The man who couldn't keep promises

Submitted by Bruno Lowagie on Wed, 04/01/2020 - 13:00

Engagement ring

Image by CataventoProd from Pixabay

This story was written for the Reedsy contest "Spring in Your Step".
More specifically in the context of the prompt: "You made a promise to yourself you'd finally do it on the first day of spring. Today was the day."

The man who couldn't keep promises

“Promise me,” she said. How could I resist those eyes?
“I promise!” She was the most beautiful thing that ever happened to me in my whole life.
“I want to make love to you,” I added.
She kissed me. I took that as a yes.
“When?” she asked.
“When what?” I laughed. “Make love to you? Right now!”
“No, when will you keep that promise?”
I turned on my back and stared at the ceiling.
“It will take time,” I answered.
“Just give me a date,” she insisted. “So that I have something I can look forward to.”
“It won’t be easy,” I said. “The situation is rather complicated right now. I need to prepare for it.”
“Would next spring work?” she asked.
We were in the middle of the summer; spring was still an eternity away.
“I think that would work,” I said.
She smiled and climbed on top of me. She made me forget there was a world outside her bedroom.

***

It was raining outside. My car was parked two streets away from the restaurant where we had dinner. We were soaking wet when we reached it. She asked me in after I dropped her off at her place. We got out of our clothes in the kitchen. For some reason, we had never done it on the kitchen table. It was time to put a check mark behind that cliché.
“How is your promise progressing?” she asked me afterwards.
“My promise?” I asked. Fall had just begun. I had forgotten all about the promise I had made in the summer.
“O, that promise!” I said when she reminded me. I thought that what we had was fantastic. Our arrangement was perfect for me. Why complicate things?
Something in her eyes told me that I was lucky not to have shared those thoughts out loud.
“You really want this, don’t you?” I said.
“I do,” she said. “And I want you to say ‘I do’ too.”
“I will,” I said. “On the first day of spring next year.”

***

Winter came and I still hadn’t made any progress. I didn’t forget about it; she made sure of that.
We had a fight when I couldn’t meet her for Christmas due to other obligations.
I reassured her that I was working on it, that I intended to keep my promise.
I didn’t want to lose her. Or did I? I wasn’t so sure anymore.
We started the new year with a bang that broke the legs of her bed. We couldn’t stop laughing. Life was good with her. In my mind, I had finally made my decision. I bought her a ring and presented it to her on an early Valentine’s dinner, one week ahead of the actual holiday.
I think we both put down our guard after that first week of February. We were getting careless and I almost got caught. There had always been suspicions at work that we were an item, but the rumors got worse. We had been seen together in places where we weren’t supposed to be together. That’s also when my wife began to suspect something was going on.
“We have to be more careful,” I told my mistress at a costume party on Mardi Gras. “I think my wife knows about us.”
I wore a suit, a white shirt, a red tie and a Donald Trump wig; she was dressed as a Playboy model.
“Why would that be a problem?” she said. “You’ve been preparing to break up with her for months now. What does it matter if she finds out now? She’ll find out on the first day of spring anyway.”
Truth to be told, I hadn’t been preparing a thing. If my wife would file for a divorce now, I would be left empty-handed. Sure, I had thought about securing some of the assets we had in common. In my head, I had it all planned. How I would open a separate account, how I would transfer money from our joint account without my wife noticing anything, how I would keep some of my bonuses for myself. I could easily get away with a couple of hundred thousand of dollars, even after deducting the cost of a divorce.
She saw the look on my face when all of this went through my mind, and she guessed right: I had done the Math, but I had postponed taking any action. From a financial point of view, I would never be able to leave my wife on the first day of spring.
“You promised!” she yelled in front of a whole audience. “You promised you would leave your wife.”
“I intend to keep that promise,” I said. “It's just that spring comes too early for me...”
“You’re a liar!” she cried. “You’re a big, fat liar!”
At this point, everyone around us started to applaud. That confused us, until we realized which costume we were wearing. The other party-goers thought we were performing an act.
I fled the floor. I didn’t like the attention our fight had drawn to me. She tried to follow me, but she lost me in the crowd. Later that night, I ignored her calls and text messages. I put my phone on flight mode and went home.
That night I made myself a promise: on the first day of spring, I would break up with my mistress and stick with my wife for the time being.

***

Spring was almost upon us.
“You’re home early,” my wife said. “That doesn’t happen very often.”
“I want to watch the news,” I answered.
“I’ve heard that virus from China has reached Europe,” my wife said.
We watched the news together. The government was taking extreme measures; they went into effect at midnight on Friday, March 13. Whoever could work from home, would have to work from home. We could go out for a short walk or a bicycle ride, but we were only allowed to use our car for essential travels. People who weren't related —or living together— should keep a distance of one and a half meter between each other. All of this would be enforced by the police.

***

I don’t remember the last time I kept a promise, even a promise I made to myself. Now I didn’t have any other choice; I have been stuck with my wife for a week. We’re getting along surprisingly well.
“Honey, there’s someone at the door,” my wife says.
“I wonder who that can be,” I say. “Maybe it’s some delivery guy.”
“I don’t recall ordering anything,” my wife answers, “Let me take a look.”
My eye catches the calendar: March 21, the first day of spring.
I suddenly realize who’s ringing our bell.
I run to the door, but I’m too late…

 

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