Rules of Marriage Ch. 04bythecelt©
For those of you who requested the conclusion, here it is. I believe half of you will be pleased and half will be disappointed, which is why I didn't finish it the first time. But the response was overwhelming to the story so this is my conclusion. I hope you enjoy it.
The girls see Sam and run to meet him. He smiles at them, takes them into his arms and looks up to see me waiting.
End of Part 3
Sam looks around apparently searching for my mother but doesn't see her. He glances back at me and then gives his full attention to Melissa and Jennie. I was not encouraged by the lack of welcome in his glance.
As I stand there watching Sam with the girls, I fear that he isn't ready to see or talk to me. I need to talk to him, however, to make sure that he is still willing to continue with our marriage. When he left, he made it clear that I had broken the rules of marriage and that he no longer believed that I even knew what those rules were. He pointed that out to me and so did my mother. When I came to realize that I had completely betrayed all of the vows that I had made to Sam and to God, I had a breakdown, complicated by rejection by my dad who believed I had cost my girls their father.
With help I had come to realize my mistakes and to see very clearly that the failures in my marriage were mine and not Sam's. It was also a shock to both my father and I that he was in part responsible for my lapses in judgment. He and I both demeaned Sam's chosen profession and in so doing, had made him insignificant in my mind when it came time to make behavior judgments. I was unfaithful with two men, both in professions that I considered to be 'proper', unlike Sam who was only 'playing at a career'. The first time was just over 7 years ago now and was a one-time thing that happened in a darkened conference room. The second time was a year ago with Rudy, a project manager in Savannah. That was more serious and resulted in Sam finding me out in a planned betrayal. That was what brought about the collapse of my marriage.
All of this went through my mind as I watched the three of them move toward me, the girls laughing and jumping around their father. Sam looked older somehow and more mature. He also looked very tired and I felt some concern.
"Hi, Sam. Welcome back. We all missed you very much."
I reached up to give him a kiss but he pulled away. I felt the heat rise to my face as a result of the rejection, but I was very careful not to press him, or put him off. I decided to accept this rebuke until I could talk to him. He was obviously still angry and the year away hadn't done much to reduce it.
"Do you have much luggage? We can get a dolly from the dispenser if you need one."
"I'm fine. I had my luggage sent on ahead to my apartment so I only have a carryon." He glanced quickly at me, and then away. If he noticed my discomfiture, he didn't let on.
I turned away to the girls. "Come on girls, let your father catch his breath. Why don't you take his bag and both of you can carry it for him." They liked that and Sam gave the bag to them willingly. He again smiled at them. He was clearly glad to see them.
We walked down the corridor to the steps leading to the luggage area and out of the airport. Neither of us spoke for the first part of the trip.
I finally decided to break the ice. "You look tired, Sam. Was it a long trip? I guess I don't know where you were coming from this time." I knew this flight came in from London but I didn't know where Sam had left from originally.
"It was a long trip. I left yesterday from Singapore. I changed planes three times to get here, but it's over for awhile."
"No wonder you are tired. Do you have a car meeting you or do you intend to get a cab? I have the van so I could drop you anywhere you want. I understand you have an apartment that you are going to stay in." I wanted to know why he chose to stay in an apartment rather than come home, but I was careful not to ask too soon.
"I thought the apartment would be best for awhile. I wanted to get myself back in stateside behavior mode. Where I was and what I was doing was not for civilized people. I didn't want to make a mistake around the girls." He wouldn't look at me! I didn't know what to make of that, but it scared me.
"Sam, do you have any intentions of moving back into our home?" There! I had asked the question but I dreaded the answer.
"I don't know. I think it is too soon to talk about that. I told you, I need to get myself back into stateside mode." He was defensive which was not good. I was determined to hold myself in check so I let it go.
"I understand. I can still give you a lift to your apartment. The girls need to spend the time with you now and they will be happier if they know where you are staying. They won't understand but they will at least feel better knowing you are close by."
