Sonny looked at his Apple Watch. The watch face came on with a taunting 8:25 pm. He let out a long and angry exhale that did nothing to relieve the tension inside of him.
“We’ve been late before,” Maya yelled from the bathroom, sensing her husbands slowly roiling impatience through the walls. She had a bit of a melody to her voice, which Sonny recognized immediately as her way of bringing him a little peace.
When you’ve been with someone for fifteen years (seven of which as man and wife) you learn a few things, like how to bring him down from childish poutiness to something that resembles an acceptable life mate. Her mother had given her some tips.
“No we haven’t,” Sonny replied. He was right.
Sonny was never one to be late. His dad had taught him to value people’s time. If they make time for you, you need to respect it. A football coach once told his players, “If you’re on time…you’re late.” His father loved the quote.
“Well, there must be a reason,” Maya shot back, stepping out of the bathroom with her “face” on.
The sight of his wife brought Sonny a little bit of peace. She had a glow to her. Her hair had an extra level of sheen and shine while her makeup looked professionally and meticulously applied on her tanned skin. She wore an outfit that he’d never seen before but it was one he quickly appreciated. The style was a cross between Manhattan professional and Miami nightlife chic. Perhaps it was Manhattan nightlife chic and Miami professional. He didn’t know. The silky blouse and skirt ensemble certainly caught his attention. It wasn’t just the colors, which were a deep purple and muted gray. It was how each piece seemed to reveal an appropriate, if not dangerously tasteful, amount of skin that made his imagination meander.
And he liked it.
But as much as it was a welcome surprise, Sonny quickly sobered to the thought that he felt she was overdoing it a bit.
“You know that it’s just Stan and Rae, right?” Sonny asked, following her across the room.
His wife looked off as if she was picturing a place far, far away from where they were. A slight mischievous smile stretched across her face. Perhaps she was somewhere else like a woman in another time.
Their friends, who they’ve known for as long they’ve all been married, were just coming over to watch a movie. Nothing more. Sonny and Maya had known Stanley and Rae for years. They were family. The couples had gotten married six months apart and had been the best man and maid of honor for the other.
Thursdays were movie night for the couples and, like every other movie night, the guys came as if they were about to play ball and the girls were dressed comfortably in sweats and oversized sweaters. It was like an adult sleepover complete with a dessert, popcorn, and wine.
Sonny was dressed accordingly, while his wife took it to another level. The evening certainly didn’t call for a glow up.
“So what are we watching tonight?” Maya asked, her voice cringing towards the end of her sentence. She was bracing herself for his reply. At best it would be a tolerable evening with the girls having constant sidebars to distract from the boring film. At worst she’d be opening a third bottle of Pinot Noir.
“Movie Grab Bag,” Sonny answered gleefully.
Pinot Noir it is, Maya thought to herself.
Movie Grab Bag was what the boys came up with to make movie night more tolerable for the girls instead of the two sides arguing about taking turns choosing what to watch. It was akin to adding new rules to Monopoly to make the game more interesting.
Between Sonny and Stanley they had at least 300 DVDs. They spent the better part of their twenties just buying anything they loved watching more than once. The two fancied themselves as cinephiles but really they just loved movies. Now that they were both married, it was best to pool the movies together and on the third Thursday of each month, they would reach into the bin and pull out a favorite. Then again, they were all favorites. Whichever one was drawn was the one they’d watch. To somewhat appease the girls, the guys slipped in about 15 chick flicks. In the seven years of movie night, they might have watched one: My Best Friend’s Wedding. That movie never resurfaced.
“I’m afraid to ask,” Maya whispered as she slid next to Sonny, purposely sweeping his face with her dark brown hair. He could smell the expensive shampoo and it’s mix of fragrant herbs, berries, and flowers. He even pictured the ornately decorated bottle that was likely composed of an environmentally friendly plastic produced in some country he couldn’t find on a map by children who worked for pennies and sea shells. But oh that smell. It made Sonny smile.
Sonny drew the movie from thin air like a magician. Maya playfully elbowed him in the stomach. He and Stanley had seen the movie at least a dozen times. She and Rae hated the movie. Actually they were ok with it the first two times—on the first watch it’s just pure entertainment with the twists and turns while on the second watch it’s appreciation for little aspects of the movie they might have missed. Anything after is just an increasing amount of disdain, resentment, and disgust compounding their annoyance that grew the longer the movie seemed to run. Maya and Rae secretly wanted to pull it out of the big bin and put it in the trash and pin it on the cleaning lady. Obviously they did not.
Sonny noticed the look of disappointment and irritation on his wife’s face.
“Come on!” Sonny playfully begged, grabbing Maya closer towards him. He noticed that even the material of her clothing was smooth and mesmerizingly cool to the touch. He found it exhilarating.
“Luc Besson. Jean Reno. Natalie Portman,” he whispered seductively.
Maya pulled her face to about an inch from his and smiled.
“You’re talking about a thirteen year old Natalie Portman?” she purred playfully, her breath warming his face.
“She’s gorgeous now but back then—” Sonny grinned but stopped short. In the back of his mind he cringed at hearing himself starting a sentence that sounded inappropriate.
