“Look, I’m sorry, honey. I just want a divorce. Plain and simple. I met Joe again at the reunion, and well, the old flames started up again. You and I, we’ve been going through the motions. It’s over, babe. I don’t know what to say. We’re over. I’m really, really ... really, sorry. I’m really sorry, Dan. I hope that someday, you can forgive me. Here’s the proposed settlement that my lawyer has prepared. I hope that you will find it fair. No alimony, no child support. I didn’t want anything in there that would get in the way of moving on with my life, or you getting on with yours. That’s the carrot. I’d rather not have to use the stick,” my wife, Megan, gave me a real bolt from the blue.
“No child support? What about custody? Full custody? How dare you, Megan?” I was hurt when I heard her words, but I was furious about hearing that she wanted full custody of my Katie, our nine year old daughter.
“Honey ... there’s no easy way to break this to you. Katie’s ... not yours. That’s why I have to have full custody. I don’t want her getting hurt when this gets out, and eventually, it will. Joe is Katie’s biological father. We ... don’t have any kids together, Dan. That’s why. I’ll give you visitation rights, trust you. I swear to God. I didn’t know, either, babe. I didn’t realize it until after meeting Joe again and noticing the familiar traits. I did a DNA test and you’re ... basically excluded.
“I did a blood test, too, though that was done through an ‘accidental’ prick in your case and a voluntary test with Joe’s. It’s going to be hard to break it to Katie, too, but I have to do it as well. I know that you love Katie and I’m very sorry about this. I really am, babe,” my wife actually wept, much to my surprise, breaking the cold, icy facade that was in place.
“Megan ... I don’t just love Katie ... I adore her. She’s my little girl and you’ve taken her away from me, just as you’ve taken yourself. Damn you, Megan! What about your Catholicism? You’re a Roman Catholic! Divorce is against the teachings of your own church! How do you plan to explain that?” I reminded her, now quite livid at losing my precious child.
“She’ll always be your little girl, honey. She will, trust me. As for the divorce, we’re getting an annulment through the church. In the meantime, yes, I’ll be denied the sacraments until that can be pushed through. I’ll just have to be careful. I’ll be liberal with visitation rights, but I do want her to get to know my lover, my future husband, her biological father. She needs him, too. He’s her other father. Blood is a real thing. But you’re the only father that she’s ever known and I don’t want her to lose that, either. This is going to be rough on her, but I hope that you’ll be there for her. This is my fault. I didn’t know that I was already pregnant when I agreed to go steady with you,” Megan tried to soften the blow.
I choked back my tears, swallowed hard, and decided, “I ... I want a chance to talk to her about this. I think that’s only fair. Her life is about to be greatly upset in ways that are far worse than mine. Do that, and I’ll sign this ... settlement of yours. I want our family to have some chance to heal. But I want to make this very plain to you, Megan. You walk out of my life and I won’t take you back. There is to be no reconciliation between us in that sense. I will never trust you again, not like this, not like that. You’ve hurt me like no one has ever hurt me before. This is a one-time, irrevocable decision. Make it and make it now. I could forgive the affair. I will not forgive this, not in that way. I mean ... I will forgive you, eventually, but I will not take you back. Period. You make this choice and you can’t take it back. I will not be someone’s second choice again.”
“I ... understand, Dan. Trust me, I do. I didn’t mean to make you my second choice, but I guess that happened and that’s why we didn’t have much of a chance. This was never very fair to you. It was wrong from day one. It was the classic rebound relationship, except it turned into a nine year marriage and I wish to God that it didn’t. I mean ... we had some good times, so I don’t regret everything. Believe me, we really had some good times, at least for me. I won’t lie, either.
“I think that part of why we never had kids was because on some level ... you were a placeholder for Joe. I didn’t want to put any more kids through that than Katie, who I already thought was yours. Subconsciously, I just couldn’t do it. We’ve talked of kids, but it just wasn’t meant to be ... I’m so sorry, Dan. But ... we did have some good times. Please, try to think of those. Oh, and just for the record, you were actually better in the sack than Joe. A lot better. If this were just about sex, I would stay with you. But it’s about love. I love him. I never loved you,” Megan admitted to me.
“Well, that’s the price that you must pay, or part of it, for this. I loved you, even if you didn’t love me. I don’t know if that was why I was better in bed than Joe. Maybe it was. Maybe it wasn’t. I do know this. I will try to get over you. I will. But I will not easily do so. Even so, I will never take you back. Not a snowball’s chance in Hell. This is fish or cut bait time. Do what you must, but do it with your eyes wide open this time around. You leave me, you leave me for good. It’s over and you’re closing that door forever. I will never let you hurt me like that again,” I told my wife rather coldly and she nodded, tears in her eyes as she actually hugged me ... even kissed me goodbye.
“I’m ... sorry, Dan. Part of me will always wonder if I’ve made the biggest mistake of my life, but I have to do this. Have a good life, babe. You didn’t deserve this. Katie didn’t deserve this. None of us did. I should never have broken up with Joe. Then you might be happy with a woman who loved you back. Farewell, honey,” Megan told me through both of our tears.
“Goodbye, babydoll,” I told her, one last time.
A few minutes later, I heard another knock. Thinking that it was Megan again, I braced myself. It was just as well, because it was Katie instead. I saw her and my eyes poured out tears like crazy. My daughter put her arms around me and wept, her tears staining the belly part of my polo shirt as I ruffled her hair and held her close. She sobbed repeatedly, bawling her eyes out, even as I held her tight, letting her weep and wail on me.