"I guess you're right. Let's go then. I'll give you the address that Josh sent me along with the key. That's where all my stuff is, I hope."
We walked to the van and the girls got in the back seat. Sam sat in the front with me but turned to talk to the girls most of the way. I knew approximately where the apartment was located and it was only about a 20 minute drive. I pulled onto the side street where the apartment buildings were located and found the complex indicated by the address. It was one of 10 identical buildings. The one we wanted was marked 'C'. I pulled in to a slot in front of the building.
"This is the building that we want. The apartment number is 3C so I think it's on the ground floor. Girls, grab the bag and help your father find his apartment."
Sam turned to look at me with some surprise. "Aren't you coming in? I don't even know what the place looks like and I might need some advice on what to do first."
"This is not our place, Sam. It is yours. I have no desire to see it or to make it more comfortable for you. As a matter of fact, I think if you want to see the girls, you will have to pick them up and drop them off. I won't be coming here. And when they ask, you can explain to them why you are living here rather than at home with us."
I had been giving this some thought since I saw Sam at the airport. He had rejected me when he got off the plane and he was making his life here at an apartment rather than at home with the girls and me. The more I considered it, the angrier I became.
Sam just stared at me, taken aback by my attitude. I guess he expected me to be the submissive, cheating wife, begging to be taken back into his loving and forgiving arms. Well, part of that was true, but I was not going to beg. I would explain what I found out while he was gone and I would apologize for actions totally inappropriate to our marriage. I would make my amends but I expected to go forward. What he was doing was not going to make repairing our marriage easier.
"Come on girls, let's find my place." Sam got out of the car and the girls went with him to a door on the right side of a pass through. Sam tried the key and it opened the door. They disappeared into the apartment while I sat there considering what the future would bring. The more I thought about it, the more I wondered why Sam needed a place by himself. It made little sense to me and it was simply an expense that was unnecessary.
After about 10 minutes, the girls and Sam came back out to the car. The girls raved about the apartment and they found three bedrooms, one for each of them. They climbed in the back while Sam came around to the driver's side. He still looked surprised by my attitude.
"The apartment is pretty nice. Are you sure you don't want to see it?"
"I'm sure." I changed the subject to practical matters. "What do you want to do about a car? I sold your BMW as you requested. The money is in a separate account so you could buy something tomorrow. Until then, I guess you could rent a car."
"I will probably just rent one for awhile. I'm not sure what my plans are. I need to talk to Josh before making any decisions."
"I think you need to talk to me before you make any decisions. I don't know what you think you are doing but you need to remember that there are three other people involved in this. For the past year, you thought only about yourself when you left me here to fend for the girls and myself. The money you provided was fine, but it wasn't you." My anger had been building since Sam rejected me at the airport. I decided that it had to find an outlet and Sam was it. He was not the only one that paid a heavy price when he left me. He had better learn that fact soon.
Again, Sam was shocked that I wasn't falling all over myself to make amends and beg for his forgiveness. That wasn't going to happen unless and until he sat down with me and worked on the marriage that we shared. If it was over, I would learn to live with that, but I was not going to live this way.
"I guess you're right. I have been alone for so long and thinking only about myself that it is hard to remember what it right and wrong. I'm sorry. I'll settle in and give you a call tomorrow. We can get together, just the two of us, and see where we are going. Is that OK?"
"It will have to be. I'll take the girls to moms for the evening. Since I am working, we can't do much before 6:00 or so. Call sometime after that and we can work out a schedule."
Again Sam looked surprised. "Are you still working at the same place? I thought maybe you might have left there or changed jobs or something."
"Why on earth would I do that? I love my job and the money is great and it gives me a lot of freedom. I needed that since I was an only parent taking care of two girls. You seem to keep forgetting that I was the only parent for our girls for this past year. A few cards and gifts don't make a parent." I began to realize that Sam had not thought much about me since he was gone. I guess I began to believe that our marriage had little chance of surviving. I was starting to prepare myself for what I believed was inevitable.
