Author’s Note: This is an excerpt from the short story I read for my senior capstone presentation. If you’re interested in reading more of my work, feel free to contact me.
The therapist’s office was a stuffy, wood-paneled room with beige carpet, tall windows, and mahogany furniture. There were golden curtains on the windows. The room was furnished with four chairs, a desk, a bookcase, and a potted plant. The room reminded Sheila of her gynecologist’s office, though she wasn’t sure why.
“I’ve heard of you two,” said the therapist, a blonde woman who could’ve been a model were it not for her height. “Then again, I don’t know anyone who hasn’t. I’m surprised you’re just now seeking therapy for what you both went through.”
Sheila twisted the white gold band on her left ring finger. Although Dirk had taken his ring off, she wanted to keep hers on. She felt naked without it. She’d grown accustomed to its weight. “This isn’t about the island. It’s about an affair.”
Dirk scratched his red stubble. “It’s about our whole marriage.”
“I see,” said the therapist. She scribbled something on her yellow legal pad and tapped her pen against her nose. She could be pretty, Sheila thought, if only she did something about her weight and her nose.
“A week ago I found him having sex with someone else.” Sheila pulled her hair into a ponytail. She had to keep her hands busy so she wouldn’t bite her cuticles. She’d made them bleed that morning. Her fingertips were covered with polka-dot Band-Aids. “We’ve only been back for two months. How could this have happened so quickly?”
“Did you ask him about it?” the therapist asked.
Sheila felt like smacking her. “Of course I asked him about it. He’s my husband, isn’t he? Why wouldn’t I have asked him?”
“Hey,” said Dirk, bumping Sheila’s knee with his, “do you need to get some air?”
Sheila realized that her nails were digging into her thighs. She stood and smoothed her skirt. “I’d like a drink of water.”
While she watched the therapist pour her a glass from the pitcher, Sheila thought about water. She remembered how much they’d come to value water on the island. She remembered the first few days, lying spread-eagle on the sand with the sun beating down, begging for Dirk to kill her, please, so she wouldn’t die of thirst. She remembered him asking her when. He’d wanted her to be certain when she wanted to go.
In the present, the therapist handed Sheila the glass of water. Sheila sat back down. She chugged the water without stopping and drained the entire glass. Dirk took the empty cup from her and set it on the table in front of them. Sheila wondered if he remembered the water. She wondered if he remembered how it felt to be so thirsty, so bone-dry-as-the-desert inside of his cells.
“Sheila,” said the therapist, “when did you notice that something was amiss?”
Amiss, she said, like their marriage was a painting hanging crooked on the wall. Sheila stared at the glass on the table. She’d always known that she and Dirk were destined for divorce. As high school sweethearts, their chances of growing old together were slim. Both of them had known that going into the marriage. Still, they’d decided to make it work. If Sheila closed her eyes, she could still feel the way her wedding dress hugged her. She remembered the first affair. She remembered the second. Back in the present, her stomach lurched.
“We were doing all right until I cheated,” said Dirk. There was no need for him to elaborate. The therapist had their file. She knew about the affairs. What she didn’t know, thought Sheila, was how their time on the island had almost repaired them. She didn’t know that the day they’d found water had been the first time they’d made love in months. She had no idea that Sheila was pregnant again. She didn’t know that, and she most likely never would.
“Sheila,” said Dirk, “are you sure you’re all right?”
That concludes the excerpt. What did you think?