tagLoving WivesHouse of Cards Ch. 05

House of Cards Ch. 05


At a few minutes past eight I knocked on the door. A nice touch, I thought—sends a clear message to Marianne that I don't live here anymore. She immediately opened the door, giving me a shy smile. She still looked pale, but had done her makeup very carefully. My wife was a beautiful woman—in any other context it would have taken my breath away just to look at her.

"Please come in, honey. Would you like a beer?"

I accepted one, and she led me into the living room, guiding me to one end of the sofa. She took the other end, tucking her legs underneath her and facing me. She was obviously incredibly nervous. All the poise I was so accustomed to seeing in Marianne, all the calm she had maintained when she lied to me about her affair, was gone now.

We just sat silently for a few moments, not really looking at each other. Then I decided to speak first.

"OK, Marianne, this is your show. I agreed to give you a chance to talk to me, and I will listen as calmly as I can. I'm not sure whether I'll have anything to say—I'll just play it by ear. Beyond listening to you, I can't promise anything."

"All right, sweetie," she said, almost in a whisper. She looked terrified, and my feelings for her swung back and forth between deep anger and equally deep sympathy. I had loved this woman for nearly all of my adult life. I had never been closer to any other human being, nor trusted one so completely. What did I feel for her now?

"Now that you're here, I'm almost afraid to begin," she said. "I've thought so many times about how to explain—I mean, try to explain, what I did. Finally I realized that I just plain fucked up. There's no way to tell it that will make it any less awful, any less selfish, any less unfair to you. So I'm just going to go ahead and tell it, however it comes out. I know you'll never forgive me—if you ever do—until I've done that."

"But before that, Tom, comes the most important thing. Everything I did—cheating with Eddie, lying to you—was totally my fault. You have been the best, most wonderful and loving husband any woman could have. I love you completely. I have never been unhappy in our marriage, or unsatisfied with our sex life together. You are a caring and exciting lover, and I love making love with you. None of this, none of what I did, had anything to do with dissatisfaction with you. Please believe me!"

I didn't say anything in reply, just nodded. But I liked what she had said.

"OK then." She seemed to be gathering her courage. "I have never—NEVER—done anything with any other man before Eddie. I was completely faithful to you until then, and I wanted to make sure you knew that. I met Eddie last August. He..."

I angrily interrupted. "You've been fucking that jerk for nearly a YEAR?!"

"No, Tom, no! Please listen! No, I haven't—just give me a chance to tell it, OK?"

"Sorry," I said. "I'll try not to interrupt again. Go ahead."

"I met Eddie in the hospital last August. You remember when my mother had surgery, and I pretty much lived in the waiting room for three days until she was out of danger? Well Eddie's brother was dying the same week, of lung cancer. He and I just began talking—two worried, sad people in the same waiting room. We spent a couple of hours together each day. The third afternoon, the nurse came to tell Eddie that his brother had died. He began to cry, and I was there to comfort him. I just held him in my arms for a while. His parents are dead, so this was his only close relative left, and ... I guess you get the picture."

I only nodded, and she went on. "That's all there was then, Tom—just two strangers, and a bit of comfort. I never thought I'd even see Eddie again, and I hardly thought about him after that. Until November."

She stopped and looked at me, perhaps afraid of another outburst. I silently did the math: November to July is still nine months of fucking my wife! But I said nothing, and let her continue.

"It was when you were on that four-day business trip in Phoenix. On the Friday night I had plans to go out with Susan and Whitney (two of Marianne's unmarried friends from her office), and they dragged me to a disco they liked. It was loud, and packed full of people, and lots of fun. You know Susan and Whitney—they love to flirt, and the three of us got lots of male attention. We had some drinks, danced with a lot of guys, and enjoyed ourselves."

"Around 11 we were sitting at our table when Eddie walked in with some friends of his. He spotted me, and brought his group over. I was genuinely glad to see him! I had felt so bad for him when his brother died; now he looked a lot more cheerful. We all made introductions, and they sat and drank with us, and we did lots of dancing. Since you were away I wasn't worried about the time, and it got kind of hot and I got kind of drunk, and ..."

