Saturday, July 11, 2015

Summertime and the Short Stories Come Margo Hoornstra

Another blog post, another story I found to share. Without further ado...enjoy!

 Can’t Stop Love: Or Can You?
Part One
Can passion last forever in a marriage? If so, is passion alone enough? Don’t happiness and contentment just naturally follow?

Married for over twenty years, Jenna Marsh finds herself seeking the answers to those questions. Especially when her husband is more consumed with his job than he is interested in her. Add in a new and very alluring boss, who makes it clear work takes second place in his life, compared to beautiful women like her.

The pillow beneath her head rustled softly as Jenna Marsh turned to look at the man in bed beside her. Mark, her husband of over twenty two years with his face in the peaceful repose of sleep. One arm flung across his eyes, and his brown hair, always a tad too long, mussed in an oddly endearing way.

That they were in bed together at the unlikely hour of one o’clock on a Saturday afternoon was less a tribute to their sex life, and more a result of Jenna’s other unfulfilled needs. Her motives for joining her husband in bed were totally selfish. She was sick and tired of sleeping alone.

Head still turned in his direction; she continued to watch her husband, taking care to not wake him. Breaths slow and steady, his mouth was slightly open with the lower lip quivering ever so slightly, as it always did, each time he exhaled.

He’d recently arrived home, exhausted, after a way too extensive shift at the hospital where he worked as a resident physician. She wasn’t sure exactly how many hours straight he’d been on duty this time. She’d quit counting after seventeen.

While she pondered the time duration question, another emerged. How long had it been since she’d really kissed those lips she now watched so intently? A lone tear pooled in the corner of one eye and rolled down her cheek. She honestly couldn’t remember. Oh, she and Mark had sex on a regular basis, more than regular, if she could believe the frequency poll of the latest women’s lifestyle magazine she’d just read. Except they rarely made love anymore, if at all.

A successful engineer who spent almost two decades working for a large automaker, Mark decided one day he really wanted to do something different. Dutiful wife that she was, Jenna always supported her husband’s career decisions. Even when he said he wanted to go back to school—medical school of all things—so late in his life. They’d never had children. A decision they’d made together early in their marriage, so that wasn’t an issue. Yet they’d both sacrificed for Mark’s new ambition, and now he was closing in on his dream of being a full-fledged doctor.

She wasn’t sure why he was so dedicated to having a career in medicine. Maybe the caregiver she’d always known was in him finally fought its way to the surface for good. So, now he was a forty year old resident physician, an emergency medicine resident physician, and she was an almost but not quite forty year old resident physician’s wife. Though lately widow seemed the more appropriate term, at least widow was how she felt.

Jenna had been a good wife for each of their twenty some years of marriage. She wasn’t bragging to say that. Mark told her she was each and every day, just before he kissed her good bye for—they never really knew how many hours—sometimes days. Even Mark seemed to tire of the crazy-long hours. Though he’d never admit it to himself, and certainly not to her. Or was wishful thinking on her part at play here? Regardless, she doubted he would even consider putting a stop to the madness.


She drew a startled breath, so consumed by her own thoughts, she didn’t realize she still stared at Mark who now, alert and awake, stared back at her.

“Morning.” Turning her head, she began to take in a suddenly interesting spot on the ceiling. Rolled to her back, she straightened her spine, extended her legs even straighter, and folded her hands carefully across her stomach. As she stretched out beside him, it took great care, and self-control, to not touch him. “Or, I should say afternoon.”

If he caught any evidence of sarcasm in her tone, he chose to ignore it. “What time is it anyway?”

Before Jenna could answer, he reached over to pull her into his arms, fitting her, snugly, so snugly against him.

She glanced at the large orange numbers from the alarm clock that were illuminated on the ceiling. “Just after one. What time do you have to be back at the hospital?” She hated the fact she had to ask. Hated that he didn’t have a regular schedule she could easily keep track of anymore.

“Not until four.” He said it as if that gave them all the time in the world before he left again. As if they had so much more than three measly hours before she’d be alone once more. And, who knew for how long?

“How shall we fill all that time?” His hands were already roaming over her, already pleasing as much as they were seeking.

Eyes closed, at first she fought to steady the breathing Mark’s touch always caused to accelerate. Soon though, a warm, familiar yearning flared up to flow through her at his touch, and every conscious thought of marital problems and discord gave way to the unmistakable promise of human closeness and sexual desire. She came willingly into his arms, opened herself to the love and comfort he so freely offered, and she so shamelessly craved.

As she knew she would, as she always did, Jenna couldn’t help but respond, much as she had their entire marriage, and even before. Mark had always been an unselfish lover, and Jenna made it a point to return the favor every chance she got. Not that making love with Mark had ever been a burden, or even a chore. Making love with Mark—and only with Mark, even after all these years—had always been one of the few delights of her life.

So why was she so miserable the other times, when they weren’t making love? Because other issues caused her to question the solidity of her marriage. She and Mark had a good marriage, always had. The past year though things had begun to change between them. It seemed as if Mark was going one way in life and she was going the other. Lately, they couldn’t agree on anything as a couple. And, Mark’s career seemed to be more important to him than his marriage, or his wife. They kept growing apart, and she didn’t have a clue what to do about it. If she could do anything at all.

They had sex once in the bedroom and once in the shower where Mark had gone to get ready for work. She had joined him there, the initiator this time. Maybe it was a subconscious try to persuade him not to leave her. Maybe she just required his closeness and irrefutable proof of his love. She didn’t really know anymore, couldn’t figure out her own motives. Either way, her ploy failed. Too soon Mark was gone. Jenna was alone.

For a while she suspected her work, or the lack thereof on her part might have been the crux of their problem, the basis of her boredom.

Mark didn’t realize she couldn’t snap her fingers and produce a job for herself the moment they arrived in their new home. Not when he’d uprooted her and moved them halfway across the country for a residency assignment at a place someone, somewhere, had randomly chosen for him. Someone with very little insight into who Mark Marsh was and even less of an idea, or care, about Jenna, his wife. Her former company, where she’d been employed most of her adult life didn’t have a branch in this town, or even in this state. Mark continually failed to acknowledge that fact, and the magnitude of the inconvenience he’d caused her. Yet no way would she lower herself to enlighten him.

Mark also failed to acknowledge—he’d downright seemed to forget—she had worked for a lot of their years together. In fact, she’d been the only one in the family who had been gainfully employed the entire time Mark was in medical school. A testament to her devotion to him and to them as a couple, and the reason he’d been able to devote all his time to studies and practicum clinics, without having to worry about something as basic and commonplace as paying the bills.

She had to admit her husband understood and was supportive in his own way, when, after three weeks, she’d sent out resume after resume and obtained a proportionately low number of interviews and been offered absolutely no positions. The right job would come along, he told her over and over again, she just had to be patient.

Patient. Hah!

She thought of the word in relation to her husband, and couldn’t even come up with the slightest indication he had any, from an emotional standpoint. From a literal standpoint—as in for the people he took care of—he had more than enough of those. And, lately those patients were becoming more and more important to him, while undermining the importance of Jenna in his life. She’d been determined to have a career of her own, no matter where Mark’s work took them. At least she had that career now, in hotel management. She’d been hired six months before by the posh Sheridan/Bentley Hotel as General Manager Steve Connor’s assistant. His personal assistant, as he liked to refer to her.

‘With an emphasis on the personal.’ His words, not hers. Terminology which made her slightly uncomfortable, being a married woman and all, but one she put out of her mind because she’d have gladly been any kind of assistant to work at the Sheridan/Bentley. Regardless, she was determined to make a success of the opportunity. From the very first day, she looked forward to going to work. When she was at her desk, she felt important, like she was needed. At home, she felt—not used exactly—just not needed either.

The phone’s sudden burst to life jarred her out of those thoughts. Its trill was so loud and unexpected she almost knocked the device off the end table in her haste to find out who was calling.

Am I that desperate for human company? With a wry smile she brought the receiver to her ear. “Hello.”

“Hi, Jenna. It’s Steve.”

Her mouth went dry and her heart leaped up to land, limbo like, above her vocal chords. Steven Conner, the boss she’d been ruminating about, was on the other end.

Tall, dark and more handsome than any romance novel hero could even hope to be, with captivating eyes the alluring hue of precisely aged whiskey. Add to that an engaging smile that could easily melt a glacier—or an iced over heart—if given enough time. Steve Conner, who carried himself with assurance that had nothing to do with arrogance and everything to do with an inborn self-confidence turned heads and commanded attention every time he walked into a room.

Or, called someone on the phone.

“Jenna? Are you there? Is this the Marsh residence?”

