Standing next to me on the front step as I unlock the door to my house, Corey asks, “How was your shift?”
I stop for a moment in the open doorway thinking about my answer.
“Well, it’s a stressful shift when I use cuss words as punctuation; silently of course, I’m a peds nurse.”
He laughs while putting his arm around my shoulders. “Understood. Let me help you relax.”
After making love, Corey rubs my feet, and then paints my toenails. I hold the camera, and photograph him while he works, using the macro function. I capture the images one after another: His hands, my feet. A bottle of red nail polish. My secret valentine.
Corey is in silent concentration, laying down each stroke of polish perfectly. Occasionally, his touch tickles me. “Don’t move,” he murmurs, “Don’t move.”
I’d stay like this forever, if it were possible.
After he’s finished, Corey sits next to me in the bed, resting on a couple pillows propped against the headboard.
“Let me see the camera, Niki.”
He points the lens towards me, and after making a few quick adjustments, he takes a photograph.
“Il mio bellissima amore,” he says.
“Did you learn that in Italian for me?” I’m a little impressed.
“Si, il mio amore.”
He hands the camera back, and carefully I set it on the bedside table.
“Niki, I love you. I don’t want to sneak around anymore. I’m going to leave Sheila.”
Unsure of my response, I try to remain neutral.
“I’m not sure what to say Corey. What does the future look like to you?”
“I’m spending it with you, Niki.”
I can’t help it. I’m happy. I lean in and kiss him. “And what are we doing in our future?”
“I’m thinking of going back to school. I’ve applied to a few NP programs; a couple are out of state. I’d like to stay local though, near my kids. I’d get an apartment. We could give our kids time to get to know ‘us’. After they’re used to the idea, we could move in together. I love you Niki. I think we should give it a real try.”
“I love you too, Corey. Of course I’ve thought about it, but I never really expected you to leave Sheila. This is really big.”
“I know. It is big. Sheila and I have been unhappy for years, but I always thought I’d stay until the kids finished school. But every shift in the ER I see patients who thought they had more time, more years, one more day. Then they smash into a semi-truck, or are shot behind the counter of a convenience store. Or cancer invades their bodies, or their heart stops suddenly, just like that. Life is fragile Niki, and no one’s promising us anything. Life is too short to waste time being unhappy. I want to be happy, Niki. And I want you to be happy too. I want to be with you.”
“Corey…” Before I can finish the sentence, we’re kissing, and making love again, smearing red nail polish all over the white sheets of my bed.