Everything for the Career Ch. 04byHeavyHeartLaments©
(This installment comes after considerable delay and I'd like to apologize to all who have waited patiently for it. And to all who have been requesting me to work on the next part -- a tip of the hat and a big thank you.
Note that comments are more than welcome. You can comment on this story or send me an email via the link below. As usual, bricks and bouquets are welcome.)
Where do you begin? You are the reason your husband is divorcing you. You have put him through 15 years of mental anguish and second class treatment. And in retaliation he wants to divorce you. He goes and fucks prostitutes in motels. So, the question is, where do you begin the healing? I don't know.
I sat down on the sofa opposite Arthur. I was in my parents' house, safe and sound. But the memory of what I saw was still fresh. I looked at Arthur after making myself comfortable. His eyes were busy scanning the newspaper, the way he always used to, while his right hand held a coffee cup, the way it always used to. I do not think the message could have been clearer. He was not interested in justifying anything, but would not stop me from asking. I had stood on the stairs, thinking that the discussion I was about to have would be the most important of my life. But sitting here, in front of Arthur, I found that my resolve had vanished. I just wanted things to get back to normal, if they could. And if Arthur was not going to make it easy for me, so be it, but I would get my marriage back. Though in what battered state I would claim it back, I was unwilling to speculate.
Now, this is where a normal wife would explode. Bring up the dirt on what she had seen. Try to use that as a leverage to get to a mutual understanding. Demand that while SHE had no right to treat him the way she did, HE should not have broken his vows either. But I was a different woman since last week. Going the normal way was not going to solve things. So I was going to be something Arthur DID NOT expect me to be. Calm, supportive, and most importantly, understanding. What he did was not good, but I had enough perspective to realize that what he did was in a situation that was ultimately created by me. And it took all my control not to jump and tear myself to pieces for what I had put my life and marriage through.
"I'll assume you are looking for a closure."
His question took me by surprise. After all, I expected him to be the detainee, not the interrogator.
I stared at him. Not trying to stare him down, but trying to search for answers. Who was this man? He sure looked like my husband but I didn't seem to know him. At least, not since last week.
Unlike fantasy, reality has no clear cut beginning and ending. So I decided to start with what I had on my mind.
"Arthur, was that you? Is there some way in which I could be mistaken?"
God, I hoped he would say yes. That he would say something about a twin brother whom he had never introduced, about how the light was bad in the motel room and how it was someone else in his room, of how there was 'another' Arthur with similar facial features that I mistook in the motel.
"No. It was me. I was sleeping with those two women. It was me you saw."
And despite my composure, I felt a chill go up my back. Arthur had said this so nonchalantly. It was almost as if he did not care how his answer would make me feel. He didn't say it diplomatically. He just said it as a matter of fact, like one would say, 'yes, I've shaved.'
"And...?" I continued.
Yes. He was DEFINITELY not going to make this easy on me.
"And you feel there is nothing wrong in this picture? After you stormed out of the house, I could not think. I did not know what I had done wrong. But I did realize it Arthur. With my mother, with my boss Sterling III, I know what they told me. And I didn't like it one bit Arthur. I know. Now. I have been giving so much of myself to FCB and my career that I did not have anything left for you. You have always treated me ahead of yourself and I have never ever thought beyond FCB and my goals. Yes, I know that now. And I was... no, am STILL ready to make amends. If you want, I'll put my resignation and spend the life with you, wherever you want. But this... what I saw ... How do I put this behind me Arthur? Do you hate me so much now?" I asked.
With a few simple statements I had put everything on line.
He just kept on staring at me. Not replying. Then he sighed and replied.
"What makes you think I hate you Jennifer?"
"It has to be hate Arthur. You didn't do that in the spur of the moment, did you? You must have thought about it. You could not love me anymore for you to plan doing this." I hoped the tears would stay inside.
"Why do you, even for a moment, consider that I have any emotion left for you Jennifer? Even if its hate?"
My mouth almost fell open at that. My God! What did he just say? I could not believe my ears!
