Romance Fiction posted September 6, 2013


Exceptional
This work has reached the exceptional level
a love story

Married to a Writer

by Spiritual Echo

"Just because you're a great writer, it doesn't make you a superior human being. I need you to listen to me. I have an opinion and I want you to hear what I'm saying."

Jake's scowl clearly indicated he wasn't prepared to waste a single word in rebuttal. There was no question in my mind that he had an inflated ego. He had an uncanny way of drifting into his fantasies while I was in mid-sentence. It didn't matter how important the point might be in my world, he'd get a familiar glazed look as a question slithered across his lips. They twitched-- almost an insufferable pause and I knew a line of dialogue for one of his stories had invaded our argument.

His mother tolerated it and even made an effort to train me. "Darling girl, he's zoned out. There's absolutely no point in continuing the conversation now."

Well, Gloria Stone could molly-coddle her little boy, but I was getting sick of the pretence that he was a writer. "Don't you have to sell something to print that on your business card?" I'd challenge him.

Jake's writing was the epitome of his style. Like everything he became so focused on his stories that the rest of the world could go to hell. The time he decided to take over the gardening chores, I swore he introduced himself to every blade of grass in the front lawn. He fertilized, watered and dug each weed out with a trowel no bigger than a tablespoon. His major flaw in all his manic obsessions was his need of approval.

Jake stood in that front yard for hours, waiting for neighbours to walk by and comment on his labours and the odd one did, but Jake couldn't handle idle praise. He'd bore people with every trick he'd learned about landscaping. When the people began to make a deliberate effort to avoid our house during their evening strolls, for fear of being accosted with too much information, Jake had a label for them. "They're just jealous," he said, before returning to his computer and immortalizing his latest character as an asshole with a barely hidden resemblance to the neighbour he deemed ignorant.

I just wasn't allowed to complain. If I bitched that Jake wasn't paying any attention to the chores, the following morning a handyman showed up. If I complained about housework, he'd tell me to get a cleaning service. It was a no-win situation. Sure we could afford to hire people, but who was I going to call for a husband?

There were days when I watched Dr. Phil and longed for a dysfunctional family. What I wouldn't give to deal with an alcohol or drug problems instead of this insulated wall of rejection.

"I'm planning on going out this afternoon and getting laid. What do you think about that?"

"Save the receipt from the motel. I can probably use it as an expense for research on my income tax."

"Jake, did you hear what I said? I'm going to go out and pick up a man and screw his brains out in some sleazy dive. Did you hear me?"

"Of course I did, dear. Have a good time."

Getting Jake's attention was impossible. It wasn't always this way. Jake was a partner in an advertising firm with million-dollar accounts who adored him. The entire office pandered to him, expecting nothing other than to allow his imagination to ramble through the aisles of supermarkets and department stores. He was the brand king, the undisputed emperor of the advertising world in New York City. It was while he was at the top of his game that I met him for the first time.

It was a gallery opening, another celebrity showcase of bad art with a signature that pulled in the crowds. Everybody wanted a close-up look at Tony Randall and his very young Marilyn Monroe look-a-like trophy wife. I felt Jake more than noticed him. I felt the heat on my back as his eyes bored into me from across the room. Jake made no pretence. He didn't look away when I spun around. He moved slowly across the room, removed my drink and put it back on the bar. "Ready?" he asked as he led me out into the hot August night.

He didn't say another word. Outside he circled my waist with his arm and kissed me. There was nothing casual about the insatiable demand of his lips. There was a determination about his hunger that would require major resistance to avoid the passion. By morning, amid the fluffed comforter and piles of pillows he asked me to marry him. No, he actually didn't ask, he demanded that I set a date.

For the next few months our relationship became the centre of Jake's universe. I was completely beguiled by the man, the chameleon who could ride a horse down a trail, comfortable wearing Levis and morph into a James Bond look-a-like hours later, dressed in a tuxedo with a limousine at the curb ready to spirit us off to a premier or some A-list cocktail party.

