As promised, on the last Saturday of every month, I’m posting a chapter from The Fine Line here on and my website. The February contest is over and the March promo is coming up on Facebook, so make sure you friend me, http://www.facebook.com/tracee.ford.75.
Matt sat at his desk looking over the latest application he’d received. He requested the board hire an assistant for him. He couldn’t keep working the long hours. It cut into his life with Robin. He started feeling the distance between them and could see her detaching herself.
The interviews he’d been conducting yielded a promising employee: Audrey Mitchell, a beautiful young woman with long black hair and an olive complexion. Attractive and voluptuous, Matt couldn’t ignore how gorgeous she was.
After being hired and after only a few weeks, Audrey proved to be a hard worker. She quickly cleaned up the filing system and caught onto other tasks well. Finally, relief lay in sight for Matt.
At the house, weeks passed again with no activity. The holidays came and went as well as did Olivia’s birthday. Despite hiring Audrey, however, Matt’s hours continued to be longer than he liked. A domino effect ensued with Robin working longer hours. Instead of leaving work at 6 in the evening, she stayed sometimes until 8:00 p.m. The influx of cases, which was odd for the time of year, kept her busy providing guidance to the staff. More cases meant more assessments, too.
Robin had finally gained a significant amount of respect from the employees. There were some, however, that had quit, deciding to look for work elsewhere. This didn’t bother her though. One of the many goals she had set when she took the job was to form a united team. In fact, she had been very busy preparing for an upcoming staff in-service geared at building morale and co-worker relationships, which added to work she needed to get done after hours.
Fridays still allowed Robin to take time for herself, but she missed Matt terribly. So, she decided to surprise him for lunch. She put on a pair of jeans with her sneakers and a royal blue hooded sweatshirt.
She walked into the hospital, greeting all of the familiar people as she passed. She stepped onto the elevator and then walked to Matt’s office. When she pushed open the large glass double doors, she saw an unfamiliar person sitting behind a large desk.
“Can I help you?” Audrey asked.
Shock gripped her as she realized Matt hadn’t said anything about hiring a goddess to be his assistant. The insecurity settled squarely on her shoulders as she began doubting Matt’s excuses for staying late at the office.
“Is Matt here?” she asked.
“He isn’t seeing anyone right now,” Audrey sneered.
Audrey’s expression became obvious. She knew exactly who Robin was and she wasn’t going to make it easy for her to see Matt. “Is this urgent?”
“Oh it’s not. I’ll just wait in his office,” Robin replied as she walked toward the large office door.
“You can’t go in there. You’ll have to wait out here.”
Before she could say another word, Matt opened the door. “She doesn’t have to wait out here. This is my wife.”
“Oh my God,” Audrey said as she got up from the desk. “I’m so sorry.”
Robin saw right through her. She wasn’t sorry at all. Still, she smiled. “It’s alright.”
“It’s so nice to finally meet you,” she said holding out her hand. “Matt hasn’t really said much about you. I wasn’t really sure what to expect.”
Anger and disappointment swelled inside of Robin.
Quickly, Matt ushered Robin into his office and shut the door.
“An assistant,” she said plainly as she sat the basket of Matt’s food on the desk.
“I needed one. I can’t do this alone.”
“You didn’t tell me you hired a Victoria’s Secret model,” she continued snidely.
“Oh come on.” He paused. His mouth hung open in disbelief. “You’re jealous. I don’t think I’ve ever seen you jealous.”
“I am allowed to be a little insecure when my husband is staying too long at work and now that I know you’re working with that” she said as she gestured toward the reception area, “I’m allowed to feel a little uneasy.”
Matt got up and smiled as he walked to the empty chair beside her. He turned her toward him. “You are the only one for me. Do you understand?”
She nodded half-heartedly.
The long hours of Matt being gone continued even after that day. Robin missed him so much. She also felt like he wasn’t taking her seriously about the paranormal events. She felt as if she had been left on the front lines to fight the battle alone.
Little by little, the doubt and insecurity poisoned Robin’s thoughts. More often than not, she wondered if Audrey and Matt were having an affair. At other times she thought maybe he just avoided being at the house because of the surreal events. Whatever the reasons, her frustrations grew. The emptiness consumed her, weakening the foundation of their relationship. Communication between them deteriorated. Time began slipping away and steadily the negativity in Robin’s heart grew into resentment. In fact, she began shutting herself down. To her dismay, meditation didn’t work. Nothing worked.
The times when Matt could be home, her bitterness often caused her to isolate herself to the study where she worked unremittingly on cases and assessments. Feelings related to her past crept in. The horribly familiar independence cluttered her thoughts and actions. Robin felt that Matt’s new position with the hospital took center stage and his vows as a husband took a backseat.
