One thing I admired about Lee was how committed he was. If he wanted something, he went for it. There was very little that could stop him. It’s why he was a great lawyer. After the wrestling meet Lee tried to make lunch happen. God, he tried so hard. Despite his best effort, and to this day I do consider it his best work, nothing ever came together. How could it when everyone was working against him? It killed me to see him so defeated and disappointed but there was no other option.
Whatever complicated situation they were in that made it hard to like Lee, that was their burden. I may not have understood their reasons or the why behind them but I did understand that sometimes, despite everything, there were certain people you just didn’t like. I wasn’t perfect, I’d been there. I worked with teenagers for Christ sake. Some of them rubbed me the wrong way. I even went out of my way to avoid a few of them, that’s how annoying they were to me. So, I can genuinely say I held no ill will towards the Knotts. I even missed them. Despite their aversion to my husband, they were fun and outgoing. I even missed them showing up unannounced. Ryan and Logan’s arrogance was kind of sweet.
Then there was Penn and I—well, I tried not to miss him the most.
I had more acquaintances than I could count but lacked the friendship that storybooks were made of. Even Nathan, who was my best friend, lacked the depth I craved. Then I met Penn and, what started out as standoffish, morphed into something exciting. It was weird to be thirty-three and feeling like you found your first real friend. I wanted to invite him to the playground and ride the merry go round, maybe go to the forest and poke slugs, beg mom to let us have a sleepover and then stay up all night talking.
I knew letting them go was the right call, there was never a doubt in my mind. It sucked though, to finally find a best friend and then walk away. For selfish reasons I regretted cutting Penn out, but, realistically, what else was there to do?
The biggest perk to my job, besides knowing so many awesome kids, was camp. Didn’t matter if it was a week in the summer, a month on assignment, or weekend trips in the spring and fall...camp filled my soul. As a full time staff person, I was required to work various roles throughout the year so other areas could have the same experiences I got to have with the kids from my community.
I usually served on the entertainment side. I was part of a two to three-person team that created funny and loveable characters that kids could relate to. I spent my time on stage making kids laugh. Sometimes I was more of a supportive role, making sure volunteer leaders were taken care of mentally and emotionally. Once, I was even the camp director. It was a big role, one that pushed me beyond my limits. I was in no hurry to do that again.
The upcoming trip was a new adventure for me. I’d been asked to be the camp speaker. I spoke weekly at club, in front of kids I knew well, but had never done it at camp. I was excited to challenge myself in a new way.
Nothing about the weekend started out well. The night before I needed to leave, I’d put my iPad on the charger. It had everything I needed for the weekend. Every outline to every talk I planned to give, the weekend schedule, the housing information, the list of people I’d be working with, the wifi password, everything. When I woke up, it was dead. I tired and tired but couldn’t get the damn thing to charge.
Everything was backed up to the cloud so I asked Lee if I could borrow his iPad for the weekend. I had bought him one years ago but he never took to it. I’d only ever seen him use it once or twice and only to try and make me feel better about buying a crappy gift. He loved his phone but never found his groove with the iPad. I was surprised, I thought he would have utilized it for work.
“It’s yours if you can find it,” he said as he watched me scrambling to get the last of my things. He would’ve helped but he hadn’t touched the thing in a year and probably didn’t know here it was at. I finally found it, at the bottom of a drawer. It was dead but when I plugged it in, the charging icon lit up. That was more than I could say for mine. I unplugged it and shoved it and the charger in my bag, kissed Lee goodbye. Just as I was about to rush out the door, Lee grabbed me.
I was flustered and, in a hurry, but he waited for me to calm down.
“Everything’s going to be great. You’re going to do great. This is what you’re good at and you’ve been preparing for months. I love you.” I was still feeling anxious when he kissed me. I kissed him back and turned to rush out. Lee pulled me back again, making me more frustrated. I needed to leave. Now. Lee looked me in the eyes, ever so patiently. “I love you.”
