Degrees of SeparationbyBritease©
Blimey, I've got two sat there somewhere on the site waiting to be published, and here's another one going in. Sorry no real hard sex --- That's not what I do, just a bit of gentle teasing. Potential happy ending on the books without wishing to give anything away, so those who don't like that, pray move on. I know that doesn't do any good, but you've got to go through the motions. To clear one point before there's a flurry of commentators telling me what would have really happened, then you should know that the use of 'shrinks' and counsellors and the like is relatively rare in the UK, and Europe for that matter, unlike in the States where it appears to be the first port of call. Not saying that's wrong, just different.
"Here Mark," said my pretty wife Julie, offering me a glass of red wine. "Please sit down. There's a matter we need to talk about."
"Why the wine?" I asked, a little puzzled. "Bit early for drinking isn't it?"
"Take it," she said, handing it to me. "You might need it."
Didn't sound too promising, but I took the wine, had a sip, sat down and looked at my wife, waiting for her to start. Looking at her by the way is not at all unpleasant, a five foot four brunette of twenty nine summers, a little more than a third of them as my partner, and a little less so as my wife.
"What's up?" I inquired, as she remained sat there silently, the other side of the table, more than an indication of a frown on her face, her brown eyes, usually so large and sparkling, some how not seeming so at that moment.
"It's difficult Mark. I'm not sure how to begin," Julie sighed.
"At the beginning," I suggested, wondering what bad news I was about to get. Hoping that it was that she'd bent the car or something rather than something like a serious health problem.
"I'm not sure when it began," she sighed, even deeper this time, giving me no further clues, other than it probably wasn't that the car was bent.
"You're not ill or something are you honey?" I tried to encourage her. "If it's that, then I'm sure we can get it fixed."
"I'm not ill," Julie mumbled simply.
"Good," I replied, it being my turn to sigh, this time with relief.
"Not exactly ill Mark," she confused me. "More sort of ..... Well ..... It's difficult."
I sat there keeping my counsel, waiting for her to continue.
"You've noticed that I've been a bit off lately?"
"Not really Julie."
"Well I have Mark. I'm surprised you haven't noticed. Surprised you haven't said something."
"You've been a bit snappy I suppose, but I put it down to the time of the month or something," I admitted.
"It's been a lot longer than a month Mark," she shot back at me sharply, showing irritation rather than anger. "I've been .... on edge for months."
"Sorry sweetheart, I never noticed."
"Not your fault Mark," my wife replied, the irritation gone and replaced by a look of sympathy. "None of this is your fault. You've done nothing wrong."
"So what is wrong Julie?"
"It's me honey," she whispered, hardly audibly. "I think the best thing would be if we separate for a while."
I've never been much of a fighting man, and have never been punched hard in the stomach. But at that moment I knew exactly how it would feel. I sat there staring at her, probably, I guess, with my mouth gaping wide open.
""Nothing permanent Mark," Julie rushed in to assure me. "Just a few months. Six at the most."
It didn't reassure me.
"But why?" I croaked, my mouth suddenly and uncomfortably dry.
"Because I don't think you'd like the other option honey," Julie told me, staring at me, tears welling up in her eyes. "It's my problem and I've got to solve it myself. The less it hurts you the better."
"And you don't think us separating won't hurt me?" I demanded, raising my voice for the first time, my sympathy changing to anger as I leapt to my feet.
"I'm sorry Mark," my wife sobbed, the first tears beginning to trickle down her cheeks. "I'm not doing this right. I just can't do this."
Before I could respond, Julie leapt up, sending her chair flying and fled the room, her crying tormenting me as she rushed to our bedroom.
What was that all about?
I'd like to pretend that I did something sensible; that I took control in some way. But I didn't, and simply slumped back down into my chair again, sighing and holding my head in my hands, trying to make sense of the last ten minutes. Ten minutes, that even then I knew was going to change my life for the worse.
It was a good hour later, and I was till sitting there in my misery, when I was suddenly aware that Julie was standing there alongside me. She hadn't spoken a word, and I hadn't heard her leaving our room, or coming down the stairs.
I waved for her to sit back down again, not trusting my voice, not sure that I could speak with any clarity.