Conversations about having children stopped. Robin continued to avoid pregnancy remaining on her birth control patch. Because of the hurt feelings and distance, intimacy was lost.
Finally, the activity in the hospital offices died down as Matt sat at his large office desk going over some charts, his eyes growing weak and his body weary. He looked out the window at the darkening sky wishing he were already home. He, too, knew that the time away from Robin made their relationship weaker. Still, his dedication and the late nights he worked seemed to be a necessary sacrifice. He would be walking on eggshells for the first year of job.
Audrey walked into his office with coffee and put it on his desk. She sat down in the chair across from him and smiled. “Is there anything I can help with?” she asked sweetly batting her eyelashes.
“Oh no, it’s just charts I need to sign off on,” he replied.
“You look so tired,” she added.
Putting the black ballpoint pen on the desk, he leaned back in his chair and sighed.
“You know,” she continued, “I can help you with that stuff anytime.”
“The charts are something I have to do. You should know, though, you have done great with everything else.”
“If you don’t mind my saying, your wife looked just as tired as you. Actually, she looked even more tired.”
“She is tired. We’ve been going through a lot lately,” he said as he rested his head on the back of the chair. “She is also a supervisor, so she has a lot of work-related demands,” he added.
“I know you don’t talk about her much, so I thought…” She hesitated.
“Well, I thought there might be trouble in paradise,” she continued as she shrugged.
He shook his head. “No. We just have a lot going on right now and there doesn’t seem to be enough of either of us to go around.”
“Well, I’m always here if you need someone to talk to or to just vent to.”
Her smile seemed heartfelt to him, so he smiled back. “Thanks Audrey. You do enough.”
The weather grew icier as January passed into February. Robin’s heart grew colder still. Her loneliness and regret reached a peak. She sat lifelessly in the parlor gazing out the window, her heart heavy and sorrow-filled. The tears fell slowly at first, but as her thoughts raced, she cried harder. She felt hopeless realizing her marriage hung in the balance. The thought of divorce had never crossed her mind until now.
Eventually, her weeping could be heard throughout the old house. She didn’t realize just how loud her sobs were until she heard her name behind her.
“Robin,” Matt started.
She jumped, startled by his unexpected and now unfamiliar presence.
“Baby, tell me what’s wrong,” he continued.
“I’m fine,” she answered quickly.
Matt sighed. “Please. Don’t shut me out.”
“I’ve tried not to but you’ve given me no choice Matt.” Her eyes continued gazing out the window.
“What are you talking about?” he asked with confusion in his voice.
“Nothing. It’s nothing,” she concluded as she got up and walked passed him.
“Talk to me Robin,” he persisted.
“When, Matt? When should I talk to you? I never see you!” she shouted. She startled herself. She had never raised her voice to Matt. The unfamiliar territory didn’t hold her back though. “You’re never here! And when you are here, you’re working!”
“You usually are, too! Do you think I haven’t noticed that we don’t talk anymore!” he shouted.
“Really, I don’t know what you have or haven’t noticed because you never even see me! You spend more time with your assistant than you do your wife,” she screeched.
“We never spend any time together anymore! I feel completely alone in this monstrous house; this house that was for ‘us.’”
“Robin, this job is the brass ring for me. It’s important and I want to make sure I do it right. I’m on probation for a year. The board can fire me at any time if they think I’m slacking or messing things up. Audrey has been really helpful in getting the office organized and helping me with the clerical red tape.”
“I bet she has been helpful,” she insinuated. “And you act like you’re the only one with job responsibilities! Me becoming a supervisor was a step up for me, but did you see me devoting every waking minute to it? I balance it.” She continued yelling. “And what about us? Shouldn’t you be doing things right for us, too?”
“I made a promise to take care of you. This job will set us up for the rest of our lives. Together, with the money we bring in every paycheck, we will have this house paid off sooner.”
“What happens when there’s no ‘us’? We are falling apart Matt. Don’t you see that?”
He shook his head as Robin walked into the dining room. She felt trapped. Unremittingly, he followed her as she sat down at the long table. With her head in her hands, she sobbed.
“What do you want me to do?” he bellowed.
Looking up at him, she shrugged, “I don’t know.” She paused. “You know that you don’t even look at me the same? It’s like you see right through me.”
“I do see you,” he said more calmly as he sat on the bench across from her.
“No you don’t!” She shook her head with conviction. “I don’t know what the answer is. I just know that we are falling apart and I’m losing you. I don’t want to get a divorce.”
“A divorce? What the hell are you talking about?”
