Moment of Clarity

by Daniel Q Steele

Caution: This Fiction Story contains strong sexual content, including Ma/Fa, Consensual, Heterosexual, Cheating, .

Desc: Fiction Story: A moment of clarity is that moment in which you see your life and the truth of it clearly, perhaps for the first time. And afterwards, nothing is ever the same. A husband has a moment in which he realizes thetruth about his dying marriage. This is one of those stories where nobody win.

She stood in the hallway staring wordlessly at the suitcases, the laptop case, his briefcase. Piled up where she hadn't seen them when she walked in. She walked back into the den and looked at the man sitting in the shadows.

"You are insane, Lyle. You are walking out on me and our two sons ... because of one fight! One stupid mistake I made while I was drunk a few hours ago. I didn't have sex with anyone. I didn't betray you. You are certifiable."

When he didn't answer she started toward him and again he held his hand up as if he were giving a stop sign. She halted. She wondered if he really might have had a breakdown. This man was not her husband, not the man she had lived with for eight years. No one could change so drastically in a few hours. He had never been like this before, never. And the worst of it was, there really wasn't anything to explain it. Nothing – much – had happened at the party.

She backed up but didn't sit down.

"Can you tell me why? Can't you at least do that?"

"I had a moment of clarity."

She heard the words but couldn't fit them into any kind of sense.

"A moment of clarity? Why do you do that, Lyle? I know you think you're smarter than I am, than anybody in my family, anybody around here. But why can't you avoid rubbing our noses in the fact that we're morons compared to you. Put it in words I can understand."

The figure cloaked in shadow shifted his position, put his head forward slightly and seemed to rest it on his joined fists.

"I'm sorry Diane. I really am. I don't mean to do that. It's just that's the way professors of English Literature think and talk. It's not that hard to explain, actually. We, all of us, walk around never really seeing what our whole lives are all about.

"We're blinded by all the minutiae of our existences – waking up and brushing our teeth and going to work and paying bills and what's on TV tonight and the kids having colds and wondering if we're getting fat or if our husbands or wives are looking at other people. We never step back and get a picture of where our lives are. Except, once in a rare while."

He stopped and she stayed silent, hoping he would go on.

"I had a moment of clarity earlier tonight."

"You keep saying that, but what does it mean? What did you see?'

Even though she could not see his face clearly she knew he'd focused his glance laser-like on her face. She felt the force of his gaze on her skin.

"I saw our life, Diane. I saw what we are, what we were, and what we've become. It had nothing to do – or very little – with what happened at the party. You're right, to walk out because of one fight, one mistake, one incident, would be crazy. That's not why I'm leaving.

"I'm leaving because I realized our marriage was a mistake, that I love you but you don't love me, that I have never and probably never will satisfy you sexually the way you need to be satisfied, that you're a good woman deep down and you will never leave me because you honor your promises, and that we're too young to screw up each other's lives for the next 40 or 50 years. That's why I'm leaving when we finish our conversation...


About three hours earlier:

I pulled into my driveway at 9:30 p.m. My cell phone remained silent. It had been silent since I left Rivers Trailer Park south of Palatka at 8 p.m.; left my wife and about 75 of her close and extended family members and friends drinking and dancing at a monthly party that had been a tradition for almost the entire 8 years of our marriage.

We lived in Jacksonville, a million person Northeast Florida urban center about an hour and a half north of Palatka.

The house was dark except for the automatic yard light with an electric eye sensor that illuminated the front driveway as I walked up the front walkway, or rather limped. It had been a raucous evening and I was feeling a lot older than my chronological age of 34; more like 74. But I only had to lug a six pack of Michelob Lights into the house so I made it.

I flipped the kitchen lights on and sat down at the table where we actually ate most of our meals instead of the little dining nook, which was where we were supposed to eat. I screwed the top off one Michelob and took a long swig of the deliciously cold drink and let it slide down my throat. Then another. All the while waiting for the first ring tone from my cell phone.

