Thirty-five year old unemployed Rose struggles with unemployment, weight gain, and now an infertility diagnosis that requires expensive IVF treatments she and her husband can’t afford. Her obsession with becoming a mother before her biological clock ticks down allows ovulation kits to completely dictate marital relations with Jason, her loving husband for over a decade.
Desperate to reignite the fire in their marriage, Jason goes to the one person he thinks can help save his marriage — his long time friend, Matt. Unknown to the couple, Matt has an exotic motive that will either tear the couple apart through his manipulations or reunite them with a shared determination to expose their buried desires.
Rose flung the thick manila envelope on the passenger seat. It landed with a thump on top of the mail she collected earlier: an overdue energy bill, the latest Woman Within catalog that seemed to occupy her mailbox every other week, and what appeared to be a birthday card from her mother. The large envelope containing the in vitro fertilization cost estimates and related paperwork dwarfed everything it covered as a stark reminder of her situation.. Nothing simple ever comes with that many papers to sign, Rose thought to herself before sliding into the driver's seat. She pulled hard on the car door and slammed it shut. She placed her worn Coach handbag on the Toyota’s console between the two seats. The bag was a birthday gift from her husband Jason five years earlier along with his bouquet of flowers that shared her name. It promptly fell over from the weight of its contents on to the passenger seat after she pulled the car’s door shut. Rose stared at it and related to the marred leather bottom as she reached for the seatbelt. Tears of frustration welled in her eyes as she yanked the seatbelt across her torso. It stopped short and got stuck at her midsection. Frustrated, she pulled hard on it again to extend it to its limits in order to finally fasten it into place. She gazed over the steering wheel at the late afternoon sun streaming through the eucalyptus leaves hovering over the car’s hood while reflecting on the events that led to this point. They were happy five years ago when she was thirty years old; she and Jason brought home good paychecks, they purchased their three-bedroom condo, and agreed the timing was right to start a family. She started charting and they had sex multiple times in one week per month. Jason would laugh at her every time she would put her legs up on the wall afterwards as if gravity would help the situation. Two years passed without a positive pregnancy test, and the day after Jason gave her the birthday gift of a bouquet of roses that numbered her years, they decided to take it more seriously. Rose bought ovulation kits and spent her mornings urinating on test sticks. The amount of sex eventually dwindled to the day the testing device displayed a smilie face. The buzzing sound emanating from her bag snapped her out of her thoughts. Rose reached over and rummaged through it to find a text message from Jason waiting for her on her phone. Jason: Damage? Rose: 18k She pushed her hair back to prevent it sticking to the cold sweat on her forehead. They didn’t have $18,000. They didn’t even have the money to pay that overdue gas and electric bill sitting next to her on the passenger seat until Jason’s next paycheck. The year Jason gave her thirty-three birthday roses was when she lost her job at the accounting firm, and Jason’s employer laid off hundreds of people. The financial crisis peaked, and the stress resulting from their money worries took its toll on their marriage. The arguments increased in frequency and intensity, and Rose still couldn’t get pregnant. Her gynecologist ultimately recommended they consult with a fertility specialist, and the only affordable option presented to them was an artificial insemination series. Rose filled her empty days fruitlessly searching for a job, reading other women’s infertility tales on internet message boards, or watching television. She developed a sedentary routine that transformed her from a size 16W to 18W. Due to their financial constraints, Jason canceled their gym memberships, and the only eating out they did consisted of fast food with the exception of their traditional birthday and anniversary dinners. Months crept by without any kind of sex unless it surrounded a treatment, and even then it seemed forced and hurried. The absence of marital and physical joy hung like a thick fog between them, muting any discussion about their predicament. Rose felt unfulfilled and empty during this harsh low period in their lives, and Rose disguised it to her husband using the best abilities she could muster. If Jason had any complaints, then Rose never heard them, making her believe that he was perfectly fine with it all. She consoled herself that it wasn't his fault. Rose loved Jason and couldn't imagine a better, more loving husband. He did everything out of love and respect for her. But the only thing that gave her the release she sought was when she remembered the private conversations with her husband's college roommate, and that dialog ceased long before the infertility mess. Matt existed in her mind solely as text and sounds of struggled breathing on the other end of a phone in those early years of her marriage to Jason. Regardless of the medium, Matt would share one juicy fantasy after another, and urge her to share one of hers with him. He made her feel sexy, wanted, and it helped that he never asked for recent photos from her; there was an unspoken rule about that. He had an uncanny way of making her feel desirable, and she started to look forward to those naughty chats. They eventually became weekly occurrences, and then ultimately daily ones. She scheduled her workday breaks after he texted her something arousing, and none of her coworkers realized it wasn't a brisk walk that made her return to the office with a flushed face. She found herself in her car or home alone listening to that voice commanding her to push herself to the limits of her imagination. It was like she had her own adult phone service without the credit card charges. Matt grew bolder with his suggestions over time, and she couldn't get enough of those secret sessions. Each conversation was unique, and every time they spoke exposed another dark layer of Matt's complicated desires and her own. She reluctantly ended it after Matt begged her for one secret night with him. All of a sudden, the mental candy wanted to become a dangerous reality that threatened her marriage. It was no longer something like reading a book or watching an adult video because there was a real person on the other end of the line that physically wanted her. And she wanted him. Such a realization snapped her out of the hidden fantasy they shared; Rose couldn't bring herself to hurt Jason like that. The guilt was too much for her, and she realized that as much as she desired Matt, she didn't love him. She loved her husband and she had to focus on her marriage. And so Matt faded from her daily activities, but she played out their conversations in her mind over and over again years later. Rose never confessed or even hinted to Jason about what she did, and she was confident that Jason remained completely oblivious. He continued to talk with Matt about football, and they played video games online together practically every night until Matt's career took off. Rose heard Matt's voice emitting from Jason's gaming headset in his office, and it took every ounce of willpower she had not to pick up that headset and talk to him again while Jason was in the bathroom or getting a drink from the kitchen. She found an excuse whenever Jason asked her to join him and Matt for drinks, a meal, an event, or whatever it was. She couldn't see Matt. The last time she saw them together was the day she married Jason, and she didn't want her eyes to betray her past. She didn't know what would happen, and she decided to avoid him completely. Thoughts about Matt always stirred something inside her with its reminders of long ago conversations, and this time was no different. She looked down to see her hands gripping the steering wheel so tightly that her stark white knuckles contrasted her slightly tanned skin. The memory of his loud groans echoed through the phone's speakerphone, stuck in traffic on the way home, her fingers holding her entire weight forward over the steering wheel… That was Matt's lasting impression on her. The familiar longing for release fought to be the foremost thought in her mind as she put the key into the car's ignition, and stopped short of starting up the car to drive home. Her last unemployment check arrived last week, and Jason agreed she would use its entirety to spend it on whatever she wanted. Rose wanted to look and feel desirable to Jason this Saturday when he presented her with thirty-five roses for her birthday. She couldn’t remember the last time they had unscheduled sex, and Rose figured she would surprise him with her first full Brazilian wax. The process was embarrassingly painful, and she couldn't believe how smooth she was when she showered the next morning. It was the unfamiliar nakedness, coupled with the spark of desire from her deeply hidden memories of Matt's conversations, which caused her to furtively scan the empty parking lot before unfastening the top button of her jeans. She pulled on the lever to drop the back of the driver's seat, and eased her body down beneath the line of the car windows.
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