Vanessa and Conway, don’t read this…

It’s been a week since that shitshow dinner, and Pearl has barely met my gaze ever since. Our dinners are spent in silence. She never seems present, her mind somewhere else, and sometimes when I speak she doesn’t seem to hear it. At bedtime, I’ve made my moves…but she turns over and pulls the sheets higher to her shoulder.

            To say that I’m anger is an understatement.

            I went back to work at the winery just to get out of the house even though it’s still cold as fuck outside. The fog is over the hills and the vines are still dead. But I’d rather sit in my office alone than have to feel her somber rage.

            When I came home that night, she was on the couch reading a book with the TV on, and even though she heard me enter the room, she kept her eyes on the page…like I didn’t fucking exist.

            I’d never been a patient man—so I lost my shit.

            “Enough of this.” My voice came out louder than I meant it to, and instead of talking at a reasonable volume, I shouted. I shouted at her like I hadn’t in a very long time, probably decades.

            She jumped and fumbled with her book—as she fucking should.

            “I didn’t do anything and you’re punishing me like I betrayed you. I’m your goddamn husband and when I walk in the door you better get off your ass and at least look at me. I’ve waited for this to pass on its own but you’re so stubborn that you’re going to let some cunt affect our lives, a cunt that probably hasn’t even thought about us twice. Cut the bullshit. I’m fucking sick and tired of it—”

            She burst into tears and chucked her book, not at me, but across the room at the wall. It made a loud smack against one of the paintings and then bounced onto the rug.

            By the time I looked back at her, she had already stormed off.

            It took me an instant to understand what just happened—because violent outbursts were my thing. She was too calm and collected to snap and throw shit around the house. I’d broken a lot of glasses in my study throughout the years.

            I went after her, through the hallway and to the grand room on the other side where the staircase was. “Button.”

            She was halfway up the stairs and hellbent on getting away from me.

            “For fuck’s sake, talk to me.”

            She kept going, taking two steps at a time, and when she made it to the third landing it was clear she had no desire to speak to me at all.

            I climbed up the three flights of stairs, reached the third landing, and I would have bee-lined for our primary bedroom at the very end—but I noticed one of the guest bedrooms had the door closed. The very bedroom she once slept in when she first came here all those decades ago.

            I tried the knob and felt it stiffen because it was locked.

            I had no patience right now.

            So I backed up and threw my shoulder into the wood, smashing it off the hinges and making it fall onto the floor.

            “Jesus, Crow.” Button jumped from where she sat at the foot of the bed, her cheeks red and puffy from the tears she continued to shed.

            I stopped in front of her and watched her cower at the terrifying look on my face.

            “Talk to me.”

            She looked away.

            “No.” I grabbed her face and forced her chin at me. I hadn’t grabbed her like this in a long time, like she wasn’t a person anymore. “We’re doing this, and the more you fight me, the worst it’s going to be.”

            She shoved my hand off her face. “You won’t understand—”

            “You think I understand you shutting me out? I feel like we aren’t even married anymore, Button. Our lives just stopped when we had that dinner. Why are you giving some bitch all this power over your life—”

            “It’s not just her. It’s all of them.”

            “All of who?”

            “All the girls that hit on you. It happens all the time…”

            “It doesn’t happen all the time—”

            “Cane tells me what happens at the winery, Crow.”

            That motherfucker was dead.

            “With their girlfriends in their summer dresses asking to see the warehouse and all that other bullshit—”

            “How the fuck can you not trust me—”

            “I do trust you—”

            “I’ve got your back like a goddamn brother and you got mine. After everything we’ve been through together, how could you possibly even think, for a fucking second, that I would ever—”

            “You’re not listening to me! This is why I didn’t want to talk to you—” She tried to step away.

            I grabbed her by the elbow and yanked her back to me—hard. “Button, I’m trying. I’m trying so fucking hard right now.” I clenched my jaw and felt the rage boil in my blood. “But all I hear are veiled accusations—”

            “You’re sexier than you were the day I met you and I’m…old.” She blurted it out and took a deep breath, like it hurt her to say that. She wouldn’t look at me, the way she did when she was embarrassed. “It’s not fair…” New tears welled in her eyes. “I know you would never do anything, but this is what happens, you get old and then twenty-something bitches with perky tits try to take your man—and most of them succeed. I know you would never do anything…but it still feels like a threat, a threat that I can’t stop, a threat that I can’t neutralize. I have a scar on my stomach from our babies, I have stretch marks that have faded but will always be there. I work out and never eat to stay the same size that I was when you met me, but you’re ripped and rugged and barely have any gray hair and age has only made your eyes smolder even more…” She said all of this without looking at me, determined to reject my stare as long as she could. “It fucking sucks…” Tears welled down her cheeks and she sniffed before she wiped them away.

