When you've been pushed as far as you can go, anything can happen, and in all probability — will.
"Yes, I'm considering having an affair," I answered calmly.
"How could you ... after all these years ... how could you betray me?" she asked incredulously.
"I really don't think of it as betrayal. It was more like alternative comfort. Someone I could talk to, share a few peaceful hours. Someone who won't argue or complain or otherwise spoil a perfectly good evening. It's something I've been missing for a while and I want to get it back," I explained.
"I can't believe you'd do this to me!" The look on my wife's face was one of both shock and incredulity.
"Oh come, Sarah. What do you care? We haven't made love in years. Yes, we've had sex once in a blue moon, but I would hardly call it making love when you just lie there dormant. I decided to find someone who would actually enjoy the act," I explained.
My wife began to sputter and turn red in the face and shake her head. She was apparently having difficulty with the idea that I would find someone more compatible than she.
My name is Thomas Lufton. I am a successful investment advisor, and I have made myself and my family quite wealthy over the past twenty years. I am forty eight years old. I am in good health and fitness due to my consistent attention to exercise and proper diet. I am married to Sarah Gaines Lufton, and have been for twenty-four years.
We have two children, Aaron, age twenty-two and Bonita, age twenty. Aaron will be a graduate of M.I.T. and by all accounts, is a genius. He will be a very wealthy young man if he chooses to use his intellect for profit. Bonita is still at Wellesley, studying some obscure art-history topic that will gain her no profit, and goodness knows what for a career.
In the past two years, I have found Sarah has changed. Changed for the worse, I'm sorry to say. She has become very negative. For someone who has been spoiled and who has "everything," she is not satisfied. She sees the dark side of everything and finds fault where no fault lies.
One of the things she finds fault with is me. I am forever disappointing her in some way or another. In her view, I am stupid, thoughtless, inane, forgetful, lazy, arrogant, irresponsible ... well, I could go on. You will notice that none of these faults relates to my lack of love for Sarah. I think she is afraid to broach that topic. I, however, am not.
The thing about newly acquired wealth is the removal of fear. Fear of loneliness is one that comes to mind. I can live without Sarah. I know that now. If she wants a divorce, I will regretfully grant her one. In fact, I plan to suggest it. Since she now thinks that I might seek another bed to lie in, she may indeed want to be rid of me. Her loss won't matter to me as much as I thought it would.
Sarah Gaines, as I first knew her, was a bright, lively, wonderfully attractive young woman from a nice, middle-class family in Boston. She was great company because she was so effervescent. She was never the most beautiful woman in my world, but she was the most spirited and compelling I had ever met. It was those qualities which drew me to her, and ultimately caused me to propose. Of course, she accepted.
Our early years together were wonderful. I delighted in our lovemaking.
When our children came along, Sarah proved a very capable and loving mother. She impressed me with her child-rearing skills. That they turned out to be bright, accomplished, and polite children I attribute entirely to Sarah. She was their guide and their mentor in all things. I loved them dearly, but their mother was their inspiration.
It wasn't until the children left home to attend college that I began to notice the change in Sarah. I wouldn't call it depression, but the joy and liveliness of my wife began to fade. This change in mood was never more apparent than in the bedroom. She had always been a willing and provocative sex partner. When that began to decline, I was upset.
I tried to discuss the problem with her, but she denied there was anything different, saying she loved me and always would. However, there was no denying our love life was dwindling. I lived with the situation far too long. I allowed our relationship to deteriorate, even if I was not the instigator. I should have challenged her and forced her to recognize the changes. To my regret, I did not.
As you have already gathered, our sexual relationship dwindled to an occasional perfunctory indulgence, with my ardor unsatisfied by her passive response. To put it crudely, she was a lousy lay! The question then became what to do about it?
In contrast to my implied intent to take a lover, I have a very low opinion of infidelity. It violates the marriage vows and destroys trust within the married couple. However, I was not yet past my prime. I had an active libido which was not just unsatisfied, but virtually starved. Desperate, I decided I would do something dramatic. But first, I chose to make one more try at talking to Sarah about my concerns.
