by Rebecca Linam  

‘It’s your fault,’ said the woman.

‘Nonsense,’ said the man. ‘All is fair in love and war.’

‘You and your stupid quotes! If you had only—’

The telephone rang.

‘You get it,’ said the woman.

The man threw his newspaper to the floor and stomped to the telephone.

‘Jansen family.’

‘Family,’ snorted the woman. ‘You call this a family?’

‘David! How are you?’

‘David!’ The woman sprang out of her chair and hurried toward the phone. ‘Give me that!’

She grabbed the receiver from her husband’s grasp. ‘Hello, David! It’s wonderful to hear from you. Of course you can drop by! Yes, see you soon!’ she said and hung up.

‘David’s coming by?’ said the man.

‘Yes, he says he’s just around the corner. He wants to spend the night here.’ A rare smile crept to her face. ‘It was nice back then when he and Allison lived here in the apartment.’

‘Yeah,’ said the man with a shrug. ‘Sure.’

‘Back then everything was so much…’

‘I’ll just drop by the store and get some beer,’ he said and reached for the car keys hanging by the door.

‘But we still have beer in the cellar,’ the woman called out, but he was already gone.

* * *

‘I can’t believe it’s really you!’ said the woman, helping David out of a leather coat that had seen better days. ‘I thought you’d never get here! You haven’t changed a bit! How are you?’

‘Not bad,’ he said shyly.

‘You’re three hours late,’ said the man.

‘Ignore him,’ said the woman. ‘You’re freezing. Come inside.’

David brushed the cold rain from his hair and he, the woman and the man went into the living room.

‘Take a seat by the fire,’ she said indicating her husband’s chair. ‘I’m sure you’d like a drink.’

The man handed him a bottle of beer.

‘Bitburger, your favorite,’ he said. ‘But I prefer Budweiser.’

‘You remembered. Back then I always drank Bitburger,’ said David.

‘Yes, back then,’ said the woman. ‘And how is Allison?’

‘She’s…well. How are you two doing?’

‘We’re fine,’ said the man. ‘And what are you doing here in Memphis, Tennessee so far from sunny California?’

‘My company sent me to Atlanta for a few days.’

‘Atlanta? Atlanta, Georgia?’ The woman was incredulous. ‘But that’s hours away from here! You said you were just around the corner!’

‘Compared to California, Atlanta isn’t that far. I drove fast.’

‘And you didn’t get stopped!’

‘Good job, David!’ laughed the man.

‘I really needed to see you both,’ said David picking at the label on his beer bottle. ‘I’m flying back to California tomorrow morning.’

‘So how is Allison? You haven’t told me yet,’ said the woman. ‘What are the kids up to? How old are they now?’

‘Makayla is eight and Mara ten. They’re fine. But the thing is…Allison…she left me.’

‘She left you?’ said the woman, her smile fading. ‘What happened?’

‘Everything happens for a reason,’ the man said and took a long swig of his beer.

The woman glared at him, then turned back to David.

‘Go on,’ she said.

‘I couldn’t really talk about my work with her like I wanted to, and then I…’ David looked down at his feet. ‘I met another woman and one thing led to another, and…’

‘And you cheated on her?’ she whispered as if walking on eggshells.

‘Now she doesn’t want to have anything to do with me. The new boyfriend makes sure of that. How could I have been so stupid?’

‘You wouldn’t be the first,’ said the woman and then, looking at her husband, ‘would he?’

The man snatched up an apple from the fruit dish and tossed it to David. ‘Are you hungry, David? You know the old saying, an apple a day keeps the doctor away.’

‘No, thanks,’ said David. He put the apple back in the dish. ‘So, what should I do? I still love her.’

‘Have you tried—’

The man tossed David a second bottle of beer. ‘How are things at work, David? Working hard or hardly working?’

‘What?’ said David. ‘Oh, yes, I’m still hard at it.’

He looked back to woman. ‘I told her that—’

‘You making good money?’ said the man. ‘You know that poverty waits at the gate of idleness, right?’

‘Would you shut your mouth!’ yelled the woman. ‘You and your stupid quotes! David needs to talk this out!’

The man looked indignant. ‘What do you mean, stupid? People have been saying them for years!’

‘Do they ever say silence is golden?’ she said. ‘Or what about, the grass is greener on the other side of the fence? Does that ring a bell?’

‘David, you have to drive back to Atlanta tomorrow for your flight, right?’ said the man.

‘Absolutely.’

‘You know what they say,’ said the man, his ever-present smile broader than usual.

‘Early to bed and early to rise makes a man healthy, wealthy, and wise.’

‘Maybe you’re right,’ said David, and he stood up. ‘My flight is at nine in the morning. I’ll have to be up early.’

‘But David!’ said the woman.

‘Don’t leave it so long next time, David.’ The man drank the last drop of his beer and nodded a farewell to David.

The woman hurried to the front door and grabbed the garage apartment key. She and David walked down the path and up the stairs to the apartment above the garage that he and his wife had once rented. Its fresh, white paint looked much as it had all those years ago. The woman unlocked the door.

‘We’ve had it done up,’ she said.

David looked around. The walls had been repainted gray. The furniture was new. Not one fragment of back then remained.

‘We were so happy here,’ he said.

‘It wasn’t my idea. I mean, doing it up,’ said the woman closing the door.

When she got back to the house, her husband was sitting in his seat next to the fire.

‘What kept you?’ said the man.

‘You’re insufferable,’ said the woman, crying. ‘You and your stupid quotes.’

‘Nonsense.’

Rebecca Linam teaches German at the University of North Alabama.  Her stories have been published in Balloons Literary Journal, Spaceports and Spidersilk, Stinkwaves, Lights and Shadows, The Write Place at the Write Time, The Spadina Literary Review, Funny in Five Hundred, and Skipping Stones.  She has written four novels for children and young adults.  For more information, please visit her website at www.rebeccalinam.com or follow her on Twitter @rebecca_linam.