Between the Lines

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After discovering her husband has been having an affair, Keeley Kavanagh divorces him and moves to a new town to start a new life, but a decade old murder is putting her own life in danger.

4.9 9 reviews
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Chapter 1

Keeley stared at her husband uncomprehendingly. Her exhausted mind was having difficulty processing what he had just said. He was looking down at his hands, unable to meet her gaze, an anguished look on his handsome face. The long, heavy silence seemed endless. Finally, the neurons began to fire in her brain. “How long has this been going on?” she asked wearily.

He shifted in his seat, trying in vain to get comfortable. “Awhile, a few months.” He still wouldn’t meet her eyes.

The mumbled words from the normally extremely articulate sales manager stunned her. “Well, Mark, besides everything else, your timing leaves a lot to be desired. Why did you feel you had to make this confession right now? Couldn’t you at least have waited a few days for me to deal with the death of my mother, before piling on the news of your adultery?”

His gaze flickered up briefly, a sheen of tears covering his melted chocolate eyes before he once again fixed them on his hands. “I know. God, Keeley, I’m so sorry. You have no idea. I would have waited if I could, but the thing is, I need a divorce right away. Chelsea’s pregnant. I have to marry her.” His left hand jerked up to cover his mouth, as if to stop any further words from spilling out.

Keeley couldn’t respond. She wasn’t even sure she was breathing. Now both her brain and her mouth didn’t seem to be working. I can’t deal with this, she thought desperately. I just can’t take anything else right now. I just lost Mom after all those horrible months in hospice, and now Mark wants a divorce to marry his pregnant girlfriend, a woman I’ve worked with and socialized with for years. While I was sitting there watching my mother die, they were making a baby together. This is unbelievable! Keeley was unaware that she was shaking her head from side to side in a futile attempt at denial.

“Keeley, you have to say something!”

She tried to take a deep breath, but couldn’t force the air all the way into her lungs. “What do you want me to say?” she finally managed, her voice no more than a whisper. “How can I possibly respond to this?”

“I don’t know, but say something, anything. Yell at me, swear at me. I know I deserve it. I just can’t stand the silence!”

She looked slowly around the room, then finally brought her eyes back to focus on this stranger whom she had been married to for more than a decade. “I wish I had the energy to yell at you, Mark, but I really don’t. If you want me to say something, fine. Get the hell out!”

He remained sitting, motionless, looking at her helplessly.

“We both know you have somewhere else to go. We can talk about the details of the divorce in a day or two, but right now, I just need you to leave.”

He pushed back in his chair and stood up slowly. “If there was any way I could go back in time, and change things, I would. I can’t tell you how sorry I am!”

Keeley nodded her head without looking at him, and continued to sit at the kitchen table, listening to the sounds he made as he gathered some of his clothes and toiletries. She didn’t look up even when he came back into the kitchen. He hesitated by the door for what seemed like an eternity before finally opening, then shutting and locking the townhouse door behind him. Some time later, she heard his car start up, and drive away. She couldn’t feel her body, but was too exhausted to be alarmed.

Coffee, she thought. What I need right now is coffee. It took a gargantuan effort to stand up, but the urge for caffeine was too powerful to resist. When she opened the door to the cupboard where she kept the coffee beans, she noticed the packages of herbal tea that Kira had brought over when Keeley had admitted she was having trouble sleeping. She briefly thought about making a cup of the tea instead, and then said out loud “what the hell, I’m not going to sleep tonight anyway”, and proceeded to go through the familiar motions of grinding the beans and making a cup of her favourite beverage. When it was ready, she poured it into her usual mug. It was an extra large white ceramic mug with purple writing that said “Don’t talk to me until I’ve finished my coffee”. Mark had bought it for her when they were on vacation a few years ago. Keeley remembered how much fun that trip had been. How did we go from that to this, she wondered sadly.

There was a half full bottle of red wine on the counter, left over from dinner a few nights ago. She stood looking between the wine and the coffee, trying to decide which held more appeal. Finally, with a shrug, she took down a wineglass, picked up the bottle and the mug, and went to sit on the sofa.

