She could feel him closing up against her back. She recoiled a little but then got herself together.
“No! Just a regular day. Big day for you?”
“Why would it be a big day for me?” He said, adjusting his tie. “I’m wearing the same old suit, the same shoes and see…” he indicated towards the bottle of cologne in his hands, “the same old fragrance. No, Ma’am! No big days here”.
She smiled sweetly throughout. She had learned to tune her husband out sometimes many years ago. She carefully applied mascara, pecked him on the cheek and wordlessly left the house.
Ethan was waiting for her at the hotel. Just the thought of seeing him naked made her legs weak.
Mike reached over and pulled her in. Even though they had been married for twenty years, his touch woke her up every single time. She backed into him and he nuzzled her neck.
“You’ve been awfully busy these days”, he remarked.
“Work, honey”, she replied sleepily.
“Kara! I think we should go away for a week? Just may be to the island”.
“Sure thing”. She closed her eyes.
He didn’t let her sleep. They made love until the wee hours of the morning. Finally, she drifted off to sleep with him nesting his head on her shoulders.
She checked her alarm one last time before sleeping again. Lamar hated waiting. She was seeing him in her lunch break but wasn’t going to go to the office in the morning, she had decided. Mike had tired her out.
With a satisfied smile she slept soundly until noon. Then she woke up, got dressed and left for the coffee shop where they were supposed to meet.
Is there ever a best sex of anyone’s life, she mused.
Two hours later she had had the best conversation that had led to the perfect sex.
Well, that’s something to hold on to! She smiled as she walked back into her home, her husband making his famous steaks on the skillet, the aroma of baked potatoes filling the home.
Mike’s snores filled the room but Kara remained wide awake. She loved traveling but it was hard for her to enjoy time with one person. She had tried it before and hadn’t been able to find any joy in it.
“Am I a bad woman? Would people call me a cheating wife?”
“No!”, a person in her spoke up. “You’re not a cheater. Cheaters have no conscience. You have a conscience. You’re not selfish. You take care of Mike. You love him too”.
“And the other six men you’ve been seeing these days”, her harshest critic spoke up. “What would you call cheating if it’s not being romantically involved with six men besides your husband and your husband not knowing it?”
“Well I’d call her a very loving person”, the first voice said.
“Some would call it cheating”, she heard her critic say.
“I’m not a cheater”, she said evenly. “I’m not cheating. I’m spending time with men who stimulate me intellectually and physically. Is there something wrong with that? Do people not have open marriages?”
“Everything’s wrong with that”, her conscience spoke up again. “You don’t have an open marriage. You have a marriage where you cheat and he comes home to you”.
“You don’t have an open marriage”, her heart agreed with her conscience. “But it works for you and so that’s best for you. Who else is to say what’s best for you? Only you can know that. And you’re happy, right?”
“Yes”, she said with a serene smile playing on her lips, “I’m very happy”.
Kara grew up in a traditional home. All her aunts and uncles were married to their high school and college sweethearts. All her cousins started dating seriously in their teens and started getting engaged or married in their twenties. Kara’s parents didn’t have a particularly loving marriage but they had been married for thirty years and that seemed like something to celebrate when love and affection were scarce commodities.
Her parents went on trips, had a great social life and were the center of many people’s envy. Kara sometimes wondered what they talked about when they went on their yearly anniversary trip. They barely spoke to each other when they were surrounded by their kids and families. She could tell they didn’t particularly love each other.
She met Mike at a writer’s convention. He was tall, lithe and attractive. She had a thing for men with killer minds and great bodies. He was perfect. Or so she thought!
She dated him seriously for six months and then had to break up. He had gotten boring. People would ask her and that’s all she had to say. Some friends expressed open surprise at her becoming bored with a catch like him. She wished he had remained as interesting as his books.
She briefly dated an NBA player and was fascinated with the amount of intellect required to play any sport with strategy and conviction. She drooled over him when he talked about other teams and how the point system could favor a weaker team sometimes. Kara couldn’t get enough of him until she realized that she couldn’t be interested in the talks or the sex anymore with him. She quickly moved on.
