Jealousy can make people do terrible things and the cost can be very high. This is one such case.
Edited with comments by LadyCibelle
I looked at myself in the mirror, rubbed a little blush into my cheeks and took a brush to my hair for one last touch. I sighed, backed away and put on the short black dress I bought this week. It was perfect, not too short and not too long. I still had good legs and I loved to show them off. Bill always made comments about them and I guess he convinced me how good they were. I slipped on my heels, snapped the back straps and stood up. A touch of perfume, a last touch of the dark red lipstick and I was ready.
"Ok Wendy, are you ready for this? You still look good girl." I was talking to my reflection in the mirror, trying to convince myself that I was ready for this. I'd been on a few dates and I had to admit that they were pretty much disasters. Maybe this one would be better.
I walked down the stairs and into the family room where Jase and Jenny were playing. They were my twelve year old twins and the love of my life. I adored these two, and I let them know that as often as I could. I stood there, watching them play their new video game, the one their father bought them just last week. Rachael Maier, our next door neighbor who was watching them tonight while I was out, was already there and absorbed in the game as well. She was older, almost eighteen, and had been our babysitter for the past four years.
"OK kids. I'm ready to go. Now can you be sure to finish your homework before you go to bed? Jase, you have that test in math tomorrow and Jenny, you have an English quiz coming up."
They turned to look at me and, as usual, I saw the disapproval on Jase's face. I didn't want to start so I turned to Rachael and said, "Be sure you check their work to be sure it's done, OK?"
"No problem Mrs. Stridell. They always do their homework for me. Don't you, guys?"
Jase turned away, not answering. I knew he was angry at me but I couldn't give in to him. Jenny smiled and told me how nice I looked. She wasn't pleased with me either but she was never as obvious as Jase. The three of them turned back to the game so I walked out and into the hall. I got my jacket and laid it over the banister, ready when James came to pick me up.
I walked into the kitchen and sat down at the table, less then anxious to go out tonight but I had to get myself back into the dating game. It was really hard and so different now. It had been almost fifteen years since I had gone out on a date. After all, I had been married for thirteen of those years and dating my ex-husband for the two before that. My divorce was final six months ago and this was only the third time I had accepted a date. Tonight was with James Conklin, a co-worker of mine at the bank where I worked as a teller and a reasonably good-looking guy. He had been asking me out for over a month and I finally accepted. I liked him, but that was all. He was just a friend as far as I was concerned but I knew he wanted more. I told myself for the tenth time that maybe this was a bad idea.
Maybe if things had been different, I would be engaged and probably married by now to Brad Eisley. Brad and Bill worked together and used to be friends. They both worked for Lever, Kline and Patron, Inc., a company that specialized in handling corporate takeovers and consolidations. They were investigators who delved into corporate finances and determined what obligations and debts they had and the value of their assets. It wasn't until later that I learned they were always in competition for the top spot in the company. Bill had the edge, or so most of his contemporaries said. Brad was good but not as good as Bill.
In spite of their competition, Brad was at our house often for parties, barbecues and the like. I knew Bill didn't like him all that much but I had no such problems with Brad. I knew he was single, with an ex-wife who he never spoke of and no children of his own. He was friendly, always ready to lend me a hand and always complimented me on my appearance, the way I threw a party, just very observant. Bill did confront me after one particular party where Brad spent the entire evening standing next to me. I was surprised at Bill's attitude and when he suggested Brad was after something that didn't belong to him, I got angry and defended him. We didn't talk for days after that one.
Brad had been our friend for almost three years before it all blew up. That's when I found out how good a friend he was. After all, he was the one that had my best interests at heart and the one that made me aware of my husbands philandering. He was there for me when he brought those pictures of Bill and that blonde bitch he was having the affair with. I didn't know her name; I never bothered to find out. Brad had pictures and dates and the whole affair documented. He produced a Private Investigator's report which he paid for out of his own pocket. The whole thing was there in black and white. He admitted he did it because he had always been fond of me and was so upset when he found out about Bill that he didn't want me to be hurt any worse than I would be if it went on longer.
