Sometimes comforting the afflicted does require afflicting the comfortable.
It had been almost a week since the friendly get together at Nick and Esmée’s. Grace had been pretty upset for days following it, saddening Ethan, and keeping him from even suggesting to go check on Blythe like he wanted to. That fact made him feel guilty for not being there for Blythe when she obviously needed him.
Work was busy as always and did it’s part of keeping his mind off the issue.
Ethan just finished an on-site client meeting one afternoon, he waved a brief greeting at the clients and the foreman of the site, then entered his car about to turn it on when his cell phone rang. He let go of the key in the ignition, picked up the phone and looked at the caller ID before he answered.
“Blythe?” he asked, surprised.
His answer was crying and some incomprehensible words in between, along with some static.
“Blythe, are you all right? Where are you? Are you hurt?” Ethan pressed. Something told him this wasn’t a call to chat between friends.
“Hospital … emergency surgery … coma … Colin … Blair and her family are out of town … all alone .. don’t know who to call … can’t do this alone … help … please .. ” was all Ethan could make out between her bawling.
“Which hospital? The Medical Center in Willow Creek? Yes? Ok, stay put, I’ll be right there.”
He started the car and drove.
Parking in the first available spot in the hospital parking lot, he immediately hurried towards the entrance.
As soon as he exited the elevator on the floor the receptionist told him, he saw an empty waiting area – and Blythe. He hurried towards her and she ran into his embrace, crying at his shoulder. Just before Ethan had gotten there the attending doctor had told her the worst news a doctor could tell a wife. Her husband Colin did not make it. He passed just minutes prior.
Blythe went from quiet shock over inconsolable tears to stiff disbelief, denial and shock, so the physician administered a mild sedative and suggested her to be taken home and rest after Ethan went with her to see her husband one last time, where she lost it completely, after looking at what barely resembled Colin Caldwell, his normally tan skin grayish, cold and waxy, the lips eerily blue.
Ethan insisted on taking her home. She was unusually quiet and as if in trance, probably the shock and the sedation. On the car ride Ethan looked over at her sitting unnaturally stiff in the passenger seat. Due to her formal royal upbringing, Blythe had always had a quiet composure about her, even in adverse situations. Seeing her so obviously distraught was unusual and uncomfortable for Ethan. He was genuinely worried.
Once at her place he got her settled on the couch, went to the kitchen to make tea, but found some bourbon as well. He laced the tea generously, first just her cup, then added some into the one intended for himself too. He returned with the cups and the bottle to the living room, handed her a cup, keeping one for himself.
“This will help you.” he told her.
She took the mug, the tea had cooled from the amount of alcohol added and downed the entire content in one big gulp, frowning and shaking her head at the effects.
Ethan snorted a joyless laugh, shrugged, sat down next to her and said
“Well, cheers I guess.” before following suit, then pouring both of them another, this one without tea.
They sat together in silence for a while, drinking one cup after the next until Ethan shook his head when Blythe offered her empty mug to Ethan again for another refill. He took the cup from her filled it with only tea.
He very much felt the effects of the alcohol now, making him feel like everything was happening in slow motion and through clouds, not being much of a drinker this had snuck up on him, meaning that the slender, delicate Blythe had to feel all of this even more intense.
Blythe sniffled quietly.
“Maybe I’ll make us some strong coffee. No, bad idea, you need to rest.” Ethan realized that he should have stopped them sooner, when he noticed the bottle had barely enough left in it to cover its bottom. It would be a while till he’d feel comfortable driving again. Last thing he needed was an accident or end up in jail for driving under the influence. Blythe didn’t seem to have heard him as she now mumbled
“I don’t even know what to do now … How am I supposed to do all this alone? I am 45 and a widow. All alone in the world now. And I can’t feel anything anymore. I cannot even really mourn him. I am the worst wife ever. A terrible person. And he is gone. Dead. I am all alone again … and a bad wife. Bad, bad wife …”
“I have on good authority that you are an excellent wife. Blythe, it’s the shock and the pain talking – and probably those sedatives the doctor administered. Umm, and probably the alcohol too. You are not alone. I’ll always be there for you, you have your parents who love you, you have your sister Blair, you have Ezzy & Nick. You have a network of friends and family. Does Colin have any other family?”
