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Instructions for a series of degrading public tasks.
In the end, he fell asleep, next to her.
It seemed like Billy was looking for breakfast almost immediately. By the time his wife appeared, the football games had started. He had already popped open a beer. He kissed her, he was ready to do more than kiss her, but Billy had to go to soccer practice. By the time they got back, he was muddy, sweaty -- and she was raking leaves with a pointed fury.
"They just fell yesterday afternoon," he pretested, "I would have gotten them."
"I need to hit something!" She was attempting to move an enormous pile toward the street -- thrashing at it with all her might. "I hate this! I hate this!" She collapsed into his arms, weeping,
"Laurie," he said, "you don't have to do this. You can find another job. I can find a job." But he knew it was a lie. Everything they had depended on her. "Let's go for a walk." So they set off, just the two of them, leaving Billy to clean up on his own.
"We're in trouble," Laurie muttered
"You and me?" Had she figured that out already? So quickly? Had she realized what he had been doing to her the night before?
"No, not you and me. Well, maybe. I'm sorry I turned you down," she whispered, "I promise tonight will be better."
"Sunday I'll be gone again." It was almost a wail. "Tom, you have to take me down to the airport tomorrow afternoon. I have to be out there for a meeting Monday morning. We have people out there working all weekend."
"You're in trouble."
"Yes, I'm in trouble. We're going to be at least two weeks late, half the stuff isn't working yet, the customer, our customer, is having trouble getting her boss to sign off -- Tom, there's a real good chance this thing is going to be cancelled."
"Well, I'll be around the house a lot more. Assuming we have a house."
"What time do you have to get to the airport?"
"One?" Tom was fretting now. "Billy has Sunday school."
"We'll leave from there. Damn! I wanted to get some sleep!"
"Why can't you take the limo?"
"Tom!" She was crying now. "I got a note this morning. They didn't want me to come home this weekend. They're not going to pay for the flight!"
"Five hundred dollars! Tom! Where are we going to get five hundred dollars?"
"It was worth it," he kissed her. But his mind was racing. "They won't let you come back?"
"I don't know," she was sobbing now. "I don't know! Maybe it was just because things are so fucked up. Tom, Tom, I never see you, and when I do ..."
"It'll be okay," he said, without much conviction. "It'll be okay."
They rounded the bend, and came upon Karina's driveway. Far down, on the deck, a small figure was waving up at him. He waved back, timidly.
"You know them?" his wife was surprised.
"I met her last night." Better the half truth than the lie. "Billy ran down there to trick or treat."
"Oh, what's she like?"
"Beautiful. Strange. Russian, or something like that. Her husband is a diplomat."
"Oh yeah? Moldavia?"
"How did you know that?"
"I know her sister. She has a daughter in Billy's class. Wow, small world, isn't it?" Laurie smiled sweetly and waved down the driveway. "Her sister is built like a Russian tank," she added.
"Solid. Five feet tall, two hundred pounds at least."
"Yeah," he said, "she's cut out of the same mould."
"I thought you said she was beautiful." Laurie was giving him a very strange look. He decided he'd better keep his mouth shut. They spent the rest of the walk in silence.
Later, after Billy was safely in bed, after they had prepared themselves, she asked him, teasingly, "all right, my love, what's you secret desire?"
"My secret desire?"
"Tom," she sighed. "I want tonight to be special. It may be our last time." After a moment, she added, "for a while."
"A while? How long?"
"I don't know," she sighed. "It depends what happens."
"You're going to be stuck in California."
"You won't be back next weekend."
"No," she sighed again. "Not next weekend."
"Have you told Billy?"
"No," she snapped.