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A Learning Experience Part 14

a-learning-experience-part-14

The glare from the sun danced on the windshield. Renee sat in the driver’s seat of David’s Forester, her hand gripping the top of the gear shift. Her husband was teaching her how to drive a stick-shift, on a hill. She glanced at him, and then took a deep breath.

“Could you explain how to do it one more time?” Renee hoped her voice did not sound pleading. David let out a breath before talking.

“Put the car in gear, keeping your foot on the clutch and the brake. Then take your foot off the brake and apply even pressure on the gas as you gently release the clutch. Make sure you give it enough gas, or you’ll stall the car.” He looked her in the eye. Renee gave a nervous smile, then refocused her gaze forwards. She did what he said, and the vehicle gave a small lurch as it started forwards. She shifted up as she increased speed. A grin stretched across her mouth.

“I did it!” She glanced at David. A look of pride and satisfaction shone from his eyes. Her heart soared.

“Now, go ahead and drive home.” He instructed. “You did very well today.” He reached over and patted her hand. “You learned it faster than I did.” She could hear the praise in his voice. Happiness bubbled up inside her stomach.

Hans, the German Shepherd, Lily, the Welsh Springer Spaniel, Ian, the Golden Doodle, and Pooh Bear greeted Renee and David as they entered the house. She took her sunglasses off and placed them on top of her head. No need to put them away when they were going back outside soon. She grabbed four slip-leads off the hooks. David took two of them from her.

“If you don’t mind, I’ll hold the leashes.” David looked into her eyes. “That way they can all get used to walking as a pack, with your dog added in.” Renee nodded.

“That’s fine.” She slipped one of the leads over Pooh Bear’s head, then handed the handle end to David. He hooked all four leads to a carabiner attached to his belt in the back. Renee gave him a quizzical look.

“This is how I always walk dogs.” He explained, then grinned. “And I can also have a hand free so we can hold hands while we walk. Renee grinned back and laced her fingers through his. She leaned in for a kiss, then they exited the house. David locked it behind him.

The walk was refreshing. The sun beat down on them, but a gentle breeze stirred enough to keep them from roasting. They did not talk much, but the silence was not uncomfortable. The four dogs pattered along behind them as they strolled down the neighborhood street, holding hands. David paused a little before the house.

“I know we haven’t talked a whole lot about kids, but I wanted to put my thoughts out there.” He pulled Renee to the side, so she faced him.

“Go ahead.” She was not nervous. Taking a deep breath, then letting it out slowly, he began.

“I would prefer to wait to have kids until we’re sure we can afford them.” He announced.

“But that could take years.” Renee felt her heart drop a little. She wanted kids soon, and now that would not happen. She knew of other couples who had said the same. They never ended up having any kids.

“It could.” David paused, “My parents said the same thing and waited eight years before having me.”

Why? Renee thought. Does he not really like kids that much? Disappointment filled her stomach.

“Your dog client is going to be here in a few minutes.” She gripped his fingers as her thoughts raced.

“Yeah.” He started walking again. “We can talk about this again another time.” He gave her fingers a reassuring squeeze, yet she did not feel reassured. She felt like he had kept something from her. And it hurt a little.

~

Renee sprinkled some salt and pepper over the chicken breasts, then drizzled on a little olive oil. The bottom of the pan also was greased with olive oil. She opened the door and slid the glass pan into the hot oven. After setting a timer, she got to work pulling out salad ingredients from the refrigerator. She knew David didn’t like salad, but that didn’t mean she couldn’t make a salad for herself. She wondered how a someone could grow up to be a man and not like any vegetables at all. Or most fruit, for that matter. He only liked apples. And only if they were peeled and sliced for him. He wouldn’t do it for himself. Seems lazy to me, but everyone is different, I guess. She finished slicing the pepper and laid a few pieces on top of her lettuce. Then she grabbed an apple from the fridge and began peeling it, humming to herself.

~

Hot water, yet not hot enough to burn, cascaded down over Renee’s head. She let the stream run down her face as she rinsed her hair. She enjoyed this time to herself every day to think and pray. As she was turning to grab the liquid body wash, she heard the bathroom door open.

“Yes?” She called out to her husband. He was the only one home, so naturally it was him. The fan suddenly flicked on.