Nothing. I looked at the pictures that five-year-old Billy had drawn at school in crayon magnetized to the front door of the fridge and a photo of seven-year-old David catching his first pass at a Pop Warner Peewee Football game.

I felt a little catch in my throat and I consciously fought to avoid tearing up as I looked at David's dark-haired young body caught in the act of his first athletic triumph. He looked like his mother, with her dark hair and lithe frame. Both the boys had their mother's dark hair instead of my sandy blonde and both boys had their mother's light brown eyes instead of my blue ice chips.

I fought down the lump in my throat. They and their mother, had been my world. Until a few hours ago. I was about to lose them all and it was like standing on railroad track in the dark of night watching an oncoming train and being frozen to the track.

I took another swallow and rested my head for a moment against the dark grained wood of the table. I finished off the bottle and made myself get up from the table. Sooner or later the phone would ring, and then eventually the front door would open and I had things to do before that happened.

I walked up to the second floor and the bedroom that Diane and I had shared for five years since we had moved in to this fairly expensive Mandarin neighborhood. We moved there because it had pretty good schools. I taught an introductory English literature class at Jacksonville University, a small private liberal arts college across town, but I liked the Mandarin neighborhood better for the boys than the area around JU so I put up with the hour-long daily commute.

I opened the closet door and in the back found the two suitcases Diane and I had used for our last cruise two years ago to the Bahamas. Then I started opening the drawers and taking out as much of my underwear as I could find. I took a week's worth of slacks, shirts and suit coats out. I had to remember to pack a razor, toothbrush, toothpaste, a few medications, all the things I'd need for a trip away from home.

I leaned over the dresser and felt the urge to vomit. I fought it back. Only this trip was never going to end. It was an exile from everything I loved, or had loved, and I was never going to come back.

If I let myself think about it too much I knew I'd freeze up. So I very methodically went about packing up everything I'd need to start life over as a single man after eight years of marriage.

I found my laptop and a briefcase with work I'd need for the college. I ferried everything down to the hallway that led to the dining room to the left of the front door. They wouldn't' be seen by anyone walking into the house unless they actually walked into the dining room.

When I had gotten everything I could think of, I took the Michelob Six-pack with five beers left in it and went into the den. The front door opened to a hallway which led to the right and then to the den. I sat down in the easy chair at the far end of the den and placed the Michelobs on a glass coffee table in front of me.

There was a floor lamp behind the easy chair and I left it off. There was a light in the hallway that anyone walking in would flick on. I stood on a chair and loosened the light bulb in the center of the den so that it wouldn't come on when you hit the light switch at the entrance to the den.

With everything prepared I leaned back in the easy chair in the darkness of what had been my home and opened the second Michelob and began to take careful sips. About 11 p.m. the cell phone rang the first time. The fliptop Nokia screen lit up in the darkness and I recognized Diane's cell phone number. I didn't answer it. About three minutes later it beeped that I had a message waiting. I didn't retrieve it.

Five minutes after that it rang again, and then in another three minutes, and another five and ten and then five. Diane called and her father, Richard, and her older brother Dave and her younger sister Kelly and then Diane again.

If there had been any humor left in the world, the parade of phone numbers would have struck me as funny. But funny had died a few hours ago and I didn't think I'd find anything funny again for a long time, if ever. The house phone rang, and the cell phone and then the house phone. I just finished the second Michelob and started on the third.

Time crawled by and like the traitor it was, refused to run backwards so that the day that destroyed my life would unwind and give me a second chance. But even as I expressed that common human wish, I knew inside that what had happened had been coming for longer than one day and I'd have to unwind time back at least eight years to undo the damage, and that wasn't going to happen.


It was a cool November, but not bad. The RV park and cabins near Lake Como south of Palatka, were usually almost deserted this time of year. So it was a good place for Richard Carter and his clan and friends to hold their monthly dance/get together/parties in a quiet place where no one would complain about noise or call the cops and people could relax.

Carter and his wife Ricki had raised a brood of nine boys and girls, eight still surviving and when all the kids got together along with other family members like uncles and aunts and friends, there was usually a crowd of a hundred or more adults.

