|What to do When You've Been Cheated On
Author: Continuance PM
There are no guidelines to follow. What did I do? Well, I'm pretty sure that I did it wrong. I mean, laughing when you catch your wife cheating is definitely not the right course of action to take...Rated: Fiction T - English - Humor - Words: 9,728 - Reviews: 20 - Favs: 62 - Follows: 1 - Published: 12-06-08 - Status: Complete - id: 2605182
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Unacceptable Actions to Take When You've Been Cheated On
How does one react when they come home from work early, expecting to surprise the one they love…only to be the one surprised? Is there a book on this? Is there some kind of guidelines? Why was I never told? And why am I asking this question?
Because I am currently standing in the doorway of my bedroom watching some unknown man shag my wife of two years. And they still haven't noticed me yet.
Good God! What are those sounds coming from her mouth? And he's just as bad. What, are they trying to out-shout each other? And why did she never make those sounds with me?
And that, ladies and gentlemen, is not something you should be thinking about when you come upon this situation. Was it the shock? Or was I seriously lacking some kind of important emotion—say, jealousy or possessiveness?
"Oh Donnn," my lovely wife moans, her eyes finally looking toward the doorway.
And then there is screaming and scrambling. She's stuttering, looking like the guilty kid with her hand caught in the cookie jar. Or that might be Don, with his hand caught in her…ahem. I'm not going to go there. That thought makes me ill.
"Jack!" she cries out. "This isn't what it… Well, maybe it is what it looks like." She's wrapping our sheet—the one my mother had given us as part of a bedroom set for our wedding—around her naked body and trying to fix her disheveled appearance, as if that would somehow make this appalling scene any better.
And I, like the idiot I am, just stand there, not saying a word. Disbelief? Perhaps that's what I'm feeling. There is definitely rage simmering inside of me. It's not quite to a boil—and why am I thinking with cooking analogies?
"Please, say something," she says, biting her lip and tears rolling down her cheeks.
Well, she's apparently the victim here. Or she's trying to make me feel guilty. I don't get it. She's the unfaithful one—a simmering pot of nasty, putrid, cheating goo.
"Um…I'll just go," Don says wisely.
"Yeah, you do that," I reply, wondering again why I'm thinking of cooking analogies.
He staggers out of the bed, his legs getting tangled in my sheets, and falls flat on his face. What the hell? Now that I take a good look at him, he looks like Al from Home Improvement. She cheats on me with Al? What is the world coming to?
Laughter spills from my lips, and I double over, clutching my sides. Of all the people to cheat on me with, she picks Al! Tears spill from my eyes, and I can't stop laughing. It's absurd! She marries me, a man who isn't hard on the eyes, if I do say so myself. I take painstaking measures to make sure that I don't end up looking like a lazy slob. And she cheats on me with a hairy, tubby, Al-look-a-like.
And I know those underwear are a size extra large. That throws me into another peal of giggles. Don looks up at me, confused and…do I see fright on his face? Wait, did Al have a beard? I can't remember. It's been so long since I've seen that show.
"Honey," she says, her voice sweet as candy.
We both look at her, but it's me she's gazing at now.
Ha! Take that, Al-wannabe!
"Are you alright?" she asks softly.
That makes my laughter cease immediately. More than anything else, I want to hurt her in that moment. I want to hurt her like she's hurting me. Not physically. No, I'd never physically hurt her-
Don walks by me quickly, and I stop him. My nose crinkles as an unpleasant wave of B.O. accosts it. His arm, which is currently in the vice-like grip of my hand, is all sweaty.
"No, I'm not alright." Those words are in answer to her question, and I clench my hand before pulling it back and striking his face.
Instantly, wifey-dear is out of the bed, flitting between me and Don, unsure of which side to take. "You hit him!" she accuses.
A smile forms on my face. "And it made me feel better."
She gasps. "It's bleeding! Don! Is it broken?"
His voice is too muffled from his hands covering his face. Carissa glares at me, and, with as much dignity as a naked woman caught cheating in her own home can possess (which is practically none), she leads him to our bathroom to stop the bleeding.
Yes, that felt much better. But I'm left alone in a room reeking of sex and B.O. This is not someplace I want to be. I glance down at my hands to see them trembling. Maybe I'm not as calm as I first thought I was?
Suddenly thirsty, I leave the room for the sanctuary of the kitchen. Slamming cupboards and drawers suddenly seems like the best idea in the world. And while I'm at it, why not add in some doors?
Don has left when she enters the room. Thankfully, she's dressed. She looks so nervous, but I could probably account that to my current crazy behavior. A cracking sound steals my attention from her, toward the cupboard door I had just slammed. Ouch. That looks painful.
"We need to talk about this," Carissa says softly, gliding to the kitchenette and sitting at the table. Doesn't she look like a vision of demure calm!
Ha! What a lie! She's trashy, not classy. But, I realize that the only one I'm hurting is myself (and my house) by slamming things around. My little temper tantrum melts into an almost…eerie calm. I pull up a chair opposite to her.
"What is there to talk about?" I retort. "It's pretty self-explanatory. You cheated on me."
"Don't you want to know why?" she asks. She looks so frail, like she can break at any moment.
Yeah, let Donny-boy glue her pieces back together. I don't need her anymore. Not when she's tainted by another man…of her own free will. She had a choice in all this, didn't she? And the choice was obviously not me. I clasp my hands, watching how she cringes. Does she honestly think that I'll hit her?
"I'll humor you," I reply, shocked by how cold my voice is. Is that…my voice? "Tell me why."
