The mirror showed a reflection that wasn't my own. The anger pouring out of my heart had frozen my face into a stone mask of fury and indignation. 'Who did he think he was?' I raged internally. 'He was not going to get away with this.'I tried to calm myself by splashing cold water on my face and reapplying my makeup, hoping to soften the bitter resentment that was showing.
That son of a bitch had been cheating on me for months. Without an accidental eavesdropping encounter at the supermarket, I still would have been in the dark. It was a good thing that bastard wanted Swiss Cheese, or I'd never have found out. I'll give him holes...
Trust was a four-letter word, as far as I was concerned. I wasn't going down without a fight. If he wanted that tall blonde with the big boobs he was going to have to claw his way out of my clutches first. Good luck with that, pal. I was reapplying my mascara when I noticed a fogged section on the mirror. That was odd. There wasn't any hot water running. Running my fingers over the haze on the mirror it was apparent that the fog was coming from the inside of the mirror. Hmm. I touched up my eyeliner and chose a bright coral lipstick to go with my blood-red fingernails. It was time to pull out the femme-fatale on my dear husband, Tom.
Damn. The frost on the mirror was spreading, leaving me with half a lip unpainted. What the heck? Inside the layers of glass and steel, a message appeared, seemingly written by an invisible finger. 'REVENGE', stood out in bold relief behind the mirror's glass. As quickly as it appeared, the word disappeared, leaving the mirror clear once again. My imagination was running away with me, I thought, painting my lower lip with the shiny coral gloss. Revenge was a pretty good idea. However, first I was going to make him regret turning his back on me. If you are my man, you have to be all mine. I don't play well with other children, and I don't share.
I ran a razor over my legs and massaged his favorite lotion over them until they were silky smooth. The scent of coconut and honeysuckle drove him wild. Exactly where I wanted him- in the wild- with only me. Putting on the scarlet red panties and bra with the lacy teddy, I smiled, thinking of the trap he would be walking into tonight. The black silk stockings and high heels were the icing on this delectable cheesecake. Cheat on me? I don’t think so, cupcake.
One last check in the mirror before my dearest, faithful husband came home from a hard day at his job, screwing the blonde bimbo who worked at the front desk. I do so hope he got a raise for all his overtime. Poor dear. Before I flipped off the bathroom light, another message from the fickle finger in the foggy mirror appeared, 'Torture him.' The mirror and I were in perfect agreement, revenge, and torture were definitely on the menu for tonight. I giggled and went downstairs to await my knight in tarnished armor. After pouring a good-sized glass of red wine, I settled onto the sofa with my legs displayed provocatively, just barely hinting at the secret delights beneath the red lace.
Sipping wine, I waited patiently for the unsuspecting fly to snag himself in my web. My blood boiled as I thought back on the afternoon at the market, hearing that brainless twit giggling about how she would be getting a raise this year because she sure gave her boss a raise. Not on my watch, bimbo. Not on my watch.
I refilled the glass with more wine and checked my phone. It was after seven and there were no missed messages. Hopefully, Tom wouldn't be too tired out from 'working' overtime. Mama had a honey-do list to die for. Maybe he'll give me a raise.
At eight o'clock I made a run to the bathroom to pee an entire bottle of wine into the toilet. That was funny. The wine started out red. Now it was yellow. Huh. It was a miracle. As I washed my hands the message in the mirror read, 'What are you waiting for? You know where they are.' That was it. The mirror was right. I knew exactly where they were, and a scrap of an idea was taking shape inside my wine-drenched mind.
I threw on my jeans and a loose sweater and topped off the look with one of Tom's dark hoodie sweatshirts. I slipped on a pair of his running shoes. They were a bit large, so I tucked a ball of tissues into the toes so I could walk in them, disguising my footsteps. Next, I rummaged through the lock box where he kept his pistol. It was a Glock something or other. I checked the magazine and there were ten bullets in it. Good. Five rounds for them each- if I was lucky. I stumbled into the bathroom for a quick clean-up of my makeup, which had started to run about half a bottle ago.
The mirror had one last message for me, 'Save one bullet for yourself. Or you could forgive him.'
Forgive him? Forgive him? I'd rather eat a bullet.
