The Marriage | London Pinkney

City lights reflect on their faces as they drive down the street. They’re coming back from a day trip; that was supposed to be a romantic getaway. André grips the wheel tighter, the skin on his knuckles spread thin. Akiko rolls down the window and leans her head out—not enough to get hurt, but just enough to feel the cold air run along her scalp. André’s still waiting on her answer.

“So do you,” he asks again.

“Do you?”

“I do.”

“Then it’s settled.”

She pulls her head back in the car and rolls up the window. It’s 9 PM. They stop at an intersection. A car turns in front of them. Their high beams make her squint. André starts driving again.

“No, it’s not,” he says.

“Isn’t it?”

“Quit playin’ with me. I need you to—”

“Need me to what? Need me to tell you the truth? I’m ecstatic—there’s the truth. Now tell me, sweet hubby of mine, is she pretty?”

“Babe, don’t—“

“Don’t what—ask? No, I wanna know. Is she pretty? How’s she in bed?”

“We’re not talking about this.”

“C’mon, tell me. Is she good?”

“I know you’re angry but that doesn’t mean—“

“I’m not angry. I want to help you, that’s what a loving wife does. Will we need to pick up some Viagra for you? Maybe you need an arab strap? We both know you’ve been having problems lately, which is sad considering how young you are.”

Four years of marriage. They couldn’t even drink at the reception. He looks down at his wedding band. It stings. He wants to take it off. He looks at Akiko, she’s tight-lipped. Those lips munched on an arugula salad and downed three mimosas from the restaurant this morning. Lips he rarely kisses—plump with a cupid’s bow. Pink lips always covered in red gloss and that rarely smiled. He told her halfway through her second mimosa.

André didn’t know why he did —nothing good could come from it—but when she threw the rest of her drink on him and she ran into the restroom crying he knew he did the right thing. He didn’t have the strength to survive on halfhearted companionship. She was his first love, only love, but it was over. Akiko sighs, and André’s brought back.

“I was gonna see her after I took you to dinner. At a motel,” he says. “Work’s been stressful—we’ve been stressful—and I needed someone.”

“Aren’t I someone?”

“You’re my wife.”

“Doesn’t that mean anything to you?”

“You know it does. I do love you, but it’s lonely loving you.”

“I see. Let’s go to the mini mart.”

“What for?”

“We’re gonna get some stuff for you and your girl.”

“No we’re not. I’m gonna take you to dinner then we’re going home.”

“You owe me this. I’ll get us there myself if you don’t.”

Akiko grabs the wheel. She looks in the rearview mirror then tugs, steering the car into the turning lane. André swats her hand away. He puts one hand on the wheel the other hand grabs both of Akiko’s wrists and force them into her lap. It takes them two minutes to get to the minimart. He keeps her hands in her lap the whole ride there. They both know she can slip from his grip but she doesn’t have the heart to. His hands are warm and it’s cold in the car. Once they get inside Akiko heads for the intimate care aisle. André follows her.

“Here,” she says holding a box of condoms. “Get these ones.”

“They’re the most expensive ones.”

“Get ‘em. Your girl deserves the finer things in life. Don’t you think?”

“Whatever. Let’s go.”

“No, you have to romance her too! You’re usually such a romantic man, André. I’m surprised—truly, truly surprised. What’s her name?”

“Daisy.”

“Well, let’s get Daisy some roses.”

The flowers are by the front of the store. Akiko walks over and grabs a bundle of pink roses. “You have enough money for these, right?”

“My money was for our dinner,” André says. “I made reservations at that Indian place you liked.”

“We can go to a drive-thru.”

“You don’t like fast food.”

“Does Daisy like fast food?”

It’s the first time they’ve looked at each other tonight. Her eyeliner is smeared and his eyes are bloodshot. They’ve been crying—whether at the same time, neither knows. She looks at his eyebrows—thick and bushy. She wants to rub her fingers over them. To feel that hair beneath her fingertips—softly, so softly…

“Yeah, she likes fast food, what of it?” he asks. She hands him the flowers and box of condoms. Only one register is open. André puts the stuff on the conveyor belt. The cashier is a redhead, thick freckles cover the bridge of her nose. Akiko wonders if Daisy’s a redhead.

“So you guys are gonna have a good night, huh?” They look down at the flowers and condoms. The cashier winks at André. Akiko sighs. “Are you guys dating?”