Maya rolled her eyes with as much effort to communicate disgust as humanly possible.
“Oh and like you don’t have a thing for Gary Oldman?” Sonny growled back.
“Ooh Gary Oldman,” Maya replied, a Cheshire grin creeping across her own face, feigning her eyes drifting off as if visualizing herself in the actor’s arms. She did have a thing for Oldman. Sonny didn’t understand it. And Maya knew it drove him nuts. She’d sometimes say Oldman’s name during foreplay just to derail her husband a bit.
Sonny knew her little game. He had only one counter.
Upon hearing the word, Maya pushed Sonny aside and stood to fix her outfit. She muttered a genuinely irritated, “bastard” under her breath that she certainly wanted him to hear.
Sonny looked upon his wife and marveled. He was certainly a bastard—a very lucky bastard.
Sonny snapped back to the issue at hand and looked at his watch. 8:45pm. This wasn’t like them.
“Should I text Stan?” Sonny asked as Maya stood in the kitchen gathering the wine glasses and small dishes.
Sonny knew texting his best friend would be fruitless. Stanley hated his phone and often had it shut off. Rae had her phone on but was prone to forget it somewhere. She was on her third iPhone in four months. Not bad. Last year she had gone through seven—SEVEN—in the same timeframe. What an expense.
Still, Sonny texted his best friend.
Maya threw the first bag of popcorn into the microwave before heading for the bedroom. The hum was surprisingly soothing.
“I’m sure it’s fine. Traffic has sucked on I-95 for the last month. Even in the evening,” she called from inside the bedroom.
Traffic, Sonny thought dismissively.
His wife began to hum a song. Sonny couldn’t identify the song but he could tell the wife was in a very good mood. It was a great change of pace from the usual.
As if the evening needed more, rain began to fall. The drops of water pounded the roof and the windows. Typical summer shower. It would storm like crazy for about 15 minutes and then things would quiet. Maya found rainfall distracting while Sonny found it relaxing.
“Ugh, rain,” Maya muttered. Just what the evening needs, she thought to herself.
Maya walked over to the coffee table, which was positioned between the couch and the television. She gently placed the glasses, plates, and forks, arranging them as neatly as possible. Maya tried to be Ina Garten but it was no use. The woman was on another level.
Sonny watched Maya work. She had an airy glide to her as she moved from the living room to the kitchen and back. It was as if she barely made a sound with each step.
Maya felt Sonny’s gaze locked on her. She noticed him to be genuinely struck. By her?
“What?” she asked, her thin lips curling into a teasing smile. Her hazel eyes seemed to glimmer and hypnotize. Sonny felt as if he was rediscovering the beauty of his wife of seven years, partner of 15.
Maya walked back to the kitchen and returned with a square, white Corningware dish.
“May I present…tiramisu,” she said with a tinge of that same tease fueling her smile.
Tiramisu was Sonny’s favorite dessert. Stanley’s favorite as well. He remembers the two of them somewhere in San Diego, at a restaurant on the water, and they finished off the dinner by asking for several servings of tiramisu. Stanley estimated that they had eaten the equivalent of a 9x13 pan of the dessert.
“I made it,” she continued, tilting the dish so he could see the elegant dusting of cocoa topping the dessert. Visually it was as masterful as he expected it to be delicious.
Maya only made it on special occasions of which Sonny could remember two—their first anniversary and their first house. Any other time he would have tiramisu is if they were eating at an Italian restaurant. It had to be an Italian restaurant.
Sonny stood and embraced his wife who was trying to balance the dish so as to not ruin the dessert. He moved on her smoothly and swiftly, which caught Maya off guard.
“I love you,” he whispered, staring deeply into her eyes.
Maya looked back at her husband, her own stare meeting his.
“Do you?” she asked in a whisper. She truly wanted to know.
Sonny nodded. He wanted to kiss her but the moment felt more genuine if he simply marveled at her. It shone on his face and Maya could see every genuine inch of his sincerity.
There he is, she thought to herself. A familiar warmth came over her.
“Maybe it’s good that Stan and Rae are late?” Sonny asked in an attempt at seduction, nodding his head in the direction of their bedroom.
Maya sighed. The familiar warmth retreated to where it came.
Realizing his mistake, Sonny took in a deep breath and nodded. He gave his wife a tiny peck on her forehead as if apologizing. The embrace lasted a few more seconds before Maya pulled away and gently placed the tiramisu on the coffee table.
The couple looked at one another. Nothing needed to be said but everything was understood. Maya straightened her blouse and Sonny straightened his shorts. It was more out of an awkwardness rather than mending appearances for a couple they’re so close to and who likely didn’t care about appearances.
Maya spun her head to look at the time on the microwave. As she did so, a trail of her perfume filled the air. Perfume. Sonny could envision an elegant, pink-tinged crystal bottle that held a sweet smelling liquid that a tiny dab of would turn any sane man’s head. The name of the perfume was likely a word that he couldn’t pronounce, in some language that he didn’t know let alone spell. It didn’t matter.