“Are you trying to mold the bathroom?” His tone came across as annoyed. “I’ve told you over and over, you need to turn on the fan when you shower.”

“I’m sorry, honey.” Renee ran a hand over her face to flick the water off. “I’ll try to do better.”

“You’d better, or we’re going to have to buy a new tub.” His voice was commanding, like a father reprimanding a child. She sighed as he closed the door. This did not seem like the type of marriage she thought she had signed up for. Maybe she was over thinking it, but maybe not. She did not know.

~

Music filled the house as Renee sat at the piano. She let the emotion of the hymn arrangement fill her soul. As the song came to a climax, the lower-level door opened. She looked across the living room to the stairs. David danced up the stairs, ballet style, then changed it up and tap-danced across the living room and stopped at the piano. Renee giggled. David had taken years of dancing lessons as a kid. She tilted her chin up for a kiss.

“You ready to head to the barn?” David wrapped his arms around her and lifted her off the piano bench.

“Sure.” She draped her arms around his neck and kissed him again before he set her down. They grinned at each other. After letting the dogs out to do their business, Renee and David climbed into his Forester and headed out. She pulled out her phone and began typing a message to her mom. There are adjustments for sure, but I’m enjoying being married. Her mom replied, I knew you would. Renee smiled and the car was quiet as she chatted with her mom for a few minutes.

“Why do you have to message with your mom right now?” David reached across the console and placed a warm hand on hers.

“I didn’t think it would be a problem to message with my mom for a few minutes.” Renee turned off her phone screen and looked up at her husband.

“We’re having a good time riding in the car.” His voice was unnervingly gentle. “You could talk to me.”

“Okay.” Renee paused. “I was just telling her about what a good time we’re having.”

“Why do you seem to like displeasing me?” His tone had turned harsh. His voice was not raised, but he was definitely scolding her. The sharpness cut her in the gut like a knife.

“I… I don’t.” Renee’s stomach churned. He did not reply, and she turned her face to look out the window. The rest of the ride was silent. She breathed a sigh of relief when they finally reached the barn. David put the vehicle in park, and she put her hand on the door handle to get out. But he was not getting out. Leaning forwards, he rested his forehead against the steering wheel. Feeling torn, Renee placed a hand on his shoulder and rubbed gently.

“What’s the matter?” She dared to inquire. He lifted his head to look at her and a tear streaked down his face.

“W-what does it matter…” He stuttered; his voice choked with tears. “don’t you care to please me? I care to please you.” He reached his arms across the console. Renee leaned into his embrace.

“I do care, honey.” She whispered against his t-shirt.

“Thanks for the reassurance hug.” He whispered back into her hair. Renee pulled back and wiped another tear off his face. His mouth turned up into a sad smile.

“Let’s go in.” She pulled back and opened the door. David followed suit and they entered the barn through the man-door.

~

“My parents are home.” David ended the phone call and snapped his phone back onto his belt clip.

“Cool.” Renee glanced at his profile. Who is this man that I married? She had thought she knew him, but he seemed a lot different now, two weeks into the marriage. She glanced at his casual expression, unable to read him. She stared forwards, remaining silent for the rest of the ride home.

“You okay?” David reached over and patted her hand. He gave her an encouraging smile, confusing her more.

“Yeah.” She rubbed her eyes. “I think I’m a little bit tired from the adjustments.”

“That’s understandable.” He smiled at her. “I’m feeling the adjustments too.” Renee returned his smile. They linked hands as they walked to the front door.

“Hey, how are the horses tonight?” Sherri was lounging on the couch in her sweatpants and a t-shirt, a steaming mug in hand. Quiet sounds emitted from the flat-screen TV.

“They’re pretty good.” David sat on the couch opposite his mom, his legs up on the couch. Renee lowered herself in front of him and relaxed back against his broad chest. She glanced at the screen. Basketball players raced across the court. One of the players, wearing a green and white uniform, threw the ball and it fell through the net without touching the rim. David and Sherri conversed about the game during commercial breaks. Renee liked basketball, but she did not know much about it. She was too tired to pay much attention to the game or the conversation. She laid her head back, just under David’s chin and he caressed her arm.

“You ready to head to bed?” David’s gentle whisper in her ear drew her from her dozing.

