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Christian H. Morales 

 

is a Honduran writer living in Nashville, Tennessee. He focuses his writing mostly in literary fiction, but from time to time he likes to play with genres. Christian writes about everyday people, their routines, the things they love and the ones they struggle with. Christian writes about the things he would like to read.

Luna Woke Up at Three

     One day Luna woke up at three in the morning. Next to her in the middle of the bed, Federico, her husband for the last four years, slept as only a man with a clean conscious can sleep. Luna turned and saw her husband’s face, dimly lit by the lamp on the dresser, catching the gray hair adorning his beard. She could hardly see the Adam's apple she had liked so much when she first met him under his protruding jowls. His belly was prominent, the ribs that excelled in his teenage years no longer stood out. The years had been unforgiving as they passed through her Fede, as she liked to call him. Was the same happening to her?


     She took the sheet off of her to inspect her own body for the traces left by time, the same indelible mark she’d found in Federico. Her legs were still her biggest reason for pride, they weren't the legs of a teenage girl, not even those of a twenty-year-old girl, but they were outstandingly beautiful and desirable. Whenever she wore skirts, men let their eyes get lost in the admiration of their smooth skin. If she had to look for a big “but” related to her long legs it would be that they weren’t firm anymore, they suffered from a certain sagging that she hated and blamed herself for, it was her responsibility to take care of her body. Instead, she had neglected it for years. She wanted to have a firm body again, like the one she had at nineteen, before her first pregnancy.

 

     Luna turned on the lamp on her night table, got out of the bed and took four steps towards the six-foot-tall mirror, in front of which she stood to dedicate a clinical look from head to toe. She took her t-shirt off and looked at herself in the mirror again. She was using nothing more than a white cotton panty as her only garment. She was a thirty-year-old woman and knew that any man would find her beautiful, desirable, exciting, but her mind kept telling her that it was not enough to be only beautiful and desirable. She wanted more. She wanted men on the streets to turn their heads around, she wanted them to stumble and fall if possible, for she was a stunning woman. Luna wanted to look at her reflection in the mirror and see her stomach flat, so flat that two or three ribs would have to peek out and stand out under her creamy skin; she wanted well-toned arms and legs, so firm that people might think she was the captain of a volleyball team. And she wanted to let her overlong hair loose and let it dance with the wind. 


     She took two more steps toward the mirror and brought her face close to the glass. The surface clouded with her breathing. She saw black circles under her eyes and two wrinkles in their corners. They weren't big, but they disgusted her as much as the fall of her tits that moved to the slightest movement—even when they had to sit as still as pieces of a sculpture. She felt like crying, but she told herself that crying was for the weak and after all the things she’d been through—things that were worth crying for to drain the pain and yet they’d never made her drop a tear—she would not cry over something that had a solution, especially if the solution was in her hands.

 

     She returned to bed where her husband was still snoring peacefully. When she covered herself with the sheet, she touched Fede on the crotch, he was unconsciously hard. Luna needed to make love to calm her emotions. She caressed her husband’s erection until he woke up and with one eye closed, he asked Luna if everything was all right. She lowered his boxers to his knees, pulled aside the cotton panty and placed herself on top of Fede and rode him for one intense minute until she reached an orgasm born in her pubis and distributed throughout her body until she fell, exhausted, on her husband, who hugged her and kissed her neck with his eyes still closed. She returned the kiss and the hug with a feeling of dissatisfaction that she didn't know how to explain to herself.

 

     “What’s wrong?” Federico said in a deep voice.
“Nothing,” Luna said in a weak voice, before asking her husband to go back to sleep. 
The first thing she did in the morning on her way to work was to call her older sister and asked her where she could find a good gym.
#
   The problems between Luna and Federico began because he didn’t understand Luna's sudden desire to spend one to two hours a day at the gym. Every time he took a minute to look at his wife with full attention, what he saw was a beautiful and flawless woman. He couldn’t understand where all the defects she found in herself were coming from. 


     “Honestly,” he said the night he finally found the balls to address the subject, “I don’t think you need to go to the gym.”


     “Why’s that?” she said, while searching online for supplements for her daily routine.


     “Do I even need to tell you why?”


     She held his gaze. “Well, yes. Otherwise, I don’t see the point in making the comment.”


     “You are beautiful as you are,” he said. “Those women who go to the gym, they do it so because they’re bored or something.”


     “I’m not bored. I just want to be healthy, that’s all.”


     “You look healthy enough to me,” he said.