She broke off. "Oh, Tom, I HATE this! It must seem so tawdry and dishonest and just plain STUPID, listening to me! But I swore to myself I would tell you every bit of the story that you want to hear. I will never lie to you again, and I will never fudge the story a little so I don't look quite so bad."

"All of us had done some fast dancing and some slow dancing, switching partners a lot. Two of Eddie's friends were making real progress with Susan and Whitney, and I guess Eddie was focusing more and more on me. I wasn't aware of that in particular, but when I think about it he managed to get me for several slow dances, and he was holding me very close. I felt his erection, but it just seemed kind of flattering, rather than any sort of dangerous situation."

"I realize you've never even seen Eddie. He's younger than we are—29. It's not that he's all that great-looking. He's shorter than you, medium height, medium build. Not bad, but he's not buff or anything, and wouldn't stand out in a crowd. Just a nice, ordinary guy."

I just listened, waiting for Marianne to get to the part that I knew was coming.

"We all got really hot from dancing. There was an open side door to the alley, and I told the group I was going out there for a minute to cool off. Eddie said he'd come along too. Standing outside in the dark, we were just laughing and joking, enjoying the cooler air; and then all of a sudden Eddie took me in his arms and kissed me."

She stopped. Clearly what she had to say next was difficult for her, and she glanced fearfully at me. "It's all right, Marianne. Go ahead—I have some idea what's coming next, and I've got to know. You might as well give me the whole story, with the nasty details."

"OK, honey. Thank you for listening so patiently. This is just awful for me, and for you it must be ten times worse." She was nearly in tears, but trying hard to stay in control.

"Well he just kissed me, taking me completely by surprise, and before I knew it he had pressed me up against the wall and plastered his body against mine. I was about to cry out, push him away, slap him—and I just didn't. I was drunk, and thinking slowly, and ... and it just felt good. I liked kissing him, liked feeling his body and his hard-on pressing tightly up against me. And instead of pushing him away, I kissed him back. I put my arms around him, kissed him back, and let him stick his tongue in my mouth."

I could tell she was struggling to go on. I waited, quietly. There was nothing I could hear that could possibly be worse than what I had already imagined a thousand times.

"Well, we just ... went at it. Right there in the alley. You remember, Tom, that night before we were married, when we were a little drunk and we ... made love behind the bandshell in the park, while there was a concert going on? And it was outside, and someone could have wandered back there and seen us, and ... it was an incredible turn-on? Well, this was like that. Eddie had his hands all over me, one on my breast and the other up under my skirt, and I just wasn't thinking about anything except what he was doing to me. He was so excited and eager, breathing really hard, and it turned me on. My nipples got hard, and he was pinching them. He kept murmuring about how gorgeous I was, how I was the sexiest woman he had ever seen."

"He got his ... cock out, and I held it. It was so hard, and so hot! I began to stroke it, and he groaned into my ear. And his fingers were inside me, and I was soaking. His touch down there was driving me crazy. And then he pulled my skirt up, pushed my panties to the side, and just ... entered me." Marianne had turned away from me by now, and was looking across the room. She couldn't face me.

"We did it, there in the alley. He fucked me. He kept pushing me back against the wall, and humping at me like mad, grabbing my ass cheeks and pushing his tongue deep into my mouth. The two of us could hardly breathe. It was hot and exciting and nasty, and I came like crazy, and so did he. It was probably all over in about five minutes. And afterwards we clung to each other, and giggled. It just seemed so crazy! He kept whispering to me how hot I was, and how turned on he had been. And then we adjusted our clothes, and without really saying anything, we went back inside and rejoined our friends. They didn't even seem to notice we had been gone."

There was silence. I could tell that it had taken a lot out of Marianne to confess this much. I was angry, and I wanted to throw accusations and harsh words in her face—but I also knew that I had to hear the rest of the story. So I just quietly said, "OK, Marianne, go on. What happened after that?"

"Well, I was absolutely certain that would be the end of it. After another hour Susan and Whitney and I left, with no further kisses or anything from Eddie. They dropped me off here, and I collapsed into bed. When I woke up I felt incredibly guilty, but also somehow not guilty, you know?"

