John & Serena - The conclusion
Copyright© 2006 by thecelt
Erotica Sex Story: Chapter 1 - This is the conclusion to an earlier story entitled Silver Anniversary. This is the final chapter.
From the Epilog
"I knew since I had gone through pretty much the same thing. I knew you were a decent man and I was sure you would need some assurance. I gave you that assurance and then we both had some pleasure. Now you have nothing to feel guilty about, and neither do I."
She laughed, pulled me in for a wet kiss, and then she was gone. When she left, she took my sadness, my quilt and my anger with her. I felt light and happy and ready for a new beginning, just as she said.
I pulled out my PDA. There was a phone number I wanted in there. I was sure I did.
Silver Anniversary continued.
After a short search, I found the number I was looking for. It was for George Cohen, my attorney back in the US. I wanted to give him a call and find out the status of our divorce process. It was likely to be almost over if Serena signed the papers, as I was sure she would. After all, a cool million, the house she loved and me not disclosing her infidelity to our sons. If she were as smart as I knew she was, she would take the deal and run. I think the threat of telling our sons what she had done was probably the clincher.
I spent the rest of the morning sitting on the lanai in my shorts and t-shirt with no shoes and plenty of beer. I intended on getting shitfaced while I tried to figure out what the hell I was doing. It was going to take the best part of the day just to explain to myself what I had almost done to another man. The biggest question was why would I do that after experiencing the pain myself. I knew the hurt, the self-doubt, the anger, and the depression that was the result, and I remembered how my ego was dashed, believing another man could replace me in my wife's bed. How I could do that to Phil, who I thought was Bitsy's husband, was really bothering me.
After the third beer, I decided that Bill and Serena's affair had hurt me so badly that I needed to strike back at someone. I had effectively ended Bill's marriage to Sally, or so I assumed; I had hurt Serena by divorcing her; and I had cut her off by leaving the country so that she had no way to look for forgiveness from me. But that apparently was not enough for me. I must have needed more so I went after another man's wife? The fact that she wasn't married was no excuse since I didn't know that at the time. That was a sobering thought, so I had another beer.
As I was nursing my funk, Phil and Bitsy came out of the condo carrying some small traveling bags while two porters carried the rest out to a waiting jitney. Phil tossed them in and walked with Bitsy over to me. Bitsy leaned down to give me a kiss while Phil watched with a smile.
"I'm really going to miss you John. You were the best part of this trip for me and I had a great time, including this morning. You were wonderful and I told Phil how much you meant to me. I won't forget you and I wish you the very best. I think you need some time to heal and then you should reconsider your choices."
She smiled sweetly at me and with another kiss, went back to the waiting jitney.
Phil watched her go before turning to me.
"You were good for her, you know. She needed to be reminded of just how attractive and desirable she really is. That shithead she was married to was a real putz and he was just after her money. She has quite a bit of her own, not that you seemed to care. I just wanted to say thanks and I wanted to give you my card. I checked up on you and I know all about your reputation in the business. I know Amos Jensen, your company's CEO and he had noting but good to say about you. I could always use someone like you, even if it's just as a part time consultant. If you like to travel, we could probably arrange that. You're too young to retire for good. Give me a call when you decide what you're going to do."
With that he handed me a card, slapped me on the back, and walked toward the waiting jitney. They both waved goodbye as they disappeared down the driveway toward the main building. I watched them go with some sadness, but also with some relief. I wasn't up to a relationship and I had to admit, I could have been close with Bitsy. If she had stayed, I might have ended up with more than I wanted.
I looked at the card Phil had given me and saw that he was the President and CEO of a worldwide company that was a direct competitor of ours, or had been when I was working. He had a point: I was too young to retire permanently.
I proceeded to get slightly buzzed as I finished off the remainder of the beer in the fridge. I called the lodge with an order for another case and they promised delivery before the day was over. I collapsed on the bed and slept for the better part of the afternoon. I awoke feeling hung over and sick to my stomach. Served me right since it was the first time I had been drunk in over a decade.
I cleaned myself up and went to dinner in the lodge where they had a decent restaurant. It was cool and dark and suited my mood to a T. Several women flirted with me but I assumed they were pros and left them alone. I wanted to be by myself to do some serious thinking. I was more confused now than I was before I left everything behind. I knew I had to find a purpose to my life or I was doomed. Hell of a thing for a 52 year old man to be doing: finding myself! I sounded like a damn cliché.
