Fighting Fair

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Her husband was late. As usual.

Natalie checked her watch, then crossed her legs as she flicked a dismayed glance at Dr. Lindstrom. The therapist offered a bland smile in return. “Twenty minutes late is pretty typical,” Natalie said. A white lie. Thirty minutes late was more typical, to dinners, family birthday parties, parties, doctors appointments. Everything except work. Shane got there early, seven days a week.

Her phone, clutched in her hand, buzzed with an incoming text. Walking up to door.

No sorry. No explanation, but that was the trend lately. No conversation, unless you counted Did you get my shirts from the laundry?

“He’s in the building,” she said, then slid the phone back into the outside pocket of her purse. Sunlight caught the facets of her engagement ring and the curve of her platinum wedding band. The set was beautiful, expensive, signaling her status as Shane’s wife. She used to smile every time it caught her eye. Now it raised questions more than possessive delight.

Dr. Lindstrom made a note on the legal pad on her lap, then asked, “How was your week?”

“Stressful,” Natalie said as she stared across Park Avenue at the windows in the opposite building, made opaque by a tinted film. Windows could offer a vista on the world while shuttering an outsider’s view of the soul behind the glass. They reminded her of Shane’s eyes lately.

Natalie recrossed her legs and peered over her shoulder at the door. How long could it possibly take to get in an elevator and ride up fourteen stories?

He’d probably stopped to take a call, or answer an email. She reached for her phone but froze when a double rap sounded against the door. Dr. Lindstrom called come in and the door opened to admit Shane, BlackBerry still in hand.

“Sorry,” he said to Dr. Lindstrom as he shook her hand, then took the chair next to Natalie’s.

No kiss. No greeting. He was twenty minutes late for their first marriage counseling appointment and he didn’t even bother to put on a show.

Dr. Lindstrom watched this lack of interaction, her gaze lingering on Shane’s face. Her husband wasn’t handsome by typical standards.  His face was square with a blunt chin, hooded blue eyes and thick eyebrows that would have looked heavy if they weren’t as blond as his close-cropped hair.  With that thin upper lip, the only thing that saved his mouth from looking cruel was his full lower lip. But women eyed Shane, overtly and covertly, because he had presence. Without a smile on his face he looked dangerous. Hard and edgy. His smile softened his face just enough to make you think he was worth the risk.

He wasn’t smiling now.

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