Welcome Back

 

            As I looked at the man I have been married to for 20 years, I fought the urge to walk up to him, stare him in his six foot 2 ugly face and slap the shit out of him. I know some of you reading this will think “How violent of her to think such a thing.” But the rest of you that have not thought of that, must be married to someone related to the man I so want to slap. And you are reading this far because you want to know if I succeeded in slapping him or how I controlled my urge not to.

            When I finally control my inner demon, and trust me, I’ve gotten really good at that lately, I realize that slapping him is so not worth the time or the energy or the red stinging fingers that will result from it. Although I will admit, thinking about it, does give me a certain rush. Quite honestly there was a time when so much was worth doing and not doing but today, as I sit and stare out the window of the house he swore was our dream home, something else he convinced me was for my own good, I wonder what in the hell was I thinking when I married him. I know it wasn’t love at first site or even lust. At least then I could have a reasonable explanation for all that went wrong; for all I chose not to see.

            Okay, I know I’ve left some of you hanging. Why does she want to slap him? My reasons don’t have to be the same as yours but the feeling is mutual. I’m sure that whatever reasons some of you have for wanting to do the same to the man you said I do to years ago are related in some way to mine. We are all sisters in this marriage circle. The husbands are on the outside and we are on the inside. It’s no big secret, that’s just the way it is.

            Before I go on any further, let me give kudos to the women that still are happy in their marriages and don’t want to slap the shit out of their husbands. My hat goes off to you and in my next life, if given the chance, I’d like to taste a bit of the happiness you’ve managed to sustain all the years you’ve been married, but I ask you this, have you ever thought just once of wanting to kick his ass? If so, then stay tuned, more of those days are coming. I don’t want to rain on your parade, but when that first time comes, and you start to feel ashamed that you could think that way about the father of your children, it won’t be long before you actually start to dream about whipping his ass into reality. And before long, you’ll be standing on the line at your local Stop & Shop, while the little old lady in front of you, hands with trembling fingers, her coupons to the cashier as you imagine, cooking the dog food she’s paying for and serving it to your significant other for dinner. Well, that’s better than stinging your fingers with a slap to his face.

 If he’s anything like my husband he’ll think the burgundy colored beef has a nice spice to it, might need a tad of something but otherwise will complement you for finally cooking his meat the right way. And you sit and smile adoringly at him, anticipating the hours before he winds up sitting on the toilet bowl grunting like the pig he is. Oh my! Do I sound a bit angry? Ya think?

            I don’t think I’m angry any more. I’m too tired of that emotion. I think I’m a cross between numb and I don’t really give a shit any more. Again, those of you, shaking your head thinking, “Sounds to me like she’s got some anger management issues,” have no clue what all of this means but if you are shaking your head in agreement right now, pounding an imaginary “RIGHT ON SISTER!” fist in the air, you know exactly what I’m talking about.

            I’m not anything like the psycho wives who run their husbands over with their cars because they caught their spouses cheating. My feelings are more intense than that. I wouldn’t mess up my life just to prove a point to him although there are some days when I wonder what point am I exactly making when I continue to stay in a marriage that exists only on paper. Stop shaking your head in agreement. If you understand where I’m coming from, then welcome to my world…. it’s a pleasure to meet you.

            I don’t hate him. Did I give you that impression? I hope not. I don’t exactly love him and there are days when I don’t exactly like him. Then there are days when he’ll turn on the charm and be the man I met before I married him and I can slightly remember the reasons why I had to have him. Slightly. There used to be a time when I remembered it vividly and that’s what carried me through the dark days. The days I thought I had made a mistake because he had said or done something that was so out of line that it would freeze me with fear that I had chosen to spend the rest of my life with this man and made that promise in front of 100 people and now here I was aghast that he had done what he did and I was left wondering why. When it got to the point that I began to think what it was that I had done to make him this way, I knew it was time to stop SOSing… That’s Stuck On Stupid. I did nothing. Well…okay, I may have added a bit here and there but I’m just saying that in case Oprah has a show one day where she asks the betrayed wife, “What did YOU do to contribute to his bad behavior?” I did nothing, Oprah, I swear.

           

            Okay let’s go back a bit. Why am I feeling all of this and why even though you don’t know the reasons, do you understand what I’m saying? Honey if I knew that you’d be reading something else.

 

            Remember I told you in the beginning that I was fighting the urge to slap the shit out of him? Well it’s probably because I was really angry with myself for having done what I did because of what he had done. And I am furious that instead of confronting him and finally getting my one-way ticket out of this marriage I chose instead to play a game; a ridiculous, outlandish, maybe even foolish game. Oh but it was so worth it. I’m sure Oprah would chastise me for having done such a crazy thing but I can see it now…she with her deep muahahahaha laughter, shaking her head and thinking, “Yea, you be crazy but that sho’ is funny.”

 

            I caught him. That’s why I did what I did. I caught him with another woman and I should have just done the right thing; hire a private investigator to get the proof while I stayed home and searched all of his hidden paperwork proving he had more money than he allowed me to spend. I should have gathered all of this information, gotten a great male hating attorney and taken the bastard to the cleaners. But I’m not vindictive.

Instead, I followed him. I borrowed my girlfriend’s car and followed him. I had my suspicions. I didn’t want to really know but it was just one of those days when I was feeling as if my life had meant nothing because I had given him so much of it and there was nothing left for me. It was one of those days when I wanted to take out my anger on the world but since the world had done nothing to me, I decided to focus on that which was the cause of my anguish, hurt and ugly feelings.

 

            I followed him.

 

            It didn’t just happen that way. By now you should know that every thing I do or feel is because of something that’s festered inside of me for a while.

            I woke up two weeks ago, not just literally but figuratively. Robotically, I made the bed, tidy up the room, went about the usual fluffing of the living room pillows he some how manages to squash each and every freaking night, that is when he manages to grace me with his presence.  After I mentally prepared the dinner menu and ate four one hundred calorie snack bags of cheese nips for breakfast, I began to put a load in the wash. And that’s when it happened. I found it. Yes, I know you are thinking this is the typical wife-finding-the-lipstick-stain-on-the-husband’s-shirt story. It isn’t. I didn’t.

            After I put a load in the wash and folded the clothes I forgot to take out of the dryer the day before, I began to put away his things. There they were, all his shirts lined up in the same order of color, his suits standing at attention directly above his shoes that were lined up in the straightest of rows. Something about that scenery just pissed me off. It wasn’t that every thing was so neat and tidy. I made it that way. My closet was neater than his, so there. It was just that watching his clothes all lined up that way reminded me of the life he had outside of our home. Every suit represented a power meeting, a power lunch, a power something. Even his casual clothes represented something. My closet had changed throughout the years. When we first got married, I too had the suits, the shoes to match and don’t even get me started on the pocketbooks, tote bags and designer fare I

Had hanging in my closet. Once we had our two kids, slowly my closet’s attitude and grace changed from powerful to powerless being replaced by shabby stretch pants and

Extra large t-shirts that hid the weight of my children’s birth and the lack of romance in my life.

            Some women say they don’t know when things changed in their marriage. We do know. When it’s all said and done, we can pin point to the minute when the first sign of change began. We just can’t face it. Trying to be a good mother takes so much out of you and when something goes wrong, the guilt of not being the best you could be for your child over comes you. Add to that, the fact that something is changing in your marriage and the feeling becomes overwhelming. Then you make choices. If you choose your children, your husband and marriage suffer, if you choose your husband, your nothing but a hot and horny, selfish unfit mother. It would be easy to balance both if our husband’s lent a hand but when they don’t, it’s all on you.  If it’s not the kid’s doctor’s appointment, it’s parent teacher conferences, or car- pooling to the soccer game or making it with minutes to spare to the dance recital. And if you so much as mention the fact that you are running on overload to your husband and you could use some help, the –what-do-you-think-I-do-all-day-at-work-look is born. And of course you feel guilty for that one cup of coffee you sat down to have yesterday morning that led to the morning chat fest you had with your girlfriend on the phone. So you shut up and go about your business convincing yourself that you are so lucky to have such a wonderful man in your life that puts in 10-hour days so you can have the wonderful house you live in. But after awhile, it gets to you. You keep quiet, you go about your domestic chores and duties each and every day while slowly you start to burn inside. It happens a little bit each and every day until you get to where I am; staring in his closet, kicking his shoes so they aren’t a straight line any more and purposely moving his light salmon pink Perry Ellis shirt next to his baby blue Jeffery Beane shirt. There, that’ll get him annoyed.

           

            So here I was, making sense of this jealousy I had of my husband’s life outside of home, wishing that maybe if I too, had a job, at least part time, I might not resent him so much when I noticed it. You think I’m going to say a receipt was sticking out of his jacket pocket that he so foolishly forgot to throw away. Nope. That wasn’t it.

            It was there, staring me right in the face, not once, not twice but three times. It’s been there for weeks and I saw it. I knew it was there, but either my mind wasn’t fully functioning or I just didn’t want to face it. I told you we know when it happens; we just can’t deal with it. There’s always something else that takes precedence. I wonder if it’s our subconscious mind trying to protect us just a little bit more until we are able to gather enough sensibility and strength to deal with reality. Whatever it is, when it happens, it makes you hot all over and I’m not talking hot flash kind of hot. I’m talking inner sweat, ass kicking, red in the eyes, hot all over. And the anger slowly builds up. First because it’s finally catching up with you, then because you start to think, “How dare he do this to me when I’ve done so much and put up with so much?” And then it’s the cerebral slap in the face you give yourself for being so freaking stupid. For noticing the signs but not seeing them.

            And so there it was, stuck between the Calvin Klein and Kenneth Cole Ties, there, right between them, to the right of the Jerry Garcia ties I bought him for his birthday 3 weeks ago, was the proof that he had been unfaithful to me. A Ralph Lauren tie was squashed between 2 Oscar Di Larentis ties, all three unfamiliar to me and to the rest of

The tie family I had carefully nurtured the last 20 years of our life together. And why is that unusual? Because the same way this man had not lifted one finger to help me with the house and children, he never ever bought his own clothes. He hated shopping with a passion. And to my knowledge no one had given him these ties as a gift. That was something he would have brought to my attention if only to point out that someone had made him the center of their world. You’ll say that’s not proof enough well how’s this; I just knew. It didn’t have to be the ties that slapped me in the face for me to know that he was unfaithful. I just knew. A woman knows. She just does. She gets the feelings, the signs are all there, but until she’s ready to see it all and grasp it, it just doesn’t come into focus until she’s ready or until the bastard gets caught. I was ready and he got caught. Two bonus’s in one shot. How lucky was I?

           

            So why didn’t I stop there and just confront the bastard instead of playing his deceitful game? Because ….I didn’t feel like it. My heart wanted something closely related to revenge, I wanted more than an untruth. I wanted to hand his juevos to him and I wanted to do in a way that would give ME satisfaction. All these years it was about someone else’s satisfaction, this time I wanted it to be about me. And so what if it was immature. I didn’t care. I earned the right to deal with this any way I damn well wanted.

 

            I followed him.

I called my girlfriend and asked to borrow her car. “I’ll explain later,” I told her not wanting to get into it so that she wouldn’t convince me to rethink whatever it is I didn’t know I was going to do. I knew where I was going and why, but the rest was going to happen as it happened.

 

            There I was, in the car, heading to Manhattan, letting my head and my heart fight it out because I was just too tired to think about what my next move was going to be.

At that moment I felt so removed from who I was that it felt like there were three people sitting in the car with me. The driver, the woman who owed my heart and the numb one who had no clue what she was doing or why. Eventually we’d all probably meet in the end and come up with the same conclusion and probably the same result but getting there was the task that needed to be addressed and if I gave it too much thought I’d probably lose control of the vehicle and that would give me just one more problem to deal with. I was so not going to invite any more drama into my life, not until I dealt with the husband.

            As soon as I turned left on 5th Avenue and 86th street I knew the idea of following my husband was going to turn into a frustrated game of dodge ball; either I was going to be the hittee or the hitter and neither choice was appealing. I slowly began to rethink this crazy idea of mine when I saw a gap in the traffic and before the hoards of yellow cabbies could rush their way into it, I dove in. It was amazing what those few inches of space did for my spirit; my crazy plan wasn’t so crazy after all. I had progressed a block and a half and I wasn’t turning back now. Besides, I hadn’t realized the time when I started on this journey of foolishness and when I heard the 1010 Wins guy say it was 11:00 A.M, I knew this was meant to be. My insignificant other always left for lunch at 1in the afternoon because according to him, it made the rest of the day float by faster. Yea, I wondered, faster for what? That gave me 2 hours to get to my destination, so time was on my side. It was meant to be or at least that was what I was trying to say to myself to make sense of what I was doing.

            It seemed I progressed closer to my destination every 10 minutes which wasn’t so bad when you considered that it gave me plenty of time to figure out a gazillion and one scenarios in my head and I had at least 90 minutes to do it in. What was I going to do once I got there? I know I said I was going to follow him but if you’ve been paying attention, I knew that it would be a bit impossible to do given the sea of yellow cabbies and a few million other nine to fivers who brought their cars to work that day. As I waited for yet another light to change from bright red hand to green stick figure person, I couldn’t help thinking that either this was a conspiracy against me to drive me batty; punishment for thinking of doing something to my husband that might turn into something illegal and criminal within an hour or so or that all of these people walking in Manhattan and driving in cars, cabs included, really did work in the city. They were so not into their surroundings to be tourists.

            I’m not sure why I began trembling as I found myself parked across the street from his building but surely this was a scene from a movie where no matter how congested an area is, the person behind the wheel always managed to find a parking spot. This was the scenario now and I began to second-guess myself. What was I hoping to prove by being here? If I didn’t catch him with that tie whore today, then this whole trip was a waste of expensive gas and mileage on my friend’s car and my wallet. I didn’t care about the money but this was time I would never get back. Was he worth it? Was he really worth all of this?

            No, he wasn’t. But I was.

My sanity depended on it.

            I started giggling in the car as it dawned on me that I was rationalizing this crazy act because my sanity depended on it. What an oxymoron!

            Twice I started the car to leave before I convinced myself that I had come all this way and the least I could do was make it worth my while. Three times I told myself I was pathetic for doing this when it would have been easier to hire a private detective to do all of this grunt work and just produce the proof I needed saving me a trip to jail which I was sure was going to be final destination in all of this because I wanted to pulverize the bastard. But insanity prevailed each time I saw some man walking down the street with a woman, I was sure that they were lovers heading to an afternoon tryst or going to Neiman Marcus to buy a tie.

            Waiting for my soon to be ex-husband to exit the building for lunch and dealing with a pounding headache, (which I was sure was my punishment for doing this,) some dead brain cells came alive. It was like a burst of soda exploding in my head. Now why didn’t I think of this sooner? I’m talking about an idea here folks. Why didn’t I just call him to see if he was planning on leaving for lunch at the usual time instead of sitting here watching drivers give me the hairy eyeball because they were waiting for me to drive out of my parking spot as they salivated impatiently to claim the hottest commodity in Manhattan?

            I called.

            Then I got pissed off at myself for getting all nervous about making that call.

            Then he answered.

            Then I got pissed off at him for making me make that call.

 

“Jim Anderson, speaking.” He answered.

“Mrs. Anderson talking.” I responded.

Nothing. What a clever reply huh?

“Hello?” I said as my head made a semi circle with attitude.

“Sophie? Is that you?” he asked surprised.

            Now why would he be surprised that I was calling him on the phone at this time? AHA! I knew it. I knew why. He was expecting Tie Whore to be on the other end and I just burst his unfaithful cheating heart.

“Yes, this is your… yes, it’s me Sophie.” Great response huh? For some reason I couldn’t say wife. Nice going. Sitting for almost half an hour waiting for the moment where I was sure I was going to catch him must have deadened my usual sarcastic responses.

 

“What’s up? I was just on my way out the door for some lunch. I’m famished.” I noticed the urgency in his voice. He wanted to be sure I wouldn’t engage him in a lengthy conversation because that would delay any time he wanted to spend with his mistress. I was doing a slow burn. When your wife calls you on the phone at work you should be thrilled, ecstatic to hear from her. Lunch be damned!

 

“Nada, I was just wondering if….” Okay now what birdbrain? You came all this way set on fire and now you had him on the phone. Think fast!

“I was just wondering if you wanted to do something after work tonight. I could take the bus in so we wouldn’t have to drive to cars back home. I’m not in the mood to cook and I want to get out and enjoy this awesome weather. Interested?” Yea, that sounded convincing.

He backed out claiming he had to work late after meeting with a client at 4. Sure, I thought, likely story. A client who sells ties perhaps?

