Marriage as a HousebyTx Tall Tales©
The foundation is shaken. Can it be rebuilt?
This story is about a man who would rather fight for his marriage, than let it collapse. Who'll fight hard, pulling no punches. There is some domestic violence, and implied very serious violence at the end. It's a story of making amends, reconciliation, and rebuilding.
I never understand stories where the husband sees his wife on the verge of cheating and just watches to see what will happen. It doesn't compute for me. I would like to believe that true love is worth fighting for, as is any marriage, particularly with children involved. I guess that's just the romantic in me.
I have to confess that Life as a House is one of my favorite movies. I'm a big fan of Kevin Kline's work. The story does not have anything in common with the movie, except my play on the title.
I walked in the door, and immediately could tell something was up. The place was clean, sparkling, pine-sol, polished chrome clean, the first time in ages. Donna was standing nervously in the entryway, dressed up. Not to go out, but not in her typical (as of late) slovenly way. Her hair was up and shone. The children were out from underfoot, and there wasn't a sound of them in the house. Her face betrayed her guilt and nervousness.
I was reminded of our early years, not all that long ago, actually. She never had much money growing up, and went to school on loans, working co-op, and using summer earnings. She was very frugal. When we were married, I had been working for two years and earned a good living. Almost $50K a year. I encouraged her to buy things she needed, and even things she didn't need, but wanted. Every time she bought something for herself, she'd feel guilty, and she'd clean like mad. The entire house, top-to-bottom. It was as if she was punishing herself. It took me years to break that habit. The house had that look again. Guilt.
I had imagined things might come to a head soon, the way things had been going. My concerns had increased dramatically in the last couple of days, when the worst of my fears were confirmed. A concerned 'friend' had brought the issue to the forefront, after seeing my wife in an intimate embrace with another man. I'd started my preparations less than 48 hours previously. I had hoped for more time.
Admittedly this was one of a few scenarios I had anticipated. Confession and confrontation. I silently said a prayer that she hadn't succumbed completely.
"Allen," she said anxiously, "We need to talk."
No preliminaries, no gentle lead up. Right to the point. Too fast, almost, I had to act quickly before she ruined everything to the point of no return.
I shook my head, putting my briefcase on the floor, and walked toward her. "After," I said softly.
She was wringing her hands, face red. Her arms were trembling. "I'm having an... Ooof!" she gasped as my fist sped forward, plowing into her stomach with as much force as I could generate. She folded around it, clutching my forearm, unable to breath. I put my arms around her shoulders, holding her so she wouldn't collapse onto the floor. I wanted her on her feet. This worked better if she was standing.
After 30 seconds or so, the first wheezing gasps of air entered her lungs, and tiny cries of agony escaped her lips as she slowly regained the capacity to breathe. I examined her, still snared by her beauty. The tendons in her neck straining, nostrils flaring, mouth open wide in an effort to admit the life giving air she so desperately needed.
When her legs could support her again, she stood shakily, one hand grasping the door-jamb, as her breathing steadied. She stared at me in shock and fear. Understandable, I'd never so much as lifted a finger against her. Then again, until that moment, there never was cause. I, on the other hand, maintained an air of calm, waiting for her.
"I...I can't believe you hit me!" she finally whined.
"I did nothing of the sort. Was there something you wanted to say? If not, why don't we have a drink? It's been a stressful day."
"No, Allen. I can't live like this. I want a... Aaaah!", she screamed as the blow to her stomach lifted her off the ground. Solar plexus shot, leaving her gasping and breathless. Her eyes were on mine, fearful, as I eased her to the ground on her back. Her lips opened and closed, desperately grasping for air. I straddled her, and sat on her chest, lowering my weight, crushing her rib cage. My legs pinned her arms to her side and the tears started trailing from the corners of her eyes, as the battle for oxygen was slowly lost.
I rose up a little, and heard the faint rush of air into her lungs. A wheezing, whistling sound, it brought focus back to her eyes. The instant look of relief on her face vanished when I put my hand over her mouth and nose, suffocating her. She fought it, twisting, shaking her head, all in vain. I pressed down on her chest, and watched the light extinguish in her eyes.
I think she got the message.