"No, you are right. I just wasn't thinking. I'm sorry. I forgot how hard it must have been for you." He finally looked at me, really looked at me and seemed to see me for the first time. I guess he was so wrapped up in himself that he had had no time for me.
"Apology accepted. I'm going to get the girls home now. It has been a big day for them. I guess I'll wait to hear from you tomorrow." With that, I started the van and backed out of the slot, Sam standing there watching us. The girls waved goodbye as I pulled out.
I went to work the next day as usual. As I thought over the previous day, meeting Sam at the airport, his rejection, driving him to his apartment, refusing to go in and telling him that I was a single parent, I realized that I had come a long way in dealing with my past mistakes. I was not going to be a victim of my own foolishness.
I had also learned that the way Sam chose to deal with my infidelity was not a way that was without fault. Sam had left, leaving me alone to deal with it. I had learned from my mistakes and I was ready to move on to a new life. I wanted to talk to Sam and to explain the reasons for my fall and to assure him that I had learned what he knew I needed to know. I wanted Sam to be a part of that life, but not at the expense of my pride and dignity. I was willing to apologize and do whatever was necessary to rebuild the trust he once had in me but I was not going to live my life apologizing every day for things I did in the past. I had moved on but apparently, Sam had not.
I talked to mom that evening and told her of my feelings after meeting Sam. She was quiet and reflective but finally told me to do as I thought best. She had little to offer, saying only that this was new territory for her and for me and that I had to just take it a day at a time. I agreed with that and told her to tell dad that things were going OK. He and I were back to our previous relationship, once he found out that he was as much to blame for my attitude about Sam and I was.
Sam called me at home that evening, asking me if it would be OK for him to stop by about 7:30. I agreed and told him that I would have dinner ready if he wanted to share it. I ate about that time every evening and I could just make enough for the two of us. He agreed and we made plans.
I did nothing out of the ordinary for that meeting. I felt that we needed to work things out and that we needed to start on an even level. I had to proceed that way since I wasn't going to beg or grovel. Sam was as wrong in this as I was. Yes, I had cheated and betrayed him but he had left me and my children. We both had problems. I had tried to overcome mine by understanding why I had done what I did and to make changes to my life to be sure they didn't happen again. Sam had run away. At least, that's how I saw it. Maybe that was unreasonable but I didn't think so.
Sam arrived right on time and I ushered him in to the dining room. Dinner was on the table and he sat in his usual place at the head of the table. To show him that I was the parent when he was gone, I sat at the other end. It was a little silly, but I was jockeying for position. Sam didn't seem to notice.
"This is pretty good for just dinner. Of course, I have been eating some strange things for some time now and I guess I forgot how good meatloaf, mashed potatoes and gravy could taste. You were always a great cook anyway." He was really putting it away. I remembered that he always had a great appetite.
"Good old meatloaf. Hard to mess it up. I wish the girls liked it as much but they prefer mac and cheese or burgers. We have that quite often. I carry home a lot. Makes it easier on me."
We chatted over dinner without saying much of importance. He told me a little about the places he had been and the people he had met. I found it fascinating but also a little scary. I told him about some of the girls' exploits. I guess both of us were waiting for later to begin the tough talk. That was fine since it gave me time to study Sam while he ate. He looked very tired and worn. I noticed that he had lost weight, maybe 12 to 15 pounds. He wasn't that heavy to start with and he had a slightly sunken look to him that I didn't like. He was deeply tanned but he looked to be fit in spite of the gaunt look. I didn't comment on it, saving it for a later time.
We finished dinner and Sam leaned back, looking full and satisfied. I offered desert, a slice of pie with coffee and Sam accepted readily. He was starved! I told him to go sit in the den and I would bring the pie and coffee in there. He went willingly while I got the desert tray. I found him in his old recliner; the one none of us would sit in while he was gone. He looked relaxed and contented.