“No biggie.” I said trying not to sound disappointed because in all honesty, I was. Shouldn’t he have been thrilled that his wife of 20 years wanted to have a night out on the town with him? Of course he wasn’t. Not when he could spend the night with the woman who would be replacing me soon because she had picked a better choice of ties. I blinked a dozen times or so to stop the pictures popping into my head revealing what I was going to do with all those ties and the both of them. Her for pushing me out of his life and him for letting her.

We hung up after mumbling a few more things to each other when I looked up and saw him walking out of the building. I realized I hadn’t called him at work; I hit his cell phone number. I hadn’t called him at the office and it made me shudder that had he not been at work, where would he have been and with whom? It didn’t matter. He had told me he was meeting with a client at 4, it was now 1 and if he was going out to lunch, why did he have his briefcase with him? My antennae’s were up and working. My heart was pounding. I couldn’t follow him in all of this traffic, so what, I thought to myself, was going to be my great big plan. Come on, Sophie, think!

This day was meant to be or I was surely in a movie of the week. I was able to keep up with him until he got to the garage where he parks his car every day. By now I had become used to the blaring horns of the cars behind me incensed that a woman driver was slowing them down. Well, too darn bad.

I knew where he would drive out from and took my chances that he would get back on the highway so I drove up to the end of the block. He had nowhere else to turn. By putting on my blinkers I was making the other drivers crazy but besides that which I was taking great pleasure in doing, it gave me a tiny window of opportunity to drive out and catch up with him once he got on the road.

The burgundy bumper soon appeared in my rear view mirror. Inching closer to me, I quickly searched for my baseball cap to put on my head just in case he turned to his right and spotted me. I had no baseball cap. I don’t wear baseball caps. The massive curls on my head wouldn’t allow anything but a Sunday church veil to be on my head. But this is what all demented people who follow others in the middle of Manhattan by car do, and so instinct prevailed. This wasn’t a movie after all. This was real life and I was about to do that which I set upon doing that morning. The adrenalin rush was amazing. I still didn’t know what I was going to do but something was happening and it was falling into place. I was going to go with the breeze and see where it would lead. Yea, that sounded very private eye to me.

He turned, as I knew he would, drove about 5 blocks and then signaled to the right. Where the heck was he going? He pulled to the curve and of course that meant there was no room for me to do the same so just like in the movies, I cursed like a truck driver and drove to the corner of the block. My good luck was running out because there was no parking and if I double parked I knew for sure the cop writing out tickets three cars behind me would get a boner because I would be his top ticket for the day.

Then it happened. Tie whore came out of a diner and got into the car. I know she had long legs. Don’t all mistresses have long legs? I knew she was probably taller than me, long silky straight hair, probably had the bluest of eyes that wouldn’t have mattered to me much because I planned to scratch them out any way. My heart was now threatening to pop out of my mouth and my uterus was throbbing a mile a minute. The uterus that held his twin children.  I was going into scorned wife contractions. I knew it! Not only was he messing with my head and my heart, he was now causing my body to do the wild thing.

I knew it! They were heading to the highway. My- I -don’t -know –what- I –was- doing plan was working. I was right on track to nowhere but I was on track. This had to be a movie because traffic was light and I was one car behind them. I had to be careful not to stay too close because if he spotted the car…wait, this wasn’t our car! He wouldn’t know it was me! Yes, yes, yes! I said out loud in the car as I pumped my fist mid way into the air.

 Why do we always lower the volume of our car radio when we slow down the car to find where we are going? Does that some how get us to our destination quicker? Does it find the place for us if we are lost? Does it slow your heart down preventing it from bursting out of your chest?

Why do we think of things like this when our life is falling apart?

 

The bastard… I mean my children’s father was heading back towards our home; the home he was tearing apart because some hussy had more expensive taste in ties than me. No way could this tie skank be a neighbor of mine! I was already creating a neighborhood watch program in my head just so that I could be in charge and have reason to watch her property. Her house had better not be bigger than mine and he had better not have paid for it or there was sure to be war. How silly of me to be thinking about home sizes when I was following my husband and my marriage was falling apart. But this was about size when you thought about it. 20 years of my life was big. And if he was leaving me for some long legged straight haired tie hooker, this was huge. Size did matter.

 

I exhaled when I saw him signal to get off on the Cross County Parkway. It was

Close to home but not in our neighborhood. Still she was too close for me. Alaska wasn’t far away enough I thought to myself as my eyes began to fill with the angry tears that I had refused to release since finding those ties. But now, as the reality was slapping me in the face, I had to let them go. It was that or me speeding up and smashing the back of his car. His car. His mistress. My heart. My life. How selfish of me to think of myself at a time like this. That’s what Jim would say. Good ole’ Jim.

I was lost in thought as I mimicked the turns he made and when he finally slowed the car down to make a turn into her driveway, my head exploded with quick spreading rash of questions. Why? What was going on? Who was this man and why was I doing this? I followed my husband to his mistress’s house. I never thought I would ever be doing that in my lifetime. You hear about other people doing that, you think to yourself how crazy is that? And then when you find yourself doing it, you remember about those other people you heard about and you are not unwillingly in the club.  I didn’t even care about her as much as I did about him. And I’m not talking about caring in the loving sense. Yes, she was to blame as much as he was, but what if she didn’t know he was married? What if he had been convincing of whatever story he made up to get into her size 2 panties? What if he was leading a double life? Married to me AND to her? What if…. oh who the hell was I kidding…Of course she knew. Someone that handsome, that tall, that successful had to be married. And he was a young man, still in his forties, and he had so much going on for him, he had to be married. How could she not know? I wanted to blame her so badly but I’m old fashioned. I’m still from the old school of letting the man do the pursuing that is after all the way he came into my life. He did the pursuing while I savored every moment of this gorgeous hunk wanting me. I knew he pursued her and if she did know he was married, I’d slap her once that fact was confirmed but if she didn’t, he would have to take a double kick in the ass. One for lying to me and messing with my heart and the other one for fooling another woman into loving him. And why on earth was I so concerned with her feelings? Whether she knew or not, she was still with my husband and deserved punishment. Only thing was, as I was going through all this crap inside of my head, trying to rationalize what I was witnessing, while fighting back the tears as I hiccupped with each turn of the car he made, I didn’t know what that punishment would be. I don’t think there is any kind of punishment that would fit this kind of crime. I’ve read about all the women who go after their husband’s money, hitting them where it hurts. I couldn’t see myself relaxing on some veranda, sipping Pina Collada’s, and spending his money, just because he had broken my heart. How did that mend me? Money was not going to fill the emptiness he had created. Money was not going to cuddle me when I needed comfort. I didn’t know how I would heal from this but I knew that I first had to deal with it before I could even begin to move on. However, I put the thought on the backburner just in case any thing I did do did not pan out that would be my last resort. Hey, I’m hurt, not stupid.

They got out of the car and headed towards what I assumed was her home. My chest wasn’t pounding as hard as it had been before until I saw him take hold of her hand lovingly and move closer to her. I tried so hard not to go back in time and remember the days when he use to look at me like that and embrace me like he was embracing her now. No matter what was happening now, I would not let him take my past from me. I would not allow myself to think that all those years were lies. What I was watching was from a bad movie of the week. Then I stopped breathing. The man who had shared my bed for 20 plus years, which had fathered my children, was doing to another woman what he had done with me when we first began to date. He had that same look in his eyes, that same gleam and I hadn’t seen it in years and now it was back but not for me.

I didn’t notice when they had walked into the house because the steering wheel was being assaulted by my forehead and fists. Now what? Nothing. Zip. Zilch. Time to go home and regroup. Waiting for him to come out was worse torture than what I had experienced earlier in the day in Manhattan because even though I really didn’t know what he was doing in his office, I knew for sure what was going on in that house. Waiting for him to come out was only going to create more vivid scenarios in my head than I didn’t need. The last thing I wanted to visualize was he grunting over her long lean size 2 long legged body. I turned the key and started the car before turning around one last time. I knew now why scorned women keyed their significant other’s cars when they get mad. I wanted to burn a whole in his car but I knew we’d have to pay to repair it and I had already paid enough for his deceit. Besides, I had to preserve money now. It might all be mine in the end.

I don’t know how I drove home but I did. I checked my messages. I don’t know why I did that either for I didn’t give a damn who had called me while I was away. I washed my face, fluffed up my curlers and headed out to return the car to my girlfriend.

She knew instantly something was wrong. Maybe it was the no makeup on the face. The beat red whites of my eyes or the fact that I walked in and said, “Something’s wrong.”

“You’re shitting me. Jim. Jim Anderson. The man who is married to you, living down the block from me is having an affair with another woman?” Tori said shaking her head in disbelief. “There has to be some explanation for all of this Sophie, there has to be. I mean he wouldn’t throw away the last 20 years of his life for some bimbo in heels.” And there it was. Tori didn’t realize what those words did to me. 20 years of HIS life. What about my life? I shared those same 20 years with him and yet, right at that moment, it seemed that there were 2 separate lives involved here. Maybe we had been together in all that time but Jim had led his life his own way with me coming along for the ride. I never questioned his decisions because I was “oh so lucky and blessed” to have a man that took care of me. To question him would be so ungrateful of me.

            I stayed home, taking care of his children, because they were his when he was out to work, they became mine when he came home. This way, the burden was always on me and he got to play executive during the day and macho man at night. How come I didn’t get to be a domestic goddess at night? Wasn’t I entitled to having some grown up time of my own too? He may be the one that brought home the bacon but dammit! I was the one that cooked it. I should have been given credit for that. I should have had my own pedestal as well. And it was my entire fault that I hadn’t done anything for me in all these years. It was always about Jim, the kids, the house, the appointments, and the vacations that I was to appreciate because somehow I was damned lucky to have had all those things in my life. The almighty Jim had provided them for me and his reward for all his hard work was a hussy living one exit away from our home. He even managed to make his affair a convenience for himself. He’d get out of work, make a stop along the way to satisfy his hunger then he’d come home and grace me with his presence for what was left of the day. Somehow, I didn’t feel so grateful and I wasn’t feeling guilty about it either.

            “Now what?” Tori asked. As if I knew? This was the part on all the talk shows where all the women respond with the I didn’t know what to do so I gave it some time hoping that maybe he would come to his senses and realize what he was giving up to be with someone else. This was the part on all the talk shows where the audience in the studio and at home would scream and yell, “Kick him out! Take him to the cleaners!” as the hurt wife sat bewildered that she hadn’t thought of that in the first place. Some women are just plain stupid. Me? I was plain stupid and numb. How long would this feeling last?

            There were so many questions that were going through my head and no answers I wanted to know. Any answer was going to be filled with decisions that would hurt more than the realization that some other woman was familiar with my husband’s body parts while he was married to me. Well there was one good thing about this I began to rationalize… if he was doing her, he wasn’t doing me and that meant I wouldn’t have to deal with the grunts, the moans and the, boy babe was I good or what? I shouldn’t have gone there with that thought because the next thing that came to my mind was when was the last time we had made love? And that made me sad that it wasn’t until I discovered those ties and followed him to her house that it hadn’t dawned on me before that my husband had not made love to me in a while. How could I not notice that? Why didn’t I notice that? What did that say about me in all of this? Tori’s questioning brought me back to her tidy kitchen.

            “I don’t know what.” I said exhaling for the twentieth time that day. It was only four o’clock in the afternoon but it felt as if I had been up for a week. I was wasted without benefit of liquor. I wished I had some vice; smoker, pot head, alcoholic, vicodin user, any thing that would distract me and ease this unfamiliar gut wrenching pain.

            “I don’t know what I’m going to do. All I know is that I don’t want to live another day with this knowledge and not do something about it. All I know is that he’s been laughing behind my back for Lord knows how long and I can’t let him laugh one more minute.”

            “Ugh Sophie, you do know he isn’t really laughing with this broad, right? I mean you do know that…” I looked at Tori with raised eyebrows. Sometimes she could be so dense.

            “So,” she said realizing her blondness was coming through again, “What do we do now?”

            “What do you mean what do WE do now? There’s no we. We aren’t doing anything Tori this isn’t your fight. It’s mine. I just need to get away for a bit to figure out what to do and the thought of doing that is scary because all I want to do is kick his ass and hurt him and that just isn’t what’s going to resolve this.” Finally, I was thinking something close to rational even though I had no idea how to go about fixing this. And what was there to fix? He broke it; he should fix it so why was I feeling responsible for any of this? I refused to rationalize his bad behavior and somehow tie myself into his sin. No matter what problems we may have had in our marriage, no matter how unhappy he may have felt, being unfaithful was not a solution. It was in fact an easy cowardly way out. And if he chose that route to handle whatever was wrong in our relationship then he wasn’t much of a man. I was also not going to be blamed for his lack of sex life because Lord knows I did somersaults for him on nights when my body could stand no more movement after spending the day driving the kids around, but for my husband, even if I couldn’t be the pretty woman he had married, I was not going to abandon him in the bedroom. We didn’t always have sex, as often as he wanted it, but when we had it, I made sure he felt it was well worth the wait. Even when I didn’t have the desire, once I got into it, my heart would take over. That was love. That was a relationship, that was something and he disrespected that. Now I was angry. The kind of angry that didn’t require revenge. The kind of angry that demanded respect. I didn’t want to hurt him but I didn’t want him to get away with this either.

            “We are in this together Sophie. When you hurt, I hurt. He hurt you, and I want to be a part of anything that pays him back for what he’s done to you. I don’t care what it is. You want an attorney; I’ll get you the best. You want to break into his locked secret desk drawer; I’m your man. I’ll break into it so when you testify in court about the things you found that were in the locked desk you did not break into you won’t be lying. I’ll do whatever you want me to do.” Standing at attention, Tori saluted me, then pounded her chest with her fist, pumped it in the air and sat down breathless.

            My head snapped at attention. “What do you mean his locked secret desk drawer? How do you know he has one?” I asked trying to control the bile in my throat.

“I don’t know he has one but every man does. If he’s been able to keep this affair a secret then you know he’s got to have secrets hidden somewhere in the house. Maybe even his office. Yup, I’d bet that’s where he keeps all the receipts from all the jewelry he buys her.” Okay, Ethel Mertz, I thought to myself, she’s just assuming a whole bunch of things that was sure to drive me crazy. Well, I was already crazy but this whole day made me certifiable.

            I didn’t want to do anything right then. I just wanted to go home, soak in the tub and try to put things into perspective. Whatever came from this, I knew I would not lose. How could I lose what I didn’t have? Jim was wrong. He was the one that committed the unforgivable and he would be the one to suffer the consequences. I just didn’t want to come across as the poor vindictive hurt wife. If he thought I was that simple minded and naïve that he could do something like this to me without thinking that I would not notice or figure it out, I’d show him how wrong he was but the last thing I wanted to do was express how wrong he was with any stupid actions. Following him today was the first and hopefully last of the stupidity.  And if you believe that, I’ve got several bridges to sell you.

            The phone rang while I was in the tub. I knew instantly that it was Jim calling to tell me that he would be later than he expected and that I should not wait up for him. As if. The days of waiting up for him with a snack after he had “spent all day in the office” were over. There. I made a decision. I was on my way. One decision down, several hundred to go. Well, that’s the way it felt.

            I got out of the shower, dried up and fought the urge to watch myself in the mirror as I creamed my body. But if you’ve been paying attention, fighting urges are not my forte, and so there I was, rubbing the cream on my thighs. A little cottage cheese greeted me, but there really wasn’t much. I had stayed true with my jogging these past few years, especially now, with both kids away at college. My knees weren’t swollen or dimpled and my legs were still curvaceous, not too chunky and not too thin. Just right. I didn’t have fat ankles and I did manage to give myself pedicures when I didn’t have the time to get to the salon. I turned to the side. My belly wasn’t completely flat but it wasn’t bigger than my butt. I didn’t have much of a butt but it wasn’t sagging either. Both areas were fine under my spanx. My arms were a bit wiggly but that was just at the bottom. They had a little muscle on the top. My breasts were never big ones to begin with, but they did sag a bit, however my nipples stood at attention instead of staring at my pedicure toes. My neck was not as long as I would have liked it to be but I didn’t have a double chin or the dreaded jowls that seem to run in my family, at least not yet. I moved closer to the mirror and there were the crow’s feet and some gray hairs dancing hand in hand on my face. Was that the reason he strayed? He turned over in bed one morning and looked at my face, saw the signs of age on my face and got turned off? I slathered all the face cream and lotions I had bought and never used all over my body that night. I couldn’t stop from growing old but there was room for improvement, wasn’t there?