That evening, I decided to go ahead and call my lawyer and see how things were going back home. I needed to find some closure to my old life and to find some way to move on. The problem was that all my plans before had included Serena and she was no longer with me, so I found myself lost. Yes, I needed to start somewhere and the divorce seemed like the first order of business. Since it was after hours in the US. I decided to wait till the next morning.
At 11:00 the next morning, I called George Cohen in Princeton, NJ. He was handling my divorce and had handled most of my affairs for years. He had also helped me to set up the trusts for my sons and for their kids if and when they had them. He was a friend as well as my attorney.
"Hi, George? It's me, John Parsons. How are you?"
"John, it's great to hear from you. I was just going to give you a call. How is St. Croix? Are you enjoying the time away?"
"It's something else, George. Hey, I just wanted to touch base and see how the divorce is going. Did Serena sign the papers yet?"
"Well, that's what I was going to call you about. Seems Serena is going to fight the divorce. She told her lawyer, that's Pickering & Pickering, Harrison Collins one of the partners, to tell you to do your worst but she wasn't going to give you a divorce without a fight. I tried to tell him what we had and he said she didn't care."
"Did you remind her of the letters for the boys?"
"I specifically told him of the letters, the million and the house. He has the papers that you and I drafted up and he knows all of the details. She doesn't care."
"What's she asking for? Half of everything? Is that what she's after? I guess I'm surprised. I never thought of her as greedy and I thought she wouldn't want the boys to know what she did."
"Damndest thing, John. She isn't asking for anything. She's made no counter offer and she hasn't asked for any attachments to your holdings or assets. She moved out of the house just after you left and she's staying with Ben and Carrie."
"How can she do that? How can she stop the divorce if she isn't making a counter claim or asking the court for something? I don't understand."
"She really hasn't done anything except refuse to sign the papers. The only thing she's touched is the account you left open for her. She's been using it to pay bills, and expenses and the like. The next move is up to us. I was trying to think of something to get her moving again but I don't know what. She isn't afraid of any of the things you hit her with before you left. If she keeps this up, the whole thing will drag on for months until the court finally puts it on the calendar. What do you want to do? Any more ammunition up your sleeve, John?"
"Nothing right now. Let me think about this and get back to you. You have my number here?"
"Got it and just relax and let me do the worrying. At worst, you'll just have to wait a while longer than you planned. I'll talk to you soon."
I hung up in confusion. What in the world was she trying to do? She must know I could go to the boys as I threatened. Didn't she care about them? And why would she turn down a million dollars and then ask for nothing. She must have some plan in mind.
The only thing I could do was call Ben and see what he knew. But even if I did, I wasn't sure I wanted to tell him what his mother had done, at least not by phone. Maybe I could make plans to meet with he and Michael when I got home. That seemed like the best plan. Since it was still early, I called the desk and had them make arrangements for a flight back to the US at the earliest opportunity and to send someone down to help me pack up my things. I was ready to get back home and to get my life under some control.
While I was waiting, I decided to call Ben. I had his work number and decided it would be best to call him there so as not to risk getting Serena on the phone. If she was staying with them, it might be embarrassing for everyone. I could talk to him at work and make plans to meet him when I got there.
I called the office where Ben worked and got his secretary. I told her who it was and she said not to hang up because Ben wanted to talk to me urgently. Urgently? That didn't sound like Ben. But, I waited anyway.
"Dad, is that you? Where are you? Are you back in the states yet? I need to talk to you about mom." Ben sounded sort of out of breath.
"You sound like you just ran up two flights of stairs. What's up and why'd you need to talk to me so badly?"
"That's exactly what I did. Sherrie called me from the production floor and I ran up here to answer. When are you coming home? I want to talk to you before you do anything."
"What about? I know mom is living with you guys but I don't know why. I gave her the damn house and enough money to buy two more. All she had to do was sign the damn divorce papers! Can you tell me why she didn't?"
"Dad, I need to talk to you. Come home now. Stop this running around the world crap and come back now."
"Well, that's what I was calling about. I'm checking out today and I'll take the first plane back that I can get. I wanted to meet with you when I got in but I'm not sure yet when that'll be. I'll call your cell when I know for sure. OK?"