"I'm sorry Mark," she murmured. "I shouldn't have said anything. I should have just ....."
"Just what?" I threw back at her when she fell silent, quietly but not trying to hide my anger and frustration. "Who is he? How long has it been going on?"
"I swear to you there's nothing been going on Mark. There is nobody else. You're the only one I love honey. Can't you see why that's making it so difficult?"
"I can't see anything for God's sake, Julie," I screamed at her. "You're killing me. What the fuck's all this about?"
"It's me," she said, sighing deeply.
"Obviously," I replied. "What's wrong with you?"
"It's difficult," she repeated yet again, angering me further.
"So help me Julie, I'll bloody well smack you if you say that again," I shouted, really losing my rag. "What's this all about? Tell me. Tell me now or I'll throw you out of the damn house."
"OK," Julie whimpered back, recoiling at my show of anger, something she'd never witnessed before. "It's me. It's something inside me. Something eating away at me. Something that has been building up for a year or more now."
"Carry on," I spoke up, fighting to control my anger.
"I'm thirty next birthday Mark."
"So am I," I reminded her.
"I know, but it's not the same for a man. You're better looking now than you ever were. Most men are, but for a woman it's all down hill from there. Saggy boobs, cellulite, no more mini skirts or tight jeans. Leave a few buttons undone and nobody looks anymore."
"Rubbish!" I reacted. She was talking rubbish and must have known it. At twenty-nine Julie was even more gorgeous than she had been five years previously, and still looked fabulous in her minis, even the super short ones that sometimes had me wondering how she had the nerve, and to suggest that nobody noticed her cleavage when she flashed it, was like saying nobody noticed a bright red Ferrari accelerating by.
I told her so, and she didn't argue, even smiling back nervously at me as I told her quite how attractive she was. How often I spotted guys looking at her in admiration. How my pals passed lusty comments about her, and especially her long shapely legs, when they didn't think I was listening. How only that previous weekend, I'd watched with amusement as some old geezer had carefully manoeuvred himself to the side of her, to get a better view down the gap in the front of her top. How those three randy teenage boys had followed her around with their tongues hanging out, when they'd spotted her wandering around on the beach topless when we'd been on holiday three months previously.
"I know," she admitted, smiling at me guiltily. "I know I've still got it. I know men look at me and stare at me. I know men try to look up my skirt and down my top, and I know that some of your pals lust after me. I'm always having to ward off wandering hands whenever we are at a party, and I'm forever turning down guys trying to date me when I'm at work."
"So what's the problem Julie?" I asked plaintively, choosing to ignore the information, some of it quite new to me, about how often Julie was apparently the subject of attention beyond what I might have felt entirely comfortable with.
"I don't want to."
"I don't want to Mark," she repeated. "Sometimes I don't want to push off other men's wandering hands if I choose not to. To be free to accept a date when an attractive man chats me up. To be free to go back to his house at the end of it."
"Why now? What's changed?" I asked, unhappily, shocked at what I was hearing.
"Nothing's changed honey. It's just that I'm getting older. At the moment I feel that I could have any man I want, just by flashing a bit of leg at him or giving him the eye. But how long is that going to last Mark? How many men are going to chase after me in another five years or so?"
She was talking rubbish again of course, and Julie would be chased by men for ages yet. Christ, her mother was in her late fifties and still attracted men around her like flies. But I didn't contradict her. Didn't say anything really; just sat there trying not to look over at her, not knowing what to say. I didn't want to lose her, but had the wind taken out of my sails by her wish to be free to date other guys, and yes, of course to fuck them. If she was that determined, then maybe I didn't even want to bother trying to stop her. Maybe she wasn't worth it. But I knew that wasn't really how I felt, and knew that if I gave up without a fight, then I'd regret it for the rest of my life.
"So you want us to split up so you can fuck other men. Is that it?"
"No Mark, that's not it at all" she shot back at me, furiously. "I don't want us to split up. I love you and want to grow old with you. I just want .... need, a short break from our marriage to get this out of my system."
"To fuck other men," I repeated, dejectedly.
