Water For Sunshine
The day the sun exploded, I was skinny dipping with a man who is not my husband. 

    We both told our respective other halves a lie about where we were going—for me it was a trip to my sister’s, who is my husband’s least favorite person in the world—and then met around noon at a lake in the woods.  It was our place, had always been ours.  I had never seen another living soul during our meetings there, unless you count a few squirrels. 

     It was the perfect spot for us to rendezvous, hidden at the end of a dirt lane as it was, and surrounded by a group of tall trees which shrouded the lake in cool, damp-smelling shade.  Sometimes, if I arrived first, I would undress and lie down on the soft carpet of grass, stretching like a cat in the shafts of sunlight filtering through the tree limbs.  In that time, the sun was my lover, worshipping every hidden curve and secret place on my body.  I would close my eyes as a gentle breeze floated off the surface of the lake and caressed my skin.  It was, I imagined, what Heaven must be like.  I felt at peace there in a way I never could at home.

     If Revel happened to find me that way, already nude and waiting for him, I could count on him keeping me busy for the rest of the afternoon, our hands and mouths in perpetual motion.  It was how he found me on that day.

     I sensed rather than heard his approach.  He knelt over me and I opened my eyes to find him smiling down at me, his dark hair unruly from the ride in his Jeep.  The sun crouched behind a cloud and I shivered in the shadows that fell from the trees, feeling gooseflesh rise on my skin.  Revel bent and kissed my throat, his hand already going where I wanted it.  This was our typical hello.  We didn’t bother much with words.  Words were for a husband and wife.


****


     After, we swam.  When we got out I laid down and turned over onto my stomach and rested my cheek on the cool grass while his fingertips stroked my back.  For a moment I imagined how it would be if he and I were married to each other, to wake up every morning in the same position I was in and have him touch me that way, and then I banished the thought.  Marriage wasn’t for us.  There was a reason I had a husband and a lover; they each provided me with something the other couldn’t: a sort of comfort, I suppose.

     He interrupted my thoughts with a single jarring sentence.

     “You should leave him.”

     I turned my head to look at him, to see if he was joking.  His mouth was turned up in the barest of smiles, but his eyes were completely serious. 

     “That’s not going to happen,” I said softly.  “And I think you know it.”

     His mouth tensed, fell out of the smile it had almost turned into. 

     “You won’t even consider it?  That’s not fair, Elise.”

     I sat up, not bothering to cover my nudity.  He had seen every part of me.  I had nothing to hide.

     “You knew how it was when we started this, Revel.  I can’t just leave.  There’s too much at stake.”

     He shook his head in disbelief and stood up to pull on his jeans.  “That’s bullshit.  The only thing at stake is your joint checking account.”

     “That’s totally unfair,” I said.  I was hurt but the anger stung more.  After all this time, he really knew nothing about me.  “Why are you doing this now?  We’ve had a wonderful time and things were perfect just the way they were.  I don’t want to screw it up by getting feelings involved.”

     It was his turn to look hurt.  “My feelings have been involved since the beginning, Elise.  This wasn’t just a fling for me, you know.  I have things at stake too.  But I risked everything to be with you.”

     I looked down at my hands and suddenly thought of my husband and how he had looked that morning before I left the house, tired and unshaven.  He had been working ungodly hours, which was part of the reason I was able to do as I pleased in the afternoons.  When I was with Revel, my home life always seemed so mundane and I rarely gave a thought to James and what he might be doing.  But now, for some reason, I wondered.  Perhaps it was the rough tone of voice Revel was using with me, so unexpected and hurtful, that made me wish I was somewhere else. Even my boring home.

     "Is this it, then?" he asked.  "You're done with me?"

     I turned to look at him and wondered what he saw on my face.  I honestly couldn't tell anymore what emotion might turn up there.  The wind kicked up and sent the trees into a whispering frenzy above us. Sunlight winked off the little copper rivets on Revel's jeans. I suddenly wished I was alone, that Revel hadn't come to meet me that day at all.  All I wanted was peace.

     "You don't have to be so dramatic," I said. 

     And at that moment, the sun went supernova and created a dark spot in the sky, a hole that would never be filled again.

     There was no sound, no earthquake, no screams, no anything at first.  Just that black spot.  It was sort of anticlimactic. 

     I stood up and grabbed my clothes from the ground and yanked them on hastily, not bothering to check and see if I got all the buttons right.  Revel was still standing in the same place, unmoving.  His face was shocked and slack and pale beneath his dark hair.

     "What just happened?" he asked.  His voice shook just a bit and I moved toward him to take his hand.

     "I don't know," I whispered.  "I think the sun just...exploded.  Is that possible?"

     He didn't answer.  There was no answer to give.  The sky was darkening rapidly without the sun to light it and I could see several stars beginning to creep out, almost reluctantly.  It was as though they knew something wasn't right.

     "Dear God," Revel said softly, and there was nothing to do except stand hand in hand and watch the sky as it spewed forth bits of its largest star.  We could see meteor-like pieces of it streaking through the clouds in reddish embers, almost like sparks from a fireworks show.  After a few moments we could hear car horns blaring on the highway behind us as confused drivers slowly realized what was happening.  I imagined there would be more than a few fender-benders before the day was over.

     Revel's hand was sweaty in mine and I shook it off, expecting him to comment on it.  He didn't.  More important things were happening.  I moved toward the closest tree and leaned against it, taking comfort in its solidity.  It was real and wasn't going anywhere.  I closed my eyes and thought again of my husband, who had been my best friend since high school.  Where had we gone wrong?  There were times, early in our marriage, that I hadn't been able to imagine my life without him.  I remembered our first anniversary, when there had been no money to speak of.  We had gone to a cheap motel that offered hot tubs in the rooms and stayed the night, huddled together beneath the cheap comforter because the air conditioner got stuck on sixty-five degrees and there were no other rooms available.  We had huddled and giggled and then made love. 

     I felt an ache in my heart and in my bones.  I had made a mistake and it had cost me dearly.  The world was ending and my husband didn't know that I was with another man.  Suddenly I wanted him there, instead of Revel.  I wanted his hands on me. I wanted his voice to tell me everything would be alright.

     My mind began to move to the things that would happen once the sun didn't make its return and I shivered as the enormity of it all sank in:  We would freeze.  Living things would die. Trees would shrivel and perish, and so would our natural oxygen supply.  Lakes and oceans would overflow and then become sheets of ice.  I thought back to my high school biology class and remembered the teacher telling us that if there was one thing humans couldn't do without, it was water.

     But he was wrong, I thought.  I knew I would trade water for sunshine any day.  The darkened sky would be the end of us all.  I realized it had been less than five minutes since I'd last had the sun warming my skin and the reality of it slipped through my heart like an arrow. 

    Yes, there were worse things than not having any water. 

    Far worse.


Comments:
 
Roxanna   Roxanna wrote
on 6/29/2011 6:14:51 AM
omg i loved this, Brilliant descriptions! Really enjoyed reading this although such a sad ending, i loved the giggling part it reminded me of two teenagers enjoying each other naughtily. Brilliant twist though wanting the husband. And what a fantastic title, really caught my attention and then the ending tied it all up so nicely with the science teachers statment etc! Keep up the good work!

mandycrum
Short Story
Suspense
writing mandycrum
Vita brevis, ars longa.
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