As always special thanks to the editing skill of mikothebaby, for her kind time, and patience in making this story readable. All and any errors are mine.
My wife, Amanda, was trying to hold back her tears as we walked across the campus away from my youngest son's dorm room. We had just got him all moved in, and now Amanda was sniffling, as was our next door neighbor, Kathy, whose boy was rooming with our son.
"I can't believe our boys are all grown up." Our neighbor, Kathy, sighed as she pulled a tissue out of her purse.
My wife, Amanda, accepted one of the tissues. "Yes it is hard to believe," Amanda said, as she dabbed at her eyes. "Now they have to make so many decisions on their own."
My mind was also on my own big decision. I began to have doubts as we made our way to the parking lot. "Should I pull the trigger? My plans were almost a decade in the making. Was the timing right? Did it need to be done at all?"
Amanda made a move to clasp my hand. I avoided this by reaching into my pocket to pull out the car keys, even though we were still quite a distance away from my SUV. I saw our neighbor Kathy give me a puzzled look.
"Mark it's OK." Amanda spoke. "I know how you feel."
"If only you did." I thought, as my mind drifted back to past and the moment that started this all.
I recall Amanda and I had just celebrated our 10th wedding anniversary, plus it was an election year. The current crop of crooks for office at that time were trying to tell us how the other side was bigger thieves and liars. I wondered if when these crooked politicians died, did they did need to dig a hole to bury them? Or would they screw right into the ground?
I had grabbed the mail that afternoon, pleased to see a padded envelope among the junk mail and bills. I had been the winning bidder of a bunch of SD cards off eBay, and the delivery was way overdue.
I ripped open the padded envelope from the back, I was dismayed to see another bulging smaller manila envelope.
"Damn!" I muttered, opening up the attached letter. "I hope I did not get burned on this bid. That would ruin my day."
Not only was my current day about to be ruined, but many future days also.
I hope this note finds you in good health and spirits.
I have recently come to grips and admitted my addiction to alcohol. With the help of my higher power and sponsor, I am working the program. I am now clean and sober for 90 days.
As part of my twelve step program, I have made a list of all persons I have harmed, and am trying to make amends to them all.
In your case, I am more than willing to try direct amends, but I don't know how. As I only now, with my newfound sobriety, have come to regret our actions. Yet I do not wish to cause you any emotional injury or strife in your life.
Although I feel cowardly, the best I can do is ask you for forgiveness, and if you wish, promise never to contact you again.
Do with the enclosed what you will. I do not have the courage to destroy them, yet feel I do not have the will to resist the temptation involved with the memories of keeping them.
Warm Regards Always
"What the hell" I said out loud, turning the now ripped padded envelope to look at its front. I now saw it was addressed to my wife Amanda. "Josh? Regret our actions? What actions?"
The only Josh I knew was a neighbor who had moved away a while ago. Josh was one of those losers who lived in his parents basement. Drunk most of the time, he claimed to be running a photography business. Josh was a decade older than Amanda and I. He was what we called a "Slinky", not really good for anything, but brought a smile to your face when falling down the stairs. I recall something about Josh being forced out of the house after his parents passed, not keeping up with property tax or something.
My mind was in such a turmoil, it took me a second to notice I was still holding the smaller manila envelope.
Tossing the padded envelope and letter aside, I tore open the bulging manila envelope. A bunch of 3x5 pictures fell out. The first few pictures showed a decade plus younger Amanda in some tame cheesecake poses. She was dressed in a clingy blouse and shorts. The outfits looked familiar, I flipped over a picture and saw no date.
I walked into my home office and took a framed picture off the collection of family photos on my desk. It was a photo of a sitting Amanda and our first son, who was less than a year old at the time the photo was taken. Amanda had given me the picture as a Christmas gift. In the framed picture Amanda was dressed in the same outfit. Also the lighting was almost identical in the framed picture with my oldest son to the pictures I had received in the mail today. I turned the framed picture over, the date was nine years prior. I now had a date to go with the pictures.