She bites her lip and looks away. Ah, the tears are back again. Why do women cry so much? Do they think that it makes them have some kind of power over men? Does she think that I'll just tell her "Oh, it's okay, dear. So you broke your vows of fidelity. It happens to everyone?" Well, it doesn't happen to everyone, just to make that clear.
"You've been so distant," she says, her bottom lip trembling and eyes wide. "You don't pay attention to me like you used to. We don't have sex as often. I feel like you're slipping away from me."
"So you cheat on me?" Excuse me for not seeing the reasoning behind this. My mind must not be sharp enough to understand this concept.
"To try to get your attention," she replies, nodding. "I don't love Don. I love you, Jack."
Oh really? It doesn't seem that way.
"Somehow, your reasoning seems a bit…off," I retort. "It takes two to make a relationship, Carissa. Why should I be the only one trying?"
She looks away from me, toward the living room, where I placed the roses I had picked up to surprise her. Her mouth falls open in shock. "Oh." She looks guilty, but it quickly hardens into anger. "But you're always busy at work! How do I know that you haven't been sleeping around with other women?"
"Oh yes. How did you know that that is what I do everyday? You are so intuitive." Sarcasm is a man's best friend. "Don't go lumping me in with you. I have more dignity than that, more pride than to have an affair when I've promised myself to you."
She falls silent, her gaze burning with anger. Ah ha! I've won this verbal battle!
And then, she opens her mouth, and barbed words full of malice slip from those pouty lips. "Don's bigger than you."
What is she getting at now? Is this some kind of new strategy for her? "Oh, I know that he's a size "x-large," darling. I think you can tell that just by looking at him."
"I meant that his package is bigger than yours."
What…did she just say? I know she did not just say that.
"And he gives me orgasms." Her eyes meet mine. "You never gave me an orgasm, Jack."
She just…blew my male pride to smithereens. She blew up my battleship, and now I'm figuratively watching it sink into the ocean, smoke billowing and sailors screaming for help. I feel insulted and angry…and I want to tear her apart—tell her that she's never been good in bed, either.
"I suppose that it's all relative now," I say instead.
I know, shocking, right? I should've blown up, but I'm a man of character. Men of character don't just blow up over having their manhood ridiculed. Seriously? Al is better than me? Ha! He was probably shaped like a prune!
And does she just leave it at that? No, she is the one who blows up. "You just don't care, do you?" she demands. "You've never cared about my feelings! You've always been so insensitive."
"Do you want me to yell, curse, and throw things? Will that make you feel better?"
"At least it'll be showing some form of emotion!" she retorts.
My hands shake, itching to do those very things I listed earlier. Instead, I get up and grab my car keys and jacket.
"W-where are you going?" she asks pathetically.
I honor her with a snide grin. "Out. Don't wait up, darling. I won't be coming back tonight."
Suddenly, her hand latches onto mine. "Wait! You aren't going to get even with me, are you?"
Disgusted, I peel her away from me. "Unlike you, I have more self-respect."
"What are we going to do?" she demands. "You can't leave! We need to figure this out! We need to talk this over-"
"Oh, suddenly it's a "we?" I don't need to listen to anything you say because as of right now, I could care less about your feelings."
She finally lets me go. "Will I see you tomorrow?"
I pause and frown at her. She really is pretty, but all I can see right now are her and Don, writhing in my bed. And it makes me think of something. "How long has this been going on?"
She bites her lip. "About a year now."
I rush out of the house and slam the door.
Where do you go when you've just had a fight? I never really thought too much into this before now. I can't go to any friends' houses. Why?
My friends are her friends and vice versa. She'll know where I am if I go to a friend's house. That's just the way it works. And, personally, I want to make her sweat. I don't want her to be relieved that I'm camping out at Nate's or Bobby's house. Nope. I don't want her to feel pleased with herself at all. I want her to suffer.
Is that cruel of me?
But what does one do when they've found out they've been cheated on? How does one handle it? Am I supposed to welcome her back with open arms like some sap? Am I supposed to divorce her? Am I supposed to have my own affair to get even, like she suggested? I'm confused, and I let my mind wander as I drive my BMW through the city.
I've never dealt with this issue before. But I'm a businessman, and I'm used to tackling problems that leave other men struggling. I figure that the first thing to do will be to get a hotel room. If the hotel has a bar attached, then I can drown my sorrows. Then again, I've never really been one for drinking. Getting a hangover is not my idea of a good time. Neither is making an ass of myself in front of other people. But desperate times call for desperate measures. And I've never been one to just sit back and let the wind take me wherever it chose.
No, that was Carissa. She's the whimsical one—the painter, the dreamer, the stay-at-home-wife-to-pursue-a-meaningless-career. And, like a fool, I indulged her. She was my weakness, and she exploited it. Well, she'll be a weakness no more!
But I heard that divorces were messy affairs. And I never made a prenuptial agreement, thinking that we'd be together forever. I suppose the joke's on me. She'll get half of my assets if we divorce. Is that why she married me? I mean, come on! She had an affair a year after we were married. She claimed that she didn't want children at the moment because she wanted to focus on her art career.
Well, she sucks at painting.
Okay, that might've been a little childish.
I pull up to a posh hotel and check in to a room. When the desk clerk and bellhop see that I have no bags, they share knowing gazes.
"She's the one who cheated on me," I declare, irritated. "I don't want to sleep in a bed that reeks of…well, you know." Of course, a family with young children has to walk by when I defend myself.
