Thursday, January 17, 2013

Innocent Neglect

Tara is trying to unwind in a lounge chair on her stone patio.   She can feel the warm Kissimmee sun gently caressing her skin.  The summer breeze sweeps in and wraps itself around her body.  Tara glares out at the palm-fringed trees that fill her backyard.  Warm tears begin to trickle down her cheeks.  She wipes the tears with the back of her hand.  Tara reaches over for the champagne bottle that sits on the table next to her.  She pours some of the champagne into her glass.  As she pours, the exotic smell of the champagne fills the Florida air.  When she takes a sip, Tara can feel the lively bubbles begin to dance around in her mouth.  The bubbles tickle her palette.  The champagne goes down smoothly and cools her off.  Tara glances down to see her cell phone.  She realizes its five o’clock.  Landon normally arrives home from work around five thirty.
~ ~ ~
Landon is a hard-working lawyer.  He spends many hours in the Osceola County courthouse.  Tara already knew that Landon’s career would require many hours.  Landon and Tara were both students at Florida State University.  They met during their junior year.  Landon swaggered his way into the classroom and took the seat next to her.  She can still remember the way in which his cologne caught her attention.  It smelt rustic and manly.  She can also remember their first “real” conversation.  She remembers how silly but cute it was. 
“Excuse me,” Landon said to Tara.
Tara looks over at him in surprise.  She can’t believe this cute guy is acknowledging her.
“Do you have a pencil I can borrow?”
“Oh yeah,” Tara said as her cheeks begin to blush. 
Tara begins to fumble around in her book bag to find a pencil.  She nervously hands one to him.
“Thanks!  By the way, my name is Landon.” 
He smiles at her.
“Hi, I’m Tara,” Tara said shyly.    
Landon and Tara continued sitting next to each other in class.  They instantly became friends.  They spent most of their time studying together, getting coffee together, and eating dinner together.  As they began spending more time together, their relationship became more intimate.  They started dating and remained in a relationship throughout college. 
~ ~ ~
Tara feels like she hasn’t seen Landon as much lately.  It seems like he has been working later on Tuesday and Thursday nights.  Tara is looking forward to a romantic evening alone with him.  Tara hopes that a romantic night is exactly what they both need.  She feels their marriage has been suffering, especially in the past couple of months.  She believes that they aren’t on the same wavelength anymore.  Tara wants to bridge the gap between Landon and herself.  In doing so, Tara hopes to surprise Landon with his favorite meal, spaghetti and meatballs.  This was the meal that Landon cooked the night he proposed to Tara.  She still can remember how special that night was to her. 
~ ~ ~
It is a calm, sultry night in June. It’s only been a couple of weeks since their graduation. Landon called and invited Tara over for dinner.  When Tara arrives, Landon is cooking spaghetti and meatballs.  Landon has never been one of those sweep-you-off-your feet types of guys.  You know, those who prepare a candlelight dinner.  A guy who makes a rose-petal path that leads to the bedroom.  A guy who sends your favorite bouquet of flowers to you unexpectedly.  As they eat, music plays softly in the background.  After dinner, they talk and laugh while sipping wine on his couch.  They sit hand in hand.  Tara loves how their hands perfectly fit into each others.  While sitting on the couch, Landon reaches into his pocket with trembling hands.  He pulls out a tiny red velvet box.  He stands up from the couch and walks nervously over to Tara.  Landon bends down on one knee and looks up into Tara’s eyes. 
“Tara, you’re the most beautiful woman I’ve ever seen.  You bring so much happiness and joy into my life.  You make me smile everyday.  You’re the reason I get up in the morning.  You’re the last thing I think about at night.  I would be the luckiest man if you would marry me.  Tara Lee King, will you marry me?”
Tara begins to cry tears of joy.  A huge smile forms across her face.  She shakes her head with excitement.
“Of course I’ll marry you, Landon Thomas Rawlings!  I love you!”    
~ ~ ~
  Tara grabs her glass of champagne and walks into the house.  As she walks upstairs, Tara hears how her footsteps echo throughout the house.  She stops and listens to the silence.  Tara begins to cry again.  She takes a deep breath and walks into the bathroom.  Tara begins to draw a hot bath in the tub. 
~ ~ ~
As she undresses, Tara notices her reflection in the bathroom mirror.  Her dark green eyes are glassy and red from crying.  Tara is only thirty-two years old.  She barely has any wrinkles on her sun-kissed skin.  Her cheeks are rosy from the combination of crying and champagne.  As she unloosens her ponytail, Tara watches as her golden curls fall down her back.
~ ~ ~
  Tara turns off the bath water and steps into the tub.  She can feel the warm sensation of the water rush up and down her body.  As Tara begins to relax, her tense muscles slowly loosen up.  Her head begins to tingle from the champagne.  Tara hopes that a bubble bath will relax her.  She closes her eyes and lays her head against the base of the tub.  As she soaks, the past couple of weeks begin to flood her mind.
~ ~ ~
Last Wednesday morning, Tara is awakened by the warmth of the sun creeping in through the bedroom window. She quietly slivers out of the bed as not to wake Landon. Tara makes her way to the kitchen. Within minutes, the house is filled with the aroma of bacon, eggs, and coffee.  Landon walks swiftly into the kitchen.
“Good morning, honey! I hope you’re hungry,” Tara said with a grin.
“I’m sorry, but I can’t stay for breakfast. I’m running late for work,”
Landon said.
Like the wind he was gone.
 ~ ~
          As Tara is getting ready for work, her cell phone rings.
“Hello,” Tara said.
“Hey, it’s Dawson from the firm.  Is Landon there?”
“He’s already left.  Wait, he’s not there?”
Tara said with suspicion.
“No, not yet. Thanks anyways.”
Tara hangs up and decides to call Landon herself.  His phone went directly to voice mail.
~ ~ ~
