She stepped out of her car and into the blustery cold winter evening. The wind pierced her coat and a chill shot up her spine. She shivered but did not regret her decision. She exhaled loudly, as if to push the frozen air away as she closed the car door. The cold snap had moved into its second week and she had no choice but to venture out that evening. Shoving her hands deep into her coat pockets, she balled her hands inside the woolen mittens. She stepped between the rows of cars, tucking her chin down deep into the front of her jacket to keep the wind away from her vulnerable skin.
She scanned the parking lot, pushing her fists against her uneasy stomach, hoping to ease the tight, nervous muscles. Her gut feelings were almost always right. She learned to trust her instincts but ignored them when she didn’t want to realize the truth. This time, however, she needed to know. There was his vehicle parked along the far edge, nearly hidden from view by an SUV that hadn’t pulled far enough into its own space. She squinted in the dark light and read aloud the number on the license plate. A brand new plate but the right truck. The sticker in the window confirmed that. Her stomach leapt and the queasy feeling intensified. She tucked her head down once more and kept moving.
Just walk by, just walk by and look in quickly and don’t stop, she told herself as she passed rows of cars and stepped onto the sidewalk in front of the strip mall. The smell of Asian cooking penetrated the air as she neared the large picture windows of the restaurant, the lower quadrant covered by rice paper blinds.
Just one pass, just one pass and then back to the car and home. She kept her head down as she walked slowly, and used her peripheral vision to take in every table and every patron. The restaurant was nearly full and she caught sight of them along the side of the room. It was as if time stood still and the scene became a snapshot. They were laughing, with eyes bright and smiles wide, dishes of food shared on the table between them. Instinctively her hands pushed in again at her stomach.
She hurried back to the car and slid into the driver’s seat, completely unsettled. Her hand shook as she turned the ignition, letting the lies sink in. Tomorrow, when she asked him how he enjoyed dinner, he would wonder how she knew. And when she told him she was breaking it off, he might be surprised. She would do it over the phone so she wouldn’t have to look at him and feel exposed. But after a few days when she had more time to think and allow the state of his affair to sink in, she would be grateful. Then the nausea would pass.