It's my instant, knee-jerk reaction to, well, ruin anything that comes off as TOO sweet. Or too perfect. If you like happy endings, happy Wimbledon, happy anything, please don't complain to me if you read this anyhow. You won't like it.
Now, are we quite ready? Yes? All right, then.
"What do you mean you're miserable?"
Elizabeth just stared, far away. She looked so beautiful, though her blues eyes were rimmed with red and her soft face streaked with tearful make up.
"There aren't a lot of other definitions of miserable, Peter."
"God, Lizzie. You know what I meant."
"You should know what I meant, too."
Peter got up. He was pacing, running a hand through his hair. He never could stay still, especially not when he was upset.
"Are you leaving me?"
"Maybe you could do me the great pleasure of speaking up," he said. His voiced was pinched with the restraint of not yelling at her.
"I don't know. I want some…time."
"Time for what? You want time? Here," he took off his watch, (really, a piece of shit given to him by a sponsor a year back), and handed to her.
She held it limply in her small hand, as though it were a small, dead bird.
"Now you've got all my time and you've got all your time too. Is that enough bloody time for you?"
"What? No, Lizzie. It's my turn."
"Say what you want. I just don't want you to wake the baby."
"Right, now you care about our family. Now that it's convenient, to make ME look like the bad guy because, oh no, I seem to have woken the baby."
Elizabeth made no reply, other than wiping at another tear, making its way down the curve of her cheek.
"I'll give you your time. Don't expect me back. Ever."
"You're being dramatic."
"I'm not the one who needs bloody time," he called over his shoulder on his way out. He stopped and came back quickly.
"What do you need time for? Time to get your hair and nails done? More time to shop for more overpriced shit you'll never wear? More time to take off for weeks to do God knows what with whatever aging athlete sees you naked?"
"Peter, every marriage has problems. We're just experiencing a very normal stage all couples go through. Getting personal and loud are just ways of coping with this stress."
"Are you fucking your therapist?" he blurted out.
"You know about my therapist?"
"His wife called to ask our address. Seems she had something to mail."
Shamefully, she looked at the floor, swallowing her tears.
"Probably a party invite," he was back by the door again.
"If you need anything, kindly fuck off. I'll be out for the night," he said, unable to turn and face her. If he had, she would have seen how he was barely keeping it together.
The door shut behind him, he finally sat and wept. It wasn't the manly sort where a single tear creeps out; instead it was unabashed, out and out blubbering. Quite pathetic, really.
He made his way on foot to a pub. It must've been a two-mile walk, but what did he care? On a good day it wouldn't have fazed him, and on a night like this it could've been two hundred miles and he wouldn't have felt a damned thing.
As though he had just realized where he was, he looked around. It was a discreet sort of place. He doubted there was any chance of his picture being taken here.
The room was near empty, what few patrons were grouped at the bar. The regulars were older men, potbellied and permanently sweaty and red.
A few women leered at him, their suggestively low-cut tops instantly making his skin crawl. There were exactly four women in that pub that night, three between the ages of 45-55 in too much make up and smoking religiously, who obviously came in a group, and then there was the forth.
She stood out like a fork of lightening in the sky. Well, it wasn't a difficult feat, as she still had all her teeth and was a good two decades younger than any of the other women in the room.
Still it was her face that drew him in. It wouldn't be true to say he had never wanted anyone as much as he wanted her in that minute. He had unquestioningly wanted Lizzie far more. But for the moment, he wanted to forget.
For the night, he was someone else. He didn't play tennis, he went home with strangers all the time, and oh bloody Hell he was still wearing his wedding ring.
In a manner he believed to be discreet, he slipped off his ring, into his pocket.
"Hi," he said, sidling up to the bar. "I'm Eric." Yes, brilliant use of a fake name!
"I'm Lily," she said. He noticed her decidedly un-British accent.
"Oh, you're an American?"
"Yes, unfortunately," she replied, imitating his accent.
"That was quite good actually," amazingly, he wasn't lying. "You been here long?"
"Feels like ages," she continued, dropping the accent soon after. "No, just a few months."
"Work?" he guessed.
Well, that went swimmingly. It appears the conversation is over.
"Can I buy you a drink?"
"Can I tell you that's a corny line?"
"Can I do it anyways?"
She gestured to the bartender.
"This is my last one."
Come on, think of something to say. Anything, do anything to continue talking to her. She'll leave soon and then you'll have to think about Lizzie and the baby and, no, no, wait. Stop. This is your time; she's having an affair with her blood shrink!
"So, do you have any tattoos, Lily?"
She turned away. Oh bollocks, fucked that one up. Wait, what's she doing?
She lifted up her hair, showing him the back of her neck, which declared, 'Dystopian' in fairly large letters.
"Eric, I want you to come back to my hotel with me."
"Well, if I must," he sighed. He was nervous. He tried a bit of nervous laughter.
"You're lucky you're so damned cute."
"And why's that, exactly?" he reached out and held her hand. It felt nice, and different. It wasn't Lizzie's hand and maybe that was what was so exciting.
"I don't usually sleep with married men."
"You know about that?"
"Yep. When you're out in the sun as often as you obviously are, you tend to tan. You've got a bright, white target on your right ring finger."
"We're separated," he said. He pulled her close suddenly, into the light of a shop window.
"You're very beautiful." And I thought you would be dumb. Guess I was wrong. Oh, better not tell her that.
"Why don't you kiss me?" and as soon as she said it, he did. It was fast and hot, lots of confusing twists. The newness was intoxicating.