I shuffled through the pictures. The progression of pictures had Amanda going from cheesecake, to topless, to fully nude. As Amanda's apparel dwindled, my blood pressure rose. The last sequence of photos had Amanda with a penis in her mouth and getting fucked in various positions. You could tell some of the pictures were taken by the guy holding the camera, such as a few shot from above, with Amanda looking up into the camera lens, winking, with a dick in her mouth and a smile on her face. Others must have had the camera on a tripod, or been taken remotely, as the pictures of Amanda getting fucked in missionary, doggie and cowgirl style, were off center, and somewhat less in focus.
I dropped into the chair at my desk. I felt faint, it was as if all the blood had left my head.
"How long had Amanda been screwing around on me?" I pondered out loud.
Glancing around at the assortment of pictures on my desk of my family, I tried to see if any more of them had Josh's "imprint". The array showed the evolution of my clan. Amanda on our wedding day, Amanda with my oldest boy as a baby, than Amanda with both our boys as they grew. Aside from the first picture, all the other pictures had the logo of various mall photo shops.
Suddenly a horrible thought crossed my mind. "What if the boys were not mine!"
I grabbed the most recent picture of my "Loving" wife and the two boys. They were dressed in their baseball uniforms from the summer league. I felt a swell of pride that any father feels when he looks at his offspring, but I tried to take a more critical view. Both boys favored their mother Amanda in looks, however, they did seem to have my build and jawline.
Leaning back in the chair, I felt weary. This was not helping. Than a thought flashed in my brain that sent me digging through the desk drawers. I pulled a copy of the medical form my sons had filled out to play baseball this season. In my day, the paperwork was basically who to contact in case of accident. Nowadays the form was almost 6 pages long with food allergies, insurance carriers, waivers, medication, and consent. The treaty to end World War II was on a single sheet of paper. Somehow I found it difficult to believe that my kid's baseball league was more important than the ending of World War II.
It took a while but I found the data on the voluminous form I was looking for, the blood types filled out by our physician. Reaching into my wallet, I pulled out my Red Cross blood donor card. Type "O" the card read. Amanda was the same blood type, we had always joked it was convenient we could donate to each other. My oldest boy's form stated he was also Type "O" I felt a huge relief. I scanned my younger boy's form for his blood type information.
Blood Type: "A Positive" it said in bold black letters.
While not a medical doctor, even a freshman high school biology student knows two Type "O" blood types cannot produce an offspring with type "A" blood
I had thought my world could not shatter twice in the space of an hour, but it had. I stared at the typed letters "A Positive" for almost a full minute, willing the letters to change. But they did not.
"YOU CHEATING BITCH!" I yelled into the empty house, slamming my fist on the desktop.
Wild thoughts ran thru my mind, I would murder Amanda. No, leave Amanda. No murder, THEN leave Amanda, No just take the boys, and leave Amanda. The boys were 9 & 11, I was pretty sure they would choose dear old Dad in a divorce if asked ... or would they, or would they have a choice? These mental gymnastics continued for about an hour and just exhausted me. I found no solutions, just more questions. It got to the point that I was so tired, it took a massive effort just to drag myself up the stairs and drop into bed.
I sat at the kitchen table the next morning staring at my wife's back as she did something in the sink. I had begged off dinner last night when she and the boys had returned from the movies. After a restless night's sleep, I felt a strange calm, almost numb. Everything was the same in the house; Amanda had not changed appearances overnight. But it was as if someone had showed me all the magicians tricks. I was no long in awe, and questioned her every move and motive.
"Amanda do you remember Josh?" I asked.
I could not see Amanda's face, but I swear her body stiffened a moment before answering.
"Josh? Our old neighbor Josh? Wow, I have not heard that name in about a dozen years." Amanda said.
"I was just thinking about Josh and his photography stuff. He was always running around taking pictures of neighborhood kids. You think he was a pedophile or something?"
There was relief in Amanda's voice as she replied with a chuckle. "Believe me Mark, Josh was not into little kids."