“Is the game over?” She sat up and raked her fingers through her hair.

“Yeah, it’s almost midnight.” He planted a kiss on the top of her head. They stood and made their way downstair to their bedroom. Renee sleepily changed into her pajamas and slid under the covers. David did the same and they snuggled together. Just before Renee could drift off again, David’s phone buzzed. He reached up and took it off the headboard. After reading for a minute, he glanced up.

“Mom says that the trash hasn’t been put out to the curb yet.” He looked up from the screen.

“Then, we’ll get up early enough to put it out in the morning before the truck comes to get it.” Renee tucked her hair behind her ear.

“No, I have to go do it now.” He got out of bed and put on his slippers.

“But, we were snuggling…” Renee felt abandoned, like as if David’s mother had stolen him from her.

“Sorry, but I have to do it.” He opened their bedroom door. “I’ll be right back.” He said the words over his shoulder.

“I’ll be asleep when you come back, probably.” She pulled the covers up almost over her head. He nodded and Renee buried her face into her pillow. This is the second time he’s made his mom more important than me. Why was he doing this? She fell asleep with these thoughts running through her brain.

Whack! Renee startled awake when the pillow smacked her in the side. She groggily leaned up on one elbow and glanced at the clock. It read 1:05am. He had been gone for an hour. Did it really take an hour to take out the trash?

“What was that for…?” She looked up at her husband, who was perched on the edge of the bed, pillow poised in his grip.

“We’re supposed to read the Bible and pray together every night, no matter what.” His quiet tone was dangerous. Renee involuntarily shrunk into herself.

“I-I’m exhausted and you went… to do your mom’s… bidding.” She whispered. “I-I’m sorry…”

“It’s okay, hon.” David’s demeanor instantly changed. His eyes filled with kindness, or was it something else? He set his pillow back down, slid under the covers, and pulled her to him. “We don’t have to do it tonight since you’re so tired.” He ran a hand over her hair, and she snuggled in. Renee drifted off against his chest, listening to his steady heartbeat.

~

After a final swipe on the sparkling mirror, Renee dropped the used paper towel into the trash can. Since she and David were the only ones who used the lower-level bedroom and bathroom, obviously she cleaned them. She drizzled the tub cleaner onto the ceramic surface, then began scrubbing it with the cleaning sponge. She had decided she would clean the bathroom about twice a week. She felt a little bump against her ankle, and she looked up. Sherri stood in the doorway.

“I thought I’d show you today which things I’d like you to do to help out around the house before Ben and I move out into the house we’re building.” She said the sentence in all one breath, as if she was afraid Renee would interrupt her.

“Oh, uh… sure.” Renee glanced at her sudsy hands. “Let me finish rinsing the tub, and I’ll be right there.”

When she found Sherri on the main level, she was putting on rubber garden gloves near the front door. Renee approached her.

“There you are.” Her mother-in-law handed her another pair of gloves. Renee put them on, curious. Sherri opened the front door and stepped out next to the stoop. The hot afternoon sun beat down on their heads. Sherri pulled the hose out and turned on the spicket. She pulled the trigger on the nozzle and began raining water over all the bushes and flowers landscaping the front yard and walkway.

“You watch today and then from now on, you can do this every day.” Sherri addressed Renee. When she was satisfied with the dampness of the greenery and flowers, she turned off the water and replaced the hose how it was. Renee followed her to the small, fenced-in side patio where the dogs did their business. The middle-aged woman grabbed a watering can from the bench, filled it from the hose, and began watering the hanging plants. Renee watched. After the whole backyard plants had been watered as well, Sherri turned to her.

“Think you can keep up with all this every day?” She inquired. “It will all be yours eventually when we move out.”

“Yep.” Renee nodded, then entered the house. Sherri headed straight for the entry closet and beckoned her to follow. Renee sighed within herself, then padded across the hardwood in her bare feet.

“I’d like you to also vacuum the main area about twice a week.” Sherri drug out the hard-wood vacuum and began setting it up in the living room. “Hans sheds so much in the summer; it just piles up around the house if I vacuum less than that.”

“Okay.” Renee plugged in the machine and began running it over the floor. She had not done much before her mother-in-law started giving more instructions.