I set my bag down and wrapped my arms around Lee. “I love you too. I’m so overwhelmed right now.”
“I know, but you got this. Use the drive to collect yourself. Being stressed out won’t benefit anyone,” he said. “And be safe.”
Camp was seven hours away so I took the Audi. Lee didn’t love when we switched cars but he didn’t complain either. I got to camp in record time and checked into my room. For a youth camp in the middle of nowhere, the accommodations were pretty nice. The main downfall was no cell service paired with pretty terrible Wi-Fi.
I put the iPad on the charger and unpacked my stuff. I had a few hours before kids would begin to arrive and I had a lot to do. When the iPad turned on, it wouldn’t let me do much with being updated. Thirty minutes later it was ready to go. It was still synced to Lee’s phone and full of a million notifications. Poor Lee never had a break.
I was about to log out of his account and log in under my account when everything flipped upside down.
It was a text, not a regular one, but one from a messaging app. It was so weird, Lee didn’t use a messaging app, he had no reason to. We were adults who had phone plans and social media accounts. Why would he need an app used by kids who had to text from hand me down iPods and Kindles?
‘It’s about time. I missed you.’
My stomach dropped like a lead weight. I had no illusions. I didn’t need to investigate further; I knew what I’d find. But I looked anyway. I should’ve stopped, but I didn’t.
There were a lot of messages. Even some pictures. A quick glance was enough to make me nauseous and light headed. I scrolled as fast as I could. I didn’t want to read any more words or see any more pictures of Lee and—I couldn’t even say his name.
I just wanted to know when—
June third. My stomach churned and my eyes burned. It wasn’t three months ago, June third. It was three June thirds ago.
By the time it sunk in, I was sweating. My clothes felt damp and tight, I pulled at my collar but it wouldn’t give. My head hurt and my lips were chapped. I felt worse than I did after the race in Seattle. Most of all, my heart was broken.
I slowly set the tablet down and stared at the wall. It would’ve been easy, really fucking easy, to lay in that bed and never get up. But I couldn’t. I was there for a reason and I needed to focus. It was like my brain was going a thousand miles an hour but standing still at the same time. I was emotional and completely void.
I was in survival mode. I had to survive the weekend and I couldn’t do that by thinking about—
Someone knocked on my door. I looked at my watch, two hours had passed since I had arrived. Two hours.
Wayne stood there, smiling. I’d known him since I was fifteen. He was the reason I joined Yevo staff in the first place. Wayne had been my boss since day one. He’d actually just been promoted, he was no longer just my boss, he was everyone's boss. There wasn't a better man for the job. At sixty, he had the age and wisdom of a wise owl while having the maturity level and sense of humor of an adolescent.
“Nash,” he said enthusiastically. An oversized smile graced his face. He leaned in and hugged me. He held my shoulders and he gave me a once over. His smile faded, “Whoa there, what’s going on?”
I wasn’t going to tell him. I really wasn’t. But then I did. I told him everything I knew, which wasn’t much. I even told him who the other man was, Paul. I’d seen the pictures in the chat and I knew it was true. It made sense. It explained so much—why Paul was such an asshole to me.
He was sleeping with my husband.
Wayne sat there while I calmly processed my husband's infidelity. My loving husband who hung my moon. I should have been more upset but I felt scarily calm. It could have been the years of counseling others that allowed me to look Wayne in the eyes without flinching and explained how my entire life was a goddamn lie. Or maybe it was just a bit of self-preservation.
“Well, fuck shit piss Mississippi,” Wayne said when I finished.
Despite the tragic turn my life had just taken, I laughed at his words.
His kids were my age. When his oldest, Jacob, was a kid, they rearranged his room. When they moved his dresser, they saw fuck shit piss Mississippi written on the side. Jacob was ten or so and had just learned to spell a few cuss words and, of course, Mississippi was a milestone word of its own, complete with its own song and everything. Wayne and Lori couldn’t help but laugh. Twenty years later and it had become a popular term within our community. Leave it to Wayne to say it in a way that can bring humor in any situation.