She did date serially and sometimes even had more than five men that she was dating at any given point in time. It was fortunate that because of her work she wasn’t in her hometown anymore. She was sure that if she had stayed back she would’ve gotten married by then with a few kids.
But soon dating got old. The charm of seeing a new guy every night got old. Soon familiarity became interesting. Even something she craved for. Soon she was aching for Mike.
She called him one evening. He was available.
They got engaged a year later and were married in the subsequent six months.
They honeymooned in Barbados, Thailand, Italy and Marrakech.
The honeymoon lasted three months.
Soon they were back to their jobs, working 9-5 and winging marriage.
Soon marriage got monotonous . Soon Mike got old again.
Kara knew divorce wasn’t an option. She also didn’t want to divorce. Mike was boring but she loved him. But she didn’t want to have a lackluster marriage.
Before she knew it, she had gotten into a hot and heavy affair with her assistant, Nick.
“Will you tell your husband about me?” Nick asked as they scrambled to get their clothes together from the office floor.
“No! Why? Do you think I should?” She asked with an edge to her voice.
He shrugged, “Just didn’t know if you’re sleeping with me because there are problems or because you’re going to become exclusive with me”.
What was he talking about? Exclusive? With him? But he was just a fling! Didn’t he know that?
Kara fired him two days later. It was enough that she had a husband to go home to and lie to. She couldn’t have a lover who expected a relationship too.
A month later, Kara met another man. Then another. And then another. Her life became a revolving door.
Sometimes Kara thought about women who didn’t live a double life. She was not particularly well-known around town but her husband was. She wasn’t a very social woman. When she hung out on dating sites and chat rooms, she sometimes felt vulnerable. She wondered if someone familiar would bump into her. It was starting to become a little risky for her to meet strange men in strange places. What if something happened to her?
But Kara wasn’t stupid. She did her due diligence when she was going to meet someone new. She approached them with a few online profiles and made sure that they were consistent with the information they provided. She had initially thought that she would never date married men. Soon she started to see how it was slim pickings otherwise for a woman on the wrong side of 40. She became less picky. With time her lovers started to become younger too.
Does Mike suspect something? She’d ask herself sometimes when she caught him looking at her in a strange way. Did he know that she was having sex with strangers, having relationships with them, making emotional and love bonds with them? Did he know that she considered herself polyamorous and couldn’t be satisfied with one man? She knew he didn’t know and was too busy with work and his friends to even pay too much attention to her extracurricular activities but she was cautious always. Very cautious.
She sometimes thought of divorcing Mike and being single again. But….. she’d argue with herself over how much she loved him. How much easier it was to not feel the pressure of commitment when she was already in a marriage. And also, she was ashamed to admit it but the high that she experienced from the fear of being found out mixed with the risk of being with a formidable partner who might not want to let her go when she’d want to made for all the spice in her extramarital affairs. No, she decided, I can’t get divorced. It’s better this way. It’s actually more fun this way too.
As she was chatting in another online chat room one night, she was messaged by someone.
She looked at the message.
“Hey! Wanna meet up?”
“Sure. But where’s the niceties, kid?”
“Haha! Guess I’m too eager”.
“What do you do?”
“Right now I’m doing a twenty-something year old and she’s a dud”.
She felt her heart race before she typed,
“How old are you?”
“Why’re you asking? Pretty sure age isn’t going to restrict us”.
“Well, no! But don’t you want to know how old I am”.
“Only if you want to tell me”.
Kara was intrigued. He had hit her up. He seemed to not care how old she was. He had a smart mouth on him. He certainly seemed like her type.
“Well”, she typed back, “may be I should share my phone number with you and then may be we can tell each other our ages”.
She typed her phone number and waited for him to send it back.
As soon as he read her number, he logged out.
Kara sat frozen. She had given her number to a total stranger who could be someone she knew. She had always been so careful. How could she make this mistake? She felt like shooting herself. She frantically tried to see any other way to reach him but he had logged out of the chat room. She searched for him in a few other chat rooms but he was nowhere to be found. She was miserable the whole night.
Even though she knew it was stupid she had expected a call or a text from the stranger. She didn’t even know his name. Inadvertently she had divulged way too much without getting enough information about him. She paced in her office, thinking hard about ways to track him down.
Defeated, she gave up.