"OK. That's great. I'll wait for your call but remember, don't do anything until I talk to you. Have a safe trip and call me!"
The lodge office called about an hour later and told me that they had me booked on the last flight out this evening. It left at 5:08 and would get into Newark at about 11:30 pm with one stop in Charlotte, NC. I confirmed and we got to the airport with time to spare. I was on my way home. I knew that I had a furnished apartment waiting in one of the suites located on Rt. 1 but wasn't sure which one. I put in a call to George to make sure it was ready for me. I could rent a car until I got mine back from Ben.
We left St. Croix and the Henry Rohlsen Airport behind and I arrived on schedule in Newark that evening. I was beat and ready to find my room and a bed: it had been a big day for me. Once in the car, I relaxed and began to think about tomorrow. It was likely to be busy and probably not very pleasant. Well, that's how I left it just over two weeks ago so nothing much should have changed. With this thought I pulled in to the Summerfield Suites just after 1:00 AM and left my suitcases unpacked until the next morning. I hit the bed and remembered nothing until the next day.
I called Ben at his office late the next morning and agreed to meet him at the Ruby Tuesday's just down from where I was staying. Since he worked in Princeton, it would be convenient for him as well. He said he would leave work early and meet me for lunch. I didn't have anything to eat or drink yet and I needed coffee in the worst way so I went early and waited for him there.
I had my coffee and got a paper to read while I waited. I was sitting in a booth by the window and watched him arrive. He was a good looking man, our oldest at 24 years, out of college with a great job with a good company. He was going to go far with his good looks and sharp mind. I was so proud of him. He and Carrie were about to start their family and I couldn't wait to be a grandfather. At least that wasn't something that could be taken from me.
"Hi pop, how are you doing? You look good. I see you got some sun while you were there. Looks good on you." He moved into the seat across the table from me and smiled.
"I'm glad you called me today because it's important that we talk. You know mom's staying with us now?"
"So George Cohen told me. What I can't figure is why? Why isn't she staying at the house? She loved that place and that's why I left it to her. She can certainly afford to stay there even without the settlement I offered her."
"I don't know anything about your settlement offer. All I know is what mom told Michael and me when she asked to stay with us."
"That figures. I guess she didn't tell you why we split up did she?"
He hit me with a major surprise.
"She told us you found out that she was having an affair with Bill Collins. Isn't that why you filed for divorce? Isn't that what the problem was at the party that night? You didn't think we noticed but we did."
"I'm surprised that she told you. I told her I wouldn't tell you boys unless she decided to fight me for the divorce. She didn't have to do that. I guess I am surprised that she would try to take half of our assets and keep her secret rather than the million with the house that I offered her without contesting it. I never thought that of her. I guess she had no problem telling you what she did."
"That's what I wanted to talk to you about. There are some things you need to know. First, she called Michael and I together the day after the party and told us what she had done. She admitted the affair and she said that she was completely at fault and that you had done nothing to drive her away."
"I'm not so sure that I was completely innocent. I never told her that I was moving toward retirement and that it was going to be so soon. Maybe if I had, she wouldn't have felt so frustrated."
"That's not how she put it. But anyway, the second thing is that she doesn't want the house. She said it was our home but with you gone, there was no longer any reason to keep it. She wanted to sell it outright but we talked her out of it for now."
I was even more surprised by that. She loved that house and always had. She said many times she never wanted to move from there and that we could grow old there.
"The final thing you need to know is that she is going to fight you on the divorce with everything she has. She doesn't want anything from you, but she will try to stop you from divorcing her. She says she doesn't have much of a chance but she will try to delay it as long as possible."
"Why would she do that? I obviously wasn't enough for her and I wasn't meeting her needs toward the end. She didn't care enough to even talk to me about what was happening and she decided to take matters into her own hands and sleep with my best friend. He was a scumbag but she wasn't much better. I don't know what she wants from me."
"She wants to talk to you. She wants you to give her some time: just you and her without lawyers or us. She says to tell you that if you will talk to her and let her tell you her side of things, she will give up her fight over the divorce without any strings attached. All she wants is some time alone with you."
"I don't know what she could say that would make any difference. She threw our marriage away without giving me a chance. She thought so little of me and our wedding vows that she deliberately betrayed me with someone I trusted almost as much as I trusted her."
