My back is killing me this morning.
I’d somehow fallen asleep on the couch last night after hours of endless thoughts circulating through my head. I’d snuck into his home office in order to search around, only to find useless work papers and old bills littering the space. For a second, I’d thought maybe I’d gone mad. Was I making all of this up? After all of these years, could he really keep these secrets from me? Had I been that naïve not to see it?
Hoping to confront Thomas this morning and get his side of the story about his disappearance yesterday, I’d woken up to find myself alone in the house. The clock read 9 o’clock and if I didn’t get my shit together, I’d be late for work.
The feeling of loneliness shot through my entire being as I got ready for the day in the home that used to be filled with so much love and hope. Now, as it stands, long shadows fill the hallway and my footsteps echo into the darkness like never before. How, after yesterday and last night, could he honestly just leave?
The stone-cold and heartless action was enough to light a fire under my ass and get me out of the door just as fast.
Filing away some informal documents from the medical charts, I close the filing cabinet, seeing my phone light up with a message from my desk.
Rolling my chair over, I open the lock screen, seeing a message from Tom.
Tom: Are you at work already?
Is he kidding?
I decide to keep it short and snippy.
Tom: I left early to grab your favorite green tea from Mischa’s for you to take to work. Can I drop it off?
Oh, this has to be a joke. Back when we first bought our house, the little coffee shop down the road had become our little haven for morning after bliss. But now? It tainted the kind act with guilt from his infidelities. I can never order from Mischa’s again. The thought of green tea suddenly makes me want to hurl. Yet another thing he’s ruined.
Penelope: No. I’m busy.
I’m being short but it’s because I’m stubborn and mad. I can’t let him think that anything about yesterday is alright. We haven’t even talked about how he missed the appointment. Or even the fact that he came home drunk, bleeding, and needing to shower to wash who knows what off of him. I will not brush this shit under the rug.
I see three little dots insinuating he’s typing before they disappear. I watch as they reappear, just for them to vanish all over again. Contemplating calling Deena for a boost of much needed confidence, I wait a few more seconds as a message finally comes through.
Tom: I don’t know what to say. I fucked up, Pen.
I can’t take it. I throw my phone into the drawer of my desk, slamming it there as pens and pencils toss about. Grabbing the mouse before me, I begin aggressively clicking away at the computer in front of me.
“You alright, darling?” Crystal leans back in her chair from a cubicle over, eyeing me cautiously.
I lick the back of my teeth, methodically moving in order to hold it together at work. I give her a quick forced smile while nodding my head.
My life is in shambles.
“Where did Tom say he was last night?”
I groan, tossing my head back against the couch.
“I don’t want to talk about this right now, Dee. He’s going to be home soon and we’re going to sort it out. He made it seem as if he wanted to lay it all out tonight. Might finally fess up,” I reply.
Tom kept texting me throughout the day. Pleading with me to come home after work so we could talk, but I ignored every text. I wanted him to feel the pain of my silent treatment, as childish as it was. I was just so fed up and didn’t want to do it on his time.
“So he missed the appointment, came back around two in the morning, was drunk, then needed to shower?”
“Yeah, that about sums it up,” I say sarcastically, repeating the bullshit to myself yet again.
“He was with a woman,” she says confidently, the words making my heart stop.
How could she know that? I shouldn’t be surprised, but I am. The wound is deep and the knife, still stuck.
“Okay, well, we already assumed he’s cheating. I mean, the late nights, the avoidance, the fucking earring alone spoke volumes, right?”
“No, Pen...” she says, her voice turned serious. “You need to see this.”
Suddenly, my phone vibrates against my face as I’m talking to her. I peel it back, seeing a link sent to my email.
“Dee, what did you send me?” I ask nervously, opening the email as I continue talking.
I open a link from a business page. Quickly skimming the article, I read about an event that was put on at the Greenbriar Hotel by the Hillman Association last night, a company that specializes in trading stock shares. A big money event, most of the elite were there dressed in perfection and enjoying all the perks of wheeling and dealing.