I snagged his extra set of car keys out of the tray along with mine and hurried out to the driveway, with the Glock in the hoodie pocket. The plan solidified as I drove through the city to the building where he and that blonde whore worked. I parked down the street, out of view of cameras, and walked quickly to the insurance company's parking lot behind the office building.
Quietly opening the driver's door of my husband's car, I slipped into the seat and kept the door open just a crack, so I'd be ready to pounce when my prey appeared. It was almost ten o'clock before I saw them, arms slung over each other's shoulders, laughing loudly at something terribly witty, I'm sure. The blood was pounding in my head and the parking lot turned to a red haze as they approached his car. About twenty or so yards from the car, Tom must have noticed the overhead light on before the bimbo did. "Hey, what the heck? I hope the battery isn't dead."
My heart was pounding in my throat as I fumbled, trying to pull out the handgun. I tore the hoodie pocket, extricating the handgun. I couldn't remember if the safety button was red or black. If the safety was on, I wouldn't be able to get off a shot before Tom cornered me. It was getting more complicated the closer they came to the car. What was I doing? If he left me for that woman he'd be gone and if I killed him, he'd still be gone. Either way, I would lose because I still loved him and my heart would be broken without him, no matter how he left me.
I remembered the last mirror message, 'Save one bullet for yourself. Or you could forgive him.'
Our finances were a mess, and until that was sorted out, leaving Tom now was a losing proposition. I would be packing up my clothes, having a garage sale, and beginning my life over again at 47 with nothing. That was not happening. I didn’t put up with his shit and work my ass off for the past 20 years to be homeless, in debt, and single. I needed a plan and I needed to keep my mouth shut until my plan was put into action.
Staying out of sight of the security cameras, I retraced my tracks back to where I’d left my car and sat for a good twenty minutes, just drumming my fingers on the steering wheel, and thinking. I could not face Tom tonight. I would crumble and confess what I knew. I needed to keep this information between me, myself, and I.
Pulling out my cell phone I pushed his number and left a text message, ‘Hi, Hun, the nursing home called tonight about Mom. She’s having a bad time, so I’ll be spending the night with her. Sorry- love you. Tanya.’
Good. Now all I had to do was find a motel that wouldn’t blink twice at my weird get-up. I needed an anonymous place to get my thoughts in order before I screwed this up royally.
20 years, I thought bitterly. 20 years of always listening to this jackass and doing everything he thought was best for us. Good grief. What the hell was wrong with me? Our house had already been mortgaged a second time and once again we were looking at another bankruptcy, with our debts piling up even worse than before.
“I need a new car. I can’t be driving around a piece of shit to client’s businesses”’, he had explained to me like I was a toddler, incapable of making sense of the grown-up world of business.
I had folded, thinking he knew best. After all, I was just a substitute teacher in an elementary school. What did I know? What I knew was we couldn’t afford to live his lie. He was the only one who couldn’t see it. A country club membership with golf games every weekend. Dinners at the club that we paid for with an already over-extended credit card, which the bank was one payment away from snatching from us. His pricey suits and Italian shoes. He was able to impress Miss “I’m getting a raise.” I guess that was worth it to him.
Now we were in a world of financial hurt and if I left him now, I’d be leaving with the clothes on my back unless the credit cards took those back too. Hey, maybe I could get a job on a street corner? Or not. Who wanted to pay for sex with a 47-year-old woman who was going gray and had put on an extra two dress sizes during the pandemic?
Tom didn’t even want this for free.
I checked on my phone for motels in the area and found three that looked promising. The closest one was the ‘Rest Inn’. It was five minutes away from my location, so I drove past it, quickly. Ugh. Nope. Not while I still had working credit cards.
The next motel was even scarier looking, so I opted for the Homewood Suites on the other side of town. At least it would be clean and safe. The night clerk barely looked at me, or my odd wardrobe. In the morning I would stop in to look in on my mother and snag a few of her slacks and blouses to get me through until I could sneak back and get my clothes while Tom was at work.
My next planned substitute day was on Thursday, so that gave me two days to get some of my ducks in a row. I had a gun now, so I could shoot those ducks too if I chose. I’d push going home off as long as I wanted and Tom would never be the wiser, nor would he care. My mother had frequent emergencies when she could not remember where she was or who the people around her were. Much of my time was taken up at the nursing home, keeping her grounded.