“We are falling apart Matthew,” she shouted, slamming her fist on the table. “Are you blind?”
“No, Robin, I’m not!” he screamed back at her. “And we are not falling apart!”
“We are!” she exclaimed. “Matt, do you know how long it’s been since we’ve even had sex? Since you’ve touched me? Do you even need it anymore?” Again she paused and quieted a little. “Or are you getting it from somewhere else?”
He was infuriated by the implication. “You think I’m sleeping with her! You think I’m having sex with Audrey! How the hell could you think that?”
“How could I not? You didn’t even tell me about her Matt! You kept her a secret and obviously you had nothing to say about me to her. I can see exactly what’s going on. She’s beautiful and vibrant! Why wouldn’t you be attracted to her? God knows you’re not attracted to me anymore.”
He dropped his head. He was silent for moments. “What is happening to us, baby? We never fight. This isn’t us at all,” he said sadly.
“Someone is going to have to compromise. And if you’re cheating on me, just say it. I can handle it Matt. I will walk away and you can make your choice.”
“I’m not cheating on you! I would never do something like that! From the first day I saw you I have been wrapped up in you and you alone! I’m not interested in anyone else. I don’t want to be. You are my wife, damn it! I would go to the ends of the earth for you! Hell, I’d even walk through fire if you asked me to. I’ve been walking through the flames since we’ve been living in this damn house!”
“Instead of going to the ends of the earth, come home every once and a while.” Her sobs intensified. “Because I miss you, Matt.” Tears rapidly fell down her cheeks.
“My heart feels like it’s ripping in half. I can’t stand seeing you cry.” He got up and walked to her. Gently, he turned her chair toward him as he knelt in front of her. His fingers brushed away her tears as he smiled up at her. “I miss you, too Robin. I don’t want to lose you. And I sure as hell don’t want a divorce. God, what are you thinking?”
He embraced her. “Nothing is worth losing you. Not my job. Not this house. Nothing in this entire world could take your place. Nothing.”
Her arms fell around his neck as she cried uncontrollably. Quickly, she found herself deeply in love with him again realizing she never fell out of love to begin with.
The argument changed things. Matt worked from 7:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Because he wasn’t an hourly employee, he had options; options he didn’t even realize were available to him. Matt also cut Audrey’s hours. He set her up to work 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. He felt uncomfortable being alone with her after the argument with Robin. So, he hired Stella Bowling, a wonderful woman in her 40’s. She covered the office from noon until 5 p.m. Although Audrey didn’t say anything, Matt could see the change angered her. He told Robin about the changes promising to always keep her informed.
It didn’t escape Matt’s attention that Audrey wore more revealing clothing when her hours were altered; shorter skirts, lower cut blouses. He knew she tried desperately to grab his attention. There were times he felt uncomfortable with the lack of personal space she put between them. Leaning down to go over spreadsheets and paperwork topped the list.
A snowy February Saturday morning meant rest and relaxation. Matt laid awake watching Robin sleep peacefully beside him. He loved watching her sleep. Touching her hair gently, he just wanted to be close to her. He rose up on his elbow and kissed her cheek then her neck. He saw the smile across her lips.
He whispered in her ear, “Good morning.”
She smiled, stretched, and turned onto her back, looking up at him. Slowly, he unbuttoned her pajama top and opened it up never losing eye contact with her. Brushing the tips of his fingers across her breasts, he smiled seductively.
“I love you,” she whispered.
He leaned down, kissed her forehead, and smiled. “I love you, too.”
“When you touch me, it’s like electricity just runs through my entire body. I don’t think I have ever felt more complete. I love the way you make love to me. I never believed it was possible for souls to melt into one another, but you… you changed all of that for me. It’s intense. You’re intense. Every touch. Every kiss. Every movement. It just makes me want you that much more.”
After several times making love, he held her close as she rested her head on his chest.
“I love listening to the sound of your heart,” she said sweetly.
He smiled. The serenity couldn’t be put into words.
Abruptly, the study door slammed repeatedly. Astounded, Matt grabbed his sweatpants and put them on as Robin wrapped up in her robe. They walked out into the hallway and saw nothing, but heard the frames that hung on the study wall shaking wildly. Matt walked into the study, but when he entered the noises stopped. The temperature in the room felt significantly colder than in the hallway and the master bedroom.
Behind them in the hallway, floorboards creaked as if someone were walking toward them. Turning around, Matt pushed Robin behind him in an effort to protect her. They continued back into the hallway.
“Get out of our house!” Matt yelled. “How much longer can we do this?” he whispered. “We’re not leaving. This is our home!” he shouted again.
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