Payback (Short Story)

He stayed on his side of the bed, just... looking at her. Almost a year of dating, and he still could not get over how beautiful she was. Lost in her book, she hadn't noticed him... yet. 

Her grey eyes fixated on the words flowing in the book; she was biting her lips, possibly reading a romantic scene. The bite, bringing out the red in her lips, making her fair skin, a deep and beautiful contrast. 

Without absolutely any makeup, she could give most girls a run for their money. Hair tied back, with the stray unnoticed curling strand hanging by her ears. 

She moved it behind her ears, as she moved to turn the page. That's when she saw him... and smiled, with a hint of blush, turning her cheek into a light shade of pink. It was simply impossible to see that smile and not smile yourself. She raised her eyebrows, asking him in a gesture, what are you looking at? That twinkle in her eye, the reason he was so attracted to her. 

"Nothing"... he whispered, moving his head. "What? Tell me!"... keeping the book aside and facing him now. 

"Well... I was thinking... why don't you look for a local job here? I mean, you keep travelling up and down all the time. One leg in this city and one in another. That must be tiring... isn’t it?" 

"I wish... but I love my job. You know that, and it needs me to manage both places and it's not that I have to pay rent for both homes, the office is taking care of it." 

"I know... I was just thinking if you considered settling in one place..." 

"I will eventually... why are you thinking of this all of a sudden?" 

Looking straight into her eyes, with a slightly naughty smile... 

"Well... we are together for about a year now and I love you a lot... there is no doubt in my mind about how I feel about you..." 

The look in his eyes, absolutely sincere... one of the main reasons she was with him. 

"OK... I'm listening... where are you getting at?" 

"Well, I only wished you were around more... I hate it when you have to travel... a month at times. Don‘t you think it’s time we moved to the next stage?" 

"Whoa!"... her smile now gone... "You are talking about moving in together?" 

"Yea... I practically live at your place when you are around... technically we already have!" 

"Yes, but making it official is another thing!"... the stress on her face brought out concern on his. 

They were both kneeling on the bed now, facing each other... she seemed perturbed and he was confused. He had expected her to be happy about it. Now, he was cursing himself in the head that he may have raised the question a little too soon. He was eager, but, it looked like she needed more time to decide.

"Don't worry... I'm not asking you to decide. It was just something I was thinking and maybe talk about some point in time" 

"l love you too, but, I'll be honest... I also want to have a career, something I love and am not really ready to settle down just yet"

"Which is perfectly OK... I'm willing to wait. As long as it takes!"

She came closer and kissed him. Warm and wet, her lips lost deep into his. He pulled her closer to himself, one arm around her slim waist and the other holding her face. She put her arms around him, holding him tight pulling him closer. 

She closed her eyes, too feel it all as he went on to kiss her on the neck, with small bites, slowly unbuttoning her top. The sex had been incredible and whenever they were together even after a year, they only needed an excuse to get into each other.

They didn't realize when they dozed off in each other's arms. 

It was about 4 AM, when the buzzing of a cell phone woke him up. His phone was quiet. It was hers, with messages pouring in back to back. He slid over to see who could be messaging this late. If everything was OK, if there was an emergency. 

All he saw was "A (26 messages)" and "A (5 missed calls)". 

He had never checked her phone before, never felt the need to ever. But this was a little suspicious even for him. Now, the difficult bit was talking to her about it. Only last night he had dropped a relationship bomb on her and this would be a question of her loyalty. Maybe he needed to park the question/interrogation for a more appropriate time and think about how to raise it with her. The problem was... doubt had been seeded. 

He tried sleeping, but he somehow couldn't get the thoughts out of his head. 

At around 5 AM, the phone started buzzing again, back to back calls this time... She got up with a jerk and quickly picked up the phone before he could react. She moved towards the windows, trying to talk in a hushed tone. He pretended to be in sleep, his ears, all the while vigilant and hearing. The silence of the night making his job easier. 

"Is everything OK? Why are you calling at this hour?" She looked worried and her body language jumpy. 

