Cruel Infidelity

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Rachel bites the edge of her thumbnail, eyes darting around in search of Andrew. The last thing she wanted was her friends and family looking on her with pity. It makes her wonder whether they’re approaching her with good intentions or in the hopes of getting some gossip material for later. Most don’t ask, but the longing in their drawn faces—that itching curiosity just beneath the surface—is evident.

“So, I heard Andrew wasn’t feeling well,” one of her bridesmaids ventures. “Is everything alright?”

“Everything is fine, large crowds make him claustrophobic.” This excuse is followed by nodding, which is then followed by condescending smiles.

She regrets leaving her phone in the car, it was a stupid idea.

“Hey, Rache,” her mother says, approaching her. “Your father and I just went out to check on Andrew and noticed the car is gone. Do you know when he’ll be back?”

Of course she didn’t, she had no way of getting a hold of him.

“No,” she admits. “I doubt it should be for much longer, though.”

“Well, alright. We’re heading out, would you like a ride home?”

She looks around. Can she really risk holding out much longer? It would be better to leave with her parents than with some other relative or friend. Drama and gossip is the last thing she wants to come from this. “Yeah, let me just go change into something a little less… cumbersome,” she murmurs, glancing down at her gown.

Her mother cups her hands in hers, giving her a little nod. Her mother always has a way of making her feel safe and understood.

What would my parents say if they knew the half of what I put up with? She exhales, climbing into loose-fitting black slacks and a gray sweatshirt.

She stares at herself in the mirror, frowning at how strange she looks to herself. Professional make-up, a french braid, and pearl hairpins coupled with frumpy clothes and a large brown winter jacket. The faux fur tickles the back of her neck, and she rips it away from herself in a fit of frustration.

She steps out of the bathroom, clutching her folded wedding dress in her hands.

“Oh, honey, be careful. You don’t want to damage it.”

“It’ll be fine, mom,” she mutters, her response coming out sharper than she’d intended.

* * *

The ride back home is quiet, almost awkward. Her father clears his throat. “Any idea where Andrew went?” He gives her mother a sidelong glance before quickly returning his attention to the road.

Rachel fidgets in her seat. “He just needed some air, dad. I’m sure he’ll be back soon.”

“Is this...”

“Bill,” her mother says in warning.

He stares at her mother, his lips pressed into a hard line.

Rachel closes her eyes. This is the exact thing she’d been afraid would happen—that her parents would begin to doubt Andrew’s intentions. “It’s fine, Dad,” she murmurs, exasperated. “He’s under a lot of stress.”

He engages the blinker and turns onto their road.

A sense of relief comes over her when she thinks about laying down with her baby held tightly in her arms.

“There’s your car,” her mother announces.

Rachel sits upright, clutching the back of the seat. The second her father puts the car into park, she bolts from the car.

She bangs on the driver’s-side window with more force than she intended. Adrenaline pulses through her veins and tears fill her eyes. She grits her teeth. “How could you!?”

Andrew peers up at her, his face pale.

“How could you just leave me there! Alone! You humiliated me in front of everyone!”

He stares at her, his face blank. “I dropped my parents off at their hotel.”

“What are you talking about?”

“My father had something to take care of.”

“What the hell are you talking about? It’s past midnight.”

“You wouldn’t understand.”

“You’re right! I wouldn’t.” she snaps back. “You abandoned me! I made excuses for you, I was humiliated!”

“Oh, come on now,” he says, reaching for her arm.

She rips it away from him. “Don’t touch me!” Her face contorts into a sneer.

“Everything alright?” her father asks, keeping his distance.

“Everything’s fine, Bill. Thanks.” Andrew snaps.

She walks toward the house, ignoring him. Tears spill down her cheeks, and she presses her lips tightly together in an effort to stop her chin from quivering.

He follows her, grabbing her arm again. “Look at me!” he shouts.

“Hey now!” her father yells.

“Mind your own fucking business, Bill!” Andrew shouts back.

Rachel’s mother’s mouth drops open. “Andrew!” she exclaims in surprise.

Rachel stares at Andrew, speechless.

“You know what, Rachel. Fine, fuck you too.” he says. “I’ll be at the Rock Retreat, call me when you get a hold of yourself.”

“You’re seriously doing this to me?” she scolds. “Is this how you treated Her!

She bangs on the door, too impatient to wait for it to be unlocked. The babysitter opens it, her eyes wide. “The baby’s sleeping.” She puts her forefinger to her lips.

Rachel spins around. “Do you even love me!?”

“Let him go,” Bill says. “Susanne, take Rachel to her room.”

“Come on, honey,” she coos.

Rachel lets out a high-pitched cry, before falling to her knees, convulsing.

The door slams loudly. “He’s gone?” Rachel asks, her face hot and sticky with tears and make-up. “He really left?”

“He’s gone, baby.” Her mother rubs her back. “Let’s get you washed up.”

Rachel nods, still shaking and gasping for air.

Halfway up the stairs, the baby begins to wail.

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