"Dad, you have to talk to her. I know you're mad and hurt and I don't blame you. Neither does she. She just wants a chance to talk to you before you throw away 25 years. That's not much to ask. Michael and I both want you to do this. We don't think it's too much to ask to try to save our family. What you and she did affects Mike and I too, you know. We hurt because you guys hurt."
I thought about what Ben said and I had to agree that she wasn't asking much. I really never bothered to talk to her before I left. I was angry and hurt and in pain and I ran away. I went as far away as I could and I wanted to leave it all behind. And I never even considered the boys and their feelings; I was so caught up in my own hurt.
But I also had to admit that I was so screwed up that I almost did something as hurtful to another as she had done to me. That was wrong and I knew it, but I was willing to do it anyway. That was what she had done to me. I needed to face her and try to resolve my feelings one way or another. I needed to put my anger behind me.
"All right. Talk to your mother and call me with a time and place and we can talk."
"Great. I'll talk to mom as soon as I get back to work. She is at home right now so I'll be able to call you back this afternoon. Do you have a phone yet?"
"No, just call my cell. That's not changed."
I thought some more about what he had told me and decided to ask some more questions. Some things I needed to know.
"Ben, what about Bill and Sally? Have you heard anything about them? Is your mother in touch with Bill still? I never asked George when I talked to him."
"Sally told Bill to leave that night and she started on a divorce the next day. She served him just last week and she won't even talk to him. Mom hasn't talked to him either even though he called our house several times. I finally told him to stop calling or I would call the police."
"I guess cheating costs a lot. It's unfortunate that the price is so high even to those who were innocent in the whole thing. Sally is an example. She never did anything to deserve what Bill did to her. I understand that Serena wasn't the first time either."
Ben spent another half hour with me before he had to go back to work. I remembered to ask after Carrie and if they were having any luck with the baby making. He just laughed, saying that they were both enjoying the trying but so far, no baby. They hadn't given up though and were giving it some time before worrying. I offered encouragement and support. I remembered Serena and I trying to have Ben. We were lucky that she got pregnant almost right away. Same with Michael.
Ben left and I went back to the Summerfield. I went out for some provisions and unpacked my suitcases and looked over my new home. It wasn't bad, but it was not very homey: just adequate. But, it was all I needed for now. I curled up for a nap to try to get myself back on track. Not working was definitely a test of my ability to discipline my time. So far, I wasn't doing too well.
The phone jolted me out of a sound sleep. It was Ben with the news that Serena wanted to meet me for dinner that evening at a restaurant in Princeton. I knew the place and I agreed. He said she would drive herself and she would meet me there at 7:00. I asked him about my car, and he said he would have Carrie drive it in tomorrow if I could take her back home. I agreed without hesitation. I missed my Mercedes CLK 55. He laughed and said she would miss it even more.
I slept some more and woke early in the afternoon feeling much better. I fixed myself some coffee and tried to relax. I had to admit I was looking forward to that evening with mixed feelings. On one hand, I wanted to see Serena again, just to see her and talk to her. I still loved her and she was still the most beautiful woman in the world to me. That hadn't changed. On the other hand, the pain was still fresh in my heart and the anger was close to the surface. I wasn't sure what I was going to do or say.
At 6:45, I left to drive to the restaurant. I was going to be right on time: not early or late. Childish maybe, but I was not above that yet. As it was, the traffic was all going out of Princeton so I had little trouble getting there on time. I parked close by and walked in right at 7:00. I was inordinately proud of that little accomplishment.
I stood just inside the door, looking for her and spotted her almost immediately. She was sitting at a small table close to the window and she was watching me with a smile on her face. I wasn't ready for the jolt that smile gave me. God! She could still do that to me after 25 years. My breath caught in my chest and I had to blink a couple of times before I got myself under control. I smiled back and moved toward her. I used the time to calm myself down.
She rose to greet me and I noticed that she had on the necklace that I had given her for our anniversary. She unconsciously fingered it with one hand as she watched me.
"Hello John. You look great. The sun and the ocean certainly did you some good. I'm not surprised: you needed the time away from work with all its pressure and demands on you. I'm glad you were able to relax."
