ON THE BRINK

Today she would find out if her entire life was a lie.

“Where to, Mrs. Carmichael? Shall I call for your car?” asked her ever-attentive doorman, Harold. 

Not today, thank you. Just walking up to Brooks Brothers to buy an anniversary present for my husband. It’s our 15th.”[Note to self: stop at your psychologist’s office first]. 

“Congratulations! You have yourself a nice day.” 

Claire Carmichael smiled at Harold and walked the short distance to her therapist’s office on Earl Street. Ringing Dr. Brink’s doorbell, she waited for his ubiquitous snobbish greeting of “Enter!” 

“Welcome, Claire. Last time you were here we discussed your suspicions that Jeremy was having an affair. Why don’t we pick up from there” he suggested. 

Clearing her throat and adjusting her skirt she began. “I’m no longer convinced Jeremy’s cheating on me. I’m not saying that he’s never had affairs but something is different. Things have changed between us. They’re better. Jeremy’s calmer, more attentive, grounded. He’s home every night by 6:00 and we enjoy our weekends together. No more overnight out-of-town business trips and I’m actually happy for the first time in years.” 

“Interesting” Dr. Brink acknowledged. “And to what do you attribute this change in Jeremy’s character?” 

“We had a heart-to-heart the other night and he confided in me that he’s been having panic attacks for quite some time. He finally started seeing a psychiatrist who’s helping him tremendously. He’s on medication and skips lunch twice a week to see his doctor.” 

“And you believe him?” 

I do” Claire replied, uncomfortable with his skepticism. 

Did Jeremy happen to mention his psychiatrist’s name?” 

Feeling rather nonplussed she replied “No, he didn’t and I didn’t ask. That would be prying and information I didn’t need to know. Now I really must get going. It’s our wedding anniversary and I have plans to make.” 

“Good luck, Claire. Ever vigilant!” he called after her. 

When Claire stepped outside there was a chill in the air and leaves were swirling about. That session unnerved her and she lingered for a while smoking a cigarette wondering what Dr. Brink meant when he said “Ever vigilant.” Muttering “shrinks!”, she wrapped her coat tightly around herself and quickly walked to Brooks Brothers. She chose a pair of monogrammed cuff links; they were elegant and ridiculously expensive but Claire wanted Jeremy to know how proud she was of him. 

Leaving the store Claire decided to go across the street to their favorite French restaurant and arrange for a special anniversary dinner to be delivered to their apartment. Looking up Claire’s heart skipped a beat and she felt dizzy. 

Exiting the restaurant was Jeremy, his arm around a captivating young woman. They were laughing, embracing and kissing as they walked. 

Disheartened and furious, Claire threw the cuff links into a trash can and hailed a taxi. 

“Where to, your highness?” The driver was uncouth with a big mouth, both physically and metaphorically. He chomped noisily on cigar and Claire could smell his disgusting breath from the back seat. But he probably never cheated on his wife, she thought. 

Just drive” was all she said and he smiled greedily as he flipped the meter. 

NAR © 2019

Originally written in 2019 and revised on 9/6/22 for Fandango’s Story Starter #62.

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