A Good Night’s Sleep

Couple sleeping

“Next week? You told me Saturday. No, I’m not mistaken. Check again.” The hold music, Bruno Mars’ 24K Magic, blasts in my ear. I love me some Bruno, but there’s no 24-karat magic in the air right now.
“Michael! Michael!” I’m probably hallucinating, but the walls dance to the sound of my voice. Growing up, us kids weren’t allowed to scream in the house. Dad hated it. He said one of the reasons God gave us legs was so we didn’t have to scream all over the house. The fact that mom did it daily, proved to be a poor defense. One morning, as mom’s high octave threats ascended the staircase, my baby brother Charlie (our spokesperson and sometime defense attorney), repeated dad’s words. Mom reminded us “narrow behind kids” that birthing us entitled her to certain privileges; such as butt whoopings. We didn’t agree, but none of us had the nerve to tell her.

Just thinking about one of mom’s butt whoopings gets my legs moving, and on the last step, Bruno stops singing. “Hello. This is Justin, may I help you?”

“Yes, I’m Mrs.,” my voice trails off as my eyes fix on the spot our bed once occupied.

I hear the toilet flush and watch Michael, my husband of five years, saunter into the room whistling and stuffing his shirt in his pants. Finally realizing Justin has deserted me, I pull the phone from my ear and aim it at him. He raises both hands like I’m pointing a gun at him. “Where’s the bed?”

“Ok. Listen,” he stutters. “Terry came by with the truck this morning to drop off some more boxes from my mom’s, and he suggested that while he had the truck we take the mattress and box spring over to the recycling center.”

Lord give me strength! I should’ve known. If it isn’t his mama, it’s Terry. Michael and I don’t fight about money or sex like other couples; but sometimes I wish we did. I can’t stand Terry! He’s always talking Michael into some foolishness. “And did Mr. Genius, tell you what we’re supposed to sleep on?”

Silence. I guess he’s trying to determine how mad I am. There are levels as he well knows. There’s the “in no mood” side-eye, and the “my last good nerve” squint. I take a few steps toward him, hands on my hips. Barely moving his feet, he slowly backs up, shoving his hands into his pockets. Instinctively, he drops his right hand and dangles it in front of his crotch. With his fingers tightly wound together, his hand resembles a cup.

His lips part and since I know what he’s about to say, I cut him off. “Cause, your mama’s is out, if that’s what you’re thinking. If I have to sleep on the floor, I’m not going back over there!”

“This has nothing to do with my mother, so don’t go there.” A calm, deep baritone voice replaces the high-pitched stuttering. “I don’t know what the big deal is with spending a couple of nights at my mom’s? She has the room and it’s free.” I push past him and head downstairs. “And the food is good.”

Now that’s a low blow, but I guess I deserve it.

“Anyway, we’ll be breaking in our new bed Saturday night,” he shouts at my back.

I swivel around and have to grab the banister to keep from falling. “No, we won’t! That’s what I’ve been trying to tell you. Those idiots at the store scheduled the delivery for next Saturday.”

His grin fades. “Oh.”

I’ve gotten zero sleep in the past week with all the drama surrounding the move. The sale of the house almost fell through when the sellers, Ron and Nancy Davis, an active couple in their early 60’s, got cold feet two weeks before the closing. Frightened we’d be stuck at Michael’s mother’s house, I’d tried to extend our lease, but the apartment had been rented. So, we had to go. And I had to endure the “I know I’m not your mother dear but,” comments. Thankfully, our realtor called before I lost it and ended up in an orange jumpsuit and told us the closing was back on.

Even on the day of the closing, Nancy refused to get out of the car, and Ron practically dragged her into the lawyer’s office. She kept sniffing and blowing her nose, making everyone in the room really uncomfortable. Ron made a big point of telling us they needed this sale to purchase their new house in North Carolina. I guess he didn’t want us to feel like jerks for kicking Nancy out of her home. Too late. I avoided looking at Nancy, and concentrated on signing the papers.

From snippets of overheard conversation, I learned Nancy’s real reason for not wanting to sell. Ron’s baby brother and his three grown kids would be coming to live with them. The two younger kids are in college and would only be there on holidays and in the summer, but the oldest son, who spends his days gambling online and playing Black Ops Sniper Shootout on Xbox, got caught humping his girlfriend in the back seat of his stepmother’s Hummer. She threw his freeloading behind out on the spot, and when Ron’s brother made a stink about it, she put him out too. The way I understand it, the house and the money are all hers. I don’t know her, but I sure do want to give her a high five.