“You’ll need to attach this piece and vacuum behind the furniture with it.” She handed Renee a funnel shaped vacuum attachment with a flat end. Renee sighed, then did as she was told.

~

A gentle whirring sound started up as David turned on the water purifier in the kitchen. They ran water through it every evening after supper. Renee sat on the couch in the living room, with her laptop open. She was searching for jobs again, per her husband’s request. After he finished in the kitchen, he was going to be preparing the dog training room for his next client, who was arriving in about thirty minutes. Voices drifted in from David talking with his mom. Renee did not pay attention as she concentrated on scrolling through the list on the webpage.

“What is this?” David stood in front of her, his tall frame blocking the ceiling light as he held up the broiler pan.

“It’s… a… broiler pan?” Renee was confused.

“This is the second time I’ve brought it to you still filthy after you washed it!” He exclaimed angrily, pointing to a miniscule spot deep in one of the ridges from who-knew-when. It certainly did not look like it was from the burgers she had cooked on it for supper that night.

“I don’t think that tiny spot was from the burgers.” She set her laptop aside and stood up. “It looks stuck on and is a way different color than burgers.”

“No, it is from the burgers.” David was angry, though his voice was quiet. “You have to make sure you get things clean. Please wash it again.” He handed it to her. She took it in her trembling hand and entered the kitchen. After a lot of fierce scrubbing, the spot came off, and she returned to her job search. She quickly swiped at a tear that escaped her eye. She could not let David see her cry. The sight would just make him madder.

~

Rain dripped down the outside of the windowpanes as she sat on the couch in the dog training room slash sunroom. Her fingers sat idle on her laptop keyboard. She absentmindedly gazed out the water-streaked glass sliding door. David had asked her to spend the afternoon searching for a job. Renee knew it would be a good idea to find a way to earn some extra money, but she was feeling discouraged about it. Her husband wanted her to find any old job that fit her skills. But Renee wanted to make sure that she would enjoy it and that the work environment would be a safe place. She had already applied to a few jobs that afternoon. She jumped as a dinging sound emitted from her phone resting on the couch next to her. She picked it up and checked her message. It was from her mom. Remember your friend from church who moved to Montana? She’s come back for a visit and is coming over for supper in two days, on Friday night. Maybe you guys could come! Renee sent a reply that she would ask David and get back to her.

“Do you even realize how much paperwork I have got to do tomorrow night after supper?” David snapped at Renee. “I will have a client here until 6. We don’t have time to go out. Or the money for it.”

“I’m sorry.” Renee hesitated. “I-I don’t personally have anything going on tomorrow night. Do you mind if I go?” She hurried on, “I haven’t seen Rachel and her family for almost three years and my parents can pick me up.”

“No.” David’s anger was rising. Renee could tell by the intensity in his tone. “If I can’t go, you can’t either. My parents don’t want anyone stopping by the house and you don’t know how to drive stick well enough to go by yourself.”

Renee sank onto their bed and sat there, feeling dazed. Disappointment fluttered in her stomach. She only nodded, as the lump in her throat refused to let her speak. She swallowed hard. David stood there, as if waiting for her to say something. She glanced up at his face. His icy blue eyes shot icicles through her heart.

“O-okay.” She managed. “I’m disappointed, and confused that you won’t let me, but I’ll stay here.” She picked up her phone. “I’ll let Mama know that we can’t do supper tomorrow night.” As she started typing the message, she felt the bed shift.

“I-it seems as if… y-your family is… m-more important to you… than I-I am…” Tears choked David’s voice so she could barely understand him. She scooted across the bed and leaned against his back, wrapping her arms around his middle.

“That’s not true. I love you both.” She brushed a gentle kiss against his stubbly face. “I love you as my husband and I love my family in a different way.”

“I suppose I should accept that as the best you can do.” He choked out, fiercely wiping the tears off his cheeks. “Though, I wish you loved me best, after God, and showed it.”

“How do you wish I showed it better?” She asked. “I am here with you, and not with my family. That should show you some. And I care about you. I sleep with you in your bed. I do a lot of housework for you and I’m looking for a job to help out with the finances. I give you physical affection whenever you want it. I’m trying my best to show you my love in all the ways I know how.”

“I know. And I’m incredibly grateful for all of those things.” He looked into her eyes. “I just wish you would talk to me more and stop texting with your family so much.”