“You look awfully tired, hun”, Mike remarked during dinner.
“You look tired”, he said again. “You didn’t come to sleep until late last night. What happened?”
Kara felt uneasy. He seemed suspicious, intrigued even. His tone was prying. Was she so obviously worried?
“Work, what else?”
“You should sleep early, Kara! Don’t stay up too late”.
“I have to check a few things and then I’ll be right over”, she promised him.
As soon as she logged in, he messaged her.
She didn’t know what to do. A part of her didn’t want to acknowledge him. Something was very weird about their interaction the night before.
“Hey”, she reluctantly replied.
She felt like it was her soul speaking to her. Online conversations can become very intimate but this was unique. Erotic almost.
“I can’t lie. I was a little bummed when you disappeared without warning last night”.
“Well, I got your number and that was all that I wanted”.
“But you didn’t call me”.
“I didn’t get it to call you”.
“Then why did you?”
“Just to have something of yours”.
Kara’s head was swimming with questions. She asked boldly,
“Do you know me, stranger?”
“I feel like I do”.
“Do I know you?”
“How can I answer that?”
“I have a feeling you know me”.
“What makes you say that?”
She felt her heart fluttering and then typed,
“I don’t know. Just an intimate quality that our conversation had last night and even now. It doesn’t feel like we are just getting to know each other”.
“Getting to know each other is a hyperbole. We never get to know each other in a whole, complete way. We know parts of each other. We only know certain parts of each other. The parts that attract us”.
“Okay. You said that you know me. What parts of me do you know?”
She saw “read” showing next to her message but he had logged out.
She felt her heart aching to jump out of her chest. There was a sinking feeling in her stomach.
Her eyes started stinging. Why was she crying? It felt like a loss, an ache, a longing.
She had a date with a twenty five year old restaurant owner the next day. She cancelled it.
She called sick into work. She lay in bed all day, watching mindless television and drinking wine.
When Mike came back home she had the most passionate drunken sex with him.
“It was so good”, Mike said as he eased off of her and kissed her hair.
“Yes” she thought, “It was good. But it would’ve been better with him”.
She drifted off to sleep.
She logged in after missing two nights because of drinking. She asked herself why she didn’t log in during the day. The truth was that she was afraid to break the magic. Dating without her husband knowing, cheating, being with many men and their personalities, hiding receipts for dinner checks and gifts and secretly arranging hotels had made for a life that was largely a recipe for constant paranoia. Kara feared being found out. This also added to the allure and the thrill.
“Where have you been?” He asked like he cared.
“Was drinking too much”, she answered carelessly.
“Didn’t know you drank yourself into oblivion”, he joked.
“You had my number. Could’ve called if you cared so much”.
“I’m afraid to call you”, he typed.
How did he do that? How did he make innocuous remarks soulful and magical? How could he make her heart skip many beats with just typed words on a screen?
“Why were you afraid?”
“I don’t think I could ever hang up if I called you”.
Before he logged off again, Kara typed with her hands trembling, fingers frantically flying across the keyboard,
“I want to see you. We have to meet. I can’t take it anymore”.
He logged off again.
Kara’s heart exploded. What sick game was this? What had she done to him that he was doing this to her? She felt like killing herself. She had never felt like this about anyone. She had no friends that she could confide in, she wasn’t close with her siblings and her parents would’ve disowned her if they had so much as caught the slightest wind of this. She cried bitterly and in a savage fit, emptied half a bottle of vodka.
As she staggered into her room, she found Mike awake.
She walked up to him, dropped her robe and made wild passionate love until she slept in the middle of it.
Kara slept for eighteen hours. When she woke up, it was nighttime again.
She logged in to her messenger again. He was there. Her mood picked up immediately.
They chatted for five hours. She didn’t bring up anything about wanting to meet him or be with him. She didn’t ask personal questions at all. She didn’t even ask his name.
When she crawled into bed at five in the morning, sunlight filtering through the curtains, she felt more satisfied than all the sexual rendezvous that she had had in her life. She felt a connection so strong that it defied physical bonds and sexual intercourse. She felt he had had her and she had surrendered in his arms.
She called out sick again. She savored their conversation the whole day.