As a rule, I normally don’t get in other people’s business, but I about bit my tongue to shreds struggling to keep from encouraging Nancy to emulate her soon to be ex-sister-in-law and say, ‘Boy bye’. Maybe Nancy and her ex-sister-in-law can become housemates and leave them other fools all by themselves. Michael must’ve read my mind, because as soon as Ron gave him the keys, he shook his hand and hustled me out the door.

On the drive over to our new home, I prayed to the feminist gods to give Nancy the strength to kick ass and take names. When we turned into our cul-de-sac, and slid into our driveway, I spied Patricia, Michael’s mother, pasting letters on our mailbox spelling out Anderson. I said a powerful prayer for myself before getting out of the car.

The sensation of being watched brings me back to the present.

“You ok?”

An enormous wave of guilt overcomes me. I start calculating how many times this past week I’ve yelled at him. A lot. What is wrong with me? Lately, it seems I’m always mad about something.

“Tysha,” hearing him speak my name soothes me. “Baby I’m sorry about the bed.”

“I’m sorry too. We’re together, and that’s all that matters.”

At 6’3” he towers over my 5’4” frame. He lifts my chin and the grin returns. I kiss the index finger of my left hand and tap it to his lips. He catches my hand mid-air and kisses my palm and places it on his check. He does the same thing with my right hand. Holding his face in my hands, the juxtaposition of his scratchy five o’clock shadow and soft lips reminds me just how different we both are. Yet, we belong together. Like salt and pepper. Like vanilla and chocolate. Like spicy and sweet. This man. God, how I love this man.

“I’m sorry I made such a big deal about the bed. I don’t care if we sleep on the floor, as long as we’re together.”

“No need for that,” Michael points to an open box poking out from behind the door.

“Terry’s letting us borrow his air bed. I was going to buy one, but why spend money for something we’re only going to use for a few days.”

Something inside me explodes. Who am I kidding? I care about the bed, and I want to sleep in our bed; not on Terry’s reject air mattress. God only knows what depraved acts that poor thing has been forced to endure.

I can tell the look on my face is scaring him, because Michael starts the high-pitched stuttering again. “It..It’s…It’s not that bad.”

In attempt to lighten the mood, in his best The Price Is Right announcer voice he scoops up the box and waves his hand over the picture like the models do. “Tysha. This is what we have for you. A used air mattress with built in pump. Perfect for when your husband throws away your bed. Coordinating sheets and pillows included. A prize package worth, zero dollars.”

I can’t help laughing. Anyway, being mad all time wears you out. Michael puts the box down and plucks his phone from his pocket. After a few taps, his voice joins Al Green’s. “I’m. I’m so in love with you. Whatever you want to do, is alright with me…” He sang this to me at our wedding. Rocking his hips, Michael grabs me and pulls me in close. “Let’s. Let’s stay together. Loving you whether, whether, times are good or bad, happy or sad.” This shouldn’t work. But it does. Every. Single. Time.

That night, as the bed inflates, I’m transported back in time to our first date. As much as it pains me to admit it, I actually have Terry to thank for meeting Michael. Terry was Michael’s college roommate, and they have been best friends ever since. Terry’s as tall as Michael, but that’s where the similarities end. He’s too thin for my taste, and his pimp walk reminds me of Huggy Bear from the old Starsky and Hutch television show. For some unknown reason, women find him attractive. Maybe it’s the dimples. Or his hey baby Barry White voice. He uses both to mesmerize his victims; like a pied piper with a magical rap. Thank god, I’m immune.

