After the accident, he decided they needed cell phones. He found a deal and chose two phones with interchangeable covers in blue, red, and gray. As a selling point, the salesman said his wife could coordinate her phone with her outfit. All ladies loved that.
When he went home, he found his wife in the ith her hair pulled back, the bandages only slightly visible above her collar bone.
While they ate dinner, he told her about his purchase.
She asked if they could afford them; he assured her they could.
It just seemed, she said, an unnecessary expense.
He said that nearly everyone had a cell phone, and she could learn how to program hers or not, but he wasn’t going to argue. She said she was sorry, and forced a smile when he showed her how to change the outside covers to match her clothes.
He plugged in her phone to show her how to charge it, and when he turned the phones on, both glowed. She mimicked his actions to set up her ringtone and Wi-Fi, and then pulled up the address book, asking what it meant to keep the number secret. He said it would hide the number and name and could only be used with a code.
Why, she asked, would we need a secret number?
He said he didn’t know. Perhaps that was for children, to keep them from accidentally charging up the phone bill.
Again, she told him she wasn’t sure about the cell phones. There was no extra money these days.
He told her he wasn’t taking the phones back.
She programmed more numbers and thought if they’d had children, when they were teenagers, they would’ve gotten a family plan. But that was no longer possible. Would never be.
Without a word, she picked up her phone, went to their bathroom, and shut the door.
He can hear her now. Long, hard sobs. It hurts him to listen. He tries to talk to her, but only receives muffled answers.
He picks up his cell phone and dials his wife’s new number. Soon, two rings echo. She doesn’t pick up at first but, when she does, neither say hello.
When she finally opens the door, he is sitting in the hallway, waiting.
Ginger Hendricks is executive director of Bookmarks, Winston-Salem’s independent bookstore, an accomplished writer and an avid reader, of course.