"And you know this how Amanda..." I trailed off
Amanda wiped her hands on a dishrag before calling the boys for breakfast. "Quite a few mid mornings I saw a hung over Josh trying to sneak some bimbo out of their basement without his parents discovering them."
"Sounds like you knew Josh pretty well Amanda." I questioned. "You miss him?"
"Well no, not really." Amanda started. "We got a much better deal when Kathy moved in. You know our kids are almost inseparable."
Kathy, our good neighbor, had bought out the house mortgage after Josh's bank had foreclosed. Kathy was a single mother. She had used the life insurance money from her police officer husband's death to buy into Josh's former residence. Our kids were the same age and soon became fast friends, always together. As a single mom, Kathy worked long hours, we had basically "adopted" her kids. It was just as easy to load two kids into the car for a baseball game, or day at the beach, as four kids. They kept each other occupied. Amanda often joked with Kathy that we were going to list her kids as dependents on our tax returns.
As a single mom, Kathy could not pound a nail into a snow bank, so Amanda volunteered me as a "house-husband". I was not ready to be a cast member of the TV show "This Old House", but I could do most basic home repairs. My father had been a real craftsman in his field, but most times his mantra was "If it cannot be fixed with a hammer, you have an electrical problem."
I did not mind spending time doing a few chores at Kathy's. She was easy on the eyes, a real MILF, not that Kathy ever gave me any indication in that manner, nor had I expressed any interest. Dad had taught us to be a man of our word, and I had kept my vows.
Amanda came over and gave me a playful slap on the shoulder. "Mark don't tell me you are jealous of Josh after all these years?"
"The guilty dog barks first Amanda. Do I have any reason to be jealous?"
Amanda sat down at the table, but would not meet my eyes, instead just stirring her coffee. "Oh course not!" she said. "Josh was just a harmless drunk. He was always taking pictures of everything. He probably could have been a good photographer if he was not drinking all the time."
I leaned back in my chair and said nothing.
Amanda looked up for a second from her coffee mug before continuing. "Come on Mark. We had just started out. You were working two jobs and going to school, I was stuck home with a baby all day. After ten hours of "Barney" and diapers, I was desperate for some adult conversation. Everyone in the neighborhood was working. Josh was just ... just around."
I still said nothing.
Now Amanda seemed to get upset. "My God Mark, What! You think I was off screwing some middle aged drunk in between the baby's naps! Get over yourself!"
I put down my coffee cup. "Amanda your acting awfully disturbed, the best defense is a good offense. You have something to tell me?"
Amanda just got an angry look on her face and jumped up from the table.
We were interrupted by the boys noisily invading the kitchen. I silently rose from the table. As I headed up the stairs, I mentally tossed reconciliation out the window. I knew the anger I felt toward Amanda would pass, the trust though, would never return.
"Mark you sure you want to do this?" My brother Eric asked the next day. We were in his office, and he was looking over the photos, letter and other papers I had brought him.
Eric was my brother from another mother (and father). Eric's parents had escaped from Eastern Europe during the cold war days, and lived next to us when I was growing up. A tragic accident had killed Eric's parents when we were both only 6 years old. A social worker had asked my folks to look after Eric "for a few days", while they tried to locate other family members, or line up foster care. Eric's case fell through the cracks, or just got lost in the bureaucracy, because the Social Service people never did return. Eric just stayed with us.
Back then I didn't know any different. I treated Eric's addition to our family as an extended sleepover. I know now that it was a financial burden to our working class family. When I asked my mother years later how she did it, Mom just waved me off with "Slice the bread a little thinner, put some more water in the soup."
My father was never one to turn away a person in need. While a religious man, Dad felt faith was in actions, not litanies, and had no use for most of organized religions. He always ended all our supper prayers with " ... next time let there be more instead of less around the table, and Lord protect us from your followers.".
Dad never treated Eric any different than me and my brothers (which given my Dad's temper, could be good and bad). Before my Dad passed, I questioned why he took in another mouth to feed, when he was already struggling. He just shrugged and said. "That's what a man does."