"Sarah, I am very discouraged about our relationship. We seem to have drifted apart. Worse, you seem to be very unhappy with me. You find fault with me over the smallest thing and you seldom seem happy any more. Our lovemaking is so infrequent that I can't remember the last time we had sex. Perhaps the time has come to talk about our future together," I said very seriously.
"Tom ... whatever gave you the idea that I'm unhappy? You can't expect me to be the woman I was twenty years ago. I'm quite satisfied with my life. I still love you, if that's what you're asking. And what's this talk about our future?" she demanded.
"Sarah, you are still a very beautiful woman and very desirable. I'm frustrated that you don't want to make love the way we used to. I'm wondering if you want a divorce?"
"My god, Tom, whatever gave you that idea? I admit I'm not as sexually active as I once was, but that doesn't mean I want to leave you. What is your problem?" she asked, reverting to an accusatory tone.
"My problem is very simple, Sarah. We don't make love any more. We have sex once in a while, but we don't make love," I said emphatically. "You are clearly unhappy because you spend most of the time I'm around you complaining about things which are irrelevant, unimportant. You are genuinely discontented."
"No! It most certainly is not nonsense! Whether you choose to accept it or not, it is a fact!" I couldn't have been more blunt. Surely she would at least try and respond to my accusations.
"This foolishness has been going on too long. I will not stand here and listen to you invent problems that don't exist," she said haughtily.
"Well, then, you leave me no alternative. I am going to give you ninety days to consider our future. I will pack and I will leave you. I will not be in contact with you for three months. At the end of that period, I will return and you can decide if you are willing to change your ways. If you choose to continue to ignore my concerns, I will file for divorce on the grounds of irreconcilable differences. Do I make myself clear?" I asked in a demanding voice.
Sarah stood wide-eyed and speechless as I gave her my ultimatum. I wasn't certain that she believed me. I walked past her and upstairs to our bedroom. I began to pack my clothes and toiletries for an extended separation. After a few minutes, Sarah appeared in the doorway.
"You can't be serious. You're leaving me? You're just up and walking out?"
"Yes. Ninety days, Sarah. I'll talk to you again in ninety days. In the meantime, you might be wise to seek professional help. I know you don't believe just what a shrew you've become, but I assure you, I will not put up with another day of your miserable self. And now, if you'll excuse me, I'll be on my way.
I was convinced that this extreme act was the only way to jolt Sarah out of her comfortable misery. I had been thinking about a separation for a few weeks. I was sure it was the only way to change the status quo in our household. As I walked out the door into the garage, I wondered if she would follow me. She did not.
I wasn't worried greatly about the outcome. The only way I could see to turn Sarah back into the lovely wife I had so happily married all those years ago was to push her to the limit. I finally did what I should have done much earlier. I acted!
I arranged for a room at my club. It was an old, established residence and a comfortable living space with complete privacy. I exchanged my cell phone for another with a new number only a handful of trusted associates knew. I asked the club secretary to conceal my residence. I was fairly sure Sarah would search high and low for me, and yet I suspected she would never think of me hiding in plain sight. I was wrong.
"Mr. Lufton, your wife has left a message for you." It was Parsons, the club concierge.
"Well, that's a surprise. Does she know I'm staying here?" I asked.
"I'm afraid so, sir."
"I suppose I'll have to move along then," I said absently.
I found a small residence hotel in the suburbs and moved myself in that same afternoon. I learned a valuable lesson. Do not underestimate Sarah.
If there was a weakness in my plan, it was how I would spend my time for the next ninety days. I was resolved to avoid Sarah, but I really hadn't thought about myself. What would I do? I couldn't go to my office. Sarah would be on the lookout for that. I couldn't visit our children. I'm sure Sarah had already alerted them. I didn't expect sympathy from either one of them. What to do?
