The weight of the red box was more than Ben could bear. His elbows were propped on his knees as he turned the box in his fingers, staring at the door, the door, that just moments ago was full with bags, Michelle's bags. He could still smell her perfume, a wonderful scent of lavender and pine, left behind to linger even after she walked out the door, two days ago.
He was still sitting in the same spot, on the same couch. The couch he and Michelle had picked out together. It was black to match the black and white scheme they had in their Copperfeild apartment. The apartment they had been sharing for seven years, since they were eighteen, freshmen at collage. They had been high school sweethearts, Ben, the quarterback and captain of their Copperfield High school football team, and Michelle, head cheerleader. They were the epitome of a perfect couple. Ben was tall, with dark hair, and hazel eyes; an athletic build that Michelle had always loved. And she, perfect with her long golden hair, and baby blue eyes, perfect skin. They were the It couple, the one that in the yearbook people would address, "To the future Mr. and Mrs. Benjamin Coleman." Ben had always believed that; Michelle was it for him, and he had thought that she wanted the same… Obviously he was wrong.
Three pounding bangs were rapped on the door before it flew open, and a figure stepped through. Ben didn't even look at Sean as he barged in, he was used to his friends less than courteous ways, and it was somehow expected seeing as Sean had left ten messages on the machine and Ben hadn't answered a single one.
"Where the hell have you been?" Sean leered over Ben and his nose wrinkled in disgust, "and when was the last time you showered?" Ben didn't answer, he was too busy staring, just staring like he had been for the past two days, only getting up to go to the bathroom, then heading straight back to the couch. "Your dad's freaking that you haven't showed up in to work."
"I'm taking a sabbatical." He said trying to get Sean to shut up. The pounding noise after 48 hours of silence hurt his head, and annoyed him more than he thought would be possible.
"Does he know that?"
"Man, you weren't answering your phone calls." Sean sighed pushing his hand over his buzzed head like he always did when he was stressed. "Paige told me what happened. Michelle is staying with her. I figured you just needed some time, but when your dad called me… You know how much that man scares me." Ben knew, oh boy did he know. Benjamin Walker the first was that type of man. Powerful was the only way to describe him aside from aggressive. He always got his way, and his way was to have Ben take over the business, it didn't matter to him that Ben wanted to be an architect. Homes were where the heart was, or so Ben heard. Home was never home for him, so he had this fascination on trying to make homes for other people in his mind. "Man," Sean started sitting down on the couch beside his friend, "Michelle's a bitch," Ben rolled his eyes. For ten years Sean would blabber on about how much he hated Michelle, how horrible she was, and stuck up and high maintenance. Sean was one of those rarities; you know from teen girl romances, the popular jock who dated the nerdy girl. He hated makeup, and hair dye, and fashion. He liked a girl he could take camping and not hear her whine, or just pick up without any notice and he wouldn't have to wait while she 'freshened up'. He liked girls with brains, and even though Michelle was a straight a student, he still hated her. "-and I'm telling you this cause I love you, her walking out on you was the best thing she has ever done."
"You're a little biased Sean,"
"No! I mean it. For ten years she's been pulling you around on a leash, making you miss parties in collage, telling you that you couldn't hang out with certain people, telling you what to wear, how to think; you loved her yes, but you cannot tell me that she wasn't an overbearing bitch that made you miserable even during the best of times."
"Sean, I spent ten years-"
"Wasted ten years."Sean cut in but Ben ignored him with nothing more than a roll of his eyes.
"Of my life with her, ready to marry her." he waved the box in his hand and then dropped it back into his lap with a thud. "She is my everything."
"WAS! Past tense." Ben sighed and looked back at the door sulking once again. "Okay, well if you're set on taking some time off to brood and cry like a girl, don't do it here. Get out, go on vacation! Go to that place you always told me about; Maybell Lake. Go somewhere where you can recharge. A place that's not reeking of that Barbie and think there. Doing this," He waved his hands towards Ben on the couch, "Is unhealthy and if you don't go willingly, then I will seriously call the men in white to lock you up." Ben looked back and forth at the cushions on either side, at the many dirty plates, and cups and empty beer cans that has slowly littered up his best friend's living room; The couch that Michelle had bought because of its design, though it was the most un-comfy thing to ever have four legs. In comparison to the plush worn down couch in the cabin at Maybell Lake, it wasn't anything special, but the fact that Michelle had chosen this couch... "Come on man…" Ben looked up at Sean and sighed, knowing very well that his friend could be just as stubborn and pigheaded as his own father.