I waited until she was seated and then sat down across from her. She looked great in a beautiful light green blouse that showed off her beautiful figure. The neckline was low enough to show off the necklace and it lay nestled in her cleavage and gleamed against her flawless skin. She looked poised and graceful and very beautiful. It was hard not to notice the admiring glances from the men around us. I had always been proud to be seen with her and she always looked wonderful.
"Thanks. You're right. I was almost exhausted and the time in St. Croix was just what I needed to catch up on my sleep and find time to do nothing. You look great yourself. Carrie must be a great cook."
She just smiled at the reference to Carrie. We both knew she couldn't cook water without help. I assumed she had taken over the cooking duties. I watched her face. She seemed relaxed and in control. That was typical of Serena. Beautiful and always in control. In a way, that disappointed me. I had hoped to see her a little more distraught or upset. It would have been good for my ego.
"Well, I won't say Carrie is a great cook but she and Ben have been good to me. I really appreciate the way they took me in without a complaint. Most wives would not have been so generous to their mother in law."
"She is something else. Ben tells me they are working on a little Ben or Carrie but not having too much luck so far."
"They certainly are trying. It's sometimes a little embarrassing when Ben comes home for lunch and they disappear. I try not to notice but you know how that is. I find it rather sweet."
I watched her as she talked about our son and his wife. She was very proud of Ben and she loved Carrie. I knew that they would have been a godsend to her when I left the way I did. Ben was a wonderful son and a good person: he would not have been judgmental towards Serena, in spite of her confession. Once again, I regretted what I did and how I did it. Not cool, as the kids say.
I decided that I should try to bring this discussion back to the point. I found that I didn't want to do that but I resisted the impulse to just ignore it and continue talking to her as if we had no cares in the world other than our family.
"Well, I must admit that I was very surprised to find from George that you hadn't signed the divorce papers. I thought the offer I made to you was more than fair and there was no reason for you to have had to tell Ben and Michael of our problems. Was it the money? Did you want more?"
"The money? Why would you think that? You didn't have any money when you asked me to marry you, but I said yes anyway. We had no money when we decided to have Ben, but we went ahead anyway. We had even less money when Michael came along but we loved him dearly. I was happy to go back to work when the boys were older to help put money aside for their educations, and I never wanted to quit when your parents died and left us that money, but you insisted. Money was never an important part of my life with you."
All that she said was true. She had never wanted money or the things that money could buy. When she was working, she put aside everything that she earned into the savings account we set up for the boys. She never went on spending sprees for herself and when she did spend money, it was on things for the house or for our boys. She was the one that suggested we put the money from my parents into an investment account and forget it was there until we agreed to retire.
"I'm sorry. You're right about that and I should have known better. But, if not the money, why did you move out of the house? You picked it out and you always loved it. You decorated it from top to bottom. It is your house more than mine."
"A house is not a home, John. When we were together, it was our home and I loved it. Now that you have moved out, it is just a house again: lonely, and sad. Not someplace I want to be any longer. I wanted to sell it but Ben and Michael convinced me to wait. I don't know why."
"I can maybe see that, but then what on earth convinced you to tell Ben and Mike what you did? I would never have gone through with that threat: you must know that."
"I had to tell them because they began to talk about you leaving and it made them angry to think that you would do something like that to me. I couldn't let them think that, so I told them. They heard me out and they forgave me. They hated what I did and they hated what I had done to you and to our family and they had unkind words to say about Bill Collins, but they forgave me. That was the worst thing for me; they forgave me even after I had done something so awful to our family. You can't believe how much that hurt to know that I had done that. It still does."
I watched her face as she told me this. I could see the pain in her eyes as she told me of telling our sons what she had done. Maybe it was worse for her to admit this to them: maybe worse than she felt for doing it to me. These were our children, and they were our life for many years. Losing their love would have been devastating to Serena or to me for that matter.
"Serena, please tell me. If it wasn't the money or the house, and you felt compelled to tell Ben and Mike what you did, than why haven't you signed the divorce papers? What's left?"
"What do you mean, me?"
"I don't want to be divorced from you John. Not now and not ever. I don't want our marriage to end. I love you and always have. I haven't stopped just because you left me."
"But you know why I left you. You cheated on me and you betrayed our marriage."
