tagLoving WivesA Boilerplate Rendering Ch. 01

A Boilerplate Rendering Ch. 01


A few important points:

1. This is where I justify my name.

I have always leaned towards the "capable" end of the spectrum when it came to writing ability, and the "absent" end for inventing original or creative storylines. I just sit and sit and sit, and nothing much ever happens. So I'm hoping that, by just getting into the act of writing regardless, I'll start to unclog that inventive nozzle a little bit.

This story's initial premise has been done several times before. I realize that. A few lines may even be pulled verbatim from other sources. But I'm hoping that by injecting some bits and pieces from other authors, and trying to follow the characters through what feels like their natural decision-making process, I can give it enough to make it enjoyable. And, in the long run, I'm hoping that exercises like this one will help me develop the ability to do something unique.

2. THIS IS NOT A BTB STORY...but I'll tell you how you can change that.

I'm not remotely interested in storytelling as a method for creating an archetypal hero character that readers can put themselves in, so that they can fly around in their awesomepants for a while. Comic books do that kind of thing well. So do movies and, I imagine, video games. Stories exist to explore characters, or ideas, or emotional journeys. The purpose of these journeys isn't to give you the ending you would want for yourself, but to examine on a very human level what personal experience is like in any number of situations, to any number of people.

Okay, so that's my feeling. It's not yours? Good. I purposely left this first chapter on its own because it's a little ambiguous in terms of what is being planned and how that will happen. So any number of authors could follow this exact start to any number of different conclusions. All it takes is for someone else to...I dunno...finish the damn story? While the base idea at the start of this story has been done before, it's certainly less explored than any number of other LW archetypes. I specifically grabbed it because I, as a reader, wish it WERE more explored. If you want to create your own alternative ending, go nuts.

The rest of the story...all 23,000 words of it...is also finished and will arrive in the form of two lengthier submissions in the next few days.

I just wanted to make sure I was offering the above opportunity, at the start.




She barely looked in my direction as she came bustling into the kitchen. Even a simple "hello," or familiar kind of smile would have been welcome. But she just smoothed her dress, glanced anxiously over her shoulder, and said, "Remember, I'm out with the girls tonight. I've got my cell if you need anything, but don't call unless it's an emergency."

I took a moment to look her over before responding. I wondered how she could possibly expect me to believe that the tight, small black dress she had on was meant for "the girls." Or the make-up. Or the perfume. Did she expect me to believe that "the girls" liked seeing "the girls," as it were, as pushed up and on display as they were right now?

I should have been offended that she could think so little of me. I should have been livid that she would just assume that level of cluelessness.

But I wasn't, because I knew that I had earned it.

She had, after all, managed to keep me in the dark about her other relationship for far longer than she ought to have been able to. I'd been the worst kind of fool: the kind that trusts someone. The kind that lets someone in. The kind that bets their life on them.

Mistake made, mistake recognized, and now...mistake corrected.

"Before you go," I finally said, "I need you to sit down for a minute so we can talk about something."

She didn't even turn around...just made an impatient little 'harrumph' noise as she rummaged through her purse and said, "I'm sorry, honey, but I really have to get going. I'm running late as it is."

I grabbed ahold of my temper in anticipation of the upsurge of anger, steadying my grip on my beer bottle, but nothing came. No anger, no rage, no hurt. This uninterested dismissiveness was far too typical behaviour for her, of late. She'd dismissed me. She'd dismissed the children. She'd dismissed herself. And now...we'd all gotten used to it.

But not any more. It was time to act. I tossed the keys she was hunting for onto the table.

"I understand your urgency," I snapped, "God knows that I do. But if you go out and spend another evening fucking Carl Jensen without talking to me, then I recommend never coming back here again."

She froze, standing there for the longest time with her hand still in her purse, and didn't say anything. "What?" She finally managed, her voice small and disbelieving. "What did you say?"

"This won't take more than a minute," I said. "Come, have a seat at the table with me, and let's talk."

She lingered a minute longer, not turning around or responding to my suggestion. She was gripping that purse like it might save her life. It wouldn't.

