Margery and Diggory, her aloof husband, walked into the Couples Counseling Group with matching unease. Also matching were the color of her dress and his tie; her purse and his belt and boots; and their wedding bands, untarnished, still shining bright.
But during the first few months of their marriage, their relationship had come to be slightly duller than before, a film of boredom and petty arguments covering an otherwise pristine courtship.
Diggory cared and wanted to maintain and strengthen their bond, but being aloof, rarely set plans into motion and allowed Margery the discretion on most decisions, big and small.
The Couples Counseling was recommended, and at Margery’s discretion, they went.
The room was in the back of an art gallery, so upon walking in they were instantly distracted by the decorated walls. The gallery had been running an expose of artworks based on The Letter “F”.
One painting showed “F”s of various colors and design melting across a family eating dinner around a diningroom table.
Another was simply a framed essay of one paragraph that had been written by the artists nephew. The grade was a beautifully imposed, calligraphic “F” inscribed in a fat, red marker just below the title. It could have been brushed on by a Confucian monk. The real artist, a 7th grade teacher, did not accept credit.
Margery and Diggory circled the room once, stopping at each piece before continuing to the back, where a circle of chairs, most taken by nervous couples, circled a circular coffee table, coffee, cups and creamer included.
Feeling dizzy, Margery and Diggory sat down. The chairs were tied together by the pair. The couples were introduced by the group leaders, a man and woman who were not a couple, but were the curators of the aforementioned exhibit.
“We will begin the session with something fun,” the female curator group leader began. “Has anyone ever done a trust fall?”
The group murmured replies. Margery and Diggory took their spots with the other couples, arranged into rows by the group leaders so that nobody would collide during the exercise.
The first fallers and the first catchers were decided: Geoff would catch his husband, Michael; Susan would catch her husband, Fred; Tristen would catch his wife, Ida; Nicole would catch Sasha; Aaron would catch Penelope; Monique would catch Brian. Diggory was to be caught by Margery.
The couples lined up for the game with silly smiles, feeling childish. The exercise was working, loosening the shoulders of each individual, strengthening the group during this most important first encounter.
“Sure you can catch me?” Diggory teased Margery.
“Sure can, Bony.”
Diggory was very angular, and taller than Margery, but Margery outweighed him. Not only that, but their habits differed in that Margery attended a biweekly yoga class and took regular trips to the gym, and Diggory did not. Diggory was, in fact, pretty lucky to be with a woman who was so active, him usually being so inert.
“Alright,” the male curator group leader said, “everyone ready?” The group murmured replies.
“Sure am,” Diggory chimed, winking at the instructors, then turning to wink at his wife standing behind him, giggling from the comically heightened tension in the room full of business-minded adults.
The group counted together, “ONE, TWO, THREE! GO!”
The front row of spouses tipped backwards on their heels. For a moment Diggory was suspended in a free fall that would end at best with a moderate concussion on the linoleum flooring, at worst with a fractured skull if not for Margery, his significant other, waiting there at his back to catch him.
Margery bent her knees, preparing to catch Diggory. She cut her giggling short, inhaled quick and sportily as she braced for the exhale of the catch, and at the last moment, just before Diggory landed safely in her arms, juked to the side.
Tall Diggory fell like a pine tree, but more accurately like a man expecting his own bed behind him. All that met him when he fell was linoleum, cold and unforgiving.
The landing blow knocked the air from his lungs with a sound that has no word, but onomatopoeically sounded something like: ‘Goooffuaaugck’. This was followed by his head smacking the floor with a solid thud. Everyone in the room jumped back at the sound, including Margery. Diggory’s gangly arms and legs settled around him at awkward angles.
The Couples Counseling Group all stared in horror for a brief moment at the unconscious man, perhaps dead. Then all eyes were on Margery, who started from the sudden attention, blushed, shrugged mischievously and burst into mad and ridiculous laughter.
No explanation was ever given.
In the future, the curators decided, the Couples Counseling Group would never again begin with an exercise in Trust.