Michael and I met our freshman year. Terry invited my roommate, Shelly, to the movies, providing she could get a date for his friend, who turned out to be Michael. I didn’t want to go. I hate blind dates. But, Shelly couldn’t go without me, and she kept pestering me; so, I gave in. Five minutes into the movie, Terry decided he wanted popcorn after all, and Shelly pretended to go to the bathroom. After checking the bathrooms and the lobby, we knew they’d ditched us. Michael whispered apologies throughout the movie; assuring me that had he known Terry’s plan, he never would have agreed to come. Every time he apologized, the man and woman sitting in front of us whispered to each other. I think the man took Terry’s side, because after he whispered the wrong thing, she punched him in the arm so hard, he jumped and spilled popcorn all over his lap. After that, they sat far apart. He tried once to hold her hand, but she wasn’t having it. When the movie ended, the woman shot out of her seat and fell in line behind the crowd of people exiting the theater. The man called after her, but she ignored him. Defeated, he stood up slowly, brushing the popcorn from his lap and seat onto the floor. When he finished, he glared up at us, and I’d swear his hands were balled up into fists before he grabbed his soda out of the cup holder and stomped out of the aisle. If looks could kill, there’d be two fiery holes where Michael and I sat. Guess we ruined their date night. No, Terry ruined their date night. Jerk.

On the other hand, our date was a complete success. We’d ridden to the movies with Terry and Shelly, and since they were gone and we had no money for a taxi, we had no choice but to walk back to campus. It had snowed lightly while we were in the theater. A shivering teenager haphazardly threw salt from a hand shovel onto the snow encrusted mat at the entrance. The minute my smooth bottomed stiletto boots touched the unprotected sidewalk, I fell. Michael lunged for me just as my behind scraped the icy concrete. After he picked me up, I looked around for the invisible foot that tripped me. You know the way people do when they’re trying to play off busting their tale in public. Even with all of my God-given padding, my behind hurt. I resisted rubbing it, and giving the snickering passersby, and the red-faced teenager who’d stopped throwing salt, even bigger belly laughs at my expense.

But Michael didn’t laugh. He wasn’t smiling. His face showed real concern. After assuring him I was alright, he wrapped his arm around my waist and guided me carefully down the icy street. That’s when I knew he was a “keeper.” By the time we reached my dorm, we were holding hands and sharing secrets like we’d known each other for years.

Although I said goodnight a half-dozen times, Michael patiently waited while I fumbled around in my purse for my door key and then “accidentally” dropped it. He quickly bent down and scooped it up. Instead of handing the key back to me, he inserted it into the lock and opened the door. I raised up on my tiptoes, kissed him and ran inside. We dated the remainder of college and got married six months after graduation.

Terry, on the other hand, spent more time testing out mattresses in the female dorms than in class. Even a few pregnancy scares did nothing to slow him down. Despite my protests (my actual words were, “over my dead body”), he was best man at our wedding. His date for the wedding was a leggy brunette with green eyes and a round baby face in a skin tight black dress slit up her right thigh. At the reception, a full-figured chick in a red strapless dress that strained to keep “the girls” contained with a jet black weave that she kept flipping over her shoulder came and sat with the brunette. I couldn’t get over it. Terry left the bridal party’s table to sit with them during dinner. I had no idea what was so funny, but they laughed so loudly you could hear them over the soft jazz music the DJ played. All eyes were on their table. Two women, one uninvited (I never did get their names), at the same table. I kept waiting for one of them to set it off. But the three of them ate, drank and seemed to be thoroughly enjoying themselves.

After our first dance, Michael’s dance with his mother, and my dance with my mom who said we could pretend we were both dancing with my dad; the dance floor was officially opened. I saw Terry go over to our DJ, Ronnie, and slip him some money. We’d told Ronnie not to take any requests without our permission; but before I could get to Michael, Terry’s song blared from the loudspeakers. Terry grabbed the leggy brunette and within seconds they’d cleared the dance floor. That slit rose higher and higher, as she wrapped her muscular leg around his waist like an anaconda. She arched her back, and the thrusting motion caused her brunette bob to swing back and forth to the beat of the music. We gawked, frozen in sheer horror, until Michael’s mother’s comment about a condom.

Once the intercourse set to music finished, Michael made a beeline for Ronnie. Terry, however, was unfazed. He nonchalantly guided his date back to the table, pulled out her chair and waited for her to slide into it. Then he offered his hand to the chick with the weave, and returned to the dance floor. Laughing and boogieing, they joined the newly formed Soul Train line. They performed a flawless Kid n Play routine until “the girls” made a break for it. Bobbing up and down to Ain’t Gonna Hurt Nobody, “the girls”, Terry, the weave and the red dress (held up by her hand), finally made it to the end of the line.