            I numbed myself to sleep that night with some Harvey’s Bristol Crème in my grown up wine goblet that I had bought for myself when I moved into my first apartment. It was such a struggle to get that place and yet, the first night I was there, I felt so accomplished. That weekend, I went to Macy’s and bought from their basement clearance sale, 2 wine goblets. I wasn’t into wine but I knew they would look good in my bare cupboard and if any one came over for one of my experimental hamburger helper dinner’s it would brighten up the place settings. When Jim and I started dating, and he had come over for dinner one night, the wine goblets had impressed him. I’m not quite sure why. I was just so in awe that my little weekend purchases months before made him happy.  Later on that night I thought, that if Jim and I ever got married, we’d keep these goblets as our symbol of love. Taking my last sip of Harvey’s, I shook my head in disbelief at how stupid all those little things we equate with true love was.

            The sound of the shower going on woke me up. My mouth had a pound of cotton in it as I tried to clear my head. Pushing the covers off of me, I steadied my legs on the carpeted floor before getting up. I didn’t want to face Jim. I couldn’t look him in the face just yet. This would be the first time I would be in the same room with the man who had betrayed me and I wasn’t ready. I was going to do this on my terms.

            I threw on my sweat pants, grabbed a t-shirt from my drawer and headed over to Tori’s house. I purposely left my cell phone home. I did not want to give him any reason to reach out and touch me in any way, shape or form. Besides, I didn’t think he’d notice or care one way or another if I was there to greet him in the morning or not. He had given up on our evenings, so I would give up our mornings. Was this another stupid decision? I don’t know. I didn’t care.

            Tori opened up the door with a cup of coffee in her hand.  Comfort in a cup; just what I needed. On the breakfast nook behind her were fresh hot buttered croissants. Comfort on a plate. Nice. Two easy decisions to make. Not bad for my first day as a betrayed wife. Well, the first day that I knew of. Who knows how long he had been unfaithful but it didn’t matter. Even if yesterday was the first time he was doing the deed with her, it was still deceit. The length of time he was at it, would only add to my pain but it wouldn’t change what he had done.

            Jim didn’t care too much for Tori so if he thought that I had gone to her house he wouldn’t have called looking for me. It dawned on me that since we had gotten married, there hadn’t been one morning that we hadn’t had breakfast together before he left for his bacon job. I wondered if he would miss me, if he too would think about this being the first time I wasn’t at breakfast with him. I wondered if he thought of the little things that I thought about, little things that made my marriage meaningful. I stopped going there with my melancholy thoughts. It would serve no purpose and it was only putting me in a position of weakness. If I kept thinking about the little things that made me fall in love with him years before I would be in trouble. I know that’s what you should be holding onto because you don’t want to throw away 20 years of your life but by the same token what I was dealing with wasn’t about my yesterday’s, it was about today, right now and some tomorrow’s. I would not let myself fall into the trap of what would I do without him, how can I live without him and what did I have to show for 20 years of marriage. If he didn’t respect or honor those years, I didn’t want to be the only one. And yes, I’m human, I did think about having a fling myself but the day before I made the tie discoveries, I had just finished reading “The Quickie” by James Patterson and there was no way I was going to get into another more dramatic situation. Catching him in the act was enough. I would not lower myself to his standards. If I did that, I would be no better than he was. This wasn’t about revenge. Besides, I was beginning to like the fact that I knew something he didn’t. I liked having the upper hand. It gave me a feeling of control. Knowledge is power. Now all I had to do was make this knowledge worth my while. That’s where my power would come from. It was not meant for him. It never was. I was taking back what was left of my life with this phony, this fake of a man who thought he was living the best of both worlds. Well in my world, you just don’t hurt people on purpose. You don’t get to do that and get away with it.

            I saw his car turn the corner from Tori’s kitchen window. I willed him to turn around and see me watching him as his car idled at the STOP sign. But what good would that do? Now he had me questioning every thought that entered my head and I was beginning to slowly hate him. His one action had such a domino affect on me.

            I grabbed my keys and told Tori I’d see her later on in the day. I wanted to go back to my home. He may have betrayed me and I was feeling a bit lost but my home was my home. I was on a mission of taking back what was mine and I be damned if I was going to let him make me hate being in my humble abode. I don’t care how hard he worked the past 20 years of our life together; I worked just as hard…I didn’t get to retire like he would. I wouldn’t get a nice compensation package for the last 20 years of my life with him. No fancy watch, no extended benefits. Nothing, nada. I didn’t want anything because all my life, or at least the life I had when I married him, my compensations, my paychecks, my rewards was knowing that at the end of the day, my children were happy, well fed, normal kids and my husband was satisfied with his life, the life I made easy by cooking the bacon he brought home.

            I was surprised, though not pleasantly, when I found a note on the kitchen table asking where I had gone so early in the morning. Oh, he noticed? I thought to myself. Big whup. I went upstairs and changed the bed sheets. I don’t know what significance that had but knowing that I slept on the same sheets as the man who had sex with another woman the night before irked the crap out of me. I stopped short of burning them. This wasn’t about revenge I kept telling myself. Besides what would burning the bed sheets prove? What would it accomplish? I walked into the closet that stored the evidence of his betrayal and I began to rummage through his things. If he was stupid enough to hang up these ties, then he was just as stupid to have saved other things the tie hoe gave him. A woman knows what she buys her husband. A woman just knows. Today’s plan was to search and seize all the things not bought by me. It gave me great pleasure imagining the look on his face when he went to find these clothing items and they weren’t there. Go on butt hole; ask me where your Oscar ties are? I dare you!

            First the ties went. Apparently she had bought him more than the three I found. The cheap bitch had given him an Arrow tie. How dare he associate that tie with the collection I had built up for him all these years? Especially when he made a point of giving away all the Arrow ties I had bought him years before. Now here was one, hidden in plain site amongst the others, co-existing with the others as if it had every right to be there. I tried to think of a time when he had worn that particular tie and couldn’t remember, and then I laughed out loud when I realized that had to have been the first tie she ever gave him. She had no clue how to dress a man who was successful. But it pissed me off that it may have been an Arrow tie that brought them together. I assumed that was how she hooked him, with a tie. A tie makes the suit. I fingered the Arrow tie trying like a medium to get a sense of what happened when she gave him the damn thing. Why was I torturing myself this way? No matter what I tried to imagine or to rationalize this in my head, the end result was still the same. The pig had oinked his way into someone else’s life. And just for the record, in case someone from the ARROW tie company is reading this, I do like ARROW ties. I don’t think they are cheap. HE does. So sue him. Please.

            I ripped the tie off the rack so hard I cracked the little peg it was on. Good, if he ever made it to that side of the rack, I wonder if he’d notice the tie missing first or the crack. There I was again, making mindless chatter in my head, trying to make sense of his senseless behavior. Armored with fierce determination, I began to search his other drawers. She couldn’t have been dressing him that long because there were no new socks, underwear or t-shirts, any where in sight and believe me I checked. I counted his shoes to see if there were any new additions there either. I counted his shoes. What had become of me? I sat there on the floor counting his freaking shoes. How sad was that? I stared at them as if they weren’t even there, stuck in that place some of us go to when we zone out for one reason or another. Shoes; Burgundy, Black, Brown, Dark Brown, Chocolate brown, even a cherry brown. I found cherry brown shoes for this bastard! How many cheating husbands owned cherry brown shoes?! There they were, lined up like stiff soldiers standing at attention, waiting for El Capitan to come in and stick his smelly feet in them. I fought the urge to put hair gel in them. That would be too obvious. Instead I mixed them up. I moved the blacks to the brown area and the burgundy shoes in the chocolate areas and then feeling more defiant than ever, I took the cherry brown shoes and put them on the shelf with his half a dozen pair of sneakers. Yea, that’s right. I was getting dangerous, watch out. Mess with me, I’ll screw up your clothing system and I won’t stop there. Now don’t start thinking I was getting into my waiting to exhale moment where I take all of his clothes and burn them. Oh he wasn’t worth the sulfur or spark. But I knew he liked order and he knew I was anal about that too. Let him figure out how his closet became disorganized. There were no kids to blame since they were both grown up and out of the house.

            And that’s when it hit me.

            All of what had been going on for the past 24 hours was driving me insane although I was getting control of myself little by little. I wanted him to feel some of this but not in a revengeful kind of way. I kept telling myself that either because I was trying to stay out of jail or because I needed to make sense of these crazy thoughts in my head.

            I moved his underwear to the opposite drawer in his dresser. The drawers below were where he kept his black socks, dress socks and then in the other drawer he kept his white sneaker socks. I moved those too. Yea, that’ll show him.

            Feeling empowered, I decided to go into his medicine chest and move all his toiletries around. I didn’t mess with that too much because I’m anal about things having to be in order so even though I moved things around, I still kept them in the same alphabet family. The A’s were with the A’s, the B’s with the B’s, they were just grouped by the first letters only and I know by now you are probably thinking that he had plenty of reason to be unfaithful with a wife who alphabetized his toiletries. But if he didn’t like that all he had to do was say so, that surely wasn’t a reason to go playing hide the sausage with someone else.

            Finally satisfied with my masterpiece, I stood back and observed all that I had done. I was particularly impressed with myself. I had never done any thing to stand up to Jim. I would state my point of view many times but after awhile, I knew it wouldn’t make much difference. If Jim wasn’t happy with my choices, he’d find a way to turn them into his. What I had just done to his closet and medicine chest for me was reclamation of me. I liked being vexing. I had never done anything like this before but that wasn’t the point. The issue here was that I was thinking for myself and doing something that quite honestly made me happy. I may very well years from now think, “Boy, that sure was stupid.” But for now, it was keeping me sane even though it was in fact crazy behavior.  I liked knowing that I was the one who was making changes in his life albeit small ones but this was just the beginning. And it felt good. After all, he made the biggest change in my life when he chose to have an affair. He didn’t think once how it would affect me and even though my little game of drive the deceitful bastard crazy wasn’t equivalent to his betrayal, it was all I had for now.

            I took a long nap after my covert operation. I earned it. Yup, from now on, this wife was going to do just what she wanted to do during the day. I was a darn good domestic engineer. I could clean up a house in less than two hours and cook a last minute meal in less than one. So if I wanted a nap, if I wanted to watch All My Children for an hour, if I wanted to paint my toes and shave my mustache during the day when I should have been tending to his home, I would do it. Slowly another realization hit me; I could have been doing this all these years and didn’t. I could have found my own private paradise during the day while the kids were at school and he was at work and I didn’t. I always felt if I had done that that I was taking away from all of them. It took away from me because now, years later, I was this angry woman whose husband had decided he didn’t want her any more. All these years I would feel guilty for taking a five-minute breather during the day and who knows how long he was taking his own breather.  I was starting to feel that this was so unfair. He got to do his thing while I was doing his things for him as well and what was I getting from it?        

Tori interrupted my thought process when she walked into my bedroom door. “Howdy sister. I tried knocking but no answer and I saw that your car was here and I figured you were locked up in here hibernating so I let myself in.” Plopping on my bed lie a teenager, she lifted her legs in the air, pretending to do the scissor exercises we both hated doing at the gym. Great, my life is changing, my marriage is over and my best friend is spread eagle on my bed.

            “I’m not hibernating Tori, I was just doing some thinking.” I knew if I had told her I had taken a nap she would interpret that as depression and I didn’t want to hear any of her spunky ideas to get out of the house and grab the bull by the horn lectures. Tori had a fiery personality and it always came in handy on the days when I felt as if nothing was going my way and all I had to show for my life was a house, 2 kids in college and a husband who was making some good money investing other people’s money. That was all fine and good but what did I have? I know, there it goes again, that selfish attitude of mine. But come on now…speak up.raise your hands…how many of you reading this right now, and be honest, how many of you out there don’t feel sometimes as if half of your grown up life was spent caring for others and little by little there was nothing left of you? I don’t mean to be selfish and I’m tired of defending those thoughts to myself. Why can’t I have some time to myself? Why couldn’t I take those extra courses at the community college just because? Why couldn’t I go out with the girls Saturday evening when the kids were away for the weekend and he was at home? Why? What did me doing any of those things have to do with my family? I could have done them and still taken care of them. I had proven that time and time again but somehow any time I wanted to do something for me, it was always met with disapproval or for some reason the kids decided to pick that time to truly need me more than they needed me before. Listen up ladies; this is what happens when you put others before you. It’s okay to be there for others, it’s absolutely fine to rearrange schedules and make room for last minute things but it’s not okay to do it at the expense of your sanity. Because you’ll wake up one day with an empty home, an empty heart and a man who has little respect for you.

            “Alrighty then, what’s the plan for today? Are we going to follow him again, are we going to go visit her house and peek into the windows to see what kind of stuff she’s got. What? What? I’ve slept but 2 hours thinking of what we can do and came up with nothing. So what do you want to do?” Tori asked wide-eyed. I wanted to smack her

I didn’t want to do anything because I didn’t know what to do. But telling her that would only make her push me into doing something crazy, crazier than yesterday.

Inhaling, then exhaling very slowly to buy myself some time I tried to find words to say to her but I couldn’t.

            “I don’t want to do anything right now Tori, but that doesn’t mean I don’t plan on dealing with this. It’s just all too much at one time and I need some space, some time to absorb it all and figure out logically what my options are and what needs to be done. Please don’t start hounding me. When I’m ready, you’ll be the first to know.”

I knew she would not take no for an answer but she quietly shook her head in agreement, and laid flat on the bed.

            “You think he’s brought her here?” she asked insensitively.

“How is that possible? I’m here all the time except when I’m volunteering at the school. So no he hasn’t brought her here and why even ask that. You should know the answer to that already. He wouldn’t dare. I’m not gone more than 3 hours a day and that’s not even every day.” I almost shrieked. How dumb was she to even ask that but the thought that he may have brought her here irritated me. I knew he hadn’t, he couldn’t have. Then again, I would have never thought that he would have resorted to an affair before and he did.

            “Uh not for nothing Sophie but it wouldn’t take long for him to come here and do the deed with her and then leave if he knew you were out. I mean come on; you know he’s the minuteman. He probably brought her here to show off his palace, did her and then left with minutes to spare before you got in. It’s possible.” She said as she walked towards his closet in search I’m sure of the ties.

            “Tori, that’s just plain disgusting and please don’t go into his closet…” I said too late as she waltzed right in and began opening drawers and checking things out for herself. “Something’s different here. What did you do Ms. Neat Nelly? I can smell the change in here. Oh My Stars, you sprayed that nasty household cleaner on the rugs in here just to piss him off right? Ooooo girl, this is good. What else did ya do?”

            I knew she wouldn’t leave things alone and besides, she had just given me one more idea to add to my plan. I’d start using lotions and other household cleaners he hated to have around the house but I’d hide them and so when he went looking for them to discard them, he wouldn’t find them. Then when he asks me what’s that smell, I’ll pretend I have no idea what he’s talking about and show him that I’m still using the products he likes. That’ll drive him nuts. If the rearranged drawers and missing ties didn’t drive him crazy, this sure would.

            “I didn’t do that Tori, I’m not into adding fuel to the fire but I’ll reserve that in case I run out of things to do to him.” I blurted out before realizing the can of worms I had opened.

            “You did do something to this closet. I knew it. Oh girl we have got to do more to him. I know you. You are not about revenge. You want to do this by the book but he didn’t. So get your groove on. If Stella got her groove, you can too. Do him in good and then walk away with all his precious stuff, every thing from his money, his collections and his ties. Let that bitch get him new ones. And he’s lucky you don’t have young children because otherwise, I’d give him the entire visitation he wanted. Every freaking weekend, so he couldn’t have time to play house with that slut. Oh yea, every weekend. Hey, your kids are 19 years old. They still live at home when they aren’t away in school. Tell them their next time home will be in hookaville. She’ll have to deal with the dirty looks and the interrupted weekends. Yes, yes… now what else are we going to do?” she gasped as she sat in the desk chair and spun around like a 3 year old.

            I didn’t have the energy to argue or dispute anything with her. I hadn’t even thought about my children. They wouldn’t be home for another month and I was sure by then I’d have something ready to say. Right now it wasn’t about children, my home or revenge. Right now I knew I had to deal with facing him. I got away with it this morning but what would I do tonight? As hurt as I was last night when he called to say he would be home late, I found myself hoping that he would do the same tonight. Funny huh? The one thing that hurt me the most last night was the one thing I needed the most right now.