She couldn’t wait for night to roll around. She couldn’t wait to meet her lover again.
“Why’re you smiling, sweetie?” Mike looked at her with laughter in his eyes. I must look silly smiling for no reason, she thought.
For no reason? You have a huge reason. The biggest one yet.
“Nothing”, she said, stroking his arm, loving him more than she ever had. “Just happy”.
He smiled and remarked at how she was starting to look like her younger self these days.
“All those hours in the gym are working, babe”.
Yes, she thought to herself, that and my constantly being in love with two fabulous men.
She logged back in again at night. It was becoming a ritual. An exciting, much anticipated ritual.
“You are five minutes late”. He complained.
Her smile broadened.
“Didn’t know you kept time.” She teased.
“Ordinary things? I don’t. But I keep time for you, my love”.
“Am I your love?” She typed back.
“Why do you think you’re not?”
“I don’t know anything about you. I’m afraid to ask because then you disappear. I don’t even know your name. You have my number but you’ve never called me. But then you tell me you love me. Do you not want to see me?”
“What about your husband?”
“What about him?”
“Wouldn’t he mind?”
“I don’t owe him any explanations or information. I’ve been looking for you forever. It’s like you’re in my soul”.
He didn’t reply for many minutes. Kara knew he was online. She waited with baited breath.
“Kara! Why do you want to meet me?”
What type of an idiotic question was that?
“Because I want to see the man I love”.
“What if I’m not what you are expecting me to be?”
“You don’t get it. I have no expectation except to see the man I love, touch him, feel him and make love to him. Talk to him without the fear of a bad internet connection or an online argument after which he disappears for days and I have no means to reach him. I want this to be real”.
“It is real”.
“It is”, she agreed, “but I want more and if it wasn’t for the fact that I tell you everything I would’ve lied and said I didn’t but the truth is that I want more. Much much more. I have wandered in the darkest places for love and companionship and camaraderie and friendship and just love. Lasting love. Eternal love. Strong, always passionate, always burning love. What I found was fleeting love, superficial love, easy-to-get-over love. Can you blame me for wanting more?”
She realized there were tears streaming down her face as she typed. She felt tired and like she had walked through life with no one to call her own. He was the man who she had fallen in love with, now many months in, and he didn’t want to see her. Somehow it all seemed futile.
She logged out before he did.
She didn’t want to continue this any longer. It was becoming heavy for her. She had never had a strong emotional connection with her boyfriends ever, except Mike. Mike was special, hence her husband. She didn’t think she could love anyone with the same intensity for as long as she had loved him. With Mike it was different. Even when they had first met, it was a different energy. She had wanted to keep that energy going and hadn’t wanted it all to become boring again and had successfully done that for twenty years. Somehow, her marriage had thrived with her lovers in the background. And the foreground. It wouldn’t have made it this far without those men. But somehow, Mike had faded in the background because of this one stranger in her life. Somehow the stranger had become worth throwing it all away for.
Kara threw herself into work. She didn’t want to think about him. She busied herself with partying and drinking. Mike had always had a very active social life and she quickly inserted herself in it. They had no kids and so it was very easy to stay out every night and then leave for work in the morning. For some reason, and a little to her horror, Kara felt her sex drive diminishing. She didn’t feel attracted to Mike and she didn’t feel like using her vibrator either.
She knew she had to be hitting menopause soon. She was 45 and even though her period was regular like clockwork she knew that she would be facing the change soon. She went to see her gynecologist.
After a brief history and many hormone tests she was told that she wasn’t anywhere near a menopause.
She knew she had been drinking a lot so stopped doing that .
She started taking an anti anxiety medication and felt even more wired. She stopped it.
Mike remarked on how she was so liked by all his friends. She took it as a compliment. She had never been part of his friends and now that she was, she liked them. She could however not fathom how Mike spent so much time with them. None of them were interesting at all.
It had been six weeks since she had last chatted with her stranger lover. She missed him and wanted to reconnect. She was afraid she’d fall back into a web of love and deception and wouldn’t be able to make it back out again.
She was also actively looking for a boyfriend. Kara knew herself. She knew she wasn’t a one man woman. She had to have someone else. Mike alone was boring. Mike alone was monotonous. Mike alone would be the reason for the dissolution of their marriage.