In preparing for this three month sojourn, I had made some financial changes in our personal accounts. I had limited the amount of funds available to Sarah in case she decided to adopt a scorched-earth policy. She wouldn't realize it if she behaved as she normally did. However, if she chose to treat our finances recklessly, she would discover she had limitations. Better safe than sorry, I thought.
In my case, I had no such restrictions and I thought it was time I took a vacation ... alone. My threat of an affair was just that, a threat. I couldn't see myself betraying my wife before we reached a resolution in our marriage. I wondered, then, just how I should spend my self-imposed exile.
I could stay in touch with my office, thanks to modern technology and satellite communications. Wherever in the world I might go, I would only be a heartbeat away from my "virtual desk." It meant I was free to travel any place I wanted.
I enjoyed playing golf and decided to treat myself to a new set of clubs I had been eyeing. I returned to my club, carefully checking to make sure Sarah was not on the lookout for me. The pro shop was open late that evening. I extracted my old clubs, save my favorite putter and sand wedge, and inserted the dozen new shafts in my bag. I zipped the travel case around them and was ready to go.
Since it was late April, I decided to begin my travels in The Algarve, Portugal. The weather would be moderate and the courses lightly played. As the spring and summer progressed, I would work my way north, finishing in Scotland before heading home. A visit to my travel agent the next day would have been in order, but I suspected Sarah may be watching them as well. I looked after all my bookings on the internet and via email. Naturally, I requested confidentiality.
Two days later I was aboard a commuter flight to Newark. I flew TAP executive class to Lisbon and then Faro. I rented a car for a month and began the first thirty days of my rehabilitation. I drove to Albufeira and checked in at the Baia Mar Resort. It was a lovely place with a view of the Atlantic. The white, modern building was located outside the old town near the highway, perfect for my needs.
At the risk of sounding conceited, I am not an ugly man. I am nearly six foot tall, and my weight has been stable for many years at one hundred eighty pounds. As I said earlier, fitness and diet have put me in excellent physical condition. I have all my own teeth and most of my hair, although it is graying. When I look in the mirror, I think I'm very presentable.
Thus it was no surprise when I found I attracted the attention of a number of single women during my stay. That is to say, they professed to be single. I'll be the first to admit I was sorely tempted on more than one occasion. Nonetheless, I kept my resolve and my commitment to our marriage and declined the various invitations.
My golf game improved, as I played at least five times weekly. By the end of the month, I had reduced my handicap to nine and had acquired a rich tan. I would walk the courses. I had little use or regard for power carts since they often slowed the game to a crawl. Happily, the courses were not crowded and I was usually able to play a two or threesome with fellow walkers. Our rounds seldom took more than three hours.
That left me the balance of the day by the pool, admiring all the attractive women. I would swim and then retire to an umbrella-covered lounge chair with a book or magazine. With the five hour time difference, I could contact my office in the afternoon and catch up on my affairs.
For the first week of my hiatus, Renee, my executive assistant, reported that Sarah had called several times demanding to be told where I was. Renee could only tell her that I was out of the country and unavailable. In truth, she knew roughly where I was, but not precisely. I needed to protect her credibility. Sometime early in the second week, Sarah stopped calling.
As the first third of my ninety days came to a close, I was satisfied that my plan was working. I had enjoyed my stay in The Algarve, but it was time to move on. I found a British travel agent in the old town and we started to look for a location for my next thirty days. After a great deal of searching, we found an excellent guesthouse in Aix Provence, France. It was close to the Cote d'Azur and only a two hour leisurely drive to Monte Carlo.
I returned my rental car and caught a flight to Marseilles. Again, I rented a car and drove to Aix Provence, a matter of thirty kilometers. I checked into the hotel, delighted with the lovely mature look of the place. The accommodations were simple but elegant. I was certain I would be happy here. There was no pool, but there was a lovely garden with a variety of locations to sit and read or relax with a glass of a wonderful local red wine.
