Just the Two of Us
Nova Scotia, Canada
content warnings: Strong Language
Jess was tired as balls, cranky as f*ck, and had a stress headache that stretched from her frontal lobe to her shoulder blades. She felt bloated and crampy and knew that her period would start any day now. The hour-long drive home did nothing to soothe her spirit or lighten her mood.
She pulled into the driveway and turned off the engine, taking a deep breath. It had been another long day in a long week at work. "A week from hell that can kiss my rosy red arse, f*ck right off and stay f*cked off," she confirmed to herself.
Relieved as she was to be home, Jess had to bolster herself to shake off the workday and be ready to embrace her home life. She was already stiffening against the anticipated mess and drama that awaited her in the house. She fiercely loved her partner Bertram and young daughters Maggie and Sam with her full body and soul, but all she really wanted to do right then was be alone - lay down, have a good cry, eat a family-sized bag of chips, enjoy a glass or two of wine, and sleep for hours and hours.
Alas, she knew that wouldn’t be in the cards anytime soon. So she braced herself, tucked her shoulder-length auburn hair behind her ears, put on her happy face to make sure her hazel eyes looked sparkly rather than strained, and exited the car.
The relative silence that greeted her entrance to the house threw her for a loop. Moreover, not just the quiet - the ambience. The house was dimly lit with lavender tea light candles illuminating the staircase. Soft jazz music emanated from the television screen. There were no toys to trip over; none of Max’s dog hair or accidents to step in; no girls to meet her at the door and ask her a million questions; no Bertram sitting on the couch asking, "So what’s for supper?"
She thought she had entered the wrong house or perhaps had suffered a mild stroke.
"What the hell is going on?" she said aloud, if for no other reason than to hear her own voice.
"Oh, hey," said Bertram, poking his handsome salt-and-pepper short-cropped head around the corner from the top of the stairs. "You’re home earlier than usual. I’m not quite ready yet."
"Ready for what?" she asked incredulously.
"You’ll see. I’ll be right down. Take off your jacket and shoes. Have a seat. Act like you’ll be staying awhile," he suggested.
"But where are the girls?" she asked as she slid off her shoes and coat.
"I’ll explain it all in a minute. It’s all good, I promise. Just sit down and relax already!"
"Relax," she thought, her mouth turning into a sneer. "It’s like he doesn’t even know me..."
By the time she sat in the old lazy boy, Bertram was coming down the stairs and turned into the kitchen. When he returned to the living room, he handed her a glass of Merlot. "Here you go, babe," he offered. "I know you’ve had a long week, so here’s a little something to help you unwind."
She was so pleased and so tired, she could have cried. "Aww Bertram," she whimpered. "But the babies?"
"Don’t worry Jess. I took Maggie and Sam over to my mother’s for a sleepover. Mom even offered to take Max for the night too. I thought maybe we could have a night together, just the two of us."
Feeling grateful and guilty at once, she replied, "Bertram, that is so sweet of you. I don’t know what to say..."
His tall, slender frame leaned over and kissed her gently on the lips. "You don’t have to say anything. Relax. Sip your wine. Then I’d like you to go upstairs and slip into the bubble bath I prepared for you. I will take care of supper while you soak. Maybe we can FaceTime the girls later. Or not," he chuckled.
They sat there together in the quiet, listening to music, appreciating one another’s company, sipping their wine, holding one another’s hands, and disengaging from their respective days. No words were needed. It was enough simply to be.
"Ok," Bertram interrupted. "I don’t mean to be pushy, but I’m getting hungry. Why don’t you head up to the tub and I’ll finish meal prep?"
She couldn’t argue. She squeezed his hand, kissed him lovingly on the forehead and took the remains of her glass of Merlot with her up the stairs.
Shedding her clothes and the weight of the week, she sank into the warm, sudsy water and let her worries and cares evaporate into the air like the bubbles. Sam’s meltdown at breakfast because Maggie’s glass of orange juice seemingly held more liquid than her own - gone. The asshole who cut her off at the rotary on the way to work this morning - gone. Her heated misunderstanding with a client at the team meeting - gone. The burden of having to get up and do it all again day after day - gone. Tonight, she was just Jess in the tub with this lovely bouquet of Merlot... and her hot, thoughtful partner was downstairs preparing her meal.
With her hair wrapped in a towel and the rest of her wrapped in her ragged old bathrobe, she made her way downstairs to the kitchen. There, she found Bertram leaning over the kitchen table with some paper plates and a box of steaming hot pizza. "I hope you don’t mind," he offered, "but I opted for pizza delivery. Three meats for me, chicken and veggies for you."
She smiled. "It’s perfect, Bertram. Thank you."
"Oh, and I also asked them to throw in a salad. It’s Caesar, but it’s leafy and green. I know how much you love your leafy greens."
"Thank you, baby. You’re the best," she cooed, planting a warm kiss on his luscious lips.
"By the way," he announced, "you’re beautiful and I love you very much."
"Oh Bertram," she gushed. "I love you too... but I look like I’m homeless."
"Not to me, you don’t. You look gorgeous, with or without that robe,"he said smiling. "Here," he continued, handing her a plate and grabbing the bottle of wine. "Let’s eat in the living room tonight. Can I interest you in a little Schitt’s Creek binge-watching?"
"It’s like you’re reading my mind."
Together, they curled up on the couch and settled in for the evening. They weren’t three episodes in before their fatigue overtook them and they dozed off peacefully, intimately, and organically.
She felt loved, validated, nurtured, and slightly tipsy.
Tomorrow would bring it’s own challenges (and possibly a stiff neck from using Bertram’s elbow as a pillow). But she could face tomorrow with a different headspace and a grateful heart because of tonight.
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