Coffee percolated in the coffeemaker, and the smell penetrated Nolie’s sleep fog as she tried to take in the morning paper. She didn’t know why she was wasting time with the news. There was rarely anything positive.
But reading the paper was part of her daily routine. Just like showering before Joseph got out of bed and starting the coffeemaker so both of them could be sufficiently caffeinated before leaving for work.
Down the hall, the bedroom door rasped against the frame and then clicked as Joseph closed it. He must have finished his shower. In a few minutes, he would stumble into the kitchen still half asleep, the way he always did. The man was definitely not a morning person. And he couldn’t have had much rest the night before. He’d worked overtime at his towing job, and Nolie had fallen asleep before he’d come home. She hadn’t even awakened when he came to bed.
The bedroom door rasped again, and Nolie glanced up from her paper as Joseph wandered into the kitchen, wearing his black work jeans and blue uniform shirt. His hair, still damp from the shower, stuck up in odd directions, and Nolie stifled the urge to go to him and smooth it down. He didn’t like having her in his face first thing in the morning.
Joseph yawned and stretched, then opened the fridge and took out the jug of orange juice without speaking to Nolie. Nolie tried not to let the silence get to her. When Joseph was ready to speak, he would. Until then, she saw no point in watching him go through his usual two-glasses-of-OJ routine.
The words on the page blurred. Nolie didn’t bother trying to focus on them. She was probably the only person in the world who still read a hard-copy newspaper anyway, and with Joseph standing only a few feet away ignoring her completely, she couldn’t concentrate.
She refused to speak first. Whenever she tried to start a conversation with Joseph first thing in the morning, he was more likely to grunt or get annoyed than to respond. But she wanted to say something. He’d worked overtime every night that week, and most nights she’d been asleep before he arrived home. The previous morning, he’d been just as tired and cranky as he was now.
All week, the most she’d heard from him was a mumbled “I love you”
before she left for work. The most physical contact they’d had was halfhearted hugs and pecks on the lips.
The last time they’d spent more than a few minutes together had been over the weekend. And it was Thursday now.
Nolie missed her husband. Even with him in the same room.
“Are you ever bored with us?” Joseph asked.
Startled, Nolie looked up from the paper. Of all the things Joseph could say first thing in the morning, his question wasn’t even on the list of what she might expect.
She wasn’t sure how to answer it. She wasn’t exactly bored
with the marriage. They didn’t see each other often enough to be bored, and that wasn’t a good thing.
When they’d first moved in together, they’d spent every possible moment with each other, and after their wedding they’d both made the effort to stay connected. Through the early days of Nolie’s teaching career and Joseph leaving his retail job to drive a tow truck, they’d texted each other throughout the day whenever they could spare the time.
Then they’d stopped trying to spare the time. Joseph had started picking up extra jobs after his boss realized he was more reliable than most of the other drivers. Nolie had too many papers to correct and lessons to plan to bother with text flirtations. The texts had trickled to one or two at lunch hour, and then to nothing.
Over the past couple years, Joseph had taken extra shifts to bring in money for home repairs and vacations—vacations they never took because he couldn’t get enough time off. Nolie had taken classes toward a master’s degree she had yet to earn, and thanks to incessant testing, she had more prep work and paper correcting to do than ever.
Both of them had made their careers a priority. Many times Nolie had caught herself thinking they eventually would be able to focus more on each other, but she didn’t know when “eventually” might be.
With Joseph gone so much, she sometimes didn’t even think to ask him about his day at work or tell him funny stories about her students or any of the other things they’d used to share. She wasn’t bored with their marriage, but she’d become complacent, and she suspected he had as well. The problem was how to say so without hurting his feelings.
“No, of course I’m not bored with us,” she said finally. “If I were, I wouldn’t stay married to you, would I?”
“You might.” Joseph drank some juice, looking at Nolie over the glass. His expression was unreadable.
Nolie fidgeted with the paper. “We’ve only been married a few years. How could I be bored?”
Joseph shrugged. “Sometimes people get used to each other and settle in.” His voice cracked on the last two words.
What brought this on?
Nolie studied her husband, hoping for some clue to the reason behind his question. Looking more closely, she recognized the pain in his eyes. They’d talked before about how sometimes their schedules prevented much time together, and she’d seen that same pain then, right before they’d promised each other they would work on the problem.
They hadn’t worked on it. They hadn’t had time between his job as a tow-truck driver and hers as a high school French teacher.
Both of them had failed to follow through. They’d both gone right back to putting their careers first. It sucked.
Their marriage was fine. Every day they greeted each other with a hug, a kiss, and an “I love you.”
They rarely disagreed about anything, and Nolie loved Joseph as much as she had the day they’d walked down the aisle.
“Fine” didn’t mean everything was perfect, though. Their contact had become predictable. And their sex life had grown stale because they didn’t have time for more than a quick fuck once or twice a week.
But that happens to all married couples, doesn’t it?
Nolie sighed and closed her eyes for a moment to hide her own pain. Maybe marriage did make people complacent, but that didn’t mean she had to accept the status quo or that she and Joseph shouldn’t work to make each other top priority.
She didn’t say any of that. Bringing up the fact that they barely had any time together would only make Joseph feel guilty, and that was the last thing Nolie wanted.
