Simone meets Miles on a temperate spring day among dogwood blossoms and broken glass. A roadside collision at dusk. A natural place for an EMT and sheriff’s deputy to shake hands. Simone notes the absence of a ring. “Got here as fast as we could,” she says. Her partner waves from the ambulance.
“Hey, Tom,” Miles calls. “No one’s hurt—just the usual. Tow truck should be here shortly,”
“What’s the usual?” Simone doesn’t like not getting it. Whatever it is. “And what’s with them?” She points beyond the patrol car at the middle-aged woman wearing sweats that balloon at the calves. She’s shouting at a silver-haired man in a tailored suit: Don’t you get it? It’s over. Leave me alone, you overbearing, egotistical…
“You must be new around here,” says Miles.
“Moved to the lake last month.”
“Well then, those two are the Hamilton’s. I’d introduce you, but they’re in the middle of something.”
Simone takes another look. What an unlikely couple. He’s got height, and enough bulk to suggest a gym membership. He’s leaning against the crumpled front end of his sedan, arms relaxed at his sides. She’s short, heavy and her arms move in time to her rant. They punctuate obscenities.
“Did he run into her?”
“After she slammed her brakes. See the skid marks?” Two black lines stretch across twenty feet of pavement.
“Now that’s impressive.”
“He’s been chasing after her for thirty years. Doesn’t always end in a car wreck. He’s been known to break down a door or two.”
“For what? Not that it matters—I’d of divorced his butt a long time ago,” She looks pointedly at Miles. She’s dated law-enforcement types before.
He shrugs. “Suit yourself. But she’s no angel herself. If I had a wife who went sniffing around other people’s properties, she’d be kicked off mine, and I wouldn’t come running after her, either.” Miles digs the tip of his boot into the dirt like he’s carving out a spot for his imaginary philandering wife. Beyond them, Mrs. Hamilton continues her assault: You’re weak. Always knew it. Even when I said my vows, I knew it. Figured I’d cheat. I don’t love you. Most likely never did…
Her face has become red and puffy. Miles says, “No woman’s worth that kind of headache.”
“No man’s got the right to run a woman down.”
“He’s just going after what’s his—though she’s no looker; that’s for sure.”
“And stalking’s an endearing quality?” Simone starts to laugh, but then jumps at the sudden change in pitch of Mrs. Hamilton’s tirade. “Should we do something? She sounds like a wounded animal. ”
“Nah, he never touches her like that—not his style. It’s almost over now, anyway.”
“Told you—this happens every couple’a months. Here it comes.”
“What? What’s coming?”
Miles puts a forefinger to his lips.
Simone watches as Mrs. Hamilton slaps her hands flat against her husband’s chest. Her moaning stops. She begins shaking. Why won’t you let me be? I’m begging you. I’m not worth it. I’m fat and ugly, a liar. I’ve never loved you the way I should have…
“Seriously?” Simone believes she’s now seen everything.
Mr. Hamilton strokes his wife’s unkempt hair, draws her into his arms. “Shhh,” he whispers. His cheek grazes her forehead. “It’s okay.”
“Noooo—you deserve better.”
“Shhh.” He scatters kisses at the crown of her head. Her arms fold into fetal position.
“I’m so so sorry,” she cries softly, all melodrama gone.
"I know. It's going to be okay."
The tow truck arrives and loads Mr. Hamilton’s car. The couple walks arm-in-arm to her SUV. As they drive away, Simone tries to keep sight of them, but the descended dusk shrouds their vehicle at the tree-line.
She pulls her keys from her pants pocket. “That was plain weird.”
“You’ll get used to it. Mrs. Hamilton tries, but she’ll wind up wandering before long.” Miles clears his throat. “Any chance you’d give me your number?”
“Probably not. Seems like you take his side in all this.”
“Not really. It’s not like I understand it. But there’s something kinda noble about a man like him loving or forgiving— whichever it is—a woman like her.”
“It’s obsessive. Who needs that?” Simone judges Miles’ face. Rectangular head, large and sincere green eyes, freckles. “Ask me again next time.”
As she climbs into the ambulance, she wonders briefly how it would feel to be loved that much.
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