Maybe Not Tonight
This story was inspired by the song "Maybe Not Tonight", performed by Sammy Kershaw and Lorrie Morgan. I do not own Sailor Moon, duh. The fairy tale I allude to is Herdboy and Weaver, a Korean folktale. I'm sure there are similar versions for every country, much like Cinderella, but this is the only version I know.
Chiba Mamoru sat in an ugly green armchair, entranced in his newspaper. Across the room, his wife, Chiba Usagi stared at him, eyes blurred by tears she refused to let fall. On the table she had set a delicious meal, the product of another successful cooking lesson from her best friend Kino Makoto. It had grown cold an hour ago, when he had turned the TV off, telling her he'd join her in a minute; he just had to finish an article. It was a now-nightly routine. Every night, she prepared a wonderful dinner, set the table romantically, called him . . . and sat there alone. Even though that damned, ugly chair was only thirty feet away from her, she felt like she was on the other end of the world from him. It was as if a huge void separated them, yet she could still see him as clearly as if he were right in front of her. In her mind, they were like two lovers in a fairy tale, separated by a great distance, yearning for each other. Except in their case, the yearning was one-sided. For over in his corner, Mamoru cared more about a newspaper story than her. In this case, he would rather starve than eat at the same table with her. She called to him and he ignored it. She thought, not for the first time, that she should leave him. If this continued, she resolved, she would. Maybe not tonight, but someday.
Usagi sighed . . . again. Behind his paper, Mamoru grimaced. He could feel her eyes boring into him, so he shifted the paper again, making sure it was like a shield, keeping her eyes from seeing his misery. Every day, he was forced to go through the same routine. He worked hard, but it was coming home that was the hardest thing he did each day. He lived for the days when his pager would go off, demanding he return to work. On those nights he escaped the cold apartment they shared. He snuck a glance at her, noting the glazed way she stared into space. He briefly wondered what she was thinking off, then shut off that train of thought. Instead he looked at the table. The table was a farce, he thought bitterly. A perfectly edible, even delicious-looking, meal sat on the table. Complementing the fare was the beautiful table setting Usagi's parents had given them. Two unlit, pure white candles mocked him. Then there was the source of his pain, the beautiful, sad blonde who had just been sitting there for the past hour. He turned back to the paper he'd been feigning interest in for the past hour, using it as an excuse not to join her at that table. This couldn't go on, he decided. He should leave, just maybe not tonight.
The night passed slowly. Usagi gave up as the clock marked exactly one hour of silence. She rose silently and began to clear the perfect table. She slipped the untouched plates back into their spots, then the shining silverware and finally placed the untouched meal into her last empty Tupperware containers, fighting tears. She placed the pink Tupperware containers in the fridge next to the blue ones from last night, the purple ones from the night before, the green ones from the night before that and the clear ones from before that. Fighting her tears, she shut the door, blocking out the reminder of so many silent nights, so many uneaten dinners. She decided to hand-wash the pots and pans and the serving dish. The second she started running the tap, she heard the TV click on. Tears fell, dripping down her face into the soapy dishwater as the noise blared, swallowing her sobs. She would leave him, but not tonight.
Mamoru sighed in relief when he heard her begin to clear the table. He hated the distance between them, but he didn't know how to bridge it. She never showed signs of it bothering her though, so he just let it be. As soon as he heard the water beginning to run in the sink, he assumed it was safe to turn on the TV. He turned it up so he could hear it over the sounds of running water and scrubbing. He didn't know what show he was watching, he didn't even care. Though his blue eyes were focused on the screen, his mind was in the past. Before his sad eyes, he watched a happy couple walking arm in arm, talking, laughing, dancing. He didn't know where they had gone, but he missed them. These days whenever he got close to Usagi, she shied away. He didn't know what he had done to make her want distance between them, but he wasn't about to force her to let him touch her. Not even on his most desperate days would he consider forcing her to tolerate his touch, his kiss. The show ran for thirty minutes. Though it was only 8 pm, he made a show of re-folding the paper just perfectly, rustling it loudly. Then he clicked off the TV and headed into their bedroom to take a shower. Tomorrow, maybe then, he would leave.