“A grown daughter, but they weren’t close. I think I have her number somewhere. She doesn’t like me. Ethan, please don’t go away. Please don’t leave me now.”
“I won’t. You know I won’t. But maybe you should lay down. You need rest. Sleep will help.” Ethan said softly. This really tore on his heartstrings.
“Come on Blythe, don’t argue with me now. Where is your bedroom? Let’s get you comfortable and I’ll call Blair. I know she is out of town, but she should know. Maybe she can call his daughter. But first things first, let’s get you comfortable. Which way?”
His arm around her waist, after he rose up off the couch pulling her up with him, her clinging on to him as if for dear life as she pointed to the stairs. This entire situation broke Ethan’s heart. The downside of their long marriage dissolving as amicable as it had was that there had never been true closure, and both still cared much about one another. He hated seeing her hurt like this.
They entered the bedroom, it felt strange to Ethan walking into another couple’s private quarters, but he assisted Blythe to the bed, she kicked her shoes off and laid down, while he sat on the bed next to her, gently rubbing her hand.
“Can you lay with me? I know it’s weird but … please.” she sounded desperate.
Under normal circumstances this would not have been a line he’d ever cross, and knowing Blythe, she would never have asked it, but nothing was normal at the moment.
They laid next to each other quietly for a while, at some point Ethan assumed Blythe had fallen asleep due to the sedatives, the alcohol and the stress, he started to move so he could sit up to leave, but halted and stayed when she quietly spoke
“This reminds me of that first night of our honeymoon. The A/C in the cabin was broken, it was so hot and we got tired of sweating inside, so we got dressed and went to sleep on the beach. Do you remember?”
“Of course I remember. Even though the getting dressed was unnecessary as we took it all off and ended up not getting much sleep on that beach either.” Ethan replied quietly.
“We surely did not. I miss that. The spontaneity I mean. Our silliness. All the laughter, even when the going got rough. You and I, it’s always been so much fun and so sensual. You were my very first relationship ever, not too long after Blair and I had left the palace. And after the rape. Boy, if it hadn’t been for you then, I do not know what would have become of me. You helped me so much. When you and I divorced, I just assumed all relationships would be like ours was. Boy was I wrong! I dated a few nice men, but it never was anything even remotely as good as you and I had been. Colin was … sweet. Kind. Charming. Truly a wonderful man. But he was never … he never … he …. I am such a horrible wife. Widow. I am a widow … oh dear lord.”
“Blythe … shhhh.”
“Ethan, if I could do it all over again … I made the biggest mistake of my life leaving you, I …”
“Blythe, please don’t …” Ethan was not ready to hear anything that would follow, especially knowing it came from a place of deep pain.
“It’s true … I always thought that. I knew it right away, but was in denial. Once the realization set in … but it was too late … I did everything wrong … I …” Blythe voice broke and she started bawling.
Ethan pulled her into his arms, rocking her gently back and forth, then kissing the top of her head again.
It was meant as a friendly gesture, but as soon as he closed his arms around her, he felt it. Something different. Something that had nothing to do with friendship. Something old and familiar.
The avalanche had already been kicked loose. First came the look. Their eyes met and locked. The way she looked at him through the curtain of old and new tears went through to his core, making him hot and cold at the same time. His heartbeat increased.
Then there was the kiss.
Gentle and testing at first, a question hidden within, it quickly evolved into a heated kiss in a heated embrace.
It had been the beginning of the end of all decency, of the platonic friendship both strived for.
Within minutes their caressing went past the point of no return, soon the clothing was on the floor, Ethan atop Blythe as they crossed that forbidden line …
-to be continued-