“I couldn’t agree more,” I said, trying to smile.
“Well, what happens next?”
I scooted back on the bed until I was leaning against the headboard. “Go home. Get a divorce?” I looked at him in loss of what to do. “I don’t know what else there is.”
“You don’t think you guys can work it out?”
“No,” I shook my head. “Maybe if it had been a fluke—” I cringed; what kind of fluke landed you in someone else's bed? “Or a one-time thing, maybe we could go to counseling and work past it. But, Wayne, whatever is going on with them started over two years ago. That’s—”
Too much. Too serious. Too long. I could feel the emotion trembling in my chest. I looked away.
“Yeah,” he agreed sympathetically. He fully understood that Lee’s actions were past reconciliation. Two years isn’t a fling, it’s a second life. One that didn’t include me. “How are you so calm about this? You are kind of freaking me out.”
“I don’t know,” I said honestly. “I know this isn’t a dream. I know this is real, but it feels like a joke. Like, it’s written on the surface but the ink hasn’t penetrated my skin.”
“It will hit you like the flames from a burning motorhome.”
I laughed again, remembering the story of his younger years when he first joined YEVO. He was hosting a bonfire. One thing led to another and his old motorhome had caught on fire. Ended up being fined two grand by the police and almost lost his job.
“How did you get this promotion again? The ‘what not to do’ manual is written from your experiences. You’re a terrible example,” I laughed.
“Yet, here I am,” he laughed. We talked for a little longer. We walked through some logical next-steps. We also talked about ways to handle the situation with grace. Which I needed because the more it sank in, the more I wanted to murder Lee.
I didn’t need to be reminded that, no matter what was happening in my personal life, I had a community of people watching me. I was a public figure. That kind of pressure had never bothered me, I thrived on the accountability. I had also never gone through something so terrible, either.
Wayne looked at his watch.
“Most of the camp has arrived. Why don’t I grab dinner and bring it back here?”
I thought about it. I could stay cooped up in my room but I wasn’t sure that was the best idea. “I’d like to go. If I sit in this room I’m going to dwell. I’m not ready for that.”
“Your call,” he smiled. “Are you leaving in the morning?” he asked because obviously I would no longer be speaking.
“Yeah. I think it’s best.”
The dining hall was full of people and loud as ever. The distraction was nice. Wayne had been on staff since the dinosaur era and was able to take my place as speaker with little effort. He’d covered in a pinch a time or two. I don’t know if everyone knew why I was sitting in the back of the room instead of standing in front of three hundred college kids, but no one said anything, and for that, I was grateful.
“Don’t worry, I got it,” I teased.
Wayne sat in one of the camp golf carts while I tossed my stuff in the back seat. “I learned a long time ago that you didn’t need my help.”
When I finished, he got out of the cart and pulled me into a hug. “You call me. No one expects you to go through this alone. I’ll come to you if you need. Let me know when you’re ready and I’ll be there to address the committee with you. We’ll deal with this together.”
I nodded and got in the car. Wayne leaned forward and rested his elbows on the window seal. “None of this is a reflection of who you are. This Lee,” he reached out and squeezed my shoulder. “Don’t you forget that. And no matter how hard the upcoming days are, it will get better. Don’t deviate from who you are. If there’s one thing I know about you, it’s that you’re better than the circumstances you’re dealt, and you will come out stronger.”
“Great speech, can you say it again so I record it?”
“I love you,” Wayne playfully slapped me upside the head and laughed.
“Don’t get all smoochy on me. You’re old and gross,” I whined.
Wayne barked then grabbed the back of my neck and planted a sloppy kiss on my forehead. We both laughed as I used his sweater to wipe my forehead clean.
The ride home was brutal. I let my mind wander to bad places. There were a few times I was tempted to grab his iPad and do more than glance at the messages. I was tempted to read every torrid detail. In the end, I knew there’d be no benefit from that knowledge...only lasting damage.