Eric was so blond he was almost white, reflecting his Eastern European roots, I was much darker skinned, given my parents southern Italian background, so it always raised a few eyebrows when we introduced the other as "brother." Once when my Dad was with Eric at a Father-Son event, someone had commented that the "mother" must have a very fair complexion. My Dad snapped back "Yea she is translucent."
Eric had worked his way through law school, graduating top his class. Recruited by a big name law firm, Eric had been climbing the corporate ladder on his way his way to partner. Even while working over 80 hours a week, Eric had all the trappings of an up and coming lawyer, expensive car, condo overlooking the city, the model quality fiancée from a wealthy family. She was on his arm at all the big gala events. That is until Eric burst into the office of his mentor, one of the senior's partners, to surprise him with the announcement of a major client signing. However, Eric was the one surprised, finding his fiancée bent over a conference table, being fucked in the ass by the senior partner.
Eric stayed to the end of the year at the firm to collect his bonuses and perks. Then after cashing out, Eric led an exodus of both the top lawyers and big clients from the place. His old firm never recovered, it tottered along a few more years before going bust.
Eric now had a small law practice dealing with contracts, wills, and other matters. He made the lions share of his money as a "hired gun", acting as outside counsel for various big trials. Now married, with two kids of his own, we were still close.
Eric shuffled my paperwork in a folder. "Mark, I think you are still in shock, take some time to get perspective."
"You mean like you did?" I said with sarcasm "You are my personal hero for how you handled that event at your original law firm."
"Not all of us can be heroes." Eric replied, trying to lighten the mood with some humor. "Someone has to sit on the curb and clap as we march by." He then got serious. "Listen Mark your wife, Amanda, is a person, and most people have a hard time seeing beyond themselves. We only see how we are treated and aren't on the lookout for the effects of our actions on others."
"What are you, fucking Yoda now Eric?" I rolled my eyes. "I want out! My revenge will be that cheating bitch getting squat, and everyone knowing what she did. I don't want Amanda to think she can screw around on me and plead hormone induced amnesia, like I am some Damn fool!"
"Ok Mark, but you know that revenge is a foolproof way to let someone know they get to you. This gives a person a lot of power, knowing that they can break you down. Don't give that power to anyone. It's better to ignore the emotional offender. I know it's not instantly gratifying, but in the long run it's the best thing to do. Take it from someone who has been there."
Eric turned to tap on his computer keyboard. "I don't do family law, but a buddy of mine from the old firm is a real shark. He is called "MISTER BIG SHOT" because he always hauls out the heavy artillery. This guy takes no prisoners, you sure you want to do this?"
"Make the call Eric."
A week later, we were in an upscale, corner office downtown, Mr. Bigshot had just finished going over the reams of paperwork I had brought in. Tax returns, pay stubs, mortgage payments, paternity tests, wills, etc. The list seemed endless as to what he required. Mr. Bigshot took off his reading glasses before speaking.
"Forget about it"
I was shocked at hearing those words coming out of the heavy set lawyer who was supposed to be such a killer shark.
"Mark, I know you and Eric are related somehow, so I am going to give it to you straight. Forget about it."
It took a moment for me to speak. "You mean I should just act like it never happened! Smile knowing I got screwed."
Mr. Bigshot leaned back in his chair. "Yep, unless you have video of your wife Amanda force feeding your kids Red Bull as toddlers, and making them fight each other for prize money."
He pointed at me. "Presently you have a good looking wife, home and two nice kids, but with a little more work, you can have a small apartment, no money, part time kids and the wife can have new male friends, with you paying the freight. I am talking alimony, child support, over half your earnings and savings."
I was stunned. "Amanda has a job, and why should I pay child support for a kid not even mine!"
Mr. Bigshot looked amused. "Mark I will take your money if you want to proceed, but let me tell you about the facts and the law. What your wife makes at that pissant part time hair salon job does not come close to your income. So alimony is a given. All that is up for debate is how much and how long. As far as child support for a child not yours, only six states in America allow a male parent to stop, or not pay child support to a child not his while born when the couple was married. Unfortunately we do not live in one of those states."
