Leonidas suddenly shot up beside me before dashing off the couch, excitedly yipping at the front door. Nancy must be coming home then. I rose from my seat and made my way towards the hall, hand trailing along the wall out of habit. I knew this house inside and out, after all. Twenty paces between the couch and the front door, sixteen steps on the stairs, and so on and so forth. The only thing I had to worry about was tripping over Leonidas' squeaky-toys and the occasional stolen shoe.
“Hey honey, I'm home,” she whispered, warm breath tickling my neck. A gloved hand cupped my cheek as she pulled me into a passionate kiss, and I reciprocated until we both gasped for breath.
“Save some for tonight, love,” she teased into my ear, “let's eat something first. I brought pizza,” she stated triumphantly.
Indeed, the appetizing smell hadn't gone unnoticed by Leonidas or I, although, if the ruffling sound was anything to go on, the dog was a bit more excited.
“Leonidas, get away from the pizza,” his wife scolded the chocolate-colored Labrador. “You little rascal,” she muttered as she snatched the bag away.
“So, how was work,” I asked after getting two glasses from the cabinet and pouring some wine.
“I had a fine day: no accidents, interesting new samples and I ate with Rose in her office. You?”
I carefully set the glasses down on the table before responding. “The usual, sadly. A lawsuit between neighbors, a few unpaid parking-tickets and even a divorce gone awry, with a fight over the child's custody to boot.” I felt her warm body shift as she curled up beside me, leaning on me in silent support. Nancy knew how much I despised divorce cases, especially if a child was involved. Personal experience was, after all, the best and most cruel of teachers.
We stayed like that for a while, silently eating and enjoying each other's presence while I tried to broach the subject that was burning on the tip of my tongue.
“What's on your mind, honey,” my darling wife asked, a hint of concern lacing her beautiful voice.
“I-” I started, still unsure at how to continue, “my brother called me today, and he said, I mean, there might be a way for me to be able to see. It's an experimental surgery and it's expensive, but... I long to see my angel with my own two eyes,” I softly admitted.
“I'm really not much to look at,” she bit back acerbically. Sadness and frustration radiated from her as she pulled away and set her glass down on the glass table.
I knew she was insecure about her appearance. She always wore tons of make-up and a wig whenever we left home and her gloves never came off, be it indoors or during the hot summer months. Every time I told her she was beautiful, she would just kiss me until I tasted her tears and every time I asked her about her abnormally warm clothes, she'd deflect it with a self-deprecating joke and pull away until I dropped the subject.
I know she was in an accident about seven years ago, as she referenced it in multiple conversations with my older brother. But her skin was soft and smooth, her long hair was like silk between my fingers and her curves fit perfectly in my arms. She was perfect and if I ever saw her with my own two eyes, I would tell her that until she believed me.
“Nothing I would see could ever make me leave you,” I told her, “you will always be my loving and passionate Nancy. Nothing will ever change the way I feel about you, I promise,” I soothed her. “After all, beauty is in the eye of the beholder,” I joked, trying to lighten the mood. She only sighed and leaned her head on the back of the couch.
“You can't promise me that, George. But surely, I am not the only thing you wish to behold,” she asked.
“Well, I wonder what my brother looks like? What did my parents look like?” I paused. “Light, darkness, color, the moon, stars, clouds, lightning, mountains and valleys, those are all foreign concepts to me. I know what they are, like the moon is a satellite that revolves around the Earth, but I can't understand them. They have no meaning for me,”
“Is it dangerous,” she questioned softly, grabbing my hand and squeezing almost painfully.
“It's experimental, so of course there are risks involved, but if it could let me see you, every single one wold be worth it.”
“Nothing in this world is worth losing you, especially when no surgery could ever help you,” she declared before striding off towards the bathroom, locking it with a pointed click.
I let my head fall back onto the couch as Leonidas whimpered at my feet.
I looked in the mirror and stared at my ruined make-up. I could feel the tremor in my hands as I wiped all that junk off my face. Stroke after stroke, I washed my reflection away, like erasing a sketch from a notebook. Anger and frustration swept over me so I ripped off my wig and threw it at the wall. I wanted to smash the mirror into a thousand pieces, but that wouldn't change reality. I was invisible and the first man to see me for who I truly was, regardless of The Incident, was about to see. I was about to lose him forever and there was nothing I could do to stop it. The choice was his and I would support him as I once vowed I would.
I stayed in the bathroom for what felt like hours before I dried my tears and unlocked the door. Leonidas looked up at me, head resting on his paws while he waited for me to go to bed. I affectionately scratched his ear before slipping into the bedroom. My husband was lying in his back, one arm beneath his head and his eyes wide open. The crease between his eyebrows deepened as I sat down on the bed and pulled my nightgown from under my pillow. Neither of us spoke as I got dressed or when I slipped under the covers, my body angled towards him. I couldn't take the silence for long, though.
“I... George, I'm sorry I reacted like that. I just... I don't want to be lonely again. I don't know if your brother told you this, but eight years ago, I was in a lab-accident that changed my life, and it turned me invisible to the human eye. Leonidas can see me, because his perception is different from that of a human. But the problem remains that whether or not you get the surgery, you will never be able to see me. Congradulations, Mr. Mulligan, you married a frea-”
“Don't finish that sentence,” my husband warned, still facing the ceiling.
“But-”I tried to protest, but he cut me off again.
“But nothing!”He took a calming breath and turned to face me. “You are the woman I have loved for the last seven years, and hearing you speak like that is ripping my heart to shreads,” he sighed tiredly. “Nancy, I love you more than anything. Why else would I have married you five years ago. We both promised: in sickness and in health and till death do us part. You don't go back on your word, so please trust me when I tell you I won't go back on mine either.”
I closed my eyes and let the tears drip down my nose as silently as I could. I hadn't cried like this in nearly eight years. I hadn't had a reason to.
George came closer and slid his hand over the matrass until it found my belly, then trailed up to my arm, all the way to the shoulder until finally rested on my cheek.
“Sight or no sight, you are the only woman I'll have eyes for.”
Ten-year-old Leonidas was lazing about in the yard, keeping half an eye on the little tykes that was running around the garden. Four-year-old Elizabeth Mulligan was playing with her twin brother William until their mother would call them in for dinner.
Inside, Nancy was cooking on the stove when she suddenly felt arms snake around her waist. She smiled without faltering for a second in her task before a warm breath tickled her ear as smooth lips grazed her bare neck.
“Smells good,” George commented after kissing his wife.
“Lunch is almost ready,” she giggled.
“The food smells good too.” Nancy playfully swatted at his arm and shooed him away.
“Go set the table Casanova, and call the kids inside while you're at it.”
He laughed and kissed the crown of her head. “As my lady commands.”