The weather was warmer than I expected and I found I needed some lighter clothes. The shops in the town were excellent. The only problem I encountered was my inability to pass a bakery without stopping to pick something up for my afternoon or evening snack. I would have to be careful here. Two days after my arrival, I knew I was going to have to exercise some discipline with my diet. The food was marvelous and I couldn't wait to try something new each evening.
While the golf courses were not as well-manicured as those in Portugal, I was happy just to have several nearby that I could play. The early June weather remained warm and I was wearing shorts more often than not. I had set aside some time to travel in Provence and later, to Ste-Maxime, Ste-Tropez and finally Monte Carlo. I was more of a tourist, enjoying my travels in the warm late-spring weather. Fabulous food and fascinating sights. It was a delightful month and I would be sorry to leave.
During my stay, I began to get a bit curious about Sarah. I wondered if she had taken any of my criticism to heart or had just rejected it out of hand. Was she so angry at my leaving that she would happily divorce me? I wasn't worried, but I was interested. I called Renee and asked her to snoop around a bit and see what she could find out. I had let Renee in on my marital problems, of course. I couldn't leave her in the dark. She knew what this trip was all about.
Renee was in her late fifties and while a severe-looking woman, she was an outstanding executive assistant. I paid her well to make sure she remained happy. Contrary to her looks, she was a warm-hearted woman. A widow with three grown sons, she was a grandmother several times over. I could count on her discretion and thoroughness.
When Renee got back to me, it was clear she was unable to determine anything of interest at that point. Sarah was still living in our house and going about her usual routine. I had been watching the bank accounts and credit cards and aside from a few more restaurant charges, she appeared to be carrying on as normal. Interestingly, from what I could tell from the size of the charges, she was eating alone.
As my stay in France was coming to an end, I began to plan the final month of my trip. I had intended to go to Scotland, the home of golf. I tried very hard to work with a couple of the local travel agents, but the language barrier and their inability to understand what a "golf holiday" was, made that impossible. I emailed my home agent, laid out what I was looking for, and told them when I wanted to return to America.
Early in July, I flew from Marseilles to Edinburgh via London. My month in Scotland would consist of four one week stays in Dundee, Aberdeen, Prestwick, and finally back to Edinburgh. I would play St. Andrews and Royal Troon, and a number of equally legendary courses. I would learn to play the elements and I would learn to trust my caddie. I played the best golf of my life and yet I never broke eighty, and seldom eighty-five.
By the end of July, I was ready to go home. I was fit and tanned and in good physical and mental health. I was ready to face Sarah and learn what her decision was. I wasn't worried, but I was curious. I loved her, but I couldn't live with her as long as she was the unpleasant woman she had become. I boarded my flight and prepared myself for the six hour trip to Boston.
I arrived home early on a Wednesday afternoon. I had decided earlier to drop into my office and see Renee. I would check into a hotel for one night only, unless my reunion with Sarah did not go well. I hadn't made up my mind whether to call my wife first to tell her I was coming or just show up at our home. I still hadn't decided as I sat in the cab on the way to my office.
I had informed Renee of my plans beforehand so she was not surprised by my arrival that afternoon. She greeted me warmly as she always did, and we sat in my office as I told her of my travels. She said that she had heard little from Sarah since the second week of my trip and had no new information about her. I asked for her opinion on how to handle our meeting tomorrow. She was sure a telephone call first would be appropriate.
I checked into my hotel later that afternoon and went about a couple of errands. I needed a haircut and quickly walked to my barber's shop before it closed. The haircuts I had gotten in Portugal and France were not to my liking. Only in Scotland could I make myself understood what style I wanted. With Frank, my barber, no such communication was necessary.
I enjoyed the first steak I had eaten in three months and washed it down with a very nice California Zinfandel. I had chosen the hotel restaurant because it was convenient and a known quality. I had also decided I would phone Sarah tonight and tell her I would be home tomorrow morning. It would give her some time to prepare herself - if she needed it.