            I told Tori that I had to run a few errands and I’d see her later when I was done. She hesitated a bit then reluctantly got up from the chair and slowly strolled out of the room but not before turning around and saying, “You call me when you are ready to rip him a new one. I won’t get in your way, but please let me know, I’ve got new popcorn bowls I’m dying to break in. Later.” And off she went. I hated that she left even though I wanted her gone but that was only because the silence in the room was too loud for me to bear. The quieter it was, the more thoughts came flooding in and they wouldn’t stop. I should be calling an attorney, not sitting here feeling sorry for myself. I wanted to do so many things but nothing was making sense. I wanted to face him and ask him why as I slapped him hard. Real hard. I wanted to call his mother and tell her she could have him back. I wanted to call his high school coach and tell him that he wasn’t such a hot stud after all. I knew doing any of the things I had been thinking would not have shown Jim to be the bad guy that he was but instead it would show me out to be the evil wife who didn’t understand him and that’s why he had to go have an affair. I knew the thoughts that ran into people’s minds when they found out someone they knew was having an affair. They either thought the mistress was a whore or the wife gave him reason to step out on her. It was never the man’s fault. Oh nooooo, he worked hard for the money, he was a good provider, a good father. It was her, the wife. She let herself go, she probably didn’t want to have sex with him any more. She probably gained 50 pounds since they got married and half of those pounds were in the form of nasty body jingle. Jell-O thighs. That’s why he stepped out on me. My thighs wiggled too much when we made love.

            I couldn’t breathe in that house any more, so off I went to the mall. No, I wasn’t going to do a Blu Cantrell and hit him up style. I just had to get out and the mall was the first place on my mind. I thought of having a massage but when I saw the price of the seaweed wraps, my head did a spin. Yes, this could be yet another way to get him angry. But it was just money and I knew after he made his point that I may have spent a bit too much on something frivolous he’d get over it and move on to the next disappointing thing I had done. But that seaweed wrap sure sounded good. I got out of there before I changed my mind.

            Walking through the mall, I found myself at my favorite beauty supply shop and decided to treat myself to some new makeup. Of course… I’ll start wearing makeup again and just the way he used to like it. Maybe he’ll notice. Maybe he’ll notice and think that I’m seeing someone else. Hmmm the thought was delicious. As I began to scope out all the new products out there, I noticed that they were selling home spa kits. And there it was; the seaweed wrap. A do it yourself kit for less than half the price of what it cost in the salon. I grabbed 2 kits, paid for my new makeup and headed home.

            I saw the light on the machine blinking and I knew it would be him again calling to say he’d be late once again. I didn’t want to hear a machine tell me, so I called him. What on earth was I doing? I didn’t want to see him just yet, but I called him? See what betrayal does to a woman? It makes you contradict yourself. You cannot start being your enemy ladies. You need to stick together…your heart and your head.

            “Jim Anderson’s office, may I help you?” Rebecca answered. I wanted to say, “Yes, Becky can you tell me the name of the slut Jim’s sleeping with?” But I didn’t want to give it away that I knew just yet, so I asked her if I could speak to her boss.  Usually we chat for a few minutes but today, she didn’t seem inclined to do so. Was it her guilt in knowing that she aided and abetted this man in his affair? I’m sure she has picked up the phone when tie slut would call. I’m sure tie slut has been to the office. Rebecca knew. I was sure of that but once again I was borrowing trouble, I was looking to put my energies elsewhere because I wanted to be the Queen of Denial.

            “Hey what’s up? I just called you at home. Were you at the school?” he asked. As if he cared.

            “Nope, I had some stuff I needed to get done. You called? Putting in a dinner request?” I asked nonchalantly. Then I thought, he had better not think of asking me to cook anything for him tonight. Then I thought…hmmmm I should cook something nice for him… Alpo had a new can of tender beef chunks. A little Mrs. Dash, some Adobo and a side salad and he’d never know the difference,

            “Actually, I’m eating out with the guys after work. We’ve had a long week and we are finalizing a new contract and thought we’d celebrate a little bit early. So I’ll he home around 9. Want me to pick up something for you? I know you weren’t in the mood to cook last night.” Oh how sweet of him to think of me today when he wasn’t giving a crap about me yesterday. I told him no, I didn’t want anything. Clicking the phone to indicate I had another call coming in, I cut him off abruptly and hung up.

            So he was going to be with her again tonight. Well isn’t that what I wanted earlier? Be careful what you wish for.

            But then again what difference did it really make if he had come home? It wouldn’t have changed what he had done already. I walked up the steps pounding each one harder until I reached the top. I dropped my purchases on the bed and I flopped down right along side of them. There goes my new makeup theory. I bought all this new makeup to wear, to impress him, to show him the new me and yet, I couldn’t even face him. Here’s another thought; why if I was so hurt over his affair was I trying to find ways to improve myself to please him? Shouldn’t he be the one trying to win me back? Why would I want him back after he so callously threw me away? Why do women do this to themselves? Here I was trying to rationalize his bad behavior with faults of my own; how did I contribute to this. I looked at the makeup. What a waste of money, I thought as I pushed the bag away from me. The seaweed wraps fell out of the bag and I grabbed one of the packages to read. Why not? I thought. I had nothing else to do for the rest of the afternoon and he wouldn’t be home until well after 9 pm so I’d have plenty of time to pamper myself and then figure out how not to see him again tonight. I’d worry about the morning when I had to. For now, it was one hour at a time.

            The wraps seemed pretty easy enough to do. It was just a bunch of mud and one pack said I could wrap the bandages around me and the other said all I had to do was leave it on for 15 minutes. The idea of being wrapped up like a mummy did not appeal to me, so I chose the less invasive one. I started with my arms, slathering my way through my boobs, then down to my pouchy stomach and slathered more onto my cheesy Jell-O thighs, legs, and saved the rest for my butt. The thing they don’t tell you is that the mud gets all over the place so you need to clear up a big enough space; big enough so when you bend over, your butt prints aren’t on the towels behind you. Annoyed that my clean towels now had butt mud on it, I pulled them off the rack and threw them onto the hallway floor. Going back into the bathroom, I almost tripped on the bathroom rug outside the door. Holding on to the wall for support, I steadied myself, hoping to avoid my body crashing to the floor. The thought of my body imprint on the beige rugs was unappealing. As I began to move to get back into the tub where I thought for sure I’d be safe, I noticed that I had left hand imprints along with one elbow and an arm imprint on the wall. I just painted these walls for goodness sake, I yelled at myself. I ran back, muddy and wet to the linen closet to grab some washcloths. Wetting them, I began to wash off the prints on the wall. Carefully I dumped the wet clothes on top of the butt mud towels when I noticed I had left my handprints on the linen closet door. I grabbed one of the washcloths and used it like a glove to clean the muddy print off the closet door. The mud was starting to dry up in some places so moving around easily was becoming uncomfortable.

            Half stiff, I made it back to the bathroom; I turned on the faucet to clean up the little specks of mud all over the sink when I had the urge to empty my bladder. Good going. I couldn’t hold it for another 10 minutes and if I sat down I’d mess the toilet seat, now what? Well the towels were already messed up, so off to the hallway I went to get them. I made a half moon design out of one of the towels and placed it on the seat. But of course you know that as I tried to sit down, part of the towel fell into the bowl at the same time that my butt made contact with the seat. Great. Now I had a messy toilet bowl seat, a peed up towel and I still had to wait for the rest of the mud to dry up. Finishing my business, I went back to the linen closet, took out more washcloths, and went back into the bathroom carefully not touching anything else along the way. I wet the cloth, cleaned up the toilet seat and then rinsed it off. By now I’m thinking it was so not worth the money I tried to save. But the mud was getting hard in most areas and all I had to do was deal with it for another 5 minutes and I’d be done. Do you know how long 5 minute is? It’s a really long time when you are standing naked in your bathroom and you’ve messed up several towels, wash cloth’s, a toilet bowl seat and have now discovered that with three minutes to go, your shower curtain has a thigh print, a butt cheek print and a few other muddy prints that somehow got there when you were cleaning out the sink. So not worth it.

            I sprayed the white shower curtain with Clorox bathroom cleaner. With one minute to go, I turned on the shower and climbed in to begin the removal process. Why didn’t someone write in the instructions that washing off the mud in the shower would splatter all over the walls and anything in close proximity? It felt good to get that entire gunk off of me, but once I opened my eyes, I was surrounded by a spotted wall of black and gray spots.

            The mud disaster was behind me, literally. In the process of bending over to clean the curtain, I left more butt cheek prints on the wall. All three of them. My butt wasn’t so big after all and the prints weren’t so bad, they didn’t show any cellulite on the walls. But alas, I couldn’t show that to the world, so I was stuck with my dimply ass as well as my wiggly thighs.

            An hour later I was out of the shower. I had to replace the shower curtain and the other towels but at least the bathroom was cleaner than it had been the day before. One less chore to do this weekend, I thought. I dried my hair, put on my new makeup, and went in search of a decent looking outfit to wear. I had no idea where I was going but I didn’t want to stay at home. I wasn’t in the mood for Tori but right now I wasn’t in the mood to talk to any one else about this and she already knew. The thought of starting from scratch to tell any one what had happened was daunting. So off to Tori’s I went.

            “Hey hey, hot stuff. You are gaaalowing. What’s up? Where are you headed off to?” She asked.

            “I don’t know. I just wanted to get out and try on this new makeup and do something. He’s not coming home until late and I don’t want to sit at home so here I am.”  I said lifting my hands up in the air as if she had won me as a prize. Tori grabbed her keys, her Coach bag and pointed her finger out the door. “Come on, let’s get out of here.” She said as she headed for her car. I followed. It was the first time I didn’t have to make a decision, even if it meant I was letting Tori be the leader.

“Where are we going?” I asked, not really caring but being a bit apprehensive because it was after all Tori behind the wheel of the car.

            “You’ll see. What time is it by the way?” she asked as she made a turn unto the highway. “It’s almost 3. Why? You have to be somewhere?” not wanting to know because I had a feeling Tori was up to something. She had that sly look in her eyes and I hoped that whatever she was thinking, would have nothing to do with me. I welcomed the distraction as long as it wasn’t about me.

            “Nope, I don’t have to be any where. But I’m going for a little ride. If I remember correctly, we should be there within 20 minutes and we can take it from there.” Smiling she turned her signal light on heading for the center lane. Where were we going and why was I not getting a good feeling about this? My heart began to beat harder and harder almost bursting through my chest as Tori began to get off the exit. This was the exit that Jeff had taken yesterday to get to his mistress’s house. I didn’t tell Tori the address, I don’t even think I remembered it myself but since there was smaller mall around that area, I assumed she was going to treat me to a day of beauty or a good dinner. Somehow I didn’t think that was it but I was hoping. I know how crazy Tori is and the last thing I wanted to do was anything that would make me look foolish. At the end of the day I was the one that had to deal with this, not her and whatever she was planning on doing if it had anything to do with Jim and his mistress, I was not having any part of it. I had to do this my way and whatever that way was; I wasn’t ready for it now.

            “Okay, the rest is up to you. I don’t know where she lives but according to my calculations, he should be here any minute so if we get there before he does, we may be able to get a better look at her. And no, I’m not turning back. You may not know her address missy, but I’m sure you can get to her place with your eyes closed. So come on, take me there. I want to see for myself.” I knew it! I knew I shouldn’t have told her anything and I knew I shouldn’t have gotten in the car with her and I also knew that maybe I did all of the above because Tori would give me the push I needed to do something. But now? Here? I wasn’t ready to confront Jim. I wasn’t ready to confront her either. I wasn’t ready…

            “Are you daffy? Are you freaking crazy? What if they see us? I’m not ready for this Tori. Turn around now.” I said as I pointed to the corner she had to turn left on. I hadn’t meant to but it was all happening so fast that some invisible force was leading me to the scene of the crime.

            “Hmmm just in time. See over there?” She pointed to a Mr. Softee truck. “Look at the car parked alongside of it. Isn’t he sweet? He’s buying the tie slut an ice cream cone. Sure and then when she gets big and bulky he’ll leave her for someone else. Bastard.”

            There he was, buying whatever her name was an ice cream cone. I’m the one that loves Mr. Softee. He always thought the ice cream truck was an annoying truck that had an asinine song with tasteless ice cream and here he was buying it for the same bimbo that bought him an Arrow tie. If Mr. Softee man handed him a cone with rainbow sprinkles I was going to lose it right then and there. He always thought sprinkles were unnecessary sugar and added nothing to the ice cream and yet there he was, walking away from the truck with two cones, one with sprinkles and one without. I fought the urge to walk out of Tori’s car, run up to him and slam the cone into his face. It didn’t help that the sprinkles were for her. They were never good enough for me but they were for her? Nice Jim. Real Nice. Suddenly I began to laugh, low at first, like a little hum, and then out right hyena laughter. I knew today he’d let her eat those sprinkles but tomorrow he’d make her feel just as guilty as he had made me feel all these years. Oh yes, this was good. Justice would be mine, not right now, but in the end it would be. I know you are thinking; sprinkles? Every little bit of craziness helps at a time like this.

            Tori reached over and touched my hand. She knew when she shut up and when to speak up and now was just not the time. She thought I was laughing because crying was too hard. I didn’t want to share my sprinkle theory with her. Maybe one day over coffee but right now, I was more interested in their next move. They drove the half a block to her house, parked the car as he did the day before and walked to her door licking the melting concoction.

This was just one bad awful movie. I knew what I would be seeing would be no different than the day before but to see them sharing that ice cream, my favorite no less, felt like a violation. We sat for about 20 minutes not saying a word. I kept looking out the passenger side window then back down to my fingers, twirling them in every double-jointed position that I could. I started to giggle at one point and I’m sure Tori must have thought that I was losing it again. When she reached out to hug me, I moved back and said, “No no…you don’t have to do that. I’m okay really I am. I think I needed to see this again. Yesterday just seemed so surreal to me and today it’s very real. It’s true. And no matter how many mud wraps I give to myself, how many things I move around in his closet to drive him crazy, the fact remains that right over there in that house, my husband is with his mistress as I sit here and watch. And I can’t do this any more.” I shook my head as the tears slowly crawled down my newly made up face.

            “Wait, you did what? You moved his stuff around in his closet? Girl you know he hated it when the kids went into his room and messed with his stuff. You are bad. But if that’s what you had to do to drive him crazy and if it made you feel good, then right on sister. Now what.” I cut her off.

            “I still don’t know what to do about an attorney or confronting him but Tori you are right, I did do it to drive him nuts and even though he hasn’t figured it out yet, it did make me feel good now listen to me. Don’t try to change my mind, just listen to me. Drive up to the car quietly. Slowly. Just do it!” I said as she looked at me with bumblebee eyes. “ Go, go!” I motioned with my hand. As she got closer to the car, she turned off the ignition. “Now what?” she asked almost afraid to look at me.

            I reached into my bag and pulled out my set of keys. Yes! Yes! I had a copy of his car keys on my key chain. “Just follow me when I pull out. We are heading to your place. Just do it Tori, please, just do it.” I ran as quickly as I could towards the car. Instead of opening the door with the little gadget, I used the key. I didn’t know where the bedroom was in her house and I didn’t want to risk them hearing the car doors clicking open. This had to work or I’d be mortified. I had already decided if he walked out and caught me with the car, I’d just get in as fast as I could and drive away. Let him figure out how to deal with what I had done. I couldn’t face him and her in her territory. When I faced her, I wanted to be looking hot and sexy. I wanted her to not believe his story that his wife was a dowdy 40 something year old who let herself go. I had on new makeup but the rest of me wasn’t up to par. No way did I want to risk being caught looking like this. If he told her I was fugly, then I would make him out to be the liar he was.

            I got into the car, backed it out and drove as quickly and as quietly as I could away from the house. Within minutes I was heading towards the highway with Tori right behind me. My cell phone rang but I was not going to get distracted until I reached Tori’s house. It was either Tori calling me or Jim and right now I didn’t want to speak to either one until my mission was accomplished. My adrenalin was speeding; my heart was pumping Kool-Aid, that would explain the wild rush I was feeling all over my body. What now? What now? I kept thinking and saying to myself. Who cares? All I know is that I took Jim’s car and he would be furious when he stepped outside thinking he was going to finish his business and then head straight home as if all was fine with the world. Well in my world nothing was fine and Jim was going to be a part of that soon.

            Once we got off the exit and headed towards Tori’s house, I picked up my cell and checked to see who had called me. It was my daughter. She had left a text message reminding me to put some extra cash into her account. Well I was a bit busy, I said to her mentally. Right now, your money can wait and if what I had deposited in her account two weeks ago was already spent, she had better start learning to manage her money better because I was getting tired of explaining her spending habits to her father.

I drove Jim’s car right into Tori’s garage. I didn’t even wait for her to get out of her car before I pressed the button to close the garage door.

            “You want to tell me just what in the hell you are doing?” She asked half laughing and half yelling.

            “Well, here’s the thing. He hasn’t noticed what I did to his closet because he hasn’t been home yet. But I’m impatient. Why stop at his closet? When he’s good and ready to leave and he comes out and doesn’t see his car, he’s going to shit. What’s he going to do then? Call the cops? Report it stolen? What? Think about it? What’s he going to tell me? That it was stolen from the garage at work? He told me he was going out to dinner with the guys. They usually go down to the corner restaurant. So he can’t say they stole it at work. What’s he going to do? If he reports it stolen he’s got to use her address, which means he’ll be very careful that I don’t see any of the paper work. Let him sweat this out. Let him freak out. Let him feel some of what I’ve been feeling. But either way he’s got to report this and one day that very report may be the evidence I need.”

