The door was open, and his bags were waiting beside it. “Sweetie,” he said, “I’m sorry. I hate traveling this much. This is the last trip this quarter, and I’ll be home in a week.” He tried to kiss her, but she stiffened, and pulled away.
“Go,” she said, in a flat tone. “Just go.” Something flew past her face–a wasp–and she reached a hand up to brush the feeling aside.
They had been fighting ever since he arrived home from his most recent trip. Hong Kong, she thought, or Tokyo. She really couldn’t be bothered to remember any more, where he was at any given moment, and she was also tired of fighting, tired of trying to make him hear her. All weekend, when they could have been in bed making up for all the days he had been gone, she had been in a mood, sometimes crying, sometimes screaming.
“It’s my job,” he threw back at her. “You knew I’d have to travel when I accepted the promotion.”
The wasp followed a scent trail to the kitchen window, and alighted on the screen, but neither noticed.
“I thought I’d get to go with you. Working from home was supposed to give me that option.”
“None of the wives get to go,” he said. “It just isn’t done.”
“I’m not ‘one of the wives.’ I’m your wife. You wouldn’t even have this job if I hadn’t written your resume.”
He walked to the kitchen window and slammed it shut, trapping the wasp against the screen. It buzzed angrily and tried unsuccessfully to escape. The buzzing didn’t cease, but neither of them noticed. “Is there someone else?” he asked softly.
“No,” she said, and then. “I just don’t like the person I’ve become. I don’t like that I’m always at home, waiting for you to come back. I don’t like that you have an entire life separate from mine, and when I ask how work was, all you say is ‘busy’. What kind of an answer is that?”
“Work is busy,” he said. “It’s always busy. I don’t even take lunch most days. And when I go away, all I do is work. There’s no time for sight-seeing. You’d be bored.”
“I could sight-see without you, you know.” She opened her mouth to say more, then closed it, and stared at him mutely. He was silent as well, staring back.
The blast of the horn from the taxi waiting at the curb jolted them out of their silence, and masked the soft thud of the tiring wasp falling to the bottom of the casement as it struggled to break free. Wordlessly, he picked up his bags and left.
She watched the taxi drive away then sank down onto a chair. She hated these chairs. They were too large for her short frame, and the table was too tall, and it made her feel small and helpless. He hadn’t closed the door behind him; she hadn’t bothered to do it after he was gone.
Her cell phone was just in front of her. She should pick it up. Apologize for being a basket case. Apologize for not kissing him goodbye or wishing him a safe trip. But she didn’t. She made coffee, instead, and fetched a magazine from the living room.
Behind her back, the wasp kept up a relentless exploration of every corner of its prison, looking for a way out.
When it grew too dark to read she looked up, and realized she’d never turned a light on. Her coffee, poured and forgotten, had grown cold. She didn’t remember a single thing she’d read in the magazine.
Her cell phone rang at three in the morning, and she groggily answered it. “Hello?”
“Hi, Sweetie. My plane was late, and I just got in.” A pause. “I wasn’t going to wake you, but…”
“No–” she interrupted, sleep leaving her, “–I’m glad you did. I’m sorry I yelled at you.”
“I know.” He took a beat, and she could hear the faint static that represented the thousands of miles between them. “I’m sorry I had to go.”
“I hate when you’re away.” She sounded pathetic, even to herself.
“I know. I hate being away.” His voice was soft.
“Forgive me for being so bitchy?”
“Always. I love you.”
“I love you too.”
She hung up the phone, and went back to sleep, her arms holding his pillow close to her body.
Downstairs, trapped between the screen and glass of the kitchen window, the wasp died.
Image Credit: victorass88 / 123RF Stock Photo
About the author: Melissa A. Bartell
Melissa is a writer, voice actor, podcaster, itinerant musician, voracious reader, and collector of hats and rescue dogs. She is the author of The Bathtub Mermaid: Tales from the Holiday Tub. You can learn more about her on her blog, or connect with her on on Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter.