(no subject) @ 03:05 am
It happens a lot on sitcoms, and in movies, even in those stupid “My Life” stories in the back of Cosmo, but Ashleigh never thinks it’s true; husbands don’t really have those little padlocked boxes under their bed. And even when they do, wives don’t automatically assume that they hold the vile secrets of their husband’s pasts. They’re just boxes, after all.
So she’s confused when she finds one under the bed, one straight out of Worried Wife in Wyoming’s stories, two dollar padlock and all. And she’s even more confused when it bothers her. She pushes it under the bed and figures Ryan will tell her all about it when he’s comfortable.
Except that, if after 7 years, he’s not comfortable, she has to wonder why. Every time she makes the bed, every time she’s in the bedroom, every time Ryan talks or comes home from work or sits at the dinner table, she has to wonder why.
He was crawling around one night, looking for a sock or a pacifier, or something equally unremarkable, when he noticed that his box was moved. Just a few inches to the right, maybe another inch towards the wall, but it was moved out of the spot he had so meticulously placed it in. He tried not to panic, because maybe someone hit the bed and it shifted, except the bed is a good four inches about the handle. Or maybe the kids were playing hide and seek under there, except they aren’t allowed in that bedroom without permission.
Or maybe Ashleigh found it. Except.
Eight days after Ashleigh found it, and two after Ryan noticed the box was missing, they can’t even make eye contact at dinner. Even Cassidy catches on, and mumbles something about Mommy being mad at Daddy again. He can’t finish his casserole, and she leaves the dishes in the sink overnight.
As soon as they get in bed that night, once the TV is off and the baby is asleep, they blurt it out at the same time.
“What the hell is in that box?”
“About what’s in that box, Leigh.”
It’s five minutes before they work out that she doesn’t know what’s in it.
It’s only three more before she convinces him to pull it out and let her look through it.
She’d been expecting pictures of old girlfriends, maybe. A flyer from the college he was accepted to but never attended, maybe even the acceptance letter itself. She hadn’t been expecting this.
It was only three things, all paper. If she had picked the box up, she might have thought it was empty and this could have been avoided.
The first thing she grabbed seemed innocent enough: a sloppily drawn picture of a flower with “Nana” scribbled across the top and an unintelligible signature in the bottom corner. It was probably one of the kids, maybe even Ryan’s from when he was a baby, and who was she to incriminate a man for keeping something he’d drawn his grandmother?
The picture of Alyssa and him made sense and was expected. She wondered if Ryan has scribbled the date on the back because it overlapped with her pregnancy, or he’d done it out of some habit that she only noticed when prompted by paranoia, but the picture was expected. First loves never completely fade, and she knew Ryan’s never quite had, maybe even knew it all first hand because Ryan was hers, and it certainly hadn’t. Despite, or maybe because of, this, she couldn’t bring herself to care about the picture or the probably arbitrary date on the back.
She’d almost given up there, kissed him and apologized for being silly and paranoid, until her finger grazed one last picture and she dejected every sensible bone in her body.
A little girl. A cute little girl, or maybe she was just supposed to think so, when she has the same eyes and lips and smile as her own children. Even all those years ago, she knew Ryan was lying about Alyssa. But the child in the picture was undeniably his, so unquestionably shared the same blood as him and the four children asleep down the hall, that her stomach couldn’t be blamed for turning in on itself a little bit.
By the time she finally looked back up at him, the photos were placed carefully back in the box, which she’d padlocked again, wanting to stay out probably just as much as Ryan. “Keep it,” she said, before even realizing what words her lip had formed. And he’d look so relieved that she couldn’t tell him she didn’t mean it, that she wanted what the box and what it stood for out of their past and their house.
Instead, she placed the box right where it had been before and crawled back under the covers, leaving the box and its contents to be nothing but another myth from the back page of Cosmo.