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Chapter 2: Morning after

Groaning, Cassie pushed herself up off the cold, hard tile into a sitting position.

“What the—?” she mumbled as she leaned back against the wall.

Her head throbbed, her back ached, her stomach burned. She rubbed her temples as the previous night flashed before her—suitcases in the hall, Phillip professing his love for another woman, a broken vase, the back door slamming shut, nausea, massive vomiting followed by dry heaves.

She blinked several times as she focused on the bright rays of sunshine filtering in through the closed window shutters.

“What time is it?”

Reaching for the edge of the sink, she pulled into a standing position, then cursed at her image in the mirror—red, swollen eyes, cheeks black with streaks of smeared mascara, and hair matted with sweat and vomit.

“I need a shower.”

Having ditched her heels sometime during the night, she walked barefoot through the entryway, taking extra precaution to avoid the scattered sharp fragments of porcelain.

Once she reached the upstairs landing, she retrieved a pair of scissors from the built-in desk before heading into the master bathroom. There, she cut her dress down the front, having no energy to struggle with the back zipper, and no desire to ever wear it again.

Inside the large shower stall, she allowed the steaming hot water to pour over her head and down her body, willing it to wash away the pain, the memory of his words, and the reality that the man she had loved and adored for over twenty years had left her.

Afterward, she sat at the kitchen table, sipping her coffee while reflecting on the past years. How had she not known, how had she been so blind? "Years," he had said. Her husband and one of her closest friends had been having an affair, had been in love for years, and she had been oblivious to it all. She wasn’t sure which one she felt more betrayed by at that moment, which one she hated more—Phillip or Melanie. But in the end, she knew it was Phillip. He was the one who had promised to love her, honor her, and remain faithful to her for the rest of their lives. He was the one with whom she had shared a life, a bed, and two beautiful children.

The more she looked back, the more she realized the signs had all been there right under her nose. The out-of-town business trips—it had always seemed coincidental the number of times Melanie had been traveling the same time as Phillip. Not once had it crossed her mind that the two of them had been together during those times. Melanie, a self-proclaimed bachelorette for life, owned a thriving travel agency. She had explained her absences as checking out new places, new hotels. The image of the Phillip and Melanie in one of those hotels, in bed together, made Cassie want to vomit once more.

She thought about the number of times Phillip had given her a new piece of jewelry and her excitement to show it off to her two best friends at lunch the next day, only to have it outdone by a more impressive piece Melanie had "supposedly" recently bought for herself. Cassie would never be able to wear any of that jewelry again and found herself tempted to go upstairs, gather it all up, and flush it all down the toilet. She studied the wedding ring on her finger before finally removing it and flinging it across the room.

How would she tell their kids? They would be devastated. They both adored Phillip. Patricia, the older of the two, was away at college. Paul, a year younger, was spending the summer backpacking through Europe with his two best friends. Neither would need to know right away, she decided. She would tell them later, once she had come to grips with it herself.

Margo called late in the afternoon.

“Did you enjoy your surprise party? Did you know or were you as surprised as you appeared?” Margo. asked when Cassie first answered the phone after letting it ring several times, unsure if she was ready to talk to anyone.

“Did you know?” Cassie screamed into the phone.

“Of course I knew. I was there, wasn’t I? Why are you yelling at me?”

“Not the damn party! Them! Did you know about them?”

“Them who? What’s going on? Why do you sound hoarse? And upset?”

“I’m talking about Phillip and Melanie! Margo, did you know they were in love, that they were having an affair?”

“What the hell are you smoking, Cassie? That’s the most absurd thing I’ve ever heard you say.”

“It’s true! Phillip confessed last night. He left me, Margo. He left me for her!” Cassie sobbed into the phone.

“I’m on my way over now,” Margo replied.

She arrived fifteen minutes later. When Cassie pressed her once again about whether or not she knew, Margo replied, “Get real! Do you think I would have allowed it had I known? I’m as shocked as you. I can’t imagine how Melanie could do that to you, how she could sit across the table and look us—you—in the eye knowing what she was doing with Phillip. And Phillip? The man adores you.”

“Well, obviously he adores her more! As a matter of fact, that’s just what he said before he left. That he loved me, but he loved her more.”

“What a lowlife scumbag! I have half a mind to find them now and rip his heart out! And pull that long blond hair of hers out by their dark roots!”

Cassie smiled at the thought of that, but the smile lasted on a second.

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