"Now!"... she said surprised 

"No... No... It's all of a sudden... that's why! No... sure... I'll wait up!" 

She switched off the phone, her hand on her head. 

Who was coming? She was clearly out of sorts! The matter had just escalated, he could not wait anymore.

He got up and walked to her... 

"Honey! What happened? Is everything alright? Who was it?" She looked at him... nervous and scared. 

He had never seen her such confused and lost. 

"Nothing... it was... my parents! Yes.. My parents!" 

She was clearly lying. He knew it the moment she said it with the hesitation and the partial hint of guilt and finally the relief... as if she had figured out what to say to him. 

"At this hour? I thought you weren't on talking terms anymore..." 

"Yea... They... wanted to fix things... give me a surprise. They are already at the airport!" 

He was not buying it. His suspicions were slowing taking shape. She stayed in 2 places because of a job... Whether this place was her base and the other a tour; or the other way around is what he was thinking... Is this why she was unsure of settling down? Was there someone else? 

"What? And they are just popping over?" 

"Yea... you will need to leave! They don't know about you! The idea of living in or living together without marrying is alien to them. They can't know!" 

"Just pack up and leave? Do you know how cold it is outside? l haven't brought my jacket or my sweater here. How will I go?" 

"We will need to manage they can't see us together! Damn... I need to clean up... fast! I'm sorry, but you need to leave. I'll explain it... I'll tell them about you... maybe meet up. But they can’t see us here. Like this!" 

It was making no sense to him right now. But, she clearly did not want him in that apartment right now. Irritated, he quickly put his stuff in his carry-on bag; checking for his stuff around the house, trying to figure out what the hell was happening! 

He finally stepped out of the house, not saying his goodbye, not even looking at her. She knew he was pissed, watching him leave like that, but she had no choice. 

Even though he had left the house, curiosity had gotten the better of him. There was no possibility he was leaving without knowing what was going on. Sitting there in the cold, with her apartment door in sight and yet hidden from her window by the trees, not caring about the freezing cold, 

He sat, staring at everyone coming in and leaving. In his heart, he knew, it was not her parents coming in. He just wanted to be sure. 

An hour later, a cab stopped outside her apartment door and out stepped a young man, about his own age, good looking and well dressed, with a small bag hanging from his shoulder. Looking around, as if to verify if he was in the right place and then made his way to the buzzer for the door open, finally stepping into the building. 

Sitting in that small spot, watching that young man go in, his heart sank. The doubt he had since he saw the alerts, was turning out to be true. Either she was she was cheating on him with this guy or she was cheating on this guy with him... The point being, she was cheating! 

He was feeling angry, confused and betrayed. Eyes welling, he just thought about the moments spent together, the promises and her smile. He had loved her like crazy and she was just holding on to him for what? Entertainment? No care in the world about his feelings? He wanted to cry, to scream, to walk in and tell the guy the truth, but, he held himself back. His payback was due and he wanted to serve it cold.

He was still sitting there, waiting for the drama to unfold. 

A few minutes later, the door thrust open and the guy stormed out, fuming, red and out she came... behind him, still in her pajamas, crying, begging. He was screaming at her, holding on to his bag tight and swaying his other hand in the air. She tried to hold him and he shrugged her away... she was trying to get him to calm down to stop, but he was clearly enraged. The guy was clearly disturbed and agitated, screaming with a care in the world. More hearts had been broken tonight.

Finally, he hailed a passing cab and let as she stood behind... crying, sobbing, staring at the sky. 

He finally stepped out from behind the tree, onto the road, facing her... he had loved her with all his heart and she had played with it like it didn't matter at all. He had left their intimate pictures back at home, one under the pillow, the other in the bathroom closet and one finally on the kitchen fridge, a magnet small enough to miss if she was panicking. And just like he had anticipated, the other guy had, in fact, found them. 

Before turning back, she turned her gaze and then finally saw him, standing across the road and she knew. The horror on her face said it all... the truth was finally out and had cost her both of them today. 

He looked at her, straight in the eyes, filled with regret and shame. And then he smiled...

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