Peggy settled herself carefully on the sofa facing the entertainment system while Ralph disappeared into the kitchen to fix a snack to go with the video they planned to watch. She looked about and wondered again why was she here.
Looking about she shuddered slightly, seeing this place she understood better why she and Ralph had fought so much those first few days at the club. It wasn't really that he had bad taste, it was more like no discrimination. The place was simply stuffed, every surface held an knick knack, the walls were so covered it was hard to determine what color they were painted. Actually, now that she thought of it, it really did reflect the personality of the owner, it said RALPH! Maybe that was not so bad, his tendency to acquire simply everything, especially if it was new, was really more of an endearing characteristic than the annoying trait she had seen it at first.
"Ready for a really great movie?" Ralph practically bounced back into the room, carrying a large tray with glasses of soda, bowls of chips, and of course some new dip he wanted to try.
"Of course." She replied while struggling to make room on the coffee table for the tray he held.
"I just know you are going to love this movie. Do try the new dip and let me know what you think. I got a coupon for it from the paper last Sunday."
While talking, Ralph had reached for one of the remotes in the array that lined the right edge of the coffee table, pushed some buttons, and the large screen on the far wall sprung to life. He set that one down, grabbed a second, pushed another button and the lights in the room dimmed to a comfortable level for viewing.
Peggy took a polite sip of the soda which was of course too sweet and dutifully scooped up some dip with one of the chips. It was not too bad, but it would have been better served with some carrot sticks and perhaps a nice Chardonnay.
They settled back to watch the movie, Ralph had the controller in hand again and Peggy quickly learned that he would use it to pause the movie occasionally to ask her opinion on something or the other about it. She hoped this movie would hold her interest better than the last.
The video drug on and Peggy's mind wandered. Why was she here? At first, she guessed, she was a bit intrigued by Ralph. No one in her usual circle would have argued points on taste and decorating with her at all, much less as vehemently as Ralph had. And then to turn around and ask her out for coffee, Peggy almost giggled out loud recalling how surprised, and at least a bit pleased she had been. Now, sitting here, she wondered had she really been intrigued, or just that desperate for human contact?
She peeked at him, out of the corner of her eye, wondering. But he seemed totally absorbed in the movie. She swallowed quietly. Peggy was embarrassed even to think this way but she couldn't seem to stop herself. Part of her didn't care, she was so alone that even Ralph felt like a prize. Another part warned that if he rejected her, that would be the end, her tortured soul could tolerate no more.
Then there was the question of the club, it truly had become a refuge for her, a place she could go and feel comfortable when the walls of her empty home felt like they were closing in on her. A relationship between her and Ralph, especially a failed one, would change all that.
She had been expecting it, just like in movie theaters when she was a teenager, Ralph's arm slid down from the back of the sofa and encircled her shoulders. She froze, not having yet made up her mind how to handle this. Peggy continued to sit quietly, neither accepting nor rejecting his advance, her mind racing through all the possibilities.
In the end it really didn't matter, the warmth and comfort offered, her desire for it, overrode all her better judgment. She settled softly against his shoulder letting herself relax and enjoy the moment.
"Peggy", Ralph spoke softly, barely audible over the sound track of the movie and she turned to look at him. Then his lips were on hers, soft, warm, tender. All her thinking no longer mattered, her body responded and she simply didn't care. She opened her mouth and returned his kiss, tongues touching.
Had they actually been the teenagers they were behaving like up until this point, it might have ended there, two frustrated people sitting on a sofa, pretending to watch a bad movie. But they weren't teenagers, almost as one they rose, Ralph leading the way they headed for the bedroom, leaving a trail of discarded clothing. Tomorrow she might have a million regrets, but tonight, for this moment, she was free.
Sometime later Peggy lay there, listening to Ralph snore softly, instantly asleep, just like her ex-husband. Were all men like that? Maybe, or maybe it was just limited experience and bad luck that made her think that. Carefully, so as not to risk disturbing Ralph and have to face him just now she climbed out of the bed and began retrieving her clothes from the trail leading back to the sofa.
Unlocking her door she heard the clock on her mantle chime, 2 AM, she stopped surprised, doubting she had ever been awake to hear that before. She hadn't been awake at this hour since the children were babies. Oddly, she wasn't in the least bit tired, bed held no appeal. She walked into the kitchen and took out the bottle of wine that had been sitting in her fridge forever and studied it. Why not? She never drank alone before, but this was a night for lots of firsts it seemed. She poured a glass, looked at it for a moment then shrugged, picked up the glass and the bottle and carried them into the dark living room.
Settled into the corner of the sofa she sipped the wine, made a face, and began to ponder. Questions she had dropped long ago, things left behind along with the oily skin and pimples of adolescence. Who was she? Where was she going? Indeed, what was the meaning of life? But now, they were even harder, all mixed up with lesser more immediate questions like what to do about Ralph, and the club?
Dawn found her still there, sitting and pondering, the bottle now empty. She was no closer to any answers, but she did at least know that failure to keep searching for them was like giving up and just waiting to die.
Well, at least for now the club was as good a place as any to start... what did those two new women do when they weren't hanging around making trouble for everybody else?