Ariana's glance noticed the slow opening of her bedroom door. She expected Merissa and saw Joseph. He stood in his golfing clothes, holding an expansive bouquet of fresh flowers.
To his surprise, his wife appeared refreshed -- no puffy eyes or dark circles masked her attractive face. Her night wrap still covered short hair.
Usually, at ten in the morning, Arina would be fully dressed and ready for Sunday morning activities with their daughter.
There was brunch with friends or a museum, or an event in the city that kept them quite busy. After their festivities, she'd prepare Sunday dinner.
If home, Joseph made certain he sat at the dining room table with them.
Standing in her favorite white cotton robe, she appeared aloof. He frowned, watching her set a pair of shoes near a dress she selected. Without a word to him, she headed for the shower.
He softly called her. She stopped without turning. Joseph explained, "I couldn't get back last night. The tournament ran over. After dinner and drinks, I was in no shape to drive."
"So you say, Joseph."
Exhausted from his sex-a-thon with his sister-in-law, there was no energy left to argue with his wife. He asked, "Are you and Merissa preparing to go out?"
"Yes. Church." She turned to challenge him. "You should come." She truthfully expected him to decline.
"I'll go with you." He sat the flowers on the armoire and considered the local church and knew services would be brief. Hopefully, his attendance would improve her sour mood.
"Would you like for me to help with Merissa?" he offered.
She recognized his helpful antics that usually followed his all-nighters. She wanted nothing from him.
"I don't want you to come. I'm going with Monica."
"But, you just asked me. Wait..." Squinting, he asked, "Who's Monica?"
Arina shook her head. He didn't know anything. "She was Merissa's nurse at the hospital."
Sliding his hands into his pockets, he asked, "So...is there not enough room in church for Monica and me?"
"I'm going to a new church." She pulled away for the shower. "You wouldn't like it."
He laughed. "What's not to like? There are people, pews, and a priest. We'll get an uplifting message."
"Joseph, this is a non-denominational church."
Non-denominational? He'd heard the expression before, never cared enough to learn what it meant. With his eyes darting back and forth, he asked, "Is this some kind of evangelistic church.
With people jumping and falling out? You can't seriously attend something like this." He questionably tilted his head at her.
Not deterred by his rhetoric, she moved on.
"You're not going and you most definitely will not take Merissa," he said, after witnessing her defiance.
She looked him in the eye. "Joseph, you do not dictate my goings and comings."
What happened to her calm demeanor? He could not say. Regardless, he would not tolerate disobedience in his home from his wife. "As your husband, I say. It's my place to protect you.
A place like that is harmful to your mind. It's high-quality brainwashing, to take advantage of the vulnerable and acquire as much financial support as they can.
I won't let you get entangled with their scam."
"You're wrong, Joseph. It's about peace and love, repentance and salvation." She folded here arms.
At that, he laughed. "Listen to you. You sound like one of them already.
You're not going and that is final! This nurse probably knows how wealthy you are and has targeted you," he ended, disgusted with this Monica person.
"In fact," he continued his rant, "I don't want you seeing her anymore either." He stood back and fisted his hands against his waist.
Arina angled her head and examined him. "You know what Joseph, if you really were a protecting and loving husband, your words might hold merit with me. You're not even a husband!"
Neither one of them saw Merissa standing in the bedroom doorway, clutching her princess kitty doll.
Arina barreled on, "You are gone half of our lives. When you're home, you're not emotionally or mentally with us."
"Oh, so that's why you're fighting me on this. Because I couldn't make it home last night?"
"I'm no longer fighting YOU Joseph. I've had enough. I want a divorce."
Joseph stepped back, saw the caustic look in her eyes.
"Be careful, Arina. I'm an attorney and I can make your life hell. Life is good for you now."
"Good!" she shouted. "This..." She lifted her arms and let them fall. "...this is hell Joseph. I never know who you're with and what you're doing, and I know you're sleeping around.
I refuse to live like this. I'm moving out!" She pushed passed him and they heard a thump against the doorway.
Merissa fell to the floor. Arina rushed toward the sound and found Merissa quaking. Her eyes stared blankly into a disturbed reality as saliva slipped out of her mouth.
Arina, swiftly reacted, placed her child onto her side. Rubbing her forehead, she said, "It's OK baby. It's OK. It'll be over soon."
Paralyzed, Joseph stood over them. He couldn't stop this. No amount of money he could pay would deliver his little girl of this torture.
And why had it come? Was it because he was not a good husband, as Arina just said?
Eighty seconds later, Merissa stilled upon the white carpet. Arina caressed her child as her eyes closed.
"Is she alright?" Joseph whispered.
"She'll sleep now. I need to call her doctor."
Joseph asked, "Let me get her up?"
Arina rose with Joseph bending, then lifting Merissa in his arms, carrying her to their bed. He covered her with the white duvet, sat on the bed, and just watched her.
He wanted to speak, but couldn't.
Arina walked around the large suite until she found her cell on the window seat. "I need to call the doctor," she repeated.
He nodded, folded his hands together and sat them in his lap. His daughter and wife were suffering. This was the nightmare they'd be living while he was feeding his voracious sexual appetite.
And sadly, as he stared down at hands that could not change any of it, an insane feeling of helplessness choked him. He could not push down his increasing desire for release.
The words, Eve, I need you, played over in his mind. Before the day would end, he knew he would feed again.