When I wasn’t causing myself emotional scars, I thought about things from a logistical standpoint. How would I confront him? How would he react? Where would I stay? What would I do? Wow would the divorce go? Single life would be an adjustment, especially with my meager income. I prepared myself for the fact I might need to sell a bunch of stuff on eBay. Goodbye to the vacations and the vehicle upgrade we’d been talking about.
Not that any of that mattered when I thought about the dissolution of my eleven-year marriage. The man I put above all else didn’t feel the same. Fuck, he wasn’t even the man I thought I loved. It was going to take a lot of self-control to not question everything I thought I knew now that my entire world had shifted.
When I got back to town, I drove past my house and straight to Lenny’s. I needed to get a few things in order before confronting Lee…like a place to stay. Okay, I might have been procrastinating. Once I confronted Lee, there’d be no going back and that was a terrifying thought. I knew I couldn’t be with Lee but that didn’t make ending the marriage any easier.
There was a thin line between the past and the future.
Lenny and Tia lived on the edge of town. Their driveway was steep and treacherous and hesitating was the difference between making it to the top or spinning your wheels. I used to feel bad about bombing up their road like a crazy person but now I found it fun.
The view from the top was—wow. It overlooked the city, along with the ocean, the lake, and the mountains. I could spend hours with a view like that.
When I finally got to the top, there were bumper to bumper cars outside their house.
I parked by the guest cottage and sent Lenny a text. I hoped and prayed no one saw me come up. I didn’t have it in me to pretend like things were fine. The closer I got to confronting Lee, the worse I felt. I just needed Len.
A few minutes later he came out of the garage looking for me. I waved discretely from the far side of their circular driveway. I could have met him half way but I made him come to me.
“Hey Nash, I thought you were gone all weekend?”
“I was but things changed and I had to come home. Which is why I’m here. Can I stay in the cottage for a while?”
Len looked at me for a second, confusing in his eyes. “Of course, you and Lee are welcome anytime. When do you guys need it?”
“Tonight would be good. And—-um, it’ll just be me.”
Len looked at me then back at the house to see if we were still alone. “Yeah, okay. Is everything okay?”
“No, not at all.”
I knew he wanted more but he bit his tongue.“Whatever you need, Nash, don’t hesitate to ask. I know I don’t have to say it but, you’re welcome to anything we have.”
It was true. They had an open-door policy, literally. They had a beautiful home and they never locked it. People came and went as they pleased. I had made myself home there many times. Lenny and Tia were among the most generous and trusting people I had ever met.
I looked past Len and saw Ryan and Logan coming out the side door, laughing about something. When they saw I was with Len they smiled and waved. Len followed my gaze and saw them, too.
“That’s my cue,” I said and started to walk backward. “What time will everyone be gone?”
“A couple of hours. I can text you if you’d like?”
“That would be great.”
I heard my name being yelled and I panicked.
“Don’t worry about them. I’ll take care of it.”
I took the long way home. In a small town like Lincoln, it added a whopping seven minutes to my drive. When I pulled up, the garage door was open so I pulled in. I sat in the car for a while. I didn’t tell him I was coming home early and didn’t know what to expect when I walked in.
Did I come straight out and tell him I knew? Did I pretend like nothing was wrong, then pack my stuff when he wasn’t looking and leave? Did I try and get him to volunteer the information? After years of lying and cheating I didn’t think he’d come clean on his own. That ship had sailed.
My phone binged with another new message. I thought it might’ve been Penn or Ryan, they’d sent me a few after I left Len’s. They were left unread. This one was from Wayne. It was a little encouragement. Reminding me to stay level headed no matter how things went.
The house was quiet as I set my stuff on the kitchen table. Maybe Paul was there. Maybe they were in bed together? Part of me hoped so, it would almost make things easier. Except it wouldn’t. It would devastate me.
I grabbed his iPad, just in case, and set out to find Lee...and possibly Paul.