It was her birthday. Her parents called her in the morning. Mike arranged for a party for her. He could see that she was distracted and sometimes even sad. He thought to cheer her up.
As they were welcoming guests and making sure the cake was placed right where they wanted it, her phone beeped.
Without knowing or asking, she knew it was him. She decided to act like she didn’t know.
“Who is this?”
“You know who”.
“Actually, I don’t”.
“Okay! Any wild guesses?”
Her heart started to race again. There was a familiarity with him that she hadn’t found boring so far. There was an intimacy that was more intense than any physical touch. She could hear him even though they communicated by typing .
“I have a wild guess but I’m afraid it will make you disappear”.
“I promise I won’t disappear this time”.
Now? He was promising now? When she had given up all hope? When she was six weeks into recovering from him? When she was trying to forget him by being an antithesis of her lifelong self?
“All I wanted was a promise to not disappear. What took so long to get there?” She typed back.
“I’m afraid to lose you, Kara! You’d know if you ever loved someone”.
“If ever I loved someone? I’ve loved more than you could even possibly imagine”.
“Have you loved me?”
“I was talking about my love for you, dummy, precisely that”.
“Okay! That’s good to hear. So it’s just Mike and I then?”
Kara thought for a long time. Only Mike and him? Mike? Was Mike even a part of her anymore? As strange as it may seem, this stranger had made her a one man woman finally. All she wanted was him and if he would be with her then she was willing to even leave Mike.
“It’s just you. It’s just you all the time. There’s no one else, not even Mike! And the funny thing is, I don’t even know your name”.
“I feel like a cloud picked me up and is making me circle over your head. But since it’s so funny, my name is Aston. Aston James!”
Kara stared at the phone. Aston? His name was Aston? Somehow she had thought he would have a regular name like John or George or even Mike. But his name was Aston?
Kara didn’t care who was at the party or what they were doing. She spent the rest of the evening comfortably sitting on a couch, chatting with the love of her life.
Mike came to get her a couple times and she joined her guests for brief moments and then went back to texting with her love.
She saw Mike happy that she was happy and then heard him attributing her happy spirits to the party. If only he knew!
The phone became Kara’s life. She carried it everywhere. She got many power banks for fear of not being able to plug it in to charge. She removed unnecessary apps and data to retain Aston’s text conversations. She became obsessed with the times that they texted and made sure she was completely free and alone during those times.
Kara felt she was living two lives. There was a life with Mike, her work colleagues, the new friends she had made through Mike and another life with Aston.
What if the two worlds collide one day? Her heart would ask her.
I’ll gladly give up everything for Aston, she told it confidently.
What about Mike? Her conscience asked her.
Mike wouldn’t want to be with a woman who loved someone else, she reasoned.
Aston was even more fascinating through phone texting than he was on the internet. He had a way with words and sarcasm was almost his second language. He challenged Kara into learning new things about religion, the world, politics and even sex.
The world of typed conversations is a strange world. There is an intimacy that is sometimes hard to find with physical relationships. There is a mystery and a obscurity that is always welcome. There is a thrill. There is a sexual quality to these relationships without much detail to it. These are usually raw relationships that have more to do with ideas and perceptions. What someone looks like or sounds like or smells like are not quality metrics for these relationships. That’s what brings the best out of people in them. That’s how people are always their best in them. That’s usually how people’s fantasies are met in these relationships. Kara and Aston had a maddeningly sexual and overwhelmingly geeky relationship. Everything that Kara had ever wanted was here in one man.
But Kara wasn’t stupid. Of course she had considered the possibility of him being physically unattractive and a total failure in bed. But nothing mattered where Aston was concerned. He had so much else to offer that any physical shortcomings didn’t mean much to her.
As they were texting one evening, Kara asked him if he was sometimes curious to see what she looked like.
“I’m curious about that all the time”.
She felt a little spark of excitement.
“So why don’t we meet sometime?”
“What is it going to lead to, Kara?”
Kara was quiet. She knew this was a legitimate question. After all not every man might be game for being her flavor for the month.
“I don’t know”, she typed back honestly, “but I can’t believe two lovers could stay away from each other as we have”.