Richard and Ricki had built a road paving/asphalt company that made them millionaires by the time they'd reached their late 60s and they enjoyed hosting the Saturday monthly parties. There was always southern rock, and fried chicken and ribs and oysters in season and plenty of beer and hard liquor for any body's tastes.

Diane and I didn't make it every month, but we tried to get there as often as possible. Richard and Ricki had done their best to welcome a Yankee stranger from the foreign land of Massachusetts into their family, even though I knew there were times they had a hard time understanding me and the way I made my living.

I didn't sell cars or repair them or build houses or lay down parking lots or make money in any of the ways that everybody else in their group did. I stood in front of bored young men and women and talked about poetry and novels and essays and stuff that most of the Carter clan understood little and cared about less.

The drinking usually started about noon. Cabins were available for anyone who needed them to sleep off too much booze, as well as a few RVs. Diane and I had sent the boys to a friends' house whose parents we trusted. They knew we might be back tonight or Sunday morning. We watched their kids when they needed us.

There was an old concrete dance pavilion that was only used basically when the Carter parties were held and a loudspeaker was set up. We ate and drank a little bit while people drifted in and started drinking. By 5 p.m. it was dusk and the music got louder and the drinking got more intense.

Diane walked around talking to people while I stood by one of the tables still laden with food and ate a few grapes. In the twilight she glimmered like a ghost in a light white dress that clung to her hips accentuating her full ass and 36c breasts that looked bigger than that. Her hair was long and swung behind her and I don't think I've ever seen a more beautiful woman.

Sometimes I'd just watch her for hours at these parties because dancing and drinking are not my things, just watch her and marvel that an outsider had been able to come in and steal her away from a horde of horny southern suitors who wanted that body and face in their beds.

As usual, drinking and dancing and luscious women and horny men didn't make for the most peaceful mix. One of sister Kelly's old beaus got her out dancing to a particularly snaky tune and was able to dry hump her in front of everybody until her husband Billy stalked out there and laid him out with a thunderous right cross.

Cooler heads prevailed, beer flowed and before a few minutes passed the two men had shook hands, the old beau got a kiss from his old sweetheart and Billy and Kelly were wandering off looking for a dark spot to do the dirty deed, which they usually did at every party.

The pavilion started to get crowded, with even Richard and Ricki moving to the beat of some Southern rock when I noticed I'd lost track of Diane. When I spotted her my stomach tightened. She was dancing a slow dance with a tall, dark-haired man in a calico shirt and jeans. She had melted into his arms and I could see his big hands sliding up and down her back, almost down over her ass although I saw her move his hands off when they got too low.

Bobby Trescott had been one of the guys chasing her before I showed up at the insurance officer where she was working to transfer my auto insurance to her company. For some reason she seemed to take a liking to the stranger with the even stranger accent and six months later we were married. Bobby had never taken her decision well.

He still called and came by sometimes and Diane insisted on viewing him as a friend rather than an ex-boyfriend. At these parties, he always wound up dancing inappropriately close, touching place he shouldn't touch and usually make some smartass comments to and about me, to the general amusement of many.

I made my way through the twilight toward the two of them, watching the way they moved together. I couldn't help but be jealous. Diane had been drinking. Not enough to be drunk but enough to be relaxed and kind of melt against him.

I got close enough and said loud enough for them to hear, "Hi, Bobby. Mind if I cut in?"

Diane looked at me with no guilt and smiled lazily, "Hi, baby, I was just dancing a little with old Bobby. I promised him this dance. It's the dance from our Prom. You don't mind if I finish it with him, do you?"

Bobby grinned at me and so I could see it, slipped his left hand up and under her blouse to cup her breast. Because of the twilight only the three of us could see what he was doing. Diane gave him a funny look and then looked at me. I tried to read her expression. Was she angry at him for what he was doing or me for letting him?

I tried to be cool but it slipped away from me.

"Bobby, get your fucking hand off my wife's breast."

His smile grew wider.