Finally, her shoulders sagged, her hands went down, and she turned around. She looked guilty everywhere except in her eyes. They were darting around like an animal in a trap, wounded and without hope. Shuffling over, she half-sat half-collapsed into the chair across from me. There were a lot of quick glances thrown in my direction, a lot of silent searches for information, but nothing that met my eyes.

"John," she said at last, "I'm...I'm so sorry." Her voice was almost a whisper. Christ. Was she hoping to pull out a win on something as insignificant as contriteness? How lazy can you get?

"Sorry for what?" I asked in mock surprise. "I can't wait to hear what it is you've done that you think 'sorry' is going to make all better."

She bit her lip. Looking down at the table, she ran a finger over a section of grain, tracing the patterns in the wood. "I don't think it makes it all better. I...know what a mess I've made of things, even if you don't believe that. But regardless, I AM sorry for the affair."

There it was. I smiled. Be magnanimous, be calm. The first step is already behind you.

"Thank you for having enough respect not to lie to my face about it," I said honestly. "Not that it would matter. No amount of lying could have saved you from the truth of what I know. But it does make me think that maybe I've made the right choice in not leaving."

She paled a little bit. "You're not leaving? I...I don't want you to leave," she whispered. "I don't love him, John. I honestly don't. I just-"

I held up my hand for silence. Seeing it there, ready to act, temptation swelled within my chest.

Don't hit her, whatever you do.

It would be so easy, so immediate.

But if you start, you might never stop.

"I know you don't," I made a face to tell her exactly how much that knowledge was worth to me. "Or, at least, I know you think that you don't. Either way, I've already heard all your little justifications."

"Heard them?" she frowned. "What do you mean?"

Well, you stupid bi-

No. So far, everything has gone according to plan. Ignore that tenseness in your guts, remember what's at stake. You're doing so very well. Don't ruin it now. "It's simple," I shrugged. "I heard them when you said them to him."

If possible she lost even more color, and grew even smaller in her chair. "You...you heard us?"

I just stared at her, keeping my expression blank, and she looked away. Her eyes were wet. Glistening, I suppose, is the word.

She took a deep breath. "What are you going to do? I know it probably doesn't feel like I love you right now, but I really do. And I don't want to lose what we have. It would kill me if you left."

I nodded. "I know. Like I said, I heard you explain all of this to him. I don't need a repeat."

I could have killed you, you know. Any one of a thousand times, I could have reached out and ended your story for you. I didn't. Think about that...about what that means.

Leaning over, I reached down and picked up a heavy envelope. Watching her reaction, I placed it on the table. It was a swollen thing, ready to burst. I ran my hand across the top and patted it for emphasis. "This envelope contains everything I know about your affair."

She breathed in noisily and re-examined the thickness of it, eyes growing wide. I let the ramifications sink in for one long cold threat of a minute. "You can look through it at a later time. I'm not going to hide anything from you, and I'm going to try to be as direct about this as possible."

I paused to rub my eyes with my forefinger and thumb. Okay. Deep breath. You've set it all up. Now for the hard part.

She was staring at the envelope like it was a live cobra. "It's so thick," she whispered.

I nodded and patted it again, enjoying the sound that the impact of my hand evoked from the massive collection. "Once I got suspicious enough to investigate you, it was alarmingly easy to gather information. You really weren't trying very hard to hide it anymore, were you?"

"I thought you trusted me. I thought that would keep me safe."

"I did. And it did. That will never, ever happen again."

She nodded quickly. "It won't have to. I'm sorry, John. Please give me a chance to make this up to you. If you agree to stay, I-"

"I already told you," I grunted, "I'm going to stay. And I'm not going to go through the process of futilely trying to throw you out, either. I'm well aware of how far that will get me. No...if anybody ends up applying for a divorce, here, it'll have to be you." I ignored the surprised look on her face, choosing my words carefully and trying to separate the message from the reality.