“Christ, Nash!” He shouted as he leaned against the wall, holding his chest. “You scared the shit out of me. What are you doing home so early?”
I watched his face. He looked startled but not guilty meaning Paul wasn’t there. I wasn’t sure what to say. The last text I had read between the two had been a rendezvous this weekend while I was out of town. No matter how much of the drive home was focused on this moment, none of it prepared me for confronting him. It was the first time in my life that I stood in front of Lee, speechless.
“You’re having an affair with Paul,” I blurted, going with the direct approach.
Lee’s mouth opened. Before he could come up with some bullshit answer I turned and walked downstairs. I was terrified to hear what he had to say.
I could hear his footsteps as he chased me to the kitchen. “What are you talking about?!” He was freaking out.
I unlocked his iPad and shoved the screen in his face.
“I saw it all. It’s all there,” I shook the offending device. “Everything you and Paul said. I saw it.”
His eyes widened as he stood there in shock. He didn’t make an effort to grab the iPad. He didn’t need confirmation. We both knew. “Nash,” he pleaded. “It was a mistake I made a long time ago.”
I had to think about it. I hadn’t read the messages thoroughly, maybe I’d gotten something wrong? I had an idea. I pointed to the nanny cam that sat in the living room. We had a couple of them placed throughout the house so we could keep an eye on the kids when they house sat for us. I trusted them, but not that much.
“I want to check the cameras.”
Lee looked at the camera and covered his face in defeat. He kept repeating my name then he started crying. That was all the confrontation I needed. I took a deep breath and walked to the bedroom. Lee cheated and now my marriage was over.
I packed a bunch of my stuff while Lee cried and apologized. Then he begged and pleaded. I had to wonder how much he meant it because he didn't even try to stop me. If the roles were reversed, I would’ve thrown myself in front of him, I would’ve unpacked everything he tried to pack. I would’ve made leaving me so hard.
It was almost like he was more upset about getting caught then he was about the actual crime.
I had so much I wanted to say and so many questions I wanted answered, but it wasn’t the time. I bit my tongue and packed my life into two bags. Then I left. Lee followed me through the door to the car as tears streamed down his face.
“Please, Nash. Don’t do anything rash before we can talk. Take a few days, a week, a month, whatever you need, but then can we talk? Please.”
I didn’t say anything, just closed the door on him. He started to panic when he realized I was leaving. Before I could pull away, he knocked on the window looking totally devastated. Even though it was his fault things were ending the way they were, I could feel my chest swell with emotion. I still loved him more than anything in my life
“Please? Please tell me we can talk about this.”
“When things settle,” I said.
And then I pulled away from everything I ever called home.
I don’t know how I felt. I was hurt and angry and completely devastated, yet, part of me felt like I had my shit together. I was composed enough to stop at the grocery store and bought enough food to keep me alive for a few days. Then I waited for Len to call.
What I would have given to be twenty-four hours younger. When I thought love was forever and happiness was my every day standard. It was a simpler time, a far cry from sitting in my truck, eating a candy bar and waiting for the all-clear that my temporary living arrangement was free from prying eyes.
Speaking of prying eyes, I finally read all the text. Ryan gave me a hard time for ditching earlier and Penn made sure to know both Lee and I were invited to stop by. Len’s text never came so I decided to bite the bullet and go, I was tired and didn’t want to fall asleep in my truck.
As I neared the top, it was obvious everyone was still there. I parked, tucking the truck behind the cottage as much as possible so no one could see I was there. I snuck around the side and entered the cabin, which was unsurprisingly unlocked.
The cottage was beautiful thanks to Tia and her love of decorating. It was country chic; white, with white accents, and colorful flowers paired with more white accents. The kitchen was small with a little refrigerator, gas stove, counter space for one, and enough cupboard space for a three-day getaway.
Past the cozy living room and kitchen was a small bathroom, also white, followed by two bedrooms. I claimed the larger of the two by setting my bags on the floor against the wall.