When I confronted Bill, he blew his stack and screamed at me. He wanted to know who gave me those pictures and that report but I wouldn't tell him. There was no reason to point to Brad; it would only make him more defensive. He denied the whole thing, telling me he had never been unfaithful to me or our marriage, but he couldn't answer the questions I had for him. I asked him why, who she was, when he did it and why he chose to cheat on me. He wouldn't answer me, saying none of it was true. When I showed him the pictures, he took them, glared at them with anger and threw them on the floor, telling me that none of that ever happened. I had the proof and he still denied it!
I got so angry at him that when Brad convinced me to take out a restraining order on him and make him move out of the house, I did. Bill was very hurt and angry when the police served it on him. He continued to deny everything right up until the time I filed for divorce. He vowed to fight it every step of the way but I enforced the restraining order to keep him away from me and out of the house and I got a good attorney. She was the best at divorce and she said we had an open and shut case.
The only thing I wouldn't do was refuse to let Bill see the twins. After all, he was their father and they wouldn't understand why I wanted to make him stay away. They complained when he didn't come home but I tried to explain that he couldn't live there any more. They took it hard but I told them he would see them as often as he could. I let him know through my lawyer that I wanted him to spend time with them and he agreed. I just wanted notice so I could be gone when he came to pick them up.
During this time, Brad was always available to go places with me, to help me with my filings and meetings with the attorney, pick up and drop off the twins when I couldn't. He was by my side through it all. I was becoming quite fond of him and I knew he returned the feelings. We did go out a couple of times but we just parted at the door. That was until the court ruled on the divorce and our separation became official. The next time Brad and I went out, I asked him to stay. The twins were with Bill for the weekend and Brad slept over Saturday night.
We made love that first night and I have to admit it wasn't all that good. I think it was because I was still married at the time and I was nervous and a little guilty. After all, I hadn't been with any man other than my husband for almost fifteen years. Long before we were married and then all during our marriage. One of the things I didn't like was that Brad was very demanding. I just wanted to cuddle and make gentle love but he was insistent. He wanted me to suck him, something I did for Bill but only because he enjoyed it: I certainly didn't. And Brad wanted to do things like anal which I just refused to do.
But, I was fond of Brad and felt it would be get better as we got to know each other. After that, it did improve but it never was as good as it was with Bill. And Brad was always frustrated with me because of my reluctance to do those things he wanted. But it became a pattern: Bill took the kids on alternate weekends and Brad would sleep over. That continued until one Sunday morning Bill came back with the twins to grab an extra pair of shoes for a trip he planned.
Bill stayed outside as the twins came running up the stairs to get their things. I heard them and came out of my bedroom to ask what they were doing. As I spoke with them, Brad came out of the room wearing his robe and the twins saw him. I saw the shock and anger on Jase's face and the tear that started in Jennie's eyes. I was about to say something when Jase ran down the stairs, his sister following. They went out the door, slamming it behind them. I had no choice but to let them go.
When Bill brought the twins home that Sunday night, he came in with them, something he hadn't done since I filed the restraining order. He waited until the twins ran upstairs and then looked at me with the coldest, angriest look I had ever seen on his face.
"I don't want that son of a bitch in this house again until we are divorced! I had two frightened and devastated kids on my hands this weekend because they saw that bastard in your bedroom. Have you no shame? Don't you know what it says to our children that you are fucking another man while you are still married to me? You accused me of doing the same thing, even though I was innocent but I think now that I understand: you were cheating on me with Brad for some time and made up that shit about me just so you could divorce me.
"Well, that was bullshit, and you know it, but this will stop right now or I will go to the court and ask for full custody on the basis of your slutty behavior. Make your choice now, you tramp!"