“We have stayed pretty away from each other”, he agreed.
“So can we meet?”
“Tell you what? I’m going for a conference to Miami. Can you come over? We will have a few days to ourselves and then can also see where it all takes us”.
Kara couldn’t believe it. Miami? A few days? Soon? Could she come over? Of course she could!
“Just tell me when”, she said breathlessly.
The next few days were the hardest for Kara but also the most emotionally fulfilling. Aston and she texted every awake minute and had loads of phone sex over texts . She couldn’t believe he knew her so well even though they had never met or verbally spoken to each other really.
She told Mike that she’d need to be in Miami for a week. He seemed interested in coming along with her but she snubbed him. She didn’t want to have much to do with him anyway. She had given the best years of her life loving him and caring for him. She finally had to move on and make love to the most fascinating man she had ever known.
She shopped for herself and Aston. She didn’t know what he looked like and had envisioned him to be medium build and height with an intelligent face and a full mouth. She got shivers up and down her spine thinking about him.
She bought many new outfits and then went back and returned them all. She didn’t want to wear anything new. She wanted to wear something that people had already seen her in and liked. She didn’t want to experiment. She was a conservative dresser on the best of occasions and had somehow mastered the art of appearing chicly conservatively fashionable. She packed all her things a week before her trip. Then as a last minute present to herself for working so hard for herself she bought a huge diamond necklace with her savings. She hoped to wear it in bed with Aston.
She thought about driving to Miami or taking a flight. She wanted this to be special but didn’t want to jinx it either with too high of an expectation. After all, it was a strange guy in a strange city.
No, she scolded herself smilingly, it’s Aston. He’s my person.
She got in her car two days before she was due to see him in Miami. She blasted Pink Floyd, Cher and U2 all the way to Miami. She stopped at many gas stations and watched people excitedly enjoying road meals with their families. The whole world looked like it was happy to be alive and loving. She couldn’t get why she had never noticed the little things around her.
Mike called her a few times on the road. She was loving but distant. She didn’t want to continue being emotionally available for him. She’d be leaving him soon. If it was up to her, she’d have already left him.
Kara would’ve never waited to see Aston. She was so madly in love with him that a physical meeting wasn’t anything that solidified their relationship. They were solid like rock. In her mind she had wedded, bedded and loved him as much as she could. She didn’t need to see him to commit to him but she knew Aston sought the same thrill and excitement that she did from life.
She had never counted on falling in love. She had loved many men in the past but had never been in love. Except Mike. She had been in love with Mike before Aston happened. Deeply in love with Mike. Because of her love for Mike she had devised ways to conduct a secret life. If she didn’t have her secret life she’d have left him.
Lost in thought she started to smell the beach in the air. She was in Miami.
She quickly unpacked and took a shower. Aston was coming the next day. She texted him and then couldn’t help but call him. He didn’t pick up.
She realized her mistake. He didn’t like to talk over the phone. He had told her once when she had insisted on speaking rather than texting that he couldn’t express himself as well over spoken conversation. She hadn’t persisted. Just having him was enough. She had never wanted any more than what he had wanted to give.
She texted him again before going to bed. He replied,
She felt she was going to fly with happiness at his response.
“Hey, babe! Didn’t hear from you the whole day. Then I realized you must still be traveling. Where are you? Boarded the plane yet?”
“Yes! In the plane right now. Where are you?”
“In my room. In our room”.
“Go to sleep. You wanna be bright and ready for me”.
“I can’t sleep”.
“Kara”, he typed, “sleep before you can’t sleep”.
“I won’t be able to sleep after tomorrow I’m sure”.
“Yes! Which is why you should sleep while you can”.
Smiling, she said good-bye. He sent a ❤️.
She sent a 😘. He sent a 😴.
She fell back in the pillows and stayed up the whole night.
They had decided to meet at the beach. It was perfect. It was the most uninhibited place that he could’ve thought. She thought of how they’d first meet. Would he be shy? Would she be hesitant?
When morning came around she got dressed and went to the beach. They had decided to see each other at 10.
Kara was at the beach at 8. She couldn’t tell why he hadn’t been just as impatient as her. But he was definitely more in control of himself when it came to being open and passionate.