     Luna sighed, how could she explain to her husband, the man he had become ever since they got married, that she needed to be healthy and beautiful for herself, that she wanted to be a version of the woman she was when she still lived in Honduras, so many years ago? How could she explain this to a man who couldn’t even remember the last time he went out with his friends to play soccer on a Sunday afternoon? She understood his insecurity. She understood that it all was born on the fact that he wanted to spend all the time possible with his wife, with his children. Is that how a person without hobbies is like? she thought. Would he act differently if he was a movie lover or a reader, someone who needed time of his own to do the things he liked? Probably. But he was not that type of man, he was never interested in TV or movies, and the one time he tried to read a book, he fell asleep after reading two paragraphs. Sports were part of his life once, but after they met, he dedicated that time to her. With that he lost all of the things that attracted her to him in a physical level. He was no longer a slim guy who loved to run and sweat, who loved to show people his athletic condition; now he was a tired man who spent most of his days sitting on his ass, eating all types of junk food, a man who did not give a damn about his now extra-large t-shirts and the problems in his knees every time he crouched to pick up something. How could he understand her if he was uncapable of seeing himself with objective eyes?


     Federico was a man satisfied with the life he led and with everything he had. In his simple working-class mind, he never thought of the “something else” that might be missing in his life because he wasn’t missing anything, his life was perfect. And if his life was perfect, why on earth did his wife need to come up with this gym nonsense? He kept searching in his head for a proper answer, but only the worst reason came to his mind: Luna was having an affair. A friend of his (a Mexican once married to a Honduran girl too) once told him that those women were the devil, that they liked to do whatever they wanted, that they weren’t meant for the household because they got easily bored with domestic life, they were prone to infidelity too. After all this time was that guy right? He must have been. It was the only thing that made sense inside his paranoid head. 


     Luna, on the other hand, felt better than ever since she’d started her routine at the gym. The attention she received not only from men but from other women as well did wonders for her self-esteem. After a month of hard work, she began to see the results in her body: her belly looked flatter, her legs were firmer, and her butt was higher and rounder, not fallen and loose like before. When she looked in the mirror, she smiled at what she saw; even her sexual desire had increased. Since she signed up for the gym, she felt more in control of her life. Luna wanted Fede to do the same. She wanted him to go with her to the gym every night, not only because they’d share more time together (which was the main reason behind his complaints) but because he could get in shape again. She wanted him to be more aware of himself, of the passing of the years and the effect of aging had in their lives, but he avoided all her attempts by arguing that he needed his free time to rest and to be with his family. His conformist attitude irritated her. Wasn’t Federico paying attention to the mirror when he stood in front of it?

---


     The yelling started when Federico, in a jealous breakdown caused by his insecurity, checked Luna's cellphone behind her back when she was taking a shower after she arrived home from the gym. What drove him crazy were the inbox messages he saws from other men and their comments on every single picture she posted on her social media. Federico couldn’t bear to have his wife react with pleasure to flattery.


     “What are you doing?” she said, once she stepped out of the bathroom.


     “What does it look like I’m doing,” he replied with anger in his voice.


      “Why are you going through my cellphone?”


      “I’m looking for evidence.”


      “Evidence?” She grinned. “Of what?”


      “Of you cheating on me,” he said, with a casual tone that hid his anger in a very poor way.
Luna laughed. “Well, good luck trying to find anything,” she said and walked toward her closet. She opened two drawers, took underwear from them and dropped the towel on the floor. “What makes you think that I’m cheating on you?” she said with a curious tone.


     “Your behavior,” he said.


     “My behavior? You need to explain yourself.”


     But he didn’t. Every time that Luna acted like that, as though she had nothing to hide, he felt shame to even doubt her moral compass. But the feeling lasted only one day or two, and then he went back to business.


     The day he couldn't stand it anymore, he faced her and asked which of those men she was sleeping with. Luna's first reaction was a fit of laughter as she did the night she caught him with her cellphone, but then the expression on Federico's face didn’t change. She knew he was dead serious about his question. And the new accusation, the implication of her doing something wrong, something to hurt him, to put their marriage in jeopardy, offended her. The discussion they had next was the biggest one they ever had. Luna couldn't believe Fede's attitude; the claims he made to her had neither beginning nor end. It hurt her seeing Federico taking the same path as her ex, a jealous and possessive man who turned their relationship into a living hell that included physical abuse. The guy was jealous of her own shadow; he went crazy when he saw her talking to other men. Every time he couldn’t defend his accusations with facts and logic, he got into a worse and more sinister mood that reflected on his face everywhere. Luna was a woman devoted to her home and her job, but her then-husband couldn’t stand her working, to know that she was in the same place with other men; he hated not being able to keep her under strict surveillance twenty-four hours. One night, she arrived home from work with a beautiful smile adorning her face. It exasperated him not to know the cause for that smile and he used even the smallest things as excuses to ask why the fuck she was in such an excellent mood. “There’s no special reason,” she said, “I just had a good day at work.” That was all. He didn't tolerate the carefree tone with which Luna gave him the answers; the condescension hidden in her gaze.