Finally, of course, it was time to be open and honest with my daughter.
“Do you know what’s going on, baby?” I asked her and she nodded.
“Mommy is leaving you, Daddy. It’s not right, Daddy. It’s bad. It’s ... awful! She shouldn’t do this! Why does she have to do this? Why!” Katie sobbed really hard once more and I reached down to pick her up and hold her to my chest.
“Your mother ... found an old flame. This is the hardest part, baby. She told me that ... she wants full custody, because I’m not your birth father. I didn’t actually help make you, baby. This other man did. He’s her ex-boyfriend and high school sweetheart and she’s in love with him. I was just there until he took her back. I raised you, but he’s ... actually your father, that’s what she says. Still, to me, you’ll always be my little girl. Even she admits that. You’re always my little girl. Don’t ever forget that. If I fight for custody, I’ll lose, because he made you. But I raised you. Don’t you ever forget that, sweetie. I raised you. I’m still your Daddy. I always will be,” I defiantly told my daughter, refusing to just give up my role in her life like that.
“Always my Daddy. Always, Daddy ... I won’t ever forget that. I promise, Daddy. I promise that I’ll never forget that you’re my Daddy. Never,” Katie told me with fresh tears as she heard this news and I held her tight, “You won’t forget, either. You won’t stop being my Daddy, just because of him being my birth father? You promise?”
“I promise, baby. I swear it. Be good for your mother and father, but don’t forget your Daddy. Be good for me, too,” I made her swear and she did, as I held her tight and finally let her go.
My eyes barely able to read the divorce settlement paperwork, I leaned and slumped over my desk as I sat down, poured myself a strong shot of Jack Daniels, and signed away nine years of my life. One shot of Jack became two, and then two became three, as I fell asleep from the knockout blow of straight whiskey and the pounding headache ... and heartache inside of me.
I woke up to the sight of the TV that had somehow come back on the dim light of my study, where I had been confronted by first my estranged wife and then my now stolen daughter. My heart had been ripped twice out of the cavity of my chest, or so it felt, but I had friends, such as Jack Daniels (hair of the dog that bit me), rounds four, five, and six, and an episode of that series Supernatural, where Dean and Sam Winchester defied Zachariah or some such deal. I was supposed to be broken, the odds against me, but I felt every bit as defiant as Dean and Sam, or was that Sam and Dean.
At this point, perhaps, I should claim that I was the greatest husband ever. Well, no, I wasn’t. I was great, don’t get me wrong. Even by Megan’s own words, I was better in bed than good ol’ Joe. I was kind. I was loving. Hell, I was mushy at times. I loved to kiss Megan, to hold her, to pamper and spoil her rotten, but I wasn’t perfect. You see, I cheated on Megan a lot. I know, I know, that makes me no better than her in some people’s eyes. The difference was that it would never have occurred to me to leave Megan and break her heart like that. In hindsight, of course, perhaps that would have made it easier on all of us, but I stupidly thought that she loved me. Boy, was I wrong!
Still, I loved Megan a great deal and I treated her like a queen most of the time. I babied her. I held her head if she needed to throw up. I doted on Katie, just as she did. I was home most days of the week, only going now and then, on so-called “fishing trips,” which were actually when I cheated. It was the perfect alibi, really, and no one was any the wiser. Why did I do this? Because, deep down, in my soul, I thought that the rules of monogamy were stupid and wrong. I thought that it didn’t matter who I slept with, as long as I came home to Megan and Katie and treated them both like the wonderful girls that they were.
Deep down, I never believed in that one part of traditional marriage and family ... I believed in everything else, but not that. I was never a Christian and I found that one rule or part of the whole marriage compact pointless and unnecessary to the rest ... and yet, in the end, it was me that was betrayed and done wrong. If anything, in my book, that just proved my point. Marriage was about permanence, not exclusivity, and it was not the sharing, but the leaving that destroyed families.
I know how that I just lost the sympathy of a lot of people, but, hey, this is my story, and I’m telling it plain, honest, and unvarnished. This was me. The only sin in my book was that I lied to Megan, but then I didn’t want to deprive Katie of a father by telling the truth. That was how I justified my lies, that and not wanting to hurt Megan, either. I also told myself that if Megan were cheating, I would be so far ahead of the game that I could easily forgive that slip, because I was already doing that to her. We could let things slide. I could look the other way, even. I wouldn’t even have to confront her. That was how I convinced myself not to tell her the truth, not to confess. In the end, I never did ... I didn’t want to have to pay her a bunch of money and make her feel justified in sticking it to me, adding insult to injury by trying to screw me over.
My pride might have had it a little easier if I had told her, but it could also stomach letting Megan think that she got one over on me, as long as I knew the truth for myself. It could be my ace in the hole, my secret, devilish delight in knowing that I had quietly fucked around and gotten away with it, after all. One thing was sure ... I made a point in renewing my membership in the Church of Satan. I would definitely want to thank him for not letting me caught by a woman who would use me as a starter husband. My betrayal of her was far less serious than her betrayal of me, whatever she said. Thank Satan, I got off with only a heartache, not a heartache and the loss of three-quarters of my livelihood. I had let my membership lapse, since after all, Satan wasn’t a literal being keeping tabs on me. Still, it was high time to remind myself of the values that I had nearly forgotten in the midst of my marriage to my very Catholic wife.