And for the first time that night, he wasn't thinking of Lizzie. He wasn't thinking of her when Lily had her legs around him in some random recessed doorway. Or when he had a hand up her shirt and skirt in the elevator.
He wasn't thinking of Lizzie at all. And it felt good.
"Let's take a shower," was a marvelous idea, suggested in an eager, sexy voice by a stranger.
"Lily." He grabbed her and carried her off to the bathroom. Whatever work she was doing here, she must've been getting paid a fortune. The room was bloody huge.
"I've a better idea," he said, looking at the tub. She leant to turn the tap and he couldn't wait any longer.
Later, they sat out on the balcony, she on his lap and both of them still naked, she smoked a cigarette. She offered him a puff.
"No, I shouldn't."
"You look like a smoker," she said.
"I smoked a little when I was a lot younger, but I quit."
"Start again," she said. She inhaled and kissed him. He felt the warm tobacco smoke fill him up.
"Damn. Give us one of those," he said. She handed him that, and a lighter.
Soon, though, like all good things reality came crashing down like a poorly built suspension bridge.
First, his ring tumbled from his pocket as he yanked on his trousers. Chasing it down with a swear, he got up off his knees to find he'd put his hand on a massive stack of papers.
"What's this Lily?"
She wrapped her arms around him from behind. "How many times did we manage to fuck? I lost track."
"A million. What is this, Lily?"
"A movie script, Eric."
"A movie script?"
"Yeah," she stopped. "You honestly didn't know?"
"You're an actress?"
"I thought, well, you used a fake name and I thought you knew me too, and, and, oh God."
He turned around and reestablished their contact. She was so small in his arms.
"I'm sorry, Peter."
"Yeah," he felt a weird kind of relief coursing through his veins. "I'm not."
"Well if you're not sorry there's no way I am."
He laughed a little.
"If there are any pictures, I'm sorry."
"I didn't see anyone. I wouldn't worry about it."
"I'm not worried for me, this could only improve my image. I'm worried for you. You're supposed to be some kind of family man now."
"My wife's having an affair with her therapist."
"Rough. Rough and cliché."
"Let's go out for another cigarette."
"And then, let's double that million."
In the morning, he stumbled out, hung over and exhausted. He managed to walk back, ready for a shower and a nap.
"Where were you all night? You didn't have your phone or anything!"
"I was out. I slept at a hotel," partially true. "I'm not quite as mad at you as I was last night." Also true.
"Oh, thank goodness," she said with mock relief. "It's not that simple, Peter."
"It was as simple as, 'I just need some time, Petey,' last night."
"You got a letter," she said, before charging angrily out of the room.
He opened it. Inside, he found snapshots of his wife, his Lizzie, undressed, posed and smiling at the photographer. He felt anger unlike any he had felt before and once more took off. The letter was from the therapist's wife.
This time, driving, he got to Lily's hotel in no time at all. As he got out of the car, he realized he wasn't going to be able to forgive Lizzie, not for a very long time. Damn, now he was the one who wanted, never mind. That's not important.
He got up to her room and knocked.
She answered the door near naked, looking tired. She wore only her underwear.
"You always answer the door like that?"
"Only when I know it's you."
"Come out with me. Let's grab breakfast."
"Give me two minutes."
"I can wait," he said, pushing in to her room.
He felt edgy and paranoid, like she had someone else in the room at this very moment. She didn't though; he knew that in the deep, rational part of his mind.
She dressed rather low-key, jeans and a tee shirt, though she donned enormous sunglasses.
In the lobby he grabbed and kissed her. On the way to the car, he picked her up, spun around and set her down.
At the little greasy spoon diner he held her hand and kissed her every chance he got. He drove the two of them back to her hotel and they had sex in his car, in the underground garage. He'd never felt so uninhibited in public before.
"We wouldn't have managed that if you were any taller," he said, squeezing her close to him.
"Let's get back to my room?" she suggested.
"That is the best idea you've had so far, other than the one with the whipped cream and the—"
"Please," she interrupted. "Let a lady keep her modesty."
There's a strange thing that happens when people are too distracted by each other. They let down their guards too far, start to ignore their surroundings and most importantly for celebrities, they forget to watch for cameras.
The very next day, the pictures were everywhere. Pictures of them kissing, holding hands, even a couple of them on her balcony. There were rumors of security camera footage from the elevator and the garage.
The day after, even more pictures were released. This time, many were of the lovely Lizzie, bearing it all. Tastefully censored, of course, and strictly contained to the Internet.
It was the scandal to end all scandals for all of their respective careers. Lily, she would be fine. She'd disappear for a while and maybe everyone would forget. Or at least, they'd stop mentioning it once it was old news.
Lizzie, however, received the worst of it. The story was spun in the worst way for her. She was demanding, domineering, wouldn't let poor Peter see anyone, especially not other women. Post-partum rumors, drug rumors, she was even rumored to have adopted a baby and faked her whole pregnancy.
The media's timeline went like this: nude pictures discovered, Peter is devastated for several months and cultivates friendship with actress Lily, eventually two discover love together, enraged wife tips off paparazzi and leaks the story herself.
Why she would leak the photos and the affair with the therapist is never really explained. Who cares?
In the end, during the private divorce hearings, Peter discovered he wasn't the father of his son. After that, he never spoke to Lizzie again. He and Lily lasted a few months, ending it when she moved back to L.A.
And then, it was just Peter. Alone.
(Lily isn't based on any real actress. Lizzie and Peter are fictional sports stars so I threw in a fictional actress. She's older than Lizzie, brown hair, green eyes. Smart and indulgent.)