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Deciding dinner could sit where it was, she walked onto their glassed-in patio to watch the thunderstorm. She had loved them as long as she could remember – the sound of the rain, the way the air felt in summer just before the storm hit, the beauty of the lightning, and even the crashes of thunder.

Paul had a deep fear of them, however, and that made her a bit uneasy. He hated to even go outside in them and would never stay gone even one minute longer than he necessary.

“Unless he doesn’t want to come back,” she spoke out loud, surprising herself. But the thought wasn’t new. Spending time with her had steadily fallen further and further down Paul’s list of favorite activities. Work, golf, taking the kids, especially Jack, on ‘Dad’s Days’ with his buddies were some of the many activities that took precedence over couple time. She used to nag him about it, but a chance look at papers on his desk three weeks ago had taken the fight, and for a moment even the breath, right out of her.

Paul had no idea she knew, and she couldn’t bear to bring it up. That he would never lie to her was the only request she’d ever made. The betrayal of that trust fortified the growing fortress inside. With that, he was pushed out almost completely. She had lost the will to keep any opening for him.

Mel turned toward the door and screamed involuntarily when she saw Paul standing there, looking wet and pale. Relief replaced fright, but quickly gave way to anger.

“You are dripping everywhere,” she snapped, brushing past him.

“Sorry.”

“Our dinner is ready, or I should say was ready forty-five minutes ago. Heat up whatever you want. I am done.”

A quick glance at the stovetop showed she had eaten nothing, and it was obvious, but he didn’t press the point. She headed down the hallway, past the doors of three slumbering kids, and into the family room. She slid her socked feet into the tennis shoes next to treadmill and climbed onto it. Within moments she was running steadily on a moderate incline, willing herself to focus on nothing more than her rising breath rate and the steady pounding of her feet hitting the rubber tread.

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