* * *
She was only out for maybe 30 seconds. Enough time for me to lay her on the couch, her head resting in my lap. I hadn't even needed to deliver mouth-to-mouth, she came back all on her own.
My wife of 8 years sat up abruptly, gasping loudly, eyes open wide. She was obviously terrified. I held her and gently eased her down. I waited for her to get her bearings, and felt the fear and trembling take over her body. She turned her eyes to me, tears streaming freely. I brushed them away.
"Was there something you wanted to talk about, baby?" I asked softly, my hand caressing her cheek. I let my hands glide lower, encircling that long slender neck of hers.
Her eyes locked with mine, hers nervous, questioning, evaluating. Mine patiently waiting. I didn't even squeeze.
"I...I made lasagna," she whispered. "Beer or wine with dinner?"
"Wine would be perfect," I answered. My hands starting moving, rubbing and massaging her neck. I could see the glint of fear in her mesmerizing green orbs. "You know I love you more than anything, don't you, Donna?"
She nodded carefully.
"I would do anything for you. I would fight for you. I would die for you. I would gladly, without hesitation, kill for you. You matter that much to me."
Her eyes filled with tears, and she nodded again. "I know."
I lifted her into my arms, and hugged her firmly. "You look like Hell," I whispered. "Into the bathroom with you and clean up. Don't come out until you're presentable." I walked with her to the master bedroom and guided her into the bathroom. As soon as the door closed I leaped into action. I wanted us incommunicado for at least a few hours. It took all of 30 seconds to rush outside, and unplug the phone access where it entered the house. That also took care of the DSL internet. I located her purse in the kitchen where it normally was, and had her cellphone in only a few more minutes. I turned the ringer to vibrate, and put it in my pocket.
She was still in the bathroom. Feeling a little bit better about my control over the situation, I changed out of my work clothing. For a moment I almost put on my sweats and old t-shirt, as I did most evenings. Instead I opted for Dockers and a nice polo. She had dressed up for me, it was the least I could do. I brushed my hair in the mirror over my dresser.
I heard the door opening, and saw my wife peer out nervously, brace herself, and enter the bedroom. She flinched as I walked toward her, arms open.
"This evening started badly," I told her, as I approached. I hugged her. "Hi baby. I'm so sorry I was a little late. You look marvelous."
She hugged me tentatively, then a little more firmly. "You were only a few minutes late, thanks for calling ahead. The lasagna will keep," she said softly.
"I left them with my parents. I...I thought we needed some time together. Alone."
I released her, and tilted her chin up, kissing her softly on the lips. "You're right. I think we both recognize that things aren't perfect between us. I'd like to work on that."
"Work on it?" she asked, anxiously.
"Absolutely." I took her by the hand, heading back into the living area. "I'm starving. Let's eat, and perhaps after dinner we can talk."
* * *
Dinner was awkward. We talked about the kids, and about work, but not much about what was going on in her life. We assiduously avoided the elephant in the room. We shared a bottle of wine, but at the end of dinner, it was still a third full.
Twice during the meal, I'd felt the vibration of her phone going off. I ignored it.
When we were done, I stood and picked up the plates. "Dinner was great, as always. You are a wonderful cook. I don't think I tell you that enough. Why don't you relax, and I'll clean up? I'll only be a few minutes."
Donna thanked me, and I saw her pop into the kitchen, when I left for the second load of plates. Upon my return she was standing next to the table with her purse on it, looking nervous. I suspected she'd been looking for her phone. "I've got the kitchen, baby. Take it easy."
"I...I'm going to use the bathroom. I'll be right back."
I saw that guilty, nervous look again. She'd make a lousy poker player. I knew she was likely headed for the phone in our bedroom. The girl was in for a surprise. I took her phone out of my pocket, to inspect the call log. She had the phone password protected, but I hadn't been idle the last couple of weeks once my concerns had emerged, or better said, were exposed. Her password was stupidly simple, the last four of her social security number.
The latest call was from an "Emily." As far as I knew, we had no friends named Emily. I hit redial, and a male voice answered anxiously after only one ring. "How'd he take it?"
"Run. If you know what's good for you, run, and don't slow down." I hung up.