The blaring pump shifts my attention back to the bed. I dash downstairs and return fully armed –disinfectant wipes and spray in Lemon Breeze scent; both advertised to kill 99% of the cooties. Michael shoots me a questioning look. I point to the bed and then to Terry’s name written on the box in black sharpie marker. Michael yanks the can of spray out of my hand. A cloud of disinfectant mist hangs in the air, causing us to cough to the beat of the screaming pump.

The air in the bed shifted during the night, so we wake up with our legs in the air and our heads on the floor. My head is throbbing, and I have a stiff neck. To make it worse, I can’t get off the thing. I keep trying to get up, but it’s like my butt’s suctioned to it. I manage to slide my feet to the floor. Placing my palms against the wall, I count three and haul myself up. The shift in weight propels Michael up in the air like the sole occupant of an off-balance teeter-totter. His body makes a dull thud as his behind lands half on the deflated bed, half on the floor. “Sorry,” I giggle stumbling into the bathroom.

That night Michael pumps the mattress and carefully slides to the middle. “I think it’ll be ok.” His twinkling deep brown eyes and lopsided grin signal my call to duty. “I put more air in to make it firmer,” he attempts to reassure me.

“You said it would be ok last night.” We’ve rarely slept apart since our wedding night, but I just refuse to give that vinyl homewrecker another shot at me. “I’m not sleeping on that thing.”

“Tysha. You’re being childish,” Michael yells. “Come back to bed.”

“If you want me. Come and get me,” I shout. I hear his footsteps on the stairs, so I quickly spread the blankets on the living room floor. I position myself and listen in the darkness until I realize he isn’t coming after me. I should go back upstairs, but my head’s throbbing and I’m mad. After an hour of twisting and turning, I think about looking for my yoga mat, but can’t decide if it is in the boxes upstairs or the ones in the garage. I pick up my pillow and trek into the dining room with the blankets trailing behind me.

It seems like I’ve walked a mile when I wander over to the mahogany and walnut dining room table. With the leaves in, it seats twelve. I throw the pillows and blankets on one of the carved- back matching side chairs and start to crawl on top when I remember the wonky leg. “Crap,” I groan and plop into an arm chair at the head of the table.

Michael’s mother, Patsy (she likes to be called Patsy because she hates Patricia), insisted we have this monstrosity. “This way the happy memories of his childhood dinners will bless his new home.”

I know she said it because I can’t cook. I can scramble eggs, but that’s the extent of it. She says the table’s an antique. I tried to explain that just because something is old, it doesn’t make it an antique. She’d hadn’t caught on I wasn’t just talking about the table. With the matching china hutch and buffet server, my dining room looks like a furniture showroom.

To be honest, she has been good to us. I appreciated her support when my mom died. Inhaling her pot roast and mashed potatoes followed by her homemade cream cheese pound cake topped with chocolate fudge ripple ice cream provided plenty of comfort.

Anyway, it’s not that I dislike Patsy. I guess since she’s a widow and Michael’s her only child we’re the lucky recipients of her full attention; 24/7. It’s just that she’s very opinionated. You know the type that has an opinion on everything and an unnatural need to share it. And I mean on everything. Like my underwear. Last week amid all the Ron and Nancy closing drama, I’m in the laundromat minding my business when she comes in.

“Patsy why are you here?” I swear she’s stalking me. She always seems to “show up” at the oddest times and places.

“I don’t know why you won’t do laundry at my house and save your money.” She taps my hand like a naughty child. She picks up one of Michael’s dress shirts and starts yapping about collar and underarm stains and laundry detergent. Just as I reach my boiling point, a dryer stops. I finish emptying the dryer and turn around to a horrific sight.

Patsy is holding my panties up in the air with both hands and stretching them. “Honey, are you sure these are yours?” She asks me still pulling on them. She lowers them to check the tag, and I try to snatch them out of her hands. I miss, as she hoists them up again, subjecting them to further scrutiny.

“I think you bought the wrong size, cause these drawers ain’t big enough to fit your behind?” To make her case, she holds them out to the man and two women across the table folding clothes. Exhibit A. Then she looks at me. Exhibit B. The man obviously enjoys being part of the jury. His head swivels between my drawers and my behind. The women’s heads are down, but I can tell they’re laughing.

