Home > All Your Perfects(4)

All Your Perfects(4)
Author: Colleen Hoover

Funny how that same quietness makes me uneasy now.

I don’t even try to hide the wooden box. It’s too late; he’s staring straight at it. I look away from him, down at the box in my hands. It’s been in the attic, untouched, rarely even thought of. I found it today while I was looking for my wedding dress. I just wanted to see if the dress still fit. It did, but I looked different in it than I did seven years ago.

I looked lonelier.

Graham walks a few steps into the bedroom. I can see the stifled fear in his expression as he looks from the wooden box to me, waiting for me to give him an answer as to why I’m holding it. Why it’s in the bedroom. Why I thought to even pull it out of the attic.

I don’t know why. But holding this box is certainly a conscious decision, so I can’t respond with something innocent like “I don’t know.”

He steps closer and the crisp smell of beer drifts from him. He’s never been much of a drinker, unless it’s Thursday, when he goes to dinner with his coworkers. I actually like the smell of him on Thursday nights. I’m sure if he drank every day I’d grow to despise the smell, especially if he couldn’t control the drinking. It would become a point of contention between us. But Graham is always in control. He has a routine and he sticks to it. I find this aspect of his personality to be one of his sexiest traits. I used to look forward to his return on Thursday nights. Sometimes I would dress up for him and wait for him right here on the bed, anticipating the sweet flavor of his mouth.

It says something that I forgot to look forward to it tonight.

“Quinn?”

I can hear all his fears, silently smashed between each letter of my name. He walks toward me and I focus on his eyes the whole time. They’re uncertain and concerned and it makes me wonder when he started looking at me this way. He used to look at me with amusement and awe. Now his eyes just flood me with pity.

I’m sick of being looked at this way, of not knowing how to answer his questions. I’m no longer on the same wavelength as my husband. I don’t know how to communicate with him anymore. Sometimes when I open my mouth, it feels like the wind blows all my words straight back down my throat.

I miss the days when I needed to tell him everything or I would burst. And I miss the days when he would feel like time cheated us during the hours we had to sleep. Some mornings I would wake up and catch him staring at me. He would smile and whisper, “What did I miss while you were sleeping?” I would roll onto my side and tell him all about my dreams and sometimes he would laugh so hard, he would have tears in his eyes. He would analyze the good ones and downplay the bad ones. He always had a way of making me feel like my dreams were better than anyone else’s.

He no longer asks what he misses while I sleep. I don’t know if it’s because he no longer wonders or if it’s because I no longer dream anything worth sharing.

I don’t realize I’m still spinning my wedding ring until Graham reaches down and stills it with his finger. He gently threads our fingers together and carefully pulls my hand away from the wooden box. I wonder if his intention is to react like I’m holding an explosive or if that’s truly how he feels right now.

He tilts my face upward and he bends forward, pressing a kiss to my forehead.

I close my eyes and subtly pull away, making it appear as though he caught me while I was already mid-movement. His lips brush across my forehead as I push off the bed, forcing him to release me as I watch him take a humbling step back.

I call it the divorce dance. Partner one goes in for the kiss, partner two isn’t receptive, partner one pretends he didn’t notice. We’ve been dancing this same dance for a while now.

I clear my throat, my hands gripping the box as I walk it to the bookshelf. “I found it in the attic,” I say. I bend down and slide the box between two books on the bottom shelf.

Graham built me this bookshelf as a gift for our first wedding anniversary. I was so impressed that he built it from scratch with his bare hands. I remember he got a splinter in the palm of his hand while moving it into the bedroom for me. I sucked it out of his palm as a thank-you. Then I pushed him against the bookshelf, knelt down in front of him, and thanked him some more.

That was back when touching each other still held hope. Now his touch is just another reminder of all the things I’ll never be for him. I hear him walking across the room toward me so I stand up and grip the bookshelf.

“Why did you bring it down from the attic?” he asks.

I don’t face him, because I don’t know how to answer him. He’s so close to me now; his breath slides through my hair and brushes the back of my neck when he sighs. His hand tops mine and he grips the bookshelf with me, squeezing. He brings his lips down against my shoulder in a quiet kiss.

I’m bothered by the intensity of my desire for him. I want to turn and fill his mouth with my tongue. I miss the taste of him, the smell of him, the sound of him. I miss when he would be on top of me, so consumed by me that it felt like he might tear through my chest just so he could be face-to-face with my heart while we made love. It’s strange how I can miss a person who is still here. It’s strange that I can miss making love to a person I still have sex with.

No matter how much I mourn the marriage we used to have, I am partly—if not wholly—responsible for the marriage it’s turned into. I close my eyes, disappointed in myself. I’ve perfected the art of avoidance. I’m so graceful in my evasion of him; sometimes I’m not sure if he even notices. I pretend to fall asleep before he even makes it to bed at night. I pretend I don’t hear him when my name drips from his lips in the dark. I pretend to be busy when he walks toward me, I pretend to be sick when I feel fine, I pretend to accidentally lock the door when I’m in the shower.

I pretend to be happy when I’m breathing.

It’s becoming more difficult to pretend I enjoy his touch. I don’t enjoy it—I only need it. There’s a difference. It makes me wonder if he pretends just as much as I do. Does he want me as much as he professes to? Does he wish I wouldn’t pull away? Is he thankful I do?

He wraps an arm around me and his fingers splay out against my stomach. A stomach that still easily fits into my wedding dress. A stomach unmarred by pregnancy.

I have that, at least. A stomach most mothers would envy.

“Do you ever . . .” His voice is low and sweet and completely terrified to ask me whatever he’s about to ask me. “Do you ever think about opening it?”

Graham never asks questions he doesn’t need answers to. I’ve always liked that about him. He doesn’t fill voids with unnecessary talk. He either has something to say or he doesn’t. He either wants to know the answer to something or he doesn’t. He would never ask me if I ever think about opening the box if he didn’t need to know the answer.

Right now, this is my least favorite thing about him. I don’t want this question because I don’t know how to give him his answer.

Instead of risking the wind blowing my words back down my throat, I simply shrug. After years of being experts of avoidance, he finally stops the divorce dance long enough to ask a serious question. The one question I’ve been waiting for him to ask me for a while now. And what do I do?

I shrug.

The moments that follow my shrug are probably why it’s taken him so long to ask the question in the first place. It’s the moment I feel his heart come to a halt, the moment he presses his lips into my hair and sighs a breath he’ll never get back, the moment he realizes he has both arms wrapped around me but he still isn’t holding me. He hasn’t been able to hold me for a while now. It’s hard to hold on to someone who has long since slipped away.

I don’t reciprocate. He releases me. I exhale. He leaves the bedroom.

We resume the dance.

Chapter Three

* * *

Then

The sky turned upside down.

Just like my life.

An hour ago, I was engaged to the man I’ve been in love with for four years. Now I’m not. I turn the windshield wipers on and watch out the window as people run for cover. Some of them run inside Ethan’s apartment building, including Sasha.

The rain came out of nowhere. No sprinkles to indicate what was coming. The sky just tipped over like a bucket of water and huge drops are falling hard against my window.

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