"No Mark," she came straight back again, but a little calmer. "I won't insult your intelligence by pretending that sometime, eventually, it might be that, and I won't pretend that the prospect of ending up in some strange man's bed isn't exciting. But it's not just that. Other than a couple of pathetic boys when I was at school, you're the only man I've dated. The only man I've known."
"This has got something to do with me taking your virginity hasn't it?" I asked, reflecting on how Julie had been a bit dowdy and totally inexperienced when I'd first met her. How we'd been thrown together as partners at a social night at the tennis club, and how surprised she'd been when I'd invited her out for a drink afterwards, though perhaps not much more surprised than I was that I'd asked. How captivated I'd found myself with a girl that I'd never taken any notice of for the previous year, and how I'd fallen under her spell so quickly. How nervous she'd been when I first kissed her, and even more so when I'd first felt her breast. How Julie had genuinely trembled, not knowing whether to grin or cry when I'd first undressed her.
The first time we'd gone the whole way. How she'd laughed and cried at the same time afterwards, astonished at how wonderful it had been, eager to know how quickly we could do it again. The first time I'd taken her shopping and her reluctance to even try on any short skirts at first, and her embarrassment as she'd walked down the high street in her first mini skirt and pair of high heels, when I eventually persuaded her to let me buy them for her. How different now! How different that shy little woman had been, compared to the confident, beautiful, sophisticated, sexy example of womanhood that I was now married to.
"Yes. Yes of course it is." Julie answered my question. "That's part of it."
"You've never been with another man since me Julie?" I enquired, pretty sure of the answer, but nervous that there may be someone in between that I'd not known about.
"Of course I haven't, damn you Mark!" Julie snapped back, her eyes flashing angrily. "You know I haven't. You're the only one. For God's sake Mark, can't you understand that's what this is all about? Have you been even listening to me? Can't you see that I'm frightened of getting old and never knowing what it's like to be young, attractive and fancy free? I missed out when other girls of my age were playing the field. I've never been able to walk into a pub or a club, and wonder what guys I'm going to meet up with. How far I'm going to let them go. Am I going to let take liberties with me; let them take me outside; let them take me back to their place. I've missed out and I've never done any of that stuff, and I want to experience it before I get too old or I'll go crazy.
"And that's my fault?"
"Of course not Mark. I never said it was," her voice softened. "If I thought it was, then maybe I'd have done it behind your back, and Lord knows, I've had enough opportunities. But I can't do that to you. It would kill me to cheat on you. I'd rather die!"
A long, very awkward silence while we both sat there wondering what the hell to say next. The silence broken only by long deep sighs from the pair of us, not knowing how we were going to solve this problem that confronted us.
Eventually I made an attempt to get her to see how stupid and unreasonable her attitude was, while she went back over what she'd been trying to explain to me. Neither of us succeeded, and I think by then, that neither of us were really listening to what the other one was saying.
Julie made some supper, which we eat in relative silence, all our attempts at conversation fading back into some kind of silent truce. We talked about putting our names down for the annual tournament at the tennis club that we both still played at, falling silent when the futility of it dawned, not knowing whether we'd still be a couple when the day came.
We went to bed, together of course, and even cuddled up. Julie made some attempt to fondle me to see if there was any interest, but I took her hand and diverted it elsewhere. Not angrily, but it didn't seem appropriate, and she didn't try again. We fell asleep; at least I did, eventually, knowing that the matter was by no means finished, but that it didn't look good. Knowing what Julie wanted, and claimed she needed, but knowing that I wasn't going to give in.
The next morning was surprisingly ordinary; ordinary except somewhat quieter than normal. We said the things that had to be said, in order for our life to function, but little else. Julie seemed to be on the point of saying something to me, possibly something significant, but I waited in vain to hear it. Breakfast finished, she went her way and I went mine.
I didn't worry that she was going to do anything silly that day, and in fact the thought never even occurred to me. It wasn't that day I was worried about, so much as the days, weeks and months that were to follow.
If she couldn't get this silly notion out of her pretty little head, then any separation wouldn't be for a few months, but would end up being permanent, something that I knew, but she wouldn't accept.