Mortified, I push all the folded clothes from the table into the basket and storm out. Two blocks later, I remember I’d left the rest of my clothes and have to go back. The man and two women are still there folding. Patsy’s holding court making her case. The women are laughing. The man winks at me. I scoop up the rest of the clothes, give them a dirty look and storm out again.

I put my head on the table. The wood feels cool against my throbbing temples. Mama’s voice cuts through the silent darkness. “You are a sight,” she says straightening my veil.

“I only wish your father was here to give you away.” She hugs me, then steps back.

I turn from the mirror and kiss her cheek. “I miss him so much.” Now we are both crying and ruining the makeup artist’s handiwork.

Mama quickly recovers. She grabs me squarely by the shoulders and holds me straight. “Tysha, I loved your father, but he could be stubborn as a mule. And you’re just like him. Now listen to me. If you want your marriage to work, you’ve got to compromise. Michael’s a sweet man, but he won’t put up with your crap for long.”

I dared to point out that women have been “compromising” since the beginning of time.

Mama just cocked her head and said, “Listen to your mama.”

“Ok, mama. I’m listening,” I mumble walking up the stairs.

I enter the darkness of our bedroom and stand at the foot of the air mattress listening to Michael’s low snoring; his chest rising and falling with each breath. All I want right now, is to be close to him. I ease down on the air mattress and gently slide over to him. I kiss his open mouth and lay my head on his chest; enraptured by his heartbeat. In the stillness, I hear a voice. I raise my head and peer into the darkness. Is somebody in the house? I sit up. My heart is racing. In those few heart-stopping moments, I realize it’s not talking. It’s hissing.

“Get off. Get off, fat assss.” It’s the air mattress. It’s taunting me. “Get off, fat assss.”

“Michael!” I scream. I’m shaking him so hard I could dislocate his shoulder. “Michael!

He mumbles and turns on his side. Seconds later, his snoring returns.

“Fat assss,” the demon-possessed mattress continues to taunt me.

Sheets tangle around my legs as I scramble to get off the thing. Sure, I’ve put on a few pounds, but Michael says he likes it. I swear the hissing has turned to laughing. Not only is this contraption fat-shaming me, it’s laughing at me too.

Furious, I stomp downstairs and head for the kitchen. Yanking the freezer door open, I can’t decide between Pistachio and Belgian Chocolate, so I grab them both. Sitting in the middle of the kitchen floor eating alternately from each container, I have an epiphany. The car. It has soft cloth seats that recline. I put the ice cream away, grab my pillow, and head for the driveway. The night air is stagnant, hot and humid, so I turn on the air conditioning for a few minutes to cool the car off.

“Ma’am!” Banging on the driver’s side window wakes me. My eyes blink wildly to adjust to the sunlight. “Ma’am open the door.” A policeman, his face pressed against the glass, waves his hand back and forth.

I push the driver’s seat back into a sitting position and try to focus. Behind the officer, I see a group of people. I don’t see smoke or hear sirens, so why are all these people in my driveway? Then it hits me. Some neighbors had stopped by while we were out to dinner the other night and left a basket of fruit with a note. Michael said neighbors in cul-de-sacs are usually really friendly. Wanting to make a good first impression, I run my left hand through my hair and cup the right one in front of my mouth and blow. “Just a minute,” I hold up my index finger and start rummaging in the glove compartment for breath mints and a hair brush.

Among the group, is Mrs. Layton. I shouldn’t have hollered at her yesterday for letting her poodle, Pickles, do her business in my newly acquired rose bushes. In response, she’d murmured something about natural fertilizer. I’d countered that I prefer Miracle-Gro. I feel ashamed, but I’m also glad to see her holding a plastic bag in the same hand as the leash. A young blond with a perky ponytail and a whistle hanging between huge breasts stuffed into a sports bra is bending down to pet the yapping, Pickles. The middle-aged, bald guy from across the street I saw talking to Michael yesterday morning, seems oblivious to anything but the blonde’s assets. My elderly next-door neighbor, Phil, stands on his porch steps holding his cat, Winkie, until an unleashed Doberman joins the crowd and causes him to retreat behind his screen door.

The policeman gives a dirty look to Ethan, the teenager Michael’s hired to cut the grass, breathlessly trailing his Doberman, Lucy. The officer points, and Ethan picks up Lucy’s leash, and leads her across the street.

