There is no sex in this story. Sorry.
The Yuengling Black and Tan was warm. It was ice cold when I sat down.
She would be home soon. She was always at home when the kids got off of the school bus. I had the drapes drawn, because the sunlight coming through the living room window was depressing. Right now, today, the darkness felt warn and comforting. I was not looking forward to the confrontation. I was ill equipped, both mentally and emotionally, to handle it. My biggest fear was my anger. As a child, I was prone to temper tantrums. As an adult, I was unsure. In any event, it had to be quick, because the school bus would arrive in about an hour. They cannot know. I will do everything in my power to keep them from knowing.
Ten years of marriage down the drain. Ten years of my life wasted. Ten years of planning and dreaming, for nothing. There was no future to look forward to. Nothing.
A sensible man would have been musing about what he was going to say, or how he was going to approach the coming discussion. Every time I tried to think of a clever line or comment, I came up blank. It always reverted back to the same point; self-pity. I was feeling sorry for myself and sorry for what my kids might have to go through. It was unacceptable. No plan of attack presented itself. Stupidly, I sat and waited for the situation to unfold. I was not ready.
I drank the last of the warm beer as she opened the door.
“John! What the hell are you doing sitting in the dark?” She walked over to the window to open the drapes.
“No! Let them shut a while.”
It was not a normal situation. I was never home in the middle of the day. I was always at work. Maybe that was part of the problem. She looked pensive as she put down her purse and jacket.
“Are you ill?”
“No. Just depressed and disappointed.”
“Do you want to talk about it? Is there anything that I can do?”
“There is nothing you can do, but I do want to talk about it. I just don’t know how or where to start.”
“Is everything okay at work?”
“Stop! Please stop. Just sit and listen. I will say what I have to say as best as I can. You don’t have to say anything. In fact, I would prefer if you didn’t say anything.”
Courtney sat and looked at her hands. I heard her quietly mumble to herself; “Oh crap.”
“I know about you and Mitch Cooper.”
She slowly looked up at me and even in the dimly lit room, I could see the moisture in her eyes. Not tears, but almost. She started to say something, but I held up my hand.
I didn’t know what to do. I had no battle plan. In frustration, I threw the empty long neck across the room and stalked out the front door. She stood up but did nothing to try and stop me.
I had no idea where I was going or what I was going to do. Matters of this nature were alien to me. First and foremost, were the children. Courtney and I both came from broken homes. I swore that no matter what, my kids would never have to go through that. That meant that divorce was out of the question. It also meant that abandonment was not an option. I was screwed.
My first stop was Gilbert Enterprises. There was plenty of vacation time on the books and I had no trouble getting a week off. I had a small staff working for me, but they were all competent and able to fill in, in my absence. I started working at Gilbert twelve years ago as an apprentice draftsman, and now I was in charge of the entire graphics office, including a small cadre of maintenance personnel. I worked hard and I was rewarded for my efforts.
It looked like the summer trip to Dollywood was off the schedule.
Shortly after I started at Gilbert, I met Courtney. I was always a bit confused as to how we met. It was some sort of bar-be-que at one of the engineers houses. I was there and then all of a sudden she was there with me. It wasn’t as if I pursued her or anything. She started chatting, which was unusual, because girls usually avoided me. I was not what you would call boyfriend material. I was too skinny, too tall and too dorky. Courtney had been a year ahead of me in high school and had hung with the cool kids. In fact, I remembered that she spent a lot of time with one of the ‘Fonzie’ wannabe guys. Yep, you guessed it; his name was Mitch.
One thing led to another, and in less than a year, we were married and pregnant. At the time, it all seemed normal and above board. I was happy, and she seemed happy.
Courtney was pretty much normal in all aspects. She didn’t stand out in a crowd or draw attention to herself in any fashion. As far as I was concerned, she was perfect.
One year after our son Bobby was born, we had our daughter Dani. Everything was absolutely great; for ten years.
