Summer Torfan stared down at her neatly manicured fingernails and the large diamond ring on her left hand. The big, glittery rock had replaced the teeny-tiny diamond of her original ring and right now she wished she had the old one back. Had those days back when she and Dave were a couple of twenty-year-old kids who were crazy in love with each other. Now she had a three-carat diamond ring, wore a cream Chanel suit that cost more than three months rent at their first apartment, and a marriage that had definitely lost its sparkle.
Dave shifted on the leather couch next to her and their silence seemed to thicken the air, making it hard to breathe. She stole a peek at him and was struck as ever by how handsome he was. Broad shoulders, strong legs and a powerful chest she loved to cuddle with. Add to that his head of thick, dark hair with the first hints of gray coming in and he could be on GQ. Unfortunately his good looks also led to people calling him her “trophy husband”. A term he despised.
While she traveled around the world and made a million-dollar salary as a computer security consultant, Dave stayed home and raised their two young boys. He’d had a decent job, but when she’d been made the youngest VP in her company’s history they’d both decided him staying home with the kids would be the best of all worlds. To everyone’s surprise, especially her father’s, Dave had made a fantastic stay-at-home dad and their boys adored him.
Thinking of their kids made her reach across the six-inch divide on the couch between them at the marriage counselor’s office and grab his hand. She loved him, she truly, deeply did, and she was going to do whatever she had to in order to make things right between them. She hated this tense silence between them but had no idea how to mend the breach. Talking about emotions and feelings always made her uncomfortable, vulnerable, but right now she would happily sell her soul if it would fix their marriage.
Even holding hands with her husband felt awkward and she hated it. They used to constantly touch each other and it had felt as natural as breathing. Now the emotional walls between them had become physical things, invisible barriers that kept them apart and seemed to grow stronger every day. Her analytical mind went into overdrive, trying to repair what was broken as if their marriage were a massive computer program that just needed the right data replacement to start operating smoothly again.
He cleared his throat and flexed his hand beneath hers. With a start she realized she was squeezing his hand hard enough that her knuckles stood out in white relief. “Sorry.”
He ran his thumb over her fingers in a caressing circle. “It’s okay. You know I like it rough.” He grinned at her, the tension breaking and filling her with the warmth that only Dave had been able to bring into her life. “Wonder what’s taking Ember so long.”
She smiled back and rolled her eyes. “Who knows, maybe there was a drumming circle on the way to work and she couldn’t pass it by.”
Dave laughed and she looked around the room cluttered with a bewildering array of stuff, glad to think about anything but why they were here. Wait, not stuff, hippy artifacts. That’s what their marriage counselor, Ember, called it. For all that Ember appeared as a flaky old woman from the 70s, she was extremely intelligent with degrees from both Harvard and Oxford. According to Ember, the objects weren’t stuff from her hippy days, or random collections of crap, they were artifacts of a fascinating time in the US psyche.
When Summer looked at the old concert photos in that context she did see them as fascinating objects instead of stuff. It was all too easy to imagine the mood of the country at that time with free love standing up in the face of a never ending war in Vietnam. Though she didn’t think having a giant hookah in your office was the most professional thing, even if it was allegedly a gift from Jimmy Hendrix.
The owner of all these artifacts, Ember, breezed through the door in a flurry of some sandalwood-based perfume and flowing brightly colored gypsy skirts. Her long silver hair was back in a thick braid as usual and she wore a beautiful necklace of orange and white glass beads with an iridescent sheen. After tossing her motorcycle saddle bags into the corner she gave them a bright smile and sat in her worn brown suede chair with a happy sigh.
“Summer, Dave, I’m so happy to see you again.” She abruptly sat forward and folded her hands. “I got both of your assignments and I’m so very, very proud of you for being open with your fantasies and sharing them with me.” Her grin became teasing. “And look, you expressed your desires and no morality police came and said you were perverts.”
Clearing his throat, Dave tried to cover up his laughter as Summer flushed. She had felt like a pervert when she typed up one of her favorite sexual fantasies for Ember. It was only the fact that she knew Ember wouldn’t judge her that allowed her to spill some secrets. Evidently Dave had felt the same way because his grip eased on her hand.
Ember tilted back in her chair, her silver-ring-clad fingers drumming on the battered arms. To Summer it seemed as if the other woman had so much energy it was physically impossible for her to stay still. Dave thought she was on meth.