For what seemed like forever, she waited for it to be 10 o’clock.
10 came and went.
She texted him.
“Where are you?”
“I’m on my way”.
“What’s taking you so long?”
“Got stuck with something”.
Then an hour later he texted her,
“Are you in the blue sundress?”
“Yes”, she didn’t know why he just wouldn’t call her.
“Can you see me?”
Kara looked around. The beach was full of spring breakers in various stages of undress. There were a couple of older couples getting the sun. Her eyes finally settled on him.
For how could she not recognize him! In a sea of unfamiliar faces, he was a piece of her own heart. He had the same wildness about him that she had seen in her restlessness too. He was still like there was nothing that could ruffle him. Just the way he was when they texted and messaged each other. Cool, calm, collected.
He was of medium height and build. Just as she had thought. He had wavy dirty blonde hair with a lighter blonde running through it in some places. Just as she had thought. He had deep blue eyes, the color of storms that rose higher than the sea that created them and wrecked everything in their wake. Just as she had thought. He had on a light blue button-down shirt and dark wash jeans. He looked much younger than she had thought or may be he just looked younger than his age. Like I look younger than mine, she thought.
They were locked in time. Kara didn’t know if she should walk towards him or run. Or not do anything at all as there was a chance that the spell could break. May be they both needed to stand still and never move. May be this was it. The highest of passion and the lowest of distance. This was it.
She didn’t realize it until it was too late. He was walking back. He was still looking at her but walking back. She was rooted to the spot. She couldn’t move even if she wanted to. She watched him retreat into the crowd and started to disappear. Just like he logged off of their online chats and didn’t materialize for days.
She was jolted from her reverie and finally made a run for him. She ran as fast as she could, took her sandals off and ran. She yelled his name and he began to walk away from her faster. As she was closing in on him he deftly opened the door of a silver Toyota Camry, sat and zoomed past her.
Kara stood still, her head spinning, her mind laughing at her, her conscience grim, her heart bleeding.
She turned on the lights to her room. Nothing had changed in the last two days. Mike’s shoes were where she had left them before she had taken off for Miami. Her bathrobe was hanging on the treadmill. Her shoes were in complete disarray in the walk-in closet which looked like a bulldozer had gone over it. She had frantically prepared for her week with Aston and had disregarded everything. Her home, her clothes, shoes, husband and herself too.
She had tried to reach him. She texted him and called him. Nothing reached him. He had apparently turned his phone off. Her messages said “sent” and not “delivered”. He wasn’t logging into his Whatsapp or his messenger. He was like an illusion except he wasn’t. If she hadn’t seen him she would’ve thought he was.
She drank more wine and felt better. She was going to find someone better. Someone more virile, more handsome, more interesting.
Except….. she wanted Aston.
She collapsed in her bed. When she woke up it was nighttime and there were a dozen messages from Aston on her phone.
She sat bolt upright. The alcohol wore off immediately. Her eyes scanned all the messages in seconds and then read them slowly,
“I’m sorry, Kara! I don’t know what happened”.
“I want to explain myself but I feel I’ll come off like an ass”.
“We should’ve met sooner. You were right. We should’ve met sooner. We built this up to be this huge thing and……”.
“I’m sorry, Kara! I had thought of you a certain way and when I saw you…… you’re beautiful but you weren’t the Kara I had thought and wanted. I’m ashamed to say it even but I can’t be fake with you. You would’ve found out”.
“I’ll always remember you, babe! There will be no one like you when it comes to conversations and a friendship. But when I saw you…… I have a different idea of a lover. If you wanna be a friend, I’d love to remain your friend but we can’t be what we were before. I’m being superficial, I know. Shallow and base. But the heart wants what the heart wants. And it doesn’t want you”.
That’s true, she thought, the heart wants what the heart wants and my heart wants no one BUT you.
The secret got heavy. She quit work after four weeks. It was hard to be a functional alcoholic. She had zero sex drive and she pitied Mike for having spent his life with a wife who never was loyal to him. She loved him even more if it was possible. He was the one constant of her life.
But she loved Aston more. She couldn’t deny that. Aston was the man who completed her. She completed Mike and so with Aston it was a different feeling. A feeling of needing someone, surrendering to someone, letting someone else be in charge.