With order established, he turns his attention back to me. He does a turning motion with the thumb and index finger of his right hand and then jerks the door handle. He presses his face up against the window, still motioning with his right hand.

“Open up,” he orders.

Hesitantly, I reach over and pop the lock. I take a final pass at my hair and smooth my wrinkled tank top and shorts. Oh well, it’s now or never. I wish I’d found some breath mints in the glove box. The neighbors start talking to each other again in subdued tones. Phil comes from behind the screen door back onto his porch; still holding Winkie.

The officer jerks the door open and rudely yanks me out of the car, launching me into the middle of the mob. There’s a red hand print on my forearm. Now, I’m mad.

All eyes are on me. I forget about my breath, that my hair’s a mess and I’m in my pajamas. I glare at Mrs. Layton. The yapping Pickles lunges at me and I bump into the bald guy who uses the opportunity to grab my behind. I turn around quickly and just miss connecting with his jaw. I swing again, but he steps back, and losing my balance, I land on the driveway. The smell of fumes burns in my nose.

I slowly realize all the noise isn’t coming from the commotion the neighbors standing over me are making. My car is running. Suddenly, it gets quiet. That’s when I notice the cop in the driver’s seat.

“Hey!” I stagger to my feet just as the car stops running. The cop gets out, keys in hand.

Behind me, I hear Mrs. Layton alleging “suicide” and it finally dawns on me why they’re here. Oh no! The car was running. I was in a running car with the windows up. They think I was trying to….

“Michael! Michael!” I’m darting through the crowd in “Beast Mode,” shaking off outstretched hands with the patented Marshawn Lynch stiff arm.

At the front door, I stop to catch my breath. Whew. My fondest memories are the hours I spent with my dad watching football. I’d played in the backyard with my older brother, Derrick, and the two boys from next door, Curtis and Sammy; taking advantage of their need for a fourth person. I use to dream about being the first girl to play in the NFL.

“Michael!” Climbing the stairs, my left leg cramps from all of the running. I pause, holding onto the banister, when the cop comes through the open door. I drag my lame limb up the rest of the stairs.

“Get up!” Michael is struggling to free himself from the tangled sheets and his deflated vinyl mistress. Ignoring me, the cop reaches over and pulls a dazed Michael to his feet.

“Tysha, what the **** is going on?” Throughout four years of dating and five years of marriage, we’ve argued, but I’ve only experienced the occasional expletive. I’ve never heard Michael really cuss before. I’m not sure how I feel about it.

“It called me a fat ass so I went to sleep in the car, and it was hot, and I ran the air, and now the whole neighborhood thinks I tried to…,” The look on his face tells me what I need to do; sit down and shut up.

The feeling is back in my left leg, but now my head hurts. I massage my temples, shaking my head like an Etch A Sketch. I need a Motrin and a shot – (I think there’s a bottle of Grey Goose in the kitchen). “This is all your fault.” I point accusingly at the squashed mattress, but neither man is paying me any attention.

The voices drifting up from our driveway have drawn them to our open bedroom window. Feeling left out, I go over and stand behind them. The crowd is gone. The only voice I hear is Mrs. Layton’s recounting our rose bush scuffle blow-by-blow, complete with innuendo, to the pervy bald guy who grabbed me and the blonde. The blonde resets her fitness device and attempts to go, but Mrs. Layton grabs her arm. The pervy bald guy moves too; as close to the blonde as he can get. The blonde inches away, closer to Mrs. Layton, and the perv moves closer to her. I feel sorry for the blonde stuck between Mrs. Layton and the perv. I’m waiting to see if he grabs her too. If he does, I hope she decks him. Lays him out flat. Wouldn’t mind one bit if she gives Mrs. Layton a pop in the mouth while she’s at it.

Finally, the blonde is able to break free, and after resetting her fitness device runs away. On cue, the men turn away from the window. Now they’re facing me. There’s amusement in the policeman’s blue eyes and a question mark in Michael’s. I’m in no mood for humor or interrogation. Thankfully, neither man says anything to me.

Instead, the cop clutches Michael’s hand, and sympathetically pats him on the shoulder. “Sorry to have bothered you,” he says.

