I looked at her like she was some alien life form as my mind digested what she'd said to me over dinner. She had waited until the fresh baked apple pie was cut and then she had hit me with it.
"There is no easy way for me to do this so I'll go right at it. The kids are gone. I've been a damned good wife, mother and homemaker for the last twenty-four years. I've put you, the kids and the home ahead of everything and I've decided that it is time to do some things for myself. I'm forty-five and still reasonably attractive and I need to do it while I still have the goods.
"I love you and you know I do, but this is something that I have wanted to do for almost fifteen years now and I have accepted that you won't join me and be a part of it. I hate to see twenty-four good years go down the drain, but if you want a divorce over this I'll just have to live with it. I have a date for Friday night so if you don't want reheated leftovers for dinner you will need to eat out."
I just sat there and stared at her until she said, "Say something Rob."
I shrugged and said, "Good luck."
"Good luck? What do you mean by that?"
"Good luck in your new life and since you are no longer in mine I don't want you in my bedroom. So move out. Tonight! We can share the house until it is sold. I'll call a realtor in the morning and get the process moving. But I warn you that even though we will share the house you had better never bring your lovers into it or I'm liable to kill you both."
"Sell the house? I don't want to sell the house. I love this place."
"Then you need to come up with the money to buy out my share. In a divorce the assets will be split and that means the house gets sold. We only have two years left before it will be paid off and our equity is about two hundred and eighty thousand so you will need to come up with a hundred and forty thousand. You can think about where to get the money while you are moving out of the bedroom.
"I suggest that you get started now as I want to turn in early. Tomorrow will be a busy day for me seeing to the realtor, getting an attorney and doing all the rest that needs to be done."
"Why are you rushing into this?"
"Why not? You just ended our marriage so I see no need to pussyfoot around. Just get on it and get it done."
"But I haven't even done it yet."
"Doesn't matter. The 'in your face' attitude you just displayed in telling me what you intend to do told me just what you think of me. If you fuck your date on Friday or not we are still quits. Best you get started moving your stuff. Anything of yours still in the room when I go up to bed will be tossed out the bedroom window."
"We need to talk this out Rob."
"No we don't. You are a cheating cunt and I don't want any more to do with you."
"I am not a cheater!"
"Yes you are Mandy. You just told me that you have a date for Friday night. Not that you were going out looking, but that you already have one. That means that you have been meeting and talking with another man with the intent of setting up a sexual encounter and in my book that is the same as cheating. Now get the fuck out of my sight and start moving your shit!"
I got up from the table and headed for my 'man cave" which was also our garage. As I worked on my latest project, a 1965 Pontiac Catalina convertible, I thought back to when this nonsense started. It was about fifteen years ago and it was all because of who I was and what I did before I got married.
I had been quite the horn dog in high school. Pauline French had taken my virginity on my eighteenth birthday and I had liked it. So much so that I'd spent considerable time looking for more and as a result I had bedded a few of the opposite sex. Well, more than a few to be honest about it. I was your typical 'love them and leave them' asshole until I got to college and a couple of girls made it their business to cure me of my bad habits. I'd loved and left both of them and they got together and made it a crusade to see to it that it didn't happen to other girls. If they saw me with a girl they moved right in and told her about me. By my junior year the word had spread and I couldn't get a date to save my life.
The first year of my senior year I met Amanda Martin and fell ass end over tea kettle in love. She wouldn't have anything to do with me.
"I've been told what kind of guy you are and I know what you want and it isn't going to happen."
I kept on trying until one day she said, "Do I have to call the cops on you and file a complaint? As far as I'm concerned you are stalking me. Do I need to get a restraining order on you? Leave me alone! One last time! I want nothing to do with you! I am not going to be another notch on your bed post!"
I got the message and finally realized what my horn dog attitude had cost me. For the rest of my senior year I went dateless and ate my heart out every time I saw Amanda.
Graduation came and I went to work for the Athena Group in their marketing department. It isn't bragging to say I was a good looking guy and in pretty decent shape and I attracted the attention of several of the single girls who worked in my department. Truth be told a couple of the married ones also showed an interest. None of them knew my reputation so you could say that it was a target rich environment for someone like me.