Renee’s heart sank. She barely talked with her family three times a week. And she’d only talked on the phone with her mom two times since they had got back from their honeymoon almost two weeks ago. They were coming up on three weeks of marriage. “I guess I could talk with her less.” Renee felt like he had kicked her in the guts.

“Thanks.” David’s mouth turned up into a smile, he gave her one last hug, and then got up and left the bedroom.

~

“The realtor we’ve been working with called and said that there was a lot of progress done on the house.” Sherri quietly walked into the living room. Renee and David were sitting on the couch with their laptops. She was looking at jobs and David was filling out invoice forms to send to his dog training clients.

“That’s awesome!” Renee smiled at her mother-in-law.

“Yeah.” The small woman continued, “So, Ben and I were wondering if you and David would like to go out with us tomorrow to celebrate.”

“How so?” David inquired.

“We would like to take you two to the Grand Rapids museum tomorrow afternoon. Then we could go out to Country Home Cookin’ for supper and then go see the house’s progress.”

“We’ll talk and let you know.” David glanced at Renee. She felt torn. That was the same night her family was going to have dinner with her friend from church. If they had time to spend time with David’s parents, then they would have time to go to her parents’. Her stomach dropped to her shoes. They closed their laptops, descended the half-stair to the lower level and entered their bedroom.

“So, I think it would be a good idea to do this with my parents.” David turned Renee to face him after he closed the door. They held hands.

“What about your client at 6?” Renee was confused.

“She cancelled.” He ran a hand up and down her arm.

“We could have told my parents that we could have gone there for dinner.” Renee met his eyes. “We did get their invite first.”

“Yes, we did.” David rushed on, “But, I still have the paperwork to do after supper and your dad talks a lot. So, we’d end up getting back in time to go to bed since it’s an hour drive one way.”

“Okay…” Renee sighed within herself. “I guess we can have fun at the museum then.”

~

She did have fun at the museum. They had explored the history of Grand Rapids. Back in the day, it used to be a logging town when Michigan was just a baby. Renee had taken a lot of pictures.

“You ready?” David found her examining the racks of country style journals in the store section of the restaurant.

“They have a table ready for us?” She glanced up at his face.

“Yep. Mom and Dad are already seated.” He laced his fingers through hers and she followed him. Hed pulled out her chair for her and she sat.

“I can’t wait to see how far along the house has come.” Sherri lowered her menu a little.

“Yeah.” Ben seemed preoccupied with his own menu. Renee picked hers up and perused her options. Being gluten-free had its restrictions. Especially at a burgers and home-style cooking place. Her eyes landed on a double burger with bacon. It looked so yummy, but she could not eat the bun, obviously.

“Did you find something?” David queried.

“I’d like to get this burger, but I can’t eat the bun.” She replied.

“Then get it without the bun. They give a lot of French fries with the burger, and you said you can eat those. You’ll have plenty of food.” He looked into her eyes reassuringly.

“Alright, I’ll get that.” She folded the menu as the waiter approached.

Their food arrived sooner than she had expected, and she dug in. She had to eat it with a fork and knife, but she did not mind. It was delicious! Suddenly, Ben waved down a waitress.

“Hey, I would like to ask for some extra mayonnaise in a cup.” He requested. “David, here, loves to dip his fries in it. So does my wife.”

The waiter nodded, then hurried to the kitchen. David glanced at Renee, then gave his dad a pointed stare.

“Why do you always have to do that when we go out?” He reprimanded.

“Yeah, it was totally unnecessary.” Sherri interjected.

“Why do you have to embarrass us so much.” David flapped his cloth napkin and laid it on his lap. Renee felt uncomfortable. What kind of family acts like this in public? She felt, she admitted to herself, ashamed of them.

“Sorry…” Ben resumed eating. “Just thought I do something nice for you.” He mumbled.

“Well, don’t.” David sounded somewhat sharp. “I could have asked for myself.”

After the waitress brought the condiment, the rest of the meal was eaten in silence. After paying the checks, they returned to their vehicles. The ride to the build site was also silent most of the way. As, they got closer, though, David began explaining things about the building process. Renee sat and listened. Her husband’s mood had lightened considerably by the time they arrived. David parked behind his parents’ car and they got out. The house actually looked like a house, though without siding. It was coming along very well. As they approached the door, Ben picked up Sherri, and carried her through. David turned to her.

