Based on real people and events, but in a fictionalized form.
It was just before our eighth anniversary when my first marriage fell apart, though neither of us knew it, not precisely, not then.
Glennie and I had been married following a protracted courtship and engagement. Hindsight being what it is and all, I'd have to say she seemed desperately unenthusiastic about marrying-- about marrying me, anyway -- but she was getting up there, feeling like a spinster at the ripe old age of twenty-eight, and I was but a pup of twenty-six.
Again with the hindsight, I think she felt inadequate, as if she needed to latch onto the first man who didn't run screaming from her. I appear to have been that one, though I also believe her perceptions were skewed. She was not unattractive, though not a beauty in any classic sense.
I came to discover, later, my suspicions were correct. Her father turned out to be an abusive lout, verbally if not physically; her mother never stood up to the man, never protected her only child from his contumely.
(As an aside: I believe the old man respected me. The first time we met, he tried that shit with me; I handed it back to him in spades and walked out the door. Next time we met, he was far nicer.)
In any event, we finally married, and settled into something like a home life.
The wedding night was unpleasant, not to say a disaster; Glennie was a virgin, and while I'm no John Holmes, she was unprepared for my presence in her body. Her maidenhead was thick, and tore with some considerable pain. We didn't make love again for three nights, and after that things got a little better, though she never really enjoyed sex.
We were substantially older than most first-time newlyweds, and more responsible; and so we were relatively flush with cash. Our student loans had been paid off, we owned our cars, and neither of us had fallen into the credit-card trap. We had the money to afford a house outright, and we jumped at the opportunity to move into a new development shortly after the wedding.
We were never blessed with children. She became pregnant three times, and each spontaneously aborted within the first trimester. I wonder, now, years later, whether things might have been sweeter for her had she been able to deliver a child.
Sex became an issue. She tolerated it, mostly to placate me, but was never willing (or perhaps able) to abandon herself to my attempts to induce pleasure. Her most common bedroom phrase, uttered only when I attempted to initiate lovemaking, was, "How about just a quickie?"
Many men would have enjoyed a setup like that; most, I think, would eventually grow weary of such pro forma intimacy. I certainly did, mostly because I really, truly loved Glennie, and I wanted her, and I wanted her to want me.
I finally accepted such would never be the case. Our relationship reduced to a simmer; we both worked, and enjoyed some of life's finer things, and for the most part kept a respectable distance.
And life went on.
I don't want to give the impression life was all sour. There were plenty of good times. Our neighbors to the left, Tom and Martha Pender, were perhaps our best friends. They were significantly older, early fifties when we moved in next to them, but we developed an over-the-fence relationship quickly. They made us part of their extended family; cook-outs and picnics, card games and birthday parties and New Year's Eve celebrations, a family to love and nurture and stand in for the ones we did not have.
Work was good, as well. Glennie and I worked our respective ways up our respective corporate ladders. If money had never been an issue, it wasn't even on the radar by this point.
Conservative as we were, never prone to excesses, we failed to indulge in new cars and furniture, things like that. Our savings were substantial; the prospect of early retirement came up, even as we were only in our early thirties. We even discussed setting a goal of retirement by age forty-five.
Life took a few turns, though.
One evening I had to stop by the pharmacy on the way home, and so arrived a little later than usual. I knew, from the sight of the ambulance in the Pender's driveway, all was not well.
Glennie was standing on our front stoop, weeping. Tom had had a heart attack, she told me as best she could; the paramedics had just gotten there before I arrived, and it didn't look good.
We watched the ambulance pull away, and there was Martha, trying to get into her car to follow, looking dazed and having trouble with the keys. Glennie called to her; we bundled her into my car, and the three of us drove, as quickly as safely possible, to the hospital.
Tom was gone before we arrived.
The next weeks and months were difficult, mostly for Martha but of course for us as well. We offered assistance, and soul of practicality that she was, she accepted. None of your typical I'm-fine-on-my-own bullshit from that lady, let me tell you.
