And so I found myself on their patio, drinking their favorite red blend (which was called ménage a trois, if you must know), listening to her talk. It was Mom’s Night, a tradition in our neighborhood. No kids or husbands were invited, and outsiders could only come once in awhile under special invitation and dispensation. Tonight, it was just the five of us. I had been hoping for a couple of extra people, human shields between me and her; distraction so she wouldn’t notice in case there was something different about me, now that I had begun to fall for her husband. Because that would be noticeable, right? I would notice if some other woman was making puppy eyes at Daniel, wouldn’t I? I would notice if one of my friends suddenly lost 10 pounds or started wearing lipstick all the time or ironed her sheets.
I could see a difference in myself since I told Josh about my baby who died. My eyes were lighter, less haunted. I could stand straighter, the pain having lessened, slightly, by sharing it. Surely one of the people who saw me most often would also see me most clearly. And of course I didn’t want to get caught, but not for the reason you think.
I truly didn’t care what happened to my own marriage. My marriage to Daniel had been a sham since Ava’s tiny coffin had been lowered into the ground. We had not had sex nor had a conversation about anything other than bills and kids since that day. If he found out I was on a speedy train headed towards sleeping with Josh and decided it was finally time to divorce me, that would be a punishment I could gladly bear. No, what I was afraid of was that if we got caught, if Cindy figured it out, it would be over. And I could not bear the thought of losing him when I had just found him. I couldn’t imagine not letting this thing run its course now that we had started it.
I picked up my glass to have another sip and found that it was empty. Was that two glasses I had drunk, or three? I couldn’t remember. I decided to switch to water and went inside to fix it for myself, and was both thrilled and dismayed to see Josh in the kitchen.
“What are you doing here?” I asked rather abruptly.
His eyes danced. “I live here, remember? What are you doing here…” And then he leaned close to me and whispered “with your clothes on, clucking with the hens out there?”
I smiled. The clucking hens thing stuck in the back of my head, but I smiled because he was thinking about me as much as I was thinking about him, and he wanted me to be naked with him and he wanted me.
“Moms’ night. I need a glass of water to dilute the wine a little.”
He grinned and got me a glass out of the cabinet. “Just don’t decide that you like her again, or that you owe her anything,” he warned, and disappeared into the family room.
That seemed an odd thing for him to say.
I fixed my water and headed back out into the twilight with Cindy and the other members of our group of friends. I put my glass down on the table and Cindy shrieked, interrupting Jenn mid-sentence.
“What the hell is wrong with you?” Cindy asked me.
“I just needed some water because I was feeling a little too tipsy for this early in the evening.”
“Well why are you drinking it out of my good water goblet out here on the patio?” She was so mad she almost spit the words at me. She was clearly crazy. It was a glass, breakable but replaceable. And I was a grown adult, not prone to breaking things, stealing glasses, or causing mayhem at sedate neighborhood gatherings. Her glass was very likely safe in my hands, even if her husband wasn’t.
Jenn looked terrified. This glass thing was obviously a big deal. Like, a Big Deal.
“I ran into Josh in the kitchen and he gave it to me. I’m sorry, I had no…” She cut me off mid-apology by snatching the glass from in front of me and marching into the house, screaming for Josh. We could see in through the window, so we watched his sheepish arrival, the gradual hunching of his shoulders, the lost look on his face, the downcast eyes, the ineffectual and pointless apology. I felt so badly for him. She was awful. I mean, I liked having nice things too, and I loved the idea of gracious living, but if it meant I had to treat my family this way, if rather just drink out of red solo cups for the rest of my life and have peace in my home.
I may not be the best wife on the block, but this was inexcusable. I looked at Jenn and she looked at me.
“Think we should make a run for it?” she asked. I looked beside me for my purse. It wasn’t there.
“Dammit my purse is inside. I can’t leave it here, it’s got my keys in it.”
“Shit. Ok let’s try to wrap this up.” She chugged her wine and signaled to the other women there to do the same. I had nothing to drink, having had my water snatched away before I could drink it.
We all started straightening our chairs and cleaning up our messes, getting wine glasses and coasters together, making sure no crumbs were left on the table or the patio, and collectively preparing our exit speeches. I mean, she was going to know that we were all taking off because of this whole dreadful thing with the glass, but we knew that, as gracious guests, it was our job to suddenly find out about last minute homework that required supervision, feverish children, dogs that couldn’t possibly be left inside any longer, or husbands who were such morons that they couldn’t heat up ravioli in the microwave without assistance. So that’s what we were doing.
Until she came back outside. She saw us getting ready to leave and she was pissed.
“Oh hell no! Sit back down! Moms’ night isn’t over yet and we will not let HIM ruin it for us!” I looked around uneasily, not sure what to do.
I was a guest in her home, with inappropriate feelings for her beleaguered husband. I had shared things with him I had never shared with anyone, I had let him touch me in ways and places that no one had touched me in years. And I felt things for him that I no longer felt for my own husband. And now, having witnessed an intimate, uncomfortable moment between my almost-lover and his wife, my friend…well, Emily Post didn’t really cover how to handle this. I decided to follow Jenn’s lead.
She sat back down and calmly poured herself a glass of wine. Out other friends did the same, and so did I, if for no other reason than this:
I have never been more curious to see how a situation played out in my life.