As we sat there, eating our pie and drinking our coffee, it felt like old times. For a minute, I forgot where we were and just enjoyed the feeling. It wasn't going to last.
I finally put down my plate and decided to start. "How do you want to begin this, Sam? I don't know quite what to say or how to start, but I want to say right off that I have considered all that you asked me to think about when you left and I realized my mistakes. First, I am so very sorry that I behaved as I did. It was wrong, it was cruel and it dishonored you and our marriage. I understand what I did wrong and I have learned some hard lessons. I didn't put you and the girls first. That has changed. I did not honor my marriage and that has also changed. I know my priorities and I know what is important. My marriage comes first and everything I do is based on that simple fact. I am willing to go into much more detail and to answer any questions you may have, but I don't think that is going to solve our problems unless you are willing to take steps to be a part of the solution. I certainly don't know what that is anymore and since you have been home, I see no movement on your part toward any kind of beginning." I watched his face for some indication of how he felt. As before, what I saw was confusion and surprise.
"I guess I am confused. I am totally surprised by your attitude. You seem to feel that all you have to do is apologize and I should forget everything. I also got the impression yesterday that I was in the wrong for leaving you and the girls. I told you when I left that it was to give you time to decide what you wanted from our marriage and what you thought the rules were. I have no idea of what you have decided and what you expect from me. How does that make it my fault?"
"Sam! You haven't talked to me in over a year. You haven't told me anything of what you plan to do; you come home and ask my mother to meet you at the airport with our girls; you treated me like a stranger; and you move into an apartment without talking to me or asking me what I want. Yes, I guess I do think that is your fault. Who was I supposed to talk to while you were God knows where? Who did I express my apologies to? Who was there to help me work out what to do to make this up to you? It certainly wasn't you."
Sam looked at me incredulously. "I couldn't stay with you after what you did without some time to understand my feelings. I had to get away from you to do that. You knew that."
"You left not only me, you left our children. You left them here with me, without a father. How was that fair to them? Did you want to punish me so badly that they were the price you were willing to pay?"
"I left them here with you because as I told you, you were a great mother and I knew they would be safe with you. What's wrong with that?" Sam was becoming more and more frustrated with this conversation. I think he was looking for capitulation on my part and he was still waiting for me to grovel and beg him to forgive me. It wasn't going to happen. I had apologized for my mistakes, yes, but he was not getting a whimpering female if that's what he wanted.
"Why don't you ask them what's wrong with that? They asked every night where you were for almost 6 months before they finally gave up. They expected their father to be there with them and you weren't. You were off licking your wounds and salving your male ego. You missed their birthdays, their holidays, the last Christmas and Halloween, their favorite. You weren't there, Sam! How can you not see that?"
"That was your fault. You were the one that drove me away." Sam still couldn't see anything wrong in what he did.
"No, it wasn't. I cheated on you, Sam. Not them. They paid for what I did and that wasn't fair to them. I was willing to do all that was necessary to fix my mistakes. If you weren't willing to forgive me, that was one thing. You could have divorced me at any time. But you didn't even stay for that. You left that up to me as well." I was getting very angry now because he was just waiting for me to take the responsibility for all of the wrongs in our marriage.
"I don't see it that way. You cheated! You lied and you betrayed me." Sam looked at me with a righteous face. He was the wounded one.
"You're right. I did. I'm sorry. Now what?" That was all that was necessary as far as I was concerned. I wasn't going to rehash the past. I screwed up, big time, but I paid the price and I did the time and I did the fixing and I learned. What did Sam do?
"What, that's all? For what you did? Did you forget what you did?" He was irate.
"Of course not. But what do you want from me? You never told me, you never asked me about it and you left me without any discussion of it. I worked my ass off this last year, understanding what and why, taking care of myself and the girls and playing the part of father and mother while I did. I spent time in the hospital, blaming myself until I was able to understand why I did it. Dad learned a lot along the way too and has accepted some of the responsibility. But how about you, Sam? What have you done during that time beside run away?"