I was slightly nervous when I returned to my room. The wine had relaxed me, but I knew at my age that jet-lag would catch up to me quickly. I thought I had better call her now and see what kind of reception I was going to get. If it was violently negative, then my plans could be altered.
"Hello?" Sarah answered softly.
"Hello, Sarah. It's me, Tom."
"Oh ... Tom. I was wondering when I would hear from you," she said in an even tone.
"I'm back and I was planning to be at the house tomorrow morning. Will that be alright?" I asked carefully.
"Of course," she paused. "When will you be here?"
"Ten o'clock alright with you?"
"Yes of course, but ... why do you feel you have to ask permission?" It wasn't a complaint from the sound of it. It was curiosity.
"I've been gone for some time. I took nothing for granted and I thought I owed you the courtesy of a call first," I said in explanation.
"That's very thoughtful. I'll look forward to seeing you at ten, then." It didn't seem like a snide remark. It sounded sincere.
"Yes ... well ... goodnight, Sarah."
"Goodnight, Tom." I couldn't detect any particular mood from the call. She was calm and quiet and not at all confrontational. It gave me some hope for tomorrow and allowed me to sleep better that night.
I arrived at my home just before ten the next morning. It looked just as it had the day I left, three months earlier. As always, it was neat. The lawns had been cut and hedges were recently trimmed by the look of them. There was no sign of life, but that wasn't unusual. We seldom used more than four or five rooms in the house, and most of those were in the rear.
I left my car on the circular drive rather than park it in the garage. I was unsure of my reception. I didn't know what to expect from Sarah. I decided to leave the car at the front just in case things didn't go well.
I almost pushed the doorbell and then realized it was my home. I opened the unlocked door and entered. As I stepped into the foyer, I caught a glimpse of Sarah seated in the living room in her favorite chair. I stepped into the sunlit room and saw my wife for the first time in three months.
"Hello, Sarah," I said.
"Hello, Tom," she said, rising to greet me with a slight smile.
I walked to her and took her in my arms, gently kissing her. She surprised me. She returned my kiss.
"It's good to see you again," she whispered as she loosened her embrace. "You look so healthy and tanned. I haven't seen you look this good in years."
I thought I had prepared myself for our reunion, but I was wrong. This wasn't the same Sarah that I had left three months earlier.
"Would you like some coffee?" she asked.
"Yes ... thank you," I said, following her into the kitchen. She pulled out my favorite mug and poured the coffee, passing it to me.
"How have you been, Sarah?" I began, tentatively.
She looked at me oddly for a moment. "OK," she said softly.
"Tell me about the last three months," I suggested, trying to get the conversation going.
She gave me that odd look again and then sat in a kitchen chair, looking at her cup, her hands flat upon the table in front of her.
"I tried to find you, but Renee wouldn't or couldn't help me. You just disappeared. I suppose that's what you had planned," she said, looking up at me. I nodded in confirmation.
"I was upset for a while. I hadn't been on my own for many years. I phoned the children every so often, but it wasn't the same. After the first week, I knew I had to do something or I would go crazy. I went to see Dr. Taymore. I told her about our ... separation and your feelings about me. I asked for her help. All she wanted to do was prescribe anti-depressants. When in doubt, take a pill. I got angry and left her office.
"I searched around for another doctor, and with Renee's help I found Dr. Mitchell. She's quite a bit younger, but she's not like Dr. Taymore. She isn't a big fan of drugs if they aren't essential." She had been telling her story in a quiet, matter-of-fact voice.
"You said with Renee's help?" I asked, surprised.
"Yes. A few years ago, she told me that she had been having a difficult time with menopause and that she had found this wonderful doctor who had really helped her. That was Dr. Mitchell, and I got an appointment to see her."
"Are you suggesting your ... problems ... are associated with menopause?" I asked.