Politicians were present, as well as some of the biggest names in the start-up tech companies that have gone on to make millions. It was the type of event that you show up and take pictures at, knowing that being there was mostly for publicity and status.
The name of Tom’s company sticks out in the article immediately. Reading out loud as I skim it, I mouth the words into the receiver.
“The Hillman Association is proud to partner with Schwab & Associates on this new venture led by the newest face in trading, Samantha Witmore, daughter of the CEO of Ameristock, Charles Witmore.”
I pause, shaking my head in confusion.
“Dee, I’m not really understand any of this to be honest. What’s the point of the article?”
“The picture, Pen. Look at the picture at the bottom of the page.”
I scroll with my finger down until I see it. There he is, in his fitted suit, tie, and pocket square. Shaking hands with the beautiful, dark-haired woman in red.
“So you think that’s her? That’s the rich bitch who’s wrapped around my husband’s cock day after day?”
I let out a depressing moan, feeling a sickness in the pit of my gut again.
“She’s fucking beautiful,” I groan. “Thanks for the boost in self-confidence, Dee.”
“Shut the fuck up,” Dee scolds. “She’s got nothing on your natural beauty, Pen. This woman is pieced together with all the money from dear old Dad and Wall Street. Don’t you for a second, get it into your head that she’s better than you.”
I scroll down and see another picture of them standing in a group of people, all locked in conversation. His hand is at her lower back and even though people are conversing, her eyes are locked on his smile as he leads the conversation. I know those eyes. Those eyes are the same ones I used to look at him with. Love.
“Zoom in on her face,” she says.
“What?! No, so I can feel even worse about her lack of acne scars compared to the horrors of mine? Fuck no.”
“Zoom in on her fucking face, Pen!” she yells.
I click the image and with my finger and thumb, enlarge her stupid, beautiful face.
“Great lip color. Loving the length of the lashes. What the fuck am I looking at?” I frown at the closeness.
“Her ears. The earrings.”
I squint my eyes, looking at the earrings that were more than obvious.
“Jesus, Dee, that’s...those are the—”
“Go check for it. Now,” she demands.
I race up the stairs, falling to my knees to check the space right next to the foot of the bed. I’d tucked it against the bottom of the bedpost when we heard him enter the house that night.
“Fuck, it’s gone.”
“Motherfucker found it and gave it back. Last night, by the looks of it.” She scoffs, the anger penetrating the phone.
“He was with her last night...” I say just above a whisper in disbelief, my heart aching in my chest. It’s right here. The evidence. Confirmed. “She’s the one he’s sleeping with.”
Images of them together charge through my tortured head like a suicidal infantry, seeking to slash and destroy and any all hope I secretly help on to. I’m suddenly infiltrated with painful images of the two of them kissing, lips trailing over body parts, moans and groans being released into the night while I cried into the encased feathers of my marital bed.
Seeing a face really put a stamp on it. It’s real now. She’s real. And he told me he fucked up.
“I’m sorry, Pen,” Dee says. “But I had to show you before you found out some other way.”
Lights fill the house as Tom’s vehicle pulls into the driveway.
“Fuck, Dee!” I freak out, feeling a wave of terror over my body. “He’s home!”
“Shit,” she says. “Okay, just play it cool. Don’t bring it up and see what he has to say first.”
I quickly make my way downstairs again, readjusting myself on the couch. Grabbing a blanket, I pull it over me as if I was the one who was just caught cheating. I grab the remote and turn the T.V. on, setting the scene just as I’m about to hang up on Dee.
“Be careful, Pen,” she says quickly before hanging up.
Her tone scares me.
I think of the bloody pocket square and my chest feels constricted. Breathing has become a forced task. How did that happen? Where did the blood come from and where were the rest of his clothes from last night? So many details are unknown and the complete breakdown of communication is lingering.
My heart stops when he opens the door from the garage with bags in his hands.