The truth was, it had taken a single billable hour with a lawyer, a day's worth of internet searches, and weeks of subsequent soul searching for me to understand what I felt, what I had left to protect in my life, and what I would need to do in order to survive.

Tonight was only phase one.

I swallowed and continued. "My staying is, however, contingent on one thing." I was using my manager voice, now. Direct. Clipped. Determined. "I've been thinking about this a lot, and while it's obvious to me that you probably do have some degree of love left for me, and I can't excise the love I have for you simply because it has become inconvenient...the possibility of us being a couple is now completely non-existent."

She frowned, and opened her mouth to respond, but I held up my hand.

"Your actions, both in falling into this...affair...and in the way you conduct yourself within it, make it very clear to me that I am incapable of doing for you what my former friend is currently doing. You said it yourself. You told him that you had the best of both worlds...with me, you have love, care, and family. With him, you have someone who...'turns you inside out,' is how I believe you said it," I made a face. "With both of us, you get affection and attention. So, good for fucking you."

She flinched at hearing her own words. "I'm so sorry I said those things. But they aren't true! It was just..." she trailed off, possibly considering how impossible it would be to convince me of what she was saying, or perhaps running through the laundry list of other things I must have heard. "I'm sorry for everything," she admitted after a moment. "But I don't understand what you're telling me."

Another deep breath. This wasn't turning out to be as emotionless as I'd hoped it would be. I guess nothing really ever is.

"Look," I continued, "we are living with three basic realities here. First, you and I do have a form of love for each other. Whether we want to have it or not, and whether we have the same TYPE of love for one another, is irrelevant. There is a love there, in one form or another, on both sides. On top of that we have a family, we have history. Maybe, we even have a future." She brightened slightly at that. "But the other two realities are that you have a lover, and I no longer have any sexual feelings towards you whatsoever."

Or anybody. You were brutally efficient in seeing to that. But I'll never admit it. Not to you...not to anybody.

Anyway, it's no longer your business.

Whatever brightening of her face had begun at the start of my speech fell away. "John-" she began.

"I admit, I don't want to lose you if I can avoid it," I pushed forward, sticking to the script. "But I don't want you to be unhappy, either...and I certainly don't want you coming to me and trying to re-establish a physical connection that I'm no longer capable of or willing to maintain. There's only pain for both of us down that road. So," I straightened my shoulders and prepared for the worst, "my staying in this marriage...my staying in this relationship...is dependent upon you continuing your affair."

She started to respond, suddenly stiffened, and then her eyes went incredulously wide as what I'd said sunk in. "That's not funny, John."

"Good," I grunted, "because I've never been more serious in all my life. I would ask that, if your feelings towards him or me start to change in some way, that you come and talk to me so we can shield the children from the worst of our divorce. Other than that, you do your thing and I'll do mine. It can, in effect, be business as usual. If you want, you can even see him more often. That is what you wished for, isn't it? That you could be together more often?"

We nearly died, the both of us, on the night that I heard that. You never even knew how close you came.

I had stumbled up the stairs after listening to the recording and looking over the pictures. It was the first and final confirmation of what had previously been little more than dark suspicion. I was furious. I was crushed. I honestly thought that I was dead already.

And you were there, sleeping so peacefully...so content. So happy with the way things were in your life.

It made me sick.

So I stood over you, writing our final chapter in my mind with clinical precision...and then you rolled over and woke up.

You blinked, squinted, looked up at me. I saw concern there. Honest concern.

Then you touched my hand, oh so gently, and asked if I was okay. You sat up as you asked it, all that contentedness gone.

And you sounded like you really cared.

I shook my head, shaking away the memory of it.

She frowned, either thinking about all the things I was saying, or wondering about the things I wasn't. "Jim," she said, "some of the things I said, when we were-"

"Don't," I warned her. "Just don't."

Silly woman. The best thing you've done is be honest. Surely you must realize that. So why on earth would you give that up now?

Anyway, I couldn't stand to see the pity that would fill your eyes if you started lying to me, now.

"I'd like you to start keeping me up-to-date on where you are and what your plans are, but I don't want to know any details or talk about ANY of...that. The only reason I even want to know about when you're with him is because it's safer for all of us that way."

