She was making new friends at school, and she spent a lot of time with Lisa and Alice as well as with Lisa’s cousin, Theresa. The latter was a year older than Bronwyn’s twenty-eight and had a six-month-old baby girl. They (unimaginatively) called themselves the “Mummy Club” and spent most Saturdays actively avoiding mummy duty by leaving the babies with their husbands and escaping for a well-deserved girls’ day out. They were all busy women: Lisa had her shop, Alice was a chef, and both Theresa and Bronwyn had just started studying again, Theresa only part-time because of the new baby.
Bronwyn was actually starting to enjoy her life again, despite the unusual situation at home. Soon she started noticing that one of her professors, a man in his mid-thirties, appeared to be taking more than the usual interest in her. She didn’t quite know how to react to that fact. It had been so long since she’d felt even remotely attractive that the male interest, while flattering, was a little unnerving. It also felt so wrong to even be talking to a man who was so obviously attracted to her while she was still married to Bryce. It made her wonder about the divorce. She had assumed that Bryce would start proceedings, but she hadn’t heard a peep about it from him. She wasn’t sure if he was expecting her to do it or if he was content to let things stay as they were for the moment. The uncertainty was driving her mad, so she took it upon herself to speak to some of the law students about her options. Being young and overly ambitious, most of them advised her to “take him for everything she could get,” but one young man had thoughtfully given her his father’s number after informing her that his parent was a divorce lawyer. He also cautioned her to tread carefully when there were custody matters to consider.
She hadn’t used the number yet and wasn’t sure if she should or even if she could. The thought of finally ending her marriage, even if it could only be described as such in the loosest possible terms, was not a pleasant one. Not when she still cared for her husband, more than he probably deserved.
The ambiguity of her feelings reached even greater heights when her professor, Raymond Mayfair, acted on his interest in her and asked her out. Bronwyn battled with the decision for a while before accepting his invitation. She made sure to warn him that nothing would ever happen between them while she was married. He graciously accepted her terms and told her that he just wanted to spend time with her.
That night she deliberately sought Bryce out for the first time in more than two months and found him hiding out in the den and watching television with the sound turned down. For some reason, the den, with all its audio visual equipment, was the last place she’d expected to find him. An ignorant assumption, she acknowledged, since his deafness didn’t prevent him from watching television or enjoying music with heavier beats. He sat in an easy chair and the only parts of him that were visible to her were the back of his head and his right hand, which was hanging over the arm of the chair with a glass of amber-colored liquid dangling from his fingers.
At first, she was so preoccupied by the fact that she had found him after half an hour of searching that what he was watching did not register with her. Then she glanced up and found herself riveted by her own smiling face on the huge flat-screen television. The camera angle changed to include Bryce in the shot; he was leaning toward her, his mouth to her ear as he whispered something intimate enough to make her blush. It was their wedding DVD with the sound turned down. She was dressed in a beautiful white concoction that had cost the earth but that Bryce had paid for, and he looked gorgeous in a stylish black tuxedo. They both looked so young and happy and were wrapped up in each other to the exclusion of everyone else. She watched as he fast-forwarded through Rick’s best man speech and resumed playing when the focus was back on them.
She took a step backward, feeling like she was intruding on yet another moment that she knew he would not want her to witness. Her back hit the door and her fingers fumbled with the handle but her eyes remained glued to the screen. He hit the pause button, and she panicked, thinking that he was about to get up, but he merely leaned forward, his attention still focused on the screen. She shifted her stricken gaze to the larger-than-life frozen image of her beaming face. She looked radiant and so hopelessly in love. The room was absolutely silent, and she was achingly aware of how loud the pounding of her heart sounded to her own ears and of how ragged her breathing had become.
After a seemingly interminable amount of time had passed, she succeeded in getting a decent grip on the door handle and managed to slip out without him ever knowing that she had been there. But the haunting image of Bryce in that silent room watching that video stayed with her all evening. She didn’t understand why he had dug up that old thing. It served only to emphasize how catastrophically they had failed as a couple.
She still needed to talk with him; she couldn’t go out with Raymond without telling Bryce about it first. It was the decent thing to do. So she waited another couple of hours until she heard him prowling around in the kitchen. She ventured boldly into the spacious room and stepped immediately into his line of vision, not wanting to startle him. He was just turning away from the huge double-door refrigerator with some sandwich ingredients stacked precariously in his arms and stilled abruptly at the sight of her. The abrupt cessation of movement unsettled the food and dislodged a tomato, which rolled from the top of the armload and landed on the floor between them with a soft plop. Bronwyn winced and they both stared down at the mess the unfortunate tomato had made on the tiled floor. They looked up at the same time and their gazes met uncertainly.