"But what ... what if I find out Amanda knew it was not my son all along? That is fraud, right?"
Mr. Bigshot now leaned forward, putting his forearms on the massive desk. "I am going to let you in on a dirty little secret. Let's say we can prove your wife knew it was not your child. It would be Fraud if she represented the child as yours. However, that kind of fraud, is the only fraud that carries no penalty, and requires no restitution. Hell, if you were divorced and paying child support for 17 years, your wife could announce to the whole world you were not the father, and she knew all along, in a full page ad in the New York Times, and guess what? In all fifty states there is no law that requires her to pay you back, or suffer any penalty."
"Mark some poor bastard in Florida was paying child support to a lady he was not even married to. The fool finally got a DNA test showing the kid was not his, yet the court ordered him to continue to pay support, as it was, quote, 'In the best interests of the child.' I think that case is winding its way up the judicial ladder now, the child will be 18 before this saga ends. But even if he wins, there is no way that pseudo Dad is getting any of the funds back..."
I interrupted him. "I can at least try to get some back money from my cheating wife's boyfriend, right?"
"Most States only allow the mother to seek restitution. Only two states allow you as the male to try to recoup money. But you must prove both the boyfriend and mother knew of the deception. Plus, you need to show there was an undue hardship on both the child's well being and family quality of life. And Mark, guess what? This is not one of the states that has such a statute."
I slumped back in my chair as he continued. "Ask yourself if the cost of a man's pride is higher than half of his assets, spousal and child support. Money can't buy his self respect back, or restore his reputation. Is it better to end things and gamble to find someone to be truly appreciated by than suffer a sham marriage?"
Eric spoke up. "Maybe a Marriage Counselor can help them get past this."
Mr. Bigshot just waved his hand. "At best, counseling works less than 10% of the time. In my experience it just tips off the spouse, allows them to prepare an exit strategy. Over 2/3 of women in counseling will initiate the divorce. Well over 55% of women who cheat eventually leave the marriage. It is a little less in states with shared custody, but we don't live in one of those states. Our process is its winner takes all. Odds are overwhelming in the mother's favor here. You guys are what age? In your mid-thirties?"
"Yeah" I muttered, trying to absorb all these body blows.
"Well Mark, I hate to be the bearer of worse news, but the most common age a wife cheats on her mate is age 45. If your spouse has already had a fling, then when your wife hits forty, the evidence of that spouse re-offending is pretty high, sadly almost a sure thing. The pain and guilt have faded from the earlier affair, or fling, yet the memories of what was thrilling, good, the excitement, whatever about the event, grows in the mind. Kind of like some high school athlete who scored the winning point, but broke their leg in the process. The mind downplays or forgets the pain, yet blows the "big moment" way out of proportion. The longing to relive the moment can turn into an obsession. But while a middle aged athlete can only at best, relive those glory days through their kids sporting events, a spouse can, and will find a partner outside the marriage, in an attempt to recapture whatever made them have an affair in the first place."
Eric chimed in what I was thinking. "Once a cheater, always a cheater?"
Mr. Bigshot spread out his hands, palm up. "Nothing is absolute, but infidelity is a close second to the main cause of divorce, which is money."
"I swear that is NOT going to happen to me" I said through gritted teeth.
"Swear all you like Mark," Mr. Big replied. "Swearing is the compromise between running away and fighting."
"Fuck!" I said under my breath.
"Is it cheaper to keep her?" Mr. Big asked philosophically. "Extramarital affairs is an issue that 68% of all married people will have to deal with during their marriage. You have children involved, so that changes the whole dynamic. Children of divorce have a much higher rate of substance abuse, promiscuity, depression, and anger issues. Hell, the only truth in a divorce is that there are no real winners. However, in all cases the biggest losers are the children.
Suddenly, I had a flashback to the day I told my Father we were expecting a child.
