“Quinn, are you even listening?”
I broke myself from my daydreaming and stared into Sara’s deep blue eyes, clearing my throat and nodding as she and the therapist gazed upon me, waiting for some type of response. The problem was, I wasn’t paying attention, so I didn’t know how to answer. I hadn’t heard a word that was said in the past half hour of sitting on that over-stuffed couch, breathing in an array of scents that were supposed to have a calming effect on me, but instead they were doing the exact opposite. Maybe Sara was right. Maybe that was the problem all along. I never really did pay attention. Perhaps that’s why the woman I’d been married to for the past six years decided to cheat on me. Sara always accused me of never being focused on our marriage and putting my job first instead. Sure, I may have been committed to my job, but I was even more committed to Sara. We’d known each other since high school but hadn’t dated until a few years after graduation when we’d met again at a party.
Sara was the love of my life. Or at least I thought she was. Now, I wasn’t so sure. I would always give her a second look in high school, but she didn’t give me the time of day. She was part of the “smart crowd,” involved in all the activities I couldn’t care less about, like student government and key club. She only dated guys in the honor society and with a four-year college plan. I didn’t have either of those things going for me. My focus in high school was playing football, fixing up old cars, and managing to get just enough credits to graduate. So, while Sara went away and did the college thing, I figured out what I wanted to do with my life. I somehow found my way into the local Police Department, courtesy of my uncle who was a retired police officer and on my case to pursue it from the time I had graduated. So, here I was eleven years later, with a decent career, a good pension, and a failing marriage. I would be naïve to say I didn’t see it slowly begin to fall apart between Sara and me. Five unsuccessful years of trying to conceive, planned out sex right down to the minute, constantly arguing over my crazy work schedule…yeah, all the signs were there. But once she finally got pregnant, all of our problems disappeared. She was happy, so I was happy, until the day she gave birth to our baby when she was only twenty-two weeks pregnant, only to have him pass away one week later. It was hard for me to watch the pain she was in and even harder to bury my son who never really stood a chance. I remained strong, or at least tried to for her until she began to push me farther and farther away.
Did I think she would go as far as being unfaithful? That’s a tough question. If someone had asked me years ago, I would have without a doubt replied with a “no.” But looking back and knowing all I know now…my answer may be different.
Sara commuted to New York City every day where she worked for a big investment broker. She started that job several years ago and that’s when I began to see a change in her. I knew the infertility was adding to the stress of our marriage, but something about that job changed her. She formed a superiority complex, turning her nose up at everyone she felt wasn’t on her level…including me. Late nights. Overnight business trips. Her rich bachelor boss, whom she would always put up on a pedestal when she spoke of him. All the signs were there, and I chose to ignore them, becoming more immersed in my job and working with the undercover unit just to escape the reality that was my life.
“Quinn, what do you think it would take to put your marriage back together?” the therapist repeated the question, staring at me intently as she shifted her glasses on top of her head.
“I’m not really sure.” I cleared my throat and looked over at Sara, who was staring off into space, biting her bottom lip. The same look she always had right before she was ready to burst into tears. “It would take me being able to trust her again, and for her to accept that it may be just us for the rest of our lives, and we may never have another child.”
Sara sucked in a deep breath and closed her eyes as if my words pained her.
The therapist turned her chair ever so slightly in Sara’s direction. “Sara, do you think you can do that?” Her words were soft and gentle, talking to Sara as if she were a shattered piece of glass, when I was the one who had my heart ripped to pieces. I not only lost my son, but I lost my wife to another man.
She raked her hand through her light blond hair. “I-I don’t know.”
I let out an annoyed breath. “Then why are we here, Sara?” I raised my voice in anger. “Why are you dragging me here every week, if you’re not sure of what you want?”
The tears began to gush from her eyes. “Because it is what I want, but I don’t know how to get back there.”
I shook my head and gave her a frustrated smile. “Oh…okay. So, I guess I’m just expected to sit around and continue to let you hurt me until you figure out the way back?”
“No!” she shouted. “That’s not what I’m saying. It’s just…after we lost him, you became so different. You never wanted to talk about it. You just went on with life like it never happened.”
“And what did you do, Sara?” I raised my eyebrow at her.
She stared at me and dabbed her eyes with the balled up tissue in her hand. “That’s not fair.”
“You’re right…it’s not.”
“Quinn, if I could interrupt here,” the therapist interjected.
“The first step in putting this marriage back together is being able to look past Sara’s indiscretions and trust she’ll never do that again. Do you think you could do that?”
