Aris & Ralph
Aris Collier glanced at the wall clock and cursed. She’d been working for the past four hours, completing the final touches on her mannequin. All she needed was another five minutes to get the eyes just right…
Checking the clock again, she dropped her airbrush.
How the hell had thirty minutes gone by so fast?
Flooded with anxiety, she reluctantly abandoned her project and scrambled to her feet. She gasped after only a few steps, jutting her hand out to keep from sinking back to the carpeted floor as numbness gave way to an acute tingling that spread like fire from her legs down to her toes. Gritting her teeth, she kept moving toward her bedroom.
There was no time for a luxurious bath, so she opted for a quick shower. After rushing through her routine, she quickly toweled off and threw on some uninspired clothing before tackling her face and hair. Checking her appearance in the mirror, she cringed again. The plan had been to style her hair and apply sultry make-up for the occasion like she’d promised Ralph, but somehow all that vision, creativity and effort shifted from herself to the mannequin still sitting on the floor in the middle of her living room.
Aris sighed heavily, preparing for the grand disappointment that would surely appear in Ralph’s eyes once she arrived, which would be at least another hour from now at the rate she was going. She peeked at the clock again and shrugged. Better late than never. It wasn’t like anyone would care other than Ralph, whose steady string of missed calls and text messages clearly signaled the escalation of his annoyance with her because she was late yet again. But she’d take that over his usual approach of showing up at her door when he couldn’t reach her. Had he done that tonight, nothing less than foolishness would have ensued because he would have caught her “playing around” when she should have been more concerned with getting glam. She had no doubt that he would have launched into another lecture about appearance being a way of showing respect and blah, blah, blah…
Stealing a second glance at her reflection, she couldn’t help but acknowledge her “lack of respect” for him and silently call into question her true motives. Was dressing up for the occasion really too much to ask? What man didn’t want his woman to look her best? Given how much he did for her on a daily basis, it was literally the least she could do for him.
But there wasn’t enough time for that now.
Grabbing her cell phone from the night stand, Aris felt the guilt begin to settle around her shoulders. When Ralph finally answered her call, she figured it was best to skip the pleasantries and go straight to kissing his ass.
“Baby, I’m so sorry. I fell asleep, but I’m on my way right now,” she said, her voice an impressive balance of contrition and eagerness. “I can’t wait to see you.”
She closed her eyes tight, gearing up for his customary interrogation.
That train was never late.
But there were no questions.
Though he seemed quite calm as he gave her directions for the fifth time and told her to drive safely, she could still hear the sarcasm in his delivery. The cool, clipped tones of his voice didn’t escape her notice either. He was seething on the inside, with very good reason, but at least he was still speaking to her and choosing to be a good sport about it…until she finally arrived and he laid eyes on her, of course.
Deciding to prolong the inevitable squabble, she greeted everyone with a cordial hug and offered insincere apologies for her tardiness. Just as she expected, most of the people in attendance weren’t the least bit affected by her late entrance and only a few were somewhat tickled that she had shown up at all.
Finally approaching Ralph, she gave him a hug and a closed-mouthed kiss hello, his lips feeling like polished granite.
Realizing he was going to make her work for it, she smiled and let him stew for another twenty minutes before asking him to dance with her, to which he said he wasn’t interested. In her or dancing—she couldn’t be sure. Not that she really wanted to dance. It was just an attempt to reduce the number of curious stares from his obnoxious friends. His eyes widened when she rose from her seat and left him anyway, choosing to find solace in the middle of the wooden floor. She danced alone, letting the music sweep her a way until thirst made her move to the nearest bar for a bottle of water. Eventually, she returned to the VIP area which was surprisingly deserted because, as one of the other guests told her, the birthday song was sung, the bottles were popped, the cake was cut and the early birds had gone home.
She’d missed all that?
Slipping into the space next to Ralph, Aris didn’t dare to look directly at him, certain that he had evolved from fractional attitude to full-blown rage. The best she could do was sit listlessly as he tore into her about everything he’d bottled up all night. In a matter of ten minutes, she learned that not only was she disrespectful for being late and a reckless flirt, but she also didn’t have the decency, when she did finally arrive, to act like she wanted to be there at all.
As he continued his tirade on the way to her car, Aris began shutting down, offering him her standard apology—the one where she expressed regret for disrespecting him and asked for forgiveness though she was pretty sure she hadn’t done anything wrong. Pulling her keys from her bag, she unlocked the door from a distance, eager to get inside and close herself off…but he stopped her.
She felt his eyes on her first and then his hands. He released a heavy sigh before the retractions came. There was no question where this was headed. Make-up sex was an easy trade. It was a way for him to feel better after her callous actions towards him and a way for her to apologize without actually saying the words.
It had always been like this between them.
In these moments, his emotional shifts had more to do with his insecurity that him truly wanting her. Or maybe he really did want her because it had been almost two weeks since he last had her.
Aris turned her head to summon patience she didn’t have. Then, she turned and smiled, abandoning her passion project waiting on her living room floor and focused on repairing her relationship…again. When they arrived at Ralph’s condo, she headed straight to the bathroom to get her mind right for what she had to do. He was too in tune to her body for her to fake it, so her only option was to linger in the shower until she could figure out how to manufacture some desire and rev her libido.
Stepping from the shower, she dried herself slowly before entering the bedroom. Slipping between the sheets, she relaxed against him as he eagerly began stroking her clit and sucking her neck, his muffled words of affection rushing through the same lips that had berated and diminished her just a short while ago.
Raising his head, he touched her face gently and kissed her flush on the mouth. “I’m sorry.”
She didn’t respond.
“I’m tired of fighting you, baby,” he said, finally slipping inside of her lukewarm body. “This is all that matters…us loving each other. Everything else will be fine…just love me as I love you, and it’ll all be okay.”
But it wasn’t okay—they weren’t okay—and she could no longer pretend otherwise.
So she woke up early the next morning, showered, initiated an overdue argument, absorbed the guilt and walked out of Ralph’s apartment…
For the last time.