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Bargain of the HEART by Candice Poarch

Strangers, Richard Thought again. This situation between them had never been this strained before. Never.
 
After a few more awkard attempts at communication, dinner arrived and although the five-star restaurant's food was eloquently prepared, it could have been paste for all the appetite Richard had. Crystal merely picked at hers.
 
His wife was tense and angry--and beautiful. Dark circles outlined her eyes. Stress lines appeared on her face. She'd changed so much since the miscarriage. He was well aware that she had not forgiven him for not being there. He wished that he had gone straight home that night. That he hadn't stopped off. He would have done anything to prevent the loss of their child. After the miscarriage, she barely noticed he was around. He'd taken time from work, but she hadn't noticed that either. He'd wanted to share their loss with her, but he couldn't. She'd closed him out of her heart. And he couldn't talk about his pain to anyone else. To others the loss was something he should get over. He was supposed to move on but he couldn't move on without his wife. They were still hanging in limbo, together--yet mentally they were a world apart.
 
Richard reached over and grasped Crystal's hand. She withdrew quickly and turned away. What on earth could he do to ease her tension? What could he do to help her? He wouldn't entertain for a second the thought that she no longer loved him--that she really wanted to end the years of joy they'd shared. How could one incident tear apart what had once been a marriage that dreams were made of?
 
Richard sipped his tea in the tense silence surrounding them. He knew a bargain would be the best for both of them. Maybe if they could work together, her perspective and drive for life would return. Perhaps she'd willingly come back to him, because the woman she'd been before the pregnancy.
 
Crystal pushed her plate way from her with half the food left untouched. "Let's get this talk over with," she said finally.
 
Richard placed his fork on this plate and wiped his mouth with his napkin. Crystal was distant and aloof.
 
"I have a proposition to make to you," he said.
 
"What is it?"
 
"Let's make a bargain for the next three months. Let's try to be a couple--go through a courtship so to speak. Remember our courtship, Crystal?"
 
Crystal watched him angrily. "Why should I have to go back that far?" She swiped a weary hand across her face. "What difference would it make? We haven't been together in years. Even when you were here, mentally you were a million miles away."
 
"Forgive me for having a career to build--for supporting my family." Couldn't she see that her stubborn behaviour hurt both of them?
 
"I have a career,too. We also had a marriage, which always, always took second place."
 
"Crystal, marriage isn't a romance that ends on page three-fifty. It isn't lace curtains, romantic flowerly comforters topped with a zillion pillows, dancing in the moonlight seven nights a week, endless romantic candlelight dinners on the pation, or sweeping up the stairs with you in my arms like the perfect romantic hero. Hell, I'm tired after a day in the office. You were too." Richard sensed immediately that he'd said the wrong thing, but he couldn't seem to stop himself.
 
Crystal reared back as if she'd been struck. How could he belittle her offerings to keep the marriage alive? he leaned toward him. "I'm not stupid. I don't expect to do those thinggs nightly, but little gestures once in a while don't hurt. At least it would indicate you care. Otherwise, what do we have?" She pointed a forefinger toward his chest.  "I'll tell you what. We have nothing." Crystal knew she'd been tired too, but she still put hot, nourishing meals on the table, which he didn't eat half the time because he didn't make it home for dinner. A punch in the stomach wouldn't throb nearly as much as his words had struck her heart.
 
@BET Books 2002

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