Happy Valentine’s Day! Don’t forget to leave me a comment to enter to win one of three proof copies I’m giving away! In the meantime, here’s an excerpt! (Warning: Adult language. Just once—or twice—but still.)
Cam watched her sister leave knowing she had a fight on her hands and it was her fault. She glanced around at the dirty dishes still on the table and knew she should begin loading them into the dishwasher, but she had something to do first and she needed her strength to do it. Cam glanced at the clock on her cell phone. Six o’clock. Stan would be done with work, probably at the bar having a drink with some of the boys. She bit her lip and decided it was time. She needed to let him know she wasn’t home and wouldn’t be coming back.
He answered on the second ring, laughter in his voice and the sound of a jukebox in the background. “Hey, baby, where are you? It’s payday and we’re celebrating. Come on down.”
“I’m not there.” She wondered what it was about him that made her so tongue-tied, even now. Nearly a year after they’d met and begun dating, the sound of his voice could melt her knees, short out her brain and make it almost impossible to speak a complete sentence.
He laughed. “I know you’re not here, babe. I’m trying to fix that. C’mon down, I want you.”
I want you. The words echoed in her heart. “No, you don’t get it, Stan. I’m not there and I’m not coming back. I’m here now and I don’t want to see you again.” She closed her eyes with the effort of saying the last words. How could she sound so heartless and indecipherable at the same time?
After a moment of listening to the jukebox play, in which she pictured him sitting at a table with a beer in front of him, his chair tilted back and his long legs splayed in front of him, he finally spoke. “Hold on a sec.”
She heard voices and a door slamming and then silence. She knew he was standing in the middle of the dirt and gravel parking lot of the little dive bar he loved in Brunswick, Georgia. She knew he was holding his cell phone against his ear, searching for a way to reply to her. “Cam, what’s going on?”
“I can’t do this anymore. I can’t keep pretending I can be your little wife.”
“Did I ask you to be my wife?”
“You know what I mean. I’m sick of the whole thing. I had to get away.”
“Where are you?”
“I’m at my sister’s in North Carolina.”
After a moment’s silence, he burst out laughing. “You don’t want to be my wife, but you run away to suburban hell? Are you serious? I’ve heard you talk about your sister and her husband and how uptight they are. Cam, are you feeling all right?”
“Cut it out.”
“No, seriously, check and see if you have a fever. I’m really worried about you, babe.”
“Cut…it…out! I’m serious. I’m not going to stay here permanently. Just ‘til I figure out what to do next.”
“I’ll fucking tell you what to do next. Come home. Come home now. I don’t want to live without you, and I’m pretty sure you don’t mean any of these things you’re saying. Come home and tell me what’s really wrong.”
If only she could. But it would ruin everything and she’d just end up back here without him, anyway. At least this way she could do it on her own terms.
“Cam?” His voice was stern. “Come home.”
“I’m sorry.” She closed her eyes again. She hadn’t meant to say that. She hadn’t meant to apologize, as if she had anything to really be sorry for, even if she did. “I can’t.”
She hung up and thought about him standing alone in the parking lot. He’d cuss, he might throw the phone and break it, and then he’d go inside and get drunk. Stinking drunk. Maybe he’d sleep with that little barmaid that’d been flirting with him for a while. Cam tried not to care.