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Yet how will this affect our marriage? Will it change our relationship? Am I about to wreak havoc on what has always been a good thing? The uncertainty of it all weighed on Jude. Tiny pinpricks of fear pressed down on the back of her neck and scampered down her spine.
She had begun prepping for this lifestyle shift a while back and timed it to coincide with Ephraim’s latest trip. Calculating as a cat, she judged. That would be me.
First, she went shopping and bought all the accessories. Unitards and cat toys and knick-knacks and what have you. But such things were only cosmetic, the real correction lies within. The real test was to try to get dear, sweet, beloved Ephraim on board with her.
They had been married six years. It didn’t seem like a long time to casual, outside observers. But to Jude their coupling represented the sum of her adult experience thus far. Jude was twenty-nine years old, while Ephraim was forty-seven.
Their relationship hardly raised eyebrows though. An age gap was incidental these days. But would the relationship survive a species shift such as this? Sure hope he gives me a pass on this like he has so many other times.
Remembering all the little things she got away with over the years, her mind scampered in delighted recall. Maxing out the credit card. The fender bender on the Mercedes. Flirting that one time while drunk. Going to the casino whenever Cousin Carrie comes to town. Scratching the hardwood floor. Throwing out his old hockey sweater. Yes, now that she added them up, there had been a fair number of gaffes. Yet she had survived them — like a cat with nine lives!
Still, she knew that he viewed her as his young, nubile, trophy wife. That had to count for something, right?
Her eyes flicked to the clock once again. 7:30 p.m. He should be landing now. Her heart pounded with anticipation, with fear. The hour of truth was at hand. How would he react? What would he say? Would she lose him?
She couldn’t lose him! She just couldn’t! He was literally the light of her life, sparkling, eternal. He was the reason why she went to bed eagerly at night and woke up feeling blessed in the morning. It was him, no other!
Ephraim was head of Wish Fulfillment, the international charity that grants final wishes to the dying, usually children. It had been his life’s work, his legacy in fact. He was good at the job. A true professional that seemed gifted in his ability to make magical things happen for the soon to be departed.
People love Ephraim. With good reason too, as he nearly radiates compassion, his blue eyes lively and warm, cheeks rosy as a department-store Santa. A quintessential nice guy. But far from finishing last, financially speaking, he finished ahead of the pack. That’s how we live in our beautiful, elegant, refined, chateau-like home.
Ephraim had been a godsend for Jude, after going through a long string of psychos and pervs and ugly tomcats prowling the streets and back alleys, stalking teen girls at the mall.
Closing her eyes, Jude imagined Ephraim in her mind’s eye. Such a silver fox! It was what her female friends would always gush over their cosmopolitans at the Kit-Kat Bar. The steely hair, the dapper clothes and manner, he came in a near-perfect older-man package, channeling Cary Grant. Jude believed that the purrrfect romantic leads were retro, classic. Rat Pack even.
She heard the front door open. It was him!
“Heya,” Ephraim called.
Jude rushed to him.
He held his suitcase in one hand and looked at her. His smile dimmed. He blinked.
They embraced. He smelled of high-end cologne as ever. Dolce & Gabanna, her favorite.
“Playing dress up are we?” he asked.
Jude laughed. “Not exactly,” she teased.
He looked at her quizzically.
She urged him, “Get unpacked, then come have a drink. We need to talk.”
Her heart was pounding so hard, she could almost hear it ticking like a clock.