The Awkward Conversation:
“Just stay there,” I shouted over my shoulder as I crossed the bedroom. “I’ll handle it.”
“It doesn’t need handling, Will,” Shannon snapped. “I’ll get it myself.”
“Just stay there,” I repeated, turning and holding up my hand to still her. She was standing in the doorway to her walk-in closet, wearing nothing more than a bra, panties, and sparkly silver shoes. If you’d asked me two years ago whether I’d find myself immediately turned on by a very pregnant woman, I would’ve said no. I didn’t have any issues with pregnancy but it didn’t rate in my top fantasies. Fast forward to this moment and I was salivating over my wife and furious that we were already late for this holiday party in the city because I needed my hands on her alabaster skin.
“Don’t give me that face,” she ordered. “It took me five full minutes to get this bra on. I’m not taking it off.”
“I didn’t ask you to take it off,” I replied, my gaze following the rounded lines of her body. “You don’t have to take off a damn thing, Peanut.”
“Nope,” she said, waving her hairbrush at me. “We’re already late and I need to find the shrug your mother said I could borrow. We don’t have time for whatever you’re thinking about right now.”
“I can be very efficient,” I promised, pointing at her. “Stay right there.”
“What you call efficiency some people call unsatisfying,” she yelled as I left the room.
“You’re not going to be one of those people.” I jogged down the back staircase, shaking my head as I went. When I reached the kitchen, I leaned against the island while my mother did something clever with pie dough. “I’ve come in search of a sweater-type-thing. For Shannon.”
My mother glanced up at me, her hands still working the dough. “The shrug?” she asked.
I didn’t have time for the semantics of women’s clothing. “Yeah,” I replied. “That.”
“You know,” she started, reaching for the rolling pin, “I should’ve picked up one for her to keep. I knew it would be the kind of thing Shannon would like.” She gave the dough a pointed frown. “I’ll just have to go back to Banff and get another.”
“That’s fantastic, Judy,” I said. “Until then, where can I find this thing? We’re late and I have some—uh—requirements, and I just need to get this damn thing.”
She hit me with a flat stare as she rolled the dough. “It’s on the bed in our room.”
“Thank you,” I said as I darted out of the kitchen. Up the stairs, around the landing, down the far end of the hall toward the room my parents now considered theirs.
When I stepped inside, I groaned at the piles of freshly folded laundry on the bed. “Couldn’t make it easy on me,” I grumbled, picking up and discarding several purple items. It had to be purple. Ninety percent of my wife’s possessions were purple. “This is it. If it’s not, she doesn’t need it. No one needs a shrug anyway. What the hell is a shrug?”
With the sweater-type-thing in hand, I turned for the door. I heard a clatter behind me, and saw several small items tumble from the bedside table to the floor. Crouching down, I gathered the water bottle cap, golf pencil, and handkerchief. No doubt about it, this was my father’s side of the bed. It didn’t matter that it was too cold and snowy for golf. He always had one on hand.
I glanced around, bending to look under the bed for any other stray items I’d knocked over in my haste to get out of here. A small bottle had rolled out of reach, and I had to flatten myself on the floor to grab it.
“Are you hiding from the little miss or the little missus?” my father’s voice boomed from the hallway.
My fingers closed around the bottle and I pushed to my feet. “Neither,” I replied, impatience thick in my voice. “Mom has a sweater that she wants Shannon to wear with the dress she has for the party tonight.” I held up my hands, one filled with the miscellany of my father’s pockets and the other clutching the soft purple shrug.
“Yes, she was excited about that purchase,” my father said.
Pivoting, I set the recovered items back on the table. I was ready to sprint down the hall and see about bending Shannon over the bed, but my gaze landed on the bottle. I jerked back toward my father.
“What the fuck is this?” I asked, pinching the empty bottle between two fingers.
“It’s a personal pleasure gel—”
“That’s more than enough information,” I cried, dropping the bottle. It fell to the floor with a hollow thunk and bounced under the bed. I should’ve fucking left it there in the first place.
“It’s perfectly natural for women to need a little help with moisture—”
“Stop speaking right now,” I roared.
“This reaction is unnecessary,” he said.
“‘Unnecessary?'” I repeated. “What’s unnecessary is you explaining lube to me. This is absolutely fucking unnecessary. Certain things don’t require discussion.”
“You asked what it was,” he replied, slipping his hands into his pockets.
He rocked back on his heels as if we were standing around and shooting the shit about sports or the weather. As if this was a regular conversation, and not the second time we’d discussed his sex life—the one he shared with my mother while in my home—in as many days.
“It’s perfectly natural,” he repeated.
“That is not the point,” I yelled. “The point is that—that—that I don’t need to know the finer details of your sex life.” I scrubbed a hand down my face. “There’s always the garage apartment. I’ll get you a space heater.”
We had a proper in-law apartment over the garage but it was drafty and felt detached from the rest of the house. It never occurred to me or Shannon to stick my parents up there but it sounded phenomenal right about now.
“Why don’t you simmer down. All right?” His lips flattened into a firm line and he shot a disapproving glare in my direction. “Go ahead to your party. Stop overreacting.”
“Uh huh.” I nodded. Without meeting his eyes, I edged around him into the hallway. “I’m sure that’s it. I’m the one overreacting.”
“Let’s keep this between us,” he said.
“What?” I asked. “The perfectly natural thing that I’m overreacting about?” I didn’t wait for him to respond. “Just you wait. Soon enough, Wes is going to be home and you can victimize him with your empty lube bottles and headboard banging and insistence that he simmer down. That’ll be great. Really fuckin’ great. I’m looking forward to the day when he gets to deal with these situations. I hope you save up some of this bullshit for him.”
I marched down the hall, not looking back for his reaction. When I reached our bedroom, I closed the door behind me and sagged against it as I blew out a frustrated breath.
“Did you find it?” Shannon asked.
I pressed the purple cashmere to my face and murmured in agreement. “That, and so much more.”
“Do I want to know?”
I opened one eye and found her wearing a purple dress that must’ve been painted on because it fit like a second skin. Maybe it was better this way. I needed to get the memory of that bottle and the conversation that followed out of my head before tearing that dress off.