The book club didn’t meet again until next Monday, so most of my obligations were taken care of. I’d just stay at the Homewood Suites until this card was maxed out. There was a Denny’s all-night restaurant down the road from the hotel, so I stopped there and ignored the strange looks my classy clothing got from the staff.
While eating my early breakfast it dawned on me that I could do whatever I wanted to. An invisible spirit floating above my reality. Is this what freedom felt like after 20 years of being joined at the ring finger to a man-baby? Always being there for his convenience, doing his laundry, cooking, dishes, and cleaning up after him while he whined about all the hard work and hours he was putting into his career, ‘for us’.
A weight lifted off my chest when it sunk in that my only responsibilities unless I chose otherwise, would be to myself and my mother. No more insufferable golf games to make up a foursome, with him nagging and criticizing every freakin’ swing and complaining that if he wasn’t stuck with me, he would have won. No more late evenings and early mornings prepping for the work bar-b-ques, which he Insisted always be held at our house. He would tell me what to prepare and I would dutifully create these monstrous salads, dips, and snacks for his beer-guzzling office homies and their mistresses of the month or spoiled wives, whom I had absolutely nothing in common with. It seemed as though once everything was served, there was simply no reason for me to stick around, as no one even noticed if I stayed or left. Not even Tom. Not that I was a perfect person, remembering one time when I was particularly annoyed with having to cook for hours for people I could barely stand to be near. So annoyed that I spit into the onion dip as I was mixing it up. Spit, spat, sput? I’m not sure which of those apply. But yes, they were enjoying it, thinking that double-dipping was their only problem.
Without his slave to cook up his bar-b-q side dishes I wondered if he would try to return his Grille-Boss-5000 and get his money back. Money, which he would need for the divorce lawyer, I thought, giggling over the Eggs over My Hammy and coffee, hoping this chef wasn’t as evil as I was.
Of course, I could follow the mirror’s good advice and just torture him for the next thirty or so years instead of divorcing him. Then, again, as I ruminated over the last twenty years, and the imbalance of our relationship, perhaps things were never as rosy as they had seemed. Had mom’s progressing dementia become such a focus in my life that I missed the signs of a failing marriage?
Just for fun I whipped out a pen from my purse and grabbed a napkin to make a list of all the things that annoyed me, hurt me, or generally pissed me off about our marriage.
1. Tom’s ridiculous money philosophies
2. His peacockery- fancy clothes, haircuts, etc.
3. His ridicule and disrespect
4. Having to wait on his useless work pals and their sluts
5. God damned golf. I hated it. Always have and always will.
6. He never asked me how my day went while he bored me to death with tales from the dullest job on earth- insurance broker...zzzzz
7. His snipes about my weight, hair, lack of phony eyelashes, crazy painted-on eyebrows, and makeup.
8. Nothing I ever did was quite good enough for him.
9. He hasn’t visited Mom since she went into the nursing home over a year ago. He couldn’t even pretend to care.
10. How he bitched at me about literally everything.
11. Lastly, why am I just noticing these things now? WTF is wrong with me?
Oh, God. I’m a crazy woman, I almost said out loud as I reviewed my scribbled observations on the wrinkled napkin. I’ve been living like a hunk of dog shit being dragged around on someone’s shoe for the past twenty years and didn’t know it. It’s not like Tom all of a sudden turned into a selfish, foolish slob. How could I have played dumb all these years?
Maybe I was too caught up in caring for my mother, working as many hours as I could get at the school, all my volunteer work, and keeping up with my book club to notice who I was married to. That probably happens to many women my age. Feeling comfortable, not wanting to look too deeply into our marriages. Settling for what we had so we wouldn’t rock the boat. As I was now finding out, rocking the boat had to be done carefully because there was always a chance you were going to end up in the drink with your spouse.
After several more reviews of my list of ‘cons’, and a trip to the ladies’ room to empty my bladder of leftover wine and a carafe and a half of coffee, I drove across the parking lot to the hotel. Hardly any cars in the parking lot assured me there would be a room at the Inn for me tonight. Leaving Tom’s ripped-up, oversized hoodie in the car, I quickly ran through the dark, spooky parking lot and into the well-lit lobby.
Handing over my license and credit card I asked for a suite with a kitchenette for a week. The clerk took down the information and ran the card, never mentioning that the address on my license said I lived about ten miles away. A sale is a sale is a sale, I suppose.