The Affair – Part 1
Ryan placed the dozen red roses on a table near the bed. He always brought fresh flowers to their annual meeting. Same hotel. Same hotel room. Same night every year. Once the flowers were set, Ryan moved to the room service cart that held champagne in a silver bucket filled with ice, two flutes, and a bowl of fresh strawberries. He made sure to buy her a box of assorted dark chocolate, her favorite, to go with the spread.
Ryan looked in the mirror by the room’s entryway. Even though he was thirty-five this year, he looked younger. It used to annoy him that he got carded at bars, but now that he was on his way to forty, he appreciated it. Ryan ran a hand through his thick blonde hair, took a deep breath, and headed toward the bed to wait. Before he could sit, there was a gentle knock on the door.
“Hey, you,” he said to Amelia after opening the door. “Come in. Please.”
Amelia smiled as she walked into the room. Ryan could smell her shampoo, a fresh fruity scent just like he expected. Her long dark curls swayed as they cascaded down her back. She was tall and, to Ryan, one of the most beautiful women he’d ever met. Her dark eyes were entrancing, and her sly smile made a knot form in his stomach.
Amelia set her bag down and sat on the bed. She wore a short, tight black dress and her heels made her seem even taller. At six-foot-four-inches himself, Ryan loved how she was almost eye to eye with him.
“Champagne and strawberries. Ooh! And chocolate!” she exclaimed. “You spoil me, Ryan.”
“Of course I do.”
Ryan walked towards her slowly. Even though they did this every year, he was still tentative to show too much affection. He wasn’t really hers, and she wasn’t his, but on this night, this same night every year, they only had each other to think about.
He said, “You look beautiful. As always.”
Amelia smiled coyly and said, “Thank you. You’re too sweet.”
“Let me get you a drink.”
Amelia settled onto the king-size bed as Ryan picked up the two flutes and poured champagne for each of them. She smiled as she watched him. He was tall, broad, and his fair hair made him look like he should be at the helm of a Viking ship.
“How was your drive?” he asked as he walked over to her with the drinks.
Amelia reached for the glass Ryan extended and answered, “Not bad at all. Only took me about an hour this time. Last year, it was almost three because of that accident on Route 195.”
Ryan sipped his champagne and said, “Yeah, I made good time as well. Only about two and a half hours.”
Amelia smiled. “What’s your story this year? Business trip again?”
Ryan looked down at the fizzy drink in his glass, a little sadness and maybe embarrassment taking over his eyes just for a few seconds.
“Of course. It helps that my actual job takes me away a lot. Helps with the need for an overnight. Heidi never suspects. You?”
“I told Vince I’m visiting a college friend,” she said.
He nodded. “Good one.”
Ryan raised his glass, shaking off any guilt he had, and said, “To our annual meeting. Cheers.”
Amelia lifted her glass to meet his and said, “Cheers, Ryan.”
Amelia swirled her drink. There was a few seconds of silence. Not awkward, but heavy. Every year she noticed Ryan becoming sadder, and the guilt of what he did weighed on him. Amelia sensed he wanted to talk about his wife, even if it was weird talking about her under the current circumstances.
“So,” Amelia began carefully, “how is Heidi?”
Ryan shrugged and kept his eyes lowered as he spoke. “Same. Cold. Depressed. Fits of anxiety. Calls me panicking, and I feel helpless. I tried to get her help, suggested therapy. I bought all these meditation CDs and books. I even bought a cookbook on foods that help regulate mood. I think she wants to be a disaster so that I’m always there to pick her up and take care of everything. I do love her. I love her more than I can put into words. That’s what keeps me there, helping her. Fixing her. I don’t like sneaking around, but what am I going to do? I’m a person. I gotta release somehow.”
Amelia moved closer to him, her smile sympathetic.
“No one is judging you for taking care of yourself,” she soothed. “You do it once a year…unless you’ve started doing this more regularly with others.”
Ryan laughed gently, “No, just you. And I like the double meaning of ‘regularly’ by the way.”
Amelia chuckled. “Nothing regular about us, Ryan. I won’t be mad if you have other girls. Normal girls. My situation makes no sense either, so it’s okay. Vince has no idea what I am. Our life is fine, but my needs…well, it’s…different. But you know that.”
Amelia stood up and headed toward the table with the strawberries. She grabbed the largest one and sunk her teeth into the sweet seeded flesh. A little juice trickled down her chin, and she coyly brushed it away with a giggle. Ryan watched her and smiled.
“I’m happy to help you,” he said to her. “I’m happy to give you what you need.”
Amelia finished the berry and grabbed the champagne bottle to refill her glass.
“We help each other,” she said. “You put so much into your wife, keeping her from completely falling apart. You never put yourself first. Except once a year. And for me? I can’t help what I am, and I wish I could have a normal life with Vince. That I didn’t have to lie to him. He’d never understand. I never in a million years thought I could fall in love with someone.”
Ryan rose from the bed and walked to her.
“Vince was just another guy. I had plans to do to him what I did to everyone else,” Amelia continued as Ryan approached. “But something was different. Very strange for a girl like me.”
“And you’re happy?”
“Incredibly,” she answered quietly.
“Heidi and I were happy. And there are moments,” Ryan explained, more to himself than to her. “But she’s too sad and too wrapped up in her own nonsense. Why am I different for you?”
Amelia smirked and answered, “You mean, why not just one time and be done? Why do it like this every year? I consider you a friend, and this arrangement is something we both need. What we do stops me from doing more, and it seems to help you release your own frustrations.”
As she spoke, she sauntered back to the bed, swirling her drink and sipping here and there as she continued to talk.
“Believe me, I could do more,” she said. “I should do more. But I’ve trained myself not to. I let myself go just this one time every year, but only just enough. And then back to normal.”
Amelia stared out the hotel window, looking out into the night. Ryan quietly walked up behind her and, as she turned to face him, carefully took her glass from her hand. Setting both down on a small table near the windowsill, he took her hands in his.
“Shall we get started then?”
Amelia smiled and said, “Ready when you are.”