Normally, people spend large amounts at restaurants when they are celebrating something. I ended up spending an exorbitant amount at my favorite sushi bar to drown my sorrows. Nothing was off the menu, and I treated myself to all of the delights that I always passed up because of the price. Two hours later, I found myself at a Best Western hotel throwing up my expensive indulgence. It was better going in than coming out. I just was not good at this pity party stuff.
I needed a plan. I needed help. I had a whole week to figure something out.
There was no point in messing around with insurance, checking or credit cards. There was nothing to change there. Our lifestyle would have to remain the same. I knew that some explanation would be required from Courtney, but I really didn’t want it. If she admitted everything and I was forced to accept what she told me, then I would officially be a cuckold. I could not figure out how to avoid that. There was no way that she could or would deny it. That was not in her nature. I had no idea of the depth of the affair. I didn’t know how long it had been going on or how serious it was. Was she planning on leaving me? Too damn many unanswered questions.
I finally located a few old school friends who were aware of Mitch and Courtney’s relationship. What was interesting was that there never seemed to be a break up or falling out. As far as anyone knew, they were always a couple. Some of them were aware that I had married Courtney, but that was all.
Mitch Cooper was a good looking guy and very charismatic. Just my opposite. He also was not very ambitious; academically or career wise. He barely finished high school, and had been working at a local Firestone Tire company store for the last ten years. He wasn’t a manager or anything; just a tire installer. Now there is nothing wrong with being a tire man, but at some point, most individuals advance to become shop or store managers. Mitch was still working at the entry level, and seemed to be content with it.
I was confused. What was the attraction? I worked my butt off to provide for my family and was rewarded with infidelity. I guess other women would have appreciated my efforts, but no other women ever expressed an interest in me. I was with Courtney because she wanted me to be with her. But then; why...
I spent all day talking with old friends, acquaintances and classmates. Putting everything together gave me a pretty clear picture. Courtney and Mitch never had a falling out. As far as anyone knew, they were always a couple and many of them assumed that they still were. I had never questioned her about her relationship with him. I didn’t want to know. I assumed that it was old history and that she had moved on. I was not jealous, suspicious or worried about my marriage. I guess that was my mistake. Now, I knew that I had to confront her. It would be difficult for me, and I am sure for her. I was just hoping that she didn’t hurt me too much. Of course, I still had no idea what I was hoping to gain or how I was going to eliminate the problem.
I was able to get a small private table at Luciano’s the next evening. We could talk without being overheard or interrupted. Courtney arrived right on time, looking good, but apprehensive. She sat and smiled, but said nothing.
We ordered, ate and enjoyed the wine. It was awkward to say the least. Neither of us mentioned the problem at hand. Finally, the coffee came and I decided to open Pandora’s box.
“Can I get some sort of an explanation without any emotional rhetoric?”
“Rather than try and explain, could you give me some idea of just what you want to know? It might be easier and quicker that way.” Was this a way to avoid disclosing something that I was unaware of, or was it an honest reaction to my request?
“How long?” It was a short question and hopefully I would get a short answer.
Needless to say I was shocked, and I am sure that my expression showed it. She saw my reaction and looked away, avoiding my eyes.
“You have been seeing him the entire time we have been married?”
“Yes.” There was no embellishment to go with her answer. It was short and to the point. She sat silent, waiting for my next question. I was struggling to stay seated. Part of me was wanting to get up and leave, but I really needed a better answer. I motioned to the waiter for refills on the coffee. Things were not going as I anticipated.
“Why did you marry me?” I was trying to keep the questions clean and easy, but I felt that the answer to this one would be more complicated.
“The quick answer; because you could give me what he could not or would not.”
That answer generated a whole bunch of new questions. I was hesitant to respond too quickly because I didn’t want to interrupt the conversation flow. I amazed myself that I had the ability to hold my temper, and then I realized that I was actually becoming intrigued by the way the conversation was going.
“But why did you specifically pick me?”
“I didn’t. He did.”
“Courtney. I think we have reached the point where you are going to have to stop giving me abbreviated answers. I want and need an explanation. I promise that I will sit here and remain quiet, while you explain the whole thing so that it makes sense.”
