Tom Hobson gave one last groan and rolled off of her. He rested his head back on the pillow and lit up a smoke in post-coital bliss. It was one of his little pleasures. He loved to smoke, especially after sex. He offered a Marlboro Red to his partner who politely declined. His wife was never a fan of his smoking. A heart attack precipitated by a lifetime of smoking had claimed her father’s life when she was just a girl. It was a good thing his wife wasn’t here to see him.
He had been having an affair with Alexandra Forrest for as long as he had been married. If he had been more of a traditionalist, he would have given his wife, Beth, a wooden gift on their upcoming anniversary. Tom loved his wife, he just also loved Alexandra. He had met her after he had gotten married to Beth. Their relationship was a comfortable, simplistic thing. Alex was easy to understand. Every once in a while, Tom felt exhausted living with Beth. It was difficult to read her at times and it frustrated him. When he was with Alex, everything was just simpler.
Tom took one last pull of his Cowboy Killer and stubbed it out on the ashtray on the dresser next to the bed. He had to reach over Alex to do so and he brushed up against her on the way back to his pillow. He lingered for a moment. His wedding band glinted in the light of the nightstand. It didn’t feel right cheating on her with his ring still on so he had left it by the bed. They were at a cheap hotel. The place was dirty and ill-kempt. Because of this, almost every room was vacant. They had to resort to sneaking around as Tom’s wife had grown more suspicious of him. He tried to tell her he was working late, but she could see through that lie and was beginning to see more into the situation.
As if Alex had known what Tom was thinking about, she rolled over and rested her head on his chest. She got comfortable before she spoke, “Why are you still with her? If we were really together, we could have such fun.” Tom heaved a sigh. They had had this conversation before.
He said, “Because I made a commitment to her.”
She retorted, “A bang-up job you are doing with that commitment. Such a good husband.”
He groaned, ”Don’t start. Let’s just enjoy this moment.”
Alexandra snapped, “We have been ‘enjoying’ these moments for almost five years now. I am tired of sharing you. I want you all for myself.” Tom thought about it for a moment. His marriage to Beth had been turbulent, but he wanted to fix things. He also wanted to stay with Alex. He enjoyed her company and their inside jokes. She was comfortable.
He whispered, “I can’t do that to her. I made a promise to her-”
She caustically spat, “You’re like a broken record! ‘I married her, promised to have and to hold, until sickness and death.’ What aren’t you telling me?”
Tom sat up and began to put on his pants. Alex shrieked, “Jesus Christ! You still love her?!”
He whispered, hoping to calm her down, “I don’t feel the same way about her that I feel about you. I love you.”
“But you love her too?” He knew that whatever peaceful respite he had found in her sweaty embrace was gone, its ephemeral joy still lingering in his mind.
Tom said, “I married her. Of course I love her.”
“Goddamnit.” He knew where this conversation was going.
It would get increasingly more agitated, Alex would break down and cry, and they would head their separate ways. He would promise himself that it was over, but eventually they would end up back in-between the sheets at this seedy motel. He knew where it was going to end, so he decided to leave before it all started. He had to be home anyways.
He rolled out of bed and began to put on his shirt.
Alex demanded, “Where are you going?!”
“Home. I need to be home before Beth gets worried.”
“No, we have to talk about this!”
Tom groaned, “There’s nothing left to say. I can’t live my life without you, either of you.” He knew that was a mistake as soon as he said it.
Alex snarled, “You asshole! You think you can fuck us both like we were in some sort of Goddamn harem? You have to choose!” Tom wished he could, but it was more complicated than that.
Alex's voice rose as she belligerently continued her verbal assault, “You’re such a piece of shit, leading on two women. Choose!”
Tom’s temper flared and he snapped, “Don’t act like you’re the victim in all of this! You came onto me. You knew I was married, but you just had to have me. We are going to talk about this later. I need to get home now.” Tom was fully dressed and ready to get back to his house. Alex said one word and the determination stopped him dead in his tracks.
Tom turned to face her and knew that he had to leave now or Beth would be even more suspicious. It was seven P.M. and he had told her he would be in by then. He just had to put on his ring and leave. He started towards the dresser, but Alex was faster. She jumped over her dress on the floor and snatched the ring up.
She said, “This is not an offer. We. Are. Going. To. Talk.”
She pronounced every word with such force that it felt like he was being slapped by each syllable.
Tom softened his voice, “Honey, we are going to talk… just not now.”
She snapped, “You always say that and you just evade and keep pushing it back. You need to make a choice. Me or her.”
He took a step forward and she retreated back a step. A thought came to her. Was he going to try to grab the ring and leave? She couldn’t have that. The answer came to her, it was a simple and poignant decision.
Alex said coldly, “I will not be ignored. We will talk.”
Before Tom could stop her, she palmed the ring and tossed it into her mouth and swallowed. She said in satisfaction, “There. Now you have to stay! I will get an answer from you. This is an ultimatum. Either you tell Beth and leave her or you break it off with me.” It wasn’t that simple for Tom. To confess to actively betraying someone for almost five years was an unthinkably cruel thing. He was stupefied. Did she just swallow his wedding ring?
She said triumphantly, “We’re going to be here until I- Oh gross, I didn’t quite think that one through. Well, we have a few hours to hash it all out. Who are you going to choose? Me or her?”
Tom was exasperated at her childishness. He heaved a sigh and told her one more time, “Can’t we just leave it like it was? I was happy, you were happy. I love-”
Alex began to screech like a crazed Maenad, "Choose! Me or her, me or her! Me or her!!!” She crossed the room in a flash, a whirlwind of anger and pent-up frustration. She was on Tom, slapping at him and crying, “Choose! You have to choose.” She kept striking at him and crying, "Choose!"
Later that night, Tom slipped into Beth’s bed. She was asleep, but he knew that they would have to talk about it in the morning. That was okay. He went to the bathroom and looked at his recently reclaimed ring. He had washed it, but it still wasn’t quite clean. He took it off and scrubbed at it again. The crimson substance flaked off and washed down the drain. If only cleaning up his other mess had been that simple. He knew that Alex’s pleading cries and her shocked face when he pulled out his pocketknife would haunt his dreams for the rest of his life. It was his only recourse, Alex had given Tom an ultimatum and Tom had made his choice.
Written by EmpyrealInvective