The bellhop snickers, but the desk clerk, feeling sympathetic, offers me a free toothbrush, toothpaste, comb, razor and shaving cream. I suppose some people have compassion.
The bar is surprisingly packed when I enter it. I sit down next to a woman at the bar. She's not bad. Actually, she reminds me of someone. I forget who, though, and instead order a draft beer to drown my sorrows.
"Ah," the woman next to me says, eying me, "you look familiar."
I grin at her. "I was thinking the same thing, myself."
"Lena Reindt," she says, offering her hand.
"Jack Yale," I reply, shaking her hand.
Her eyes widen. "We went to high school together! Remember? I was friends with Sharon and Dayna? We took band together. You played the trumpet, and I played-"
"The saxophone!" I finish. "Wow! It's been a long time!"
"Yeah! What have you been up to?"
"I'm a board member and general manager at ICO. And you?"
"A journalist. I just got back from a stint in Egypt. They unearthed a new tomb."
I gape at her. "Well, I knew that you always wanted to travel, but I never expected you to do it."
She smiles and sips her drink. "Mm hm. I see you've gotten married, Jack, congrats!"
My smile instantly falls. "We're…probably going to separate. I caught her in bed with another man."
She pats my back sympathetically. "I'm sorry, Jack. What are you going to do?"
"I don't know yet. Any advice?"
She laughs. "I think you're doing just fine right now. Bartender! Two whiskeys on the rocks, please. We're drowning Jack's sorrows!"
Hours later, we find ourselves to be the only ones left in the bar. I'll admit that I'm pretty much wasted.
"You know, I had the biggest crush on you senior year," I slur out. This would've appalled me had I actually been sober. But now, it seems like the best thing to say.
"I know," she replies quietly.
"Why'm I drinkin' more than you?" I demand.
She smiles. "I'm visiting friends tomorrow. I'm pretty sure a hangover might just put a damper on things."
I laugh. "God, you're clever."
Lena glances away from me, blushing.
"And you're beautiful, too."
This time, she laughs. "Jack Yale, are you hitting on me? Mr. Straight-laced is actually flirting?"
I respond with a wink, to which I'm rewarded with another giggle.
Normally, this is a perfect idea. Get drunk, have a one-night stand with a random person, then return to life as normal. But I messed it up by choosing a woman who had higher standards than a one-night stand. She had been reserved as a teenager, and, judging by the lack of ring, I assume that she's probably just as reserved now. When I ask if she has a boyfriend, she responds with a "no." Then, I take it to the next step—a step I'd never take it to sober. And of course, I get…
"Jack, did you just ask me to sleep with you?"
"I still have feelings for you. You're a wonderful woman, and-"
"I'm not going to be your rebound." Her lips are pursed in an enticing way, and I want nothing more than to kiss her. "You're in pain right now. I understand that, but I think that you'll regret it tomorrow morning. I don't want to be a guilty one-night-stand. That isn't to say that it's not tempting, because it is—you are—tempting…"
She continues talking, but I lose track after the word "tempting." She called me tempting. Ha! And Carissa said that I couldn't give her an orgasm. Again, my mind goes back to Carissa and Ron in that bed, only…the image blurs and melds together, and I see myself and Lena in the bed instead. Her throaty voice, unlike Carissa's puny whine, is making sounds that made my blood boil. Oh God…
"…so, I think that you should wait and see what your feelings are toward your wife, first, before you try to throw yourself into another relation-"
Ah hell. My lips capture hers, and she responds instantly. As I deepen the kiss, she moans against my mouth. But then…it's over. She's pushing against me, gasping for breath.
"Yes, we can," I reply, seeking her lips again, but she turns her head away, gasping when I kiss her neck instead.
"No, you'll regret it."
With more force, she pushes me away. Her eyes are glossed over, and her breath is coming in short gasps as she struggles with some kind of inner argument. Sensibility wins out, though. She reaches into her pocket and pulls out a business card. Grabbing a pen from the bar, she scrawls something on the back of the card and puts it in my pocket.
My eyelids droop as the alcohol begins to take its toll. Lena's turning toward me now, and she looks slightly alarmed. Her voice is calling my name, but everything becomes a blur…
Sunlight washes over me, and I groan and cover my head as a jackhammer slams against it repeatedly. I sincerely hate hangovers. I begin to wonder what happened last night. Then, it comes back to me, and I groan. I acted like a…moron. I acted like a loser, and I had seen Lena again. Lena from high school—Lena with the husky voice and sexy body…so much hotter than when we were in high school…
Oh my God…
I have a wife!
But she cheated on me.
It doesn't matter. She's still my wife, and I still have a vow to honor.
But she didn't honor hers.
Groaning, I pull myself from the bed. At least I don't have to work today. It's hell going to work with a hangover. I suppose I should check my phone just to be on the safe side. The higher-ups tend to enjoy making me work sporadic hours when things go wrong. But I'm in line for a promotion—to vice president—so I have no right to be complaining.
My hand brushes over a card as I reach in my pocket. I pull both the cell phone and card out, discarding the phone for the moment and focusing on the scrap of paper instead. The card is a neat typewritten thing with Lena's name and occupation on it as well as a cell phone number. Remembering that she wrote something on the back of the card, I flip it over. Scrawled on the back in neat handwriting is a message that makes my heart skip a beat.
When you're ready to move on with your life, call me. Or if you just want to talk, I'll listen.
My hand shakes as I turn the card back to the front. Her number is right there. And why am I acting like a nervous schoolboy? I'm a full-grown man, for crying out loud! Thirty-two years old! Not some shy, pimple-faced teenager with his first crush.
