The Solitude of Passion

By: Addison Moore

1



The Departure




Lee



It’s a dangerous game when nobody knows how to surrender. If only it were a simple game.

The ground quakes beneath them. You could hear their primal grunting, feel the wind of their bodies cutting across the court. This was no ordinary match, no friendly round of balls—it was a battering. They want to beat each other, cross the net, and shove the optic yellow sphere down one another’s throats. This is years’ worth of pent-up aggression—the I’ll-see-you-in-hell kind of drama played out in fields of war, gang infested alleyways—prison.

Katrice and I huddle on a bench under the eaves and watch Mitch and Max play tennis in a warlike fashion. The California sun scorches across the sky, searing down over the four of us as if there could be casualties. My eyes wander to a bone-dry acacia that threatens to ignite like a birthday candle under the oppressive heat.

A night from long ago hedges in my mind, and I can’t fight it. I can still feel Max’s strong body pressing into mine, still see the flexing of his chest—hear his steady groans.

“You ever think of that party back in high school?” Kat asks. She doesn’t even know she’s chiding me, that it feels more like a taunt than something genuinely inquisitive.

I slept with Max—just once, that night at the party.

Katrice bows her lashes, trying to hide a smile. She’s the only living soul that knows what happened that night. Not even Mitch knows about that explosive night I shared with his self-proclaimed enemy. Of course, back then they were anything but—they were the best of friends.

“You ever tell Mitch?” she whispers.

“I’d die before I told him.”

Those two were closer than brothers until Mitch’s father and Max’s mother flaunted their infidelity for the world to see. It was treason in both the bedroom and boardroom. It split two families in half and reduced their friendship to cinders.

“Lee,” Max shouts, waving his racket. His black hair gleams in the light. He’s so cuttingly handsome, but it’s Mitch who’s my golden Adonis. “You see that? Your husband cheats!”

I wasn’t paying attention, so I just shake my head and round my hand over the curve of my swollen belly. I’m hardly five months, and already I’ve lost my toned stomach, exchanged it for a beautiful bump, oval and hard as stone.

“Leave him.” Max grins before serving the ball with bionic force. “I’ll help you raise the baby.”

“Leave him?” Kat whispers. Her face pricks with mockery. “I’ll help you raise the baby? He is so still in love with you.”

“Shut up. He’s not in love with me. He’s in love with making Mitch miserable.”

“Heard his divorce is final,” Kat practically sings the words. I can tell she’s enjoying this.

He was married less than six months to Vivienne—Viv. A girl he’s dated on and off forever.

“Well, I’m never getting divorced, so he’s out of luck.” I hold out my wedding ring and examine the stones as they shimmer under the harsh supervision of the sun. One of the diamonds pierces me with a glare—its brilliance lingers in my mind long after I put my hand down. It’s been a year for Mitch and me. Our baby is due in October.

A biplane gets my attention as it whirs in the sky. It heads off toward the beach, hauling a tattered sign with a picture of a faded beer can. Living on the coast you see a lot of these. You lose interest in what they’re trying to sell and just enjoy it for the spectacle it is. Mono Bay magic—that’s what the tourists call it. Mono Bay, where the vineyards reach the shore. Not quite, but what do tourists know? Mono is famous for its vineyards with two of the most prominent belonging to the gladiators on the tennis court.

My stomach sours as the biplane purrs toward the horizon.

God—Mitch is going on an impromptu trip overseas, and I hate the thought of it. I hate the thought of him being away from me for one second, especially now with the baby. He wouldn’t be going anywhere if it wasn’t for Colton and his hidden talent of rolling off rooftops.

“So, Colt broke his leg,” I whisper. Kat already knows this, but I’ll say anything to change the subject from my one-night stand with Max, so I go with it. “They really need a general contractor, someone who knows what they’re doing.” A tight knot builds in my throat, choking off the rest of the words.

Colton. I’m so pissed he broke his leg. I’d like to break the other one, too—hell, all four limbs.

“Don’t tell me Mitch is going in his place?” Kat’s features harden. “So it’s official? It’s his job to keep bailing out his loser brother?” Her hair whips around her face and conforms to her sarcastic smile like parentheses.

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