I tried to forget about Josh not kissing me at the car, trying instead to focus on the hour or so we spent in the woods, fooling around like teenagers. He kissed me like no one had kissed me before, or at least in a long time, and I felt a glow just below my skin. I couldn’t stop smiling. But I knew that the kids were coming home and my husband was coming home and I needed to pull it together. If I was too happy and my family saw it, they would know something was up. They may not know what was up, but they would definitely be watching. And them watching was something I couldn’t afford.
The other thing I couldn’t afford was guilt, but the guilt was crushing. Even though I wanted more, even though I was trying to talk myself into believing that I deserved this happiness I could picture Josh giving me, I could feel the guilt curling in my stomach, something dark and dangerous, the kind of thing that would lead me to make a misstep, to show my hand. I decided at the last minute to stop at the grocery store and get something great for dinner. I had just enough time to make a roast if I started it the moment I got home and roasted the veggies later.My family was not used to such hearty meals during the week – they would feel loved and I would have done something special for them. A beautiful meal for my family cancelled out my afternoon betrayal. I felt the guilt recede, a little.
I made it home in record time, threw the roast in the oven and took a deep breath. This was fine. I took a shower and made it to the bus stop just as my youngest got off and yelled “Mommy your hair is wet! Why is your hair wet? Did you just take a shower?” I blushed, and said yes, honey, I ran at lunch time and just took a shower. My older daughter said “Good thing cause I do NOT want you picking us up all sweaty and stinky. That would be so embarrassing!” I rolled my eyes. Eleven was turning out to be a much more difficult age to navigate than either of us had anticipated.
I walked the girls home and supervised snack, homework and lunch packing for the next day, then sent them gleefully outside for a few minutes to play before dinner. Just as I pulled the roast out of the oven and set the table and wiped the counters down, my husband got home.
“Hey, dinner’s almost ready!” I said to him, my face arranged carefully into a small smile -not a grin, but not scowling, like I feared I usually did. I knew he really liked it when I played my part in the 50’s marriage script that played in his head, and I had made an effort to have a decent dinner that I knew he would enjoy ready when he got home from work. Even though I brought in a paycheck, I worked from home and definitely had more of an opportunity to cook and clean up and manage the laundry than he did. I wasn’t sure why I resisted this obvious approach so many days of the week, but I did. Today, however, of all days, I worked to get it right. Guilt, perhaps, it had a positive effect, so was there any harm done, really?
“Smells great!” he declared, smiling.
“Thanks!” I said, a little taken aback by his jovial mood. “How was your day?”
“Not bad, not bad at all. It was long but not bad. How long until dinner?”
“Well, the meat could rest for about 10 more minutes, just enough time to..”
He finished my sentence, “change into something else and wash up. I’ll tell the kids to come in.” He disappeared upstairs, and I heard him wash his face and go into the bedroom, presumably to change clothes, and then to the office, presumably to set up his laptop for the work he would do before bedtime. I heard him open the front door and yell at the girls cheerfully to come inside and wash up for dinner, then I heard them all chattering and laughing and moving towards the kitchen. I put the roast on the table, stuck a spoon in the mashed potatoes and smiled at my family.
Everyone smiled back.
And took their seats without complaint. And said grace. And passed dishes of food to the right and ate with forks and used their napkins and spoke agreeably to one another.
Was this my family? No one was yelling, or fighting, or pouting. My husband brought up a story he had heard on NPR and we were able to discuss it rationally, respectfully. And when dinner was done was when the most amazing thing happened.
“Honey, you cooked. The girls and I will clean up. Why don’t you pour your glass of wine and go upstairs and have some time to yourself?”
“Are you sure?” I asked, incredulous.
“Sure. Go. We’ve got this.”
I did as he suggested, and poured a glass of wine and took my phone upstairs. I assumed I would have to come back down and finish the clean up later, but I thought maybe I could settle my next date with Josh before that had to happen. I stole away to my room, pulled out a book I was reading but had long neglected, and set my phone where it would catch my eye if he texted me.
I read about two paragraphs and picked up my phone. I checked it – no text. I put it on my thigh, so I could feel it vibrate. Finally it did.
It was Josh. I let out a breath I didn’t realize I had been holding.
“hey there you”
“What are you doing?”
I hesitated – I definitely shouldn’t tell him I had been I had been waiting for him to text me. “Just reading. You?”