With that, he turned and walked quickly out the door, slamming it behind him. I stood there in total shock. What the hell was he talking about? Making it up? Me, cheating with Brad as a reason for filing for divorce? He was crazy! Disturbed at the threat of losing me and his kids! Of course, that was what it was! Now I understood. But he was too angry to push now. I had to cool it with Brad, at least in my home. We could meet at his place, or go to a motel. I could do that. Actually, I could even do without Brad until after the divorce. He was the one that enjoyed the sex, more so than I did.
As I said, things would have been so much simpler if Brad had lived. But just three days before my divorce was final, Brad was killed in a traffic accident. The cops told me it was a two vehicle crash, meaning Brad was in his car and there was one other car involved but that driver was never found. The cops say he was probably struck by the other car or truck, lost control, skidded off the road and into a tree. He was killed instantly, or so they said. I wondered later why he had been on that road at that time. He was supposed to be with me, to help me in my time of sorrow over my upcoming divorce. He promised me he would be there, so why was he somewhere else?
I was very sad when they notified me of his death. Sad, but strangely, that was all. I wasn't sure why they contacted me but apparently he had something in his car that mentioned me. I was very fond of Brad and I thought we might have had a future together, but I was surprised by my ability to get over him so quickly. Maybe he was just a good friend when I needed one and nothing more? Now, I'll never know for sure.
The divorce was very hard on me; the funeral was scheduled for the same day as my divorce, and Brad had planned on being there with me. Now, I had no choice but to go to the funeral alone. I was surprised at the lack of people there. I was one of only a very few and most of them people I had never met. It was a simple and quick affair. A few words and then it was over.
Since I knew no one there, I left immediately and went on to the divorce. Bill was there with his attorney and he was sitting across from me, looking at the wall behind me. I could see he was still angry and I was still surprised. After what he did, why would he be angry at me? It made no sense. But he chose to agree to the divorce when Brad threatened to post some of the pictures on the internet for the world to see. Brad told me Bill agreed rather than have those pictures out. Bill never told me anything about that meeting so I had only Brad's word.
As I took my seat, Bill finally looked at me. I was shocked at the look in his eyes. They were as cold and angry as I had ever seen. I wanted to say something to him; something that would make him see that this was all his fault, but I couldn't think of anything more to say other than what I said to him when I confronted him. He refused to admit his guilt then so now would be no different. I shook my head and looked away, not feeling comfortable with that look.
Bill continued to stare at me until he said very quietly, "Are you still convinced I cheated on you? You believe I could do something like that to you and my kids? I will say it one more time: I never cheated on you. Never!"
I looked into those eyes that were so cold and answered him the only way I could. "I have the proof and you still won't admit it! So long as you chose to lie to me and not admit what you did, we have no marriage."
I had been very sure of myself when Brad was there to support me but seeing the look in his eyes and the sound of his voice, my confidence was shaken. What if... ?
"Then we have no marriage!" Bill looked away and the anger on his face was so intense it scared me. But I was safe here in this room. Actually, if truth be told, I knew I was safe anyway. Bill would never hit me. The man he was couldn't do that.
The meeting went very quickly and the attorneys gave us the final paperwork to sign. I was to keep the house, half of all assets, child support from Bill in the amount of $500 per month, and alimony of $50 per month. Since I was working and made sufficient money to support myself, the alimony amount was a compromise: Bill wanted to refuse to pay anything to me, claiming that I had created a false set of documents to force the divorce. He claimed that Brad and I were lovers and working in collusion to blame him for an affair that never happened. The judge denied his suit when she read the private investigator's report and viewed some of the pictures.
I have to admit that I still don't understand Bill's claim that Brad and I were lovers. I never even dated Brad until after I filed for divorce and I only slept with him once our separation was official and our marriage had been ruled over. That happened after Bill's suit had been denied. So where he came up with those accusations was beyond me. Not like my claim, based on real evidence. I know Bill still believes what he said in that counter suit. I never tried to correct him. It would have been a waste of time.