"Mark," Dad had said. "Many men are fathers, but fewer fathers are men. To be a man who is a father, your first, last, and only priority is your children. If there is not enough food, you go hungry. Not enough shelter, you endure the cold. If there ain't enough money, you do without. Most important is strength. You must be strong at all times for your family, and I am not talking about some blowhard show that buckles when the going gets tough. You must not only show strength, but also be strong enough to seek out, and accept help when needed. You will never know how strong you are, until strength is all you have.
Son, you will often be wrong, but you can never be in doubt. This is expected and accepted as a true Man. Your efforts will rarely be appreciated, or acknowledged, most times ridiculed, but a real true man does not do this for accolades or praise, he does this for his family, for his children, because he is a true and real MAN."
I jumped out of the chair like a shot, and extended my hand to Mr. Bigshot. "Thank you for all your time. I certainly got a heck of a legal education. But I do not think I will be using your services right now. What do I owe you for your efforts?"
Mr. Big grinned as he leaned forward to shake my hand. "No charge Mark. This was just a couple of old legal buddies having a conversation." He turned toward my brother Eric. "Besides, I owe your brother there big time for dragging my fat ass out of that dead end position in the old firm. I am doing a hell of a lot better now, and have him to thank for it. Just call me anytime, my door is always open to you. I mean that!"
We were driving back in Eric's car when I asked him. "Eric, after you caught your fiancée with your mentor, why did you not quit right away? Why stay almost a year at that firm?"
I saw the jawline of Eric stiffen before he spoke. "Naturally, my first reaction was to quit immediately." He smiled a bit. "Well, actually that was my second reaction. My first reaction was to head butt the old bastard after I pulled him off that slut." Eric paused to tune the radio to another station. "After I left his fat ass, sprawled out on the carpet with that skank, I went to my office and printed out my resignation."
"So why didn't you turn it in?"
"I was mad as hell Mark, than I started to feel sorry for myself. Then I remembered what our Dad always said about pity."
Together, at the same time, in a low baritone imitation of my Father's voice, we both said in unison. "Boys, you can put your damn pity in one hand and piss in the other. Let me know which one gets full first."
We both laughed for a bit before Eric continued. "Anyway, I figured why should I let those two's actions deprive me of the fruits of my sweat and labor. The next day, for the first time ever, the most senior partner came to see me. He was "concerned" about the "misunderstanding" between me and my old mentor.
What Bullshit! I was quite a rainmaker, and that prick was just worried about me walking, and taking all those accounts, as well as all the billable hours with me. He promised me all kind of magic beans, and I made him put them all in writing. From then on, I was not going to let anyone dictate my happiness.
I even kept that slut around for a few good sympathy fucks. I mean why not? It was not as if we were both virgins, or never been together. The minute I found something better, she was history. Same with the law firm, the day my contract was up, I was history too."
I took my brother's words to heart. From that day forward, I did what made me happy, while staying true to keeping my Dads position that the children were forefront. Amanda became a non-entity as far as I was concerned. I was determined to have as little to do with Amanda as possible. That became easier a week after I returned from my meeting with Mr. Bigshot.
"Mark I have some great news!" Amanda announced at dinner. "The salon wants to make me manager full time! I'll have to start out working evenings and weekends. But I am sure you and the boys can make you own dinners for a while."
This worked out perfect, as I was gone to work before Amanda awoke, and she was at the salon manager job by the time I came home. I was fast asleep by the time she closed up shop. On her days off, I told Amanda I was in darts league.
In reality I decided to have a few meeting with a shrink on my own. I found I was not any more fucked up then the next guy. But more important, I discovered, besides the obligations to my kids, I was responsible for my own contentment. What Amanda had done, was doing, or going to do, was out of my control. We are surrounded by temptations. It is our own personal weaknesses and responsibility when we give in to those temptations.
In truth, as I no longer trusted Amanda, this changed the feelings I once had for Amanda. Soon I found I no longer cared what she did. The hatred about her actions lost it's original intensity as time went on, but the bad feelings were still there. I was in this for my kids, period, end of story. Amanda became more like a roommate with benefits. She was so involved with her job, I do not think she even noticed.
