She didn’t think she’d ever failed Tate or embarrassed him, but now that paranoid side of her wondered just that. If he was somehow ashamed of her, that she was too outgoing, too bubbly for the staid, moneyed clients he catered to. His not wanting her to be a part of him courting and wining and dining his clients had ended up being yet another rejection, one that at the time hadn’t bothered her, but in retrospect made her heart clench. Was Tate growing tired of their marriage? Did she no longer satisfy him? Had she done something to cause him to lose faith in her? Their relationship? The not knowing was eating her up on the inside and it was growing harder and harder to cover up her growing unhappiness with a bright smile and words of understanding. She was lying to her friends, even though she knew they saw right through her façade. But the simple fact that she was lying, keeping so much locked inside her, made her feel like the ultimate fraud.

She swallowed the quick knot in her throat, determined she would not cry tonight and ruin her carefully applied makeup. Joss and Kylie had both come over to lend advice and help her prepare for her anniversary night. She’d needed their support because she was starting to doubt herself and she hated that.


Just because she chose to surrender her submission to Tate didn’t make her a brainless twit unable to perform the simplest task unless he was there to direct her. But him always being there, taking care of her, cherishing her, had become her safety net. She knew she’d never fall without him there to catch her. There was comfort in that knowledge. It gave her a sense of security that she’d come to rely on. And lately? She felt like she was operating without that safety net. It was a sad testament of her marriage that she saw more of Kylie and Joss and was more in tune with their relationships than she was with her own!

She motioned for the waiter after studying the menu. The truth was she wasn’t that hungry and her nerves were on edge because she absolutely planned to address her growing unhappiness with Tate this weekend and she had no idea how that would go over.

One part of her thought he’d be horrified that he wasn’t providing what she needed. Another part of her feared he’d be angry with her for not “understanding” the sacrifices he was making in order to make them financially secure. It was a coin flip and it saddened her that she was so out of touch with Tate’s thought processes that she had no idea which way he’d go. She liked to think that he would be understanding and make the effort to spend more time with her. But the not knowing was killing her.

The waiter promptly appeared at her table, and in a low voice barely above cracking, she placed hers and Tate’s orders and asked for a bottle of their favorite wine. A sparkling white they drank every year on their anniversary. They’d discovered it on their honeymoon and had vowed to commemorate each year by toasting to an even better next year.

So why did she feel the weight of the world on her shoulders and feel so fatalistic? Why did the last two years of toasting to a “better year to come” make her feel like it had been a dismal failure, because the ensuing year wasn’t better. It had only grown progressively worse.

She’d never be so stupid as to say it couldn’t get any worse, because it could. What if Tate reacted to her addressing her own unhappiness by saying he was equally unhappy and that he wanted out of their marriage? That was the ultimate worst that could happen, so things could most certainly get worse, though at this point she wondered if they were even truly married in their hearts anymore.

Married people didn’t operate like they did. At least not the marriages she was acquainted with. Or rather the relationships. Were Joss and Dash and Kylie and Jensen the exceptions to the rule? Or were they the norm? Because Chessy’s marriage didn’t even come close to resembling the adoring, tight-knit couples she was friends with. And she’d never really looked beyond them because … well … she was afraid to. Because she was afraid of what she might discover. So she’d adopted a head-in-the-sand approach and that wasn’t getting her anywhere at all. It was only making her more miserable.

She refused to look at her watch. Instead she drank in the occupants of the room and played her favorite people-watching game, trying to guess the status of the people enjoying their meals.

She picked out one argument that appeared to be in full swing. Their voices rose before the woman loudly shushed her significant other and then looked around in embarrassment to make sure they weren’t being observed. Chessy quickly averted her gaze, not wanting to add to the poor woman’s obvious discomfort.

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A smile softened her face when she took in an elderly couple holding hands, their arms resting on the table as they toasted one another with their free hands. Then the older man leaned in to kiss his wife and Chessy’s heart squeezed.

It wasn’t until the food arrived at the table that Chessy realized so much time had gone by. She hastily glanced at her watch to realize that over thirty minutes had passed. She’d purposely waited a bit before placing the order, hoping beyond hope that Tate would arrive before the food got there.

The waiter gave her a look of sympathy that nearly sent Chessy right over the edge. She smiled brightly. “My husband will be here in a few minutes. Before the food gets cold for sure.”

The waiter shrugged as if it didn’t matter to him one way or another. He set her plate in front of her and then arranged Tate’s across the table. As soon as he left, Chessy reached over and pulled the plate to the chair sitting catty corner to her.

She and Tate always sat next to one another. Never across the table where they couldn’t touch, couldn’t speak intimately without fear of being overheard.

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