I was interrupted by the doorbell. I got up, walked into the foyer to see that Rachael had already opened the door. James was standing inside, dressed very nicely in a dark suit and a beautiful blue striped tie. He was a nice looking man, and always made a nice impression. My twins had not come out of the room, as usual. They disapproved of my dating. They always asked why daddy wasn't the one I was going out with. I always answered the same way: Daddy and I are divorced and no longer together. They never accepted it.
"OK, goodnight kids! I won't be late! Be good and do your homework!" I grabbed my jacket, handed it to James to assist me and shrugged into it. I went out to his car, James following.
James took me to dinner at a very nice restaurant, where we ate and talked about our lives. James was divorced like me and he had a daughter at home that he adored. He visited her as often as he could. I looked at pictures of him and her and one of all three of them. His wife was a very beautiful woman. I asked him what the cause of the divorce was in his case and he said he didn't want to talk about it so I never mentioned it again.
After dinner we went to a small lounge where there was dancing and music and plenty of drinks. I loved dancing and enjoyed James's ability. He was a wonderful dancer, but I noticed that after a few drinks and some slow dances, he was trying to pull me against his obvious erection. I resisted until he finally stopped.
"What's the problem Wendy? I know you've been without Bill for quite a while now, and you must want the same thing I want. So, why not? We're both divorced, lonely, and need some real loving. I won't disappoint you."
With that James ran his hand down my back and over the rise of my buttocks. He pulled my body tight against him trying to arouse me. I stepped on his toe, making him back off and then moved away and back to our table. I was angry, embarrassed and frustrated. I enjoyed the feel of him against me but it was not the same. Bill used to do the same thing when we danced, but he was smoother and more playful about it. He knew I loved dancing and wouldn't even suggest anything like that until we were ready to go home. What was wrong with James?
James followed me back to the table, looking angry as well. "What the hell was that all about? I was just trying to let you know that I find you very attractive and I would love to make love to you. Isn't that what you want too?"
"No! This was supposed to be a friendly date, nothing more. I never gave you any other impression. I never told you, or even suggested to you that I wanted sex! Damn you! I want to go home. Now!"
James argued, tried to convince me he would behave but I just wanted to go home. Damn it all anyway! Why did I end up comparing guys to Bill? I always did it and I never intended to, but they just weren't the same as him. He did everything right! He always knew what I wanted and what would make me happy.
As James drove me home, silent in his frustration, I continued to think of what was wrong. I knew what it was and that made it even worse. I still loved my husband Bill regardless of what he did to me and our children. He was perfect in so many ways for me. He knew me, he took care of me and he always knew how to make me happy. Why did he do it? Why did he cheat on me with that woman? I didn't even know her name or where she came from. Brad knew, he took care of all of the details during the divorce. He gave the lawyer all the information and Bill continued to deny it over and over. He even begged me to listen to him, to believe him when he denied it. But I saw those pictures! The ones that broke my heart. I saw him on top of her, taking her from behind as I loved. I saw her giving him oral and him returning the favor. I would never let him do that for me even though he said he would be glad to. He even said he would probably enjoy it but I couldn't get over the fear he would be repulsed. Early teaching from mom I guess.
As James pulled into the driveway, I opened the door telling him there was no need to walk me to the door. I was still angry and frustrated and I wanted nothing more than to get into the house. I was so intent, I didn't even notice Bill's car in the driveway. I guess after thirteen years of something it just fit and didn't even alert me. I walked rapidly up the walk and opened the front door, letting myself in. James had already backed out and I heard the angry sound of his tires as he drove away.
I took off my coat, hung it in the hall closet and walked into the family room where I expected to see my twins and Rachael playing as usual. What I found was Bill, with both kids wrapped around him as they played on the floor. Rachael was sitting on the couch laughing out loud as they tried to get the game controller from him. I was struck by the joy on their faces and their happy laughter, matched by the smile on his, and I couldn't help but smile as I watched them, unable to move or speak, overcome with the pleasure it gave me.