            Tori was doing the worst smile imitation of Jim Carey’s The Mask. But I loved the gleam in her eye. It was approval.

            “Okay so after he reports it stolen, and they find it in my garage then what? You’ll bail me out of jail I hope.”

            “No no no… oh this is so good.  I know Jim. He’s going to report it stolen. It won’t matter to him that it was stolen from her drive way. He’ll find a way to keep that information from me but I’ll know it wasn’t stolen and I’ll know where it is. Once he calls me and tells me what’s happened, he’ll come home of course. I don’t know what will happen after that but the point is that he’ll …” I was startled by the sound of my cell phone vibrating and ringing at the same time. It was Jim.

“Shit shit shit.. It’s him… its only 5 o’clock! Shit! Holy Shit…” I said laughing and trying to control myself, because I had to pee so bad and this was making me all to excited. I had to cross my legs, while trying to maintain some semblance of sanity and avoid my bladder from exploding. I had to pick up the phone. I wanted to know what he was planning on doing.

            “Hey, listen, I’m going to be a little later than I thought. I moved up the dinner with the fellas but a new client walked in today and boss man wants me to set up a file for them for tomorrow afternoon when we meet. I’d rather do it tonight so I don’t have to rush it through in the morning. I’ll see you later okay? Don’t wait up.” He said ready to dismiss me.

            “Oh okay well how’s this. I’m thinking of heading into the city in a bit to meet up with the girls, why don’t I take the bus in and I’ll meet up with you later on. I’m not going to be too far from you and this way I can stay a bit longer.” Smiling to myself, feeling very proud that I was now making this man feel some heat while still controlling my swollen and full bladder. My brave heart was pounding a mile a minute because I was lying to this man whom I had never lied to before and I knew it was wrong but it felt so good and I didn’t care.

            “Umm well the thing is I don’t know how long I’m going to be. You know how new clients are. I want to read up on their profile a bit and see if I can fine-tune something for them. So why don’t you just go on home and I’ll catch up with you later.” I could sense the hesitation in his voice. Or was it fear?

            “Oh don’t be silly. You’ve never stayed in that office past midnight. I should be done by then, and I’ll meet up with you. Besides, I like the drive late at night. Should I pick you up or just meet you in the garage.” I asked innocently. Go on now big boy; get yourself out of this one. He never liked it when I was persistent about anything contrary to what he wanted but today all bets were off. I didn’t feel like being good and being bad felt so good.

            “Sophie, I don’t want to feel rushed. If I know that you are going to be waiting for me, I’ll hurry with the new profile and I want to give this my best attention. And when did these plans for coming into the city come up? You didn’t tell me anything about it this morning.” Ahhh there he was, trying to change the subject and make this about me.

            “I didn’t see you at breakfast so I couldn’t tell you. It was something we had planned last week but nothing panned out until last night. I forgot to tell you, I’m allowed ya know. Well it doesn’t matter now. If you are going to be late getting home, then I won’t rush home either. I’ll see ya when I see ya. Adios.” I hung up before he had a chance to say anything. Tori busted out laughing like a hyena. I soon followed after I had absorbed what I had just done to Jim. How easy was that for me to do? I didn’t even think about it in advance. I didn’t know I had it in me.

            “What are you going to do now?” Tori asked.

Well I knew that Jim would be miffed at my attitude on the phone. I knew that might mean he would end his evening earlier or he’d stay with her longer just to teach me a lesson. But I wouldn’t know he was teaching me a lesson duh because he didn’t know I knew of his affair. Yea, well whatever. Either way, I had plenty of time to get home so I savored the moment again as I reached for the Chinese menu to order take out. Jim hates Chinese food because it’s loaded with sodium and it makes me look bloated. Too bad Jimster. I’m eating Chinese while salivating over your soon to be shock that your precious car has been stolen.

            I headed back home 2 hours later. I knew by this time Jim would be making hussy cook his meal or order take out. I wondered if he had discovered his car missing yet.

At 9 pm, I was languishing over a Sandra Brown novel when the phone rang. My heart skipped a beat. The caller ID registered Jim’s cell phone number. This was it. But as I went to pick up the phone I remembered that I wasn’t supposed to be home so if I picked it up I’d have some explaining to do myself. I let the machine pick up and reached for my bag to see if he had left a message on my cell phone. Bingo! He did.

            “Sophie? It’s me Jim. I’m going to be a bit longer. My car was stolen and I have to file a police report and I don’t know how long that is going to take. I’ll try calling you at home. I need some insurance information and I don’t have it with me as it was in the glove compartment.” Click. Oh yea and so what if I had picked up the cell phone. Did he expect me to know all that information by hard?

            The answering machine had more or less the same message except it was dripping with a bit more anger and annoyance. How dare his wife not be home in his time of need?! Yea what a crappy wife I was.
            I contemplated whether or not to call him. I knew he was furious that “someone” had stolen his car, but I wanted to give him a bit more time to think of what this really meant. Or maybe I was giving him a bit more time to find a way to lie himself out of this one.

            I took a quick shower, got into my jammies and waited a bit longer to return Sir Jim’s call. “ Hello, Jim? What’s going on? I just got your message.” I asked trying to conceal my phony surprise.

            “Sophie where have you been? I tried the cell and at home. Someone stole my car and I’ve had to fill out a police report. This is most disturbing. I can’t believe with all the taxes we pay, this has to happen in our neighborhood.” Ahhhh Mr. Jim, that wasn’t a very smart thing to say.

            “Our neighborhood Jim? They stole the car from here?” I asked.

Hesitation is the sincerest form of you-just-busted-him. “But if you are in our neighborhood why aren’t you here getting the information you need? I didn’t know the police needed our insurance information, don’t they want that only if the car’s been involved in an accident?” Oh I was loving this especially when he drew in a deep breath and slowly exhaled, with a little shake rattle and roll.

            “Sophie this isn’t the time for 20 questions. I don’t have time to explain all the minute details. The car was stolen,” He said through clenched teeth. And I need you to give me some information that I can’t access right this minute. Can you comprehend what I’m saying?” He added with frustration. That’s not nice Jim.

            “Yes, I comprehend asshole. You are saying that the car you drove to your mistress’s house this afternoon, while you took time off from work to pork her, was stolen from her front door and now you’ve got to figure out how to get all of this into one neat package so you don’t only have to deal with losing your car, but getting your ass busted by your wife who doesn’t comprehend a damn thing.” Well that’s what I wanted to say but thinking about it was just as good. I didn’t want to tip my hand just yet.

            “Okay Jimbo, no need to get upset. I know how you feel to have something taken from you just like that. The nerve of those thieves to come into our neighborhood and steal your car. Hold on a minute hon., I’ll go to the filing cabinet and get the insurance file. Be right back.” I said sugary. Notice I mentioned, our neighborhood. Notice he didn’t respond to that. What does that mean? Who the hell knows, I just noticed it. It might be something I can use to tell the judge.

            I skipped to the study, located the key under the humidor on his mahogany desk, and located the file. While I was there, I decided to do a little filing that I had neglected to do the week before. Yes, I know, that was mean of me but so was doing the horizontal mambo with someone else when you were married and compared to that, my crime was not so bad. I waited a few more minutes, grabbed the file and walked back to the kitchen. Yes, there was a phone extension in the study, but I had no intention of making this easy on him. I wanted his frustration, his anger and his about-to-blow-up-in-your-face feelings to linger a bit longer. Hey, turn about is fair play.

“Here it is. What do you want to know?” I asked.

“What took you so long Sophia?” he asked rhetorically frustrated. I thought about responding but I didn’t want to push it. Oh to hell with it, I thought. He asked. He deserved an answer. “Jim, I had to find the right file. You need the correct information don’t you? This is so upsetting I’m sure. I just can’t imagine what you must be going through; tired, wanting to come home after a long day at work, a new client and then finding that some low life stole your car. That would just irritate the hell out of me. Anyway, I took so long because I pulled out the home owners insurance file and realized I had pulled out the wrong file and…” He cut me off. How rude.

“Sophia, that’s not important now. I need the 24 hot line number to report this and I need the name of the agent who sold us the policy. I want to get him on the line now so that I don’t have to deal with all of this tomorrow again.”

           I gave him the info suppressing a giggle. The nerve of him to think that the agent that sold us the policy would be sitting by the phone 24 hours a day waiting for him to make this call. I already knew what I was planning on doing as soon as he came home and I was getting excited by the minute. I apologized, gave him a few extra words of syrupy encouragement and hung up. I made myself a sandwich, grabbed a bottle of Corona and headed upstairs to wait for the poor dear.

           He was home 2 hours later, slamming the door coming in. He slammed the door shut in his office as well and I knew enough not to go there. I didn’t want to give any thing away, so I stayed in bed, watching the TV with the sound turned down. As soon as I heard him coming upstairs, I pretended to be asleep. But I was sure it wouldn’t have mattered what I did, if Jim decided he wanted to bark at me, he’d wake me up. Somehow I had a feeling that he did not want to rock the boat with me, so he’d leave me alone. It all depended on how stupid he was feeling.

           He walked into the room quietly. The Jimster did not want to wake me, which meant he did not want to face me, which meant he had not worked out his story in his head. I waited with baited breathe for him to wash up, get into his phi’s and crawl into bed. This man did not want to face me and had I not had my plan put in order by then, I would have woken up and made him deal with me. I was too excited to ruin what I had come up with in a matter of minutes while hearing his busted ass voice on the phone.

           I counted his breaths until they were even. One thing about Jim; there could be thunder and lightening pursued by a freight train in our back yard and that man would not wake up. I got out of bed slowly, making believe I was going to the bathroom, just in case he woke up. Nada. The ZZZZZZ’s were in full force tonight. Poor thing; screwing tie whore, then finding his car stolen, then having to deal with the police, then having to deal with me over the phone, then having to deal with having to figure out how to lie to me once again, had pooped him out. Oh just wait till the morning.

           I tiptoed down the stairs, grabbed my cell, and headed out the kitchen door. Tori picked up on the first ring. “Girl, what the hell is going on?” she asked.

“I’m heading your way. Open the garage door. I’m taking out his car.” I jogged all the way down the block to her house. The opened garage door greeted me. I had now involved this garage in my plan to drive Jim crazy. I was one with this garage.

“What are you doing Sophie? First you take the car, hide it, and now you are driving it back where? To her place? I hope not. I’m not going there with you. Oh no. The cops may be watching that neighborhood woman, it’s too damn hot to go there now…” I cut her off.

“Shhh no Tori. I’m parking the car in our driveway. I don’t have time to talk in case he wakes up. I’ll talk to you in the morning. Thanks for doing this. Love ya.” I got in the car, no lights, driving slowly home. I parked the car where he always parks and quietly shut the door. I didn’t waste any time trying to lock it. It wasn’t necessary. I came back the way I went in, plugged in my cell phone back to the charger and grabbed something to drink, just in case he woke up and wondered where I was, seeing me with a glass of water, would not make him suspicious. As I tiptoed up the stairs, I thought how fun it was to be doing this and how sad it was that I too could be as sneaky as he was. But my actions were a result of his. I was starting to feel remorse but I stopped myself. I was going to go through with this to the end. I owed myself that much. Far too many times, I’ve bitten my tongue while Jim got his way. This time around, it was my turn. And I was going to enjoy every minute of his torture even if I didn’t feel good about it. Oh whom am I kidding? The hills are alive with the sound of payback. I was loving this.    This was too easy. Someone up there truly loved me. I slid into bed, waited for my heart to stop beating and finally fell asleep.  I woke up to the sound of the shower and quickly ran downstairs to start breakfast. Minutes later Jim walked into the kitchen. “Morning,” he growled.

           This was it. The moment I had waited for all night. “So,” I said as I put his eggs on the table. “I see the cops found your car. I can’t imagine what you must have gone through. Why didn’t you wake me up when you got home last night? I tried to stay awake but it was a pretty long day for me, not as long as I’m sure yours was”

           He looked at me over his wireless rimmed glasses. “What do you mean the cops found my car? I told you they stole my car. Why would you say something stupid like that?” he asked disgustedly and the creep shook his head back and forth for added measure as if his words weren’t hurtful enough.

           “Uh Jim. I’m not saying anything stupid. You told me they stole the car last night, right?” I asked with open wide eyes. He didn’t respond.

           “Maybe I misunderstood Jim. I’m sorry. It was late when you called and I had a long day. Never mind.” I said looking out the window.

           “Why do you keep staring out that window?” he growled again. “What the hells so damn interesting out there?” He got up, walked over to me and followed my stare. And there it was… in full view. His precious car.

“What the hell…” He ran out of the kitchen door like a bat out of hell. I poured myself another cup of coffee and walked outside.  Slurping the java loudly enough to annoy him, I looked at the car, then back at him. “What’s wrong? Here’s the car they stole last night. Why are you surprised? They found it, it’s here, and it’s no longer stolen. Why the attitude with me this morning? If you had told me last night that they had found the car, I wouldn’t have bothered you with idle chitchat this morning. I know how you hate it.” I turned to walk away but he grabbed my wrist making my coffee spill.

“Oh Jim, we just had the driveway repaved, I hope this coffee doesn’t leave a stain.” I pretended to really give a shit.

           “Sophie, listen to me. Did you hear anyone drive up last night after I got home? Or any time this morning.” I pulled my arm away from him. “Nope. Oh damn, look at the time. I’ve got a meeting this morning. I’ll see you tonight? Or will you be working late again tonight?” I asked.

           “Sophia, you didn’t hear anything at all. Nothing?”

“Jim, I came home before you did last night. I barely made it to bed. I didn’t even hear you come in. I went to bed and I woke up when I heard the shower going this morning. What was I supposed to hear? And wait, why if the car wasn’t stolen did I need to give you all that insurance information. Something doesn’t make sense here. Jim? Are you okay? Did I miss something? Are you not telling me something?” There big boy.explain yourself this time. Go on. Do it. Look me straight in the face and tell me the truth. I dare you.

           “Nothing. Nothing is going on. I thought the car was stolen but one of the guys had borrowed it and forgot to tell me he hadn’t parked it in the garage. He parked it in the street. They towed it away and when he finally called me, we put it all together. I had already called you and then the insurance company to report it stolen.” Oh that was good, but not too bright… if that was the case you nimrod I thought, then why were you so surprised to see the car in the driveway this morning? And you bet I asked him that.

           “You must have really been tired. What a nightmare it must have been. You didn’t even remember driving the car home last night. Why don’t you take the day off and let’s spend the day being lazy. I can cancel my meeting and we can eat junk food and watch old movies. Oh babe, that would be so much fun.” I said nearly vomiting on myself.

           The look on his face was truly a Kodak Moment. I could have made a Master Card commercial out of this scenario.

           “Steaing” car from cheating husband on the same day you bought a seaweed     wrap kit—-$60.00

           Hiding “stolen” car from cheating husband—having one corona and Chinese take out –$ 30.00

           Seeing the look on husband’s face as he sees stolen car in driveway, while wife asks him to spend the day doing to her what he does to his mistress—Priceless.

As if….
“Sophia, I don’t have time to dilly daddle all day long being lazy. I work hard so you can do that.”

           I Linda Blaired him. The only thing missing was the pea soup. So many things were roller coasting through my head but no words were coming out. Speak you idiot! Speak! Stand up for yourself! But all I could see was scarlet. After all these years of being his wife, and the mother of his children, after being the perfect hostess with the mostest so that he could look good, it was all summed up in two words punctuated with 7 words that were more hurtful that the first two. So, my 20+ years with this man was nothing more than a dilly daddle of laziness. Nice. Real Nice. And here I was feeling guilty for messing with his head last night. It was on. He just declared war.

            I walked away. What was the point in telling him anything? His words, the look in his eyes, told me all that I needed to hear. It spoke volumes to me. It made me realize what a blind fool I had been all of these years.

“I have to make a few phone calls before I leave.” He uttered as he headed back to the house.