“May I do the same?” He asked, affection and sparkled in the blue depths of his eyes.

“Sure.” Renee smiled back at him, then wrapped her arms around his neck. He lifted her as if she weighed no more than a feather. She grinned. After he stepped through the door, David spun around before setting her down. Renee giggled, then wrapped her arms around his middle. She checked to make sure his parents were not looking, then planted a kiss on his lips.

“Happy?” The emotion shone back at her.

“Yeah.” She tucked her fingers into his and they turned towards the inside of the half-finished house.

~

Renee glanced at the clock as she slid under the covers. It was almost midnight. Where is David? She thought he was right behind her as she entered the bedroom. He had said he was ready for bed. He had even come down the stairs with her. Maybe he forgot to put out the trash again. She propped her pillow up behind her and began writing in the new journal David had bought for her at the restaurant store.

“Ooh, I’m glad you like it.” David twirled into the room with his hands over his head. Renee looked up and laughed. He sat on the bed and tucked his feet under him, facing her. His expression turned serious.

“What’s the matter?” Renee inquired.

“You.” He stated simply. “Do you just not know how to wash dishes?”

“What?” What on earth? Why talk about this just before bed?

“Mom had to wash the broiler pan again.” An edge creeped into his voice. They were entering dangerous territory again.

“I’m sorry. I’ll try to do better.” Renee ran her fingers through the ends of her hair. “Can we go to bed now and talk about it in the morning, please?” She questioned.

“No. We have to discuss it.” He sat up straighter and looked right into her face; his expression was dangerous.

“O-okay.” Renee drew a deep breath, then pulled her knees up to her chest.

“You realize, you’ll get someone sick if you don’t do better?” He sounded angry again.

“Why are we making the dishes such a big… deal?” She stifled a yawn at the end of the sentence.

“Do you not care about the people you live with?” He sat closer, so his legs pushed up against hers.

“Of course, I care.” She took another deep breath, resulting in another yawn. “I try my best, but since it’s just a dish, couldn’t you just wash it again, if it’s not clean enough?”

“You just refuse to learn to do better, then?” His voice now rose a little.

“I just think it’s silly to… make a big deal out of… something so… little.” Her voice was quiet and trembly.

“How dare you!” He pushed off the bed. “If you’re gonna be like this, then I’m not going to sleep with you tonight.” He stormed out of the room, slamming the door behind him. Renee jumped, then buried her face in her pillow as her body wracked with sobs. Why does he hate me so? After a minute or two, she glanced up at the clock. It was late; 2am late. But her mom said she could call any time. Perhaps she could help. She called, and her mom answered groggily. Renee relayed what had happened. After a minute of conversation, Renee gingerly got out of bed and opened the bedroom door. David sat on the couch in the dog training room with his face in his hands. She approached carefully and eased herself onto the cushion next to him. He was crying again.

“Come back to bed, honey.” She whispered quietly, rubbing circles on his back with her palm.

“Can… I have… a hug… first?” He stuttered through his fingers.

“Yeah.” Renee felt pain and love course through her as she wrapped her arms around her sobbing husband, her own tears barely dry on her cheeks. Then, she took one of his hands and helped him to his feet. He followed her to bed slowly, like a sad child.

~

The next morning, Renee felt reluctant to get up for the day. She wanted her husband to be like this all the time. Lovingly hugging her. She cuddled against him with her face against his chest. His behavior was very crazy and disturbing to her. She lay there, listening to his heartbeat. Then, he stirred. Renee was afraid to move in case it would ruin the moment. He ran a hand up and down her arm.

“You awake?” He whispered against her hair.

“Yeah.” She tilted her head back, so she could see his face. It was calm and relaxed.

“I did some thinking after you fell asleep last night.” He pushed himself into a sitting position and Renee sat up as well, leaning gently against his side.

“What did you think about?” She probed.

“Us.” He smiled down at her, with a gentle look in his eyes. “We need to contact Pastor Jeff and set up an appointment for counseling. Our marriage is in trouble.”

“I think that’s a good idea.” She agreed. “We need to figure this out.”

