Bria checked the time on the clock radio near the bed. Almost time for their virtual tennis match. Riley had insisted she needed physical activity.
She had to admit quarantine had not been the pain she thought it would be and that was because of Riley. He had come up with the most entertaining ways to keep her from climbing the walls. For the past five days, every morning began with virtual tennis. He had beat her soundly each time, but she was improving. It had taken her time to get used to the virtual game that made them appear to be in the same place and facing off across the tennis court. The workout was as fierce as if they had been outside running around on a real court.
Lunch was shared on the balcony with the wall between them. They had to speak a bit louder than usual, but Riley loved being able to peek around the side to look at her. He always complimented her hair and her outfit. She had taken to making sure she no longer looked like death warmed over. The test results had been negative and that had been of only slight relief as they said they would need to check her again the following week.
By far, her favorite time with Riley was the evening movie. Once it hit seven, she would get a knock on the door with a freshly popped bag of popcorn, a bottle of orange or apple juice and instructions on what movie they would be watching.
She liked this take-charge Riley. He used to always say whatever you want and let her choose but she found she loved depending on him for even a little thing like arranging their movie watching experience. All she had to do was show up and be prepared to text during the show.
Riley’s witty comments often had her laughing more than the actors on the screen. He always mixed it up, one romantic comedy and one action. Tonight, Bria was going to suggest they watch the new thriller with Denzel Washington. He would probably protest because he knew she loved her some Denzel, but she would have her way.
A heavy pounding on her door broke through her musings.
“Hold your horses. I’m coming,” Bria shouted, rushing to the door. “What is so urgent?”
The largest bouquet of red roses Bria had ever seen were being pushed towards her.
“What in the …” She took the bouquet, mouth agape and stared at the man who was on his knees before the door.
“Riley, what’s going on? Where’d you get roses in the middle of a lockdown?”
He started to respond but she stopped him. “Let me get my mask. Hold on.”
What was he up to now?
Riley had made it a habit to buy her roses on their anniversary and her birthday. Today was neither.
She stuck her nose in the soft petals before placing them in a vase on the bar which separated the kitchen from the living area then grabbed her mask. Checking her eyes and hair in the mirror, she went back to the door.
He was still on his knees.
“Get up from there please.”
“Not until I say this Bri.” His voice was serious, and his eyes locked with hers. “I am sorry Bria Collymore. I promised you that I would spend all my days working to make you happy and I have failed. I am declaring to you now, that for the remainder of this quarantine and every day thereafter, I will endeavor to tell you and show you that I want to be your man forever.”
Bri could feel her eyes tear up at his words. She was not sure he had even blinked the entire time and she could feel his sincerity.
What was she to say?
She ached to tell him that she was the one who had failed. He had done nothing wrong. He made her happy with his presence. All his actions only amplified that he was a good man worthy of having all his dreams come true. She was the one that could not deliver on those dreams.
Even after she had moved out, Riley had never stopped doing any of the things save for kissing and sleeping in her bed that he had done while they were together or even before. She could still count on him to take care of her car, fix anything broken, help her friends if she asked. He did not get angry or show any signs of animosity towards her.
She knew she was standing there with her mouth moving like a fish, but she had no words.
“Does this mean no virtual tennis this morning?” She regretted the words as soon as they left her mouth. Riley’s eyes shuttered and he let out a breath.
“No. We’re still on and I’m still going to beat you.” He stood, smiled, and turned to return to his apartment.
Bria closed the door and slid down to the floor. Guilt assailed her. He was not the bad guy. She was. She was the one breaking up their marriage.
Days like this she wished her mother were still alive or she had a sister to confide in. What would they tell her?
Her mother would probably tell her “Move on and go live your dreams without a man.” Her mother had never been married and had held out hope for a long time that Bria’s dad would have left his wife for her. That was never going to happen. Bria’s dad had loved the easy life and his wife was well off. It had broken her mother and she had died angry.
Her imaginary sister, she hoped would be the sensitive one and ask her to consider how she felt, what she feared.
If she were to be honest, she feared feeling rejected. That was what she felt would happen the minute Riley knew the truth. She should tell him, so he stopped feeling responsible, but she was a chicken. She was not ready for the look on his face. He would hate her. The perfect wife he loved and bragged about. She was sure of it.
Her phone beeped with a text message.
She didn’t have to check it to know it was Riley telling her it was time for their match. She got her gear and headed for the living room.
“I’m here,” she said into the headset.
She nodded as if he could see her. What was she to say? She was not okay. She had no idea what would make it okay ever again.
“I’ll serve first,” was her only reply.
Riley sighed. This woman had him in knots. He forced himself to respond to her serve and made a half-hearted effort to offer a decent volley.
He really should not have been surprised that she had ignored his declaration. Bria always hated those moments. It was not that she was unforgiving. She wasn’t big on public displays of affection or heart to heart talks. Everything for her needed to be black or white. No middle ground. Clearly he had disappointed her but he didn’t even know how.
“Riley, your turn to serve,” her voice whispered in his head set. He really ached to hold her. He wanted badly to kiss her and stroke that spot on the back of her neck that always made her whimper.
Another week and two days. He could make it. Who was he kidding? If he could not change her mind now, he would lose her for good.
Bri was on a roll. She was smashing aces and his serves were smashing into the net. This was not going well. Maybe he should call it quits or just let her win. Bri would hate that. She hated anyone showing her pity. He needed to focus on the game. No more mushy stuff. He would keep showing her that he was committed with his actions.
How could he? She was leaving the island. He had found a very generous offer from an international agency in Bria’s car when he sanitized it a few days before. She had always wanted to do that. He remembered it was the path she had been on when they had fallen in love and gotten married. Somehow, he had forgotten that. He thought she was happy with the life they were creating together.
“Riley, pay attention!”
He gave another half-hearted serve and groaned when Bria’s squeal announced she had won the set.