As Bill rolled away, the controller held high, he saw me standing there in the doorway. His smile disappeared like a light switch had been flipped off. He stopped immediately and got up from the floor, telling the kids that the game was over. They didn't stop right away, not knowing I was there. Bill grabbed both of them by the shoulder and turned them so they could see me standing there. I was still grinning at them but I suddenly noticed that I was the only one still smiling. All the joy and laughter was gone, the silence following the laughter, deafening.
Suddenly I felt it all come crashing down on me. The pain, the lack of joy in our house with Bill gone, the sadness I felt every night when I went to bed alone. All of it came crashing down, almost driving me to my knees. I was just standing there, not able to say anything when Bill spoke.
"OK kids. It's time for me to go. I'll pick you up right at ten tomorrow morning. Be ready, OK?" With that, he spoke to Rachael and then walked past me and out the door without a word. I watched him go with mixed emotions. He wasn't supposed to be here without notifying me, but then I realized I had told him I would be out this evening. He probably didn't expect to find me home so early.
"Thanks a lot mom! You weren't supposed to be here this early. Dad and us were having a lot of fun together until you ruined it. Thanks a lot!" That was from Jase as he angrily picked up the controller and turned the game off. He said goodnight to Rachael and then, followed by Jenny, walked out and up the stairs to their rooms.
"I'm sorry Mrs. Stridell. Mr. Stridell called to ask if you had gone out and when I told him you had left, he came over to play with the twins. It was OK wasn't it? You just told me he wasn't supposed to be here when you were. I'm sorry if I did something wrong. I didn't mean too." Rachael was concerned, her appearance looking as if she was afraid she had messed up.
"No, no Rachel. You did nothing wrong. And you're right: he isn't supposed to be here when I am but you couldn't know I was coming home so early, and neither could he. So, it's alright. It's fine. You can go home now."
I paid her and walked her to the door. "Thanks Rachael. I'll call when I need you again. Goodnight."
I stood there in the hallway of my home, alone as it seemed I was more and more. My children were angry with me, my babysitter was afraid she had done something wrong and my ex-husband had walked out without a word to me. The joy and the laughter I saw when I first came in was missing from our home now and had been since I confronted Bill with his infidelity. But what bothered me the most was that while he was the one that created the problem, I was the one paying the price. And it was a steep price to pay.
I slowly walked up the stairs to my empty bed and stripped out of my new dress. I washed my face of the makeup I had applied so carefully and let my hair down, the elaborate hairdo I began the evening with forgotten. All of that care for what? A date with a man who wanted nothing more than to get into my panties for some satisfaction? For him, of course, not for me! I sighed, turned out the light and pulled the covers over me. The last thoughts I had before I fell asleep were about the laughter I saw earlier.
I was sitting at the kitchen table the next morning, a Saturday, when the doorbell rang and the kids went to get it. It was Bill, coming to pick up the kids. As usual, he would wait outside for them to get their bags for the weekend stay-over. I normally remained in the kitchen during this transition but today, I felt the urge to see Bill. I wanted to see him relaxed and ready for two days with our twins. Without thinking of the consequences, I rose and walked into the foyer. I went to the door, opened the storm door and saw him sitting on the steps. I spoke as he turned.
"Good morning Bill. How have you been?"
He said nothing, just looked up at me. I was surprised at how well he looked. Unlike me, the divorce hadn't seemed to bother him much. But then he was probably screwing his little slut regularly and it seemed to be good for him.
He stood then, turned around and looked away. "I've been doing OK. Work's good, business is up. So things are good. You?"
"I'm OK too, I guess. I'm sorry about last night. I should have called to let Rachael know I was coming home early. It wasn't your fault. Or Rachael's."
"Yeah, OK. I was just spending a little time with the kids since I was at loose ends. I'll be more careful in the future."
"Please Bill. It wasn't a problem. You don't have to do anything different. It was my mistake. The date first, and then not calling."