He swivels on me, flashing a stupid grin, and raises an eyebrow before heading down the stairs. I know I shouldn’t care, but it bothers me that he thinks I’m a nut case. That the whole neighborhood thinks I’m a nut case. But if he came out of the house and told them I’m not; they’d listen to him. I attempt to follow him to plead my case, but Michael blocks my path. He waits until he hears the front door slam and then walks past me into the bathroom.

As soon as I hear Michael’s footsteps on the stairs, I position his travel mug under the spout, plop a pod in the Keurig and push the large mug button to fill his travel mug. I always use a pod twice, so I lift the handle and push the small mug button; filling the travel mug to the top. I spread his pumpernickel bagel with peanut butter, cut it in half and wrap it in tin foil. He’ll probably have lunch with a client, but I wash an apple and wrap it in a piece of paper towel and put it in the lunch tote with a bottle of water and a piece of string cheese for a snack. I fasten the top on his mug just as he enters the kitchen.

“Still love me?”

“Maybe,” he teases and then kisses me. “Possibly,” he kisses me again. “Absolutely!” This kiss is a long, lingering one. He scoops up the travel mug and lunch tote, and peeks out the door.

“What are you looking for?” I ask.

“Just making sure I don’t run into an angry mob with pitchforks and torches.”

“Oh. Funny man has jokes,” I laugh. I’m glad he’s not mad at me. And who knows, maybe we won’t have to sell the house.

The clock on the microwave says 8:30. Great. I need to be in Edison by 10:00 for a software installation. My business can’t afford to lose clients; especially now that I have a mortgage. I’ll have to hustle to get up the Parkway.

I sprint up the stairs to my bedroom and flip on News 12 New Jersey, listening to the traffic and weather report as I set out my clothes. I’m not proud to admit it, but I stop to kick the vinyl nightmare. I open the deflate value, and the sound of the remaining air fizzling out of my tormentor thrills me as I dash into the shower. At 9:15, fully dressed, I bounce down the stairs humming, “Ding dong the witch is dead!”

But she wasn’t. That night, with the pump of the resurrected vinyl homewrecker mocking me, my weary search for a place to sleep continues. One thing’s for sure – the car is out.

Sitting on the toilet, I get an epiphany. I run down to the laundry room and get the fluffy bath sheets Michael’s mother brought over when we moved in, and layer the bath tub with them. Then I spread the huge beach towel Michael bought me in Jamaica on our honeymoon on top. With all the layers, the tub is surprisingly comfortable. I inflate my bath pillow and suction it in place. I close my eyes and float away.

“Tysha,” a hand gently shakes me. “Baby.” I slowly open my eyes to Michael’s smile. “Time to get ready for work.” He extends his hand to help me out and I pull him in. Years later, on our 50th wedding anniversary, when our grandkids ask me how we stayed married for so long, I’d think back to this morning in the tub.

That evening, after a stop and go ride down the Parkway, I arrive home from work to find the vinyl mistress at the curb with the other trash. Smiling, I open the front door and almost faint.

Our furniture! The chocolate brown leather sofa and love seat are arranged with the red and ivory toile pillows I ordered. The red chenille throw I crocheted, is draped over the arm of the love seat. The black and bronze wrought iron coffee table sits on a rug with red, brown and black circles covering it. The matching end tables hold the bronze lamps from our old apartment. And the curtains are up. The crinkled ivory sheers waft in the summer breeze. I flop onto the sofa and wriggle my butt on the leather. Smooth as butter. I push the button to recline the back and lift my feet. We’d spent a huge portion of Michael’s bonus on these pieces. My back and behind shout, “perfection.”

Along with the new living room and bedroom furniture, we’d also splurged on a cute, pub style table and chairs for the kitchen. I wonder if that came too. Reluctantly, I hoist myself up from the sofa.

Not only did it arrive, Michael has put the curtains up, and he’s swiffering the floor. I come up behind him and wrap my arms around his waist. “How’d you do all this?”

He beamed. “I threatened to cancel our entire order.”

In all of the excitement, I’d forgotten about the bed. “Did all of the furniture come?”

He nods. He knows he’s reached superhero status. He pulls me close. “Happy?”

A teary-eyed smile is all I can manage.

At last, wrapped in Michael’s arms, in our new bed, I can finally get a good night’s sleep.

 

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