"Yes, I did that and I regret it. I made a terrible mistake and I am paying a heavy price for it, as I should. I lost your trust and respect; my children hate what I did; and I hate myself. I admit all of that, but it was a terrible, terrible mistake and I want you to forgive me."
"How can I forgive you for what you did. You hurt me and tore my heart out. You made my life a living hell and it made me do things that I'm not proud of. I almost did to another man what you and Bill did to me. It wasn't my fault that I didn't. I found out later that she was divorced but I thought at the time she was married to a man that I knew. I was willing to take her without a thought about her husband. That's what you made of me."
Serena responded in some anger to that. "No, that is what you let your anger and hurt make of you. I will not take responsibility for that. And remember, you were still married to me when you did that. How could you do that if you were so hurt by what I did? Aren't you being just a little hypocritical? Aren't you blaming me for doing exactly what I did? You're saying, 'She made me do it'. I don't think you can blame me for the things you do in anger.
She paused and then continued. "But if you can stay here and work with me to try to help me understand why I did that to you and to us, I'm sure that your pain and anger will be less than trying to go it alone."
I was glad that she picked a public place for this discussion because I was becoming furious. Not so much with her, but with what she was saying. I knew she was very close to the truth and I had to agree with most of what she said but I wasn't happy about it. As a result, I just sat there without responding. Serena seemed so calm and so cool. How could she be calm? I was furious and she was calm!
"I don't know about any of this. The anger and the pain are still very new and very raw. How can you expect me to just say 'OK, I forgive you'? How can you expect that from me? What you did with Bill Collins is still very much in my head. I can't stop thinking of the two of you together in that room and I can still hear the words that the two of you used with each other. How am I supposed to forget that?"
"You can't forget that as long as you choose to be alone with nothing but your anger and pain. They won't let you forget. And I don't expect you will ever completely forget it. I know I won't. I will remember it every day of my life and I will regret it every day of my life but I have to move ahead. I can't continue to suffer because of what I did. That is over and it will never happen again. I want to move forward with you, but if that's not to be, I'll do it alone."
I looked around the restaurant. No one was paying any attention to us as we played out our little drama. We had ordered only coffee and the waitress was looking our way, waiting to see if we were going to order dinner. I noticed her and shook my head negatively and she turned away. We were effectively alone. I turned back to see Serena watching me and I caught the pain in her eyes before she blocked her emotions again. That took me by surprise since I had assumed that she was the calm one. I expected that since she was the one that had cheated on me and had nothing to hide any longer she would be calmer than I. Apparently that was not the case. Suddenly I felt a little more in control and in little more cheerful. Misery does love company. As I thought that, I remembered the last time I saw her: in our driveway. She had collapsed to the ground in tears as I drove away and I remember thinking that she finally felt the pain I had been feeling. She showed it again in that one glance.
"I need some time to think about what you've said tonight. I was taken by surprise since I fully expected you to sign the papers without a fight. I see now that I was mistaken and I need to reassess my position. Can we just have dinner and not talk any more about this tonight?"
"If that's what you want. I'm sorry but I don't see why you would have expected me to sign that divorce petition under your conditions. I thought you knew me better than that. If you need time, sure. But if you aren't willing to stay and fight for our marriage, I wish you would tell me now so I can make plans. I have a lot that I'll have to do: find a job and a place to live and that will take some time. I expect to make my own way. I really don't want your money."
"And I don't see how you could have cheated on me and not expected me to do what I did. Why would you think I could just accept your affair and move on? And especially with Bill, my supposed best friend. What on earth allowed you to betray me so easily? How could you throw away 25 years of marriage for that bastard? You had been doing this for months and you shut me out in the bedroom while you were screwing Bill. You're right. Apparently we didn't know each other as well as we thought we did."
That took Serena by surprise. It was the first time I had questioned the reasons for her affair. Up to this point, we had talked in general about what she and Bill had done, and the pain and anger it caused, but not directly attacked it. It was almost as though it were something abstract that we were discussing. Now I had brought it to the front and it was as unpleasant as I had thought it would be. For both of us.
I continued in a low voice, trying to keep my anger in control and not attract unwanted attention. To do this, I leaned across the table and spoke directly to her as calmly as I could.
"You did this to me, first and foremost. You cheated on me with my best friend and you did it willingly and behind my back. You broke your marriage vows to me and to God and you did it more than once. You hadn't stopped when I caught you and I don't know if you ever had any intentions on stopping. I know that the only reason you did stop was that I caught you both."
