Saturday, April 29, 2017

On The Down-Low--"Thank You Ashley Madison" excerpt

Tuesday, New Year’s Day

     I woke up at five a.m. shaking, sweating, and feeling like I’d slammed five shots of espresso. JB was going to drain our retirement funds, rob our kids’ college funds, saddle me with his debt. His story, which got worse each time he tweaked it, would get worse again. He admitted he carried secret debt our entire marriage. Did he have sex with other women the whole time, too?

     “Have you been sleeping with other women throughout our marriage?” I emailed. “Were many of your ‘business trips’ not business trips? Were many of your hotel and airfare expenses not work related?”

     “Good morning,” JB immediately responded. “No, started cheating when I said. Basically when the Internet made it easy. I never did a ‘business trip’ that was really a getaway with another woman. Did spend on local hotels here and there but never airfare or out of town. I am happy to meet for coffee or dinner if you want to talk about this more.”

     His cheerful, chipper minimizing and picturing us bantering about it over dinner enraged me. I threw on my bikini, pulled my pajama bottoms on, swiftly left the room, and rode the elevator to the penthouse gym. I pushed my ear buds into my ears, cranked T-Rex, and sprinted barefoot on the treadmill. The sun was rising over Lake Michigan. It was glorious. I ran faster and faster. I ran like crazy but couldn’t wear myself out. I jumped in the swimming pool and swam laps. Finally, I hit the sauna. A beautiful African American woman walked in. She said she was from St. Louis and was staying at the hotel with a platonic male friend, just like me.
     “I think I’ll stay another night with him,” she said. “He invited me to and I think I’ll take him up on it. Relax and get away a little longer. My nephew just killed himself.”
     “I’m so sorry. Are you okay?”
     “I’m okay. I work in hospice.”
     We sat in silence a while. “I’m getting divorced,” I finally said. “Been married twenty-one years. Found out my husband was cheating the last five.”
     “I got divorced, too,” she said. “My husband was on the down low. You know what that is?”
     “Men saying they’re straight but getting gay sex on the side.”
     “Yeah. He still won’t admit he’s gay. I saw him on the news. They were doing a story on an all-male nude yoga class. He was in it.”
     “Do you have children together?”
     “Two daughters. They’re grown now. They don’t have much to do with him. He didn’t pursue much of a relationship and I didn’t help. Can’t say I never said bad things about him.”
     “I’ve made comments I shouldn’t have. But I don’t want to be false. I struggle with that.”
     We left the sauna. As we parted ways, we wished each other a wonderful new year.
     Paul was awake when I got back. We had brunch and said good-bye outside in the frigid cold. We gave each other enormous bear hugs.

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Not Drinking Over That Guy--"Thank You Ashley Madison" excerpt

Monday, December 31

     I got out of bed, grabbed my laptop, and pulled up my bank account. Last time I was at the bank, I’d opened a new checking account. I moved JB’s paycheck from our joint checking into my new account. I left enough money in joint checking to cover withdrawals that were in the process of clearing and removed overdraft protection.
     Last week, I’d removed my name from credit cards JB and I shared or closed them. I’d close joint checking after the automatic payments cleared. JB had done me a favor cutting me off. I was severing ties that needed cutting. I opened my email account to tell JB what I’d done. I needed to go to the bank today to pay January’s mortgage and set up a new payment system. There was already an email in my inbox from JB.

     “Hi Brenda
     “Happy New Year. I hope you and the boys have a nice time this evening.
     “I would like to spend the day with Tom next Saturday if that works for you. And I will probably want to pick up a few things when I come get him. Basically more clothing and personal effects.
     “I'm happy to see you if you want to watch over me while I am there. If you'd prefer not to see me, then we can arrange for me to come when Blake is there.
     “Also, did you move the entire amount of my paycheck, save about $400, from the account today? I checked the available balance by phone this morning and it was about $400, but noted there was a direct deposition.
     “I know you didn't like the fact that I am moving my check to my account but I did give you fair warning and assured you that I would give you the lion's share to live on, less what I need to get by. I even asked you for an amount that you thought would be fair. I would ask that you give me fair warning as well before doing something like tis (sic). Let's please not escalate this. I don't want this to be the War of the Roses.”

