She smiled at her sandals, shutting the front door behind her. She did so quietly, deliberately, the same way she would have if he hadn’t intercepted her there on the threshold, hoping she might slip amongst the partygoers and delay the accusations. She exhaled, and lifted her gaze to meet his.
Her presentation was thoughtful, and rather lovely, despite an unmistakable air of having been broken in; her clothing a tad disheveled, her makeup lacking a certain freshness. It was hardly the first time she had turned up hours late, looking aged from living other lives, secrets swirling in her distant eyes. A special dinner here, a long-planned outing there, and now the birthday party they had organized together were all victims of her growing eschewal. The date had been set for weeks: June 3rd, 2011, Friday.
He waited for words, bordering on despair.
“I know, I’m late. There was traffic, and the dry cleaning and,” She paused, raking pink nails through blonde hair. “I’ll make it up to you. I promise. I have your gift.”
She dug around in her purse, and removed a square box, just small enough to fit in one hand.
“I think you’re really going to like it.” Her voice strained for sincerity, but it came out like a plea. He took it from her outstretched palm. It had been wrapped in newspaper, and his fingers traced the fragmented phrases and headlines as he turned it over in his hands.
“New Study Suggests Cheating on the Ri-”
He struggled to swallow a swell of dread.
“-your partner is unfaithful?”
He glanced across at her face, contorted in expectation. Her smile begged for his ignorance.
“January 13th, 1977, Thursday”
A peculiar calm smothered his anxiety. He kept his brow stern.
“We need to talk.”
Her mien appeared to disintegrate, and she fumbled for words. “I know exactly what you’re thinking, and you’re totally right, we do need to talk, b-because you deserve -”
“Are you a time-traveller, Beth?”
“What? Frank, I’m cheating on you.”