"I never knew that you were that unhappy. You never came to me to tell me that our marriage was in trouble. I admit that I was preoccupied with work but I had a goal for the both of us and I was working as hard as I could toward that goal. I trusted you to keep our home and marriage and tell me if I was not keeping up my end of the bargain. You chose instead to deny me and our marriage and turn to another man; someone that I trusted almost as much as I trusted you. That's what you're asking me to accept and to move beyond. Don't you see what you did to me? Can't you understand?"
Suddenly, Serena was no longer the one calm and collected and in control. Suddenly she looked lost, and alone, and hurting. It was only now that I unloaded my anger and pain onto her that she knew what I had been feeling. Suddenly, the 'affair' that she had effectively depersonalized, was now coming home to rest on her head. It was not what she had expected and she was not prepared. Since I walked out on her, she wasn't forced to confront the effect it had on me. When she told the boys, she only had her feelings to deal with. They would have been angry but supportive and she could minimize the effect of her actions. They probably spoke of my forgiving nature and she began to believe that all she had to do was talk to me and make me forgive her. All would be as it was.
Serena had a stricken look on her face. Her eyes were glistening with the tears that were about to fall and she could only shake her head back and forth, repeating "no, no, no" over and over. She finally choked out some words.
"I'm sorry, I can't do this any more. Please call Ben and let him know when you want to talk again. If you want to talk again. I have to go now."
With that, she got up and almost ran from the restaurant. I watched her go in shock, not realizing immediately the effect my words had on her. Could she really be in the dark about what I was feeling and how I saw her infidelity? Apparently that was the case. I had to think about that. I noticed several people glance my way as they watched Serena leave the restaurant. I signaled the waitress for the check. I might as well go back to the apartment. This was going to be a long night.
After a microwave dinner and a cold beer, I spent that evening deep in thought. I was totally confused now that I had talked with Serena. This was not as simple and straightforward as I had first assumed it to be. I was not the only one hurting. Serena had yet to face the consequences of her actions and my exit after the party had delayed that confrontation. The brief meeting we had at the restaurant tonight had just broken through her carefully constructed block: avoiding my feelings and my reactions. Now that the block was gone, she had some real thinking to do. Maybe her simple plan to get back together and move on would be left behind. Maybe now she would see that there was nothing simple about it. I went to bed later that night, wondering if and when I should meet with her again. If I did, this time we would have it out, once and for all and we would indeed move on: alone or together? I didn't know.
I spent some time talking with George Cohen about some things and I let two days pass before I called Ben to see if he and Michael could meet me for lunch or dinner in the next day or so. Ben was glad to hear from me and said he would talk with Mike and get back to me. He asked if I wanted to talk to mom again but I told him to tell her that I wanted to talk with them first.
We set up a dinner meeting for the next day. We would meet at a place in Trenton that they knew. Ben said it was great for steaks and we made plans for 6:30. Now that I had my Mercedes, I was more comfortable driving around. It had a navigation system so I couldn't get lost.
Dinner was great and we rehashed old times and I got caught up on their family plans. Seems Michael and his wife Julie were thinking of babies as well. We had fun talking about the trying and the fun and the lack of spontaneity. It was a blast talking with my sons about that. I gave them some background on Serena and my time as well, but we really had had no problems at all. Both boys came easily and early on in the trying. As we talked, I felt nothing out of the ordinary and that was a surprise. I think love of family is far removed from the problems of a marriage. It seems to be neutral ground.
"The reason I asked you guys to dinner is that I am having a hard time trying to decide what your mother is doing. She wants me to forgive her and move on but as we talked, I got the distinct impression that she doesn't really understand what she has done. I wanted to ask you what she told you about what happened. I don't want you to break any confidences, but remember, I already know what happened and I actually recorded a number of their phone calls and their meetings so I don't need details. Nothing that happened will be a surprise to me. I really just want to know what she told you."
Mike and Ben looked at each other and Mike nodded to Ben, giving him the go ahead. That was typical: Ben usually took the lead as the older one.
"Mom called Mike and I together two days after you walked out on her. That would be that Sunday, I guess. She asked us to come to the house but wouldn't tell us why. She said she wanted to wait until we were all together to talk."
