An examination of a marriage between high school sweethearts
"I did something that you aren't going to like." Jack folded his hands on the kitchen table. My mind whirred with thoughts about what he could have done. Maybe he had an affair, it was not out of the question. We had married straight out of high school because of the surprise that was known as our son. "Please just keep an open mind when I tell you."
"What's her name and are you leaving me for her?"
"His name is Terry Mack." Jack looked at me, his eyes were a brilliant blue. The breath caught in my throat. With hips that swiveled and a deep-throated voice, Terry Mack had been a teenage crush. "I rented out JJ's room to him. I did not have an affair with him to be clear."
"YOU WHAT?" There was a very real part of me that wished he had cheated on me. How could he be so insensitive as to rent out our son's room? Sure, in my private fantasies, I had wished for some alone time with the man but not in my son's room. The area that he had laid his head for so many nights.
"The money will help us pay for JJ's tuition and not lose the house. It's just for a few weeks." Jack stood up and moved around to me. He placed his hands on my shoulders and began to rub. "And it'll be a good distraction from the empty nest."
"Even if I agreed with you, and I am not saying that I do. Even if I did, how could you go behind my back and rent our son's room? What if he came home from school and needed to stay with us?"
"He's totally cool. He has a special someone that he wants to spend some time with. Sweetheart, this is just a temporary thing, but we're being paid enough money to take care of all of our bills and to get ahead. It's a great thing."
Bang. Bang. Bang. Jack and I both jumped up and ran to the front door. He opened the door and revealed the aging Rockstar that had played a role in my growth as a woman. Terry's thick blond hair was wavy, his once taut body was less so. The fantasy was still alive. Contrasted against Jack, whose hair was so thin that you could see his scalp, but his body was as thin as the day I laid eyes on him. Making love to him had become more of a chore for me.
"Hi, mates!" Terry greeted in a faux Australian accent. "Thanks for letting me stay with you for these next few weeks. It's so great to stay in a real home and not a hotel."
He reached over and hugged me close to his body. His scent was intoxicating, his arms felt wonderful around me. "I'm Ellen. This is my husband, Jack."
Terry offered his hand to Jack. "Good to meet ya. Thanks for choosing our place. Let me show you to the room."
After we ate dinner and had a cocktail with Terry, Jack and I were in bed. It felt wrong to lay next to the man I had pledged to love until the day I died while wishing that the rockstar I had vowed to bed one day was so close to me.
Jack looked over at me. "You still angry with me?"
"I wish you had talked to me about it but you're right the money will help us."
"And maybe he can help spice up our marriage." He gave the coy grin that had led me to give him the one thing all boys wanted the first time. It would work again.
Terry brought home bags of liquor on the first Friday that he stayed with us. He smiled at me as he placed them in the freezer. "I hope you don't mind, luv, but I invited some people over for a little get-together."
"Well, Jack and I usually have a date night..."
"I already spoke with 'im about it. He was on board with us having a party tonight. C'mon and unwind a little." He poured me a glass of vodka on the rocks. I gulped down the liquid, the burn in my throat distracted me for a moment. "And no worries luv, the people coming over tonight will be gone in time for us to get a good night's rest. I know that you want to go see your son in the morning."
"Thanks, I guess." I poured myself another vodka. Terry smiled at me.
"If you weren't a married lady..." He lifted his eyebrows in a suggestive matter. Whether it was the vodka or the man in my kitchen, my head was whirling, so I steadied myself on the counter. "I guess we'll never know."
My house was filled with half-dressed people. Some of them were making out, others were doing things that should only be done in adult films. Jack was nowhere to be found. Terry grabbed me by my waist. "Who are you looking for, luv?"
"My husband. Have you seen him." I asked. Terry gulped and suddenly looked uncomfortable. "Where is he?"
A commotion in the front yard cleared the fog of the 6 vodka's I'd had. The scene was shocking. My husband was running in the street without any clothes on. After he stopped to catch his breath, some housewife that had been doing body shots off of another man grabbed him and pressed her body against his. Soon they were kissing, hands exploring each other's bodies. Angry tears clung to my eyes.
Terry grabbed me and pulled me up the stairs. Once we were in JJ's room, his tongue darted into my mouth. "Sex is just sex, luv. It doesn't have to mean anything."