His eyes find mine immediately and I unintentionally suck in a nervous breath. He licks his lips before putting what looks like bags of takeout food on the kitchen counter. Making his way to my place on the couch, he sits down on the edge of the cushion, facing me.
He’s in another fitted suit, tailored to perfection. He smells of his delicious cologne with a strange mix of Chinese food radiating off of him. Of course he got General Tso’s. It’s my favorite.
Staring at me like he doesn’t know what to say, the anger from my broken place activates and I glare at him with piercing eyes that let him know just how disgusted I am by him. The gaze becomes too much for him and he’s forced to look away at the television, swallowing as he licks his lips again.
“Baseball?” he asks, cocking his head and looking back at me.
Fuck. Of course, I didn’t focus on what I put on.
“I’m trying something new,” I snap. “Needed a change. You familiar?”
My words resonate with him as I hoped they would. He takes a deep breath, looking down, before reaching out to grab my hand.
I pull it away, tucking it into my side.
“Fuck, Pen. I’m so sorry I forgot about the appointment,” he begins, sitting down on the edge of the couch. “I got caught up in this development at work and needed to work some things out.”
Yeah, I bet you did. God, I could kill him.
“It’s all been so overwhelming and I’m just trying to keep my head on straight while dealing with it all.”
I don’t want his excuses and it’s more than clear he isn’t going to hit me with the truth.
“Fuck you, Thomas,” I spit out, standing and throwing the blanket down onto the floor. I can’t hold in my frustrations anymore. It’s boiling over at the sight of his pathetic, fake, sorrow-filled eyes. “Fuck you for leaving me when I needed you, and fuck you for breaking us the way that you have!”
His brows lower as he glares at me.
I huff out all the air in my lungs, crossing my arms over my chest, matching his glare as I stand firm before him.
“I didn’t break us,” he says firmly, startling me. Taking a step back, I watch as the heat rises in his face. “You did with your expectations.”
“Expectations?!” My brow cocks as my jaw literally drops.
“You wanted it all, right? The house, the marriage, the kids...everything. But I wasn’t ready, Pen. You forced my hand into it! You never went in to the doctor after you told me you were on birth control! You lied to me, making me think we were being safe!”
“Are you really doing this right now?” I ask, appalled.
Why now, after all of this time, am I just hearing this? We wanted this, didn’t we?
“I wasn’t ready to be a dad, but I fucking got my shit together and manned-up, unlike anything my father had done in my thirty years of life,” he seethes, standing up and towering over me now. “I wasn’t ready, but I supported you, and after pushing and pushing, you finally got what you wanted out of me.”
“Tom!” I scold him. I’m in shock. “How dare you!”
“Then you lost the baby. You lost the baby! You were careless, selfish even!” he screams, pointing his finger at my chest. I feel the touch deep into the cave of my open heart, burning through it with a searing pain.
Tears pour down my face as I blink them away. My heart is shattering, and this man is stepping on those pieces, making sure to turn them into nothing but dust beneath him.
“You!” He throws a hand, tossing the candles and remote on the coffee table across the room. I gasp as one candle breaks against the wall, the red wax splattering across the white paint as it shatters. “It’s your fault we’re in this position! It’s your fault I’m as fucked up as I am now! It’s your fault! Not mine. So, fuck you!”
I’m stunned into silence as he turns and storms back out of the door he came in. The abrupt slam throws the canvas from the wall, tossing it onto the floor near the dinner table. Sobs leave my chest as I fall onto the floor beneath me.
I sit up on my heels, listening to the words as they replay in my head, willing them to make some sort of sense.
None of what happened makes any sense to me. None. Because, not once was I selfish or irresponsible. For him to even insinuate that I caused the loss of our first child is preposterous. Fucking heartbreaking, to be honest.
But one thing is clear, the resentment that man holds for me just washed over my being, pulling me under his wave, drowning me in the same dark and heavy, pressured space he’s been trapped since hearing the unthinkable news.
He blames me, and I never knew.