A Sob of Release

Half an hour later, Naomi’s heart was still pounding in her chest. She looked over at Devin to make sure the glow from her phone had not alerted him to what was happening. She knew Sophie was dealing with a lot with the pending divorce and deportation, but she had not expected those words: I’m in love with you.

To calm herself she focused on the streetlight illuminating the room from outside, counted the number of cars that passed on the street, and concentrated on her still pounding heart. It was no use, she couldn’t sleep.

Sophie had wanted to come over, to talk about her feelings face to face, but Naomi had ignored the confession. “That’s just the stress talking,” she texted. “You have to know everything will be alright.”

“What does that have to do with what I said, Naomi? I love you.”

Naomi was good at ignoring confessions. Two years sooner Devin had come in after the ten o’clock news, the pungent scent of liquor and marijuana coating his clothes and skin, and she had not even asked him where he had been.

“Plate’s in the microwave,” she’d said.

“I cheated Naomi,” he announced.

To this she said nothing, felt nothing. She did not ask one question and she slept as sound as ever. Something must have been wrong with her if she could do that, she knew, but she carried on in this way until it became like normal. Her indifference was like a second skin she zipped on each day.

When Sophie started as a temporary legal assistant at Kearney, Luke and Sterns three months prior, Naomi was just starting to settle in. It was Devin’s idea that they move away from Atlanta and start fresh. Hartford was cold and boring, but the firm paid nearly double what she’d made back home, so she didn’t complain.

Lying in bed, only two thoughts made her feel alive: the pain she felt knowing she must have hurt Sophie and the remembrance of the sweet and tender kiss they shared hours before. Just as a tear began to roll down her cheek the chattering chime of the doorbell caused her to suck in the air around her. Devin stirred, but did not wake up. Who could it be? Naomi thought.

Quietly she peeled back the sheets and stepped into pink slippers with dark blue hearts. As she made her way down the dark hallway and staircase, it occurred to her that it may have been Sophie at the door. At that she quickened her step, to avoid a second ring that might wake Devin.

When she got to the door she opened it just enough to see streams of mascara pouring from Sophie’s fear-struck eyes.

“I’m sorry—” Naomi started.

“No, it’s not that. Pack a bag quickly. I have to get out of here now and need you to come with me.” Sophie said, her British accent even thicker than usual.

“What—” Naomi started, but the words were lodged in her throat.

“They’re going to come after me eventually, so I thought I should just leave now. Let’s go to Barbados like we said, as a going away.”

“I can’t—”

“Don’t you even think about saying you can’t, Naomi. You can’t stay trapped in this life you hate forever and I’m offering you one week of escape, of freedom. I’ll wait for you in the car.” Sophie said, leaving the door open for Naomi to follow.

Naomi found herself alone with her thoughts once more. Biting her lower lip, she glanced up the stairs. She could do it. She could call her boss and say something had come up. And Devin, she could tell she was leaving on business. The thought of lying to him struck a nerve somewhere deep inside her. Could she really do to him what he had done to her all those times? She thought.

When the engine started on Sophie’s rental Naomi’s eyes began to fill. She knew she could never be as free as Sophie. She knew that freedom like that didn’t exist without a price.

No. She would stay, planted in the firm foundation she had created for herself. She wondered if Sophie was even free at all, always off on a new adventure, never having true home. She was miserable, but what Sophie was offering was not the kind of freedom she needed. With that resolute thought, the calm Naomi had been seeking overtook her. She shut the door quietly as she slid down the wall in the foyer, and for the first time in as long as she could remember she let out a sob of release.

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