Mona got into the car and hit the button to put the top down. She snatched her hair up into a ponytail and secured it with one of the elastic hair ties from the emergency makeup bag she kept in the glove box. It probably would’ve made more sense to leave the convertible top up and put the air on, but she felt as though steam was pouring from the top of her head. The breeze might help to clear her head.
Hadn’t Vic made it clear? The answer to their problem wasn’t for him to make more room for her in his schedule. No, he wanted her to busy herself, so he wouldn’t have to be burdened with her. The idea disturbed her deeply, because they had always shared everything. Even when he was an intern putting in eighty-hour weeks, she had been his sounding board. He’d included her in what was going on in his life. Their best times were when he confided in her after they had made love and lay in each other’s arms. Yes, he had given her all kinds of material things, but they weren’t what mattered most to her.
Maybe he was simply tired of her. After all, they had been married for more than a decade, but she’d followed her mother’s advice and done everything humanly possible to keep herself as close to how she looked on their wedding day. Granted, after two pregnancies she’d put on about fifteen pounds, and her body wasn’t as tight as it was when they met. But it was close. His brother, Charles had even given her a minor tummy tuck and a breast lift before he’d closed his plastic surgery practice. What more could she do?
Quite possibly he’d gotten bored with her. He worked with professional women who had degrees and could relate to him intellectually, which she couldn’t do, but it never seemed to bother him before. As she drove with no idea where she was going, visions of her husband engaged in stimulating conversation with different women at work raced through her mind. Her intention when she’d gotten into the car was not to visit her mother, but when she finally realized it, she was turning onto her street in Decatur. She’d been driving for a half hour. When she parked in the driveway, Mona sat for a moment asking herself why she was there. Of all the people in the world, she knew what her mother would have to say, but there wasn’t anyone else she could talk to about her current situation. She didn’t want to mention anything to Daphine until she knew for sure exactly what was happening with Vic.
“Hi, Ma,” she said when the older woman opened the front door with widened eyes.
“Ramona, what are you doing here?”
She stepped around her mother and into the living room of the cozy brick bungalow. “Gee, thanks for the warm welcome.”
“Stop it! You know I’m happy to see you. It’s just rare for you to come by on the weekend.” Cecily Cox or Cee Cee, as her friends called her, eyed her daughter with a skeptical squint. “So…what’s wrong?”
Mona headed down the wide wood slats of the hallway into the kitchen. “Why does there have to be something wrong? Do you have any coffee?”
“Of course I have coffee. You bought me the brewer, remember?” Mona approached the coffeemaker as though she were on a mission. After she chose a flavor from one of the boxes on the counter, she opened the lid, inserted the K cup, impatiently closed the cover and pressed brew.
“Don’t tell me nothing’s bothering you. I can tell by the way you slammed that lid. Sit down and talk, girl.” Her mother pulled out a chair at the table.
Mona slumped down onto the seat. “It’s Vic. I think he’s tired of me.”
“Why on earth would you think that?”
“He’s so wrapped up in his job, it’s almost like he doesn’t even see me anymore.”
“Impossible! You’re just as gorgeous as you were the day you walked down the aisle.”
“That’s just it. I think he’s lost interest in me. He keeps telling me I need to find something to occupy my time.”
Her mother reared back in her chair. “You have a house, two sons to take care of and your volunteer work. I would think that’s enough to keep any woman occupied.”
“Well…I don’t really take care of the house, Maite does. We have a cleaning service, a landscaping company and someone else to take care of the pool. I think what he means is I need to get a job.”
“A job!” Her mother looked stricken. “Ridiculous. Why in the world do you need to work?” The epitome of the pageant mom, Cecily Cox had raised her daughter to be a beauty queen, a woman who would be put on a pedestal by a successful man. And she had achieved her goal.
“He didn’t come right out and say it, but it’s what I believe he meant. Vic works around smart, educated women all day, and then he comes home to me. All I know how to do is walk a runway and smile.”
“And I suppose that’s my fault.”
“I didn’t say that. Why do you always read something into everything I say?”
“You have a bachelor’s degree, and you were crowned Miss Georgia, for God’s sake!”
“And both of those equate to absolutely nothing in the real world,” she said, knowing her mother had only sent her to college to find a suitable husband. And her mother’s plan had worked.
She gave Mona a confused look. “Didn’t he tell you from the beginning he wanted you to stay home with Trey and Julian?”
“Yes, but I guess he figures they’ve both been in school all day for years now.”
“So what are you saying?”
“I don’t know. All I know is I’m not willing to let Vic put me on the shelf as though I don’t matter anymore.”
“Ramona, Vic is a good man, and you have to do everything you can to keep him. Are you?”
Her hair swished as she tossed her head back and forth in frustration. “I know he’s a good man, but I don’t know what else I can do. We don’t talk the way we used to. Now he seems to want to keep everything to himself.”
“Well, if you don’t want to lose him, you’d better find out what he needs and start doing it.”
“Don’t you think I would, if I knew what it was he wanted? And did it ever occur to you that maybe he needs to start doing something? Vic has always been perfect in your mind. Well, guess what? He isn’t.”
“I never said he was perfect, but he’s as close to it as I’ve ever seen. No matter what you need to do to get his interest back, do it.”
The clock above the sink said it was only six o’clock, but Mona needed to escape from the unspoken accusations. She cringed at the idea of going home. The last thing she wanted to do was get into another disagreement with Vic, so she kissed her mother goodbye and headed to Cakes and Ale. If she went to a restaurant, she could waste a couple of hours, and since she wasn’t dressed up for dinner as she normally would’ve been, this was a perfect spot. By the time she got home, hopefully Vic would be asleep.
Women who went out to dinner or a movie alone had always seemed a little pathetic to her. It was as though they were advertising their loneliness to the world. Until now, she’d never found herself in this position. Once inside the casual, yet pricey eatery, she asked the hostess for a corner table and ordered a glass of wine instead of an appetizer and the pork loin with polenta and savoy cabbage as her entree.
The entire time she lingered over her meal, the advice of the two women she loved and respected kept replaying in her head. She tended to give more credence to Vic’s mother’s advice, because she’d been through it herself. Her mother was looking at everything from the outside, and she tended to glamorize it all. By the time she finished eating, Mona had come to a conclusion. Everything she’d done so far had failed to get Vic’s attention, but knowing her husband as well as she did, there was one thing that would make him take notice of her once again. It was risky, but nothing else had worked thus far. Just like his patients who coded on the operating table, he needed to be shocked back to life.
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