The irony of this situation fails to escape my notice. She had been my first crush in high school. Is fate screwing with me? Irritated, I decide to leave the card for now and turn my attention instead to the cell phone.
I flip it open and groan. Forty-seven new voice mail messages? Seriously? For a brief moment, I wonder if there's an emergency at work and hit the CALL VOICEMAIL button. But, as soon as I listen to the first message, I realize exactly what's going on.
She's been calling me nonstop ever since I left her last night. Her sweet, soothing voice is full of apologies in the first message…and the next three. She wants to get back together. She doesn't want to lose me. Blah blah blah. I roll my eyes toward the ceiling as her voice continues promising that she'll never do it again. She realizes her mistakes now, and she wants to start over again.
Then…there is message five.
"You know, you deserve this!" she screams into the phone.
I wince. Thank God I set my phone on silent before coming home the day before. Of course, that had been for a different, more romantic, reason. But I highly doubt that I'd want to hear this message last night. I listen as her voice continues ranting about how horrible I am through the next several messages. Ah yes, expletive language is used, too. Funny how people turn to using swear words to try to convey powerful messages. They don't tend to sound very intelligent.
Message sixteen is back to apologies. I groan and push the star button, ending my voicemail session. Instead of suffering through her messages, I look at the missed call list. They're all from her. Good. I don't have to sift through her messages to find important ones.
Wait, don't voicemail systems discard messages after a few months? I hope so. I don't want to have to listen to her irritating messages for the sole sake of deleting them. Placing the phone back on vibrate and ring, I nearly drop the thing when it comes alive with motion and sound in my hand. I glare at the screen, only to soften my gaze when I realize that it's my mother, not my wife, who's calling me.
"Mom?" I answer.
Her voice is teary and distressed. "Oh, baby! I heard the news! That whore. I told you that I never liked her."
I hold the phone away from my ear as she continues her tirade about how she's never liked Carissa. Well, to give her props, she did warn me away from her. I just didn't listen.
"You'll have to come home," she finally declares.
I gape at the phone and bring it back to my ear. "What? Mom, I'm not driving all the way to the countryside just because-"
"Well, I won't have you stay at a hotel, either. You're not to blame, Jackie. It's that woman. You'll keep the house, won't you? No, wait. That'll probably be full of bad memories. Let her keep the house, and you can have the money. That's a fair trade, I think."
I groan. "Mom, what are you talking about?"
There is silence on the other end. Then, "You're getting a divorce, aren't you? You're not going to take her back! My son's not weak."
"I don't know what I'm doing yet," I reply.
"Then come home," she repeats. "We'll figure this out together—as a family."
"I don't know if that's such a-"
"Great! I'll see you this evening. Your father will be happy."
"But I never said-"
"John! Jackie's coming home for supper! We'll have to make him something good," she says, obviously talking to my father.
I hear muttering from him.
"He says that he'll ready the fishing gear."
"Do you want to break his heart? He's excited to see you now."
That's one thing that my mother's good at—the guilt trip. From what I've heard, all mothers are good at this, but dear Mom is a professional. She pulls the strings in my family, and, like the puppets we are, we just all do her bidding. She's extremely persuasive and intimidating. Even the neighbors jump at her every whim.
"Fine," I say after sighing. She won't stop until I agree. I've learned this the hard way.
Instantly, her tone becomes bright and happy. I need to be home by five. And my brother, his wife, and children will be there as well to brighten my spirits and give their support.
Oh yes. That's just what I need. But I have to admit that I'm somewhat relieved that I don't have to spend another night in this hotel. I really don't want to return home to pick up a change of clothes and other necessary items.
But do men go home to their parents when things don't work out? Isn't that…something a woman would do? Of their own accord, my fingers dial her number. She picks up on the second ring.
"Lena Reindt," she answers briskly.
"Lena, it's Jack," I say.
What am I doing?
"Jack!" she shouts before I hear a loud thump. Muttering sounds in the background. After a few moments, I can hear her clearly again. "I didn't expect you to call so soon. How are you feeling?"
I pause a moment. Did she just drop her phone? Over me? A smile crosses my face. I do believe that she did just drop her phone because of me. My male pride jumps by ten points as does my mood. "Well, I'm feeling a lot better now," I reply, feeling like the Cheshire cat from Alice in Wonderland.
"I'm glad." Her voice sounds distracted.
"How about you?" I ask.
"I'm driving to Dayna's house. We're getting together with a few of our other friends from school."
"Oh." The smile falls from my face.
"So, do you know what you're going to do yet?"
"I don't have a clue." The answer is the truth, if nothing else.
"Watch where you're going, asshole!"
I gape at the phone.
"Sorry." Her voice is breathy as she continues. "He just pulls out in front of me like I'm not here. I swear, I hate this city. Some people don't deserve to have a driver's license."
"They don't drive like that in Egypt?" I tease.
"No," she replies. "They're courteous drivers there. Now why are you driving so slow when you just had to pass me?"
"Maybe I should let you go? I don't want to be the cause of an accident."
"It's fine, Jack," she returns flippantly. "So, what's up?"
"Is it normal for a guy to go back home after…well, you know?"
There is silence. Then, "I don't know. I've never been in that situation. Did your mom order you to come home?" I can hear the smile in her voice.
That's right. She knows about my family. She went to the same school. She's met my parents many times. "Doesn't Dayna live near my parents' home?" I ask instead.
She laughs. "Are you afraid to face them alone?"