“Waiting until everyone disappeared and left me alone for 2 minutes so I could text you. :)”
Hmmm, he was being direct. I wonder now if he was saying what he thought I wanted to hear. At the time, I thought he was being sincere and the fact that it was what I wanted him to say was a happy coincidence, further evidence that we were meant to be. It never crossed that mind that he would need to manipulate me. I thought…well…never mind what I thought. I thought the same thing every woman in my position thinks. That we both chose poorly when we were choosing mates and had we just been patient enough to wait for one another and lucky enough to meet, things would be different – and maybe this was our chance to right the universe’s wrong.
I texted back, “So how has your night been?”
“Long, boring. I don’t want to talk about that. Let’s talk about us.”
Us!! He said us!
“What about us?” I asked.
“When can I see you again?”
“Depends. When can you see me again?”
It took a minute for him to respond. “I’m free on Tuesday.”
I looked at my calendar – Tuesday wasn’t great for me, I had a conference call I really needed to be on, but I really needed to see Josh more. Besides, they would archive the call and I could catch up Tuesday night. “Tuesday is good for me too. What time? Where?”
“Afternoon I guess – let me get back to you on place. I think I have an idea. ” I smiled.
“What can I…expect to be doing on Tuesday?” I asked.
“I think, my dear, that you can expect a delightful afternoon.”
He texted again before I could respond. “Do your bra and panties match?”
“i…uh…right now? No.”
“Please make sure they do on Tuesday. That really makes me hot.”
Crap. I’d have to go shopping. Matching lingerie had not exactly been a priority lately. “You got it.”
“And make sure you are all trimmed up…I want to taste you.”
Oh my God who talked like this?
“Mmmmmmmm,” I replied. What was I supposed to say to that?
“I’ll let you know details on Monday, ok? I just need to make sure my plan will work.”
“Ok. Sounds good.”
“Enough logistics, Lissa. I miss you.”
“I miss you too, Josh.”
“tell me your deepest fantasy.”
“I..I’d like to meet a really hot soccer dad and have a torrid affair with him.”
“Ha ha. Other than that. Tell me something specific.”
“I don’t even know, it’s been so long since I thought about what I’d want if I could have anything. What about you? What’s your top fantasy? Other than 2 women because I’m not going there. :)”
“Hmmm, maybe a woman showing up somewhere with a trenchcoat on, and matching bra and panties and garter belt and stockings underneath and nothing else, and for her to show me, and then let me lose myself in her.”
Hmm, I might need to buy a trenchcoat.
“You’re delicious, Lissa. You have no idea how delicious you are.”
“Why thank you, sir.”
“Sir? Are you going to call me sir?”
Just then, my husband walked in. “How was your ‘me’ time?” he asked, smiling.
I it the button on my phone to turn off the text screen and looked up. I smiled back, hoping I didn’t look as shaky as I felt. “It was great – thanks so much for cleaning up the kitchen.”
My phone buzzed, two short buzzes, and I turned it upside down against my thigh so my husband wouldn’t see the next text in the conversation as he bent down to kiss me. I kissed him back and he put his arms around me. This was unexpected to say the least. I stood up and stuffed my phone in my pocket. I gave my husband a quick peck on the cheek and headed downstairs to see what additional clean up needed to be done. As I walked out, my husband said, “I love you.” I turned and looked at him, puzzled. It had been many months since he had said those words to be, and many more since I felt he meant them. I wasn’t sure what to say back – I didn’t want to lie and say I loved him too, because I wasn’t sure, at that moment, what I felt for him. I also didn’t want to hurt his feelings by not saying anything, so I compromised. “You too!” I called as I hurried out of the room.
I hoped that would work.
I got to the kitchen and everything looked great. I pulled out my phone. Josh had texted : “I didn’t know you were a ‘sir’ kind of girl.”
Then, after I didn’t answer for awhile, “Everything ok?”
I texted him “Yes, just got interrupted. Gotta run. TTYS.”
And then I deleted our conversation. And then I put a passcode on my phone. And then I put my phone away.
I headed back upstairs to the bedroom I shared with my husband. And when I saw him lying on top of the covers, his tented boxers seemingly a flag of surrender, for me to win whatever fight I didn’t know we had been having for the last several months, I realized I was in way over my head.