"Dr. Mitchell thought that was a possibility," Sarah said carefully. "She is good for me, Tom. We had a long talk and she felt I could use some professional help. She referred me to another doctor who specialized in emotional problems stemming from menopause. I didn't know there was any such person. I still wasn't sure if that's what was causing my ... behavior. I just knew I ... I ... couldn't go on this way. I had to try something to make me feel better," she confessed.
"So ... you were aware of your ... temperament?"
"Yes, of course. I knew I was unhappy, but I couldn't see how to break out of it. I just wasn't smart enough to get help sooner. I thought it would pass in time," she admitted.
"And when I spoke to you about it?"
"I couldn't bring myself to admit I had a problem. I just denied it. I didn't realize how far I had pushed you. I didn't really believe ... or want to believe ... that you would really leave me. I certainly couldn't imagine you having an affair. But, when you left and I knew you were serious, I was shocked. I didn't know what to do."
"So, tell me about your new doctor then." I was curious just what was happening to Sarah.
"Dr. Bartholomew is a psychiatrist. He's a man, strangely enough, dealing with women's problems; mostly menopause, but sometimes the aftereffects of mastectomies or other disfigurements. He's quite old, I think in his seventies. But he's been quite helpful. I really feel he's made a difference," she said with a hopeful look at me.
"Good! Wonderful! Tell me more," I asked, beginning to feel enthusiastic about this turn of events.
"I don't know where to begin. I'm still seeing him and I will for a while yet, I guess. I don't have all the answers, but at least I know a bit more about what's been happening. By the way, if you'll agree, he'd like to talk to you too, Tom," Sarah said carefully.
"All right. Anything I can do to help, I will," I said emphatically. I saw the first hint of a smile on Sarah's face then. I could almost feel her relax. We had both been very tense, almost afraid to probe too deeply.
"Tell me about yourself, Tom. What have you been doing in the past three months to get that wonderful tan," she smiled.
"Playing golf. Doing the tourist stuff. Swimming, walking ... the usual things," I said simply.
"Renee said you were out of the country. Where did you go?"
"Portugal, then southern France and Scotland. I really needed to get away, Sarah. I didn't know just how much until I got there and began to relax and enjoy myself. I guess I needed therapy too," I said ruefully.
"You look wonderful. You look so handsome and fit. You look younger than when you left," she smiled. I had no reason to think she wasn't being sincere.
"I was just thinking the same thing about you. I don't remember the last time I saw you with a tan like you have now. What have you been doing?"
"Swimming in our pool. Walking in the neighborhood. Exercising. It was something both Dr. Mitchell and Dr. Bartholomew insisted upon. They both said my fitness wasn't as good as it should be even though I wasn't overweight. They were right. I feel so much better today," she smiled.
"I'm very pleased, Sarah. You've really made an effort, haven't you."
Sarah looked at me with a smile and then I saw a cloud pass over her face. Something was bothering her.
"Tom ... are you going to stay? Here I mean?" she asked with a worried frown.
I sighed and leaned back in my chair. How to answer that question? I was encouraged by the steps she had taken, but would that really change her behavior? I had a decision to make and I owed Sarah an answer.
"Sarah, you have obviously realized things couldn't go on the way they were. If I have accomplished anything, it is to bring that to the fore. I was hoping, I suppose, for a nice black and white solution: 'Yes, I will be the old Sarah' ... or perhaps... 'No, I am not going to change.' Nothing is ever that simple though, is it?" I stopped for a moment, looking at my wife and knowing now what I must do.
"Yes, Sarah, I will stay. I will help you all I can and I will support you as long as you continue to get help. All we can do is try. If you keep trying, I'll keep trying," I promised.
She stood and came to me, putting her arms around my neck and then kissed me lightly. She almost seemed afraid to get too close to me. It left me wondering what other changes may have taken place. Finally, she stepped back and I could see a look of what I took to be uncertainty.
"Tom ... I have to ask you. Did you have an affair with another woman?" She struggled to get the question out.
