East of Eden
The seducer’s name was “Vanity.” And my wife was too easily enticed.
Heather was chubby all our married life. So, after the kids left she started exercising. At first it was a pastime. Then things changed - drastically! The more she exercised, the shapelier she got. Her body became her obsession. And she was reborn a goddess.
That was when the flirting began. For the first twenty-two years we had been a companionable and loving couple. We stood together at social events. We danced with each other at parties. But now, there was such a difference between my smoking-hot wife and her out of shape middle-aged husband that we went in opposite directions socially.
Heather was besieged by attractive men. It was never just one guy. She talked and danced with ALL of them. And she rarely graced us with her presence. Our friends went from insulted, to cutting me pitying looks.
Seriously though - what could I do? Her behavior was never overtly disloyal. She might dance with guys who were younger, fitter and better-looking than me. But there was never any actual romance. She just looked like she was having fun. And needless to say, she was happier than I could remember.
I was willing to ride it out. I had heard of middle-aged-crazy. And I hoped that this too would soon pass. But Heather’s newfound empowerment changed her in fundamental ways.
First there was the narcissism. Heather couldn’t stop looking at herself – and playing with her body. Then there was the ego. She was a trophy now. And she knew it. She just radiated, “I can get any man I want.” Notwithstanding disrespecting me, her attitude made the other wives wild. Heather didn’t even deign to notice
The change was understandable. She was suffering from the classic, “Too much- too-soon syndrome.” One moment she was an average American housewife. The next, she was an object of lust for a large pack of alpha-males. That relatively short transition from homemaker to sex goddess would probably skew anybody’s attitude vis-à-vis life. Unfortunately for Heather, it let the Serpent into the Garden.
She appeared downstairs one auspicious Friday morning. I was enjoying a breakfast bagel. She was wearing her ratty old robe. She got a cup of coffee and sat down opposite me. I recognized the stubborn look. I thought, “Oh-oh!!! This isn’t going to be good!!” She said, “Tom, there’s something I need to talk to you about.” Those words are not something that a husband wants to hear. So I put my bagel down and looked at her attentively.
She said, “I have never had my own identity. I have always been Tommy and Suzie’s mom and your wife. But now that I have transformed myself, I am my own woman.” She stopped and waited for the obvious question. I said, “And exactly what does that mean?”
She said, “I was a wallflower when we met. I had a few boyfriends. But I was just middling. In fact, I think it was our mutual ordinariness that made us so compatible. And we have led an utterly unremarkable life for the past twenty-two years.”
She stood up and opened her robe. She was naked underneath. Her toned thighs, tight flanks, hard stomach, and big firm tits were extraordinary. She ran her hands down her superb body and said with pride, “I’m not a wallflower anymore.” She closed her robe and sat down again.
She looked at me like she was willing me to understand something. She said, “Men hit on me all the time. I brush them off because I love you. But one special man has offered to take me to an extraordinary place.” She paused, and said in a whisper, “And God forgive me, but I am going to take him up on his offer.”
I had already guessed where this conversation was headed. And I was angry. But I put a lid on my temper and said, “Exactly what does THAT mean?” She looked at me pleadingly and said, “You don’t know him. We met at the club. And since then we have had several lunches. During that time, he has been a perfect gentleman.”
I said bitterly, “Meaning he hasn’t tried to fuck you yet.” She looked disgusted and said, “There’s no need to be vulgar. It isn’t like that. He’s older and very rich and worldly. All he wants is my companionship.”
I looked incredulous. So she quickly added, “He asked me to accompany him to Paris next week. And I am going to go with him. It would just be this one time. He’s married.” I said, “Let me get this straight. You know that he’s married. And perhaps you’ll recall that you’re married too? Isn’t that the textbook definition of the term adultery?”
She looked exasperated and said, “It isn’t like that. I am only going to be with him on this single occasion. It’s a once in a lifetime chance. After that I will be yours forever. And I will make it up to you. You’ll see.”
She added grimly, “But I need one, extraordinary memory to paste in my scrapbook - before time takes this away from me.” And she gestured down her body again. Her tone told me that she had been obsessing about her looks.
I said, “That’s bullshit Heather. This guy isn’t a gentleman and what he’s proposing isn’t special. All he wants to do is fuck you. And all YOU are going to get out of this are some great orgasms and a few souvenirs of Paris.”
I stopped and added trying to sound as determined as I felt, “And what you get after that will depend on how much you rock his world. Because I won’t be around when you return.”