But a funny thing happened somewhere along the line. I didn't take advantage of it. I guess the easiest way to explain it would be to say that I grew up Some time during my senior year I realized that I was never going to have a meaningful relationship with a girl like Amanda unless I changed my ways and God knows that I had really wanted that relationship with Amanda.
A year went by and while I did date a lot I pretty much behaved myself. I did fall into a friends with benefits relationship with a girl and it lasted for about six months and ended when she took a job in another state. Even though I dated a lot I never met a girl who made me feel like Amanda did and that feeling was my benchmark, my baseline, and what I was looking for and quite frankly I was beginning to feel that I was never going to find it.
One night after working late I stopped at The Purple Onion on the way home from work. I was a regular there and Suzie behind the bar had my vodka tonic sitting on the bar by the time I slid onto the bar stool. I'd been there maybe a half hour when I heard a commotion behind me, I heard a woman say "Let go of me!" and a male voice say:
"No way are you hanging me out lady. Dinner, drinks, a show and you have been cock teasing me all night so there is no way you are going to get away with just saying goodnight."
"Let go of me asshole!"
"No way bitch! I'm going to get at least a blow job out of this night."
Normally I'm a guy who minds his own business, but the asshole acting like that and saying that kind of shit out loud and in public just set me off. I got up and went over to him and told him to get his ass out of the bar.
Who is going to make me, you?"
"Bet your ass."
"Fuck you" he said and swung on me. I blocked it and hit him hard. He staggered and I hit him twice more, grabbed him, spun him around, put him in a hammerlock and frog marched him out the door into the parking lot. The door didn't have a knob' it was the push bar type and I walked his body right into the push bar to open the door. His body hit the push bar at the same time his face hit the door and blood spurted from his nose. I walked him straight to the dumpster and then picked him up as I said "In you go with the rest of the garbage" and I dropped him into the dumpster as I said:
"If you are smart you won't come back into the bar."
I didn't go back in either because my good mood was gone. I went home to my apartment. Took a shower and went to bed.
It was three days before I stopped in at the Onion again. And as usual Suzie had my vodka tonic sitting on the bar when I reached the barstool. She went to the cash register and then came back and handed me an envelope.
"What's this" I asked.
"When you walked that turd out of here the other night you left your money lying on the bar. You tip well, but not that well so I put it in the register for you."
I took the envelope and put it in my pocket without looking in it and took out my wallet and dropped a twenty on the bar for my drink. Suzie pushed it back at me and said:
"Your money is no good in here tonight."
"The lady you rescued the other night told me to call her and let her know when you came back in again. I'm supposed to feed you drinks on her dime to hold you here until she gets here."
"You're kidding me."
"Not the least little bit bubba. The lady wants to thank you in person."
I was on my third vodka tonic when Suzie set a glass of white wine in front of the stool on my right and before I could ask her what it was for someone sat down on the stool. I looked and my jaw dropped as Amanda Martin smiled at me and said:
"Hi Rob; long time no see."
I was so stunned to see her that I was at a loss for words.
"What's the matter Rob? You never used to be the silent type."
"I'm just surprised to see you after all these years."
"It could have been three days sooner if you had come back in after escorting Dirk out of here the other night."
"That was you he was hassling?"
"It was. Unfortunately he was another one of my many mistakes. I seem to be incapable of picking a good man."
I had no idea of what I could say to that so I let it pass and asked her how she'd been and then about what she'd been doing since she left school. We talked for a while and then I asked her if she'd eaten yet and she hadn't so I asked her if she would care to join me for dinner. By the time dessert and coffee was served I had a date for the next night and that date led to many more and six months later I asked Mandy to marry me and she said yes.
Amanda came to our marriage bed a virgin and that fact was to have a major impact on our lives in the future.
A year after our wedding Jason William joined us and a year and a half later Amber Marie became a member of our family. We had been married five years when Mandy hit me with one of the questions known to strike fear in a husband's heart.
"You know I love you right?"
"Of course I do."
"And you know that I would never do anything that would hurt our marriage, right?"
"Don't pussy-foot Mandy; lay it on me."
"You know I came into our marriage a virgin, right?"