"You know how my mom is," I reply, irritated. "She won't leave me alone until I do things exactly the way she thinks they should be done. Tony sure as hell isn't going to help me with her. And Dad…is too sweet to go against her."
"So…you want me to come with you?" she asks.
"Just for dinner tonight. You don't have to if you don't want to. I just-"
"What time, Jack?"
"I'll pick you up at four thirty?"
"Great! You still know where Dayna's house is?"
"Yeah. We have friends in common, so…"
"Okay. I'll see you tonight, then."
I pause. "Lena?"
How sane is it to take a woman you've recently met again to see your parents after you've just been cheated on? The movies Carissa made me watch with her about break-ups and make-ups didn't describe this situation. Yes, they described taking a woman home for the first time to meet your mother. They described a series of humorous events, but this…?
Am I a moron?
This is what I'm thinking as I'm sitting beside her while she talks about how nice it was to see everyone again. Lena is absolutely breath-taking. Her light brown hair is pulled back, her make-up tastefully done, and her hazel eyes are sparkling in delight.
"Bobby was there," I mutter thoughtlessly.
She pauses in her recount of the party. "What?"
"He's going to tell Carissa about-"
Sure enough, "Hey You" by Pink Floyd infiltrates the car. I wince and ignore it.
"Are you going to answer that?" she asks.
I give her a sideways glance before returning my attention to the road. "No. I don't have a death wish."
"It's just Bobby, right?" she asks.
I frown. "Yes. And I don't want to hear about what I should do from him."
She pouts. "But he's been in a lot of relationships before. He should know what to do." She reaches into my pocket, and I gasp, jerking the wheel.
The car swerves, and I struggle to keep it on the road. "What are you doing?" I demand.
She grins at me victoriously as she holds up the cell phone. Flipping it open, she pushes talk. "Hey, Bobby, it's Lena. Mm hmm, he's driving right now. Yeah, I heard. Yeah. He doesn't want to talk to her right now. You know how it is, right? I know it puts you in a difficult position, but…yeah. Yeah, okay. I'll tell him. Of course, I won't," she hisses. "He's still married."
I glance at her to see her face the color of a tomato.
"Bobby Jones, don't you dare joke about that. I'm totally over—yes, I am. Because I haven't found the right guy yet, that's why!"
Strange, how I can still understand what's going on from just one side of the conversation. They're talking about…
Wait a minute. Pressing the brakes, I grab the phone from her hand.
"But he still doesn't know that you still like him, Lena," Bobby's voice rings in my ear.
My mouth falls open, matching her own surprise.
"Lena?" Bobby continues.
"You asshole, Bobby!" she shouts from beside me.
"Who doesn't know?" I ask into the phone.
Then, there is silence. "Jack! Carissa kept calling me last night, asking where you were. But you were with Lena? Well now, that is interesting."
"Nothing happened, Bobby," I practically growl. Shooting a glance at Lena, I watch as she suddenly finds an interest in her shirt sleeve. Yeah, that looks inconspicuous.
"I know. Neither of you will ever make a move. But, seriously, you should call Carissa. Get this thing straightened out."
"And how do you propose I do that?"
"By calling her?" Bobby mocks.
"I'm not joking about this! I don't know what to do. Am I supposed to be angry? Am I supposed to tell her that it's fine as long as she doesn't do it again? What do I do, Bobby?"
"Well, are you angry?" he asks.
"Of course, I'm angry! My wife cheated on me with Al from Home Improvement!"
"And you wouldn't be angry if it was Brad Pitt?" he goads.
I run my hand through my hair, irritated. "Yes, I'd still be angry if it's Brad Pitt. But, I don't know. I think that I'm more…disappointed in her than anything else."
"Yeah, well…pass the phone to Lena. She's more interesting than you are. It's like talking to a freakin' wall with you. Or watching paint dry, or-"
I give the phone to Lena and begin driving again. She gives me a curious look before talking into the phone once more. "No more talking about me and Jack, Bobby. There's nothing between us. Egypt? Yeah, Egypt was great!"
A smile comes to my face, despite my irritation. She sounds so blissful when she speaks about traveling. She's still talking to Bobby as we pull into my parents' driveway.
"Bobby, I have to go. We're here. I'm not going to do that. No. Bobby, shut up." She closes the phone with an angry huff.
Then, the front door of the house opens, and hell is about to start. The harbinger of evil comes running out of the house, squealing my name in an irritating way.
My mother rushes to my car before I've even had the chance to get out of the vehicle. I open the door and groan as she wraps her arms around me and kisses my cheek.
"You look like hell," she states.
Mom likes to state the obvious.
"Thanks, Mom," I reply dryly.
Lena chuckles from my side.
My mother pulls away and frowns at her. Then, a light bulb seems to go off in her head. Her face melts into a smile. "Ah, Lena! It's been so long, dear."
"Yes, it has, Mrs. Yale," Lena returns kindly.
"How is your reporter job going?" Mom asks briskly as we get out of the car.
"I was in Egypt for two years, writing an article on a newly discovered tomb," Lena answers enthusiastically.
"Two years?" Mom asks skeptically. "Jackie got married two years ago."
Lena falls silent, squirming under my mother's gaze.
"I'm exhausted," I declare, trying to cut through the tension. "I could really go for a fresh change of clothes, Mom. And didn't you say that Dad's making fish tonight?"
Mom instantly brightens. "Yes, yes I did! He's been so excited, dear! But you didn't tell me that you were bringing company." She frowns toward Lena.
"We just met up last night," Lena defends. "He seemed upset, so I helped him out."
"Oh, I'll bet you did," Mom says darkly.