The day's work over, I made my way back home, surprised to see Julie's car already there, since she normally arrived home at least half an hour after me.
"Hi Mark," Julie greeted me, as I walked into the kitchen where she had started dinner. At least she didn't offer me another glass of wine. What the hell had happened to that one last night by the way?
"I'm sorry honey," she remarked, when I just nodded back to her, by no means my normal greeting.
"Look I'm sorry Mark," she repeated when I did little to respond. "I couldn't work today, so I've come home early."
"What, nobody at work take your fancy today Julie," I responded spitefully.
"That's not fair Mark," Julie said sadly. "I know what I'm doing to you isn't fair. I know I'm being a bitch, and being unreasonable. But I'm begging you Mark, if you don't help me, then our marriage is toast."
"Maybe that's what I want," I spat back at her. It wasn't, but I wanted to lash out and hurt her, and I could never bring myself to do that physically.
Julie dropped the knife she was cutting some vegetables up with, and slumped over the kitchen worktop, bursting into tears. I'm a sucker for that and what man isn't. I stood there watching as her sobs wracked her body, telling myself that she deserved it. Maybe she did, but I'm not made of stone and I loved the woman. Stepping over to her, I reached out and put my hand on her shoulder, giving it a little squeeze, and telling her that we'd work it out between us somehow.
"Will we Mark," she asked, haltingly between her sobs. "Will we work it out Mark. Will you help me to work it out?"
"I'll try Julie," I answered back softly. "I don't know how honey, but I promise I'll try."
Not much was achieved that evening, except, significantly I persuaded her that we ought to go and see a marriage councillor, not that I knew of one any more than she did. Julie hated the thought of the idea at first, but eventually relented, and I breathed a sigh of relief, as much as because it would mean a stay of execution as with any hope that it might help us.
It turned out a waste of time, as the two that we did find were overbooked and couldn't fit us in for at least a month. Not without a court order or a doctors note, and we didn't have the first and had no inclination to arrange the second. Our life continued, pretty miserably mostly, though there were brighter moments, especially when we were around others, when our life seemed almost normal. Normal that is except the one local party we attended, when the whole thing virtually blew up in our faces.
It was just twenty or so friends, mostly couples, and a few friends of friends that we didn't know. It started off ordinarily enough, with plenty of booze, tasty nibbles, a bit of casual dancing and a lot of chatter between us; the guys discussing the football and the girls whatever women talk about when they're together.
Perhaps it was wishing to find out what that was a couple of hours into the evening, that made me lean against the door frame and listen to a group of them talking just inside.
Maybe I picked the wrong moment.
"Have you seen that guy Dave?" Demanded one woman, who's squeaky voice could only be Mary Thomas, a thirty year old who lives just down the road from us. "Tom and Carol bought him along. What a hunk he is."
"He's Carol's cousin apparently," added another woman, whose voice I didn't recognise. "He's gorgeous. I wouldn't mind trying out his package."
"Big feet, big hands. I wonder what else he's got big," giggled Helen, who's voice I recognised, being my best friend Alan's wife, and the group around her all joined in the laughter.
I was just imagining what Alan would think about that comment, when I heard another voice that I recognised even more certainly.
"He's big Ok, " I heard her say. "He pulled me up to dance as soon as Mark disappeared, and pulled me in close, and I mean really close."
"That close?" laughed one of the others, who I no longer cared who she was. "What did it feel like Julie?"
"Huge," my wife giggled back. "The cheeky devil kept poking it into my tummy."
"I bet you didn't push him away though, did you?"
"Got to take it where you can get it," Julie laughed. "Besides, the way he was gripping my bottom, I couldn't have pulled away if I'd wanted."
"Oh poor you," Helen teased her, and all four or five of them burst out laughing.
"Yes poor you Julie!" I growled angrily, hanging precariously onto my temper, as I stepped out through the door to confront them.
The women all looked up in surprise, and then burst out into laughter again, having no idea of the problems that Julie and I were having, and treating Julie's comments as girly banter, the sort of fairly harmless thing that happens all the time at parties like that.
All the women except Julie of course, who stood there stock still, losing all the colour from her face, staring at me and wishing the floor would swallow her up.