She entered the living room a few seconds later, white as a sheet. I went to her, and guided her back to the dining room table, seating her on the end. I put her wine glass in front of her. "Wait one moment. There's something I need you to do for me, before we talk, Ok?"
She nodded quietly. She sat with her hands folded together in front of her, trying to stop the shaking.
I returned from the study a minute later, and placed the piece of paper in front of her. "I want you to read this. Think about it. Weigh the words carefully. I'll be back for you in 10 minutes. During that time, all I want you to do is think about what this means to you."
She looked down at the paper, whose written words she'd spoken to me a little more than 8 years ago.
I, Donna, take you Allen, to be my wedded husband. To have and to hold, from this day forward, for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish, 'till death do us part. And hereto I pledge you my faithfulness.
When I went back to her, 10 minutes later, I could see the words were smeared from her tears. She looked up at me nervously.
"Come," I told her, holding out my hand. "Let's sit in the living room."
She followed me docilely. I know the evening wasn't turning out as she'd planned. She wasn't a milquetoast by any means, always willing to stand up for herself. Her actions, or lack thereof, spoke worlds about how my response had affected her.
I sat beside her on the couch. "Let me tell you how I feel about those words, baby. I consider it a contract, of the highest order. Said after long deliberation and preparation, and sworn to in front of God, our family, our friends, and each other. Do you agree?"
"Yes, but..." she whispered.
"Shh. Not yet. You'll have your turn. As far as I'm concerned, it's very straight forward. There is only one exit clause in the contract. Only one way out of it. One. It's written there, in very direct terms. Can you tell me what the exit terms are?"
She was quiet, and I gave her a little push. "Donna? What is the one way out?"
"'Till death do us part," she whispered.
"Precisely. I know that things haven't been ideal for almost a year now. I'm not certain why. I'd be willing to work on that. I can't do it alone. I need to know, do you want to exercise your exit clause?"
"No," she answered quickly.
"Are you certain? I would hate to do it, but I'm willing to execute that option if you feel it's come to that."
"Please, Allen. Don't." Her voice betrayed her, stuttering, almost begging. It hurt me to terrify her so, but I felt it was essential if there was any chance of saving our marriage.
"Excellent. I can swear to you, today, that I have never broken that contract. I love you, and cherish you, although I may not always show it as well as I should. Fortunately it's been for better, for richer, and in health for the most part, wouldn't you agree?"
She nodded. "Yes, for the most part."
"I've been faithful to you, 100% since this contract was invoked. I have never been with another woman. I may have been tempted, and even behaved in ways which I might have been ashamed of, but I've never had relations with anyone but you. Can you say the same?"
I saw the fear in her eyes return. She hesitated. "I...I've done some bad things, Allen. Some I'm ashamed of right now. I have never been with another man, though, since I committed to you. Do you believe me?"
I took her hand in mine. "I do. If I thought otherwise, I might be tempted to terminate the contract. Do you understand?"
She nodded her head anxiously. "I'm sorry," she whispered.
"I'd like you to tell me now, what you thought, sitting there re-reading our contract. What it means to you."
"It's difficult," she said.
"I know. It's been difficult for me these last few months, seeing you willingly ignore it. Tell me, please."
"I...When I said these words, I meant them absolutely. You were the best thing that ever happened to me, and I couldn't imagine life without you. I believe we had about 5 or 6 absolutely wonderful years, then a couple that were good, but not the same. In the last half-year, I...I forgot. Forgot what was important. I started thinking that maybe life could be better," she hesitated, gasping a short breath. "God, I'm so sorry Allen, I don't know how I came to think of it, but I was imagining a life without you."
"If you were unhappy, Donna, why wouldn't you tell me? Work to make our marriage better, not sabotage it. You need to understand, there are only two people fighting for our marriage, you and me. There will always be those whose goal is to undermine it, for a variety of reasons. Jealousy, lust, anger just to name a few. Only you and I, a team, to fight for it. I can't do it alone."
"I never thought of it like that," she said.
"Do you remember how we consummated this contract?"
She smiled at me sadly. "I do. It was wonderful. I can't believe I ever forgot, even for a moment."
"I'd like to reconfirm our contract, and consummate it again. Could you do that with me? It's been almost five weeks since we last reconfirmed it."
