The Floor of my Soul By D.I. Jolly
Jessica sat in the taxi on her way home the morning after her best friend’s hen party, biting her nails. What was she going to do? She loved her boyfriend Mathew, but she’d just cheated on him with a dancer. Her mind spun with the questions, do I tell him? Do I try and forget? Why did I do it?
They hadn’t been having problems exactly, but things had settled down a lot from when they first met. They had their routine and it was nice, but not exciting. They hadn’t had sex in a couple months, not since her birthday. But did she want to start seeing other people? She pulled out the pack of cigarettes she’d drunkenly bought at the bar out of her bag, then heard the taxi drivers say from the front:
“Miss, you can’t smoke in this cab.”
“Oh no, it’s ok, I’m umm… just getting ready we’re almost there.”
Not long later they pulled up outside her apartment; she paid him and got out to have her cigarette. She was supposed to have quit a few weeks before but had given herself a night off at the party. Apparently from everything she normally did. Plus she wanted more time to try figure out what to do.
On one hand, she knew he deserved to know, she’d made a mistake (and it was a mistake) and she should tell him. On the other hand, maybe it was a good thing; getting it out of her system, a final reckless party before she really settled down, and telling him would only hurt him.
Her mind spun round and round until her cigarette was finished. It was time to go home. She took a long deep breath and said to herself “when I see him, I’ll know what to do.”
She took the stairs to prolong it a little longer, hoping enlightenment or the rapture would happen. She opened the door to their apartment to find their little dining table laid, music playing, the windows and curtains open letting in the light and a breeze. Mathew was dancing to himself, and the room smelt of cooking breakfast and fresh coffee.
“Oh hey, just in time. Grab a chair breakfast is almost ready and coffee is on the table. How’s your head?”
“Oh, it’s umm.. fine actually thanks. What, what’s going on here?”
Not since the first few months of them living together had she returned home from a girl’s night to find breakfast and coffee waiting for her and she was so surprised that for a moment she forgot her guilt.
She sat down, saw that it wasn’t just coffee but her favourite French press, and it wasn’t just breakfast it was eggs benedict with bacon. The guilt came back with a vengeance. Visions of the happiness they shared and the plans they had flooded her mind, and on the spot, she decided not to tell him. It was a mistake, she knew that, and to tell him would only ruin their relationship. Something she now knew she desperately didn’t want to do.
Her mind calmed down as the decision was made and she sipped coffee and stared out at the spring morning waiting for Mathew to arrive with the food, which he did a few seconds later.
“I thought it would be nice to treat us with a nice breakfast, like the old days. How was your night?”
She paused for a moment to consider her words,
“Yeah really nice, so much fun catching up with everyone, and my best friend wine was there. What did you get up to in the end?”
“Oh you know, finished watching the movie, bummed around online for a while then went to bed. Anything specifically fun and exciting happen?”
“No not really, we laughed, we drank, we drank more. Oh God, we even had shots. Thinking about it I feel really good considering.”
“Oh well, that’s cool. Always nice when you get a surprise get out of hangover free card.”
“Yeah. I’m glad you had a nice quiet night too. You’ve been working really hard recently, I’m glad you got the time to relax.”
“I’m not sure if I’d call it relaxing you know, since at about two this morning I’ve gotten calls from Emily, Anna, Emma, Meredith and Johanna. Apparently, they all decided separately that I needed, wanted to know you’d gone off with some guy to have drunken sex.”
The air seemed to leave the room, taking with it the blood from Jessica’s face. She stared at him stunned; not breathing or blinking or thinking, just staring at him. He stared back patiently, waiting, knowing that he’d just pulled the rug from under her. He wasn’t interested in a shouting match, he wasn’t going to start pointing fingers and condemning her, he was hurt but he’d spent most of the night getting over his anger and now he wanted to talk. So he waited.
Jessica, on the other hand, felt like she was standing on the edge of a knife. The world suddenly felt dangerous and raw as if any slight movement and everything she knew would come crashing down on top of her. Their relationship hadn’t been perfect, they’d had fights before, she knew what Matt looked like when he was angry when he was about to explode or yell, and the face she was looking at wasn’t that face. Suddenly she managed to find her lungs, took a deep breath and dumbly said,
“I can explain.”
Matt thought, ‘can you?’ but said.
Jessica stuttered for a moment realising the corner she’d just painted herself into and he saved her.
“Or I can ask some questions that I’ve been wondering about.”
“Oh, uummm… Ok.”
“I will ask you why, but not right away. So let’s start simple. Did you leave the house last night with intention to sleep with someone else?”
“No, no god no, it wasn’t planned at all! It just sort of happened. Matty I’m so…”
“Stop. We’ll come to that stuff, ok?”
Her shoulders dropped, she had screwed up and had been totally busted. She looked down at breakfast and coffee, then back at him and he smiled. He was giving her the opportunity to explain herself properly, in fact, he knew her so well that he was going to help her get out the truth in a way that was fair to both of them. She didn’t fully understand how he was so calm, but he was, so she took a long deep breath, another sip of coffee and waited for the next question.
Unknown to her, Mathew hadn’t gone back to sleep since he first started getting phone calls about her little fling. Every time he thought he’d gotten his mind under control and calmed down, his phone would ring again and someone else would tell him what was going on, and for how long it was going on for. By the third call, he’d decided that he wasn’t going to be able to just sweep it under the rug of his mind and needed to actually come to terms with it. This started with drinking, then thinking about calling her, and then moved onto crashing the party and confronting her. Which he would have done if he hadn’t had started with drinking. It took some time, a few more drinks, loud music to drown out the mental pictures, and a long hot bath. But he eventually reached a point where he wasn’t ok with it, but had calmed down, and come up with a plan. He liked plans; it made him feel at least a little in control of the situation.