In the kitchen, Usagi dried the last pot, placing it on its hook. She rinsed the sink, then dried her hands. At that moment, she heard the rustling of paper that told her Mamoru was meticulously folding the paper that she would just end up shredding tomorrow before placing it in the recycle box. The TV clicked off just then, filling the apartment once more with the dreaded, stifling silence. She knew he would head into the bathroom to shower and then turn in. He left for the hospital every morning at 5 am and ever since the romance had died, he seemed to crave sleep as much as she used to when she was younger. That was her cue to get online. She hated to sleep now. In her dreams the past haunted her even more than it did during the day. Worse was when she woke up, lying on their huge bed, with Mamoru lying right beside her, but not close enough to even accidentally touch her. She forced from her mind the desire that filled her for just one touch. He never tried to touch her anymore. Instead he gave her a brief greeting when he got home, then turned to hang his coat up, change from his shoes to slippers, remove his newspaper from his briefcase and then settle into his damned armchair. Once in the chair, the news came on and the paper went up, erecting a wall between them. She walked over to the armchair, running her hands lightly over the back of it, feeling his residual warmth, closing her eyes slowly as she envisioned the way he used to slip up behind her and hold her close. The phone rang suddenly, making her jump. Cursing herself for letting her fantasy seem so real and letting the pain in, she made her way to the jangling machine.
"Moshi moshi, Chiba residence." She listened resentfully to the voice that informed her that Doctor Chiba was needed at the hospital at once. "Hai, I will tell him." The brisk voice on the other end didn't bother to say thank you, just merely muttered a distracted good-bye and she was left with a dial tone in her ear. Sighing, she hung the phone up and turned towards the bedroom.
Mamoru was relaxing under the warm water pounding against him. Eyes closed, he took this time to let all of his tension to flow away from him. Away from her wide blue eyes, he could relax, let his true emotions emerge. He stood under the sluicing water like a defeated man. He couldn't understand what had happened to them. Distantly he heard the phone ring, but lost in thought, he paid it no attention. He also ignored the knocking on the bathroom door.
Usagi frowned. The lady on the phone had indicated that Mamoru was needed immediately, but she supposed he couldn't hear her over the water. She knew from experience that Mamoru liked to take long showers and this one had only just begun. Sighing, knowing this could start a major argument, she reached for the door handle. A wicked voice in her head suggested that if they did argue, at least they'd be speaking to each other. Her heart broke into yet another tiny piece as she realized the voice was right. She turned the knob. "Mamoru . . ."
Mamoru felt the cool air that rushed greedily in due to the opened door, even before he heard Usagi's voice. He tensed at the invasion, angry that she invaded his only haven. "Usa, dammit!" he snapped. "Do you mind!"
Usagi rolled her eyes. "We are married, you dimwit!" She took a deep breath. "You obviously didn't hear my knock, but the hospital called. They need you, now." She needed him too, but she doubted her needs meant anything to him. The hospital had always come first.
Mamoru cursed beneath his breath. "Fine, I'll be right out." He shut off the water, then realized she hadn't left. "Usa?" he asked, trying to sound only slightly curious, not hopeful. He wanted her to be still standing there because she wanted him, but he didn't think that was the case.
Usagi blinked. "Oh, sorry, I'll bring you some clean clothes. She said it was important." With that Usagi turned, pulling the door mostly shut behind her to gather up a clean set of clothes for him.
Mamoru grimaced. Of course she'd get him clean clothes! Anything to get him out faster. He jerked the towel from the rack angrily, briskly toweling off, then wrapping it about his waist. He stepped out and reached for his toothpaste, comb and razor. He was rapidly brushing his teeth when she returned.
Usagi tapped lightly to let him know she was coming in, then entered. She placed his clothes on the counter as he spit toothpaste into the sink. She could tell he was angry. If only an apology was what it took to make things right, but they didn't have time. The nurse had said it was very important. She opened her mouth. He shot her a look of annoyance, probably that she hadn't left yet, but she delivered her news anyway. "I forgot before, but the message was from the Emergency Room. Apparently, there was a big accident." She turned to go, her heart aching, wanting to say something more personal, but afraid of rejection.
Mamoru spit his toothpaste out and placed the toothbrush in its holder, right next to her pretty pink one. He gazed at it for a moment, envying the tool's right to be so close to something of hers. Annoyed with himself, he glanced at her as she began to speak. The moment she mentioned the E.R. he began to move even quicker. Every second he delayed could be life or death. He quickly dressed as she left, barely even noticing her exit. In five minutes he was out the door, without so much as a good-bye, racing for his car.
The next few hours dragged by for Usagi. Knowing Mamoru wouldn't be home anytime soon, she lay down on their bed and watched a movie on their bedroom TV set. The movie was one of her favorites, "Sleepless in Seattle", and she always cried over it, but this time she cried because of her loveless marriage, not anything on the screen. She clicked it off in frustration, preferring to cry her heart out in silence. Lying sideways across the bed, hair down, head at the foot of the bed, her small form still managing to take up most of their big bed, she cried herself to sleep.