Here we were, husband and wife and he was pretty much telling me he no longer cared for me! I had to control my heart, it was beating so fast, I was sure Arthur could hear it.
"What do you mean?" I asked. My voice was beginning to crack.
"When I planned and thought about this Jennifer, it was not because I hated you. It was because you were never in the equation. You were never in my thoughts when I did this. I did not feel it necessary to include you in my considerations. I didn't know you existed Jennifer."
He paused for the longest time.
"You see Jennifer, the truth of the matter is, I feel nothing for you. You are like a woman I see on the streets. I see, and the next instant I forget. There is nothing that I think about, which involves you. It's not that I hate you, it's the fact that you've ceased to exist for me."
My throat constricted at that. And despite my control, the tears came.
WHAT HAVE I DONE TO MY HUSBAND? OH GOD. Please!!
"Frankly, I understand that what I have done is not ethical. I have fucked prostitutes, which goes against the very nature of your impression of me, which you have built over the years. I couldn't care less. I have spent 15 years Jennifer waiting for you to come back. Now, I don't care whether you do or not. To me, you are no longer a part of my life whose approval I need to have. You are now one of the millions of women on this planet who you don't give a second thought to. To me, you're just another brick in the wall. You've simply ceased to exist."
I was devastated. My love for Arthur was never stronger than now and it was exactly at this point that he had exhausted his. I cursed myself mentally again and again. What did I bring upon my husband! I decided that I had to salvage something. If this went on, Arthur would just walk off! It was now or never. I had to say this. So I mustered up enough courage to speak up what I really wanted to say.
"Is there no way Arthur that you can forgive me? Is there no way we can put all this behind us? I swear to you Arthur, if you take me back, I'll draft, print and submit my resignation RIGHT NOW. You can drop me at my bank, wait outside while I hand it over to Sterling and be back in 15 minutes!! But Arthur, please, don't say I don't matter to you no more."
He looked at me with the most penetrating stare I'd ever known him to give me.
"Jennifer, you are like a dog barking at me from inside the house while I walk out on the streets. I don't even acknowledge your existence."
"No Arthur, please don't say that. To hear that I no longer matter to you is breaking up my heart Arthur. God, please! Don't do this. I am ready to do whatever you want. I just want our life back, Arthur. I am ready to do anything you say. Anything. But please come back to me. Our life can't end this way Arthur!! Arthur... I LOVE YOU!!!!"
He continued staring at me with that penetrating gaze of his. Then, his features softened somewhat.
"This is reality Jennifer. Not fiction. If you are looking for happy endings, go somewhere else."
The loud clash of plates took my attention back to the kitchen. I could see mother, her face crestfallen, tears beginning to form in her eyes, the plates in a heap, broken, at her feet. She was looking at my face, then to Arthur and back to me again.
I turned to Arthur. He was not even looking at me or mother, but was walking towards the front door. I knew he would not come back. He opened, then helped himself out. Softly closing the door.
Tearfully, I got up and went to my mother to help her pick up the dishes. I could see even though her face was out of view that she was crying. I squatted in front of her and put an arm around her shoulder.
Just where the hell had my life gone? Two weeks ago I had a husband, a home, a career. Now, my husband wants a divorce and he doesn't care how he hurts me while he goes for broke.
I lay on my bed staring at the ceiling. In the darkness of my own bedroom, I felt so alone. My life had gone completely astray. I felt so scared and insecure. I just wished my Arthur was there with me, lying on my side, reassuring me simply by his presence that he was there for me no matter what. I wished he would turn around and cuddle me, take me in his arms and run his fingers through my hair, while he lightly blew cool air on my face. He would then kiss me softly and look deep into my eyes. I would feel so safe, and I would feel his strength flowing into me, making me feel as if nothing in this world could harm me as long as I was within the protective cocoon of his secure arms. I yearned for him. I ached for him. My mind, body and soul were on fire as I sought his presence in these difficult times. If only he were here. Just his presence. With me. Near me. Just...God...if he were just here *FOR* me in my time of suffering!!
