She stood outside the funeral home and told herself this was a mistake. She had been having this dialogue with herself since the day she saw the obituary in the paper. It's not like she read those on a regular basis, in fact, she avoided this section of the paper like the plague because she found it morbid and creepy, but she was reading an article that had "continued on page" with her morning coffee and she turned to the wrong page by accident. That was when she saw it, the picture of the man she'd been having an affair with for the last ten years. It stopped her in her tracks. She read that he had died from "natural causes" on the last day she had seen him.
She was wearing a simple black dress, stockings, heels, and the necklace he gave her for her birthday. People quietly shuffled in; many were crying; everyone was wearing black or dark colors. She slipped in with a large group and worked her way into the building. When she reached the sign in book, she decided to use the pseudo name he had given her so many years ago, Polly Adler. She never understood why he liked this name but figured he had a reason so she never questioned it. Polly moved around the room quietly, when she saw the widow. She was easily recognizable, not by the crowd of mourners surrounding her, but by the detailed description he had given her so many times before. Afraid she might offend or upset her, Polly slipped into what she thought was a restroom, and closed the door behind her.
To her shock, it wasn't the restroom, but the viewing room. Polly thought it was odd the door had been closed, but assumed it was to not upset the widow. She walked up and saw the open casket, and her former lover lying there. She checked to make sure she was alone, then reached down, touched his hair the way she would when they made love. When she touched his cheek, she pulled her hand away from the cold body.
"Wow," she whispered to herself. "You really are dead now aren't you?"
She remembered how they met, and how silly she would have thought it sounded if anyone else would have told her the same story. She had just gotten out of a verbally abusive relationship that all but destroyed her self-esteem, and went into, of all places, an adult only chat room that was mostly people looking for cybersex, and hoping for real life hook-ups. She created the screen name "SexyNymph" even though she never felt sexy, or saw herself as a nymph. She did this so she could explore her darker side, and maybe exorcize some of her demons. The problem was, most of the men on there (if they were men) were rather mean and abusive. Then he sent her a private message under the screen name "Seasoned_Lover". He liked her name, and started some online play where he'd call her "Polly." They would type out some really erotic and kinky scenes. Soon, their chats evolved from just sex to other topics, and they discovered they lived in the same city. After several months of chatting, they agreed to meet in a local Starbucks for coffee. Each figured it would be safer, and if they discovered they didn't like the real person behind the keyboard, then they would go their separate ways.
He was easily thirty years her senior, with salt and pepper hair, soft brown eyes, and a gentle smile. She was a petite blond with blue eyes and a curvy figure. They sat and drank coffee for several hours, and ended their day with them in a no-tell motel, making love. Over the next ten years, they would meet here and there, different no-tell motels, and eventually she took him to her home. They never had a set schedule for when they would meet up to reduce the chance they would be caught by his wife. Toward the end of their run, their encounters would involve less sex, and more conversation. He shared with her how his wife had been ill, and after a nasty bout with cancer, she was no longer able to engage in any sexual activity with him. He made it clear that he wouldn't leave her, but after five years, he gave into his desires, and hence, took Polly on as his lover and mistress. She had no desire to get married and this relationship more than met her needs sexually, but also helped to rebuild her self-esteem.
She leaned over and gently kissed his cold forehead and whispered, "Farewell my love. Thank you for everything."
As she stood up she heard, "How did you know my husband?"
Polly spun around and there, standing before her, was his widow. She wanted to cry and confess her sins, but instead she stood tall and said, "We used to work together."
"You know he retired ten years ago."
"Yeah, he retired after my first year, but he was my mentor."
"Oh, I see. I'm sorry; I didn't catch your name."
"Polly. Polly Adler."
"I'm Kathy," she said extending her hand and smiling.
Polly shook her hand and said, "It's nice to meet you. He talked about you all the time."
Polly's statement was true; he did talk about Kathy all the time. Often, he'd vent his frustrations, but Polly remembered when Kathy got sick, and he nearly ended their affair. He would e-mail her updates of Kathy's progress. She even remembered the day the doctor announced she had fully recovered, as he was at her home that night and they made love for hours.
"So Polly, I'm really glad you were able to come by. I wish we were meeting under better circumstances."
"Me too," she said, wondering what she knew.
"Polly, can I talk to you for a minute?"
"Sit down, please."
Polly sat in an empty chair and Kathy sat next to her. "Is something wrong?"
"Polly, I want to tell you a story, a love story that I think you'll enjoy hearing. I met my husband when we were children. We grew up together just a few doors down from each other, went to school together, and fell in love. Back then, when you said, 'I do, ' you meant it. Divorce wasn't a word you heard ever, unless the wife had to run from a physically abusive man. I was lucky, as he was gentle and loving. We had four beautiful children and until about fifteen years ago, we were passionate lovers. Then, I was diagnosed with cancer, and before it was over, I had lost my uterus and had a full-blown hysterectomy that left me unable to engage in any sexual activity without extreme pain. I begged him to find a lover outside of the marriage but he refused. Slowly, over about five years, he began to pull away from me."
"Weren't you afraid he'd leave you?" asked Polly.
"No child," she said with a slight laugh. "I knew he meant it when he said 'till death do us part' and he was just angry and hurt. Then, about ten years ago, give or take a year, he started to change, he started to smile again, and started to act like my husband again. It didn't take a rocket scientist to figure out he'd found a lover."
"Weren't you angry?"
"No," she said smiling and shook her head. "I had told him to find one, and he had finally done it. She must have been good for him to because suddenly, he started doing things he'd never done before."
"One day he came home with a dozen roses for me."
Polly remembered the day they passed a flower shop on their way to the no-tell motel. They had been together for about two years and she said, "You should buy your wife some flowers."
"Why?" he asked. "It's not her birthday or our anniversary."
"I know," Polly said, "but it would make her smile. Women like it when men do little things for them for no reason, other than they love them."
"Maybe," he said. Polly was happy to learn he did.
"Then he made me dinner," said Kathy. "Nearly burned the house down, but the effort was there."