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It was Rick and Linda Tallstaff’s tenth anniversary, and Rick had plans for his wife. Not the hormone-driven, don’t-tell-the-kids plans of his youth, but a more romantic kind, the kind he could brag about if he so chose. And they started with lunch.
Unknown to Linda, Rick had asked off that day. He had long felt that his relationship with his wife had taken a turn, and he wanted to right it. Rick had everything planned out. First, he would take lunch to Linda at her lunch break. It wasn’t anything fancy, just takeout from her favorite restaurant. When she got home, she would come home to a candlelit dinner of steak and vegetables, followed by a re-proposal of sorts. Rick had been playing the speech over in his head for days now, and thought he had it just about right.
Linda, lately I feel as if between our work and our kids we haven’t been able to pay any attention to ourselves. I am as in love with you as I was the day we met, and tonight I’m going to show you that I am.
Rick would then present the two plane tickets for a weekend trip to Hawaii, scheduled at a time he knew would work for both of them. The kids would be just fine at Linda’s parents’ house; the in-laws were always pestering him about the next time they would see their grandkids, maybe this would shut them up for a while. Rick and Linda would have a redux of their honeymoon, a time to rekindle the fires that had fueled their early relationship.
Rick walked into his wife’s office building with an extra spring in his step. He felt as if he were twenty again, instead of pushing 50 like he was now. “I’m here for Linda Tallstaff,” he told the receptionist.
“Linda . . . Tallstaff? Are you sure you have the right place, sir? Linda gave her two weeks’ notice a month ago,” the spectacled woman replied.
“That can’t be right,” Rick stuttered, an involuntary laugh on his lips. But the laugh died as the lady confirmed the date.
“I’m sorry, sir, but Linda isn’t working here anymore,” she said.
“Where is Linda working now?” Rick asked.
“She wouldn’t say,” the receptionist replied. “Is that all, sir?” She looked genuinely concerned.
“Y-yes,” Rick replied, and walked out in a daze.
There were no dimly flickering candles waiting for Linda Tallstaff when she came home that evening. “Hello, Rick,” Linda said with surprise. “You’re out early today.”
“I never went into work,” Rick replied. “I hear you haven’t been, either.”
The look Linda gave him was even more surprised than when she discovered him home early. “I-I don’t know what you mean,” she blustered.
“I went to deliver you lunch, but the receptionist said you hadn’t worked there for weeks,” Rick said flatly. “When I got home I looked up your location on my phone. Why were you at the Marriot all day?”
“I’ve . . . been working as a hotel receptionist until I could get a better job. I was fired, and I knew that you would kill yourself working if I didn’t have work, so I got the first job I could,” Linda proffered.
“You weren’t fired,” Rick corrected. “You left of your own volition.” The silence was louder than anything Rick had ever heard before. For a time, Rick stared at the woman he had thought he’d known better than anyone else. The silence was so loud that one of them had to break it, and that person was Linda. She had a look of guilt on her face.
“I’ve been seeing him for weeks. He’s made me feel like I’m seventeen again. Here . . . here I feel old, wasted. I shouldn’t have hidden it from you,” Linda confessed. She stared down at her hands. “What have you told the kids?”
“Nothing yet,” Rick replied. “I just wanted to hear it from you.” He stood up from the table, picked up the keys to his car, and calmly walked out of the door, ignoring whatever Linda was saying about marriage counseling and leaving whatever boy toy she had been with. Rick left her on the driveway, a sad, small figure, quickly vanishing out of sight as he drove out of the long dream he had been living.