     “I need to protect myself from you,” I emailed. “I have to start paying the mortgage in one lump sum at the beginning of each month. That begins tomorrow. I'll tell the insurance agent to send your car insurance statements to you, so give me the address. Once everything is taken care of, I'll close our joint account.
     “Come by Saturday for Tom. I will have your things bagged on the porch. If you want to come in and scan for items I may have missed, Blake and I both need to be in the house, so find out Blake’s work schedule.”

     “Thanks for replying,” JB wrote. “I'll split the next check with you and I got copies of our bank statements. I will estimate a fair amount to give you from the next paycheck. 
     “I think the drama and conflict is higher than it needs to be right now. I have every intention of taking care of you and the kids.
     “Is there any way we can dial back the hostility? I think it's in our common interest to do so. You'll have the rest of your life to hate me, though I hope that will not be the case.” 


     “You served me right before Xmas, pressured me with artificial deadlines, changed the locks, took my money without warning (we could have worked this one out) and now you are going to stuff my belongings in garbage bags like I'm Amvets,” JB wrote. “And you seem to imply I am dangerous. You can't expect all this to make things go smoothly.
     “Yes I made a move of my own, but I felt I had to let you know that I need money to live on too (sic). And the checks are made out to me, not you. And I gave warning and offered to work out a temporary funding agreement.
     “I just think all if (sic) this isn't necessary or helpful. We'd probably be sharing a lawyer if you had handled this differently. Regardless of how you feel about me right now, it doesn't seem smart.”

     “I trusted you 100 percent,” I responded. “You knew that and abused me. Right before Christmas you told me you had unprotected sex with multiple partners, gave me an STD, and admitted it was a passive aggressive way to stick it to me. You accumulated $27,000 in secret debt. Now you're trying to turn this on me? I need to pay the mortgage today. I'm taking care of business attached to a horrible situation you threw me in. I changed the locks because you laying on my bed when I’m not home makes me sick. I'm handling this in the most practical way I can.”

     “I haven't forgetten (sic) who the bad guy is here. But we need to get through this. And I've been getting a little frustrated because I don't want this and I don't want it to be such a battle. Plus I am still left unable to pay basic bills which is distressing as hell. Let's just try to get through it as best we can.
     “The passive-aggressive thing isn't really true, or at least it doesn't account for my actions the way you are suggesting. I know what I said to you. What I did had little or nothing to do with you and everything to do with depression, low self esteem, a huge capacity for denial, an incredible impulsiveness and compulsiveness that I struggle with daily, detachment. You tried to get me help. I never missed an opportunity to miss an opportunity to fix myself and our marriage.
     “No excuses. The results are what they are, and yes the violation of trust is huge and unforgiveable (sic). I am sorry for it all, and will always be sorry.
     “I'll be in touch as necessary but will otherwise respect your space. Happy New Year.”