"It's not like that," I deny hotly. "You should know that, Mom. She's as straight-laced as they come. She was protecting me from doing anything stupid."
My mother purses her lips, thoughtfully regarding the both of us before nodding and leading us into the house.
I sigh in relief, thankful that that bomb was diffused before anyone got hurt.
"Go change!" Mom orders, shoving me toward the stairs. "I want to catch up with Lena. It's been so long since I've last seen her."
I frown at her, unsure.
"Yeah, go Jack. You really do look like hell," Lena urges.
"I'm not going to kill the girl. I promise."
Giving them one last helpless glance, I sigh before rushing up the stairs. I grab a sweater and some jeans, grateful to change out of my suit. Had I really been wearing this all this time? No wonder people were staring at me when I went to pick up Lena. And she was laughing at me. She tends to do that a lot.
"Desperado" plays from my phone, and I pointedly ignore it. That was our song: Carissa's and mine. She's calling me again. Bobby must've told her. I quickly finish changing and rush downstairs, sure that my mother is picking Lena apart.
So, I'm surprised when I hear the two of them laughing.
"Oh my God!" Lena squeals. "That is so adorable."
She did not just…
I rush into the room. Sure enough, my mother and Lena are sitting on the couch, going through old photo albums. Lena's gaze connects with mine, and she giggles.
"You were so cute as a kid, Jack."
I groan. "Mom," I say, irritated, "why are you showing those things to people again? Do you know how embarrassing it is?"
"The topic came up," Mom replies, waving away my protests. "Besides, it's not like Carissa ever cared to look at them."
My mouth falls open in shock. Before I can retort, though, a body launches at me with an "Uncle Jack!"
I gape down at the little boy squeezing me. "Sam! You've gotten so big."
When he looks up at me, there are tears in his eyes. "Aunt Carissa's evil to have done that to you."
"Who told Sam?" I demand, irritated. "Better yet, how did any of you find out?"
Tony and his wife, Isabella, enter the room. I knew they were just lying in the shadows, waiting like the cowards they are.
"That witch called here, looking for you," Mom states.
Lena gapes at her. "She called here? Isn't that a little much?"
"So, I figured that something bad must've happened for you to leave her. You always were too good to her, Jackie. The only thing that would force you to leave her…was infidelity. And I told Sam. I told everyone. If she ever shows her face here again, I'll tear it off," her voice was vicious.
"She must be crazy to cheat on you," Isabella agrees. "You're gorgeous, Jack. Do you know how many of my friends are asking for you now that your relationship is on the rocks?"
I watch her skeptically. "Mom told you to say that, didn't she?"
Tony quickly cuts off any reply she was going to make. "Anyway, we're here for you, Jack. We'll help you figure this out."
Like I want and/or need his help? He's never been in this situation! His wife is crazy about him. She gets angry at anyone who so much as looks at him in the wrong way.
"You're going to divorce her, right?" Mom prods from her seat next to Lena.
"I already told you that I don't know," I retort.
"So you say," she says, sighing and standing. She walks toward the dining room. "But we all know how this will end." She shoots me a meaningful smile. "Lena, Isabella, will you help me set the table?"
"You know, Lena is fine," Tony says, taking a sip from his bottle of beer.
Right now, I'm sitting down, watching a football game with my father and brother. The women are bonding over washing dishes (Mom's words, not mine), and Sam is pestering them for more desert. The entire dinner was a fiasco of them questioning me about Lena, and Mom persistently telling me to break it off with Carissa. I sigh and try to focus on the game, but I can't help but worry for Lena's safety. Those two women are crazy. They're probably threatening her right at this very moment.
"Yeah," Dad agrees, glancing at me.
I gape at him. "What?"
"I've never really liked Carissa, son. I just pretended to, so you wouldn't feel like the world was against you. But I could tell what she was like. I could see it in her eyes. She has shifty eyes. And she seems too clingy—too much of a princess-girl."
Shifty eyes? My dad thinks Carissa has shifty eyes? And wait…did he just call her a princess-girl? Well, I suppose that that may be a bit true. She expects everything from me while she does nothing. And she thinks her big way of helping our relationship is to cheat on me. Boy, she has her priorities messed up.
Wait, I'm almost forgetting the first part of our conversation.
"Dad, you like Lena?" I ask, confused.
"Well, she seems like a genuine girl-"
"And she's hot as hell-" my brother cuts in.
"And she seems to really like you, son," my father finishes, taking a swig of his beer.
I stare into my bottle. "Why do you say that?"
"Are you blind?" Tony demands.
I glare at him. Being the older brother, he always tends to pick on me. It gets old very fast. "No, I'm not blind."
"Why do you think she'd drop everything to come see your family with you after only meeting you again last night? She obviously has the hots for you. How many women would actually meet Mom knowing how she is?"
I gape at him.
"That is true," Dad agrees, taking another drink.
"Come on, son. You know how your mother is. She likes to pick people apart and leave them sobbing. I've always liked that about her." He grins before focusing his attention on the TV. "The Steelers had better not lose to the Cowboys!"
"Why, Pop? Got money riding on this game?" Tony asks.
Dad glares at him. "I made a bet with your mother."
"Oh really? Over what?" Tony takes a drink of his beer.
"Who goes down on whom," Dad replies.
Tony chokes on his beer, and I groan.
"Don't talk about your sex life!" I shout. "It's disgusting!"
"He asked," Dad says flippantly, returning his attention to the game.
Well, that is true.
