The sun had set an hour ago. Scott was late. Again.
The headlights of his car swept through the trees lining the street in his neighborhood. The spring buds on the branches cast knobby shadows across the pavement.
He was almost home. He wanted to sit down, have a nice meal, and maybe watch a little TV, but as he pulled into his driveway, something fluttered by the side of the car. Scott shifted into park, turned the key, and squinted through the windshield. He jerked back as a pair of underwear landed in front of his face on the large plane of glass—his underwear.
He frowned as he stepped out of the car and then ducked as a shoe whizzed past his ear and then another.
“What the hell is going on?” he muttered as he walked up the curving sidewalk toward the front door. He stooped to collect the debris covering his lawn and driveway. He tried to twist the doorknob. Locked. He dropped the load on the front porch, unlocked the door, and opened it slowly. The sound coming from upstairs made his heart race.
An angry rant spilled out of their bedroom, down the stairs, and assaulted him. He’d never heard anything like it.
He closed the door as quietly as possible and crept up the stairs. With his back pressed against the wall outside their bedroom, he listened to Nicole, half crying and half screaming. Nothing made sense. The string of sounds embodied anger and sorrow.
Forgetting his frustration with their new lawn ornaments, Scott pushed the door open. His mouth hung open. Half the drawers from the dresser had been yanked out and dumped on the floor, and a heap of hangers and clothes decorated the closet floor. His clothes, well, at least the clothes that hadn’t made it out the window yet. As if on cue, Nicole grabbed a handful of socks and threw them as hard as she could. He could imagine them sailing through the dimly lit yard and landing in the shrubs by his car.
“Nicole? What’s going on? Where’s Hanna?”
Her eyes widened as she spun to face him. Mascara streaked her cheeks. She pressed her lips together and shook her head. “You have a lot of nerve showing up here.”
“What’s going on?” He frowned and took a step inside the room.
Nicole’s finger thrust out in front of her. Her hand bled. “You know damn well what’s going on.”
“Listen, I’m sorry I’m late. The Danson project–”
“Don’t lie to me!” Fresh tears ran down her face.
“Don’t you sweetie me!” Her voice went up an octave. “I saw the pictures. Get out.”
“Pictures? What are you talking about?” The last pictures he’d taken with his phone were of a property on the west side of town. An empty lot. “Why don’t we just calm down and talk about this?”
“No!” she screeched. “I’m not going to calm down.” The muscles in her jaw clenched tight.
He put his hands up defensively. He took a deep breath. “I think if we just take a deep breath–”
She squeezed her eyes shut. “How dare you!” She shook her head and growled, “Get! Out!”
To make her point, she started throwing clothes at him. Scott dodged to the side just as a metal hanger hit the door.
“Get out!” A rack full of belts directed at his torso accompanied her words. They hit the wall just outside their bedroom, gouging the paint and landing on the hall floor with a dull thud.
Scott backed away from her. “Where am I supposed to go?” He posed the question more to himself than anything, but Nicole heard him.
Her voice screeched through their open bedroom door. “I don’t give a crap where you go. Why don’t you call your girlfriend? I’m sure she’d be happy to have you over.”
A pair of shoes came flying down the hall. Scott didn’t get out of the way in time, and one of them connected squarely with his chest.
Girlfriend? He’d clearly missed something, and as much as he wanted to find out what had made Nicole so angry, he knew her well enough to let her cool off.
It took twenty minutes for Nicole to finish tossing his clothes out the window and another ten for him to pick them up off the lawn. He dumped them unceremoniously in the back seat of his car.
Just as Scott fished the last pair of socks out of the shrubs, Nicole stormed through the house, turning off the lights as she went, submerging the yard into near darkness. The lock on the front door clicked into place, followed by Nicole’s muffled sobs.
He sat in his car and rubbed his eyes. What am I supposed to do now? His brother had been in a similar situation a year and a half ago when his wife kicked him out. Of course! His brother! Luke had offered his couch more than once in the last few months when Scott and Nicole fought. Perhaps he knew what was going on with her. He was going to ask him, right after he got there.
* * * *
“Are you sure she said girlfriend?” Luke took a sip of his beer and raised an eyebrow.
“Yes. I’m sure. I don’t know what the hell is going on.”
Luke shook his head. “There’s no talking to ’em when they get like that. Best to just wait it out a bit. I’m sure this will all smooth over in a couple of days.”
Scott’s head fell into his hands.
“Don’t worry about it. Drink your beer. Beer makes everything better.” Luke patted his back. “Listen, I have an empty closet in the workout room, so you can hang all your stuff up if you want to, and the couch is all yours, for as long as you need it. Nicole just needs time, that’s all.”
“You did the same for me. It’s what brothers do.”
The week after Luke and Nina had broken up had been rough for everyone, not only because Luke was sharing their house but also because Nicole was on Nina’s side. Truth be told, Scott had taken Nina’s side too. Nina had every reason to throw him out. There was no room for infidelity in a marriage. As much as Scott loved his brother, he couldn’t deny Luke’s mistake.
They worked together to unload Scott’s car, taking armfuls of clothes inside. “I just don’t get it. Why would she think I have a girlfriend?”
Luke shrugged. “Maybe she thinks it runs in the family.” He looked at the ground. “Anyway, I’ll go get you a few hangers.”
“Why do you need a workout room, anyway? I thought you had a gym membership,” Scott called across the hall to his brother’s room.
Luke stood in the doorway with a dozen hangers. “I do. The gym is a great place to meet women. But you know how I feel about other people’s sweat. Speaking of that, if you’re going to use my equipment, you have to wipe it down. Otherwise, it might be grounds for eviction.”
Scott inhaled sharply. “Ooh, harsh!”
They shared a laugh, helping ease a little tension out of Scott’s body. Luke was right. Nicole needed a little time.