"It's hard to explain. The whole experience, out there in the alley, had been so ... out of context, separate from all the rest of my life, and our lives together, that it almost didn't seem to count. I knew I had committed adultery, I knew that I had been unfaithful to you, and that that was a terrible thing. Yet at the same time it just seemed kind of unreal, like a dream I had. And I knew you'd never find out, and I knew I'd never do it again, so I just sort of let it slide out of my mind. And I kind of imagined—I'm sure I thought of this so I'd feel less guilty—that the same thing might have happened to you on a business trip sometime, something fast and dirty and meaningless, and that I never would even have known."

"I never did that," I said, quietly but coldly. "Not once. And it's not like I never had chances. Once on a trip there was ... well, never mind. It's not important."

"I know, Tom," Marianne said. She was crying now. "I know how faithful you are, how you never would cheat on me like that. It was just a thought I had, so I could feel better about what I did."

"Then you came home from Phoenix that Sunday, and I was just so glad to see you. And we made love, and you were terrific, so passionate and loving and sweet. And that made my guilt flare up, but it also reassured me that nothing had changed, that you and I were still fine."

It was growing dark outside, and I could no longer see my wife's face. I quietly got up and turned on a couple of table lamps, then returned to my seat. Somehow the slow pace of her narration was keeping me calmer, almost like I was hypnotized. What she was telling me was incredibly painful, but at the same time I felt sort of anesthetized.

"I didn't have the slightest thought of ever seeing Eddie again, let alone ... having an affair with him. I ran into him in the supermarket a couple of weeks later, and didn't feel the slightest thrill. A flush of guilt, actually—but no excitement. We had a casual, five-minute conversation and went our separate ways. But I had happened to mention that you were going away again, and that got Eddie thinking."

"The next week Susan called, and I agreed to go out dancing with her on Saturday. This was in early December. She somehow knew you'd be away, though I hadn't told her. We tried a new club, and lo and behold, Eddie was there, with Jack, the friend of his who had been hitting on Susan. It turns out that Susan and Jack had started dating. Well, I found out later that this whole evening was a set-up. Eddie told Jack, who told Susan that you'd be away, and to invite me out dancing with her at that particular club."

"Tom," Marianne said in a pleading voice, and I looked at her. "This is the hardest part. What I did before that ... it was stupid, incredibly careless and stupid, but ... at least it was ... you, know, spontaneous." Her voice trembled. "A sudden burst of insanity, that I almost imagine you could eventually forgive. But what I did that Saturday night ... I don't have any excuse for. I'm ashamed. I hate myself for what I did, and that's the simple truth."

She seemed to wait for me to answer, but no words came to me. I managed to nod, and she went on.

"We all danced, and drank a bit, and had a good time. And when Susan said she was leaving with Jack, I knew I should let them drop me at home—but I didn't. I stayed with Eddie. I was having fun, and I wanted it to continue."

"Tom, we ... we went back to his apartment, and I spent the night with him. We had sex a lot ... several times. There was something about the wrongness of it, the dirtiness of it, that excited me, knowing that I was cheating on you, that this was ... sex with a man who wasn't my husband. Eddie is a bit younger, he's ... only 29, as I said, and the fact that he was so full of desire for a lady of nearly 40 was flattering. I was more ... more vocal than I usually am with you, and ... well, it was very exciting. I ... I, I came a lot."

Feeling absolutely numb, I spoke up for the first time in a while. "Marianne, at some point I may ask you more questions about that night." She hung her head, but nodded. "But for now, just go ahead with your story."

"When I left his apartment the next day ... oh Tom, I'm so sorry!" She wept into her hands, her shoulders shaking, and I silently waited for her to continue. Finally she regained some of her composure, and began to speak again.

"When I left his apartment, I knew I was going to keep ... seeing him. I knew that I couldn't justify doing it, I knew it was utterly wrong, and selfish. But I LIKED it. It had been the most exciting thing I'd done in years, and I liked it."

She looked at me. "Tom, making love with you is wonderful. You are so gentle, and sometimes so powerful, and you are so attentive to my pleasure. And I feel safe with you. But at the same time, after 16 years it has gotten ... maybe a bit 'familiar', or predictable? I'll bet you feel the same way."

