Cruel Infidelity

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Grocery shopping with two toddlers and a six-month-old baby wasn’t the easiest thing in the world, but it afforded her time away from the mad house and its occupants.

Rachel selects $50 cashback on the card reader, something she does ritualistically each week at checkout. It’s the easiest way to funnel money from the account undetected. He’s never asked to see the receipt, and if he ever wanted to, she’d just say she must have lost it. She’s got it all figured out.

She receives an allowance from Andrew each month, of which she spends about half on loud outfits or new gadgets for the children. The other half she hides with the varying cashback amounts in a secret account. Not spending any of it would be too risky. She’s carefully avoided setting off any alarm bells between Andrew and Jennifer for just a little over three years.

Andrew spends a good portion of his time either in his office where he works part-time as a psychiatrist or in the two-car garage that he’s converted into a private pornography studio. She doesn’t know the full extent of his activities and doesn’t ask.

Jen managed to weasel her way into her life and her home—something Rachel only agreed to because Andrew promised it would be temporary—but has since turned into a three-year stint with no sign of an end in sight.

She buckles Tiffany into her car seat and can’t help but notice how much she resembles her mother. She has Tammy’s eyes, nose, and lips. The rest is all Andrew. It’s a funny thing, the way genetics shape a face. You never know which ones will express themselves.

Tammy fled to Texas with a trucker named Kellen after signing over her rights to Andrew. It still struck her as odd. They never found any evidence of hard drugs in her system, and it looked like she’d come out on top, but out of nowhere, she stopped fighting, packed her bags, and left. The woman in Rachel envied Tammy’s clean escape, but the mother in her would never understand how she could do it.

She buckles Victra and baby Bryce into their seats next before packing the groceries into the trunk. She looks at her watch, and decides she doesn’t care if Jen questions her when she gets back. She can’t prove anything anyway.

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Rachel arrives at the state hospital later than she’d planned, but Heather didn’t seem to notice.

“Sorry I’m late, Bryce threw up in the car.”

“It’s alright,” she says, standing. “Can I hold him?”

“Sure.” Rachel picks him up from his carrier and places the infant into Heather’s arms.

“Oh, how precious,” Heather coos. “I can’t believe how much he looks like his dad.”

Rachel snorts. “Yeah, tell me about it. I thought the boys were supposed to take after their mothers.”

“So, how is everything?”

“Oh, you know. Same old shit. I haven’t had to worry too much about Andrew bothering me, but his girlfriend is constantly in my business.”

“I’ve always hated Jen,” Heather states solemnly.

“I know.” She smiles. “I see why now.”

“Do you think she’ll ever leave?”

“No.” Rachel looks over at Victra who colors on a piece of paper. “I think she thinks if she holds out long enough, she’ll get a shot at playing the wife role.”

“That will never happen,” Heather says, leaning to kiss Bryce’s head. “I love the smell of baby heads.”

“Here.” Rachel slides a carton of Marlboro Lights across the white table.

“Thanks, Rache, you’re the best.”

“Take care of yourself in here, okay?”

Heather hands the baby over. “Thanks for not giving up on me, everyone else has.”

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Jen is sitting outside on the steps when she pulls in. She stands abruptly and marches toward the Crossover. “What took you so long?” she asks, folding her arms.

“Mind your business, Jen.”

“You were gone for awhile.” She peers into the windows as if looking for definitive evidence.

“I don’t answer to you,” she says, swinging the door open. “Now why don’t you make your plastic ass useful and bring in the groceries. I’ve got to feed the kids.”

Jennifer doesn’t move.

“Or I’ll tell Andrew you were harassing me again.”

She scoffs and opens the trunk, angrily pulling the heavily-packed reusable bags out of the back.

To Rachel’s surprise Andrew is sitting in the kitchen. “I thought you had work in the office today.”

“I thought I’d come home early. Jen didn’t bother you too much, did she?”

“She’s helping bring in the groceries.”

“That’s sweet of her. I’m so glad you two are getting along so well.”

Rachel smiles thinly.

“It’s almost time to put another baby in there,” he says, motioning to her stomach.

“I don’t know if I can take another pregnancy right now.”

“Don’t you want to make your father happy? Be fruitful and multiply, isn’t that what he always says?”

Her father made it clear he wanted as many grandchildren as they could give him, having been sorely disappointed with his wife’s output. She had such bad complications with Rachel that she was told it would be too dangerous to have more, so now her father lived vicariously through her.

Though she knew Andrew only ever desired more children when he felt his control slipping. She tries to look at it in a positive light: the more children she gives him, the more child support and alimony he’ll have to give her once she collects enough evidence of abuse and adultery against him to set her up for life. She’ll never have to rely on another person for as long as she lives, and her children will want for nothing.

She knows he keeps her around for the normalcy she provides his public life. It’s she who he brings out to dinner, the movies, concerts, and to work parties.

And it’s Jen who he uses to live out his dark, sexual fetishes in the garage.

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