George did not reply, just stood there. “I mean . . .” He spoke like a drowning man refusing rescue. “I can’t do it anymore.”
“Can’t do what? George?”
He turned away from her, picking his glasses up from the bedside table as he made for the door.
Jeanie jumped up and raced after him. “Where are you going? George? You can’t just leave me like that. Is it something I’ve done? Please . . . tell me.”
But George shook her off, barely glancing at her. “I’ll sleep in the spare room.”
I can’t do it anymore. His words haunted her as she lay alone in the crumpled bed, shocked and above all, bewildered. Their life together, twenty-two years of it now, was orderly, you might even say a little dull. They never argued, as long as Jeanie accepted George’s benign need to control her. Then tonight it felt as if she had been unwittingly perched on top of a volcano that had suddenly decided to erupt. What had got into her husband?
In the morning, George behaved as if nothing had happened.
Jeanie stood naked in front of the bathroom mirror and looked hard at her body. She tried to imagine showing it, herself, to Ray, but the cold strip of lighting seemed to mock her. It wasn’t that her body embarrassed her. The pad of postmenopausal fat on her stomach drove her crazy but refused to budge, her small breasts were definitely bigger since the hormone shift, but she was still slim and fit. Unlike some of her friends, she’d never considered hormone replacement therapy. She thought it was a sort of vanity if you weren’t actually tormented with hot flashes,, which she hadn’t been. But would she look better now, younger, if she were taking hormones? She scrutinized her face. It was a little lined, but she had good skin; strong, slightly fierce blue eyes; and her dark auburn hair, through helped by the bottle, was shiny and well cut to her chin. No, the problem was that her sexuality seemed to have vanished. Here was a woman in the mirror who could be proud of a body, but that was all it seemed to be now—just a body.