     The guy had held back for weeks, but then couldn't take it anymore. That day Luna was returning from the supermarket, loaded with bags and one neighbor offered to help her. For Luna’s husband, it was unbearable to see her with another man, regardless of the context, much less to see her acting friendly with him. Once Luna set foot inside the house, he threw himself on her. He didn't even try to justify his actions later. 


     The result of the beating was a black eye, a bleeding nose, a broken lip, and bruises on the arms. Luna left him four days later, when she could find a cheap place to move into with her daughter and a fresh job where the asshole couldn't find her.


    When Fede started to act like her ex, asking suspicious questions, looking at her in different ways, sneaking into the bedroom to check her cellphone behind her back, the alarms in Luna's head went off. She was worried because she loved him, but she would not make the same mistake and allow things to escalate to physical aggression again. She would not stop going to the gym, not when she finally was in tune with herself. Federico would need to live with that because she would not give in, no matter how insecure he felt. If she gave in on that, she would have to give into many other things and that would be the end of the good relationship they had maintained so far.


     A friend told her that the way to keep her man away from the paranoia of jealousy was to give him the things he thought she was giving away to someone else. To have him under certain control, she showed herself more sexually open with him, and to her disappointment nothing worked.


     Federico knew that Luna was manipulating him with sex. In his mind, his wife had begun a process of transformation that had no turning back. Surely, she had a lover or two or three or one hundred, and she was going to bed with them the same day she did it with him. Those were his thoughts when he was alone at work, or when he had nothing to do, and his mind wandered into a forest of corrosive ideas. He loved Luna more than anything in the world, more than the son they had together, more than his own mother. He would do anything for her and let her get her way in almost everything related to their marriage, but that didn't mean he would let her cuckold him. No, sir. Someone had already made an idiot out of him, and the experience marked him. A second time was inadmissible. To think about how painful the previous experience was depressed him, especially because he didn't love that woman half of how much he loved Luna, yet, in the two years he was with this woman, she destroyed everything he was, everything he believed in. She broke his heart and the confidence he had in other people. He never imagined there was someone like that woman in the entire world, someone who coaxed and manipulated him into fall in love with her and thus be able to achieve what she wanted from him: American citizenship. Once she got what she wanted, she threw him away and asked for a divorce. Federico refused to give her one, he loved her so much he found it impossible to let her go just like that, but then she confessed she’d cheated on him with other men, better men than him in every aspect.


     After that terrible experience, Federico couldn’t stand being deceived, of being in love again with someone who wouldn’t think twice to break his heart. Luna and her need to look good made him think of his ex-wife, although she was not as beautiful as Luna, she was pretty enough to make any man fell for her. What could one expect from Luna, who was much more beautiful and charismatic?


     When he married his first wife, he did it not only for love, but for the fire burning inside of him that only she could suffocate. All his relatives and friends warned him about her, they all told him that his love story would end badly. By the time the ink of his signature dried on his divorce papers, Federico was no longer half the man he once was. She had snatched the guts out of him, the confidence and self-esteem abandoned him. It took him several years to recover part of the man he was and part of the credit for that went to Luna. She had saved him from his permanent depression; she returned the little self-confidence he now had. But everything good has an end, and Federico sensed that the end of their marriage was near. To think about it made him suffer, but he was sure he was not wrong.


     Luna didn't understand how Fede didn't believe he was the only man in her life. She liked flattery like any woman, and getting all the attention possible to inflate her ego, but she didn't take seriously any other man, any of their proposals regardless of if they were good looking or simply interesting. She had her feet firmly on the ground.


     In the middle of that first big fight, Luna let Federico know that if he continued with his stupid attitude things would not end well. “That's how my daughter’s father started,” she said, “and you know damn well how that ended.” It was the first time Luna made such a direct comment. “I'm not the whore you married before me, don't forget it.”


     At the beginning of the relationship, they both put each other’s history on the table; how many relationships they had, which were the good ones, and which were the bad ones. She told him about the abuse, the verbal and physical violence, and how she would rather be alone than having to go through that hell once more. He told her about how his ex-wife took everything he was and turned it into the imitation of a man that Luna first met. They told everything to each other without leaving a single thing in the inkwell.