Alternately sipping wine and coffee, not really tasting either of them, she sat and looked around the room. When she and Mark had decided it made more sense to purchase a home rather than throwing their money away on rent, Keeley had wanted to buy a character home. Mark had campaigned strongly for the modern townhouse, and as she usually did, Keeley had allowed herself to be persuaded to go along with his wishes. Now, as her eyes roamed around the spacious townhouse, with its open plan and vaulted ceilings, granite countertops, and huge picture windows, she wondered why she had always been so compliant. What a doormat I am, she thought. I never stand up for what I want. And look where that’s gotten me!

Why am I not crying? she wondered a short time later. True, she had shed buckets full of tears over the past few months while trying to deal with her mothers devastating illness, but when your husband leaves you for another woman, you’d think that would make the tears flow again. Her eyes burned, and there was a tightness in her throat, but the tears didn’t come.

She didn’t remember drinking it, but the coffee cup was now empty, so she poured the remainder of the wine into her glass. The silence in the room felt oppressive. The big screen television, Mark’s pride and joy, was situated directly in front of the sofa on which she sat. The remote control was right beside her, but she didn’t turn it on. She had never been a big fan of television, only watching when Mark had it on, and often not even then. Some music might be soothing, but she couldn’t summon the motivation to get up and turn the stereo on, so she continued to sit in the silence. She thought briefly about calling her best friend to come over. It wasn’t that late, and she knew that at a word, Kira would jump in her car and race over. But there was nothing Kira could do to change anything, and Keeley really didn’t feel like talking anyway.

When the wine was gone, she put the glass and mug in the dishwasher, and added the wine bottle to the recycling bin, moving on autopilot. Going into the spacious ensuite bathroom, she ran the water for a hot bath. There was some small comfort in sinking into the soothing warmth, and she leaned back against the enamel of the tub, closing her aching eyes. When the water had cooled past the point of being enjoyable, she climbed out, dried herself off, and went to bed.

Whether it was the wine, the hot bath, or just complete physical and emotional exhaustion, against all her expectations, Keeley fell almost immediately into a deep, dreamless sleep. It was after ten when she awoke, feeling that heavy, almost drugged feeling that too much sleep or too much alcohol usually brings. She lay in bed as the events of the previous evening came flooding back into her memory. She turned her head to look at the space beside her, where under normal circumstances, she would find Mark, but of course he wasn’t there. He was with Chelsea. It had not all been a horrible dream. Finally, realizing there was no point in staying in bed any longer since she was wide awake, if not exactly fully functioning, she made herself crawl out of the covers, and went to the kitchen to make some coffee. Her phone was sitting on the counter, emitting the chirping sound it made when she had a message. She started the coffee brewing, and then idly picked up the phone.

Where r u? she read in a text from Kira. Oh God, she had completely forgotten that they were supposed to meet at their favorite coffee shop this morning at ten o'clock! It was already almost half past. She quickly sent a text saying she was sorry, something had come up and she couldn’t make it. Almost immediately, she received a text asking if she was alright. Kira knew she was seldom if ever late for anything, and would have been worried when she hadn’t shown up on time, especially with no explanation. She hesitated for a moment over what to reply, and then simply responded in the negative. Her phone rang with an incoming call a few seconds later, which she had expected, and in less than twenty minutes, Kira was at the door.

“Oh my Goddess! What happened?” Kira asked, taking one look at Keeley’s pale face, puffy eyes and noting she was still in her pajamas. “Where’s Mark?”

“With his girlfriend, I would imagine,” Keeley told her, and Kira gasped in shock and outrage. “You can’t be serious!”

Kira listened sympathetically as Keeley repeated what Mark had said the night before. “Chelsea? Is that the same Chelsea that you and Mark work with at Madison’s?” and when Keeley nodded, she added “that conniving little home wrecker!” A few minutes later she asked softly “what are you going to do?”

“What can I do? They’re having a child together. When we talked about starting a family, he told me he wanted to wait until we were financially secure,” she went on bitterly. She hadn't felt like she or Mark was ready to have a child, but that was not the point.

Kira put the kettle on to make herself some herbal tea, noting that there seemed to be the same amount left as when she had brought the packages over, but she didn’t comment. She tried to think of something she could do to make things better for her best friend, but no practical ideas came to her.

“What can I do to help you?” Kira asked. “Anything at all. Nothing is off the table, including castration and a slow and painful death. In fact, both of those things get my vote.”

Keeley had to smile. When her pacifist friend started talking about violence and murder, you knew she was really riled up.

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