My Lovely Wife by Samantha Downing Review 2019
My Lovely Wife by Samantha Downing Review 2019 Read books online
SHE IS LOOKING at me. Her blue eyes are glassy, they flicker down to herdrink and back up. I look at my own drink and can feel her watching,wondering if I’m as interested as she is. I glance over and smile to showher I am. She smiles back. Most of her lipstick is gone, now a reddishsmear on the rim of her glass. I walk over and take the seat next to her.She fluffs her hair. It is unremarkable in both color and length. Herlips move, she says hello, and her eyes are brighter. They look backlit.Physically, I appeal to her the same way I would appeal to mostwomen in this bar. I am thirty-nine, in excellent shape with a full head ofhair and a deep set of dimples, and my suit fits better than any glove.That’s why she looked at me, why she smiled, why she is happy I havecome over to join her. I am the man she has in mind.I slide my phone across the bar toward her. It displays a message.Hello. My name is Tobias.She reads it and crinkles her brow, looking back and forth between thephone and me. I type another message.I am deaf.Her eyebrows shoot up, she covers her mouth with one hand, My Lovely Wife by Samantha Downing Review 2019 and thepink rises on her skin. Embarrassment looks the same on everyone.She shakes her head at me. Sorry, so sorry. She did not know.Of course you didn’t. How could you?She smiles. It is not quite whole.I am no longer the picture in her head, no longer the man sheimagined, but now she isn’t sure what to do.She picks up my phone and types back.I’m Petra.
A pleasure to meet you, Petra. You are Russian?My parents were.I nod and smile. She nods and smiles. I can see her mind churning.She would rather not stay with me. She wants to go find a man whocan hear her laugh and does not have to type out his words.At the same time, her conscience tells her not to discriminate. Petradoes not want to be the shallow woman who refuses a man because he isdeaf. She doesn’t want to turn me down the way so many others have.Or so she assumes.Her internal battle is like a three-act play unfolding before my eyes,and I know how it ends. At least most of the time.She stays.Her first question is about my hearing, or lack of it. Yes, I have beendeaf from birth. No, I have never heard anything—not a laugh, not avoice, not a puppy barking or a plane overhead.Petra gives me a sad face. She does not realize this is patronizing, and Idon’t tell her, because she is trying. Because she stays.She asks if I can read lips. I nod. She starts to talk.“When I was twelve, I broke my leg in two places. Bike accident.” Hermouth moves in the most exaggerated, grotesque way. “Anyway, I had towear a cast that went from my foot all the way up to my thigh.” She stops,draws a line across her thigh in case I have trouble understanding. Idon’t, but I appreciate the attempt. And the thigh.She continues. “I couldn’t walk at all for six weeks. At school, I had touse a wheelchair, because the cast was too heavy for crutches.”I smile, half imagining little Petra with a big cast. Half imaginingwhere this sad story is heading.“I’m not saying I know what it’s like to live in a wheelchair, or to haveany permanent disability. I just always feel like … well, it feels like I’vehad a small taste of what it would be like, you know?”I nod.She smiles with relief, afraid her story might have offended me.I type:You are very sensitive.
MY NAME IS not Tobias. I use that name only when I want someone toremember me. In this case, the bartender. I introduced myself andtyped out my name when I first walked in and ordered a drink. He willremember me. He will remember that Tobias is the deaf man who left thebar with a woman he just met. The name was for his benefit, not Petra’s.She will remember me anyway, because how many deaf guys could shehave slept with?And if I hadn’t made a mistake, I would have been an odd footnote inher sexual history. But now she will remember me as the “fake deaf guy”or the “possibly fake deaf guy.”The more I think about it, the more I wonder if I slipped twice. MaybeI froze when she asked if I was deaf. It’s possible, because that’s whatpeople do when they hear something unexpected. And if I did, sheprobably saw it. She probably knows I lied.On the drive back home, everything is uncomfortable. My car seat feelsscratchy, and it hurts my back. Everything on the radio is too loud,almost like everyone is screeching. But I can’t blame that all on Petra. Ihave been irritable for a while now.At home, My Lovely Wife by Samantha Downing Review 2019 all is quiet. My wife, Millicent, is still in bed. I have beenmarried to her for fifteen years, and she does not call me Tobias. We havetwo kids; Rory is fourteen, and Jenna is one year younger.Our bedroom is dark, but I can just about see the shape of Millicentunder the bedcovers. I take off my shoes and tiptoe toward the bathroom.“Well?”Millicent sounds wide-awake.I half turn and see the shadow of her propped up on an elbow.There it is again. The choice. From Millicent, a rarity.“No,” I say.“No?”“She isn’t right.”
