Track Eight: Pinocchio

He glanced up from the pale pink he’d been painting her toe when he heard a loud groan. Mildly alarmed, he watched as she sunk low and covered her face. Gently blowing on the wet nail polish, he capped the small bottle before probing.

“He wants me to come in tomorrow morning at 7:40 so that we can have a little “chat” about…about whatever the hell he thinks is wrong with me now. Why can’t he just leave me alone?”
“Because he knows you were supposed to get his job, is why.”

She peeked at him through her fingers. Gently tapping her cheeks with her palms, she sighed before toying with one of her braids.

“Well, I didn’t get it, so what does he care?”
“Because he’s afraid that they’ll realize their mistake and replace him with you.”
“There’s a rumor, you know, that he got the job through bribery,” she said darkly. She sat, lost in thought, as she mulled over that horrible afternoon they had announced who the new department head would be. Her husband frowned. The whole point of the evening had been to relax her. Her thinking back on the botched promotion would do nothing but undo all of the work he’d put in.

Perching her feet on his leg, he leaned forward, massaging her legs. Sliding his palms up her thighs, he reached for her hand. She relented and gave him her hands. Pulling her closer to him, he gently set her feet down on the ground before settling behind her. C.C. shivered as he nuzzled her neck.

“Sweetheart,” he said softly, “I need you to relax for me.” His hands slid down her sides, swaying with her curves, before running down her thighs and then back up her arms to her shoulders where he lay soft kisses on her bare skin.

“I promise I’ll listen later, but for now, try to push it out of your mind. You need some rest.”

She was still and quiet for some time. He reached for her hand, when he felt a drop splash against the back of his hand. Heart sinking, he tightly held her as she shook in his arms.

“I know it’s stupid,” she choked out, “because I’m so young, so I don’t even really have a right, but they told me that they’d choose me, and stupidly, like an idiot, I believed them.”

He rocked them back and forth as she covered her eyes and let the hot tears pool in her palm.

“I think that’s what hurts so much; that I actually trusted them. I was so, so stupid. Why did I believe them?”
“You weren’t stupid to believe them,” he said softly. “Sweetheart, that job was yours. Didn’t the President tell you so?”
“Then why didn’t I get the promotion? If it really had been mine, why did he get it?” Tears sliding down her face, she hung her head. “I thought I could have been just as good. I thought I could have been better. What is it that I’m lacking? What does he have that I don’t?”

She looked at him pleadingly, and his heart broke. Delicately drying her tears, he pulled her further in and, cradling her, softly said, “What he has that you don’t is nothing that you want. He has an undeserved post and the enmity of his peers, a disreputable reputation, and sullied character.

You may not have his title but you have so much more. You, my love, have devotion from your student and respect from the very people who are disgusted by him. You have an adoring husband who quite frankly is mad for you, friends who deeply care for and love you, and a plethora of other people all around the world who would be sorely disappointed and left bereft of a better world if not for you. But most importantly, you have courage for facing every day the man who took it all unjustly and unfairly. Courage that I might add he did not have, an inadequacy that made him into the coward that he is today.”

“I don’t care if he’s a coward,” she sobbed. “Maybe then I should just be a coward too.”

He smoothed her hair as she held onto him as tightly as she could, if only to stop her trembling. He waited patiently for her to speak again. For her he had all the time in the world, especially after his heinous neglect. He should have realized sooner the depth of the incident’s effects had had on her. When she had come home that day, she had been quiet and sullen. When questioned, she had only given him the most roundabout answers she could muster until finally he had coaxed the news out of her. She had cried that night too but it hadn’t been anything like now, and for that he was sorry that he had made her suffer for so long on her own.

“I hate them all.” Her words broken by the occasional hiccup, she clung to him. “I hate them. None of them stood up for me. They all told me that it was mine, but when they gave it to someone else, they had all disappeared. They’re all liars and cheats, and I hate them for what they did to me. Each and every one of them are traitors.”

“I hate them too,” he sighed, and it was the honest truth. He did resent them all. Especially now as he sat here and could only sit helplessly as his wife cried her heart out. But there was little he could do about the past, as much as he wanted to; the only thing he could do now was help her down the right path towards a future unburdened and unscathed by the betrayal.

“And I’ll never forgive them for what they did to you. But Cera darling, you have to promise me you won’t let this hold you back. I know how much it hurts, and I know that what I’m about to ask of you is no easy feat, but you have me. If you want to curse them for 8 days, I promise I’ll stay by your side and listen every single minute of those 8 days, but you’re worth so much more than that one office, and I need you to realize that. Maybe not now, not tomorrow, but one day, and I need you to work towards that day.”

“I’ll help as best I can, but the journey must be made by you, my dearest. So can you promise me that? Will you at least try?”

She nodded, and he kissed the palm of her hand.

“Then let’s go wash your face and get you into bed.”

Later as she lay fast asleep, he sat in bed, full of thought. Rage simmered, drawing his brows together and transforming his pleasant face with a deep-set frown, but as he had realized earlier, there was little he could do with such anger. There was little that his wife would approve of, anyway. Though she had claimed to surrender her morals, he knew she wouldn’t carry through. She had too much pride in her hard work and past struggles; she’d never throw all that away just for some petty vengeance, and she wouldn’t want him to either, his family connections be damned.

All the same, while he respected her wishes, he couldn’t help but stare at the phone for a good several minutes as he struggled not to interfere. This wasn’t his fight, he reminded himself. This was hers. The best he could do was stand in her corner and help set her back on her feet during moments like the one they had just had.

“It’s your fight, sweetheart, but I’m in your corner and I’m not going anywhere. You can count on that.”

She could count on that.

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