Suddenly, Sonny’s phone rang loudly and vibrated violently, spasming on the table as if angrily tap dancing. Magical Mystery Tour by The Beatles overtook the silence in the room. Sonny loved the Fab Four. Maya couldn’t understand how he could pick that particular song out of a catalog of songs that were far greater. But it was Stanley’s favorite song so Sonny applied it as his best friend’s special ringtone.
Sonny, not saying a word, excused himself from his wife. Maya, equally silent, smiled as if to urge him to tend to the phone.
Sonny looked at his phone as it blared the song. The caller ID said, “Stan”.
“Finally!” he moaned, beckoning to the sky as if thanking God for having his friend call so they could all get the evening going.
Sonny flicked the slider on the phone and playfully growled, “Where the hell are you?”
At first there was silence but then the phone disconnected. Odd.
“What’s up?” Maya asked innocently. Sonny shrugged and redialed Stanley’s number. It went straight to voicemail.
“Voicemail,” Sonny said plainly. His mind was running through several scenarios. He was now moving from confusion to worry. Something was wrong. Nothing felt right.
“Maybe it’s the cell signal. You know how it goes in and out during a storm,” Maya offered.
Suddenly, Maya’s phone, sitting face down on the side table, began to buzz and dance wildly. She looked over and picked it up. “Stanley” was on the screen. She had her own ringtone for him: the theme from Jaws.
For a second Sonny thought about the hypocrisy of making fun of him for having a special ringtone for his friend, when she did the same. For him!
Maya swiped on the screen to answer.
“Stan?” Maya first blurted nervously. Silence.
“Stan!” Maya said again, this time in a panic.
Thunder cracked and startled them.
The phone call disconnected in the same way it had with Sonny.
“What the hell is going on?” Sonny asked in a fit of worry. “And don’t say it’s because of the storm and the cell signal.”
Thunder cracked again and this time it felt more ominous than the previous boom. The house actually shook.
Suddenly there was a pounding on the front door loud enough to be heard over the rain and thunder. Sonny and Maya looked at each other and immediately made a dash to answer the knock. Their hearts were pounding with worry.
Sonny hurriedly unlocked the door and pulled it open. He didn’t even bother to look through the peephole.
There before them stood Rae. She had on a hoodie and sweatpants. Both surely were at least a size too big but were so soaked that they clung to her body. Her curly blonde hair hung limply from her head, downed by the weight of what was certainly a good drenching. Her face was empty. Her eyes were tear-soaked. Behind her was a backdrop of torrential rain and flashes of furious lightning.
“Rae…sweetie,” Maya mumbled, extending her hand to pull her friend inside and out from the storm.
Rae didn’t take Maya’s hand.
Sonny, dread filling inside him, had to ask, “Rae, honey, where’s Stan?”
Rae seemed to gaze past them as if in a trance.
Sonny asked again, but this time much more forcefully, “Rae! Where’s Stan?”
Rae didn’t reply.
Sonny asked a third time but in a rage-filled roar, “Rae! Stan! Where is he?”
Rae’s lips parted slightly. Sonny and Maya simultaneously held their breath and muted the noise from the rain and the thunder.
“I’m leaving Stan,” Rae said softly, staring blankly.
The words shot into them, their impact being felt as if being sucker punched in the gut.
“Wait, Rae—” Sonny started but couldn’t find the words to finish.
“I thought you should know,” Rae said softly, her eyes narrowing slightly.
And with that, she slowly turned and walked back into the rain.
Sonny and Maya didn’t move to rush after their friend. They didn’t even have a single impulse to call out to her. Her words felt final, a chapter closed. They simply watched her walk further into the night until she disappeared as if the rain and darkness swallowed her whole.
Sonny tried to process the events of the entire evening. Looking forward to an evening with friends. His beautiful wife. His best friend could not be gotten a hold of. His best friend’s wife showing up and telling them the marriage was over.
“I thought you should know.”
It echoed in Sonny’s head. Why? Why come all this way just to deliver a message that could’ve been given via text or phone call? His head was spinning.
“What—what the hell was that?” Sonny could only ask, his voice was equal parts anger, sadness, and shock.
He looked over at Maya, who had not moved from her spot. He looked at his wife and all he could see were her own tear-soaked, hazel eyes. A tear from each eye, making their way down her cheeks. Her lips trembled, caught between wanting to speak and wanting to say nothing.
Rae’s words, “I thought you should know” echoed in his head. She was using “you” not referring to Sonny and Maya collectively, but “you” addressing in the singular.
Sonny’s knees buckled. Sonny realized he was not the “you”.
Not saying a word, Sonny walked passed his wife who made a feeble attempt to reach out and grab him. Her hand grazed his arm as he made no attempt at all to even brush it away. That was the last contact they had. The lawyers would take over going forward.
Sonny leaned over the coffee table and picked up the dish of tiramisu, which would be the only part of the evening that he would claim as his. Grabbing a single fork and a single napkin, Sonny walked into their bedroom and closed the door behind him with the heel of his foot. The door slammed as loudly as the crack of thunder that followed, leaving only the pounding rain in its wake.