It’s one AM when we finally make our way down the hallway to our suite. Exhaustion has set in and I cling to Bo’s arm for support. My Louboutins are twisted through my fingers in my other hand. I can’t believe I survived the entire day and night without taking them off. Beauty and comfort are not synonymous when it comes to designer footwear.
The tension between Bo and I is palpable. I suspect he’s stewing about Natalie’s outburst, now that he doesn’t have the distractions of our guests. His silent treatment is ridiculous. It’s our wedding night. We should be drunk on happiness and whirling in the anticipation of making love as newlyweds.
Pulling his hand up to my mouth, I kiss his knuckles and gush, “What a day! It was like the perfect fairy tale. Everything went off without a hitch.”
“Not entirely,” he grumbles and opens the door to the suite. I open my mouth to rebut, but decide it’s to my benefit to keep my comments to myself.
The room is beautiful and spacious. An oversized floral arrangement of my favorites, magnolias and freesia, are on the dining table, and there is a silver platter of chocolate-dipped strawberries and a bottle of champagne chilling in an ice bucket. “Oh, Bo, look how beautif—”
The word is lost in a gasp as my shoulders make contact with the wall. He’s up against me with the full force of his weight, forcing his tongue into my mouth like venom from a snake.
“Bo, please, not like this. Not tonight.” My voice is little more than a whisper as I use my forearms to gain an inch of space. “We’re married now. We’ve been waiting for this night for so long. Make love to me.”
He looks up at the ceiling, his frustration apparent. “Turn around.”
The vibration of his growl galvanizes me. He knots my hair in his hand and pulls hard to one side. He buries his face in my neck and bites down until I can feel the skin break. With his free hand, he unzips my dress, and it falls to the floor like a deflated balloon. I hear the quick, practiced undoing of his belt and fly: clink, zip. Silent tears roll down my cheeks.
“Shhhh.” He grunts. “Spread your legs.” He pulls my white silk panties to the side and takes me. It’s devoid of any love. I know that. In a minute, he’ll press my face into a pillow, and I’ll drift to that serene place in the back of my mind where we make passionate love and punishment fucks don’t exist.
* * * *
Sunlight. I fight the instinct to open my eyes and try to keep my face still. It’s useless. I sit up to find Bo lounging on the chaise, reading the morning paper.
“Good morning, baby. I didn’t want to wake you too early. You look so peaceful when you sleep.” He rises and makes his way to my side of the bed and lingers over me. “I had some coffee brought up.” He offers what appears to be an apologetic smile.
I stare up at him, my thoughts a scramble with scenes from last night. Fighting back tears, I reach for the mug. “Thanks.”
He gently wraps his hand around mine, bows his head, and releases a big sigh. After a moment, he begins to pace along the edge of the bed. “Izabel, I’m… It’s just you…sometimes you leave me no other choice. I’ll talk to someone about my anger issues. Forgive me. I will make it right again.”
I won’t let him see me cry. I have to stay strong, but I know if I answer him, I won’t be able to hold back a torrent of tears. I lower my eyes, nod, and hope I look agreeable. He leans down and kisses me on the forehead.
“All right then. I’ll leave you to get ready. We’re having breakfast with my parents. Meet us in the dining room in a half hour.”
The door closes, and I collapse back onto the bed. I turn to my side and cradle one of the pillows to my chest, sobbing raggedly.
Pull yourself together, Izabel. He wants to get help. That’s a good sign. There is a process to this kind of healing. We’ll work on it together. He’ll overcome this. He will. He will.
As I wipe away the tears, I see my wedding dress, a symbol of eternal love and happiness, now a mound of crumpled lace and tulle on the floor. Yes, he will overcome this. He will.
* * * *
I enter the dining room exactly half an hour later with renewed confidence, wearing my new Michael Kors Jersey dress and Espadrille wedges. My hair is a bit frizzy, but presentable enough after brushing out the curls from yesterday—the only thing I could do with only a half hour to get ready.
I spot Mrs. Carmichael waving me over. She likes to be called Tippy, though her birth name is Patricia. I think there’s a story behind the nickname, but it has never been offered to me, and I haven’t asked. She’s petite with golden blonde hair perfectly coiffed, and always so composed in her fitted designer suits.
“We’re over here, sweetheart.” She’s standing now and waving her linen napkin at me.
Tippy’s flare for the dramatic can be a lot to take at times, but she’s a lovely lady and always seems genuine with me. Given that she’s a politician’s wife, I suspect she isn’t genuine with most people. When I reach the table she gives me a gentle hug, air-kissing either side of my cheeks.
“You look lovely, darling. Married life certainly agrees with you.” Her cordial greeting is accompanied by a full glance up and down my body.
Bo and Mr. Carmichael stand to greet me as well. Bo’s dad gives me a clipped “good morning” accompanied by a weak hug. He’s always been indifferent toward me. I think he secretly hoped Bo would marry a girl with a more influential family name, like Bush or Reagan.
I sit in my assigned place, and Bo pushes my chair in for me. He leans down and whispers in my ear, “You look gorgeous, Izabel Carmichael.” With a subtle brush of my hair to the side, he gently kisses the imprint that remains on my neck from last night’s strike. Instinctively, I tense, but manage a feeble smile. He said he was sorry, Izabel. Just relax.
I appraise the buffet of dishes that have already been delivered to the table. It’s impeccably plated, but my stomach is heavier than a brick. There is juice and coffee, and Tippy has her signature pitcher of Bloody Marys in front of her.
“Izabel, darling, let me pour you a drink. They make the perfect Bloody Mary here.” She smiles and waves her glass at me.
“No, thank you.” I decline as graciously as I can. “I’ll eat some breakfast first.” To make it seem true, I shovel some cantaloupe onto my plate.
Tippy dives in about her latest charitable endeavors and lists the events she’d like me to attend. She once told me, Darling, a Carmichael lady has to be omnipresent, look opulent, and appear sober at all times.
I turn my attention to the men’s conversation when I hear them talking about our honeymoon.
“But we’ve already discussed this, Dad. These arrangements were made months ago.” Bo’s face is turning ever so slightly pink.
Mr. Carmichael holds his hand up to interject. “Bo, I told you plans might need to change. The agenda over the next few weeks is too important, and your absence will be detrimental to the campaign. We can’t allow these Limousine Liberals to get a leg up on us.” He pauses and takes a sip of his coffee. “Plus, you kids are young. You have plenty of time to travel.”
Not go on our honeymoon? He can’t be serious. It isn’t fair. He has no right to dictate this too. I hold up my glass and look at Tippy. “On second thought, I’ll have that drink now.”
Tippy’s eyes sparkle and her half-grin turns to a beaming smile as she tips the pitcher into my glass. I take two big, unladylike gulps. Wow, that tastes good. She gives me a wink, and I know it’s because she recognizes my bridled fury.
My poor Bo. He looks so defeated. He’d never question his father’s tactics. He aches too much for his approval and love. A glint of light shines off my ring. I’m his wife. He needs my support. I need to speak up.
“Mr. Carmichael, with all due respect, Bo has been working non-stop for months. The reason we delayed the wedding and the honeymoon—” I want to shout for the last three years. “—was so he could dedicate more time to the campaign.”
Tippy’s head bobs like a buoy, up at me, down at her plate. Even Bo won’t meet my eye.
Mr. Carmichael snorts and gives me an amused look. “Listen, darlin’, we don’t expect you to understand what our business entails. You just keep looking pretty, and Tippy will let you know what events to attend.”
Bo’s fingers grip mine and vise close before he lets go. Tippy hails the waiter and, ever so quietly, regards me over the rim of her glass with what seems to be a supportive wink.