     Tom and I put the dogs in the car, drove to the bank, then headed to my mother’s. I settled Tom and the dogs at my mom’s for the night and drove downtown. Paul and I were having dinner at West Town Tavern, listening to punk bands at The Empty Bottle, and spending a platonic night at Swisshotel. Blake would be downtown as well, but partying with friends in a swanky condo.
     I arrived at the hotel and called Abby. She was meeting us for drinks before going out to dinner with her mother and her mother’s boyfriend.
     “I wish I was going out with you,” Abby said with a grimace. “My mother’s boyfriend is boring. He talks so quietly you have to strain to hear, and you don’t care what he has to say.”
     I started laughing. “Can you get away after dinner?”
     “My mother would get upset. Have you thought about drinking since finding out about JB?”
     “I’m not drinking over that guy. I’m getting a new life. I’m excited about it.”
     “That’s good,” she said looking at me analytically.
     Paul walked in. He and Abby had a round of cocktails while I drank tonic and lime. Abby left for dinner and Paul and I took a cab to West Town Tavern.
     “When’s the last time we ate here?” Paul asked.
     “Five years ago,” I said. “We saw Hunchback of Notre Dame at Redmoon. It was the winter after my dad died.”
     “I remember you didn’t want to go home that night. JB had been unsupportive when your dad was dying. It was eating away at you.”
     “He never asked about my dad, visited him. My dad was really good to JB. I was just someone for JB to screw, someone who took care of everything. JB didn’t care how I was. He never asked how I was doing.”
     “You gave me a bear hug before you left that night,” Paul said. “I couldn’t believe a little girl like you could hug so hard.”
     “My dad and I hugged like that.”
     The waiter set bacon-wrapped scallops on the table. Paul and I wolfed them down. Then came Paul’s lamb and my trout. For dessert, we each had a huge slice of banana cream pie.
     There was a handful of old punk rockers like us at The Empty Bottle gravitating toward one end of the stage. The floor got more and more packed then the mosh pit kicked in. I was an old slam dancer. I wished I’d worn my twenty-year-old Doc Martins instead of high-heeled boots. I wanted to bash the feelings out of me.
     Paul positioned himself between the mosh pit and me. He began shoving people who were flailing too close. My boot heels slipped around in beer. My ankles tipped. The music reverberated in my body and did a nice job annihilating my feelings. Smiling X-poppers careened into each other. I secretly wanted to pop some and join them. I smiled. I looked at Paul. Paul’s mouth was a rigid line. His eyes were darting around the crowd. His fists were ready to clock someone. We were standing near a short flight of stairs. I stepped up onto the first stair and pulled Paul up next to me.
     “We won’t get pushed here,” I yelled into his ear. Paul nodded and relaxed.
     My phone vibrated in my pocket.

     “Happy new year Brenda,” JB texted.

     “Happy New Year,” I texted back.

     “Thanks. Hope you are having fun. Whatever happens I will always love you.”

Saturday, April 22, 2017

I Feel Psychotic--"Thank You Ashley Madison" excerpt

Saturday, December 29

     I woke up at three in the morning. My mind began racing. JB said he wouldn’t touch the kids’ college funds. Most of those funds came from my family money. He’s considering siphoning it. I typed an email to my attorney and tried going back to sleep but could’t.
     After hours of flipping around in bed and trying to meditate myself to sleep, I met my old high school friend, Abby, for brunch. She was in town from Charlotte. I’d pulled myself together, but not completely.
     “JB never seemed the type—at all,” Abby said shaking her head. “I’m shocked.”
     “Twenty-one years of marriage and I have no idea who he is.”
     “JB wasn’t nice to me,” Abby said.
     “You, too? Apparently he was awful to all my friends.”
     “You know how Don always talks to you, asks you questions, cares what you have to say? JB acted like he didn’t want to talk to me. Every time I asked him something he’d give me the shortest answer possible and brush me off. He’d talk to Don but not to me. When I flew in for your book release party he barely spoke to me.”
     “I had no idea. Please don’t take it personally. It’s just him. Him and his garbage. Let’s not talk about JB anymore. I’m sick of thinking about him, spending energy on him. Sometimes I visualize killing him. You know what that does to you? How poisonous that is? I feel psychotic, terrible, like I’m coming off the rails, having a nervous breakdown."
     “I started taking anti-depressants,” Abby said. “I’ve been feeling unfulfilled, unhappy for a long time. Marriage is hard. Raising kids is stressful. I don’t like my job.” Abby moved her hand out in front of her in a straight line. “Now I’m like this. I never get very happy or angry. But I was like that before. I don’t know what’s wrong with me.”

