“Those are flowers, Ben,” I told him sarcastically. “I know you don’t recognize the custom since you never participated in this ritual, but sometimes people give these pretty things as gifts to show affection for one another!”
“Hey, I gave you flowers!” Ben refuted my claim. “Remember a few years ago, I got you some for Valentine’s Day.”
I corrected him, “You got it the day after ’cause you forgot on the actual day and the gas station had them half off. You’ve never given me flowers on a random spring day!”
Ben didn’t have a comeback for that statement, so he went back to his original source of anger, “Well, that’s not even the point! Who is giving you flowers when you’re still married to me?”
“Excuse me?” I bellowed. “You gave other women your body and my money while we were still together, and you’re upset that someone is giving me flowers now?”
“You were cheating me this whole time, weren’t you? I knew it!” Ben exclaimed. “All those late nights at the office, I knew you were seeing someone else!”
I rolled my eyes and irritably remarked, “For the last time, I never saw anyone else while we were together! You only thought that ’cause you knew I was too good for you and that someday I’d come to my senses and leave your sorry ass!”
The bankers all reacted to my low blow, and I supposed that I had been a bit harsh, but I really didn’t care anymore! Ben certainly didn’t consider my feelings when he drained our accounts to engage with those ladies of the night! While we were still together, I forgave him for a lot, but he never seemed grateful! In fact, he accused me of infidelity a lot, and here he had partook in that activity himself! I felt the ire from this injustice coursing throughout my veins, but I also suddenly became overwhelmed with exhaustion! I forgot how much magic I used earlier, and the energy it took to perform that feat had caught up to me. Here we were almost done with this tedium, and he just had to start some drama and keep me here longer! I wanted to eviscerate him, he truly deserved it, but I really needed to go home and rest, so I decided it would be easier to listen to his counter arguments and then just leave.
“You’re right!” he admitted. I nearly jumped when I heard him say that! I expected him to whine until he got his way, just like he did when we were properly married, and it really astonished me to hear him take on some personal responsibility like that! He went on, “You were always out of my league! When I first asked you out, I never expected you to say yes! How could a loser like me get a girl like you to even notice me? The longer you stayed, the more I wondered why you wanted me! After a while though, I realized you weren’t going anywhere, and I got comfortable. I took you for granted…”
“Uh-huh…” I mumbled as though I were paying attention to his babbling, but as my weariness grew stronger and stronger, I heard less and less of what he said. It took all my remaining strength just to stay awake, and I started thinking of the urgency of stopping for coffee on the way home…
I hadn’t fully grasped how much my mind had wandered until he suddenly grabbed my waist! Apparently he had taken my silence as consent, and he softly spoke to me, “I’m sorry I didn’t love you like you deserve, and I promise I won’t ever let that happen again!”
Before I could stop him, he kissed me! His embrace didn’t bear the comfort it once did! Quite the opposite, actually! It reminded me of my uncle Richard, who came from a time when it was still politically correct to smooch a female on her lips without it carrying any kind of romantic stigma. I immediately pulled my lips from his, pulled away from him, and reacted vehemently, “Bleck!”
“You didn’t use to think our kissing was gross!” Ben noted as I wiped my mouth off so I could get his taste off of me. “What’s so different now?” He glanced at the flowers in the backseat and morosely commented, “You have a boyfriend already, don’t you?”
“I-!” I fully intended to tell him off, but his question made me ponder a little. I mean, Aidan and I only had one date, so I didn’t think I could call him my boyfriend yet, but our time together had so much more significance than the beginning of any other relationship I had! But was that even real? I still had no idea if he had fabricated everything in an effort to get on my good side so I’d no longer suspect him of a serial murder, so I didn’t think I could call myself his girlfriend if he was just using me like that! Then again, I also began dating him with ulterior motives! I could let our relationship progress so I could gather more clues, but if I didn’t find anything, I worried that my colleagues would catch me and I’d get fired for orchestrating an illegal scheme like that! I also realized that I had the option to go out with him without searching for evidence, but if I went down that path and he got proven guilty of that heinous crime, I’d end up totally heartbroken! I had no idea what to do about Aidan, and I certainly didn’t know what kind of label to put on our situation, but I did know one thing- I didn’t want Ben anymore! Not even a little! He waited for me to continue my response, so I simply stated, “I’m going home!”
I could see the hurt I gave him spread throughout his face, but it now occurred to me that I had no obligation to care about his emotions anymore! I ghosted him completely as I stormed to my car. Okay, the car belonged to my mom, but I had it in my possession at the moment! Anyways, I didn’t look back as I started the car even though I could hear him call me name. I just continued to ignore him and drove home!