"Get to it Mandy."
"You had so much experience before we became a couple so I know you had a wide range of experiences. I've always wondered what I missed by staying pure until my wedding."
I just sat there and looked at her in silence as she went on.
"You remember Sally Stiles?"
I did. She was one of the girls that Amanda hung out with in college and I knew that the two had stayed in touch and I nodded a yes.
"Well Sally and I talk a lot and she was telling me about her sex life with her husband Ralph. I confessed that you were the only man I'd ever had sex with and I admitted to being curious about what I'd missed by staying a virgin."
"So what is this all about Mandy?"
"I don't know how to say it Rob."
"I'm afraid that you will take it wrong."
"Take what wrong?"
"I'd like to experience another man."
"You have got to be kidding me."
"Just hear me out Rob. I love you and I'm perfectly happy with you and our marriage. I just want to see what sex is like with someone else. No love or affection, just the physical act is all I want to experience and I don't need to go out and try a random pick up. Sally and Ralph belong to a swingers group and she said that she and Ralph would sponsor us. All the members are tested every two weeks so it is safe. We would do it together. It would give you a chance for a little variety and allow me to satisfy my curiosity."
"You have to be out of your mind if you think I would go along with something like that. The time to satisfy your curiosity is before you get married and not during the marriage. My response is to tell you to stop talking to Sally and letting her fill your head with garbage."
"All I wa..."
"No! Not just no but fuck no! Just drop it Amanda. I don't want to hear any more about it."
Things were a little icy around the house for the next couple of days and then things got back to normal. But when I told Mandy that I didn't want to hear any more about it it apparently didn't register with her. She brought it up a couple of times over the next several years and always when we were drinking and partying.
Typical was the night of her thirty-eighth birthday. I took her out to dinner and then we went for drinks and dancing. Several drinks and dances into the night and when I was feeling amorous and feeling her up on the dance floor she pointed out a couple and said:
"She's certainly sexy. Wouldn't you like a taste of that?"
She certainly was a sexy looking lady and if I was single I most definitely would have been interested and then Mandy said:
"And he isn't half bad either. Maybe we could meet them."
I knew she was fishing again so I just said, "No need. I've already got the one I want for tonight."
That happened three or more times over the years and while I can't prove it I know that at least some of them were plants. I discovered that one night when Sally and Ralph came in and sat down with the couple that Mandy was trying to get me interested in. Not a doubt in my mind that they were swinger friends of Sally and Ralph and that Mandy knew who they were and was hoping that I would take the bait.
The only thing I took from the night was the idea that I needed to watch Mandy a little closer. She was still friends with Sally and she had to have been introduced to the couple by Sally in order to know who they were. And if she was that in touch with swingers what else might she be doing? She stopped for drinks occasionally with the people she worked with and she did have a girls night out every once in a while. I really didn't think she was cheating on me yet because everything I'd heard about swing groups said that they didn't take in singles. I didn't think Mandy would hook up with some guy so she could go as part of a couple. I mean why would she? If she hooked up with a guy she wouldn't have to go to a swinger's group to get the experience that she craved would she?
It all came to a head on Mandy's thirty-ninth birthday. I asked her what she would like for her birthday present and she said:
"I want you to let me experience another man. Just once. I only want to try it one time and I'll never ask again."
"Tell you what I'll do Amanda. For your birthday I'll see an attorney, fill out the papers and have them served on you. Once we are divorced you can fuck all the other men that you want and have experiences by the bucket full. This is the last time I want to hear this shit! Let me make this absolutely crystal clear. The only way you are going to fuck another man without me tossing you out with the garbage is if we are divorced or I am dead.
"Get that firmly in your head. I'll even take it a step farther to make it as clear as can be. If you bring this shit up to me ever again I will divorce your ass and set you free to fuck all you want!"
I believed that I had finally gotten through to her because she never brought it up again.
Until the night she told me that she was going to do it whether I liked it or not.
The next morning I did see a realtor and an attorney. It would be a cut and dried fifty/fifty split. Amanda made as much as I did so there would be no alimony and the kids were grown up and gone. About the only things we would have to squabble over would be who got what out of the house.