            After her bath, Tara brushes her hair and applies the right amount of make up.  She searches through her closet for the “perfect” little outfit. She slips on his favorite little black dress with the strappy heels. Tara hopes this will bring back memories.
~ ~ ~
     As Tara leaves their bedroom, she notices their wedding portrait from the corner of her eye. The portrait hangs on the wall behind their bed. Tara hung it there after they moved in.  Tara walks over to the portrait to get a better look at it, even though she has seen it hundreds of times over the years.  However, today the portrait seems to grab her attention.
~ ~ ~
     The photo is protected by a black metal frame.  The photo is a full length picture.  Tara gazes at Landon.  She is reminded of how handsome Landon was and still is after five years.  He has such a handsome smile and charming blue eyes.  In the photo, Landon towers over Tara.  She has always felt safe with him.  Landon’s arm is around Tara’s shoulder in the portrait.  Tara remembers how protected she felt that day.  She also felt like the luckiest girl in the world.  Landon’s face glows in the picture.  He appears to be so happy.  Tara wonders if he still feels the same.  At the bottom of the frame, “Mr. and Mrs. Rawlings” is engraved.  She believes these words are engraved for a reason.  A marriage is permanent.  It should last forever.  No one should be able to come in and scratch those words out.
~ ~ ~
     As Tara descends the stairs, she can hear Landon’s voice from the distance.  He probably arrived home while she was in the bathroom.  He normally acknowledges her with a “hey honey” when he walks in the door.  Tara follows the path of his voice.  Tara finds Landon in his office.  She notices the door is slightly cracked.  Tara quietly sneaks over to the door and peers in.  Tara notices Landon pacing around the room.
     “I don’t think she expects anything,” Landon said.
There is a pause.  He listens while the other person on the line speaks. 
     “I’ve been telling her that I’m working late,” Landon said while tapping his fingers nervously against his desk. 
     “I’m trying.  It’s not working,” Landon said.
As he said this, he turns to look at the door.
     “Ok, well I better go.  I’ll see you tomorrow at the usual time.” 
~ ~ ~
  It’s Tuesday evening and Tara decides to follow Landon home from work.  Tara knows this is wrong but she has to know the truth. Tara feels like she has to follow her gut. She disguises herself in various ways.  She doesn’t want anyone to recognize her.  Tara decides to wear a loosely fitted black top with a pair of black jeans. She also decides to wear a floppy, wide brimmed hat with her hair stuffed inside.  She found a pair of large, black sunglasses in an old purse. She made sure to grab her camera before leaving the house.  
~ ~ ~
      The only thing left to do is sit and wait for Landon.  Tara is parked across the street, adjacent to his office building. She has a clear view of the entrance. She checks her watch.  She realizes it’s five o’clock. All of the sudden, Tara begins to feel faint.  The palms of her hands begin to sweat.  Her body begins to shake uncontrollably.  She tightly grips the leather steering wheel to calm her nerves.
~ ~ ~
     Tara finally notices Landon pushing through the door. She watches him as he gets into his car and drives off. Tara takes a deep breath, waits a second, and slowly falls in line behind him.  Tara makes sure she puts enough distance between them.  All of the sudden, Tara realizes that this is not Landon’s normal route home. She continues to follow him for several miles.  It seems as though he knows where he’s going. It’s like he has been there before. Landon finally slows down and drives into a parking lot.  Tara does the same.  She parks her car several parking spaces down from his.  She watches as Landon gets out of his car and moves swiftly to the door of a coffee shop.  He stops and stands next to the Dorr as though he is waiting for someone.  Tara nervously reaches for the camera in the passenger seat.  After a few seconds, the door opens and out steps a woman. 
~ ~ ~
     The unfamiliar woman has long, auburn hair. Tara notices that she is tall and slender. She has tanned skin. She is wearing black pants and a white blouse.  Tara is so involved in this woman; she almost forgets to take a picture of them. Tara notices they are having a conversation. Landon and the woman smile at one another. Landon follows her in and the door shuts behind them.
~ ~ ~
     Tara decides to drive off and head home.  As she drives, she can’t believe what she just witnessed. Tears begin to swell up in her eyes.  The tears begin to drip down her cheeks and fall into her lap. After a few miles, the tears begin to diminish and Tara starts to get angry.  She wonders if she should even go home, home to what?  A cheating husband that doesn’t love her anymore. Tara knows that she will have to face her fears when Landon arrives home.               
~ ~ ~
Tara is sitting on the couch.  She didn’t even bother to turn on the lights.  As she sits there, Tara realizes that this could be the last day she is married to Landon.  She can’t believe this is happening to her.  Tara suddenly hears Landon’s car pull into the driveway.  She sits up, takes a deep breath and composes herself.
     “Hey honey! Why are you sitting in the dark?” Landon asked.
     “I know where you went today!”
     “What are you talking about, Tara?”
      “I followed you, Landon! I know where you’ve been going on Tuesday and Thursday nights!”
     “Oh, you do now?  So, where have I been then?” Landon protested.
     “I saw you with that woman! I have proof!”
Tara stomps over to Landon and shoves the camera in his face. Landon turns on the camera and thumbs through the pictures. Landon begins to chuckle. This makes Tara even more furious.
     “What are you laughing at? There’s nothing funny about this,” Tara moaned.
     “Tara, you know I’m not a romantic type of guy.  In fact, I’m right down too practical. I’ve taken our marriage for granted. I’ve felt lately, that your love for me has weakened. I realized that I needed to do something about it.
“Why are you telling me this now?”
     “Well….. The woman I’ve been spending time with is not who you think it is.”
    “Who is it then, Landon?”
    “Tara, it’s our wedding planner!”

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