by Char 🌈
Livi's secret admirer is ruining her marriage. But why is her husband so paranoid?
|I was in my office when I received the first gift. Nothing major, just a bouquet of cheap roses. I blushed, cursing my husband under my breath as my secretary placed them delicately on my desk. I waved her out of the room with a smile and sat down to call him.
"I thought we agreed to never get each other corny gifts."
"Ah, Livi, it's nice to talk to you, too!" Ray responded. "I'm sure I don't know what you mean though."
"The bouquet, you really shouldn't have," I said with a smile in my voice that I couldn't hide.
"No, I mean, I really didn't," Ray said, sounding concerned now.
Being a lawyer, I didn't necessarily want to jump to any conclusions. I meet with a lot of people and it's possible that a past client was just trying to thank me for working on his case. I must admit, I was a bit disappointed that they weren't from Ray, no matter how silly it was, at least it would be a show of romance for once.
The second gift landed on my doorstep the following week. It was a big cardboard box with no return address, but it had been mailed out from my zip code. Ray was the one to answer the door and sign for the package. When I got home, it was sitting on our granite kitchen counter just waiting for me.
"What's this?" I asked Ray, with a pleasant smile. His back was to me as he checked something in the oven.
"I thought you might be able to tell me," he responded, in an even tone.
"Well, I haven't the slightest idea. Who is it addressed to?"
I don't like his tone, but I'm used to it at this point. He always had something to complain about, especially the fact that he had to stay home with the baby while I worked all day. That one never failed to make me laugh. We made a plan together long before we got married. Now that it had finally come to fruition, Ray decided that maybe it wasn't what he wanted after all.
I opened the box with my house key as Ray's eyes bored into me. I felt my face flush with irritation. Inside, I pulled out a giant plush teddy bear holding a heart that had I love you embroidered in white. I held it at arms length, admiring its size.
"So what, you're having an affair now?" Ray asked, his tone dark and accusatory.
I looked at him shocked. "How could you accuse me of something like that? What, because I have a secret admirer?"
"Well, I mean, he has your home address. What am I supposed to think?"
"You're supposed to think that one of my client's has developed a slight, unrequited crush. God, I would never accuse you of something like that."
"Dammit, Livi. Just tell me the truth," Ray demanded.
That night, I sat in bed wide awake for hours, thinking of where I could have gone wrong. We had been married for nearly seventeen years, and now this? Ray tossed and turned all night beside me, sleeping on the very edge of the bed. I decided that this had to end, as soon as possible.
"I'm sorry, Dean, I just need this to end right now."
"I told you, Livi, I am not the one sending you those gifts. I swear. What can I do to prove that?"
I curled the sheets around my waist as I stood up and moved to the window. "I'm not accusing you. I know you're not stupid enough to risk us getting caught like that. But my husband is getting suspicious. I don't want anything to link back to you, okay? This is best for both of us."
Dean sighed, stretching back in his bed. "Well, can we still see each other for work-related stuff?"
I looked at him with a coy smile. "Oh, you mean at conferences in Chicago?"
"Or those late evening meetings?"
"What late evening meetings?" I asked, furrowing my eyebrows.
"You know, the ones we're starting next week. Tuesdays and Thursdays. I thought Mr. Hendricks spoke to you about these meetings," Dean said, smiling and reaching for me to come back to bed.
I left his house feeling a little guilty. I just couldn't break this off right now. I needed the emotional support that I couldn't get from Ray. It wasn't about sex. Well, not all about sex anyway.
Things got worse after that. Letters came in the mail almost every day. There were more flower arrangements, chocolates, stuffed animals, balloons, and cakes. Every day was like my birthday. Ray got steadily more angry as the weeks dragged on. I told him I would contact the police, if he needed that as proof that these weren't from some guy I was seeing. I also told him that the police wouldn't be able to do a single thing about it without a return address. Besides, the gifts weren't exactly of a threatening nature. They were sweet and thoughtful. They were like nothing any guy had ever provided me with. I grew to be excited to come home from work to see what I got that day. I hadn't been excited to come home after work for years.
As strange as it is, I started to accept my life this way. Ray to take care of the baby and the house, Dean to stroke my long hair and tell me how beautiful I was, and my secret admirer to give me gifts that no other man could provide me with. I was happier than I had been in years. I know how sick that is.
Things started to drain on me though, the sad look on Ray's face as he brushed his teeth in the bathroom mirror. The dead look in his eyes as he held Annabelle and fed her a bottle. He was like a walking zombie in our house, and his suspicions were only causing more tension in our house. He didn't even look like the man I had married anymore, and as long as it took, I finally began to realize that I was the one who had taken the joy from his life.
One Monday, I had the day off work. In the afternoon, I got three packages in the mail from my secret admirer. Ray slammed them on the kitchen table and sat down. I sat down across from him, coffee mug in hand. I knew this was going to come to a head.
"This has to end, Livi," he said, and I could hear the emotion cracking his voice in a way I never had before. It broke my heart to hear, to see the dark bags under his eyes.
"I know," I said, finally, just above a whisper.
"Who is he?" Ray asked, not looking up from the boxes.
I sighed and took a deep breath. "Okay, Ray. I have been lying to you. I have been seeing someone else." I paused as I heard him intake a sharp breath. "He's one of my co-workers. I didn't know how to tell you." I couldn't tell how he was taking all of this. His head just hung in a sad, helpless way. "He isn't the one sending these packages," I added, quickly.
"I know," Ray said, looking up so his dark eyes could meet my bright ones.
"You know what?"
"I know he hasn't been sending these packages. He couldn't be."
"What makes you say that?"
"Well, I've been sending the packages, so..."
I jumped up from my seat, knocking the chair back. "Wait, you've been what?"
Ray sighed, not making a move to stand up, completely defeated. "I've been sending the packages, Livi. I found some emails a while back between you and Dean. I thought things would work out better than this." He shrugged his shoulders. "I thought that you would own up to it, or break it off with Dean at the very least."
I felt tears coming to my eyes. I felt so much anger. "You played me," I stammered.
Ray left, wiping tears from his tired eyes and stood up. "I'll have my things out by the weekend."
"Wait, what about Annabelle? What about our family?"
"I've already contacted a lawyer and gotten divorce papers written up. I'll file those tomorrow."
I felt the room spin around me. How could this be happening? "Let's just slow down. Let's just talk about this!" I pleaded, pathetically.
"It was good knowing you, Livi. Sorry I couldn't be what you needed," Ray said, and headed up the stairs to start packing.