“Yes.” She managed to croak out the response, then cleared her throat. “I’m here . . . Steve. What can I do for you?” Had the tone of her voice just lowered to an almost sultry level as she made the open-ended inquiry? She summoned up a more businesslike tone. “What do you need?”

“You for starters.”

She nearly dropped the phone. “Really?” She could almost see a come-hither glow lighting that bourbon colored gaze, as if he had actually laid eyes on her less than blasé reaction. Her grip tightened and she pushed the receiver closer to her ear. “Why’s that?”

“Well, at least your time.” “That is if you’re available. I have some expense figures I need to get a handle on.”

He went on to apologize for bothering her on a week end, knowing she’d probably be busy, he hastened to add. His voice was smooth, gentle, pleasant and soothing—okay even sexy—as it rumbled toward her over the phone line. Her mind could only keep repeating one answer.

I’m available! I’m available!

“That is, if you, well . . . can spare time for me.” He finished on a deep, and almost self-deprecating laugh.

The sincerity behind his words reached straight across the distance separating them, made a beeline for her insides, and slithered down to comfortably wrap around her heart. Listening to him speak brought to mind a vision of the actual man, tall, dark and good looking to a fault. With his eternally starched shirts, straightened ties, and slightly crooked smile, he always looked so, well, good looking.

She was sure he’d never leave his dirty underwear balled up in the middle of the bathroom floor. Left there for someone else to pick up, wash, dry, fold and put back into his dresser drawer so he—and she—could do the same thing all over again, and again, and again. No wonder she felt more like a maid and laundress lately than a wife.

She closed her eyes to enjoy the warmth of Steve’s voice washing over her as he went on to detail his suggested plan for the two of them. It was stunning how the minor connection brought her so much out and out comfort. And, all he had to do was call her up and . . . talk.

“Sure!” She gave the response the moment he quit speaking, sounding just a touch too eager. “Just tell me where and when.” Definitely way too eager there, but he had so caught her off guard.

Okay, so before she left work Friday afternoon he had said he might have to call her before Monday, but she hadn’t believed he really would. She’d just been making polite conversation when she told him that Mark was working long hours at the hospital and was gone almost every week-end.

“You’re alone on a Saturday night and I’m always alone, Jenna.” Steve went on, as if the dinner invitation he offered next was as harmless as a lunch meeting in the conference room at the office. “The Deacon is just outside of town by the old train station.” He gave the impression her joining him there for dinner was already a foregone conclusion. “Dinner is the least I can do for you after making you work overtime last week, and now.” He came up with his final persuasion when she didn’t answer right away.

“You didn’t make me work.” She found her voice at last, but could see no need to add it was either work overtime or come home to an empty house . . . again.

“Well, anyway, I feel like I owe you. So, if you’re not so much interested in my company, at least let me treat you to a good meal.”

“Oh, your company is fine!” She should have cut out her tongue for not engaging her brain before she spoke. Eyes closed, she could almost see his head tilt, his brow arch and his mouth quirk in smug, self-satisfaction at her uncensored response.

“I still feel I owe you for being such a good employee.”

Her further protests, even the ones she made to herself, met with much the same arguments until she finally agreed to meet him, ended the call with a forced yet breezy – See you soon! – then hung up.

That's all I have for now. Please join me back here on the 23rd for the conclusion of this story of Jenna and Mark and Steve.

As noted, my days to blog here are the 11th and 23rd. For more about me and my stories, visit my WEBSITE


Jannine Gallant said...

Oh my! Mark had better wake up and smell the coffee before he ends up washing his own underwear! Looking forward to the conclusion.

Rolynn Anderson said...

You got me hooked, Margo. Nice yarn you're spinning...showing how difficult it is to maintain a 50-50 marriage. Now that humans live 20 or so years longer than we used to, not only is there the seven year itch and mid-life crisis...we're going to find terms for the difficulties in those extra years. Looking forward to part two!

Leah St. James said...

Hmmmm...I don't entirely trust Steve. Must read more. :-)

Margo Hoornstra said...

Da ANY guys wash their own under ware? You liked it? LOL

Margo Hoornstra said...

Aww, thanks, Rolynn. Relationships of all kinds are hard. Require constant attention.

Margo Hoornstra said...

What's not to trust, Leah? Steve has it all! Right? Thanks for reading.

Diane Burton said...

Great story. I'm hooked. Poor Jenna. If only she realized residency lasts just a year. She's so vulnerable. Mark is in big trouble.