Anatomy Of An Affair
The thing about wonderful romantic love stories is that one never knows how it might turn out. Louise Flynn knew in high school that she had the perfect boyfriend in Butch Olsen. He was a popular, good looking, three-sport athlete, a nice guy from a good family who made the honor roll and the sports page at the same time.
Louise was the perpetually peppy high school cheerleader, attractive and well liked, successful on the student council and accepted in the social hierarchy. As stereotypical as it played out, Louise and Butch were named class couple in the senior yearbook and they were voted Prom Queen and King in the spring.
It was a high school fairy tale come true and it didn't feel fake to either of them. Louise was seriously in love with Butch and he was a caring gentleman toward her. They knew they belonged together and it was an unspoken understanding that they would stay together long after high school was over.
They both attended nearby Green College; Butch on a football athletic scholarship majoring in sports management and education, Louise concentrating on Political Science and making the football booster squad as a cheerleader Freshman year, no easy accomplishment given the number of girls trying out. Louise's relationship with Butch intensified, matured and bonded in college and they were engaged by junior year, married not long after they graduated from Green, just as they both had predicted back in high school.
The newlyweds bought a house in their hometown of Hillsboro. Butch landed a teaching and coaching job at their alma mater Hillsboro High while Louise stayed home with the two children that came quickly after the nuptials. She remained a stay at home mom although she got involved in town politics by serving on several subcommittees and as a town committee member. When the kids entered school, Louise landed a part time position with a local non-profit advocacy group.
It wasn't until Louise was ten years into her happily-ever-after marriage that she began to sense that something wasn't quite right. It seemed to her that Butch was stuck in a time warp that prevented him ditching his high school motif; in fact, he was literally still in high school. Butch was a dedicated and motivated teacher but that required his time and commitment. He was a well-liked coach but he didn't take a season off - assistant football coach in the fall, JV Basketball coach in the winter, and girl's softball coach in the spring. In the summer, he worked for the youth recreation league and coached for the Serguci Amateur League at Beano Field, all of which required even more time from his personal and family life. Even his name ("Butch") sounded youthful.
Butch was also a die-hard sports-nut. At home, there was always a game on the television but Louise stopped being an enthusiastic cheerleader giving it all her rah long ago. Sports no longer interested her but it was such a big part of Butch's life that she felt guilty for not being more supportive. Butch hoped to eventually promote up to head football coach and varsity basketball coach and perhaps switch from softball to baseball once Coach Wilson retired from the diamond. It's all he talked about and although Louise wanted Butch to succeed professionally, she was bored with the endless sports talk and she resented the time it took away from their family life.
Louise ran for town selectman and she became the youngest woman in Hillsboro history to win a seat at the age of 32. She was also hired into a paid position as Liaison for The Blue County Council of Governments, becoming more involved in local, regional and even national politics. Unfortunately, Butch wasn't much interested in any of that so the happily-ever-after married couple didn't have a whole lot in common outside of their family life.
Louise still loved Butch, of course. He was a terrific father and a wonderful husband when he wasn't pre-occupied with his teaching responsibilities and consumed with his coaching chores that took so much quality time away from husband and wife bonding time, especially with both of them out of the house at night (Butch coaching games and Louise attending political events).
Early in their marriage, Louise attended all of Butch's games, bringing the young children in their carriages to watch football, basketball and softball. As the kids got older and Louise got busier, however, she stopped attending as much and by the time the kids were in middle school she stopped going all together. The years seemed to run together and repeat themselves - there was always some big named athlete going for a record, some hard luck kid struggling to make the team, some big make-it or break-it game that would be cemented in Hillsboro High history and lore. Louise couldn't remember player names anymore and she really didn't care what happened to any of them after so many repeat storylines.
Most of Butch and Louise's families were still local so there was always a grandparent, aunt, uncle or cousin to help out with the kids when need be. Louise and Butch punched in each other's schedules into their I-phone to try to coordinate pick up and drop off times for the kids and their various activities. Sitting down as a family at the dinner table became a challenge on most nights.
Louise didn't put all the blame on Butch. She had become just as engrossed in her own commitments, responsibilities and interests that took up plenty of her time too. She didn't have to run for office or volunteer in political fundraisers or make speeches at various local events but it was what she enjoyed doing. If Butch could coach, why couldn't she have her political life?
And now, seventeen years into their happily-ever-after marriage, this is where they were at - a comfortable middle-class American couple with two children and a nice house and busy careers without enough time to barely see each other. They made it a point to block the Week between Christmas and New Year's exclusively for family time and they made sure to take a week's vacation as a family as soon as school let out in June but it was still difficult to string together consecutive days when they were all together as a family.
There wasn't a lot of fighting or arguing (maybe that was part of the problem) - just a uncontested acceptance of the routines of their lives and the inability of either of them to care about what the other was doing beyond the cursory polite small talk at the end of the day (if one of them wasn't already asleep).
Strangely, neither were particular unhappy with their marriage or their lives. They were both doing what they liked to do and they were both still attracted to one another even while preoccupied with their own interests and responsibilities. Perhaps they had grown accustomed to taking each other for granted and accepting the status quo without thinking about it too much. Perhaps they hadn't realized that their marriage had become stagnant and stale. Perhaps they hadn't realized how lonely they were even as a married couple.
Louise became involved in the Blue County Chapter of the Hillary for President 2016 campaign. She sincerely believed that it was time for a woman president and that Hillary was the most qualified candidate to fill that position. Louise became involved in phone outreach, canvassing, and sign holding for the Super Tuesday State Primary on March 1st and she spent several evenings working on the campaign and that's where she met Charlie Donovan. He was ten years older than her with a receding hairline and a paunchy stomach, but he had a dry wit that caught her attention and an in-depth insight about Politics that fascinated her.
Louise and Charlie enjoyed several conversations about various political campaigns and moments, debates about strategy and disagreements about particular votes and doctrines, as well as discussing their own Political heroes.
Louise's first national vote was for Bill Clinton in 1996 - Charlie's first national vote was for Ronald Reagan in 1984. She considered herself a progressive democrat, Charlie was a proud Reagan Republican who agreed that the 2016 GOP Presidential field left little to be excited about and a lot to be embarrassed about. Their politics were from different sides of the aisle but Louise delighted in talking with Charlie about political history and philosophy and their debates became fun give and take conversations of mutual respect and warm feelings. Louise hadn't connected intellectually with someone like Charlie since her college days and chatting with him made her realize how desperately starved she was for some stimulation in her life.
Charlie was a lawyer who spent significant time in state and federal government as a Staff member and lobbyist. Louise loved to hear his stories about Boston and DC and she envied some of his experiences. Sometimes, she wished she had left Hillsboro after college and gone off to the Nation's capital for an exciting life in Politics.
Charlie and Louise were at the local Super Tuesday Hillary Gathering at the Greenville Grille, thanking each other for a memorable few weeks and saying their goodbyes now that the campaign was over - at least until the general election depending on how the rest of the primary season went. Charlie walked Louise to her car at the end of the night and she smiled warmly at him.
"I'll miss our little talks," Charlie told her.
"Me too," Louise told him, surprised at how choked up she was getting.
He nodded and opened the door to her car. "Take care of yourself, Louise."
"You too, Charlie," she said, feeling nervous for some reason. "Thanks for everything."
He nodded as she climbed into the car and he closed the door for her. She waved before driving into the night, back into her real life. The Hilltop Boys Basketball team was going to the playoffs and that's what assistant Coach Butch would surely be talking about when his wife got home. If she was lucky, he'd remember to ask how Hillary did in the primary.