She looked scornful and said, “Don’t say that Tom. You love me. I know you do. And you will let me do this because we love each other. It isn’t like I am cheating on you. Just let me have this one starry-eyed fling and you will never regret it.” She was wrong. I already regretted it.
I took her left hand in both of mine and played meaningfully with her wedding ring. I said with sincerity, “I love you. Counting the courtship, we have had twenty-four fantastic years together. And we have two wonderful kids. So all I can do is beg you. Please don’t do this to us.”
She looked sad and said, “I will always love you Tom. And we are going to grow old together with our grandchildren. But I am leaving for Paris on Monday morning.”
That shot a thunderbolt of pure angst through me. I said imploringly, “Is there any way I can talk you out of this?” She gave me the kind of patronizing look that a mother might give a naïve child and said with determination, “It IS going to happen. The arrangements have already been made.”
I stood up without another word and walked out the front door. She called “Tommmm.” It was the whiny tone that teenagers use when a parent is being unreasonable.
I kept going. I drove to the county park. I am not a crier. But my stomach was doing flip-flops. I opened the car door and deposited the bagel in the parking lot. I wiped my mouth and sat there looking at the same green lawn where I had watched my kids play.
You never think it will happen to you. So you never have a plan.
I considered the situation. I was bluffing about leaving. I had nowhere to go. Where would I stay? I make decent money. But with two kids in college and an upper middle class lifestyle, we barely scrape by. We have no savings and our credit cards are close to maxed. I’ve got no family, no close friends. In short it was either remain in the house, or sleep in the car.
Heather knew our financial situation. I think that was why she was so sure that she could pull this stunt. Hopelessness, alienation and a sense of utter loneliness descended like a cloud of mustard gas. I said to myself, “I invested my emotional life in this woman. And now she’s holding me for ransom???!!!”
That thought brought me back from the brink. More importantly, it stiffened my spine. I am not somebody who gracefully accepts victimhood. And I am decisive in my business dealings. So, I resolved that - if Heather could make unilateral decisions, I can too. But first I had to get some legal advice.
I called Jim Edgerton. He is a friend and a lawyer. I said, “Jim! Tommy Marshall here.” There was a short pause. He said, “What’s up Tom?” I laughed and said, “I was calling to see if you knew a good lawyer?” He said, “Need divorce advice?” It was a statement, not a question. I said, “It sounds like you expected this.” Jim said, “Regrettably yes ... Heather has been seen around town with Charlie Wilkins. You know him?”
Of course I knew him. Everybody in town knew HIM. He was CEO at Vanguard Manufacturing, which was the area’s main employer. He was sixtyish, distinguished, a pillar of the community and a well-known dirty old man. His wife was Maeve Wilkins. Her blessing made your reputation in society. And her disapproval turned you into an outcast. I thought to myself, “Heather, what have you gotten yourself into?”
The house was empty when I arrived home. Heather was either at the club, or having “lunch.” I assumed that it was still JUST lunch. Wilkins was far too visible for an afternoon-delight. That was the whole point of the Paris trip.
She was already starting to pack. The nighties and sexy underthings were a revelation. I had never seen anything like THAT before. It drove home the reality of what was about to occur. I had to sit down for a second.
I was pretending to read a book when she breezed in. She was stunning in her fancy work-out gear. I would probably look that good too. If, I wasn’t chained to a desk forty hours a week. She walked toward the stairs, humming a happy little ditty. Then she saw me. She looked delighted. She came over, stood in front of me and said, “Let me get a shower and you can join me.”
It was obvious that her motor was running. I was guessing she’d had lunch. I glanced up - like she had interrupted me - and said, “I’d love to. But I’m at a really exciting part in this novel so I’m afraid that I am going to have to take a pass.”
She got it. She said, “Don’t be such a pouty baby!!! This is STILL all yours.” Her body was amazing in her tight workout clothes. I looked at her with what I hoped was neutral interest and said, “Seriously!! I’ll pass.”
For a second she was angry and maybe a little hurt. Then she got a look of determination. She said, “Fine!! Act that way!!! It isn’t going to change anything!!” And she stomped upstairs.
That weekend was agonizing. Heather kept up the pretense that the events of the following week were no big deal. And she treated me like I was a naughty little boy for trying to spoil her fun. Worse she acted like her “fling” wouldn’t change things. I avoided the delusional bitch as much as I could.
She tried to give me a pity fuck. She even trotted out a few of the items that she was reserving for Dickbreath. It didn’t have the slightest effect. I rationalized my bizarre lack of feeling as the consequence of shock. The circumstance was still unthinkable. And it would take me a while to process the reality of it. THEN I would experience the pain.