The air between us freezes. It doesn’t thaw until Millicent exhales andlays her head back down.• • •SHE GETS UP before I do. By the time I walk into the kitchen, Millicent isorganizing breakfast, school lunches, the day, our lives.I know should tell her about Petra. Not about the sex—I wouldn’t tellmy wife about that. But I should tell her that I made a mistake and thatPetra is right for us. I should do it because it’s a risk to leave Petra outthere.Instead, I say nothing.Millicent looks at me, her disappointment hitting like a physical force.Her eyes are green, many shades of green, and they look like camouflage.They are nothing like Petra’s. Millicent and Petra have nothing incommon, except they’ve both slept with me. Or some version of me.The kids tumble down the stairs, already yelling at each other, fightingover who said what about so-and-so at school yesterday. They are dressedand ready for school, just as I am dressed for work in my tennis whites. Iam not and never have been an accountant.While my kids are in school and my wife is selling houses, I am outsideon the court, in the sun, teaching people how to play tennis. Most of myclients are middle-aged and out of shape, with too much money and time.Occasionally, I am hired by parents who believe their child is a prodigy, achampion, a future role model. So far, they have all been wrong.But before I can leave to teach anyone anything, Millicent makes us allsit together for at least five minutes. She calls it breakfast.Jenna rolls her eyes, taps her feet, anxious to get her phone back. Nophones are allowed at the table. Rory is calmer than his sister. He makesthe most of our five minutes by eating as much as possible, then stuffinghis pockets with whatever doesn’t fit in his mouth.Millicent sits across from me, a cup of coffee perched at her lips. She isdressed for work in a skirt, blouse, and heels, and her red hair is pulledback. The morning sun makes it look like copper. We are the same age,but she looks better—always has. She is the woman I should not havebeen able to get.
PETRA WAS NUMBER one on the list, but now that she’s been eliminated Imove on to the next, a young woman named Naomi George. I haven’tspoken to her yet.In the evening, I drive to the Lancaster Hotel. Naomi works as a frontdesk clerk at the Lancaster, one of those old-world places that survivesbecause of its past glory. The building is huge and so grand in decor itcould never be built today. It would be too expensive to do right and toocheesy if done wrong.The front of the hotel has glass doors and side panels, offering a goodview of the front desk. Naomi stands behind it wearing the Lancasteruniform, a blue skirt and jacket, both trimmed in gold braid, and a crispwhite blouse. She has long dark hair, and the freckles on her nose makeher look younger than she is. Naomi is twenty-seven. She probably stillgets carded in bars but is not as innocent as she looks.Late at night, I have seen her get a little too friendly with more thanone male guest. They have all been alone, older, and well dressed, and shedoesn’t always leave the hotel when her shift ends. Either Naomi hasbeen making extra money on the side or she has aspirational one-nightstands.Because of social media, I know that her favorite food is sushi but shewon’t eat red meat. In high school, she played volleyball and had aboyfriend named Adam. Now he is referred to as The Cretin. Her lastboyfriend, Jason, moved away three months ago, and she has been singleever since. Naomi has been thinking about getting a pet, probably a cat,but she hasn’t yet. She has more than a thousand online friends, but fromwhat I can tell, Naomi has just two close friends. Three at the most.I’m still not sure she is the one. I need to know more.Millicent is tired of waiting.Last night, I found Millicent in our bathroom, standing in front of themirror, taking off her makeup. She was wearing jeans and a T-shirt
proclaiming her the mother of a seventh-grade honor student. Jenna, My Lovely Wife by Samantha Downing Review 2019 notRory.“What was wrong with her?” she said. Millicent does not use Petra’sname because she does not have to. I know who she means.“She just wasn’t the one.”Millicent didn’t look at me in the mirror. She smoothed lotion on herface. “That’s the second one you’ve eliminated.”“She has to be right. You know that.”She snapped the lid of her lotion bottle closed. I went to the bedroomand sat down to take off my shoes. The day had been long and needed toend, but Millicent wouldn’t let it. She followed me into the bedroom andstood over me.“Are you sure you still want to do this?” she said.“Yes.”I was too busy feeling guilty about sleeping with another woman toshow much enthusiasm. It had hit me in the afternoon, when I saw a littleold couple; they had to be at least ninety years old, and they held handsas they walked down the street. Couples like that didn’t cheat on eachother. I looked up at Millicent and wished I could make us become likethat.Millicent knelt in front of me and placed a hand on top of my knee.“We need to do this.”Her eyes flickered, the warmth from her hand spreading as it inchedup my leg. “You’re right,” I said. “We do need this.”She leaned closer and kissed me long and deep. It made me feelguiltier. And it made me want to do whatever will make her happy.
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