I rubbed my hand down the side of my face, unable to answer the question. Sara had said she needed time apart, so I gave her that. I moved out of our home we had shared for the past six years and stayed in the upstairs apartment of my grandfather’s lake house that now belonged to me. Part of me liked the seclusion of being out in the woods and on the lake with no one to rag on me for coming home too late or drinking more than I should. I knew I wasn’t perfect. Far from it. And, yes, there were times when Sara did have a right to be pissed at me. But being unfaithful to her was one thing I would never do, and I had expected the same of her.
He filled the void in her life.
He took her seriously.
He made her feel special.
He cared about her feelings.
All of the things she said I didn’t do. That was her justification for cheating on me with her boss she still worked for.
“She can say it’s over, but the bottom line is, she still sees him every day,” I replied.
She threw her hands up in the air. “I told you. I’m in a different department now. I’m not working for him anymore!”
“You just don’t get it!” I shook my head and let out a sarcastic chuckle. “If you were really serious about working on us, you would have quit that damn job.”
Her eyes widened and she shook her head. “What? Now you’re just being ridiculous!”
“Well, first off, it’s not like you’re raking in the cash to cover all the bills, and secondly, why should I have to give up everything I worked so hard for?”
“You were willing to give all that up to stay home with the baby.”
More tears pooled in her eyes at the mere mention of the subject. “That was different.”
“Because you wanted a baby more than anything, and you were willing to forgo the extra money and make it work to stay home with him. But you’re not willing to do the same for the sake of our marriage.”
“Quinn, do you hear yourself? I’m a junior VP with that company. In a few years, I’ll be executive VP. I can’t just walk away from all of that.”
I stood up and flashed her a cynical grin. “Yeah, how very selfish of me, Sara. I actually thought maybe you would choose our marriage over money.” She looked away in shame.
“Quinn, we still have twenty minutes left,” the therapist interrupted.
“No. I’m done here. The two of you can use the rest of the time to talk about what a terrible husband I am, and how I wasn’t there for Sara when she needed me most.”
“Quinn, stop!” Sara cried, trying to catch her breath.
“Maybe I wasn’t there for you like I should have been, Sara. But who was there for me? I needed you just as much as you needed me. I not only lost my son, I lost my wife.” She buried her face in her hands and began to sob. “So, you could say whatever you want about me because maybe a lot of it is true. I could have been a better husband in some ways, but I took my vows seriously on the day we were married. I love you and only you, and no matter how bad things were between us, I would have never gone to someone else to be there for me.”
She removed her hands from her face and gazed up at me. Her dazed expression was quickly replaced with anger. “And how do I know that for sure? All those late nights working. Being gone for days at a time because of your stupid undercover work. How do I know that was all business?”
“If that’s what you need to believe to feel better about yourself, then believe it. I know the truth, and that’s all that matters.” I stared down at her one last time before she looked away. I turned around without saying another word and walked out of the office, slamming the door behind me.
Every time I told myself I wanted to make my marriage work, I would come face to face with our problems and then think twice about it. I still loved her very much, but I was starting to see just how selfish she really was. Would I ever get over the cheating? I wasn’t sure, and even if I learned to forgive, I didn’t know if I could forget.
I hopped in my truck and stopped at the liquor store on my way home. I loved living in a small town, and at the same time, I hated it. Everyone knew everyone’s business, and right now I was labeled as “Poor Quinn,” lost his son, and now his wife is cheating on him. No one had ever come out and said that, but I knew what they were thinking behind their stares when I would go into the bank and the food store. I’m sure I was the topic of conversation for the old bitties at their weekend beauty salon appointments. Even Dwayne, the liquor store clerk, would look at me sympathetically when I made my trips into the store to buy my bottle of Jim Beam. I knew those trips to the liquor store were becoming more and more frequent, but it was the only thing that helped me cope with the disaster my life had become at only thirty-one years old. I hated being around my friends because their lives were all going the way I had hoped mine would have. Happy marriage. Kids, or one on the way. It was just a reminder to me of how fucked up my own life was. So instead of having my friends around to talk to, I withdrew myself from them and my family. Only talking to them when necessary and burying myself in my work and alcohol instead. I felt awful for missing my niece’s first birthday party or my parents’ anniversary party, but it was hard for me to fathom that life went on for everyone else while mine was falling apart. So, I used work as an excuse to exclude myself from all the questions that came along whenever I was around them: How’s everything going? How are things with Sara? Are you hanging in there? All with the same patronizing tone. So, when I wasn’t working, I spent my downtime with my bottle of Jim or Jack…they never asked questions and always took away the pain. And tonight, I was thinking maybe both would be in order.
©Beth Rinyu 2016
Release Date: 5/20/16