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

You Can't Get Any Angrier With Me--"Thank You Ashley Madison" excerpt

Friday, December 28 

     “HI (sic) Brenda,” JB emailed.
     “I'd suggest you come up with a proposed monthly amount to live on for the next couple of months while the divorce is processed. I assume it might take that long. I promise you if the amount is fair I won't argue and I'll give you a check the day that I get paid. We're both going to have to cut back and budget and make sacrifces (sic). It's a reality of all divorces. I'll try to keep my living costs as low as possible in the meantime, but I am going to need to get a place sooner or later.
     “Again, the check that will be deposited on Monday will be in the PNC account as normal. That gives us 2 weeks to adjust. Sorry if you think this is a passive agressive (sic) move on my part, but I was advised to do this right after you asked me to leave the house and I held off. Now that you've filed and are determined to get this done, there is no reason for me to wait any longer. There is more to separate, like car insurance etc. Also when the Exxon-Mobile account comes in, give it to me, I'll pay it and have the address changed.
     “It would be helpful if you would make a list of all the direct withdrawals made from our checking account each month.
     “I checked on health insurance. Once the divorce is final, I would go on employee + children. You would be eligible for COBRA at that point. If I could keep you on, I would, but I can't. I will find out what the premium would be. This will obviously be a factor in the settlement.
     “I think you'll find I'll be pretty generous with assets and responsibility for debts and so on.
     “What's important to me is keeping my mom's antiques and artwork, though if certain pieces are important to you I'm happy to discuss. I also want at least a standard or better custody agreement for Tom, and being able to keep enough of my income to live on. I'm not expecting a life of luxury but I do expect to be able to have a place to live within reasonable distance that is suitable for the boys to stay over. 
     “My understanding is I will need to pay maintenance to you for some period of time. I have no problem doing this. You are a very able and talented and energetic woman, but I know it will take some time to get a career going, and I do still want to see you finish your book. If you are going for permanent maintenance then I will need to get a lawyer. I think your/our lawyer would expect as much.
     “I'm happy to let you keep the Tahoe and I'll keep the Caddie. It's up to you but I'd seriously consider downsizing the Tahoe. You could probably get a used Ford Escape for the net value and you'd save a ton on gas.
     “I won't bring up the animals. They are your babies and I respect that. We've already settled Lakeside/Minoqua (sic) as far as I am concerned.
     “The house and retirement accounts are the big assets and we'll have to work those out. Tax consenquences (sic), etc.
     “Child support will always be sacrosanct as far as I am concerned. I believe the law has pretty clear guidelines on amounts.
     “I am sorry it has come to this. But it has and I'm finally accepting it.
     “You are in a big hurry, which I understand. I'm still beating myself up every day over what a cruel, needless mess I've made. Tables turned, I'd want a pound of your flesh, so I get it. But your urgency makes me feel like I'm being pressured to make decisions faster than I need to. That's not good for either of us and I'm not going to move any faster than I feel I need to move. I've come to realize you can't get any angrier with me than you already are so I need to start looking after myself. We'll get this done and it'll be fair, but we'll both feel a little poorer when it's over, because we will be.”

     “Hi Brenda,” JB emailed again. 
     “My understanding is that the law gives me 28 days to respond. So I still have 18 days based on the Dec. 18 time stamp on the documents you handed to me.
     “I seriously considered the shared attorney thing. It may save money in the short run, but all the research I have done recommends against it. I am sure your attorney is fair and ethical but I don't believe she can represent my interests as well as yours. The fact that Paul did it this way is not persuasive to me.
     “I have made an appointment for an initial consultation on Jan 8 with a lawyer out this way. I was hoping for something sooner but the lawyer who was recommended to me is out next week. He has a reputation for being fair and not for dragging things out.
     “As far as paying for the lawyer, I haven't figured that one out yet but I will.
     “I am working on the disclosure form, but I don't plan to respond to anything until after my consultation.
     “I again encourage you to come up with a budget for temporary maintenance until there is a settlement. We have 2 weeks to figure it out. I would like to get a place to live relatively soon.
     “I suggest suspending all unnecessary auto-deductions from the checking account in the short term to free up cash. Things like IRAs, mutual funds, not sure what else is in there. I would not touch any college funds right now. As I said, I reduced the 401K to the minimum to still keep matching funds from work.
     “I gathered from Blake that you are worried since I decided to take control of my income. I understand. Again, I want to assure you again that once we agree on a temporary maintenance amount, I will pay it regularly and without delay.”

      Tracy and I went out for dinner.
     “You and JB had an agreement,” Tracy said sternly. “You put your career on the sidelines and raised a family with the understanding you were going to grow old and retire together. You were married 21 years. The court knows that. You’re going to be okay.”
     “The emails he sends,” I said. “His tone. Makes me ill. I don’t want to talk about it anymore. How are you?”
     “I hate Amber, Ken’s new wife,” Tracy said. Her eyes glazed over, contempt twisted her pretty face. “Ken found her on the Internet. You should see her Facebook picture. She’s a skanky biker. A heroin addict. She got Ken on heroin, and now our son. I asked Scott if Amber gave him heroin. I’m sure that bitch wants to sleep with him, too. You know how handsome my son is. Scott didn’t answer. I asked him several times. He finally said yes. I hate that bitch Brenda. I want to kill her. I want to take her to court. Put her in jail. But I can’t prove anything. Maybe I can sue her in civil court. Take her for everything she has. Her family’s got money.”
     “I’d feel like killing her, too.”
     Tracy stared at me. “I want to kill her Brenda. I really do.”