Meanwhile, the boys and I were having a great time. I took out a huge home equity loan on the house, and put in a swimming pool, outside deck, plus turned our basement into a true "man cave." I got rid of my boring car and bought a massive SUV that got shitty gas mileage. My boys and Kathy's kids all traveled in comfort as I purchased prime seat season tickets to every sporting event. I became the kid's team chauffeur, as the damn SUV could squeeze in the whole team, plus equipment. Each win or lose, resulted in a trip to the local pizza parlor, or ice cream place on my dime.
Kathy often accompanied us on our excursions. People often mistook us for one big family. "I wish!" was my semi joking response. That always got me a puzzled look from Kathy.
Amanda constantly begged off, citing her work schedule, being "too tired", or wanting to "relax" on her day off. Soon, the boys just stopped asking.
After some years, my oldest boy and Kathy's firstborn son went off to the same college, hers on a partial scholarship. Kathy never knew I had lumped in the rest of his expenses with my boy.
Three years later the same scene was repeated with the last of our offspring. This brings us to the present day and my current dilemma, stay or go? Move on, or the status quo?
Amanda was on our outdoor deck, enjoying the last of the summer days, overlooking the pool with a glass of wine in her hand. I returned after cleaning out the SUV of the remnants from our trip.
Amanda had her eyes closed as I took a seat in a lounge chair across from her.
"Mark, the house seems so empty now with the boys gone." Amanda sipped some more of her wine. "What a difference, but I am ready for a change."
I had finally made up my mind, and thought to myself "Oh wait Honey, you are gonna get a change."
I dropped the papers on the glass topped table between us. "Amanda, I do not feel we should be together any longer. I would like a divorce."
Amanda sat straight up out of her chair and grabbed the papers, scanning through them quickly. "What the HELL is this nonsense Mark!"
"Amanda, these are only a copy of the petition for divorce. As soon as you get a lawyer, I will have my attorney send the official ones to him. As you can see I have been quite fair, the savings are..."
"ARE YOU INSANE!" Amanda almost screamed. "After two decade you are dumping me! Now, after everything we have been through!" She kept looking though the papers. "No Alimony? Where is the split of savings? Shared debt on house? What are you trying to pull!"
I tried to be calm. "We both make about the same salary, with roughly the same amount in our retirement accounts." That much was true as I had deferred all pay raises that went with my recent string of promotions, plus kept my 401K contributions to the minimum, after raiding it to pay for my sons college.
Amanda looked like she had been pole axed, as she kept flipping through petition. "We only make the same salary because I work twice as many hours as you! I am not selling my house! I have worked too hard on it!"
"Amanda, we are upside down on the house, after you count the home equity loan. Where do you think the money came from for this deck, your new kitchen, the..."
She threw the papers on the table. "We are not getting a divorce, and that is final!" Suddenly it looked like a light bulb went off in her head. "You son of a bitch!" Amanda spat, pointing her finger at me. "You have found somebody else! I give you the best years of my life, and now you want to ditch me for some young slut!" Her face got red. "How long have you been fucking around on me! You cheating pig!"
"Please." I sighed. "Let's not go there. It does not matter what the reason is, this is a no fault state. Everything, both assets and debts are going to be split equally."
However, Amanda was not to be mollified. "Oh you are wrong MISTER! It does matter! I wanna know AND I deserve to know. Who have you been screwing me over with!"
I shook my head and said softly. "It is true there has been infidelity involved, but please let's not go there. It's best if we just keep this..."
My vision blurred for a moment when Amanda tossed her glass of wine in my face. As I got up retreating to the kitchen, I felt the wine glass bounce off my back before shattering onto the deck.
Amanda was livid, following close behind me keeping up her tirade, as I washed off my face in the kitchen sink.
"YOU SON OF A BITCH! I am not going to be tossed away because you want get your jollies off with some bimbo! No wonder our sex life has gone to hell the last few years! Well, let me tell you something buddy boy! I have had lots of opportunities in the past but I never..."
