One Ring:Suncoast Society

By: Tymber Dalton

Chapter One

Amelia Parsons sat on the picnic table and watched the storm blow in off the Gulf. One of those grey, blustery, cloudy Saturdays, a late-winter weather system where it felt like Florida was simply phoning in its rep as the Sunshine State because it was too damn hungover from partying with the tourists to give a shit.

She watched this frontal boundary coming in through the bull’s-eye formed by pinching her wedding band between her left thumb and forefinger and staring through it. But peering through this ring didn’t bring the Eye of Sauron swinging around to pointedly look at her.

It only brought her a lot of sadness.

There wasn’t much left to do except file the paperwork and move out. Mike refused to talk, refused to go to a counselor, refused to see there was a damn thing wrong with their marriage.

And now that her eyes had been opened, she couldn’t look away from the truth burning a hole through the middle of her gut.

Her husband was happy phoning their marriage in. Had been for several years now.

She’d just been too blind to see it. Willfully ignorant, thinking this was the best it would ever get, that she was stupid and ungrateful to the Universe if she challenged the way things were.

That she was lucky he was a hard worker, had a decent job, and didn’t cheat on her.

It saddened her even more to realize that, at some point, she had fallen out of love with him. She wasn’t even exactly sure when that had happened. Did she still love him? Oh, absolutely. He was a good man, overall.

In love with him?

No. That ship had sailed.

And then it hit an iceberg and sank.

When she’d first showed up at her friend Marcia’s house to talk about it three weeks earlier, Fate had stepped in. From what she’d read via joining the book club Marcia had steered her toward, to accidentally discovering her friends’ secret hobby. She’d never suspected Marcia and Derrick were into anything kinky in their private lives, much less that they ran a BDSM club. Looking back, she could clearly see their relationship dynamic, yes, now that she knew what signs to look for.

After twenty years of marriage, her friends were still happy and in love with each other. Which proved it was possible. That Mike was wrong about how the passionless rut they’d settled into was “normal.”

Just because it’d been good enough for his parents and two older brothers and their wives didn’t mean it was good enough for her. She refused to settle.

And now she knew why her two sisters-in-law always looked miserable at every family get-together, always grousing about their husbands. Why her mother-in-law always seemed to be grumbling under her breath about her husband—until he died—and about her sons and who knows else.

I’m an idiot.

She and Mike, fortunately, didn’t have any kids.

Then again, you usually needed to have sex to actually have kids.

I’m thirty-seven and have to start my personal life all over again.

She didn’t know when her charming, handsome husband, who’d worked his ass off to win her over in college, had turned into a moss-covered rock.

Today, his big plan was to sit in front of the TV in the living room and watch hockey, or basketball, or maybe cricket or something. She didn’t know. Sports. That was what he’d said when she’d asked him last night if he had plans.

When she’d asked if he’d like to go out to eat, or see a movie with her, the reply had taken a sledgehammer to what little hope she’d held onto.

“You’re an adult, Amy. You don’t need me to go with you. If you want to go out to eat or see a movie, go. Or call one of your friends. I don’t want to go anywhere or do anything today.”

That was another thing. He was the only person who called her Amy. Everyone else called her Mel. It’d started out as a joke in college, when he’d called her that and teased her when she corrected him.

At the time, it’d seemed playful, and a wee bit attractive, that he had a backbone and stood up to her, took a little bit of control.

It was only later that she realized no, it was just him being stubborn and not giving a shit about her feelings.

It finally hit her.

She hated being called Amy.

And, for the first time, she could admit it to herself.

“I am not Amy,” she whispered. “I’m Mel.”

Crushing the ring against her palm in her tightly clenched fist, she finally burst into tears.

* * * *

Mel breathed a sigh of relief when Marcia answered her phone. “Hey, sweetie,” Marcia greeted her. “How you doing?”

She’d moved to her car for this conversation. The winds had picked up, and now drops of rain were starting to spatter against her windshield, making marks in the salt-spray residue that had already coated the glass while she’d been parked there.

“You know how you and Derrick offered to let me stay at your place for a while?”

Marcia’s tone changed. Concerned. “Yeah?”

She took a deep breath. “Is that offer still good, to stay in your spare room for a while?”

“Aww, sweetheart, of course. Are you okay?”

“No. But maybe I will be once this is all over.”

“He’s still refusing to go to a doctor or counselling?”

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