Saturday, April 15, 2017

In The Sewer--"Thank You Ashley Madison" excerpt

Thursday, December 27

     I got my hair cut and handed my debit card to the receptionist. It was declined. JB drained the account. I used my credit card and walked out. Tom had spent the night at Mikey’s and I picked them up and took them to the archery range. An archery pro started setting up Tom’s new bow and I checked email.

     “I've asked my employer to begun (sic) putting the checks into my account,” JB wrote. “This will take effect in Jan so the next check will deposit as normal.  Also Stephen will be sending the (buyout) checks to me again. I will give you the lions (sic) share of this and promptly.  We need to agree on a fair amount pending the settlement. I will not let you or Tom go unfed or the mortgage unpaid or anything of the kind. This is advice I got a while ago but have been reluctant to follow it.
     “Once the change happens I will give you my PNC card and you can take me off the account.
     “I also reduced my 401K contribution to free up a little more cash for us every month.”

     My attorney told me horror stories about female clients and their children becoming destitute after their soon-to-be exes yanked the money. I was shaking. The archery pro finished adjusting Tom’s bow and took us to the range. He showed us the proper way to shoot and hung out with us for an hour-and-a-half. He paid more attention to me than a man with a wedding ring should. But I was grateful for it. My self esteem was in the sewer.
     We got home and I told Blake I was worried about what his father might do.
     “I’m going to text him right now,” Blake said. “If he wants any relationship with me, he better not fuck you over.”
     Blake’s phone rang moments later.
     “Hi Dad,” I heard him say. “Uh huh, uh huh, okay.” Blake hung up and walked into my room. “He said he’s going to make sure we’re okay. He better, that’s all I have to say.”

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Like Crazy--"Thank You Ashley Madison" excerpt

Wednesday, December 26

     “I hope you've grasped the fact that our marriage is over,” I texted JB this morning. “I filed for divorce in Cook County. Where you’re living, Northbrook, is in Cook. If you choose to get an attorney, I'm sure Pris could suggest one.”

     “Believe me it's sinking in,” JB responded. “I feel like I need my own lawyer but i (sic) can’t pay one anything right now. If we had chosen the shared attorney together I'd feel better about that approach. I will answer you by the end of the year or sooner as you have requested.”

     Some hours passed before I got this.

     “I didn't want to ask this because it's your money but did your mom give you anything for Christmas?” JB wrote. “I literally have nothing... Work owes me $2916.31 and i (sic) won’t get it before next week. I just asked again. My phones are about to be cut off and I have no cash. I know you don't want to help me. But I need help.”

     “We're getting divorced. My mother gave me nothing. You dug yourself a hole. Ask your brother.”

     I started shaking. Like crazy.

Saturday, April 8, 2017

Drooling Idiot--"Thank You Ashley Madison" excerpt

Christmas, December 25

     The boys and I opened presents. Blake was thrilled with his new iPhone. Tom loved his compound bow. We made breakfast together and after we ate, I checked my phone for texts and emails.

     “I hope you and the kids had a nice time last night,” JB texted. “I really miss everyone... Hope the boys enjoy their gifts. Merry Christmas.”

