Endings First

“Why do you always do that?” he asked, pushing her book closed around her fingers even as she tried to continue reading.

Her gaze shot up to his, her cool green eyes meeting his dark brown ones with a flare of anger and irritation that had sprung up almost instantly when she’d heard his voice.

“Do what?” she retaliated. Pulling the book away from his grasp and staring at him.  Without the precious pages between them, she had nothing to wall herself into the corner. It had been weeks since she’d been forced to look at him, to address the problems that had begun to spring up between them.

Now she found herself considering his unkempt graying hair and sloping pot belly and a wave of disgust washed over her.  She took a breath and swallowed back the bile creeping up at the back of her throat.

For a moment she managed to choke back her revulsion, but just barely.

“Read the end first.  What good is the rest of the book if you already know how the story is going to end?”

This was not a new conversation. In the course of twenty plus years of marriage it was one they had endured multiple times; although, she had never felt as much anger directed at his question before now.

“Endings are the best part.  I want to make sure I know if the best part is good enough to warrant an investment of my time.” Taking another deep breath, she pulled the book back up to her face and tried to once again bury herself in the comfort of words.

Books had been her reality disconnect for quite some time. The stories they portrayed were stark creations of black and white that called out to her and invited her into a world that could numb the pain of this one.

He studied her, and she could feel his gaze burning through the pages of the book.  She knew from experience that he wasn’t going to let this moment go.  When she had reread the same sentence at least three different times without him moving at all she lowered the book and once again and held his gaze.

He took this as an invitation to start picking on her.

“You realize you can’t see the end of your life, right?  If endings are the best part then you must be living in hell not knowing how this is going to play out.”  A lilting half-smile spread across his face, and the moment that she could see its smugness her arms tensed, her muscle reflex itching to take the book and smack him across the mouth with it.

Fingernails scraped against the cover as her hand curled into a tight ball.

Instead, She managed to pull out her own smile, raise her eyebrow, and toss back a reply she knew would bother him.

“How do you know that I don’t?”

He snorted and started to walk away, but pivoted on his heel and turned back before she could start reading again. “If you knew how it ended, why would the middle section be fulfilling at all?  Why not just lie down and die? Wouldn’t all of the rest of it just be unimportant filler?”

Frustration and anger surged through her and she felt her nails biting into her palm as her hand once again closed shut. But when she caught his gaze she realized he truly did not know or understand the answer to his question.

“The ending is the best part, but that does not mean it is the only part. All of the struggles, all of the pain, the heartache, the daily grind of living, these moments add up to something.  Without them the end is just a suspended glimpse in time that has no relevancy. It’s true in life and in books.”

For a moment he held her gaze and she felt a tremor of life as it had been slip between them. The anger subsided, and the air no longer seemed to buzz with their mutual dissatisfaction.  Without even realizing she was doing it, she allowed her clenched fist to relax.

He shrugged and walked away, leaving her to read her book in peace.  She considered the day a victory.

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