            I didn’t feel as if I belonged in my home any more. But that’s where I had to be for now until I could figure out what my next step would be. I didn’t want to play any more games but I didn’t want him to know that I was aware of his other life, not yet. He was angry now and anything he did in anger would only hurt me more. I laughed when I thought of that because him having an affair was painful for me and I can’t imagine what angered him so much to make him do that.  I didn’t want to figure out when things began to change between us. I had thought about that from time to time throughout the past few years and more so these past few days. I didn’t want to figure out what my role was in the failure of our marriage. It didn’t matter. I knew something was wrong but I didn’t try to figure it out in the arms of another man. What was evident was that he chose to leave this marriage and disrespect me and whenever he had done that, for however long he had been doing that, was when our marriage ended. I didn’t know when but it didn’t matter any more. To know that I had been made a fool of all of these years after I had given so much of myself was devastating but powerful. I finally knew. I saw. Yes, reality slapped me in the face and startled me. But there was my power. That knowledge that I was no longer living a lie that someone else told me.  It hurt that he thought so little of me but what mattered right then and there was what I thought of myself. I don’t know what came over me but while his actions and his words cut me, they didn’t destroy me. I would not give him the satisfaction of knowing that what he had done had hurt me. If he didn’t know that his actions would hurt our marriage and me then I was wasting my time with a very stupid man. I wasn’t feeling to great about myself at the moment but I knew it would pass. What I had to do now was save myself.  And the thought of doing something for myself, by myself was starting to make me feel very grown up. What the hell had I been doing all of these years? I spent all my time being the best mother I could be to my children; the best wife; the best home maker, cook, cupcake maker, fund raiser and volunteer that I forgot how to be the best me that I could be for me. I was busy being something for so many that I forgot to be someone for myself. The sad thing was that I thought all these years that what I was doing for others would make them happy and because it made me happy to make them feel that way, I never thought once, if they had appreciated it enough. Apparently my husband took it all for granted. I’m sure his excuse is going to be that I had stopped paying attention to him and that led him to the land of lust with Missy long legs.

            When did he lose his ability to discuss things with me? So because he couldn’t verbalize his unhappiness he chose to have an affair instead? And how selfish of him to think he was the only one unhappy in this marriage. Did he think I was oblivious to all the things that had changed in us, in our marriage and in our home? It was obvious to me that he didn’t care about any one’s happiness but his own. While he betrayed me, he also betrayed his children. We raised them all these years to be honest. We raised them with morals. And good ole’ Jim changed the rules to benefit him without thinking once of the consequences. This was not just he having an affair and disrespecting our marriage, it was so much more. It was about family, it was about love and it was about dishonesty. What pissed me off about this is that I was 95% sure he waited until our twins were away at college, out of the house, to do this. Even though he was being a sneak about this, he knew if I had found out about his affair and left him before the kids were out of the house, there would be child support involved. This affair didn’t just happen. He planned it out to suit his needs in every way possible.

             The burning sun was a reminder that my day had just begun even though all I wanted to do was crawl back into bed and sleep for a week.  I walked into the kitchen to get a fresh cup of coffee, when he came back down from the bedroom. My skin was crawling with the eebbie geebies when I saw him. In place of the anger I had felt all these days was disgust. I guess that was a good thing because anger drives you to do things that you’ll regret later. Anger is power held over your head by the person doing the hurting. Anger is just wasted emotion and time I will never get back. He wasn’t worth it any more.

“Did you do something with my socks when you put away the laundry whenever it was you did it? I notice there are at least three loads waiting to be done.” He scolded.

I could have answered him the way I normally would; with loads of sugary responses just to justify my busy day and explain why not every thing could get done to his satisfaction. Instead I just sipped my coffee, looked up over the rim at him, and waited. When he looked up over his shoulder, waiting for the immediate reply I should have given him, I slurped louder. He hates that. Good. He turned around fully this time and gave me the how-dare-you-not-respond-to-me-immediately-when-I-ask-a-question look. Here it was, the stare down. Yea baby. Come on. Stare at me some more. I’ve been waiting to exhale for years now. Just one look; that’s all it’ll take. Come on big boy, let’s go for it.

            “Sophia, did you hear what I said?”

            “Uh yea, I’m standing right here, Jim. I hear you. But I choose not to listen to you today. So you figure out when I did the laundry, and what I did to your precious socks. I’m too busy dilly dallying to cater to you today.” I smirked and walked away, slapping my slippers on the floor with an extra drag for effect; he hates that too. I don’t know what he did after that but the stare I knew he was giving me penetrated deep into my back. I waited in the bathroom until I was sure he was gone. 45 years old and I’m sitting on a toilet bowl waiting for my husband, King Ass, to leave. This is what my life had become. It definitely was time for a change.

Tori must have been watching out her window waiting for his car to turn the corner because within minutes of his leaving, she was walking into the back door.

            “Helllllllo! Sophie? You up there?” she called out as she began to climb the stairs to my bedroom. Finding me sitting on the edge of the bed, she walked in and stopped abruptly.

            “Oh no. He found out what you did? What’s going to happen now? Oh who cares? He got busted and now he’s trying to make it out about what you did with the car instead of what he did with his pecker. Don’t let him get to you.”…. The tears didn’t even flow…they burst like a freaking dam.

            “He thinks I’m a dilly dally lazy wife….” I stuttered as the snot came bubbling out of my nose. I couldn’t get a full sentence out between the snot and the short breaths I was trying to take. Tori came to me, took me in her arms and rocked me until the stuttering stopped and I was able to breathe better and make sense of what I was saying.

            “So now what? He thinks you are a lazy wife. Well you know that’s not true. I can’t get you to enjoy a cup of tea or General Hospital without you feeling guilty at some point. This house is immaculate. You’ve always been there for him and done things for him and your children even when it meant not doing for you. How is that lazy Sophie? Don’t let his words make you the reason why he is seeing this other woman. He’s doing that because he’s not man enough to face whatever issues he’s got in his life and instead of facing up to that, he’s taking the easy way out and blaming you by using his wicky wacky on some cheap slut. Come on baby… you know this is what they do. It’s not about what they’ve done; it’s always about what someone else done that was the cause of their bad behavior. Come on.  You’d be telling me the same thing if this was happening to me.” Wiping my tears, and cleaning the snot from my nose, she dumped the tissue in the trashcan and stood back with her hands on her hips.

            I knew what she was thinking. I knew what had to be done and I didn’t have the energy to even begin the process. Without saying anything to her, she took me by the hand and got me out of the house. We got in her car and headed to the mall. I was not in the mood to go shopping.

            We parked. Got out and headed for the top floor. My feet felt like lead, my heart heavier than that and my brain was fried. I had on my Hollywood sunglasses to cover the bulging red and swollen eyes.

            “We are not shopping darling. We are going to pig out here and then talk about our next plan of action. Whatever you need to do, you’ve got to do and fast. He doesn’t know you know but this car thing is going to make him very careful with what he does. So he’ll lay low for a few weeks. In the mean time you’ve got to get yourself together, find a place to live and start protecting your assets. I will not have you being taken advantage of and right now you can’t think straight, so that’s what I’m here for. Let’s eat.” Only Tori could think of food at a time like this. Tori thought of food all the time and I hated that she didn’t gain an ounce with all she could eat. Me? I’d think of food and my hips widened.

            I didn’t realize how hungry I was until I dug into my taco salad. Tori thought this called for something bigger than a taco salad so she bought some KFC, and cut some pieces to throw into my tortilla basket of calories. I didn’t care. It all tasted so good and decadent. Jim wasn’t happy with the extra 20 pounds I had been unable to lose since the twins were born. He couldn’t celebrate the 50 I had lost; instead he bitched and moaned about the 20 that were still on my body. The body he stopped loving.  In the last 10 years I had lost the same 20 pounds five times. I saw it as me losing 100 pounds; he saw it as me having gained 100 pounds. Perception. 

            Gulping down the Vanilla, strawberry and walnut ice cream that Cold Stone prepared just for my wounded soul was just what the doctor ordered. We headed out of the mall and back home. Tori made some Mojito’s and chewing on the slushy ice made me forget the amount of liquor in the light green drink. After we drank a pitcher full of them, we sat on the sofa and watched General Hospital. So this was what lazy felt like. Drunk and lazy. I could grow to like this.

            I woke up just as Ellen began dancing with her studio audience. Realizing what time it was, I rushed to get up and fell right back down on the sofa. Tori was heading towards me with a nice cup of hot tea. How could she be up and around when I could barely keep my head straight?

            “Here, take a few sips of this and you’ll be good as new. I ordered some pizza from Papa John’s and then we can talk if you want or you can go home and do whatever it is your little heart desires.” She said. Yea right. Go home. After this morning, I didn’t feel as if I had a home. I didn’t want to go anywhere. I didn’t feel as if I belonged. I was lost in my own skin. Great. He messes around, and I’m the one that pays the price.

            “I don’t want to go home Tori. I don’t want to stay here. I don’t want to eat Papa Juanito, and I don’t want to drink any more. I don’t know what to do any more.” I said stifling what I was sure would be another round of snot balls and tears.

            “Then don’t go home. You call Jim and tell him you are staying in the city and he can fend for himself. Tell him whatever you want to tell him. You don’t owe him any explanations. In fact, don’t call him. See if he worries about you not being home?” she said defiantly.
            “You mean see if he notices that I’m not home.”

            Slowly and a bit unsteady, I headed for home. I only lived half a block from Tori but it felt like a mile. As I walked into the kitchen the phone was ringing….Yea yea yea, you’ll be working late tonight again…what else is new? I thought to myself.

            It was my daughter asking once again if I had made it to the bank today because she had made a purchase and the store did not accept her card for insufficient funds. I grabbed the phone fast and held it tight. I wasn’t sure if it was because I wanted to control my anger or control beating the counter with the phone. Either way, I was pissed off.

            “What do you mean you made a purchase at the store? The money you asked for was to cover your rent for the month because you had over spent your allowance. Why are you shopping? What did you buy?” I shrieked with steady control. My daughter Taylor…what can I say about her? I love her. She was a handful when she was younger. As the twin of my son Brandon, I often marveled at how different they both were. Brandon was quiet, studious and quite affectionate with me. He tried to be that way with Jim but Jim was strictly macho all the way. The last time he showed either of his children and physical affection by way of a hug, was when they were probably in the first grade. I can’t even remember. How sad was that? Taylor on the other hand commanded affection from her father by way of material things. She was better at putting Jim on a pedestal than I was. She’d work her dad until she got what she wanted, be it a weekend trip with a classmates family out of town or a new dress for a house party, she’d hound him until he gave in. When Jim used to indulge her like that as a child, I protested vehemently about the damage he was doing to her but Jim was always right. I wouldn’t let Taylor get away with anything but when she wanted something bad enough her father always managed to veto me. I loved my daughter. Silky straight hair, long legs, beautiful smile, smart, cute, funny and slick. Brandon was the complete opposite in terms of personality. As far as looks were concerned, Brandon was even handsomer than his father and kinder.

            “What is up with your attitude Mom? I just asked if you went to the bank. I had to buy some groceries. I was a little short on that and I naturally assumed you’d know that. Excuse me for needing to eat.” If it were possible for my hand to reach through the phone and shake this child of mine, I would have.

            “Taylor, you have a part time job which is supposed to cover your extra costs, especially when you run short of the cash we give you each month. I have not been able to get to the bank but your rent is not due for three days, since that’s what you said you needed the money for, I…you know what? I don’t owe you an explanation. If you can’t handle your finances, then it’s time you learned. If you need more than what we are giving you each month, then work extra hours or cut back on some costs. Otherwise, deal with your situation and stop bothering me. The money will be in the bank tomorrow.” Click. I hung up on my daughter. Correction. I hung up on my self centered, thoughtless and selfish daughter. And it felt good. Lately, standing up for myself was feeling mighty good.

            The phone rang again. The caller ID showed it was Jim. No doubt, Taylor called him to complain about my attitude or he was calling to let me know that he would be late again. Either way, I wasn’t in any mood to listen to any more nonsense. I had my share for the day. Purposely, I walked out into the back yard so I wouldn’t have to hear whatever message was being left on my machine. After a few minutes, I walked back in, made myself a cup of coffee and took it upstairs. As the hot liquid made it’s way down my sore throat, I stood in the middle of my bedroom; The room where both my children were conceived. ;The room where I spent half of my life being a wife to an ungrateful man. I could have spent the entire afternoon going over what this room meant in my life. The end result was that no matter what history this room had, it held no future for me. It was time for me to move on. I had choices to make and I couldn’t make them standing in the middle of the room feeling sorry for myself.

            The phone rang again and this time I walked out of the room, down the stairs, and out the door. I kept on walking until I got to the park. Great. Another walk down memory lane. Why was I looking back? That’s not where I had to go. But maybe looking back would take me to where I needed to go. I hated going down memory lane. That’s probably what kept me in my marriage; going back, thinking of the days when we did have love, when we were happy, where did I go wrong, when did all this start to happen? A part of me wanted to pin point it down to the first second things had begun to change so that I could find more fault with Jim. I knew when this all came out he would blame me. I wanted to be ahead of the game this time. I wanted to have an answer, a defense for each of his accusations.  Why was I doing this to myself? Why was I thinking about when the competition began for my husband’s affection? Why was I thinking of this as competition? Even if I had a choice to deal with this or not, love shouldn’t be a competition and that’s what it was all about for Jim. Who could service him better? Who could make him the happiest? Whoever succeeded won the prize, him.  How was it possible that he was the one doing the cheating and changing the course of what we had once dreamed about and yet I was the one dwelling and mourning the past, the present and my tomorrows? I hated not knowing. I hated this feeling of not having control of my own thoughts, my emotions, and my life. Why was I the one feeling so out of control when I didn’t do anything?

            I walked slowly back home; looking at all the houses Jim did not want to buy when we were looking for a house 20 years ago. They all looked the same to me now. Even mine did. Jim thought we had the best house in the area, and once all the other houses started adding on to their property, Jim had to out do them all. It was all about size. Perception.

            Tori caught up with me and walked along side of me quietly. What a friend. Sometimes she would drive me up a wall with her non-stop talking and then there were other times when she knew words were not needed. Oprah once said on her show that there were really no words to describe the friendship she had with Gail and she could understand why some folks thought they were lesbians. That whole thing must have started by some jealous, insecure males who couldn’t comprehend that women could really love each other and be friends without benefit of sex. I remembered thinking back then that the words Oprah was looking for to defend her friendship with Gail was simple; Friendship, love, sisterhood. What was so hard to comprehend about that? Two women; the best of friends, the best of sisters. Why do women always have to defend or define that which is important in life to them?

Jim was threatened by my friendship with Tori. I knew it for years and that was the one thing I refused to give up for him. I found ways to spend time with her when he wasn’t around but I refused to sneak around or make excuses just to spend time with her. She was the one constant in my life that always kept me sane even when the things we did were a bit daffy. And now that I was going through this drama, here she was, supporting me and offering to do whatever needed to get done as long as I was happy. She’d be the friend that be sharing the same jail cell with me instead of the one bailing me out of jail.

            I knew I had to stop doing this, enough with the melancholy days gone by. I had some serious decisions to make and thinking about my yesterdays was not going to help me with my tomorrows. I had to do something and I had to start now.

            “So, my betrayed hurt but strong friend, what are we going to do now?” she said waiving her hand furiously fast back and forth. “I know, I know…. It’s not we… it’s not you and me… it’s not my problem, it’s yours and I know I can’t make the choices for you but I’m here. I’m here for whatever and now’s not the time to push any one that wants to be in your corner away because you think you need to do this on your own. He had help breaking your heart, so you’ll get help mending it. I’m here.” She took my hand and walked with me the rest of the way home. The only thing that was missing was we skipping like two little girls.

            I ordered take out from the Sushi place and headed to Jim’s study. Tori plopped herself on the futon as I turned on his laptop. I didn’t expect to find anything there but I figured it was the best and easiest place to start. I knew Tori was dying to hit his cabinets but neither one of us had an idea what to look for. As I went into his email account, she pulled out her cell phone and made a call. After a few hello’s –how are you’s, she began firing off a bunch of questions.  I was engrossed in what the mini screen was showing me. I knew I’d find email between Jim and his new beloved. I just wanted to know her name so I could stop calling her tie whore. I didn’t need to see in words what I had already seen in person. I wasn’t interested in inheriting any more trouble.

            Her name is Andrea. I was not tempted to find out more but Tori was. I let her do what she wanted. Just finding out Tie Whore’s name exhausted me. Now I wish I had left it alone. I sat on the futon as Tori went to town on the laptop. The click clacking of the keys kept steady pace with the beat of my heart. That was how I knew I was still alive.

The wireless printer was gushing out sheet after sheet of what Tori said was evidence. Evidence of what? The judge would not give one damn of Jim’s infidelity. He would only care about the dissolution of the marriage and I really didn’t think I needed a judge to do that for me when Jim had already done it for us. The paper work was just a technicality.

Grabbing all that she had copied, she turned off the laptop and opened the filing cabinet. I went through the motions of what she was doing and what I thought I was supposed to do. It felt easier than me having to think through it all.        

            After cleaning up the take out mess and putting Jim’s office back in place, we headed over to Tori’s house. I was sure I’d get some clarification on what had just happened in the den. Eventually it would hopefully all make sense to me. The only thing I knew for sure was that there would be no happy ending.

