I remember the moment it happened, the single spark that set my body aflame. My Pilates instructor and friend stood behind me on the reformer and pressed her legs into my back, her hands into my shoulders. The strength of her long, lean limbs drove me into submission. Her long, blonde hair tickled the back of my neck.

“Connect your pubic bone to your sternum. Hold it. Even while I’m pushing you. Hold it. And breathe.”

But I could not breathe. There was no oxygen left in the room. It had been consumed by her touch, her fire.

Spontaneous combustion.

My chest heaved with the weight of this recognition, this passion.

Out of nowhere, in an instant, she burned me to the ground.

“I don’t know if we’re meant to love just one person in this lifetime,” she said later as we shared glasses of wine, too expensive for me to buy. She spoke of her Russian lover, his smooth chest, their volatile fights. I was both intrigued by her and scared of her. She was reckless, impulsive, dangerous. She was passionate—both in her love and in her anger. She frightened and excited me at the same time. And when she spoke knowingly about the lie of monogamy, I knew she was right.

Because for more than twenty years, I had loved my husband. And for a lifetime, unbeknownst to me until that moment, I had loved her, too.

Had Chris unleashed it with his permission? Had he opened up a Pandora’s Box in me that I could no longer ignore? Had it always been there inside me, locked and unattainable until he gave me the key?

It was a deeper knowing, this passion for her. It was in my bones, my tissue, my sinew.

I could not imagine a life without him. I could not live without her.

We watched a movie together that night, she and I. Side by side in her bed as the characters played their pre-scripted parts. But I could not concentrate because my face was on fire. I rested my head on her shoulder, my unruly curls mixing with her straight spun gold, and I dared not breathe. I was afraid to remind her I was there. I was afraid she’d ask me to leave. And I never, ever wanted to leave.

We fell asleep there together, touching, but not touching. Knowing, but not acting.

I was a storm inside, swirling, thundering, positioned to destroy everything in my path. I swallowed the rain and the wind in the gut of me, careful not to leave irreparable devastation in my wake, knowing it was destined to happen anyway.

When I woke at 2:00 AM to head home to the life I worked so hard to create, I didn’t want to leave her.

My legs, heavy with hesitation, could barely hold the quivering, drowning body of me.

I tucked her in, kissed her cheek, rested my hand on her perfect shoulder, traced the lines of her well-defined muscles. It burned my fingers, her flesh. Her skin marked mine, a branding, a tattoo.

I drove home unsteadily even though the wine had long since been absorbed into my bloodstream. My whole body trembled as I turned familiar corners and adjusted my radio. Vance Joy sang of elegance and electricity.

And I wept, breath ragged and reluctant, bursting out in waves. The hurricane waters released, and I wiped the tears away with my hands, the ones that had so recently touched her skin. They crackled and singed as fire met water.

I was still burning up in her flames.

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