Amanda stopped cold, as I turned, placing one by one on the kitchen counter, photos of her and Josh in the most pornographic of positions. I slapped the pictures down, each one more revealing than the one before.
Her face went ghost white as Amanda rushed to the kitchen sink and began to vomit.
I shuffled the pictures into a pile as I sat down at the kitchen table. "Well Amanda, looks like you took advantages of the opportunities presented to you in the past."
Amanda finally stopped vomiting. She rinsed her mouth off with tap water, them splashed water onto her face. Finally she patted her face dry with a towel before sliding into the seat across from me.
"Please Mark, put those away." Amanda pushed the pile of picture toward me with one finger as if they were a live poisonous snake.
I placed the pictures into an envelope, than tossed them into a drawer behind me.
Amanda buried her head in her hands. "Oh My God, I don't know what to say."
I was weary. "Doesn't really matter Amanda, I don't care."
Amanda grabbed at my arm. "Mark, please listen, it was only that one time! You must trust me on this!"
"No Amanda, I don't have to trust you on this. And I don't." I leaned back in the chair. "I mean what? You would never lie about cheating?"
Amanda held onto my arm tighter. "It was so long ago. I did not know being a mother would be so tough. I was so sleep deprived with the baby, and you were always tired from working. I feel like I was losing my identity, just another "Mom" or you wife."
I pulled my arm away. "I was working two jobs and going to school, all for us, our family. So I really don't want to hear about being tired."
"Mark I know." Amanda pleaded. "I wish I could take it all back. Josh was just a fun drunk. Josh's Mom would sometimes be around to watch the baby for a few minutes. Give me a chance to be with a grown up for just a little bit, to keep my sanity."
I tried to get up. "Amanda I really don't care."
She ignored me and continued. "Josh always had a drink in his hand, after a while I would take a sip or two. He was always taking pictures of me with that high speed shutter camera. I started to goof around, acting like it was some big modeling shoot. Josh kept encouraging it, telling me how great I looked, a natural, how the camera loved me."
Amanda bit her lip as she looked at me. "It just was fun that got out of hand. I would pull down my shirt to expose my shoulder, or lift it up a bit, to show off my belly button. Pretty soon I got so comfortable I was down to my bra. It was no big thing, hell people saw more at the beach."
I saw Amanda start to get tears in her eyes. "Then one day when I mentioned about getting you a picture for Christmas, Josh offered to do the photo for free. It went real well, the picture turned out great. Our son fell asleep right after, on a couch in Josh's studio."
"You mean his parents basement Amanda?"
She wiped a tear from her eye. "I figured he would sleep for a while and I did not want to wake him, so Josh and I had a drink. Well, one drink led to a bottle, and ... well, in between my period and your crazy schedule, you and I had not had sex in a while. I was feeling real horny, when Josh started to take the pictures of me, this time my 'bad girl' came out. He was making me feel so sexy, I felt so naughty flashing Josh, and he kept encouraging it, like we were doing a real photo shoot."
I thought I could not be more shocked after I originally saw the pictures, but I was. "You mean you fucked that God Damn drunk, with my son sleeping a few feet away!" I stammered.
"OH God Mark, I am so embarrassed! I do not know what came over me, I was such a ... a..." Amanda paused.
"Slut? Skank? Cumdump? Whore?" I offered. "Wait I take that back, you sold your ass for a picture. That makes you a really cheap hooker."
Amanda dropped her head on the table and began sobbing.
I mentally kicked myself, I would not treat a stranger this way, let alone someone who I had once had strong feelings for.
"Amanda, we cannot change the past, just own our actions. Please sign the papers, we will tell people we grew apart, no one outside our little family has to know."
Amanda lifted her tear streaked face from the table. "It does not need be this way Mark. Please that happen so long ago. It was such a nonevent, a mere blip, a stupid mistake of no consequences."
I pulled another set of papers from the folder, placing them in front of Amanda. I spoke as she scanned the set of documents.
"Amanda, all actions have consequences, some action more than others."