This is Jackson Strehlow, Full Sail College student, Navy Veteran.
THE OTHER WOMAN
My hotel room was, in my own opinion, rather modest. A single bedroom, modest common room with a couch and television and a cozy kitchen, with the whole thing done up in recently painted white walls and cheap shag carpeting. But the thing that made it stand out was the sliding back door leading to an outside breakfast nook, with was currently occupied by freshly delivered bagels and coffee.
I was sitting at the coffee table, newspaper in one hand and a mug of coffee in the other, when she appeared within the doorway. For a single moment she captivated me, wearing only a pearly white nightgown that hugged the tempting curves of her body perfectly as she leaned against the frame. A playful smile graced her face as she bit her lower lip.
“Mmmm, morning handsome.”
I kept my eyes glued to my newspaper and said nothing as she sat down in the plastic white chair across from me. She picked up a bagel from the tray and spread a thin layer of cream cheese on it, her eyes never leaving my form.
“You know, I had a wonderful time last night, Ralph.”
Again, I remained silent, preferring to focus more on the paper rather than the woman in front of me trying to subtly get my attention. In this scenario, most people would call me a fool. Most people would be right.
“You were so passionate, so caring.” The woman smiled, adverting her eyes for just a moment as a light brush came over her cheeks, her smile shifting ever so slightly to betray her sense of shyness. “It was…a nice change of pace.” Her eyes came back to focus on me again. “Most men just want to be satisfied and leave when they’re done.”
I continue to avoid meeting her gaze, and instead I keep my eyes focused on the sports section of my paper, though in reality I’m not even reading it. The nagging guilt in the back of my brain won’t let me focus on the words long enough to form them together and make sense of them. So instead, I pretend to read the articles, feigning mild interest in the local football team rather than the scantily clad woman trying to share breakfast with me.
“I was hoping we could go out again.” The woman looked down to her bagel, her hand still absentmindedly spreading the cream cheese like she had forgotten about it. She set down the knife. “Maybe we could spend the day together, get to know each other a little better.” Her eyes searched my face, looking for any reaction she could find. Finding nothing, she tried again. “I know this lovely park I go to sometimes, usually to get away from the hustle and bustle of the inner city.” She gave me another once over before speaking again, her smile faltering and her voice becoming just a little quieter. “It could be nice.”
I licked my lips and stile a glance at my left hand, hidden by my paper. I looked at something that I had removed the night before in a fit of shame, only to place it back on again this morning out of guilt. I let out a quiet sigh. This woman didn’t even know what I’d done.
“Why won’t you talk to me, Ralph?” The worry in her tone betrayed the calm poker face she was trying to maintain. “You haven’t spoken a word to me. Is something wrong?” I continue to say nothing. “Did I do something wrong?”
Still nothing, though I could feel the weight in my chest where my heart was become a little heavier, a slight flinch betraying my otherwise stoic mask.
“Please, say something to me, Ralph. Tell me what’s going on.” Her bagel was now resting on a napkin, unbitten and forgotten. “Is there someone else? Is there some other woman you’re not telling me about?”
Another flinch makes its presence known in my otherwise stone-faced expression, though this time she picks up on it.
“There is, isn’t there? There’s someone else.” Her voice hitched as she spoke, the sudden realization betraying her inability to keep herself together much longer. “What’s her name?” Anger was now present in her tone. Slight, but still there. “Tell me, what’s her name? What’s the name of the woman who is apparently so important to you that you can’t speak to me?”
The moment she stopped talking, I put my newspaper down and sighed, still keeping myself from looking her in the eye. The silence that passed between us was palpable. So much so, that it could be cut with a knife. And that’s where we remained for nearly ten seconds. Ten seconds of wordless tension that felt like hours, before I finally looked at her and spoke.
“You.” I raised my left hand, the now-present gold ring on my finger making its first appearance to this woman. “You’re the other woman.” And with that I got up from my chair, set my now cold cup of coffee down on the table, and walked back into the room. Without another word, I set the room keys on the kitchen counter, made my way out the front door, and closed it behind me.
She never tried to stop me.