"She likes you, you know," Mom says, nodding toward Lena, who's currently playing with Sam and his hot wheels. "So hurry up and divorce that whore."
"And you like Lena now?" I ask, giving her a skeptical look.
Mom's expression tightens before relaxing. Then, she nods. "I do," she finally admits. "But I don't know if the two of you will work out. She's always traveling with her job, and you're a big business buff." She sighs. "This is troublesome."
"I can always ask to be transferred to different branches overseas when she leaves." Then, I realize what I'm saying. "I'm married!" I defend. "I'm still married to Carissa. I can't be with Lena. It wouldn't be fair."
"To whom?" Mom asks. "To you? To Carissa?"
"To Lena!" I ground out.
She smiles. "Ah, so you have been thinking about it."
I can't answer her.
"Do you still love Carissa?"
"I don't know," I reply. "I thought I did, but now…I just…don't know. I can't trust her anymore. I can't… I don't know."
She pats my leg, her expression sympathetic. "I'm sure you'll figure it all out, eventually." Her gaze travels to Lena. "But will she still be here when you finally decide?"
My gaze travels to Lena, who's currently racing a red car against Sam's green one. She's laughing again, and I feel a smile form on my face. Why did I marry Carissa when she was here all along? I can't even remember what I liked about Carissa. My mind is full of Lena.
This is wrong. I'm sure that the guidelines for handling infidelity don't include falling for another woman while you're still married to the one who cheated on you. Somehow, I think that I'm handling this all wrong. But what can I do?
Mom pulls out a sheet of paper and a pencil. "We're going to make a list of all the reasons you should stay with Carissa…and the reasons you should leave her."
My mouth falls open in shock. "Are you serious?"
She nods. "When I need to figure out challenging things, I make a list of the pros and cons. It's just like that."
"It seems a little juvenile, don't you think?" I demand.
Instead of answering, she draws a line down the center of the paper. Then, she hands me the pencil. I groan, but, after seeing the expression on her face, begin writing on the paper. On the right side, I write she cheated. On the left side, I put marriage vows.
"Good, good," Mom cheers. "Now continue."
The rest is confusing. What do I really love about Carissa? I always liked her self-reliance and her easy-going personality. She had chased after me, not the other way around. So, I add tenacity to the list. But…the right side is looking bare.
Lack of compassion, selfishness, and paranoia go to the right. I frown at the list before adding lack of orgasm to the right side. She's right. I don't think that I've ever given her an orgasm, and it makes me feel bad.
Mom looks at the list and snorts. "She told you that?" she asks.
"If she's not satisfied, then you should get divorced." She takes the pencil from my hand and scrawls Lena onto the right side. "Unlike Carissa, she gets flustered when we talk about you."
I glare at my mother and snatch the pencil back. "Maybe Carissa is comfortable with me," I return, writing comfort on the left side.
She smirks at me. "That's still one less than the right side."
Common friends joins the left side. And it's my turn to smirk.
She glares at me before leaving my side in a huff. But I don't feel pleased with my win over her. If anything, I feel ill. The reasons for staying are all so…wrong. Everything points to an option I don't want to consider if only to defy my mother. I hate hearing the words "I told you so" leave her mouth.
I sigh and regard the list, a feeling of unease ever-present.
"What are you doing?" Lena asks me, sitting in the seat my mother had vacated.
"Compiling a list of reasons for staying or leaving," I reply.
She leans on my shoulder to see the paper, and I can smell her shampoo. It's not the fruity or flowery scent that Carissa loves to use. No, this smells like shampoo. It smells clean and pure…
Am I actually leaning in?
I stiffen, terrified of my wandering thoughts. When she doesn't move, I draw closer. Why is she blushing, when I…?
Of course! Her name is on the right side. Now she'll probably draw away and yell at me, telling me that she doesn't feel the same way.
But that isn't what she does. Instead, she begins to tremble. She glances up at me, finds me watching her, and offers a weak smile. "That's some list," she says quietly.
"Yeah." I don't know what else to say.
"But it's even," she continues, licking her lips nervously.
My eyes follow the movement, and I feel my body reacting. Damn it! Think, Jack. You have a wife still.
"Yes, it is," I reply, struggling. "But some things weigh more on the list than others."
"I see." She moves away. "Can you drive me back to Dayna's? I left my car there."
I nod. My brain feels as if it's gone on a permanent vacation.
"Oh, Jackie, have her stay," Mom says.
I frown at her. When did she return?
"Yeah, Uncle Jack! I want her to play with me some more," Sam chides in.
I look between them and Lena uncertainly. "Is it okay with you?"
Lena purses her lips. "But I…I don't even have any clothes to change into, and I'd just be imposing-"
"Nonsense," Isabella says, leading Lena away from me. "I can let you borrow some of my clothes, and Tony and Sam can share a room. We can have a girls' night and swap embarrassing stories about Jack."
Lena looks back at me, her gaze torn.
"I'll drive you back tomorrow," I finally find myself saying. "Stay. It'll be fine."
Her face brightens into a smile.
"Or you can always share a room with Jackie," Mom adds.
Lena blushes scarlet.
"Mother," I ground out.
Hours later, I find myself in my room, staring at the stupid list. Sighing, I pick up my cell phone. Seventy-one missed calls: all from Carissa. I punch in the number I know all too well and wait for her to pick up. I'm done running away from my problems. It's time to man up.
She picks up on the second ring. "Jack!"
"You're at your parents' house?" she asks.
She pauses. "Are you going to come home?"
"Carissa…I want a divorce."
"No!" she screams. "You can't! It was one mistake, Jack. Just one! You're not perfect!"