Still, all the help we could give, all the love and support the neighborhood offered, were ultimately not enough. Martha succumbed to the call of her oldest son, to come and live with his family. He and his wife had four young children, and lived not too far away.
And so it was with great trepidation that we watched the moving van pull up to the house we still thought of as the Penders', and the moving men transferring the contents into the house. Trepidation because the Penders were a known quantity; the new neighbors were a mystery yet to be unraveled.
The new neighbors turned out to be a single woman, about our age, a young widow (it turned out) named Sophie. She was attractive but unglamorous, polite if a bit cool, though we wrote that off to being uncomfortable around new neighbors.
Eventually, of course, we began to get to know her. She was quite nice, but maintained a remoteness Tom and Martha never evidenced.
I remember the evening it all started. Our eighth anniversary was approaching; it was April, unseasonably cool and just right for leaving the windows open. Glennie and I had not made love in quite a while, several weeks in fact, and I thought I was due.
As soon as I brought up the subject, I wished I had not.
"Sex, sex, sex," she grumbled. "That's all you ever think about."
"No," I shot back, "you have it backwards. All I ever do about sex is think. I'm sure as hell not getting any."
She threw down the magazine she'd been reading. "When will you GROW UP?" she barked. "You're not eighteen anymore! You don't need sex every day!"
"Married people make love, Glennie," I said, more calmly than I felt. "I can't help it. I'm reasonably young, and I have a libido. I'm married to a desirable woman. This is not just me rutting, this is natural. Living the way we do is unnatural."
We went back and forth on the subject, trading a few more barbs. Finally, she'd had enough.
"Bitch, bitch, bitch!" she spat, and stormed out of the room. She locked herself in the guest room."
I stood there for a moment, feeling simultaneously frustrated and confused. I didn't know how to solve the problem. Maybe, I thought, there was no solution. No viable solution, anyway.
I went to bed alone that night. Sleep was a long time coming.
The next morning, I awoke a little later than normal, but by no means had I overslept. My normal habit is to hit the treadmill for a brief workout prior to my morning ablutions; it would have to take a rest today.
I realized soon enough Glennie had gone to work early. She had left me no note of acknowledgment, apology, or anything else. I sat at the table, fuming, trying to get my head into the day, when it occurred to me I had tons of personal time built up and absolutely nothing pressing on the calendar for that day.
I called Ben, my boss -- he was always in early -- and allowed how I had some things to tend to, household items which had piled up and simply needed attention. He told me I needed to take time off, and gave me his blessing to play hooky. I think he suspected something, but he never let on.
My date with the treadmill was back on.
Fifteen minutes of steady plodding turned into thirty minutes of pushing myself forward, and that into forty-five minutes of motion, all told, including a little jogging and some cooling down. It felt good to release some of my pent-up tension.
I was nasty, in need of a shower in the worst way. Then I realized: there really were things around the house I needed to do, starting with tending the shrubs. That gave way, after an hour or so, to bagging the detritus, and that in turn to raking up the leaves and bagging them as well.
I looked around, pleased with what I had accomplished; but I am a creature of habit, and not getting a shower in the morning is simply anathema. I had more to do, but I figured, if I had to get another shower later, to hell with it; I'd just get another shower later.
So, around ten-thirty, I walked out into the back yard, wearing a clean a-shirt and Bermudas, trying out my new summer sandals, and examined my handiwork. I sighed: if only my marriage could be made to pass inspection with just the application of some good, honest effort.
A voice interrupted my reverie. "Jeff!" I heard the voice say, from somewhere on my left. I looked in that general direction, and noticed Sophie standing there, leaning over the fence. I waved in return.
"So what's Mr Industrious doing at home on a non-holiday like this?" she asked cheerfully.
"I took a personal day off," I answered, not elaborating. "Things to do, you know."
"Had breakfast yet?" she asked.
.... There is more of this story ...