"Fine, but you're coming to dinner."
"What?" Sean asked in horror, dreading the thought of sitting down with Benjamin Senior. Ben didn't bother to change or anything just grabbed his keys and left not waiting to see if Sean were following behind. He knew he would be. They drove in silence to the Manor that Ben had grown up with. It was the type of place where you were meant to sit still and not enjoy the spiral staircases, or the rolling ladder in the library. A prison for a child, that's what it was. The only time Ben ever remembered getting to act like a kid was when they went to the lake. His parent's went and mingled with the other socialites while he got into mischief.
"If I'm going to get my time off, it has to be with mom there and you have to help sugar coat the idea." It was like he had never met Ben's family! This was how everything had always worked; want a toy, go to Mommy, want a bike, go to mommy, want a car, go to mommy; Mom was the only one who got under Dad's skin. The only one who knew how to push his buttons to make him do whatever Ben wanted him to do. Ben knew it and boy did he enjoy taking advantage of it when he could.
Ben had pretty much had called how the whole experience would go down to a T. His father, As tall at Ben, but with considerably more volume had screamed his head off at him the moment he was notified that is son had walked through the front doors. Ben never even had a chance to say a word while his father picked him apart about responsibility and family obligation and maturity. For once, Ben didn't let it bother him. His fathers dissapointment was the last thing he cared about right now, Michelle was all he could think of.
When his father stopped to breathe, asking Ben what he had to say for himself, he didn't have to try hard to bow his head and look pitiful just in time for his mother to come bursting into the family room worried about all the commotion. As soon as she saw Ben, her own motherly eyes welled up with tears as she hurried up to her son and asked him what was wrong, hugging him tight. Ben once remembered a time when she would hug him and his head would disappear into her stomach. Now, it was her who seemed to disappear into him. She was such a tiny woman. He took after her for looks, but she had this insanely curly hair which she always put in rollers to create the perfect prim and proper look.
"Michelle left me, ma'" He told her, his voice hoarse , as if saying the words out loud brought on a whole new wave of emption causing his throat to constrict. She stopped sobbing into his chest and leaned back with a shocked look on her little face.
"I proposed, and she said no. Then she packed her bags and left."
"I don't understand." She muttered trying to wrap her head around the fact that the woman he had been with since he was 16, said no.
"It's true Mrs. Walker. Michelle is staying with my girlfriend." Sean piped in just for a moment before running back into obscurity with his tail between his legs as Ben's father barked loudly into the conversation.
"That's why you skipped work?" he asked harshly looking at Ben with an unimpressed smirk. "Because of a woman?"
"Oh shut up, Benjamin! Can't you see your son is in pain?" His mother reprimanded him, and Ben knew he had won. He told her of his plans to clear his head and his dad, as expected, freaked out. Ben's mother told him to go upstairs and wash up for dinner, then slowly like a lioness turned towards Benjamin Senior with her stubborn mama bear face on. The last thing he heard was his father saying "Now listen here Annie, you are too soft on the boy. That's why she probably left him. He's too soft. Stop smothering him."
Ben walked to the end of the hall and turned the familiar handle into his childhood bedroom. It was spectacularly clean, posters and pictures on the walls, all the remnants that he had left behind when he and Michelle had moved out on their own. But something was worse than the nostalgic photos on the wall. His bed, his bed was the worst reminder of them all.
Michelle gasped playfully as Ben pulled her behind the stair's where his mother kept the cleaning supplies, dragging her into the little cupboard.
"What are you doing? Your parent's are going to wonder where we went!" Ben's hands held her hips tight against him while he kissed her exposed shoulder that Michelle's lavish, perfectly set up do and elegant dress left for him.