This cottage, torn straight from the pages of a Joanna Gaines book, was my new home.
I turned the heater on, kept the lights off, and flopped down on the couch. The sun had already disappeared over the horizon. I had a perfect view from the couch and watched as what little light was left faded to black.
I thought about Lee. I always thought about Lee, more than anyone else in my life. I thought about him when I was excited, when the day was total shit, when my mom drove me nuts, when I couldn’t decide what ice-cream to get. There wasn’t anything that didn’t make me think of him.
I was thinking about Lee when I heard truck engines come to life in the distance. The shadows began to move, moments later the convoy of cars began their descent. One by one they passed the window. Abby’s newer Escalade lead the group, followed by Logan and Ryan in their white work trucks; if it weren’t for the different work logos, I never would’ve been able to tell them apart. A few vehicles passed that I didn’t recognize, then Penn’s truck.
The cab light was on and I could see Camilla sitting in the passenger's seat looking for something. She said something that made him smile. The casual, intimate moment between them made me think of Lee. Because that was us, that was how we used to be.
I closed my eyes. I knew that one day I wouldn’t think about Lee anymore, but it was a long way off. You don’t forget your husband overnight. Seventeen years meant something, at least it did to me.
Not so much to Lee.
Despite waking up in a strange bed, I felt surprisingly...normal. Emotionally, it felt like any other day and I went about my morning routine without missing a step.
I had always been emotionally mature and excelled in times of distress, which you could easily categorize a cheating husband as such. As great as I felt, I knew the emotional warfare that lay ahead and I was prepared to face that beast.
Lee gave me one whole day before he reached out to me. I guess the whole ‘take however much time you need’ was code for ‘twenty-four hours’. I told him that I needed more time and then ignored his calls and texts. Let me come over. Please. Yeah right. There was no way I was telling him where I was. And when he told me he missed me, I almost made a comment about Paul but didn’t because the high road had all sorts of rules and regulations.
For two weeks I laid low and tried my hardest to keep a normal routine. I woke, ate breakfast, ran, and worked. When the evening came, I planned. Everything I owned was intermingled with Lee. Our savings, investments, and two rental properties were all shared.
I spent a good part of those two weeks thinking and stressing about finances, something I never did before. Lee made bacon compared to my peanuts and I was nervous about the adjustment. Once we split everything, I’d be a broke boy. I know it sounds selfish, but I was thinking about booking the trip to Thailand while we still shared money. Even if I could’ve done it behind his back, I knew it wasn’t the right way to go.
Even if he deserved it.
The phone didn’t even ring before he answered.
“I’m so glad you called. I—” he hesitated. He was nervous, I could tell. “It’s so good to hear your voice.” I imagined his cowering tail wagging between his hind legs.
“I was hoping we could talk?”
“Yes,” he responded quickly. “We can meet this weekend or, if you want to do it sooner, I can clear my schedule. I don’t want to sound too eager but I will do whatever you want.”
“Saturday is fine. I’ll come by in the morning.”
“Yes, that’s perfect. Why don’t you come for lunch? I’ll make us food.”
I sighed. I didn’t want to draw this out, which is what would happen if I stayed for lunch.
“Please Nash. We have a lot to talk about and I’d like to make you lunch.”
“Okay,” I said. “I’ll come by for lunch.”
“Good, that’s good,” he said, relieved he wasn’t rejected. “See you on Saturday.”
I didn’t have a single issue waking up every morning in a bed that wasn’t mine or coming and going from a place that wasn’t home. But pulling up to the house that I had designed from the ground up but was no longer my home, really threw me for a loop.
In the beginning, when it was being built, I thought we were creating our forever home. We picked fixtures, fought over upgrades, and dreamed of how we could entertain a house full of teenagers on the weekend and our family during the holidays.
Now all I could was Lee pulling Paul through the front door so they could fuck before I got home. Did Paul park in my spot or walk from his house?
I shook the thoughts from my head and knocked.
