Seeing Double

By: Briar Lane



I looked down at my phone to check if I had any new text notifications, even though I knew damn well that I hadn’t heard it buzz. On the lock screen, there was nothing. And, still, I found myself putting in my passcode and going to my messages app just to be sure.

I was trying so hard not to jump to any conclusions, but I could not help myself. I texted him an hour ago telling him I was cooking a special dinner at six, and here he was, late again.

It was the third time this week. This seemed to be the new normal: David coming home late, and me anxiously awaiting his arrival.

It never used to be like this. He used to be home exactly at six every single night. And he used to love having dinner with me, which I always had ready when he got home because I worked the morning shift and loved to have a hot meal in the evening.

That was our routine for the first year we lived together. Maybe we were in the honeymoon phase, I don’t know, but six months ago he couldn’t get enough of me. Now, not only was he always coming home late, he didn’t even seem interested when he was here. We ate in silence and there was a constant tension between us.

This wasn’t the first time a relationship started to sour on me, of course. At twenty-five years old, I had plenty of experiences with relationships going bad. But out of everyone I’d ever dated, I liked David the most. He was the first man I’d ever moved in with, and I was desperately in love with him.

In the past, when a relationship was starting to go bad, there was always some reason for it. We’d have a fight, or there would be some incident, or there was some persistent issue in our relationship. But with David, there had been nothing. We never fought, and our lifestyles and goals all aligned perfectly. He was the perfect guy for me in every way. So I was really caught off-guard with the new change in his attitude.

I looked at my most recent text to him and fought the urge to send another. I couldn’t. I didn’t want to be that girlfriend, the naggy one that drives him up the wall. After all, if he was really just stuck at work, what was my texting him gonna help?

Instead, I pulled up the contact info for my best friend, Jessica.

>>He’s late again, Jess. I’m about to turn into a psycho girlfriend. Talk me down.

She replied immediately.

>>Anna, you need to talk to him. You keep complaining to me about him being absent and different, but have you brought it up with him at all? He’s the only one who’s going to be able to give you the answers you’re looking for.

She was right. I knew she was right. I wanted so badly to burst out and ask him what’s been going on with him, but I was hyperaware of being a bad girlfriend. I didn’t want to ruin our relationship by being unreasonable. He was a good guy, and I wanted to keep him.

>>But what if there is nothing going on and I’m being insane? I sent back to her.

>>You’re not being insane by just asking! And if nothing is going on, it will put your mind at ease. Seriously, just talk to him.

I sighed. Okay, yes. Tonight, as soon as he got home, I was going to bring it up. Why had he been so absent? What was happening in our relationship?

I didn’t know what kind of answer I was expecting, but I did know the worst case scenario: that there was another woman in his life that he was interested in, and that was who he had been spending all his time with recently…

It was probably too big of a leap for me to go straight to him cheating. I’d been cheated on twice before, though, so that was where my mind always went, even when it was outlandish.

But David wasn’t that kind of guy. He couldn’t have been more different than my cheating exes. He was sweet, romantic, and attentive. I couldn’t imagine him doing anything to hurt me.

Still, despite my desire to avoid seeming naggy, I couldn’t keep myself from picking up the phone and calling him. Unfortunately, it went right to voicemail, and I decided against leaving a message. He probably hadn’t even looked at his phone.

But the food was starting to get cold. I decided to just eat on my own and put his food in the fridge. I had made mashed potatoes, green beans, and a steak for each of us. It wasn’t my usual dinner at all. I was trying to put in some extra effort to get the spark going again.

What a waste.

I was finishing up my dinner when I heard the door click and David walked in. My heart started pounding in my chest.

“Hey!” I said quickly.

“Hi,” he said, as he set down his suitcase and started taking off his jacket. “Sorry, I got held up at work again.”

“No problem!” I answered immediately. “I made dinner. Do you want me to heat your plate up?”

“Sure.” He nodded as he started to approach the kitchen table.

Goddammit, this was not what I was supposed to do. I was supposed to actually ask him about where he’s been and what’s been going on with him.

But my normal instincts kicked in, and I was sliding right into the dutiful girlfriend role. I couldn’t keep doing that, though. If I didn’t bring this up now, it was going to continue to eat away at me.

I did heat up his food, but when I returned to the table, I braced myself to ask the hard questions.