~

After lunch, David approached her where she sat with her laptop. Job searching seemed to be her life for the present. Her husband insisted that she find a way of earning some income to help pay off her college debt.

“Pastor Jeff replied to my email.” He sat next to Renee on the couch. “He said he’s available Thursday morning, the day after tomorrow.”

“Does that work with your schedule?” Renee glanced up at him. Dark circles outlined his eyes. She presumed her eyes looked the same. They had not gotten much sleep the night before.

“Yeah.” He handed her his phone with his email up on the screen. “You can type out the reply and send it.”

“Okay.” She began typing. “I’ll tell him the time he suggested, 10am, works for us.”

“I think we can bring this around.” He wrapped her in a hug. “We can fix this.”

~

“So, I want to try something with you, if you’re good with it.” David approached her in the kitchen with some papers in his hand.

“What’s that?” She looked curiously at the documents.

“This is something my doctor did with me as a teenager to fix my allergies to dairy, nuts, wheat, and eggs. It’s a muscle test. And a pressure points treatment.” He tapped her arm.

“Okay…?” She felt confused for a moment, then realization dawned. “Oh! You want to try to help with the gluten-free thing I’ve got. You realize, it’s a pretty serious intolerant.”

“Yeah. So were mine.” He said reassuringly.

“Okay.” She sat on the kitchen stool. After doing a control test, he had her hold out her arms, with a piece of regular bread held in one hand. He pressed down on her hands and she did not have any resistance.

“I thought so.” He shuffled the papers around on the counter. “Okay, I’m going to rub your pressure points down and back up. This tells your brain that you can eat that again.” He rubbed several spots.

“Now, let me take the bread and don’t touch any regular bread for twenty-four hours, until this time tomorrow.” He placed the bread on the counter and began making his sandwich for supper.

~

“It’s been twenty-four hours.” Sherri sat on the stool in the kitchen.

“Yep.” David approached Renee, who leaned against the counter. “Let’s do the muscle test again.”

“Alright.” Renee held up her arms, with a piece of bread in one hand. When her husband pushed down on her arms, she held strong.

“Woohoo!” Sherri grinned at Renee and gave her a high-five. Renee grinned back at her, though she could not help feeling a little bit skeptical.

“Well, let’s eat.” David grabbed the regular flour tortillas from the fridge and Renee grabbed the taco meat off the stove. Sherri and Ben were eating supper with them that night. Then, they were going to leave and check out the house while David worked with a dog training client. Renee would watch the four dogs in the upstairs office room.

“I’m a little nervous to eat this.” She gingerly picked up the taco in her fingertips.

“Don’t be worried.” David tried to reassure her. “The test works.”

“I don’t feel safe eating it.” She played with the edge of the tortilla with her thumb.

“I went through all that trouble to make it so you could eat this stuff.” He took her hand in his and brought the taco up to her lips.

“I don…” Her words were cut off as he shoved the taco into her mouth.

“Eat it.” He seemed to command. “If you get a reaction, which I doubt you will, we’ll take care of it.”

Renee chewed the bite in her mouth and swallowed it. Perhaps it would be best just to eat it. They sat the rest of the evening in silence. She could not finish the whole taco. Her nerves had removed most of her appetite. About a quarter of her taco sat on her plate when she was done eating. David’s parents left, with no visible recognition of the exchange that had happened between David and Renee. She stood to her feet, picked up her plate, and placed it into the sink.

“I’m proud of you.” She felt arms snake around her waist. She turned in his embrace and laid her head on his shoulder.

“I just hope what you did works.” She voiced into his shirt. “Otherwise, there will be bad repercussions.”

“It’ll work.” He kissed the top of her head. “Now, why don’t you take the dogs upstairs and I’ll get the training room ready.”

~

The evening sun slanted through the window as Renee lowered herself onto the single bed in the office upstairs. A wave of fatigue had overcome her, and she could barely hold her eyes open. Sinking into the pillow, she curled into a comfortable position. She slept without dreams, not aware of the passing of time. After what seemed like just a few moments, she opened her eyes to see David sitting next to her.

“You ready to head to the barn to ride?” He helped her sit up. She glanced at the clock. An hour had passed. It was thirty minutes after seven.