“Hey Nash,” Lee opened the door and let me in. His smile was bright but his eyes were reserved.
I don’t know why, but I was surprised when the house looked the same. The house was spotless and the table was already set for lunch. The table settings weren’t the only thing Lee had spent time on. He looked amazing. His dark blonde hair was styled and he wore a flattering outfit; faded jeans and a white shirt. He looked like an angel—a lying, cheating, good for nothing fallen angel.
“I wasn’t sure what you wanted so I made soup, salad, and club sandwiches.” Lee rushed around until everything was on the table. I watched as he double checked his work. He was trying so hard to impress me. If he thought a well-decorated lunch would fix what he broke then he had another thing coming. Before he even sat down, Lee started talking.
“The last two weeks have been so hard. And I know I don’t have any right to say that after what happened but that doesn’t change how I feel. There are so many things I want to say and, we’ll get to all that but, I guess what I’m trying to say is, I’m really glad you’re here.”
I stirred my soup and tried not to dwell on the awkwardness that filled the space between our once easy relationship.
“I don’t know what I’m supposed to say to that. The last two weeks have sucked for me too. Honest, I don’t want to be here and I don’t really want to hear what you have to say.”
He busied himself with food to cover the hurt feelings. It wasn’t the normal quiet we once shared, the kind that was comfortable and full of love, it was tense and sad. He tried to make small talk but, as it turned out, there weren't a lot of safe topics once you cheat on someone.
Lee wiped his face with his napkin then stacked his plates and pushed them away. He patiently waited for me to finish my lunch before clearing the table and refilling our waters. We sipped our drinks. I stared at the table and Lee stared at me.
“I’m sorry, Nash. I’m so fucking sorry.”
“Me, too,” I said.
“What can I do? Please tell me there’s something I can do to save this,” he pleaded.
“If you truly wanted to save this, you wouldn’t have ruined it.”
“I didn’t want to! It was stupid and when I tried to break it off, he started blackmailing me.”
“Yes, continuing a relationship with Paul because he’s ‘blackmailing’ you makes more sense than coming to me and admitting your mistake.”
“I’m not saying that,” he panicked. “I—I wasn’t sure how you’d react and I was terrified you’d leave me.”
“I might have! But, if there was ever a chance at reconciliation, it would’ve come from the truth, which I didn’t get from you. This wasn’t a one-time fling, Lee. You cheated on me for years!”
Lee cried. It wasn’t the ugly messy crying, it was the silent, stoic kind. He sat, unmoving, as the tears ran down his cheeks.
“Why?” I asked, silently.
“I don’t know,” he cried. “You and I started dating when we were so young. Paul paid attention to me. You were busy with everyone else—”
“No,” I interrupted. “You don’t get to blame me! If there was a problem then you should have come to me. How was I supposed to know you weren’t happy when you only ever told me how happy you were? I can’t fix what I don’t know is broken,” I shook my head in frustration. “I have always put you first! So, to sit here and listen to you blame me for your infidelity...no, I won’t do it.”
Lee grabbed my arm when I got up. “I’m sorry. You’re right, Nash. You’re always right. It’s all my fault and I’m angry that I don’t have a good excuse. I’m so terrified, Nash. I’m so scared you’re going to leave me.”
“You should be. Do you want to know why? Because I don’t think you want to be with me.”
“That’s ridiculous!” he shouted. “Of course, I want to be with you.”
“Do you?” I asked with a harsh undertone. “Because two years is a long time to carry on a meaningless fling. Heck, two years isn’t a fling, it’s a relationship! You’ve been in another relationship where you put him before me. I’m not the one who needs time to think about what I want, you do.”
“I don’t. I know I want you. I love you.”
I could feel the anger rising at his lies and excuses. “You don’t, though! I refuse to believe it because if you did, you wouldn’t have cheated on me for as long as you did. That’s not love, Lee.”
Lee cried into his hands.
