Authors: Deborah Boyer
Old Wives say comfort is its own reward. Darla Garber thinks those venerable women may be confused, because lately, the only reward comfort produces in her twenty-year marriage is stale and sporadic sex. Time and familiarity have rusted their cycles of lovemaking. It used to be that they dreamed of having the house to themselves again--of having sex in the kitchen if they felt like it.
Now with the kids nearly grown, can a wife who still adores her husband find the forgotten physical spark? Fearing sex-out-of-habit for the rest of their lives, Darla isn't so sure. But when her girlfriends prescribe a change of pace as just what a gorgeous animal doctor needs, Darla sets out to discover whether a little effort can set a comfortable marriage into motion, and rekindle the passion one wife desires
I feel suspiciously like a beefsteak tomato. Huge, fleshy, on the verge of rotten—about to burst through a too-thin skin. Yep, it's the time of the month when a woman whose period is no longer useful—I've had my kids, thank you very much—gets to rue its continued existence. Today is my third day in the trenches and I'm swollen from scalp to toes, bleeding like a stuck pig, irritable, bitchy—and horny as hell. Such a great combination. I can see it now: Cole comes home and I say “Do me, baby, but don't touch”.
I got the boys off to school and figured now was as good a time as any to clean out the crawlspace. A little solitude, you know? Keep my moody self to myself and accomplish something while I do. But procrastination goes with my sluggish, over-ripeness and I'm sitting here, poking through old pictures: baby pictures, wedding pictures and now, near the bottom of the box, dating pictures. Young love. Taken when we believed nothing would cool our passion. We were going to be the old couple who still holds hands. But here we are, going on twenty years and we're in a rut. A truck-stopping, crater-sized, frozen-slush-filled rut.
Things aren't bad, generally speaking, because we're still best friends. And we've had rocky years—everybody does—that's not the problem. Simply seems the last ten months or so, when it comes to sex, we can't get it right. Time is one problem; between the kids and housework and skiing and the vet practice, we're rarely both in the mood. Even when we eke out an evening alone, sex isn't very good. Like having your mouth all ready for prime rib and ending up at McDonald's—it fills the space, but it's flat and tasteless. Simply put, sex has gotten boring. Dull enough to be a chore. And lately, I think we both take any excuse to avoid it, even when we want it.
because I'm not the only one who lacks enthusiasm. Take this morning, when Cole found out Bryce and Joel were going to a sleep over. He waggled his brows with obvious intent until I shook my head, motioned at the calendar and held up two fingers—two days until my period's done. He shrugged like it was no big deal and that was that.
But you know, looking at these pictures, I remember when it wouldn't have mattered. It didn't matter who was tired, who was indisposed, who had to get up early—sex was still exciting and delicious, and we'd come so hard we could barely breathe.
And once we caught our breath, we'd start over.
What's so different now? We don't get as creative as we did in the beginning. It used to be we were always looking for new ways to light the fire. But after so many years, there's not much left that's new, I guess...
Well, nothing I'd do anyway. I mean no extra people and no farm animals, thank you very much.
I snort at my own sarcasm and the dust gives me sneezes.
Wiping my nose, I laugh. At least I've cheered myself up a little. But seriously, I don't think there's something Cole wants that we haven't done, either. If there is, I wish he'd ask, or tell, or write it down because I would be on it like snow on the slopes! Maybe we're both out of ideas. Maybe we've reached some secret matrimonial stage where everybody discovers that, from this moment on, it's touch-by-numbers—and I'm really praying that's not the case.
Because I love him. I like him. All of him. Even as we get older, I still like the way he looks. So it's not a physical dissatisfaction I've heard other women complain about. I mean, sure, he's not the hardbody he once was—but I'm certainly not defying any gravitational barriers. And since he's still interested enough to watch me get undressed, I don't think he's bothered by that either.