"Or what, Lyle? Jesus Christ! What kind of man's name is Lyle? That sounds like a little girl? Hey, Lyle ... That is so damned gay."

I hesitated. I hadn't been in a fistfight in 20 years.

"I don't care what you think about my name. Get your hands off my wife."

Diane took her hand and pushed his hand so he released her breast.

"Alright Bobby, cool it. Why do you always have to be an asshole around Lyle. He's my husband. He's not a roughhouser like you. You are always trying to get him into a fight because you know you'd kick his ass. It's not fair. And Lyle, I'm not some little girl. Bobby is a little drunk, but I can handle him. I've known him most of my life. You don't need to come out here making a scene trying to RESCUE me. Hell, I'd probably have to rescue you."

I couldn't believe my ears. I knew now that several of the couples around us had heard the exchange and I heard snickering.

"What the hell did you just say?"

Her eyes widened and I wondered if she had even thought about what she had said.

"Oh, Lyle, I'm sorry, baby. I ... I didn't mean it that way..."

"How the hell could you mean that?"

Bobby pushed her to one side.

"She meant that if you get in my face I'll kick your ass and smash your face in, you damned pencil-neck geek. The only reason I haven't done it before is that she keeps begging me not to hurt you. What kind of fucking man hides behind his wife's skirts?"

I couldn't resist.

"Somebody that can count beyond ten without using his fingers, you redneck moron. Somebody that came in and took your girl away from you without working up a sweat. Somebody who made two babies with her. Something I'm not even sure you could do, or if you have the equipment for."

I saw the swing coming even as I sensed people coming up from behind us. I was moving to get out of the way when my foot slipped on what was probably somebody's spilled drink. I went down on my ass and hit my head on the concrete landing. Diane's brother Dave and a friend of his got to Bobby and grabbed him by both arms.

I hit hard and it knocked the wind out of me. I was stunned for a moment. Bobby didn't try to shake off the guys holding his arms, probably feeling he'd gotten the best of the exchange.

"As to who's got the better equipment, Lyle why don't you ask Diane sometime. She used to think my equipment was pretty goddamned good and I hear a pencil would fill her up more that the equipment you've got. She told me one time that pencil dick is a good name for you."

Richard Carter came up behind us then and said in a hard voice, "Alright Bobby. Enough. We let you come to these parties because you're an old friend. But you're over the line. Get out of here."

I looked up then at Bobby's grinning face and glanced around at other faces around me. I could see the smiles, or the desperate attempts not to smile. And then I looked at my beloved wife's serious face and I knew she was another one fighting it. She thought it was funny and as I looked at her she deliberately turned her face away, toward her father.

"Daddy, no. Bobby was just drinking. He didn't mean anything by it. You know he and Lyle are fussing, but it doesn't mean anything. And anyway, I did promise him that dance."

Even Richard Carter looked at his daughter in disbelief.

"You are sure that's what you want, Diane? After what Bobby said about your husband?"

She looked back at me, without smiling.

"Lyle is a grown man, Daddy. If he's upset by anything Bobby does, he knows what he can do about it. Don't you baby?"

I got my hands under me and got to my feet. I just turned around and walked away from my wife. Bobby started laughing. I heard snickering and I wanted desperately to believe that Diane wasn't among them, but I wasn't about to turn around to see for sure.

As I walked off the dance landing Richard caught up to me and talked as I walked away.

"Son, I know you're pissed right now. But listen to me. I know Diane loves you, whether you believe it now or not. But ... women ... listen, sometimes a woman, even the best woman, wants to know her man will fight for her. They may not do it up where you come from, but down here, a woman won't respect a man who backs down from another man trying to move in on her. You do what you think is right, but even if Bobby beats the crap out of you, at least fighting him will show her that you care enough to fight for her.

I kept walking.

"You're right, Richard, women don't do that where I come from. A good woman doesn't give some cunt sniffing hound encouragement to get into a situation where her husband has to fight for her. Not if they love their husband, not if they've got a real marriage going. Now I'm not so sure of either.