     “I'm not like your ex,” Luna told him again as they argued. “I think in all these years together, I’ve never given you a single reason to distrust me. I see no reason for you to start now. I love you, and you know it.”


     The discussion took every turn around the same subject: her daily routine in the gym and the private messages sent by other men. She defended her right to have time for herself, to want to be healthy since she was not satisfied with her physical condition and her looks. “How could you be mad at me,” she said, “if you’re the one enjoying the benefits?” Luna ended up getting fed up with the argument, took the keys to her car and left the house slamming the door. Federico didn’t go after her.


     The following days were full of tense silence and sharp words. Luna went to bed dressed in long pajamas to make it clear to Federico that she was taking serious offense to every word he had said. He lay down to sleep every night with the feeling of guilt stuck in his chest and woke up every morning with the dignity offended by Luna's attitude.


     She continued with her daily routine, which included two hours of gym after work. He adopted a new one on the weekends, when suffocated by the frustration caused by the tension with Luna. He went on Fridays or Saturdays to one of his friends’ place to drink until well into the morning. It was the only part of the week he enjoyed. From Monday to Friday, he hated the clock’s fast advance to strike five in the afternoon because that meant he had to go to his mother's house to pick up the children, help them with their homework, and then sit on the sofa in front of the TV to wait for Luna to return from the gym, sweating the pheromones that made her irresistible. She arrived home before nine o'clock, greeted her children, and went into the shower. In the corrosive mind of Federico, Luna hurried into the shower to wash off another man’s sweat, caresses, and kisses. The more time they spent fighting, the more convinced he was that she had a lover and the thought alone put him on the edge of the abyss, about to commit crazy things he knew would torment him for a long time.


     One Friday night, before going to his friends for a few beers, he took the step he had avoided for weeks. He parked his truck in front of the gym and waited for Luna. He was in his truck for about an hour when he saw her coming out of the building in the company of two men and a woman. The group stopped outside the building. She seemed to have a delightful time with them, smiling and laughing. Seeing Luna smiling with other men led Federico to experience an anger he had never known in his life. He got out of the truck and walked towards Luna with long strides. She saw him coming and her smile disappeared instantly. Federico hoped that the expression on his wife's face would become a guilty one the moment their eyes met, but far from that, her face became tense and red with the spark of anger reflected in her eyes. Federico knew then that getting out of the truck was a serious mistake. Luna said goodbye to her friends and started walking to the parking lot where she had her car. Federico followed her, both walking in silence. Luna reached her car, opened the door, and stood there holding it, giving her tense back to Federico. He stood a few steps away from her. Luna turned to face him and said, “You better say nothing right now because I don’t know what I would do to you.”


     In the years they had been together, Federico had never seen the expression full of hate displaying on his wife's face before. He swallowed and said, “I'm sorry.” Luna's face went from anger to disappointment in a second. To see the sudden change was even worse for him. He could handle his wife’s rage, but not her disappointment.


     “If you come home late from being with your friends,” she said, “don't wake me up.” Luna got into her car, turned it on, and left the parking lot without taking another look at Federico.
The boys received him with alcohol, loud music, and, for the first time, women. Federico's face when he arrived at his friend's house was a poem dedicated to contrariety. Federico never talked about his marital problems; it was something he learned from his first marriage when everyone advised him to leave the evil whore, but he turned a deaf ear to the advice. As everyone was against their relationship, he couldn’t tell anyone about the problems within it because no one would give him impartial advice. When his best friend saw him enter the house with the long face, he gave Federico beer after beer. He knew him well enough to know that something was wrong with Luna—Federico never talked about his problems with her, only about the problems at work—and he knew that with a few beers in the system he would start if not to talk about what worried him, at least to relax and enjoy the party. 


      Later, Federico's eyes got lost in the curvaceous figure of a girl with long black hair. 


    “That’s a nice-looking ass,” said the friend who was watching attentively the covetous gaze Federico dedicated to the girl. Federico sighed, and out of nowhere opened up to his friend. He told him his version of the events, in which Luna had a lover—alcohol made him believe that was a fact—and how they laughed behind his back pretending she was going to the gym. He spoke at length of the gym, and the weaponized sex since the first time she went to it to get “healthier”.


     “There’s a simple solution for your problem,” said the friend when the girl noticed Federico’s looks and gave him a smile. “If you like this chick or any other in the party, you just need to say the word.”


     “I can’t,” said Federico.


     “Because you're sober,” said the friend before giving him another beer.