Joseph’s voice pulled Nolie out of her thoughts. Although he hadn’t asked her anything, apparently he wanted some response to his statement that they had settled in with each other.
Which they had.
“Of course I’m settled in.” She opened her eyes and forced a smile, pretending she didn’t know what he was talking about. “You’re supposed to settle down when you marry someone, aren’t you? Are you
“No. Not bored.” Joseph sat across from her and reached for her hand. His palm, cool from the glass of juice, was wet. He gave her a faint smile. “I love you, and I could never be bored with you. But we both know we have a problem. When was the last time we made love?”
Nolie hesitated. Admitting that she couldn’t even remember their last time in bed stung, so she tried to soften her reply. “I don’t know. Last week, I guess? You’ve been working overtime, and I had to do report cards. So yeah, I guess it’s been a while.”
Joseph squeezed her hand, and his frown deepened. Nolie’s heart sank. They’d let their marriage slip too much. She just hoped this discussion wouldn’t end up like the others they’d had. Promises and no follow through.
“It’s been more than a while if you can’t even remember the last time,” Joseph said slowly. “And it really sucks. When we first married, sex was hot as hell. The last year or so, it’s become more like an afterthought.”
“Yeah.” Nolie wasn’t sure what else to say. She couldn’t disagree. Both of them worked full time and had other responsibilities. Sex wasn’t as important as earning a living, maintaining their home, and everything else.
And dropping sex to the bottom of the priority list was wrong. They’d fallen in love and lust
with each other, and they should have kept sex as important as it had always been. Fucking had always been their favorite way to connect, but they’d lost the connection somewhere along the line.
That had to change. She wanted the intimacy with Joseph back, and dancing around the topic and all the promises they’d made hadn’t helped. They had to make a commitment if they expected things to be better. A commitment they would actually stick with.
“I miss sex with you,” Joseph said. He caressed her hand with both of his. “I miss lying in bed with you for hours. I miss fucking you so hard you scream. I want those things back. I want you
A shiver of desire ran through Nolie, and her face heated. Joseph hadn’t spoken to her that way in far too long, and the thought of how they’d used to fuck, hands roaming each other’s bodies as their hunger grew, turned her on more than she could stand. Her nipples stiffened, and tingles raced over her skin.
“I want you too,” she said softly. She squeezed Joseph’s hands. “You have no idea how much. But what do we do? We have to go to work. We can’t just stay home and fuck all day.” She chuckled. “Maybe on weekends.”
“Maybe.” Joseph’s smile could have lit the entire room.
Nolie was glad she’d made the joke, silly though it had been. “Saturday?”
“Mmm, that’s a definite possibility.” Joseph licked his lips, and Nolie shuddered through another wave of hunger and need.
Judging from the smug look on Joseph’s face, he knew exactly the effect he was having. “I’m not only talking about all-day fucking. We can do things to spice up our marriage, Nolie. If we make sex more interesting, maybe we’ll make more time for it. I think lovemaking is something a couple should find
time for instead of just waiting for time to show up.”
Nolie nodded and tried to meet Joseph’s gaze. Waiting for time to magically be available was what they’d been doing. And when they did have enough time, sometimes they simply slept instead of fucking. Joseph was right. They needed to be interested in sex—in each other—again if they wanted to keep their sex life from trickling down the drain.
“Spice things up,” she said. Too bad I have no clue how to do that.
She hoped Joseph would have some thoughts. “Okay, I agree with you. Did you have something in mind?”
“Role-playing,” he said without hesitating.
Nolie yanked her hand out of his and shook her head. Of course Joseph had a solution. She just hadn’t expected it to be one so far outside her comfort zone.
As a kid, she hadn’t even liked dressing up for Halloween. She’d always felt stupid walking around pretending to be something she wasn’t. She’d never been able to figure out why it bothered her, but she’d always avoided any type of costume and acting.
Joseph knew it. Their first Halloween together he’d wanted matching costumes, and she had flat out refused to even consider it. And now he was suggesting they do something that would make her feel like a complete idiot while they tried to make their sex life better.
What the hell is he thinking?
She couldn’t prevent the sarcasm that thickened her tone. “Yeah, okay. What are we going to do? Go out and buy cute little costumes? Sorry, Joseph, not interested.”
He gave her a tolerant smile, which did nothing to lessen her irritation. She stared back at him until he looked down at his hands. “I had a feeling you might react that way,” he said. “Some couples like role-playing. We don’t have to wear costumes. Role-playing isn’t about dressing up. It’s about fulfilling fantasies. Think about it, Nolie. Don’t you ever imagine anything sexy? Hot little cheerleader with the football coach or something?”
“Being a teenager again? Hardly.” The idea turned her stomach, and she couldn’t bring herself to ask whether Joseph had a thing for cheerleaders. “I pretty much prefer reality. The only other thing I ever think about—”
She snapped her mouth shut. She’d never discussed her fantasies with Joseph before. At first, reality had been hotter than anything Nolie could have imagined. Now, they barely had time to talk about anything, and with the decrease in their time together, their sex life had cooled. Now, more often than not, it was perfunctory. Even Joseph’s changing of positions during sex followed the same sequence.
And when she masturbated, her favorite daydream was dark and disturbing. Not something she had ever contemplated sharing with her quiet, vanilla husband. But he wanted to spice up their sex life, and this would definitely accomplish that, if she dared to tell him about it.