He grabbed my arm and I had enough respect for him not to jerk away.

"Maybe, maybe you're right about ... her lack of respect for you. I'm just her daddy. I can't get in the middle of this, but I can tell you she loves you. Don't do anything stupid right now. Just get somewhere and have a drink and cool down. This will all work itself out."

"Maybe..." and then I did walk away from him.


The driveway lit up with the lights of a car pulling into our driveway at 12:45 a.m. I was down to one and a half Michelobs and I was feeling fairly mellow. I heard car doors open, and voices. I had opened the window next to the easy chair, although it made the house chilly. But when people parked because of the way the driveway slanted unless they were whispering it was like they were standing next to the window and I could usually hear every word.

"He's here." It was big brother Dave. "Thank God."

"The son of a bitch. He's a sorry bastard."

"Cool it. I know you're sober now. After showing your ass that way, just be glad he's here and not off screwing some random piece of tail, the way most guys would."

"You shut up. He's my fucking husband, a big fucking baby that walks away sucking his thumb when his feelings get hurt and leaves his wife. What kind of husband does that."

"The kind whose wife is rubbing her pussy all over an ex boyfriend right in front of him, you dumb bitch. If you weren't my sister and you didn't have those boys, I'd tell him to just dump your ass and go out and find somebody who wouldn't humiliate him in public."

I couldn't believe what I was hearing. Diane had always been a good little churchgoing Southern girl. Damn and heck were the strongest words I'd ever heard her use, even in bed. Now she was saying 'fucking?' It had indeed been one hell of a night.

The front door opened they walked in. A moment later the hallway light flipped on and light invaded the den. But it only reached the center of the den. I sat in darkness.

Dave walked into the den first, Diane on his heels. He looked around and saw my shape sitting in the shadows in the easy chair. He just looked at me for a moment and then said, "Hi, Lyle."

"Hello Dave."

There was what seemed like an interminable silence. I wasn't going to be the first to speak to her. Finally she said, "Lyle."

"Diane," I said in the same flat, emotionless tone.

"Are you all right?" Dave asked.

"Fine, thanks for asking."

"You bastard!"

She blurted it out as if a cork had popped and she couldn't contain herself any longer.

"I love you too, bitch."

She tensed and if Dave hadn't held his arm out I think she might have launched herself at me. Her hair was wild, her face flushed, lipstick long gone, the white dress had blood on it (blood?) and was creased and there were dirt spots on it. It must indeed have been a hell of a party after I left.

"Smartass, always some smart crack. You think it was funny leaving me alone, not telling anyone where you were going, just vanishing. What kind of man does that?"

"I don't know, probably some pencil-dicked coward too frightened to fight a man who was rubbing his wife's tits with her permission in front of all their friends and family."

She had the decency to flush while Dave gave her a dirty look.

"You had us worried, man," Dave said. "Why didn't you answer your phone, any of your phones?"

"I didn't feel like talking to anybody."

He rubbed his chin and looked from Diane to me.

"I guess ... I guess I'll leave you guys to talk then. It's been a long night, a hell of a night. I'm getting too old for this crap. You sure you're okay, Lyle?"

"I was just being polite, Dave. I'm not alright. I don't know that I ever will be again. But it's not your problem. Thanks for getting Diane home. If it had been up to me, she could have gone home with Bobby or set up camping at the RV park."

He gave both of us another look and then just shook his head. Then he looked over at Diane.

"I'll leave then, Lyle. Let you guys – work things out. Diane, walk me out, okay?"

From their voices I could tell they were standing by his Chevy Tahoe.

"Goddamn him, Dave. He's such an asshole. Any other guy would have waded into Bobby, or gotten drunk or done something human. He walks off and sulks at home. He's not-"

"I would have kicked Bobby's ass, and so would Tommy and most of the guys we know. Lyle isn't like that. He's not a fighter. You knew that when you decided to go after him. You remember. I remember very well. You said he wasn't one of those guys who'd come home with grease under their fingers, give you six or seven kids, get drunk every weekend and screw around on you when you put on a few pounds. You said, and I quote, "he's a man who's going to go places. He'll provide for me and our children and be faithful to me and give us a good life. He's a good man."