    The night took its normal course. Federico continued to drink Coronas mixed with shots of tequila. The drunker he got, the more his feelings changed about Luna. He went from the initial experience of sadness and disappointment into indignation and hurt self-esteem. He was an exemplary husband. He was the primary provider of the household. He helped with daily duties in the house and with the children. He gave her the space she wanted and lowered his head when she was bothered by things that she put on him, even though they were her own fault. Fuck, he was a role model of a husband and an exemplary man, and he didn’t deserve the way she treated him. If there was someone in the relationship who ought to be upset about some sense of dissatisfaction it was him, not her. Luna could go to hell; he would show her he could also play the game.


     Federico grabbed his beer bottle with confidence, long-lost and now restored. He took off his wedding ring and put it carefully in his pocket and prepared his best conqueror's smile to match his heartthrob. The long-haired girl saw him coming and smiled flirtatiously.


     The talk lasted a few minutes. From the outset, it was shown that both wanted the same thing and left the party to get to it. In the truck, he kissed her with such accumulated anxiety that he almost ripped her lips. She was twenty years old, and in case there was any doubt, her firm and seasoned body made it clear. The music from the party carried them far away, as far away as the few scruples that Federico had left. He was drunk, not only from the alcohol, but also from the girl's smell and the taste of her mouth. They did it in the car without taking their clothes off. It was a violent, sweaty, agonizing fuck that left them panting and smiling, but wanting more. They were about to go for the second round when knuckles knocked on Federico's window twice. His heart skipped a beat when he felt trapped red-handed, causing him to recover sobriety at once. For a moment, he saw Luna's face outside, but when he shook his head, he found his friend's drunken face. “Since you're in the car,” said the friend, “can you give her a ride home?” Federico nodded and started the engine of his truck, the pants still unbuttoned. The girl stayed there, a little ashamed without saying a word. Regrets attacked him when they arrived at the girl's house, and she invited him to come over. He gave her a lame excuse. She tempted him to stay, but he knew that by doing so he could say goodbye to his marriage, permanently. 


     When he parked the truck in his driveway that morning, the weight of his conscience was such that he didn’t feel able to set foot inside his own home, much less share the bed with his wife. He felt disgusted with his actions and disappointed in himself. How would he look his Luna in the eyes now? How would he accuse her of being unfaithful if he himself was a cheater? Hold on a second. That was it. His failure, his flagrant mistake, his infidelity presented to him now as the thing that could save his marriage. He considered himself a righteous man and knew that he could never reproach Luna for any lack of conduct when he had sinned in the worst way of all. She could have flirted with other men, but it was he who had slept with another person. He had broken his vows and nothing Luna would do could be worse than that. Inside his truck, he took a deep breath at the fresh perspective that opened before his eyes. 


       Federico put the ring back on his finger and stepped out of the car.

 

     Luna was sleeping when Federico entered the room. He took off his clothes that smelled of alcohol, smoke, and sex, put them in the laundry basket, and buried them to the bottom so that his wife wouldn't see them before he did the laundry. He went into the bathroom to take a shower, and while he did it, he started thinking about the girl; he didn't even know her name, but the memory of her lips and her sex caused him an erection. He left the bathroom, put on his boxers, and stood in front of the bed. Luna was sound asleep; the light that slipped from the bathroom bathed the room dimly. Federico stared at his wife. She was so beautiful and such a wonderful wife that he was certain he didn't deserve her. He leaned down on the bed and kissed her on the cheek, then whispered in her ear, “I promise to stop being a jerk from now on.” A drop of water came off of Federico's still wet hair and fell on Luna's cheek. He took off his towel and dried in front of the mirror. What Federico saw in the reflection was not the man he was when he met Luna. His belly was prominent, couldn’t see his Adam’s apple past his jowl, the cheeks looked like those of a child with problems of being overweight, and both arms and legs were thin and flaccid. He did not like what he saw. Maybe it was an excellent idea to sign up for the gym. In the morning, he would talk to Luna about it. Maybe if they started going together, their relationship would improve. He even remembered her suggesting the idea in the past, but he rejected it back then. It was definitely not an awful idea now, especially since he could see girls as hot as the one he fucked in the car that night. He could even get to date one or two, eventually. Why not? At that moment everything was possible. He went to bed, and when he felt the warm contact of Luna's body, an erection came to place again. Slowly he took off his wife's pajamas and then took off her cotton panties; he laid on his side and put his erection on her crotch. Luna woke up and without opening her eyes said, “Do you really promise to stop being a jerk?” He said yes, and she opened her legs a little to receive him. “I hope so,” she said before sobbing with the penetration. It was three o'clock.

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