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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 – Advanced)
Topic: Discern (08/12/10)

TITLE: Asunder
By Chely Roach
08/18/10


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I’ve heard that a smart woman marries a man that loves her more than she loves him.

Back when I met my husband, and allowed him to chase me, I could feel his adoration like the sun on sand. It radiated. And though I loved him, something told me that if it could be measured in pounds or miles or degrees, his would far outweigh, outreach, out-burn my own. Now, I can’t help but wonder if there is a finite amount of fire—shared between two hearts—that slowly suffocates after the newness fades; after the rain comes.

Because the rain is pummeling me.

I turn off the shower, and pull my towel from the curtain rod above. It smells of soap and the faint trace of bleach. I pat my face dry, but hold it there for a while, my head resting on my hands. Sigh. After a few moments, I dry myself, before wrapping the towel around my hair. Carefully, I step out onto the cool tile floor.

Not too many years ago, he’d rush to the bathroom when he heard the shower turn off; he’d take the towel and systematically—tenderly—dry me. He’d cup my face with the towel, and then move to my arms, chest, and stomach. He’d lift my foot to the bathtub’s edge, working the towel up one leg, then down the other. I felt like royalty. When he was finished, he’d drape the towel across my back, wrapping it around me as sweetly as a mother would a child, but then kissing me with the unmistakable fierceness of a lover—a kiss drunken with the promise that nothing would tear us asunder. That small gesture melted me, and made me burn equally for him.

As I pull the brush through my hair, I crack the door to let the steam escape, and I wonder what he’s doing, and if he took these twenty minutes to forsake me. I wonder if hearing the shower faucet close made him want to dry me off and envelope me, or delete his online cache. I wonder if he will reject my advances again, or if he knows that I don’t even have to look anymore to know that he has fallen back into his adultery. I wonder if he even cares that I know.

Because I have known for awhile now.

I leave my nightgown on its hook, swing the door open, not truly expecting to see him there.

But he is. Frozen, I inventory the flaws of my flesh, wishing I had a fig leaf to cower beneath.

When he notices me, he smiles. I realize I am holding my breath, and my heart is throbbing behind my breast. But for all the wrong reasons. I exhale and extinguish the bathroom lights, finding the bed from the sliver of street light that always splits our bed into imaginary hemispheres.

So I allow him to know me, though I am convinced that his knowledge only goes skin deep.

With his weight on me, my mind wanders. I stare at the outline of our wedding cross, though all I really see is shrouded pictures—moving and still—of wanton women, young and ripe. I feel unattractive in their shadow. I feel squalid for offering myself to a man who desires and gives himself to an infinite brothel of two dimensional images in an isolated room. The shaft of light grazes his face, and I notice his eyes are closed. I feel I am the only one present.

Though I try to will them back, quiet tears spill and pool in my ears.

He leans down to breath into my neck, when his cheek brushes mine. His head raises, Are you crying? Knowing my voice will betray me, I shake my head. He circles the pad of his thumb across my left cheek, and then traces my right cheek with his own, my sorrow absorbing into his flesh. Lifting to his elbows, he searches my countenance in the dim light. My eyes, a silent soliloquy. My lips, weary of words.

He buries his face in my nest of hair, and we lay as still as stones. His hand is still holding my face, deflecting my tears. I feel his chest begin to shudder in small bursts, building in intensity.

I wrap my once-reluctant arms around him, cradle him. Because he now knows that I know.

Finally, he cares that I do.

And I finally know that he cares.


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This article has been read 580 times
Member Comments
Member Date
Lillian Rhoades 08/19/10
Poignant, intriguing, an attention grabber. Great finish line. Nicely done.
Charla Diehl 08/19/10
Stirring and sad, yet this ends on a hopeful note. I found this to be tastefully written when describing the intimacies of marriage. Great job.
Loren T. Lowery08/20/10
Evocative. Enigmatic in its honesty. Modigliani in its expression.
Shann Hall-LochmannVanBennekom 08/21/10
Although there is underlying sadness and despair, the hope in the story overcame the sadness. I felt in tune with your MC. In today's world, it can be so difficult to stay together and be faithful to one another. Outstanding job on what must have been a difficult story to write.
Rachel Phelps08/22/10
This story is so full of lovely, sad imagery it makes my heart ache. Beautiful work, as always.
AnneRene' Capp 08/23/10
Beautifully written message that regardless of the transgression, we all need to know that someone we love...cares. I agree that this is tastefully done in all of its vivid tenderness.
Verna Cole Mitchell 08/23/10
What a beautifully sad way to paint discernment. Your nuances are perfect. You have a gift.
Barbara Lynn Culler08/25/10
Oh Chely... Such sadness but with a taste of hope. This piece is magnificent.
Eliza Evans 08/25/10
Simply outstanding. Whew. I think I held my breath the whole time!
Kate Oliver Webb08/25/10
Beautiful, tender, sad, totally evocative. Yes, those intimate moments were perfectly written; the less said, the more powerful in this case. I felt it also left a little room for the reader to project his/her own mood or experience onto the ending; was there, perhaps, just a tiny touch of doubt remaining? Just my thought....
Sheri Gordon08/26/10
Wow. Oh, wow. You made me feel the emotions of the MC. I was living every thought and moment with her--I felt almost intrusive.
Shann Hall-LochmannVanBennekom 08/30/10
Congratulations for placing in the top 15 of your level and in the top 30 overall.
Shann Hall-LochmannVanBennekom 08/30/10
Congratulations for placing in the top 15 of your level and in the top 30 overall.