Rhonda looked up, startled.
“Admit it,” Rob said. “You can’t hide something like this forever.”
“I don’t know what you’re talking about.” Rhonda shifted uncomfortably in her chair. She was getting big. Too big to be sitting at the dining room table, too big to look sexy, and far too big to have any patience for games like this.
“You think I wouldn’t figure it out? You have the Q.”
Rhonda’s shoulders relaxed imperceptibly as she gazed down at the Scrabble board between them. She had been so careful not to have any further contact with Charlie since she had found out about the pregnancy. Almost every night she had lain awake, wondering if she had made the right choice. Her heart still raced at the thought of Charlie. The baby kicked in response.
She looked back up at Rob. “How could you possibly know?” She shuffled her tiles around, eyeing the openings on the board.
“The power of deduction.” Rob looked so pleased with himself. “There’s no Q on the board, I don’t have it, and there are only three tiles left.”
“How do you know the Q isn’t one of those three?”
“I don’t. I’m just pretty sure you have it. You have that look in your eyes like you’re going to score big. Besides, I left something wide open for you if you do have a Q.”
“Oh, you’re trying to go easy on me now?”
Despite her discomfort, Rhonda found her lips curling up into a smile. Playing Scrabble with Rob was one of the perks of their newfound intimacy. They still had their differences — sometimes they could really get under each other’s skin — but since she had announced her delicate condition, he went out of his way to spend quality time with her. He would rub her feet, cook meals for her, and even take her shopping. But the best part of it all were these game nights. She had forgotten how smart Rob was, how well-matched they were mentally.
With an over-exaggerated sigh, she pulled out a Q and laid it on the board, and followed it with an A and an I, to make the word “QAID,” attached perpendicularly to the first letter of Rob’s recent addition: DUMB. Their scores were so close that she worried about wasting the 10-point letter on a non-doubling or -tripling space, but as Rob had pointed out, there were only three tiles left. He could easily go out during the next turn, and then she’d be stuck with 10 points to subtract from her score. She’d always hated losing at Scrabble, and losing with a large point margin was unacceptable.
Rob broke out in a grin. “Just as I had suspected.”
“I fell right into your trap, eh?”
Rob’s phone rang, and she frowned at him as he pulled it out of his pocket. He gave her an apologetic look, but he still answered, putting it up to his ear and turning away from her.
She reached into the bag and pulled out the last three tiles, placing them on her tile rack. As she rearranged her letters, the baby kicked again. Who knew that a baby would bring the life back into their marriage? She thought things between them had essentially died before she had seduced him that night. Now they were treating each other with respect again. They were even having sex again, on a regular basis, and it was good. Not as good as it was with Charlie, a small voice in her head insisted. She shook her head, as if trying to dislodge that voice. It’s good enough, she told that voice. More than I deserve.
Rob hung up the phone and looked at it quizzically.
“Who was that? And did you tell whoever it was that you were busy losing spectacularly to your wife?”
Rob was silent for a few seconds. “Remember how I told you about that strange guy at the party?”
“The mystery crasher with the fancy mask? My girlfriends still can’t stop talking about him.” She kept a smile on her face, but looked at him warily. From her friends’ description, she could only guess that Charlie had crashed the party. She never saw him that night, however, and since his emails and texts stopped abruptly after the party, she figured his encounter with Rob that night made him realize that she’d never leave her husband. At least that’s what she had hoped.
“That’s the one. He wants to see me.”
Rhonda felt a huge lump growing in her throat. “How did he get your number?”
“I’m not sure.”
“What does he want to talk about?”
“He didn’t say.” He put his phone back in his pocket and looked straight at her. Deliberately.
“Be careful, Rob,” she said slowly, hoping her voice didn’t belie her nervousness. “Now that you’re running for office, everybody wants you to do them a favor.”
He shrugged. “It’s probably guy stuff. He’s a pretty decent dude; I wouldn’t mind helping him out.” As if to change the subject, he pulled out his tiles and laid them on the board, spelling TRUST. It was a triple word score, over which he wasted no time gloating.
She glanced at her tiles and gasped as she saw the letters arranged in the word that would give her the win. Charlie’s call had stolen the levity from the evening, and all she wanted now was to get as far away from Rob as possible. She needed time to think, to figure out a plan, some way to keep Charlie quiet.
Forcing her lips into a big smile, she made a show of slowly placing the rest of her tiles on the board. “I think you’ll find that your best efforts were in vain, babe,” she said just a little too happily. “Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to go to the bathroom for the 40th time today.”
Rob watched her leave, his brows furrowing slightly at her behavior. He looked down at the board and frowned even more as he saw Rhonda’s seven-letter winning word: SECRECY.
This week’s Indie Ink Challenge comes from rishaaa, who gave me this prompt:
She’d always hated losing at Scrabble.