I drove Nicole to the dilapidated farmhouse where she and her boyfriend, Ken, live. I’ve known Nicole since first grade. We grew up kindred eye-rolling spirits in Seventh-day Adventist school.
“I’m leaving JB,” I told Nicole.
“Oh, darlin’,” she drawled. “I’m so sorry. I thought he was great. I thought you had the perfect life.”
“No one’s life is perfect.”
“Well, yours seemed to be. I’m going to call JB and tell him he better behave and treat my best friend right.”
“You’ll do no such thing. I want to get rid of that asshole.”
“Oh, darlin’, you don’t want to end up like me.”
“Thanks for your concern.”
“You really want to leave him?”
“Damn straight I do darlin’,” I drawled. “What the fuck’s up with that southern accent? We grew up together. You never lived down south.”
Nicole nervously mumbled something. The rest of the ride she spoke in her normal voice.
Several text alerts dinged on my phone. I parked next to my house. There was a long text from JB.
“I went to the dr today near my office about my bladder problems,” he began.
Tom and I had gone bike riding Sunday. As we peddled to the house I was happy to see JB raking leaves. He was doing it without me asking. He’d become oddly helpful lately. Days earlier, he’d organized the pantry. JB stopped raking and stood next to a pile of leaves. He was pouting and appeared lost in thought. Typical.
“Why the sourpuss?” I needled.
“I don’t feel good,” JB said. “I haven’t felt good since Thanksgiving. I’ve been peeing a lot and I get a pain right here.” He pressed his hand near his groin. I think I should go to the doctor.”
“When’s the last time you saw one?”
“I don’t know. Years.”
“I’ll text you my internist’s number. Blake goes to her. He likes her, too.”
“I told him everything,” JB’s text continued. “He checked me out and didn't find anything specific. It may be anxiety. It may be an (sic) urinary tract infection. He took a swab and a urine sample and gave me a general antibiotic called levaquin (sic) to be on the safe side. You might want talk to to (sic) your dr. An antibiotic might be a good idea for your peace of mind.
"I know how badly I have fucked up and now I have to accept the consequences. My behavior was unforgivable. Its (sic) hitting me like a ton of bricks. I'm so sorry. I am so ashamed. I can't even face you.
"I will alway (sic) live up to my responsibilities to you and the kids whatever happens.”
Sunshine streamed into the car. I watched dust specs float. I felt like vomiting. I slumped. I read and reread JB’s text. JB’d said he’d used a condom then added that weird comment about a blowjob. Who knows what he fucked in Thailand. I called my doctor and got an appointment tomorrow. I glided into the house. Tom was already home from school.
“Hey buddy,” I said, trying to sound normal. “Get started on your homework. I’m hopping in the shower, making you something to eat, then teaching yoga.”
I didn’t want to teach yoga. I wanted to curl up in a ball.
I returned home from yoga and JB was in the kitchen. I stared at him. I felt deep loathing. He couldn’t look at me. I washed up and went to bed. The bed felt good without him. JB’s footsteps sounded on the stairs. His footsteps made me cringe for years. When they turned into Tom’s room, relief rushed through my body.