My eyes flew open in shock and I bolted, immediately sitting upright on the bed. My eyes grew wider at the comprehension. OH MY GOD! Dear God in heaven, is THIS what Arthur felt about during all those times he had to sleep alone because I was out on international trips? Is this the same insecurity that he faced, when he found out that he had a mild fever, the doctor had suggested him to rest, but his wife was away attending to client dinners? Was this the pain his heart felt, was this the coldness that enveloped him in the darkness as he, perhaps, huddled himself to sleep, without me in his arms when I was too busy to make time for my husband because I was so *FUCKING* enthralled by my career climb? Was this how he felt when I remained busy on Sundays too, attending "Strategy and International Negotiation" Classes and a plethora of other extra-curricular activities -- having no time AT ALL for my husband?
And for the umpteenth time in my life, I felt the tears come into my eyes like a flood. If this is what it felt like for only a week, there is really no way I could even begin to comprehend how Arthur felt about the whole matter and this behavior for the last 15 years, and ACTUALLY BORE IT ALL SILENTLY! My mouth flew open in astonishment. This man, my husband, was someone who was not one in a million, but probably one in a uncountable amount. And instead of treating him like that, I had treated him like... oh God! I just could not believe it.
And along with the tears came a sense of self-hatred and self disgust so strong, that I seriously contemplated ending my life. As vice president of international affairs for a major bank in the United States of America the level of pressure that somebody faces at the senior level at this particular juncture of life, is incredible. That does not mean we think about ending our lives at every professional crisis. But this? This horrible feeling of loathing that I felt about myself, my person, Jennifer as a woman, myself as a wife, was so strong that I knew if I looked myself in the mirror right now, I would've smashed my fist into the mirror, breaking it into a million pieces. I don't think I was interested in looking at my face again. Dear God, just what had I done to my husband? And why did you allow it? And this time my sobbing turned into full-fledged lament. God. Why? WHY?
Considering all things that have happened, I was not really thinking that I could win Arthur's love back so soon. But, I wanted him back. And I didn't care if it took the rest of my life to show him and make it up to him. I wanted to show him how much I loved him and if that was not going to work out and I was going to make sure that no matter what happened Arthur got the life he deserved. He did not require an uncaring and indifferent wife. He did not require a woman who treated him like a piece of furniture. Instead he needed a real wife, one who would treat him as the center of her universe, and one for whom he would be the most important person in the whole world. I knew, that this was the woman that I was now. The only problem was I was unable to show it to Arthur in any particular way simply because he was not ready to listen to me. So I decided to do something that was totally uncharacteristic of me. Instead of normally taking my decision the way I do, by weighing the pros and cons, this time I decided to take somebody's opinion.
No, it was not my mother or my father. They had too much of an emotional investment in myself to be able to take a rational decision that was based on facts and reality rather than emotion and feelings. I needed somebody who would show me the correct path to take, a path that would be difficult maybe even impossible, but necessary. And even though I knew that nobody would believe me at this particular juncture in time, I was just about ready to do anything to get my Arthur back. I loved him. The problem was he was not willing to believe it. But this time I knew what I had to do. But I needed a second opinion on the journey I was about to undertake. And I needed a man who would not be afraid to call a spade a spade. A man who would honestly judge whether the path I was about to walk was the path of a woman winning back her husband or whether I was simply living in a fool's paradise.
So I picked up my mobile and give a call to Bernie.
Speaking to Bernie was not an easy task. After I managed to tell him everything, including Arthur's conversation and his walk-out, presumably what I thought, the final one, he was livid.
He was literally spitting fire! His face turned purple and worst of all, his anger was entirely directed towards me!! He got up from his seat and began circling around the room, directing all his ire towards me, sitting in the couch of his hall.
Just what the hell was I thinking? The way I had treated Arthur since our marriage? Was I not in my senses? Was there someone fucking me at my office that I was so obsessed with, because of which I could not leave my office? Would my job take care of me when I turned all old and wrinkly?
MY GOD, Bernie was ready to explode! There is no need to mention that he gave me an earful, and tons of it, by the size of it all. I don't think even my parents had ever given me such a dressing down ever.
