we left a trail of excuses as we ran with the devil

Two.

The warmest brown eyes she had ever seen sparkled when he was happy and danced when he was excited. But they didn’t grow cold when he was upset or blaze when he was angry. They shuttered, closing the windows so you couldn’t see inside anymore.

 

The layover in Washington had been short, but anxiety inducing and when she stepped back onto the plane she wondered what she was doing. She didn’t like crowds, didn’t like flying, and didn’t like people she didn’t know. Most of the time, she didn’t like people she did know. She sighed in relief as she sat down, glad that she was sitting next to the man that had been there before. He had slept the first four hours but was awake now. His eyes were curious.

“Spring break in the Big Easy?,” he questioned. “Not sure how much fun you’ll have this time.”

She hesitated, not wanting to encourage conversation. “Katrina relief.”

“Really?”

“Don’t sound so surprised.”

Despite her inclination to not get to know her seatmate, but comforted by the fact that they only had an hour left until they landed, she found herself talking more than she had in days. This strange man that sat next to her was magnetizing and she didn’t know why. His eyes shone as they went on.

He made conversation easy, and his voice was all southern comfort and warm blankets. He asked questions that she normally considered probing, but kept it flowing with joking laughter and easy smiles. She told him she was studying development at the design school in Rhode Island and disliked her snobby roommate and worked at the art gallery on campus.

He told her that he was also living in Rhode Island, not just on vacation like she assumed, and worked as an associate at one of the theaters she liked to hang around in.

He didn’t tell her that he had seen her around, her unruly curls had caught his attention back in late October, and his breath caught in his throat a little each time she showed up in the theater to have lunch with some of the student interns.

He was originally from New Orleans, which explained his voice, but after school he went where the first available job took him, and he stayed. She teased him for referring to his home state by its embarrassing moniker and he gave it right back to her by taking a shot at her Jersey accent. He was also going to be spending his vacation volunteering relief.

As the announcement was made that they would be landing soon, her now not-so-strange man excused himself to the restroom and Samantha decided it would be nice if she saw him again. He had the kindest eyes. He was a little older, but she always related better to people with a little more experience. And seeing a familiar face around wouldn’t be so bad.

When he came back and settled himself, clicking the seatbelt for their descent, he turned back to her and smiled. “My name’s Danny, by the way.”

His eyes were red and blown.

 

Matt had wandered off some time ago and there had been quiet talking from downstairs for half an hour. The her phone pinged with another link from her mother. A new headline, a new never ending voicemail, a new feeling of shame she hadn’t experienced. She heard Matt’s car pull away from the house.

Danny slid his arms around her from behind, pulling her close and sinking his face into her neck. He didn’t kiss her, just breathed in her natural scent as it mixed with the sunshine and laundry perfume she wore.

She had known Danny was there, had waited a full five minutes in silence before coming up to her, and she didn’t know what to say. She never knew what to say anymore.

“I love you,” he whispered into her sweater. “I’m sorry.”

Turning into him, she whispered back, “It’s not okay.”

She didn’t need to look up at his face to know the windows of his eyes closed as he stopped breathing.

 

 

we left a trail of excuses as we ran with the devil

One.

It started with a photo taken long ago, showing up in the news with the headline DANNY KING MAKES WAVES WITH CHILD BRIDE. What was annoying was that 1. Samantha and Danny had only known each other for a few weeks at that point, and there was nothing scandalous about them sitting in the sand on the beach, obviously mid-conversation; and 2. Samantha was nineteen years old when the photo was taken, not sixteen like the article claimed. Young, but certainly not a child.

That didn’t stop the endless stream of media attention she was now receiving, or the angry voicemails her mother was leaving on her phone every time she watched the newest gossip segment on television.

Samantha was rarely in the news and she preferred it that way. Her position had no need to be folly for the media.

Danny was always in the news. He was a stage director in New York and his brilliance as one half of the dynamic duo that recently brought their biggest show to cinema had brought as much propaganda as success into their lives. His scandalous past had been brought up in every avenue she ran across. She had lived and breathed it, then locked it in a box and threw away the key. It had been years and she was tired. And now the box had been broken into and she had been brought into mix.

Something in her snapped, and she had taken to her social media account to post a rebuttal. The first being her copy of the beach photo, captioned with the year and a note saying ‘This is nineteen.’ Swiping left was a photo of her and school friends, captioned with the year and ‘This is sixteen.’ Danny’s bosses were not amused.

“You’ve really created a stir,” Matt said, creeping up behind her.

Samantha had been standing at the top of the stairs, staring unseeingly at the wedding dress her mother in law had framed as a gift. It sat imposingly against the wall, almost daring her to smash the frame along with her hopes and dreams.

“All of this makes you wonder if there are still beautiful things in the world,” she whispered, wishing Matt would go away.

He wouldn’t though. He was writing something new, which meant he was doing anything to avoid writing something new. So he was here, in what she deemed her safe place, but it was also her husband’s safe place, so that meant Matt. Sometimes she wondered which one she married.

“It’s all too close and incredibly loud, yadda yadda, but I have to give you style points. You were passive aggressive and I liked it. Danny did too. Have you spoken with him about it yet?”

“If you’re asking me about it then you already know the answer.”

Matt was silent, which showed more tact than he usually had.

“He’s scared, you know. Why you’re suddenly a story, when his track record has never been too boring for the rags. The lawyers are pissed.”

“The lawyers are pissed that I responded, not that my age or involvement with a man are a story.”

“He doesn’t want to –

“Peter’s not losing Wendy, Matt. It’s been fourteen years.”

 

we left a trail of excuses as we ran with the devil

Prologue.
The second time Danny went to rehab, but the first time in Samantha’s experience, Matt called her a jailbait piece of ass that Danny was just having a good time with until something better came along.
 
Samantha hated him until she married Danny, when, ten years later, Matt quietly apologized the day before their wedding. She knew he had hurled his words in anger, but the fact that he vocalized her worst fears still haunted her almost four years into her marriage. 
 
She appreciated what Matt was to her husband: his creative partner, a best friend, and a brother; but they would never have a good relationship. She spoke to him only when she had to.

She doesn’t know much about his life previous to her, aside from the drugs. He has family in New Orleans, and his work experience is public knowledge. But the age difference between them means he had a full life before they even met, and when they talk about the miscarriages, he gets a faraway look in his eyes.

She’s afraid to ask what it means.