"I don't break vows that are meant to last "until death do us part," or did you forget about that part."
"So you're blaming me?" she demands. "That's convenient of you. Blame me when things go wrong."
I laugh. "I wasn't the one who cheated, Carissa. That…would be you."
"Because you never show me that you love me. I feel so insecure all the time. Do you know what it's like? I'm stuck in this house alone with nobody else."
"You chose to be stuck in the house alone. You could've chosen another profession. You just want the easy life."
"No!" she denies. "I'm not smart like you. I don't know many things. I only know art."
"See?" she screeches. "You're doing it again! You just discard my feelings like they don't mean anything to you."
"That's because they don't anymore. You don't care about our marriage. Why should I?"
She becomes silent, and I feel guilty, but then. "This is because of that other woman, isn't it? I make one mistake, and they're already moving in on what's mine! Bobby told me about her. Lena, right? I heard that she's liked you for years. When she heard about our wedding, she went to Egypt. Isn't that hilarious? How pathetic… What a freak!"
My hand shakes, and I have to refrain from chucking the phone across the room.
"Just come home, Jack. We'll start over again. Everything will be the way it should be."
I sigh. "No, it won't. You won't stop feeling insecure. I won't be able to give you an orgasm-"
"That's a lie," Carissa cuts in. "I…you…you're great in bed. I was just trying to…make you feel something for me."
My mind goes to the memory that's forever burned in my mind. "But you never cry out like that when we have sex."
"I know," she says quietly.
"If I can't satisfy you, then why are we together?" I ask. "It's not just in bed, either. Anytime I try to do something for you, you wave it off like it's no big deal."
"Carissa, I can't do this anymore. I'm tired—physically and mentally."
And I am, too. I'm tired of her, tired of the long hours I spend at work only to come home to her angry. I'm tired of having to make dinner and clean the house when she's home all day. I'm tired of her flirting with our male friends and having their girlfriends and wives give me sympathetic looks. But most of all, I'm tired of her inability to see me as a person. I, Jack Yale, am not a toy that can be played with and discarded. I'm better than that…better than her.
"It's your mother! She's put ideas in your head."
"No, Carissa. I've decided this on my own."
"Then it's that woman. She's swayed you. Did you have sex with her, Jack?"
"I'm not like you. And she's not, either."
She fell silent. Then, "Don's not the only one, you know."
Somehow, I know that she's been unfaithful for a while.
"How do you know?" she demands. "Do you think so little of me-"
"Have you ever loved me, Carissa? Or was it just my money? Did you look at me and see some poor sap who'd do your every bidding? Is that how you saw me?"
"I do love you, Jack. I'm not after your money. Just you. Have you ever loved me?"
"I thought that I did. But now…I don't know anymore."
"What kind of answer is that?" she yells. "I spill my heart and soul to you, and you're as insensitive as ever. Forget this. Get a lawyer, and I'll sign the papers. You're lucky that Don hasn't filed an assault charge against you. You broke his nose."
I smile into the phone. "Well, that's a relief. I'm glad."
"I talked him out of it, so you should feel indebted-"
"No, I'm referring to his nose. It's what he gets for stinking up the room."
I hear the click of the other line disconnecting and smile to myself. I managed to one-up her. Now that that's done, I'm thirsty. I make my way to the kitchen, only to find Lena there.
"Sorry!" she cries out. "I was thirsty, so…"
I smile at her. "No, it's fine. Same here." I pull out a cup and fill it with water before pulling a chair and sitting down at the table. I motion for her to join me, and, hesitantly, she complies.
"You seem to be in a good mood."
"I am," I reply.
"I'm glad." She offers me a smile. "You've been so…stressed out. I suppose that it's only natural, considering what happened, but still-"
"I told Carissa that we're through," I say gleefully.
She falls silent, her mouth dropping open in surprise.
"So, will you wait for me until after the paperwork is finalized?" I ask her.
"W-what are you…?"
"I'm saying that I want to get to know you better, Lena. My family seems to adore you, especially Sam and Mom. I…think that I'm growing quite fond of you, myself."
So, how does one react when they discover that their significant other is cheating on them? I wonder if there is any right or wrong answer. I've heard some crazy stories, but I think that I like mine the best. I'd never recommend doing what I've done. I'm still not sure if it's even the right set of actions to take. But, at least I didn't end up in jail for causing a riot at a bar…or with AIDS for sleeping with an unknown woman without a condom. And I'm not together with Carissa anymore. In fact, I'm…
"What are you doing, now?" Lena asks me, laughing.
"I'm writing guidelines for dealing with infidelity," I reply.
She rolls her eyes. "Yes, you're such an expert."
"Only because I have you," I reply, grabbing her left hand—the one with the diamond ring—and kissing it.
"But it's not just me, anymore," she states, rubbing her growing belly.
"I know," I say, spreading my hand over hers.
She shudders, and I grin knowingly.
"You know," she says softly, pursing her lips in thought, "Carissa was right."
"About what?" I ask.
She grins wickedly. "The sex."
I gape at her. "But you…I…"
She lays her finger over my lips to quiet me. "I've never gotten an orgasm. There've always been multiple."
"That's why I love you so much! But we should probably return back to the States before you get too far along. I'm worried for the baby."
"Mm…but Rome is so beautiful this time of year. Besides, they've recently unearthed a new temple."
"But Mom will get mad at me. I wonder if she loves you more than she loves me, now."
She purses her lips. "Are you going to divorce me, then?"
"Never," I reply, kissing her soundly.