He was an attentive lover, not afraid to seduce me with romantic settings, gifts and surprises that left me breathless. Within months I couldn't imagine my life without him. He could have turned our wedding into a social opportunity to entertain clients, but the night we got married, under the stars in a midnight ceremony, there were just the two of us, the preacher and two witnesses who disappeared moments after the marriage certificate was signed.

I was so completely in love that I was blinded by Jake's obsessions. Being at the centre of attention in his world was addictive and I thought it would last forever. Perhaps I should have realized that I was just one of the dominoes in his life, that I too might take a peripheral position in his world when he sold his interest in the advertising firm.

He didn't appear to be unhappy and the business was flourishing. There was no discussion about his plans, no mention of an offer for his share of the partnership and no unusual phone calls. One day I simply found him in the kitchen mixing a pitcher of martinis when I came home from shopping.

"What are you doing home so early? Is everything alright?"

His smile and casual greeting gave me no hint that anything had changed.

"I think we should go on a vacation, somewhere exotic where we can lose ourselves for awhile. How do you feel about Bali or would you prefer something with a little more action? How about Rio?"

"You're in the middle of a project. How can you just disappear like that? They can't finish the campaign without you."

"Of course they can. I'm finished. All that's happening now is the client's dance. He'll agree to my proposal in the end. His protests are all BS. He thinks his objections somehow justify the invoices, but it doesn't matter. Like I said, I'm finished."

And Jake was truly finished. He completed the project, met with his lawyers, signed documents and walked away from his career. "I'm sick of the whole thing. It's not fun anymore."

For the next few months we played, travelling all over the globe, picking up our passports and head to the airport on a whim when Jake decided he wanted to eat dinner in Paris or go to Mardi Gras. But then the travelling too began to bore him. There was enough money from the partnership sale to last us a lifetime, but when his interest in the world waned, he began to suffer from the isolation. Jake needed an audience, a fan base in order to thrive.

I suggested we start to accept the invitations that continued to pour in or host our own dinner parties. I was hoping that attention from old colleagues or clients might spark some interest in what he was going to do with the rest of his life. He fluffed off my suggestions. It was as if a wall went up separating him from everything and everyone he'd been involved with before he sold out. He didn't return the calls and refused all overtures, even for a casual lunch.

"Jake," I whispered one night after we'd made love," this is affecting my life too. Can't we talk about it?"

The night was bright. A full moon cast long eerie shadows across our bed. Jake propped himself on one elbow, gently kissed me and brushed the hair away from my eyes. "What is it you want to do, darling?"

"I...I was thinking about us. What are WE going to do?"

"Forget about me. I'll work it out. What do you want to do with your life?"

"You're my life, Jake. What happens now?"

"You have me. Surely there's something you've always wanted to explore, isn't there?"

"But Jake, we're married. I'm talking about you finding happiness. Talk to me. I don't know what you're thinking."

"I'll support you in any way you need. I'll figure it out, but you need to think about what will make you happy."

He was done talking. He kissed me warmly and rolled over and went to sleep. I lay wide awake, watching the night dissolve into dawn. Jake, in very few words, made it clear that he expected me to take charge of my own happiness. I felt like every one of my childhood fantasies was crumbling. The happily-ever-after endings of my childhood fairy tales felt like a lie. A woman was supposed to find her soul mate, ride off into the sunset and expect fulfillment. I had my prince. My life was perfect. Then why was I feeling so abandoned and miserable?

"Half the problem is you've never had to suffer. You've never been given the gift of poverty," my mother said into the phone when I confided in her.

"The 'gift' of poverty," I sputtered, echoing her words.

"Most couples struggle. They build something, overcome hardship and in doing so come to rely on each other. You and Jake have never had to go through hard times together. Couples fight about money, sex or children. It brings them closer, but you two have never had to deal with any of those issues. It's hard to forge intimacy when you've never been challenged."

"But, how do I fix it, Mom?"

"I wish I knew, dear girl, I wish I did. I've never lived your lifestyle. Except for loving your husband, I don't know what you can do."

