Jacob did not know how to cope with his wife’s changing behavior.
Whenever he got home during the week, she was either passed-out by the time he got there or else unpleasantly drunk. She would ignore him except to answer in the affirmative or negative, choosing instead to fully involve herself in television and whiskey colas. On weekends, they talked just as little, so Jacob would find any excuse to run an errand in hopes of acquiring more fame and fortune.
This happened for maybe two weeks until Jacob began to notice another marked change in his wife’s demeanor. She started to improve in his eyes, drinking less and asking him more questions about his day. She appeared to listen contentedly to him as he talked, even offering a few sensible smiles and reassuring remarks.
On another Friday night, four weeks after the beginning of his sudden fame, he came home late again. This time, he noticed that his wife was not drinking whiskey. It was at that point when he realized that she had not been drinking all week.
“What gives?” he said.
She shot him a quick look of rage that made him feel very vulnerable. In the blink of an eye, her expression had become warm and kind, but the coldness in his heart and tightness in his gut remained.
“We need to talk,” she said, her tone cool and even.
Jacob seated himself on a chair opposite of Diana at their dining table. He studied her face in the warm yellow lighting, noticing that she was wearing makeup. Ah, he thought as his neck relaxed. She’s going to tell me how it is, then we’re going to get all dressed-up for a nice date.
“Okay, fine,” he relented. “We’ll go some place fancy tonight—my treat. I know you’ve been lonely lately, what with me always staying out late to find new things to bring home. I just want you to know that—”
“Stop,” she said, a smile forming. “Just stop. Why do you think you can lie to me?”
“What?” Jacob stammered. He did not anticipate such extended hostility in response to his offer. “Lie about what?”
“Did you ever think to ask any of those lovely strangers why they seem to know you so well, even though they have never met you in person?”
Diana was no longer smiling. Her brow was lowered. She kept staring at him, sucking and biting the inside of her bottom lip.
“Well, I, uh, thought about it,” Jacob said. “I guess I never really asked, no.”
Diana pulled out her touchscreen cell phone, a bit larger than a pack of playing cards, and swiped furiously at its screen with her index finger. She was inputting commands into the device in order for it to display an audio-video recording. The device began to play tinny pop music before she turned its screen outward to give Jacob a view of the video.
In bright purple bubble letters, displayed above a still picture of his smiling face, was the phrase:
The World’s Most-Kindest Man!
Cut to an establishing-long-distance shot of a silver Hyonda Civilia, exactly like Jacob’s, descending onto the curb of a busy city street.
Cut to a medium-distance shot of a thin young lady wearing a red dress, carrying a tiny black purse as she ducks to enter the back seat of the parked vehicle.
Cut to a close-up of her in the back seat, hands in her lap, adjusting herself as she begins to stare out the window of the vehicle as the clouds outside roll on by.
“Hi, ma’am,” a voice like Jacob’s says off-screen. “How are you doing today?”
The woman looks somewhere off-camera with a look of astonishment. Her mouth opens slightly and her eyes well-up with tears. Her chin and lower lip quiver before she places her hands in her face and begins to cry.
“Oh, no,” the male voice cooes off-screen, “please don’t be sad. You can talk to me about anything, ya know. I don’t exactly have many friends, so that means I’m really good at keeping secrets, ya dig? What’s going on?”
As the man talks, the woman begins to sob louder and louder.
Cut to a close-up of Jacob turning around in the driver’s seat to face the woman in the back. His eyebrows are upturned and his frown spells genuine concern. The frame freezes, producing another still image with a different caption in bubble letters: his first and last name, Jacob Young.
“Holy shit,” Jacob croaked. He cleared his throat, trying to find an itch back there that was growing harder to scratch. He coughed once, but the itch remained.
“Yeah,” Diana said, pulling her phone back in close for some more furious tapping. In another moment, she held the phone screen towards him again, this time showing a different kind of video.
“What does The World’s Most-Kindest Man enjoy doing with his free time?” a baritone male voice demanded with a tone of authority. “Let’s see for ourselves!”
From what appeared to be security cameras set up into the ceilings, he watched a video of himself walking jauntily into the Gail Forerunner Casino. A smile was seen on his face that did not ebb from the moment he exchanged cash for play tokens, to the moment when he sat on the stool in front of the dicebox, right up to the moment where he walked out of there empty-handed. He even smiled on the way home.
It felt to Jacob like a tiny weight had dropped from his heart down into a black hole somewhere deep within his belly. As he watched, blood rushed up to his cheeks and neck. His armpits began to sweat profusely, stinking right away.
“Wow!” the baritone narrator cried. “This truly is The World’s Most-Kindest Man!”
Diana turned-off the phone, slamming it down hard on the table with a piercing crack. Her jaw was slanted as if she was grinding her teeth. Everything but her eyes looked like they wanted to kill him. Her eyes told him that she already had.
“So,” Jacob said, “now you know what I’m doing with my money.”
“It’s not the money, Jacob,” Diana said. Her features relaxed. She began to look very sorry for him, her face filling with pity. “You’ve been lying to me, saying you’re out getting stuff for the house when you’re really just wasting all of our money gambling at the diceboxes!”
“Our money?” he repeated. “Ha! Is this the kind of talk you want to have, Diana?”
“Not at all,” she said quickly. “I’m seeing somebody. Somebody else. Somebody who can give me what you can’t.”
“What the hell are you talking about, woman?”
“Don’t you dare talk to me like that,” she said with a growl.
Jacob opened his mouth, but stopped himself. He knew that he had no right to be upset. They had already made an agreement at the beginning of their marriage. If they wanted to begin seeing other people sexually, that was their decision to make as individuals. It wasn’t until Jacob considered that Diana would find someone so quickly that he began to greatly regret this decision.
“What’s his name?”
“Marty,” she said, her voice small and remote.
“Okay,” he said, turning his back to her. “Whatever makes you happy.”