Pride is the deadliest sin of them all. Heather knew that her body was gorgeous. But it also had an expiration date. So in her version of the fairy-tale, Prince Charming would whisk her off to Paris for a week of passion. THAT would prove once-and-for-all that she was the fairest in the land. THEN she could triumphantly return to her husband, feeling validated.
And of course my state of mind didn’t factor into her narrative...
Her self-centered behavior might have been triggered by the kids moving out. An empty nest marks the end of an era for a woman. Especially for a devoted mother like Heather. Maybe she inventoried her life and felt like it was her turn. Or maybe she just went nuts. Whatever the reason, the Heather that I loved would never be so spectacularly selfish. She was literally a different person now. And that individual had no soul.
The disturbing part was her hazy grasp of reality. She sincerely believed that I would accept her “little indiscretion.” And that we would straightaway move past it because we “loved each other.” She was dead wrong in that respect. Plain and simple I couldn’t respect a woman who saw adultery as a legitimate part of her personal growth process.
Heather tried to talk about it on Sunday night. I think she just wanted to get me on-board with the program before she left. But I had reached the end of talking.
I looked at her intently and said, “Do you realize how utterly out of character this is for you? And how drastically life-changing this step is for both of us? You are throwing away twenty-two years of marriage, two kids and a happy home for a one-week fling.”
She looked at me like I was being unreasonably cruel. Then she said with affection in her voice, “You don’t really mean THAT. Your male ego is just a little bruised right now. But you’ll get over it. I am going to make you the happiest man on earth when I get back. You’ll see. This beautiful body will be all yours. And I’ll love you all the more for letting me do this.”
Whew!!! Talk about condescending. I am not the kind of guy whose first thought is violence. But I could get in touch with the fellows who shoot the wife and her lover.
I was sitting at the kitchen table drinking my morning coffee when Heather appeared from upstairs. I didn’t say a word. She was dressed to kill. She had on a modest skirt and three inch heels for travel. But her magnificent girls were hoisted in a deeply scooped silk blouse with a light blazer over the top. The cleavage was spectacular.
She came bustling over. I think she was expecting an adoring send-off. It would fit the narrative. This was the part where I told her how proud I was that she was so desirable to other men.
Yes - she was that out of touch with reality...
I didn’t bother to stand up. Her anger at my spoilsport behavior was clearly evident. Then a horn blew. She looked delighted and squealed, “He’s here.” At least she had the decency to have him stay out of the house. She grabbed her roller-bag and rushed excitedly out the front door, leaving it ajar. I went over to close it.
She had just reached the limo. He was waiting beside it looking tall, handsome, and distinguished. She put both hands on his chest and stood on tip toes to kiss him. It was the sort of loving greeting that a woman would give her long-time husband.
Except the long-time husband was standing in the doorway behind her. Wilkins looked up at me. And then his eyes crinkled. He had done this before - a LOT. And he found it amusing. Heather turned and waved gaily as she got in the back. I didn’t wave back. Instead I shut the door on twenty-two years of marriage. That was not without significant pain.
As they say - today was the first day of the rest of my life. Which was total bullshit. Since, the road ahead ended in nothing but a wasteland of betrayed expectations. Yet, strangely I managed to work effectively. The part of my life that wasn’t invested in Heather was devoted to my job. And it was soothing to wallow in the familiar rhythms of an ordinary day.
I had made a conscious decision to shut Heather out of my thinking. Which worked right up to the point where she sent me a breezy text telling me that they had gotten off okay. It was a stunning tribute to how delusional she was.
I was afraid that she might continue to send me messages. So, I took myself over to the local Apple dealer and bought myself a new phone. As I left the parking lot I backed over my old one. Then I combed the internet for a place that I could get into cheap and fast.
In the larger picture, I was probably headed for Chapter Seven. But in the short term I had plenty of cash. That’s because, I make lots of money and I had made the decision to stop paying for anything associated with my old life. As the song goes, “Freedom’s just another word for nothing left to lose.”
In fact, I was feeling so liberated that I took a lease on a double-wide. And you can stuff your jokes about trailer parks. My new place was close to work. It had excellent parking, a nice deck and it was three times roomier than any of the apartments that I’d looked at. The furnishings were brand new, if not a bit gauche. And my neighbors were the social security set, not a biker gang. So it was quiet as a grave – close to literally if you catch my drift.