“I can’t believe I have to self-quarantine. I don’t even have symptoms.”
Maddie Grant glared at her husband over the edge of her book.
“It’s not like I’m happy with you being stuck here either,” she mumbled.
“Yeah, I heard you. And I get it. I don’t want to be stuck in this tiny house with you as much as you don’t want to be stuck here with me.”
“We wouldn’t be stuck here if you hadn’t gone to that stupid political rally.”
“I went to that stupid political rally because it’s part of my job, Maddie. Remember what that is? A job.”
Maddie slammed her book closed. “I have a job, Liam. It’s called being a writer. I work from home. So, excuse me I’m not some big political influencer like you. Because you’re really making a difference in this world.”
Her comments dripped with sarcasm and bitterness. Liam whipped around to face her.
“What, like you? Your stupid romance novels are making a real difference in the world right? Maybe in the world of lazy, pathetic housewives. Give me a break.”
Maddie stood, slapping the book on the top of the coffee table as hard as she could. She pointed aggressively at him. “If it wasn’t for you, we’d be divorced by now. I’m calling my lawyer and seeing if we can sign these papers electronically.”
“We can’t sign them electronically. I already asked my lawyer. We have to go over the settlement details.”
Maddie cocked one leg slightly and folded her arms tight across her chest. “You can have it all if it means I can get rid of you. I’m going for a walk.”
“You’re not supposed to go for a walk,” Liam snapped, hands on his hips. “We’re supposed to be in the house for 14 days to make sure we don’t expose anyone else. If someone in the media finds out we’re going out for walks they’ll smell blood in the water and be all over it. It could look bad for Matthew.”
Maddie snatched her coat off the hanger by the door. “I can go for a walk,” she said through clenched teeth. Her tone was mocking. “I’ll stay six feet away from anyone I see, okay? I’ll even wear a hat and sunglasses so I don’t ruin the careers of you or the illustrious Rep. Matthew Daniels.”
“What happened to you, Maddie?” Liam called after her. “How did you become such a bitter person?”
Maddie turned on her heel and walked back into the living room. “I’m sorry? How did I become so bitter? Maybe you should be asking how you became so distant. Maybe you should be asking how you became so preoccupied with your career and your reputation and the reputation of your stupid older brother. Maybe you should ask yourself what it has been like for your wife to sit here at home alone almost every night and every weekend while you’re out flitting around with sexy little reporters and congressional staffers and —”
Liam scoffed. “Oh please. That’s such crap. I invited you to those events plenty of times. You just wanted to sit here with your computer and your Twitter followers. You could have cared less about what was going on in my life and my career. You haven’t cared for a long time.”
Anger coursed through Maddie at each word Liam spoke. Why would she want to attend events where she stood in the corner while he kissed the butts of every politician in the room and laid his hands on the backs of female staffers as he talked to them and winked at then?
Winked. Yes, he winked at them.
Always that stupid, fake wink that spoke volumes about his relationship with those women when Maddie wasn’t around. She couldn’t remember him ever winking at her; not in the 15 years they’d known each other and the ten they’d been married.
Now here she was, stuck in her house, her safe haven, with him for the next 14 days because he wouldn’t listen to the warnings about this virus spreading across the country and kept meeting with clients and politicians and the media.
She snorted. The stupid, pain in the butt, fear-mongering obnoxious and arrogant media, which for Liam mainly meant that red-headed reporter from the local NBC affiliate he spoke to all the time.
“Oh, Liam, you’re always so good at keeping me in the loop,” she cooed through the speaker on his phone that one day from his office in the back of the house.
“No problem, Wendy. You’ve always been good to us. I’m glad to give you the scoop.”
Maddie had heard a tenderness in Liam’s voice toward Wendy Jenkins that she hadn’t heard toward her in years.
In truth, it was Liam who hadn’t cared about Maddie’s life for a very long time. He was never interested in her writing or her accomplishments and had barely looked up from his paperwork when she told him she’d surpassed her personal goal for ebook sales last year.
“Hmm? Oh, that’s great, hon’,” he said, tapping his pen against his bottom lip.
Maddie had stared at that pen on that bottom lip for several moments, remembering how those lips used to press against hers, but hadn’t for months now, not longer than a quick peck on the way out the door anyhow.
“Yeah. I thought so,” she said softly, knowing he really didn’t care.
“That’s a big thing for a self-published author, right?” he asked, flipping another page of the packet in his hands, his eyebrows furrowed.
She shrugged, a twinge of annoyance hitting her square in the chest, his mention of the words self-published smacking of a back-handed compliment to her.
She’d walked away and left him to continue his work, reviewing speeches or gathering dirt on a political opponent, she wasn’t sure which.
Now, standing across from him while he shouted at her, veins popping up along the top of his forehead and along his neck, she was sick of it all. Sick of all the times she’d felt rejected and pushed aside. Sick of all the times she’d felt like she was competing for his attention with television cameras and self-serving, power-hungry politicians. Sick of the way he’d made it clear she wasn’t a priority to him anymore.
When he’d found out his diagnosis, he hadn’t even expressed concern she might catch the virus as well and actually develop symptoms, unlike him. He’d simply ranted about how ridiculous all this quarantining and so-called social distancing was and how it was going to make his job even more difficult since he’d have to do all his work from home.
What about her and how it was going to affect her? All her quiet writing time had evaporated the moment he’d announced he’d have to conduct business from their house for the next two weeks, maybe even longer. He’d never finished that private office he’d promised her all those years ago, instead filling the spare room with documents and political books, plastering the walls with photos of his clients. And to top it all off now they couldn’t meet with their lawyers and sign the final paperwork for their divorce, which she had hoped would have been finalized before mandatory quarantines went into effect.
She stomped out of the room and toward the front door, wishing she had taken her friend Amelia up on her offer to stay there during the quarantine.
“I’m single, no children and no elderly parents to catch it if you do get it so let’s be stuck here together,” Amelia told her over the phone three days ago. “We can make milkshakes, pop some popcorn and watch Brad Pitt movies. At least you won’t have to be stuck in the house with that jerk.”
“Make it a few Hugh Jackman movies and I may take you up on that offer,” Maddie responded. “But, seriously, all my paperwork for the book is here. I like my writing space and I’m sure Liam will be locked up in his office the whole time anyhow.”
But Liam hadn’t been locked up in his office. He’d been pacing like a caged animal for three days now and Maddie couldn’t focus on finishing the final chapter of her latest book in the Spencer Valley Chronicles series. Why didn’t he just go in his office, lock the door, and finish up some projects already?
She needed a very long break from him, but she knew this walk in the cool spring air would at least provide a reprieve. She’d have to return to the house eventually of course; the house where her brooding, distasteful, self-important, soon-to-be ex-husband was practically crawling the walls after his boss had ordered him to lock himself in quarantine. But for now, she intended to enjoy the warm sun on her face, the chirps of the many birds and the newly sprouting buds on the trees around her.
To be continued . . .