"Anyway, with Eddie it was wild, and new, and very different. Not better, Tom! Never better than what you and I have. But different. And in some insane way I convinced myself that this was just something nice I was doing all for myself—the way some women go to a beauty spa, or treat themselves into a new outfit. I know that's crazy! But that's what I kept telling myself."

"From the very beginning, I told Eddie that I would do whatever it took to keep our ... relationship a secret. I told him I loved you—that this ... affair had nothing to do with that. I wanted my marriage to last, and my seeing him would never interfere with that."

"It was easy to arrange meetings, because my work schedule is so variable. I can be out of the office for hours without anyone thinking anything about it. I got a throw-away cell phone, and I only talked to Eddie on that, never on our other phones. We met at different places—but NEVER here, Tom, never in our house! I just wouldn't do that! It was motels, different ones. We didn't get too regular, because I didn't want our faces to be familiar to anyone."

As Marianne spoke I had gotten up and begun pacing around the room, without even noticing that I was doing it. The first part of her story hurt me, but in some way it soothed me as well. It made a kind of sense. I could imagine Marianne having fun dancing with her friends, and then the crazy spontaneity of sex outside with Eddie. Perhaps I might even have been able to forgive that.

What was still too hard to bear—what made me clench my fists in fury—was what happened afterwards. She had made a calm, cold-blooded decision to keep the relationship going. She knew what she was doing, she knew how it would destroy me if I found out, and she did it anyway.

I turned and faced her. "Is there more, Marianne?" My voice came out rougher, harsher than I had expected. She shrank back from me, her eyes wide.

"N-no, honey," she answered, fearfully. "I'll answer any question you ask, tell you anything you want to know, but not really. We ... kept getting together, sometimes twice or three times a week, sometimes less. It depended on my work, and on your business trips. I never let my ... meetings with Eddie interfere with any plans you and I had."

She looked up at me, suddenly even more worried. "Tom, there is one more thing. When you were away on business trips I ... usually spent the night at Eddie's apartment. That way we didn't have to get a motel room, and ... we had more time together."

This hurt. A lot. In light of everything else, I didn't understand why the thought of Marianne in Eddie's bed all night was so much worse than her in bed with him for a couple of afternoon hours in a motel room, but it was. Maybe it stemmed from the relaxed familiarity I heard on the tape. Somehow it wasn't just the sex—it was hearing them together, being easy and fond with each other. I could almost see them in Eddie's aprartment. Greeting each other excitedly, passionately fucking, then relaxing, sharing dinner or a couple of beers, watching TV together, then more sex ... then sleeping cuddled up, with more sex during the night or the next morning.

It was that picture of happy intimacy—the intimacy that I thought she had shared only with me—that made my anger boil up again.

"Well, Marianne, it's quite a story." I spoke coldly. She sat with her head down, not replying. She could surely tell that angry words were coming. I felt desperate to hurt her, or at least to make sure that she understood how deeply hurt I was feeling.

"Do you love him?" She looked at me in shock. "Of course not! It was never anything like that!"

"OK, then," I replied coldly. "Suppose you tell me just how you do feel about the man you were fucking and sucking for eight months, and spending the night with on a regular basis. Are the two of you 'friends'? Are you 'fond' of him? Is he a 'special person' you 'really care about'? Is there a 'unique bond' between you, a 'special closeness'?"

I spat these phrases at her, and she started to cry again.

"I know I deserve this, Tom. I deserve whatever you want to say to me, whatever you want to do. I don't know if I can say how I felt about him. Like a ... friend, I guess. OK, the truth: I WAS fond of him. I felt close to him—after all we had been sharing ... intimacies for several months."

I wanted to shout at her that I'd heard the fondness on the tape—that that fondness was the single biggest thing that was tearing my guts out. But I wasn't ready to confess that yet. Instead I had one final angry question for her.

"OK, Marianne. You said you told him that the marriage came first, that you would never let your ... 'get-togethers' with Eddie interfere with anything in our married life together. Have I got that right?" She nodded.

"Well, then, perhaps you could explain to me why you fucked him—you cheated on me—the day of our 16th wedding anniversary! Perhaps you could help me understand why he fucked you so thoroughly that day that you had the "honeymoons". Perhaps there's some good reason why you were so sore that night that you wouldn't let me fuck you—on our wedding anniversary!"

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