“Sure…” She rubbed her eyes, trying to rid herself of the fog in her brain. She stood up, but then leaned immediately on David’s arm. “My… joints… feel… wobbly…” Her brain did not seem to want to produce words either.

“You are feeling okay?” David helped her stand.

“Maybe… after I sit… for a little… in the car.” She smiled tiredly up at her husband.

“Okay.” He helped her down the stairs and they exited the house. She leaned her head on David’s shoulder as they headed towards the freeway. Her brain was feeling so foggy, she felt a little bit light-headed. She began to breathe out of her mouth. That was easier. But then it was not. Her breathing started to make noise. She was wheezing.

“I’m going to turn around and take you back to the house.” He quickly got off the freeway, and then got back on headed back the direction they had come from. They arrived back at the house in record time. David helped her into the house and set her on the couch. Sherri rushed into the living room.

“What’s going on?” She seemed a little bit flustered.

“I need to get her to the hospital.” David rushed his words. “I need to get some things, and then we can leave.”

They were back in the car in minutes and David drove as fast as he could and remain safe. Sherri sat in the back seat and prayed with her hands resting on Renee’s arms. When they got to the hospital, a nurse wheeled a chair out the door and helped her into it. She was wheeled through the doors, Sherri trailing behind. After some mumbled talking, the wheeling was continued to a room, where Renee was hooked up to several machines. She glanced to the side and saw that Sherri was sitting there in the room with her. David rushed in right at that moment.

“How are you doing?” He asked.

“Al-right…” She managed a tiny smile through her wheezing. “Did… you… let… my… parents… know… I’m… here…?”

“I don’t think that’s necessary.” Sherri chimed in.

“They… need… to… know…” Renee grasped David’s hand. He gripped it back.

“We can tell them in the morning.” He took her phone from her bed and placed it on one of the chairs in her hospital room. The nurse came in at that moment.

“The doctor would like to do a neck x-ray and ultrasound.” She began to move the wheeled bed Renee was laying on.

“May… I… have… my…phone?” She held her hand out towards David. With the nurse looking at him, he placed it in her fingers. She immediately opened her messages. Her mom had messaged her a few times. Renee had messaged her about having the test David wanted to do for the gluten. Since Renee had not responded, she was worried. Renee texted her back that she was in the hospital with trouble breathing, but David was sure that she would be fine, so didn’t want them to make the hour trip to see her. Would you like us to come to the hospital? Her mom’s text lit up the screen. Renee replied, yes, but David and Sherri don’t think it’s necessary. I’m scared.

After her x-ray and ultrasound, she was wheeled back into her room. David immediately snatched her phone from her.

“What have you messaged, huh?” He snapped as soon as the nurse left. “Oh, your dad just texted that they would like to come to the hospital. And now he’s calling me.”

David answered the phone. “Yeah, she’s getting better already.” He lied. “Her breathing is already not making noise.” He lied again, then he turned to Renee and handed her his phone. “You mom wants to talk to you.”

“How are you doing, sweetie?” Mama’s kind voice came through the phone.

“I… think…I’ll… be…okay….” She managed. “I’m… nervous… it… was… the… gluten…”

Mama talked calmly to her, then she asked to talk to David again. As he listened, a tear rolled down his cheek. He hung up the phone and looked at Renee with cold eyes, then turned to his mom.

“Her dad said that they are coming.” He said this to her mom, ignoring the fact that Renee was still laying there sick, not able to breath properly.

“What have you done?!” Sherri almost screeched, then turned to David. “She’s been complaining about us to her parents for weeks now! She’s been lying to them about us!”

”I didn’t... I... haven’t...!” She began.

“Why did you do this to me?!” David rushed at her bed and began sobbing into the sheet. Renee’s rattling breathing got worse, so she could barely draw breath.

“They’re going to take you away from me!” He cried at her. She shrank away from him, terrified by the angry look in his eyes.

“No… you’re…wrong…” She tried to speak, through the wheezing and fear, but she wasn’t heard.

© 2021 Tori Leumas

Comments

Rosina S Khan on February 05, 2021:

That was a nice and interesting piece to read. It seems David is very immature at times. I am sure whatever happens after this point will only be good for Renee. She has been through a lot already. Thank you, Tori, for this amazing story.