I smiled. "No, Sarah. I did not. You know my feelings about infidelity. I could no more do that to you than you could to me. My threat was a desperate attempt to get you to recognize my frustrations and unhappiness. I'm sorry if I didn't make it clear just now. I probably shouldn't have said what I did in the first place. I assure you, I have always been faithful to you, and I always will be." I had spoken quietly, but I hoped, forcefully enough that she would not be in any doubt about my loyalty.
She smiled and then returned to her chair. My answer seemed to satisfy her.
"There's just one thing, dear," Sarah said. "Doctor Bartholomew suggested we sleep apart until we are ... on a more ... stable basis. He said it might be a mistake for us to resume ... marital relations too quickly."
I was taken aback with this revelation. I thought I would be able to try and renew our long dormant sexual relations as part of our reconciliation, but now ... that seemed to be out of the picture for the present.
"I'm disappointed, Sarah, but ... if that's what he suggests, then ... I guess I'll just have to grin and bear it," I said with a half-hearted smile.
"Thank you, Tom. Thank you for being so understanding," she said, smiling.
Well, it wasn't the perfect solution, but it was better than nothing. At least there was some hope for us to rebuild our relationship. I would count on that.
I was in a hurry. I was already ten minutes late for my luncheon date and I still had to park the car and make my way into the marina. I dressed as I always did for Michael, in as little as possible to hasten the undressing. I made my way to his boat and walked aboard, almost out of breath.
"Sarah, are you alright?" Michael asked solicitously.
"Yes, just a little winded. My session with Tom was a little longer than I expected. It took forever before he left for his office," I explained.
"No rush, love. Calm down. We have plenty of time and most of the afternoon to enjoy," he said smiling.
Michael Sandusky was my lover and had been for more than three months. He was a year or two younger than I, but it made no difference to either of us. He was unmarried ... had never married in fact. He didn't have a lot of faith in the institution, he said.
I suppose you're wondering why I would cheat on my faithful husband with another man. The answer was simple. Ever since Tom became wealthy, he had also become incredibly arrogant.
When we were first married and he was struggling to get his company going, I was a very happy woman. We loved our two children and doted on them, as most parents would. Tom was handsome and I worked hard to make sure I looked presentable as his wife. I think I succeeded because he would compliment me regularly.
Something happened to Tom when his business began to flourish. He started acting as if he thought he was invincible. He was going from business success to business success and reveling in his prowess. Unfortunately, his attitude carried over into his private life, particularly with his family and friends.
I began to feel like I was an accessory, a decoration to be trotted out for inspection on social occasions. He also began to treat the children as his protégés. Naturally, they would follow him into the business. That was a given in his mind. When Aaron decided to study mathematics at M.I.T., Tom was only slightly miffed. He was sure Aaron would change his mind on graduation and become his natural successor.
When Bonita chose art history as her subject, he was more than miffed. It was as if she had run off with some scruffy hippie and renounced her family. He wasn't very pleasant about voicing his opinion either. He had alienated his daughter and misread his son.
I began to sense that he no longer saw me as a partner, but as a subservient guest. He didn't consult about decisions regarding important things like vacation destinations. He simply acted and then informed me of his decision. When I began to fight back, he was clearly displeased with my attitude.
I had reached my limit of Tom's unpleasant demeanor when I met Michael. I had been visiting some friends; friends that Tom hadn't yet alienated. Michael was a guest. I learned that he was living aboard a sailboat. The idea intrigued me. I was sure I would suffer from claustrophobia in such an environment. As we talked, I realized how enjoyable it was to have a conversation with a mature, balanced man. I was intrigued, but certainly not seduced by this stranger. Not yet, at least.
Michael was about Tom's height, and although fit, he was slim and angular in appearance. I wouldn't have thought him as handsome as Tom, but he was such a delightful person to be around that I never noticed the difference.
Michael called me the week after we met and suggested we have lunch together on his boat. I have no idea why I said yes, other than my interest in his lifestyle and the ease and comfort that I felt when I was around him. It seemed perfectly natural for me to accept a lunch date with a strange man in his "home."