On the way back to my house, I tried to use that time to decide how to deal with Aidan, but my heart still pulled me in two different directions. Plus, the more I mulled it over, the more angry that Ben made me! His false accusations had always bothered me, but his actions today really got under my skin! He still acted like we were an item, and he had the audacity to put a move on me in my weary condition! It almost seemed criminal to me! I needed to vent about this to someone because if I didn’t get this off my chest, my head would have exploded! When I got home, I saw that my mother and Wade weren’t there, and I forgot that they had planned to go to the restaurant that day. I couldn’t let all this acrimony fester inside me, I had to talk to someone! I knew I’d see Sandra in the morning, but I couldn’t wait until then! I tried texting her, but she didn’t reply back. I didn’t really have anyone else to confide in, but then I noticed Aidan’s card on the flowers…
I didn’t even think twice about it! Desperate to connect with someone, I put his number on my phone and practically wrote a novel to him! I didn’t know how he’d respond, but I hoped he would offer the sympathy that I ardently needed! I hoped that my lack of communication up until this point hadn’t offended him! I also feared that maybe I disclosed too much to him. I mean, I knew we had shared a lot of deeply personal stuff on our date, but it could have been the effect of the wine that made him more open. I speculated on a lot of reasons why I may not have heard back from him, but to my surprise, he called me! He had apparently grown very concerned about me, and I found it really endearing that he worried about my well being like that! We talked for hours, and it felt unexpectedly refreshing to have someone I could speak so freely with! I thoroughly enjoyed myself, and it pained me when I heard Wade and my mom pull up! I couldn’t hear Aidan anymore, so I had to hang up. We kept text each other though, which was also nice. I still had no idea what his intentions with me were or where this relationship would end up, but I just savored this moment while it lasted!
The next morning, I waited on the porch with dreaded nerves continuing to mount more and more after each passing minute. I kept trying to think of a way to phrase my secret operation with Aidan without admitting to an offense that could jeopardize my job. Bits of it were totally innocent, but I didn’t know how to fill in the gaps without lying. Travis came strolling over to me, and before he could even utter a single word, I snapped, “I don’t know where your bike is!” As he ran off with a hurt look on his face, I berated myself for starting the day off with a lie, and it really needled me to have to possibly tell another one!
I got a text message, and I thought Sandra may have been notifying me of the possibility of her late arrival, but it actually came from Aidan! He wished me a good day at work, and I smiled as I returned the sentiment back to him. I don’t think I ever had anyone tell me that before! Okay, sure, maybe some cashiers if I stopped somewhere en route to work, but other than that, I don’t think I really had anyone who cared about what kind of day I’d potentially have! It felt really nice, and I wanted to relish in this feeling for longer, but when I glanced up again, I saw that Sandra had pulled up! I knew she must have seen my delighted expression, and as I walked to the car, I went back to dreading this impending event. I passed my mom’s car, and I longed to take that again instead of this uncomfortable voyage! I observed that Aidan’s flowers were still in there, and I cringed. If I could see them, then surely Sandra also could! I sighed and resigned myself to the fact that I may as well get this over with!
As soon as I got in Sandra’s vehicle, she immediately spat out, “You slept with him, didn’t you?”
“With who?” She gave me a stare that clearly indicated that me playing it coy wouldn’t suffice, so I clarified, “I didn’t sleep with anyone, but I saw my soon-to-be ex yesterday, so I didn’t know who you meant.”
“I really don’t think Ben could have that kind of an effect on you!” Sandra denoted, and I acknowledged the truth of that affirmation. As she began driving, she impatiently asked, “Well, what did happen between you and Aidan?”
I opted to start with the beach excursion. I hadn’t crossed any lines at that point, so I could speak freely about that. I just willed the universe to distract her before I had to explain my amorous investigation! “So, Friday night, I saw that Aidan was heading out of town, so I followed him. He used a transportation spell, and I managed to get in on that. It turned out he had taken us to the beach. He had apparently picked up on how stressed I am, and that’s where he goes to relax, so he had pulled off that stunt to help me feel better!”
“Awwwww! That’s so sweet!” Sandra cooed.
“He had good intentions, I think, but it was a little bittersweet for me.” I confessed, “You see, when I was a kid, my family didn’t have a lot of money, but my dad saved up for a trip to surprise my mom for their anniversary. When we came home early to tell her, we caught her cheating on my dad with his best friend!” As I narrated the story to her, I couldn’t believe I was actually admitting that information that I always tried to keep secret to another soul besides Aidan! It also stunned me that I had greatly preferred to tell this very personal story to her instead of having an honest conversation with her about my relationship with Aidan! “My parents split after that. It was awful! I found out later that my mom did it ’cause of her secret drug addiction, but still, going to this place where we were going to go on that vacation…” I started tearing up at this point.
We pulled up to the parking garage of our station, and as soon as Sandra turned off the car, she took off her seat belt and gave me a hug. “That sounds very painful!”
I agreed, “Yeah, things were never the same after that! It’s why I never wanted to leave town if I could help it. Ben sure was happy about not having to pay for a honeymoon, cheap bastard!”
Sandra giggled, and then she inquired, “So, what happened with you and Aidan next? Are you guys just flirting? Is there something more than that? Did he ask you out?”
“Why are you getting so excited about this?” I went on the offense instead of answering. “Do you really think it’s a good idea for me to date a criminal?”
“What makes you so sure he’s a criminal?” Sandra challenged.
I brought up, “Remember his time records? He had gaps! He’s hiding something!”
Sandra waved that off, “Oh, businessmen always look for shortcuts for tax reasons or whatever. I don’t think that’s enough to make him a criminal! At least, he’s not guilty of anything too scandalous, come on!”
“It’s not just that! I-!” Before I could finish my sentence, I got a phone call. When I read the caller ID, I announced, “It’s Chief Mazarine. I better answer it!” She seemed completely miffed by getting cut off from getting more juicy details, but she knew our boss wouldn’t call if it wasn’t important, so she didn’t object. I figured he must have seen us in the parking lot and wanted to yell at us for taking too long to loiter instead of coming inside and being productive, and for once, I didn’t mind receiving a scolding! It bought me some time before having to explain to myself or anyone else what Aidan and I had relationship-wise! “Hello?”
“Get to the station right away!” Chief Mazarine urgently directed. “Your killer struck again!”