* * * * * *
Ramona wasn’t sleeping, but she didn’t want Vic to think she was waiting for him to come upstairs. She had never been the weepy type, but right now, even though she fought it with all her strength, tears dampened her pillow. Her emotions usually ran more toward verbal battle, but tonight she had no desire to get into a screaming match with her husband. Those ugly scenes had been happening too often in the last few months.
How could such an intelligent man be so stupid? Why couldn’t he see how things had changed between them? He used to notice how she looked every day, but over the past two years, his interest in her had gradually waned. And it wasn’t because she’d let herself go. For God’s sake, the hours she spent in the gym were more for him than herself. Her mother had drilled that into her head as soon as she found out they were engaged. Mona could practically quote her word for word. “He’s going to be a doctor one day, and a doctor’s wife can’t be frumpy or out of shape. Your hair and makeup should always be perfect. Your clothes should be the best quality you can afford until he starts buying them for you.”
No woman could love a man more than she loved Vic. They had been together for fifteen years, married for twelve, and at one time, he’d only had eyes for her. Now his new love-his hospital-had taken her place. He nurtured her, protected her, bragged about her, and spent endless hours thinking about how to make her better-the things he used to do for his wife. Nothing could be more painful than having your husband obsessed with another love.
Some women, a few of her friends and even her own mother, thought she was nitpicking. Whenever she voiced his discouragement with the situation, her mother quickly pointed out, “You have to stop being ungrateful, Mona. After all, you have everything most women would die for.”
“Mama, have you forgotten that when I married Vic he was as broke as MC Hammer. I married him because I loved him. Her mother’s canned response was, “You knew he would be somebody important one day. You don’t have to work, and he leaves the daily finances up to you. What more do you want?”
Yes, Vic made the investment decisions, because he knew more about those things and always did so with the best of the family in mind. Having money was wonderful, and he had always been extremely generous. But did these women actually believe that sharing money could take the place of sharing intimacy, whether it happened in or out of the bed. She treasured the closeness and affection they had once shared, and she realized just how unique and powerful it had been by listening to her friends talk about their relationships. Vic’s studies and then his internship and residency put him under constant pressure. Yet when they were together, his super-serious demeanor softened, and he laughed more and was able to relax.
The two of them hadn’t been together in the same room long enough to have a conversation in two weeks. Before Maite left for the night, Mona asked her to fix him a plate, cover it and leave it in the microwave with the door open, so he wouldn’t miss it when he came in. Instead of going up to bed, Mona decided to wait up for him and try once again to make him understand how she felt about how things had deteriorated in their marriage, and it ended up being a disaster. Vic had got in after eleven, and was surprised to see her awake.
“Hey, baby.” He walked to where she sat at the kitchen table thumbing through the latest issue of Vogue and kissed her cheek. “What are you doing up?”
She glanced up at him, noticing how tired he looked.
“I know it’s late, but I need to talk to you.”
His shoulders visibly slumped. “Can’t it wait until the morning?”
“No, because your mother is bringing the boys back early. She has somewhere to go and said she’d drop them off on her way.”
Vic eased down onto one of the kitchen stools as though his whole body ached. “What’s going on?”
“I’m lonely, Vic. You’re never around, and when you are, you’re too tired or distracted to even notice that I’m in the room.”
He stared at her for a long moment with any response then groaned. “Mona, we’re not kids anymore. I know you have nothing to occupy your time, and that was your choice, but I’m overwhelmed.”
“I understand, and that’s the problem. You have no time for me or the boys. Are we just supposed to sit around and pretend you’re no longer in our lives?”
“If I wasn’t in your lives, we wouldn’t be having this conversation in a two million dollar house. How do you think everything is being paid for?”
For the next few minutes, he went into what had become his standard lecture about being under scrutiny as the first black and the youngest chief of surgery in the history of the largest medical center in Atlanta-in the South for that matter. It wasn’t as though she didn’t understand the importance of his job. In fact, she was wildly proud of his status, but most of the time she wished he could go back to being a surgeon. Surgeons were the elite of the medical community, but that hadn’t been enough for him. Vic followed in his namesake’s footsteps, and now he’d surpassed the professional status his father had reached. Sometimes his ambition actually frightened her.
“When is it going to stop? Do you have to become Surgeon General of the United States before you’re satisfied?”
Vic rubbed the back of his neck and glowered at her. “Now you’re just being ridiculous! You wanted me to take this job, remember? That was before this house and the Bentley-”
“I didn’t ask you for the car or the jewelry.” She dragged in a long, frustrated breath, and spoke through clenched teeth trying not to scream at him. “You bought those because you felt guilty.”
“Guilty?” He rose to his full height and leaned over her. “What the hell do I have to feel guilty about?”
Mona looked up at him with blinking. “About abandoning your role as a husband and father so you can be king of your hospital.”
“You wanted me to be king. Or have you forgotten?”
“That’s not fair, Vic. I saw how much you wanted the position, and supported your decision to go for it.” She ran her fingers through her long hair. “I never dreamed our lives would change so much. Or you would change so much.”
COMING LATE SUMMER 2015