     I ignored him. At three-thirty, the boys jumped into Blake’s SUV and drove to Troy’s for Christmas dinner with their father. Rachel rang my doorbell. Sean, her twelve-year-old son, was spending Christmas with his father so Rachel and I'd made plans to walk in the woods and go out for Indian food. I threw on my coat and Rachel and I headed down the wooded bike trail by my house.
      “JB was never nice to me,” Rachel said.
     “I never would have said anything while you were married, but yeah. He would cut me off and walk away when I tried talking to him. He was rude. Whenever I called, I’d ask how he was. He’d say, ‘Hold on, I’ll get Brenda.’”
     “Don’t take it personally. I’ve been finding out he’s been rude to a lot of my friends.”
     “Oh?” Rachel brightened.
     “Paul told me JB was condescending and treated him like a stupid tradesman who couldn’t possibly know anything," I said. "Paul reminded me about a night I’d had him over for dinner. We were talking about Somalia. Paul’s brother had an embassy job there and Paul said the U.S. got involved in Somalia because it’s uranium-rich. JB scoffed at him. Paul told JB to google Somalia and uranium. JB smugly got his computer then began shifting uncomfortably in his seat. He cleared his throat a few times and mumbled something about ‘the point I was trying to make was’ blah, blah, blah.”
     “My ex’s opinion doesn’t count for much as you know,” Rachel said. “But after you had us over for a barbecue, he asked, ‘What is Brenda doing with that guy? She’s got far more going on than he does, and she’s way better looking.’”
     I laughed. “Makes me like your jerky ex.”
     “After your horseback riding accident, I called to see how you were doing and got JB. You were bad off. You could have been killed. I asked how you were and JB said, ‘She’s fine,’ like it irritated him.”
     My horseback riding accident happened a year ago the day after Thanksgiving. Margo, Dani, Tabitha and I had started down a trail that led from the barn—a two-horses-wide trail bordered by a tree-lined electric fence and woods. Margo and I were in front, Tabitha and Dani were in back. Halfway down the trail, something rustled and spooked Jack. He spun a hundred and eighty degrees and stopped with his head pointing back to the barn. Tabitha and Dani were blocking his way. I was used to Jack freaking out. His spins, his sideways jumps, his bolts. I began cuing him to turn around and he bolted full throttle between the electric fence and trees. I ducked. I crouched as low as I could on his back. I put my head on his neck as he ran. Branches smashed the crown of my helmet. A limb cracked it hard and tipped my head up. A limb smashed me in the face and yanked me off his back. Next thing I knew I was laying sideways on the grass with blood pooling in front of my face.
     “Don’t move,” Tabitha said. “I’ve never seen a body contort the way yours did coming off that horse.” She dialed 911.
     I ran my tongue along my teeth. They weren't broken. I inhaled slowly. I felt a sharp pain in my back, in my ribs. Vertebra by vertebra, I slowly moved my spine. It was okay. I gingerly lifted my head. I removed my helmet and rested my temple on it.
     “If you think your back is okay you might want to turn over,” Tabitha said. “Your left cheek is filling with blood. It’s getting more and more swollen.”
I slowly rolled onto my right side, carefully placing my right temple on my helmet. I watched dead leaves flutter in the breeze, grass blades bend, a new pool of blood form. I felt detached from my body. I was the observer. It was interesting. Nice.
     “What’s JB’s number?” Tabitha asked.
     I recited JB’s number. “He and Blake have a tee time. He might not pick up.”
     I heard Tabitha begin to tell JB what happened. I turned back to the pool of blood in the grass and watched it glint in the sun.
     “They were leaving for golf but they’re coming,” Tabitha said.
     “He’s probably disappointed he’s missing his round,” I laughed.
     “Oh come on.”
     “No, really.”
     JB and Blake arrived fifteen minutes later. They stood next to me looking horrified.
     “I’m fine,” I said without lifting my head.
     The ambulance took me to the hospital. An MRI showed I had a broken nose, that was it. My teeth had gone through my lower lip and I got ten stitches. I was sorely bruised but overall healthy. I limped out of the ER with JB walking next to me. People glared at JB thinking he’d beaten the shit out of me. I started laughing.
     “You need to seriously think about the risks you take,” JB said when we got in the car. “I don’t want to be left with a drooling idiot. Think about getting rid of that horse.”
     I stopped walking and looked at Rachel. “I don’t think JB cared. I apologized for ruining his golf day while I was laying on the ground waiting for the ambulance. He shrugged and shook his head. Did I ever tell you about our trip to San Francisco?”
     Rachel shook her head.
     “One of JB’s bosses turned 50. His wife threw him a big party in the bay area. Everyone in JB’s company was flown out for it. Spouses, too. We brought the kids. JB flew out in the morning and the boys and I left that afternoon. We arrived at night and it was pouring rain. I rented a car and began driving to Marin County. Visibility was bad. I missed a highway ramp and exited in a scary area. I pulled into a gas station to ask directions and locked my boys in the car. By the time we got to the hotel it was very late. I opened our hotel room door. The lights were off and JB was sound asleep. He hadn’t called. He hadn’t waited up. It bothered me a lot. I told my friend, Liv, about it when we got home. She shook her head and said, ‘I don’t know what to say.’”
     “I’m sorry,” Rachel said. “How was your Christmas Eve?”
     “My expectations were low so that helped.” I told Rachel about my last two phone conversations with Trish.
     “She would never treat a friend like that, only a sister.”
     We walked back to my house. I hopped in Rachel’s car and we drove to the Indian restaurant. We began eating and Rachel excused herself to go to the bathroom. Our waiter walked over.
     “My name’s Raul. What’s yours? Are you married? Do you have a boyfriend? Do you live around here? I live in a condo right behind here. Do you come here a lot? I work almost every day. You should come in for the lunch buffet.”
     Rachel returned to find Raul hitting on me.
     “I could tell he liked you,” she laughed after he left. “The way he kept coming over and asking how everything was, the way he looked at you.”
     I started giggling. “He’s probably ten years younger than me. Him hitting on me couldn’t have come at a better time. At least I know I still got it.”
     “You still got it.”
     Rachel dropped me off and the boys came home much earlier than expected.
     “How was it?” I asked.
     “It was good,” Tom said.
     “The usual,” Blake said. “Did you have a good time with Rachel?”
     “Yes. Our young waiter hit on me.”
     “Really?” Blake said, shooting me a weird look.
     “I’m not going out with him.” I laughed.
     I turned on the TV and started watching “Prancer.” My text alert dinged.