“Okay, but before I start, please believe me, that at no time was there any attempt to be malicious or to hurt you in any manner. I, we, never did or said anything to disrespect you in any way.”
Other than the fact that she deliberately turned me into a cuckold, I had to agree with her. I nodded for her to continue.
“Mitch and I were very close for many years and swore devotion to each other. We were truly in love, just like in the movies and in those trashy romance novels. As hokey as it sounds, we were real soulmates. We had one big problem that we could not get over; I wanted a home and a family and Mitch absolutely refused to even consider it. After months and months, we finally decided that we would try to find a surrogate husband. We had no idea what we were doing, but it sounded like a good idea at the time. Trying to find a suitable guy was not that easy. It had to be somebody who we felt could provide a stable environment and still be a good companion. You were our final choice. Believe it or not, John, you were the best of the best. That is why we choose you.”
I waved to the waiter for coffee refills. It was all too ridiculous to believe.
“Courtney, I don’t want to interrupt you, but are you saying that the plan was to live with me as man and wife, but to keep Mitch as your lover and soul mate?”
“Are the kids mine?”
“Yes. You can check, if you feel it is necessary.”
The night ended quickly. I found myself at a loss for words. The conversation died and we both just sat there looking at each other. Of course, I had many more questions, but my emotions were all over the place, and I was afraid of losing control. I needed to process the information that I had and I needed to do it quietly, with no disruptions.
The next few days were depressing.
I found it difficult to understand how she could have so easily accepted me as a sexual partner, when she was so madly in love with Mitch. They both knew that their plan would include Courtney and I having sex. Did he have to convince her to sleep with me, or did she have to convince him to accept it?
Looking back, I was not able to discern any times when there was an intense romantic relationship between them. It all seemed to be platonic and very casual. Most of the information that I had came after I accidentally discovered a text message on her phone. That generated a deeper investigation, which confirmed my suspicions. I could only go back a short period of time, but I did notice that they only got together once or twice a month, if that. It was not what I would call a hot and heavy affair. I had no idea how intense it had been earlier in the marriage. The text messages were not erotic or sexual, but very businesslike, if that is the proper term. It was like setting up a dental appointment.
I was sure that she had brought him up to date on the present situation and I was pretty sure that they had gotten together to discuss how they were going to handle it.
Courtney had told the children that I was away on a business trip. In order to maintain family stability, I had to return home and act as normal as possible. By the end of the week, I had moved back into the house and back into my bedroom. Other than the absence of sex, our life was back to normal.
I joined a gym. I wasn’t overweight or flabby, but I wasn’t what you would call a hunk. I felt like I was now in competition for my own wife, even though I wasn’t sure if I wanted to stay with her. Although I didn’t have a specific plan, I was motivated to be in better shape and to be healthier. I started to get up earlier. I had a protein shake for breakfast and then went directly to the gym, before anyone else was out of bed. I would shower at the gym and go directly to work. One day of cardio and the next day of HIIT and weight training. I found myself becoming obsessive about exercising.
I started working longer hours and more on weekends. I volunteered for trips and seminars; anything to get away for a while.
I was amazed that I was able to maintain a normal relationship with Courtney under the circumstances. We never discussed the problem. The only time anything was different was in the bedroom. We were in limbo. No direction. No plan. No future. I felt like I was living with a housekeeper who I happened to share a bed with. I needed help.
Spending an hour on a treadmill or C2 rower, four days a week, gives you a lot of time to think. I enjoyed being married. I never envisioned myself married to anyone other than Courtney. I still couldn’t. Although I could never forgive her betrayal, I found it to be a bit confusing. The more I thought about it, the more confused I got. She was married to me, but she was sleeping with somebody else; ergo I was a cuckold. Or was I? The man she was cheating on me with was her partner years before I ever met her. Was she cheating on me with him or was she cheating on him with me? It was so easy to confuse myself. Does the piece of paper called a marriage license make the difference, or is it the perception of the relationship?