Soon we were just as naked as Jack and his lover for the evening. As Terry geared up for what he wanted, I pushed him away. "Maybe it doesn't mean anything to you, but I am a married woman."
"Do you think it's stopping Jack? He's having his fun, have yours." It was a decision that I would always be glad that I made but also wonder what my life would have been if I had chosen differently.
As his time with us wore on, there were more and more parties. Terry and I avoided speaking to one another unless we were alone. Jack would not speak to me. We both knew about the other's infidelities, but neither of us spoke about them.
"Jack, do you think that we have a problem in our marriage?" I asked as I tipped the vodka bottle to my mouth, why use a glass when the bottle was more efficient?
"Now's not the time." Jack grabbed his own bottle and went to speak to Terry. The two men in my life had been huddling together more and more lately. Were they talking about Jack's affair or mine? It didn't matter, the blackness that was closing in on me was all that mattered.
When I woke up, I found people acting like they were auditioning for one of those movies that Jack watched on his laptop but pretended he didn't. As if I didn't know. I stepped through the swarm of sweaty, busybodies and went into my room. Hoping to find Jack. He wasn't there.
Making my way through the adult activity was not high on my list of fun things. Maybe I could spend a whole night with the rock star who had unleashed unbridled passion. Jack was probably with the woman that he had been keeping up.
JJ's door was shut, Terry never shut it unless he was with me. Maybe he had found another woman when he saw me passed out. Since my husband had become so fond of public nudity and doing things that college guys were known for, maybe I should experiment as well. With a resolve that probably came from the alcohol, I opened the door. The scene was shocking. Terry was on the bed, legs open. My husband was kneeling in front of him. There were no women. Without a word, I went back downstairs and considered my life.
My husband was doing something that was usually reserved for men who loved men. And my lover, the one man who I could see leaving my husband for, was the recipient of that act. Had we somehow regressed to acting like we were in our 20's? It was at that moment that I knew what I had to do, what was best for everyone involved in this situation.
Terry left the house, without ever having disclosed that he had slept with both my husband and me. There was no teary goodbye or promises of keeping in touch. I had lived my fantasy but at what cost?
The morning after he left, Jack and I sat at the kitchen table. He slid a manila folder over to me. "I made a decision. Something that I think is for the best."
"You made another decision without me?"
"You were sleeping with another man. And while yes, I kissed and well more with another woman, at least I kept our marriage vows and the promise of fidelity."
"You kept our vow of monogamy? Are you serious?"
"Maybe I had a little fun..."
"I saw you and Terry."
"Which time?" Jack's eyes penetrated mine. "Okay, so I wasn't faithful, but this exercise taught me something about myself."
"That you aren't straight?"
"You forced me into a marriage that I didn't want. After prom, you wanted something from me, and I gave in. We both knew that we should have used protection, but we didn't. When you ended up pregnant, you forced me to marry you. I never got to experience life the way JJ is, and I should have."
"You're not the only one who sacrificed. How dare you?" The implication that I had trapped Jack in this marriage was so insulting. It had been a mutual decision between my dad and his. "You could have said no."
"I loved you. I wanted what you wanted. But to be honest, I never wanted kids, and I always had an attraction to men. The quarterback on the football team always made me feel the way that you should have."
"What are you saying?"
"When you had sex with Terry, you ended our marriage and made it Okay for me to explore this side of myself. This side that had always been around but had to be shoved away because I was dedicated to you. I don't want to be beholden to you anymore. We can go the contested route, but then Terry will be forced to testify that for weeks, you guys carried on an affair."
"And you two didn't?"
"Is this what you want for JJ? You want him to see his parents fighting and tearing one another apart?"
"Don't you bring our son into this. You didn't think of him when you cheated on me."
"Did you think about him when you cheated on me?"
Silence filled the space between us. I opened the folder. Our marriage had come down to a document that was less than a page. "I don't want this. How can you make decisions without me?" I repeated.
"Ellen, you have been making decisions for me this whole time. It's time I acted like a man and tell you what I want."
"Jack, it's not fair. We can go to counseling. If you need to feel the touch of another man, we can talk about that. There are ways we can make the marriage work. I cannot be a divorcee."
"I've made a decision that you might not like, but it's for the best for everyone involved." He slid the pen to me.