She squished up her nose. "I am NOT going to be seeing him, John. You're not actually serious about all this..." her eyes flicked across my face, "...are you?"

"As a heart attack." As serious a man's hand on a woman's throat. "It's not the best situation, but the 'best situation' is no longer an option, so this is the one I've chosen instead. You can accept it now, as is, or we can start talking about divorce. But unless you want the marriage to end, and all of your relatives to find out what you've been up to, this is the way it has to be."

"I'm scared. What you're doing...It's not making any sense to me."

I smiled bitterly. "Then I guess you know a little bit about how I've felt, the last few weeks."

"But why don't you want me to stop?"

I do. Maybe the only things I want more are to never touch you again, and to be there for my children.

But I understood what she was really saying. "You're the cheater here, Karen, not me. There's no trickery involved. I'm not gaming you, or setting you up, or engaging some elaborate scheme. Frankly, I don't seem to have that kind of energy, anymore." I made a show of checking my watch. "Now, you'd better get going, 'dear,' or he's going to worry."

She flinched again, and I could see that she was suddenly very aware of just how blatantly she had dressed herself up tonight.

Oh, feel like a fool, do you? Good. Come on in and join the club.

"John," she pleaded, "can I please just...stay home? At least for tonight? I'm not feeling very-"

"Absolutely not," I snapped a little too loudly, causing her to shrink back. "To be honest, I don't care what the two of you do. Go and talk about what a monster I am, or what a wimp move this is. Or screw each other senseless. I. Don't. Care. Sit and watch a movie and eat ice cream, if that's what you want to do. But you have a date tonight, and you are going to see it through."

At some point, I have the right to indulge in a little honest-to-goodness self-pity. And you can't be here for that. No way.

"I...I don't..." She was stunned by my insistence. "You really ARE serious about this, aren't you?"

"I absolutely am."

"And you're...not going to divorce me? You still love me?"

"I won't divorce you, I won't leave you. Unfortunately, I do still love you."

She studied me for a moment, looked down at the table, and then gave a little nod. "I won't pretend that I understand," she admitted slowly, "but I guess I'd be a fool not to take you up on it, wouldn't I?"

"I imagine most people would think so."

She stood up slowly, her all too feminine figure accentuated by the dress. I looked away. I've never been much for oogling strangers.

In the three months since she started her affair, Karen had gotten into shape. She was like most women, I suppose, in that she'd kept her gloriously feminine shape but had acquired a little plush around the middle in college that had never gone away. Well, it was gone now, and I'd never seen her look this fit and good before. She'd also changed her haircut to a style that was both playful and sexy, in a sort of pixyish way. She'd spent a small fortune on new clothes, and even traded her old mommy minivan in on a sleek white SUV.

In effect, she had become someone else.

Apparently, Carl was an impetus for her to try on a whole other life. Maybe that's what he really gave her, at the end of the day: a chance to not be a wife and mother for a while. I didn't really know or care.

What I did know was it was all those changes that gave her away. Actually, it was the SUV and the way that she fawned over it that finally clued me in. See, she'd wanted it because it was the mirror image of her affair partner's vehicle. The two lovers thought it was cute that they matched.

I had never been in her new SUV, nor had I ever run fingers through her sexy new haircut or had the good luck to be inside her sleek new body. I sort of appreciated that, now. It kept this new person separate from me, a distant insignificant who had little in common with the woman who had been my wife.

She bit her lip. "What time should I...be home?" She asked tentatively.

"Well," I thought about it. "You always came home from your "girls nights out" around ten, but that was mostly to help maintain the lie, wasn't it?" She looked down and nodded. "Then I guess you come home when you're ready to come home." Something about saying that sentence aloud betrayed me. For a brief moment, I couldn't keep the welling sadness I'd been working so hard to control for weeks out of my voice, and I saw the flicker of guilt on her face as she registered awareness.

She shifted her weight. "Really, John...I don't have to go. I don't even want to."

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