I don't believe that Amanda knew what she had set in motion until she came home from work Wednesday evening and found a for sale sign on a post in our front yard. And it really hit home when she was served at work on Thursday. She was pissed! I mean she was absolutely livid when she got home Thursday night and lit into me for having her served in front of her co-workers.
"Only fitting" I said.
"What the hell do you mean by that?"
"I can pretty much account for your time so if you were talking dates with a man I figure that you had to be doing it at work. So to me it seems fitting that since the ending of our marriage started at your work place that is where you should be served."
"Nothing started at work!"
"Whatever. What needed to be done got done and as far as I'm concerned now that you have been served you are free to go and fuck other guys to your hearts content."
I got up, put on my coat and headed for the door.
"Where are you going?"
"To the bar. I'm going to drink some beer and shoot some pool and get a head start on my new life as a single guy."
"We need to talk Rob."
"No we don't Amanda. You said every thing that needed to be said when you looked me right in the eye and told me that you were going to deliberately cheat on me and that if I didn't like it I could go for a divorce. Well Amanda, I didn't like it so I'm getting the divorce."
I left the house and headed for Bud's Bar.
I drank beer and shot pool until ten-thirty and then I went on home. Amanda was already in bed and she was still in her room when I left for work in the morning so I didn't know if she dressed for her date or took a change of clothes with her to work.
After work I stopped at the Village Inn for dinner and when I got home at seven I was surprised to see Amanda's car in the garage. I figured that she must have come home and changed after work and that her date had picked her up here at the house. The guy must have stones the size of basket balls if he could do that knowing that I might be there. With that thought in mind I went into the house and found Amanda sitting at the kitchen table nursing a glass of wine.
There was no lack of sarcasm in my voice when I said, "Date over all ready? He was that much of a dud?"
"Fuck you Rob! There was no date. There never was a date. I made all that up."
"Yeah! Right! Like I'm going to believe that."
"I've wanted to do it forever Rob and I felt that if it was going to happen it needed to be done while I still had my looks. Sally told me that I should just tell you that I was going to do it and that you wouldn't want to lose me so you would go along with it."
"I told you a long time ago to stay away from that stupid bitch, but oh no, you couldn't listen to me and instead you listen to her. How's that working out for you?"
"This isn't funny Rob. It has gotten way out of hand. You need to call the realtor and take the house off the market and call your lawyer and stop this divorce nonsense."
"Why would I want to do that?"
"I just told you. There was no date. It was all a bluff to try and get you to go along with me on what I wanted."
"There is a small problem with that Amanda."
"I do not choose to believe you. My take on it is that you didn't expect me to take a hard line and when I did it shocked you and now you are trying to do damage control. You more than likely called your date and begged off and now you are trying to salvage your marriage. I'm not buying it. You might as well call your date back and tell him it is a go after all.
"Make sure that your room is straight before you go. Just in case you are not home by nine in the morning. There is a couple coming to look at the house at ten. Good night. Have fun on your date. I sure hope it is worth what it cost you."
She started crying as I left the room and there once was a time when it would have caused me to rush to her, take her in my arms and comfort her. But that was then.
As I climbed into bed I did wonder if Amanda was telling the truth. It was possible, but I couldn't be sure and that was the killer - the fact that I couldn't be sure. Then I had a thought. It was a little out there, but it could work. It was a long shot, but it wouldn't cost me a thing to try it. I got up and got my cell phone. Since Amanda spent so much time with Sally I had Sally on speed dial in case I needed to get in touch with Amanda.
I called Sally and when she answered I told her I needed a big favor.
"Can you get a message to Mandy without messing up her date?"
"She cancelled the date. She is supposed to be home talking to you."
"Oh? I haven't gone home yet. I guess I'd better hurry home then."
I disconnected and went to bed. So much for Amanda's story that it was all a bluff.
In the morning I made the bed and picked up the room. When I got to the kitchen Amanda was there and it did not look as if she had a good night. She did have the coffee made so I poured myself a cup.
"Is your room straight" I asked.
"You aren't really going to sell the house are you?
"Of course I am."
"I don't want a divorce Rob. Please! It was all a big mistake. I don't want a divorce."