Where It All Started
My eyes sting from the stench of the overly flowery perfume. I noticed it the moment I got into his car. I’ve only worn softer scents like vanilla and honeysuckle, so I know this wasn’t coming from me. Has Russ given someone a ride home? Or maybe even his cousin? She did tend to wear overly flowery perfume.
I rolled the window down to air out of the car. My eyes were watering like I had been cutting onions for hours on end. I hated that Russ had taken my car to get it serviced when his mother called needing me. It was easier to get her in and out of my car. Russ’s mother had been ill for a while now.
She had developed some issues with her breast and they were trying to make sure that she didn’t have cancer. In order for her to feel safe, she opted to have a double mastectomy. I thought she was incredibly brave for doing that. I don’t know if I would have had the strength to do something so drastic.
Maxine, Russ’s mother, was a force to be recorded with, and I hoped to be as strong one day. She ran her home like a well-oiled machine and her husband Rich was utterly smitten with her. Russ had been an only child and when she got sick, it fell to me to take care of her. Russ and Rich worked hard at their law office, and I was a housewife.
I had married Russ right out of college while he was in law school; I worked and paid the bills his parents didn’t take care of. I had a degree in English, so I was able to use it to teach for four years. Once Russ was out of school and working in the family firm, he made me quit and stay at home. It wasn’t something that I had wanted, but the love I had for my husband was worth more than a job.
I pulled into my mother in-laws and went to the door. She opened it quickly and we headed to the car. I helped her sit inside and get comfortable. She was having pain from her incisions and the doctor thought he should take a look.
“Dear, why are you riding with the windows down?” Maxine asked. I hated riding with the windows down because my long hair would always get tangled.
“The car smelt like really flowery perfume. My eyes were watering, so I don’t think it would be good for you to breathe in.” I say, smiling at her.
The drive to the doctor’s office was wonderful. We talked about how well the firm was doing and how she was hoping for grandchildren. I was reaching the old age of thirty-two soon and she wanted me to safely have children. Russ and I had been married for almost ten years and she was getting impatient. I internally rolled my eyes at this, knowing that I was still incredibly young and wouldn’t have any problems having a baby.
I got out of the car and was helping Maxine into the wheelchair at the front door. She was feeling weak, so the nurse was going to take her in. I prayed she was only just feeling bad and not having something more serious going on.
“Jacqueline, be a dear and check the car. I seemed to have dropped my phone.” Maxine says as the wheel her in.
“Yes, Mam.” I called back.
I park the car and smile to myself. To be someone who always has everything together, sometimes Maxine is forgetful. I open the passenger door and look all around not seeing the phone. I do the next rational thing and stick my hand under the seat.
I feel something like a wrapper and then something sticks to my finger. I grab everything I find under the seat and sit it on the floorboard. I found her phone, but I also found so much more.
There, sitting next to the phone was a condom wrapper and a diamond stud earring. The exact same earrings I had been begging for since I saw them. When I saw them on Russ’s receptionist at work. How would a receptionist who was single be able to afford three thousand dollar stud earrings?
I had offered to pay for them out of my savings, but even then Russ had said no. I didn’t even want the expensive ones! He thought it was ostentatious to buy something so expensive. I had told him that was the only thing like I had ever wanted or asked for, but no. He wouldn’t let me get them. So again I ask myself how she could afford them?
Now the condom is something I have no explanation for. We don’t use them. Never have. We were married and in a monogamy relationship, or so I thought. I couldn’t give a reason for the condom, so that meant all my reasoning for the smell and then earrings were out the window.
I feel the bitter sting of tears forming in my eyes. How could he do this to me? I’ve devoted my entire adult life to him! I’ve loved him more than any woman could have ever loved him. I’ve put his needs ahead of mine for the entire relationship. I’ve put off having kids for that man!
It hits me that I need to get it together because I have his mother waiting for me. Maxine will lose it if she finds out her son has been having an affair. Her health right now is the chief priority, so I’m going to have to suck it up buttercup and play nice.
I shove the condom wrapper and earring in my purse and grab her phone. I wipe my eyes as I walk into the office and make sure that I have a smile on my face. I won’t have her getting worse because of me. She’s been too kind to me for that to happen.
I sit next to her in the waiting room and give her a smile. She looks at me for a moment and I know she is analyzing what is happening to me.
“Dear, have you been crying?”
“That perfume smell hit me when I was looking for your phone. Nothing to worry about.” I say, giving her a reassuring smile.
I try my hardest to pay attention during the appointment. Every time the doctor talks, I have to force myself to listen. Everything in me wants to think about what has been going on behind my back all this time. Was I just blind or stupid? How the hell did I not figure this out before now?
“We’ll follow up in a week to make sure the infection has cleared up.” I hear the doctor say, and I come back to reality.
“Thank you, doctor.” Maxine says as we walk out the door of the room.
The rest of the trip to my in-laws was a blur. Maxine talked continuously, and I tried to make it look like I was interested in what she was saying. Even picky with her medicine, I couldn’t focus on anything but what was in my purse.
“Rich makes sure she takes all those pills. She needs to beat the infection.” I say, smiling at the couple.
“I should head back. Russ was getting my car serviced today. I was hoping we could go out tonight.” I say.
“Oh, I thought he was at the office today working on a case. He and Casey were supposed to be putting in overtime.” Rich says.
“Casey?” I ask.
“You know the receptionist. She’s learning to be a paralegal. They were working hard on the case all week.”
So the little temptress’s name is Casey. And my husband of almost ten years was a lying dirty dog.
I fought hard to keep my face neutral, showing nothing of the rage and hurt I’m feeling. How do you put on a mask in front of the people you’re supposed to be able to let your guard down around? I’ve got to keep it together if I’m ever going to figure this out. I can’t act like a crazy woman. I’ve got to be smart.
“Well, he probably dropped it off beforehand. You know how sweet he is.” I say with a huge smile on my face. The couple took me into each of their arms and gave me an embrace. I know they love me and yet I wonder if they know what their son has been doing behind everyone’s back. This isn’t just going to affect he and I but our families as well.
I get back into the car and start Irving the ten minutes it takes to get to our house. Things run through my head as I drive. Russ had been working late for almost a year. Casey had started a little over a year ago. When I would come into the office, she would always offer me a tight smile that made me wonder what she really thought.
I pulled into the garage and noticed my car was still missing, so Russ wasn’t at home yet. I shut down the car and sat there. I was thinking about everything that had happened over the last year. I dissected every moment we were together and everything he said about when he was gone.
I felt like the world’s biggest idiot, but I really thought nothing was wrong. He seemed happy when he was home and we didn’t really fight. But then it hit me like a lightning bolt. We had started only having sex on the weekends. For most of our marriage, we had had sex almost every day and sometimes multiple times.
Russ had been pulling away. It was slow, but it was happening, and I had been too stupid to realize it. Would I have gone on forever like that if I hadn’t looked for that phone?
All I know is that I will not let this just go. They will pay for their sins.