As I was about to explain about the date, the twins came running out the door and grabbing their dad, ran to the car. Bill went with them as if my words were unimportant. As I watched them together, I realized that they probably were. They turned to wave goodbye as I watched them get in. They seemed so happy with him, more so than with me. I didn't seem to be able to get them to have fun any more. I wish I knew why.
I went back in, dreading the weekend without my kids. They were my only salvation now. Where I used to love the weekends, Bill and I sleeping late and listening to the kids downstairs on their Playstation or watching cartoons, or just having fun, now it was just me. If they weren't with Bill for his weekend, they were gone to practice for something or other. This weekend was typical: with Bill gone, Brad gone and now Jase and Jenny with their dad, it was just me, the day promising to be very empty. I spent the remainder of that day reflecting on my life. I was alone now, only my kids to keep me company. I worked at a job I didn't particularly like; I slept alone; I only dated occasionally since most of the guys I met were usually married or not candidates for other than one night stands.
I managed to survive the two days and on Sunday, fixed a small dinner, knowing the kids would be home but that Bill would probably feed them before coming back. He usually did that, taking the time to talk to them and make plans for the next weekend they would spend together. They always came home filled with plans and excited about the next time with their dad. I admit to being jealous.
When the kids came home, they talked a little about their weekend but didn't give me any details. More and more, they seemed to consider their time with Bill as their time, not mine. I seemed to find myself more and more closed off from them. I made sure they were ready for school the following day and sent them off to bed. Bored, I soon followed and laid out my clothes for tomorrow, ready for my job.
I worked at the bank until 2:30, five days a week with Saturday and Sunday off, and I had just gotten home that Monday when I heard the phone ringing. I used my key to open the door and rushing in, I dropped my stuff, ran into the kitchen to grab the phone before the caller hung up.
"Hello? This is Wendy."
"Is this Mrs. Stridell? Mrs. William Stridell?" I didn't recognize the voice at all.
"I'm Wendy Stridell. I'm divorced now so it's no longer Mrs. William Stridell. Can I help you?"
"Yeah, maybe you can. Look, this is Harold Pierce, down at Capitol Investigations. Bradley hired me to make up that report? You know, the one that you used to dump your old man? Looks like it worked OK since you're split now."
"I'm sorry but I don't know much about you or the report: only what Brad told me. Why are you calling me?"
"Look lady, it's too bad he had to bite the dust but Brad still owed me a grand for making up that shit. Doctoring those pictures alone cost me a couple hundred bucks. Now that you're out from under that creep of a husband of yours, someone has to pay me the grand. Since he croaked, you're the only one left."
"I don't know what you're talking about. Brad said he paid for that report out of his own pocket. And what do you mean, 'doctoring those pictures'? Why did you have to do anything to them?"
"Don't be funny with me lady. That report was bogus and you know it. Those pictures were PhotoShopped by one of my guys so don't give me any of that crap. I want my grand or the DA will hear about your scam from an anonymous source. I'm covered so nothing comes back to me. But you? That's a different story. You wanted to dump that cheap SOB and get half of his money, so you had your lover hire me. I have his words on tape, telling me that the two of you planned this. So, I'll stop by tomorrow around noon for the grand. Have it waiting if you know what's good for you."
He disconnected and I sat there, the phone still against my ear as the dial tone hummed. I was stunned! The report was bogus? The pictures were not real? It was all a scam and Brad was the one that did it all! He conned me all right! He made up that whole thing about Bill having an affair and got a sleazy PI to make up a false report, complete with pictures to convince me! And the worst part was that I fell for it, hook, line and sinker! I turned on my husband and refused to even consider that he was telling me the truth.
I put down the phone and sat there, my head spinning, my stomach clenching in severe pain, my face flushed. I was feeling sick to my stomach and almost didn't make it to the bathroom before everything I had came up, scalding my throat and mouth as it spewed out. I know I screamed in agony as the truth came crashing down on me. All I could say was "NO!" over and over and over.