            “Okay now, here’s the deal.” Tori said as she put on her bifocals. Here is a copy of his financial records. I found those in his cabinet. I’m telling you now so that later on, you don’t start thinking that I hacked into his files. These…” she said waving some more sheets of white and black in the air, “…are some emails he exchanged with Mama long legs. Nothing much, just your typical, I-miss- you- babe- last- night- was- awesome- we’ll- meet- later- on- tonight- kind-of- thing. But I’m sure you already knew that so thanks for letting me be the one to do this. I want to enhance my reasons for hating him even more. Every thing seems to be in order here, and now you can call an attorney, tell him what’s going on, and when Jim decides to cry poverty, you can provide him with proof that he’s not as broke as he’d like you and every one to believe. You can thank me later for that. In fact I’ll let you take me out to a nice dinner at the hmmm let’s see….at Tavern on the Green no wait…. At the Russian Tea Room. Yea, some place where we can run into someone famous.” Enormously proud of her accomplishment and potential reward, she leaned back on the chair, folded her arms behind her head and smiled.

Two cups of coffee later, securing the information we had gathered I was determined to get some sleep. Tomorrow would come soon enough and I had plenty to do then. Now was the time to rest up and recharge the old battery.

            Climbing into bed an hour later, I turned on the television intent on catching up with all the Law and Order episodes I never get to watch. My eyes lids were heavier than my intentions to watch the repeats and I dozed off to the sounds of each repeat. If Jim hadn’t shaken the foot of the bed with his knee, I would have slept through his morning shower.

            “You want to tell me what’s going on here Sophie?” he asked with an attitude.

I dragged myself out of bed, walked into the bathroom and proceeded to brush my teeth while turning on the water to the shower. I knew he hated when I wasted water like that and honestly, this wasn’t about me making him upset.

            “ I asked you a question and you walk away from me? This house is a mess not to mention my closet. You haven’t cleaned out the refrigerator, the laundry has been piling up for a few days now and you were out late last night. You care to explain to me what the hell is going on?” he bellowed.

            Spitting out the Listerine, I clipped my hair in a bun, stripped my jammies off and stepped into the shower. The hot water felt good against my skin and it helped drown out the wa wa wa of his whining voice. I thought it was hilarious that he had ignored me these last few years of our life together but he noticed the few things out of place around the house. Nice. When I was done with my shower, I creamed up, powdered and perfumed myself, dressed and headed to the kitchen for a nice cup of hot java, the hazelnut kind, the kind he hates because it’s not really coffee, it’s someone’s idea of yucking up a good solid warm drink. Oh whatever!

            “Something’s going on here Sophia and I want answers now!” he demanded or so he thought he was demanding. I didn’t have to listen, respond or care. While Jim kept wa wa waing in the background, I slurped my coffee, while busying myself around the kitchen. I knew he was saying something, I’m sure he was complaining, but it didn’t matter to me and nothing was registering anyway.

            Taking two steps at a time, I went back upstairs to my room. Fixing my hair, adding a few more touches to my makeup, I took one last look in the mirror and walked out; out the bedroom door, down the stairs, through the kitchen and out the back

door. I didn’t hear the screen door slam shut so I knew that Jim had been close behind, assuming that his ranting and raving would make me stop and pay attention. Well it didn’t but that sure didn’t stop him from going on and on. I knew he was standing out there watching me walk away and I didn’t care.

            That afternoon, I went to see the attorney that Tori recommended. He listened to what I had to say, made notes and then he smiled. My life was falling apart and this high priced barrister who was charging a gazillion bucks an hour was smiling. Apparently I had nothing to worry about. I guess he must have been used to this because as he was going over what would be happening to me in the next few weeks, he was eating a breakfast burrito platter, sucking his teeth with his tongue, all while flipping the pages of what I had presented to him, courtesy of Tori.

            “Well, here’s the thing…we can give serve him with papers at his work place and….” No, I said to myself, I don’t want this to be another we thing. There is no we. It was Jim and I. I didn’t want a stranger handling the rest of my life and making the last 24 years of my life come down to numbers and property. What Jim did was wrong and there was no way I was going to let him get away with it without a fight but did I really want a stranger to do the fighting for me? I wanted to be the one to confront him and make the choices and I knew eventually I would need an attorney because Jim was not going down without a fight but right now, all I wanted to do was get out of there. I now had an attorney, I had made progress into the mess Jim had made and that was enough for me.

            “I’ll let you know what I want to do. I just wanted to speak to attorney to weigh my options and to…. Look I’ll call you in a few days and let you know what I want to do next. I just wanted…I’m sorry. I don’t know what I want. That seems to be the only thing that’s consistent with me these past few days. I don’t know what I want to do but I’m sure you are used to hearing that. Thank you for your time. I’ll be in touch.” I couldn’t get out of there fast enough. I knew I had to retain an attorney before I confronted Jim. I wanted Jim to know that I had thought this through but that was as far as I had gotten in any concrete decision-making.

            “Hi…. Is he in the office?” I asked his surprised secretary.

“Oh Mrs. Anderson, hi, I wasn’t aware you were coming in today. I ummm let me get Mr. Anderson on the line, he’s in a meeting on the 11th floor.” Rebecca pressed a few buttons on the phone and waited for what I assumed was someone to pick up on the other line while trying her best to avoid looking at me. I walked right over to her desk and pressed the speakerphone. I wanted to hear Jim’s reaction when she told him I was there. Rebecca had no idea what to do next as my reaction was unexpected and caught her off guard. I smiled. What could she do? Tell Jim that I had put him on speaker? If she did that, she’d know I’d ask her why she warned him. Was she aware of his affair? Or was she being an over protective secretary?

            “What do you mean she’s there? Where did you tell her I was?” he asked furiously.
            “She told me you were on the 11th floor Jim. Should I meet you up there or wait in your office darling? Your choice.” Click. Instinct or years of being married told me he would be down before I had a chance to make myself comfortable in his office. Did Andrea work on the 11th floor? Where was she coming from the day I first spotted them? What was on the 11th floor?

            “Care to tell me why you are here today when you spent the morning ignoring me? When you should be home making some sense out of the mess you’ve left all over the place?” he roared.

            Bully. “Care to tell me how long you’ve been doing the horizontal mambo with Andrea?” I countered.

This was truly a Kodak moment. The look on Jim’s face was priceless. I would remember this for a long time to come. There it was; one sentence was all it took to turn this bully into a speechless dumbfounded soon to be ex-husband.

            “I will speak to you when I get home. I’m at work in case you haven’t noticed. Whatever compelled you to come here, unannounced in the middle of my day?” he snarled.

            “Is that the best you can do? In the middle of YOUR day? Who died and left you in charge? It’s the middle of MY day and I came here by way of my attorney. And I did notice that you are at work, but that’s not the same thing as working, now is it? And you won’t be speaking to me when you get home. Speak to me now or speak to my attorney.

I’ll be nice, I’ll let you make the choice.” I smiled. Proud of myself, I sat on his futon, and gave him a Bronx stare. That’s almost like a Bronx cheer minus the tongue and spit.

Jim was frustrated and caught. It was his turn to figure out what to do with the bomb I just dropped in his lap. He really didn’t think I’d ever find out. I was getting angrier by the second. He never thought I’d find out. The asshole thought he could live two lives and I was too stupid to notice. I was supposed to play the dutiful wife while he lived the life of the typical executive with a mistress. It dawned on me also that now that he knew I knew, he expected me to accept it and deal with it when he was ready to. The audacity of this man was getting to me. They say your life flashes before you right before an accident. Mine was flashing before me while Jim stood there staring at me like a cartoon bull ready to charge. I think I saw flashes of red and orange around his eyes. It was not flattering at all. Poor thing.

            “Well. I see you don’t have much to say to me now. Sucks huh? I’ll get out of your way, I’m sure you need time to absorb this.” Heading towards the door, I stopped and patted his shoulder. I could tell Rebecca had been eaves dropping because she busied herself as I passed her desk. I hope I was able to satisfy the bitch considering that I’m sure she was helping her boss cover his affair.

            I headed home. There I said it. I headed home. MY HOME. I didn’t care what Jim had done, what I had found out these past few days, this was MY HOME. What he did was outside of this house and I would not let that take anything else away from me. I called Tori and told her what I had done. Silence greeted me. I guess she didn’t expect me to do that either.

            I packed a few things in an over night bag, made a reservation at the Independence Inn in New Roc City and headed out the door. I didn’t want to be around any one that night, not even my friend Tori. I knew she’d understand. I also knew that one of two things would happen. Jim would either head home and face me or he’d stay away knowing I already knew about his affair so he no longer had to hide. I didn’t want to know what the outcome would be. I checked into the hotel, picked up some groceries, and then headed back out to eat at Applebee’s. I walked a bit down the avenue, enjoying the last warm breeze of Indian summer.

            My cell phone began to vibrate as I put my key in the door. It was Jim. Ooooooh wooopeee! I thought. He was calling me. He left a message. I deleted it. The cell phone vibrated again. This time it was my daughter. I deleted that message as well. When it vibrated a third time and I saw that it was my son, I couldn’t resist. I had to pick it up. He may have been a twin to Taylor but he was different in every way. They say boys aren’t as close to their mom’s as girls are but in this case, that proved to be wrong. Jim had spoiled Taylor so much growing and expected so much of his son, Brandon, that in his quest to “make him a better man”, he pushed him away. Each time Jim had hounded Brandon for not doing well on the football field or the basketball court, I’d sneak into his room at night with a milk and cookie reward. To me it wasn’t about the game being won, it was always about the fun of being on a team and doing something that you enjoyed. When Brandon didn’t get an athletic scholarship to the college Jim wanted him to go to, I secretly rejoiced. Brandon loved sports but he wanted to be a doctor. Something Jim could not comprehend. It was either be a football player or go into business with his father. But a doctor? How could any parent not be proud of that?

            While Taylor was busy putting her college applications together, I encouraged Brandon to follow his heart. He didn’t want to disappoint me but I wanted this choice to be about him. I guided him most of his life and now it was time for him to make choices he could live with. When he made it into the University of Boston, I was so proud of him. He loved that city and eventually wanted to set up shop there. His father was against it. It was Democrat country and why would anyone want to study in Boston to become anything? In the end I had to drive Brandon to school but it was a great ride and we talked about so many things long forgotten. I helped him set up his off campus apartment that he was sharing with one of his high school buddies and we went out to dinner. That evening he hugged me and thanked me for believing in him. He had found a job on campus to help with his book bill and other incidentals. He barely called me for any extra money even though every time he did call me, I wanted to put a few extra bucks into his account. Taylor only called when she needed money. Brandon called me at least 3 times a week. But I loved both my children. And yet, that night, I could only speak to one. The one I knew would be in my corner, not because he and his father didn’t get along but because he accepted me for me.

            “Hi mom. Are you okay?” He asked in a whisper.

“Why are you whispering Bran? I’m okay. Just needed to get away is all.” I replied trying to sound cheerful.

            “Dad called me. He’s worried about you. He said you both had a misunderstanding, he came home and he noticed the draws pulled out and that you were gone. He tried calling Tori but she said she didn’t know where you were. And of course Taylor has no clue but she did ask him for money before they hung up. I know because dad asked me why I never call for money like Taylor does. He sounded really ripped up mom.” That was the most my son has ever said as an opening salutation during one of our phone calls. I knew he was worried. I had done something I had never done before. And if his father called him, then he knew something was definitely wrong.

            “I’m okay Brandon. Really I am. And there was no misunderstanding. It’s just something your dad and I will have to work out eventually and right now, I needed to get away from it all. Hey, are you up for a visit from your old mom this weekend? I can drive up for the day if your weekend is busy.” I asked trying to divert his attention from what was going on between his parents and failing miserably.

            “Actually, I was thinking I’d drive up this weekend if it’s okay with you. But if you want to get away, sure mom, you know you are always welcomed here. Steve could go for some home made cooking. I don’t think he likes how I make hamburger helper.” He chuckled.

            I told him we could play it by ear and see how we both felt by Thursday. He was hesitant to hang up and I did my best to reassure him that this was par for the course I was on and I would be okay. I didn’t want him being caught up in the middle of his father’s battle with me and reluctantly I knew I had to call Jim to let him know I was fine. I knew he didn’t care where I was; he was just concerned with how much I knew and what I would be doing next. Not being home to confront him after I went to his office was what was troubling him. I was no fool.

            “Brandon called me. I told him I was fine. You told him we had a misunderstanding. Way to go Jim. At least you were concerned enough for him not to let him know that you are a cheating bastard and I found out. I don’t want the kids involved that’s why I called you myself instead of having our son relay the message to you. I’ll be home in a few days and that’s all you need to know. Don’t call the kids again to get in touch with me. That is low especially for you.” Click. The conversation was not open for discussion. And just to be sure, I turned off my cell so that it would go straight to voice mail.

            Bubble baths in hotel rooms are not the same as the ones at home. I tried to relax in the tub but all I kept thinking about was the few thousand people that had used this tub before me and if the cleaning staff used a good disinfectant to clean the tub. The bubble escape did not last long. I took an extra hot shower and scrubbed myself clean. There’s no place like home. I wanted to get back in my car and head back home, kick Jim out so I could have my bubble bath but I was not in the mood to deal with traffic or with Jim. I liked having the place to myself, as small as it was. Yippee! I thought…they had Soap Net! For one night, I wanted to be a soap queen. I wanted to veg in someone else’s drama. It made all I was dealing with easy to bear. Have you seen some of the stuff that goes on in these soaps? It’s not all about sex. Sadly, neither was my life.

            I couldn’t sleep. What else was new?

Checking out the next morning, I headed to IHOP for a nice breakfast, read the paper, turned on my phone, deleted the messages from Jim and Tori because I knew they were one and the same. I checked Tori’s messages and all she wanted to know was how I was doing and when I was coming back. Good ole’ Tori.

            “I’m on my way. You busy?” I inquired as I got on the highway heading home.

“No girl, I’m not. Bobby’s on a road trip for the next week and I’m bored to the point of being daffy. You really need to get here, and not go away again unless you take me with you. Got that? What time will you be here and what do you want to eat?” she said munching on what I knew was grilled toast. Tori loved grilled toast and she got me hooked on it as well.

            “I’ll be there in about half an hour. There is very little traffic. But do me a favor; be sure that sucker butt’s car is not there. I’m going straight to you and if he’s looking out for my car, he’ll show up on your doorstep ready for bear.”

            Tori assured me he wasn’t there as she saw his car turn the corner at the usual time. Sweet Monkey Fritters! He didn’t even change his schedule on the morning after his wife did not come home.          

            “Welcome my run away Amiga. I’ve made some fresh grilled toast. Some grilled cheese and tomato sammiches and some Mimosssssssa’s with freshly squeezed orange juice.” She declared enunciating and exaggerating the word Mimosa. Yea, I know I just ate a nice breakfast at IHOP but it was just coffee and eggs and this was just what a soon to be divorced woman had to have for breakfast.

            We ate in silence all of one minute when my cell phone buzzed. It was Jim.

“What?” I said curtly.

“What do you mean what? Sophie, we have to talk. Running away isn’t going to accomplish anything.” No, really? I thought. How astute of him.

            “I wasn’t running away Jim. I didn’t want to come home is all. I have every intention of talking to you about this. Did you think I’d sweep it under the run like I’ve done all the other things you’ve thrown at me? I’ll be home tonight but be warned Jim, I’m not interested in hearing about your affair. I just want to know the name of your attorney and where my attorney can contact him. Oh yea, and if you aren’t home by 7 tonight, then you’ll be speaking to my attorney. I won’t speak to you about this any other time. It’s tonight or my attorney. Your choice.” It was my turn to be in charge and it felt good. No games, no drama.

            We ate the rest of our breakfast, laughing, making fun of Jim and roll playing the anticipated conversation that would take place later on in the evening. My sides couldn’t take the pain of laughing any more and my wet undies were an indication that it was time to get going, have my bubble party and get ready for the confrontation. I called my attorney and told him what happened and he said he would have papers drawn in the morning. He advised me about the do’s and don’ts of that night’s conversation and committing a few things to memory, I went about getting myself ready.

            I cooked. I made a big thick and juicy porterhouse steak with plenty of caramelized onions and mushrooms. A chilled glass of wine was set at the table to accompany my baked potato with gobs of butter and sour cream with crunchy chives and some cilantro. Yummers. Closing my eyes with each bite, I savored the flavor of each and every spice I used on my steak dinner. You guessed it, Jim didn’t like steak. It took forever to rot in your stomach before what’s left of it was expelled from your body. So what!