We also talk less. Only because we don't need to. I used to get a charge from trying to figure out what he's thinking. But now—his eyes are so expressive they scream what he's feeling, I know exactly what's on his mind, and I'm hardly ever wrong. We know each other inside out, so why talk? We can have a whole conversation from opposite sides of a room—and there's something wonderful about that. We're comfortable, I guess. And I don't know what to do about it. But something has to give, or I'm going to strip naked and run screaming through snowdrifts just to numb this aching longing for something that's gone—and might not come back. Not like this. Not like the sex we were having when these beaming grins were snapped.
I touch our shiny faces, the colors faded and blurred. If this is what married sex is doomed to, no wonder old people don't seem to touch—they can't bear the reminder.
All right, enough of this, because now I'm completely depressed. Maybe coming up here wasn't such a good idea after all. My tomato body is begging for a pressure release and this isn't helping. One little orgasm and I'd feel a whole lot better. I could take off my pants, sit in that rocker and be playing with myself when Cole gets home for lunch. Not new, but maybe surprising.
My laughter is muffled by the boxes.
"Darla? Are you up there?"
I jump. Damn! Too late. It's lunchtime already.
"Yeah, hang on, I'm coming." I dump our smiles back into the box and clamber down the ladder, happy to see him—but he doesn't notice. He's sorting through the mail, tense shoulders saying he has a full afternoon of farm rounds to survive before he can relax—the animal world must be as cranky as I am today. Ah well, best laid plans. I touch his arm. "Soup, or just a sandwich?"
"A sandwich is fine."
I watch him while I slap together meat and bread. A slight frown over the electric bill, a smile at the silly postcard from Cindy. Comfortable, yes. And maybe it's not such a bad thing. He didn't used to care if he was late because we were screwing. I should start something right now, because looking at him standing there, still every inch the handsome man I married for better or worse, fills me with—
"You have to make the boys turn out the lights," a terse command. "The electric bill's twice as high as last year."
Well, I could've started something but he had to go and open his mouth. Impulse and desire evaporate and I'm defensive. "You're here, too, Cole—you tell them. I've told them until I'm blue in the face." Okay, so maybe I don't have to be so bitchy about it but in my current state, I'm not inclined to be the cheery little wife.
I feel him looking at my back. He's examining me like a patient, his deductive brain trying to work out what my pain is.
"Are you trying to start a fight?" he asks mildly.
He does know me as well as I know him. "I'm sorry," I say with a sigh, "I guess I am."
One of his many frustratingly endearing traits is his acceptance that there are times I can't control my moods. That he goes out of his way to avoid conflict once a month is really quite sweet—and horribly unsatisfying to Mother Nature's design.
He munches and reads the paper, effectively ignoring me. Enjoying its hour of hatless freedom, his hair stands up in clumps. I cross the room and smooth it down. I love the feel of it, thick and unruly. Why doesn’t running my hands through it make me want him anymore? Just playing with the chestnut stuff used to make me wet.
He smiles and kisses my hand.
"Ooo, look—there he is." Lindsey turns to watch the new guy's progress across the taproom. He's a buff engineer-in-diapers, twenty-five if he's a day. The council hired him to help plan the new Town Hall.
"He is so damn fine—and so damn shy," Lindsay grouses. "I've tried to talk to him at least a dozen times and he keeps staring at the floor."
With a total population of three-hundred-and-seventy in Lancer, Pennsylvania, fresh blood always gives everybody something to talk about, and folks are still watching his every move, poor kid—although most of them for different reasons than my two friends, mind you, but he's green enough for our stares to be unremarkable. A definite plus. The tavern's pretty crowded even for Saturday and there's nothing like a busy night at Bill's for generating rumors of unseemly behavior.
"Maybe he's the silent type," I say.
We watch him bend over to talk with Joshua Strickler.
"Who cares what type he is when he's got an ass like that," Carol observes.
"Mmm-hmm," I mutter thickly at the tight behind, "I'll take two scoops, please."
"Darla!" Lindsey giggles. "Hands off. Single women need only apply. Besides, he might be a two-scooper, but Cole's definitely a banana split—and don't even try to tell me his butt's not just as scrumptious."