Those same few hours flew by for Mamoru. He spent them in surgery, working to save a young boy who had been in an accident. The little boy had been playing outside when a drunk driver had lost control and come up onto the sidewalk. He'd hit the kid, sending him flying into a tree. The drunk driver had a mild concussion and was already in police custody, but the child had a serious head wound. Another accident had occurred at the same time, this one a bus incident. Apparently the driver had suffered a major heart attack and the bus had plowed into a building. All doctors, residents and nurses reachable had been called in to handle the overflow of victims. After finishing up with the boy, Mamoru had had to talk to the parents, a young couple. They held each other and wept, grateful that their little boy would survive, angry that his life had been endangered, and committed to helping him in every way possible. Exhausted emotionally and physically, he finally headed home, thinking of nothing but sleep.
The house was silent and dark when he got home. He wondered if she had left him. Usually she'd be sitting on the couch, watching some movie that she would snap off guiltily, making him wonder whom that romantic movie made her think of. Other nights, she'd be sitting in front of the computer. She'd look up at his arrival, but an instant message chime would regain her attention, making him wonder whom she was spending so much time with. He'd often wondered if that person would show up one day to take her away. She obviously didn't want him. Maybe she was waiting for him to leave. Maybe he would, he thought bitterly. But not tonight, no, tonight, he needed to sleep.
Usagi's face was tear-stained, showing the unhappy night she had spent in his absence. Her dreams were horrible. In her mind's eye, she was reliving the times she had nearly lost him. She saw him on his knee, kissing Beryl's hand. She saw the time he broke up with her, the day he had given Motoki's little sister a lift on his bike, but made her think he had replaced her so quickly. She even saw the image Wiseman had tortured her with, her Mamo-chan with Wicked Lady. Her mind tormented her with the knowledge that he would probably leave her soon. She knew instinctively that he could replace her in an instant. Maybe she should leave, but not tonight.
Mamoru entered their bedroom to see Usagi stretched across their bed, her body bathed in the TV's glow. The blue screen's light caressed her still form. He moved closer, dropping his shirt to the floor. She was asleep, but he could tell she wasn't resting peacefully. A soft sob escaped her as he stood looking down at her, shocked by her tear-ravaged face. He wanted to comfort her so badly, but fear kept him pinned to that spot. A tear slid down her cheek as her dreams tormented her and a soft word drifted across her lips, whispered with agony and love. That one word broke his resolve. "Mamo-chan."
Usagi awoke suddenly to the feel of lips on hers. Her blue eyes flew wide to find Mamoru kneeling at the foot of their bed, kissing her. She pulled back, scrambling up to a sitting position, eyes dazed, hope and fear clashing on her face. He looked at her, defeat in his eyes. He opened his mouth to say something, but paused, watching as she placed a shaking hand to her lips. He moved then, standing up, his eyes boring into her. She stood up too, shakily, the mattress making her stance uncertain. She moved towards him, but the mattress conspired against her, sending her tumbling. He caught her, pulling her close instinctively. Caught in his arms she didn't think, she acted. Wrapping her arms about him, she kissed him with everything she had. All her pain, her fears, her love, her tears went into that kiss.
He gave her back everything, measure for measure. He replied to everything her kiss was saying with everything he'd been feeling. His exhaustion fled as his body thrilled to the feel of her warmth, her curves, her demanding kiss. He laid her down, his kisses changing to ones of passion, reassurance and love. He moved over her, letting her rain kisses of adoration, happiness and love over him while he stared down at her, threading his hands through her hair. Finally, he claimed her mouth again, slowly building the passion between them.
As the sun began to rise, they lay curled together, finally talking about all the things that had kept them apart, all the things that they had done to build the walls. Mamoru called in sick and they spent the day together, reshaping their marriage, reconnecting, destroying the walls they had thoughtlessly built. They spent the day rekindling their love. They promised each other that next time they would talk things out. This time, when Usagi made dinner, they ate it, lights dimmed, candles glowing softly. They sat and talked about the news. They did the dishes together, Usagi washing, Mamoru drying. They showered together and they retired early, though sleep was the last thing on their minds. They might still leave each other one day. One day the love might truly fade. Maybe, but not tonight; definitely not tonight.
Well, there ya go. So, whaddya think?