by Linda L. Rigsbee
Melissa stood near the picture window of their new apartment, watching her new husband's reaction to their new furniture. The living room suite was their first furniture purchase, and she had selected it with his taste in mind. Steven had been away on a business trip when she had the furniture delivered. She had waited anxiously for this moment, imagining what he would say when he saw it. Only he wasn't saying anything. Far from the look of surprise and delight she had expected on his thin face, his thick brows crouched down over cool blue eyes. Behind her, a faint flash of lightning and a soft roll of thunder announced their first summer storm together. Steven spoke, his voice low and controlled.
“When did you make the decision to buy this….” he waved a hand to include the new furniture, “stuff?” he concluded disdainfully.
She stared at him, and then the furniture. “But I thought you would like it. You said you liked it when I pointed out some almost exactly like this.”
“Almost exactly?” he said, his voice gaining volume. “It was blue, and the lamps didn't have those ridiculous frilly shades on them, either.”
A gust of wind toppled a chair on the porch, momentarily turning their attention to the approaching storm. The clouds were dark and ominous. She turned her attention back to him.
“This is blue. You said it was your favorite color.”
He grimaced. “Sure, just plain blue, not big blue flowers. Think about it. Does this look like furniture a man would want to buy? Admit it. You bought exactly what you wanted.”
She caught her breath. Where was all this static coming from? “I bought something I thought we both would enjoy. It isn't like you ever pay any attention to the house anyway - except when you complained about how uncomfortable the couch was.”
He made a face. “I wasn't complaining. I was stating a fact.”
She rolled her eyes. “I know. A man is only stating a fact; a woman complains.
Thunder rattled the window panes and lightning flashed an announcement that the storm had arrived. They both glanced outside. In the distance, rain was blocking out their view of the city three stories below. Only their immediate area was visible.
“It wasn't your place to go buy anything,” his voice rumbled behind her.
She swung around to face him. “And what is that supposed to mean? I'm the one who cleans this house - while you're off on business trips half the time.”
His eyes flashed a warning. He didn't like those trips any more than she did. His voice raised another octave and took on an accusing tone.
“You knew I'd be gone a lot when you married me. You said you'd get a hobby to keep you busy.” He glanced at the furniture. “It looks like you found one - spending my money.”
“Your money?” she erupted. “You're the one who wanted me to quit work. I told you I liked working, but no - you had to be the man of the house. You had to earn all the money.” She glared at him. “I thought you wanted to take care of me? What you really wanted was to control me, wasn't it? Well, it isn't going to work. We're not living in the 1800's, and I have a mind of my own.”
She spun around with her back to him and folded her arms across her chest. Was this what their marriage was going to be like? Him telling her what she could do, where she could go, and constantly reminding her he was the one who brought home a paycheck? Had she given up every freedom? Tears stung her eyes as the first spattering of rain hit the sill and splashed on the window. How could he treat her this way when he had promised to love her the rest of their lives?
His briefcase forcefully hit the carpet. “It's obvious you have a mind of your own,” he growled. “You can twist everything I say and do into your own interpretation.” He stomped off into the kitchen. “What's for supper?” he asked angrily.
Thunder exploded around their apartment building, and lightning flashed a sharp tongue at the ground. Half blinded by the bolt of lightning, Melissa swung around. “Nothing. You can fix your own!” With that she marched into their bedroom and slammed the door shut.
She threw herself on the bed and covered her face with her hands as sobs wracked her body. He didn't care anything about her. All she meant to him was a maid to take care of his home and a mistress to fill his nights. How could she have believed he loved her? How could she have fallen in love with him?
Rain pounded on the roof and thunder shook the building. Any other time she would have been terrified of the storm, but right now all she could think of was that their marriage was falling apart after only three months. Three months ago she had thought she couldn't live without Steven. Now she wondered how she could live with him.
She heard the hinges complain on the door behind her, but she ignored his presence. She wasn't going to listen to any more of his insults. The bed creaked and sank as he sat beside her. His hand cupped her shoulder gently.
“Sweetheart,” he spoke in a strained voice that tugged at her heart.
She jerked away from his hand. He needed her to make supper, so he was going to be nice. Well, it wasn't going to work. She wiped the tears from her cheeks and moved away from him.
“You're right. It isn't my money,” he said in a voice so low she could barely hear.
She rolled over and stared up into his sober face. “What?”
His eyes were sad as one side of his mouth tried to smile. “I said it isn't my money. It belongs to both of us. You work as hard as I do. You just don't get a paycheck. I shouldn't have said what I did.”
She sat up and wiped her eyes. The rain had slowed and thunder echoed in the distance. “I really thought you would like the furniture.”
He nodded. “It isn't so bad, but if we had purchased it together, we each could have given our input. We could have had something we both would like, and we would have had the enjoyment of sharing the occasion.”
She stared at him. Why hadn't she thought of it that way? She shook her head. “I guess you're right, but you said you hated to go shopping.”
He shrugged. “I do.” He reached for her and she tumbled into his arms.
“I love you,” she said as she snuggled close to him.
“I love you, too,” he responded immediately. “And if you like working so much, go ahead and get a job. I want to take care of you, but if you're going to be unhappy here by yourself....”
“I'm not unhappy; I just wanted to do something special for you. I like working, but there will be plenty to do when we start a family.” She leaned back and looked up into his face. “I don't want an inquest every time I make a purchase, though.”
He smiled, and it was truly a warm smile. “I promise I won't say anything about the money you spend, if you'll promise me that any major purchases will be discussed between us before they're made.”
She nodded. “I can return the living room suite.”
He shook his head. “No, if you like it, that's what's important. You're the one who will take care of it most of the time.”
“But if you don't like it....”
“I like it,” he interrupted, pulling her close. “I just didn't like the idea that you went out and bought it without talking to me about it first.”
They were quiet a long time, and then she finally pushed away from him. “I'll fix you something nice for supper.”
As they walked through the living room, they paused to gaze at the scene through the picture window. The city below them sparkled as though it were new. The storm had cleared the air, and the city was still intact.
Melissa glanced up at her husband and smiled. “Well, we survived our first storm.”
He squeezed her shoulder. “We sure did. There will be others in the future, but I hope we get through them with no more damage than this one did.”
She nodded, gazing out at the vibrant green of the storm's wake. “Be not the first to quarrel or the last to make up,” she quipped.
He sighed. “Amen.”