            He walked in as I was almost through with my meal. I looked up at the time. It was 6:30. Ooooh good going Jim. A half hour to spare. He made an attempt to speak and I raised my hand, pointed to the clock on the wall and said, “Umm not till 7 pm. I’d like to enjoy the rest of my meal. You can settle in if you’d like. I’ll meet you in the study at 7. Sharp.” Taking a sip of my wine, I took another bite of my steak and began an erotic dance with my mouth. Yea boy, remember the good ole’ days?

            “Sophia enough of this! We talk now or…”

“Or what? You don’t get to call the shots here buster. I’m eating. I said 7. It’s either that or the attorney. I would assume if you are here at this time, you must want to deal with me, so wait till I’m done. Not open for discussion.” I waved him away.

 

            Who was I? And what did I do with the person I was yesterday?

 

            Five minutes to seven, I walked into the study. He was sitting there doing the spider dance with his fingers. I used to call it spiders doing push ups on a mirror but he didn’t find it funny. Well I did. I plopped down on the futon then thought about it. I didn’t want to be lower than he was, so I moved over to the chair across the desk. There, now we were on the same level.

            “I know you are upset over what you found out but it meant nothing and we can work this out.” He began.

            “No we can’t. I don’t know nor do I care how long you have been doing this but if you think you are going to tell me that it meant nothing and that’s going to make me feel better about what you’ve done, think again. Because whether it’s been a long affair or a one-night stand, you still cheated and if it meant nothing to you, it meant every thing to me. So do you want to try this again?”

            “Sophia, okay look, it wasn’t a one night stand. I won’t insult your intelligence with that explanation. It’s the first thing that came to my mind. It was just one of those things that happens when you work close to someone and one thing leads to another and well, I won’t hurt you with any more of this. I was wrong. I’m sorry. I never meant to hurt you. It’s just that things got so harried at work and I don’t know if I was feeling sorry for myself or going through some changes I couldn’t get a hold on but ….”

            “Enough! You cheated. You went to bed with another woman. I know it’s not a one-night stand and not something that just happened because of work or one of those things. I saw the ties asshole. She’s been buying you gifts. That’s more than an affair or an office quickie, that’s a relationship. I buy you ties. Now she does. She’s welcomed to you. Do you have the name of an attorney or should my attorney call you in the morning to get the information?” I stood up, ready to walk away.

            “Sophia please we can work this out. I’ll go to counseling with you. We can’t just throw away all these years. What about the kids? What will this do to them? How can you just walk away from all of this without trying to make it work?” he waved his hand theatrically indicating the house and all the stuff it came with.

            “I didn’t do this Jim. I’m not the one walking away from this, you are. I’m not throwing away all of these years, you are. There is no we, Jim.”

I left him standing there.

I headed up the stairs to my bedroom.

Got my jammies. Got my bubble bath ready. Soaked. Cried. Dried off. Creamed up. Got into jammies and went to bed. He knew better than to come upstairs.

            My favorite bird woke me up in the morning singing it’s sweet song. I knew I had mastered one hurdle, now for the next one. If my sweet bird could get up each and every morning and start my day with song, I could do the same. Okay, that was cheesy but you get the jist of what I’m trying to say. Life goes on. My marriage was over. I could have forgiven just about anything but this. In fact, my staying in this marriage as long as I did, feeling the way that I did all these years, told me I had given it my all. Maybe I was responsible for some of this. Maybe I should have spoken up to Jim years ago about how unhappy I was about certain things. But I know I tried. I know I tried to reach out to him and just when I thought I had gotten through and made some headway, he’d win. He’d get what he wanted. I knew now that he had placated me all those years. He patronized me. He let me think I had gotten through to him when all along he never really cared about my feelings. I could have tried to figure out why I hadn’t seen that when we first started dating but come on, do any of you remember the bad habits in the first years of your life together with your husband? I never thought I could change him, I never wanted to. What I thought was determination and a strong will turned out to be nothing more than a man who wanted to control every thing to suite his needs. Love is blind, marriage is an eye opener.  Kids come along and before you know it you are dealing with more personalities and needs than you had signed up for. But you go with the flow. That’s life, that’s marriage. For better, for worse.

I got into my jogging clothes and headed downstairs. I made coffee, grilled toast and sat by the kitchen window watching the man I had married 24 years ago, wanting to slap the shit out of him. He was stalling. I looked at the time. He was usually on the road by now and yet here he was clearing out some leaves on the car I had stolen.  I chuckled at what I had done just four days ago. I should have driven him even crazier. That would have been easier than this. At least I would have had fun.

He walked into the kitchen, his tie loose around his neck. I knew he was watching me as I looked out the window. I sipped and bit into my grilled toast. I don’t really think there was anything he could have said to me that would have fixed this. I was angry with him. I knew I’d get over the anger in time. I hated being angry. It’s like letting someone live rent free in your head. I was hurt. I knew I’d get over that with time as well. I was numb but that was beginning to wear off. I wondered if I was willing to let go of my marriage so easily in spite of his infidelity because I had been tired of how I had been feeling all of these years. I wondered if my being angry had more to do with me having had to put up with his selfishness all of these years and finding out he had betrayed me while I remained the faithful wife than with him being unfaithful. Oprah always says when you argue with someone, it’s usually about something else than the subject you think you are discussing, or something like that. Today, even Oprah pissed me off. Or maybe she didn’t. Maybe she had it right. She didn’t marry Stedman because with marriage comes expectations, expectations that one must live up to because they promised God, their spouse and a room full of people. She’d been with Stedmen close to 20 years and if her relationship was still going strong without benefit of marriage she was doing something right. But what did I know?

I started to smile as soon as I saw Tori walk up my driveway. Jim was in the kitchen attempting to make scrambled eggs. He was banging pots here and there to get my attention. I tried not to laugh at his poor attempt.

“Goooooodmorning Mrs. Anderson!” Tori said exaggeratingly. I knew this was going to irritate Jim. I was surprised that I didn’t care one way or the other. I offered Tori some breakfast and some grilled toast. Mah favorite she said with a southern slang at the same time that Jim burned his fingers. Running his fingers under the cold running water, he turned his head my way. Was he really expecting me to help him in his hour of need? Of course he was.

Of course I did. Silently I got up. Pulled out some ice, put it in a kitchen washcloth and handed it to him. He was surprised and probably thought that meant all was forgiven. When he opened his mouth and began to speak to Tori, my swift hairy eyeball stare shut him up quickly. Ahhh very good gwasshopper, you are learning.

Waiting a few more minutes and realizing that he was not going to get anywhere with me, he grabbed his briefcase and headed out the door.

            “Have a nice day Mr. Anderson.” Tori yelled out the door. He didn’t even look back.

            “And Mrs. Anderson? How’s about you? Do you plan on having a nice day or do you plan on sitting here staring out this window? It’ll be here tomorrow ya know.”

Yes, it will be here tomorrow and so will I, I thought to myself.

            “All is well Ms. Tori. I will be just fine. This all hurts like hell. I won’t pretend it doesn’t. I’m not going to cover up my emotions just to keep a stiff upper lip. But I won’t be a bitter ex-wife either. I refuse to let anger rule me. What Jim did sucks and he’ll have to live with it, so do I, but I won’t let it consume me. To do that will waste precious time and I think I’ve given up enough of that to last me a lifetime. Jim is trying to get me to reconsider leaving him. In fact, I think he believes, like every thing else in our marriage that he’ll get his way. Trust me he won’t. I’ve been on the pity pot for days now and it’s time to get up and flush.” All that was needed was an audience and applause. I felt really good about my choices for the first time in a long time.

            To sum up, I know some of you might be thinking that I should listen to Jim. Perhaps go to counseling to find out why he strayed and where we both went wrong. But is that really going to change what he did? It won’t. All that’s going to do is waste more of my time. At some point, I might consider therapy so that he and I can co-exist as a family when it comes to our children. I’m not totally over my anger for him and that’s reasonable but I know I don’t want it to live with me forever. If that’s the case, then I might as well stay with him and forget the divorce.

            Legally, I have to be separated from him for a year before I can file divorce proceedings. That’s supposed to give us time to sort things out in terms of property, support and perhaps our emotions. I won’t tell you that in a few months I might find myself loving this strange man again, but I doubt that. I don’t want to “clean him out”. I’m not about hate or punishment. If I did that, then it would be just like he never left. It would be all about him all over again. I was looking forward to being on my own for the first time in years. It wasn’t even scary as some women thought it would be.

            It’s been 6 months since I stared out of that window wanting to slap the shit out of Jim. I don’t want to hit him any more. I think he’s taken enough shots since we separated. The judge gave Jim a month to vacate our home. I didn’t even feel bad about that. He violated everything we were about when he chose to have his side dish. My attorney thought I was nuts when I suggested that I be the one to move out so that Jim wouldn’t have to. I wasn’t interested in keeping the house although I loved it. I didn’t want this to be about property. But even Jim felt he owed me that much. How mighty big of him. He did try to claim he wasn’t making that much money but my attorney pulled out the information I had given him and Jim knew better than to try and mess with me on that subject. I wanted what was mine. We had bought property together, invested money as well, and there was no way I was going to let him keep that all simply because he worked most of our marriage. I worked to. I made sure the court report heard me loud and clear when I said that.

            Jim moved out into a condo not to far from  the home we had together. He claimed it was to make it easier on the kids when they came home from school for visits. I heard through the grapevine that Jim was no longer seeing Andrea and when he broke it off she stalked him for a bit, making excuses to see him at his office.  We had dinner over the holidays when the kids came home. It was pretty uncomfortable for about an hour or so, and then things just began to flow. I caught Jim staring at me from time to time but those days of his eyes melting into mine were long gone. There was a time when I thought that if we had distance between us, I might find that I miss him and we’d get back together but the more time I spent away from him, the better I felt about myself.

            Jim always wanted and needed to be in control. I knew that from the beginning. But it never bothered me because all I wanted was to have peace. I am an easygoing person and usually whatever he wanted was okay with me. But I think being so complacent throughout the years gave him more power over me and when I began to speak up for myself it was too late. And when I finally woke up, it was over. I forgave him months ago for what he had done. To not forgive him would only make me bitter. Why trade one hurt with another?

            I’m not sure why Jim felt he had to have an affair, I just know he did. And I’m positive one day; we’ll get around to talking about it. I just feel there are some things that just cannot be recovered. A broken heart can mend but it can’t forget. I knew even if Jim and I had tried to make things work, I could never trust him again. Trust was the glue that kept many relationships together especially during troubling times. Once you lose that, there isn’t much left. Once things are said, they can’t be taken back. I could go on and on but you get where I’m coming from. The most important thing about all of this is that I got to see a side of me I had forgotten existed. I was slowly dying and becoming the woman Jim wanted me to be. I was losing myself and even though some of the things I had done in the days after finding those ties were crazy, it felt good to think on my feet and be spontaneous. I don’t blame Jim for what I was becoming because that was all my own doing. I knew that the minute I stood up to him after discovering his affair.  All I ever had to do was say no to him when it needed to be said  and be true to myself but I always felt if I had done that, I would disappoint him. Here I was trying to be the woman he wanted and he went out and slept with a woman that I used to be. Ironic huh? Maybe my not standing up to him during our marriage turned him off. Was that still reason to turn to another woman? No matter how I tried to work through all of what he had done, regardless of how I tried to put things into perspective so that I could heal, I knew that what he had done was what he wanted to do. Using me as an excuse was just his way of getting what he wanted once again.

            Jim and I met quite by accident in Manhattan several months after our divorce became final. He commented how great I looked and I responded with, “I know, I feel great to.” He invited me to lunch. I hesitated and then I thought, why not? I didn’t rationalize the reasons why. I just did. I began to order a soup and salad then decided against it, that was what I always ordered when I went out with Jim. Old habits are hard to break. I ordered the steak with onions and mushrooms. Jim smiled.

            He ordered a Filet Mignon.  Go Jim!

 

Between sips of wine and bits of scrumptious steak, we chatted about the kids, Taylor’s spending habits and how well Brandon was doing with his new job at the hospital. Gray is the color of regret. Jim lowered his blue eyes and when he looked up at me again, I swear they were a dark grey.

“I’m sorry I rode Brandon so hard when he was in High School. I try to reach out to him now but he’s always busy and he cuts the conversation short. The most I see him is when he comes home from school and I have a feeling it’s because you make him see me. Taylor on the other hand always calls me since she knows that I’m starting to figure out that her budgetary skills aren’t so great. But we’ve got great kids Sophia and I’m glad that the divorce didn’t hurt them as much as I thought it would.” He took a sip of his wine swallowing more of his regret.

“Jim our kids are good kids. Taylor could use some wising up and she’d get better

if you would only stop spoiling her. She’s daddy’s little girl. You can spoil her in other ways but she’s got to learn to deal with life off campus just like her brother. And yes, you did push Brandon too hard but I’m sure in time he’ll understand your reasons and come around. Give him time. Okay?” I didn’t want the conversation to go where I thought it was headed.

“Would you like to get together for dinner next week? The holidays are coming up and I’d like to pick some gifts out for the kids. I’m lousy at that. I always counted on you to do that and now I feel so lost. Rebecca takes care of the office staff for me but I’m useless with family and friends. Maybe we can go to Woodbury Commons first and then head to Cactus Jack for some Mexican food. It’s been a while since we I mean I ate there.” He was right, the first time, it had been awhile since we ate there and I didn’t mind going back just not with him. I didn’t have to say a word. He knew what my answer would be.

The holidays came, we got together and true to form Jim did not disappoint with his gifts. He gave each of our children gift cards, which I thought was a bit extravagant, and they both received new laptops, fully loaded. Brandon was more appreciative of that than the gift card. Taylor of course, left the laptop in its case and molested the gift card over and over in her ruby studded fingers. Jim gave me a beautiful emerald bracelet and a gift card. I was tempted to ask “Are you discounting this from my alimony payments?” But the mood was so light and fun I didn’t want to spoil it.

We promised to bring in the New Year the following week at Jim’s new place. He had moved once again, and he wanted to warm up the place with family and friends. He thought it would bring the place some personality. Yea okay Jim. Whatever.

As for me, I was starting a new job, this time with a salary, working at the local school with children who needed that extra push and attention in their academics. It was a program I had started as a volunteer when the kids were in grade school and the principal was thrilled that it hadn’t cost the school anything. The PTA eventually saw the success of the program and wrote a grant for it. Now I was the director of that program and it felt good to be able to do something worth my while. The money was just icing on the cake for me. I felt proud of myself for the first time in years.

My daughter and son were doing well in college. Jim was doing better than ever at his job. They offered him full partnership in the company and yes, in spite of all that we had been through, I was proud of him. I don’t hate Jim, I just hate what he did. I realized while we were dealing with the divorce that I had stopped being in love with Jim. I never understood when people would say they loved their spouses but weren’t in love with them. I never got that. But while dealing with all the technicalities from the divorce I suddenly had a better clarification of what that truly meant.

I would always love Jim. He’s the father of my children. Before things went wrong between us, we had a good life. To stay angry and hateful towards him would diminish all the good we did share. I want my good memories. I’m too selfish to give that up. I don’t want the first part of my life with Jim to have meant nothing. It’s sort of like when you become involved with someone for the first time, their past doesn’t matter because it’s before you both met. It’s almost like that with Jim and me. I won’t dishonor our good years together just because he mucked it up in the end. I take responsibility for not doing my part but I don’t blame myself for what he did. That was his choice.               

I stopped being in love with Jim when I stopped being the person I was when we met. I don’t know if that makes sense but it’s what got me through the nights when I thought I was making a mistake in not trying to work things out in my marriage. I knew I could never get past his infidelity and I knew that would eventually hurt us more than we both were hurting then. All I wanted when it was all over was my good memories in tact. I wanted respect. The respect he had taken from me when he chose another woman to replace me. All I wanted was to be the me I always was with a few changes here and there, but changes I was responsible for, not someone else. I knew I could not get that staying with Jim.

We’ve remained friends. Eventually we’ll probably be good friends. How can we not be? We share many things. Sadly that’s all there can be… for now. I don’t sit by my window any more wanting to slap the shit out of my husband. Those days are gone. But when I hear of some woman going through the same emotions I went through, I want to be there for her. I want to reach out and tell her that there will be better days. I want her to know that all she’s dealing with now is just a temporary bump in the road and if she maintains her sanity and her self respect, she’ll be just fine. I want to tell her to get a sea weed wrap at the salon instead of at home, it’ll save her the headaches and it will be so worth the money.  I want her to know having an affair with another man just to pay her husband back will not make her feel better only because now she’s lowered herself to his level, but she can think about it. Yea, thinking about revenge is always good, but don’t do it too long, it consumes you and it can drive you to do crazy things, like following people, talking to yourself and stealing a car.

 

Copyright © 2007 by Sonia Agron

 

 

          

             

  

 

     

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