And that's what I did--I continued to love my husband, but something about my pillow talk with Jake and my mother's words gnawed at me. I admitted that my happiness depended on Jake, but he gave me no reason to doubt his commitment or love. He was still the same attentive lover. There was nothing that we lacked financially. Our world had simply shifted gears and he was no longer the corporate executive, the headliner at the office.

I watched Jake's multiple flirts with new interests. He looked up college friends, reignited old friendships and agreed to golfing weekends and fishing expeditions with people he didn't know anymore, while ignoring the colleagues he'd spent years working with. After a few weeks each and all of his distractions were neatly put away and forgotten.

He became obsessive about his gym membership, spending hours pumping iron at the exclusive club he'd joined. There was the summer of his fetish with the perfect lawn and his venture into the world of interior decorators when he decided to remodel the house, but it became apparent that Jake was running out of distractions.

Through it all, his words kept coming back to me. "Isn't there anything you'd like to do?" For the life of me, I couldn't figure out what that might be. I began to understand that Jake and I were in the same boat--neither of us knew what we wanted.

Jake's writing career began the day he went out for a car wash and came home with a computer.

"Why did you buy a new computer? We already have the newest model."

"This one's different. It's loaded with all the newest desktop publishing software and I can devote it entirely to my writing."

"You're writing?" This was the first I'd heard of any thoughts about writing. "Writing what?"

"I don't know yet, but this morning I decided I'd be a writer."

In Jake's world it was that simple. It wasn't that he'd never written anything before. He was the mastermind behind some of the most successful ad campaigns ever created, but never once had I seen him show any signs of interest in writing. For that matter, he hardly read and except for beach novels while we were on vacation, I'd never known him to buy a book. But suddenly my husband was a writer.

I was certain this fad would pass, like all the others, but after a few weeks he was still escaping into the den and staying there for hours. At first I wondered if he was using his isolation"he didn't want to be disturbed"as some means to get away from me, but nothing changed between us. When I saw him grab a bottle of Chivas one afternoon as he headed for 'the office,' I wondered if he was becoming a closet drunk.

I'd poke around when he was out of the house and there was ample evidence that he'd been working. Piles of paper were stacked up on every available space. In his own way he had a filing system. The leather sofa had reams of paper, some that looked like drafts of novels and short stories. The credenza was just as cluttered, but these were essays or letters to editors of newspapers.

I read a few stories and laughed at the outrageous characters he'd created. Where on earth had he learned these dialects? One Welshman seemed to speak half his lines in some Celtic language while another down-home boy sounded like a redneck out of the Tennessee backwoods. It was sheer brilliance and I started to become as excited as Jake was dedicated to his craft.

When Jake got home, I ran into his arms, still clutching sheets of paper. "Darling, you are a writer! This story is fantastic."

Jake peeled the paper out of my hands and stood very still listening as I raved about the story I was still reading.

"Why are so surprised?" he asked.

The serious look on his face sent out a warning. Somehow I'd trespassed and I had no idea what I'd done. "It's just that....well, they're great. Who are you sending this to? Do you have an editor?"

"No, I haven't sent anything to anybody. It's enough that I write. I don't need to be published."

"But Jake," I protested. "People will love your stories."

It wasn't that Jake was cold, but there was a distance in his eyes, like he was searching for words to explain something he didn't want t talk about.

"Look, we don't need the money. I love what I'm doing--I really do. I don't need to have some ass in an office like the one I left a year ago to tell me I'm not good enough. I won't let anybody take this away from me--nobody."

And by nobody, I thought he meant me. He disappeared back into the den, closing the door behind him. There it was--that wall again. By dinner he was back to himself. He didn't bring up our afternoon conversation and I was afraid to say anything for fear of disrupting the serenity, but it got me thinking.

For the next few days I went on-line and researched editors and publishers. By the end of the week I'd opened a file and began to collect names and information about magazines that accepted work from new authors. I studied up on query letters and began to write Jake's biography. It wasn't true that he was a new author. His ad campaigns were still airing on TV and he'd written every word and developed every character himself.