"You wanted something better and you got it and now you're getting antsy and doing that pussy dance that means if Bobby isn't getting any he probably will be. I used to be proud of you, Diane, but now I'm wondering if you're not just another hot pants slut that's going to wind up divorced four or five times, dragging new boyfriends home every few weeks and making Mom and Dad cry when they think about the mess you've made out of your life."

"Oh Dave, grow up. I'm not stupid. I was feeling antsy, maybe horny, but I'm not 17. I was playing with Bobby because it felt good for one night to feel like a teenager again. My husband should have grabbed me and made me behave, but I forgot who I'm married to. He's pissed right now, but he'll get over it. It was one night and one fight. I'll go in there and give him some loving and this will all pass. People don't – break up – because of one fight."

"You damn well better, sister. You think because I build houses that I don't know anything about your dear husband. I have clients and partners whose kids go to JU. They talk about Lyle. He's young and he's got his hair and he's smart and a lot of those coeds think he's cute. There have been time's he'd have gotten laid for an "A' or even a "C".

"And there were female professors. One – well let's just say she was so open about chasing him that the Dean had to tell her to cool it or they'd have to take action. So you go in there and blow him or do whatever you got to do. You lose him and he won't be sitting and crying into his beer for long."

She came back in and stood at the entrance to the den for another long moment. Neither of us said anything. Then she started to cross the den toward me. I held my hand up.

"Stop. Grab a chair and sit over there by the TV."

It surprised her. I could read it on her face. She was expecting to come over, kneel at my feet, cuddle for a moment and then started the kissing which would lead to the bedroom. But it wasn't going to happen.

She took a deep breath.

"I know ... Lyle ... I know I acted like a complete shit out there tonight. You don't need to read me the riot act. Everybody else already has. Jesus Christ, everybody acts like you're blood and I'm the outsider. But, I was drinking, you know that.

"And Bobby ... you know Bobby and I have a history. We go way back. We met in elementary, would you believe? And – you have to know this ... he's still in love with me. He never got over me choosing you as my husband. I know it's not right, but I feel sorry for him – so sorry – sometimes."

"So you're going to ease his pain by fucking him?"

Anger flared in her eyes.

"He's hurting. A little flirting makes him feel better. Nothing else was going to happen, until you came in like a big man and got things rolling. You didn't need to. He's a friend. You're my husband, the man I love."

After another moment she sat in a straight back chair. It wasn't the most comfortable in the world, which was what I wanted.

"Not to change the subject, Diane, but I'm curious about something. I left the campground about 8. My phone didn't start ringing until 11. I know the campground is a big place and a lot of stuff was going on, but after that little incident it took you three hours to realize I was nowhere to be found? You must really have been feeling guilty about what happened to realize I'd vanished in only three hours.

"I guess if we hadn't had that little set to you wouldn't have realized I was missing until the next morning. That tells me how important I am in your life."

Anger flared in her eyes and she was about to say something when she thought of something and stopped.

"My god, Lyle, you don't know, do you?"

"Know what?"

"All hell broke loose after – after you left. I did forget about you. Everybody did for a little while. But it doesn't mean I don't care for you. It's just –"

"Enough, what happened?'

"After, afterwards, Bobby and I danced for a little while. I know I shouldn't have, but I was so damned pissed at you. I – I know you don't – fight. But ... God this makes me sound like I'm 13, but I was hurt that you didn't at least take a swing at Bobby. If he'd put down you, I'd have been all over you loving and comforting you. I wanted to. You're my husband, but you walked away.

"So yeah, I was pissed. I danced with him. And you know Bobby, he was drinking. So after a few minutes he went off to pee. Knowing Bobby I figured he'd either go to the lake or behind one of the cabins.

"I got to talking with some people and didn't think anything more about Bobby for awhile. After about a half-hour I started to wonder where he'd gone. I wasn't worried about you because you usually wander off and we don't reconnect until later in the evening.

