Prose Header

Until Next Time

by Charles C. Cole

Illuminated only by the hall light, GREGOR and JANESSA sit quietly in twin creaky rattan rockers while staring out his bedroom window. GREGOR sips iced Malbec from a white coffee mug.

GREGOR: (Sighing) I didn’t know nurses could be so... passionate. Wow!

JANESSA: That wasn’t passion; it was steam. I needed to burn some off. Don’t judge me.

GREGOR: With respect, Frankie was an idiot for cheating on you.

JANESSA: Now is not the best time to discuss my estranged husband.

GREGOR: But how could he do that?

JANESSA: By having friends who encouraged him.

GREGOR: For the record, I didn’t know anything.

JANESSA: Then you weren’t as close as you thought, because he told a lot of people.

GREGOR: That guy took the best years of your life. I wouldn’t want to start over at your age.

JANESSA: (Wryly) At my age.

GREGOR: I mean, in high school, you were hot. I can’t believe he took advantage of you like that.

JANESSA: We each got something out of the deal. He was a fun guy back then. New subject, please.

GREGOR: (Changing the subject) If you’re planning on leaving now, I just wanted to say—

JANESSA: (Caught off-guard by the sudden business-casual tone) Is there something on TV? Are we done here?

GREGOR: I meant if you wanted to spend the night, it’s okay with me. I still have some of my ex-wife’s night shirts; they were in the laundry the day she split.

JANESSA: I should get home; it’s getting late. The neighbors’ll notice my car missing and call Frankie at his swanky new apartment. Wouldn’t want to disturb his new trophy girlfriend.

GREGOR: It would serve him right to get an early morning wake-up call.

JANESSA: Probably, but it’s helped me get through this domestic mess by taking the moral high ground, until tonight. He put us here, not me. I was the good wife. No offense, you’re a great guy, but this is just a rebound hookup.

GREGOR: That’s a healthy perspective.

JANESSA: Do me a favor—

GREGOR: This is just between us. Nobody’ll find out, which is too bad because it was amazing! You were amazing! People should know that about you.

JANESSA: I’m sure you meant that as a compliment. If you play your cards right, and avoid talking about whatshisname, this could happen again. Unless you’re involved with someone. I forgot to ask.

GREGOR: Me? I’m not ready to get back in the dating scene. But I can be here for you, if you need me, a shoulder in the night.

JANESSA: It was kind of surreal, sleeping with my son’s guidance counselor.

GREGOR: I was a little rusty, sorry.

JANESSA: I’m not complaining.

GREGOR: Somebody once said, “The best revenge on an ex-lover is great sex with your next partner.” Take that, Frankie.

JANESSA: Who said that?

GREGOR: (Punchy now) Mother Teresa, I think. She lived a full life, you know. You’ve got to live a full life, before you can abstain from it. Am I right? So I feel like we made great revenge tonight.

JANESSA: Yes, you’re pretty good at making revenge.

GREGOR: I hope this doesn’t change things for us. I’ve always liked you, as a friend and as the spouse of a friend. When I went to your house, I always felt like I was there to see both of you, equally.

JANESSA: I wouldn’t have guessed. We didn’t talk much.

GREGOR: You were happily married at the time. I wanted to talk. I wanted to talk your ears off: ask you about work, women’s fashions, celebrity divorces, book club.

JANESSA: I thought you didn’t like me.

GREGOR: I was just setting boundaries. I didn’t want to confuse you.

JANESSA: Thanks.

GREGOR: Are you going to call and talk later? Sometimes people need to debrief. ‘Did you really mean it when you said blah, blah, blah?’ You know.

JANESSA: I don’t know because I’ve never done this before. (Patting his knee gently) Don’t overthink it, honey.

GREGOR: We live in liberating times.

JANESSA: You’re a nice guy. (With a guilty, playful shrug) I just needed to be held, but men don’t usually hug with their clothes on, in my experience.

GREGOR: Good call.

JANESSA: I should go.

GREGOR: Right, till next time. Don’t do anything till you check in with me first.

JANESSA: Good boy. (Kissing his “ample forehead”) I’ll get out of your hair, what’s left of it.

GREGOR: Attractive and funny.

JANESSA: My clothes are still downstairs as I remember. (Shaking his hand formally) Well, until next time, Mr. Smith. (Dropping her robe and leaving the room) Remember: Tell anyone, and I will hurt you.

GREGOR: (Clasping his hands in an imitation of prayer, glancing at his smiling, disheveled reflection in the mirror) Dude, life just got interesting. Be cool. Don’t mess this up.

Copyright © 2015 by Charles C. Cole

Proceed to Challenge 621...

Home Page