“It’s really none of your business—”

“We’re married,” André says. He grabs her hand, she tries to pull away, he grips tighter. His hands are cold but the metal of his wedding band is warm against her palm.

“Huh, you guys look so young! I guess black don’t crack and—well I don’t know what they say for Asians but you look amazing Miss.”

“Can we pay now?” André asks. The cashier rings them up and he grabs the bag. When André walks ahead of Akiko and holds the door open for her she nods a thank you. They walk to the car and get in. As André drives out of the parking lot he looks back at the store. The cashier looks like Daisy, he thinks.
“Let’s go to Smiley Burger,” Akiko says. André hesitates then busts a u-turn.

“You’re actually going?”

“I don’t wanna risk you grabbing the wheel again,” he says.

Smiley Burger is the local fast food joint. The restaurant has great service but people don’t eat there. The tables and booths inside are riddled with cackling teenagers. The drive-thru is always busy.

“Let’s go inside.”

“Akiko, no.”

“It’s cold outside. It’s better that we go in.” André looks at the long line for the drive-thru. He parks, gets out the car, and walks inside Smiley Burger without waiting for her. She gets out the car slowly—first lets the door swing open, lifts one leg outside, then the other. Her body aches from the cold.

Akiko shivers, starting in her chest and vibrating out to her limbs. Her toes and fingers twitch. From the other side of the glass door he looks satisfied. Frigid heifer finally got the chills, he thought. She slams the door and walks in after him.

They grab a booth. Across from them a couple sits in each other’s lap, softly smiling, staring into space. They couldn’t be older than seventeen. A server walks up to Akiko and André’s table but he shoos him away.

“What are you doing,” she asks.

“We’re not eating here. We can order drinks, but you’re not eating.”

“And why not?”

“You hate this place.”

“Since when?”

“Since our first date. I took you here. And you ate, despite being a vegetarian. The grease made you throw up and you made me promise to never let you eat here again. You thought you ruined the date,” he says.

The couple next to them get up to leave. Their fingers are interlaced as they walk out.

“A week later I asked you out, then a year later we got married,” he says. Akiko reaches her hands across the table. She hopes André will meet her halfway. She needs to hold his hands.

“It wasn’t supposed to be like this,” she says. “I love you.”

“No you don’t. You may care, but you don’t love me. I’ve accepted that and, it’s time you do the same.”

She pulls her hands back. Her wedding ring slides against the table.

“I’m tired and I don’t wanna hear you fuss about it. Let’s just go home.”

“No, take me to the motel you were gonna take her to. I wanna see it.”

It’s been a long day. She takes off her heels and walks toward the door. Her feet slap against the linoleum. André holds the door open from behind her. He kisses her shoulder. He can’t tell whether it’s her shoulder or his lips that are cold. He kisses it again. She shakes him off. They get in the car and he starts the engine.

“Do you want to be with Daisy,” Akiko asks.

“Not in the slightest.”

Daisy. Kind Daisy with her springy red hair and warm smile. Lovely Daisy with her knobby knees, delicate touch, and sweet affection. A woman with girlish charm. She doesn’t matter. André Robinson fell in love with Akiko Mori. He doesn’t love Akiko Robinson. This Akiko is a shell of the person he loved. This Akiko is petty and cold. Her tenderness is gone.

It takes them an hour to get there. The motel is in the city just south of them. He couldn’t lay another woman down in the same city where his wife sleeps. André sees Daisy’s car in the parking lot. He doesn’t see her though.

“I came here last night, the room was booked for two days.”

He reaches beneath her, scoops her up out the car and closes the door with his foot. André carries her upstairs to the second floor and into the room.  André drops her on the middle of the bed, then sits on the edge. Akiko pulls him closer to her. She smells the same—like musk and lavender. This is it. She can’t leave him, she needs him to walk away. They lay on the bed and she pushes his dreads over his shoulder. Tears stick strands of her hair to her cheek. He pushes them away. Akiko kisses his brow and André feels light-headed.

“So do you,” he asks.

“Do I?”

“Do you want a divorce?”

“What do you think?”

“I think we should get a divorce.”

“You do?”

“I do.”

“Then it’s settled.”

————

London Pinkney is an eighteen year old, Black, Creative Writing Major attending Irvine Valley College. Her work has been featured in the Sula Collective. To read more of her writing visit her tumblr at: london-writer.tumblr.com

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