     “I am not giving up on us,” JB texted. “I will do ANYTHING to win you back. I know how badly I've behaved. It's beyond bad. But I love you and only want you. Nothing else matters to me. Nothing.”

     The thought of JB moving back in was horrifying. I pictured him next to me and shuddered.

     “I don't want you,” I texted. “I want a divorce. You abused me. You violated me. You assaulted me. No going back.”

     “I know that...but I want you to know How (sic) I feel...and it won't change no matter what happens next. Everything you say is right. But I love you. I'm so sorry ... And I am going to prove to you that I am a man worthy of you.. I know its a tall order.”

     “I have no feelings for you,” I texted. “I don't want to be married to you. Let me know if we can save money and work with one attorney or if you'll be hiring one. We need to move forward.”

     “I know how much I've hurt you and violated you,” JB texted. “I am still the same man you met in carol stream (sic) 25 years ago. I get your sense of violation. It's how anyone would feel. I won't stop loving you and I wont (sic) ever forgive myself for throwing it all away for something that gave me no real pleasure. I've been so incredibly selfish and stupid. I've become the person I've always looked down upon. I Iove you very, very much."

 “Let me know before the end of the year if you're getting a lawyer or not.”

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

It Was Pleasant--"Thank You Ashley Madison" excerpt

Monday, December 24

     Trish and I haven’t spoken since she hung up on me. I texted her last week to ask what I should bring for Christmas Eve dinner and she responded, “A salad.”
     I drove to the barn, took Jack for a ride, and stopped at the grocery store for Cesar salad ingredients. Blake and I left for Trish’s half an hour later than we should have. I habitually cram too much into my day and run late. My lack of punctuality is not something I’m proud of. I’ve shaved my late time down to about ten minutes and I’m not late for work, but I still play beat the clock. Pretty sure I have an adrenaline addiction.
     “Call Nana and tell her we’re running late,” I told Blake. “Ask her to tell Trish.”
     “I’m getting her voicemail,” he said. “Hi Nana. We’re on our way to Aunt Trish’s. Of course we’re running late. Just wanted you to know.”
      A minute later my phone rang. Blake put the call on speaker.
     “Hi Mom,” Tom said.
     “Blake and I are on our way but we’ll probably be half an hour late,” I said.
     “What else is new,” Tom said. “I’m glad I’m with Nana. We’ll be there on time.”
     “Yeah, I know. Will you tell Aunt Trish that Blake and I will be a little late?”
     “Hurry up. I want to eat and open presents.”
     Trish’s mother-in-law was going to be at Trish’s. I liked Bea. I’d sit by her. I liked my nephews and Trish’s husband, Mark, too. I’d stick to them.
     Blake and I pulled into Trish’s driveway. We grabbed our presents and salad. No one said a word about JB. Not one. I breathed easier. I hung with Bea, Mark, and my nephews. It was pleasant. On our way home, the boys and I stopped at Walgreens and bought pancake mix and bacon for Christmas morning. Yay.

