“Whoa, tie a yellow ribbon ’round the ole oak tree, it’s been three long years… Do ya still want me?…”
She knew just who had left the message on her voicemail. He hadn’t spoken a word, but the seventies’ song said it all. It only left one question in her mind… When?
When she had picked her messages on her way out of the office, she had felt numb as soon as the first chords had reached her ear. Her heart was skipping beats, playing a solo of its own in her chest, and her breath was short.
Now home, after a little detour by the fabric store, she sat on her bed, listening to the song for the hundredth time, hoping to hear his breathing through the cellphone. It was him, it was so him, to wait this precise moment. It was him to come back, and she knew he knew she’d wait forever, keeping the fantasy of him alive…
Her fingers ran on the silky yellow fabric as her mind wandered through the last three years of her life… Or, to be more precise, the one just before that.
She remembered as if it was yesterday, that sunny day at the summer fair. She was selling homemade bakeries to gather money for the town’s primary school, and he had spent most of his afternoon coming and going, spending a few minutes at her stand, and then disappearing for a while… Only to come back swearing on what was dearest to him that he really was still hungry.
She knew him by reputation back then, and had tried her best not to let his puppy eyes win her, but they had connected right away. He had a way to guess her that she craved, and he didn’t have to say how he felt, she always read him like an open book…. But she was already married.
Not unhappily, but there was no comparison. And every now and then, when she was downtown for work, he’d surprise her, and they would sneak where nobody knew where they went.
After their first encounter at the fair, she had started bumping into him every now and then around the office. The bad boy didn’t seem all that bad, and always figured a way to make her smile before he abandoned her on the sidewalk.
A few street-corner chats later, saddened that she had to go home to an empty house, he had insisted in taking her to the restaurant, and they had spent the evening together, sharing bits and pieces of their lives. Nothing special, really. But they both seemed to feel that they had to catch up on some un-existing former friendship…. They just felt comfortable in each other’s company.
It hadn’t taken long, before she had started sneaking up to his penthouse every time her husband was gone. Looking back now, she knew it was completely foolish of herself, but it just felt right at that time. She had spent countless hours up there. He would invite her at first… Then she had started inviting herself… And not long after, there was no need for her to announce herself anymore.
All those nights… Her spouse was a kind man, but they had married more out of convenience than out of love. And he often left town to attend meetings all around the country. Like this weekend. Oh, she had always found innocent ways to entertain herself while he was away. She had never seeked for trouble, but trouble had come her way regardless.
He wasn’t the man everybody despised in town… He was just different. Not fitting the mold. Not fitting their mold. But they did fit together.
Everybody knew… No! Everybody imagined they knew what was going on. “Oh, what a shame” the old ladies probably gossiped walking down the Church’s stairs… “Such a nice girl… I wonder how her sweet husband deals with her running away with that brat”
All this time, spent behind closed doors, that’s when things had started going downhill… The gossip had spread, and people did what they do best… Turning a mouse into an elephant, and there were soon rumors, tons of them, even that she was bearing his child.
Ridiculous… He had never touched her once. Not the way they imagined it, anyway. They were fond on hand holding, but she had always kept perfectly faithful to her husband, and he had never made a move to push her to break the vows she had made. They had a pure but exhilarating bond that was way beyond sex.
But how do you explain that to the bigots?
You just can’t, and one day, she had come home to her husband, obviously waiting for her to show up again. She was bubbly as she entered the living room, but she felt a freezing chill run down the back of her neck when she realized things were different than usual… They had to have THE talk. And it had been brutal.
He hadn’t asked any question about her whereabouts. He hadn’t asked any question about her feelings…. He had just pushed a pile of papers her way on the coffee table, had loosened his tie and told her.
I give you the night to think about this…. You want to leave? I have everything ready. Just sign where my lawyer left red xs. But if you decide to stay… I want him out of our life. Your call.
He had stood up, and walked up to their bedroom, leaving her as shaken as if he had actually hit her!
She sobbed, turning and returning the yellow fabric in her hands, taking a pause in the recalling of their story… Even after three years, the pain was excruciating. Taking off her stockings slowly on the bed, she remembered how he always had the eye for little details. He would deny it, but he always caught the smallest changes in her mood. He called it “paying attention”… She called it “caring… And she missed being cared for.
That night, she had run back to the penthouse, where he had opened the door, almost before she had knocked on it. She had thrown herself in his arms, and broken into tears… She had wept for hours, and he hadn’t said a word, just holding her close, and caressing her hair delicately.
He offered me to leave…
She had finally achieved to say in a murmur… But it was more than enough, her lips lying close enough to his ear that she could have kissed it anytime. At the sound of the sudden news, she felt his embrace tighten a bit. They had never really cuddled before, and she could feel the strength of his body now.. Everything was so confusing… She felt enticed, noticing his physical reply to the possibility of having her whole.
She knew he wanted to ask her, but he just kept hugging her, rocking her a little, to calm her down… Her right hand on his chest, she brushed it slowly to get the beating of his heart in her palm. She felt sereine for a moment, she felt…
And he asked her… The question she feared the most at this very moment… “What did she want to do?”
I don’t know………………
He had held her for what seemed to be forever… She yearned for his advice, but he kept silent in the still of the night. She closed her eyes, and was about to give in to sleep, when he finally spoke.
You should go home now… Don’t sign anything just yet. Just go back for now, and join me back here tomorrow evening. I’ll figure something to turn things for the better… Alright, my dear?
She had agreed, and had picked up her things to walk back to her house… At the doorstep, he had grabbed her by the arm. Surprised, she had found herself getting spun around as he pushed her back to the wall, pressing himself against her body with an animal urge.
Before she could even ask what was happening, he had bent over her fragile silhouette and kissed her with fury…
I… –he softly said, his lips brushing lightly against her cheek- I…. I will be waiting for you…
And she had left.
Only to return the next day, knowing very well was she was to do now. She had found the penthouse’s door locked, which was unusual, but not worrying. She had her own key, and she had knocked a few times before using it to let herself in.
But he had left.
There was a short note on the kitchen table.
I can’t let you take a decision you could regret. I would have taken you with me anywhere, if I had the certainty you were ready to leave him. But I don’t. I’m gone, somewhere some friends have wanted me to join, for a long time. I never had the guts to make the move, but I do now, thanks to you…
Some people will come to move the little I have later.
I miss you already. I always will… But don’t worry about me, I’ve always been a loner. I will be just fine, alone, with you on my mind…
Always think of Tony Orlando, one of these days, you never know….
Ever since, she had kept secret the reasons of his departure. Gossip had gone its way through the little town, that he had fled with another woman. She had let people talk all they wanted. She had settled back into her “old” routine, but things had never been quite the same.
Until tonight. Listening again to the tune, she hoped he wasn’t just reminding her of the good old times. How cruel of him, would that be?
But he wasn’t the cruel kind. So she took a suitcase out of her closet, filled it only with things that she really needed, closed it, and took it to the front door. Back to her room, she opened a drawer, pulled some papers out of it, and sat back on the bed.
She knew tomorrow, she would tie the large piece of flamboyant yellow fabric to the tree in front of her suburban house. She would wait by the window, her luggage ready to go, and pray to see his pick-up truck turn the corner of the street. And her husband would find the divorce papers he had served her duly signed, the same contract that had served as an ultimatum, exactly three years ago…
She wasn’t into ultimatums anymore…
And she hummed herself to sleep, “Whoa, tie a yellow ribbon ’round the ole oak tree, it’s been three long years… Do ya still want me?…”
In response to November Notes Writing Challenge by Sarah Doughty of Heartstring Eulogies and Rosema from A Reading Writer .