            It hurt me to see her so broken over this…but I also felt nothing at the same time. I felt nothing because she was right—I didn’t understand. I took a moment to think, like I always did whenever we had conversations like this, because words didn’t come easy to me. She could describe her emotions so vividly and I struggled to piece a few sentences together. “Button, look at me.”

            She wouldn’t. Her arms crossed over her chest.

            “You’re right…I don’t understand.”

            She sniffed before her eyes glanced at me out of the corners.

            “Whenever that shit happens, I’m just annoyed. I’m annoyed because I have shit to do and they’re just taking up my time. I understand men at every age desire a woman in her prime, but I don’t think that way. Maybe it’s because I have a daughter that age, but I think it’s because I’ve lost my desire for the flesh a long time ago…”

            Her eyes stayed on me and she slowly turned toward me.

            “Before I met you…sex was stale. I could have any woman I wanted but it was just a means to an end. I fucked because my body needed it, but once it was done…I was over it. But then you walked in the door…and my world was set on fire. It was beyond the flesh. It was beneath the bone. It was an emotional and raw and…satisfying. And it’s been that way day every day of our lives ever since. I know men miss their youth and all the hookups they had, but I don’t. Sex with you…heals me. It continues to heal me…even after all this time.”

            Tears continued to bubble in her eyes, and I hoped it was for a different reason.

            “When you say that you’re old…I don’t understand that. I see the same woman I’ve always seen since the moment our eyes locked. You say I’ve gotten better with age…I think you haven’t changed. You don’t notice the way men look at you when we walk down the street or step into a restaurant—but I do. And I fucking hate it. But none of them would ever come near you, even if I were in the bathroom, because they would get cut and they fucking know it. That’s the difference between us, Button. You’re not a threat—and I’m fucking terrifying.”

            Her eyes dropped to the ground and she sniffed.

            “Yes, you have a scar from our children. You have stretch marks on your stomach. I notice them every time we fuck.”

            Her eyes moved to mine again, surprised that I said that.

            “Because I fucking love them. Women love the scars men bring home from battle. Men loves the scars that women earn from birthing their children. I don’t understand why you’re ashamed of them because they mark the greatest moments of our lives. You gave me a son, Button. You gave me a daughter. They will live on after we’re gone because you made them. I kiss those scars because they make me fucking hard.”

            Her eyes continued to shine with tears.

            “Our lives have not changed. I fuck you every night like I always have, and I sit in my study with you every night because you’re the only person in the world I want to sit with. I’m grateful that men have been blessed with shorter lifespans than women, because that means I’ll never know my life without you. That’s your burden to bear—and I’m not ashamed to be selfish about that. I would not survive with you, Button. So next time some cunt makes a move on me, just know that I feel literally nothing—and I feel everything for you.”

            Her eyes moved to the floor again like my final words overwhelmed her.

            I wanted this shit to be over. I wanted my wife back. “Are we done with this?”

            She nodded. “Yes…we’re done.”

            I moved into her quickly, sliding my hand into her hair as I shoved her up against the wall. My mouth sealed over hers and I kissed her for the first time in a week, tasting the salt on her tongue, the tears that shouldn’t have fallen in the first place. My fingers fisted her hair and kept her in place like an animal, and I hooked her leg over my hip as I pressed into her, let her feel just how hard she made.

            Her arms circled my neck and she kissed me back, taking a couple seconds to reciprocate my desire. But then she melted, and slowly our kisses fell into a seductive dance, an exchange of breaths and tongue, a calm in the center of the storm.

            It’d been the longest week of my life. A week without sex. A week without affection. A week without Button. She’d spent that whole time thinking about some bitch I couldn’t even remember and I’d spent it thinking about her.

            I carried her to the bed where I fucked her for the first time and dropped her on the surface. Then I quickly yanked her shoes off and got her jeans and panties off. I kicked myself free of my bottoms as quickly as I could so I could move on top of her and let my hips feel the soft flesh of her thighs. I yanked up her shirt to expose her tits and kissed them, kissed her stomach, worshipped the body that gave me the people I loved most in this world. Then I dropped to her sex, kissing my favorite pair of lips.

            She sucked in a breath when she felt me. Then a quiet moan came afterward.

            The door was ajar and Lars could walk by any moment, but I didn’t give a shit.

            I kissed her until she writhed underneath me, and when I knew that pussy was ready I sunk inside her, finally sheathed in fucking bliss. My hand fisted the back of her hair and I thrust into her hair, over and over, making her call out because I wasn’t gentle or kind. I fucked her like I was angry, because I still was angry, angry that this time had been taken from us. “You’re mine, Button. Fucking mine.”