Living Separately Together

Don didn't think his daughter Ivy's boyfriend Omar was the best guy for her but he accepted the reality that Ivy could date whoever she pleased now that she was twenty and living on her own. Although Omar wasn't Don's favorite, he enlisted the younger guy to help him around the house when Don needed physical assistance and that's why Omar was present on this Saturday morning, helping Don drag an old freezer out of the cellar.

They had just completed the mission – moving the freezer to the garage for eventual disposal when a motorcycle pulled into the driveway. Don watched with annoyance as his wife came out of the house to greet Paul who was a member of her motorcycle riding club.

Don's marriage had been in trouble for a while but did Joyce have to flaunt her social life in front of him like this?

"Isn't the guy who's fucking your wife?" Omar rudely remarked.

"What?" Don asked, shocked that Omar would say such a crude thing.

"Oh, sorry, Ivy told me not to talk about it," Omar said as he took his work gloves off. "I shouldn't have said anything."

In truth, Omar's remark was no big revelation. Don stared at Joyce who was chatting away with Paul knowing their marriage had been strained and that Joyce had definitely been spending more time with the riding club. Don had lingering suspicions but now Omar had openly stated what Don imagined his wife was doing for a while now.

Don felt no emotion as Joyce walked up the driveway to where her motorcycle was parked in the garage. Omar discreetly moved away sensing the sudden tension.

"I'm going for a ride with Paul," Joyce announced when she arrived at the entrance of the garage.

"I bet you are," Don said sarcastically.

Joyce either ignored her husband's comment or didn't pick up on his tone as she took her motorcycle helmet off the seat of the black Yamaha parked in the garage. Don was still struck by her appearance after all these years and he watched with attraction as Joyce curled her blonde hair up on her head before slipping the red motorcycle helmet over her head. Shouldn't he be more pissed at her for flouting her affair right in front of him?

"I'll be back later," Joyce said as she lifted her leg over the bike and straddled the motorcycle seat.

Don stepped away as she turned the ignition key and pushed the start button and the motorcycle croaked a few times before firing to life. Joyce slowly rode the bike out of the garage to where Paul was waiting for her at the bottom of the driveway and the two bikes sped away.

"Well, I should get going," Omar announced. "Really sorry I said anything."

"Thanks for your help," Don replied stoically, realizing he liked Omar even less now.

"Sure," Omar replied as he walked down the driveway to where his car was parked on the street.

Don glanced at the exterior of the handsome ranch house he and Joyce had remodeled and lived in for more than twenty years. It had been a labor of love making the house a home and when he stepped inside, Don was reminded of all the yard sales, estate sales, auctions, and antique stores they had visited over the years to furnish the house. The kitchen was modern and bright with granite countertops. The rooms were decorated with handsome pieces from a variety of eras. But somehow it all seemed pointless and irrelevant now.

Don went to the refrigerator, grabbed a beer and took a seat at the booth in the hideaway window in the corner of the kitchen, trying to figure out exactly why Joyce took the plunge with Paul. She had been emotionally distant and withdrawn for some time now. With Ivy out of the house and the twins high school seniors, Don assumed Joyce was becoming more interested in other activities having started to experience the empty nest syndrome since the kids were so busy and occupied with their own lives.

Joyce stopped being enthused with the traditional family activities and events, blowing off family night several times. She and Don hadn't been out on a date night – or even out with mutual friends – in ages. She wasn't concerned with Don's work and she stopped asking about his day when he came home from a shift.

Don floated the idea of marriage counseling a while back but Joyce showed no interest in improving the marriage. Just a few weeks ago, when Don attempted to publically show his affection toward her at one of Harry's football games, Joyce pulled away - uncomfortable with his attention. She had also become moody and less patient, snapping at him for the smallest infraction or misunderstanding, becoming annoyed when Don made a suggestion or an offer of a social activity, and she blamed him when one of the kids was going through a tough time.

A few weeks ago, when Joyce went on a motorcycle ride instead of going to Harry's football game, she insisted that she needed her space and room after Don suggested the game was more important. He also started remembering the times when Joyce said she was working overtime at the school, attending meetings after school hours, and even that guidance counselor conference she claimed to have taken a few months earlier. Was all of that bullshit?

Don thought about Joyce's new hairstyle that had emerged a few months earlier, the new clothes she had purchased in recent times, the new diet she had gone on, and even her taking up jogging with her co-worker Tina, declining Don's offer to run with her since he jogged four times a week to stay in shape for the job.

And why had Joyce gotten involved in the motorcycle club all over again out of the blue anyway? Don sold his bike years earlier after a nasty spill and Joyce cut back on her riding hours too but last spring she took her Yamaha out of mothballs in the back of the garage and began riding again, expressing a new excitement to be back on the bike and losing interest in her husband and the family stuff.

And of course there was the drop off in sex with Joyce avoiding her husband in intimate moments. She'd stay up late "to work on the computer". She locked the bathroom door when showering. She'd leave the room to talk on her cell phone and she recently put a pass-code on it to prevent Don from seeing her texts.

"I'm entitled to my privacy," she said when he mentioned the change.

Of course, Don felt like a fool and now that Omar obviously knew, it was clear that Ivy and the twins were aware too. Don's cop sixth sense had kicked in long ago regarding Joyce's lies when he caught her saying something that didn't quite jell with something she had said a week earlier but it was easier to stay in personal denial about his wife's cheating. She was definitely fucking Paul, this much Don was certain.

It was a double betrayal because Don knew Paul from their joint motorcycle club riding days. The guy lived in Miller City so he wasn't around Hillsboro much and Don wondered if Joyce got re-involved in the motorcycle club because she was fucking Paul or if she was fucking Paul because she had gotten re-involved in the motorcycle club.

Don placed the now empty beer bottle in the recyclable bin and he glanced about the house. Joyce would have leave, of course. She was the one who violated their wedding vows and she'd most likely want to be with Paul anyway. Don would stay put, at least until the twins finished high school, and then he and Joyce could discuss the possibility of selling the house.

Don was sitting on the couch watching a college football game on the television in the Den when he heard Joyce's motorcycle rumble up the driveway and into the garage.

"I'm taking a shower," Joyce announced, sticking her head into the door of the den a few moments later.

"How long have you been sleeping with Paul?" Don bluntly asked.

Joyce peered at her husband. "For a while," she said, knowing there was no point denying the accusation.

"I think we need to separate," Don announced, finally delivering a verdict that had been brewing for months.

"I think you're right," Joyce sighed, sounding relieved. "This has been a long time coming."

"So, you'll move out?" Don assumed.

She was stunned by his remark. "No," she said forcefully. "This is my house."

"You're having an affair," Don growled, standing from the couch. "You need to leave. Go live with him."

"He's too far away from my work," Joyce protested. "I'm not ready to move in with him anyway. Plus, the kids."

"You should have thought about all that before you started fucking him," Don countered.

"I'll move into the guest room," Joyce said. "We'll be separated."

"Living separately in the same house?" Don frowned. "That's nuts."

"We're helping Ivy with her college," Joyce reasoned. "The twins are applying to schools left and right. We still have the home improvement loan to pay off, not to mention the rest of the mortgage. We can't afford to have one of us paying rent somewhere else."

"What are you saying?" Don asked. "That we're too broke to separate normally?"

"I'm just saying we need to be spending our money wisely," Joyce said. "Me moving down the hall makes more sense."

"To you maybe!" Don complained as she disappeared from the door frame.