Mike had become even more caring towards her. She knew that he suspected she was going through something. She was glad he didn’t ask. She couldn’t face the truth herself.
One night she was consumed with memories of Aston again. The scene at the beach was burnt in her memory. It was a moment of beauty, pain, love and betrayal. It was a moment of rejection. It was the cost of love.
“Kara!” Mike took her in his arms. “What’s going on? I can’t see you like this. Is everything okay? Is your family okay?”
She looked at him. The familiar face that was still just as gorgeous as the first time she had laid eyes on it. The eyes that never lied and the voice that comforted her always. She had spent her entire life deceiving Mike and justifying her liaisons with other men as a way to keep her marriage and her love for Mike intact. She had been lying to herself also. This was the moment of truth. She knew Mike deserved better. She would have to learn to live with Mike’s hate and Aston’s rejection.
“Mike! Do you know why I went to Miami?”
Something in his body stiffened. She felt like he was bracing himself.
“I went to see a man”.
“I wanted to have a relationship with him. I already had an eighteen month relationship with him prior to that but this was our first meeting”.
“What are you saying, Kara? Are you saying you went behind my back to see a guy In Miami? You’re joking, right?”
She looked at his honest face and sobbed.
“It’s all true, Mike. I want to admit something to you so prepare yourself”.
“You had sex with him?” He said incredulously.
“No! Not with him”.
“Thank God!” He sighed loudly, then, “What do you mean “not with him?”
“I didn’t have sex with him. But I’ve had sex with countless men in the last twenty years of our marriage. I have had a boyfriend, a lover, a secret relationship all our marriage”.
“You’re lying! It’s not possible. You’re lying”.
“No!” She said, “No! I’m not lying and if you want I can show you a lot of evidence to prove my infidelity. I have slept with about a hundred men and have had relationships of various intensity and extent with them. I’m not lying. I wish I was. Only God knows why but I’m not lying”.
Mike started pacing the room. He looked angry and hurt. Then he turned to her,
“Why are you telling me all this now?”
“I don’t know. May be because for the first time I feel defeated, rejected, turned away. Aston rejected me, Mike. He was the love of my life and he rejected me. And you’ll reject me now. You’re also the love of my life and you’ll reject me too. I’ve lost everything”.
“You have, Kara, you certainly have. You’ve lost everything”, she heard him say before he opened the door and left the room. Twenty minutes later she heard the garage door opening and Mike leaving.
She left the house since it was Mike’s. She received divorce papers a month later. It was a clean divorce with not much to settle. Six months later she was a divorced woman.
She moved back to her small town, applied for a job as a high profile women’s rights lawyer’s secretary and became submerged into work.
Two years later she hit menopause and didn’t do great with any hormone replacement therapy. Nothing brought her libido or interest in life back. The antidepressants that she had had to take after her divorce became the new constant. She gained weight and her hair fell out. She developed craggy skin and a few years later brought her parents home with her to care for them better. She didn’t date anyone after her divorce. Men became a distant song that she heard in her head sometimes but it was a music that grated on her nerves and made her insides sick. It was a music without words. It had a haunting quality. Mike didn’t come to their divorce papers signing. His lawyer brought signed papers. She never spoke to him after that night of confession.
It had been two days since Kara confessed everything. He was pacing back and forth in his hotel room.
His phone lit up. He smiled at the message. It said,
“Call me when you can”.
He called immediately,
“Hey Mike”, a smooth voice spoke from the other end .
“Hi Aston! What’s going on?”
“Just wanted to say I got the money. Felt like a jerk but a hundred grand is a little hard to turn down”. Aston laughed.
“You deserve a lot more, my friend. She would’ve never come clean. And even if she did, it wouldn’t have been fair to me. She has to suffer in rejection like she made me suffer”.
“Well”, Aston said carelessly, “It’s your show from here on out. It was like kicking a puppy when I sat in the car and she was running towards me. Funny but sad also. It cracked me up for days but I’ll burn in hell for it.”.
“Don’t worry, Aston”, Mike said grimly, “if there’s a hell, she’ll be the first to burn in it. She will burn with all the hundred men she slept with behind my back”.