"Then I heard a scream and everybody started running toward the lake. People were crowded around someone lying on the ground. I tried to get closer and then I realized it was Bobby. It was terrible. His face was covered with blood. One eye was swelling shut. They told me his arm was broken and he had some fingers broken as well.

"Dave and some of the others were talking to him and I heard them say somebody had to call the Sheriff. Three biker types had gotten in Bobby's face, saying stuff about the old fart party messing up their party. When they got to arguing, all three of them started in on Bobby. He said a few of them would be limping and hurting for awhile, but there were too many of them.

"Everything got hectic then. We called rescue for Bobby and the Sheriff's Office sent three cruisers and they were checking the park for see if the bikers were still there or if anybody else was there and then after awhile people started checking to make sure that everybody was accounted for."

I took in what she had told me and an obvious question occurred to me.

"Still, it took you three hours total and some time after you knew there were some bad bikers wandering the park to wonder where your beloved husband went? I repeat. I must really rank high on your list of important people."

She bit her lip and wouldn't look at me. It dawned on me.

"You weren't at the park, were you? You want with Bobby to the hospital. You had to hold his hand, didn't you?"

She finally looked at me.

'He was beat up so damned bad, Lyle. He was hurting and he asked me if I would ride with him. I couldn't say –"

"-No-, could you. That seems to be a pattern developing here. You just can't say no to Bobby."

"Don't do this, Lyle. It was a decent, human thing to do. If you weren't so mad at me, you'd know that."

"Of course, he was an old friend. An old friend you used to fuck before I came along. You had to be there for him in his time of need. You did fuck him back then, didn't you?"

She looked down at the floor, shook her head and then met my eyes again.

"Yes, Lyle. You knew that. We were serious back then and I wasn't any little girl. We used to fuck. Does that make you feel better. And before you ask, he was good. Very good. Does that make me a slut? How about you? I know damn well you weren't a virgin when we married. Should I be jealous of every woman you were ever with before me?"

"No. That was then. This is now."

"Yeah. He asked me to ride with him and I did. I held his hand, the one that they hadn't broken the fingers on. There was a ER tech in there with us and there were people around us every second we were in the ER in Palatka where they were patching him up. Nothing happened, Lyle, and even if we were alone, messing with me was the last thing on his mind. You have nothing to be jealous of."

"Did I say I was jealous."

"You don't have to. I see it in your face every time he's near me. I guess, I guess I can't blame you. If you were always with another woman I knew you'd been with, it would eat at me."

"Did you ever think about me?"

She lowered her eyes again and wouldn't look me in the eye.

"Lyle, you know that's not a fair question. So much was going on. Bobby was hurt, everybody was calling everybody else..."

"So the answer is no. When did, and who did eventually start to wondering about me?"

She continued to look at the floor.

"They treated Bobby and his brother showed up to get him home. I went back to the campground with Kelly and Billy. When I got there Daddy came up to me and asked me if I'd seen you since..."

"That's wonderful, Diane. Your FATHER thinks enough of me to remember I'd gone missing, before my wife did."

She looked up at me and I could see tears glistening in her eyes.

"Keep it up, Lyle. I screwed up and you're going to hurt me as bad as you can for what I did. Good one. I feel just a little bit shittier now."

"Sorry, I guess a guilty conscience hurts, doesn't it. It's hard for me to tell because I haven't been screwing around on you."

She just looked at me and dropped her gaze to the floor again.

We were both silent for a moment.

"Well, at least we got the air cleared, honey."

She looked at me with a puzzled expression on her face.

"What?"

"I stayed here because I wanted to have a chance to talk to you before I – leave."

"Leave, where are you going? You're not still pissed off at me are you?"

I took in the sight of her: dirty, disheveled, blood on the white dress, and thought I'd never seen anything so beautiful before. And I never would again.

"I've got to run an errand, something I put off until I had a chance to talk to you. Then I'm going to find a place to spend the night, some cheap motel, and Monday I'll be arranging a permanent place to stay and meeting with an attorney."