I tried to get up, away from the commode but when I stood, my stomach clenched again, the pain forcing me to my knees just in time for another round of heaves, mostly dry since the contents of my stomach were already in the bowl. I bent over, the cramps not letting go, my face drenched with sweat and my fists clenched in agony as I tried to bring up whatever was left. Each time I tried to get up, to wash my mouth of the sick taste, it hit me all over again.
My kids found me there on the floor of the bathroom when they came home from school. I had been there for the past two hours, alternately seized by dry heaves and washing my face, then crying until the next spasm took control. My stomach was empty now and the only thing left were the painful cramps that wouldn't stop. I felt like I wanted to die and hoped that I would. They did the only thing they could think of when they called Bill and told him I was very sick. I wanted to die now for sure.
With Jase's help, I got up and half walked, half crawled up the stairs to the bedroom. I wanted to just lie down on the bed and let sleep claim me but Jase got a wet washcloth and bathed my pale, ashen face. He looked so worried and that made me try to take some control of myself. I couldn't let my child suffer for my sins. I had to ease his mind.
"Thanks Jase. I'll be OK now. Please, go call your dad and tell him not to come. I don't want to see him now. Please, Jase. Please. Go!"
"But mom; you're sick! You need someone to help you and Jenny and I don't know what to do. Dad will know. He'll take care of you."
"No Jase! Listen to me now! I don't want your dad here! Do you hear me! Not your dad! Now, do as I told you! Call him! Tell him not to come. No! Wait! Better yet, let him come and then you and your sister go with him and stay there until I call you. Now! Go!"
I got myself up, pushed my son out the door in spite of his yelling, and locked it behind him. I couldn't stand the thought of facing any of them right now, maybe never again. I was humiliated and the emotional pain was so intense I was making myself physically sick. I couldn't let Bill or my kids see that. I couldn't!
I sank down on the bed, my stomach quiet for the moment. I wiped the back of my hand across my mouth, tasting the sour bite of vomit. I bowed my head, let the tears come and I cried. I couldn't stop myself. What I had done to my family by believing Brad's story of Bill's infidelity was clear. Now I knew it for what it was: a fabrication built up with fake pictures and a fake report about some woman who didn't even exist. And I swallowed it: all of it! In spite of living with my husband for almost fifteen years, I never even thought to question the story Brad brought me. And the warning Bill gave me about Brad so long ago; I just ignored that as well. I bought everything he told me, at the cost of my marriage and my family.
As I sat there, I heard the sound of voices coming from downstairs. I waited, praying that they would all go and leave me here alone. I couldn't stand to face anyone tonight. I definitely couldn't face Bill. But then, Bill never wanted to look at me now anyway. He hadn't for some time. And now, knowing what I did, I couldn't blame him. He must hate me and I now knew why he always looked at me with those accusing eyes.
Pounding on the door: "Wendy, let me in! Open the door Wendy! Wendy!" It was Bill, trying to get me to open the door. I couldn't! I just couldn't do that! I had to make him go away!
"I'm fine Bill. Just take the kids and go. You can keep them for a few days. I'll call you tomorrow. Please Bill, just go away!"
"Wendy? Jase said you were sick. He and Jenny said you were very sick. Let me in Wendy. You're scaring the kids now. Please, let me in."
I couldn't do that to my kids! I had to do something! I sat up, wiped my face with the wet washcloth Jase had given me and walked slowly to the door. If I could just make it through the next few minutes, Bill would take the twins and go. I would be alone.
"Fine! Just a minute!" I squared my shoulders, took a deep breath, brushed my hair back from my face and opened the door. "Ok Bill. Are you satisfied now? I'm fine! Now, please, just take Jase and Jenny and go back to your place for a couple of days. I'll be fine if you just give me a couple of days. Please?"