"I asked her where you were and she said you had gone on a trip somewhere. She wouldn't say any more until we were together. I called Mike and told him to come over as soon as he could and that I was worried by the sound of her voice. He came over right away and together we went to the house."
"Mom was sitting at the kitchen table and she looked like she had been crying a lot. She wasn't even dressed and had on that old ratty robe she wears. We thought she had been sick, and we were so shocked at her appearance we were about to call the doctor when she got mad and told us to just sit down and listen. We did and she told us you had left her. Just walked out after the party and she had no idea of where you were or how to reach you. She just started crying again and we had no idea of why."
"Mike and I were angry that you had left her and we started yelling at each other about how to find you and what we were going to tell you when we found you. We were going at it hot and heavy until she slammed her fist down on the table and screamed at us to stop. We were so surprised that we shut up right away. We were more surprised at the anger in her face."
"Your father did not leave me. I drove him away. I had an affair! I cheated on him with Bill Collins and he found out and he left me. That's what happened and he isn't the one to blame. I am!"
I guess we were both so shocked we didn't know what to say. Mom was still staring at us with so much anger that we thought we had done something wrong. She watched us impatiently and finally said again:
"Don't you understand me? I did it, he didn't. It's my fault and he hates me now and I don't blame him. I suppose you hate me too. You should for what I did."
"We were finally able to get her calmed down and we both took turns holding her and talking to her and we both told her we didn't hate her. I think we both told her we forgave her for hurting you and for driving you away. We didn't know what else to say. It was pretty bad."
I listened with some surprise and a great deal of sadness. What I had expected would give me pleasure instead caused me only pain. I wanted her to hurt and to feel what I felt, but this was far more than I was prepared for. I never considered what it would do to our children to hear the truth. Nor had I thought of the tremendous pain and guilt that would come to Serena by telling her children that she had done the unthinkable: she cheated on their father and drove him away and out of their lives.
As I thought about what Ben told me, I finally asked him how she had been since our meeting three days ago. I was uneasy and a little concerned. Apparently Serena was not quite as strong as she wanted me to believe and I worried that she might do something crazy.
"Mom never told us how the meeting went. She came home early that evening and went to her room and stayed there all evening. The next day, she refused to talk about it and came out of her room only long enough to fix some dinner. She wouldn't even eat with us. She hasn't been out of the house since that night."
Ben reached into his coat jacket and pulled out a small package. He laid it on the table in front of me.
"When I told mom I was meeting with you and Mike tonight for dinner, she didn't say anything but she did go into her room and came out later with this package. All she said was to give it to you and tell you to listen to it all the way through. I presume it is a tape recording of some kind. I didn't open it so I'm not sure."
I knew exactly what it was. I left it there on the table that morning after the confrontation with Bill and Serena and Sally. I had forgotten about it and really never wanted to hear it again. The tape left in the player was a consolidation of several phone calls and one meeting. I had left it with the original tapes sitting next to the player when I left. I didn't know which tape was in the player but I assumed I would find out.
"What exactly did she ask you to tell me? Exactly?"
"She just said to tell you to listen to it all the way through. That's all she said before she went back into her room."
"Thanks. I know what she means, I think. Anyway, what do you two think about this whole thing? I never took the time to talk to you about it and this seems like a good time. I guess you know now why I took off but I don't know whether that was the best thing to do or not. At the time, I wasn't thinking too clearly. I was, and still am, very angry and hurt. More at the betrayal of trust on both your mother's and Collins' part than anything else. I still love your mother, but I lost my trust because of her affair and I don't know whether I can get it back. It's hard to explain, and I just hope it never happens to you."
Michael took over at this point. Again they shared that look that they had between them ever since they were just kids. Mike sort of nodded and began.
"You have to know that what we want is for the two of you to work this out and get back together. Mom screwed up big time, but she is sorry and devastated by it and she is desperate to find some way to get you back. She and Julie have discussed it over and over and she always ends up crying. Carrie and Julie have both talked to her and they have taken her out to lunch and shopping and over to the house to get some things, but still mom ends up sad and discouraged. She is taking this pretty hard in case you hadn't thought about it. You're not the only one in pain. It hurts Ben and I as well. We hate this and we hate what she did, but you disappointed us too. You didn't even try."