I was no longer looking at the man I’d known and loved for half my life. I was looking at a stranger. There was a part of me that wanted to find a way to make the future work but no matter how I laid the pieces, staying together didn’t seem possible. To make it work, I’d have to give up a part of who I was and I couldn’t do that. Not for Lee, not for anyone.
“I think we need to let the lawyers handle things from here on out.”
Lee looked at me in shock and shook his head. “No, please no, not yet,” he begged. “Please, Nash. I’m not asking you to stay, I’m just asking that we give it a little more time. Six months. Can we keep everything the same for six months and then we can make the decision? I know you hate me so much right now and, maybe that won’t change, but I don’t want to rush into a divorce if there’s even the slightest chance we can make it work.”
I thought about it. I didn’t see a future, but was I ready to walk away from everything we’d built together? Six months seemed reasonable and when the time was up, I’d have no regret about the decision we made.
“Okay. Six months.”
“Yes,” I nodded. “But we need to straighten some things out.”
“Okay. Whatever you want.”
“Finances. We need to have a plan.” If there’s one thing I had learned from Lee’s work cases over the years was how sensitive finances were. It seemed like money always ruined the best-laid plans. “Do you want to split it and open separate accounts? I don’t want to wake up one day to an empty account. And I want to purchase tickets and make deposits on the Thailand trip but I don’t want to do it behind your back.”
“Oh,” Lee pursed his lips in thought. It almost looked like he hadn’t thought about that part which was surprising given his profession as a lawyer. “Do you think your expenses are going to change? Are you paying rent or anything?”
Did I expect my expenses to change? My life was heading toward divorce, of course I expected my expenses to change. “I’m not paying rent and probably won’t for a while, but I have no clue what the future holds.”
Like my husband having a secret lover.
“We should keep things the way they are. Let’s agree to not do anything financially drastic for the six months.”
“Do you think that's realistic? I mean, what if one of us gets petty?”
“It’s a risk we’ll have to take. If we start splitting our accounts now then we’re practically setting things in motion and I really don’t want that. You don’t trust me, I get that, but I trust you and I know you wouldn’t screw me over.”
“And if I do?” I asked.
“Then I’ll take my punishment.”
“Okay,” I said, skeptically. I wondered if I should slowly start moving money, not to screw Lee over but to protect myself in case he went off the deep end. In the end, I knew the lawyer in Lee wouldn’t do something so rash and crazy.
“So, I’m going to go ahead and buy my tickets.”
“Yeah, whatever you want. You can do whatever you want. I’m not going to tell you no.”
“Okay, I guess we’ll keep things the same until a final decision is reached?”
Lee nodded and I got up to leave. “A few more things,” Lee said. “I’d like to see you once a week. Coffee, lunch, whatever. And I’d like for us to go to counseling.”
“C’mon Nash. You know how important counseling is. Even if things don’t work out, the benefits outweigh everything else. Six months, Nash. Let’s make an effort.
“Not divorcing you tomorrow is me making an effort.” He pleaded and I caved. “Anything else?”
“I know it’s a lot to ask but can we keep this to ourselves? I don’t want to deal with the court of public opinion while we try to sort things out between us.”
I sighed. I felt like that was a really unfair request but I didn’t feel like arguing. “I’ll try.”
I left Lee’s feeling frustrated. I didn’t want to wait six months, I didn’t want to go to counseling with him, I didn’t want to work on things, but I didn’t want to make a rash decision either. Lee knew that as a counselor, I wouldn’t deny a request to see a professional. He was manipulating me. The only one of us getting what they wanted was Lee. He got to cheat on me and now I was accommodating him. Did he even realize what he was doing? Did that even matter?
Trying to leave your husband isn’t for the faint of heart. There was no manual of right decisions. The hurt was deep but the hope was too, even if it was nothing but a desert mirage.
Meeting with Lee had been too much and I couldn’t take it. When I got back to the cottage I laid in bed and cried. It felt like I lost everything. My husband, my house, my life, my security, and my sanity.