And Bernie confessed that if he were married to such a bitch (yes, that term hurt, especially to listen Bernie say it) he'd have sold her to a whorehouse and moved on. But as he managed to get it off his chest, Bernie grew more and more calm. Until finally he sat on the couch next to me and stared off at the ceiling, lost deep in thought.
His tirade had hurt. But what hurt the most were his eyes. They seem to lose the respect for me which I always saw. I hung my head in shame.
"Please..." was all I could whimper, "please Bernie, get my Arthur back for me... please!"
He continued staring at the ceiling. Then, all of a sudden the fight seemed to leave him. He sighed and shook his head. When he looked at me, it was with pity.
"Girl... what have you done?" he asked softly. "Just what the hell have you done to yourself and him?"
The tears came unannounced in my eyes. 15 years of injustice. 15 years of lack of love. 15 years of tolerating scraps of sex. My God! Arthur, what have I done to you?
"Please..." It was all I could say through the tears that were now staining my cheeks. I dared not look away from Bernie, as if looking away would make him change his decision about helping me.
He sighed. Then wiped an imaginary tear and smiled a little. So much for an "unemotional" conversation. Still, if he could give me some way to reach out to my Arthur, help me take away his pain -- pain that *I* put there, help me revive his love for me, then I was willing to listen to what Bernie had to say about the path I had discussed with him. I swore to myself, once again, if this tide washed over our lives, then I would re-dedicate myself FULLY to Arthur. He would be the centre of my universe. The most important thing in my life. God... please... Bernie....Arthur...!!
"So, tell me Jenny, what have you done to show Arthur you have realized the magnitude of this situation that you so foolishly put your marriage into, and are ready to make amends?" he asked. His voice was cold. The Bernie I knew. Good. When Bernie was cold, he managed to give invaluable advice.
"Everything!" I said without hesitation. "I have tried everything to show him I love him and he is now the Number One priority in my life henceforth, but he does not even listen Bernie." I added.
"And what have you done?" he asked, clearly not impressed with my response.
"I told him I realized my mistake. I've apologized to him. I've cried, begged and literally fell at his feet to forgive me and make him realize how much I love him. I've told him I will never make that mistake again. I told him how much he meant to me. I also informed him that I was ready to resign and spend the rest of the life where he wanted, with him, whenever he wanted. I've also decided that he can have me whenever and however he wants me to." The last sentence was spoken looking at the floor.
When I looked back up again, Bernie had a sarcastic smirk on his face.
"Then Jenny, you didn't understand my question." He replied, without blinking his eyes.
"What do you..." but he interrupted me.
"Jenny, so far you have told him this. And you have told him that. No doubt that your words are genuine. No concerns about your intentions. But that itself is the problem Jenny."
I could not believe it. What was Bernie talking about?
"Jenny..." he said softly, "you have been speaking too much. And doing too little." He added, his eyes steadily affixed on mine.
My eyes began growing wide as the understanding began seeping in.
"You see," he continued, "so far, you have given assurances. But that's all. You have not taken action. You told him you loved him. You did not SHOW him. You told him you regretted this. You did not SHOW him. You told him you were ready to sacrifice you career for him. You did not SHOW him."
My mouth was slowly opening in realization.
"You have been trying too hard to convince Arthur with words. But your actions remain the same. You have to STOP telling Arthur how much you love him and start SHOWING him!" he added, his eyes tinged with sadness.
"And the best way I can think of now is to..." he paused, "is to go to FCB and give in your resignation. Regardless of what FCB or Sterling or whoever thinks."
My eyes were tearing up again.
"Stop talking Jennifer. Start doing!" he shouted.
That shout of his jolted me out of my thinking. It was true. I had been speaking and speaking and speaking and just not doing anything! No doubt Arthur did not believe me. 15 years is a long time by any stretch of imagination and just TALKING to Arthur about the changed woman I had become was not enough, I had to SHOW him!
And with that realization, another crushing blow. Edwards Sterling III. Someone who I was in awe of. Someone who always treated me like a daughter. Someone who was genuinely concerned for me... how would HE take it?