I had no idea how all this information would prove useful, but it became the focus of my day. I scrambled through necessary chores and obligations and would take my laptop out to the garden and sit in the gazebo pouring over websites and links that provided more information about the world of writing.

From the comfortable lounge where I sat most afternoons in the garden, I could see through the window to the den where Jake was working. He was intent, leaning over the computer, rarely looking up. When he did, if he noticed me, he'd wave or blow me a kiss, but he always burrowed down and went back to his typing.

I loved to watch his face as he worked. It was like watching a silent movie. Flashes of joy would skip across his face; he'd smile displaying the dimples that I loved to trace with my fingertips. Sometimes he'd knot his brow and rub his forehead. I never knew whether he was living his character's frustration or his own stumble, a block that he was trying to bulldoze through. I never asked, never acknowledge that I'd been witness to something I knew was becoming vital to Jake's life. I should have been jealous, imagining that the computer was his mistress, my rival, but I wasn't. Jake was happy and that made me happy. Still I yearned to share all I'd learned about publishing, but for what purpose? He'd told me that he didn't care whether he saw his name in print. He'd told me that he wouldn't be judged. Was it possible that this man, my beautiful gorgeous husband, was afraid of rejection?

It was a strange thought about a man who not only oozed confidence, but had backed-up his strength with accomplishment. Jake, afraid of rejection? It seemed inane, impossible and yet, I was afraid to talk about his writing for fear of his rejection--being cut off from the threads of our intimacy. Why was it so hard to understand? Neither of us had much experience at being told 'NO.'

A few weeks later something happened, ambushed me during an innocent time when I didn't expect my world to change. Jake had wandered out to the gazebo carrying a pitcher of margaritas. I didn't seen him approach, so engrossed in my research that I wasn't aware of him until he set the jug down on the glass coffee table. I snapped the laptop closed.

"What are you up to?" he asked, but the question was accompanied by a smirk that made me feel like a child caught with her hand in the cookie jar.

"Nothing..." I answered, feeling foolish and definitely caught.

"No, really, what have you been working on so ferociously all summer?"

Now what? What was I going to tell him--that I'd been plotting, researching publishers and sneaking into the den when he was out of the house to read his stories?

He seemed to be ready to drop the subject, reaching over and pouring the lime-laden cocktails.

"Are you still having the affair?"

My jaw dropped, but Jake was smiling. Was this a joke?

"What affair?"

"Don't you remember? You told me you were going out to get laid in some seedy motel. I have to assume that things are getting serious between you two."

"I was trying to get your attention." Now I was indignant. Was he really accusing me of having an affair? I stared at him, completely befuddled. I was home--all the time. Why was he laughing?

"When were you going to get around to telling me?"

"Tell you what?" I was really getting angry now. "There is no man."

"Sure there is--no actually, more than one."

I wanted to hit him. How dare he accuse me of being a whore--cheating on him!

"Well, fine then. Explain to me who this guy Random is and who's Schuster?"

My cheeks burned. He'd been into my computer. "You've been spying on me," I said not sure if I was still angry by his jibing or his insidious lack of respect for my privacy.

"Not any more than you've been spying on me," he said leaning back on the facing chair. "You're not going to tell me you haven't been rummaging around the den, reading my stories, are you?"

For a moment we stared at each other. Jake began to laugh and his mirth was contagious. I began to laugh and pretty soon he had his arms around me.

"I'll make you a deal," he said as he nuzzled into my neck, his hot breath making me forget that I'd come close to slapping him. "I'll let you be my agent if you'll have my baby."

"Baby?" I gasped, pulling away and looking into his eyes. I expected to see a hint of laughter, some sign that this was all a joke, but he looked back at me like old times, as if we were back on the sidewalk, outside the gallery, kissing for the first time.

Jake didn't wait for an answer, he never had. He took my hand, pulled me to my feet and gave me a long kiss, before leading me towards the house.

"We better start practicing right now."


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