiger,” he teased as he held her tight. She was relieved. His hugs were always her favorite.

After a moment, she looked up at the wall behind David. A framed photograph hanging on the wall brought her back to reality. Where a picture of a young David, Brenda and their snowman Bobbie once hung, there was now a photograph of David kissing his smiling wife on the cheek in front of the Grand Canyon. Brenda had never seen his wife before, not even in a photograph. When news got out that David was seeing someone new, some of Brenda’s old friends had found out who she was and assured her that David’s new woman wasn’t nearly as pretty as Brenda was. And she believed it for all of these years until the taller, thinner, and blonder blue-eyed beauty stared right into Brenda’s round face. She felt sick. Not just because her friends had all lied to her and made her believe that she had at least left her relationship with a little bit of pride intact, but because she remembered being as happy with David as his wife was in the photograph. And now she ruined it for herself and for blondie. All the guilt and shame hit Brenda right in the heart, like a tidal wave.

“What are we doing, David?”

“We are getting coffee,” he answered, confused. He had no idea that she saw the picture hanging where their picture with Bobbie used to hang.

She pushed herself from his arms. “No, this. Us. Why am I here? You’re married. We tried this before, we tried us. It didn’t work.” She backed further away from him.

“I wanted it to work.” David crept closer, hoping to catch her eyes with his. “You left me.”

“I was scared, David.” A single tear rushed down her cheek. “We were so young. I couldn’t marry you yet.”

“You could have said ‘not now’ instead of running away.” His voice rose; he was beginning to shout. “You could have said anything instead of running away. I had no idea where you went! You were gone for months before I met Mallory. I was hurt too. I wanted answers, I wanted you. But you weren’t here. You weren’t anywhere.” He gently grabbed her chin with his left hand and raised her face to force eye contact. “Do you think that I don’t think about you every waking day? Do you think that I don’t wish you were my wife instead of her? I love you Brenda, that has never changed. And it never will.”

Brenda wiped her eyes and turned around to gather her things, the same way she had seven years before—the last time that David told her how much he loved her.