“Were you going to tell me about it?”
Jessica’s knee-jerk reaction was to just say yes, but she managed to catch herself.
“Up until I arrived home I wasn’t sure what I was going to say, but no, I’d decided to not tell you.”
“Because I looked at everything I had, knew that I’d made a mistake and thought that telling you would only ruin that. I didn’t think that telling you would accomplish anything good.”
He considered things for a moment, and his calm slipped for a second.
“Do you even know the guy’s name?”
Immediately he wanted to say something like, ‘don’t answer that it isn’t fair.’ But for that moment he also didn’t want to be fair, he wanted to know the painful truth. Jessica blushed and looked away from him as tears started to run down her cheeks.
They fell silent for a few minutes both staring off in different directions, then Jessica spoke up.
“Hey, let me ask you something, how are you so calm about this? Why aren’t you screaming at me, throwing things? How can you find out about this and still manage to make me breakfast?”
He really thought about his answer, he knew that she was forcing herself to give the true answers not the ‘correct’ ones and he wanted to do the same.
“I’m not, calm, I’m not ok with all of this. But in the night I decided I wanted to know what really happened, what was really going on in your head when it happened and yelling and stuff wouldn’t accomplish that, it would just make things worse.”
“So last night wasn’t a long-standing thing, I get that, it wasn’t planned it was just something that happened and you’re not planning on doing it again. So why? Why did you do it?”
She shook her head, finished her coffee in one long sip and sighed.
“I’ve been trying to think up a reasonable answer to that since it happened. See if I can find some deep honest truth behind it, and honestly, I can’t. The truth is, is, well, our sex life has kind of dried up, and yes I’m as much to blame. We’ve just settled so much and I mean we’re great, I love you, and I love our life, but I was a bit drunk, he was sexy and funny, charming, and so forward and I got lost in the moment and for an instant let myself just go with the situation and before I realised what was going on I was taking off his clothes. And it all happened, and once it had finished and sanity came back I immediately wished I could make it untrue, I wished I could wake up and feel a little guilty about a sex dream…”
The tears started again, and as hard as she tried to hold them back to continue explaining, she couldn’t and buried her face in her hands as the reality truly hit her and cried. Mathew shot up from his chair and rushed to her side and wrapped his arms around her. They stayed like that for a few minutes while she cried until he scooped her up and carried her to their bed; they were both exhausted, and emotionally burnt out. They lay down together and were asleep within seconds.
The sun had set by the time they woke up. As usual, Jessica stirred first and it roused Mathew who got up to go to the bathroom. When he got back she was sitting cross-legged on the bed waiting for him. He stopped at the door and stared at her.
“How are you feeling?”
“Confused, about life, about us, about everything, I mean… are we, are we ok?”
“What do you mean?”
“I mean, are we fine, are we going to pull through this? Because, because I don’t want to break up.”
“Oh… oh, then … no. No, we’re not ok.”
The blood drained from her face and she gawked at him. The only reason she’d had the courage to ask in the first place was that she was sure he was going to say yes. She’d looked at everything he’d done and was convinced.
“No, I… I spent the whole night trying to work out what I’d done, what you were thinking, what was going on, and what to do. And in the end, I realised that I needed to know more about what had actually happened and why it had happened. But… But I also knew that it was done. You…”
He dropped his eyes and took a deep breath, but didn’t say anything else.
“I what? What? I’m a bitch? I’m a whore? What! What were you going to say?”
“You broke my heart.”
He didn’t want to look up, but did anyway and saw the tears rolling down her cheeks. He wanted to go over and comfort her again, but stopped himself.
“So… So that’s it, it’s over? I can’t do … or… or say anything to change your mind?”
Part of him wanted to say things like ‘it wasn’t my mind that had changed’ or, ‘go back in time and stop yourself.’ But as true as they were, it also seemed childish. He knew she hadn’t really set out to break what they had, but she had, and she felt it without him adding salt to it.
“I’m umm. I’ve actually already packed up some of my clothes for ummm, work and things. And I’m going to go stay at Mike’s place.”
He opened his mouth to say more but couldn’t find words, so set his jaw and turned to leave. Realising what was happening Jessica jumped out of bed and ran after him.
“No, no wait, wait wait wait… Please… You got to ask me questions, at least let me ask you some.”
Matt stopped, it was his turn to want to cry but he managed to hold it back. She appeared in front of him with a sort of determination in her eyes.
“Why, why all the questions, why the breakfast and the show if you had already decided to leave?”
He locked eyes with her and in a firm but quiet voice said.
“Because I needed to know if our relationship was ever real, or if it was just a giant practical joke that the world had been playing on me for the last few years.”
Jessica realised then that in the night all his deepest, darkest, most irrational fears and insecurities had bubbled up out of him, and everything he’d done since then, was desperately try and prove them wrong. The chore of good intention phone calls had broken him, by trying to do the ‘right thing’ all her friends had actually done was to force open an old deep scar and this was how he was dealing with it.
Despite his best efforts, tears slipped down his face as he pulled a small ring box out of his pocket which he pushed into her hands on his way out the door.