Michael's sailboat was quite large, over forty feet. He called it a cruiser, not built for speed but for comfort and space. I was surprised when he showed me around. Everything was very compact, but complete. I was also intrigued by the stateroom since it contained a queen size bed. We ate our lunch on the stern deck under a canopy. I was amazed at how quickly the time went. We talked and told each other about our lives. I even confided my unhappiness with Tom's attitude. It was something I didn't think I would ever do.
Before I left for home, Michael insisted that he take me sailing and again, I really couldn't think of a good reason to say no. Afterward, I questioned my motives and began to feel uncomfortable at how easily I had agreed to meet with this man who was not my husband. Was I being unfaithful? Not really, at least, not yet. I wasn't so sure about what the future would hold, but I was sure I would not forsake my marriage vows.
When I got home that afternoon, I noticed the flashing light on our answering machine and I pressed the play button. It was Tom. He had some important meeting and said he would be late getting home and not to bother with dinner for him. It wasn't unusual for him, but the tone of the message was irritating. He didn't bother to apologize. He'd given up that habit a long time ago. It was more like a notice on a bulletin board. No personality was attached to it.
As I sat by myself that evening, I began to take stock of my life. The children were already in college, with Aaron in Cambridge while Bonita was attending Wellesley. Tom was, as always, engrossed in his work and was off to the office every weekday. I had a great deal of freedom. A cleaning service looked after most of the housework and we often ate out, so my homemaking duties were limited. With both children away at school, I had a great deal of free time on my hands.
The question became what to do about it? I had suggested to Tom that I get a job to occupy myself but he wouldn't hear of it. It was "demeaning and unnecessary." It would lead people to think that we were struggling and that would be "bad for business." Apparently, my happiness was tied to the business as well.
I considered volunteer work, but once again, Tom thought it was foolish and inconvenient. He invented a number of preposterous scenarios to make his point, and once again I surrendered. I needed something, however. I seldom watched TV and there were only so many books that interested me. And then, quite unexpectedly, along came Michael.
The week following our original lunch, Michael called and invited me for a sail the following day. The weather was expected to be fine with moderate winds. We would leave as soon as I could arrive in the morning and be back at the dock in mid-afternoon. I would have plenty of time to get home, shower and change. I accepted the invitation. I knew I would when he first proposed it a week earlier.
In the days that followed, Michael and I met frequently, usually for lunch on his boat. He was mindful that both Tom and I were well known in the community. It would be very difficult for me if I were seen to be having lunch with a strange man. The boat, however, was the perfect rendezvous location. Hidden amongst hundreds of other boats, it offered the privacy we couldn't find elsewhere. Nonetheless, he was very cautious.
I began to think that we were destined to have an affair. It was just a matter of time. He was irresistible. Worse yet, I was falling in love with him. He was so kind and considerate that I could not help myself. He was everything I wanted Tom to be. He was everything that Tom used to be. It was almost as if I were trying to recapture the past.
Our first time was so idyllic that it defies description. We were off in some isolated cove, anchored and alone. It was a cool, crisp New England fall day and we were enjoying our lunch in the galley of the boat as it rocked gently. We had shared some wine and I was feeling at peace with the world. Michael took the plates and put them into the sink and then turned to me and pulled me up into his arms.
"Sarah ... I want you," he said simply. I only needed to nod my acceptance. He led me to the stateroom and we undressed. There was no urgency and yet I desired his manhood inside me immediately. I was more aroused than I could remember in years. As we slipped under the covers to hide from the chill, we embraced. Our nakedness was all the stimulation we needed. We kissed and fondled each other and then I invited him into me. He slipped in as easily as if we had been together forever.
We made love and I reveled in every moment of it. It was so sensuous and so complete that I orgasmed almost immediately and thereafter, several times. When Michael finally climaxed, I lay on top of him, smelling his maleness and feeling the trickling seepage of his ejaculation as it began to drain from me. I was dizzy with pleasure and happiness.