"No way, they are too busy making business deals with all the suit's in there they won't notice."Ben leaned in ever so slowly hearing the hitch in her breath and he grinned his boyish smirk down at her knowing that he had one.
"Fine," Michelle groaned wrapping her slender arms around his neck "but making out in a storage closet, isn't that a bit childish?"
"I'm sorry," Ben pulled away looking at Michelle with a very serious gaze, "I wasn't aware I was dating a cougar. My mistake." Michelle laughed and hit him on the shoulder. Michlle bit her lip looking at ben with the most contemplative yet some how seductive gaze that caused his stomach to flip and he had to stiffel a gulp.
"Come with me." She opened the door and looked carefully that she wasn't seen before tugging Ben quickly up the stairs and to his room. She pushed him in quickly and shut the door behind her not turning to face Ben just yet.
"Michelle, I can't believe you! You know mom's rule about leaving the door open when I have girl's over." He feigned shock and she turned to him, her face flushed, eyes sparkling.
"Girl's? as in more than one?" she questioned taking a step closer.
"Well you know… a man has needs." He joked as she stepped closer.
"Needs huh, Ones that other girl's help you out with?"
"Of course, they are all very talented concubines. I hope that you don't mind."
"Oh I mind."
"You do? Well, that causes some problems doesn't it?" He smirked at her but was surprised when she pushed him back on the bed, straddling his hips.
"Not necessarily…" he raised a questioning eyebrow at her as she propped herself up on her arms so she was hovering above him. "If I can top what they can do of course." She looked at him suggestively and he gulped, growing sober.
"Are you serious?" he asked her, all joking aside. He looked at her with serious hard eyes but she just smiled coyly and dipped her head to meet his lips.
"Ben?" Ben was snapped out of his thoughts and found himself standing in the cold stream of the shower. He had goose bumps all over his body as he shook himself out of his all too lucid dream.
"Yea?" He called reaching for the towel and wrapping it around his waist as he stepped out of the shower, feeling colder than he thought was possible.
"Your mom said hurry up. Dinner is ready." Ben told Sean he would be right there and waited for a moment before going back into his bedroom grabbing an old pair of sweats and a t-shirt from his high school gym class. The smell of steak wafted through the house as he walked towards the dining room to see his father, mother and friend sitting waiting for him with full plates.
"It's about damn time." His father griped lifting his fork and digging in.
"Sorry." Ben sat down and immediately knew that his mother had won. It was clear from her smile and his father's worse than usual mood. They were in silence for a moment before his mother spoke up excitedly.
"So, I called Maybell Lake and told them you were coming, and I booked your flight. Sean, are you sure you can't go with him?" she turned her puppy dog eyes on the boy but he cast his eyes cleverly downward.
"Sorry Mrs. Walker… Paige wouldn't let that swing."
"Oh the girlfriend won't let that swing, but some one's father and employer…"
"Benjamin!" His mother scolded her mocking husband before turning her sickly sweet mothering gaze to her son. "Would you like me to come with you?"
"No." Ben paused hoping that he didn't answer too quickly. "I really just want to be alone. Think." Which he did. He didn't want a distraction; he didn't want someone to tell him that it would be alright. What Ben wanted was to wallow in self pity, and attempt to pinpoint what was so wrong with him that his girlfriend of ten years didn't want to marry him. It didn't make sense that after spending a decade with someone you wouldn't want to be with them or get married, especially when their relationship was practically flawless aside from a few moments of arguing about absolutely nothing just because they had been in a bad mood, or a couple moments of unneeded jealousy, they were perfect. Of course, Sean could give him a million reasons why they were completely imperfect, but Ben loved her and love sees no flaws.
"Of course honey." His mother smiled sympathetically and luckily for him changed the subject. He knew his dad was furious and for the life of him he couldn't understand how he could have happily married parents. His father was business man first, family man second. His mother always seemed so happy though. The late nights and extended business trips never bothered her. Ben figured the month at Maybell Lake every summer made up for it, even though he still worked while he was there, He spent every meal with them limiting his work hours to the ones after she had gone to sleep. It seemed to be enough for her, but Ben knew there was more to life and marriage and he wanted it, and he wanted it with Michelle VanHerden.