"A place to ... spend the night? Attorney? Lyle, are you crazy? What are you talking about? We just had a fight? A bad one, but I love you. People don't – split – because of one fight. What happened to you, Lyle? We were happy this morning. What could have happened in less than 24 hours to make you want to leave me?"

I didn't answer her, just pointed beyond her to the hallway leading to the kids' bedrooms.

"Go," I said.

She got up slowly and walked into the other room. I knew she'd see the suitcases, the laptop, my briefcase.

She walked back into the den every more slowly, shaking her head as if she couldn't believe what she'd seen,.

"You are insane, Lyle. You are walking out on me and our two sons ... because of one fight! One stupid mistake I made while I was drunk a few hours ago. I didn't have sex with anyone. I didn't betray you. You are certifiable."

When I didn't answer she started toward me and I held my hand up again to stop her. She backed up but didn't sit down.

"Can you tell me why? Can't you at least do that?"

"I had a moment of clarity."

I could see she had no idea what I was talking about.

"A moment of clarity? Why do you do that, Kyle? I know you think you're smarter than I am, than anybody in my family, anybody around here. But why can't you avoid rubbing our noses in the fact that we're morons compared to you. Put it in words I can understand."

She was right. I did take my intellectual superiority to Diane and her family too much for granted. I hadn't ever realized how much of an asshole I was simply because I worked with my head instead of my hands and had gone far beyond anywhere Diane's family had in their education.

"I'm sorry Diane. I really am. I don't mean to do that. It's just that's the way professors of English Literature think and talk. It's not that hard to explain, actually. We, all of us, walk around never really seeing what our whole lives are all about.

"We're blinded by all the minutiae of our existences – waking up and brushing our teeth and going to work and paying bills and what's on TV tonight and the kids having colds and wondering if we're getting fat or if our husbands or wives are looking at other people. We never step back and get a picture of where our lives are. Except, once in a rare while."

I stopped for a moment, then added, "I had a moment of clarity earlier tonight."

"You keep saying that, but what does it mean? What did you see?'

I had to force the words out. It was the hardest speech I'd ever made, would ever make, because I knew that I was killing our life together, killing my life with the two boys I loved more than life itself. But she deserved to know why I was leaving.

"I saw our life, Diane. I saw what we are, what we were, and what we've become. It had nothing to do – or very little – with what happened at the party. You're right, to walk out because of one fight, one mistake, one incident, would be crazy. That's not why I'm leaving.

"I'm leaving because I realized our marriage was a mistake, that I love you but you don't love me, that I have never and probably never will satisfy you sexually the way you need to be satisfied, that you're a good woman deep down and you will never leave me because you honor your promises, and that we're too young to screw up each other's lives for the next 40 or 50 years. That's why I'm leaving when we finish our conversation... ,"

She shook her head again and this time the tears did flow. I knew she was crying for a life that was ending, just like I was. The fact that she didn't love me the way I loved her didn't mean there was no love there. Just not enough.

"How can you say those things, Lyle? How can you be that cruel?'

"Look at me, Diane. Answer me two questions, and if I'm wrong, I'll rethink what I just said."

A look of fear crossed her face and I knew that somehow she knew what I was going to ask her.

"Have you ever cheated on me, baby? Have you been with another man since we married?"

She was mute. The look on her face answered the question.

"Thanks, that's one of the reasons I love you. You could have lied, or tried half-truths. But you're too good a woman. You can't lie and you won't tell me the truth you know will break my heart. But we both know the answer to that. You just answered. Silence is eloquent."

"And the second question. Are you in love with me, Diane?"

"I love you, Lyle. How the hell can you ask me that. No matter ... what ... you have to know I love you."

"That wasn't the question I asked, Diane. Are you IN LOVE with me?"

"I don't understand..."

"You love your father and your mother and our boys and your brothers and sisters. I know you'd give your life for them.

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Story tagged with:
Ma/Fa / Consensual / Heterosexual / Cheating /