"H-has it been that long?"
"Five weeks tomorrow. The longest since we've been married."
"I'm sorry," she whispered.
"Shhh. Let's forget about that for the moment. Will you go with me to our bedroom, and consummate it once again?"
"Do you still want me to? After tonight?"
"More than I want anything in the world."
She smiled. "Can you give me a couple of minutes? To prepare myself for you?"
* * *
We lay together, naked, after making love for the first time in a very long time. Love, not sex, a commitment and reaffirmation of our love. We recommitted ourselves twice on my part, a few more times on hers.
We ended with me holding her, while she cried, clinging to me. When her tears ceased, I mounted her once again, amazed at how readily my body responded to her, after the stress of that evening. Ensconced deeply within her, I kissed her face. "I'm sorry I let it get away from us. I never wanted that. You mean the world to me."
"Me too. I...I love you, Allen. I'm so very sorry. You've given me a wonderful life, and two beautiful children. A better life than I ever thought possible, all those years ago. I almost ruined everything, didn't I?"
"Too close for comfort. I'm sorry I hurt you. I couldn't let you say the words that would terminate our contract. I couldn't do it. I had to stop you. Please forgive me."
The corner of her mouth turned up slightly. "God, that hurt. I still can't believe you hit me! I'm still sore." She looked nervous again. "Do I want to know what would have happened if I'd gone through with it?"
I shook my head sadly.
She nodded in response. "Thank you for giving us another chance."
I stroked into her body slowly, lovingly. "I love being inside you," I whispered.
"Me too. We don't do this enough."
"I know. I'm sorry for that as well," I said.
"What happens now?" she asked, her hand caressing my side. Every few seconds I'd slide into her again, enjoying the melding, doing just enough to keep me firm.
I'd been thinking about this a lot. "A relationship between a man and a woman is a lot like a house," I explained.
"Some people get apartments. Temporary, little vested in it. They move out after a year and get a new one. Marriages are like a house. You invest in it, you commit to it, you work to make it a home. A good marriage has both spouses doing their best to keep the house up, improve it, maintain it."
I paused to pump my beautiful wife for a bit, restoring the steel to my shaft.
"We had a wonderful home, the envy of our friends and family, but we allowed it to fall in disrepair. Didn't do the upkeep, made no effort to improve it. It got stale, and a little run down. I'm as much at fault for that as you are, perhaps more. I regret that, and will work to make sure it doesn't happen again." I thrust myself fully inside of her, holding still. I leaned down and kissed her sensuous lips softly.
"I believe at some point, some outside forces thought it would be fun for them to undermine our home, tear down the walls, put dividers between us. They wanted you out of our house, and into a new one. I don't know if that would have been an apartment, a condo, or a mansion. All I know is it wouldn't have been ours any longer."
"I don't think it was like that," she said softly, nervously. "Maybe they just wanted to help fix up my side a little."
"There is no 'your side' and 'my side'. It's our home. This wasn't some handyman we chose to make things better. It was a damn thief in the night. An enemy." I felt a little anger surging up, and pounded into Donna's accommodating depths, powerfully. "Stealing my woman. Mine."
I penetrated her fully once again. "I need a name, Donna. There are barbarians at the gate. I need to defend it."
"What are you going to do?" she asked nervously, her body trembling.
"Defend our home. Make sure they never try to tear it down again."
"Can't we just move on, Allen? I'll make sure it comes to an end."
"No. I can't trust you yet. You betrayed us. You invited them in. You unlocked the gate. I'm going to slam it shut." I pulled back and slammed my cock forward, making her gasp. "A name, Donna."
"Gerald. Gerald Wheaton."
A name I'd never heard before. Not one of our friends, thank God. I leaned over her, my face inches from hers, and stroked into her firmly. "I'm angry with you, my love. So very angry. This could never have happened if you hadn't opened the gate. Betrayed our marriage. You were a traitor, allowing another to interfere. It will be a long time before I can fully trust you to be the sole defense of our marriage 'house'. Do you understand?"
She nodded nervously. "I never meant for it to happen. I'm sorry."
"Forgiven." I whispered, reaching a hand up to gently caress her cheek. "Forgiven, but not forgotten, not yet."