LATER OVER DINNER, when Allison brought up the mini vacation, Daniel was not excited about spending a whole weekend with his in-laws. Previous incidents had proven to him that their boastful nature and callous disregard for others could be, at times, unbearable. She was not surprised, but at the same time, unaware of how much she wanted the trip to happen until she went on to fight for it.

“You know my parents mean well.”

“I’m sure they do.” At a snail's pace, Daniel chewed on the piece of broccoli in his mouth so as to give himself time to compose a decent excuse for saying no. Finally, he swallowed it. “It’s been very busy lately at work with all these projects coming due. I might have to work overtime that weekend.”

“For the entire time?”

“Probably not, but I can’t promise for how long. Besides, I would most likely be a drag. All the extravaganzas your father arranges would be wasted on me.”

“Don’t be ridiculous. They miss you. If anything, we can really use the vacation to get away for a while.”

“What for?”

“I think you know what for.”

“No, I do not,” he asserted, “I feel fine being here for the weekend. If you would rather be away, you are free to go with your parents while I stay home to focus on work. No one said we must both go.”

His blunt rejection was quick to spoil her appetite. She put down her fork and knife and wiped her mouth with a napkin, looking across the table at Daniel where he sat curving his back, staring at the slab of steak on his plate and guiding his knife to cut into it.

His avoidance of her eye contact prompted her to speak up: “Don’t you want our marriage to work out?”

Taken aback, he looked up at her forlorn face, suddenly felt bad. He pushed aside his unfinished meal and beckoned to her. “Come here,” he said, turning to sit sideways, extending his hands.

She walked over and touched palms with him. “Of course I do,” he replied then, rubbing her fingers tenderly with his thumbs. Allison felt a tingle of excitement down her spine. The sensation got stronger as he pressed his warm lips against their tips, kissing softly. She was just closing her eyes to properly savor the moment, but he let go of her.

One moment he was showing his wife a bit of passion, the next, he told her coldly, “Don’t ask me that again, okay?”

She noticed his internal conflict, “Okay…” and decided to flirt with him a bit. She put her arms around his neck and sat down on his lap, talking to him in her sweetest voice. “Let’s have a good time in the Bahamas then. We can chill at the beach, eat some delicious food, and just forget about life for a change. You can bring your work with you if you want, but there’s a good chance you won’t be attending to it at all...”

She was leaning in for a kiss when Daniel suddenly tilted his head back just before their lips could touch. “Let me think about it some more,” he told her, his eyes guilty, looking blankly at her.

“Of… of course.” She withdrew awkwardly and got off him.

Returning to her seat, Allison chugged the rest of her red wine from her glass. A certain rush charged through her, faster than her rational mind could catch up. Partly under the influence, partly not, she causally let slip a rather grudging remark. “You know, it’s not your fault she chose to take her life. We both agreed not to help when she moved down into the city. It’s not like you owe her anything —”

“I know,” said Daniel, his face straight as an arrow.

The moment she reached for the wine bottle, he stood up and left the table. Somehow, she knew that would happen.

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