Saturday, April 1, 2017

I Just Apologize--"Thank You Ashley Madison" excerpt.

Sunday, December 23

     Patty and I drove downtown to see the Joffery Ballet perform The Nutcracker. We dropped Tom at my mother’s house on the way because he’s having a sleepover then driving with Nana to my sister’s Christmas Eve.
     “I don’t know how you do it,” Patty said. “You whip your Tahoe around like it’s a Beetle. I’d like to do more things in the city but I’m afraid to drive.”
     “I grew up driving in Chicago and can parallel park with a half-inch on either side of my bumpers,” I laughed.
     We pulled into a parking lot, walked to the Congress Hotel, sipped tea, ate gobs of garlicky hummus, and walked across the street to the Auditorium Theater. We found our seats. I held my hand to my face and breathed. I reeked of garlic. I made an effort not to breathe on Patty and the well-coifed woman in haute couture sitting next to me. The ballet began. The posh woman kicked her over-sized bag, which was sitting on the floor, in front of my legs then crossed her legs toward me and dangled a foot over her bag. I crossed my legs toward her, knocking her dangling foot with mine, and kicked her bag back in front of her seat. This got repeated three times before intermission. Halfway through the first act, I began breathing heavily toward the woman. She got up at intermission and left. I began laughing and told Patty what was going on.
     “Oh my God,” Patty said. “I would have sat there worrying that I was in her way. I wish I could be more like you.”
     I was dumbfounded. Were most people like Patty or me?
     Patty and I drove to Greek Town for dinner and split an order of saganaki. Patty ordered a Greek salad. I ordered grilled snapper. Patty, who’s overweight, always orders something small and eats less than half of it. I’d enjoy eating with her a lot more if she ate like normal. I dug into my snapper and Patty picked at her salad.
     “I’m driving to Iowa on Christmas Day,” she said, pushing lettuce around on her plate. “I’m picking up my mother from my sister’s house. I haven’t spoken to Rhonda since last Christmas.”
     Patty and her sister argue then give each other the silent treatment routinely. It doesn't last long because Patty apologizes and makes nice. Patty drives to Iowa on Christmas Eve, spends the night at her mother’s, then the two of them go to Rhonda’s Christmas Day. But this year Patty is driving there Christmas Day to collect her mother from Rhonda’s house. Last year, during an argument, Patty told Rhonda she was just like their father—a dead man they both despise—and Rhonda kicked Patty out of her house forever. Patty didn’t apologize.
     “I don’t know how it’s going to go,” Patty said glumly. “Rhonda told my mother I could come in when I pick her up. My cousins and their families will be there, so I guess it’ll be okay. But I don’t know. She didn’t apologize. She never does. Not once has she apologized to me. I always have to be the one and I’m not doing it this time.”
     “I always apologize to Trish,” I said. “She’s got a big pile of axes to grind: I didn’t talk to her enough at a party, I didn’t help her move years ago, I didn’t yell at Blake for throwing crackers on the floor when he was a toddler. I have no recollection of what she dredges up. I just apologize and keep the peace while she tries to make me feel like an asshole. It happens every time we see each other. I’m going to Trish’s tomorrow. I sure as hell don’t feel like it. But it’ll make my boys and mom happy. My sister, too, I guess.”
     Patty took a bite of food. She clapped her hand over her mouth. She chewed carefully and spit something into her hand.
     “My tooth just fell out,” she gasped. “I wonder if my dentist can put it back in tomorrow. Oh, I don’t want to go on this trip. I sure don’t want to go toothless.”
     Patty opened her palm and showed me her tooth. She smiled. There was a dark little stub where her front tooth had been.
     “Shit,” I said.
     We started laughing.