Bill stood there staring at me as if I was a complete stranger. I held his eyes for a few seconds before looking away, trying to find my children. They were standing at the bottom of the stairs, looking very small and frightened. I couldn't stand that so I walked out of the room and over to the top of the stairs.
"Honest kids, I'm fine. I must have a bug or something and I just don't want you two to catch it from me. So, if you stay with your dad, you should be safe. I can take care of myself. So, are we OK?"
I waited until I saw them nod, then turned back to Bill and said very softly, "Please Bill. Just take them and go! I have to be alone right now. If you ever cared for me, please, just do this for me. Please, Bill"
Bill looked at me and reached out to take my hand in his. "Wendy, you are in some kind of trouble. Let me help. You are still the mother of my children. Let me help you for them, if not for yourself."
I looked into his eyes, saw that small kernel of concern, and that was all I could stand. I began to cry as I ran into the bedroom, slamming the door shut behind me. I twisted the pathetic lock and stood there, my back pressed against the door as if to block him from coming in. I waited but he didn't make further attempts. He walked away, I heard voices again and then the door close when they left. I stayed as I was until I heard the car pull out and, opening the door slowly, I listened to the silence. They were gone!
That night was hell for me as I finally understood everything. I spent the next several days at work, doing the mindless job that I was beginning to hate, then returning home to sit and stare at the wall, trying to understand how I had been so gullible, so willing to believe something so horrible about the only man I had ever loved. And yes, now that I was forced to see the truth, I realized that I had loved him all along. That's why the sex with Brad never really felt good, why my sadness over his death had passed so quickly, why the dates with men I thought were fine always left me with an empty feeling. That's why James left in a huff on our date: I was comparing him to Bill and he wasn't Bill. None of them were, even Brad. Why hadn't I understood that before now?
I paid the man his thousand dollars on Tuesday and asked him for the truth. He told me what Brad had requested of him, that the girl was just some hooker they picked up off the street, the backgrounds lifted from the internet. And the report was just a complete fabrication, using dates and places supplied by Brad. He had a photographer take some pictures of Bill without his knowledge and used his face with the pictures of another man with the hooker. Since Brad knew Bill's schedule, he was the perfect one to set it up. And he did it all just to take me away from Bill; to best Bill at something, because of his jealousy. He knew Bill was to be promoted very soon and he would end up working for him so he wanted to take me away first. And he succeeded. I let him make a fool out of me and cheat Bill out of my love. And if he hadn't died in that freak car accident, I never would have known!
It was Thursday before I called Bill to tell him he could bring the children home but I requested that he stop and see me beforehand. I told him I had something I wanted to talk to him about and that the children couldn't be a part of. He was curious but all I would say was that it would be something he needed to know. He agreed finally but reluctantly.
I had debated about what I should do and I knew one thing. I had to tell Bill the truth about everything. He had to know that I believed him and that I knew he had never cheated on me. It was important for me to let him know that I had regained my trust in him and recognized the decency that made him the man he was. While I couldn't take those things away from him, I could let him know that I now realized I should never have doubted him. He deserved that from me at least.
Friday Bill called and asked if we could meet at home that evening. He said we could talk, I could say what I wanted and then we could decide if the kids should stay with him over the weekend. He was very quiet, not the least bit rude or abrupt as he normally was when he called. I appreciated that small token and agreed to meet him. He said he would bring takeout, something we used to do quite often. I thanked him and hung up, determined but frightened of what I was about to do. I finished my shift at the bank and left for home and my coming humiliation.
Bill arrived right at six, the time we had agreed to. He had a pizza and some diet Pepsis that he sat on the kitchen table. I got the napkins and a couple of glasses and set two places; very domestic and very family oriented. The hypocrisy was not lost on me: this artificial domesticity and my intended confession of unmitigated deceit and betrayal. I almost lost my courage but I steeled myself and indicated to Bill that he should sit.
I set the pizza on our plates, opened and poured the Pepsi. After that, I sat back and looked at Bill.